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WHAT'S HAPPENING

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Ron Ehrenreich

Written by Anna Rupert  • November 22, 2017

 

Editors Note: Anna is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan fun events that benefit the community. Anna graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in Spanish. She also works as a dance teacher and volunteers on the Mission of Miracles in El Salvador when she can. As part of Anna’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooperative Federal is a credit union owned, operated and run by its members. Coop Fed prides itself on serving people and communities that are underserved by the conventional financial institutions, with 94% of their clientele being low-income, and 64% being credit invisible. Ron Ehrenreich serves as their treasurer and CEO, as well as being one of the founders. Read on to find out more about this wonderful local financial institution and all their contributions to the community. 

 

Anna: How did you get involved with the Credit Union?

Ron: OK, well, going back to when I was not much older than you I was active in what we called then “The Movement,” and then as the activists settled into neighborhoods and communities around the country we were looking for ways to bring activism into our neighborhoods. A lot of people got involved with forming food co-ops, and I joined the food co-op here in 1976, and I helped to found the food co-op in Philadelphia when I was 21 but I was never involved in the food part. I helped to secure the building and get the backing for renting the building and so then what we were finding was people were doing that, that whole movement was having trouble getting capital. Nobody would lend to them.

Plus there were some other things going on at the same time, banks were leaving neighborhoods in urban areas, fleeing to the suburbs, plus they weren’t lending to people in the neighborhoods. Women were having trouble getting credit, particularly women who were single, separated, widowed, divorced, abandoned. At that time all the credit would be in the husband’s name. So, we even saw instances where the husband would die, leave the house to his wife but there was a mortgage on the house and she couldn’t get a mortgage to replace the mortgage that was in the husband’s name. It was ridiculous, plus the usual cast of characters who couldn’t get credit: people of color, people who were living on low income, the same kind of people who are shoved aside today. There was a big push to resist apartheid in South Africa, so there was a movement afoot then to divest money from South Africa and banks were being asked to divest money and nobody would–not a single bank in this area would. So we said, “well we could do that and we could address these other issues,” so we had a meeting, a meeting of activists, passed a hat, and we got $30 [laughs].

We were young and idealistic and we didn’t realize that you couldn’t start a financial institution with $30. (Now to be fair $30 then was more like $80 today, so if you had a meeting of low-income people and you passed the hat and got a few dollars here and five dollars there and you ended up with $80 it wouldn’t be so bad in terms of the purchasing power.) So we used that to organize a pledge campaign, we got pledges of a hundred thousand dollars, submitted our application to the national credit union administration, we got chartered. So I was on the organizing committee. We routinely set up a table outside the food co-op and at peace council events and wherever else we could and got these pledge cards signed, and then we tried to figure out what to do next. We had a series of meetings where we asked people what would you want us to lend for, and what would you want us not to lend for, so we ended up framing our lending policy then, and that stuff is still in place. I mean, we’ve elaborated on it and developed it since then but that really framed the basis of what we would lend for and what we would not lend for, and I think we had a vision of serving people who weren’t being served and trying to take into account the whole person not just a bit of them. We developed methodologies for evaluating people’s credit worthiness based on kind of alternative criteria that made sense, not just was easy for a banker, and we’ve done that since then, we’ve developed ways and methods of dealing fairly with people that the banks would just walk away from.

So anyway, that’s how I got involved, I was on the organizing committee, I was part of the board, and I became the second treasurer. As we got going more, the first treasurer said he couldn’t keep going with the work. I had bought the first personal computer in the area, and so I was able to do projections and an electronic spreadsheet was like the most miraculous thing. That helped me to become the treasurer and to work with the info that we had, we could only do projections quarterly because the computer didn’t have the brainpower to do it monthly. I had been trained at mainframes and card punching and all these obsolete things when I was in college. But I could not do the work that I do without a computer and I wouldn’t be any good at it if I had been born 20 years before,because I can’t do that stuff with my mind and paper. So anyway, I was on the board, became treasurer, and that’s how I got involved, and I’ve stuck it out.

 

A: The Credit Union’s 35th Anniversary was in October, what does that mean to you?

