577: Rethinking Charity: Let’s go “micro” —visiting brides and yoga classes

All this week, we’ve been exploring fresh ideas in Rethinking Charity. We hope you’re gathering these exciting, provocative ideas and you’re poised to take action yourself!
Please, Email us at [email protected] and tell us what you’re thinking—and doing.
If you’re just joining us, we’ve given you:
1.) An overview of resources for rethinking charity
2.) News of a costumed superhero sharing wisdom and compassion
3.) A macro view of a “revolution” in working with the poor
TODAY, we welcome writer Lynne Schreiber back to the pages of ReadTheSpirit with a micro view of small businesses trying to help in their communities.
Lynne is a journalist, author and is the founder of Your People LLC, a marketing firm based on principles of community building. We invited Lynne to write about two of her clients’ strategies to raise awareness and to help some needy people. Here is Lynne’s story …

Holiday Season Inspires Selfless Storefronts
By Lynne Schreiber

Two Michigan businesses are striving to do good for others—while aiming to do well themselves.

“We get calls every day from students who want to do yoga but who cannot afford to pay for classes,” says Steve Feldman, co-owner of the Yoga Shelter chain of yoga studios in metro Detroit. “It’s one of the biggest reasons that people stop coming to class—but ironically, when finances are tight, and other problems arise, that’s when you most need mind-body-spirit focus, which you can find in yoga.”
With a 15% unemployment rate in the state of Michigan, everyone knows someone who has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Right now, with a failing automotive sector that was the bread-and-butter of the local economy, Michigan is the worst state in the nation as far as employment and economic growth.
“I can’t imagine how horrible it must feel for a bride who has looked forward to her wedding day for her entire life, to have to cut corners on planning her dream day,” says Nadica Ristivojevich, owner of Maria’s Bridal Couture, a high-end bridal boutique in West Bloomfield, Mich. “The wedding dress is typically the largest single cost—so I’d like to help brides who need it achieve their dream wedding.”
Last year, approximately 56,080 weddings took place in the state of Michigan, costing an average of $25,300 per event, with the bridal gown as the single largest expenditure for most brides.
Feldman and Ristivojevich have both created opportunities in their businesses this month to help those who need it—and to promote good will toward their own businesses. On December 31, Yoga Shelter will give away four yoga memberships, thanks to a Yoga for Everyone Fund created to help those who can’t afford yoga get to class. Students, friends and members of the Yoga Shelter community have already donated more than $1,400 to help pay for these giveaways.

At the same time, a neighboring business in West Bloomfield’s Orchard Mall, Maria’s Bridal Couture, is planning to give away five bridal gowns to unemployed brides-to-be. The giveaway will take place at the end of a two-day After-Christmas Sample Sale, Dec. 26-27. Brides can enter their names, or the names of friends who’ve fallen upon hard times, for a discreet drawing.

These five gowns going to needy brides are way more than cast-offs—they’re by well-known designers, including Symphony Bridal, Marisa, Bridal Couture, Cymbeline Paris and Watters & Watters.

It’s a classy, creative idea for a small business and, while it might sound like small-scale assistance in a community, just imagine those five women, stressed by hard times, when they find their wedding plans lit up by these gifts.


Yoga Shelter, which has studios in West Bloomfield, Birmingham, Royal Oak and Grosse Pointe, will give away two 24-class series and two 36-class series. The fund is growing, thanks to a ticket sale—any yoga student or community member—really, anyone at all—can purchase a ticket for $5—or as many tickets as they want. They can then just simply call it a donation or perhaps enter the name of someone they know who might be in a situation to receive such a giveaway. The Yoga Shelter maintains a confidential list of individuals who have requested assistance.
“It is part of our defining philosophy to help those who need it most,” says Yoga Shelter founder and co-owner Eric Paskel. “That’s why it was imperative for us to find a way to give free yoga to empower people to ride the wave of challenge we’re all facing.”
The Yoga Shelter giveaway also will take place on December 31.
Both initiatives are indicative of a trend: businesses that make caring about the greater community part of their business model. Both efforts build good karma in the community and among shoppers. It’s a bit of giving back during a holiday season when giving gifts is increasingly difficult for so many.
“I’m proud of our community, for recognizing this need and doing something about it,” says Yoga Shelter’s Feldman. “We call this place the Shelter because it truly is a safe haven for so many people facing so many challenges.”


For more information or to take part in either initiative, contact Yoga Shelter (www.yogashelter.com) at 248-538-0200 or Maria’s Bridal Couture (www.mariasbridalcouture.com) at 248-539-3090.

    PLEASE, Email us at [email protected] about what you’re hearing, thinking and doing this holiday season to help others!
    You may be thinking: I don’t live anywhere near Michigan (99.9 percent of our readers don’t). Or you may be asking: How much difference can a handful of bridal gowns and yoga memberships make in a world of global poverty?
    But, that question misses the central point we’re making this week. Did you read our Wednesday interview with Peter Greer about the power of microfinance—transforming families and communities and the world, one tiny step at a time?
    That’s where Lynne has taken us today—to a model of local American small-businesses thinking of micro strategies to help their communities—and help stay afloat themselves as healthy businesses.
    Come on! Send us a note about what you’re hearing, thinking—and doing—yourself.


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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