Just hours ago, I ventured over to The First Unitarian Church, not for a musical show or performance, but for a locally-sourced dinner!
Philly Stake is in its 4th year and has, since 2010, distributed more than $15,000 to over 21 different organizations. As we descended the familiar steps, we were given ballots and a terse explanation of what to expect: the scene was something akin to a science fair. Innovators claimed spaces to set up informational booths and speak with us, the attendees. There was cider and beer donated by Philadelphia Brewing Company, and an impressive menu written on butcher paper atop the tables which filled up the space I’ve only ever experienced as a concert-goer.
We grabbed a Schwarzinger each and made the rounds to preview the information posted on walls, display boards, and tablets, and speak to any presenters not already actively discussing their dreams. It was packed! And each time I heard anyone speak of their vision, the positivity was tangible.
The entire event is completely run by volunteers. This was imparted to us when we all took our seats and a few of them explained how the night would proceed, after thanking some of the establishments aforementioned and hyperlinked. Dinner was ready to be served, buffet-style, and while we ate, each candidate would present to the entire group for about 3 minutes.
We were also informed that we would take part in cleaning! I’ve never been to an event that asked its participants to do so, but I really dig it! Locally sourced AND engaging. There was a station with 3 basins to do a quick, preliminary clean of our plates and utensils.
The following is a brief highlight of the 8 presenters:
The creator of MilkCrate shared that, as a West Philly resident, she became inspired to live and breathe local, but the enormous time and effort required to transition into such a lifestyle proved difficult. She was forced to invest a lot of time to research businesses which help sustain local economies, and her own experiences became the catalyst for this great idea. The online hub will help all of us in Philly and its surrounding areas “make living a greener lifestyle fun, easy, and accessible” by providing a database of 1,600+ businesses who get it.
The owner of Little Chair Printing took the stage and colorfully told of her 3 favorite things, which are behind her vision:
- Screen-Printing: She has a background in mostly fine art, but also loves to create designs on t-shirts because “they can say so many things.”
- Education: She teaches Art History, Ceramics, and Screen-Printing.
- Bicycling: “The best way to get around Philadelphia,” she wants to incorporate her main form of transportation.
The project is to create a self-sustaining print shop, powered by the energy created when pedaling on a stationary bike. She would like at least 2 different printing stations to make screen-printing accessible to everyone in the community.
Two teenagers took the mic to tell the audience about a program that is 50% education and 50% performance. Actually, one incredibly articulate young person spoke while another skillfully and humorously contorted a puppet to support her colleague. Students will perform the hilarious Avenue Q, a play which tackles really tough issues like racism and LGBT with humor and song, at the Rotunda this March. Funds raised would go toward scholarships which will provide students with access to vocal lessons and improv classes.
Any person that walks in front of a large group of people, ceremoniously beating on a drum, will automatically have my attention. That is precisely how this project creator took the stage. CWL is about helping children get back in touch with nature, by exploring one of our area’s gems, the Wissahickon.
Affiliated with the Philadelphia Alliance For Children, this project will provide access to books for children in communities in our area. Through previous work, the presenter has made gains by opening libraries in elementary schools, but with limited resources, these libraries are only open 1 or 2 days a week, with the help of volunteers. By creating these cute vessels to house books, they will supplement libraries during the summer months and increase literacy throughout communities.
“The Youth Mentorship Initiative is a youth driven, weekly group for young people impacted by the challenges of immigration in their families, peer culture and/or communities, to come together and create a supportive and therapeutic community.” I had no idea that the amount of young people crossing borders into our country as undocumented residents supersedes those of adults to the actual extent they do. Nor did I know that many of them are not accompanied with their parents. Group counseling practices and team-building are just two examples of how these youths are helped through this program. There are some who stand out as leaders and the project proposed would raise money so that those stellar members of this community can help their peers as they progress to the level of mentor.
Shortly before the presentations, I had the opportunity to speak with Erin, a self-professed nerd who loves history, particularly Philadelphia’s. The positive vibes were infectious as she told me of her work and the achievements she’s already had. This is the story of a mobile museum curated by people to record oral histories which will be archived, with the help of Temple University, so that gunshots and violence will not be the only things to come up when historians study this wonderful place and time.
This particular project resonates deeply with me. In attempt to find positive language within common discourse surrounding and defining men of color, this performance will be “about movement, the body, and aggression.” Funds will go toward production costs and supplement cost of tickets for members of The Attic Youth Center. Flowery language aside, it was also described as “A hip hop baby shower for an unborn child.”
I learned a whole heck of a lot tonight. The food was good, the company great, and we got to know who won right after dessert!
Volunteers lined up on the stage, two at center with literal money bags in hand. The second place winner, with $600, was History Truck. $1,000 and many applause went to Un Sueno.
I’m proud I took a stake in Philly and witnessed the creativity and support of my peers. I look forward to the next Stake Dinner, to take place at Bartram’s Garden this summer. Don’t miss out. It’s sure to be like nothing you’ve ever experienced.