RECYCLOCRAFTZ: WHERE NEW POSSIBILITIES BRING HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW IN ZAMBIA

Tracy Murray teaching in Zambia

RECYCLOCRAFTZ: WHERE NEW POSSIBILITIES BRING HOPE FOR A BETTER TOMORROW IN ZAMBIA

Most people will face unexpected turns in life. It is a common, perhaps universal, human experience, but rarely does it take us halfway around the world on a mission to improve the lives of others. For Tracy Murray, that is precisely what happened.

On a Mission

In 2007, Tracy and kids found themselves heading to Zambia as missionaries. Zambia was not even on Tracy’s radar until she spoke with her pastor. As an occupational therapist, she went to work one-on-one with people with special needs. In Zambia, the functional literacy rate for seventh graders is less than 14%, with abstract math at 0%. Given the student-teacher ratio of 164:1 in Zambia, many children fall through the cracks. That is assuming they go to school at all, as many girls are discouraged from going in the first place.

Education is not the only source of woe in Zambia. Unemployment is at 47% with an average income of two dollars a day. In Zambia, Tracy worked with a pastor and his wife, who is a full-time nurse and midwife. Together, the couple made less than $500 month, putting them at the lower end of Zambia’s middle class. Even so, they struggled to make ends meet with their three adult children. It was clear that the focus of Tracy’s work needed to change. In 2008, after speaking with the pastor, Tracy began what would become RecycloCraftz.

Initially called New Creations Ministries Zambia, RecycloCraftz, was started on a wing and a prayer. While literacy development is still a core aspect of this non-profit organization, it expanded its scope to include vocational training and employment. All workers receive a fair-trade value for their products on a weekly basis. Since it began, RecycloCraftz has sold over $400,000 of fair-trade goods.

Work in Zambia

One of the trainings provided by RecycloCraftz is a sewing course. Those in the course learn the sewing necessary to produce an array of goods. Once a participant completes 90% of the lessons, they are eligible to receive a microloan to cover half of the cost of a new treadle sewing machine with an auxiliary motor. To date, six participants have acquired new sewing machines and have learned to operate the two on-site industrial sewing machines. RecycloCraftz’s microloan program has also provided assistance beyond their sewing course; it has enabled participants to electrify their homes, add on to their houses, further their education, and start their own businesses. Additionally, the microloan program has a financial planning element to aid and educate participants on saving for the future.

Tracy Murray instructing volunteers
Wire figures

RecycloCraftz has seen successes outside of their microloan program as well. Thanks to their efforts in education, all children involved are attending school regularly. Many adults, especially women, are learning to read, something they were either denied or lacked access to as children. To expand their educational efforts, RecycloCraftz plans to build a school to serve a neighboring community.

RecycloCraftz also offers an emergency medical program. This program covers an array of different medical issues, including chronic health conditions, age-related medical issues, and disabilities. The program will also help cover funeral costs for direct family members.

Keeping the Lights On

Operating in Zambia has come with its own unique challenges. Perhaps the biggest are the power outages. Currently, most of Zambia’s electricity is generated by a single hydroelectric dam. Unfortunately, persistent drought conditions have caused the reservoir to diminish. There is rarely enough live water to turn the turbines and generate electricity. In an effort to conserve electricity, the Zambian government instituted rolling blackouts. To combat this, RecycloCraftz installed a battery backup system to power their compound when the electricty goes out. To date, this has been sufficient in meeting their needs, but they plan to add a solar array in the future.

Upcycling

Beyond helping the men, women, and youth of Zambia, another core aspect of RecycloCraftz is upcycling; this is the process of taking discarded objects or materials and repurposing them. The first product made by the artisans of RecycloCraftz were bags made from old plastic grocery bags. Overtime, they shifted from plastic to fabric. Today, a visitor to their shop will find a wider array of upcycled goods. In addition to the bags, you can find reversible patchwork aprons, reversible sling bags with handmade buttons, paper bowls, nativity scenes, bottle cap trivets, wooden bead bracelets, wire figures, and backpacks. All proceeds go back into the program to pay the artisans fair-trade value and procure more crafting materials.

Wood bead bracelets

As RecycloCraftz expands, so too does their need for volunteers. Assigned duties would depend on the volunteer’s skillset. For more information, you can email Tracy at tracy@recyclocraftz.org.

If you are interested in purchasing some of their fine handmade goods, there are numerous options. Besides their shop here at Mellwood, RecycloCraftz will be making appearances at various farmer’s markets and fair-trade and holiday events. They will be at the Norton Commons holiday sales and Jeffersontown Beckley Creek events throughout November and December. You can also find them online at recyclocraftz.org, where you can purchase goods from their shop or make donations. All donations can be earmarked for specific programs or to sponsor families.

BUTCHERTOWN BREWING SET TO OPEN

Left: Andy Cobb; Right: Andy Cobb with Guests

BUTCHERTOWN BREWING SET TO OPEN

Louisville’s beer scene will soon be welcoming its newest member with the eminent grand opening of Butchertown Brewing. A part-time passion project for Andy Cobb, who operates two other companies, Butchertown Brewing makes the brews its sole focus.

"You’re not going to go to my place and watch the game or anything. It’s going to be about the beer."

Andy’s passion for beer spans decades. He first started with homebrewing back in 1994. Over time, he experimented with different styles of beer. Andy also connected with other beer aficionados to share information, recipes, and their enthusiasm for the sudsy goodness. He was even given the title of “Louisville Beer Mayor” by his fellow members of the Louisville Beer Snobs Facebook group.

