Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: The Power of the Dream

It’s that time again. It is year two of our Blueforest Gives Back Video Giveaway and we are thrilled to have so many impressive applicants. Thank you to all of the organizations who have participated in the process.

Among the contenders who stood out to us is The Power of the Dream. Here is some more information about them:

The Power of the Dream formed in 2008 with the mission of creating jobs and advocating for adults in the Triangle with autism and intellectual disabilities (IDDs).

Given that many of the adult population with autism/IDDs are unemployed, they created a thrift store called HandmeUPs Thrift, which opened in Raleigh in 2013. Since then, the store has been very successful and has employed 21 part-time associates with autism/IDDs who work a variety of positions including cashier and production associate.

To create even more jobs and opportunities, The Power of the Dream also led several “PowerUp” projects: PowerUp Inclusive Employment Task Force, PowerUp Micro-Enterprise and PowerUp Advocacy.

The goal of the PowerUp Inclusive Employment Task Force is to create extra job opportunities for adults with autism/IDDs. The force consists of businesses, support agencies, community leaders, and individuals/self-advocates who team up with The Power of the Dream to create a program for customized employment. Representatives from companies such as Lenovo and Wake Tech have participated in this process.

Adults with autism/IDDs learn how to own their own business and receive financial assistance to establish it through PowerUp Micro-Enterprise. They are given individualized planning and support strategies necessary for success based on their strengths and talents.

PowerUp Advocacy is about improving the lives of individuals affected with autism/IDDs. The advocacy movement focuses on making changes to issues the adults face such as employment opportunities and accessibility. The aim is to reduce the isolation of people with disabilities.

What we love about The Power of the Dream is that adults with autism/IDDs are the heart of their mission. Oftentimes, many with disabilities are treated differently as members of the community. Through The Power of the Dream, these individuals are treated well, have a voice, and most of all, have the same opportunities as everyone else. We agree with The Power of the Dream that “Quality of life is not a dream.”

Check them out and learn more about their mission at



Blueforest Gives Back 2016 Judges Meeting

BFGB2016 Judges


Having a strong team of judges is essential when discussing all applicants for this year’s Blueforest Gives Back Giveaway. With a blend of returning and new judges, and yummy food from Moe’s, it was time to get the ball rolling by scoping out 7 lucky finalists who met our criteria. We were very excited to see nonprofits we know and love and also organizations new to us. We did a thorough analysis of every applicant’s strengths and weaknesses. Because we looked at each applicant individually, this was a challenging process!

34 organizations sent in applications this year, which beat out our initial 25 total for last year. We fully examined each organization based on a careful list of criteria such as community presence, social engagement, and impact of the organization’s message. Some organizations are doing well on their own while others could use a helping hand. We gathered useful information about each nonprofit and their local impact.

Despite a long conversation and tough decisions, we were all on the same page about which applicants are the finalists Blueforest Studios will be working with. We’ll be scheduling meetings with the finalists over the next 4 weeks.

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Exchange Family Center


It’s that time again. It is year two of our Blueforest Gives Back Video Giveaway and we are thrilled to have so many impressive applicants. Thank you to all of the organizations who have participated in the process.

Among the contenders who stood out to us is the Exchange Family Center. Here is some more information about them:

Life as we know it can sometimes be difficult. Everyone is facing daily hardships, which unfortunately may include mistreatment of various forms. The Exchange Family Center in Durham works to prohibit such harsh realities. The Exchange Family Center’s mission is to strengthen area families and prevent child mistreatment and neglect through family support, counseling and education. Their vision is of a world where children are safe from physical and emotional harm. They strive to guide children and their caregivers through life’s not-so-great moments.

Through resources such as counseling, case management, group counseling, education and supportive services, the Exchange Family Center has made a huge difference in the lives of many children and their families. Those services are provided through three of their main programs: Early Childhood Outreach (EChO), Family Support Program (FSP), and Parenting of Adolescents (POA).

Their three main programs have created plenty of success stories for many families. Through EChO, the Exchange Family Center has helped a child in daycare curb their aggression and instead use words to express themselves and solve problems. The center’s FSP taught a mother skills to help her child stay focused in school as well complete homework. The POA program has completely turned around a teen whose life spiraled out of control after getting caught up in gang activity.

