Christy and I just got back from spending a week in New Orleans, eating our way from jazz club to jazz club all day and night. It's a hell of a city! We brought back some pralines for our friends and mild hangovers for ourselves, but I think the best thing we took away was the idea of the Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs started as a way for impoverished African communities in the mid 1800s to band together, paying dues to provide health care for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it and help out community members in times of need, while providing a platform for social get togethers. The groups would throw parties and have parades; it's from the band that followed parades that we get the term "second line". Amongst their charitable help would be to pool funeral expenses, and organizing the jazz funerals New Orleans is famous for. It's still a thriving culture today, though more of the dues go into costumes and parties than joint healthcare.
Building community, providing assistance for people in need, throwing parties and having a good time.... why the hell isn't everyone doing this, we started thinking to ourselves!
Over the next few months we're going to work on putting together our own, local Social Aid and Pleasure Group. Here's how I've got it outlined:
-Member dues are $15 per month, paid annually
-Half of all dues will go into an account to finance get togethers and parties.
-The other half will go into a donation account.
-Every other month, a member will get an allowance to throw a party for everyone. If we have 25 members that's a $375 party budget, for renting a space if needed, or cooking food, paying a band, whatever. The parties will have to be awesome, and if we get some local business owners into the mix, we might be able to stretch that budget by getting discount rental rates or food donations. It will be an event everyone looks forward to.
-Once a year, members vote on where the donation account goes. At 25 members, we'll have $2,250 to give to someone or something in need in the community. Perhaps someone has medical bills they're having trouble with, maybe a local park needs an upgrade. Members can nominate any cause they think we could help. If we have fundraisers periodically throughout the year, we can put that money directly into the donation account.
It's an event for the community to look forward to, an opportunity for people to throw that big party they keep meaning to, a way to get to know the socially active and concerned people around you and a chance to feel good about helping the community out. I'm really into this idea!
Thoughts? Suggestions? Do you have something like this in your community?