Amongst his fellow brewers, Andy is best known for his stouts. He has particular fondness for bourbon barrel aged stouts. As such, it has always irked him to see how few Kentucky-based breweries capitalize on the opportunity available to them.

Building frame for bar
Phase 2 building bar with plywood
Finished bar

"We’re in bourbon country, and I love barrel aged beers. It upset me that there were all these breweries from outside of Kentucky getting all these bourbon barrels and putting beer in them, putting great beer in them, making great beer, and we go and buy that beer. I’d like to see more Louisville breweries do that, so that’s going to be one of my main focuses: barrel aged beers."

Besides its focus on bourbon barrel beers, another aspect which will set Butchertown Brewing apart from other Louisville breweries will be its invite only membership. Members will have a 1 – 2 week window of time for first pick of the bourbon barrel aged stouts. Afterwards, these stouts will be available to the public at large. Andy plans to brew up other styles as well. Each month, Butchertown Brewing will offer two other types of beers, which will be available to members and non-members alike upon release, no member-exclusive purchasing period.

Once open, Butchertown Brewing will have monthly tastings to allow people to sample Andy’s small batch craft beers. Sessions will run around 45 minutes with groups of 20 – 25 people. All purchases, including beer, will be done through Butchertown Brewing’s website at butchertownbrewingco.com. To keep up with the latest news and announcements from Butchertown Brewing, be sure to check out their Facebook or Instagram pages.

GENNA & ABSOLUTE THEATER

Genna Greene in Absolute Studio Theater

GENNA & ABSOLUTE THEATER

Genna Greene’s Absolute Theater was open a month and a half before shutting down due to the pandemic. The community theater aims to give local thespians a creative outlet. Now, Absolute Theater has reopened and Genna has big plans.

Genna always knew she wanted to be a fashion and costume designer. After formal training in New York under Nicole Miller, Genna teamed up with Matthew Tyldesley to combine wig art and fashion design. Still partners to this day, you can view their eccentric combinations on social media.

Currently, Genna splits her time between her theater and her home studio. She creates costumes for a variety of clients from theme parks to major motion pictures such as Hell on the Border. You can also see Genna’s work anytime you visit Kentucky Kingdom or Disney theme parks. Plan on traveling to Shanghai Disney? You are sure to see her costumes there too (up to 36 to be exact).

Absolute Theater’s post-pandemic debut will be Rocky Horror Picture Show with a twist.

"We had to think outside the box to keep people safe."

Along with zany costumes, actors will be adorned with masks and gloves as well. The shows will be quaint, with a maximum booking of 50 people in order to adhere to social distancing standards. Reserve your seat for October 24th and 30th by purchasing tickets online at MellwoodArtCenterAbsoluteStudioTheater.com. Additionally, keep an eye out for the ever-so-entertaining Drag Pageant hosted by Unsupervised Adults also in October.

In addition to her theater, Genna is working to make the Mellwood Art Center the “happening spot” for artists and art lovers. Currently, she is organizing a Shop Small Day on December 5th to encourage the community to buy local for their holiday gifts. Lastly, the Absolute Theater will also perform a Christmas play and additional performers will be outside caroling and entertaining guests during the event.

To learn more about Absolute Theater and upcoming shows, visit MellwoodArtCenterAbsoluteStudioTheater.com.

DANNY MAC’S: SURVIVING COVID-19

Danny Mac with Pizza

DANNY MAC’S: SURVIVING COVID-19

At this point, many of our readers are well aware of the struggles facing small businesses resulting from COVID-19. For many, the best case scenario is remaining open with an unclear future looming ahead, while others have been forced into closing their businesses for good. One of our tenants, Danny Mac of Danny Mac’s Pizza, finds himself among those able to stay open since the outbreak of the pandemic.

"We’re service people and we’re trying to make the best of the situation. The first three weeks really made us nervous. We didn’ t know what was going to happen, if we were going to be shut down. We were prepared to do anything we had to do to survive."

In the 14 years Danny Mac’s Pizza has been in business, he has faced nothing like COVID-19 before. With such an unprecedented health crisis, Danny saw the need to adapt his business in order to keep going. “It’s just a totally different situation. We were probably 95% dine-in and we had to modify things, like add curbside service and we modified our operations on carryout. We added a bar right at our front door so nobody has to touch any knobs or come in the building.”

Remaining open and ensuring the safety of his staff and customers has come with some frustrations. Suppliers running out of goods and price hikes has meant that Danny had to adjust his menu in order to cope, something he did reluctantly. But to Danny, it is all worth it when he sees his smiling customers. Despite the challenges and frustrations posed by the pandemic, Danny Mac feels blessed to be able to stay open and that his business has seen healthy sales. He credits much of this success to the words of praise he and his business have received from his customers regarding not only the quality of the food and the friendly demeanor of his staff, but also the precautions he and his staff have taken to keep everyone safe.

When asked for advice he would share with other small business owners, Danny encourages owners to be creative.

"You definitely have to think outside the box. There’s a lot of changes we have to deal with. Just continue to think of different ways to sell."

If you are looking for some of the best pizza in town, Danny Mac’s Pizza is sure to satisfy. You can find them online at www.dannymacspizza.com or call (502) 890-6331 to place a to go order.

Photos courtesy of Danny Mac’s Pizza