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Rick Arredondo | We Are Tusc Podcast

Rick Arredondo with Quote "It's amazing the level of the talent here but no one knows about it"

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[00:00:00.115] – Josh

Welcome to another episode of the We Are Tusc podcast. My name is Josh Robinson and I’m sitting here with Rick Arredondo. I’m excited for the interview. Today, we walk through a lot of stories with different people here in Tusc County. And one of the more interesting businesses running here the Ezekiel Project located in downtown New Philly. Rick, thanks for joining me today. Thanks, Josh. Appreciate it. As we tend to do, I like to start with just a couple of ice breaker questions.

 

[00:00:23.005] – Josh

One of the things that you guys have moved into specializing in here is podcaststhe. So give our listeners just kind of a glimpse. What are your podcasts that you listen to? What’s something that you enjoy?

 

[00:00:33.285] – Rick

Well, I think right now my taste is probably all over the board. I particularly like to listen to Dan Mohler and some other folks that have some really great insights, more faith based, I think, right now try to stay away from the news as much as possible.

 

[00:00:49.935] – Rick

But, yeah, I think it’s just the people’s insight on what’s happening in the spiritual and heavenly realms, and it motivates me to stay the course.

 

[00:00:57.885] – Josh

Is that a regular habit for you, a podcast or a regular part of your life and rhythm of the day?

 

[00:01:02.055] – Rick

I think much more so now, and I think it was just a natural thing. I like storytelling and I think some of the stuff that you see on a video, you kind of lose interest at some point where a podcast, you can keep going back, stop, start and I think that suits my lifestyle a lot better.

 

[00:01:18.025] – Josh

That’s cool. Here’s another one for you of a ton of artists and creatives that have been through this place. So if there was one skill that you don’t have that you wish you did possess, what’s something you’ve seen that Man, I know we don’t want to don’t want to covet what other people have. But what’s something that, you know, man, I wish I could play an instrument for an art form. What would it be?

 

[00:01:36.615] – Rick

Well, I have no artistic talent whatsoever, so the list is long but I would say from my perspective, I’m really strong in the visual arts ever run marketing parts of my organizations that I work for over the years. But there’s also this other form of just music, which I love music. I just can’t play a thing. I love to be around creatives probably for that reason because it inspires me.

 

[00:02:03.855] – Josh

I always tell people I play the radio off key. So that gives you an idea where I am in terms of musical talent. I can relate. What is the Ezekiel Project?

 

[00:02:11.985] – Josh

Tell our listeners. What is it that you do here now and then? What kind of work backwards to how it got started?

 

[00:02:17.025] – Rick

Sure, we’re a creative hub and our purpose is to connect the creators with the community and community with creators. We have a lot of talent here locally. We just don’t see a lot of ability for somebody who really loves to do certain things to make a living at it. And our purpose is to encourage them to walk alongside them and give them opportunities to work with other larger companies and help them polish their skills so they can actually make a living at it.

 

[00:02:47.355] – Rick

So, for example, graphic designer might be fine for doing some stuff for the family, but they’ve never done anything for a company. And so if a company is looking for a particular project, what we’ll do is we’ll include other creatives. And so they get a chance to see what it’s like. And what we do is we help them pitch the idea to the client. The client will pay them directly. We do not take any money for that because we want the money to trickle down to the people that want to do it.

 

[00:03:13.875] – Rick

And so we get a chance to do is, again, whether it be creating original music, videography, photography, web design. We have a lot of young people who simply don’t get the opportunities to get an at bat. And so we use our connections to connect them with the opportunities.

 

[00:03:29.775] – Josh

So in many ways, you’re kind of providing both the tools and the relational connections for someone who maybe has a desire to get into a creative industry but has no place to start.

 

[00:03:41.105] – Rick

Yes, or if they’re really good, maybe they don’t relate well to somebody who’s a business person, so we help them with their resumes, we help them with how to pitch an idea. We teach them how to listen, get the project done on time, those kind of things.

 

[00:03:55.655] – Rick

So sometimes it’s it’s those other soft skills which can make or break you in being successful, particularly if you want to earn money doing it.

