Sidebar Stories is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that continues to be shaped by input from everyone who participates and benefits. These are the leaders that serve storytellers and keep us on track. Each member of the team brings value to the work we can only do together.
As an ordinary expert in beginning the journey of senior citizenship, Ron is also an ordinary expert in attempting great things. He is a dreamer and starter who plants that seed that springs up and gets choked out by weeds or dried up by the sun.
Adventures Ron started include Pizza Church (an organic spiritual community that met for 5 years at Russo's Pizza), Hope Within (a common ground community for healing in relationship that met for 3 years to assist in finding mental and emotional health. He also started City Gate Community Justice, a restorative justice using Native American peacemaking style circles with victims, offenders and community elders to resolve conflicts and injustice. Ron and his wife Debbie also led marriage and family enrichment retreats for several years.
Some of his more traditional endeavors include 25 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, minister and spiritual director as well as 10 years as hospice chaplain. On the side, Ron has served as clinical director for a residential addiction recovery program, instructor for college courses on family dynamics, co-founder of a simple church network, trainer for nonviolence in prisons, and houseparent for adolescent girls with his wife Debbie.
Grateful for the unique privilege of hearing so many amazing stories from ordinary experts, Ron realized these stories need to be heard by people making decisions to create change in social awareness, attitudes, services and policies. So he made up Sidebar Stories, his contribution to transforming dominant cultural narratives by listening to the stories of people who know most about the issues that impact us all.
He is praying against the weeds and scorching sun this time.He completed studies at University of Michigan, Cairn University, University of Penn, Eastern and Western Seminaries, earning a doctorate in Family Life Education.
Ron and his wife Debbie live in Mt. Holly, NJ near their daughters Kym and Laura, who also make things up. Kym and Paul started Goliathon, a mission oriented obstacle course that raises donations for Charity Water. Laura and Nicole started All Together Now, a nonprofit music program for people with disabilities. Debbie is a kindergarten teacher who has helped hundreds of 5-year-olds get a great start as little experts in their own stories. If you drive by their house late at night, you might hear some rather ordinary sounds coming from his accordion or saxophone.
Once upon a time, in a far from ordinary land, a little girl often described as quite eccentric, an expert in various kinds of trauma. She grew and she grew, all the while considering herself a survivalist by trade. Each morning the little girl would start her day with a positive outlook on life, determined to never stop searching for the long lost silver linings. She dreamt of changing the world for better, one person and day at a time, through her tales and trials as a Damsel in distress.
One day, the little girl was on a journey which led her to a land where a cruel king reigned. She was determined to find the kindness in the king’s heart, and call this her new home. On the way, she stumbled upon a peasant who promised her all the riches in the world for just a small favor in return. The little girl accepted the peasants offer, not realizing how hard it would be or how soon she would be called upon to fulfill her part. She soon found out the king was too bitter and cold to change when his cruelty tested her promise to the peasant. Now feeling more ordinary than ever, she became hopeless and considered herself unworthy of anything the peasant would give her. The little girl soon forgot the peasant and his agreement for years and years to come as she spiraled into a pit of despair. She aimlessly wandered away from the kingdom, not sure where to look or even what to look forward to. She found herself in a land similar to that of the cruel king, but with a fire breathing dragon that pursued and threatened her life this time.
Finally the little girl found a boy in search of the peasant man as well. With the boy's help, she broke free from the vicious dragon and this time remembered her promise to the peasant. The boy and girl became experts in tracking the peasant's steps together and trying to find Him despite their repeated failed attempts. Just as they were about to give up, they realized that the peasant was never meant to be "found" again, but to be searched for and followed, for the rest of their days keeping them eager and hungry to serve Him. The boy and girl traveled to many lands to help others follow the lead of the peasant and they lived happily ever after.
Roxanne holds many titles in life, but her favorite so far are daughter, wife, mother and friend. She has become an ordinary expert as best friend, worst enemy, caregiver, bar room bully, counselor, entrepreneur and community builder through her many trials in search of her peasant King. She's also an expert in pulling weeds along the path.
