Speaker 1 (00:03):
Telling it like it is bringing the community together and working for justice, attorney Travis McConnell talks, politics, trending news, and how you can make a difference. You’re listening to you We Trust Travis. Hi everyone. I’m Sarina Fazan. I’m a journalist, producer, and the host of the We Trust Travis podcast. I’m here with Travis McConnell, a personal injury attorney with a huge passion for the community. And we thank you so much for joining us for this episode. So let’s get to it. And we are talking about spreading kindness in the community Travis today. Yeah. So tell us about, tell us about your projects and tell us about the main, your main one.
Speaker 2 (00:44):
I like to get involved in the community ever since moving back to Warsaw, even before that getting involved in the community here. But my big project back in Warsaw was it’s called One More South. It’s the name of the now 501C3 organization that I helped found and the current president enough. So it kind of grew out of what used to be a diversity rally that they would have. And that was going to go away because the people who started it all left town and they were like, Hey, we’re not there. So we’re going to go and close down. It was a Facebook group that they announced this in and I’m like, well, you know, I’ll take this over if you want and kind of inherited it from there. And then rope, some other friends that are community minded into helping out and turned it into what it is now, which is One More South. So our mission is to inspire inclusion through support, education, and celebration of all people.
Speaker 1 (01:33):
And so tell us who is in the core group, who specifically you’re trying to help? Is it all people or tell us tell us a bit more of it. Tell us more about it.
Speaker 2 (01:43):
People, we mean all people. So we’re trying to reach out to everybody and make sure everyone is included. As far as those people that helped me get it up and running, there was the, one of the former people was Jenny Tipton who ended up being in town for awhile to help get it started and transition. And she ended up moving away as well, unfortunately. But she’s been helpful even from a distance. And then there’s some of our other now board members are Lyle Schrock and Kristin Hail and Jamie Brown. And then there’s been other ones that have joined along the way. And we have a board of now eight different people with April Sloan, Sherry Ben [inaudible], Heather Ladino, and Sarah McNeil straight Hanlon investing. So, and we’re in the process, actually we have a meeting next week where we’re going to be electing new board members. So alI new officers.
Speaker 1 (02:33):
So did you ever imagine that it would grow to be this big?
Speaker 2 (02:37):
Yeah, cause that was kinda my plan, but we hope that it would always be more, have a big dreams and then act on them or anything. Walt Disney’s, that’s something like that. Probably I’m probably butchering the quote, you know, nothing’s impossible if you imagine that to be so something along those lines. So the plan was to take what basically was an amazing event rally, where they would get together once a year and have more of a rally. There’d be speakers. And then there’d be a little a March that they would do with signs. And we wanted to take that and out of that, turn it into something that really try and draw the community together. And so we switched from having that, being the main event to being a festival type of event, where we have different food trucks from foods, from different parts of the world too.
Speaker 2 (03:24):
Cause there’s nothing that brings people together, then having food and get drinks and get the community come out. We have games, bounce houses, activities for the kids, things like that. And then we have vendors that are showcased kind of like a market if you were to go to any of the markets around here, but they showcase the organizations that do diversity and inclusion work in town. So there’s the Beaman home, for example, which we’ve talked about is a local domestic violence shelter that serves that community there’s addiction agencies that are helping people with addictions, there’s the Cardinal center, which helps people who are differently abled there’s LBGT groups. There are space-based groups of different religions represented. There are ethnic different groups as far as like black groups, Asian groups, all sorts of different things that just show showcase all the diversity that works out has to offer and what they’re doing in the community to show that even in a small community, like what Warsaw, Indiana, which population of around 20, 30,000 people, if you include some of the outline housing subdivisions 80,000 in the whole County, there’s actually a lot of diversity that people don’t realize because it’s the orthopedic capital of the world which you may not know, but
Speaker 1 (04:35):
No, please tell us. So it’s the orthopedic capital of the world.
Speaker 2 (04:38):
It is. So I’m a personal injury lawyer. So orthopedic devices is something that my clients usually if it’s a bad case they need, so your artificial knee, artificial shoulder, all those sorts of things spinal implants that get installed with surgery, a lot of them are made in Warsaw, Indiana. So the companies that started are the main ones are Depew and then Zimmer Biomet and Zimmer Biomet have merged into Zimmer requirement now. And those are the main ones and then there’s Medtronic and there’s several other companies as well that are all there to support and come alongside them. And be part of the whole chain of services that are provided. It’s also ones now that are tailored specifically to children and children’s size devices to help women. Unfortunately, kids suffer from trauma or things like that, like orthopedic Patrick’s and wishbone medical. So
Speaker 1 (05:32):
Are those companies, I want to get back to the one more side project, but are those companies also the largest employer for Warsaw, Indiana data,
Speaker 2 (05:40):
Probably collectively, if you were to add them all together, like no one of them is the single largest employer. I think the single largest employer might be the school system potentially. But if you add them all together, if you added them all together over half of the County works for an orthopedic honey.
