Sackcloth & Ashes: Redefining Retail

Sackcloth and Ashes is an incredible social enterprise that designs high quality lifestyle blankets that give back. For every blanket sold one fleece blanket is donated to your local homeless shelter. These blankets are the perfect accessories for picnics, beach days, cold winter days, outdoor adventures and daily living. In keeping with our April theme of #socalityrestoreproject, the work and mission of Sackcloth and Ashes is an inspiring story. We chatted with Founder, Bob Dalton about the inspiration behind the company and what he has been learning along his journey. 

Tell us where the idea for Sackcloth & Ashes Came from?

I have always been passionate about social issues, but homelessness was never one of them. Then in 2013, my mother had became homeless. This radically changed my perception of homeless people. I was always the guy who drove by homeless people who were begging on the street and was like, "Go get a damn job."

When my mother became homeless, it changed everything for me. She has two college degrees, managed restaurants, raised my sister and I by herself, and saved enough money to move us from our apartment into a home that she bought. 

Because she was single she always had different guys in and out of her life. Nobody solid. Because of this, she always confided in her mother (my grandma). She was my moms rock. Then, my grandma past away. From that point on my mother went into a downhill spiral of depression and started to battle alcoholism. 

Within a few years she had lost everything. Her job. Her money. Her house. 

She moved in with a guys and became an alcoholic. 

As a son there was not much I could do except pray. She was in such a dark place that nobody could help her even if they tried. 

Then the summer of 2013 my mom texted me, "Bobby, I'm doing it. I'm selling the little I have left and I'm going to move across the United States (from Oregon to Florida) and start my life over."

And she did. She sold the little she had left and moved across the United States with a little tiny suit case with two pairs of interview clothes. 

When she moved to Florida she ran out of the little money she had very quickly and ended up becoming homeless. She slept on benches and beaches for two months. 

I knew where she was the whole time because I was paying for her cell phone she had. I was in contact with her through the whole journey. She would allow me to send her money, nor did she have an address in which I could send. She didn't want me to fly her back home to Oregon because she had nothing left to come back to. For her, this was her journey. Her story to write. And as the strong woman she is, she wouldn't have it any other way. 

How is your Mom doing now?

After a few months of living on the streets, she ended up hitch hiking up to Ohio. She shared her story with a married couple and they fell in love with her and her story. She lived with them until she could find a job.

Now she works two jobs and has a little apartment in Ohio. She also goes to church (the first time since she was a kid). After she got back on her feet she texted my sister and I this: "I left Oregon 16 weeks ago. I asked God to please help me become the person he wanted me to be. I left everything. I was alone. Sick. Robbed. Stranded. Afraid. But I never gave up. I still have faith. No one can take your faith and strength away. Even when you are at the bottom. I am thankful by how amazingly strong I have become, though HIM. I can't wait to see you guys again."

How does Sackcloth & Ashes give back?

When my mom was on the streets, I started to call my local homeless shelters to ask what they needed. For the first time in my life I wanted to serve the homeless community. All of the shelters that I called said they need, "Blankets."

So in June of 2014, I founded Sackcloth & Ashes. Sackcloth & Ashes is a company that sells high quality blankets in the USA  & Canada. For every blanket someone purchases, we will give a blanket to their local homeless shelter. 

Now, we have provided over 3000 blankets to shelters all across the nation. 

Sackcloth and Ashes Founder, Bob Dalton.

Sackcloth and Ashes Founder, Bob Dalton.

Give us 3 things you've learned since you have launched your business?

1. The power of belief. If you believe in something greater than yourself, believe in yourself, and believe in your idea - nothing will keep you from achieving it. 

2. The power of perception. From the launch of the company we have always strived to have the best photography, website, and branding. We always want people to look at our brand and go, "They must be a big company." And now we are finally becoming one ;)

3. The power of collaboration. We have partnered with some of the fastest growing and most influencial organizations, magazines, brands, and people. It's what has got us to the place where we are at. 

What has been a few highlights of 2015 so far?

Getting restocked after the holidays and feel like we are on offense again. Being that this last holiday season was our first, it took a lot out of us and we had learned some invaluable lessons. Now we are in such a healthy place and have tons of product - therefore, we are rapidly expanding our retail game and partnering with more homeless shelters, organizations and people. 

What is next for Sackcloth & Ashes?

I will be speaking at the AGRM Conference in May. This is the organization that oversees most of the homeless shelters in America. There will be close to one thousand people there, representing those shelters. I get the privilege to share my mothers story and spur them on to continue to make a difference in their local communities. That's probably one of my most proud opportunity for this company so far. We will be at the next Socality conference. Details will be coming soon.

We will also be releasing a video around next Fall to call people into something really really big.

