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Supporting Community Wellbeing in These Times and How You Can Help

Updated: Mar 25

What this blog post will cover


In January of 2023, we had a signed lease in hand ready to get licensed to use the space at 3892 Wyoming when we walked into city hall and learned from the zoning office that a multi-step months long process of petitioning and hearings was ahead of us.

 

Most brick and mortar businesses have some sort of hoops to jump through to be open to the public, but due to St. Louis's strict zoning laws, and the city's requirements for massage businesses and gathering spaces, our process became long and drawn out, requiring us to survey the entire neighborhood, receive letters of support from multiple city officials and run a support campaign for a business that, while compelling and motivating, hardly existed yet.

 

CONNECT Community Center for Wellbeing is literally the expression of faith from the entire community in a collective vision.



 

Yet, it takes more than a vision to succeed.

 

It takes dedicated support through the ups and downs. It takes showing up and embodying the vision.

 

And we cannot do that alone.

 

If we are being honest, we are not sure that CONNECT will continue to exist without your continued support.


Though we have been open for just about 9 months, from our perspective, it's been much longer than that fighting for the space to exist. We are still paying off our debts from opening, and though our connection with folks has been deep and meaningful, the traffic has not matched the pace we need to stay afloat in this economy.

 

We know that most people who care about CONNECT are aware of the importance of small businesses like this, including the essential function that these niche spaces provide for the most marginalized among us. In our last blog post, we outlined the US Surgeon General's report on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States, with LGBTQ+ populations being at higher risk. As a trans and queer-owned business, this is of particular to concern to us.


We recently recorded a podcast that dives into the research, explains our challenges (spoiler, many are systemic) and makes a case for community supported wellbeing and our hopes for the future of CONNECT. A huge shout out to local queer-owned Doorstop Studio for hosting us in their music space and podcast recording studio.



Our vision for CONNECT when we started out was and still is based in some of our most sacred values:

Community Wellbeing: We hold an understanding and a vision for wellbeing that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all life, and each community member as interdependent in co-creating a collective wellbeing.


Why should you care? Why not just take care of yourself? It takes everyone to create community wellbeing.


Aside from the statistics regarding the impact of isolation on an individual's health, we have seen in innumerable ways how a lack of community wellbeing manifests, for example, in the uptick of school shootings, disproportionate suicide rates in marginalized communities and more. Community is a buffering factor, and keeping a community well among things like accessing safe touch and movement, means putting our care into nurturing relationships and connections.


Healing Justice & Equity: We acknowledge that historically in this nation, wellbeing has been afforded disproportionately to some groups, while others have had to shoulder the impact of oppressive ideologies. As a result we seek to uplift groups that have been historically marginalized, such as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), transgender and queer people, disabled people and other intersecting marginalized identities by creating equitable access to healing spaces, services and opportunities.


A primary way that we create access to marginalized groups is by offering free and low cost programming, identity-based programming, free and low-cost space rental and services.


Mutuality & Reciprocity: These are not just buzzwords. These are guiding principles for our interactions among community members, and anyone who accesses CONNECT. Mutuality suggests a regard for one another's needs while reciprocity denotes a mutual exchange of energy and regard for one another.


Cooperation: Cooperating with one another is how we achieve community wellbeing. When we are working together to meet people's needs, giving & receiving feedback and supporting one another in our various quests towards community wellbeing, we go much farther together.


Creativity: The world needs new creative visions, solutions and norms in order welcome a paradigm of community wellbeing. We recognize that each of us has a piece to offer the creative project of community wellbeing. When we create spaces for collective dreaming and invite creativity, we can co-create new, more wonderful realities.


Connection: Connection is foundational to the whole vision, which is why we adopted CONNECT as our boldly stated name. When we connect to ourselves, our dreams for individual and collective wellbeing, our feelings and needs, our pains and traumas, and our bodies, we increase our capacity for being fully alive.


Being more connected to ourselves helps us to connect to others and build a sense of community. And finally, connection to the land, be it our neighborhood or the ground we gather on, we acknowledge that our access to gathering spaces is a profound privilege and is foundational to creating community.


This last piece is really important. We could not run the CONNECT Center without access to land and healthy, functional infrastructure. We chose to rent the building at 3892 Wyoming Street because of its location within a LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood, close to shops and restaurants, and notably, close access to Tower Grove Park. Maintaining access to the space that we have built is a part of maintaining our connection to the land and to the people.


So, in the spirit of maintaining connection to place and people to foster connection, to uplift healing justice and co-create community wellbeing, we need cooperation from the community, to engage in mutuality and reciprocity with us, so that we can keep our doors open and continue offering our Community Supported Wellbeing program.


The Community Supported Wellbeing Program was first conceived of as our financial accessibility program to make wellbeing more accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to enjoy spaces like CONNECT. Within this program, we offer a variety of free and give-what-you-can events and gatherings, including the Queer Song Circle, Queer Creatives Co-Working, Poetry Share, the QTBIPOC Meetup, CONNECT Creatives Open Mic and more. All proceeds from those sessions go to support the space and contribute to our Community Supported Wellbeing fund which offers scholarships to other offerings and services.

As we have also maintained the services side of the business (massage, sound healing, coaching, etc.), we have realized that we need a more sustainable model to both support our community programming AND to include our practitioners in the vision of community wellbeing.


We cannot ethically run the CONNECT Center while burning ourselves out... and we do not want this to be how the story ends.


For all of these reasons, we are announcing the Community Supported Wellbeing Membership.





As a part of the larger Community Supported Wellbeing program, the new membership program is meant to support the center to exist so that we can continue to provide the free and low-cost events and services that we do for the community.

 

In an economy that makes wellbeing spaces inaccessible for some of the community's most vulnerable people, spaces like CONNECT are a beacon of hope. We don't want to see that disappear during a year where anti-trans legislation in the state is more intense than ever and national elections are running sociopolitical tensions high.

 

 

As opposed to our previous membership which provided class credits, the Community Supported Wellbeing Membership is meant to ensure that the center's basic costs are covered so that our efforts can go towards running impactful and meaningful programming for the community.

 

  • A discount on selected events

  • A discount on retail

  • Free access to our CONNECTed Ecstatic Dance playlists and select event recordings

Root Level - $10/month: 10% discount

Mycelium Level - $25/month: 15% discount

Fascia Level - $50/month: 20% discount *+ #

Community Level - $100/month: 25% discount *+! #


* Also applies to private space rental fees

+ Special select perks from service providers

! Receives monthly physical or digital gift

# Free Entry into the Relational Wellbeing Series



This spring, we are also excited to announce a Relational Wellbeing Series, which will dive deeper into some of the concepts that we laid out in the beginning of this post, as well as relational practices, skills and models that we have integrated into our own lives and practices as community organizers. Fascia and Community Level members will gain entry to these sessions at no cost. Stay tuned for a full reveal of the Series very soon!


Collective wellbeing is a collective effort, and we are asking you to do your part to the best of your ability even if that is by spreading the word.


You can become a member of CONNECT even if you never set foot inside of the center, and can join from afar and reap all of the benefits that are available online, or you can gift a membership to someone else! If you believe in community cooperation and wellbeing and want to see spaces like this survive and thrive, please become a member at any level that is accessible to you.


Become a member, not only because it benefits you, but because it benefits everyone.



Want to hear is speak more on the issues that matter to CONNECT?




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