Spark Grantees Build Community in Unique Ways
From dance groups to literary journals, and culture-infused health programs to large-scale festivals, our most recent group of Spark Grant recipients are building a thriving Pierce County in unique ways. Learn more about each of their projects below.
Think you have an idea that would be a good candidate for a Spark Grant? We are accepting applications for our next round of grants now through March 9th. For more information or to apply, click here,
“All the stories of my girls led me to want to build a community of sisterhood and grow positive self-esteem in girls of all ages who feel forgotten.”
Vision of Eastside is a youth program that uses step as a vehicle to foster sisterhood, brotherhood and a sense of community with under-served students in the Eastside Neighborhood. The team’s founder and coach, Chelsea McElroy says it was her own experiences, as well as those of young girls in her community that inspired her to create the program. ” I am a Black Girl from Tacoma and growing up there weren’t many programs designed specifically for the edification of who I am. All of the stories of my girls led me to want to build a community of sisterhood and grow positive self-esteem in girls of all ages who feel forgotten.” Chelsea says the team’s focus is not just to be phenomenal performers, but phenomenal women who lead extraordinary lives.
“We can save the ocean if we all work together – and Ocean Fest is something I can do to bring people together.”
Tacoma Ocean Fest is something that’s never been done here before. It’s a one-day festival extending along Tacoma’s Foss Waterway. Using arts, sciences, human-powered water sports, and community to celebrate the ocean, the festival is designed to raise awareness of ocean threats and inspire people to protect it. Ocean Fest organizer, Rosemary Ponnekanti, says her love for the ocean is what inspired her to create this event. “I grew up by the ocean, I love being near it or in it, and I’m just devastated whenever I read about a new ocean threat, like plastic pollution or offshore drilling. We can save the ocean if we all work together – and Ocean Fest is something I can do to bring people together.”
Ocean Fest will be held on June 10th 2018. It’s free, family-friendly event, with tons of fun ocean-themed activities, exhibits, and performances. You can find out more about Tacoma Ocean Fest here.
Healthy Hula – Gloria Fujii
“Developing personal health while persevering cultural heritage strengthens the family unit and allows us to share our aloha with each other and our community.”
Healthy Hula is a health and exercise program for elders and children in the Pacific Islander community. Utilizing traditional hula dance, music, and nutritional education, the goal is to inspire participants to adopt healthy lifestyles by connecting with their cultural roots. Healthy Hula founder, Gloria Fujii says seeing many in her community deal with issues like diabetes, heart disease, and strokes inspired her to develop something that could spark positive change. She says ,”Developing personal health while persevering cultural heritage strengthens the family unit and allows us to share our aloha with each other and our community.”
“It is also the way I witness my own life as a person in love with a soldier. It’s how I see others; it’s how I support them.”
Collateral is an online literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction and art concerned with the impact of military service beyond the combat zone. Now in it’s third edition, the journal has received an overwhelmingly positive response, and helped open up important conversations between people impacted by violent conflict and military service. Collateral’s Editor in Chief, Abby Murray also teaches free poetry workshops to military communities in Pierce County. Murray, who is the spouse of a military service member herself, says the writing is more than expression for her. “It is also the way I witness my own life as a person in love with a soldier. It’s how I see others; it’s how I support them…it’s necessary to me as a poet, citizen, and teacher.
“We want to help shape a society where no one gets thrown away.”
One Person’s Trash is a literary journal at the center of the homelessness epidemic. Aiming to give a voice to voiceless and tell stories from all angles of those affected by homelessness, most of the journal’s content comes from the homeless, formerly homeless, and people whose professional or personal lives intersect with the homeless. In addition to publishing their stories online, One Person’s Trash distributes quarterly print issues which are sold by local homeless vendors who get to keep 100% of the profits they make selling the journals. Assistant Editor, Steven Gontarz says “We believe that although it may be easy to just walk by someone on the street, you cannot easily turn away from theses stories and the emotions they evoke. We want to help shape a society where no one gets thrown away.”
Harbor Heights Elementary School International Night – Kristi Stortini
“It’s the perfect event to bring us all together in a safe place where students and families can proudly talk about their cultures and comfortably ask questions about other cultures.”
International Night is an event that celebrates the diverse cultural backgrounds of the students and staff at Harbor Heights Elementary in Gig Harbor. Students, families, and school staff unite to share about their own heritage and learn about others through display boards, cultural performances and food samplings from around the world. Kristie Stortini, who works with students in the school’s English Language Learning program, says International Night provides an opportunity for everyone to learn to live together respectfully and learn from one another’s experiences. “It’s the perfect event to bring us all together in a safe place where students and families can proudly talk about their cultures and comfortably ask questions about other cultures.”