A story of community and good food

I have always day-dreamed about having a few acres full of garden goodness, some chickens and a small orchard (of course the work involved isn’t really part of my fantasy).  But for now, I’ll make due with my small backyard garden, and wait impatiently to plant my tomatoes!

Today I read about an inspiring couple in Michigan with a passion for community gardening, and a unique way of supporting their local micro-farmers.

Every Friday, Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe turn their Ann Arbor home into the Selma Cafe — a “pay what you like” breakfast club where donations are put into a fund to provide hoop houses (like green houses) and micro-loans to local growers.  With the help of neighbor volunteers and guest chefs, they not only produce amazing breakfasts, but also help assemble the hoop houses to support the local agriculture economy. Jeff and Lisa’s passion, commitment and courage has helped their local community stay connected for over 3 years.

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excerpt from the Michigan Daily – January, 2012

“My goal is that I want someone to come to Selma Café and feel (as though) they’ve been invited into our home for breakfast,” Gottlieb said.

Despite its low-key surroundings, Selma Café dishes up some of the highest-quality cuisine imaginable. The morning I visited the breakfast salon, chef Dan Vernia of The Ravens Club served traditional mincemeat pierogies and winter vegetable coulibiac.

Noticeably missing from the truly gourmet menu is the expected hefty price tag. Selma Café operates on a by-donation basis and Gottlieb said that the average donation is between $10 and $15 a person. A typical breakfast at Selma, Gottlieb said, could raise up to $1500.

One-third of this money is used to buy fresh, high-quality ingredients from local farmers that Ann Arbor’s best chefs use to create that Friday’s fare. The rest of the funds are allocated as micro-loans to local farmers to buy hoop house kits, another integral part of Selma Café’s mission.

Hoop houses allow farmers to grow food during all four seasons, extending the growing season exponentially and greatly increasing the availability of local produce. Selma Café volunteers install the hoop houses, keeping the cost minimal to farmers.

So far, Selma Café profits have helped to build 30 hoop houses in the surrounding community, with four built in Detroit.

Selma Café started as a party in its earliest days. The whole idea of a locally grown café got started when Gottlieb threw a breakfast party to celebrate McCabe’s 50th birthday in Feb. 2009. From the party, she said a “core group of people” who wished to continue the tradition developed.

It’s an unlikely start to an extraordinarily unique nonprofit organization, one that has fed thousands of Ann Arbor locals and assisted a number of local farmers.

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Lisa and Jeff have the creativity, passion and courage to make a difference. They open their home weekly to bring neighbors together for a great meal, and provide a way for neighbors to help each other.  What a wonderful way to support your community!

Check out their web site at: http://www.repastspresentandfuture.org/site/fmselma/

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See the need and respond

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Fred Rogers aka “Mr. Rogers” (1928-2003)- American educator, Presbyterian minister, songwriter, author, and television host

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The time is now to do something

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we can stop noticing what is going on around us. The people that live in small towns down the road may be no more than a blur as we pass by to our final destination.

One day, Sal Dimicel passed a small town like that while tending to his real estate business. But for some reason, Sal stopped to look a bit harder, and saw people in desperate need of help. Instead of continuing on with his business, what Sal did that day started a mission of courage that continues to provide a willing heart and hand to new found friends. Sal chose to act, and shows us the power one person can have to make a positive change.

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Excerpt from a wonderful December 2000 Time article about Sal Dimicel:

There are 3,300 residents of Pembroke Township, 65 miles south and a world away from Chicago. The single small commercial district within the township, originally settled in the 1950s by former farm workers who had migrated from the South, has now all but disappeared. The 4-Way Deli is the only store in the town, which has no supermarket, bank or restaurant. For those things, townspeople, many of whom are poor, black and without cars, must take the one available daily bus to Kankakee, which is 20 miles to the west. There is no natural-gas line in Pembroke Township; residents heat their homes with bottled gas, coal or firewood. Some still do not have running water and carry it in buckets drawn from wells or pumped by hand. And in the Pembroke Elementary School District, nearly all 742 children qualify for free daily breakfast and lunch. “On windy, snowy days, when all the other schools in the area are closed, I try to keep mine open,” says superintendent Billy Mitchell, 58. “I’ll never forget the day I closed them and a little girl walked to school and said, ‘Dr. Mitchell, if you’re closed, what am I going to eat?’” In short, says Genova Singleton, 47, a township trustee, “poverty is a fact of life here in Pembroke Township. This is a forgotten land.”
Forgotten, that is, save for the kindnesses of one man – Sal Dimiceli. Over the past 11 years he has donated $1.5 million in goods, services and cash to the people of Pembroke Township, where this year alone he has delivered 175,000 lbs. Of food, 35,000 disposable diapers, 25,000 rolls of toilet paper, 8,000 tubes of toothpaste, 7,500 pairs of shoes and 400 coats. In addition he has spent some $156,000 on home repairs and nearly $21,000 for residents’ overdue heating and electricity bills.
This explosion of generosity was inspired one day in the fall of 1989 when Dimiceli happened to take a shortcut on the way home to Chicago from a business trip. Driving past the desolate cluster of shotgun shacks and dilapidated mobile homes at the heart of Pembroke Township, he wondered why they were all abandoned. “Then,” he recalls, “I saw a pair of eyes peering back at me, and I realized there were people living inside.” Stunned, Dimiceli returned the next day and asked a local Baptist minister how many of the people needed help. The pastor’s reply: “All of them.”
That day, back in the suburban home that he shares now with his wife, Corinne, 40, and their four children, Dimiceli decided to help. Says Corinne: “Sal always had a big heart. This was something he had to do. He couldn’t turn his back on those people.” At first he and some friends made occasional visits to Pembroke with trucks full of gifts and supplies. Soon “word spread like wildfire that we were in town,” says Dimiceli. “We would drive through and people would be standing outside their houses waiting for us to come.” By 1989 Dimiceli founded the nonprofit organization, The Time Is Now. “I was so upset seeing children and the elderly freezing and going hungry,” he explains, “That I said, ‘The time is now to do something.’”

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After reading about Sal and his efforts, I know I will slow down and take the time to look a bit more carefully as I travel through this life. Sal has the kind of courage that can change our world for the better.

CNN Heros profiled Sal in this wonderful video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6c8GIRxG34

You can visit Sal’s web site and learn more at: http://www.timeisnowtohelp.org/index.html

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Applaude the good

When someone does something good, applaud! You will make two people happy.
Samuel Goldwyn – US (Polish-born) movie producer (1882 – 1974)  
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Find Your Courage

Margie Werrell is an author, life coach, and speaker who focuses on helping others be more courageous in daily life.  I thought her 12 Everyday Acts of Courage were a great way to start putting more courage into my own life. Enjoy!

