Campbell University Student Discovers Power of Creative Placemaking During Field Trip to Chattanooga

All photos courtesy of Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography

As a photographer, Amber Merklinger has an eye for beauty. And like any artist, she often sees it in places others would miss.

So when she learned about creative placemaking—the process of using local arts and culture to strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood or town—during the Sullivan Foundation’s recent Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip to Chattanooga, she quickly recognized its power to transform a struggling community. Now Merklinger—a senior majoring in Health Communications and Public Relations at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C.—and a group of fellow Campbell students are working on a creative placemaking project of their own: Campbell Create, aimed at helping communities in their area discover and celebrate their own cultural advantages and heritage.

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Merklinger’s project—and the excitement she brings to it—illustrate how Sullivan Foundation events empower college students to channel their youthful energy, ambitions and ideas into positive action. “Students always walk away with an expanded view of what’s possible for their future career paths,” said Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s director of student engagement and Field Trip leader. “These trips give students a sense of the multiple ways in which they may package their passions into concrete careers past college.”

When she wasn’t learning about different approaches to social entrepreneurship on the Spring 2019 Field Trip to Chattanooga, Campbell University senior Amber Merklinger (above) was chronicling the event with dozens of beautifully composed photos.

This year’s Field Trip took dozens of students to 10 social enterprises and nonprofits tackling a wide variety of issues around Chattanooga, from community development and environmental sustainability to refugee aid and 3D printing. It was a visit to Glass House Collective (GHC), an organization focused on revitalizing the city’s historic Glass Street area, that opened Merklinger’s eyes to the possibilities of creative placemaking.

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“I had never heard of that term until I went on this field trip,” Merklinger said, “but it inspired a group of Campbell students and myself to start the process of emulating this concept on our own campus and in our surrounding communities. They took an issue they saw in the community and found a solution that impacted everyone in the city, bringing life to a culture not easily seen. That’s the kind of thinking I wish to apply to my future endeavors as a social entrepreneur.”

Spud Marshall, the Sullivan Foundation’s Director of Student Engagement, leads a Field Trip excursion in Chattanooga. Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography

Campbell Create is still in the planning stage, but Merklinger’s group wants to use creative placemaking to help small communities in their own area spur economic growth through local arts and culture. “My team and I all agree we want to capture the expressionism, dreams and culture that so deeply enrich the communities surrounding Campbell University,” Merklinger says.

Each community has its own problems, but that’s not the focus of Campbell Create. “Like the Glass House Collective, we don’t feel it is our place to fix these issues, but instead to amplify the cultures found there in order to bring the community together,” she adds.

Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography

In addition to Glass House Collective, Field Trip participants also visited and met the owners of social enterprises like Mad Priest Coffee Company,which works with displaced individuals and employs refugees while educating the community about social injustice and humanitarian crises; Branch Technology, a pioneer in 3D-printed homes that has brought innovation to the housing industry; the Chattanooga Mobile Market, a mobile grocery store that brings fresh, healthy food and produce to underserved neighborhoods; and the Lookout Mountain Conservancy, which protects Lookout Mountain’s scenic, historic and ecological resources while providing environmental education and leadership training to middle school and high school students.

Other stops on this year’s Field Trip excursion included the Edney Innovation Center, CPR Wrap, Co.Starters and Treetop Hideaways.

Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography

As the Field Trip crew shuttled around by car between the various locations, new friendships were born and powerful bonds were forged. “As much as I love getting to visit each of the sites and social enterprises, one of the aspects I find most rewarding is the car rides between visits,” Marshall said. “This year we had 10 cars caravanning across the city throughout the day, and the conversations that take place in the car are always the most meaningful. That’s where new connections are formed, discoveries are processed, and possibilities are explored for how students may take what they’ve learned back with them to their home communities.”