What we love about the Exchange Family Center is that they work hard to strengthen families and ensure the safety and well-being of young people. Young people are the next generation. It is vital that they are happy and protected so they can make a positive impact in the community. The center values respect, which is the glue to making relationships work harmoniously.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at:


Kendra Jones


Meet the Judges Panel for Blueforest Gives Back 2016!


Now that our Second Annual Video Giveaway Blueforest Gives Back has officially stopped accepting applications, we are excited to announce the judges panel. These judges will be responsible for reviewing and voting on which local nonprofit will be the winner of our giveaway!




Michele Reynolds

Michele Reynolds is an expert in social work and is currently working at Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community, a nonprofit organization that provides retirement services to older adults. She has extensive volunteer experience and she enjoys working with Meals on Wheels and Race for the Cure.





Missy Hatley

MissyMissy Hatley is the Director of Resource Development for CASA, a nonprofit that develops and manages affordable rental housing to end homelessness. She has worked with donors and volunteers who support affordable housing for 12 years.  Missy can attest to the power of a beautifully crafted and presented video message to connect nonprofits with passionate people in the community who want to help.



Molly Winstead 



Molly was born and raised in Louisiana. She has a BA and an MS from LSU. She has worked in municipal government and for nonprofits including the Nature Conservancy and Democracy North Carolina. She is married and lives in Rocky Mount.





Kathy Langfield


Kathy Langfield is the VP Operations of the Blueforest Team and keeps us all on track. She is a professional MBA with a background in business, nonprofit and environmental fields. She has worked for Blueforest Studios since its inception as Atlantic Creative and oversees finance, operations, and marketing. She is on the Meredith College Alumni Board, Triangle AdFed Board, and is a longtime Special Olympics of NC volunteer.



Marguerite LeBlanc

MargueriteMarguerite LeBlanc is the bookkeeping part of the Blueforest Team since 2012. She has worked for nonprofit and for-profit organizations ranging in size from two to several thousand employees including local and national nonprofits and several publishing companies. Her experience includes fundraising, sales, marketing, event planning, and office administration.


Mary Beth Rehm

Mary Beth Rehm received her M.S.W. from UNC-CH then worked for many years with individuals with autism and their families through the TEACCH program in Chapel Hill.  After marrying and moving to Charleston, SC she started a gardening business and volunteered with the Preservation Society of Charleston.  Since returning to Raleigh, she has volunteered with the Deconstruction Program at Habitat for Humanity, in the kindergarten program at Stough Elementary, and at the NCSU Arboretum.



Video Team


Sean Riddle – Project Manager


Sean Riddle grew up in Orange County, California. He always had a passion for film and moved to Los Angeles and started as a production assistant at Warner Bros. Due to his hard work he was offered different positions on several TV shows, including “The West Wing”. Sean recently moved to Raleigh with his wife, daughter, and two pugs – Matty & Dwight. Sean absolutely loves Raleigh and all it has to offer and is looking forward to continuing his career at Blueforest Studios.


Emily Kohler – Illustrator + Animator


Emily Kohler is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design where she majored in illustration. When Emily is not drawing, she spends much of her time thinking about what to draw next. She’s an avid urban sketcher and enjoys fresh air. Her hobbies include collecting mechanical pencils, misplacing her keys, and reading predictable mystery novels.



Bryan Reklis – Video Producer


Bryan Reklis graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009 where he studied media production. Bryan’s interest in media production began in high school, but in college, production became a passion. After graduation, Bryan started an internship with Blueforest Studios before joining the team full-time.



Van Dwiggins

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 3.22.44 PM

Vann Dwiggins worked in print publishing, wildlife conservation, and social work before finally finding his true passion in videography. A Raleigh native and a graduate of North Carolina State University, Vann is also an aspiring documentary filmmaker.  Vann enjoys camping, etymology, wildlife photography, and making videos for local nonprofits.



We sincerely appreciate each and every nonprofit’s dedication to bettering the community and willingness to enter our giveaway. Our judges will be reviewing and choosing the top 10 finalists within the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

CASA Raises 280% More Funds….

