“The core of Spark is treating people with dignity and respect. And understanding that just because you’re struggling, that doesn’t make you less good. We’re all just trying this human experience together. Some days, some months, some years are really hard, and we’re there for those moments for those people.”
has been doing this for years. The Facebook group turned nonprofit has accomplished a lot since its inception in 2015. While 2020 has been difficult for all, for Spark, it’s been an opportunity to do what it does best – help people who need it.
Spark In The Dark was started by Abagail McKiernan when she created a Facebook group that connected people all over the Traverse City area. The group was made to be a place for people to go when they were in need of something like food, clothing, furniture, car help, and more. If someone in the group can help the person in need, they comment on the post with what they can do to assist.
It grew quickly and requests started rolling in. Today, Spark In The Dark Traverse City sits at over 14,200 members and has fulfilled over 14,500 needs in the past year alone.
In the short time I’ve lived in Traverse City, I’ve watched the group make leaps and bounds in all kinds of different growth. I caught up with Founder and Executive Director Abagail Mckiernan to talk about some of the ways Spark has expanded, and how folks can get involved to help support the cause if they feel inspired.
Spark started in Traverse City, but it’s always been part of the plan to plant Sparks in other communities. In October, Spark chapters were launched in Manistee and Mount Pleasant. Each community is using a different model. “In starting those two we wanted to do a model A, model B to figure out what was going to work best. Manistee is using Model A, which is led by a coalition of nonprofits, as to where Mount Pleasant is truly community-led like Traverse City,” Abagail said. The Mount Pleasant chapter has over 2,000 members now, and the Manistee group has just over 1,000. The next community the nonprofit is looking to place a Spark in is Cadillac. “Cadillac knows about Spark because they’re a part of it right now, with about 500 members in the current Traverse City group that are from Cadillac.”
Auto Repair Community Partnership
A request that undoubtedly makes an impact when it’s fulfilled is auto repair. Bill Marsh has been a longtime supporter of Spark and has partnered with the nonprofit to offer a monthly auto assistance program. “We’re calling it the Bill Marsh Auto Repair Program. Every month he sets aside X amount of dollars internally. We essentially run the application process and vet the situation to understand what fixes are going to create the most impact. The application is simple, to the point, and is focused on what is wrong with the car.” The program has already provided assistance to eight people, as well as provided vehicles to two people. A tire program is in the works too.
Affordable Personal Development
Being in less than ideal life conditions is stressful, and chronic stress seeps into other parts of our lives, making it difficult to break out of the cycle. Talking it out with a professional, time and again is a proven tool to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, but oftentimes it’s expensive. Spark is working with Dr. Margie Serrato from Human Empowered to offer free and discounted group personal development sessions. “She’s training our admin teams on positive intelligence, and she’ll be a part of our training program as we start these new groups. She’s also going to be doing free monthly seminars and mini-group personal development sessions where she’ll teach things like coping mechanisms.”
Spark has partnered with local embroidery and screen printing company T-shirt Robot on ‘do-good(er)’ t-shirts with a portion of profits going back into Spark. For the next month, TC Whiskey will be serving The Spark, an apple, pomegranate, and lime cocktail with a dollar from each going to Spark. Support Spark and the TC community by picking up a t-shirt or a cocktail (or both!) next time you’re out about town. For those who want to support the Spark program on a more regular basis, their sparkinthedark.org website has just set up a recurring donation option.
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