#RocCity Doer: Becca Delaney

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#RocCity Doer: Becca Delaney

Joseph Barcia, RocCity Coalition

Rochester’s Fast Forward Film Festival is an annual competitive short film festival that encourages Rochester-area filmmakers of all experience levels to shed light on environmental causes.

Fast Forward has had Becca Delaney as its project director since it launched in early 2014. By day she runs Delaney Marketing, a cause marketing firm, and is also an adjunct professor at RIT and St. John Fisher College.

Fast Forward welcomes advisory council members, volunteers for its various events throughout the year, and community sponsors to ensure free or low cost programming. Later this month there are two free Fast Forward screenings: June 29 at 6:30 p.m. on the Memorial At Gallery’s front lawn and June 30 at 8:30 p.m. at the City of Rochester Public Market.

RocCity Coalition is a collection of people from various facets of the community whom are connecting with one another to achieve a stronger Rochester. Becca is a person of action whose path aligns with the coalition’s Vision 2025 plan.

Becca shared some thoughts about feeling called to Rochester, doing what she loves, and the power of opening up to one’s network.

What brought you to Rochester?
I often say it was just meant to be. I tend to be someone who comes up with crazy ideas and I’m creative about making it happen, and Rochester has lent itself to that since I moved here. I grew up in Syracuse and both my parents didn’t go to college, so St. John Fisher College was the perfect fit for me through their first-generation scholarship. I graduated St. John Fisher with a communications and journalism degree and went on to RIT to get a master’s degree in marketing and technology. I have always loved Rochester for the art, the many, many festivals, the activism, the people here and much more. I convinced my sister and her family to move back here from the DC area. Rochester is slightly larger [than Syracuse], and it’s always been the right balance to keep me happy hobby-wise.

Now I’m trying to help as many causes as I can, and that has made me entrepreneurial. I started my company to fill a niche here in Rochester, and Delaney Marketing has done just that. I wanted to find a way to help Rochester so even though the niche route, business-model-wise, can prove to be difficult to make as quick of a profit. I believe that we’ve already surpassed the odds – we’ve filled a void and been able to step in to help not-for-profits of every size. When you’re passionate and love what you do, energy exudes you, and it shows to everyone around you. In my work, that passion has brought the right people and the right causes to our doorstep.

One way you’re making a difference is through your company, Delaney Marketing.
By 26 I opened Delaney Marketing’s doors. I told myself, “I will go to work and I will love what I do” and I was set out to make a company that was all about tapping into your passion. We are a nonprofit-focused cause marketing firm and we work with a range of causes – from mental illness, to sustainability, to poverty, and much more. Delaney Marketing has found the perfect fit of energetic people to the company and we leech onto causes that we can get personally get passionate about to make a big difference. We’re set out to raise as much money as possible for the cause and raise as much awareness in conjunction with our efforts. I have around a dozen causes each year right now, and we continue to expand. Fast Forward Rochester is just one for 2017 that we plan and implement.

Becca Delaney at East High School talking to the Science Stars about Fast Forward Film Festival

How did Fast Forward come about?
The idea for Fast Forward came from Dr. Andrew Stern in a coffee shop in 2014. I was working full-time at a corporate company and began looking for an opportunity that would help me align my interests in my work. I told my mentors I had kept in touch with in my network that I was open to other opportunities, which led to meeting Andy. I was told “we’d get along great” and that proved to be very accurate. We were kindred spirits – passionate about Rochester, and passionate about environmental awareness. Andy said he wanted to raise environmental awareness in Rochester. It has been a privilege to be a part of something from the beginning. From helping to concept and name the film festival to creating the business plan, to running the project year-round. From building an advisory council, and pulling a team together, this was the first of now many clients I was able to get behind and attach my passion to. My work no longer  felt like my job; it was blend of passion, energy, and hard work day in and day out. I took someone’s idea, expanded upon it, and was there to implement and grow it to success.

What do you like best about Fast Forward?
In my opinion, the coolest part about Fast Forward is how accessible the festival is – it’s a true ‘platform’ for storytellers and people who care about our environment. We put out a unique competition-style short film festival about raising awareness. When we do a call for entries, we tell Rochesterians to “make something that makes people laugh or makes people cry – something you can get behind.” We receive entries ranging on topics from beekeeping and the Flower City Pickers to a young man using comedy and humor to highlight the Paris Climate Agreement to a student from East High School rapping about the environment. We are using short film as the platform to tell environmental stories. If you can tell your story beautifully in five minutes or less and are selected by our acclaimed jury, your story is shown on “the big screen” across Rochester venues. It’s been amazing to watch someone as young as nine engage with this platform.