 

[00:04:03.455] – Josh

So we’re using the word creatives, which is kind of an abstract word. I’m sitting here looking at your podcast table, which is just this is just a beautiful setting to sit and have a conversation. I love I love the atmosphere here. So obviously, podcasts is something you guys have gotten into. What are some of the other areas where creatives are working through the Ezekiel Project?

 

[00:04:22.235] – Rick

I would say graphic design, videography, photography. We work with a lot of non-profits. Some of the nonprofits have some great ideas. They don’t always know how to get it onto a storyboard and then make actually something from it. They’re not creative themselves, but for example, they may have a campaign on mental health awareness. So we’ll help them design the graphics for it. If they want a video to support it, we’ll do the video. And again, we’re looking for local people with those talents to participate.

 

[00:04:48.095] – Rick

And they can say, oh, I worked on that project and they learn so much in doing that. And we also get a chance to show off some of the young talent that may not have gotten an at bat if they just went to an agency.

 

[00:05:00.365] – Josh

So one of the questions I like to ask people when I think you’re leading in this direction, I always ask them what brings them joy from what they do. And it sounds to me like for you, seeing particularly younger people get that opportunity to use their skills brings you an immense amount of joy.

 

[00:05:16.235] – Rick

Yeah, it’s an understatement, really, because, you know, I’m sixty four years old and the environment I grew up in is that you’d have to run faster than the next guy. There was no mentoring. There was no coaching. And so what I wanted to do was not to let other people go through what I went through. And sometimes you have to. Talk the talk, walk the walk, and I think for some it’s getting over that anxiousness, it’s getting over the fear of failure.

 

[00:05:44.565] – Rick

And what we try to do is just walk alongside them. And that’s just not something I had. And I just get tremendous joy seeing the light go on with young people who say I can actually think I can make a living doing this. In this county, in this particular New Philadelphia, there’s a very strong blue collar historical, generational way of doing things which I respect. But not everybody’s cut out for that. So what we want to do is say, hey, look, you can earn a living, at least go in that direction and may have to pay the bills doing something like working for another company, but don’t give up on your dream.

 

[00:06:18.735] – Josh

And you’re kind of allowing those people to be who they’re made to be to use the skills and gifts that they have inherently in a way that that brings them joy. And you kind of get to participate in that.

 

[00:06:28.425] – Rick

Yeah, I just feel like our creator. You know, he designed a certain way, and if you’re not using that skill set, it starts to lead to other things under unintended consequences like anxiety, depression, suicide, and we’re dealing with that every day. So most of the young people that we are artistically inclined are more prone to have a problem like that. So if we’re investing in them and others invest in them, I think we have a great chance of them being successful.

 

[00:07:00.355] – Josh

I know you guys have been heavily involved in some of the mental health stuff and the suicide stuff, doing some of the walks through town. Is that a passion of yours? And if so, where does that come from?

 

[00:07:10.615] – Rick

It’s interesting because I think I had a different perspective moving here to New Philadelphia. I worked in a larger corporate context. So my responsibility was the whole state of California. So wherever I laid my hat was my home. And I have now an 11 year old son, and I wanted him to be raised in the village. And the village to me is healthy.

 

[00:07:32.375] – Rick

It’s got a healthy small business community. It’s got a great education system. It’s got a lot of people who love where they live. And I just want to make this a better place for him.

 

[00:07:42.265] – Josh

Well and you kind of hear that overflowing that so much of what you do here is about making the community better, making the town better, helping those small businesses, helping those creatives that you just really have a heart for wanting this place to thrive.

 

[00:07:53.915] – Rick

Yeah, I’m kind of on the back end of my career, so a lot of it is just, you know, leaving it in a better place, but mostly because my son is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. And if he’s around creative’s, he’s probably going to do something not like his dad did. And I want to encourage that, OK? Because I want him to be happy.

 

[00:08:12.785] – Josh

That’s cool. Sort of jump back into some of the collaborationist up here.

 

[00:08:16.325] – Josh

Is there a particular project that you’ve been a part of that you’re just really proud of, that you think back and go? Maybe it was a turning point for the business, or maybe it’s just something that you feel like. I’m really proud of the work we did in this situation.