Speaker 1 (05:55):
That’s so interesting. So at these rats with one Warsaw and the, the festival you have, or the events that you have, do you also raise money for these organizations?
Speaker 2 (06:06):
We try to support them any way that we can. So we do our different events that come alongside them. Like we did a new year’s Eve party at Cardinal to show just like spread kindness to the people that were there. So we hosted a new year, see parts of Cardinal services as an agency that works with differently abled people. They do a lot of support there’s group homes and they have a, a after we actually were people who may not be able to get a job somewhere else, we’re able to come in and do a job there and actually earn a paycheck, which is a big deal for people that, you know, the find meaning in work and actually have that where maybe they’re not able to do that otherwise. And so we, we threw them on new year’s Eve party one year, for example, and we’ve done other supporting things with this year, we’re doing a service project for Christmas that we’re reaching out to the elderly population. One of the disadvantages age-ism is one of the things that happens. And so we, we wanted to, especially in the year of 2020 and COVID and restrictions, we’re buying Christmas presents for all of the seniors that are been stuck in nursing homes all year and not able to get out that don’t have families to provide for them. So,
Speaker 1 (07:11):
Well, I think especially now you’re right. I mean, we think about those seniors that I went to a home just recently on Thanksgiving, and you could only sit outside, you couldn’t go into the dining room, you, they can’t see their families. Right. So how do people get in touch with you then if you, I know you said that one Warsaw tries to help as many people as they can, but how do you take the phone calls? How do people contact you? What is the best way to put it in a recliner?
Speaker 2 (07:40):
I mean, so we have a Facebook page and a website and email is probably the easiest way to get ahold of us or send us a Facebook message if you’re on Facebook, but if you’re not, then just shoot us an email. So that’s something that we have, and it’s just a firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find it on our website or Facebook page as well. But yeah, that’s the main thing. So I guess backing up to the orthopedic companies. So these orthopedic companies bring in individuals from all over the globe and all over the country to work due to the talent that they pull. And so there’s, there’s a rather large Indian population actually with a large number of engineers that work for these orthopedic companies. There’s all sorts of, I think there’s probably over 50 different countries represented in the small town of war.
Speaker 1 (08:28):
It must be so interesting. So at every single turn you’re meeting people from all over the place,
Speaker 2 (08:35):
Glow. I mean, there’s not a lot of depth necessarily, but there’s a lot of breadth. So there’s still, I think the overall population is 70% white folks, but it’s not a lot of like a huge number where you’re running into them all the time. But, but yeah, I mean, there’s people from all over the world and it’s pretty exciting to see in a small town of 20,000 people. There’s a lot of diversity. There’s, you know, there’s multiple Indian restaurants, there’s a Vietnamese restaurant, there’s multiple Chinese restaurants, a Japanese steak house. There’s a dozen Mexican restaurants properly. So there’s, there’s lots of diversity that’s there. And there’s a, you know, Spanish speaking church in addition to the English speaking churches, and there’s a large there’s, you know, Jewish members, Muslim people in addition to the Christians.
Speaker 1 (09:27):
So you love your community. Clearly you love your community.
Speaker 2 (09:31):
Yeah. So it’s, it’s a great place to live. One thing that we’re working on is to make it welcoming for everybody so that that’s, that’s our mission is to make it more inclusive for everybody. So even though there is a lot of breadth of diversity not everybody feels included necessarily. The town just recently did a welcoming study to gauge the welcomeness factor of the town and the results were the, you know some people feel less welcome than others. And so that’s one of our main missions is try and make sure that everybody feels included and spread kindness that way, that no matter who you are, where you come from, what color you are, what ability you are, faith, you share know we’re here. You know, we’re all in this planet together. We all breathe the same area.
Speaker 1 (10:17):
Well, you know, that’s fascinating to me that they did a welcoming study. Is this common practice, Travis, do you know that? Do cities do welcoming studies? I think that’s fantastic.
