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Charity Matters Inspiration

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Making Waves

As the summer days pass by faster and faster we all crave a little bit more sand and surf, especially here in California. The past few years my summers have been spent running a nonprofit leadership program where I have the privilege of working with  extraordinary high school and college age students. Five years ago when I showed up, I met a fantastic family of four girls ( The McDermott sisters) who had all been a part of our organization, each was at a different phase of their leadership journey.

We challenge all our students to find their magis, the Latin word for more, to search for their meaning and purpose and to share it with others.  We also teach our students that you cannot lead unless you serve. I am so proud of these amazing young women, identifying their gifts and finding a way to give back to others. Take at peek at their MORE and our fun conversation about their inspiring work mentoring young girls through their organization Making Waves.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Making Waves?

Micaela McDermott: Our goal was to provide a positive and supportive community of ladies that will always welcome and embrace one another. When I was working as a surf instructor, I realized the need for a strong female community in and around surfing. There are plenty of young girls that want to learn how to surf, but not very many ladies in the lineup. Entering into this sport can be intimidating when you don’t have a supportive community or role models to help guide you through it. Coming from a family of 4 girls, we all experienced some of the social challenges that girls go through during middle school. Our hope when creating the Making Waves community was to bridge both these experiences and provide young girls with a safe and welcoming group on and off the water.

charity matters: So tell us what is making waves mission and your hope for Making Waves?

Cameron McDermott: The mission of Making Waves is to promote a love of sun, surf, and good vibrations among all women. The sun represents promoting a conscious mindset of our impact on the Earth. Making Waves has been involved in multiple beach cleanups and discussions involving our environmental impact on the planet. Instead of leaving carbon footprints, we focus on our footprints in the sand. Surf stand for of course, surfing, but also all around staying active and taking care of our bodies. And finally, good vibrations refers to carrying ourselves in a positive light and passing that light on to others, like a vibration.  

Our hope in starting Making Waves was to provide mentorship for middle school girls through the sport of surfing. We want these girls to then take their passion, whatever it is, and make their own wave.  It is an amazing feeling when you know you are impacting the world.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Cameron McDermott: The best feeling in the world is seeing somebody catch their first wave! They are so stoked when they are able to finally stand up after falling a few times. Seeing the joy and excitement that the girls experience while surfing and learning together makes every moment worth it.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Micaela McDermott: When you see that big bright smile on someone’s face, you know you have made a positive impact. If each girl leaves feeling stoked and motivated to “make their wave,” then it was a successful day

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

Delaney McDermott: One of the achievements of Making Waves is receiving a  grant from The Pollination Project in 2017. We have also been invited to speak at several conferences for The Association of Catholic Student Councils, sharing out story with over 500 middle school students in Southern California. Among our events and meet-ups, we have had over 100 participants over the last 4 years.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Micaela, Cameron & Delaney McDermott: Throughout the life of Making Waves, we have had the opportunity to learn some amazing life lessons from the experience and from the ladies involved. We have learned to stay persistent and steadfast on goals, but also to enjoy the ride. We have learned the importance of a supportive and positive community, and the inspiration and motivation that this community provides to people. Most of all, we have learned how to be better friends, supporters, mentors, and sisters because of this experience.

Regardless of age, everyone has the ability to find their “more.” The McDermott sisters are an incredible example of sharing their passion through Making Waves with others!

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YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Learning Lab Ventures

Last December, I was at a friend’s holiday party and sat next to this amazing woman and we started to chat about philanthropy. The holiday celebration ended and we vowed to continue the lively conversation another time. So, two weeks ago we reconnected to continue the conversation, six months later.  The young woman I met was named Rochelle Gore Fredston and her philanthropic journey was and is inspiring. The last time we met, Rochelle was the mother of two little girls and when we sat down two weeks ago she beamed as we discussed the pending new addition her family.

Rochelle and I discussed how she got into the nonprofit world and the journey she has been on with her incredible work to break the cycle of generational poverty. She is the founder of  the Philanthropic Society of Los Angeles (PSLA) and more recently has taken over Learning Lab Ventures, a nonprofit that is an intensive after school and educational enrichment program that turns underserved students into college graduates. I have to say after our conversation it is official…. Rochelle is truly beautiful inside and out and her passion for making a difference is an inspiration to us all. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!

charity matters: Tell us a little about your back round and your journey into the nonprofit world?