 

[00:08:28.385] – Rick

You know, to me, it’s all about relationships. And some projects were heavily involved in like Hope Sunday, where we create video content to talk about how the church community can connect with people suffering from addiction, suicide. We worked with the Adamhs board, the anti-drug coalition, specifically Jody Salvo. So we have a very strong relationship with them. And every year we do see the bar getting raised and and we get to work on some really exciting things. Probably my favorite one is in the midst of Covid.

 

[00:09:01.745] – Rick

A lot of our small businesses were shut down and we decided to do a video saying we’re in this together. And so we had like thirty seven businesses. We drove around town taking video content. We had an original song written and sung by a local songwriter. And I think we have fifteen thousand views within like a week. That’s cool. And people were saying, that’s my town. So there was pride that the businesses that have been there are going to come back, but also people the pride of the visual of seeing their hometown.

 

[00:09:32.375] – Rick

It was pretty incredible. So that’s probably one of my favorite ones because it just it just resonated with so many people.

 

[00:09:38.525] – Josh

And that’s such an important thing to recognize that we are in this together, to recognize that, like you said, this is a village. And of course, I’m interviewing folks from all over the county. But it’s neat to see that kind of ownership from people that this is this is where I raise my kids. This is where I was raised and I have ownership of this place.

 

[00:09:55.645] – Josh

So that’s a really, really special thing. Now for you. This is not where you were raised. So we’re going to kind of walk back into your story a little bit and talk about how you ended up running a creative process in New Philadelphia, Ohio. So you are originally from Venice, California, correct?

 

[00:10:09.545] – Rick

Yeah, born and raised, lived there, went to high school and then left to once I got married, couldn’t afford to live in Santa Monica anymore, Venice.

 

[00:10:19.835] – Rick

And but I’d already started my career in banking, did it for forty three years and it took me some great places. And I just felt for me California was like one big city because we had offices everywhere. So for me it was Venice was my route. So it’s very eclectic, a lot of art, a lot of music alleys were where we hang out. So when I came to New Philadelphia, there was certainly a feeling of that because the alley life here is real.

 

[00:10:48.095] – Josh

I was going to ask you if there were any similarities between, you know, obviously geographically and culturally, one would think you can’t get much further than Southern California to east central Ohio that we are here. We are in the hills of Appalachia as opposed to the beach of the Pacific Ocean. But are there some similarities between the two places?

 

[00:11:05.645] – Rick

Yeah, there’s a few. I think there’s a very much a respect for the history, a lot of civic pride. It’s not as diverse as I’m used to. But if you’re from Venice, born and raised in Venice, there’s just really strong roots. And I feel that here that people have an immense pride in the historical significance of New Philadelphia Tuscarawas County, a very strong faith based community, which I love, didn’t have that California so much. But for me and my lifestyle, the small town effect was what Venice was growing up.

 

[00:11:39.665] – Rick

And I don’t know, I’m sure it’s not like that anymore with all the apartments and influx of a lot of people from outside the area. But this felt like home almost right away,

 

[00:11:49.775] – Josh

That’s amazing. Is there anything you miss from being out there? Anything I mean, besides obviously the beach, there’s not a lot of great surfing over here in New Philly.

 

[00:11:56.135] – Rick

No, we tried Beach City, but that didn’t quite work out.

 

[00:11:59.885] – Rick

No offense to the people live in Beach city.

 

[00:12:03.065] – Rick

I think the similarities for me run with the caliber of people and the people that are from Venice originally are just great people. And so there’s that similarity I probably miss the most is just the diversity. Like, I could literally go anywhere and see anything I want to see within forty five minutes to an hour here, that’s probably not going to happen.

 

[00:12:25.205] – Josh

That’s how long it takes to get from one side of the county to the other.

 

[00:12:27.515] – Rick

Yeah, my probably my biggest and people care about this, but I found this to be factually true. You could have all four seasons in one day here in California. You could pretty much if it’s going to be sunny, it’s going to be something so.