Speaker 2 (10:27):
I don’t know how common it is. I know that there, we’re not, we’re not unique in doing that. I know there were several other towns that were mentioned as far as like these people have done. One of these people have done one. And I think it was spurred on by there’s an organization called ortho works that works to support the orthopedic companies that are there. Obviously it’s a big part of the economy. And so it’s heavily supported. And so I think that was part of just looking into, I don’t know if it was driven by the orthopedic companies necessarily, but
Speaker 1 (10:57):
It was definitely a it was such a, it was something that your community did. It was a, a survey that was taken. How did they conduct, how do they conduct it? Do you know,
Speaker 2 (11:06):
It was a private vendor that was hired to come in and do the survey and they spread they work with different community leaders to like, Hey, spread this to people, ask them to complete it, and they’d send it to me as well as several other different people and spread it among your different, we want to make sure that we get as much of a diverse sample as we can, that it’s not just a, you know, certain people filling that out as opposed to others,
Speaker 1 (11:26):
What type of questions were on that survey?
Speaker 2 (11:29):
It was a typical, you know, how I think there was a generic, you know, how welcome do you feel? Do you feel included? Things like that. And then there were some more details as far as I think maybe a question, like, have you ever felt like you were discriminated against describe things like that?
Speaker 1 (11:46):
How important do you think it is?
Speaker 2 (11:49):
It’s, it’s been a minute since they did that. So I’m trying to recall how important do you
Speaker 1 (11:54):
Think it is? And again, I’m very impressed that the city or whoever took the initiative, the company, whoever drove that survey, I mean, I think that is impressive. And I think that is wonderful to bring a community together. How important do you think that is? Because I think sometimes we get lost right in ourselves.
Speaker 2 (12:12):
I think it’s hugely important. I mean, there’s all sorts of psychological and mental health implications when people don’t feel included. And the community is only as strong as its weakest member and it’s like the whole Gene’s only as strong as its weakest link. So I think the more we can bring people together and the more we realized we have more in common than we don’t that this kind of our mission at one more song. And, you know, the welcome to study has definitely helped. We’re not the only ones working on it. There’s several other organizations that are working to try and bring people together to our big event is lots of fun. So we have dancers and performers and things like that, and not so much speeches or, you know, things like that. But I think in the current environment, it’s even more important than it’s something that we sentenced on.
Speaker 2 (13:01):
I think we’re going on two or three years now. And yeah, I think three, cause we’ve had two events. One had to be online because of COVID this year, but, and then we had one the year before with our first and the first year, it was basically spent trying to figure out reformat, rebrand plan and strategize all those sorts of things. And we’ve also recently launched other like smaller what we’re calling be kind talks to dig deeper into diversity and inclusion issues that for smaller groups to get together and talk through things. And the big one this year has been talking about racism and anti-racism the George Floyd and all that sort of stuff that had happened. But
Speaker 1 (13:42):
The be kind talks though. So when did that talk to me a little bit more about that initiative and how you put these conversations together and how many people were included in who do you invite?
Speaker 2 (13:54):
Yeah, so we, it’s something that we’d wanted to do for since the beginning. We didn’t quite figure out the format until later, but part of our mission is education. And so we want to provide in addition to the celebration, the education component and we talked about doing these talks where we could dig deeper. We kind of took the idea from Ted talks and, you know, decided, be kind to something that we use a lot. So one of our hashtags and slogans, and we said, let’s call them, be kind to talks. And then we finally were ready to put it together this year and the George Floyd killing happened. And so the topic was naturally, we’re going to talk about racism. And the format that we’ve used is it’s a panel discussion. So we have three panelists and a moderator. And we just ask questions and answer and have an open, honest, candid live discussion about these hard things that are, you know, why is it hard to talk about and was talking about this hard thing and try and come up with concrete solutions? What can we do? What can’t we, and talk it through. And we invite the general public to that. Our first event had run 20. So people came to, and some of the other events that had to be more zoom online, depending on where we’re at on the, you know, red, orange, yellow scale of COVID van. But it’s been a lot of fun.
Speaker 1 (15:10):
So with the be kind talks to have open discussions is very healthy for, for families, for, for communities. How have you, how have you tried to encourage people to share these feelings, share their feelings at these times?
Speaker 2 (15:27):
So we’ve had different panelists, every single talk. So we’ve taken the same sort of discussion. It continued at different venues throughout the County, some in Warsaw, some in Syracuse and other parts of the County. And the, and so we’ve had different people that have shared on the panel. So having different panelists, the answers are different inherently. And then we also welcome questions from any way that wants to attend. And we we’ve had a few and we encourage people to just reach out and if they want to be involved to be involved in I think it’s definitely peaked the community’s interest. We have our, we do a monthly meeting every month. That’s open to the public where we handle our board business as well as anything else. We try to be a fully transparent organization
Speaker 1 (16:13):
And all of this is under the one Warsaw project. Okay. Yep.