R: I think the most important thing for me is that we have kept faith with the vision of our members. I have tried to keep that vision ahead of us . . . My greatest fear is that somehow we would just become a nice credit union. We’re not just a nice credit union, we do what we do on a regular basis, year in and year out what others think is impossible. But, we have wonderful people who work at it and see what we achieve and fill part of it and make it happen. It doesn’t happen on its own.

 

A: What are some of the experiences that have most impacted you in your time working at the Credit Union?

R: In terms of the experiences, I think it’s step-by-step trying to do more, trying to achieve more, adapting technology, adapting when we didn’t have technology . . . We adopted to the technology that was available that we could afford and now we’re pretty much up to the state of the art technology for what we do and that’s great. And we had to update as we opened other offices, so this past year we’ve upgraded our entire network. Next year we’ll be replacing our core system that keeps track of all our members’ money and transactions.

And now our members have access to their accounts, obviously in the office, over the counter, but over the telephone, over their cellphones using an app, Web Teller, over the internet. They have home banking, mobile deposit capture, basically everything and we bring it to them affordably. We’ve done it differently than others. We take the costs, divide it up, try to break even, and we charge our members $3.00 a month. They don’t have to pay for any of those other services, the bill pay and anything like that. There’s a lot that goes on where we take the right road, we could have done something else but we’ve done something that’s fair and sometimes the members don’t realize (that).

I’m happy and content with the way we’ve done things. And it’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. We could always do things better. In fact, pretty much every week we figure out something we could do better. In terms of the other experiences that have impacted me, one of the most difficult was the crash. We reduced staffing by eleven people, and these people are friends, neighbors, but we had to do whatever was necessary to keep the credit union alive or else we all would be gone, everyone would be gone. That was very difficult but we did it and two thousand credit unions didn’t make it through the crash, so I’m glad that we did. It definitely hasn’t been easy since the crash with interest rates being so low. It’s always been uphill. I didn’t expect it to be uphill for 35 years, but it’s always been uphill, but particularly steep since the crash. We’re making it work and we’re doing our part and in part we’ve done more. We’ve been more mission-driven and I think that’s the right approach. During the crash we didn’t know if we were going to make it, but our idea was if we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down fighting. But we did make it and we were able to keep and motivate our people, our staffing by doing more, by achieving more. People that work here are not in it primarily for the money, they’re in it to change this corner of the world.

 

A: Over the 35 years it has been open, what positive neighborhood and community changes have you noticed as a result of the Credit Union’s community programming?

R: I think the biggest thing that we’ve done is to deploy capital into the community where we think it will do the most good. We have requests all the time from out of town landlords who want to buy something in the SU area and rent. We don’t do that, but over the last 35 years we’ve lent one hundred and thirty seven million dollars in this community. Pretty good for a $30 investment [laughs], but we’ve focused it on creating first time homebuyers, that’s the biggest chunk. We are primarily a mortgage lender, and I don’t know if we could do that in another community — the housing prices in Syracuse are very affordable, even for people on low and moderate income. So we’re able to create first-time homebuyers, which is the source of most inter-generational wealth in the United States.

We foster small business, small business startups and growth, and a type of small business that I would call self-employment. A lot of our small businesses would be better off having unionized manufacturing jobs but those jobs don’t exist, so if they have a skill, we can help them turn it into a business and be self-employed and support their families, and have the dignity of work.

Another thing that we aim for is people’s personal financial situation. We are a place of first opportunities and second chances, so we can help people get on the track or get back on the track. We do debt consolidation, help people establish credit, we have credit builder loans. We have over the last year developed an opportunity auto lending program for people who are getting jobs but don’t have transportation to get to their jobs. So we have figured out ways with some partners of mitigating some risk and making it possible for our members to get a quality, affordable vehicle and for us to mitigate and manage our risks in doing that. We have to pay attention to that.

In part, we have developed a methodology for lending to people who are under-resourced. When somebody loses their job it’s really not the best time to repossess their car and foreclose on their house. So we try to stick with our members through the hard times and we look to them to stick with us, and they do.

 

A: The Credit Union’s youth programs are receiving the proceeds from the Cooperative Federal 35th Anniversary Fundraiser and Gala. Are there expansions you are planning on making to these programs?

R: First of all, our priority is to sustain the programs that we have. We have received funding in the past to get these programs setup but once they’re setup there’s no funding that we’ve got. They’re an operating expense, and yet they’re important. Now we are looking at expanding youth programs, looking at the potential of running more youth financial education programs.