 

[00:12:40.205] – Josh

Well, they don’t they don’t know that we’re recording. This is November 2nd. But yesterday we had all four seasons. During the course of the day, we had rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, overcast. Fifty five in the morning and twenty. But we went to bed last night, so we did get that experience.

 

[00:12:53.795] – Rick

Well, we did a prayer walk last night and, you know, somebody asked if I had a plan B, I said, I think we’re on Plan H and we still had it, but the skies cleared up and they said, hey, if we can have an event in Ohio in November, expect it to be cold. And so we just went on business as usual.

 

[00:13:09.785] – Josh

Yeah. You know, in our our church, because we’re in the middle of all the covid stuff we’ve been doing. We’ve been offering an outdoor service every Sunday early in the morning, and we’ve been doing that since the beginning of June. And we we’ve seen every possible, we’ve had the way too hot to be sitting in the parking lot. We’ve had the rainy and the tents are going to blow away. We’ve had the beautiful, perfect fall mornings and everything in between. So that is the nature of living here, it is real. So how does a guy who grew up in Venice even end up in New Philly? What was that transition like? How did you end up here?

 

[00:13:40.145] – Rick

I worked for the largest ag lender in the world at the time, and so we had offices all over the US and we’d go to Pittsburgh for meetings or New York. And my brother moved here in ninety four. His wife’s from Uhrichsville, Dennison. So I would stop over and visit and just kind of said, wow, this is really cool. Nice little Hallmark town. What does it cost to buy a house?

 

[00:14:04.235] – Rick

And I went, OK, I think with something we could maybe do not knowing really why I did at the time, or if I’d even be living in it any time soon.

 

[00:14:14.135] – Rick

But as I started to come back and visit and just see the more healthier pace of life and the people I met, I just felt like, wow, this is really a special place. But when I finally retired from banking after forty three years, my wife and I said, well, let’s give it a year. And so now we’re on. It will be year five in July.

 

[00:14:36.545] – Josh

OK, I was going to ask you how long you’ve been here. So five years and no regrets? You enjoying being here and being a part of this community?

 

[00:14:43.865] – Rick

No regrets at all. In fact, the truism it’s really about the people is true. The people here have been phenomenal.

 

[00:14:50.915] – Rick

We I didn’t know how they would receive somebody from California. I mean, we’re a little different, I guess, certainly on the political spectrum these days. But my feeling was, hey, they’re willing to get to know you and give you a chance. And even if you mess up, they’re willing to give you a second chance. So I thought that was pretty special. So, yeah, there’s been no regrets whatsoever. And my wife and I hope to find a forever home somewhere here.

 

[00:15:16.745] – Rick

And when that happens, we’ll probably never leave.

 

[00:15:19.135] – Josh

That’s awesome. And what a great place to raise your son to. I mean, in terms of having that small town, it takes a village kind of mentality. This is a great place to do that.

 

[00:15:26.675] – Rick

Yeah he’s made a lot of good friends and there’s a lot of services here for kids with his challenges. But again, they’ve adopted him like us.

 

[00:15:34.745] – Josh

That’s great. And so the other big transition is not just the transition from the West Coast to central Ohio, but a transition from banking into a world where you now work with very creative people every day. What was what was that transition like?

 

[00:15:51.235] – Rick

Well, you know, I didn’t really realize, so I would run IT teams and marketing teams and we did a lot of campaigns. I didn’t realize just how much I enjoyed the creation of something, so I would say if I had a gift, it would be the visual arts, not that I can create, but I know what a company might want.

 

[00:16:13.795] – Rick

I can create a storyboard that someone can relate to and then making that come to fruition is something that I could see it in the banking context, but didn’t necessarily see it coming to fruition here. So it was kind of an awakening for me. And when you’re very corporate-minded, you don’t get a chance to focus on things like that. You have a lot of people doing it for you. You give input, some receive, some not.

 

[00:16:40.615] – Rick

But the fact that there does seem to be an interest in what I brought to the table inspired me to use more the gifts that I’m trying to encourage other people to use. So there is a relativity to it that, yeah, I can say that probably was me.

 

[00:16:55.495] – Rick

I don’t know if I would be a bank or if I knew I had these other gifts.

