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Get Inspired! Project-Angela Kase

Listen to the interview here!

Angela Kase

Toni Reece: Hi there. This is Toni Reece. Welcome to the Get Inspired! Project for Berks County Living Magazine. Today I am with Angela Kase. Angela, welcome to the Get Inspired! Project.

Angela Kase: Thanks for having me.

Toni: Angela, take a moment and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Angela: I work for Our Town Foundation in Hamburg. We do community revitalization there, and we also host the upcoming Taste of Hamburger Festival that’s coming up on August 31st, which is a huge community-wide event where we have a lot of hamburgers, and a lot of people happy to eat those hamburgers. It’s a great opportunity for different organizations to raise money for themselves by selling water, burgers, and it also showcases all of our great local businesses, and gets people to discover those as well.

Toni: I went last year for the first time, and it was really an amazing event. That’s pretty exciting. Let’s go into the Project. What does inspiration mean to you?

Angela: I think inspiration is when someone does something or has some sort of skill or attribute that you say, “Wow! I really want to be like that,” or, “I want to change my way of thinking or change my course of action based on this other person.” I think that’s what inspiration is.

Toni: So it’s an action that you see that moves you into wanting to emulate that.

Angela: Yes. I also think it could be a perspective. Someone could have a unique perspective that really convinces you that you need to think about something a different way. I think that can also be in there.

Toni: Have you experienced that recently? Can you give us an example of a time when you were inspired to do something like that?

Angela: Someone in Berks County, or just in general?

Toni: Just in general.

Angela: Okay. I would say the most inspirational thing I’ve ever seen or experienced would be I went to Egypt for about five-and-a-half weeks with my college, and we went there to work with the Sudanese refugees. It was just a group of people that were very joyful, and they were people who didn’t have anything – nothing that you or I have. They didn’t even have permanent places to live. They were just in this community trying to be educated and work through things until they can return, basically, back to Sudan. That inspired me above anything.

Toni: What were you doing? What was your mission for the trip?

Angela: We were there to teach the Sudanese refugees English. It sounds very honorable, but in reality, we just assisted teachers, and then we were able to get to know the people. I wouldn’t say that we went there and we did this magnificent act and changed people’s lives, but we were changed afterwards because we got to meet them and interact with them.

Toni: That is what’s so cool about this Project – we get to hear from people like you who have done things like that. That’s pretty cool. How do you put that type of inspiration and that type of an example, really, into practice here in Berks County?

Angela: I do neighborhood revitalization for Hamburg, so I work at the southern end of town. I think it’s just important to see … people in Sudan, for instance, have all these obstacles against them, and we’re just a community in Hamburg. We have normal obstacles, but they’re not nearly as large as the people have in some of the other countries, so I can use that as inspiration to say, “You know what? We can fight through this, and we can slow traffic, or we can change the look of our town, or make it more green.” Things that sound a lot smaller, and they seem like we can tackle them then.

Toni: What a change in perspective that is. Do you find it easy then to change other people’s perspective that the work that you’re doing to change a block or a community is a little bit easier than they first think to do?

Angela: I think it can be difficult if people haven’t gone through that experience. I think the best way to help them to see that we can change things is by doing something little to change something. Once they see the results, they want to hop on, and they want to say, “Okay, we can actually do this.” They’re encouraged that it’s possible.

Toni: Give me an example of something that you’ve done that you changed a perspective or you changed a community. Give me an example of a success.

Angela: It could be in Hamburg or anywhere?

Toni: Anything taking your inspiration and what you’ve done to put that into practice.

Angela: When I was at Alvernia, I was a graduate student there, and we went to the Dominican Republic to work with some folks. We were able to create a sustainability program for that organization down there, and create a website for it, and then inspire others to come down and get involved, because if you see nonprofits in other countries, you might say, “How can I get involved with that?” We tried to make it practical so that people, any organization, can hop onto that project.

Toni: To do what?

Angela: They could go down there and they could volunteer strategically to train people, like doing job training. Engineers could go down and try to solve some of the water issues that are going on down there. They have a big problem with what to do with the trash that’s all over the neighborhood. By giving them practical tasks, it’s not just … I mean, that project, a youth group can't go down and do that. We need skilled folks – but how do we reach the skilled folks if no one knows that that’s a need that’s there?

Toni: Absolutely. So no minor project, again, that you were part of.

Angela: No, it wasn’t.

Toni: Who in Berks County inspires you?

Angela: I would say Dr. Carrie Fitzpatrick would be my biggest inspiration. She was the leader of the graduate program I attended at Alvernia. I went into the program thinking I wanted to work in University life, and she inspired me to work in nonprofit, because I think she just laid out how to start something, how to make it sustainable, and don’t ever recreate the wheel. That was her big thing that she taught us, which is a timesaver and it helps us to do things more efficiently, I think.

Toni: What does that mean? Tell me what that means, “Don’t recreate the wheel.”

Angela: I think it means don’t create a resource that’s already there. For instance, right now in Hamburg, we have a problem with people speeding through town. It’s just like a highway when you enter. It’s supposed to be 25 miles per hour. I found a website that equips neighborhoods to put together this program that they have already laid out for us that encourages people to just go 25. It has signs that we can just order that are already premade. It tells you which groups to go to in your community, how to get the word out about the program. It just makes it easier for us, because then we can say, “Okay, this is our problem, this is the organization that already has something, so now we can just do their program.”

Toni: That’s fantastic!

Angela: Yes.

Toni: What do you want your legacy to be?

Angela: I think my legacy would be that people are the most important, and any project or accolades you can get are less important than serving and caring and respecting the people around you. I think that can get pushed off to the side sometimes, even when we don’t realize it, because we’re working too hard or we’re putting a lot of hours into a project. The people around us are important, and they shouldn’t be forgotten.

Toni: And so focus on why you’re doing something, not just what you’re doing.

Angela: Yes. Don’t run over anyone in the process.

Toni: I so agree with you. Angela, I found this to be a very inspiring interview. Thank you so much for being part of the Get Inspired! Project.

Angela: Thanks for having me.





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