National Mentoring Month by Gavin Ferlic

Without a doubt, the decision to become a mentor has been one of the most impactful choices of my life, and I use the word impactful in the most positive way possible.  Although the personal rewards have been meaningful (whether defined by personal growth or recognition), I think the reason I am so fulfilled by the experience is the measurable influence that I have had on another’s life.

U.S. Department of Justice Research shows that youth are five times more likely to graduate from high school if they have a meaningful relationship with an adult.

In today’s information environment, where an individual can be exposed to hundreds of articles per day that reference a seemingly endless collection of research and corresponding data, it’s easy to gloss over some of the statistics we encounter on a daily basis.  I know that I am guilty of it from time to time; a 10% gain here, a 7% decrease there, some data are complimentary, some data conflict.  All of this combined can make the mind numb to identifying what is truly significant.

So in case you might have missed it, let me repeat that first statement (with a little emphasis added this time):

U.S. Department of Justice Research shows that youth are FIVE TIMES more likely to graduate from high school if they have a meaningful relationship with an adult.

Now please take a moment to think about that statistic, a single factor that can increase the probability of success for a child by 500%.  It’s almost too significant to comprehend, like someone telling me that I can run five times faster by eating spinach every day (and just to note, although spinach is very nutritious, I highly doubt that consuming it on a daily basis will make me the Popeye of speed).

The unfortunate side of this statistic, and the only reason it can exist, is that many children in our country (and many children in our community) do not have a meaningful relationship with an adult.  This is an overwhelmingly depressing reality that burdens our teachers, our schools, and ultBBBSimately, our community.

However, a solution does exist to help solve this problem, and it’s called mentoring.  Thankfully, here in South Bend, we have two outstanding organizations that provide volunteers the opportunity to mentor a child in a one to one relationship: Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Joseph County and the South Bend Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program.  These two programs provide the structure and support needed for volunteers to positively influence the life of a child in our community.

Is mentoring a silver bullet that will solve all problems related to youth?  Absolutely not.  But is it a positive step towards improving the lives of youth in our community?  Without a doubt.  Mentoring has been shown to significantly improve academic performance, decrease violent behavior, and decrease drug and alcohol abuse in children that participate in mentoring programs.  And anecdotally, I like to quote our Chief of Police, Ron Teachman (who himself is a mentor and a tireless advocate for mentoring in our community), who often says, “I have never met a child that has too many caring adults in his or her life.”

mentor2Personally, I have been involved as a mentor in Big Brothers Big Sisters for 9 years and the Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program for 5, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive.  The two young men I mentor are both outstanding individuals, and in addition to the rewards of seeing them succeed and improve in life, I have been able to grow and progress as an individual, particularly with respect to patience, gratitude, and compassion.

That’s not to say that mentoring does not come with its challenges.  As is true in life, not every day is perfect, and not every situation has an ideal outcome.  But the challenges can always be overcome, and the ultimate rewards are plentiful.  Looking into the past, I would never change my decision to become a mentor.  Looking into the future, I am increasingly optimistic about my life, the lives of the two young men I mentor, and the community as a whole.

Currently, between the two primary mentoring organizations, our community has 132 children waiting for a mentor.  These are children who have been identified by teachers, counselors, guardians, and others as individuals who could significantly benefit from a one to one mentoring relationship.

For a volunteer, the commitment is as little as one hour a week.  With the Education Foundation’s Mentoring Program, mentoring takes place in school over the lunch hour.  With Big Brothers Big Sisters, mentoring can take place anytime that fits with both the mentor’s and mentee’s schedule.

MentoringMattersLogoRGB_000I highly encourage all members of our community to both consider becoming a mentor and encourage someone they know to do the same.  For more information on how to get involved, please visit

The future is bright in South Bend, and what better way to promote an increasingly positive future for our community than by becoming a mentor.



South Bend Community Survey- Add your Voice!