Rochelle Gores Fredston: My dad came to the United States with very little and worked extremely hard. He taught us that we had to work hard and do better, not just for ourselves but for others. Some my earliest memories were feeding the homeless, as young children in Michigan, where we grew up. My brother has Cerebral Palsy and we were all raised to be involved and supportive of one another and our community.

charity matters: how did you begin the Philanthropic society of los angeles?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After college, I was moving to Los Angeles and I reached out to a family friend and said that I wanted to get involved in something philanthropic in LA.  Our friend connected me with the Children’s Institute, which is a great organization that provides mental health training and head start programs to over 20,000 children in Los Angeles. At the time I was in my twenties and the group at Children’s Institute was mainly people in their forties and fifties,  so I wanted to get some of my friends involved.

I owned a boutique and have always loved fashion, so I thought it would be fun to have a fantastic fashion show and involve a big group of millineals. I realized that my friends really wanted to do something but didn’t know how to start. So we created a group called PSLA to raise funds and support Children’s Institute. For eight years we very successfully raised funds with our events and each year our PSLA group of about seventy-five was giving their funding to educational projects for the Children’s Institute. We even created a family fund to help families with specific needs.

charity matters: so how did you get from the PSLA to Learning Lab Ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After eight amazing years with great success, our group at PSLrealized that they still wanted to do more to support education, especially for at risk youth. So we began to explore the idea of funding another organization that was in need but also that had a great success rate. So as fate would have it, in 2017 we connected with Hathaway-Sycamores who were running an after school educational program and they asked if we wanted to take over? That program was Learning Lab and now Learning Lab Ventures.

Charity Matters: tell us about learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: Learning Lab was founded in 1982 by an amazing man named Simon Gee whose passion is tutoring and mentoring students. Today we still follow the incredible work that our founder began and have built upon his foundation. Our mission is to disrupt generational poverty via an intensive after schools education and enrichment program. We aim to enable underrepresented students to graduate from top colleges equipped with a college degree, skills and experience they need to excel in the workforce and beyond.

charity matters: Tell us about some of your success at learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: At LLV we take students from age three all the way until their first job out of college. We have 100% high school graduation rate and 95% of our students go to a four year college with scholarships. We have students at Harvard, Ivy League’s and incredible four year colleges. We provide our students with mentors and our hope is to eliminate all the red tape to get them through school and into their first job.

We have focused on our core, education, which is what we do well.  With LLV we have taken an old nonprofit and made it better with great partnerships and resources.

charity matters: How has this journey in philanthropy changed you and what have you learned about yourself from your work in serving others?
Rochelle Gore Fredston: When I began this journey, I was newly married and getting involved in Los Angeles. Over the past decade I have committed myself to helping the most at risk youth in LA, and during this time I also had two beautiful girls. Having children of my own has made this a very personal mission for me and I am grateful that I am able to give back in a meaningful way.
charity matters:

Thank you Rochelle for  your extraordinary commitment to breaking the generational cycle of poverty through education. You told us,”I grew up to do better. Education is how we can do better and it is my job to help them do better.”  Thank you for inspiring us all to do better and be better!

 

charity matters
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Celebrate Charity Matters!

Birthdays are always cause for celebration, for coming together and for presents. If you are receiving this today for the first time, this is my  birthday gift to you. Today is Charity Matters 7th birthday and in honor of that I wanted to give each of you the weekly gift of inspiration. For the past seven years I have been on a mission to share  the stories of the most incredible people, those who give of their lives to make others better. As quick as a cup of coffee, a short inspirational read that starts your day with an uplifting story, a quote, or a thought to that leaves you thinking positively.

In the past seven years, so many of you have followed this journey and come along to meet incredible people like JoAnn Thrakill of Pablove, Jenny Hull of Once Upon a Room and so so many more….all who have taken their challenges and turned them into something positive for the next person. Almost a thousand posts later and I am continually inspired, uplifted and motivated by these individuals who show us the best in ourselves and who we can be.

Charity is defined as help, aid and contribution. It is not about money, but rather it is about converting passion into change. Matter is a substance, a subject and something of importance and that is what Charity Matters strives to provide.

