Meet Natalie Patton, winner of Endangered Species Chocolate/Whole Foods Market’s ‘Indulge in a Cause’ photo contest. Natalia offered to guest blog and share her experience of seeking out and selecting the receipient of the contest’s grand prize $5,000 donation. Her passion is contagious!
I’ve wondered it, I can promise you have too and wouldn’t we all just like to know? I mean, just exactly how many chocolate bars qualify as a years worth of chocolate? Like you, I was not entirely sure, but it peaked my interest enough to submit a photograph to the Endangered Species Chocolate and Whole Foods photo contest. Because let’s face it, chocolate is quite the compelling force. And $5,000 to go toward my favorite environmentally focused non-profit? Say no more! Submission here I come.
A patch of green in a concrete jungle
I find myself in a squished, but comfortable apartment with my childhood best friend. We live in the midst of a concrete jungle of white cement and bricks smeared with dirt and soot reusing to leave any space un-smogged. If you came for a short visit, the tour would be incredilby short lived, since you can see it all by standing in the entrance. So instead, I would direct your attention outside. I would tempt you to wander up to the roof of our apartment building and tell you to keep wandering around to the back corner. Because in that back corner there is a little color, curve and life in the midst of great gray and squareness.
And it is precisely that back corner that intrigued my lens one afternoon. The submitted photo is of my friend doing a little weeding of our roof-top garden. It’s not much, but we are becoming quite attached to our tomato, pepper and strawberry plants.
Indulge in a cause (getting involved and asking questions)
Thanks to my roommate’s web-surfing, some persuasive encouragement, Endangered Species Chocolate and Whole Foods, and some serious voting from the world of Facebook, I found myself, only a few short days after submitting my roof-top garden photo, sitting with an email in my inbox telling me the news: my photo had won the contest. As I sat staring at the email, I realized I had an incredible opportunity at my finger tips. Yes, of course the years supply of chocolate, but the donation?
As a recent college grad, this amount of money seemed extraordinarily astronomical, but that’s probably because the only people seeing any of my income with significant digits (or any multiple zeros with commas) is the US government – thanks student loans. Needless to say, this sum of money seemed to possess great potential for good.
So where to begin? How can one begin to narrow down all the wonderfully worthy environmentally focused non-profits out there? And how does one go about giving away money? Which non-profit would use it best? How can one be sure the money will be spent wisely and efficiently?
Now, I should tell you, I know what it’s like to be one of the many voices advocating for the important work done day in and day out at a non-profit. I know the feelings that possess the gut when seeking to form the proper words for writing that one grant; when every ounce of energy dripping with the deepest depths of sincerity, believing beyond passionately that this organization should receive that money. Those feelings are familiar.
I had never been the one with the money. At least, not until last week.
Embracing a Passion: Urban Gardening Efforts
So…where to begin? Food is important to both my friend and I. The growing of food, to the fair treatment and pay to the farmers who grew the food, to the proper respect given to the land from where the food was grown – all of these things I care deeply about. So immediately, we knew that if our photo won the contest, we would choose to have the money go toward sustainable urban gardening efforts.
Now I am a born and bred Mid-west, Minnesota native. Raised just outside the city center hub of Minneapolis, St. Paul. I knew immediately that I wanted the money to go to a local grassroots organization located within the city.
After some digging and emails to various non-profit directors, Youth Farm and Market Program caught and held me and my friend’s attention. Their main goal is to empower kids through the process of growing food in several urban gardens.
Youth Farm and Market Program (YFMP) is about connecting locally produced food to the neighborhood communities from wich it was grown. They are about educating youth, living in urban neighborhoods, in gardening, nutrition and entrepreneurship skills. By seeing this young and growing generation and what ideas and dreams they have to offer their communities. YFMP is empowering young voices to be advocates and leaders within their own communities.
Since YFMP is such a community based organization, the Executive Director, Gunnar Linden, confidently assured that every dollar of the donation would go directly toward achieving said goal of growing food as a medium to develop youth in the community. Whether that be supporting the costs of adding two new neighborhood gardens this summer or supporting Powderhorn Project LEAD where youth are taking part in paid internships, or finally being able to buy that truck they’ve been needing. All options are signs of exciting growth of a great organization.
There is a video of YFMP in action on their website. I encourage you to watch this video, particularly the last interview with a wee girl, because she says it best. When asked why she came back for another year of youth Farm Camp, her gentle, whispered response is, “Because, it was like te funnest summer I ever had.”
But don’t take my word for it. Learn more about the great and inspiring work they are doing on their website. Visit www.youthfarm.net.
To Endangered Species Chocolate and Whole Foods – thank you for this incredible opportunity. To Youth Farm and Market Program – keep working, learning, growing and empowering. Your work is important. To the rest of you – if you are still curious about what a year’s worth of chocolate might look like…check out the evidence.
‘Involved’ asks: What criteria do you consider when choosing to donate to a non-profit? Are there any tools you find helpful to narrow down selections for your donations? How does giving make you feel? Share thoughts and ideas by commenting below.