 

[00:16:58.675] – Josh

I was going to ask you, do you think there’s an alternative timeline in which you do something more creative? If you’d had something like The Ezekiel Project growing up and you’d had someone kind of giving you those opportunities and pointing in that direction, is there another world in which Rick is a different profession?

 

[00:17:13.285] – Rick

Well, it’s interesting because it’s really on multiple fronts. For example, spiritually.

 

[00:17:19.045] – Rick

And when you’re used to making money and there becomes a very strong focus, you tend to forget all the things you love to do to do the things you have to do.

 

[00:17:28.885] – Rick

The awakening was. The joy I got out of it.

 

[00:17:34.275] – Rick

So when you’re doing something you love to do and you just want to get up and do it again, and I’m not making any money doing this, so the fact I can do it every day and not make any money doing it and I’m so blessed by the people that God has put in my path, it shows me that life is more than maybe I thought it was.

 

[00:17:55.725] – Josh

You know, I had a conversation with someone the other day and I don’t remember who they were quoting, but they talked about how so much of our culture is built on doing things you’re good at and accomplishment and achievement.

 

[00:18:07.095] – Josh

And there’s a place for that. You know, I’m a competitive guy by nature, but that sometimes the cost of that is that we forget to do things that we enjoy, whether we’re good at them or not. And that leads to a little bit of an empty life. If we don’t do the things that bring us joy and happiness in the moment, we sometimes find ourselves a little bit empty.

 

[00:18:24.435] – Rick

Yeah, it’s really interesting because you start to make this correlation with mental health and some of these things. And I think I mentioned that before. I find it amazing that a pro athlete who’s so good at what they do can wish they were doing something else and they’re making millions of dollars. I think that’s probably the best example because I’m good at it and I’m making money and I’ve got people who depend on me versus somebody who doesn’t care if they make any money at it is is what I’m what I’m saying.

 

[00:18:53.535] – Rick

And I do feel like, yes, there’s this stigma that I think that goes with that.

 

[00:18:57.585] – Rick

And I’d rather people live in the way they want to live and make the money they need to make than get themselves in a situation where they’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.

 

[00:19:07.365] – Josh

Now that that resonated with our church, we just spent a month preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes, and he talks about that a lot, about the emptiness of chasing for happiness and those other things. So that resonates on a deep level for me. How did this thing come about? I know you didn’t start as a place for creatives to collaborate. You started somewhere else to kind of walk us through how Ezekiel Project began what the dream was and how we got to where we are now?

 

[00:19:32.635] – Rick

Sure. Our first intent was we wanted to do some faith based T-shirts, kind of edgy. Now, if you look at Facebook, there’s a proliferation of it, but when we started, not so much, we just saw some really bad ones with really bad graphics, like how many verses can you get on one front of the shirt? We wanted to get into something that would actually create a discussion with somebody like what does that mean? That was our intent.

 

[00:19:59.205] – Rick

As we started to talk to local screen printing companies, they basically said, we’ll put ink on anything and we thought, well, that’s probably not what we want to do. So we invested in some screen printing equipment.

 

[00:20:09.075] – Rick

We weren’t as fully evolved as we should have been to be able to handle the elements of the weather and some other things. But needless to say, we had a really interesting, great year for six months of the year, but we didn’t want to create a sweatshop here. So we started to connect with the art community. And we had at the end of December, like thirty two artists that shared the space with us. So we had their art for sale and we were doing the curating and a lot of local people brought in their art and we said, hey, why don’t we just put it on display and we can sell it, we’ll take a small commission.

 

[00:20:45.885] – Rick

So that’s what, we did that for about two years.

 

[00:20:49.065] – Rick

I think the hardship with that was it was hard to continue to keep the inventory fresh. And we were battling weather and the new materials and inks that we would have to deal with were becoming increasingly more difficult. And the individual I started the business with, he relapsed several times. So our thought was, let’s put people to work that maybe have an addiction problem and then kind of get them back on track. A lot of our time was consumed with the one individual keeping him on track and it just really wasn’t sustainable.