She lives in Philadelphia with her firefighter of the year husband, Sean, life saving educators A.K.A. children, Breanna, Aydan, and Jeremiah and her "who rescued who" pitbull, Abby. These are the ordinary experts helping write the continuation of her happily ever after story.
"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." ~G.K. Chesterton
It's not uncommon to meet an entrepreneur who is independent, hard-working and successful. It is unusual to meet one who is also generous, caring and values relationships more than money. This is the balance Juan demonstrates in all he sets his hand and heart to do.
An ordinary expert in earning and losing financial wealth, surviving prison, re-entry and other challenges, Juan is resilient. He continues to grow and share his story with a compassionate spirit and commitment to anyone who is wise enough to listen. With family roots in Honduras and Nicaragua, Juan applied truth from his parents who were ordinary experts in their faith, entrepreneurship and justice. After building (and losing) what became a million-dollar business in the cigar industry, Juan has committed himself to the work of serving others who need to know that every story can include the twists and turns that bring true value, contentment and honor.
Upon leaving prison over 20 years ago and growing through stressful trials, Juan has developed a sensitivity to the needs and struggles of others experiencing temptation and instability in life. With gratitude for those who have been helpful along the way, he is determined to make a difference in the lives of people who experience incarceration and the mental illness he saw to be prevalent in places where the goal of rehabilitation is rarely achieved.
With skills in creative philanthropy, Juan strives to integrate commercial enterprise with social benefit in a way addresses the deepest human needs. He brings a consistent energy and a spiritual perspective to Sidebar Stories.
Glenda was born on the Caribbean island of Dominica. She grew up among storytellers, particularly her father, who was one of the most entertaining storytellers she has ever known. Growing up, stories were her source of news and entertainment. Glenda joined Sidebar Stories because of her love for storytelling and Sidebar’s mission to provide a safe and friendly environment where ordinary people, from all walks of life, can come together to be heard.
Glenda graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. She has over 23 years of corporate finance experience. She worked as a Senior Portfolio Manager at CIT Group Inc. in Livingston, NJ and Vice President at Sumitomo Mutsui Trust and Banking in New York. Glenda is currently part owner of a commercial finance company.
Mimi Awtar Scalia is a survivor of many things. She has been fortunate to utilize her experience and training as a Certified Kundalini and Hatha Yoga Teacher, Reiki Practitioner, Undoing Racism Facilitator, Clinical Art therapist, and drumbeat facilitator to assist in giving a voice to children and adults who have survived human trafficking, domestic violence, refugee displacement, and to adolescents trapped within the criminal justice cycle.
Through supporting folks in telling their stories through drama, sound current, poetry, drum, visual art, etc, Mimi has seen time after time the empowering potential for healing from grief and trauma, and the prospect of rising to one’s highest potential.
Mimi enjoys working with a gifted team of visionaries to dismantle injustice and create a more equitable reality on planet earth.
MacGuffin holds a secret about Sidebar Stories that keeps us all on track. The secret is wrapped up in his name. Although he may not recognize it himself, a "MacGuffin" is a plot device in a story designating an object or character that holds no intrinsic importance to the story, but sets up the action and keeps the story moving.
One example of a "MacGuffin" is the Wizard of Oz. It's not really a story about a wizard. The wizard (who pretends to be the center of Oz and the most important character in the story) is nothing more than a character who exists as a backdrop for Dorothy to connect with herself, her family, and survive a tornado in Kansas. Even the tin man, lion and scarecrow hold no intrinsic value, but provide the story with characters that point to her adventure and development, the real point of the story.
We pretend our main goal is to create sidebars, visual storyboards that can be printed and posted online as artwork revealing life lessons. Although we hope this happens, the real value in creating sidebars is to build relationships, encourage understanding and create social change. When he meets you, MacGuffin acts like the story he belongs to is all about him. Don't tell him it's not.
The truth is that without sidebars, we would still find some way for people to be vulnerable, get to know each other, make the world a safer, more just, peaceful, and beautiful place. Actually, MacGuffin probably does know the secret because every time he joins the team, he works hard to make our world a better place. That's what Sidebar Stories are all about.