Last year our most well attended skill share was the cloth diaper workshop. We were able to pass on over fifty cloth diapers to new caregivers in the region.
Anola Randles Frank has taken the lead on this amazing initiative, and has help to grow the diaper bank idea in recent months. She created donation boxes, a form to keep track of the diaper donations and placement (and to ensure everyone is covered legally) and has set up donation spots around the community.
As Anola pointed out in her presentation and worksheets (which you can download for free here!), so many families have to choose between diapers and food. Cloth diapers can save families hundreds of dollars and are better for the environment. But they come with a great deal of upfront costs. Our diaper bank mitigates those costs and ensures that diapers are passed down in our community to people who need them.
Our diaper bank will be free and accessible to caregivers in the region and after filling out the application to keep track of our donations, caregivers will be allowed to keep the diapers as long as needed. Once returned we’ll disinfect them and mend them if needed! As we beginning offering office hours at our center, caregivers can come borrow diapers and we’ll offer regular skill sharing workshops on using cloth diapers a few times a year.
There are currently donation boxes located at Health Food Garden, Mulberry Bush, Crisis Pregnancy Center, and Southern Gypsy store. We’ll also be working to get some donation boxes set up in other communities. If you’d like to donate diapers or money toward diapers, please let us know! We could also use people who would be willing to help mend diapers.
You can contact Anola Frank at 479-926-6946, firstname.lastname@example.org or send us an email to: TheMcElroyHouse@yahoo.com
Our second annual Harvest Run will take place December 5th and scenic Bona Dea Trail in Russellville, Arkansas. This year’s run will also feature a Kids Fun Run! This is our major fundraising event, and all proceeds go toward supporting our community work. Sign up here!
You have lots of options for support! You can do the walk/run, you can become a sponsor (our Feed a Runner Sponsor starts at 10.00!), or, if you live far away or are busy that day you can do a virtual run! However you want to do it, your donations support our work!
Our goals are broad, but our strategies concrete. We seek to bring people together across differences to stand for beloved community. Our resources focus on low-income communities and center anti-racism in all we do, especially in reaching out to fellow white people to fight for the rights of all.
This takes on many forms and we seek to always listen to what people in the community say they/we need. We also strive to build partnerships in both rural and urban communities in our region, creating spaces both literal and metaphorical that bring people together for justice and growth.
Here’s a short list of what you’d be supporting:
- Monthly Skill Shares on everything from permaculture to cooking from scratch on a budget (using local grandma recipes!), to weatherizing old homes on a tight budget (we’ll be using our space as a working example).
- The expanding of our local cloth diaper bank and other related resources for caregivers.
- The creation of a tool lending library and other garden resources for beginning growers.
- The creation of our community flower gardens for spaces of grief and growth.
- Community-led workshops and discussions on immigration and supporting recent immigrants in our communities, fighting racism, exploring souring incarceration rates and discussions with Seeds of Liberation about ways we can reduce rates; growing partnerships with organization across rural and urban central Arkansas to bring people together across difference to fight for change in low-income communities.
- Last year our run was a huge success and allowed us to really get going. Here are just a few samples of what your donations funded last year:
Once a Month Skill Shares Around the Community:
A Series of Living Room Conversations and actions on fighting racism and coming together across difference to build Beloved Community and a partnership with the Other Arkansas campaign.
The Creation of Resource Banks and Community Teaching Tools on site:
Helping to Build the Freedom House Garden and Related Curriculum in Partnership with Residents
Preparing our Community Hub for Our Own Gardens:
This past Saturday we had a packed house for our second Living Room Conversation. This was a follow up event to our community conversation entitled, “What Will the Children Expect of Us?” These conversations provide community members with a space to come together to talk about what it means to grow beloved community and to gain tools to work for equality in our towns. [To learn more about our first conversation and the related work, click here. ]
These conversations began after the increase in white supremacist groups in our area. These spaces are created to be as inclusive as possible and are spaces for respect, conversation, and growth. As we grow we’re engaging in what is often-termed participatory research, which basically just means research for and by the community. Such research helps fight injustice and builds democratic participation.