 

A: How do the In-School Savings Branches positively impact students’ financial futures in the long term?

R: Part of it is financial education, seeing them save and giving a place to cash their paycheck, we’ve even made a few loans for good purposes. We’ve done some loans for a lawn mower so someone could have a summer job, and that would earn more than enough money to pay back the lawnmower. Then the people who are actually involved in running the office in the high schools, if they do a reasonable job we offer them summer jobs here at the Credit Union. It’s a summer job at a financial institution, it’s something to put on your resume, and we write reference letters. It’s a way for a student to get a summer income and get something to help them either get a future job or get into college or whatever, and a couple students who did well at the summer job we have offered part time Saturday jobs at the Credit Union while they were at OCC.

 

A: What hopes do you have for the future of the Credit Union?

R: The hopes I have for the future is that the Credit Union will continue to grow, serve more people, reach a sustainable scale. We are a financial institution with just under 25 million in assets, that is teeny. At our current scale of operations, with the offices that we have we could probably break even with less angst and struggle if we were twice our size in assets. It’s always a struggle growing assets, but I would like to see us reach a sustainable size, serve more people, do more.

For example, over the last three years we have grown our business lending on an average of 36 or 37% per year. We’re geared up to do more. We’re hoping to find some more capital to lend and I hope that someday we’ll get into the fourth Syracuse high school, Corcoran. The most important thing is that we keep the faith and keep the vision — that we do what others view is impossible, that we serve the people. “Finance for the people,” that’s our motto and I think we’re trying to build a new society within the old one.

 

A: Around the office we have a running topic of food and our favorite restaurants so what is your favorite restaurant on the Northside?

R: New Century

 

A: What is your favorite thing to get there?

R: Pho Thai which is beef noodle soup.

 

To learn more about Cooperative Federal, visit their website and follow them on Facebook.

A Visit to Isabella Lofts

Written by Rachel Nolte  • November 2, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

It was a fine fall day, the heat spell finally having been broken, and I was on my way to get a peek inside the much talked about Isabella Lofts. Steve Case, co-owner of 800 Block LLC, the firm that purchased the Assumption Campus on North Salina Street, came to meet me and show me around the building.

It is clear when you speak to Steve that he is passionate about this project and quite proud of their improvements to the building.  In the first apartment we saw, he eagerly pointed out the granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, and the preservation of the original wood floors wherever possible.

One thing that was immediately evident was the excellent quality of lighting. The setup of each individual apartment was unique because of the nature of the converted building. Some living rooms or bedrooms were larger or smaller in different apartments. But in all of the spaces we looked at, the windows let in generous supplies of natural daylight.

The first few apartment rooms we looked at were straightforward, monochromatic, tasteful: a blank canvas for somebody to make their own.

As I wandered from room to room, I was consistently delighted with the varying vistas that the windows revealed to me. Steve showed me his favorite apartment on one of the higher stories of the building. From its windows, you can see all across Syracuse. Such a view would surely make the future inhabitant want to say “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom” to anybody fortunate enough to visit.

As a fan of historic architecture, I was especially fascinated by rooms that offered a close-up of the structure of the church itself.

My personal favorite rooms were the last few that we saw in the Nun’s Quarters. These were still in the process of being finished, so I did not get many pictures. I loved the architectural details in these rooms. For instance, the original ceilings were intact with their intricate patterns.

The wood paneling and trim was beautiful to behold. I found myself imagining vintage scenes from the space’s past life.

As Steve showed me around, we encountered several people working on the building, all of whom were happy to see Steve and chat for a moment. It was a pleasant tour and Steve even shared some insights with me on upcoming projects for the campus. Fortunately for Steve (but unfortunately for anyone interested in an affordable, conveniently located apartment) the apartments at this building will all be rented out soon! So if you were thinking about taking a look, my advice is to contact Steve (scase@acropolisdevelopment.com) right away.

Stay tuned for updates on this project and more!

Photo Friday: Colors change outside Cafe Express

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 27, 2017

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Michael Speach Jr.

