Love Thy Neighbor: How Faith and Fashion Inspired a Post-Retirement Entrepreneur

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Age is just a number for Agnes Scott.

"I don’t think about age," she says. "I think about how I can pass on what I’ve learned to others."

As a post-retiree serving as a "one woman band" of her newly-realized nonprofit venture, NeighborH.O.O.D., Scott rightfully has much to pass on.

Founded out of her own entrepreneurial success following her employment in the automotive industry in Detroit in the 1980s, Scott is the founder of NeighborH.O.O.D. (Hands on Our Destinies), a fashion and design trade and arts school built around a 15-month cooperative entrepreneurship curriculum that includes business and entrepreneurship courses.

The curriculum uses the performing, literary, decorative, graphic, plastic, visual, and performing arts as backdrops to spark creativity and innovation, promote social cohesion, spur academic performance, and heal and unite the community.

This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged.

“Its mission is to bring forth the latent talents and abilities of Nashville’s underserved population via theory, application, and self-advocacy skills,” Scott says, “using hands-on cooperative entrepreneurship principles to shape their destinies.”

A partnership with Lipscomb University’s SALT (Serving and Learning Together) Program has accelerated NeighborH.O.O.D.’s launch date; the inaugural class, which began classes at the end of September, will graduate in winter 2018.

At last count, 11 students were set to enroll.

“This nation does not have the luxury to dismiss the need for the underserved to be advantaged,” Scott says. “So, in order to avoid increases in the dire economic, social, and educational woes of that population, which negatively affect the well-being of this nation, both domestically and internationally, steps must be put in place to change the dire statistics for this population."

Tuition is almost entirely subsidized by those sponsoring NeighborH.O.O.D., but students are expected to provide a proof of household income and contribute a reasonable portion for participation in the program.

Agnes Scott

Agnes Scott

‘THIS ORGANIZATION IS NEEDED’

So why focus on a fashion and design trade school to equip the underprivileged youth Scott feels called to serve?

Easy: because an element of fashion and design is attractive to the average person, and, as Scott points out, for the last five years the industry has shown significant growth in Nashville.

It’s the best of both worlds.

Because, as Scott notes, the Davidson County 2010-2014 Census shows at least 25-41 percent of Nashville’s District 17 (NeighborH.O.O.D.’s target area in Edgehill) lives in poverty. The organization was created with communities like this in mind.

What sets the organization apart is that NeighborH.O.O.D. offers to a number of individuals (at one time) through cooperative ownership a better way of life through education, entrepreneurship, and employment principles.

Cooperatives can help change the statistics.

This is Scott’s inspiration—to shine her light and push back against the darkness.

“This organization is needed,” she says, “because disadvantaged young people are at higher risk of marginalization and social exclusion than other youth (International Labour Office, 2011, P5).

“Cooperatives can help change the statistics.”

IMPACTING 'MY FELLOW MAN'

Scott is a rare Nashville native in a time when an estimated 100 new Nashvillians are moving to the city each day.

“All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others,” Scott says. “However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.”

Most recently, Scott completed the Nashville Institute for Faith & Work’s Gotham Program, a nine-month intensive emphasizing the integration of faith and vocation that ends with its signature “Cultural Renewal Project” aimed at shining light on an area of darkness in participants’ workplaces.

All of my quests can be viewed as experiential learning, experiences to educate others. However, over the last ten years, a spiritual aspect has been added to my goals and objectives, and I think about how what I do impacts my fellow man.

NeighborH.O.O.D. was Scott’s project, and it was born out of a desire to impact those in her sphere of influence across the generational divide.

“The greatest joy in working with those in different age generations,” she says, “is to see their thirst for learning and to learn from them.”


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How Can Faith Combat Workplace Loneliness?

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The workplace is filled with exhaustion and loneliness—a bit more so than usual.

Research cited suggests "50 percent of people are often or always exhausted due to work," a number that is 32 percent higher than two decades prior.

A recent write-up from the Harvard Business Review concluded workplace burnout today is more impacted by loneliness rather than exhaustion.

So how do Christians respond to a culture that both values and suffers due to the pursuit of productivity?

The work we do cannot ultimately fulfill us.

Jesus spoke of the idea of striving, exhaustion, and rest in Matthew 11:28-30.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The response is found less in striving without ceasing and more in embracing that your work matters and acknowledging its limitations.

The work we do cannot ultimately fulfill us. That doesn't mean it doesn't serve a purpose. We are called to serve the work at hand, not the other way around.

As Tim Keller and Katherine Alsdorf hone in on in their book Every Good Endeavor, "we work to serve others, not ourselves."

By embracing an identity of resting in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a slice of freedom to serve the work at hand—without perpetual exhaustion or loneliness—can be fully embraced.


Learn more about the integration of faith, work, and culture at NIFW.org or follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram.

investigating our desire for Meaningful Work

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Every generation wants meaningful work.

This was the finding from a short study cited in the Harvard Business Review that sought to understand what millennials (and other generations) are seeking from their work.

Here are a few of those responses:

  • Traditionalists (born between 1922-1945): “I can’t even imagine going to a job that…I didn’t think had value.”
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964): “If I didn’t get personal fulfillment and feel like I was doing something good, it would be miserable to put that much time and effort into something.”
  • Generation X (born between 1965-1983): “If your job is without meaning, what would get you out of bed?”
  • Millennials (born between 1984-2002): “I would rather make nothing and love going to work every day than make a ton of money and hate going to work every day.”
One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning.

This funneled into a deeper study that uncovered while most generations agree on the inherent need and desire for meaningful work, negative stereotypes are the leading device for division amongst cross-generational work.

One of the most striking findings was that every generation perceived that the other generations are only in it for the money, don’t work as hard, and do not care about meaning. If each generation thinks this way, it’s not surprising that they treat each other differently than if they believe they are all striving for intrinsic meaning in their jobs. Stereotypes like these likely cause conflict among generational cohorts, which may affect performance, commitment, and job satisfaction.

It’s clear every generation wants purpose out of their work, yet somehow, we don't see that in one another.

How do you experience generational differences in your day-to-day vocation?

We will dive deeper into this question and many more generational differences in our work at our citywide forum, “The Gen Divide: Bridging Age Gaps at Work” on November 9 from 5:30-8 p.m. at Houston Station in Nashville, Tennessee. Reserve your spot today.


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Unpacking Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Apology

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What does it look like to apologize when our work is divisive?

Recently Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his personal Facebook page asking for forgiveness for the ways his social media platform has promoted divisiveness rather than unity.

“For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he wrote. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness, and I will work to do better.”

Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, was celebrating Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and was considering his sins from the previous year.

For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.
— Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg’s apology emphasizes a key question: when (and how) do we corporately apologize in the workplace? Or to our stakeholders and constituents?

While culture moves quickly to finger-pointing when division strikes, how might the Bible inform a reconciliation? Or even a first step in a conflict?

We will answer questions like this and more at our October 11 Lunch & Learn at Adele’s on Navigating Conflict Resolution at Work with Dr. Phyllis Hildreth, Lipscomb University Associate Professor and Academic Director for the university’s Institute for Conflict Resolution. Reserve your spot, invite a friend, and join the discussion today.


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What's the Story Behind NIFW's Refreshed Look?

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What lies behind a refresh?

For the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work it marked a moment in time for the Institute to double-down on its vision—set in place in January 2015 through our sending church, Christ Presbyterian Church—to equip, connect, and mobilize individuals and organizations to ingegrate their faith into their vocational work.

Our logo, that now features the letters "F" and "W" crossing, symbolizes our desire to help foster the overlap between an individual's Christian faith and their day-to-day work.

Our move to new offsite offices (located off 8th Avenue) symbolizes our desire to both be in and for the city, in an effort to bring flourishing to every corner of Nashville.

Our refreshed website and refined monthly communications systems reflect our desire to equip Nashvillians with a place to be inspired and mobilized to shine light on the dark areas of their vocational spehres.

These enhancements have brought excitement to the NIFW offices, and our team is eager to equip and connect you with others to see the role your work plays in God's unfolding story.

You can expect continued communication from NIFW in your inboxes this fall. The NIFW team is anticipating connecting with many of you at one of our events this fall.

Bono: 'By its very nature art is revelatory'

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Last year U2’s renowned frontman Bono sat down with Fuller Studio and Eugene Peterson to unpack his thoughts on the Psalms, Christianity, and art in the 21st century.

After wrapping up the interview with Peterson in his Montana home, Bono traveled back to New York to sit down with Fuller Texas professor David Taylor for an interview on Christianity, the Psalms, and role of the artist today.

Bono goes so far as to say art itself is “revelatory” in nature.

“If the job of the prophet is to describe the state of the soul — the soul of the city — and you really want to know what’s going on outside the AC here that keeps us from the 100 degree heat, then you really need to go look at the art, go look at the graffiti, and go listen to the hip hop coming off the ghetto buses. Some of it is strong stuff, but it’s honest.”

Watch one of the full interviews below or view each of them here:


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Having a Head (and Heart) for the City

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What is the end of innovation?

Earlier this year the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work welcomed New City Commons’ Greg Thompson in for our Redemption Through Innovation event at Houston Station in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thompson’s talk focused on themes like social justice, collateral effects of innovation, and how Christians might reengage the city.

“It is my experience,” Thompson said, “that Christians have a heart for for the city but not a head for the city.”

Watch the full excerpt from Greg’s talk below:


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Helping Hands: Using Healthcare to Affirm Dignity in Nashville’s Aging, Special Needs

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It started with painting fingernails.

Every two weeks in high school Gretchen Napier showed up to a local nursing home by recommendation from a fellow church member.

“I began to look forward to my visits because I felt so useful,” Napier says. “When I would walk into their room their eyes would light up.”

Napier was awakening to the impact something as seemingly simple as a touch could have on another person’s spirit.

She was playing a role in calling out the dignity (Genesis 1:27) in each of her newfound friends.

“Most nursing home residents are only touched to be cleaned or fed or turned,” Napier says. “So my work of taking off their nail polish, rubbing lotion on their hands and arms, trimming their nails and then painting them, was often the most caring touch they received.”

Holistic patient care, down to the detail of a personal touch, is at the core of how Napier’s faith inspires her work today as CEO and Owner of LifeLinks, an organization in Nashville, Tennessee, and Raleigh, North Carolina, armed with a client-centered approach to caring for older adults and others facing ongoing health challenges.

Napier’s team consists of a handful of passionate registered nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, hospital administrators, and social workers with more than a decade of highly-personalized professional aging life care services.

“Instead of warehousing the elderly and disabled, we are seeking to meet their holistic needs to promote as much quality of life and independence as is safely possible,” Napier says. “We are seeking to reconcile families.”

 

A Career in care

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The passion to serve those with ongoing health challenges first stirred within Napier as a teenager.

Although Vanderbilt University did not offer any classes in gerontology (the study of the aging process) at the time, she was able to use the practicum hours in her Human and Organizational Development degree to tease out the calling with the help of a few local nonprofits — specifically FiftyForward.

After spending a summer in Washington, D.C. working on the House Select Committee on Aging’s Subcommittee for Retirement Income and Housing Napier earned her Master’s in Health Services Administration (MHSA) with a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

She transitioned into running independent and assisted living facilities while publishing a resource guide for seniors before being recruited by the LifeLinks team. Napier joined the team in 2009 and became CEO and sole proprietor in 2012.

“Our team is a reflection of the body and the vine,” Napier says. “We all bring different gifts, skills and perspectives to the aid of the client’s we serve.

“The excellence we strive for and love we give to our clients, are given first to us by God.”

 

HOLISTIC HEALTHCARE

Working with broken people, broken families and broken healthcare systems provides lots of opportunity for Napier's team to show God's love, mercy and grace.

Sometimes they are advocating for the often overlooked older adult and others they are helping families build bridges to one another during the difficult final human season.

Isaiah 1 calls to mind the call to advocacy of your neighbor—specifically those in distress—that LifeLinks puts to practice.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause..” — Isaiah 1:17 (ESV)

While healthcare is traditionally fragmented, with the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, Napier and her team serve as a hub for information and communication, simplifying the big picture in ways the family can process, understand and act upon.

But the work is rewarding.

“Healthcare in general is very broken,” Napier says. “It has a difficult time seeing people as complicated individuals with a variety of facets.

“We can’t just treat the body because the mind and spirit have a profound impact on our body.”


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