So thank you for all of you who have joined me along the way and welcome to those of you who are just joining in. We are each a link in the human chain that joins us all. I hope you will stay and be a link that connects people and causes that matter. Like any birthday gift you don’t want you can always return it (or unsubscribe) or you can regift it and share it with someone else. I know together we can do anything.

charity matters

 

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Eric’s Kids

The beauty of Charity Matters is that my friends love to connect me to their inspiring friends and then I turn get to share them with you. A few weeks ago, I had a girlfriend connect me an amazing woman named Jennifer Caspar, the founder of Eric’s Kids. Jennifer has had a remarkable life for someone as young as she is and is the perfect example of someone who has used all of their challenges and gifts to make others lives better. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

charity matters: Give us a little insight to your backround before starting Eric’s Kids?

Jennifer Caspar: When my husband Eric and I moved to LA from the East Coast  for his work, it was such an exciting time. I worked in the nonprofit space in affordable housing, loved my career where I could use my entrepreneurial skills, creative abilities and problem solving skills to help support the homeless. We had two young daughters and in January 2009, I left my job. At the same time, my husband Eric decided to follow his passion of education and make a career change. So, for the first time we were both at home together and working on separate projects. It was a very special time for both of us.

charity matters: what was the moment you knew you wanted to start a nonprofit?

Jennifer Caspar: When Eric died unexpectedly on September 1st, 2009 I knew that we needed to do something in his memory. Our girls were ten and thirteen at the time and I knew that somehow we needed to help children who had lost a parent and knew that we needed to do something to honor Eric’s passion for education. We were fortunate that we had life insurance and some financial resources and knew we somehow had to help those that did not.

I reached out to my old boss and asked for her guidance and she pointed me to the California Community Foundation that partners donors and nonprofits. They explained that we could create a donor advised fund under their 501c3 and they could manage all of the administrative work that can be overwhelming for many nonprofit organizations. I was overwhelmed enough and knew this was the right step. Talking this all through we came up with the perfect way to honor Eric, to help grieving children and to support Eric’s legacy with education.

Charity matters: Tell us what ERic’s kids does?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric’s Kids is a nonprofit that provides scholarships, mentoring and grief support to at risk children who have lost a parent and are in financial need. We ensure that underserved kids affected by loss are provided with a quality education and grief support so they will have an equal opportunity to succeed. The fund works to provide financial support and services to children who would otherwise be unable to attend high quality, safe nurturing schools in their central Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jennifer Caspar: Different things at different times. All of the people who support our work and cause continue to inspire me and knowing that I am not alone in this work really helps.

charity matters: when do you know that you have made a difference?

Jennifer Caspar: When I receive letters from the students we support. When families reach out to me to say how grateful they are that their child can stay in the same school regardless of the loss of a parent. Parents knowing that despite their grief and loss that somehow they are going to be ok gives me great comfort.

charity matters: tell us about your success?

Jennifer Caspar: We work to constantly fund as many students as we can. In eight years we have had seven fundraising events, supported over thirty plus students and funded over 100 years of school.

charity matters: what life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has this journey changed you?

Jennifer Caspar: This journey has changed me in many ways. I’ve learned about leadership and getting other people involved. I’ve learned how to inspire and motivate people in positive ways . The life lessons learned from this journey are all about gratitude and paying it forward. People want to help and be a part of doing something good for the world.

charity matters: what do think Eric would think of your work?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric helped me become myself in our 18 years of marriage. He was always my cheer squad. I think this would make Eric happy. I think he would be proud of how we (myself and the girls) have spent our time and focused our energy these past eight years. This is part of our life. Knowing that Eric was always moved by children who had a hard upbringing and that his legacy now gives kids an opportunity to go to bat would inspire him.

Charity Matters: Thank you Jennifer for inspiring us all. Despite loss, grief and challenges you found a way to honor Eric’s memory and change the lives of so many children and families through your work. You are an inspiration and we are sure that Eric is beyond proud.

charity matters.

 

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

 

 

Happy 4th of July!

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely than this our own country!”

Daniel Webster

It is hard to believe that today is already the 4th of July! It seems that when this incredible holiday falls in the middle of the week, just a little piece of summer goes missing. However, any day off is usually a good one! The 4th of July is one of THE best holidays because there are no gifts to buy or wrap, no huge elaborate decorations but rather it is a day to do something simple with friends and family…a beach, a picnic, a barbecue and of course fireworks.

Today, we celebrate our country’s 241st birthday. As a nation we are still young and it is evident that we still have more than a few growing pains. While, it has been hard to watch our country so divided in so many ways, I think we often forget how much more connected we are than separated. Our media thrives on conflict and so rarely do we get to witness images of resolution, collaboration, kindness, teamwork and hard work. All of which are things that I have the privilege of seeing in my America.

