Community Investing

A news story caught my eye this morning: One Man’s Fight Against Foreclosure in Carpentersville.

Tom Roeser, president and co-owner of Otto Engineering, the largest employer in Carpentersville, Illinois is a great example of local investing.  When the hard times hit, the foreclosures began, and then were followed by abandonment, graffiti, gang tagging and property destruction –  he took action.

He started buying the foreclosures.   If they were run down, he fixed them up.

His reasoning?

“I couldn’t afford for Carpentersville to become Detroit”.

He also didn’t want potential customers turned off by the foreclosures and crime when they came to visit.

His approach to saving his own business has resulted in helping to save his community –

Why does his approach work?

“Typically, he buys a foreclosure for around $40,000 and puts $100,000 to $120,000 into rehabbing it and getting it market ready, including real estate commissions, holding costs and taxes. He then sells the place through Homes by Otto, for about $160,000. He does not expect to profit.

“The plumbers make money, the electricians make money, everybody makes money and the people get a new home at cost,” he said. “I come out of it whole.”

Many of the properties are either rented or sold at cost to one of the 500 employes who work at Otto Engineering – In exchange for getting a home at cost, Roeser asks they keep the exterior looking good –

Here’s the quotes from Ed Ritter, village president:

“It’s been quite a catalyst,” said Ritter. “Every neighborhood in which he has bought and rehabbed homes seems to prosper. Other homeowners see what he has done and improve their own homes.”

And deputy police chief, Michael Kilbourne”

“Crime has gone down too.  Incidents are less common and there are fewer broken windows and smashed fences, less trash and graffiti”

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Mr. Roeser approached many organizations for help when the first foreclosed properties started deteriorating – including Habitat for Humanity – no one would help.

What I love most about this story is nowhere in the article is Mr. Roeser made out to be the wealthy philanthropist who is using his great fortune to ‘trickle down’ to the working poor through grande expansions of his business.

He’s doing what’s in his best interest to do.   But the way in which he pursues his best interests, takes  his community along with him…

This is the kind of actions we need for Community Rehabilitation – not handouts or charity – but thriving businesses to work at or thriving communities to start a business in.   Work to do and housing that is affordable and seen as part of the community infrastructure, not a ‘sky’s the limit’ investment option.

I’ll probably never meet Tom Roeser – but I shall never forget his story.

Sustainability

Shop Local?!?
Shop Local?!?

My quest to simplify my life and lower my energy needs, while mostly gratifying, also means examining my beliefs and actions in ways that are not always comfortable.

I must confess that some of my recent purchases have resulted in much internal debate and bargaining.

Simply because, recent acquisitions arrived in boxes marked, “Made in China” – all while my speech and written word cries, “Buy Local!”

Can you spell H-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y?

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Don’t get me wrong, I do not have anything against the Chinese or their desire to enter into the global capitalist market –

As for China – The Government, well, all I can say is I’ve never met or read about a single government that I fully endorse without some or many reservations – they all have their weak-spots and blindness…

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Converting to a lifestyle that combines conscientious consumerism, ecologically sound practices and locally available products is not always a picnic.  There are some things that I just refuse to give up, either out of (weakly) justified needs or wanton desires.

The $2 St. Paddy’s day t-shirts at Wal-mart that will last me for 3-4 years of gardening and home improvement projects, are my most recent sin.  The child-unit isn’t outgrowing and staining shirts as bad as he used too and coupled with my weight gain, I was down to one ‘working’ shirt that looked more like a rag for drying the dog with.

These seemed like the best solution for my budget – (when did the thrift stores get so proud of stained t-shirts?)

I realize my pretty, new and favorite color (green) shirts emblazoned with quotes I can really relate to

“Hard Work pays off in the Future – Luck Pays Off Now”

were probably made by souls who are “lucky” to work hard to make a future $1 a week –  I consoled myself with,

“Hey, they are already made, and I never buy them until they have been marked down so low, hopefully the retailer decides they aren’t worth stocking.  And I only purchase these once every three years or so.”