You can purchase your blanket here. They also are now shipping to Canada!! 


Nations Foundation: The Orphanless Orphanage

by: Scott Bakken

Nations Foundation is an amazing organization that exists to bring the stories of modern reformers and missionaries to the forefront. We chatted with founder, Joel Parker to talk more about their latest project, "The Orphanless Orphanage' and how you can get involved. 

Tell us more about Nations Foundation and what you guys do?

Nations Foundation is a group of writers, photographers, film makers, and graphic/web designers who are working to advocate for missionaries and missions organizations around the world. We tell the stories that deserve to be told.

What is the inspiration behind Nations?

We are inspired by radical missionaries, like Brother Andrew and David Livingston, who have gone to the most dangerous places on earth to broadcast hope. We admire reformers of old, like William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect, who stopped at nothing to see that justice prevailed. We are moved by modern-day reformers, like our friends at Rancho de sus Niños, who have given over their lives to bring healing to the nations.

Talk about your latest film ‘The Orphanless Orphanage’. Can you tell us more of the story behind this project?

When we first met the Horner family at Rancho de sus Niños, an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, we immediately noticed something different about the operation they ran. There was no emergency, no worry, and no apparent exhaustion of staff and volunteers. Despite the hundreds of kids they care for and the enormity of the daily operation, the vibe was full of joy, rest, and calm.

As our relationship grew along with our understanding of the values they live by, it all began to make sense. Rancho de sus Niños values family. This value is the driving force that offers a genuine love to every broken kid who steps foot on the property. It offers fulfillment and energy to the staff and volunteers who work long, hard hours. It offers hope, provision, and protection because of the understanding that this is God’s family and He will look after and give futures to His kids.

This value of family erases the word orphan. Love and family provide every kid the opportunity for healing from their difficult past and hope for a future filled with victory and relationship. At Rancho de sus Niños, everyone is seen and heard and known and loved. That is why at Rancho de sus Niños, there is no thing as an orphan.

Why do you think story is so important?

Here at Nations we are a family of creatives for a purpose. We are dedicated to honest storytelling.

We believe that story is the only thing you can truly own as a human; our honest story is all we have and it’s all we need. We believe that the greatest story ever told is the story of God choosing to love us and engaging into our story in order to heal us and make us whole. We believe the next best stories are of those who give their life to loving others as modeled by Christ — stories of reformers, martyrs, missionaries, and artists who don't prescribe to a self-serving life but who choose to give their entire life for the sake of Jesus. We believe in the power that these stories have to change the world.

This month, our community project is Restore. What does that word mean to you?

Restoration is God’s heart for his people. We solely work with missionaries and missional organizations that operate with a heart for restoration. 

The subject of our short film, “The Orphanless Orphanage” was delivered from a background of severe hardship, and through a long process of restoration was able to fully become the father figure he has always been called to be. He now works full-time at Rancho de sus Niños, using his gift of worship to lead people into intimate communion with God. His story of restoration is a stunning representation of God’s heart for humanity.

How can people get involved with Nations?

We are humbled and driven by the excellence we see in creation. We invite those with the same passion for advocacy and storytelling to join our family. The creative craft you have been given will only be truly satisfied when used to bring God glory. For more information on how you can get involved, visit nationsfoundation.org/donations.

What is next for you guys?

We are off to tell stories in Uganda, Kenya, Nicaragua, and the Middle East. Stoked!


It is Well Project with Griffin Lamb

This month Socality is focusing on the idea of restoration. It is incredible to see a young generation take the matters of the world into their own hands and use their gifts and talents to try and be the answer. Griffin Lamb is an incredible photographer who has chosen to do just that. He has launched a project called, 'It is Well' to help orphans in Kenya. We caught up with Griffin to learn more about this amazing project and how we can all can get involved. We also talk photography and learn more about the keys to grabbing that shot! 

Hey Griffin! Tell us more about yourself.

I am a landscape photographer born and raised just outside of Seattle, WA. When I am not taking photographs though, I am a student at Seattle Pacific University-- majoring in Christian Scriptures (Theology). I love Jesus, and view my gifts as a photographer as a simple and meaningful way to glorify Him. 
 

What inspired you to get into photography?

It all started with Instagram. I remember in high school, I started following photographers (landscape and nature photographers especially) and was amazed at how they captured such incredible beauty. Naturally, I wanted to do the same thing. So after I graduated high school, I bought a DSLR camera with some of my graduation money, and the rest is history. 
 

Give us your three top tips for grabbing the perfect shot.