Interviewing people over and over who give of themselves, their finances, their time, energy and commitment simply to help their fellow man. That is my America. Our 1.7 million nonprofits and the 11.2 million Americans who work for them are there for one reason only, to serve someone else. To help someone who needs it. That is what I see everyday in my America. Hardworking dedicated volunteers and nonprofit employees choosing to give of themselves, just as those who came before us did. Whether service through military, through church and community or simply to one another that is what Americans do.

When September 11th happened we all reached out to one another. We held each other up, we gave of ourselves to help those that were suffering.

That is the America that I know. Yes, we do not all agree on everything and chances are high that we ever will. However, I do hope that today you agree how lucky you are to live in a free country filled with good, kind and hardworking people who model to the world what freedom is. We are Americans, that is what we do.

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTONMARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Happy 241st birthday America and Happy 4th of July!

charity matters.

 

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

I Am Waters Foundation

You never know what a lunch invitation is going to lead too…..A few weeks ago a friend of mine reached out and invited a handful of girlfriends to connect with a remarkable woman named Elena Davis for lunch. She was coming into town from Houston and had started a nonprofit organization there serving the homeless in 2009. I of course could not wait until lunch to meet and connected with Elena last week via phone to chat and ask about her journey in beginning I Am Waters Foundation.

I have to say, it was one of the most remarkable stories and amazing conversations.  Elena is truly an inspiration and  I am sure you will feel the same way…

what is the i am waters foundation’s mission?

Elena Davis: I Am Water’s mission is to do one perfect and complete thing: to deliver water. Clean drinking water in a bottle with a message of hope, love and faith to remind the person holding and drinking from the bottle that something important lies beyond physical sight.

charity matters:  there is usually a connection between nonprofit founders and their causes, what is yours?

Elena Davis: My life as it stands now is far from where I started. As one of four kids raised by a single mother on less than three thousand dollars a year and food stamps, my life was lived in extreme need and on the margins of society, with struggle as a constant companion. At the age of fourteen, after having attended over a dozen schools, I started dreaming of a better life than the one into which I was born.  I was introduced to a photographer who took the first shots of me and I began to realize my dream of becoming a fashion model. At the age of 16, having signed with the renowned Ford Agency, I set off to Paris to begin what was to become a lucrative and successful career as a print and fashion model.

 After 15 years of hard work and a successful career as a model, I was able to contribute to alleviating my family’s financial woes . In 1994, I married into one of the country’s more prominent families. Twelve years of marriage and 3 kids later, I had all that I had dreamed of. Or so I thought.   In 2009, while going to pick my kids up from school a homeless woman knocked on my car window. I reached for money and she shoved it back to me and said, “Please, I am so thirsty can I please have your water?” As I handed her the water and felt a jolt, like an electric current. She said, “Thank you and God Bless you.” And she disappeared.

Charity matters: what was the moment you knew you needed to start your nonprofit?

Elena Davis: After meeting that woman, I couldn’t get her out of my mind and I knew that I was being called to do something. I just wasn’t sure what. Then a series of things happened that kept pointing to water and homelessness. I knew I needed to revisit my past and I was scared to face the deeply buried part of myself, my childhood, that I had kept a secret from my friends and the people I knew. Yet, I knew that if we could heal one crucial aspect of the intense need that a person without a home has to deal with daily, by providing water, we could make an impact and so in 2009 we began the I am Waters Foundation.

charity matters: homelessness has so many layers where do you start?

Elena Davis: Did you know the average age of homeless person is 9 years old? We have more than 3.5 million people that are homeless in this country every night and of the 31 million people living in poverty more than 12 million of them are children. We start by providing the most basic human need, water.

charity matters: what keeps you doing this work when The job is never ending and the need is enormous?

Elena Davis: The work is hard but I really believe that I was called to do this. The short answer is God. What are the chances that I was born into poverty and married into a great family? I think I am a bridge between two worlds and this was God’s way of saving me.  Also, my husband has been incredibly supportive through this entire journey.

charity matters: when do you know you have made a difference?

Elena Davis: On a micro level I think we have been able to track people and follow our progress. On a macro level we have worked tirelessly to help change the systems by working with cities, calling out injustices and simply by not giving up. We are excited to be launching a new program I Am Jobs to continue our mission to serve this underserved  population.

charity matters: Tell us the success you have had and your impact?

