2016 was quite the busy year for The Honeycomb Project. Expanding their programs by 30% and creating new volunteer experiences for families to do together is hard work. We talked with Kristina Lowenstein, the Executive Director, to hear more about their growth, and how they’ve used their Small Forces video to help.

Small Forces: What is The Honeycomb Project up to these days?

Kristina Lowenstein: This year has been a really exciting time of growth for The Honeycomb Project. We provided opportunities to more than 2,100 volunteers, and what’s exciting for us is our families are coming from more neighborhoods than ever before. Families from 83% of Chicago area zip codes participated in our programs. Honeycomb is a place where people from the Chicagoland area can really come together to collaborate and work with others to address our city’s challenges. And that’s been really exciting for us. We hosted 63 projects in communities all over the city, addressing issues like homelessness and hunger, environment, education. With increasing concern around public safety, we partnered with the Chicago Police Department and the National Veteran’s Art Museum to address issues around public safety and reducing gun violence in Chicago, so that’s been a new initiative that we’ve been excited to build upon.

SF: You were invited to the White House last year. How did that come about, and what was the experience like?

KL: I was honored to receive a fellowship through Leadership Greater Chicago Each year, LGC immerses leaders from the private, nonprofit, and public sectors in the major socioeconomic issues facing the Greater Chicago area. I’m simply honored to be a part of the LGC program. As part of that fellowship, my cohorts and I went to the White House and it was a real honor to get an insider view of how our government is tackling issues at a national level and building policy. It was amazing.

SF: Small Forces’ mission is to help organizations like yours tell your story with a documentary-style video to reach a wider audience. How have you used your Small Forces video to do more good?

KL: For people who haven’t participated in a Honeycomb event, it’s always difficult for us to convey what the experience of family volunteering with Honeycomb is really like.  The video Small Forces produced really tells the Honeycomb story in a way that we’ve never done before – from the perspective of our families and our partner organizations. And, I think it’s something that has been really helpful for us to share our story with prospective partners and funders. We showed the film at our Fall Fundraiser this year and we raised more money than ever before. The video was a big part of that event.

SF: Why is it important for organizations like yours to take the time to tell your story to people who might not know about the work you do?

KL: Well first and foremost, it’s crucial to get the word out about our mission— family volunteering is important. Many people underestimate the impact families can make or think that children are too young to participate in civic engagement.  Sharing our story helps people understand that families can contribute and make an impact.  Being able to share that story through our film with you has really been helpful.

SF: Do you have any advice for for people with kids looking to give back as a family this year?

KL: The first advice I would give to parents looking to get their children involved in philanthropy, is to involved kids in the planning process. Families can work to identify what issues they care about and explore project ideas together. If there aren’t family friendly opportunities near you, Honeycomb’s website features a variety of fun DIY projects and ideas that are great for families, classrooms and groups.

Check out thehoneycombproject.org/resources for more ideas. 

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