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Latte with Lanna Lewis

This month Lolita had a great conversation with Lanna Lewis, a Community Investment Officer at Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Lanna discussed what she gained from her five years working at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, the millennial myth she totally disagrees with, and how she uses creativity in her work.


What do you love about your job?

So even though I’m really new, what I really like so far is being able to work at a community level to do equity work. It’s something being developed here at the Foundation as a strategic priority, and it’s somewhat new to the work although it’s been a discussed for years here. Having that focus is really interesting to see the big picture of the community and community-based outcomes rather than just programmatic outcomes.


Do you feel like your early life and education directed you to your current career path, or are you surprised at where you are?

I do think this career path has been chosen for me in a sense. I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise, but I’ve always cared about social justice and serving people in the community and making sure everyone has their needs met and can grow and has opportunities to succeed. I’ve been blessed to try out different things, and this is the direction it kind of took me in.


What has been one of your most impactful professional experiences?

I would have to say my most impactful moment in my career so far was while I was working at Arcus Center at Kalamazoo College. I worked there for five years, and overall my experience there helped me to grow and understand all kinds of things: from campus organizing, international organizing, and movement building, to office management skills, engaging and building relationships in a meaningful way, and understanding different issues and identities. It was a really impactful experience overall.


Are there many early career professionals in your workplace? Does that make your job more challenging/simpler?

Yes, there are a few millennials, and one of the interesting things here is that the HR Director that just retired hired around ten people, and many were millennials. Prior to that, there weren’t many in this organization. I think it’s interesting to see that dynamic. As a younger person, I find it’s helpful to have people who share my perspective of the world and are energetic about the work and the possibilities.

What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about millennials/early career professionals today?

One thing I always hear about millennials is that we’re apathetic, and that’s we’re always on cell phones and video games and texting and using social media I feel like that comes from people who don’t understand that cell phones are tools to communicate. So, just because we use electronic devices a lot doesn’t mean we’re apathetic or we’re not reading or communicating important things. I think people don’t understand ye usage or the method all the time of using the technology. And I actually think a lot of the millennials, all of my friends, care deeply and are more passionate about the world than anyone else I know. So I think it’s a huge misconception and really unfair, too.


What are you looking forward to learning? Which skillsets would you like to develop?

Already I’m learning about the nonprofit sector from a bird’s-eye view because I can see all the different aspects that go into funding nonprofits. I see outcomes, I see all the different sectors, and I’m excited to learn more about nonprofits and grant making. A skill that isn’t valued enough is building relationships, and I think it’s important to the social sector, movement building, and understanding equity and social justice. So, I’m excited to continue to develop that skill.


What do get out of living in Kalamazoo that you would not or could not get elsewhere?

I think I’ve come to really appreciate some of the things Kalamazoo does have to offer, even though it’s a small city and I might not be used to that, there’s a really big arts community, for example. And if you have the energy and want to pursue an idea or get involved, there are not so many barriers here, so I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities that I might not have gotten in a larger place, especially with the arts. That’s definitely something I enjoy, going to Art Hop and being around artist.


What is the best piece of advice you've received to date, and who gave it to you?

Follow your passion and be yourself. Multiple teachers [gave me that advice]. I think I’m able to do that through school and through working and getting experience. I know there’s a big focus on going to school and getting your next degree, and I think the people who have encouraged me to try new things and get out in the workplace have been really valuable to me.


Which natural talent do you get to use most often in your work?

I don’t know if it’s a true talent, but I really enjoy being creative and the creative process and doing that as a group. We use a team approach and I like to bounce ideas off of people and get input and brainstorm and evolve our work together, and that’s something I get to do here.


What's your favorite way to spend your free time?

I’ve always been a big proponent of just having fun and being social when I do have free time. We have a workaholic culture and it’s not healthy for anybody to constantly be in production or productivity mode. So I really like to hang out and meet up with people. And sometimes I just like to relax and be lazy, because I think we need to value rest more as well. So, I do a lot of socializing and relaxing.


Lastly, how do you take your coffee?

I used to take it strong and dark, but now I just drink tea.

Just ONEthing - April 2016

I am pleased to announce that Bobbe Luce will be returning to ONEplace while I take a week-long vacation mid-May. Some of you may feel a bit of déjà vu: Bobbe founded ONEplace and served as its first Director. Since leaving, she has continued her involvement in the nonprofit sector through her consulting practice, WildWood Consulting. In addition, Bobbe has been assisting ONEplace patrons in Thom's absence, bringing her decades of experience in everything from board governance to business management.

Bobbe will be in the ONEplace office providing on-site assistance while I am away. We are very lucky to have her!