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Wal-mart also has Gummy bears, which simultaneously violate health, nutrition and shop local beliefs – for all I know, they may violate worker’s rights and aide corporate corruption, too.

But they satisfy my sweet tooth so well and I only buy two bags of them a month…  Does the fact that I make my own bread from sprouted wheat cover this indiscretion?

I’m aware of what is said about supporting Wal-mart, as well – I’m still on the fence about exactly how evil they really are…  Don’t they give jobs, even if underpaid and part-time, to aging workers no one else wants to hire? 

See?  I can find trade-offs just about anywhere.

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I frequently engage in the “trade you this for that” game to make my wants okay –   ‘Well, I do this and this, so this little thing doesn’t matter as much, right?”

For instance – My vaping supplies (frivolous, not needed, non-local), since quitting smoking (aided in my health goals), now average to around $14 per month – which goes from me, to the wholesaler (USA) who in turn buys them from the manufacturer in China.

My supplier lives in and pays taxes in the USA.  Does that and my health gains from quitting smoking make up for the shipping of non-USA made goods?

I also remind myself that my beef, pork and wheat for the year, combined, travel less than 100 miles from producer to me.   Between the ranchers, farmers and butchers, I am contributing nearly 1/2 of my annual grocery  budget to 4 local businesses – does that make up for what little I buy made by miserable workers in foreign countries and hauled to me across thousands of oil-consumption miles?

I have not ever invested in any company that engages in modern-day colonialism – which is made politically correct by dubbing it, “Foreign market expansion”  and buying into  the “You’ve gotta go global if you’re going to survive!” school of thought.

I do contribute what I can to those who live in my own country and are doing their best to make their own backyard productive and neat.

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The examined life is not always the peace-filled walk in the park gurus make it out to be.    I find it to be a constant balancing act between what I say I believe and what I do in real life.

Sort of like the local minister who preaches about the evils of gossip on Sunday morn and participates in the round-table critiquing of every soul in town every afternoon at the local coffee shop – –

Or the guy with a “Peace, Love, Balance” bumper sticker on his Mercedes, screaming at the poor girl manning the McDonald’s drive through window when his special order wasn’t ready in 2.5 seconds…

I’ve tried to be less sanctimonious in my thoughts about these folks, when I realize my “Shop Local!” spiel doesn’t sound near as convincing when the local mail delivery folks see my various Amazon stamped boxes arriving every 3 months or so.

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I share all this with you, because this morning, I added a new category, “Sustainability” to appropriately mark those products and projects I engage in during my journey of self-improvement.

In keeping with the goals I set when I began this blog, (Tell the truth – even if it makes you look bad) I had to do some soul-work this morning, which is concluded with this disclaimer:

Properly titled, this category should read,

“Slow and sometimes resistant transition from Global Dependency to Local Resiliency and Sustainability” –

But that seemed too long – So I’d like to trade you a ‘warts and all’ posts section for a less-than-accurate Category Title…

Deal?

The Good – The Bad – The Possible

Over the years, I’ve written about Peak Oil, Community Exchanges, Shop Local, Campaign Finance Reform, Education Reform, Alternative Healthcare, Big Pharma, Corporate Monoculture Farming, Sustainable Living, Renewable Energy, Self-Healing and Spirituality.

I’ve read, listened and researched.

I’ve talked, argued and thrown my hands up in despair.

I’ve ranted, I’ve raved, tried sharing information through humor and How – Not – Too.

I’ve been on fire with enthusiasm and sick with despair when I believed that my passion for these subjects had no interested audience.

I’ve dreamed, I’ve hoped, I’ve struggled to make a difference through my lifestyle choices, purchasing decisions, writing topic choices and personal belief system improvements.

And now, all that experience has been encapsulated into one extraordinary two-hour film, “Thrive: What on Earth Will It Take?”, which I discovered this morning via a post by recOveryhealth.

