Delivering stuffed animals with matching books to one of our own community preschools—Collins—was especially thrilling this past month. The Preschool teachers worked diligently to get their new facility bright, colorful, safe, and inviting for their children on September 28th. As the bags of plush lions and puppies entered their classrooms, their eyes brightened and big smiles appeared.
This year, when the children arrive, they will be greeted not only by the teachers and staff but a matching plush animal and book of their very own. Each of the teachers providing on-site learning will present their children with one of the following: A Plush Beekle UnImaginary Friend with book; a Lion Cub with a book containing three stories from the Little Golden Book Collection--How Do Lions Say I Love You, How Do Penguins Play and How Do Giraffes Take Naps; or a Plush Poky puppy with a book containing The Poky Little Puppy, The Shy Little Kitten, and the Saggy Baggy Elephant--a total of 143 plush animals and books.
The above gifts, which have become an ongoing charitable program within Stormcells, have become a favorite with teachers, parents, grandparents, and the children throughout Kentucky preschools Moreover, the gifts, purchased at a discount through the Kohl’s Cares Program, provides not only the immediate joy for the children involved but the cost of the items goes forward through Kohls to support other charities for children—thus making the purchases twice blessed.
Watching the teachers accept the gifts was so heartwarming. As they hugged and played with the cubs and puppies, we realized that on our next trip, we will need to take extras for the faculty and staff—they deserve that and far more as they serve the precious children within our communities.
Roy and Dorothy Miller
The Stormcells team enjoyed two long-awaited visits to one of our favorite charities--Head Start.
Our Stormcells Team returned to Eastern Kentucky for the first on-site visit to the Owsley County Head Start Program. Loaded in the back of our SUV were school supplies (crayons, pencils, paper) but, by special request, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Given our own passion to bring smiles to children, there were also stuffed animals for loving and books for taking home to “read” to their families.
The Owsley Head Start program has 90 three and four-year old children; however, we also learned they have Early Head Start with approximately 50 children—three months to up to three years. On-site classes are scheduled to resume in September; meanwhile, in-home and online programs are fully operational and all staff have returned to work.
Owsley, one of Kentucky’s smallest counties, has limited community resources so any outside help is highly valued and greatly appreciated. The teachers stress their greatest need is for age-level books that the children can take home as their own—these books become their cherished treasure.
At Stormcells, we believe the power of children’s picture books can open new worlds of thought and change the future of a child, the community, the state, and the nation—one small county—one small child—at a time! To learn more about Head Start, you can visit their website at https://headstartky.org/about/
If you would like to learn more about how Stormcells supports the Head Start programs of Kentucky, or if you would like to donate any items, please contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The world today is nothing that we have seen before. Companies are navigating the uncertainty and ambiguity with the future of work and the future of their company. In the pursuit of solutions to this new way of working and to help leaders move their organizations forward, the design thinking process can be an incredibly useful tool. Jodi Brandstetter and Amanda Hopper will present a free, interactive webinar on Tuesday, July 7th. This webinar will help participants:
In this webinar, hosted by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, groups will explore design thinking methods including questioning, brainstorming and prototyping. Jodi and Amanda will utilize breakout rooms to facilitate discussion and polling to help find solutions. Participants will apply the methods learned to real-world scenarios that organizations are facing right now. Finally, Jodi and Amanda will provide practical resources that participants can use in their personal and professional lives.
This webinar is for anyone looking for new ways to improve their personal and company processes. This can help people who are in career transition or simply desire new tools for making business decisions.
The two presenters, Jodi and Amanda, have diverse perspectives on the design thinking method. Jodi, the chief Talent Strategist for Lean Effective Talent Strategies provides over 17 years in talent acquisition. She has knowledge in both developing a strong recruitment strategy and building relationships with leadership to ensure the hiring process is compliant with laws and regulations. Amanda, founder and director of Stormcells Incorporated, is a librarian by trade but recently left the library sector to work full-time with Stormcells. Stormcells is a nonprofit organization with the mission of supporting nonprofits and small businesses through creative problem solving.
When asking Amanda and Jodi why they utilize design thinking, they said:
“Design Thinking gives us a way to find out of the box or creative solutions to today’s challenges. I love using this method to bring teams together to develop products, services and experiences that are human focused and provide a return on investment for their company” - Jodi Brandstetter.
