The Mahoning Valley ShareFest in Youngstown, Ohio brought together over 60 people for an afternoon of sharing skills, knowledge, passions, books, clothing and hobbies. Hosted by lead organizer and Timebank Mahoning Watershed board member Tony Budak, as well as numerous volunteers, the event featured dozens of local organizations aligned with the mission to showcase local collaborative giving and receiving.
Among the goals of the ShareFest, which was supported by a grant from Shareable as part of our #SharingSpring initiative, was to change the local community’s conversation leading to a change of culture along the following indicators:
- Passive engagement to active engagement
- Staff and administration led to citizen led
- Beneficiary of service to co-producer of service
- Client or volunteer to member
- Individualism to mutualism
Participants of the ShareFest shared skills, passions, hobbies and more.
Organizations represented include the Timebank Mahoning Watershed, the Youngstown Warren Inventors Association, the Niles Innovation Center, Refuge Ministries, Soy Sap Inc., Education Imagination Learning Center, Tikkun Olam Inc., and Access Health Mahoning Valley. There were also health and wellness specialists including Reiki and reflexology practitioners, life coaches, knitting and crochet instructors, holistic nurses, emotional well-being specialists, numerous musicians, artists and bands and somewhat surprisingly, members of a local haunted hayride called Frightmare Forest.
The ShareFest, which was held at the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, dialed in on the fact that in community, everyone has skills, insights and knowledge to share. As Budak puts it, “We wished to showcase a wide range of sharing activities taking place in towns here in the Mahoning Valley—to practice our core belief that everyone has something to offer. We believe that every person has assets and everyone has something to share with their community.”
Dancing always adds to the fun of a ShareFest
Some of the highlights of the events were a jazz-gospel vocalist and keyboard player, inventors of a free pressure generator, a device that prevents clogged sinks called Add-a-Trap and a radio frequency emitter called a Rife Machine that kills microorganisms, a ukulele and concertina instrument duo, individuals to help people understand the Affordable Care Act and, perhaps most surprisingly, two NASCAR-style stock racing cars.
The ShareFest was well-received by participants and it even caught the attention of the local television station. Responses from participants included thanks for providing “helpful connections” to the simple “Most ideal” and “Love!”
ShareFest inventors and makers had a chance to showcase their creations
Participants also provided several suggestions to make the ShareFest even better. Those included doing more promotion, having more activities, hosting outdoor events, organizing ShareFests all over the area, offering better presentations, promoting ShareFest as a network forum, advertising the musicians, and asking people to organize and do projects such as deck-building, gardening, and house painting.
The biggest challenge for organizers was to ensure that the advance publicity and event would be covered by the local media. To address this, organizers collected all the email address of all the valley media people and emailed them about the event weekly. They also had two people make face-to-face and phone contact with key media.
One of the highlights of the day was the great music that was shared.
For those planning similar events, Budak offers the following advice: control access to prevent back door entrance to event; create major signage and arrows in neighborhood to direct traffic to the event; assign role of lead event facilitator (master of ceremonies) to provide a round robin three- to five-minute talk for exhibitors to present their topic; photograph each table display and presenter; create a program sheet to give attendees and an instruction sheet to exhibitors stating expectations; and strongly encourage attendees to provide email address.
Looking forward, organizers are keeping the momentum and vision going with plans already in place for a Fall ShareFest this September.
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