Prior to the latest Field Trip, Merklinger attended the Fall 2018 Ignite Retreat in Black Mountain, N.C. She first learned about the Sullivan Foundation when Marshall spoke about social entrepreneurship to the Campbell University School of Nursing. That first encounter, she said, “had such a huge impact on me that I wanted to become more involved with the organization. I was also attracted to the trip because I’m currently enrolled in a class centered on discovering underserved communities, and I felt (the Spring 2019 Field Trip) would correlate well with my class. I was informed that the businesses we would be visiting were run by social entrepreneurs who had made a positive difference in their community, despite the difficulties they faced. I wanted to get a closer look at how their entrepreneurs did this and how I could learn from their example.”

Photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography

Merklinger said she would recommend the Field Trip and other Sullivan events to any college student looking to help others without trying to solve their problems for them.

“When you walk into a city or town and see issues such as poverty, low incomes, lack of healthcare, violence, and a variety of other problems, what is your natural instinct?” she said. “Do you want to run away and forget you’ve ever been there? Or do you want to fix their issues and completely flip the script? If you would choose the latter, this field trip is for you. But instead of ‘fixing their issues,’ how would you like to take a creative approach in learning how to walk alongside the community members and create positive change?

“Sometimes we go through life and become so engrossed in our passions or ideas—or blinded by the negativity we see—we miss the beauty of the communities right in front of us. This trip will give future students new and fresh perspectives on how you can implement change in different areas that you’ve come across in life. Some of the approaches these businesses take would be solutions you may never have thought would solve the issues the communities were facing and thus, engage your creative and critical thinking skills. This trip will ignite in you the desire to think outside of the box in order to go beyond the superficial, to dig deep into the heart of the community in order to help those around you. So, do I think this trip is worth going on? I do 100 percent.”

Danielle Holquist, a Campbell University student, poses for a photo by Amber Merklinger, Amber Faith Photography.

New Artist-Run Hotel Aims to Revitalize Struggling Mississippi Delta Town

A newly opened hotel in downtown Clarksdale, Miss. aims to serve as a hub for the arts and help revitalize the small Delta town – which bills itself as the birthplace of the blues – and surrounding Coahoma County, where more than 36 percent of the residents live in poverty.

The 20-room Travelers Hotel is an artist-run cooperative business owned by Coahoma Collective, a nonprofit organization that supports the arts and community development, according to Mississippi Today. Rooms can be booked for as little as $115, and revenue from the hotel will be used to fund Coahoma Collective’s arts programming.

A long list of blues music legends have called Clarksdale home, including Son House, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Muddy Waters, Junior Parker, and others. Legend holds that blues great Robert Johnson himself (pictured above) sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his prodigious talent just outside the town. Clarksdale and the surrounding area have long been a magnet for rock musicians ranging from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin to Tom Waits and Elvis Costello. The city is also home to actor Morgan Freeman’s famous Ground Zero Blues Club, the Delta Blues Museum and the annual Juke Joint Festival.

The Travelers Hotel in Clarksdale, Miss. is operated by an artist-run collective that hopes to boost tourism in the blues-steeped Delta town. The hotel’s lobby is pictured above.

The Travelers Hotel will provide high-end lodging for tourists interested in Clarksdale’s blues-steeped culture. Artists can display their work in the hotel, create exhibitions and become part owners in the hotel, while helping attract tourists and growing the local economy. The facility will host community gatherings and entertainment nights as well.

Coahoma Collective also operates the Collective Seed and Supply Co., a general store in Clarksdale. Its co-op members work two to three days a week at the store and the hotel, and artists receive a stipend and free room and board in a living space above the store. A plan is under development to let traveling artists stay in the hotel for free in exchange for donated artwork.

Charles Coleman, one of the co-op member/artists and community engagement director of Coahoma Collective, told Mississippi Today that the hotel will give visitors a chance “to experience the true Clarksdale culture (and) vibes.” The hotel features hand-built furniture and an interior reminiscent of the 1920s, when the building that houses the hotel was built.

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame have been known to visit Clarksdale and the surrounding Delta area to explore the local blues culture.

“We know it’s a boutique-ish-style hotel, so we’ll be able to see taxpayer dollars boost the economy,” Clarksdale Mayor Chuck Espy told Mississippi Today. “It’s just a perfect amenity that couples all (the) downtown activities from blues (to) tourism” as well as the newly opened Third Street Bistro restaurant located next door and other soon-to-open eateries.