12 Everyday Acts of Courage to Create the Life You Really Want!

By Margie Warrell

1. The Courage to Take Responsibility
Whilst you can’t always control your circumstances you can always choose how you will respond to them. No matter what challenges you face you have the power to make the ultimate choice about whether to let the world affect you or to go out and affect the world. Resist the impulse to blame your woes on others but instead to make the decision to own your life and own it fully.
2. The Courage to Live with Integrity
Integrity is the only path in life upon which you will never get lost. Placing integrity at the cornerstone of every decision you make requires a willingness to do what is right above what is convenient or politically expedient. At times this means veering off the safe and comfortable path onto a less traveled one where the risk of failure or disapproval may run high. At other times it calls you to forge your own. At its core, integrity is about wholeness and alignment between your deepest values, what you are doing and who you are being in the world. Integrity calls forth greatness.
3. The Courage to Challenge Your ‘Stories’
You do not see the world as it is, but as you are. Too often people live in answers to questions they have never asked and claim a monopoly on the truth. The fact is you do not own the truth, you just your version of it. Whilst it takes courage to question the assumptions and beliefs you’ve been living by up until now and opening your mind to alternative perspectives, doing so opens up new possibilities for yourself and your life that you otherwise may never have seen. Ultimately being willing to challenge your stories unleashes you to experience live in a whole new, more exciting and more meaningful way.
4. The Courage to Dream Bigger
You will never be able to have your dream job nor live your dream life unless you first find the courage to dream big enough to identify what it is. Dare to create a vision for your life that is bigger than the one you’ve had until now in your relationships, your career, and your life in general. Don’t let fear keep you from connecting with what it is that inspires you most deeply for the greatest danger is not that your dreams are too lofty and you fail to reach them, but that they are too small and you do!
It is the aim, if reach or not, that makes great the life. Your life is as big as you dare to dream it!
5. The Courage to Be Who You Are
In a world that pressures for conformity it takes courage to be who you are. So express yourself fully and authentically in every relationship and in every encounter you have with others giving up pretending to be more or less or different from who you truly are. When you fail to be authentic you keep from others that which makes you most attractive; when you conform all that you have to offer others is your conformity. Be genuine, humble and, unpretentious but most of all, just be yourself. There is nothing more valuable or attractive.
6. The Courage to Speak Up
Dare to speak up, to give voice to your concerns, your feelings and thoughts and to engage in conversations that you’ve been hesitant to have before. Don’t choose the certainly of never addressing an issue or fulfilling a need over the possibility that you may have an awkward conversation or a request declined. After all, things that aren’t talked out get acted out as unfulfilled needs and unresolved resentments fester. Speaking up in ways that honor the dignity of others provides a means of building trust and deepening the quality of the relationships. It also enables others to know who you are, what you need, what you are care about and what you are capable of more clearly.
7. The Courage to Step Boldly into Action
Nothing changes if nothing changes. Have the guts step boldly from your comfort zone to make the changes and take the chances that call you forward to fulfilling the potential within you. Trade procrastination and excuses for a commitment to being a person who is willing to do what it takes to live the life to which they aspire. Whatever the risks you face in your endeavor, the greatest risk is to take none at all. Fear regret more than failure for life always rewards action.
8. The Courage to Persevere
Overcoming the setbacks and failures that present themselves on the way to your goals is what brings the greatest sense of achievement. Face your challenges with a deep determination to staying the course. Resist succumbing to resignation in the face of adversity for any goal worth pursuing will require its share of determination and perseverance. Connect with that which makes your spirit soar and remember that it matters not that you reach the summit, but that you had the guts to try. It is through perseverance in the face of adversity that the ordinary become extra-ordinary.
9. The Courage to Say No
Sometimes we need to say no to the good in order to make room for the great. However finding the guts to say no first requires first being clear about what you most want to say yes to. Doing so will help you to set boundaries in the midst of being pulled simultaneously in conflicting directions and teach people what you will and will not tolerate. Saying no when you need to may never be easy but the price you pay for not doing so far exceeds any momentary discomfort.
10. The Courage to Open Your Heart Fully
Life’s richest fulfillment comes from being as open to experiencing life’s pain as deeply as its joy. Opening your heart fully to the depths of emotion that a life well lived calls forward takes great courage but it is the only life worth living. By letting down your defenses and making yourself vulnerable to the anguish that life can sometimes bring, you can experience the joy that comes from connecting with others openly, intimately and compassionately. Drop the barriers that are creating distance and isolating you from others, reveal your humanity and make yourself available for others to know, to love, to care for and to connect with. Nothing is more nurturing to the spirit.
11. The Courage to Let Go
As human beings we like to feel in control. However peace of mind only comes through giving your best to life whilst simultaneously detaching yourself from the outcome of your efforts knowing that everything in life has a purpose. Put your faith in the wisdom that created you, know that who you are is not defined by the outcome of your efforts and trust that you have within you all you need at any moment to take on the challenges life presents to you. Giving up resisting what you cannot control and going with, rather than against, the flow of life makes available to living in the present moment. Finding the courage to let go will not impede you ability to achieve what you seek most from life, it will enhance it.
12. The Courage to Be a Leader
Leadership is not a position; it’s a choice. Every day you have opportunities to be a leader for the essence of leadership is inspiring people to move in a direction they may otherwise not have gone, to accomplish more than they may otherwise have sought to accomplish and to grow into someone they may otherwise not have become. By choosing the path of integrity, personal responsibility, and courage you will automatically shine your light so brightly that it will reveal to others the majesty of their own. Ultimately only by living with courage yourself and being the leader you are capable of being will humanity, as a collective, find it’s courage and lead the world into a future filled with possibility.
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Draw your family circle

“The problem with the world is that we draw our family circle too small.”

Mother Teresa – founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India -(1910 – 1997)

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The Courage to teach from the heart

Captain Bill Cannata of the Westwood Massachusetts Fire Department could be considered courageous simply because of the job he does day-in and day-out keeping his community safe.  But, as the father of an autistic son, Bill saw the need to train other first responders on how to recognize and help autistic children during a crisis, and then he did something to fill that need.

In a job where every second counts, Bill started “ALEC” – Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition. The training program provides police, fire, and EMTs with practical approaches to help get autistic children to safety during difficult situations.

Watch this wonderful interview with  Bill Cannata on the TODAY show: http://todayhealth.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/01/10543990-autism-rescue-firefighter-teaches-how-to-help-autistic-people-in-emergencies

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“Since its founding in 2003, ALEC has trained more than 20,000 first responders in New England and New York and expanded to eight other states.