During our conversation we discussed a few resources for fighting racism, including a list of resources from the national SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) network; writings on Kingian nonviolence, and the words of Ella Baker and Anne Braden.
History of Highlander Research Center (one of the central places for the development of participatory research and cultural organizing)
As we talked, here are a few things that came up that will we grow as we move forward:
- What makes us brave in standing up for our neighbors?
- How do we fight isolation?
- How do we hear one another?
- How do we become proactive rather than reactive?
- How can we use our spaces to become effective in the fight for equality and justice?
- How can white people fight for the rights of people of color?
- How can we be more effective in standing side by side with immigrant communities who are experiencing dehumanization within our communities?
Moving forward, here are a few key themes that came up. We hope you can join us as we grow:
- Organizing a visibility event to coincide with our December 5th run at Bona Dea Park in Russellville. We’ll be working to put together an event that calls on all of us to stand together for love and community and ties into the Hands Across America model. Want to take part in this? Please message us!
- Our first annual membership meeting will take place Saturday September 19th. We’ll be talking about our long-term models and how the Living Room conversations can be a part of our larger strategy.
- Organizing events that explore southern history and offer stories of southern resistance to racism and division. Read a letter written by the Other Arkansas Coalition here. Consider joining the Other Arkansas Coalition and members of the McElroy House this Saturday for a gathering for racial equality. View the invite here.
- Taking part in the Russellville Unity Fest on October 17th. Learn more here.
- Our next conversation will take place on October 3rd with a bonfire and gathering to share southern stories. We’ll have updates on this soon!
When: August 29th 10:00 a.m.– 12:00 p.m.
Where: First United Methodist Church, 100 N. 2nd Street, Dardanelle
A few months back we had a request for a workshop on making your own baby food!
The kind people at the Dardanelle Methodist Church are allowing us to use their certified kitchen for an interactive skill share using local produce. Anola Frank will making sweet potato puffs and Samantha Dill will share information about recipes for children with milk and peanut allergies.
In addition to making baby food and swapping ideas and resources, we’ll also talk about ways to save money and stretch your budget, how to save money at the Farmers Market, how to creatively utilize WIC resources, and ways to grow your own veggies!
Feel free to bring your own recipes to swap! And if you have local produce you’d like to donate for the skill share that would be wonderful.
As always, children are more than welcome! Please rsvp at the link below so we have an idea of how much food to prepare during the workshop!
For more information call 479-957-0551
A few weeks ago near Harrison, Arkansas the KKK hosted a week long training camp. Open to ages sixteen and up, the camp attracted people from around the nation and sought to build “a mighty army” to fight against “racial genocide” and bring about “racial redemption.” This is the same KKK who purchased the large billboard near exit 81 on I-40 in Russellville.
In response to this training a coalition of several organizations and individuals across the south launched a media campaign calling on white people in small towns and rural areas to stand up against white supremacy and break through the cultures of silence surrounding race and racism. Together the coalition wrote multiple media pieces which were published both online and in regional print media sources, calling on our communities to take a stand against racism in all its forms, recognizing that racism and our current forms of white supremacy rarely show up in klan robes. (see links to related pieces below).
Since then our campaign has gone viral, and we’ve had hundreds of regional people take part in our social media campaigns, sharing photos speaking out against hate in silence and using hashtags such as #notmyozarks,#notinmyname, #theotherarkansas and #wemaketheroadbywalking. The campaign has been featured in national publications and shows no signs of stopping. It’s sparking conversations near and far about how we can build what Martin Luther King referred to as the “beloved community.”
Following our media campaign we’re now moving into more direct work within communities. Last week the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources hosted our first ever living room conversation in connection with this larger campaign. Entitled “What the Children Will Expect of Us: Speaking Out Against Silence and Hate,” this gathering was attended by twelve adults and five children.
The premise of the gathering was to move from organic conversations that pop up naturally to a more intentional effort to bring people together to talk about racism in our communities and build locally-based solutions.
Far too often when we discuss social problems we talk in abstractions and distance ourselves from pain, making it easy to for us to divide amongst ourselves and forget that at the heart of our struggles are the daily lives of children. During our gathering we agreed to speak only from personal experience, and, at every turn, to consider what kind of world we’re building for the generations to come.