Jon Levingston, executive director of the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Chamber of Commerce, said the facility has “contributed to the development of downtown. The hotel possesses a truly cool and hip vibe, creatively and comfortably decorated. I welcome them as a great addition to our community and appreciate how much they will contribute to our local economy.”

This Teenage Social Entrepreneur Is Philadelphia’s Queen of the Clutch Handbag

When Anna Welsh isn’t hitting the books at school, she’s making bags—including eye-catching, fashionable clutches and mini-clutches—and selling them to buy books for kids who need them most.

Her social enterprise, Little Bags, Big Impact, launched in early 2017 and has thus far donated more than 1,250 books and helped 5,000-plus children acquire literacy skills while also rescuing 2,000 pounds of fabric from landfills, according to the company’s website.

And did we mention that Anna is only 14 years old?

Anna Welsh started Little Bags, Big Impact when she was just 12 years old.

A resident of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, who has been sewing since the age of 6, she started her business when she was 12 after attending a summer hand-craft camp. “I had completed all of the assigned projects, so my sewing teacher gave me a scrap of fabric and a piece of paper,” she recalls on her website. “By the end of the day, I had designed and sewn three clutch bags. This is what I call ‘the start of it all.’”

And what a start it was. After making several clutches for her mom, she began getting requests for the bags from total strangers who saw and admired them. Before long, she was selected for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and began developing her business plan. When she presented it to a “Shark Tank”-style panel of investors, they named her the overall winner and gave her nearly double the amount of money she asked for, according to Main Line Today.

Anna donates 15 percent of each sale to Philadelphia’s Tree House Books, which distributes books to disadvantaged children in the area. Emphasizing sustainability in her business practices, she uses recycled textiles and fabrics that would otherwise be thrown out to design patterns that are both elegant and a little funky, with distinctive textures that lend multisensory appeal.

“The whole process of developing my business has been overwhelming but fascinating,” she writes on her website. “I learn something new every day—how to establish a business bank account or “Can a 12-year-old really own a business?’ At the heart of it all, I always knew that, even though I’m little, I have visions of my business growing big. I am so fortunate to have a supportive team of people around me to help me turn my dream into a reality.”

Meet the Ignite Retreat Facilitators: Jasmine Babers, a Publishing Prodigy at 15

Jasmine Babers, a facilitator at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming 2019 Spring Ignite Retreat and a proponent of women empowerment, believes every girl has a story to tell. But as a magazine publisher since the age of 15, Babers’ own story deserves a little attention, too.

Babers was still in high school when she launched Love Girls magazine. “Being a girl—being a teenager when I started the magazine and being surrounded by teenagers … I really was just immersed (in) what it’s like to go through the struggles that girls face every single day with bullying (and) with body image,” Babers says.

According to the Love Girls website, she created her own magazine to help a close friend who was being bullied at school—and others like her. “Like so many who face bullying and harassment, she struggled, wondering if the things being said to her were true,” Babers writes. “She lacked role models and mentors to help her (recognize) the amazing, intelligent and wonderful person she was.”

The cover model from Love Girls magazine’s fall 2018 issue

“I decided that I could sit back and watch this happen or I could do something about it, and that is how Love Girls Magazine was born,” she added. “I wanted to show my friend that she was beautiful enough, inside and out, to be in a magazine. I wanted to create a set of everyday role models for all the young girls who did not see themselves reflected in the media.”

The magazine, which is published both in print and digital formats, started out at just 10 pages and grew into a 40-pager. It focuses on self-esteem and women empowerment and provides girls with opportunities in writing, photography, event planning, and leadership. Today Love Girls has impacted over 25,000 girls across the nation.

Babers is now a senior at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she’s double-majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science. She is the treasurer and social chair of SISTERS, a member of Woman 2 Woman, and a founding member of the UIC philanthropy group. She also sits on the Student Advisory Board for the Dean of L.A.S. and the advisory board for the Provost and chairs the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women.

