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Inspiring Conversations with Jason Sowell of Current Initiatives

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Sowell

Hi Jason, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a native Floridian and have spent my whole life in Florida. I’ve been a Tampa resident since 2000. I started Current Initiatives 12 years ago after spending ten years as a youth pastor and teaching pastor at a few local churches where my passion became missions work. I became dissatisfied with much of my missions experience in the church world as I started realizing I was passing neighborhoods in my own city that had big needs to fly to another country to work on things like helping build churches, which was important, but I would leave these places feeling like we overlooked basic needs like helping them get the medication they didn’t have access to, etc. I wanted to do something more tangible for my own city. In 2008, I started Current Initiatives to do just that and we began with our first initiative, the Laundry Project, which assists lower-income individuals and families by taking over a laundromat for a day and covering all expenses associated with and providing the necessary items required to wash and dry clothes and linens. From there, we started the Hopes for Homes Project, which provides complimentary remodeling and improvement work on homes owned by working-class families facing financial challenges with home repairs and maintenance. Volunteers work to repair damaged roofs and porches, remodel kids’ rooms and bathrooms, update energy-inefficient kitchens, and more. Our third initiative, called Affordable Christmas, began in 2012, which is a seasonal initiative giving needy families and parents the opportunity to purchase holiday gifts for their children for no more than $10 an item. Studies show that purchasing gifts, rather than receiving them for free, gives empowerment and dignity to these working parents who need a hand up.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Every journey has its ups and downs, and my journey with Current has been no different. When I started Current, I had no idea how to run a non-profit organization and raise money. When we started the Laundry Project, I knew virtually nothing about laundromats and no real plan to organize the projects, but we figured it out as we went. We’ve learned to put together fundraising plans and build budgets etc. The first six years of Current’s existence, I worked part-time at Starbucks to keep my bills paid and spent most of my free time trying to build Current into a sustainable organization. In 2016 we lost one of our most beloved Board Members at 44 years old to cancer. It was a gut punch for me personally as well as for the organization. He was the most encouraging person, filled with hope and positivity. In his honor, we adopted our mantra of being Hope Dealers to our communities through meeting tangible needs and helping to create dignity and empowerment for the families we serve.

We’ve been impressed with Current Initiatives, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Current Initiatives is a Tampa-based non-profit organization with the mission of educating & mobilizing communities to be Hope Dealers through the Laundry Project, Hope For Homes Project & Affordable Christmas initiatives. Our most prevalent initiative is the Laundry Project, which assists lower-income individuals and families by taking over a laundromat for a day and covering all expenses associated with and providing the necessary items required to wash and dry clothes and linens. Another Current initiative is Affordable Christmas, which is a seasonal initiative giving needy families and parents the opportunity to purchase holiday gifts for their children for no more than $10 an item. Studies show that purchasing gifts, rather than receiving them for free, gives empowerment and dignity to these working parents who simply need a hand up. Our third initiative, the Hopes for Homes Project, provides complimentary remodeling and improvement work on homes owned by working-class families facing financial challenges with home repairs and maintenance. Volunteers work to repair damaged roofs and porches, remodel kids’ rooms and bathrooms, update energy-inefficient kitchens, and more. I think I’m most proud of our philosophy of charitable work. We believe how you meet needs is just as important as what needs you meet. Charity should create dignity and empowerment, not dependency. We do what we can to implement this philosophy into all of our initiatives. We want to help parents and individuals be the hero to their own families rather than us be the hero so we try to create opportunities for them to do that through examples like Affordable Christmas, where parents can purchase new gifts for their kids in a budget-friendly way so they can go home and give their kids a good Christmas rather than strangers giving those toys to their kids for them. I’m also very proud of our Laundry Project initiative which meets a basic, largely overlooked and taken for granted need. Clean laundry brings a lot of dignity, and most people take clean laundry for granted. For many families, clean laundry is a luxury rather than a regularity because they are often choosing between buying groceries or washing their clothes due to being lower-income and financial struggles. To date, we’ve washed over 200,000 loads of laundry for more than 20,000 families in 14 states. We’ve made national news and been honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as a Community Hero, People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” and Creative Loafing’s Best of the Bay.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
So many books and podcasts but here are a few of my top ones at the moment: Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Shultz The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer Podcasts: Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard How I Built This with Guy Raz The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber The Michelle Obama Podcast Also therapy. I’d say it’s one of the most important resources someone can use. I think there has always been a weird stigma about it, but being emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy shouldn’t have a stigma. Get a good therapist at the very least to have a third party professional to talk through life and work with.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Current Initiatives JLAT Photography The Daniel Cura

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