 

[00:21:24.015] – Rick

And, you know, that was a really difficult time. I kind of equate it to, you know, we’re talking we’re trying to help the addiction community. And it’s like a farmer who says he’s a dairyman and he has one cow. The cow dies. You just go, what am I now? Yeah, but God got found a way. And it was our connections with these agencies that say, hey, you’re creative, people want you help us with this project.

 

[00:21:48.675] – Rick

So next thing you know, we’re doing videos, we’re doing graphic design. We’re doing a lot of things to help them get their message across because they dislike the way we thought.

 

[00:21:57.435] – Josh

And having some of those artists in House probably gave you access them to. Hey, I know someone who can do that. I know someone who has those skills because you’ve been working with these 30 artists for a while now.

 

[00:22:08.115] – Rick

Yeah. And there really wasn’t a place here to do any of that.

 

[00:22:11.115] – Rick

It’s amazing the level of talent here, but no one knows about it because it’s something they don’t do full time. We had art on the alley, which we started three years ago, and neighbors would see their neighbor and go, I didn’t know you did this.

 

[00:22:24.525] – Rick

So there really wasn’t a place to display art. And we became kind of that point. I think one of the biggest things we decided to do was, you know, how do you find a black box on an alley in downtown New Philadelphia? Well, we had a building across from us that had a lot of chipped paint, some graffiti on it, and we said why don’t we get some murals on it, so we funded three murals. There’s now four.

 

[00:22:51.555] – Rick

And it’s described as the most photographed area and Tuscarawas County because it’s different. And now look around you. There’s murals everywhere.

 

[00:22:59.715] – Rick

And I’m not I’m not claiming we we did all those. But what I’m saying is there’s just now this interest in advancing the public art.

 

[00:23:07.825] – Josh

It’s kind of one of those things that most business owners would never have even thought of as a possibility. And then suddenly it comes in their mind, hey, what a what a neat way to kind of spruce up the outside of our building or to make the alley look a little bit nicer in it. You kind of get people thinking of ways that they can use those creatives here in town.

 

[00:23:23.685] – Rick

It’s really interesting you say that because we we started to see a phenomenon that the alleys were cleaner.

 

[00:23:28.785] – Rick

The first mural we did, Sarah Dugger, was the artist. She’s from Dover. She had never done a full design and painting of a mural, and it took her three days to do it.

 

[00:23:41.895] – Rick

When we finished on that Friday, we tried to leave the parking lot and there were so many cars out there, we couldn’t back out, because people are going like, I can’t believe this is here. You asked me what was my most memorable thing that probably would be it, now that I think about it, because people just appreciated it. Like, this is different and it’s beautiful.

 

[00:24:04.125] – Josh

Well And I think you’ve already touched on that. People here, they take pride in their community.

 

[00:24:07.035] – Josh

And so when stuff like that happens, their interest is. And like you talked about with a video, somebody here cares about our community. Look what they’re doin doing in our community. Look at how special they’re making our town. And there’s there’s a pride in that. And I think people appreciate that.

 

[00:24:20.475] – Rick

We had really talented people do it. We just kind of shepherd the the activities,

 

[00:24:25.575] – Josh

Which kind of sounds like what you’re doing mostly now that you are finding really talented people and shepherding them into roles where they can thrive.

 

[00:24:32.595] – Rick

Yes. And one of the things we’re doing now is podcasting. There’s a lot of people who say, I have a great story to tell. I had a friend of mine, he said, we’re podcasting is like a megaphone. So you get a chance to tell your story. And I said, that’s great. How many people need to do that?

 

[00:24:46.615] – Rick

And we’ve seen so many happen just since covid. But I think it’s really good because there’s a lot of smart people and there’s a lot of people that are interesting to listen to. And and now here we are.

 

[00:24:57.285] – Josh

And who knows if we are two of those people, but hopefully somebody somewhere is listening to us.

 

[00:25:01.705] – Rick

We’ll just convince each other that we are you know, at the same time, I think people probably are taking more time to listen. We just aren’t as busy as we were.

 

[00:25:12.675] – Josh

Yeah, there’s more more time to fill, covid has changed life in so many ways. I do think that’s one of the ways that we probably should be a little more appreciative of, that many of us have been forced to slow down, although it is amazing to me how quickly we want to jump back into the race after its things start to open back up.

