Featured image: art by Anusree Sattaluri, included in our Cozy and Connected Box
Nearly two months ago, I stepped into my new role as executive director and had to ask questions no founder wants to ask. Do we close our doors? Do we pause our Sister Circles program that just enthusiastically launched a month before, with 45 beautiful women and their stories filling our home at 906 Division? Do we conserve in order to re-emerge? If we could shrink away, are we even needed in this community?
Treetops founders, Dana and Tarah
But the answers to those questions are what is keeping our team hopeful and moving forward with grit and a mindset of abundance.
Treetops team working from home
How could we shy away from our commitments in relationships when we’ve developed trust? The needs of our collective are higher than ever so our response needs to be even more robust. Our mission to connect New Americans to their community lives beyond our capacity to gather or perfectly execute our intentionally designed programs - it is embedded in our values and beliefs in the kind of community we hope to foster - and that community has no walls.
So we leaned into our strengths of adaptability and creativity. We shifted our programs and offerings to serve and listen from a distance, but in close proximity through weekly check-ins from our community connectors, quick responses from our team delivering care packages of food, essentials, English dictionaries featuring their first languages, and even creative packages to teens.
English dictionaries that were delivered to teen Sister Circles members
We have now delivered nearly 20 computers so teens can continue their learning virtually, and we’ve provided resources to families who are navigating keeping little ones busy and learning while managing all the additional duties this time has created.
Sylvia delivering laptops to teen Sister Circles members
Because of our relationship with StoreHouse we’ve been able to go above and beyond, delivering couches, and a new desk system, as well as a new sewing machine for mask production for a talented New American neighbor. We are also making thousands of masks to distribute more widely through partners working with those who are resettled.
Additionally, we’ve now been able to make virtual introductions between our 25 cross-cultural partners and teen Sister Circle members!
Sister Circle member, Olive, and CCP, Jamie
When you are in deep relationships with people, this is the only acceptable response.
In the midst of this, our beloved community connector, Sylvia, took on a new role for a national organization, continuing to work toward bringing together New Americans in our state to engage in leadership and collective action. We are sad to see her go, but even this has allowed us to shift toward equipping graduates from our 2019 cohort to be leaders to the group coming behind them. Angelique and Peninah reflect the values of Treetops wholeheartedly and we are so excited to see them blossom as Gukura Extension Mentors.
And speaking of rising leadership, we launched our Teen Social Enterprise Internship virtually with 3 cohort members. They are meeting three times a week and learning from business leaders who have stepped up to teach them. They are launching storytelling campaigns, learning about their strengths, understanding purpose-based business, and are stretching their creative muscles to launch a product in a few weeks!
We are floored by the generosity of this community that has allowed us to respond this way. From first time donors to community partners who have been with us from the beginning, YOU are making it happen and spreading welcome from a distance. You are finding ways to connect in the midst of isolation.
And this is what our work is all about - each person has something to offer, a strength to be celebrated and we each have something to learn from each other. We can only build a vibrant community if we do it together. And I’m so proud to say that even a pandemic can’t keep us from living into that commitment. We have our mindset based on the belief that “long obedience in the same direction” will produce meaning and impact.
If you are looking for ways to get involved, we’ve developed a Digital Resource Package that we are so excited to share with you - former team members who are now onto PhDs and MDivs came back to contribute through reading lists for virtual book clubs, poems and reflections to meditate on, recipes to cook that will connect you to the food traditions of New Neighbors, and ways to give and inspire others to do so. We’ve also recently launched our Cozy and Connected Box, with tea supporting refugee organizations, art by a fabulous female artist with an immigration story, and our staple wooden postcards for encouraging neighbors or advocating for change. Your purchases are keeping our social enterprise alive!
Finally, we know there are many graduating seniors who have lost the kind of ending to their high school career that they imagined, and with so many unknowns in front of them may be finding it hard to work through their feelings or identify what is bringing them hope. We think the “Find Your Voice” Journal that Peninah created in her enterprise internship has never been more timely, useful, and encouraging to teens right now. We also have an option for Buy One Give One, that we will distribute among our teen cohort members once we have 25 sold!
More than ever we are so grateful for the many individuals, families, foundations, businesses, and faith communities that are supporting our work financially. If you had told us in mid-March that giving to Treetops would double in April 2020 over April 2019 we would never have believed you. But this collective does hard, even seemingly impossible things. Thank you.
Thank you for walking with us, for your prayers, financial investment, notes of encouragement, and ways you are connecting with neighbors from your own street corners - this collective inspires us to move forward with gratefulness and hope!