Off-campus, Babers takes on roles through Fellowships. She is a Peace First Fellow, where she advocates for young people to make peacemaking a part of their lives. She also recently won the prestigious Soros Justice Youth Activist Fellowship.

Babers has received numerous awards, including the USA Characters Unite Award; the Prudential Spirit of Community Award; The Peace First Prize; The Women’s Connection Award; the Royal Neighbors of America Award; and the Young Women of Achievement Award.

Being a product of the foster care system, she says she is thrilled to be spending the next several months working on her project, Fostering Incarceration, where she is doing research and writing a book on the Foster Care to Incarceration pipeline.

Babers accepts a check from Characters Unite in support of her magazine.

“Today I am a college student,” Babers writes on her website. “My journey has led me to tell my story and to tell the story of others. I have had many challenges, although I let none of them define me. When I was first getting started, it was reiterated time and time again that I had two strikes against me: I was a woman, and I was black. I decide to add a third one: I was young. And the list could go on and on because I’ve faced many obstacles. I am a product of the foster care system. I am dyslexic. I’m short. But none of these barriers were so big that they couldn’t be broken. I found many people and organizations also believed in my mission. Royal Neighbors of America, Peace First, School Seed, Iowa Women’s Foundation, and USA Network provided funding and support along with many others.”

And Babers was glad to accept the support. “It’s OK to ask for help,” she notes. “It’s also OK not to know how to do everything. I really have learned to play to my strengths and not focus so much on what I’m not good at and keep working at things I excel at.”

Feed Apparel Provides Meals for Food-Insecure in Two Countries

You don’t have to give the shirt off your back to help the poor. Thanks to international social enterprise Feed Apparel, buying just one “fashionably social” shirt, top or hoodie for yourself can help feed poverty-stricken people in India and England for weeks.

Two lines of clothing from Feed Apparel, founded in 2018 by social entrepreneur Patrick Sylvester, are dedicated to feeding the hungry. For every item sold in the company’s Feed Classic line, the company provides nutritious food to a person in need in India for a month, thanks to a partnership with the well-known charity, Feeding India. Items sold from a new line called Feed LDN supplies three meals to three people in London in coordination with Foodinate, a Manchester social enterprise.

Feed Apparel offers two lines of “socially fashionable” clothing to help the food-insecure in India and London, England.

Feed Apparel’s line of menswear includes T-shirts, hoodies, vests and joggers. The women’s line consists of tops, vests, sweatshirts, hoodies, and joggers. The garments are manufactured using sustainable techniques, including “full traceability of all fibers and a focus on recyclable materials,” according to UK business publication Business Quarter (BQ).

In addition to the new relationship with Feed Apparel, Foodinate partners with restaurants throughout the UK to provide a free meal to food-insecure individuals for every meal purchased by a customer. The meals are served by various charities, including homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The organization has fed more than 50,000 meals to people in need, according to its website.

Feeding India combats food waste and, through requests via its mobile app, diverts good extra food to donation centers that help people in need, especially children, the specially abled and the elderly.

Hoodies, T-shirts, vests and joggers are among the garments sold by Feed Apparel to help feed the hungry.

A 2017 report found that 27 percent of Londoners live in poverty. “We live in the seventh richest country in the entire world, and yet so many people are going without,” Caroline Stevenson, founder of Foodinate, has said. “I wanted to create a link between the two sides of the same coin, enabling local businesses and local people to help those in need in their own community. It’s about making a sustainable, scalable impact on a huge issue but in a really simple way.”

Homeboy Industries Transforms Lives for Ex-Offenders

Many ex-offenders who want to “go straight” face an uphill struggle when it comes to landing a job. For them, Father Gregory Boyle must seem like a godsend.

Boyle founded Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, which offers employment training and opportunities in a wide range of fields, from baking and retail to cellphone repair, for the formerly incarcerated.

The U.S. has one of the largest populations of ex-offenders in the world, and most employers aren’t exactly clamoring to hire them. “We work with the population that nobody desires to work with, and it’s a principle of this place that we stand with them,” Boyle says on the Homeboys website.