 

[00:25:30.165] – Rick

Yeah, we just have this this human tendency to want to get back to normal.

 

[00:25:34.375] – Rick

I just don’t think we’re going to have a new normal for a while.

 

[00:25:36.825] – Josh

I don’t I don’t think so either.

 

[00:25:38.535] – Josh

So you spent most of your life in the banking, which I’m guessing is pretty much a left brain area. Are there skills you learned in that part of your life that was so much of what you did that you now kind of bring to this process and this journey?

 

[00:25:52.615] – Rick

Yeah, I think for me, but I started to understand that there was this ambition that if you got the right people together, you could make like I say, a small pebble can create a big wave if you’re in the right position.

 

[00:26:08.545] – Rick

And I started to understand that my ability to organize, to create relationships, to cast a vision with others, it’s a lot about collaboration. So I think the collaborative skills you had to do to be successful. But I also feel like it helps me relate to the small businessmen much because in my world we did a lot of small business loans. So when the economy, the downturn in 08, in 2010, we had to stand aside a lot of businesses that were struggling and we could have easily said don’t have time for it not going to do with it.

 

[00:26:45.235] – Rick

We we dived in with both feet and we said, what can we do to help you? And a lot of times it was getting one business to help another, to help another, to help another. So that’s why my passion is small business, because of the fact I don’t want that to happen. And sometimes they’re just so busy doing what they do every day that they don’t see the obvious thing in front of them or they need somebody to kind of push them to consider some changes.

 

[00:27:10.045] – Josh

Even in that story, as you tell it, you’re you’re highlighting collaboration again, this small business, helping that small business. Let me help you so you can help me down the road. And just the beauty of what happens when different people with different skills come together to create something new and special.

 

[00:27:25.615] – Rick

And I think New Philadelphia in particular has so many advantages that other communities don’t have. What do we do with them? Is there a plan to maximize that?

 

[00:27:35.435] – Rick

And to me, there has to be this greater vision and you got to get everybody on board with the vision.

 

[00:27:40.895] – Josh

So do you have dreams for this place that maybe haven’t been realized or just speaking specifically of the Ezekielproject are there is there some big goal or vision that you go, man, someday I hope we can accomplish X, Y or Z.

 

[00:27:54.345] – Rick

Well, if there’s so there’s one that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. And we are an underground ministry. We probably had more Bible studies and worship nights here than any one thing, but nobody knows it. Our intent would what would this look like if we had one or two of these more in rural communities?

 

[00:28:16.085] – Rick

It doesn’t have to look like this, but it kind of operates the same thing, is I feel like we have a place that people can come to. It’s safe. We don’t serve alcohol. We just think it can be a great way to attract younger people. You just need the right people to shepherd them. So our overall goal was to have a few of these in Ohio in rural communities, but based on what that local market needed, trying to solve the local problem that needed to be solved.

 

[00:28:48.695] – Rick

So when you started to see the strong correlation of, well, you have people now with covid that can’t go out, we started to create music on the square and put little art tables out on a Friday to bring people out to see what’s there and also to get out from underneath whatever they’re dealing with. So it’s really about maybe having a few of these in a few years. And I don’t know what that looks like, but it’s interesting.

 

[00:29:19.085] – Rick

You know, the band, we. The Kingdom. Yes. OK, you know Frannie Rae. Yes. We played in here. Oh, I did not know that. Yeah. She was just a young girl coming in here with a keyboard, traveling with a group of people. If you go on our Ezekiel’s sessions YouTube, you’ll see her playing the keyboard. And I’m saying nobody do that. Right. So that’s what I’m talking about, is like you just don’t know, like ten years from now what these people are going to be doing.

 

[00:29:42.845] – Rick

And I would say that’s probably the biggest opportunity we have is is creating more Franni  opportunities.

 

[00:29:50.045] – Josh

Well, it sounds like your heart is very much about understanding. You know, you talk about yourself as an underground ministry, but it’s a real ministry in which you are in life with people seeing what their needs and their hearts are and offering to help ultimately that that comes with the gospel and all that comes with that. But there’s an opioid problem. What are we going to do to help? There’s depression climbing as COVID keeps people inside.