This past Friday I launched the South Bend Community Survey, the culmination of months of researching, meeting, tweaking, waiting and wordsmithing whittled to about 30 simple questions that should take you on average 3:22 to complete. And I hope you will take those few minutes to complete it, to share your voice on a variety of topics related to civic pride in South Bend. This survey isn’t sponsored by the City or any big corporations, there is no political agenda and we’re not just collecting this info to support pre-existing policies. It’s simply an idea I had and brought to fruition with the help of many awesome people, but how did it come to be?

A few of us were sitting around some tables last summer talking about the State of South Bend and all the neat stuff going on here when someone asked, “How do we measure the impact ?” The spirited discussion that followed that simple question led us to wonder if there were defined goals for the campaigns like I <3 SB button distribution and other “South Bend renaissance” efforts, as well as major initiatives like SB150. How DO we know if they have any impact on the community at large or individual civic pride? Who should be responsible for collecting the information to figure all this out? This discussion preceded the Harvard happiness hoopla and as someone who works in higher education, made perfect sense.

South Bend Color Run-46

Economic indicators such as unemployment rate, business development and how many houses are occupied provide one measurement that is relatively easy to attain. But as a social worker I wanted to go deeper, to see if we could capture more of the attachment residents have for South Bend. I wanted to measure pride and follow-up in a year to see if it changes. No one else seemed to be doing it so I figured ‘Why not?” jumping in with the support of the City, DTSB, the Chamber and a variety of friends from diverse backgrounds. My idea to put together a survey timed with SB 150 was met with enthusiasm, as it hadn’t been done city-wide before.

One method we tossed around that table was to determine a Net Promoter Score for South Bend. Championed by our SB Cubs owner Andrew Berlin, this method asks a simple question about whether you would recommend a “product” to a friend and then converts all of the responses to single score between 0-100. It’s a much more complicated process than I have room for here, but this score then could be compared to results from follow-up surveys to easily determine if the needle moves in a positive direction.

I was then connected with Vennli, a local start-up in Downtown South Bend and realized that we could go deeper than just having a score for the city. Collaborating with their staff, and using their growth platform, we arrived at a very simple, to the point survey asking about your South Bend pride considering factors that you look for in an ideal city.  Are those factors present here?  And it isn’t just about asking the questions, but putting together a strategic plan from the responses to enhance these factors. Most important is sharing results with all of you, as well as with those in the City and in our community who can help make the changes needed to grow our pride.

Many of you, like me, have ideas about how to make South Bend a better city so that it could never again be confused for one appearingSB-150_2014-color on a “dying cities” list. I encourage you to take those ideas, grab your friends and make them happen. I learned a lot about patience and persistence in the process, particularly when waiting for email responses from admittedly very busy people working on high priority issues, or when waiting an hour at the last Mayor’s Night Out event for my five minutes to share my rough draft with Mayor Pete. All totally worth it. I also learned a lot about civic pride and am looking forward to using all this newfound knowledge when reporting back on the survey results. So please, take the 3 ½ minutes you have while waiting for your turn on a customer service phone call and complete the survey. Add your email at the end to be part of the next round of surveying at the end of the year, when we check to see if our efforts made a difference. I want to hear your voice, I want to know what makes you proud to be a South Bender and I want you to <3 SB as much as I do.

Survey here:


SB150: What could be

As the time to kick off SB150 rapidly approaches (is it really today??) I find myself thinking about all of the possibilities and potential for highlighting a city in transition, finding its place between the concepts of past, present, and future.

What is SB150 you might ask? It’s a year long celebration of our City’s birthday, based on the 150th anniversary of, and centered around, the incorporation of the city back on May 22nd 1865. We’ll actually be celebrating our second 150. The first would have happened in 1985 as an anniversary of the formal establishment of the city (at least according to Wikipedia).

But I digress. Because what I really care about isn’t about the semantics of when the birthday is but about what could be, what can be done with a special focus on our city. I think that’s the unique opportunity SB150 provides us with. We have a reason to stand up and cheer loudly, and proudly, about South Bend.  Not just the romanticized city we have been in the past, or the fun and somewhat turbulent place we are right now, but about who we hope to be…our future.

