We are all aware of the fact that music is a great outlet for expressing yourself creatively. Musicians and music lovers alike escape their surroundings, even if it’s just for a moment, through music. That isn’t a coincidence, “for many people, creativity is not only an outlet for self-expression, but a tool for communicating emotions.” This is a direct quote from the non-profit LLC, The Paper Bag Mask Foundation, who is on a mission to help young adults tackle stress and anxiety by offering free classes in health and wellness, art therapy, and mindfulness.
The Paper Bag Mask Foundation (PBMF) was founded by Noah Stephen Trofimow and Fran Kilinski in early 2020 after the pair became acquainted, eventually friends and partners, through a group chat. “Noah could tell you, who I actually haven’t met in person yet, which is really weird,” Kilinksi shares in a Zoom interview. “We’re actually friends through a mutual friend. Noah lives in Boston and I’m still here in New York. Noah started up a text study group between five or six of us to share our goals for the week and check-in every Sunday on what we got done. This was really all it was for the first few weeks, maybe a month. Some of us were consistent with it and some of us weren’t. I think the three of us who were pretty consistent with posting our stuff were like, ‘we should collaborate on a few of these goals!’ One thing led to another then Noah came to us and said, ‘I want to start this non-profit. Would you guys be down to do it?’”
Since establishing PBMF last year, Trofimow and Kilinski have had their hands full coordinating over a hundred virtual workshops, fundraising and applying for grants, and charity work. They recently announced finishing second place in the 2021 Suffolk Ventures Pitch Competition, hosted by Suffolk University and Green Rabbit, which means a lot of things for the organization and their community. It was around this time in 2020 when PBMF placed second for another competition hosted by the non-profit organization, Entrepreneurship For All or EforAll. “It was a $750 prize and we came in second place,” Fran told us. “We put that money towards a donation program and that’s how we got started. We used it for start up costs and the rest went towards a charitable organization we thought would see fit for it. We ran a program with mental health patients where we donated comfort items like blankets and notebooks and journals. We’ve also donated to this local Boston Art foundation called Artists for Humanity.” Charity is a major component of PBMF, earlier this year they started running a clothes drive in collaboration with the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation. In addition to giving back, PBMF is especially committed to ending discrimination and stigmas surrounding mental health issues and encouraging those struggling through their free online classes.
PBMF’s classes revolve around three pillars: Movement, Creativity, and Meditation. We all can benefit from implementing this three-pillar approach, whether you have a mental health disorder and already have a treatment plan or an artist just looking to diminish everyday stress. There are many artists who already experience the positive effects including all of these supplements into their creative process as a way to self-reflect, meditate, or even manifest. Trofimow said it best when he added, “these pillars, it’s not something you have to do in place of what you’re currently doing. If you’re on medication and that’s helping you then that’s awesome. I like to call it a mental health toolbox…something to have, different tools, for different jobs. You can use them all at once to get the same job done.”
Most of PBMF classes are on meditation, fitness, yoga, healthy eating, and breathwork. What makes them unique is the ability to socialize and become part of an inclusive community. For some people, that encourages them to want to participate. Trofimow says, “I’ve noticed that from my meditation classes, there are a lot of people who told me that they wouldn’t have normally done this and doing a meditation class is something they’re more open to.” “Fran’s heard that from people too,” he continued. “Maybe they didn’t want to try medication because it was something that they see as taboo. But exercising makes them feel good and it’s better than not doing anything. And especially if something that we’re offering for free…mental health stuff is extremely expensive.”
The Paper Bag Mask Foundation has plans on continuing its growth as an organization, community, and offering other types of classes as a supplement or alternative to traditional mental health treatments. If you are interested in attending a free class, sign up for your first class via Eventbrite. To learn more about Noah Trofimow and Fran Kilinski’s journey, visit http://www.paperbagmaskfoundation.org or follow them on Instagram.