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 26, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

 

Michael Speach Jr. is the manager of the Speach Family Candy Shoppe. Founded by an Italian immigrant, Michael Speach (Michele Spicciati) in 1920, the store has passed down through four generations of family. Today, the store hosts a diverse range of sweets & treats as well as other fun products & gifts. Read on to find out more about how the life behind the sweets and treats!

 

Q: Question: In what ways has the Speach Family Candy Shoppe changed over the years? In what ways does it remain true to its roots?

Michael: The business has changed in so many ways, it’s really hard to describe. Originally, it was something that he [Michele Spiacciati, Michael’s great grandfather] did outside of his home and that obviously progressed into more and more. He owned a lot of property so he was able to do different things in different pieces of property. So instead of having everything under one roof, he had a nut room, so all of his nuts were stored in one location, that’s where they packaged and roasted them; there was a chocolate room, then there was a hard candy room, and they were in different properties all over Syracuse, all over the Northside for the most part. So that was probably the first incarnation of the store.

He then actually started doing a little bit more with production, to the point where it got really busy. In the 1920s when he first started, they were ramping up business, but in the 30s, he actually had stuff printed out because he was selling so much. We’re talking, after the Great Depression. So, like, even during the Depression he was still selling product, and this is actually one of the original receipts. Back in the 70s, they had a family reunion so everyone got one of the original receipts, which is kind of cool.

So business started growing a little bit more, and I want to say one of my great uncles, either John or Joe, then ran the business in the interim for the family. My parents then took over in the 80s. When that happened, my parents found another storefront. So the store never actually really had a physical storefront. It was basically always in somebody’s house, but they were doing orders, or when my great grandfather did it, he had different buildings for different things he was making. In the 80s, my parents opened an actual storefront, retail storefront on Burnet Ave.  That was the first time it actually had a location that people could come in and shop.

 

Q: Has it always been on the Northside?

Michael: It was actually all over. The Northside is where it originated, on Burnet Ave…At one point, my great uncle had moved to Cortland, so it was actually down in Cortland for a little while, and I want to say after that it came back up here with my parents when they discovered a whole bunch of my great grandfather’s recipes and stuff. It moved around a little bit more since my parents ran it. We’ve been at this location now since 94, and I have no plans to move. We’ve kind of found our niche, we’ve found our thing.

 

 

Q: Do you have any products that are especially rooted in Italian tradition?

I have to say that we’ve stayed very true to the product and the quality.  A lot of the recipes were my great grandfather’s recipes. They’ve obviously just been translated into English so they’re much easier to understand, and converted down, ‘cause obviously he was making 50 pounds of a product, where now we’re making 10, 20 pounds, so we’ve had to modify the way we produce just because of the space we have and the number of products. One of the big things that has changed is the quantity of products. On this invoice, you can see, he’s got four products listed here, which are what he used to make, the clusters, the soft peanut bars, and the marshmallow clusters that he used to do. We’re now making thousands of products…Our marshmallow recipe is still the same recipe. Our peanut brittle is still the same recipe. And then, the actual chocolate—now my great grandfather worked from a bean. So like, he was the one who actually roasted—he worked with a bean, ground them down, mixed them into what is chocolate. Nowadays, unfortunately, we do not have the facility to do that. So we actually buy several products and mix them together to create our own blend.

This is my great aunt Rose [pictured in the photo above, Aunt Rose poses with Delivery Truck Number 3, featuring the original Speech logo] and my great aunt actually got to try our chocolate. My parents played around with the chocolate blend a little bit, but when I took over, I said, “I want this to be our chocolate. This is how it’s going to be.” So she got a chance to try it before she passed away and she said that’s as close as she’s ever tried to what her father made, so that was kind of a compliment and so that’s what we use as our chocolate throughout most of our products.

 

 

Q: With so many products, do you have any customer favorites that sell faster than others?

Michael: Yeah, people still do a lot of the traditional stuff. Our dark chocolate truffles are always gone. I have a woman who comes in. She stops me at the door before she even gets in the door, she’s like, “Dark truffles. You have any? Yes or not.” Our caramel has been really popular, you can see right now the sea salt vanilla caramels are almost out right now, so I have to refill that part of the shelf. We have some seasonal favorites, like we do a pumpkin pie fudge, so that will sell out pretty quickly now that we’re in fall.

 

Q: How did you come to manage Speach’s?

