Project Free2Fly prepares to host its fifth annual fundraiser

Project Free2Fly prepares to host its fifth annual fundraiser

Photos by John David Clark

Handmade goods and festive fall treats are in store at Bird and Barn, Project Free2Fly’s fifth annual fundraiser at the scenic Black Fox Farms.

Twenty-five local vendors will sell a variety of handmade products, ranging from clothes and jewelry to artwork and pottery, to support Project Free2Fly’s mission of helping the local community.

A nonprofit organization, Project Free2Fly serves women in the community who desire to make a better future for themselves and their families. The foundation said some of the women they help are in rehab, were homeless or want to break the cycle of poverty.

Founder of Project Free2Fly Hailey Johnston said the organization fosters growth and support in these areas through the art of sewing.

“The women come from all walks of life, and we come alongside them and help them dream about their future and achieve their goals,” Johnston said.

Once at the organization, the women are taught to sew and given a sewing job, where they make everything from key fobs to travel bags. They are also assigned a mentor and have the opportunity to take classes on finance and well-being.

The end goal, according to Johnston, is to aid women in establishing themselves in school or in a career.

Johnston has organized the Bird and Barn event since its inception in 2013. She said Project Free2Fly prides themselves in their quality products, with Bird and Barn giving them the chance to recognize other local businesses working just as hard.

“We are able to spotlight homemade local goods as well as other small businesses. That’s what our organization is all about,” Johnston said. “We say it’s the best of local goods, handmade mercantile and Southern charms.”

Project Free2Fly incorporates Lee students into their mission as well. Since their beginning, they have been partnered with Cross/Tharp as the dorm’s service organization. Senior human development major Destin Haight acts as service coordinator for Cross/Tharp and has been attending Bird and Barn for the past three years.

“I think it is a really neat opportunity to bridge the gap between Lee and the community. It helps to put a face to Cleveland residents and the civil engagement we aim to have,” Haight said. “Supporting other women and gathering around each other and saying, ‘Let’s celebrate the work you created and have fun while doing it.' That’s what brings people back each year.”

Project Free2Fly said they plug volunteers into all different stations and want to use everyone who offers to help. Junior anthropology major Roni Boss worked the ticket booth last year, giving her a front row seat to all the vendors and customers.

“It was cool to see so many people from the Cleveland community be involved,” Boss said. “It seemed like each vendor had a message behind the products that they sold.”

Project Free2Fly sales manager Kaley Strawn attended the event last year as a vendor. She said Bird and Barn exposed her new business to the Cleveland customer base.

“My business, The K+H Company, was just getting started at the time, and Bird and Barn was a wonderful way to connect with shoppers and members of the community,” Strawn said.

But it’s more than just the vendors and food that make Bird and Barn so popular. Black Fox Farms—a local venue with a plant nursery, towering trees and a modern rustic barn—has hosted the event every year.

“We wanted to do it somewhere unique and in Cleveland that would allow the space,” Johnston said. “Black Fox gave us that special setting.”

To celebrate five years of operation, Bird and Barn will feature new types of vendors and products sold, including Project Free2Fly’s new clothing line.

“This year we have more new editions than ever before with some really unique offerings,” Johnston said. “As well as the usual—fresh flowers, yummy food, a coffee truck and good music.”

Johnston said this unique event has become not only a way for local businesses to get their name out there, but also a unique and enjoyable experience for people to give back to their community.

“Since we launched our organization, Bird and Barn was the first big fundraiser that raised awareness of who we are,” Johnston said. “There’s nothing like this event. People genuinely love it, and it’s become a staple that people look forward to.”

The event will be held at Black Fox Farms on Thursday, Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 8 pm.

Purchase your ticket at Project Free2Fly’s website, or email for information on how to volunteer.

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