In July, 2018, in response to the news of children being separated from their families at the border, 8 POCA clinics successfully raised over $5,000 for the Florence Project. The Florence Project (FIRRP) is a legal aid and social service organization in Arizona that, among other things, provides free legal services to families who have been separated at the border. The MBC interviewed Mayo Mercedes Wardle from Phoenix Community Acupuncture and Stephani Sarnoski from Stuck Community Acupuncture who coordinated the fundraiser to share what they did and what they learned. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.
What inspired you to run this fundraiser?
Mayo: The children, and the parents obviously, but the widespread child abuse and neglect that was and is being perpetrated by this administration. I was honestly losing sleep and crying at the gym and thinking- there’s nothing I can do. I don't have enough money to make a difference, and I'm not saying small donations don't count, but it just didn't feel like enough. I don't even have a large pool of friends to do a gofundme or other online fundraiser. I felt really small and helpless. It sounds goofy, but I honestly prayed and I was like what can I do? It suddenly hit me that I have a group of people at work. Like a TON of people. So I decided to give treatments for a donation to FIRRP.
Stephani: Honestly, lately I've felt powerless. It's as if all these atrocities are occurring and I can't stop them. I didn't like that and wanted to change it, so I sat down and figured out what tools I had at my disposal. The first thing that I thought of was the clinic and the community of liberation acupuncturists that I've met through POCA. Mayo and I had been talking about what we could do to help the children being impacted by the immigration policies in this country and she had found the Florence Project and I decided to join in. I felt like other passionate folks in the POCA community would be interested so I reached out to them. We raised $5,295.50 collectively. That's way more than any of us would have been able to do on our own. At Stuck's specific fundraiser, we had acupuncture by donation, chair massage by donation, snacks and a band playing in the courtyard outside our clinic. All the folks involved were volunteers. It was on a day the clinic isn't normally open.
What was the most challenging part of running it?
Mayo: We are a nonprofit, and I had to talk to two accountants who both deal in non profits and they gave me conflicting answers [about fundraising for another nonprofit]. At one point I thought I wasn't going to be able to do it and I freaked out. What we settled on was doing the day on a day the “clinic” is not usually open, I donated my time so I wasn't paid salary, and we didn't take credit cards directly- we took cash or check made out to FIRRP, or they could go online to their website and donate there. We also charged a different rate. I basically made things as non PhxCA as possible- we just used me and the location.
Stephani: Getting on the same page as the other clinics. My Front Office Manager created a flyer for us all to use and everyone had different dates and different ideas of what they were going to donate. The other challenging aspect was trying to figure out what was possible or allowed for us to do as a nonprofit.
What was most rewarding or eye opening?
Mayo: So I told Stephani that I was gonna do this, and she’s like, me too! It didn't occur to me that other people would join in at all, so I was just gonna do it on my own. But she was like “let’s share this” and we got some other clinics in on it. Her receptionist kept it all really well organized because we were dealing with multiple clinics, who did things on different days, and some did a percent of each treatment given in an otherwise normal week. So that was really amazing to me, that together we made a larger impact than any one person, or any one clinic.
Stephani: The most rewarding [part] was seeing the community come together. Also, being able to mail the check in from my clinic and hear about what other clinics had raised that day or month and watching us support each other in collective activism was extremely rewarding.
What are the nitty gritty details that made it work?
Mayo: Honestly- we just did what we always do. One of the things I think is the most effective way to see a lot of people quickly and efficiently is treating “in a circle.” I do not let people sit wherever they want. They are sat clockwise and so I'm moving around needling, and pulling needles in a certain order and it keeps me from getting confused, making mistakes, and it’s WAY faster.
Stephani: Organization. Collaboration. Knowing where to send the money.
How did you advertise it?
Mayo: We didn't do much advertisement: Facebook, Twitter, and fliers around the clinic. We see 250 people a week and they were happy to have a Saturday they could get acupuncture (normally they don't) .
Stephani: We had posters around the clinic, our reception told patients as they were leaving their treatment and they were excited to have a weekend day. We shared posters via Facebook and Instagram and posted images the day of.
Would you recommend other clinics doing something similar?
Stephani: Of course. We should all be doing everything we can collectively to make the world a better place. We all have our clinics and they are a valuable resource to create change and even generate money for social justice in our immediate communities.