Lighting. Composition. Mood. These are three things that are always on the back of my mind while out shooting. With regard to lighting, shoot early in the morning (sunrise) or in the evening (sunset) to capture the best and softest light. Composition is equally important, and I am not talking about the rule-of-thirds. In my case, I love shots that show the sheer scale of Creation in relation to the tinyness of us humans. In these types of photographs, compositions matters in how far or how close the person is from the lens, as well as the actual framing of the photograph. Experiment with composition, and chances are, you will find a style that fits your eye. And lastly, mood. Maybe it is just because I am from the Pacific Northwest, but I love images that are able to somehow tangibly capture emotion. The key to this (especially in landscape photography) is combining lighting and composition to get the desired "statement" as I call it. Darker images with gloomy clouds and fog in the distance tells a much different story than a colorful sunset with a friend center-frame, taking it all in. 

Tell us more about the "It is Well' project.

I will be headed to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Morocco with a non-profit called STORYSONG in May-- visiting communities and villages that STORYSONG sponsors-- providing orphans with educations and instilling in these communities a deep love for Jesus, music, and the creative arts. I desired to create a project that helps these same communities, and that is how It Is Well came to be.

A photo book that desires to tell an authentic story of life in Africa and fight poverty & injustice

How will this project impact the lives of those in need?

The money raised will be used by STORYSONG in their efforts to further educate the orphan population in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Morocco, and elsewhere across the globe. Aside from financial impact though, the It Is Well photo book will be telling a story that desperately needs to be told-- and in that attempt to raise awareness, it could start a chain reaction towards positive change. 
 

How can people get involved and help out?

To get involved, donate to the It Is Well campaign online. There are plenty of perks too that you will receive when you donate. From photo-books, to prints and canvases, to t-shirts, the goal with this campaign is to make contributors feel like they are traveling with us as we go to Africa in May. There are only a few days left to contribute.

To support Griffin and help contribute be sure to check out the Indiegogo campaign at here! We can all be a part of helping out those in need. #socalityrestoreproject.



The Journey to Paradise: Newport Worship

by: Scott Bakken

Newport Worship is an emerging band from Southern California. Their pop infused sound and high energy tunes are starting to fill air waves and churches across the globe. We sat down with singer/ songwriter Graham Bronczyk about the journey to 'Paradise'. Their new CD is available on iTunes now. 

How did Newport Worship Form? Where are you from?

Newport Worship formed from Newport Church, being planted about eight and half years ago. My wife and I came here to help plant Newport Church and I was asked to head up the worship team. We basically just started building the team and after a couple years started writing a few songs for our church to sing and it just sort of developed into what it is now. 

We are based in Orange County California but the team is from all over the place. We have people from Michigan, from Arkansas, from Minnesota, from California, from Canada, from Australia, from Brazil etc. etc. etc. haha. I guess you could say we have a pretty eclectic bunch of people. Personally I came from Washington state, to Australia, where I did Bible college for a few years, met my wife there and then moved to CA back in 2006 to help start church.

Talk to us about the journey to Paradise? What was the inspiration behind the songs?

Well we are continually writing new songs for our church so that we always keep things fresh and moving forward. We feel that God is always speaking to us and bringing fresh insight to us, so we write from that place. I would say all the songs on Paradise were written with one goal in mind and that is to lead people to worship Jesus. I know it may sound cliché to say that but we honestly just want people to experience the authentic, powerful presence of God in their lives and so we write to that end. The songs on Paradise are basically just the songs that have worked the best in our church over the last year and a half.

IMG_3270.JPG

Can you tell us some more about working together as a team. What obstacles have you overcome?

I think one of the most challenging things about working as a team is that, the very thing you need in a team, which is diversity and people with different strengths, can be the very thing that makes it so hard to work together. We definitely have a lot of different types of people on our team and I love that about our team, but again, it makes it tricky working together sometimes. I think one of the strengths of our team is that we continually bring ourselves back to square one which is keeping our eyes on the main goal, which is building a strong and healthy church that points people to Jesus. Our main goal is not playing music really well or writing the world’s best song necessarily, although we want those things, but it’s in being better followers of Jesus and loving on those who are broken. 

One other strength of our team is that we meet regularly together to work on music, to keep the vision in front of us, to build relationships and keep those healthy, and to work on improving every aspect of what we do. I think for any team, one of the greatest things you can learn how to do as a team member is to continually work on having a thick skin and a soft heart. As humans we naturally have thin skin and a hard heart. But what makes a great team player is someone who is unoffendable and can handle difficult situations with a balance of grace and strength. This will always shine brighter than any musical skill. 

Another thing we have had to learn how to work through is, while working to takes things to a higher level and never accepting mediocrity, never letting our pursuit of excellence take the place of valuing people. People are always the prize. But that doesn't mean that we don't pursue excellence. I think a lot of times people are afraid to bring correction or are afraid to expect people to lift to greatness because they are afraid they will hurt someone’s feelings. But we can see in the Bible that Jesus was never afraid to stir things up a little bit! We must challenge each other and sharpen each other. This is God that we’re serving with our gifts and talents! Love is both strong and kind, gracious and confronting.