Grant Proposal Tips You May Not Have Heard

I was excited to attend Passion with Purpose: Cultivating Support for Your Project Proposal, a workshop hosted at Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership and facilitated by Elena Mireles-Hill and Sandy Barry-Loken, Community Investment Officers at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. ONEplace offers its own grant writing course, but it’s always insightful to stay current on what relevant information other organizations may present.

The hour-long workshop allowed time for Elena and Sandy to talk in detail about the most important things to keep in mind when crafting your proposal, including pitfalls to avoid. The especially nice thing about having two investment officers facilitating was their unique and valuable perspective. I have highlighted some of the best tips I learned at Passion with Purpose.

         Office EDC by Yusuf Prens used under CC 2.0

Provide evidence that your project is addressing a need. We all have personal passions, and while that can fuel your interest in starting a nonprofit, check to make sure that passion will help alleviate a community issue. That’s a sure way to present a solid case for support.

Be honest about what your weaknesses. You are probably aware of the strengths that you or your colleagues are bringing to the table, be they material, knowledge-based, or otherwise. You will want to highlight those, but it is also okay to state what you need to complement those strengths. Make sure to tie those needs to your proposal! It shows that you are being forthcoming and self-reflective.

Bring back-up when meeting with funders. Depending on the foundation, you may have an opportunity to sit down with a representative to speak more about your proposal. Feel free to bring someone else affiliated with the project or organization along, like a board member or a volunteer. They can provide another perspective, as well as quell your fears about going it alone.

Avoid being entitled or demanding. It’s okay to care about your proposal – that’s expected – but please remember that old adage about catching more flies with honey. Elena gave a great example: even if you plan to carry out your project with or without the grant you’re seeking, don’t share that in your proposal. It signals that you don’t need their support, in which case they’ll divert those dollars to someone who does.


Did any of these surprise you? Or do you have any tips that would be helpful for others? Please share in the comments below.

Your Nonprofit Questions, Answered

A ONEplace service you may have forgotten about is our direct assistance -- if you have a question or issue, please get in touch and we'll do our best to address your concern. I've received some really great questions over the past few weeks and thought it might be helpful to share some with everyone.


Telephone by Mary Gehr used under CC 2.0

 I have never written a grant before; what services do you offer?

We offer two workshops on grant writing every quarter: Grant Writing Basics and Grant Research Tools will next be offered in May. Please look out for those on our calendar.

You can also conduct in-depth grant research using the Foundation Center database. You must be at the Kalamazoo Public Library to access it, and ONEplace staff can give you a tutorial if you need.


Where can I find samples of grant proposals?

Although a Google search will turn up thousands of samples, sticking to reputable websites is recommended. GrantSpace offers fifteen examples of winning proposals here.


Do you offer IT and software program training?

While neither ONEplace nor the Kalamazoo Public Library offers these types of workshops, the ONLC in Portage offers fee-based classes. Check their website for details.


Who can help my organization with strategic planning?

ONEplace staff can help with general questions and mapping a course of action. However, if you need long-term assistance, our Consultants & Trainers Directory features area consultants who have reduced rates for nonprofit organizations.

That's all for this month! I'll feature more of your questions in the coming weeks.

Latte With Mario Gonzales

As the current Program Manager at Volunteer Kalamazoo, Mario Gonzales's position keeps him connected to community members and other organizations alike. His energy and forward-thinking approach made for a great conversation. Read on to learn about Mario's familial connection to social sector work, what he loves about Kalamazoo, and why he's spending so much time on Youtube.


 What is one of the most energizing aspects of your job?

Working with such a diverse population of the community--people of all socioeconomic background, racial backgrounds, and interests. Hearing their enthusiasm puts things in a better perspective for me.

Do you feel like your early life and education directed you to your current career path, or are you surprised at where you are?

My mother was a union rep and she did a lot of organizing for the United Food and Commercial workers, so I’ve always had that experience with organizing people for a cause. She has also worked in the nonprofit world in the community for things related to the Latino population in Lansing, and my father also has been very involved in a lot of community organizations. So I would say that foundation propelled me into this line of work, not to mention I went to school for this. So focusing a little bit more on the community organizing aspect, and how that affects change in the community, as well as on micro and macro levels is something that interests me.

What has been one of your most impactful professional experiences?

That’s a tie, between my year serving with AmeriCorps at Goodwill Industries of Southwest Michigan [and my current position]. Goodwill really improved my professional development skills, and gave me firsthand experience working direct service and working with people who are income-qualified for services. The opposite end of that would my current role with VK, [which] has been an impactful professional experience. Working with an organization that has such roots in the community for 50 years, has their hands everywhere, and is the connector point in Kalamazoo has opened the doors to meeting so many different people and learning so much.

