When asked what led Rachel Rutledge to found The BRIC (Building Relationships in Community), she had an honest answer: “I was a teenager who had a great upbringing, but I was a typical teenager. I didn’t have anywhere to go on a Friday and Saturday night, so I would do what other teenagers would do – ride around, do what I shouldn’t do, hang out in a parking lot. I look back now and I think – how much different would my life be now if I’d had more opportunities.”
In the summer of 2014, Rutledge began hosting community interest meetings about an idea that had been planted in her heart 5 or 6 years prior. After a post on Facebook that informed others of her idea, 40-50 people showed up to the first interest meeting. Once she saw how big this dream could actually be, Rutledge went back to the drawing board and began to turn her thought into a reality.
The BRIC is a 501©3 nonprofit (a status they received in a mere four days – a process that typically takes 18 months and was an absolute miracle in Rutledge’s eyes). It is a place she hopes teenagers will come to and know they can hang out in a safe and supportive environment. Rutledge’s plan is to pattern it after Rocketown, a 40,000 square foot teen hangout in downtown Nashville that currently welcomes over 1,000 teens weekly. She believes Huntsville, too, can support a place like that.
But it’s so much more than offering a place for teenagers to be teenagers. The BRIC is a community effort. Their mission statement is to empower individuals to embrace their unique purpose, develop their potential and leave their mark on the world through the pursuit of growth, responsibility, possibility and support.
Although they have already seen a great deal of support from the community, The BRIC is still lacking some significant things. “Our biggest needs are funding and a building,” she said. While they have received a few smaller grants so far, Rutledge explained that they must secure one as large as $100,000 to purchase a building or receive the donation of a currently vacant building. They are looking for something along the lines of a 5,000 – 7,000 square-foot, industrial warehouse that is centrally located. Placing The BRIC squarely in the middle of Madison County will make it easily accessible to teens living in both Huntsville and Madison.
Once The BRIC has a building, she hopes that it will not only be a place where teens can simply hang out, but also a place where they can perform and cultivate their talents. She would love to see a coffee bar, a stage where kids can perform, a teen artist market and a teen idea incubator. She also envisions adult mentors coming in and working alongside these teens to help them develop their skills.
Although The BRIC has no physical location yet, that has not stopped them from already holding a few events in the community. They have hosted pop-up events in various locations, like the square in downtown Huntsville and Willowbrook Baptist Church, and another one has been planned to take place at The Rock in the fall. These events typically include speakers, live music, games and of course food!
However, the event that Rutledge is most excited about is the Teen Fashion Show, Expo and After-Party coming up on June 27th. They are partnering with Far Above Rubies and Le Jeune to host a fashion show that will not only feature teenage models, but also teenage designers and talent. “We really want to highlight what teens are capable of and their talents,” Rutledge said. Even the hair and make-up will be done by teens! There will be an expo set up, and vendors are invited to rent a booth for $40. Vendors will be able to keep all of their profits. The event will take place from 6 – 9 pm at Lincoln Mill, with tickets costing $10.
Another important thing to note is the positive dynamic of the BRIC environment that surrounds both the pop-up events and will eventually surround the physical location. “I never wanted to have BRIC events on Wednesday or Sunday nights or at a church,” Rutledge said. “We are not a faith-based organization; we are just a charity. But we are a people of faith. We want to reach the churched and non-churched teenagers. There are so many teenagers that will not come if they think it has anything to do with church. We want everyone to feel welcome to come. We are striving to have a place to feel accepted and belonged no matter what. We want anyone to feel like they can come through the door.”