Our local communities are full of dedicated nonprofits with inspiring missions. TS Prosperity Group wants to celebrate some of these nonprofits by featuring them in our Investing For Good blog series. Next up in the series is newly-formed SHIFT ATL, located in Atlantic, Iowa. Alexsis Fleener, Mackenzie Bandow and TS Banking Group’s own Jessie Shiels serve as co-founders. Read our interview with these three below and stay tuned for additional inspiration from nonprofits serving our community.
Tell us about your nonprofit and its mission.
SHIFT ATL, a local 501c3, was formed in 2019 by a group of young(er) professionals who believe in creating a positive “shift” for the Atlantic community. We aim to be a development catalyst organization by identifying the needs and wants of residents, and creating an actionable plan to move forward. We also serve as a conduit and connector for those that have a passion project but not necessarily the means or backing to get started. Getting the right people and pieces in place to support new and expanding businesses, organizations and projects is at the heart of how we operate.
Our mission is to revitalize Atlantic through projects, services and programs that will enhance the community and foster a sense of development and growth. We are all strictly volunteers and started this organization because we believe in our community and its members, and we want to see it continue to flourish for the next 100 years and beyond.
How and when was your organization started?
In April 2019, we pulled together a small group of community-minded young professionals to see if there was support and interest in something like this, and two short months after, SHIFT ATL became official. The founding members are “transplants” to the Atlantic community within the past five years, and we have all since planted roots here. As we have continued to grow our families and our professional careers, we’ve found a common passion. We want to build upon the success that Atlantic has seen and shift towards new ideas and future development.
We’ve been inspired by the success of local groups and projects like the The Whitney Building and the CBDG Downtown Revitalization grant, as it confirmed to us that there is a great sense of ownership and commitment in Atlantic’s downtown core. We want to help capitalize on the momentum that has been created. Our hope is to work alongside local organizations, businesses, CADCO, the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce, the city, Atlantic Rising, etc. to help keep Atlantic thriving.
We want to learn from those that have been working hard at this long before us, as well as bring new and exciting ideas to the table. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel – we want to keep it rolling! Our goal is to find the untapped potential in Atlantic, uncover it, and shift it forward. We want our community to feel connected to each of our projects and passionate about the outcome.
Where are you at today and what are your future goals?
We started by studying and talking with other communities and similar organizations for inspiration, which led us to our first big undertaking: buying the old Downtowner building, located at 14 E. Fourth Street in Atlantic. We just couldn’t shake the idea of this building being SHIFT ATL’s inaugural re-development project. As of July 19, we own the building! It fits perfectly with our mission to revitalize what is already here and create a beautiful space for people to connect and enjoy for the next 140 years. The first level will become a wine bar/coffee shop (with tenants already identified!) and the upper level will be a two-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment with big beautiful views of downtown.
Currently, we are fundraising with a goal of reaching $150,000 as matching funds for the Community Catalyst grant ($100,000) that we will be applying for this fall and winter.
Our future goals are to continue to fundraise for this project and for other endeavors. We have a list of projects to complete and programs to implement that we’d like to get into our pipeline as work winds down on our first building revitalization. We’d love to have an impact in the housing sector as well as work closely with the school on incentive programs.
Why should someone support your mission?
SHIFT ATL is committed to making a positive impact in the Atlantic community. We constantly work with various groups, individuals and organizations to fulfill our mission. If you connect or identify with our mission we invite anyone to become a part of the SHIFT network.
We often hear a lot of talk of things that would be “nice to have in town” or “programs that should exist”, so now we are here to be the activators. No more talk - let’s make some progress and #makeshifthappen!
What is one way your organization is helping improve the quality of life in our local area?
By bringing people together around a common goal. Yes, we are working on projects that will benefit the community in many ways, but we are doing this by encouraging and empowering people to get involved in community development. Alone, one person cannot do much, but together we can accomplish anything. That mindset and energy is contagious and gets people excited about what is going on.
We understand the start-up capital that it would take a small business owner to buy a building, get it back up in working condition and outfit their commercial space just to get off the ground – and most small business owners cannot afford that on their own. We are working to encourage those that have always had a dream or passion of owning their own business and bringing that to our community by helping to reduce start-up costs for them through a finished retail space.
What do you enjoy most serving in a nonprofit?
Making genuine connections with community members we might not have otherwise met or had the pleasure to work with has been very rewarding. It’s also great to see people come together over a common vision and really rally behind an idea and want to help make sure it comes to fruition. We always knew Atlantic was a supportive community, but since really putting ourselves out there and introducing SHIFT ATL to everyone, we have been positively overwhelmed by the support and kind words.
What do you find is your biggest challenge?
One of the biggest challenges for us so far is that we do not lack for ideas… ha! We are all big dreamers and wish we could do it all right this minute, so we definitely have to rein ourselves back in. We are very fortunate to belong in a community that believes in and supports community development, however that takes shape. Strategizing on how to bring all of our ideas to life in a creative way where they can all feed off of another is something we are striving for every day.
Additionally, as a nonprofit, raising funds is going to be a key part of how we operate. As we are all new to this space, we hope to bring new and fresh fundraising ideas to the community that will bring everyone together and stir up a sense of ownership from everyone.
What is your motivation?
Our motivation is to contribute our time and skills to making our community the best it can be because we are here to stay. We are making things happen one project at a time. We are listening to what community members say is missing or desired here, and then behind the scenes we meet, strategize and make it happen!
What’s your secret to success?
Success never happens without taking risks. The fear of failure and success do not exist in the same space. We’ve found that just finally taking the leap and sharing our vision with anyone that will listen was really the catalyst we needed to reaffirm our confidence in carrying on.
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
We currently work full-time in differing careers and come together to support SHIFT ATL on the side. During the day, it’s all about our careers and ensuring we see continued success there. Then we carve out time to make SHIFT ATL happen.
Sometimes time management is not balanced, but when you are passionate about something you will carve out the time to accomplish your goals. We all make choices about what we give our time to; if it is not a “heck yes” it is a “no.” This is also something that we can easily involve our family, as they are strong supporters and want to see this succeed as well.
Whether our partners know it or not, they will likely be swinging a sledgehammer and helping with demolition (thank you in advance, guys!) and our kiddos can run a paint brush when the time comes.
What was your biggest life lesson?
Not everyone is going to be the biggest supporter of what you are doing, and that’s okay! Stay positive and focused on your mission and goals, and like-minded people will be attracted to that energy and join in your cause.
What advice would you give other people who are interested in entering the nonprofit sector?
If you have a genuine passion for the mission and vision of the organization, be prepared to fall in love! We definitely are not in this sector to make a quick buck, so having a very strong sense of self and direction for what you hope to put into and get out of your organization is key.
How can someone get in contact with you?
You can find us on Facebook, send us an email at email@example.com or contact one of us directly: Jessie Shiels (712-304-2651), Alexsis Fleener (620-388-0535), Mackenzie Bandow (641-660-3050). Our website is currently in the works, so make sure to like our Facebook page to see when we go live!
How are ways others can volunteer or get involved with your organization?
Send a message! We are always looking for like-minded and passionate individuals to come alongside us. When the project gets fully underway, we will be looking for any willing to donate time, in-kind services or just support financially.
Photos: From left to right: SHIFT ATL founders Jessie Shiels, Alexsis Fleener and Mackenzie Bandow.
The former Downtowner building at 14 E. Main St. in Atlantic will house a wine bar and coffee shop.
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