“Human-Centered Design, and Design Thinking, are ways to put empathy into action. I love placing people at the center of the equation and finding creative ways to help them solve problems!” - Amanda Hopper.
This short webinar will be fun, engaging, and thought-provoking. It also fulfills SHRM and HRCI Credits! Please register through the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce website.
We hope to see you there.
“Children are our most valuable resource.” — Herbert Hoover
For a number of years, the Stormcells founding members assisted children from several Northern Kentucky elementary schools through the local Family Resource Centers. While supporting these children, our group discovered the additional needs of children ages three and four in the Head Start programs. The appeal and potential of these children made it simply impossible to resist reaching out to them, as well as the staff who serve them and their families.
Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child. (https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs) The staff and programs provide not only school readiness, but they also nurture the special needs of those children most vulnerable within our communities. Stormcells, a charitable organization founded to serve those who serve the needs of their community, have found it an honor to help supply these children with some of the basic necessities—as well as some delightful pleasures.
For years, our members have especially enjoyed giving gifts of picture books and stuffed animals to each child with various programs, including Head Start programs, of Boone, Kenton, Campbell, and Pendleton counties. Beginning in 2019, members expanded our tradition by taking books, stuffed animals, underwear, and socks into more rural counties of Easter Kentucky. They traveled to Breathitt, Lee, and Wolfe Counties. The genuine appreciation and heartfelt thankfulness of these centers were utterly overwhelming. The staff and children appreciated all the essential items, and the children were delighted to receive the books and stuffed animals. Perhaps more appreciated than these tangible items, however, was the gift of caring.
As schools reopen, Stormcells members will provide help to at least three more county head starts by the year’s end. At times, it appears these children are “the least of these” and the last served within our communities. Yet, they inherently hold such great promise for the future of their communities. Stormcells members believe every child is the single most previous treasure a community is given. Therefore, our goal is to plan, seek opportunities, and support every single Head Start program in all 120 counties of our state. Having reached over ten counties, there are only 110 to go!!
--Drs. Roy & Dorothy Miller, Stormcells Founding Members
(This post is written by Ignite Institute student--Mollie Hopper.)
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one who thinks of a song in a specific way. When I hear a song, I immediately try to look for what it makes me feel. Does it remind me of a certain topic? Is there a mood that matches it?
Finding your meaning behind a song can make it so much more enjoyable. There is always an intended message behind a song, but it can be perceived in many different ways. The key to really enjoying a song is how you perceive this message. Look behind the lyrics and the music notes and into the soul of a song. Victor Hugo grasped the same idea when he said, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."
Everyone wishes they knew how to express their feelings in a way other than talking, right? Music is perfect for helping people express what is going on in their lives. Whether someone is putting together a new song or just listening to one, there will always be a message that connects with personal experiences or hardships. My challenge to everyone who reads this blog post is to find one song each week that connects with how you are feeling. This can help to make sense of emotions that we often have trouble understanding.
Music also shows that people are not alone in their problems. According to the article, How Music Bonds Us Together, There is something about music that seems to bring us closer to each other and help us come together as a community. We realize that there must be other people that feel the same way I feel, or why would the music connect to me so deeply.
It seems that there are many purposes for music (mental stimulation, emotional release, and social connection) other than just sounding nice.
Mollie Hopper, Guest Blogger
High School Sophomore, Ignite Institute
“How do we start a conversation about something that no one wants to talk about?” This was a question asked by one of our very first Women’s Think Tank supported charities.
In 2019, Stormcells approached Family Nurturing Center, a nonprofit with the mission of ending the cycle of child abuse, and asked how the Women’s Think Tank could support the important work they do. The answer quickly given by Paul Miller (Director of Donor Relations) was “that’s easy, how do we get people talking about a topic that no one wants to talk or think about.” This began our three-month journey with Family Nurturing Center and this difficult task.
To accomplish their mission, Family Nurturing Center offers wonderful resources to support children, adults, and families. Parenting programs are provided to guide caregivers through the different stages of their child’s life. These programs help strengthen the relationship between parent and child and help the parent address the needs of the child. If a child or adult has unfortunately experienced trauma in their life, Family Nurturing Center also has services to help them cope with those events and move forward to more healthy habits and relationships. According to familynurturing.org, “96% of the children completing individual counseling demonstrated improved coping skills.”
