Think Locally (But Bring a Sweatshirt)
It’s a balmy summer morning in San Francisco, and I can feel the sun cascading across my shoulders as I stroll down the sidewalk. As I gently flip my hair off of my shoulders, a figure in the distance catches my attention. He moves with unbridled confidence and even from a distance I can feel the connect — BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Ahh! I’m awake, I’m awake!
Cut to reality: it’s a cold, dark San Francisco morning and I’m cold.
Like many a San Francisco newcomer, I foolishly assumed that the great state of California had a lot of DE-lightful weather in store for me. True, I had been warned to pack as though I were getting ready for an Indiana (my home state) winter. But, as I had just finished a semester with the Urban Studies Program in Chicago, where I had survived my harshest winter yet, I wasn’t exactly feeling intimidated by a California summer.
So, off I went with my tank-top filled suitcase and my Midwestern swagger (oh, just go with it), leaving my “I” states existence behind for the land of chilly summers, big hills, and cool green compost containers. So why, besides the (false) promise of warm weather, did this Indianan-Iowan trek cross country for a two month adventure in California?
Well, my friends, I found love. Not the you-smell-good-I-feel-good-let’s-slowdance-and-change-our-facebook-status love. No, more like the oh-my-gosh-you-are-the-coolest-nonprofit-ever-I’m-totally-inspired kind of love. Oh, come on — stay with me, I’ll explain.
Last semester, thanks to my then-internship supervisor, Ellen, I was introduced to an organization I could have sworn had walked straight out of my dreams: the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). BALLE connects local business networks from all over the United States and Canada, and believes that strong local living economies are crucial in creating healthy and happy communities. Their member networks, of all different sizes and locations, work tirelessly to educate their communities and business owners on the economic, environmental, and social benefits of thinking and acting locally. Their member businesses, all independent and locally owned, span the economic spectrum and range from retailers to zero-waste manufacturers to green builders. Together, the BALLE staff, networks, and member businesses represent a body of individuals who believe there is more to life than the (traditional) bottom line.
So there it was, my dream organization — enlightened, committed to local businesses, and, oh baby, it had 501(c)(3) status! Well, that was it for me. I had to make it mine (so to speak). With as persistent an effort as I’ve ever mustered, I e-mailed, faxed, e-mailed some more, and interviewed my way into an internship with BALLE. And, because Grinnell has an awesome summer grants program, I also applied for and received a grant through the Wilson Program to fund my (unpaid) internship.
Combined, these processes required a great deal of time and committed effort. But, as I sit here (sweatshirt-clad) in San Francisco, sipping coffee and mulling over everything I have already learned, I can say with great confidence — it was all totally worth it.
Colette Boilini ’08 is a Sociology major from Bloomington, Indiana.