When the priest, who calls himself “Father Greg,” became pastor of the Dolores Mission Church in east Los Angeles, his parish had the worst poverty and the highest concentration of gang activity in the city. In response, he and his team developed what they describe as “the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world.”

The Homegirl Cafe is one of nearly a dozen social enterprises operated by Homeboy Industries.

Social entrepreneurship is a key part of the mission. Homeboy Industries has created almost a dozen social enterprises that offer 18-month job training programs for the formerly incarcerated. Clients learn marketable skills by working in a bakery, a retail shop that sells Homeboy swag, and a catering business, among others.

The Homeboy Bakery, for example, supplies products—including cakes, rolls, muffins, pretzels, scones and more—to other Homeboy enterprises, such as Homeboys Farmers Markets, Homegirl Catering, and the Homeboy Diner located at L.A.’s city hall, as well as to local restaurants and cafes.

At Homeboy Recycling, ex-offenders learn how to repair iPhones and recycle old PCs.

Homeboy Electronics Recycling employs 25 people. It recycles more than 5,600 PCs and repairs 3,900 iPhones every year, according to the website.

The Homegirl Café, a Zagat-rated restaurant specializing in Mexican fare and grilled-cheese sandwiches, provides a safe space for women who have experienced domestic violence and the challenges of single parenthood as well as gang involvement and incarceration.

The organization even makes its own Homeboy-branded chips, salsa and guacamole for sale in grocery stores around the U.S.

Emily Chapa went from prison and drug addiction to serving as a substance abuse counselor for Homeboy Industries.

The Homeboys website also tells the personal “transformation stories” of many of its clients, such as Emily Chapa, who now serves as a substance abuse counselor. “I’d been using since I was 15 years old, and this is the longest I’ve ever been sober in my life,” she said. “I may have abandoned my kids as they were growing up, but today I’m different. I’m a good grandmother. One thing we need to learn as women is that being emotional is not a weakness but a strength. We need to learn to use our voices and take care of ourselves, or we can’t take care of anybody.”

Homeboy Industries also provides its clients with milestone experiences that most of us take for granted, according to Homeboy trainee Fernando Martinez (pictured above). “I’ve been sober for a year and four months,” he said. “That in itself was a big accomplishment for me. I never thought I would be living a sober life. It’s helped me shape my life to achieve things like getting my driver’s permit. I’ve never gotten anything big like this before. I’m now able to succeed at a lot of things I never would have been able to by myself.”

Homeboy Industries has earned recognition from former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Jim Carrey (see video below). “I believe this room is filled with God,” Carrey said during a visit to the organization. “You are heroes to me, and I admire you … You’ve made a decision to transcend and leave darkness behind.”

Rollins College’s Department of Social Entrepreneurship Enlists Students on T-Shirt Campaign

When you’re looking to deliver a message to the masses, say it with a T-shirt. That’s the idea behind a contest sponsored by the Department of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College in Central Florida.

Rollins already has earned global recognition for its Social Entrepreneurship program, the first to be accredited by AACSB International, a nonprofit association that brings together educators, students and businesses to develop the next generation of leaders. AACSB accreditation ranks the department among the elite—less than 5% of business programs around the world attain it.

Now Dr. Tonia Warnecke, the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins, wants to spread the word about the innovative program campus-wide as well.

The department has challenged students to design a T-shirt that captures the essence of the program, Warnecke said. “In addition to coming up with a great slogan and design, we decided to have the contest as an opportunity to engage students in the social entrepreneurship major and minor,” she added. “It is important for students in the major and minor to be part of a community and to feel connected to the program they are enrolled in. It also gives them the chance to think critically about how they want to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship as well as share the opportunities provided by their major with others.”

It’s no secret that young people appreciate the fashionable simplicity of logoed T-shirts that express their interests and passions. “Students love having T-shirts displaying the programs, clubs, organizations, and sports they are involved in,” Warnecke said. “In addition to being fun and rewarding, the contest is a way for students to further develop their creative design and marketing skills.”