(I embedded the film below – yes, it’s that important – I don’t want you to even have to click twice to start watching it  –  *You can donate to the producers here.)

So instead of digging through my archives, you can now glean all that info with the simple investment of a couple hours of your time – you can even watch in increments if you like…

The Good

From the beginning to about 33 minutes – the film highlights the creator’s background and reason for researching.  His quest for truth and the form he found it in echoes the conclusions found throughout the history of the spiritual, the religious and the scientific.  It has been postulated by the prophets, the holy men, the gurus, metaphysicists, cosmologists, cellular bioligists and quantum theorists:

There is a code to the Universe – to Life

If we  figure it out, we can work in harmony with it,

Instead of paddling upstream all the while…

And though I’ve had my crisis of faith moments and believed the Universe to be one big Chaotic mess, bent on destroying me – – I’ve found the only way for me to continue in this life with any semblance of happiness is to embrace the Code story in it’s many variations.

The Bad

Around 33 minutes, you enter the Bad phase – the phase that examines the problems facing our world and the inter-connected,  complex structures  that are contributing to or causing-on-purpose the disasters we fear and seek refuge from.    It digs deep into systems and mind-sets that contribute to the misery of our lives –

You may not agree with all the viewpoints referenced as causing our global problems, but only the truly oblivious could say we have no challenges regarding our continued existence given our present course.

It’s not always a pleasant or comforting place to be, confronting our fears – though I believe this film does it’s best to present the information within a space of hope – – which brings us to…

The Possible

At around 1 hour, 38 minutes – after you’ve delved into a story you really hope isn’t true -but suspect is –  you get to watch the What’s Possible portion.

(If you’re already worried and depressed about the state of things and you feel powerless in being able to do anything about it – skip from :33 to 1:38 on the film.

Choosing not to wallow in the problems portion will not keep you from being inspired by the Possible section; however, if you’re one of those who must know Why? before you do – best just take your lumps and confront your fears.  Watch with a friend and the lights on if it helps – – )

The Possible portion will inspire you – it will show you easy-to-integrate ways to make a difference, right now, today, with what you already know and  have, with who you already are.  To quit contributing to the problems and instead, become part of the solution – you don’t have to do them all – – any forays you make into your favorite arenas makes a difference – just pick one and start.

Without further ado – here’s “Thrive: What on Earth will it Take?”:

For myself, I’m continuing on through my day ‘off’ by meandering through the ThriveMovement website – – – they sound like my kind of folks….

Community Acupuncture

Acupuncture is my hands-down favorite form of health care.   With diminishing budget and cost increases at the clinic I’ve gone to for nearly 8 years, I had not been able to go in for a treatment for quite some time.

Then I found Springs Community Acupuncture.   Two visits with Becca under my belt and I’m again amazed at how much regular ‘tune-ups’ enrich my life.   And I’m excited to know I can get those tune-ups without breaking the budget.

Springs Community Acupuncture is part of the POCA co-op (People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture).   Founded on the principal that acupuncture should be affordable and accessible to all, this co-op of clinics use innovation and sustainable business models to serve their local communities.

With on-line scheduling tools, walk-in options and a sliding scale of $15-$35 per treatment, I’m doing my best to spread the word about their clinic.   Fast, Friendly, Caring and Economical, I just can’t find enough wonderful adjectives to describe it all – –

If you live in the Eastern Colorado area, I highly recommend this acupuncture clinic.   If you do your best to follow Shop Local guidelines of 100 miles or less,  then you’re within range  if you live in any of the following areas:

Black Forest, Calhan, Cripple Creek, Divide, El Paso County, Elbert County, Elizabeth, Ellicott, Falcon, Florissant, Hugo, Limon, Lincoln County, Matheson, Monument, Peyton, Ramah, Rush, Simla and Teller County, Woodland Park.

