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The Story of Motivations

An early Motivations, circa 2005.

To honor 30 years of Cara’s work to eradicate poverty, we are sharing the stories behind the rituals, milestones, and celebrations that have helped build the spirit of our community. In this story, former Cara President & CEO Eric Weinheimer reveals the founding of our signature morning ritual, Motivations.

The room gasped.

“It was 2002 and Cara was a staff of eight or ten people, operating out of a convent at Old St. Patrick’s Church. We had recently lost a trainer, so I was filling in for the class while we found a replacement. The curriculum was pretty standard – how to interview, how to act on the job…but one component was that we asked people to bring a motivational saying each morning and that was how we started class.

“As I got to know the individuals better, we started talking about what was preventing them from being successful on the job. One thing that stood out was fear – fear of being employed, of being sober, of getting their children back. It was a real obstacle.

“I decided to challenge their fears. I said, ‘Tomorrow, bring your motivational saying and bring a song to sing.’ The room gasped.

“The next day, they brought in their assignment. The reaction was immediate and I knew we were on to something special.

“Soon, we started doing away with the motivational sayings and moved towards having a topic – What is your greatest fear? And from there, we began to formalize it as a staff by creating different topics and having a different leader each morning.

“We assembled the seats in the hallway facing each other, no circle yet. The hallway was so cool because you were staring right into each other’s eyes. The reactions were so overwhelming – especially when we started having executives participate and they’d become vulnerable. It was a great equalizer.

“There was a topic every day and we were just doing this for staff and participants. It was small and intimate. There was dancing, crying…We were right there on top of each other. It was a blast.”

Jesse Teverbaugh leads a Motivations in 2008.

What was that?!

“One day, I invited our founder, Tom Owens, to come. I’m at one end of the hallway, he’s at the other. People start getting up to tell their story and it’s getting emotional. I look down later and I see him weeping. He’s doing everything to keep it together and he can’t.

“He was just blown away by the experience.

“We come upstairs afterwards and he says, ‘What was that?!’ and I said it was a little exercise to get us motivated for the day. He looked at me and said, ‘You can’t do that every day?!’ And I said why can’t we? Healing comes one day at a time and that’s what we were doing together.

“Then I will never forget the expression on Tom’s face. He looked at me and said, ‘Get everyone down here. Every volunteer, every partner, every funder!’ “Right there, he was hooked.”

A room full of love.

“It was easy to adapt Motivations into a part of how we showcase the work Cara does. Sure, we can show people the jobs board with our numbers and where our trainings happen, and that’s fine, but people need to touch and feel missions and movements. They need to be part of an experience.

“People would visit Cara and say they cannot relate to our participants. They never lived in a shelter or have never struggled financially. It used to anger me because we all had fears or struggles. It’s sharing a story making a connection.

“I think part of what makes Motivations such a compelling experience, is that we relate to one another. In that circle, everyone is sharing a story. We make a connection, we move people. We are overwhelmed with the joy, generosity, vulnerability, and hospitality. It’s a room full of love. We need a space like this with joy and laughter, clapping and singing.

“The vast majority of great ideas and movements are created by a small group of people in a room somewhere. The most powerful things are the ones that are organic and you can see the handprints of the people who created it. “Motivations is a living breathing thing. It’s an experience that moves people and connects us and that’s the beauty and power of it.”

Your support ensures more rituals, milestones, and celebrations will be celebrated with our community over the next 30 years. Plus, for the month of September, all gifts made in honor of our 30th Anniversary will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000 thanks to a generous gift from The Owens Foundation. Please click here to make a gift.