INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.


 

Kathleen Cronan

Kathleen Cronan is the executive director of EarthLinks. Follow them on Facebook and learn more about at www.earthlinks-colorado.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
EarthLinks’ mission is to cultivate transformation with people experiencing homelessness and poverty. By creating opportunities through Earth-centered programs, individuals step out of isolation and into community – restoring each other and the planet.
The primary way we achieve our mission is through our Workshop: a social enterprise program for individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Participants work in our garden and workshop, and meet with our staff social workers to create positive life changes. Many participants struggle with mental health challenges, trauma, physical health struggles, and substance abuse, and the interface with nature and the creative process is calming and healing. Through growing food, raising worms, beekeeping, creative paid work, and the opportunity to be heard and respected, participants re-engage with community, and see their horizons of possibilities expand.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
We believe:
Work provides Purpose.
Purpose builds Confidence.
Confidence elevates Self-Worth.
Self-Worth inspires Positive Change.

At EarthLinks, we know that everyone deserves to be part of a community, and to be connected to the Earth. We know that everyone deserves to engage in purposeful, creative work, and that the Earth deserves stewards who care for it. We know that all of these things are lacking in many of our communities, including here in Denver and especially for people who are economically challenged, and so we work make all of these things possible.

Our focus goes beyond providing basic food-and-shelter needs for people who live on the margins of society. We address all human needs – for creativity, for belonging, for new experiences, for meaningful work, and for connection with the healing dynamics of Earth. Helping vulnerable people achieve these things is our mandate, our vision, and our motivation.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
More than 60% of our participants are in stable housing as of 2016, and all are pursuing their own personal goals, and receiving support as they make good life choices. We have brought to life a previously dilapidated corner lot in Sun Valley, Denver, and transformed it into a green oasis filled with flowers, bees, vegetables, and rich, productive soil. We have composted more than 10,000 lbs. of food waste in the past year alone, and made more than 8,000 green products. We provided work and community for 67 individuals in 2016.

Many of our most important impacts are difficult to measure, however. The difficulty in measuring these things is, more than anything, an indication of the inadequacies of our measure of value. Not all impacts can be quantified in the traditional sense. It is difficult to measure friendship, love, community, beauty, personal growth, and the feeling of being valued by one’s peers. It is difficult to quantify the rejuvenation of spending time in nature, the hope felt in seeing plants come to life in the spring, and the myriad health benefits of belonging to a community.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Our participants inspire me most. Many of the folks who come to us are facing challenges that I can only imagine, and seeing them find rebirth, healing, and stability is an inspiration second to none.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
I hope to see us continue to increase our current impact in the community. There are a few things that I believe we must really defend – learning how to work together, healing divisions instead of creating them, and taking care of the planet. I see EarthLinks as having a small part to play in a large endeavor of cultivating cooperation, compassion, and an environmentally viable human community.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
What we need most is community support. We need people with bold vision and commitment to join us in our work.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
One of our biggest challenges has been communicating to people what we do – as I mentioned earlier, our programs and impacts are hard to quantify in conventional ways. Our approach is multi-faceted and complex – we look at the whole person, the whole Earth – rather than cutting the world up into simplistic parts. We view people and planet systemically and holistically. We believe this is a good way to understand the world, but it is more qualitative than quantitative, and in a culture that makes stark separation between values and facts, it can be difficult to help people understand what we do.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Keep on doing your work – we face difficulties and challenges, but what alternative is there? Good work is possible – keep making that possibility an actuality.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
EarthLinks products are available at our storefront, online, and at many markets and sales in the Denver area. We also gratefully accept donations, and we welcome volunteers, both individuals and large groups.
Visit our storefront at 2746 W. 13th St, Denver, CO. Visit us online. Check out our calendar of upcoming events to come to one of our sales. All profits go directly back to pay participants for their work.