Starting Anew

This morning I awoke with the urge to quit working on my new website and instead spend the morning writing.   I intended on making TamrahJo my new home and pen a farewell Bally Bin thank you with the link to find me elsewhere in cyber space.

I couldn’t do it.   For reasons not completely known to me at the moment and against all branding advice from the experts, I cannot let BallyBin go.

As you probably know, I’m a Generalist – Jack of All Trades, Master of Few or None.  Life is too short to spend it’s entirety on one subject, to my way of thinking.   I settled upon my new business name and did my best to weave all that I am into it.   For in the end, aren’t all businesses just the extension of those who run them?

Separating out the two seemed to me a schizophrenic way of doing things – and since what I have to offer my community doesn’t fit simply into one category, it all seemed fine and good to just use my name, and make sure I had really good navigation tools on the website.

I logged in this a.m. to take care of ‘closing blog’ business and found I was loathe to.   Bally Bin still makes sense to me and seems like the comfortable, cozy space in which to post my home, garden and sustainable lifestyle articles.

If you were looking for computer classes, tutoring, website design/hosting or writing services, please visit Tamrah Jo.

If not, here’s where the next chapter in my life begins…

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For the past few days, I’ve pondered upon recording the home and lifestyle changes I’m embarking upon – from full-size oven to solar cooker – from electric bill to solar lease payment.    Somehow, it feels as if I’ve been stretching and growing towards this moment in time all my life – and others, it seems as if everything is happening so fast, I’m neither preparded nor loin-girded enough to cope with it all.

My time of sorrows started in August of 2005  – so perhaps I’ve finally cleared my seven years of biblical-Job-existence.  Though I must  confess, I never had to endure sores or boils and it’s impossible to lose all your slaves when you don’t have any.

Numerologically, it appears that I’m finishing the last year in a 9 year cycle and my job is to sweep away the residual negatives of the past and prepare for the new, set to start next August –

Perhaps it is so – who’s to argue with a millenia-old tool for self-improvement?   But I feel as if I must start now.   That, in a way, I’ve been quietly starting for years.   Perhaps, every hope, dream and excitement over some new DIY article from Mother Earth News over the past 30 years has now slumbered long enough and is ready to burst forth from quiet pondering to explosive action.

Hopefully, it’s awakening in my unlearned hands doesn’t lay waste to my new home ….

For so long now, I’ve tried to learn to keep my “What if’s” and “Wouldn’t it be neat?”  to myself – – for a variety of reasons.   My mother, bless her heart, was raised without indoor plumbing, shared a bed with two sisters and knows first hand what it’s like to depend solely on a garden for nourishment.   She has no interest in “going back to the land” – though her flower garden is a beauty to look at.

Other friends and family members believe off-grid living to mean no computer, no TV and beating your clothes on a rock out by the creek to get them clean.    Not all, mind you, believe it to be that drastic – but enough that while my wagon was hitched in tandem to others’ journeys, my dream of evolving towards as much self-sufficiency as I can was nothing more than that, a dream.

A vision of “Someday….”

And now, Someday appears to be arriving.

Through a series of losses, I find myself and my life a relatively bare pallet – canvases waiting for me to create anew.

And while I’m not destitute, I have been downsized, both through circumstance and choice over the years.   Self-Employment with a new business in a new area also means a very conservative budget for new projects.

If nothing else, my journey into creating a new existence on a shoe-string budget, should be interesting and will demand creativity in cost-effective measures.

But even with the slight niggling of fear over my new adventure, there is a freedom I feel now, one I haven’t felt for years.   A freedom to experiment and fail.  For afterall, if my initial attempts fail, I shan’t get fired or laid off – I’m not so mean as to do that to myself.

While I’m not glum enough to believe I have nothing to lose, grief has given me moments of feeling that way over the years.    And perhaps, those moments were enough to propel me towards the freedom and creativity a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude can provide.

Out with the old, in with the new – even if it isn’t December 31st.