Michael: I went to school for theater. Growing up, I was involved with the candy store but I didn’t like it. My mom and my father were always very tired, and it’s very different when you’re a small business, when it comes to holiday time, when it comes to family get togethers and stuff like that, things are very very different. Our Christmas really didn’t happen til the day after Christmas because my parents were so exhausted that we literally wouldn’t enjoy the day. When my sisters and I got older, we were part of that. We’d come home on Christmas eve, after being here all day, exhausted, and I think most kids would wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning, and I don’t remember doing that because I was too exhausted. It changes a lot of things. So, I as an adult, did not want to have to do that. I said, that’s not how I want to be, I want to go and get a pay check, get paid every week. It’s a very different thing when you’re working for yourself. So I went into entertainment, I did theater and television/radio, and after doing that for several years and going to college, I kinda missed this a little bit. I missed the feeling of being proud of something, working really hard and then having someone compliment you, versus having someone yell at you even though you did twelve hours of—it’s a very different thing. So, I came home after a little stint in New York, and basically, my parents were at the point where my mom had taken on a full time position, ‘cause she was in her 50s and realized, I’ve put half my life into this business and there’s nothing left. They didn’t save up for retirement, they just kept putting money back into the business, back into the business. And it’s a good thing they did because it survived, but at the same time, now they’re in their 50s and they were thinking either about liquidating or selling the business. That’s when I kinda said, well, let me try for three years, and I’ll see what happens. I’ll give it three years, I’ll give it my all, and if we’re still going, I’ll keep it going. If we’re not, I won’t. But at least I gave it that, you know, the old family try I guess? So I did that and now it’s 10 years difference, because literally November 7th will be ten years that I’ve been running the business. We’re still going strong and there’s a lot of new stuff that’s coming up and some really great things that will happen for the business the next few months.

 

Q: Do you want to offer us a little sneak peak of that?

Michael: We’re actually going to be doing a lot of partnerships. I’m not going to name names or anything like that just yet, but there’s a lot of great collaboration that we’ve been doing, that we’ve been talking about, and it will probably happen before Christmas. In the past, we’ve done some great stuff. We’re doing some stuff with Recess Coffee, so we have the Recess Chocolates, we’re doing a collaboration with them so it’s their coffee and our chocolate put together. We’re working with Beak and Skiff on a product, the apple pie brittle, it actually has their apple cider in it. There’s a few maple producers that we actually produce maple products for them throughout the year. There’s three or four other little relationships that we’ve started that we’re in the talks of that in the next few weeks will actually come to fruition. So we’re excited about that.

 

Q: What advice would you to someone who is interested in starting a business? 

A:  Michael: I think the first thing is be open to collaborating. A lot of my success, especially over the last few years, has been me working with other businesses, and other local businesses, I think is the key. We did partner with fruit bouquets and 1-800 Flowers for doing the fruit arrangements, and that’s a great revenue stream for us because we really do very little as far as advertising. We just get orders sent to us and we fulfil the order and get it out and then we get paid by them at the end of the year. So it’s a great partnership, we’re doing something local, and it’s our product, our chocolate…Some people when you meet them are like, no, it’s all me or nothing. I’m like, okay, good luck with that for the next year because you probably won’t be in business twelve months from now. I’ve had to rely on some of my friends—I have friends who run businesses and I might not work for them, but they are great sound boards, like if I have a new idea or if I’m trying out something different, we’re able to work together. If I have a new product that I’m trying out, my friends Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour own Laci’s down the street, and I’ve brought product into the bar. The way Laura and Cindy are, they’re my friends, I’ll give it to them and they’re literally passing it out to their customers, being like, “Here, try this! What do you think?” I’m not trying to build my business from that, but they’re actually doing it for me. If you’re willing to collaborate, part of it is just making those friendships happen. Actually being open to it, versus being closed off and holding onto your secrets and holding onto your recipes. I do that too, but I don’t do that first off. You want to be pretty open and pretty responsive.

 

To learn more about the Speach Family Candy Shoppe, visit their website, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to stop into the store at 2400 Lodi Street, fully decorated for Halloween!

 

Photo Friday: Party with Partners

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 20, 2017

We’re having an amazing time at Cooperative Federal‘s 35th Anniversary Gala & Fundraiser!