Elena Davis: We have distributed over 4.1 million bottles of water to the homeless in six states.  We have partnered with countless homeless agencies and 45 shelter partners that we research. We are now working with cities to begin an I Am Jobs program in addition to supplying water and hope to the population we serve. The water continues to be the tool we use to reach people and connect. Each bottle has a phone number that connects us to the individual in need. We have partnered with incredible organizations to help the next steps in the job process. It all starts with the individual person who is asking for help.

charity matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has this journey changed you?

Elena Davis: Growing up transient I kept to myself. My heart was buried and this journey has cleansed me, given me gratitude and perspective. I have learned that our gifts are tied to our wounds. You need to go down to the core of who we are and face that to move forward to help others.

charity Matters: Thank you for sharing your remarkable story, You truly are an inspiration and more than a super model but a super role model for us all.

 

charity matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Foundation for Living Beauty

Have you ever seen someone walk into a room that radiates a bright light? That is exactly the impact that Amie Satchu has when she enters the room. It isn’t her physical beauty (which she has) but something bigger within that catches you immediately. When we met through a mutual friend recently at a lunch, I was not surprised to discover that she had founded a nonprofit, most appropriately called The Foundation for Living Beauty.

Amie and I had a chance to catch up earlier this week to discuss her inspirational journey and mission to provide women with cancer emotional, physical and spiritual support throughout their cancer treatment. The Foundation for Living Beauty uses a holistic approach to educate, uplift and empower women dealing with cancer whether newly diagnosed, in mid treatment or beyond.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?

Amie Satchu: In my early 20’s I started  a hair care line that specialized in wigs and hair extensions, that quickly gained notoriety in the ethnic hair care market. With that came hundreds of letters from women telling us that we had transformed their beauty by transforming their hair, many of whom had cancer. So, as a result of those letters I decided to start a nonprofit in 2005 to serve  these women.

The week after we received our 501c3 nonprofit status, my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a terminal cancer and given less than two years to live. I crawled into my mom’s hospital bed and told her we were going to get through this together. The Foundation for Living Beauty truly came out of providing her with a quality of life and each program was built out of her experience.

A few weeks later my mom (who was a social worker) and her two best friends were also diagnosed with cancer. The connection between these three women, the sisterhood and coming together truly formed the inspiration for the women we serve to find a place where they can thrive and heal.

charity Matters: Tell us a little about your work?

Amie Satchu: The Foundation for Living Beauty does over 30 events a year all 100% free to support women with cancer. We do wellness workshops, yoga for cancer patients and sisterhood support events. All of the support services we currently offer, address the complex needs my mother faces along her cancer journey and help women understand that the lifestyle choices they make can help them feel and live better.

charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Amie Satchu: My mother died four years ago and she lived eight amazing years after her diagnosis. I saw her emotional wellness after our events, seeing the impact of our work first hand. My mom is still the guiding light even though she is no longer physically with us. I see the impact from the women we serve, in their renewed sense of hope and well being, and that in turn supports their families through this journey. 

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Amie Satchu: There are so many moments and people that remind me of the difference we have made in hundreds of peoples’ lives. One person that stands out to me is Sandra Yates Thompson (who is in the video below), we were not only able to help her through her battle but to support her and her family in ways that shifted her and all of us. Her heart was so beautiful and it is people like Sandra that inspire us to keep going.

Each life we touch reminds me of the importance of our work. We had a client named Cassandra who was a single mother, and an attorney who was such an inspiration that we had a donor create a Cassandra fund to help single mother’s with cancer.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been? Number  of people impacted, funds raised?

Amie Satchu: Our success is truly about each life we touch, whether the woman with cancer or her family. We currently serve 650 Living Beauties that are a part of our program. These women can attend over 30 events for free that focus on increasing their physical wellness and emotional stability while coping with cancer. 97% of our participants gain a new understanding of their body and immune system and 92% of the women we serve agree that they have more tools to strengthen and heal their body because of our program.

Amie with Olivia Fox, who was diagnosed with cancer in her early 20s
charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?  What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Amie Satchu: This journey has changed me in so many ways. The exchange between the women we serve reminds me to live only in the present. Bringing hope into others lives, learning to be open and to make everyday count are invaluable experiences that have changed me. When I do those things I feel my mother’s presence and know this is where I want to be.