Are there many early career professionals in your workplace? Does that make your job more challenging/simpler?

No, there is myself and the AmeriCorps associate, and she is two years younger than me. I would say…it’s certainly not simpler. It pushes me to learn how to communicate across multigenerational channels, and different layers or levels of expectations. It gives me a different perspective on the day-to-day operations, and it’s good to build off [older workers’] sage knowledge.


What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about millennials/early career professionals today?

As we’ve talked about the innovation and the fresh pair of eyes millennials can bring to an organization, I think a misconception is that it will make old ways of doing business or conducting operations obsolete. And to an extent it will, but I think that misconception comes out of worry from the older workforce that there may no longer be a role for them in the future. Coming from our perspective, we’re just trying to make a role for ourselves because the world that we entered is not the same world our parents entered.


What has been one of your most useful professional development experiences? (e.g. trainings, education programs, mentorship, etc.)

My internship at Woods Lake with Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo provided me with a lot of experience. I was a Western student at the time, and that was my service learning internship. The main reason I took the opportunity was because I had worked in youth development previously but in a different capacity, and I had always had some hesitation with working with younger kids, especially elementary school aged. At the time I was considering pursuing Public Policy or Counseling, so youth development kind of fit under the umbrella of Psychology, so I pursued the opportunity. It gave me a great experience working with kids who come from homes who are struggling with other considerations, and just being able to create a thriving and prospering environment for that child as the second shift childcare provider. It has provided me with a lot of experience.


What do get out of living in Kalamazoo that you would not or could not get elsewhere?

Opportunities have arisen from how progressive things have been. I know there’s a lot of interest in reinvesting and building certain parts of it for the prosperity of everyone. Elsewhere, you don’t necessarily see that in such a popular form. I think with that, not only do career opportunities come, but so does networking to meet great people interested in social change, people who have years and years of experience. They have seen the community change from year to year, and have their eyes set on the image that they want it to be. I think that because of the size of Kalamazoo, it has a very positive impact.


What is the best piece of advice you've received to date, and who gave it to you?

I can’t pinpoint an exact figure that has shared advice with me because I’ve had so many substantial and positive figures in my life, but life has taught me that things won’t change unless you push them to. In working with people, things for the community won’t change unless you encourage others to believe in ideas that those who come forward to try to change have. And also it doesn’t move anywhere without encouraging some kind of capital to be invested in that, whether human or financial capital.


Which natural talent do you get to use most often in your work?

I’ve been told many times from colleagues and leaders that my enthusiasm and positivity makes a difference, and I would say that would be a natural characteristic that I possess. I always try to look for the beauty in everything. In the darkest times, you can always find some kind of hope for something better, or hope for an answer. Aside from that, my ability to communicate and my [friendliness]. I’m always told that I’m easy to talk to—people always confess things to me. I wonder if that couples in together.


What's your favorite way to spend your free time?

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of my time trying to absorb and learn as much as possible. I’ve been utilizing the internet for the positive side it can bring – the learning aspect! I spend hours on Youtube learning about ancient Greece, parliament, legal legislation, historical figures, things that have happened in history. Most of why I’ve spent my learning as much as possible is because knowledge is something no one can take away from you. I’d rather spend time building on myself than taking away from myself.


Lastly, how do you take your coffee?

I take my coffee very dark and very strong, but with a nice sweetness added. Thank you again for the opportunity.

Just ONEthing - March 2016

I would like to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude for the kindness and concern so many have shown since Thom took medical leave. I know he and his family appreciate the well wishes.


If you would like to send a card or correspondence to Thom, please direct it to our office address:


Thom Andrews, Director
ONEplace - Kalamazoo Public Library
315 S Rose Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007


While he heals and receives the proper medical treatment, I am indeed solo in the ONEplace office. Thank for you for your understanding as I work hard to bring you the resources and services you expect.





Creating a Self-Care Plan

I'm still trying to figure out to which school of thought the term self-care truly belongs. I've seen it in contexts as varied as yoga packages sold on Groupon, and social work practice guides. For those still unsure of what it means, self-care refers to all activities necessary for all aspects of personal wellness, including mind, body, and spirit. I think it's a wonderful health framework for the average busy, hyper-connected professional.

 "Calm" by Norbert Reimer used under CC 2.0

Attending the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership's recent Self-Care for Social Change workshop was a great opportunity for me to connect theory to practice. The facilitators emphasized how vital self-care is for people who work in the social sector because sustaining yourself ultimately sustains your work. Dr. Michelle Johnson led the participants through an awesome exercise designed to help them stay on top of their self-care, detailed below.

