The volunteers create an environment free of grades and judgment, spell-check and limits, and simply encourage the coalescence of ideas into tales of wonder. Writing workshops are held at Woodrow Hall and elsewhere in the community—in unconventional locations such as Pepper Place or the McWane Center, in gardens and museums. Participants are armed with the idea for a story, a pencil and sheets of paper.
Brantley relays a story that illustrates this philosophy. Last summer, DISCO set up a booth at the Jones Valley Urban Farm Slow Food Fair. It was hot and there were not a lot of kids in attendance. But the folks at West End Community Gardens had brought over a small group that reluctantly gathered under the tent. One young man in particular seemed especially disinterested in writing. Brantley asked him how he felt about turnips and elicited the predicted response of disgust. Then Brantley asked him which he disliked more: turnips or writing. “Writing” was the response. Not discouraged by this challenge, Brantley offered to be the scribe and write down the young man’s feelings on turnips if he would just share. After a few minutes of scribbling, the boy became frustrated that Brantley could not keep up with the story. He grabbed the pencil and paper and began writing it himself. Thirty minutes later, he was still at it, writing his tale on that most odious of vegetables.
One year later and that boy continues to hone his creative writing talents at DISCO.
It is these types of “a-ha” moments that keep the Desert Island Supply Company going strong, that and a committed cadre of volunteers. People with backgrounds in publishing, writing and editing are drawn to the mission. Others too, who claim no creative skills, love what DISCO stands for and are eager to help in other ways: grant-writing, envelope-stuffing and more. Non-profits form like three-legged stools: there are those with the vision, those who work to fulfill the mission and those who fund the ideals. Every meaningful non-profit must raise funds to continue their work. The challenge is being novel in their requests, and the DISCO folks are nothing if not creative.
In an effort to raise more than $60,000 to renovate their Woodlawn address, DISCO will hold a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows read-a-thon this weekend. Beginning at 6:00 a.m. this Friday at the Emmet O’Neal library in Mountain Brook, volunteers will read the entire final installment of the J.K. Rowling series. Readers are encouraged to seek sponsors to fund their time, and donations are desired. Continuing all weekend (even overnight!) there are loads of surprises along the way, including mystery guest readers. The Hogwarts Food & Craft Fair takes place Friday evening where guests can sample butterbeer and other delights, while making wands and merriment. On Saturday morning, Deathly Hallows readers will “apparate” (travel instantly with magic) to Pepper Place’s Saturday Market, reading excerpts from 10 a.m.–noon.
It’s really no coincidence that the theme for this fundraising project is the power of magic. As any of the DISCO volunteers will tell you, they’ve all seen this magic first-hand in the workshops they facilitate. Shaun Chavis and Molly Folse conduct monthly sessions at the Birmingham YWCA’s Hospitality House. At a recent workshop, Chavis read excerpts about magical food from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Girls, aged three to twelve, were encouraged to write about their own imagined magical food and the powers those foods possess.
Chavis and Folse witnessed what other volunteers have mentioned over and over: children do not need help being creative; they simply need the guidance to channel that creativity into the written word. They saw older girls helping younger ones flesh out their stories and taking turns reading and editing each other’s work. Somewhere along the way, a pancake grew to epic proportions and danced a happy jig. At least that’s the story I heard.
In an education landscape where parents must enter a lottery for coveted magnet-school spots and budgets are ever-shrinking, these types of educationbased, extra-curricular programs are needed more than ever. If you would like more information on the DISCO project, go to www.desertislandsupplyco. com. To participate in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows read-a-thon—as a reader or a sponsor—visit www.desertislandsupplyco.com/ harry-potter for more information. Alternatively, you could just “apparate” to the library.
DISCO’s Harry Potter read-a-thon will be held from Friday, July 22, at 6 a.m., to Sunday, July 24, at 3 p.m. It will be located at the Emmet O’Neal Library, 50 Oak Street, in Mountain Brook’s Crestline Village. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. The Hogwarts Food & Craft Fair is Friday, 6–8 p.m.
Christiana Roussel writes about food and occasionally other topics for Birmingham Weekly.
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