The Embodiment of Service

 Are you seeking inspiring ways to bring mindful leadership together with movement-based practices to enact positive social change? If so, read on!

There is a certain beauty and alchemy to co-working that I didn’t fully appreciate until I became a member of The Riveter during its May 2017 launch. On one level, it offers a meaningful quality of community building for women, work and wellness. That, in itself, is priceless. But what I am most passionate about is cultivating inspiring collaborations among leaders.


Collaborations, by nature, are dynamic. They grow and change as they develop. I will never forget one of the captivating questions that Amy Nelson, co-founder of The Riveter, asked a panel of female founders. “You start with an amazing vision of a product or service you want to develop. Somewhere along the way you recognize a need to pivot in a new direction. How do you navigate this shift while staying true to your overall vision and end goal?”


Amy’s question was not if but how. The art of pivoting calls upon an agile mindset. A clenched fist may drive business. But it doesn’t inspire creativity and flexibility to adapt to change and stay open to possibility. This nimble quality of leadership calls for a light touch. A clear focus. A grounded presence.


What was it about this “pivotal” question that I found so compelling? Perhaps it is because it felt familiar, relatable. Like other entrepreneurs, I had pioneered an unconventional path. I studied world religions at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union’s consortium of seminaries in Berkeley, California. My seminary training as an ordained, interfaith minister lent itself to an inquiry-based mindset of exploring meaning, purpose, value and social change.


But my kinesthetic nature pulled me toward a more embodied way of relating to these questions. In this respect, I became a bridge-builder. I navigated the space between two worlds. One represented the academic world of ideas and social causes. The other represented a hands-on approach to service within and beyond church walls. My ultimate goal is to put a human face on social issues grounded in service and relationship-building.


This inquiry-based journey led me to test out some of the following pilot projects:


What family-friendly volunteer service projects can we engage our children in to help cultivate valuable leadership qualities such as generosity, kindness, compassion and civic-engagement? This inquiry led to an exciting new job in January 2017. I currently serve as the Seattle Volunteer Coordinator for Doing Good Together™ (DGT™). This nationwide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization empowers families to raise children who care and contribute. I have the privilege of building rewarding partnerships with Seattle’s diverse nonprofits that offer family-friendly service opportunities for children ages 5-12 years old.


My line of work around families and service led to an innovative collaboration with a technology company designed for parents. Amanda Friedman is a fellow member of The Riveter. She is also one of the female founders that Amy interviewed for the panel discussion on Em/Powering Parents with Technology. Amanda’s passion is to help parents become more present and engaged with their children through user-friendly technology. Her recently launched app, Babyrific, does just this in simplifying the often overwhelming logistics of parenting. Amanda is equally engaged in helping parents connect their children’s social activities with social causes.


This is where our collaboration comes into play. On December 9, 2017 from 10:00-11:30 am, Babyrific will host a Season of Giving holiday party at The Riveter’s Seattle flagship location on Capitol Hill. There will be fun games and activities for children, along with the popular kid-friendly musician, Caspar Babypants. DGT will host a booth where families can participate in a hands-on service project benefitting a local nonprofit. Stay tuned and come join us for this meaningful holiday gathering of play and service!  


How do we teach our children responsible, financial stewardship to care for our local community and make a positive social impact? This question inspired an art project designed by kids, for kids to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital. The following article captures this spirit of service and kid-friendly entrepreneurship: “A Child’s Perspective of Money and Human Dignity.”


How do we cultivate in our children a compassionate approach to cross-cultural understanding? I sought an international service project that felt timely, scalable and age appropriate for a group of 50 preschoolers through fifth graders for a summer church camp at Epiphany Parish of Seattle. This exploration resulted in a humanitarian aid service project where children prepared hygiene kits to support Syrian refugees.


I developed this project in collaboration with Rita Zawaideh, founder of a humanitarian aid organization called SCM Medical Missions. This nonprofit is focused on the specific task of bringing relief and aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and to bring people and cultures together to build bridges of understanding. Please explore the many different ways that families can provide support to Syrian refugees through this organization’s vital work. In so doing you will not only teach your children the value of service, but you will also help shift a climate of fear toward one of hope and solidarity. More details about this international youth service project can be found on Jennifer’s blog at SCM Medical Missions.


How do we use movement-based learning to help our children self-regulate their emotions and overcome obstacles? This health and wellness question grew out of a dynamic collaboration with Curt Jordan, founder of Kong Academy. Kong Academy is a movement-based organization dedicated to teaching parkour programs to improve physical education in the Seattle school district. His vision is to empower kids to develop positive leadership and creative problem-solving skills by teaching them the parkour discipline of physical movement.


Curt shared his proposal with me to build a parkour playground to serve low-income families like the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center (RIFC). As he put it, “I believe that all people regardless of age, nationality, or income should have the ability to learn how to move their bodies. Parkour provides that constructive outlet in the funnest way possible. Therefore, I want to share this discipline with the community by transforming how schools think of physical education and give kids the inspiration to move, stay safe and play throughout their lives.”


Curt’s holistic, inclusive movement-based model led him to develop a philanthropic branch to his business. A percentage of his proceeds from his Kong Academy weekly classes are donated to support homeless youth through a Seattle-based nonprofit called YouthCare. On July 19, 2017, Curt presented YouthCare with its first check of $500.


You are invited to actively engage with Kong Academy through an upcoming mountain retreat on September 8-10 at Colonial Creek Campground. See more details here. And be sure to subscribe to our free Kong Academy Newsletter for future inspiring events. In addition, Kong Academy will begin building its parkour playground at the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center in June 2018 with its opening reception in September 2018. We will need volunteers to join in on this exciting playground project. Stay tuned as we draw closer to this deadline!


The Riveter recognizes that a shift in mindset is often best embodied through a shift in movement. It is no coincidence that this co-working space offers yoga and meditation classes to help people stay grounded, present and embodied. After all, movement underlies The Riveter’s core mission of serving women, work and wellness.


In this respect, the art of pivoting can become a metaphor for moving in the world with grace and agility both personally and professionally. But it also invites us to bring our whole selves to the table in all our humble, hopeful humanity. The Riveter may help guide women to grow in confidence and leadership. Indeed, these women already possess many superpowers. However, no one is expected to show up as Wonder Woman -- that idealized persona of full autonomy and self-sufficiency. Instead, we are welcomed into a network of community where people are strengthened and inspired by creative collaborations and a growth mindset for learning. Just show up as is. That’s all. Welcome to The Riveter!

Jennifer DeBusk Alviar is an ordained, interfaith minister who earned her MDiv degree at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. She currently serves as the Seattle Volunteer Coordinator for Doing Good Together. Doing Good Together™ (DGT™) is a nationwide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to empower families to raise children who care and contribute. When families volunteer together, they teach their children generosity, kindness, compassion and civic engagement. This service-minded practice turns big-hearted kids into strong, future leaders. You can reach Jennifer here and learn more about other service projects at DGT Seattle’s monthly listings.


Photography by Penny Kaela Bauer, The Gifts Project