 

NBP Member Interview Series Featuring Brandy Lee Fritzen

Written by Rachel Nolte  • October 19, 2017

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Editor’s Note: Rachel is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) at NEHDA for the year. Her roll involves a variety of tasks, such as recruiting volunteers and applying for funding opportunities to plan really cool, really fun events that benefit the community. Rachel graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Sculpture and a minor in psychology. She spent the past year serving in another AmeriCorps program where she traveled the state of New York to help out with various environmental projects. As part of Rachel’s work with NEHDA, she is writing some posts for us to share. All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. To learn more about NEHDA, visit their website and Facebook.

 

You in Motion

 

Brandy Lee Fritzen is the owner of a recently opened a studio for movement & meditation called You In Motion. Located on North Salina Street (across from Assumption Church), You In Motion focuses on the mental health benefits of motion through yoga and dance. Read on to find out more about Brandy and her studio.

 

Question: Where are you from originally?

Brandy: I’m from here, Syracuse, NY.

 

 

Q: How long have you been interested in running your own studio?

Brandy:  I think that it’s something that I secretly had a desire to do, and I didn’t really know it until the opportunity presented itself.

 

 

Q: Do you want to speak a little bit more about what you mean by that?

Brandy: Well, I think that I always wanted to but I never thought that it would be real, or that it could really happen. When the opportunity presented itself, it was just events that were happening that I didn’t—I was getting tired of teaching elsewhere and that made me have the desire to have my own space. I happened to drive by the space that was available, and that would be the opportunity, is that the space was there, it was open, and it presented itself.

 

 

Q: How long have you been teaching?

Brandy: I’ve been teaching Nia [keeping reading for an explanation of Nia!] since 2007. I am a Nia white belt, there’s a series of belts you can get as you grow and learn more through the practice.

 

 

Q: What’s the highest ranking?

Brandy: Black belt, and the black belt is a trainer, so you can train the trainers. So I’ve taken the first belt, and I trained, and I taught for a little while, and then I took some time off. And then I decided that I want to continue teaching again because it’s something that I love doing and I needed it in my life. So, I decided to take my white belt again to revisit the foundation of Nia and what it is and the purpose and why I want to do it, instead of continuing to excel on to the other belts. Now that I’ve got that done, I can continue on.

 

 

Q: For those who don’t know what Nia is, can you explain that a little?

Brandy: Nia stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action and it is a dance-fitness, to say it plainly, that incorporates techniques from the healing arts, the dance arts, the martial arts. So all of these techniques intertwined into the choreography along with a set of 52 moves and it’s meant to stimulate the body and to find health through movement. So you’re stimulating all the body systems, like the musculatory system, the skeletal system, the limbic system, the circulatory system, and so on. The whole time you’re doing that, a class will last about an hour and fifteen minutes, depending on the instructor, the whole time you’re doing that, you don’t realize that you’re really cleansing your body and you’re opening up some tension and releasing—you’re opening up yourself in a lot more ways than just a physical way. I relate to it because I’m a really emotional person and I find a lot of emotion in the dance when I’m doing it. I find that exciting.

 

 

Q: What are the origins of Nia as a whole?

Brandy: Yes, Debby Rosas and Carlos Rosas, they were fitness instructors in the 1970s and in the 1980s, to be specific, in 81 when Nia was actually founded, they did research and studies on kinesthetics and body movements on what was most healthy and what was the most appropriate way to move your body to stay healthy without getting hurt. Because what they were finding was in their work, is that people were getting injured. Fitness was a really big thing, aerobics was a really big thing in the early 80s, but people were getting hurt. So they wanted to find a safe way to move your body. So this is how they incorporated Nia. They’re very close with all the instructors; it’s a growing community but it started as a very small, close knit community. Everybody who has gone through a Nia training is very close. It’s like a little family.

 

 

Q: Is it local to the area?

Brandy: It’s all over the world right now, Germany, Australia, it’s all over. Asia, all over those big continents. It started and originated where Debby and Carlos live, out west in Portland, Oregon.

 

 

Q: How did you get exposed to it?

