On January 1st, Transition Sarasota officially became an independent entity for the first time in the organization's history. After five years of fiscal sponsorship by the Peace Education & Action Center, we have now set up our own Board of Directors, incorporated as a nonprofit in the State of Florida, and received federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
As a result, this past month has largely been spent preparing the ground for the year to come. Though not much may be visible above the surface yet, the information presented in this report shows that we have already been very busy cultivating the right conditions for a bountiful 2016.
Education for Sustainability Programs
Our first educational event of the new year will take place on Thursday, February 18th, as a follow-up to Sarasota County Government's 10th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop held last December. At this first in a series of four Sustainable Sarasota Community Partnership Meetings, I will give a brief talk and help facilitate group discussion and action planning around expanding permanent land access to more local, sustainable farmers.
Also on our calendar of events is a half-day Fruit Tree Paradise Workshop that will take place on Saturday, March 19th in Sarasota, led by Transition Sarasota Board member and fruit tree enthusiast Darryl McCullough. The cost is $25 and there are a total of 20 spots available for participants.
During one of our harvests last month, a regular volunteer for our Suncoast Gleaning Project approached me about a new group she was starting in her neighborhood, The Isles on Palmer Ranch, called CARE (Community Awareness Regarding the Environment). After hearing her describe her vision for the group and ask me for help finding speakers, I suggested she check out Transition Streets, a program offered by Transition US that brings neighbors together to build community, save money, and reduce their environmental footprints. Once she decided that the curriculum would be a good fit for her group, I printed two copies of the 130-page Transition Streets Workbook for her and another facilitator to use. If successful, we may extend this program to other communities in the future.
Local Food Shift Programs
Our Suncoast Gleaning Project continued harvesting last month at Jessica's Organic Farm for All Faiths Food Bank. Gleanings took place on January 4th, January 11th, and January 25th. Unfortunately, All Faiths hasn't sent us receipts for these harvests yet, so we don't know exactly how many pounds of produce were donated. However, we do know that volunteers contributed 126 hours to the Project last month, and that number continues to climb.
Training & Outreach Programs
On January 28th, I had the honor of representing Transition Sarasota on the first of a new series of quarterly conference calls for official Transition initiatives, hosted by Transition US. During the call, 18 Transition leaders from California, Montana, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Washington state spoke briefly about their greatest challenges and successes. Transition US also provided an update on their priorities for the coming year: rolling out Transition Streets, developing an American Reconomy program, providing anti-oppression trainings, and establishing a Collaborative Design Council made up of local Transition leaders to advise the organization on matters of national strategy.
Transition Sarasota had its monthly booth at the Sarasota Farmers Market on January 30th. In addition to passing out brochures, signing up new subscribers to our mailing lists, and offering our usual selection of sustainable living books, we handed out fliers about the upcoming Sustainable Sarasota Community Partnership Meetings and our Fruit Tree Paradise Workshop. We also continued gathering petition signatures for the Floridians for Solar Choice.
In other news, the Florida House Institute's Sustainable Living Series, workshops at Crowley Folk School, and other events from Transition US, the Charlotte Harbor Natural Estuary Program, and the Florida Herbal Conference have now been added to our online Related Events calendar.
Fundraising & Finances
After reconciling accounts with the Peace Education & Action Center, Board Treasurer Darryl McCullough, Board President Roger Landry, and I opened a bank account for Transition Sarasota at Achieva Credit Union. We also registered with the nonprofit technology provider, TechSoup, and purchased QuickBooks through them to manage our finances.
Once all of this was complete, we launched our new online store using the payment processing company Square. You can now go there to purchase event tickets, books on sustainable living, and branded Transition Sarasota merchandise.
We are still waiting to hear back from the State regarding our Solicitation of Contributions Application and Sales Tax Exemption. They should be responding to us soon.
On Sunday, January 10th, Transition Sarasota held its first full-day Board of Directors retreat, where we discussed a wide variety of topics from the global context for our work to promotional t-shirt designs. Two of the biggest developments to come out of this meeting were both related to our new Hub Campus membership: a “Grand Opening” celebration (forthcoming) and a plan to establish regular office hours there.
Intending to strengthen our ongoing relationship with the Peace Education & Action Center, I attended their half-day Movement Building Workshop at Fogartyville Community Media & Arts Center on Tuesday, January 19th. Together with around 30 other community leaders representing about as many local organizations, we participated in several exercises from the Theatre of the Oppressed, led by visiting Move to Amend Board member Ruthi Engelke.
Finally, I was informed a couple of weeks ago that Transition Sarasota was one of 10 Transition initiatives selected by Transition US to participate in a research project with Brita Austin, a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. Over the next few months, Brita will be creating a GIS sustainability map of the Sarasota area based on input from our members... so stay tuned!