By Kirsten Morey
If you ask a nine, ten or eleven-year-old about what in the world really matters to them, you’re likely to hear about honeybees, whales, sea turtles, rainforests, global warming, and the endangered white tiger. Coral reefs, melting ice caps … the list goes on. Global issues can feel overwhelming to adults. We grown-ups tend to get bogged down in the reality of numbers. But our kids are different. Their way of thinking and being in the world is magical and hopeful.
They simply need a meaningful way to take action – the more hands-on the better. Roaring Fork Valley Kids Who Care grew out of this impulse. Several local mothers saw their children’s sincere wish to serve, and, inspired by a Carbondale women’s group called the “Sopris 100 Who Care,” they networked with Junior Achievement to make a plan.
The Sopris women’s group is a chapter of the national “100 Who Care” philanthropic organization. The premise is simple. One hundred women are invited to bring $100 to a group gathering. They pool their funds and decide among causes that are “pitched” at the event. Collectively they can make a significant difference. (See page 54 for event details.)
“We thought – why don’t we make this possible for the younger generation as well,“ Kris Freeman and Kirsten Morey recall. Together with Kris’s Junior Achievement (JA) experience and Kirsten’s philanthropic spin off of the 100 Alliance idea, they combined their skills with their kids’ passion to make a difference. Kris added, “We are looking to empower our children with financial skills to be knowledgeable entrepreneurs, and motivated to be activists, ultimately – to feel connected to something larger than themselves. Since the kids don’t necessarily have $100 just laying around, we thought that they should earn the money first and then make the choice on where to donate.”
Partnering with Junior Achievement
The seed was planted through Access After School at Ross Montessori and later through Junior Achievement, which added 2-3 weeks to the lesson plan in the Spring of 2019. The JA curriculum emphasizes career awareness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The kids learned how to create a business plan and understand money management, so it worked well as a vehicle for helping the children to get organized. In the JA class, they formulated a business plan to sell greeting cards and engraved key chains and necklaces as well as succulent planters, soaps and candles at Carbondale’s First Friday celebrations. The funds raised would go to support the causes that the students agreed to support.
“I was inspired to join Roaring Fork Valley Kids Who Care because when I found out that they donated all the money they raised to charity, I wanted to be a part of that,” explained Madilyn Matthias, age 9.
Creating a Market
The children participated in their inaugural First Friday during the Carbondale Block Party, where they raised $272. They then donated $175 to the five local nonprofits that benefited from the Block Party. These included: Colorado Animal Rescue, Valley recreation, and Carbondale youth organizations/programming. The remainder of the money was used to pay back their suppliers for the upfront supply costs.
“Wow! I was so impressed. What a bunch of spirited entrepreneurs these children are. They are taking so much of what they learned inside the classroom with Junior Achievement and putting it to work in the ‘real world.’ I am also amazed at their creativity and ability to teamwork,” said Abby Matthias.
One Junior Achievement lesson involves learning how to work with expenses, such as the cost of supplies. The children figured that since their initial investment in supplies had been covered by their first sales event, future opportunities to sell would make their funds go farther. A lot of the products would be re-used for future sales. Each month, the project grew and the kids learned from the process.
For the June First Friday, the kids secured First Bank as a sponsor. They set up their booth next to the bank’s tent, and at the end of the event, First Bank matched funds. The kids raised $223 or $446 including the match.
The students are in charge. Parents help order products and make suggestions, but the kids price their products and handle all of the marketing and selling. They set up their vendor station at First Friday events and assign tasks for each child. They use Sign-Up Genius ahead of time to know who will be available at the event, including parents.
Some specific tasks include: displaying the products on the table, setting up a tent, making sure there is enough change for the cash register, counting their register at the beginning and end of the event, and using a product sheet to tally sales. The kids help with the take-down at the end of the event and of course, they count their money. After the event, they discuss which products are selling better than others. This has helped the children plan for future events.
“I helped make the products and personalized the key chains. I also helped man the booth, was a cashier and I helped to set up and organize the booth,” shared Elsa Skagen, age 9.
“One thing I did to contribute to this project was being the voice to talk to people. I was explaining where the money would go from the products we were selling,” said Beck Hamilton, age 11. Being a greeter is no easy task. Kids are asked to meet, greet and encourage people to stop by the table. Greeters must be knowledgeable about the products and pricing, and they must be able to speak about the group’s mission.
“I helped contribute to driving people to the booth. I stood in the middle of the street and started talking to people about our products,” explained Oliver Skagen, age 12.
Making a Difference
By the end of the summer, Kids Who Care made $800 after paying back suppliers and planning a pizza party for all participants. The children voted to give $400 to two organizations: the Pachamama Alliance (a San Francisco, CA-based nonprofit dedicated to saving the Amazon rainforest) and the Sea Turtles Foundation (based in Fort Lauderdale, FL). The kids adopted ten Hawksbill Sea Turtle nests and received adoption papers. Next fall, the organization will send information on how many sea turtles hatched from each of the nests.
One big part of the group’s vision is to include students from every school in the Valley. They created an information sheet that is displayed on the table at each event, encouraging others to join. In June, the Carbondale Community School started collaborating through their Junior Achievement program. Mackayla Bryan from the Community School helped make necklaces, bracelets and luggage tags.
The Alliance grew in the fall semester. They were also joined by Ms. Tamra Kenyon’s first-through-third grade students from Ross Montessori School. Through the school’s JA pilot program, the students participated in the December First Friday Event. Through soap sales, holiday greeting cards, lip balm, and bracelets, the children raised $129.50. The RMS program hopes to grow in 2020 to involve students in grades four-through-six.
Ms. Tamra shares, “My students were engaged with the curriculum and loved having the JA volunteers come each week. They tailored the content to fit the needs of a multi-age class and it worked out beautifully. The children experienced relevant, engaging, hands-on learning that ended with group collaboration to come up with a business model and make products to sell at a larger, community event. All profits will be graciously donated to a local organization in need. We are already looking forward to next year!”
The group is looking to expand its numbers to include home-school families, other JA after school programs, and any group wishing to make items to sell for the cause. Ultimately, the children are learning what excites them and what skills and gifts they have that can contribute to the whole. They are building confidence, an understanding of what it means to work collectively, and truly feeling that they are caretakers of the earth and of each other.
Kirsten lives in Carbondale with her husband Rob, their children Micah and Jade, and dog Cody. Kirsten has lived in the Valley since 1995 and is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse. She teaches skiing to a few of her longtime clients and she holds a seat on the Ross Montessori School Board. She also enjoys playing tennis, mountain biking, yoga and skiing with her family. When we heard about the Kids Who Care project, we learned that Kirsten is one of the mothers who took it from idea to reality. She is known around the Valley as a “get it done gal” who does everything with heart and a smile.