Would you consider Fast Forward a success story?
Success for me was seeing what we can do in this community to create conversations, and change. The dream would be that yes we all take a step into our everyday lives to change what’s in our own control – from replacing our light bulbs, to eliminating waste whenever possible – but the greater dream of this movement is that we helped focus on the environment in this community. It all starts on a local level. If we start doing things a little differently, big change can happen here, and that’s where I get excited about this work. We’ve already had conversations about bringing Fast Forward to other cities and I think this effort is easy to replicate. We’ve started the process of documenting how we did it. It’s simply a platform. People in Rochester already cared about the environment; we didn’t have this platform and now we do. I would also say we have grown the environmental community and connected like-minded individuals and companies to create conversations, efforts, and partnerships.

At our premiere festival weekend every year during Earth Week we try to get filmmakers and amateurs to network, environmentalists and artists to mingle and talk about something. We don’t need just five minute films that are shown just once a year. How do you create action in the community? You put them together and hope they talk and create something. Three of our past filmmakers are working on an environmental film. A teacher at RIT came and said, “I want to add a class on environmental filmmaking,” and now it is happening. This is the type of collaboration that will affect Rochester for generations to come. It’s not just a trade show. This is people interacting in a space, watching, being motivated and inspired, learning something, and then going home and changing their behavior.

What’s next for Delaney Marketing?
We are moving from Village Gate to the Public Market District. We are all about the city. I want to give my money to local business owners and we’re excited to be walking distance to Boxcar Donuts, the new doughnut shop on Railroad Street, and to the Public Market. My company focuses mostly on planet and people, which has turned into profit – but in that order. To grow, we focused on working the hardest we could, and we brought unique approaches and ideas to the table, which led to fantastic word of mouth. I also think Delaney Marketing has a way to be replicated [by others]. I’m proving in this community you can focus on nonprofits not just as an occasional service or just pro bono. There are thousands of nonprofits here, and we are 100% collaborative. I want to and do work with nonprofits, for-profits, and other ad agencies. It’s a unique business model and when you’re in business for the right reasons, work will come to you, and with that we’ll continue to make a difference.

Becca Delaney talking on Good Day Rochester with some of Fast Forward Film Festival’s adult filmmakers about the festival

What does loving what you do mean for you?
If you love what you do, work just doesn’t feel like work. If you are meant to do something, it shows. At the end of the day we do get paid for the work we do, but there’s something about the fact that if you love what you do, people are drawn to you, and all of us at my company love what we do and we care deeply about the work we are doing in this community. We want to get to know you and get to know the story behind the organization. Teaching is a hobby of mine that I hope I can continue to balance, it’s my way of giving back outside of my work – it’s also a way that I can help mentor the way my mentors have mentored me. I think mentorship is so important for young people.

What’s your best piece of advice for finding inspiration?
My inspiration has always come from other people. Mentors for me are now some of my best of friends. The best advice I give my students is to keep in touch with your professors, your internship supervisors – people who come into your life. The more you keep in touch with people and let people in to know you and your motivation behind what you’re looking for in a career, the better. And if you’re out of school, and you don’t like your job, don’t be afraid to trust your gut and make a change. If you ever need help or feel stuck, ask for help and reach out to your network. If you’ve been authentic from the get-go, people will flock to you.

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#RocCity Doer: Khoury Humphrey

Joseph Barcia, RocCity Coalition

RocCity Coalition is a collection of people from various facets of the community whom are connecting with one another to achieve a stronger Rochester. Flower City Pickers, featured recently in the Fast Forward Film Festival, is a secular, inclusive, all-volunteer group with the mission to ensure no food is wasted and goes to people, animals, and Mother Earth.

Founded in January 2015 by Khoury Humphrey, an artist and Rochester transplant, Flower City Pickers collects, sorts, and distributes vendors’ leftovers each Saturday – rain or snow, sunny or overcast – from Rochester’s Public Market.

The Pickers collect vendors’ leftover food, sort it into food grades, and distribute it. Grade “A” food goes to a list of shelters, halfway houses, and food pantries. “B” grade food is cooked and served that day by a partner group and distributed to soup kitchens and refugee centers, and “C” grade food goes to local critters or is composted.

