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Dear Mowtown and The Columbia Future Forge Supporters,

It has been almost 6 months since we have sent you an update letter on what is happening at the Columbia Future Forge. The reality is that there have been so many exciting developments that we simply have not had the time to sit down and write this newsletter. Each time that I started it seemed that a new development unfolded and it required focused attention and heavy personal investment for the subsequent weeks! I want to take this time to write you a more lengthy and bulleted letter to let you know what has been taking place and to ask for your help in developing a new initiative at the Forge.

  • Our New Drone Program- This year 8 students engaged a new and experimental program that we built from the ground up. Students are being trained in drone piloting and are hoping to pass the FAA commercial drone piloting test by this summer. We were thrilled to have a number of tech employees join our program as mentors this fall.

  • School Interest- We have a number of local schools that have engaged with us because they are interested in our drone program but also because we provide high quality mentors for each student in our program. One local high school has even offered us academic credit if we can get our students to 180 hours of participation.

  • American Soul Brothers BBQ Sauce- The owners of this growing sauce company were advised by members of the Murdock trust to come and seek our help in developing a social impact for their small business. Over a few months we decided that rather than opening up their own foundation, they would simply adopt the Columbia Future Forge as their social impact. Kevin and Omar (the owners) are going to be mentors in our program in the Fall of 2018 and hope to create some additional trainings on entrepreneurship for our students. They also hope to hire some of our students to help them at their product demos in the Vancouver/Portland metro area. We are excited about this new way of doing the Forge’s work.

  • The Murdock Trust- The Murdock Trust has asked that our Founder help host a 2019 gathering of social impact practitioners here in the Vancouver/Portland metro area. The initial goal is to bring together people who are working to do faithful work in their local communities in creative ways. A number of regional accelerator programs and Seattle Pacific University faculty look to be involved.

  • Princeton Theological Seminary Class- In early 2019, Princeton Theological Seminary will be hosting a class called, “The Church as Missional Entrepreneur”. The goal is to help seminary students to envision way that local churches can engage their local communities and economies to promote social good in ways that many churches used to do very effectively. Many students are no longer interested in managing churches, but in bettering their world and creating alternative forms of “church”. Matt Overton will be co-teaching this course.

  • Utmost Athletics- Most recently a fledgling athletic program has approached the Forge asking for us to bring them under our umbrella in a similar fashion to how we have operated with our Landscaping company Mowtown Teen Lawn Care. “Utmost Athletics” hope to provide high quality strength training programs designed by Division One coaches and trainers that are specifically designed to help students healthily build strength. They hope to do this at a cost that low income students can easily afford and focus the program around character development and mentorship. Their hope is to launch in the Fall of 2018. It is a bold goal and this is where your help is needed.

I believe that Utmost Athletics and American Soul Brothers BBQ sauce are crucial programs in the life of the Columbia Future Forge. They will allow us to appeal to a broader base of students and leverage our impact. Instead of simply recruiting students for our main program we can now bring them into our program through their interest in specific areas (Drones, Sports, Business, Landscaping Work). They will also allow us to engage a broader range of adult mentors as the diversity of program options will multiply the kinds of adult mentors we can reach out to. This will mean that more adults in our communities will be enabled to come to know that they have something good to offer others in Clark County.

All of this is a dramatic opportunity and it is possible that by next Fall we may have leaped from 20 students in our program to possibly 60. While it is an exciting possibility, but it will require a number of key movements and plans within our organization. This is where we need your help.

While we believe we have the funding for the American Soul Brothers program addition nearly in hand, we need to find funding for the Utmost Athletics wing of the Forge.  We have secured a large warehouse space and a gymnasium at Columbia Presbyterian Church out of which we can operate this program. We expect the program to be mostly self sustaining as it will charge a monthly fee. We expect that cost to be slightly less than 1/3 of what students might pay elsewhere in the county. The timing of this is important because many teens are being priced out of sport these days. Low cost leagues are going out of business everywhere with the rise of club sports, sport specialization, and the general “pay to play” atmosphere. Concepts of team over individual and character development of the human being have been lost along the way. Many coaches in our county agree that a change is needed in sports culture. However, none of that work can begin unless we can raise around $50,000 to purchase the equipment. We hope to find those funds by August 1st, 2018. It is a bold goal, but we believe in the potential of this program. In fact, we believe in it so much that Anne and I have allocated $2,000 of our own funds to give to this project.

My hope is that as you are reading this (lengthy) letter that you can see that something remarkable is happening through the Columbia Future Forge. I am asking you directly, for the first time, to consider contributing to this program so that a number of students in our neighborhoods can find a mentor that cares about them, be prepared for life and work, and understand that there is purpose to life. You might do this with a one time gift or a regular monthly contribution.  Please consider (perhaps prayerfully) whether you can help us multiply our impact.


Thank you,

Matthew Overton

Executive Director- The Columbia Future Forge

Founder- Mowtown Teen Lawn Care

 

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Friends and Customers,

You are receiving the attached Columbia Future Forge newsletter because in one way or another you are connected with the teen/young adult jobs program that I run. Some of you are customers of Motown Teen Lawn Care. Others of you are supporters (in various ways) of the Columbia Future Forge. The Future Forge provides life and job skills training and individual mentoring to students. Mowtown directly employs a subset of these students.

This is our first newsletter. We plan to send one out each quarter with updates about mentors, students, and trainings that are ongoing. We hope it helps you to see all that is taking place in this important social enterprise in Clark County and gives you a clear sense of where your support is going. We are very excited about all that is happening this Fall.

In particular, we have added an orientation experience both for our mentors and mentees so that they fully understand the commitment they are making, and so that they feel prepared for the year ahead. We are also beginning to set up a more formalized set of connections with our local schools and trying to think about how to expand our connections to local businesses that may become sources of employment for students from the program. Last, this year will be an important year for us as we are continuing to apply for grant funding and to create a donor base.

I want to share with you a quick glimpse of some of the fruit I have seen in the past week. This past Sunday night, I was in a small group setting with two students who are a part of our program. Both of these students have fully engaged our program and have used the dollars from their Mowtown wages to support their families. As I sat in the small group with other teens, I was astounded to see two completely different individuals than I had known just a year ago. One had gained the clear presence of

leadership in the group, and the other was now confident enough to share out loud in front of the group in a way that floored me. I felt that I was staring at two new individuals, and I knew that I would have to get to know them all over again and find new ways to stretch, challenge, and encourage them. This kind of glorious metamorphosis often happens as we work with teens and young adults. It’s a gift every time it does.

 

Matt Overton

Executive Director- The Columbia Future Forge

Owner- Mowtown Teen Lawn Care