I’ve often said that South Bend is a city that has really done a bad job of telling its story. More often than not others are telling the story and so we get articles like the Newsweek top 10 dying and the Harvard top 20 unhappiest places. If so many people, like myself, love this place then how is it possible that we’re not on the places people love list?

This lens is an opportunity to tell our story the way we want it told & potentially revise our identity, not just regionally, but to the whole world; to the South Bend diaspora, to our sister cities globally, to the World Wide Web.  We have an opportunity to tell a story of a renewed and resurgent South Bend, one that is diverse, welcoming, community oriented,  sustainably minded, vibrant, cultured, artistic, entrepreneurial. In a word, awesome.

Some will ask “but are we there yet?”, a question to which I have to honestly answer “no”. There are, and always will be, issues that remain unresolved and opportunities not taken. But to me that’s okay because what I’m talking about is aspirational. It’s a vision of where we’re heading, the city we want to become! Well, truthfully, the city I want it to become. Because I have a selfish desire to live in such a place. And, again, I think that’s okay.

For now I’m signing off but will be back to talk more about SB150 in the days and months to come.  Remember, the scope of what we can accomplish and create is only limited by our own imaginations and inhibitions. Won’t you join me in making it amazing?


p.s. Don’t miss out on the kickoff events this First Friday in DTSB including an address by Mayor Pete from the exterior mezzanine of the State Theater at 6pm. I’ll be wearing my sweet new SB150 baseball shirt from the Studebaker Museum:)



The Birdsell Project: Opening Reception by Myles Robertson

Five months ago this art opening, The Birdsell Project, was an idea just beginning to turn conversation.  I wanted to change the way my community viewed abandoned spaces and redefine abandonment, for myself and others. The concept was simple: find an abandoned space, allow artists in to create, and invite the public in to view the space and art.

Birdsell 1

If interpreted very literally, having people occupy an abandoned space turns it into something else entirely. Once people occupy a space it cannot, by definition, be abandoned.

While I hold that to be turn, I understand allowing people in The Birdsell doesn’t solve all of its issues,  – the heat is still shoddy, the plaster is cracked and flaking away, the roof leaks (luckily mostly water) – but allowing people entry into this is a fine start to fixing many of its most glaring issues.

When we first entered The Birdsell in September it had been essentially untouched by humankind for 10 years, though not untouched by nature. Since then we’ve hosted an album release party, a private party, a dance, a Halloween Party, a history tour, performance art, and local and touring bands. That’s not to mention the neighbors who have walked by and told me stories of the homes history and their desire to see its interior all these years, the artists working on their installations, and photographers and videographers grabbing footage.

We’ve had over 1000 people in the home since we opened its enormous quarter-sawn oak doors to the public, now the footprints of so many are accompanied by  contractors entering and exiting eager to resuscitate its most vital organs. The steps of visitors have become steps toward rehab.

Birdsell 2

I now stand in a space filled with people, with art, with life, and I ask you to join me in this conversation. Experience the unique stories that each artist has incorporated amongst the sometimes-crumbling walls and historic adornments of the Birdsell mansion. There are over 20 of them so the odds are pretty good that at least one of their stories will speak to you.

Twenty-one individual artists and collaborative teams have installed their work throughout the expansive mansion: Justin Barfield, Emily Beck, Chris Dant, Allison Evans, Mary Fashbaugh, Charles Jevremovic, Sarah Edmands Martin, William Newman-Wise, Jack O’Hearn, Photography Collective: Christine Anspach, Adam Goins, Mary Haley, Martina Lopez, Annaleigh McDonald, Aislinn Murphy, Emma Reaney, Madeline Renezeder, Sara Shoemake, and Brooke Turrell, Allison Polgar, Katelyn Seprish, Nathan Smith, Rachel Smith, Eric Souther, Nalani Stolz, Lauren Stratton, Andrew Strong, Zachary Tate, Laura Thompson, and Andres Vidaurre.


The opening reception will take place Saturday, December 13th from 7pm-10pm. There will be live music, food and drinks in the ballroom and opening remarks at 8pm by the exhibition’s organizers as well as South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg and the owner of the Birdsell Mansion, Steve Mihaljevic. Tickets available at

The Birdsell Project seeks to revitalize once abandoned spaces by opening them to artists and the community.

