By Xiang Shen, UW News Lab
Members of Sustainable Ballard shared their thoughts on challenges and expectations for the organization during the annual meeting on Saturday, January 20.
The non-profit focuses on promoting sustainable lifestyles by hosting community events, building the local food supply through urban farming and food bank support, and sharing resources in the neighborhood.
“Ballard is growing quite a lot. There’s lot of new people coming in,” said Kit Hitchcock, director of Ballard Sprouts, a project where volunteers plant vegetables for food banks, meal programs and shelters.
Central Ballard has increased 54.1 percent in population since 2010, which is faster than any other North Seattle neighborhood. With more newcomers and renters in Ballard, Hitchcock said Sustainable Ballard needs to work on outreach to new residents.
More volunteers needed
Sustainable Ballard hosts and coordinates multiple projects that are socially and personally sustainable — there are more than a dozen ongoing events and projects.
Many of these events rely on volunteers to succeed. For example, at the monthly Ballard Knitters meeting, volunteers knit scarves and gloves for people who are homeless.
The number of projects continues to grow. Ballard Edible Gardening Tour, a nine-year-old event of Sustainable Ballard, hopes to have its return in this year. Participants will then have the chance to visit beautiful gardening spaces in the neighborhood and to learn sustainable gardening skills with the gardeners.
There will be a lot of upcoming events, which means a lot of work. So it’s crucial for the organization to have sufficient volunteer supply.
Paula Jenson, Board of Directors of Sustainable Ballard, said they have limited ways to recruit volunteers. They send newsletters about upcoming events to a couple of news outlets. But other than that, most of the volunteers joined by signing up from the organization’s website page. Jenson said that wasn’t enough.
“We definitely need a better way of recruiting volunteers,” she said.
During the meeting, the board discussed inviting more high school students to volunteer. But in the past, reaching out to students was much harder than expected.
Margaret Wetter, the Publicity Manager, said she used to send newsletters to high schools to ask for student volunteers.
“But we never got anything back,” said Wetter.
To improve high school engagement, board members will recruit students through their community service hours contact at Ballard High School.
New business partners needed
The board also discussed adding business memberships this year.
In the existing membership program, Sustainable Ballard offers individual memberships from $35 to $100, and these fees, along with sponsors and fundraisers, fund the organization. Everyone who joins the membership get free access to the Tool Library.
Businesses are not currently eligible under their membership system, so some individuals sign up on behalf of their organizations, said Wetter.
The lack of clarification of the relationships with businesses brought problems to the Tool Library.
“Some handymen would like to use the Tool Library for resources for their businesses,” Jenny Heins, Board President of Sustainable Ballard, said. “But we can’t really support that.”
She said the library is happy to support community members who are down on their luck if they would like to use tools to pick up odd jobs.*
J.B. Harmon, manager of the Tool Library, said he noticed that some people who use the library to do repair work for their businesses tend to use the resource more than other members.
To better distribute the resources at Tool Library, new restrictions will be applied to the library. Creating a business membership that has higher threshold than individual memberships may also be a solution.
To learn more about the volunteer opportunities with Sustainable Ballard and upcoming events, click here.
Photos by Xiang Shen, a journalism student studying at the University of Washington
*Corrected from an earlier version of the story.