We had the good fortune of connecting with Caryn Blanton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caryn, how do you think about risk?
Not long ago I read an article that talked about how parents should encourage their children to take big risks. The author gave the example of his college aged daughter going away by herself to Korea to work for an international organization. She was in a totally different culture, didn’t know anyone there, didn’t speak the language, found herself alone is some pretty sketchy situations…and she loved it! She grew in maturity and in confidence. The author felt that the bar for risk was set high and she would be better equipped to handle what life would bring. For him, this is the way that we can instill the knowledge that they can do hard things. Agreed. I feel that from a young age, I’ve been fearless. I’ve done a lot of hard things in my life, starting at a young age, and because of that, I know that things have a way of working out – and usually, for the best. I am not afraid to try, to give it my all or to fail. I’ve risked plenty of times before and, for the most part, I’ve come out stronger. I’ve built confidence. As a young girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. By age twelve, I was dancing five days a week and by fourteen, it was seven. I lived, breathed, ate, walked, dressed and thought like a dancer. Risky? You bet! I gave up just about everything to spend time in a dance studio. I gave up every summer to do intensive study with master teachers in places I’d never been with people I didn’t know. And when I was a senior in high school, I began the audition process amidst fierce competition and ended up with a professional contract. Confirmation. Hard work pays off and all the blood, sweat, tears and risk are worth it when you are able to follow your heart and do the thing that brings you joy. That set me on a journey. When most of my peers were going down traditional paths of college, work and marriage, I decided to risk money and status. I pushed myself – always striving for excellence. Training for a spot on the U.S. Olympic fencing team (I got pregnant – bye-bye Barcelona!), earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do – tough stuff! Moved our family to Tokyo for a couple of years to experience life in another country…why not? But then life got really challenging. My marriage fell apart and I became a single mom. Little by little, the life I knew dissolved and I had to put a new life in place; much to my surprise, I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. There were too many details. Too many pressures. Too many barriers. With the help of family and friends, I went back to work, earned a degree and raised two sons. I eventually remarried. Was it difficult? Oh, yeah. The hardest thing I’ve ever done. But, I knew I could do hard things – I had a track record and I would do it again…and again…and again! By this point, I had entered a new career in community development. Gone were the days of being the lone wolf, figuring it out on my own. The risk I took this time was learning to live life with others, collaborating, hearing from my neighbors and finding ways to move forward together. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s hard. But, hey – I can do hard things! My work here in San Diego, first with Pacific Beach Street Guardians and now with Shoreline Community Services, has benefited from my “risky behavior”. Serving vulnerable people who live on the margins is a challenge – a real challenge. Working to bring along my community to join in the effort is also difficult. It’s not glamorous and it doesn’t pay very well. The thing I want to do most in my life is to show people the joy in working together. To address the pressing issues and see how we can organize and solve them as a community. To help people realize their unique skills and gifts and see how they can bring them to the solution and to open their eyes to see the unique skills and gifts of others and how they also fit. People caring for each other with compassion and equity. Interdependence. It’s the way to get things done. Especially the hard things. Want to learn more about our work? www.shorelinecs.org
What should our readers know about your business?
Shoreline Community Services Change happens in relationship. That’s what we believe at Shoreline Community Services. When relationships are formed, people will change – ALL of the people! Shoreline Community Services serves as the nexus – the central point of connection in our community – making sure the most vulnerable in the Central Beach Area of San Diego are cared for with compassion and equity. We are able to access existing resources and services to be sure those in need have them as is necessary. Our current focus is to address the unmet needs of unsheltered individuals and families in the Central Beach Area. Shoreline Community Services steps into these gaps by offering meals, resources, services and access to housing options. Just in the last few months we have: • Been a part of more than 50 meal services, serving over 2300 meals. • Connected 14 people to housing • Supported a couple experiencing homelessness during pregnancy, birth and adoption • Offered an informational session for community members to gain a deeper understanding of the issues of homelessness, the root causes, the systemic problems and the myths that often surround them • Created a training program for Mobility Mentors highlighting trauma informed care and one on one coaching to assist people on their journey to self-sufficiency We are changing lives by giving people the resources and tools they need to do it! We are committed to a neighborhood that looks different. We imagine an interdependent community – aligned together – that creates a thriving, safe and welcoming neighborhood for everyone. We’re excited to keep engaging those who want to be a part of it with us!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in Pacific Beach…I say you need to park your car and explore our community by foot or on a bike. We would cruise the boardwalk. People watch. Grab some food and drinks – Miss B’s Coconut Club, Pueblo, Crushed, Dirty Birds; Lahaina’s or Shoreclub for a sunset, Farmer’s Markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays, for sure. Pick up some local gifts at Pangaea. My guests would also find themselves serving at one of the meal services offered to folks who need food and getting to know some of the people who participate.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Wow! So many people so, many organizations, so many books – here’s a start: People – My mother who listened to my childhood questions about equity and showed me not to be afraid to step in to relationships with people who were different than me. Christine Brookes-Nolf, my first boss in community development, who taught me that a holistic approach to broken relationships is the answer to transforming communities. Organizations – Mika Community Development Corporation, Christian Community Development Association, Urban Youth Workers Institute, Pacific Beach Street Guardians. Books – “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “When Helping Hurts”, “Visioneering”, “The Way of the Heart”, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”