Family Nurturing Center also offers community programs to spread awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. One in ten children will experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. This statistic is the very reason it is important for all adults to understand the problem and know about the services our community offers. One of our Women’s Think Tank members commented: “I had no idea that Family Nurturing Center was right in our backyard and offering such amazing services. I would have donated, helped….something!”
So, what happened to solve the question? The Women’s Think Tank provided a myriad of solutions to the Family Nurturing Center--most centering around marketing and promotion. Hashtags were created, contacts were made, and ideas were shared. But even bigger, Family Nurturing Center engaged twelve ladies in a broader understanding of the problem and their services to combat it. The ladies attended fundraising galas, became a voice in the community, helped with social media, and volunteered for projects.
The American writer, Margaret Wheatley, said, "Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters." So in the end, we talked about child sexual abuse. We spread the word in our community. We had the tough conversations and researched the horrible statistics. We were uncomfortable, but we created a discussion where there was once silence. Please consider breaking the silence, in support of a child in your community. You can follow Family Nurturing Center on facebook , twitter, and instagram. You can donate to through their website at www.familynurture.org or speak with someone about their programs and services by calling (859) 525-3200.
Those who are around children for any length of time have often grown weary of the question, “Why?”
For example, on taking a short trip to the bank with a five year old, the parent may say,
“Mommy needs to go to the bank.”
“Why?” asks the child.
“Because she needs money.”
“Because we want to buy things.”
“Well, because we need clothes and toys.”
The saga continues until the parent finally says, “ I suppose the social pressures of living in an upper-middle class neighborhood means we need to keep up with the appearances of having nice things for our family.” By the time you finish this long-drawn out response, the child has turned her attention back to the blocks in her lap.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “persistent questions and healthy inquisitiveness are the first requisite for acquiring learning of any kind.” While this sounds wonderful in theory, in actuality, the parent is probably reeling with frustration or annoyance. The child, however, is learning about language, thinking, social mores, and life, in general. The “5 Whys” technique of problem solving was developed in the 1930s by Sakichi Toyoda. Because it is a simple way of getting to the bottom of a problem quickly, it is still being used by companies today. This question of “Why” can oftentimes lead us down a path of realization, inspiration, innovation, or sometimes, even more confusion.
According to Warren Berger in A More Beautiful Question, there is a 75% decline in questioning as children transition from elementary through middle school to high school. With this decrease in questioning comes the inability to ask the simple, naïve questions that are often needed to get to the heart of a problem or dilemma.
How do you come up with the best questions? One option is through Question-Storming. This is a process of brainstorming, but instead of solutions, you are coming up with questions. The goal is to generate as many possible questions as you can, in order to access the heart of the "problem" By asking questions, we develop a curious mindset. And with that curiosity comes greater insight and creativity. In her book Change Your Questions Change Your Life, Marilee Adams stresses the importance of asking difficult questions in order to lead to radical transformation.
Through asking the right questions, people can develop their true visions, morals, opinions, and innovations. The Right Question Institute uses a variety of techniques to get to this “right question.” They offer workshops, webinars, and services to help children and adults develop a questions mindset. In turn, democracy is served through a greater understanding of the true questions and issues at hand.
Euripides said “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” So the question remains: “Is the question the answer?”
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger
Questions Are the Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and In Life by Hal Gregersen
Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams
Soon there may be a new brand and blend of coffee that some feel will totally revolutionize the coffee industry, and it’s happening here in Ol’ Kentucky. To the bold, brave, and undiscerning coffee lovers, this may be the long-awaited breakthrough in taste, aroma, and chewiness you have awaited. Following years of research and development and repeated failures, it is finally here! Admittedly, this coffee is not for everyone; but, it will be well worth the wait! For those who seek excitement and adventure, we are pleased to announce 🎺🎺🎺:
Kentucky Burgoo Stew Brew Coffee!
As you may know, Burgoo is created from left-overs dumped into a large kettle and slowly cooked down to a divine mixture of colors, tastes, and sounds. It requires four or more meats, six or more vegetables, plus herbs, spices, and perhaps a splash of Pap’s home brew.
In like manner, Burgoo coffee is a mixture of left-over, stale, abandoned beans from throughout the world. But, when combined they create a unique taste sensation--kinda. The beans represent Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, Kenya—well over 20 or more great forests—creating a true, one-of-a-kind blend. But as wonderful as this sounds, this is only the beginning.
