ReThink's latest contest is reinforcing the saying "home is where the heart is."
The contest, called "Why Housing Matters," is raising awareness about public housing through music. Participants in the contest were asked to submit excerpts on what home means to them. The contest has been narrowed down to 10 finalists, and singer-songwriter Jewel will use the winner of a final round of voting as inspiration for a new song.
One of the finalists is Arizona native Meagan Gipson, a musician who has played all over the Valley.
Public housing programs were established to help low-income families live in safe environments at a cheaper expense. ReThink's goal is to make people aware of what public housing is and why the idea of having a home is important.
Gipson first heard about the contest while she was on a short stop in New Jersey on her way to the Bahamas.
"I ended up watching a Katie Couric interview with her [Jewel]," Gipson says. "And she went on and started talking about how she was an ambassador for ReThink and I thought, 'Well, gosh, I should probably get involved with that.'"
Fans of Jewel will know that before her rise to fame, she was homeless. While public housing isn't a free home for families, having a home is something Jewel certainly struggled with. At one point, she was living out of her car and shoplifting just to get by. Jewel's partnering with ReThink is a way to raise awareness for families struggling to stay on their feet in the form of music.
While it may have been out of chance hearing about this, Gipson is no stranger to community involvement. Between maintaining working three jobs and progressing her music career, Gipson manages to find time to visit foster homes.
"I go out and see kids in foster placements, I talk with them," Gipson says. "The idea is to gain more of an understanding of what their position is, what kind of placement they're in. We want to hear their voices."
Gipson talks to children of all ages to find out what they think about life and their situation. In her submission for ReThink, Gipson called upon that experience.
Home is an incubator. Hatched dreams need warmth to grow, safety to expand and shelter to excel. Home is pride in refrigerator drawings, sustenance in meals, memories in frames. Home is a provider, a friend, privacy, a known giving security; it lessens angst, builds confidence. Home fosters hope for pursuits, accomplishments, future. I talk with kids taller than myself and see innocence. I kneel to my kneecap, looking 4-year-olds in the eye hearing about superheroes and princesses. I hold babies smaller than laptops, knowing they've begun journeys in worlds revolving around animal-and-mirror-dangling mobiles above cribs. Home is universal.
Gipson's lyrical content in her music became more personal as she got older. Straying away from songs about love, she began to talk about her own experiences and things she's seen.
The possibility that her words might inspire Jewel excites Gipson. She believes that music is a way that everyone connects and finds a common ground, either in the lyrics or the song itself.
"I think music is one of the main languages that so many people can connect with worldwide," Gipson says. "I think music kind of blends all of us together, and I think that's what's so fascinating. I think that's why it has a beautiful way with it being a voice to speak to people globally."
If Gipson wins, she'll be flown out to Los Angeles to meet Jewel and watch a performance of the new song.
Voting for the contest ends on June 20, with a winner to be announced between June 21 and 27. You can visit the website to vote for Gipson here.
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