1901784_10202820030479544_8232251746855549974_nMost people associate gift exchanges with the season of giving, but one Indianapolis resident found that her community was open to sharing their gifts and talents all year round.

Danicia Malone, Capacity Building Specialist at the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, dreamed of bringing people together and encouraging them to their own skills and gifts to those around them. Danicia used her Focus 2020 grant to create a series of events that connected individuals to the larger community by not only providing them with skills to take away, but by inviting them to give something of themselves in exchange.

Danicia shared, “In the world that I lived in, it was very easy for people to not share their skills with each other, especially not share their talents. Indianapolis is a funny beast sometimes, people get very attached to what they have so we were looking for opportunities to authentically share their gifts and talents with each other and gain something new from someone else.”

The first event was a public debate about gentrification in which teams from Butler and IUPUI engaged in a debate and then opened up the floor to questions from observers. The topic sparked a variety of opinions from the community and provided a platform for the issue to be discussed in a constructive manner.

The second part of the project was a cultural night of the Gift Exchange where over 30 people set up booths to share their talents with those who attended. The skills varied from cooking to dancing and included everything from how to make home-made soap to a simple game of hopscotch, anything that could engage the community was shared by all.

Danicia added, “This project was unique because we gave the power over to them. We do a lot of things at our trainings where we’re curating something; we are giving you knowledge that we feel worthwhile. But for this event, we’re really calling upon the knowledge and the passion of the people.”

More than 350 attended the events and walked away with something new, whether it was a new talent or a personal connection to someone in the community. Danicia is looking forward to finishing the last part of the project which will engage high school students in a similar type of gift exchange.

By recognizing the giving nature of people in the community and creating a space for them to share their talents with one another, this Focus 2020 project was able to truly be the gift that kept on giving.

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