Sanctuary Spotlight: Wamwega Shaw

  • By Jake May
  • Aug 6, 2021

Tell me a bit about your path to Sanctuary and, specifically, the CE role. What were some of the factors that went into the decision?

I was introduced to Sanctuary by a former employee and longtime friend from the neighborhood. He made me aware of an open Community Engagement Manager position and encouraged me to apply. I am a person who is, and has always been, heavily involved in community activity and engagement, particularly in Brookline. Prior to joining Sanctuary, I was serving as program manager for a local youth center. I saw this role  as an amazing opportunity to get involved and entrenched with a company  committed to making a sizable positive impact in the community I grew up in. 

What are some of your favorite parts of working in a community engagement capacity?

One of my favorite parts of working in a community engagement capacity is the ability to provide immediate, meaningful support for the town and its residents. We do this by supporting community action through enriching, out-of-the-box community-based events, volunteer service and financial scaffolding from donations and grants. We, as a company, have yet to force the conclusion that we are invariably and unquestionably the “good guys.”

What makes managing community engagement for a cannabis company unique, rewarding or difficult?

What’s unique is the opportunity to create an industry standard by simply doing things in a committed, quality way. We are in an industrial sweet spot where a creative innovation in the way we operate can ripple–systematically, systemically and socially–far and wide, having a deep impact on defining the culture of the industry. 

What makes managing community engagement for a cannabis company difficult is finding the core values defined beyond promises made in Community Host Agreements. Community engagement can define the culture of an entire populace given the right support and infusion of quality of spirit.  

Who were some of the early businesses/organizations in Brookline that you engaged with? Was there a common thread/characteristic (besides being local) that you were seeking?

We want to work in any way we can with community partners who are open to collaboration. If partners display a willingness to do good in the community and enrich the lives of those who they share space with, who can lose? Creativity in community action is key; meet people where they are at, not not where you want them to be.

Businesses and organizations that we have engaged with are as follows:

The Brookline Food Pantry

Brookline Community Mental Health Center

Presentation Rehabilitation & Skilled Care Center

The MUSE Foundation 

The Puppet Showplace Theater

The Brookline Teen Center

Steps To Success

The Brookline Art Center

Baja Taco Truck 

The Coolidge Corner Merchants Association

DJ WhySham

Pop-Up Opera

Hamilton Restaurant & Bar

Wild Goose Chase

Party Favors

Good Vibrations

Eureka! Puzzles and Games

How did the Beacon Street Art Gallery relationship begin? Why is it important to invest in and provide space to showcase local artists from diverse backgrounds?

The Beacon Street Art Gallery relationship was established before I joined the team at Sanctuary. Our dispensary space is quite large inside and much larger than is needed for business as a whole. Immense opportunity for visual, cultural imprint is created by providing a community-centric art gallery that is open to the public. The impact is increased by displaying cross-cultural artwork to audiences of all ages, races and genders with gallery exhibits that can be viewed from the street by those walking by. This opens eyes both within the space and outside by piquing the curiosity of “the ones who can’t help but look inside.”

Switching to the Brookline Food Pantry, what are the origins of that work? Speaking in terms of charitable organizations, why was the food pantry specifically an endeavor that struck you as vital to support in this city?

I personally have had a long relationship with the Brookline Food Pantry and have always been impressed with their work in the Brookline community. Food is love, and food and cannabis go sandwich-in-mouth. It only seemed like a natural fit for Sanctuary to be partnered with the Food Pantry. We have also designated our lobby area as a Food Donation Drop-Off Site for the food pantry. We’ve received around 1,000 pounds of food donations since February of this year. 

Looking to the future, what are some areas where you’re excited to nurture or expand Sanctuary’s community engagement endeavors?

I would love to see Sanctuary get involved with assisting folks returning home from prison. I would also like to see Sanctuary get directly involved in providing housing assistance and tackling food insecurity in this affluent community. 

What were some of the guiding principles or points of emphasis you brought with you on Day 1 that remain vital to your work and Sanctuary’s engagement? 

The guiding principles I bring to my work at Sanctuary are to be the type of person I needed when I was younger, to always remember my history and never forget how much good work I did with far fewer resources at my disposal than I have now.