Speaker 2 (16:17):
And then one of the other parts that we’ve been able to support is a organization Toto Suunto does an event for specifically towards Latinos and helping them to pursue career paths through education. And that’s kind of something that we’ve been able to come alongside and help support as well as others. There’s been different organizations that happened with the some of the protests over the summer that had reached out and were like, we know we have to be careful because we’re five Oh one C3. We can’t get political. So we try to make sure my step over that line, which some usually people understand sometimes they’re upset, but usually he wants you to explain it. They understand. And she, I mean, I don’t know if I answered your first.
Speaker 1 (17:00):
No, you did. You did. Do you feel, especially during this time when so many of us have been at home and we, you know, we don’t leave our homes and we you know, working from home, do you feel, especially at this time, people need to come together more than ever before?
Speaker 2 (17:16):
Yes, I think so. Yeah. And it’s hard right now because we’re not able to come together. I think there’s a new appreciation for people wanting to get involved and get in because people realize still seeing you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. And since we’ve been deprived of that personal connection, people have realized the value of it, I think is going to be one of the silver linings of COVID potentially is a newfound appreciation for that human connection. And and I I’m friends with several teachers and they talk about the kids experiencing that and how like they were forced to leave school and how they like, Hey, this is I miss school. I miss those connections and the effect on like the upcoming generation that will have. But I, I mean, I think it’s vitally important. I think more show less about COVID and it’s more about the divisive world that we live in.
Speaker 2 (18:05):
I mean, that’s something that we talked about in the intro podcast where, you know, why I ran for office just to try and bring people together. And the divisiveness, the why I started one more song is to bring people together. I think if people would get out from behind their screens, get off of their phones, get off their devices and actually talk to each other. You stop listening to what somebody tells you to feel about somebody and go find out for yourself. You realize, Oh, why do I hate this person? Why, why did they tell me not to like this person what’s wrong? Like, we’re really not that different. And actually get to know your neighbors, get to know your community members and realize that we actually, we all want the same thing. We want a better world for ourselves and our family. If we have them, we just maybe disagree about how to make it happen. So
Speaker 1 (18:50):
Very well put very well put. So you took on the initiative in your community in Warsaw to take on and take over the one Warsaw project. I call it project at the end for people who are listening, because you have listeners all over say you have someone in another community in Seattle, Washington, you know, or here in Tampa, Florida. And what advice would you give them in starting a project such as yours?
Speaker 2 (19:20):
I think it’d be awesome if there was a one Tampa, one Seattle, a one in every town. We actually, one of the interesting things that happened when we started one more size, we had somebody from Fort lane, which is a nearby town that got involved and they were like, Hey, do you mind if we like use that? And like, I like that. I’m like, yeah, go ahead. Like, there should be one on every single town to try and bring people together. I mean, community building, their organizations are vitally important. So if you want to start one, it’s not that hard. You’re going to need to reach out to an attorney probably, or somebody who can help you with the paperwork and filing a 501C3, or you can try and figure it out yourself. If you do your own taxes, you might be able to try and figure it out. The tax forms have instructions, but they’re, they’re not necessarily fun to go through. But yeah, it’s not overly complicated if you’re willing to put in the work and do it. And it’s definitely something from a community building perspective that it’s it’s been, I think it’s very meaningful to, you know, try and bring people together. And we’ve we’ve already seen some successes and there’s been a change I think already, and it’s not gonna, you know, go from one thing to the other overnight, but bringing people together is a good thing.
Speaker 1 (20:25):
You know, even if someone doesn’t start like, you know, one Tampa or one Seattle, but if they want to start an organization, you just said something that really, I mean, also is very eye-opening there are so many wonderful people out there like yourself, We Trust Travis who were willing, right. To devote their time to help people. So would you suggest maybe if there’s a citizen out there that wants to start some type of community group to reach out on just on Facebook or some type of social media platform and, you know, ask attorneys in the local area, would you, would you be willing to donate your time to help me? Would you suggest that
Speaker 2 (21:02):
I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing to ask mean you might get told now, but it never hurts to ask the places to look out for probably our like the bigger corporate firms that do a lot of corporate work would probably be willing to help out because a lot of them actually have like pro bono requirements for their associates where they’re required to do a certain amount of pro bono hours. So, I mean, if they’re getting paid to, you know, do Coca-Cola’s paperwork or some, somewhere else, some other corporation then and, and, and they have this pro bono requirement, then they may be able to be like, yeah, I can file the paperwork for you. You know, that’s something pretty simple for them. And all it takes usually for most boards that get started in an organization is three people usually have to have three members on a board to get started. And so if you got three dedicated people willing to put in the work, you can probably start your own organization.
