As I sat in a quiet room this morning, listening to the sound of water fall, I was reminded that maybe I’m pushing too much, too hard.
See, when I originally founded LYDIA, the idea was to have a place – maybe a coffee shop or cafe, maybe just have hot water and regular coffee – that our clients and friends could come hang out. We would have books to read, some to purchase, but our goal wouldn’t be on selling anything (other than items created by our clients, rare books, etc.).
What does this mean? To me, it means that all these challenges of HOW would we fund a bookstore and HOW would we compete with a certain online retailer….while they should be considered, shouldn’t be our focus.
Instead, our goal would be to create community and train clients.
I remembered a peer mentorship program I participated in before I had my second baby (2005); we all met at the department of children’s services and had coffee or tea, cookies, and a nice talk. That’s where the idea behind LYDIA began to take root.
At the college, before I got pregnant with the baby and went on bedrest (2006), we held a women’s tea – it didn’t go off as planned, but the survey revealed a deeper need.
In 2007, I had a prematurely born baby and a 3 yo/almost 4 years old child. I was a single mom, trying to go back to school and make ends meet. We met with and used the services of Maury United Ministries (MUMs). They had a Bible study and get together for clients, where we could take our children with us or find a babysitter.
Where we lived in the projects, there was a community center that held big events like Christmas parties, information on HUD changes, or even orientation.
Here’s what I envision, taking form more than a decade ago. You walk into an inviting room. There’s the scent of fresh-brewed coffee on the air, and the smell of well-read books. There’s a welcome friend sitting in the corner, in an overstuffed chair. S/he looks up, a smile gracing his or her face, and you head over, browsing along the way. Glass cases house antiques and classics. Art that clients have created line the walls and small hand-made items for sale, such as jewelry, throw pillows, area rugs (hand tied), etc. can be found in little nooks and crannies. You hear the quiet hum of computers running in the background; the computers are for clients’ and students’ use, therefore kept separate from the Book Lounge. Beyond the book lounge are classrooms and conference halls for workshops and training opportunities. Behind the classrooms and conference halls are the administrative offices and our business apparel clothes closet.
We also have a child care center. Here, clients who are looking for work can drop their children off for a few hours a day to fill out applications and go to job interviews with no worries of needing a babysitter. These services are offered at $1/day or 1 hour of time doing work for the teachers or cleaning. We have a daycare center where clients who have gained employment are able to bring their children for the first six weeks at their new job; this is so they can safely save up to pay the deposit and have enough to supplement the state waiver for childcare. Finally, there is the option for clients employed with us (running the Book Lounge/Cafe, doing administrative work, or managing the clothes closet) to leave their children in our center. This is to promote and improve familial relations (taking lunch with their children or being available as needed).
I’ve been asked if we’ll have a sick room. This would be ideal. I’ve also been asked if we’ll have special needs teachers. As I have special needs children, I would love to be able to secure these dear people.
We’ll have something for the teens and young adults to do. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights will be when teens can work together on projects, produce band and drama nights, and generally hang out in a safe environment. My hope is to partner with local teen and young adult agencies already in our community that have similar or compatible programs.
We have a business apparel clothes closet. We do online non-medical case management and life coaching. We do networking and are making connections within the community.
Even to start small, we need an office location as we currently work from my home. We need to be able to store and sort clothes. We need to be able to meet with clients. We need to be able to offer an internship program for high schoolers and collegiate students. We need somewhere to begin building community.
So, we’re taking a step back, breathing easy, and hope to meet you soon. Please, let us know how we can help you build a stronger community, together.