Brandy: Okay, so, I was going through a life situation that was really traumatic. I mean, people have gone through worse things, I’m sure, but to me, in this moment, it was a very difficult time for me. I didn’t know where I was going with my life. And so my mom was taking this class, she had heard about it locally, she said, “Come and dance Nia class with me. You’ll feel a lot better.” So I went to a Nia class, my first class, with my teacher Pam La Blanch, of the Fit Biz—just saying, since we’re writing this all down, I’ll give her a little Kudos there—I love Pam, she’s an amazing, amazing woman—so I took my first class there and I loved it and I just fell in love with it. I don’t know why, but it was fantastic. The sensation that I got was one of the first principles of Nia, the joy of movement. I really felt that sensation—I felt joyful when I was dancing. It was a great outlet for me to express myself, my emotions, to build my confidence in a time that was trying for me.

 

 

Q: Your advertisements say “Gentle Yoga.” What kind of yoga is it?

Brandy: So having Nia certification opened up many doors. I found something new in my life that I loved. I started, what I thought would be my career in music therapy, which didn’t come through I guess, or didn’t happen—didn’t happen the way I thought it would. So I was really interested in therapies and healing and being a better person and helping people through that. With the instruction of Nia and being around that type of people all the time, I was introduced to Yoga Fit. Again, Yoga Fit was offering our community of Nia instructors—they offered Yoga Fit and I got the training for that and the certification. I started teaching yoga, and it seemed to just all go hand-in-hand.

 

 

Q: What is the target age range and ability for the yoga classes?

Brandy: Age range is for anybody. I do have a kids’ class on Saturdays, and that would be probably ages 3 to 6, depending on the attention level of the children and also for the older ones, if they’re 6, how tolerant they are of the younger ones. For the adult classes, any age, any ability. The class that I teach is really very relaxed and easy to do, so it’s very basic yoga, like yoga for the everyday busy person. Come and relax, stretch your body, breath in, breath out a little bit, and just feel good.

 

 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting a business? 

Brandy: Oh boy. I have a lot of advice! I was thinking, I could teach people probably how to start a business ‘cause I’ve done everything wrong probably. I came into this not knowing anything, just, like I said, it just happened, and I was like, “Yay, one day, just open a studio!” I have a lot of passion and I think that’s great and I need that for it, but there were a lot of things I didn’t know. So, first things first—and forgive me, all professional entrepreneurs out there! I think that, to have your finances in order, to know what everything is going to cost, and line that up first. Don’t just jump into it like I did. I mean, that’s great. It’s exciting to do that, but to—I had to take care of things while I was trying to start the business and it was too difficult. Things such as getting the electric bill in my name and transfer over. Everything was a surprise, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing! I thought, Oh I just call and change my name. But no, they need all kinds of stuff. They need application, they need the lease, they have a deposit and things like that. So I would definitely, number one, make a list of all the things you need to be productive and to keep the business running, and make sure you have that all in place first. So, with hindsight, I think that probably you would need a couple of months to prepare, just to open a business or start your business, you need some time to prepare. There’s so many other things, but that would be my number one. And then organizing your clients, getting some advertisements and marketing set and put in place, because if you’re doing that while you’re starting your business, it’s challenging. So do it ahead of time. You can call me for more advice later.

 

Q: Will there be a fee?

Brandy: Yes. (laughter)

 

Check out You In Motion studio’s calendar  for a complete schedule of classes and events. You can also contact Brandy directly at cnyinmotion@gmail.com

“Wow, Syracuse. I want to go there:” Welcoming Economies Convening + Northside Tours

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 16, 2017

WE-Convening

 

Next week, organizations, business owners, and individuals across the United States will convene in Syracuse to learn more about “cutting edge policies, successful programs, innovative ideas, and a network of trailblazers in our emerging field of immigrant economic development.” The Welcoming Economies event begins on Monday, October 23rd and ends on the 25th.

The Convening features a number of workshops and community tours. We’re most excited about:

1. Northside Tours

On Monday afternoon, participants can choose from several tours, three of which focus on the Northside: Building Community Amidst Constant Change: The Realities of Northside Micro-Neighborhoods; Food on the Northside: The Language that Needs No Translation; Creating safe and inclusive spaces for Faith: The Journey of Converting a Historic Church into a Welcoming Mosque.

 

2. Ignite Talks and Welcoming Reception

The first day of the conference ends with a fast-paced session where organizations give a five minute presentation about innovative ideas they’re adopted. The Talks are emceed by Nicole Watts of Hopeprint and Joe Cimperman of Global Cleveland.