Last summer we worked with CASA on an integrated video campaign.  We created an amazing animated video that tackled a difficult subject.  Who can talk about homelessness with a smile?  Well, it turns out since CASA is actually solving homelessness in the Triangle for hundreds of individuals and families – they can certainly smile about the solution they are providing!  Their “Housing First” model has worked so well over the decades that they have seen remarkable growth in funding.  We were thrilled to be part of the process.  Learn a little about their experience in this behind the scenes video.  (Full disclosure, they were our Blueforest Gives Back winner so the $10,000 was free to them.)

We worked with Missy Hatley, Director of Development at CASA to create an entire integrated campaign that ensured the video reached their target audience.  This, of course, is the crucial part – we can make an amazing video, but without a plan to get it to the right audience it’s not going to get the desired results. Blueforest helped with the YouTube optimization and CASA did the rest.

At the end of summer 2015, Ms. Hatley reported they had raised 280% more than the previous summer.  We were thrilled with that result!!! Check out their video here.  Want to learn more? Drop us a line.

Blueforest Gives Back – CASA Video Debut July 21st


The moment we’ve all be waiting for – the winner of Blueforest Gives Back CASA’s Video Reveal! We had our First Annual Blueforest Gives Back for local nonprofits and we’re proud to announce that we will debut the final product July 21st at The Cary Theater.

CASA is a Raleigh-based nonprofit housing developer and property manager. They focus primarily on multi-family rental properties for people living with disabilities and veterans who have experienced homelessness. CASA’s housing model ends homelessness for people in great need by offering safe, permanent places to live. CASA manages more than 340 apartments and homes across the Triangle (Wake, Durham and Orange counties) and has 22 more currently under construction.

We’ve really enjoyed this exciting collaboration, learning more about what CASA does and how they positively impact our local community. Together we’ve creating an amazing animated video that embodies CASA and their message. We can’t wait to share it with all of you!

Come learn about Blueforest Studios, CASA, and the importance of animation! See how Blueforest tells CASA’s amazing story and learn more about the annual Blueforest Gives Back for local nonprofits. Open to everyone!


When: Tuesday July 21st

Time: 3:30pm- 5:30pm (2 showings of the debut video, no excuse to miss it!)

Where: The Cary Theater 

Who: Open to everyone!

Tickets : FREE! And choice to donate to CASA.

Reserve your tickets HERE.

You don’t want to miss this!


A First Time For Everything

The following post was written by Bennett Northcutt. He is one of our 2015 summer interns learning about business and finance in video production and marketing. Welcome aboard Bennett!

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Earlier this week, I began my internship here at Blueforest Studios. Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the office Monday morning to find an intrinsic group of people dedicated to what they do, and boy, do they do it well. Blueforest offers an array of avenues for companies to increase local awareness. One way Blueforest does this is by offering an annual competition for one lucky nonprofit in the Triangle area to receive a free video called Blueforest Givesback. Nonprofits submit applications as to why they deserve the video and Blueforest selects one company which they feel has the most compelling story. How awesome is that? Then Blueforest creates a free video worth $5,000 to $10,000 for the nonprofit. This year CASA was the lucky winner of the Blueforest Givesback competition. The other interns and I were tasked with brainstorming a radio spot to advertise the screening of the winning video Blueforest created for CASA. CASA is different from any other organization I’ve worked with in the past. CASA’s mission is to provide affordable housing to those who are homeless and disabled in the Triangle. With over 300 apartments in the Triangle and constant need, CASA cannot continue to thrive and house those in need without your help. Visit and help make a change today.
The radio spot we created can be heard here:


The Winner of the 1st Annual Blueforest Gives Back!

It was a very tough decision. Every applicant is an important nonprofit helping to better our community. We started Blueforest Gives Back because we love getting involved in the community in many different ways. Blueforest Gives Back is another way for us to help local nonprofits with what we do best, telling a great story. After much consideration, we’re happy to announce the winner.

Drum roll please……



CASA is a Raleigh-based nonprofit housing developer and property manager. Focusing primarily on multi-family rental properties for people living with disabilities and veterans who have experienced homelessness. CASA’s housing model ends homelessness for people in great need by offering safe, permanent places to live. CASA manages more than 340 apartments and homes across the Triangle (Wake, Durham and Orange counties) and has 22 more currently under construction. CASA’s CEO Debra King was recently Tarheel of the Week by the News & Observer!

