Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.
The following article is a guest post from Zabe Bent.
I describe myself as a jewelry designer, urban planning nerd, and travel enthusiast. For the first time in a long time, all these are merged in my day to day life with my new jewelry design business. I get to create art inspired by my surroundings and my activities, talk about those surroundings, and then donate a portion of proceeds or of my time—usually to an organization that affects change in a community.
In addition to making unique art for people to gift or to wear, each quarter I designate a worthy cause to receive a portion of proceeds. This quarter, it’s the Alliance for Climate Education, an Oakland-based non-profit focused on empowering youth to learn about climate change and inspiring them to take part in reducing our impact on global warming.
How it all started. I’d like to think I have always been giving back. As a teen, I volunteered with various organizations, including children’s art museums, soup kitchens, etc. I’ve participated in park cleanups. I’ve planted greenery in street medians. I’ve tutored adult women in office skills so that they might (re)enter the workforce after overcoming various types of adversity. It was hard to keep that going during my demanding job as an urban planner. Even then I struggled to fit in ways fit in some volunteer activities. Could I go in at noon one day a week? I mean, I was already working a 50-hour work week; who would miss me for 3 hours? It was too difficult to keep it going. Some folks said, you’re already doing community service, Zabe, you’re an urban planner. It wasn’t enough.
But then I started making jewelry. At first it was a much-needed distraction from my regular day job. So when a friend suggested we hold a fundraising sale and donate proceeds, I jumped on it: a hobby that helps me unwind and also helps me give back! It turned out so well, I decided to keep it going. It felt good to use my art to increase the amount I’m able to give.
Eventually I decided to tilt the balance between my day job and my hobby. Who wouldn’t prefer making jewelry to a sitting at a desk? Though I’ve only recently started, my business plan includes a minimum donation each quarter, hopefully growing to a healthy percentage as business grows.
How it works. Each quarter, I research organizations that focus on issues near and dear to me: urban planning, arts, and children & families. Sometimes I come across an employee or event hosted by an organization. Many friends are also active in politics, community development, etc and sometimes feed me ideas. One day a friend came to the office gushing about a science challenge event in San Leandro. She sat on the judge’s panel while girls created robots and built all sorts of things. When I asked about the organization, she said: “Girls, Inc of Alameda. They are dedicated to girls’ achievement, especially in non-traditional fields. You should get involved with them, Zabe!” And then I did: first with a modest donation, and now with my time.
The best part. Now that I’m freelance, it very easy to set a schedule that facilitates working and giving back. There’s a lot of jewelry design in my day, but I now have time to volunteer! Once I’d completed business startup activities and gotten my feet under me, I signed up to volunteer with Girls, Inc. of Alameda. Earlier this month, started helping out in one of their after school programs. Growing up, I remember having good role models in school and in my community. I’d like to think that I can be that person for another young girl. So once a week, I get to end my day with 4th grade girls playing, learning, crafting, and helping them with their homework. Fun times!
Do you want to promote an organization? While I try to be involved in happenings in my community, I’m always interested to hear new ways to give back. Or maybe you know of an upcoming activity, like a silent auction? Email or tweet me if you’d like to suggest an organization or activity near and dear to your heart for future donations!
Zabe is a Jamaican born New Yorker living in Oakland, CA. Though trained as a transportation engineer, she recently launched a jewelry design business to focus on her lifelong passion for art and design. You can find her design endeavors at Bent Metals and read her blog at Little Miss Bent.