WabiSabi accepting apps for ‘19 partners

Moab’s WabiSabi Thrift Store has begun accepting applications for new nonprofit partners. Applications will be accessible to any nonprofit organization serving Grand County. The application deadline is Oct. 15.

WabiSabi opened in 2002 with the intention of distributing thrift store proceeds to other nonprofit organizations, and in 2005 they formalized the process with the Nonprofit Partnership Program. Since 2005, WabiSabi has donated more than $330,000 to its partners. When customers shop at the WabiSabi Thrift Store, approximately half of proceeds are donated to local nonprofit organizations. Patrons to the store are given the option to vote after every purchase or donation by placing a wooden token in one of WabiSabi’s nonprofit jars. Financial awards are given biannually to each agency based on the number of customer votes received by each one.

In 2019, the initial partner application process will be simplified, and open to all of Moab’s nonprofit agencies. Twelve nonprofits will be chosen. Applications will be reviewed by the WabiSabi Nonprofit Partner board subcommittee. If accepted, Nonprofit Partners will be funded for one year.

To ensure that new nonprofits are given a chance to flourish, WabiSabi will reserve one slot for an “up-and-coming” nonprofit: an organization that received 501c3 status, or significantly changed, within the last two years.

To honor the key role of community participation in the program, WabiSabi will also reserve one slot for an organization the community elects. Whichever organization receives the most votes will automatically receive partnership status. Votes will be cast through a Facebook poll during the month of November.

According to Nara Bopp-Williams, program director at WabiSabi, the organization often receives dozens of applications for the Partnership Program. “There are a lot of amazing nonprofits here in Moab,” she said. “A lot of them are homegrown—some are operated out of houses.”

Nonprofit Partners are free to use the funding however they see fit. “The cool thing about the funds we give is that they’re unrestricted,” said Bopp-Williams. “Most other grants are restricted in terms of what they can be used for, and are often earmarked for purposes that aren’t necessarily helpful, or require nonprofits to start new programs. We trust our Nonprofit Partners to make those decisions on their own.”

While funding is an important aspect of the Nonprofit Partnership Program, visibility is another important benefit. According to Bopp-Williams, “The biggest thing isn’t necessarily the money: often it’s the visibility of the voting jars in the store, and the exposure that comes from being a partner. I think that might be what the partners get the most out of. But we’re going to look at ways to make more information about every nonprofit in Moab available. In the future, we have plans to begin organizing weekly or bi-weekly informational stands in front of the store.”

Current Nonprofit Partners include Grand Area Mentoring, Community Rebuilds, Moab Solutions and the Family Support Center.

Sara Melnicoff directs Moab Solutions, a nonprofit organization that combines environmental stewardship initiatives, recycling work, and aid to the homeless. She said, “As far as WabiSabi goes, I think they’re setting a stellar example of how you can create a lot of something out of nothing. It’s donating goods, employing people year-round, aiding all these nonprofit partners, and helping to put affordable goods in the community.”

Melnicoff remembers when WabiSabi was founded in 2002. “It was a new concept for this area at that time: that there could be a thrift store nonprofit raising money for other nonprofits. It was a win-win-win-win situation,” she said.

Back in 2004, Melnicoff used money from WabiSabi to buy a small video camera, which she used to make films of the litter clean-up efforts Moab Solutions was organizing. “I was trying to start the ‘Friends of the Parkway,’ program,” she said. “I brought the videos to the city. When they saw the videos, they agreed to be partners in our project. One little action can have lots of positive impact.’

Sherilyn Sowell directs the Family Support Center, which has been a WabiSabi Nonprofit Partner for the past four years. The Family Support Center focuses on the prevention of child abuse locally, and provides aid and resources to struggling families. “We help with everything from dentist appointments to mental health issues,” Sowell explained. “We sometimes watch children on a temporary basis.

“The WabiSabi partnership is awesome,” said Sowell. “Sometimes when you just need a little funding for a certain item, they’re great. We usually run on a shoestring budget. One time we used the money to buy bedspreads for a children’s bedroom. When you’re a nonprofit, as little as $700 can come in very handy.” Sowell recalled that the Family Support Center also used WabiSabi donations for food, clothing, diapers, and formula.

On Thursday, July 26, WabiSabi will host a Nonprofit Networking Picnic potluck at Rotary Park. The event will be an opportunity to meet current nonprofit partners, learn about the application process, and network with the community. Everyone is welcome.

Applications and more information are available online at wabisabimoab.org or in the WabiSabi Thrift Store at 160 E 100 S. Send questions to [email protected]

ByBy Emily Lawson

The Times-Independent