Blueforest Studios is excited for this opportunity to work with CASA in creating a video that will help CASA accomplish their mission. Blueforest Studios and CASA will work together to broaden their impact and raise awareness of the organization. CASA was selected to receive the 1st BlueForest Gives Back award because of its successful track record of assisting often overlooked members of our community, its dynamic leadership, and their plan to further their measurable impact. Learn more about CASA at

We thank all the applicants that applied to our first year of Blueforest Gives Back and for all the work that they do. We encourage all to apply for 2016’s Blueforest Gives Back.

Keep a lookout for updates of Blueforest Gives Back and for the winning video!


Blueforest Gives Back Finalist: The Power of the Dream

Over the course of the last month, as we reviewed applications for the BlueForest Gives Back contest, our staff has had an opportunity to learn more about over 20 Triangle area organizations working to make a positive impact in our community. So many worthwhile causes and so many people working to help others! We’ve have the opportunity to talk to staff and volunteers of the finalists, learning about their history and mission. We’ve been really inspired by the hard work and dedication of these folks and the work they do. Thank you to the 25 organizations who participated in the process.

We’d like to share with you a little about the organizations who made it to the final round in this year’s contest. Introducing…. The Power of the Dream!


The Power of the Dream’s mission is to create jobs and advocate for adults with autism and/or intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD). They were founded in 2008 with the intent to help people with disabilities learn and develop their own businesses. Given that 85% of adults (18+) with autism and other intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) do not have a paid job in their community, they recognized there is a huge need for employment opportunities in the Triangle area for this population.


In 2012 The Power of the Dream decided that it was time to put into practice all the lessons learned over the years and actually create jobs, training and volunteer opportunities right here in our community.  The Power of the Dream raised funds and they began a non-profit thrift store business called HANDmeUPs Thrift, which opened in Raleigh on August 29, 2013. The store is their first vehicle for creating jobs in the community for individuals with autism and IDD and now have hired 21 part-time employees.

We love how The Power of the Dream advocates for those with autism and IDD by trying to provide real solutions to help individuals grow. They’re a strong team of volunteers who help show how those with disabilities deserve a fulfilling life and are important to our community.

Check them out and learn more:

Public Relations Graphic

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations Graphic

The PR Puzzle

“A developing company is looking to hire a PR/advertising person,” I read yesterday in a Facebook status of Katya, my former colleague in Russia. “PR slash advertising, right,” I thought to myself. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a PR guru like James Grunig, for example, putting an equals sign between public relations and advertising… In many companies around the world, however, such association is pretty common. In Russia, the words PR, advertising, and marketing are often used interchangeably and essentially refer to one thing and one thing only: promotion of goods or services. Is that in any way different from the American culture? Let’s get brainy and try to figure it out.

Curiously, the abbreviation ‘PR’ for Russians would typically evoke a set of negative emotions. The deal here is that excessive political PR blackened the reputation of the whole PR process in the 1990s – right when it came into existence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Take PRopaganda for instance, which is the name of a large local public relations firm: Can you really expect good things from the company where PR and propaganda merge?!

PR in Russian language is also often used as a verb describing a public figure or an organization trying to boost their popularity through dubious activities. See a politician in a news report bragging about equipping local schools with newest computers? Don’t doubt for a second that the guy is ‘PRing’ himself. Such skewed understanding of PR is not unique to just Russia and is observed in other countries of the former USSR as well – in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

So what would the ‘correct’ interpretation of PR be? Most likely it would sound something like ‘communication between an organization and groups of people affected by this organization, where all parties should benefit.’ PR would imply listening for feedback and allowing for dialog between the organization and the society. Unfortunately, most organizations are far from working in line with this ‘true’ purpose of PR. Public relations practitioners usually act as marketers, trying to urge people to buy the product instead of putting efforts into upholding the company’s reputation in the society.

Blueforest Studios recently held a contest for local nonprofits in the Triangle area called Blueforest GivesBack. Factors determining proper PR, such as community presence and social engagement, served as important criteria for our judges in selecting finalists. Blueforest is going to announce who the finalists are really soon!

What do you think public relations stand for? Press releases? Corporate social responsibility? Two-way communication? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

About the author: Vlad is an intern at Blueforest Studios and a 2nd year grad student at NC State. Today he’s sharing thoughts on his field of study – PR – and how the purpose and functions of PR in his home country – Russia – differ from the U.S.