For more information please contact us at: , 574-323-0982,


Move and Be Moved: An Invitation by Hannah Fischer

Dear Beautiful South Bend, 

This is an invitation to move and be moved. 

​Photo by BlueKrishna Photography, When We Were There
When We Were There is a dance concert that explores memory, specifically the ways in which we re-experience and embody memories. We wonder and discuss how missed connections and relationships shift through time and memory. You are invited to choose your own adventure in an unlikely manner: through modern dance, theater, live sound and video projection. No two people will see the same stories, relationships, or meaning throughout this concert. 
My hope as director is that each audience member will see something that evokes a reaction or memory. When We Where There is not a story, but has relatable narrative elements; it is not literal, but neither is it completely abstract. I invite you to ask yourself about your most protected memories, your darkest moments, your brightest days, and ask how they inform your decisions and relationships.
How do we as a community engage in cultural memories?
​Photo from Caught, 2011. A dance and film project by Hannah Fischer
​Photo from Caught, 2011. A dance and film project by Hannah Fischer

The performers of When We Were There are of diverse movement backgrounds, all from our rich South Bend community. The primary cast, Greg Fox, Luke Fischer, and Susanna Frusti, began rehearsing in June 2014. Director Hannah Fischer called for community members to join the cast in September 2014 and received an enthusiastic response. Jing Zhu, Sophia Zovich, Ridge Alencar, Evan Scott Bryson, and Kristy Ganoe compose the community cast. 

Friday, December 12, 2014 | 8:00 pm EST
Saturday, December 13, 2014 | 8:00 pm ESTPRESENTED IN COLLABORATION WITH:
LangLab South Bend
1302 High StreetTICKETS: $15 presale, $18 at the door.
Buy tickets here: WWWT.eventbrite.comFB:

EMAIL: hannahbeth dot fischer at gmail dot com

#whenwewerethere  #wwwt

PS from the director:
“Hi, my name is Hannah, but you may know me as Hannahbird.

After three years away, I am thrilled to be back in this city. The streets are ever-changing, the color blooms on our crosswalks, and the foot traffic grows every day. I am proud to be an artist in South Bend.

As an artist, my work would be null and void without all of you. As a dancer/mover, my world does not make sense without other bodies with which to connect. Come and connect. Move and be moved.”

Hannah Fischer



Be Part of South Bend’s Future by the Office of Sustainability

Sustainability is a way of thinking that accounts for environmental, economic, and social impacts of activities both within city government and in the larger South Bend community. Becoming a more sustainable city means South Bend will have a stronger economy, bounce back better after disasters, and be a more enjoyable place to live and work. Working together towards sustainability promotes investments in our community, celebrates and helps preserve local assets, and cultivates our parks and open spaces.

The purpose of the South Bend Office of Sustainability is to make South Bend a more sustainable city.  To best serve the needs and dreams of the city we need to know what, as a community, is most important to you.

What are South Bend’s issues and assets?

What do you imagine for our city?

Your opinions will help identify projects and priorities for a strategic sustainability plan that will be promoted and implemented by the Office.

Help South Bend find creative ways to preserve natural resources, ensure social equity, and cut costs.  Sustainability opportunities such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation and biking, connections between health and sustainability, reducing waste, and public outreach can build upon South Bend’s City Plan, the South Bend Parks and Recreation Plan, and the Smart Streets Initiative. We will use these initiatives to prioritize efforts that help bridge city functions or community groups.

Take our survey to have a direct impact in the creation of the future-focused, Sustainable South Bend. Share your values and priorities for a sustainable city so the South Bend Office of Sustainability can go to work with you.

 Be a part of South Bend’s future – share your opinions!

Take the survey at 



Building a Better Block by Mara

This weekend community members will be Building a “Better Block” along Western Ave. to highlight and celebrate its potential as a thriving business district once again.   As someone who ‘Hearts’ SB, I heart ALL of South Bend, including the West side, and have been encouraging people to check it out. Many have asked what exactly it is, and it’s been hard to explain.  The Better Block event, Al Ritmo de la Western (The Rhythm of Western) is best described as a ‘block party’ but we’ve been warned by national Better Block staff not to describe it that way… so what will be going on over there?