FCP welcomes volunteers for Saturday market activities as well as administrative work throughout the week, new participation on its board, and fresh faces to attend its organizational meetings the second Monday of each month.

Khoury chatted with us about Rochester, turning ideas into action, and the importance of keeping one’s eyes open.

Q: What drew you to Rochester?
A: Being part of the LGBTQ community. I am transgender – female to male – and I came to Rochester because of the transgender rights and the community. I started volunteering with the Gay Alliance, taking pictures for The Empty Closet, and was going to “family dinners” in parks and at people’s homes and getting involved with groups like Rochester Snowball Effect. That group met and took on actions, like the little free libraries, and it was cool to see how inclusive everything was and go on bike tours of Wall Therapy and everything. Coming from Oklahoma, where a lot gets demolished or blown over, the architecture here, I’m enamored by it. I just fell in love with this place – except for the winters.

Q: What led you to form Flower City Pickers?
A: I never really had the idea of what Flower City Pickers has turned into. I was just upset about something, wanted to help and to be of use, and started picking up stuff and asking others if I could take what they couldn’t sell. But I was having some health issues and was here in the winter – usually I wouldn’t be – to get heart surgery. The City of Rochester had bulldozed Sanctuary Village, a tent city located under a bridge, and they got relocated to a warehouse shelter with no running water. I was baffled and taken aback. That wasn’t the Rochester I knew about. I couldn’t work at the time and didn’t have any money to help and had noticed there was stuff on the ground at the Public Market that was still completely fine and usable. So I decided to go and start picking it up and see what I could make of it. Maybe soup, maybe goulash, whatever. I just went there with a little piece of paper with my face on it and a blurb that basically said, “Hey, I’m going to be here every week. Be nice to me.” People started giving me stuff. It went from filling one car at a time to not having access to enough cars to fill up.

Q: A lot of people have ideas, but what compelled you to bring this one to action?
I had always gone to the Public Market and really enjoyed it. Every time I went there it was with friends and I passed on picking stuff from the ground. It’s not proper social behavior to pick up someone’s trash and be like, “I’m gonna eat that.” So when I read about Sanctuary Village I thought, “Maybe since I was too shy to do it for myself but there are so many people who need this, I’ll pick for them.” That gave me the courage. The fact that there’s so much waste is really disturbing. It’s ridiculous how oblivious people are. People ask, “How did you think of this?” I tell them, “I have two eyes, just like you. All you have to do is keep them open and look.” There’s a lot of waste at the Public Market and even in the grocery stores.

Q: How would you describe yourself?
A: I’m just me. I work as a barista for Java’s at RIT, which is great and they donate to us, and I’ve been doing photography for more than five years. I used to make and sell art a lot. But Flower City Pickers sort of grounded me. It used to be that during the winters I would never have been here. The only reason why I was up here during the winter I started Flower City Pickers was I had to get heart surgery at Strong. FCP has made me adjust to life in one city through each year, which is new for me. When I was younger my family was evicted often from homes and we were homeless for months at a time. I got used to moving around a lot, so became I was an adult, every six months or year I’d move. It’s challenging for me because I always have the desire to run around, do things, and go somewhere else for a while. But I really enjoy doing photography and art, and pretty much any free time I have goes into Flower City Pickers.

Q: Is there a philosophy that guides you?
A: There’s this quote by this little boy Nkosi Johnson: “Do all that you can, with all that you have, in the time that you have, in the place where you are.” I consider myself Buddhist. In Buddhism you’re supposed to sit where you are and make change where you’re at, and accept your surroundings, even if you don’t like them. Just be in them.

Q: If someone says they’re inspired by you, how do you respond?
Mostly, “Hey, that’s cool, but it’s nothing special.” I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I just started picking up stuff that was on the ground. The fact that no one has done that in so long is what you should notice – that this is our culture and our society. It’s disturbing.

Q: What’s next for Flower City Pickers?
We’re a secular group of volunteers, we have a board of directors, and everyone has their own ideas about where we’re going. This year we’re getting more media coverage, networking, tabling at events, and more. We have a bus that is at the market and is our storage. We would like a permanent spot at the market. We definitely need a company vehicle to help us with deliveries for the greater Rochester area to places that are by the lake or a little further out of town where some volunteers aren’t able to go. We’re experimenting with more than just Saturday collections and are trying out Tuesdays and Thursdays once it gets a little warmer. And we’ve had people from Buffalo and a group from Syracuse check us out and express interest in starting up similar projects.