For many that are new to Newport Worship, how would you explain your style?

I think we are basically anthem-synth-pop-rock haha. If thats even a genre ha ha. I’m pretty sure I just made that up. We basically just want to write music that causes people to want to worship God. That’s really the end goal. And also an energy and passion to our Church services. We believe that we serve an incredibly big God and we want our music to reflect that.

One other strength of our team is that we meet regularly together to work on music, to keep the vision in front of us, to build relationships and keep those healthy, and to work on improving every aspect of what we do. I think for any team, one of the greatest things you can learn how to do as a team member is to continually work on having a thick skin and a soft heart. As humans we naturally have thin skin and a hard heart. But what makes a great team player is someone who is unoffendable and can handle difficult situations with a balance of grace and strength. This will always shine brighter than any musical skill. 

Another thing we have had to learn how to work through is, while working to takes things to a higher level and never accepting mediocrity, never letting our pursuit of excellence take the place of valuing people. People are always the prize. But that doesn't mean that we don't pursue excellence. I think a lot of times people are afraid to bring correction or are afraid to expect people to lift to greatness because they are afraid they will hurt someone’s feelings. But we can see in the Bible that Jesus was never afraid to stir things up a little bit! We must challenge each other and sharpen each other. This is God that we’re serving with our gifts and talents! Love is both strong and kind, gracious and confronting.

How do you think worship and artistry go together?

I believe that they are very closely related. We all use our creativity and artwork for a particular purpose. So we can either use it to bring attention to ourselves or we can use it to bring attention to God. Music in my mind is just a tool that we use to help point people to Jesus. It is a language that crosses all boundaries and all denominations, races, creeds and colors. I believe God has given us music to unite us together for one purpose and that is to worship Him. I feel that if we are passionate about Jesus, then we should be passionate about using our gifts and talents to the very best of our ability. We serve a God who has given us His finest, His first, and His very life. He deserves our finest, our first and our whole lives in return.

What is next for you guys?

I'm not totally sure. I think the months and weeks ahead we will begin to discover that. I know we have a desire to travel a bit and share what God is doing in our church with other people and other churches and we hope the songs we have written for our church will also be a blessing and speak life into others. As far as songs or albums go, we will just keep writing songs for our church to worship Jesus with. I don’t really see an end to that. 

PARADISE is available now on iTunes


The Power of One

by: Scott Bakken

On January 19, 2015 we launched a campaign in support of charity:water to celebrate the one year anniversary of Socality. The goal was that this community that has formed could give back to a community in need. Water is a basic need of life and there are currently 748 million people living without access to it. For most, we have an overflow of water on a daily basis, but to many, a mere drop would be the answer to a prayer. We know that we can't solve the world's problem, but we can't stand by and not do anything. The craziest thing we can do is nothing. 

The Craziest Thing We Can Do Is Nothing

Over the past three months, the Socality community decided to throw their hearts into this campaign. We planned 20 Instameets in conjunction with Instagram's World Wide Instameet (#wwim) and we used these as opportunities to share and communicate the vision. Perspective Apparel designed a limited edition Socality tee that would help give to the campaign and bring awareness. Community leaders from across the globe stepped up and planned incredible gatherings and many used their social influence to post and share about the campaign. 

Photo by @michael_gilliam

On Sunday, March 29, only 24 hours before the campaign would close, we were still nearly $5000 away from our goal. This is when all hands were in deck. Our community rallied hard to raise these last minute donations and within hours the goal was nearly reached. 1 person to donate $1 could make 1 big change. It wasn't about the amount but rather the participation of every individual. This is what Socality is truly about; what we can do together will always be greater than what we can do on our own. 

Attendees gather in support of charity: water at the Socality WWIM in Florida. 

Attendees gather in support of charity: water at the Socality WWIM in Florida. 

Over 20 instameets held, 24 individual campaigns, over 500 unique donations and over 1000 in attendance at our Instameets have allowed 400 people to have access to clean water!! To say this has excited us would be an understatement. 

Our team is incredibly thankful and blown away by the generosity and commitment others have made towards this movement, community and campaign. 

Thank you for helping us reach the goal. Together we raised $12,000.00. This is the result of everyone playing their part. May we continue to participate and offer what we can in every area make a difference. Never underestimate what you can bring to the table!! 

So, here is to more great things to come from Socality and as long as we are willing and able, may we all continue to BE THE CHANGE the world needs!

All for eternity

Scott and the Socality team.