 

[00:30:12.905] – Josh

What are we going to do to help but seize the needs of the community and really is here to help and to minister to those folks? Does that sound about right?

 

[00:30:21.095] – Rick

I think you nailed it. I wish I could say it was something I had planned. You know what I mean? God’s amazing that way. He just kind of gets in your heart and just puts people in front of you.

 

[00:30:33.785] – Rick

I start to realize that when I chased, things didn’t quite work out the way I thought. And when things were placed in front of me and relationships, it just had a completely different resolve. This is kind of the same thing.

 

[00:30:46.475] – Josh

That’s amazing. So what about for the community as a whole? Do you have any dreams or thoughts? Something you’d love to see happen here in New Philly that maybe hasn’t happened or that you’re working towards just kind of dreams for the community as a whole?

 

[00:30:58.655] – Rick

I think the city still has an image problem. There’s a culture and. I see this opportunity with Kent State, Tuscarawas campus growing. We’re going to have an influx of new students. You put a dorm, you put a hotel, all of a sudden this becomes a college town. Well, our downtown is going to have to look like something they’re going to want to visit. We can’t have vacant buildings. We can’t have falling down infrastructure. We can’t have things like not bike paths and something to do to go downtown to visit, it’s just getting everybody on the same page.

 

[00:31:34.595] – Rick

And I think. We can’t focus on a pothole and lose the opportunity of bringing in those kind of experiences, if that makes sense. So every decision we make can either set us back 10 years or we’re on track, if that makes sense. So I think it’s just getting the like minded people together. And I think that it’s going to have to look like more businesses like them than the businesses that we have now. And it’s going to have to be more like an experience than it is. I can just go to Amazon and buy it.Yeah. So so for me, that’s that’s that’s in a nutshell.

 

[00:32:12.005] – Josh

Well you’ve you’ve highlighted one of the just overall cultural problems and that the world has changed so much so fast in terms of how we shop, what we do for entertainment, where we go, you know, just I mean, even imagine the midst of covid we have movie theaters declaring bankruptcy. Who would have thought 10 years ago that nobody would go to movie theaters anymore, and yet that’s where we are.

 

[00:32:31.505] – Josh

And so the task is for a new generation, a new kind of customer, a new kind of citizen. What does this community look like for them?

 

[00:32:38.565] – Rick

You know, and I think that’s what people are finding out through covid is that they really were designed to be relational people. So how are you going to create that? So and we talked to our business people all along is you have one big advantage that that Amazon doesn’t have, a real human being that’s going to ask them how they’re doing and walk them through the store and maybe order something for them.

 

[00:33:05.615] – Josh

And explain how to play this game and how to use this tool and how to.

 

[00:33:08.795] – Rick

Exactly. And I think that’s what we’re building. What’s really exciting right now is we have five new businesses that have opened in New Philadelphia since Covid. Mostly family owned. That’s awesome. So when you look at that in comparison to what’s happening in the world with all these others, declare bankruptcy is I think people say the time is now.

 

[00:33:30.515] – Josh

We’ll give a little bit of a sales pitch here. They do great work here at Ezekiel Project, if you’re a small business, looking for a place to get some help with graphic design, with videos or the website, if you’re creative looking for a podcast, I’m sure Rick would love to talk to you. Thank you so much for sitting with me today, Rick, for indulging me a little bit and sharing your story.

 

[00:33:48.365] – Josh

I really appreciate it.

 

[00:33:49.445] – Rick

Well, I appreciate the time. Thanks for any interest in my story. And I hope to have others that kind of would follow our footsteps of creating something similar because we would definitely encourage them to do that.

 

[00:34:00.545] – Josh

Thanks for listening to another episode of the We Are Tusc podcast. Again, my name is Josh Robinson. I’m the minister at Dover First Christian Church. Thank you so much for listening. We have a future guest in mind, someone you think has an interesting story or who loves our community. Send me an email at wearetuscpodcast@gmail.com

 

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