The life lesson I have taken from this journey is that what really matters in this lifetime are the connections you have with other souls. The positive things you do in this life are the only things you take with you and the only things that are truly important. Being with my mom at the end of her life for her last breath is a daily reminder that love is all that we have and all that matters.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Lessons learned from graduation

“you build a legacy not by one thing but by everything, your legacy is every life you touch.”

Maya Angelou

As many of you know, there many things in this world that make me happy, giddy and joyful. Last week at my alma matter more than a few of them came together. Talking, giving speeches, college graduations, USC Annenberg and Oprah….like a perfect storm they became one. While I was supposed to attend the graduation for one of our volunteers, I sadly couldn’t get there in time.

However, through the power of media I was able to watch Oprah’s speech. She has such wonderful lessons that I wanted to give you some of the highlights here. Oprah knew the first rule that they teach you at Annenberg and that is to know your audience. She certainly knew hers, future journalist, broadcasters and the messengers of the future. Oprah asked those messengers to give voice to the people who need a voice. She said,”Use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in the world.”  She asked the students to, “Be the truth” and asked,”what are you willing to stand for?”

Oprah quoted her friend Maya Angelou’s words saying, “You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything. Your legacy is every life you touch.”  Words that resonate.  As she wrapped up her speech with practical advise about making your bed, being kind, and investing in a good mattress, she pivoted and said,” Join forces in service of something greater than ourselves. Pick a problem, any problem and do something about it.”

These are not just words for USC Annenberg alumns or words for Oprah fans but rather words for all of us to process, think about and decide how we are going to act.

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Pivoting

“when patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.’

Tuli Kupferberg

Change. Why is it so hard? And yet so necessary. Even the tiniest tweak in our daily schedule can throw us into a tail spin. Let’s face it we get comfortable and secure knowing that the same things are going to happen in our days. There is a sense of security in routine. On one hand we crave it and on the other we despise it, but which do we want more?

I realize when I do the same things the same way for so long, how can I possibly be surprised when I get the same results? If I go to the gym each day and do the same thing, the results will be the same. If I eat the same foods, do my work the same way, the needle doesn’t move. The reality is that in order to see new results, I need to break out of the pattern and habits that I have created.

The process isn’t easy but necessary to stretch, to grow or even to bend a little. None are comfortable but that discomfort pushes us, stresses our routines and gets us out of our daily comfort zone. The smallest tweak can begin  to make a difference. Let’s face it we are all creatures of habit but breaking some of those patterns feels like a fresh start towards a new world.

 

charity matters.

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Reflections on Motherhood

“Having kids…the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings-is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

Maria Shriver

Lately, I have been thinking about being a mother. Motherhood isn’t something you typically think about, it is a verb, an action and rarely a mere thought. The reflection began last week, when I saw a young mother in the grocery store trying to contain her toddler. I smiled and told her to enjoy this moment because it goes by so fast. She looked at me as if I was insane and her expression said that this moment was already way too long and she hoped it would go by quicker.  I clearly remember being that young mother with three toddler boys in the grocery store.  Older women,(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) would share these  same words of wisdom with me and my reaction at the time was probably pretty similar. Last week,  I realized with horror, that I was now that older woman.

I am really not sure where that time went or how it slipped by so quickly, especially when those days felt like eternity.  The days when the boys drank food coloring and stained their faces, fingers and everything else in sight. The day we were painting the nursery for their new baby brother’s arrival when they knocked over a can of paint, ran through the spilled paint and all over the house leaving baby blue foot prints on the carpets, wood floors and most surfaces.  The upstairs sink they turned on without my knowledge that ran for hours, flooding the upstairs and my husbands treasured old convertible in the garage below. The memories of dirt, destruction and chaos are vast and yet, each crazy moment is now a treasured gift.

The goal in those days was mere survival. If you were showered and nothing was hugely destroyed, the day was a victory. Little by little those toddlers, ran faster and farther. They started using bikes, skate boards  and pushed every boundary mental and physical that they possibly could.  Those beautiful little faces could destroy you and wear you down, motherhood  was an endurance sport where only the strong survive.

Like a triathlon, you begin the race of motherhood full of energy and excitement for the journey ahead.  The swim is the first part of the course, as you dive in you realize the water is colder than you thought but you are just beginning, so  you visualize your finish line. You focus on that moment on the podium and your shiny metal at the end of the race with these amazing humans you have molded, supported, guided and loved. Quickly, very quickly into the race you realize you are sinking…fast and that the race is going to be longer and harder than expected.