So much of southern culture is about ancestors. We love family trees, stories passed down among generations, and talking about who our people are. Get Arkansas people together and you’re sure to have a conversation about who is who’s grandma and where the old home place is. We have a beautiful regard for the people who have come before, and it’s part of what connects us to the places we love and call home. It helps us define who we are and can be one of our community’s greatest strengths.
The thing is, one day we’ll all be ancestors, too. And young people—children who have grown up here and recent immigrants alike—will be looking back on the lives we’ve lived, seeking stories they can draw from in their own lives. What kind of ancestors do we want to be? What will the young people of the future want us to do today to build more loving communities for everyone?
During our first gathering we voted to meet every first Saturday of the month to continue these conversations and to build actions that strengthen our already strong communities, and work toward the fearless work of beloved community. We’d love to have you join us as we build communities of courage.
We’ll be meeting again on September 5th at 6:00 pm at the McElroy House at 420 S. 2nd Street.No big deal if you missed the first gathering! We’ll be building resources for our work and exploring elements of Kingian Nonviolence.
Please join our media campaigns on social media via The Other Arkansas and Not My Ozarks. You can also check out our friends at The Other Mississippi and The Other Tennessee. Please consider submitting your own photo speaking out and joining us in the living room conversations.
If you’d like to host a living room conversation in your community, we’d love to help with that too. We’re working in connection with a regional group called Southerners on New Ground, and we’d love to see these gatherings pop up all around the region. Together we can do this. We may not always know how to take the next steps, but together we can make the road by walking. Thanks so much for reading.
The Seed and the Story is a partnership with the Courier newspaper serving Pope and Yell County, Arkansas. This weekly column explores folklife, oral history, and community in central Arkansas, particularly the Yell County area where the column originates. Columns are often written in partnership with the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources and Community Action and srtives to bridge intergenerational themes in the region.
On June 20th Anola and Samantha led a wonderful skill share and inactive discussion about cloth diapering.
Anola created a presentation that went over the benefits of cloth, especially for low-income families who often find themselves having to choose between food or diapers. You can download Anola’s presentation here: the-McElroy-House
Best of all, we were able to hand out over 40 cloth diapers to new caregivers! Thanks so much to ARVAC Food Bank in Dardanelle for letting us use their space for this workshop.
Since we had the workshop we received a donation of a vintage chest of drawers with glass cabinets, which is perfect for housing all the diapers.
And here’s some especially great news!! Anola is working on setting up a partnership with the Rebecca Foundation, a national organization that helps supply free cloth diapers to low-income, special needs, and military families. Stay tuned for more information on that!
Below are few photos from the day.
If you have diapers you’d like to pass on to our diaper bank or you are in need of diapers, please call 479-957-0551 or contact us on fb here. If you’d like to support the diaper bank with a financial donation, we can make use of that too. We’ll use the money to buy diapers from local stories, supporting both caregivers and the local economy.
What: McElroy House Cloth Diaper Skill Share
Where: ARVAC Food Bank, 514 Union Street, Dardanelle
When: June 20th, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Contact: Meredith Martin-Moats via McElroy House 479-957-0551
To download the Powerpoint created by Anola, click here:
Please join the McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources Saturday June 20th for a free cloth diaper skill share to be held at the ARVAC Food Bank at 514 Union Street in Dardanelle.
There are many different styles of cloth diapers available these days and they can save families a great deal of money. They also save resources. But sorting through all the options can be confusing. And many varieties come with a great deal of upfront costs which can be prohibitive for families on tight budgets.
Please join us for an interactive workshop led by Anola Frank and Samantha Dill as they help participants figure out how to navigate all the options. They’ll also talk about how to care for the diapers and share recipes for making your own diaper soap.
To help make cloth diapering more accessible, the McElroy House is working to create a diaper bank where community members can donate or take gently used diapers. We’ll have our diaper bank on hand and workshop participants are invited to take home free cloth diapers!
This is an intergenerational workshop and all ages are welcome!