Plugged In – Celebrate Springfield with Erin Danastasio

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For this “Plugged In” episode of the SGF Insider Podcast⸺ hosted by LeadSGF Executive Director Carrie Richardson⸺ we sat down with Erin Danastasio to discuss her role as Executive Director of the Hatch Foundation and how Celebrate Springfield came to be. Keep reading for a recap of the enlightening discussion.

Tell us about yourself and what you do!

“I love Springfield, this place is absolutely home.” Erin’s family moved her when she was still a baby, and while she left for a brief time to go to college at Mizzou, she knew she’d return to Springfield. Now she’s a mother of three: twin girls who are 11 and a son who is six. Her husband has an architecture firm he founded with her brother. She shared that they are a very close-knit family. She is the Executive Director of the Hatch Foundation, which is actually her family’s company. Their main mission is to “build a better sense of community within Springfield. Springfield has supported our family businesses for 40 years, and we sold them back at the end of 2019. That’s when we started Hatch. We just thought ‘this community had been so supportive of us for so long. What can we do to help give back?’” Erin shared that they partner with Ozark Greenways, the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, as well as entrepreneur programs, arts programs, and more.

An important aspect of the Hatch Foundation’s work is the Blue Ribbons and Red Flags in our community, similar to Leadership Springfield. “[Our programs for Leadership Springfield] dive into how we can move the needle on red flags, [but at the same time], preserving and celebrating those blue ribbons is equally important,” Carrie shared.

Erin agreed with Carrie saying, “So many foundations focus on the red flags, which is critical. But if you don’t pay attention to the blue ribbons, they will actually become red flags down the road.” This is where Celebrate Springfield comes in!

How did Celebrate Springfield come to be?

In 2021, Erin participated in the Chamber’s Community Leadership Visit in Springfield. “It was really unique to be able to visit my hometown,” Erin shared. It’s a 3-day program and you hear about all the things that Springfield does so well and some of the areas that we struggle in. There were a couple of moments where Erin discovered things about the town that she’d never known were available or had been too intimidated to try out. For example, I didn’t realize you could go to the Boathouse and just rent a kayak. It came down to potential barriers in the way of discovering and participating in the things our community has to offer. Celebrate Springfield came about to remove these barriers and help people become more aware of opportunities in our community.

Celebrate Springfield is a year-long effort that culminates into an intensive month of focus on a particular area. What was last year’s focus?

So last year (the first year) was focused on the outdoors. During the month of September, they partnered with featured events and purchased tickets for people who might not be able to get them on their own. “We also developed a website that’s been updated for this year with a list of all upcoming events. You can filter activities based on your needs: family-friendly activity, free admission, and even the time duration.” That month-long effort culminated in an all-day, free community event at Jordan Valley Park on October 2, 2022!

What is the Celebrate Springfield theme for this year?

“Arts and culture is our theme for 2023,” Erin excitedly shared, “We have so many different organizations in Springfield that are arts and culture focused.” Celebrate Springfield is all about highlighting what is available and how people can get involved.

What can we expect for the time leading up to the big Celebrate Springfield event?

October 1st is the big celebration this year. Leading up to this, Celebrate Springfield will have a lot of posts on social media and their website highlighting things to do. Erin shared that you could find many activities throughout September on celebratesgf.com under ‘Featured Events’ and ‘Things to Do’. Many events and organizations in the local arts scene take the summer off, so September is a great time because so much is getting started again! The Japanese Fall Festival and Cider Days are coming up, and the Symphony and The Little Theatre will start shows again soon. Celebrate Springfield will be creating videos to show you around the arts scene and remove that intimidation barrier: what to expect at Juanita K. Hammons Hall, what to wear to the Little Theatre, where to purchase tickets, and where to park. (Erin gave a shoutout to co-chair Leslie Forester for this genius idea!). Mary Kromery and Megan Buchbinder are also co-chairs for Celebrate Springfield this year. People can also expect various giveaways including tickets for a fashion show fundraiser hosted by the Springfield Arts Museum.

What can we expect from the big event?

The big event is on Sunday, October 1 from 12-4 pm at the Springfield Art Museum. They encourage people to walk or ride bikes, if possible because parking is difficult. There will be off-site parking at the MSU parking lot on the corner of Grand and National, with a shuttle running to and from the museum.

Erin went into more detail about the event, including the promise of food trucks, a lineup of performers in the amphitheater on the Hatch lawn, performances from Springfield Ballet and Springfield Little Theatre, booths for the local art organizations and vendors to showcase their art, and a stage for live music! The Springfield Art Museum will also be open all day.

What is your favorite part about Celebrate Springfield?

“My favorite part is just learning more about Springfield and being able to work with individuals that I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise, or at least not in such an intimate setting. It’s so fun to hear everybody’s idea and what they’re passionate about.”

I know we’ve been primarily focused on Celebrate Springfield, but tell me a little more about the Hatch Foundation: what do you do and how do you share what you’ve learned with others?

“Philanthropy is something that my grandfather started to teach me at a young age and my whole family is very passionate about it.” Erin shared that her family always talks about how to bring the next generation along and how to educate them on empathy and philanthropy. At the end of her daughter’s third-grade year, they told her that they wanted to start a foundation! They said, “Well, we learned about the benefits of blueberries and the antioxidants, and we want to buy all of the blueberries and give them to cancer patients.” Erin continued, “We knew of so many organizations locally and nationally helping to raise money for cancer patients and so we decided to shift the focus to something we could have a more tangible effect on.” They went on to start the Junior Donation Foundation a little over two years ago and it focuses primarily on foster care and animals. The foundation partners with organizations like Foster Adopt Connect for a back-to-school bash to promote item donation opportunities on the Facebook accounts. They focus on opportunities for people, and kids, to donate and volunteer to learn about service.

Erin went on to share about how she learned about philanthropy growing up from her family, and how she hopes to continue teaching her kids about its importance through demonstrating it. Her grandmother and grandfather always gave scholarships to students in their hometown of Ellington and Missouri State University, which is where she first saw philanthropy in her life. Erin herself got to join and participate on the board of the Darr Family Foundation as a young adult and got to learn more deeply about the scope of needs in our community. She hopes to pass on that heart of philanthropy to her children and the next generation by demonstrating it through efforts with the Hatch Foundation and beyond.

What do you envision for the future of Celebrate Springfield?

“Eventually we will run out of themes and then we’ll come back and revisit them. And what I love about that is it gives us an opportunity to see our growth and change,” Erin shared as a dream for Celebrate Springfield reflecting on how it’s incredible what this community can do in a short amount of time. “Maybe Celebrate Springfield will become its own full-force non-profit,” she went on to share. Right now, Celebrate Springfield is an initiative with a committee of about 25 people who volunteer their time to create resources and experiences for community members. “If I’m dreaming big, this will have its own legs, its own staffing, and people that are really dedicated to doing all the research, finding all the things, constantly updating the website, because all of that takes so much time and effort.”

Celebrate Springfield is such a great resource for our community, and we are thankful to have amazing leaders on the committee working hard to pull it all together!

Contributors: Lauren Johns, Communications Intern Summer 2023; Hayley Cobb, Communications Director

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