Define your top 8. Think about the top eight things you need to be at your best; these are whatever you need to be at your peak emotional, spiritual and physical health. They can be things like exercise, eight hours of sleep, a conversation with a loved one, or putting money in your savings account.

Assess where you are. For each of the eight, rate how you're doing at this moment from 0 to 10. For example, are you hydrated? Did you exercise recently?

Use this list to get a holistic picture of where you are. Once each item is ranked, you will have a clear idea of how to prioritize your self-care plan for the immediate future; so, if you ranked hydration at a 2, you can plan to grab a glass of water right away. In a couple of weeks, re-assess and plan accordingly.


 It felt really powerful to walk out of the workshop with a resource I can use to mind my self-care. Please leave your own self-care tools and plans in the comments.

Revisiting Trust

I recently joined a couple of new professional committees (which I thoughtfully added to my plate, of course). I love working in teams, and am very excited about what I'll be able to accomplish in these new groups. As I've written before, I have found collaboration to be a very efficient method for achieving objectives.


I'm already thinking about ways my new teammates and I will build respect and accountability into our work together. At the heart of these matters is trust. Browsing through the ONEplace archives, I found that Thom had broached this topic a couple of years ago. Here is a bit of what he had to say:

In the workplace, trust’s impact goes beyond individual relationships. It affects the key organizational matters of maximizing performance and achieving desired outcomes. Without trust, we question our colleagues’ intentions and judge their personalities. Productivity disintegrates in the acidic pool of office politics.

- Excerpt from “Do You Trust Me?”

This really drives home that trust is not just a factor in group work; it’s integral to everything from how well group members communicate, to how and how well a project is completed. Check out Thom's blogpost in its entirety here.

Things have changed

Dear Friends: Our entire community was reminded last week of an enduring lesson: life may change at a moment’s notice. Periodically we revisit this lesson through forces of nature, criminal activities, and other, more personal ways that open a new chapter in our individual lives and our shared life together.

For me, a new chapter began last Wednesday evening.

Last week I learned that I have a mass on my kidney, and this week I will have that mass removed. With surgery and recovery, I will be away from work for about six weeks. 

As many of you know, ONEplace is a staff of two, so operations may slow a bit. We are fortunate to have Lolita as ONEplace Associate, who I trust completely and will carry on admirably during my absence.

Please know that, as I move forward into the days and weeks ahead, I do so without fear but with gratitude. I draw upon the work of Jim Collins, and let his Stockdale Paradox form the basis for my approach:

I will retain the faith that I will get through this. I will confront the most brutal facts of my current reality, whatever they might be. And, in the end, I will turn the experience into a defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

I look forward to living into the experiences of this week and the weeks following, just as I look forward to returning to ONEplace sometime in April.

In the meantime, take care.


A time to grieve

Early Sunday morning I opened my computer to do some reading and writing to find an overnight message from my son in California – “Hey – sorry it’s late. Just saw the news and wanted to check in….” What? I turned to the news and learned that a man went on a random shooting spree Saturday night, shooting 8 and killing 6: in parking lots, car dealer lot, just wherever he saw a couple of people. The suspect was later apprehended.

While this was going on, I was enjoying a party. There was food, singing, conversation, and much laughter. It was a fun time. And yet, as we sang and ate and laughed, a few blocks away people were being shot and killed by someone they had never met.

Life can be so random…such a surprising mix of delight and sorrow, of celebration and tragedy. 

Had I not looked at the news, I would have been sitting there in my home – safe, warm, and untouched by the horror of the previous evening. But there I was: presuming I didn’t know the victims or the shooter (names had not been released) but picturing the exact spots where each shooting took place. These are innocent places, safe places, and well-lit places. These are places you walk through without looking over your shoulder. A car pulls in and you think nothing of it.

Of course, one random incident doesn’t change the fact that they’re still safe places. People will still show up at Cracker Barrel to get their breakfasts and brunches. They’ll still browse the lot at Seelye Kia. And they’ll do so safely, without concern.

While we know these places will continue to be safe, we grieve their loss of innocence. They now bear the stains and scars of meaningless violence. And we, people of Kalamazoo living here or miles away, like so many other communities before us, feel the weight of having a mass shooting in our own backyard.

While each of us carries the scars of personal tragedy and loss, today we mourn our collective loss…and we need to give ourselves the space to do so. Even though there are things to do, each of us needs to deal with this. We need to allow ourselves the time and energy to get past the disbelief and anger. We need to open ourselves to the company of others who grieve with us, so together we may let this moment find its way into of our life experience. 

Yes, we’ll eventually move on, but not today. 

Today we grieve.