The contest launched on February 13, and the deadline for submissions is March 1, although Warnecke said the department may decide to extend the deadline as midterms approach. “We received our first submission the day after the contest launched, and I have received email inquiries from several students about the contest, so students are excited about it!”

Warnecke earned her bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and returned as a faculty member after receiving her masters’ degree and Ph.D. She co-developed the school’s Social Entrepreneurship major and minor at Rollins College in 2013, according to her Chair’s Message on the Department of Social Entrepreneurship’s website.

“In our global economy, thinking about business as a tool for social change has never been more timely,” Warnecke wrote in the Chair’s Message. “In the aftermath of the Great Recession, and in a society where environmental degradation and socio-economic inequalities are becoming more serious every day, social entrepreneurship helps students hone their skills of leadership, innovation and creativity and fully engage in their communities—local and global—as they apply business skills in novel ways.”

To learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship program at Rollins College, read the department’s mission statement here.

New Tool Could Help Objectively Evaluate Impact of Social Enterprises on Local Communities

As more corporations seek to quantify the social benefits they bring to local communities, Deloitte, one of the leading accounting firms and the largest professional services network in the world, has developed the Social Impact Measurement Model (SIMM) to provide some hard, accurate numbers.

SIMM is a machine-learning tool designed to forecast the impact of a large corporate investment—such as the opening of a new office or headquarters—on a community. It works with more than 140 social measures, including education, housing, family and migration, income and employment, and transportation.

Companies like Amazon and Toyota often accept multimillion-dollar tax incentives to relocate to or open a new factory, facility or office in a given county. Beyond the creation of new jobs, it’s difficult to quantify the corporation’s social impact in terms of factors like alleviating poverty, improving local schools or boosting public health.

“Our Social Impact Measurement Model accurately predicts what could result from a large capital investment—or what may or may not happen in its absence,” Deloitte says in a press release. “This machine-learning model estimates the social impact of investments at the U.S. county level for the four years following the investment, analyzing 142 social measures ranging from child poverty and reading proficiency to carpooling and population migration. The SIMM helps people better understand what a specific investment’s impact might be as well as why certain locations would see greater or lesser improvements than others. This can support more informed decision-making by companies, community leaders and policymakers—and enable greater coordination among them to help further the public good.”

Deloitte’s SIMM can also help investors objectively determine the value that a new social enterprise can bring to a community, said Janet Foutty, chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, according to AZ Business Magazine. “With the rise of the social enterprise—those organizations looking beyond revenue and profit to understand their impact on society—many of our clients are raising the profile of purpose-driven outcomes,” she said. “(SIMM) enables our clients to understand if their investments will pay social dividends, providing value to companies, communities and local governments.”

Sweet and Healthy: Peaceful Fruits Provides Jobs for Adults With Disabilities in Akron, Ohio

The one key ingredient missing from many so-called “fruit snacks” is, well, actual fruit. One notable exception: Peaceful Fruits, a social enterprise in Akron, Ohio, that provides jobs for local adults with disabilities and supports sustainable growers in the Amazon region.

As reports, Peaceful Fruits’ founder Evan Delahanty says his company offers “the most natural and highest-quality fruit snack on the market.” Described as “organic fruit strips,” they’re made with nothing but real, honest-to-goodness fruit—no sugar, corn syrup or maldodextrin—plus, in some cases, an added splash of lemon or orange juice.

“We take whole organic fruit, blend it up, and then slow-dry it overnight to make a real, authentic fruit snack,” Delahanty told Forbes.

The company sources some of its fruit from sustainable harvesters in the Amazon rainforest, including an antioxidant-rich berry called acai. Delahanty discovered acai while serving with the Peace Corps in the Amazon region. Many of the snack flavors feature a combination of fruits like strawberry and peach with an acai drizzle.

Peaceful Fruits snacks come in a variety of flavors.

To produce the snacks, Peaceful Fruits partners with the Blick Center, an Akron nonprofit, as well as Hattie Larlham, another local nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities. Peaceful Fruits uses Hattie Larlham’s shared commercial kitchen space and pays 29 of their adult clients to process, package and ship the product. The company has sold more than 300,000 fruit snacks since 2014.

