Reflecting 2015

January 6, 2016

2015  was our best year yet. From growing our customer base, our team quadrupling in size, and hitting the 100,000K total donated milestone, we couldn’t be more proud. The end of the year called for giving ourselves a small pat on the back, tallying up stats, reflecting on the year, and planning 2016.

After getting in touch with the Chicago non-profits we’ve donated to, we wanted to take a moment to highlight where some of our donations went and how they have helped.

Kristen Faiferlick of Moneythink said that our donation in 2015 “helped build out new features in [their] award-winning mobile app” and actually helped to fund the most largely attended Summer Leadership Institute they’ve ever hosted. Here, the organization brought in college volunteers to “train, equip, and inspire them to have a bigger impact in the 2015-2016 school year” to educate underserved youth on the ways to save and spend wisely. This is an organization taking one topic that has fallen so low on the totem pole of education that it needs an intervention-like, fresh approach to breaking cycles of reckless spending in the next generation.

At The Chicago Lighthouse, located in Illinois Medical District, our donations were used to fund what their Creative Director Lisa Birmingham explained as sending teacher-therapists to “provide one-on-one home therapy visits to children who are blind or visually impaired in [a] Birth to Three Program.” This type of foundation for new families and mothers might be the most authentic way, in these situations, to help shape the development of young families and provide the support they need.

Julie Nicewander from Pilsen’s Working Bikes explained that our funds secured that tens of “local underserved Chicagoans are given a bike, a helmet and a new lock” which, she reminds us, “allows individuals to get to and from work, along with greater access to healthcare.” Not only does this organization help with adults, but young children as well. Several of these first bicycles, first memories of pedaling the city block and experiencing that freedom and speed, are thanks to the mission of Working Bikes. When you look at the photos of kids who received bikes this winter as part of their holiday give away, you melt. Nicewander explained how “these funds have been a huge help in ensuring that we are able to provide bikes to all of those recipients.”  The smiles on these kids faces can transport anyone back to the days of their first shiny bike and everything it meant to them.

Becca Turner from Freshwater Future explained that the funds we donated during the month of September benefitted the recipient of an inside grant, Clare Tallon Ruen. Clare echoed this in her statement, saying that her work is meant to bring Great Lakes education into the classroom in Evanston and Chicago. Through her beaming smile she told us that grants such as this allow her to actually “bring the kids outside and to the beach” and “learn about the importance of stewardship in our Great Lakes region.” Clare and the volunteers at Freshwater Future make us all look at our very own Lake Michigan with a more protective set of eyes.

Kathryn Nelson, Development Manager of the Namaste Charter School in Southwest’s McKinley park area, remarked that our donations help to send their students to the top-rated high schools of the area. This might seem like an overstatement but Namaste Charter School relies on donations to continue the immense strides they’ve made in transforming an otherwise standard brick building into what feels like a magical, Willy Wonka-esque bubble where education feels so tangible. Attainable. Exciting. While walking through their school this fall, our usually-social team fell silent. We were so impressed and astounded by the work the school is doing to integrate all meanings of  ‘health’ and ‘balance’ into their daily schedule. Yoga, meditation, family style meals, and organic foods being implemented into this Southwest Side school are just to name a few.

Our February charity was One Tail at A Time, a dog rescue shelter near Bucktown. Executive Director, Heather Owen, thanked us recently for the “long way” our donations went in 2015 in the launching of their new adoption center, allowing them to take in more dogs in need. The ‘long way’ she references trickled all the way to a customer named Michelle Janke, who adopted their dog Barney from One Tail at a Time this year. In her letter to our team, she writes: “we are so in love–we never would have seen him if it hadn’t been for your charity program!” She sent this alongside a photograph of the sleepy Barney, paws taking up half of Janke’s arm chair. Our CEO, Steven, sent this article around to the entire team and one by one our heads lifted from our laptops to smile around the room.

Adopt a puppy in Chicago

Hearing that our flower-based mission was the assisting wind to some of these Chicago nonprofits is unfathomable. We hear big numbers, like that we’ve donated over $100,000 since our 2012 beginning and it almost doesn’t register. It slowly bounces against our peripheral, as we continue moving full speed ahead with filled calendars, meetings, and projects.

But, when we break it down and hear that our donation provided an inner city kid his first bicycle? And you take enough time to remember what a bicycle means to a six year old boy? When we hear that our donation actually brought young students to the beach–away from the walls of the classroom–with the sole purpose of feeling, smelling, and breathing in our Lake Michigan, learning how to appreciate and preserve it? These stories force us pause and absorb what these funds have actually become.

We pause, hearing that our donation allowed for a new mother to have luxury of opening her front door to see a specialist standing there, ready to comfort, educate, and support her as she navigates the future for her visually impaired baby. Her newborn baby.

We paused the day we got the privilege of seeing the smiles in Namaste’s colorful, soulful, beautiful kindergarten–as they painted pointillism landscapes, dancing in their seats to the Spanish music playing in the background. And then we paused again when the principal looked us each in the eye, thanking us for helping make this possible for these inner city children.

We’re pausing at the end of 2015 to thank our nonprofits and thank our customers. Without the support of either, we wouldn’t be here. Fulfilled, proud, pausing–and daydreaming about 2016.