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Supporting Social Causes: How to use the DEPTH method when choosing a cause to support in your community

By Corrie Pelc

September 20, 2023

For as long as there have been humans, there have been social causes. With social media and younger generations becoming passionate about many issues affecting them, their community, and the planet, you cannot scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed without seeing a post about a social cause.

As roller rinks always play an essential role in its community, when issues arise, we often hear questions from rink owners and managers about whether they should support specific social causes. If so, what is the best way to do that? When should they not support a cause? 

Here are some insights from skating centers that have had great success in supporting causes near and dear to them, as well as an expert on helping businesses best embrace and communicate about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. 

Embrace What is Important to You

About 12 years ago, Erin Rhoads — who co-owns Southgate Roller Rink in Seattle, Washington, with her husband — decided to start an LGBTQIA+ Pride Skate night.
“We started that event because we saw a need in the community for a safe place for people to go that are from the LGBT community to have fun and socialize and be together,” she explains. “For us, LGBTQ people are everywhere, and there was a need in our neighborhood and in our community to have a place to come and skate and enjoy yourself and have fun and express yourself.”

Now the event known as Pride Skate Seattle is held every Wednesday evening and draws at least 200 skaters every week. “People love it — they love being able to be together and express themselves and be comfortable,” Rhoads says. “It’s been a really wonderful event.”

When deciding on a social cause to embrace, Rhoads says it has to be something important to you. “This is important to us as people before rink owners,” she explains. “I think that it’s very important to embrace something that is important to you. We have had backlash — a few years ago more so — for having this event. But because it is important to us, and I stand by it completely, if that alienates people that were hateful for our event, then they probably shouldn’t be coming to our rink.”

Find Out What Your Community Needs

According to Derick Foster-Toney, one of the owners of Chez Vous Roller Skating Rink in Dorchester Center, Massachusetts, they select which social causes to support based on the needs of their surrounding community.

For example, in October 2022, the rink held a Skating for a Cure event as a breast cancer awareness fundraiser. “(We) felt like that cause would be worth exploring in our arena of roller skating, because we serve a community of underfunded and under-nurtured individuals who don’t have the resources for breast cancer and funding and help that a lot of other districts and places have more of an abundance,” he says. “We felt it was a great idea to try to spearhead and start something that would be organized by us for the people in our community.” 

Additionally, in February 2023, the rink held a Black History Month Skate Night, for which they teamed up with city officials from the City of Boston to provide free or low-cost skating for kids. 

“We try to do things that enrich and encourage and uplift our community and the people and the families we serve,” Foster-Toney explains. “We always try to dive into different causes and different ways to celebrate our culture in our community and our history.”
And Foster-Toney says embracing these types of social causes helps keep rink owners and managers aware and in tune with the needs of their surrounding community. 

“The things that change a community are very much surrounded by those causes and the things that we are trying to instill as far as our values as a community,” he details. “So embracing those causes and celebrating those causes definitely shapes a certain value of education as far as what the community wants, where the community is at, and where we need to go as not only a community, but as a business that serves these communities.”

Use the DEPTH Model

When deciding on whether to embrace a social cause or not, Janet Stovall, owner of consulting firm Pragmatic Diversity and author advises rink owners to use the DEPTH model, which she discusses in her book: 
  1. Deliberate: “You ask yourself, why are we doing this?” Stovall explains. “Are we doing this because we really want to bring awareness to this issue? Or are we doing it because we’re just trying to make money from it, and it’s a marketing term for us?
  2. Educated: Stovall says it’s essential to understand what a specific holiday or social cause is and what it means before jumping on board. 
  3. Purposeful: “Is this tied up with who you are as an organization?” she details. “Do you only do one of these things a year? Are you ever doing anything other than that? Do you donate to causes?”
  4. Tailored: “Can you as an organization do something to further this cause?,” Stovall asks.
  5. Habitual: “You’re talking about this now – are you ever going to talk about it again?” she says. 
Stovall says rinks can use the DEPTH model as a way to ask themselves whether they should be stepping into a specific social cause. “We need as many voices as we can on any of these issues — just make sure that when you speak, you speak authentically,” she adds. 

Know When to Step Away

Foster-Toney at Chez Vous Roller Skating Rink says to stay away from causes that promote hate or promote violence in any way. 

“If it’s a cause that brings awareness and information, I would definitely do that,” he continues. “It’s never wrong to celebrate a race or celebrate certain things that certain races would want to celebrate, for example. But I wouldn’t celebrate something that encourages the masses to hate a certain group or encourages the masses to do any harm or think in that way because that definitely reflects on your business and you as an owner of what you choose to put out there.” 

Rhoads at Southgate Roller Rink advises rink owners to understand a social cause completely before becoming involved. “It’s about making sure that you’re not just doing it a one-time thing,” she explains. “You want to make sure that you’re constantly giving back to the community because that’s what why you’re there, and that’s why people are there to support it.”

And Stovall urges roller rinks, if they want to plan an event around a social cause not to move forward until you talk to the community you’re trying to serve.

“So if you’re planning a Latino event, get some Latinos in there (and) talk to them,” she explains. “Ask what would matter to them. That’s part of the education process. Engage those voices in your planning so that you can make sure that you’re inclusive. Understand that no one person speaks for an entire community, but take the time, ask somebody or somebodies from that community what matters to them. And even if you don’t do that, at least run by them what you’re going to do and find out if maybe there’s something that you shouldn’t do, maybe something you should do more.”

“It’s all about being intentional about it — not being performative, (but) being transformative,” Stovall adds. 

Corrie Pelc

Corrie Pelc is a journalist, editor, and freelance writer with more than 23 year experience. Her byline can be found in a variety of consumer and trade publications, with past and current clients including IAPPA’s Funworld Magazine, Medical News Today, Hometalk.com, PassportHealth.com, INVISION Magazine, and Sacramento News & Review. She can be reached at corrie.pelc@gmail.com

Photo credit: istockphoto, SDI Productions





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