Delahanty got a major PR boost from an appearance on “Shark Tank.” Although Peaceful Fruits wasn’t chosen by the judges, he told a local TV station that the company received more than 1,000 online orders within minutes after the show aired.

The company was also named an eBay “Everyday Hero” in 2018.

“We’re talking about directly impacting people’s lives,” Delahanty told Forbes. “We’ve had the privilege of creating work opportunities—jobs that (pay) at least minimum wage—for these people. They are a core part of our production process. They get a paycheck, a T-shirt and are part of a team.”

In the eBay video, Kim Smith, one of the Peaceful Fruits employees, said working for the company “gives me a sense of pride and happiness … This job … has helped me learn that I am capable of anything.”


Ebonie Johnson Cooper Aims to Build Bridges Between Nonprofits and People of Color

People of color are shockingly underrepresented in the offices and boardrooms of nonprofits nationwide, but that won’t continue if Ebonie Johnson Cooper has anything to say about it.

As founder of the Young, Black and Giving Back Institute (YBGB), Cooper educates the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors about the value of enlisting the African-American community in its changemaking efforts. YBGB offers “safe spaces for leaders of color to network, learn and grow together in their respective roles as donors, board members and social entrepreneurs,” according to Cooper’s personal website.

YBGB enjoys the support of corporate, philanthropic and educational giants like Wells Fargo Advisors, Johns Hopkins University and Teach for America. Cooper herself has been featured in Essence and the Washington Post and was named to Jet magazine’s 2013 “40 Under 40” list of African-American leaders.


Ebonie Johnson Cooper, one of Jet Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2013, is helping people of color establish themselves as leaders in the nonprofit sector.

Cooper works to remedy what is called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) deficit. A 2011 report from Commongood Careers and the Level Playing Field Institute, called “The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity,” found that about 82 percent of nonprofit sector employees are white, while only 10 percent are African-American and 5 percent Latino. Additionally, people of color only make up about 16 percent of nonprofit leaders, 5 percent of philanthropic leaders, and 14 percent of board members.

According to Philanthropy Digest, the “Voice of Nonprofit Talent” report demonstrates that “the lack of actionable practices in hiring, professional development and leadership selection, as well as the absence of diversity among senior management, creates obstacles to recruiting and retaining diverse talent.”

More than 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, only 62 percent of Americans are non-Hispanic whites, yet “Americans of color still struggle for their voice in many areas of society, namely philanthropy,” Cooper wrote for the nonprofit blog in 2017. “But why or how can this be? Don’t nonprofits and foundations realize they need diverse individuals’ help to solve society’s most pressing issues?”

To address the DEI deficit, Cooper’s YBGB brings together young black professionals with a commitment to making change and equips them with the tools and resources they need for effective leadership. Her organization hosts the annual Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit, a small-cohort gathering that convenes heads of foundations, top national fundraisers and media leaders with young black professionals engaged in community problem-solving.

In her NPEngage blog, Cooper notes that one survey found 20 percent of African-Americans agreed with the statement, “I would support more nonprofits if I was asked more often,” compared to nine percent of all donors. “In my own research,” Cooper adds, “48 percent of black millennials surveyed said nonprofits don’t do enough to engage them.”

She also notes that black Americans have always been quick to give back to the community, and “black millennials are following in the footsteps of those who have come before them.” One 2013 survey found that 92 percent of black millennials said they spent time volunteering, while 65 percent said they had donated more than $100 in one year.

She also pointed out that a Diversity in Giving report showed African-American donors “tend to give to nonprofits in smaller ways such as toy and food drives and donations at grocery store registers.” Another report found that African-Americans give 25 percent more of their income per year than whites and that nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate to nonprofits, giving $11 billion annually.

“Nonprofits should not discount the small gifts of African-American donors,” Cooper wrote. “Finding ways to meet black donors where they are and leverage all gifts, whether large or small, will begin to establish relationships necessary for longterm sustainability … Everyone is not using diversity or millennials as a tool for increased engagement and more effective results.”