First some background: Better Block is a national non profit based in Dallas that channels tactical urbanism and development to show communities how awesome a neighborhood could be.  As Laurie Schrader LaDow, the co-organizer of South Bend’s event noted, “ The event is in part to bring positive attention to the West Side and the wonderful people and businesses there. Also to bring awareness for future business opportunities along Western and to help the area develop an strong identity as a destination within the city for things you may enjoy but can’t find easily elsewhere.”  Through the Greater South Bend/ Mishawaka Association of Realtors, a grant was secured to bring Better Block to South Bend. With some guidance from Andrew Howard of the BB staff committees were formed, plans were made and the neighborhood was invited to show the city all the potential this once vibrant area of Western still holds. LaDow points out that this area was chosen especially because of the city’s focus on it as part of the West Side Corridors Plan. 

To prep for the main event this weekend, volunteers like myself have been plotting with business owners, spiffing up vacant buildings to attract new business, building pallet furniture,  securing landscaping, gathering sponsors (THANK YOU SPONSORS) and planning one heck of a good time. Friday night and Saturday afternoon the community is invited to celebrate Al Ritmo de la Western as the fruits of these efforts are shown off to highlight what a little elbow grease can do in our neighborhoods. Urban Garden Market will be on hand, a pop-up coffee shop, an art gallery in the old PBS building, music, dog park, beer tent, vendors,  activities for kids including a photo (5)bouncy house and more along that stretch of Western Ave! We also encourage you to visit the businesses there that are flourishing  like Taqueria Chicago and La Rosita to see the potential for success.

The event is about community building too and getting to know our neighbors in that area. Although I had been to Taqueria Chicago for dinner before, I’d never had the opportunities to meet folks like I have with Better Block.  In addition to Laurie, Myron, the planning committee members and the Realtors, I’ve had the chance to get to know Sam of La Casa de Amistad and learn more about the great services La Casa provides to the community. I’ve also had the chance to meet Leti of the Boys and Girls Club at Harrison, and Deacon Atkins at the New Philadelphia Church and Mariano and Juan and a whole host of others who are all part of what makes South Bend awesome, but you might not read about them in the Tribune. photo (7)

And there has been such generosity! The mexican hot chocolate and sweet breads that magically showed up while we were painting one cold day were indescribably good, and I’ve fallen in love with the tamales at La Central on the corner.

So building a better block has been literal, as we clean up vacant lots  and shops, but also a figurative piece of building a better South Bend. My hope is that not only will YOU all be dancing to the Ritmo de la Western this weekend with us, but that you’ll look at your own neighborhood with your neighbors to see what you might be able to do to make it shine with some elbow grease and creative vision.




School’s In! by John Pinter

One of my favorite TV commercials, even if it’s a little bit out of date, is one for an office supply store that used to run in late August.  It’s from one of the big office supply stores, and a dad is taking two grumpy kids around to buy ‘back to school’ supplies while the Christmas carol, ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ is playing in the background.

Those of us blessed to have school aged children know that feeling, but also have mixed emotions about the start of school.  It’s fun—mostly–to have kids around, even when they’re easily bored, messy, lazy, and whatever else.  But, we entrust their care and livelihood, as well as their education, to a group of teachers and administrators.

There are over 30 schools in the South Bend school district’s service22192023_BG1 territory, and a look through the list of names gives some clues to how varied the offerings are as officials try to meet the (many)
requirements of state regulators, funders and voters, while trying to please voters and advocates.  Their first goal though is to try to give the kids the skills and desire to succeed in the world and by all means, graduate.  Public schools, in particular, do so while matching language, accommodations for disability, providing meals, and a variety of other challenges along the way.

This is not a ‘let’s all give our teachers a hug’ calling out.  However, it is important for those of us who care about the community, and specifically want to make South Bend a great city, to take notice of the importance of having good schools and develop an understanding of the difficulties in making that happen.  The community has to deal with lots of hard issues, like income disparities, racial tensions, access to technology, and hunger.  180 days of the year, we compress these problems into our school buildings and ask professionals trained primarily in education techniques to make sure our kids learn.

I have had the recent opportunity to meet with and work with a number of school officials who are working against a strong current of community issues that make school success very hard—poverty, violence, funding shortages, and the perception of family breakdowns—who try to do so against a nearly as strong tide of apathy and disinterest on the part of many, with and without kids in the schools.  The reader need not take my word for it, but I have had the chance to learn of great work behind the scenes in school districts from Penn-Harris-Madison to East Chicago, and many places ‘in between,’ be that geographically or academically.  I am privileged to know the principals at three of the South Bend public high schools, as well as the leader at St. Joseph’s High School, and school board members from all over. These are dedicated, creative, and impassioned folks who care about the kids.

As a community, we have a say and a part in making sure our schools are good and improving.  Whether any of the kids in the schools live in our houses, they are our children.  There’s an upcoming election for school board in much of Indiana, and lots to learn behind the scenes.  Getting educated about how a good school system makes an important economic difference is not hard; resources like Indiana Youth Institute abound.  The harder part is to get oneself committed to finding out how to help, be it as a mentor or as an advocate.  But it’s worth one’s self interest to do so.

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Folks who know me well are aware that I’m a diehard Adams Eagles fan, and root hard for ‘my’ kids, who include those born to me and those born to others Adams fans who populate the stands on Friday nights this time of year.  But I’m also cheering for the success of all the schools in South Bend the rest of the time, and for the kids who will eventually lead the community.

John Pinter is a resident of the Sunnymede Neighborhood in South Bend and an independent small business owner.  Among his interests are the intersections of great communities, international outreach, social justice and Adams High School sports!



Sound by South Bend: Artist Profile- Dena Woods

It started with a voice.  Dena Woods was born to a very musical family.  As she was growing up in Wichita Falls Texas, she got her start singing with the rest of her family in a gospel group.  Her Aunt Dena, whom she was named after, was a professional musician in Nashville.  Her early years were spent in an environment that was rich with musical talent where singing and playing instruments were just part of everyday life.  It would seem that Dena was born to be a musician and her childhood was infused with sound from day one.  Dena did not seriously explore her own musical creativity until one year after her father died.  At the age of thirty she started playing ukulele and began writing her own songs.  Her first full performance was in the summer of 2013 at the Seitz and Sounds open stage series.  Her career as a musician has greatly accelerated since that day with a series of multi-state tours and a multitude of small venue and house shows.

Sounds of South Bend-3


As many of you who follow the South Bend music scene know, Dena initially made a name for herself as an artist promoter as well as an event and venue manager.  She and Gus Bennett were the visionaries and prime movers behind both the South By South Bend music festival and the Pool.  Dena’s goal has been to provide performance opportunities that promote the connection between artist and audience.  She wants to offer places and spaces in which artists feel supported and safe.  The Pool has since become South Bend’s premier acoustic venue.  A place where the barriers of modern electrified music are stripped away leaving only the bond between musician and listener.  South By South Bend, which completed its second year this May, has become a showcase of regional talent as well as an event that highlights and sometimes even launches new South Bend music venues.  She is widely accepted by local musicians as a champion of original music and her tireless work promoting and supporting artists has won her a great amount of gratitude and respect.

When asked about the impetus behind the change from promoter to performer, Dena states, “I was called to make and perform music”.  Adding, “I want to help musicians… and play”.  I dual role may be in her future but for now she is focusing on her own music.  Her songs are honest, beautifully unembellished, and are often laced with tales from her own life.  She delivers the words bravely, directly, and in a way that instantly makes one aware that she knows too much about love, and loss, and resolution.  Her four song E.P., “Dena Dena Dena”, is being released this weekend, an album that took three months to create and features the talents of several local area musicians.  Dena calls the production of her E.P “a learning experience” and is looking forward to applying her new knowledge to future projects.  She is especially happy with the song “Walk Away” which is actually the first song that she wrote.  This reggae style song emerged as a surprise favorite during her most recent tour and she is especially pleased with the recorded version on the E.P.

So what’s next for Dena?  Some much deserved rest.  She is planning to take a break from performing after the promotion efforts for her E.P. are concluded.  She will use the winter break to learn more instruments and hone her song writing.  Touring has inspired Dena and also served as a spring of new ideas that she is planning to incorporate into her own music.  Visiting other towns has added to her vision of what the South Bend music scene could achieve.  She believes with all her being that “South Bend is poised to be a music town”.  Though Dena’s role within our community may evolve, she wants to “encourage everyone involved to be positive, supportive, and compassionate”.  She wants you to know that you can “take the reins” and be a force for change in South Bend.  I like to refer to Dena as the Queen of South Bend music.  No matter what direction her career arc takes, be it the path of the performer or the path of the promoter or both, she will always have a reserved seat at the head of the table.  After all, she made the table.


Matthew Teters

Teters, LLC Audio Production


Purple Porch Co-op: The Grandest of Openings by Myles Robertson

Five years ago a group of friends sat on a porch , dreaming of a food system that worked better for themselves, their families, and their community. They imagined having access to food grown by farmers sharing their same area code. Living in a region where fertile farmland is plentiful–drive just 10 minutes from downtown in any direction and look around–these dreams weren’t  so farfetched.

Though not impossible, a reimagined food system takes more than desire, it takes a lot of hard work. It takes a community. It takes cooperation.

Through several incarnations and the support of hundreds, Purple Porch Co-op grew from a conversation on a purple porch to a bricks and mortar grocery store open 6 days a week (Monday-Saturday, 8am-7pm) in downtown South Bend’s East Bank Village.

Open for nearly seven months in this new location at 123 N. Hill St., the store has flourished into a local food hub supplying local and organic food to the community. But you might ask, and people have asked, “after six months of operation, why throw a ‘Grand Opening’?”

Here’s my explanation.

In days long past, when mom-and-pop shops were the norm and mechanized chain giants were just entering our view on the distant horizon, a grand-opening six months in wasn’t so “avant garde”. This has been a grassroots endeavor. We’re learning as we go, as we always have. We’re becoming more efficient, our supply streams stronger.  When 123 N. Hill opened we worked with 13 local producers (within 60 miles of our store), we now work with over 50! We’re learning to be storekeeps, something none of us were before February 25th.









So this Grand Opening at its very core isn’t about opening for us, it’s about gratitude. It’s a grand thank you. A thank you to our member-owners and customers who frequent our store, cafe, and market, to our neighbors and community, but most of all, to those who keep our dream seated in reality…Our Farmers.

For if it weren’t for them, our ever-growing network of food producers (of course the pun was intended) that stock our shelves with unique, flavor-focused food, we’d still be a dream, a vision of what could be.

So come check out our store. Mingle with the farmers, the bread bakers, the kombucha makers. Grab some kale that has a story and face to go along with it, that has character. Enjoy the sounds of local musicians, young and old, as you feast on the flavors of your home. Come see why I and 500 other ‘Benders own a grocery store with their friends. And while you’re here, perhaps sitting on our porch, dream of a city, of the world you want to help shape.

Grand opening details:

September 17th, 10:30am – Ribbon cutting with DTSB.  Be part of this historic moment!

September 17th, 5pm-8:30pm – Farmers Market, live music by Captain Ed Bennett and His N’er Do Wells and Phineas Gage Band, free food samples from our cafe, games in the open to people parking lot (closed to cars), words from member-owners, farmers, and food producers, the premier of our promotional video by Chuck Fry

Our first annual Glorious Gazpacho Contest will also take place this evening. More info:

Photos by Myles Robertson

Purple Porch Co-op,

Myles is the local foods purchaser for Purple Porch Co-op and can be found working the front counter, checking customers out, stocking shelves, and on farms learning about the food we eat and the farmers growing it.  Want more local food in your restaurant, at your event, or in your home? Stop by the store or email Myles at