I’m so excited to share this guest post from Janet Hardy of Norwich, Vermont. I’m obsessed with creative ideas and strategies to help us stay enthusiastically engaged. Janet’s creative solution inspired me to plan my own 20/20 next month!
Finding inspiration when you feel weary and discouraged
Like many Americans, I was dismayed, saddened, and in shock after the 2016 election. As a Vermonter, political activism was never high on my priority list, especially with our like-minded representatives in Congress. When a friend suggested we go to the Woman’s March in DC, I hesitantly signed on (crowds are not my thing).
In the weeks following an incredibly inspiring day, a number of local activist groups sprung into action, taking guidance from Jen’s awesome checklist, womensmarch.com, and our own hearts. We huddled, wrote postcards, sent money, signed petitions, and got each other riled up.
But as the months went by, some of the groups fizzled. We got weary and discouraged.
At that point, I felt I needed to dig deeper to come up with a way to maintain my activism momentum. After considering some of my personal strengths and what is most important to me (staying connected to my community of friends, keeping my spirits up, and supporting the many great organizations that are being marginalized by this administration), an idea was conceived.
Food, friends, and a focus
Since we all like food, and food with friends tastes even better, I hoped that combining both for a good cause would nourish us all! With that vision, the “20/20 Potlucks for a Cause” were launched.
On the 20th of each month, one friend from our group hosts a potluck. Each person comes with a dish to share and $20. The money goes into a pot. The host chooses which charity to donate to. With a potluck of 10 people, the charity will receive $200 (easy math)!
We’ve been gathering each month now since May 2017 and have contributed close to $3,000 to several charities such as a homeless shelter, a woman’s crisis center, an environmental group protecting our local river, and Vermont Public Radio. After the scene in Charlottesville, we raised money for the Black Student Alliance at the University of Virginia.
Each gathering presents its own flavor. On a summer night, we enjoyed eating outside. In autumn, we gathered around a campfire for appetizers. In December, our host extended the invitation to significant others, and we collected money for a local women’s crisis center to honor the #metoo movement.
One evening, we discussed our fantastic local homeless shelter at length. Our host was an employee there, and it turned out to be a great education for all of us. (It even inspired one participant to become a regular volunteer!) There is no shortage of organizations that can use our help, and it just simply feels great to support their important work.
Try it yourself
If you want to enjoy your own “20/20 Potlucks for a Cause,“ here are a few key ingredients that have worked well for us:
- Float to friends. Early on, reach out to 7 or 8 friends to float the concept. Ask them to send you names and contact information of a couple of their friends to include on the invite list. This helps to get buy-in and diversify the participants.
- Keep the food simple. Since the 20th of the month is often on a weekday, and most of us work, we focus on a total potluck—no assigning dishes or pre-organization. Anything goes! We have never been disappointed.
- Host duties: The host provides only the space (clean or not) and the beverages (wine, beer, seltzer, juice…).
- Host’s choice: Despite everyone having no shortage of ideas of great organizations to receive the money collected, we think it’s important allow the host to choose. This is the biggest perk of hosting.
- Organize online: We use a Google spreadsheet that allows participants to sign up to host a potluck. It includes names and email addresses so that hosts can send out a reminder with details 5-10 days ahead of time. The beauty of this is that once the “20/20 Potlucks for a Cause” are launched, they pretty much run on their own.
We all need time to laugh and escape the political stress. We need to nourish the body and soul and remember what is important. Add your own twist to the potlucks, have fun with your friends, and get inspired!
Community helps us cultivate resilience and remind us that we’re not alone. What are you doing in your own life to create meaningful connection?
This is a wonderful idea!
Suggestion: Donations should go, maybe about half of them, towards changing the system. Otherwise we are treating symptoms and not recognizing or affecting the causes of these problems.
I am interested! However, not good timing for me to pull it together in Salem Oregon.
Send me an email, Lori! I have an invitation for you! <3
GO, JANET!!!! What a great project! We are so proud to be your parents and are following you every step of the way! Will schedule our own Potluck here soon!! You’re the best! Mom and Dad
This is inspiring. We’re going to try it in Southeastern Vermont, March 20th.
I loik forward to reading this. I like your approach and your post about your panel discussion experience.
Thank you for reinforcing my growing awareness of the need to Center myself and commit to only that which I believe will be useful and within my physical, mental and emotional resources to accomplish.
We in Fort Collins Colorado are trying the same thing but with a little different slant. Last fall, I invited friends to a meet and greet for a political candidate, and was not surprised by their despair over the current cultural and political climate. Then I heard a talk by energy expert Amory Lovins. He was asked if he is a optimist or a pessimist. He said he wasn’t either one; instead he believed in applied hope–doing the work for which the world could be hopeful. Thus the applied hope potlucks were born. Each potluck we come together for friendship and food. Then, we have a film, a speaker or an activity that reminds us there are still some positive trends and movements (like the global move towards 100% renewable energy) in the world. Coming together this way gives us energy to persevere!
What a great idea – Applied Hope Potlucks! Thanks for sharing your variation on the theme.