Speaker 1 (21:52):
That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful to know. So you, with your organization with one Warsaw, you knew you wanted a community project that brought people together. So if someone out there again is thinking about starting some type of organization, would your suggestion be look deep within yourself to find out what you’re passionate about? Is that where you begin Travis? Or what advice would you have?
Speaker 2 (22:16):
Let me make sure it’s something that you’re going to spend the time on, because it’s definitely any sort of project that you’re going to start. Usually it’s not going to happen overnight. You gotta be willing to put in the time, and if you’re gonna put in the time, it’s gotta be something you’re gonna care about. And don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen overnight. And I do a lot of pro bono stuff as well. We’ve talked about like my work with migrant workers at the coalition of Immokalee workers and love them to death. And I mean they’re an amazing success story, but they started, and they didn’t see an initial success for a years. You have to persevere and stay with it. And, you know, you got to fight that good fight. And it’s the old saying of, you know, the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, ultimately
Speaker 1 (22:59):
Delve deeper into that because you are also spreading kindness again with your pro bono work with that organization. Talk to me a bit about that. And I, and I do appreciate how you mentioned it did not happen over,
Speaker 2 (23:10):
Right? Right. So the coalition of Markley workers is a farm worker group that supports farm workers in fighting for basic human rights in the fields of Florida. And now up the East coast and into Texas, it’s expanded and initially started at Amockley Florida, but it’s grown since then to the, through the fair food program, which is a program that works with buyers of tomatoes and other produce, but principally tomatoes too, they agree to only buy from farmers purchased producers of produce that are part of the fair food program, which require audits done by an independent agency. That’s the fair food standards council to make sure that, you know, they have been successful in eliminating sexual abuse in the fields of Florida, which is unheard of. I remember when the me too movement was in the national news and like leaders of the MuTu may actually like called the coalition of monthly workers were like, how did you do this? Like, and it’s it’s worker driven social responsibility. It’s, it’s bottom up change as opposed to top-down change. So it’s actually meaningful. I controlled by the people at the bottom and there’s accountability through independent agencies is the big thing. I mean, a lot of times corporations will talk about, we have this code of conduct and this social platform that we can do. But if you, you know, look past the words, there’s still enforcement mechanism. It’s just something to sound good, so they can tell people they have it. And so nothing actually happens
Speaker 1 (24:40):
Well, modesty aside you are a walking example, sitting example right now that you can spread kindness, right? And kindness is very important
Speaker 2 (24:50):
And you don’t have to be a lawyer to do it. We all have different talents and skills. I’m one lawyer out of eight people on our board, and they all bring a unique skill to our board. There’s a w there’s finance person to start treasury. That helps with that. There’s a social media person that helps with all those sorts of things and marketers, and there’s all sorts of other people that do amazing things. Everybody’s got a skill set, don’t feel that yours isn’t important. Sometimes we’ve had people apply to our board and they’re like, you know, I don’t have a college degree. Do you want me to do it? Or don’t make it doesn’t mean there’s no degree required. So it’s just somebody that our big thing with one Warsaw has been, we’re going to be a working board, not a looking board. And so there’s a lot of times or talking board as it were just a lot of times that there’s lots of meetings and talk without a lot of action. So we make a point to do, if you’re willing to work and actually you can do it. That’s what we want. We want to actually move the needle forward. You don’t wanna sit around it.
Speaker 1 (25:38):
And of course, I mean, spreading kindness and doing wonderful things for your community, I feel, and I know you certainly feel it’s priceless, right?
Speaker 2 (25:48):
Yeah. So One More South I’m on that board as the president. And then there’s a number of other organizations I’ve been on the boards of over the years. And I’m currently on the sheriff merit board, which is a board that oversees disciplinary issues in excessive a week of punishment, and then manages a pension for deputies kind of like a civilian oversight sort of thing. And then I’ve been on the Beaman home board, the domestic violence shelter and was the vice-president president there. I’ve been on a grad white board, which was, you know, looking to improve the graduation rate locally. I’m an optimist member, which is an organization that supports youth activities and was on that board for awhile, you know, volunteer get involved and you don’t have to be on boards necessarily, but just get involved,
Speaker 1 (26:35):
Get involved. It’s it’s precious time that can help countless people and of course fills your heart. Okay. All right. Well, Travis McConnell, you’re fantastic. That’s why, again, we trust Travis, Travis. Thank you so much, everyone for joining us on this podcast and stay tuned for so many other exciting chapters in in your life, Travis and everything that you’re doing. Pretty fantastic. Thank you
Speaker 3 (27:04):
To learn more about Travis McConnell, head to Travis MCLaw.com. Thank you for listening to
Speaker 1 (27:11):
We Trust Travis.