Next, the sweet essence of Burgoo stew is filtered through pure burlap to a gurgling, savory broth. The perfect combination of cabbage, okra, wild onions/ramps, and asparagus, coupled with potatoes, carrots, and peas, create a taste impossible to describe. Added to this delectable mixture is a medley of extraordinary meats from the wild as well as the barnyard: deer, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, possum, and groundhog together with pig, cow, mule, and turkey—assembled especially for everyone’s taste. The Burgoo coffee beans are bathed in the rich Burgoo stew, then roasted, ground, and bagged. WOW!
No doubt you are anxiously wondering how and when you can be the first to experience such joy. We have had one exploratory discussion with a coffee company; but, to our chagrin, they left confused and babbling. Abraham Lincoln once said: "If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee. Much like President Lincoln, it may take coffee makers a while to fully appreciate the enormity of this culinary breakthrough. But just imagine, though, what this will do for the economy of Kentucky.
If you would enjoy following the future of this venture and perhaps sample one of the first cups, then you will want to stay tuned to the Stormcells blog. It will be here first! Note: There is also a health benefit to the Burgoo coffee, as the concoction appears to kill a case of worms. (Or cause it--we are doing more testing.)
--Dr. Soggy Bottoms – Mule Laboratories
This blog was written by fictional guest blogger, Soggy Bottoms, from the fictional Mule Laboratories, concerning the obvious fictional Burgoo Brew Stew Coffee.
What EXACTLY is Stormcells? While the name suggests otherwise, Stormcells does not have anything to do with the weather. (Yes, the Stormcells name has given us some issues as people Google it.) Stormcells is, however, a nonprofit organization that uses brainstorming, creativity, and problem-solving to help other charities. The company focuses on service, innovation, and collaboration, while always seeking to give more than we receive. We break the rules, we have fun, and we try to solve the problems that hinder charities from doing their important work. Even the Dalai Lama said you have to “know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” So, while we don’t actually chase storms, we do use our brain cells to help others navigate uncharted waters and stand against the winds of conventional thought. (Was that last line a little too hokey? Yeah, I thought so too, but decided to leave it in for imagery.)
How does Stormcells go about doing these things, you might ask? We have a few tried and true ways and sometimes we just think them up as we go along. We take Dr. Seuss very seriously, and he very poignantly claimed, “Think left and think right and think low and thing high. Oh! The thinks you can think up if only you try!” We work charities to find strategies that are as unique as they are. For example, a charity might have a challenge that involves fundraising, marketing, or advocacy. Stormcells helps them determine what might be a good fit and then we work alongside them to implement the plan. Oh, and did I mention that all the services we offer charities are free? Yep—if Stormcells works with your charity, you don’t pay us a dime.
One of the largest initiatives through Stormcells is the Women’s Think Tank. That’s right, a think tank made up only of women! We feel that women provide unique perspectives that can help charities and small businesses with the problems they face. You see, studies suggest that there is still gender bias relating to performance, innovation, and creativity.* WHAT? Even in the twenty-first century, people buy into the idea that men are more innovative, intellectual, and creative. As odd as it seems, women are part of those people that still believe it. At Stormcells, our goal is to break those stereotypes and help women recognize the creative potential within them. The Women’s Think Tank provides personal/ professional development for the members, as well as assistance to charities. Through a year-long curriculum plan, ongoing real-world challenges, and networking with other women, the members learn about idea generation, creativity, problem-solving, and PLAY! Wait, “play”? Absolutely—play is essential to creative thinking; so, Stormcells incorporates laughter, imagination, and “play” into our regular routine.
The last blog post that we published on “thinking outside the box”, (which had maybe ten views) provided information about another service that Stormcells offers--Diaminds® Challenges. Well, you think, it is probably because you spelled diamonds wrong and are dimwitted. No—we actually spell it that way. Diaminds® is a registered game of creativity under pressure, involving a prize-backed challenge. A real-world problem is issued to a group of individuals or teams and they battle to determine the best potential solution. “Battle” might not be the best word, but they definitely compete for a really cool prize. Every idea submitted is given to the charity to help them with the challenges they face; thus, providing them with the gems of our minds. (See what we did there?)
Now you know a little more about Stormcells and the work that we do, you can stay involved by following us on facebook, twitter, or LinkedIn. Check out the rest of our website, or shoot us an email to learn more. And, in case you want to read more about a couple of topics covered here:
Gender gap and creativity:
Play and creativity: