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The Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network (WREN) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to supporting better lives and livelihoods in the North Country of New Hampshire for over 25 years. While grants keep us going, your donations are also key to helping us continue serving the artists, makers, and low to moderate income small business owners who depend on us for resources, market access, and educational opportunities.

Thank you so much for your donation. Your support means the world!

 

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2020 Annual Appeal – Making It Happen

Mazie Cash, WREN volunteer, artist, and CDBG grant recipient
Mazie Cash, WREN volunteer, artist, and CDBG grant recipient, finding inspiration in the mountains.

Sometimes, making it happen can be tough. Rather than falter, or simply sit down and quit, you have to ignore the blisters from long days and the quiet moments of self-doubt, and remember that every step forward is another small goal reached.

So what drives us as an organization to keep moving forward, climbing those peaks, setting our sights ever higher?

You can sum it all up in one word: belief. Belief in the potential of others, the compassion of community, and the possibility of reinvention and rebirth, even in times of upheaval.

Mazie Cash is someone who embodies that belief. From hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail (a whopping 2,190 miles!) to making the leap of faith into full time artistry as a small business owner, Mazie’s a woman of “why nots?” rather than “what ifs?”.

As a Bethlehem resident, Mazie first aligned with WREN when she attended a member meeting several years ago. Mazie “resonated with the connections that the artists had built with each other,” and was grateful to find herself “amidst so many creative and talented minds”. In September of 2019, Mazie signed up as a CDBG grant recipient with WREN, and also found time to start volunteering in the Gallery, helping to hang the monthly shows that have been a community staple at WREN over many seasons and years.

While she’s never one to boast, Mazie is quick to note that during her time at WREN, she is most proud of “Gathering”, WREN’s November 2020 show featuring Sarah Burns and Gretchen Woodman. Every month, Mazie spent time improving her hanging eye. In November, it “really showed”, with clay and canvas meeting in small moments of undeniable rapture. With a smile, she says that “the artists’ work complimented each other so well…it was an absolute pleasure to hang and set up”.

For Mazie, the Gallery shows reflect WREN’s “consistent effort to bring art to the North Country, [which] enables local artists to pursue what they love while inspiring tourists and locals alike”. While we are certainly proud of our standing amongst fine art shops in the region, with visitors from across the country finding their way to our gallery and storefront year after year, we can’t deny the immeasurable happiness that comes with helping artists, makers, and small business owners, day in and out. Thanks to our membership program, market access opportunities, and grant funding, we are able to nurture emerging artists like Mazie, bring “beauty and connection to our town”, and instill our belief in the things they do.

One of ways we show that belief here at WREN is through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)* program, which enables us to serve small business owners like Mazie through 1-on-1 technical assistance with industry experts, free registration for all of our online courses, and the chance to sell in Local Works Marketplace and the Gallery at WREN.

Still, for Mazie, the most important part of being a CDBG grant recipient, and being a part of WREN as a whole, is the opportunity to connect with fellow artists walking their own similar paths towards success. Thanks to WREN, Mazie is “networked with artists who are able light a path” towards where she hopes to go. Surrounded by the “varying levels of artists who belong to WREN”, Mazie feels like she has found “a place in the art world”, a place brilliantly illustrated in colored pencil, and punctuated by peaks already summited, as well as many more mountains waiting just beyond the horizon.

Would you like to show your belief in the work we do, just like Mazie has? Make a donation to WREN today. With all of our hearts, we thank you!

*For more than fifteen years, hundreds of emerging and established WREN business owners have received support in growing their enterprises, thanks to Community Development Block Grant dollars. Funding for this program flows from HUD to the CDFA to Grafton County and then to WREN. To read more about the NH CDFA, click here.

Connect with Mazie and her amazing art by visiting her website, as well as her facebook page.

 

Kay Kerr, WRENegade and Longtime Volunteer
WREN volunteer Kay Kerr
Kay Kerr, WRENegade and longtime volunteer

This year at WREN, we’ve reached a new level of appreciation for our wonderful network of volunteers, members, and community enthusiasts. Even in a somewhat bleak and challenging year, it’s amazing how bright the people around us continue to shine.

Kay Kerr is one of these luminous, lovely people. From helping us get ready for the massive undertaking of mailing out our annual appeal to reviewing our inventory before we reopened the store and gallery this past June, Kay is always one of the first to raise her hand and ask “What’s next? How can I help?”

Kay’s journey with WREN began back in 2004, when she moved to Franconia, NH. For Kay, “WREN gave me a quality of life that I was lacking when I first moved to the area.” Kay leapt at the opportunity to volunteer for our monthly Gallery shows, and with each next exhibit, she found the “friendships, activity, and feeling of being needed” that were so crucial during her journey towards building a well-rounded life in the North Country.

Hanging artwork for the Gallery shows was a “social, creative, learning process,” one in which she discovered she was both “a very good gofer” and “a real integral part of WREN.” Every month, Kay reveled in WREN’s First Friday openings. They embodied what she loves most about WREN: the community involvement. For Kay, “WREN is a leader in our community, an inspiration in our community, and a partner in our community”. She notes that the “the partnership with the Colonial Theatre over this past summer, featuring the ‘Women of the White Buffalo’ exhibit in the Gallery,” was another example of WREN embracing community in unexpected ways.

Over the years, Kay’s involvement at WREN has remained as constant as her can-do attitude. In 2005, Kay joined the WREN Board of Directors. Nowadays, Kay is a part of the WRENegades, a socially-minded senior group dedicated to having fun while also connecting to the mission of WREN.

It has now been sixteen years since Kay first joined WREN. Her legacy of making it happen, of showing support for the organization in so many different ways, is one with positive ripples that are felt across all of the artists, makers, and members throughout the years. For Kay, “it’s very exciting to us as former active WREN members, to see the vitality of WREN coming back. WREN ties the community together; it stimulates and creates community”.

Are you inspired by Kay’s story? Show your support for the work we do, and make a donation to WREN today! With all of our hearts, we thank you!

 

Kate Foley, WREN Supporter, Volunteer, Board Member
Kate Foley
Kate Foley (R), owner of Cold Mountain Café and Bitchin’ Kitchen Food Truck, keeping it safe (and tasty!) alongside one of the original WRENs, mom Colleen Foley (L).

As a longtime WREN supporter, volunteer, board member, and small business owner, Kate Foley gives it all she’s got, day in and out. She’s a dreamer and a doer. A woman devoted to her family, her business, and her community.

Kate’s life has always been one rooted within WREN; in fact, she “grew up with organization, surrounded by the support of WREN.” Her mother, Colleen Foley, was “one of the founders, and I participated in the first WINGS program for young girls”. These were the fledgling days of WREN, days in which our path towards the present was built by the know-how and passion of women like Colleen, and the promise of strong, inspired girls like Kate.

Many of you know Kate as the driving force behind Cold Mountain Café, one of Bethlehem’s most cherished and revered eateries. Kate notes that “Cold Mountain has always been a big supporter of WREN; we couldn’t ask for a better neighbor.” From working in tandem to promote shop and sip events during the holiday season to hosting Cold Mountain Café in the pocket park next to Local Works Marketplace this past summer, the bond between Kate and WREN is one built on teamwork and mutual admiration for our impact on the community.

In Bethlehem, “WREN is an anchor. Having such a beautiful store and professional gallery on Main Street really elevates downtown. WREN coming to Bethlehem, and then opening the store, was the beginning of the revitalization of Bethlehem’s main street. It has come a long way over the years!” While the peace of the mountains has prompted many to move to Bethlehem over the years, community is what makes them stay. Kate believes that “community is one of the biggest reasons many of us choose to live here. Having an organization like WREN that supports and brings the community together is so important.”

Kate has served on WREN’s Board of Directors for 6 years, and as she reflects back, she notes that she is most proud of how the organization has kept moving forward, even during these unprecedented times. Indeed, “WREN’s future is looking bright, even in a pandemic!” This past year “has really proven WREN’s relevance and lasting power.” In a year like 2020, when “many of us feel isolated, having a place to network and connect is more important than ever”.

While she acknowledges that “WREN has had some challenging years recently,” the “small and mighty staff are incredibly dedicated.” This dedication is something that carries throughout the WREN community, including our board members, volunteers, donors, and more. It’s a dedication that centers around the organization, and making every day happen while never forgetting the strength and importance of our mission.

Kate is a true advocate for WREN’s place amongst busy small business owners like herself. Without a doubt, “many of us that live here have multiple sources of income. North Country people are incredibly resourceful and talented at juggling different gigs!” Thanks to WREN, members have “the tools, resources and place to support different streams of income.”

As an entrepreneur with a thriving café and food truck under her belt, a loving mom and certified toddler wrangler, and a devoted WREN board member, Kate has perfected the art of balancing it all while never losing sight of her goals. She is someone who gives her all, every single day, and has given so much to WREN over the years.

 Today, we ask you to follow in Kate’s footsteps. Show your belief in the work we do, and donate today. Give one simple gift that has the power to impact an entire community of dreamers and doers. With all of our hearts, we thank you!

 

Doug Arion, WREN Volunteer
Doug Arion, Executive Director at Mountain of Stars (andWREN volunteer!), at home in his observatory
Doug Arion, Executive Director at Mountain of Stars (and WREN volunteer!), at home in his observatory

To make it happen, you’ve got to get the little things done while also taking time to see the beauty of the big picture.

As a professor of physics, astronomy, and entrepreneurship, as well as president of Galileoscope LLC, Doug Arion has spent his professional life looking to the cosmos for inspiration, while also taking active, immense strides to improve science literacy and connect the public with the wonders of astronomy.

While all of this could keep anyone busy for a lifetime, Doug has still managed to find time for one small North Country nonprofit: WREN. Whether its hanging whiteboards, creating curriculum, or grabbing some tools and simply getting the job done, Doug always helps with the little things that end up making a big difference.

Doug’s journey with WREN began in 2012, when he first moved back to New Hampshire from the Midwest. In between building a beautiful home from the ground up and staying on top of his myriad professional commitments, Doug began attending WREN events like our First Friday openings. It was here that Doug began to connect with the people in his new hometown. While he came to see “interesting artwork…different kinds, different genres, and different topics”, the “opportunity to interact with many others from the community…[proved] fun, useful, and enlightening”.

In 2016, Doug took the next step with WREN, “starting conversations about economic development and business development projects” and “identifying grant and funding opportunities”. This translated to helping out with small business-themed classes over the next several years. Looking back, Doug reflects on the fact that “WREN’s programs have certainly been of benefit to artists – I’m proud to have taught some of those. Making a living is a tall order in any field, and helping artists navigate the business side of their craft is very important.”

The skills Doug helped our members hone would carry them through the years to come, including some years in which WREN experienced upheaval alongside progress. It was during these few years that our volunteers, donors, and Board and staff members had to get creative and embrace change, always with the big picture in mind.

For Doug, that meant transitioning to a surprising new role at WREN: volunteer handyman. During our makeover this past spring, Doug helped us get ready for a COVID-safe reopening, advising on everything from the best way to implement a temporary dividing wall between staff offices and storefront to finding creative, safe solutions for the well-loved, oddly angled building that WREN calls home. Ever humble, Doug says quite simply that he’s “just glad to see it all up and running and looking good”.

Thanks to this makeover, as well as the efforts of many donors and volunteers who have supported our organization throughout the years, Doug is able to say that WREN continues to “provide legitimacy to the business environment in town”; indeed, it “has been a draw” to Bethlehem’s main street for over 25 years, prompting other small businesses to set up shop while also nourishing “a mutually beneficial neighborhood environment”.

Just like the starry night skies resplendent in their variety, it’s clear that WREN is made all the more beautiful by the abundance of small businesses outside of our doors, and the positive, purposeful people like Doug who choose to cross our threshold.

Are you ready to make a world of difference today, just like Doug? Donate today. With all of our hearts, we thank you!