The center’s training demonstrates how to diffuse panic, ask the right questions, and, especially, know what not to do in those tense situations, Cannata said. “For example, running and pinning someone down is a bad idea,’’ he said.

Rather, if firefighters have to act quickly, they can take a person with autism to a less frantic spot, or wrap them in a blanket to calm them.

“Give them space, geographic containment, and time,’’ he said.

Flashing police lights, the sound of sirens, acrid smoke, and strangers in their homes all add up to sensory overload for children and adults with autism, who might hide, try to bolt from the scene, or even attempt to run back into a burning home, Cannata said.

Cannata and the center’s director, Betsy Roche, said they are amazed at the calls of thanks from first responders who have put their new knowledge into practice, often shortly after completing the ALEC course.”

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Because he is the father of an autistic son, Bill Cannata knows the dangers that exist for those with autism when their world changes from predictable to chaotic. And he has the courage to dedicate his energy to ensuring as many of his fellow rescuers understand how to best restore a since of calm and order to a very frightening situation.  I am thankful for Bill’s courage to make a difference, and for all of those helping with the ALEC training!

ALEC web site: http://www.sncarc.org/ALEC/index.htm

ALEC Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ALECtraining

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Kindness now

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. “

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)-  American essayist, lecturer, and poet

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A young girls courage to give

Rachel Beckwith was fast approaching her 9th birthday and had one wish, to have all of her friends donate $9 each to a charity that would bring wells and fresh water to villages that had none.  It was her goal to raise $300 for the charity she had set her heart on.  Rachel eventually did reach her goal, and soo much more.

New York Times: Rachel’s Last Fund-Raiser

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Rachel lived outside Seattle and early on showed a desire to give back. At age 5, she learned at school about an organization called Locks of Love, which uses hair donations to make wigs for children who have lost their own hair because of cancer or other diseases. Rachel then asked to have her long hair shorn off and sent to Locks of Love.

“She said she wanted to help the cancer kids,” her mother, Samantha Paul, told me. After the haircut, Rachel announced that she would grow her hair long again and donate it again after a few years to Locks of Love. And that’s what she did.

Then when she was 8 years old, her church began raising money to build wells in Africa through an organization called charity:water. Rachel was aghast when she learned that other children had no clean water, so she asked to skip having a ninth birthday party. In lieu of presents, she asked her friends to donate $9 each to charity:water for water projects in Africa.

Rachel’s ninth birthday was on June 12, and she had set up a birthday page on the charity:water Web site with a target of $300. Alas, Rachel was able to raise only $220 — which had left her just a bit disappointed.

Then, on July 20, as Rachel was riding with her family on the highway, two trucks collided and created a 13-car pileup. Rachel’s car was hit by one of the trucks, and although the rest of her family was unhurt, Rachel was left critically injured.

Church members and friends, seeking some way of showing support, began donating on Rachel’s birthday page — charitywater.org/Rachel — and donations surged past her $300 goal, and kept mounting. As family and friends gathered around Rachel’s bedside, they were able to tell her — even not knowing whether she couldn’t hear them — that she had exceeded the $47,544 that the singer Justin Bieber had raised for charity:water on his 17th birthday.

“I think she secretly had a crush on him, but she would never admit it,” her mom said. “I think she would have been ecstatic.”

When it was clear that Rachel would never regain consciousness, the family decided to remove life support. Her parents donated her hair a final time to Locks of Love, and her organs to other children. Word spread about Rachel’s last fund-raiser.

Contributions poured in, often in $9 increments, although one 5-year-old girl sent in the savings in her piggy bank of $2.27. The total donations soon topped $100,000, then $300,000. Like others, I was moved and donated. As I write this, more than $850,000 has been raised from all over the world, including donations from Africans awed by a little American girl who cared about their continent.

“What has been so inspiring about Rachel is that she has taught the adults,” said Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water. “Adults are humbled by the unselfishness of this little girl.”

Rachel’s courage at the very young age of 9yrs to give finally resulted in $1,265,823 worth of donations to bring fresh water wells to others who didn’t have access to clean drinking water.

Rachel’s donation page: http://www.mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=16396

Rachel’s mom Samantha is keeping her daughter’s memory and deep desire to help others alive by continuing the giving as a tribute to Rachel’s. To donate, go to: http://mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=21634

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Your mission on earth

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.”
Richard Bach (born 1936) American writer, author of  Jonathan Livingston Seagull

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