Collective Focus Hub, located at 1046 Broadway, offers the community a myriad of free goods and services as well as a safe haven for local creatives looking to foster themselves through self-expression.
The hub, a complete DIY space, has a community closet, a studio room and a classroom. Out front, you can find an herb garden, community fridges and a little library under a bench. The space is also a creative media syndicate, as detailed on its website, and other services include life coaching and group consultations.
“It can be very overwhelming to live in New York City, and it’s really great to go to a place where you have a lot of flexibility to express yourself, share with others and be around like-minded people,” Briana Calderón Navarro told Bushwick Daily.
Co-owners Navarro and Sarah Rooney developed the concept of the hub in 2020 as they got involved in the community fridge network, but it wasn’t until April 1, 2021, that it opened up its doors.
A bookshelf and a table with free stuff can be found next to the entrance. According to Rooney, this lets people know how accessible the space is and that anyone is welcome to either bring donations in or take what is needed.
“There’s a huge need for all kinds of things here,” said Rooney, who moved to the neighborhood during the pandemic. “That’s something we learn every single day. Housing, food, clothing, ESL services, definitely mental health — the holistic health work, I think, is a good partner to mental health,” she continued in reference to some of the events that take place at the hub, which include weekly food distributions every Tuesday, morning meditations on Thursdays, monthly volunteer orientations, Wellness Fairs, performances, workshops and fundraisers.
There is even a divination club that comes together every other Wednesday at the space to practice spirituality.
“I really feel so grateful to have the spiritual work that we’re doing here because I feel like it’s building our community in a deep way,” Rooney shared. “We’ve had some conversations that we hadn’t had with long-term friends in this space.”
Rooney and Navarro refer to their work as “redistribution,” a sustainable model that relies on donations and the circulation of goods among the community.
In terms of food, the Tuesday pantry is made possible through the Driscoll’s-sponsored food reserve program, but “food rescues” can happen any time throughout the week. In one instance a few weeks ago, as mentioned by Rooney, someone had let the team know of a Thanksgiving photoshoot film crew with an excess of food.
“We had turkeys, a ton of baked goods, vegetables, all these biscuit mixes and got to fill the fridges with that,” said Rooney.
Collective Focus is always looking for drivers to help in the transport of items.
The Wellness Fairs, according to Rooney, help the hub gain a deeper knowledge of all the different resources that are available for the community and increases the current network.
“There’s a lot of people who practice reiki and acupuncture and there are students that offer those things for, like, 15 dollars, or at the Wellness Fair, have been doing it for free,” she said. “We can only do so much. But as more people plug in, there’s more that can be offered.”
The newest addition to the hub, the Marketplace, opened on October 2 and showcases products designed and made by local artists. According to Rooney, specific agreements were made with each vendor based on their needs.
“While we’re a business, we’re trying to be creative with the model,” Rooney said, “which is all pay what you wish. Each artist places their products in the market and we agree with people, all individually, what works for them, what they would want to put back.”
The model is on a month-to-month basis where donations to the hub depend on the artist’s profits. Products are set at the artist’s price.
As Collective Focus expands, Navarro shared with Bushwick Daily that she’s most excited for the potential of growth of the place in technology and “futuristic innovation” in “an area that really doesn’t have too many outlets for that yet.”
In regards to the for-profit nature of the community center, Navarro, as an entrepreneur herself, shares that she’s “focused on providing creative opportunities to people so that they can build their own safety nets economically in these hard times.”
“So many people that were coming in to volunteer have their own businesses that they’re interested in doing, their own creative pursuits, their brands or music that they’re trying to foster for themselves. There’s also the reality of people needing money, pay their bills, and needing to feed their families and support their parents and everything,” commented Rooney.
“It’s just finding that duality and compromise that I wouldn’t have agreed with as a newly graduated college student. Now, it makes sense to have a compromised approach and an approach that fits everyone’s needs.”
Though the focus at the current moment is making the place sustainable for the long-term to provide a permanent safe haven for those who need it, Navarro and Rooney hope to eventually pay a stipend to their dedicated volunteers.
You can follow Collective Focus Hub on Instagram or visit the group’s calendar to learn of upcoming volunteer opportunities, gatherings and projects, such as a podcast that will speak with people all over the neighborhood.
Feature image courtesy of Collective Focus Hub
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