A My Lucky Tummy pop-up follows the Ignite Talks, with food from Burma, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.

 

3. Community Organizing Case Study: Perspectives form Organizers and Community Members in the Near Westside Peacemaking Project

This panel is made up of leaders and participants of the Peacemaking Project, an innovative community organization model, that will share best practices with attendees.

 

We’re also excited to see the debut of a video about New Americans in Syracuse and their impact on the small business and workforce industries. Here’s two teasers to get you just as excited as we are:

 

To register for the conference, visit the We Global Network’s website. For those in Syracuse, you can use the local discount to save money on your registration. Go to the registration page and click on “Enter Promotion Code” in blue at the top of the registration form. Enter code LocalDiscount and press “Apply Code.”

This conference is hosted by CenterState CEO and  WE Global Network, a program of Welcoming America in partnership with Global Detroit. For more information about the Welcoming Economies Convening, visit CenterSatte CEO’s website.

Happy Anniversary Coop Fed: Dine and Dance with us on October 20!

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 12, 2017

Coop Fed Gala

Cooperative Federal is celebrating their 35th Anniversary this year with a Gala & Fundraiser at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo on October 20th at 5:30 p.m. Our staff will be there feasting on pecan crusted salmon, dancing to the beats of DJ Rondell with Ear Catcher Sound, and bidding on all the silent auction items. Proceeds from the event go to support Coop Fed’s youth programs, including their In-School Branches at Nottingham, Henninger, and Fowler High Schools.

For many years, Cooperative Federal has been a trusted partner in all of our Economic Inclusion initiatives at CenterState CEO and we’re excited to revisit the accomplishments of this community development credit union and look to the future for more ways to “foster economic justice, inclusion, and opportunity” in all of Syracuse’s neighborhoods.

Tickets are available on a sliding scale from $30-75 and includes dinner, dessert, entertainment, and access to the zoo. Purchase them HERE. Thanks to event sponsors, there are also a limited amount of free tickets for anyone who is unable to pay. Send inquiries to event@coopfed.org.

For more information about the event – including the music line up and full dinner menu – visit CoopFed.org or join their Facebook InviteCooperative Federal works to “rebuild our local economy in ways that foster justice, serve people and communities that are under-served by conventional financial institutions, and responsibly manage our members’ assets.”

Photo Friday: “How might we . . .”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 6, 2017

Some of our staff + a representative from the Syracuse Northeast Community Center show off our hard work tackling a number of challenges. If the post-its didn’t give it away, we’re knee-deep in a Design Thinking course through Acumen: brainstorming ideas, creating prototypes, and asking “How might we . . .”

 

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October 2012: “A headdress of peacock feathers dripping with pearls”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • October 5, 2017

Fairy Tales are beloved by children (and adults) generation after generation. And so are these paintings that hang in the White Branch Library. We’re throwin’ it back to a post from October 2012 when we dug a little further into the history of this local artwork.

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Depicting Fairy Tales: Artwork at White Branch Library (originally published October, 13, 2012)

It’s impossible to miss the three large paintings hanging in the Children’s Room at the White Branch Library. The art nouveau pieces in shades of orange, navy, green, and brown set the scene for three classic fairy tales: Cinderella, the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Beautifully painted with fun details (the fairy godmother in Cinderella wears a headdress of peacock feathers dripping with pearls), the magic of these stories pushes the boundaries of imagination—no matter your age.

The panels were painted by Syracuse’s own Margaret Huntington Boehner, an award-winning painter. Born in Oneonta, New York in 1894, Boehner attended Syracuse University’s College of Fine Arts and began teaching there shortly after graduation in 1922. Early in her career Boehner painted the three panels that were given to the White Branch Library by the Friends of Reading of Onondaga County. The fairy tales remain on permanent display in the Children’s Room.

Although a Syracuse resident for much of her life, only a handful of Boehner’s works actually remain in the city. The three panels at White Branch Library are an important part of our local history, but also our personal history on the Northside, as patrons fondly remember the pictures from their childhood.

Visit the White Branch Library in order to appreciate all the details of Boehner’s vision. How do these fairy tales compare to your own imaginings?

 

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