Not to worry, if you can survive the swim, then you are ready for the ride. Once on the bike, those twists and turns on the road of motherhood where school, hurt feelings, sporting activities, homework and planning your daily course is harder than planning a military strategic operation. The ride seems as if it has to be better than the swim and yet the challenges are never ending. They just keep coming.

Still, you hold onto your vision, you dream of the finish line. A polite, kind, educated human, with a diploma and perhaps a job. You finish your ride and begin the run. You are now slower, much slower and yet you are determined to finish the race. You will get that prize and so you push through those last hurdles, roadblocks and obstacles. They are big ones, high school, getting into college and everything teenager that will test your mental strength like never before. You are a survivor. You are strong, you are a mother and you are so close to finishing. Then you see it, the finish line and the tears begin because you now realize you no longer want the race to end.

You see those beautiful children, kind, polite, and good and realize that it was the race, the journey and the challenges that were the joy. Each obstacle overcome is a victory and each failure a lesson in love, patience and endurance. You survived the frigid deep waters of babies and toddlers, the twist and turns along the ride to adolescence and the run through the teenage years and college. The tears stream down your face as you cross the line exuberant, proud, strong and tired. Your vision is real, your prize is waiting with open arms….those beautiful, kind, polite and amazing humans are there just as you imagined and dreamed. You are a mother and your race is almost over and now you just wish you could run part of it again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

charity matters.

 

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The Barron Prize for Young Heroes

 

A few weeks ago, a young lady that has helped start and run a local nonprofit asked me to write her a recommendation for The Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which I happily did. This high school girl is extraordinary and I was thrilled to help.  More than that I was  excited to learn about this incredible award and nonprofit that inspires and encourages students between the ages of 8 and 18 to use heroic qualities like courage, compassion and perseverance to make a positive and significant impact on the world.

The prize was started by New York Times best selling Children’s author, T.A. Barron seventeen years ago and named after the author’s mother. His hope was to inspire children that could make a significant difference in the world. The founder’s fear was that  perhaps, they wouldn’t be able to find these children. However,it was just the opposite, hundreds and hundreds of applications would begin to come in.

Seventeen years later, the Barron Prize for Young Heroes has honored over 417 young heroes who have  all done remarkable things. One prize winner is Alexa, who created a nonprofit called Bags of Books, which she started at age 10. Her organization distributes gently used and new children’s books in free pop-up stores in underserved communities. She has donated more than 120,000 books and inspired hundreds of volunteers to distribute books in homeless shelters, children’s hospitals and after school programs.

One  young prize winner founded NY is a great place to Bee! to educate the public about bees about the importance of healthy bee populations. She built a team of volunteers and they have educated over 14,000 students about ways to protect bees through her advocacy.

Another inspiring change maker,  Jahkil, founded Project I Am to help the homeless in Chicago. In one year Jahkil and his team distributed more than 3,000 Blessing Bags filled with toiletry items, towels, socks and snacks through his drop off sites and bag stuffing parties all at the age of nine!

While I could go on with hundreds more of these incredible young nonprofit founders and budding philanthropist, these 417 Barron Prize for Young Heroes winners have combined raised over 19 million dollars for their causes in the past seventeen years. The real winners of this prestigious award are the incredible communities served by these extraordinary young leaders and their enormous compassion to serve. Each of them give us hope for a brighter future of kindness, caring and service.

 

charity matters.

 

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Love and resilience

 

Last weekend I attended the most amazing event, it was a series for women authors, who were brought together to share their journeys as novelist and tell us how they came to write the stories they wrote. It was like book club on steroids! The group that brought these incredible authors together was a local nonprofit called the Pasadena Literary Alliance, which was established a decade ago to recognize the accomplishments of authors, to advance the community about literary arts and to raise funds to support local literary programs.

What made the day so incredible were these amazing women authors, who didn’t know one another, or compare their notes and yet every one of them spoke about failure, resilience and love. Each of their messages was so powerful and inspiring that I had to share, besides these are also great tips for summer reading!

The author of the New York Times bestselling book, Miss Burma, Charmaine Craig spoke about her families rich history in Burma. Charmaine’s mother was the most famous woman in Burma, an actress, a beauty queen and a resistance fighter and yet growing up in the United States her mother was quiet, unassuming and spoke little about her past. Charmaine shared her own personal journey in telling the story about her family, her recent house fire and losing everything and her families love for one another, their country and their incredible resilience in the face of adversity.

Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, shared her personal story of being from immigrant parents, going to Yale and living the American Dream only to realize that it wasn’t. She became a successful attorney was diagnosed with a rare disease and became acutely aware of her time left on this earth and how she wanted to spend it. She told us that when she moved to Japan with her husband for business she volunteered to feed the homeless and quickly realized that the only volunteers were Americans. The experience changed her, her perceptions and she said that we each have an incredible superpower which is simply, “to love and persist” and that is the way we heal the world and one another.

The last author’s story I’m going to share was Hannah Tinti, author of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley,who told us about her early failures, heartbreaks,family illnesses, financial struggles and lives challenges that seemed never ending. She decided to run away to write and was literally hit by a car on her way to run away. It was that moment that made her realize she was alive and she said to herself, “If you only had so much time left what story would you tell?” She told us that each of us has the ability to, “create a reflection of our pain to heal ourselves and the world.”

As I listened to these incredible women, each uniquely different and yet exactly the same.  I realized that their journeys are exactly like those of the nonprofit founders I share each week, just in a different outlet. The authors use their pain to help heal themselves by telling stories and the nonprofit founders use theirs to create organizations to heal others. We all have challenges but how are we using ours to heal ourselves and the world around us?

charity Matters.

 

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Random Acts of Flowers

“where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Lady Bird Johnson

As we enter the month of April, we think of flowers and springtime, both bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits, which is why this seemed like the perfect way to kick us into spring. The story of Random Acts of Flowers and founder Larsen Jay is as uplifting as a spring bouquet.

You never know what is going to inspire someone to make a difference. In Larsen’s case, it was an almost fatal fall from a ladder in July of 2007. While he was in the hospital for his long recovery, he received so many beautiful flower arrangements that truly lifted his spirits. Once Larsen was well enough to leave his room he saw so many other patients who didn’t have any flowers, so decided to repurpose his and give them to others, which was just the beginning of a beautiful idea. The memories of that gesture inspired him to start  Random Acts of Flowers in 2008.

One year later, Larsen delivered his first bouquet from Random Acts of Flowers to the patient in his old hospital room, bringing the moment full circle and a renewed commitment to brighten the lives of others with this beautiful gesture and simple kindness. By 2011, the organization had delivered over 10,000 bouquets and by 2013 had begun to expand in other cities.

Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Today, a decade later Random Acts of Flowers is located in four major metropolitan cities; Knoxville, Chicago, Tampa and Indianapolis and shows no sign of slowing down. They are delivering smiles to over 9,000 people in hospitals, senior living centers and organizations in need  every month. As of today, they have delivered over 310,801 bouquets and smiles. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

charity matters.

 

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The Butterfly Child

Every so often a rare magical beam of light enters our world, makes it brighter, shines an internal light so brightly on something important and then leaves this  world a little darker when it goes. This past week that is exactly what happened when the world lost 17 year old Jonathan Pitre, on April 6th.

Jonathan Pitre was known as “Butterfly Child” because of the rare disease he had called Epidermolysis bullosa, which makes the skin as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. The disease also known as EB, is often referred to as one of the worst diseases known to modern medicine . The reason is that the slightest scratch or blister results in wounds similar to third degree burns and children living with EB are in constant pain because the skin never heals properly.


PHOTOGRAPH BY George Harrold / Barcroft Media

However, that pain became a source of strength for Jonathan whose mission was to raise awareness and  funds for the disease. Jonathan became an ambassador for Debra, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping support families with EB.

The world first met Jonathan a few years ago, when James Duthie, did a documentary film called The Butterfly Child which told the story of this amazing young man and the life he and his mother experienced living with this disease.

James Duthie, said about Jonathan, “What really made him proud was to be able to draw attention to the disease, to raise money for it, to educate people on a disease that nobody really knew anything about except the families that were living with it. I’m thrilled he got to do that in his last few months because it really gave him purpose. I think that brought him a lot of peace in his last months.”

Jonathan’s positive nature, determination and sense of purpose made him an inspiration to all. The world will be better because he was here and not quite as bright without him. His mother said in a statement on Facebook, “Jonny’s story has been made very public over the last years as he invited you into his life and daily struggles with EB, as he tirelessly fought to raise awareness for this horrific disease. I am proud to say you did Jonny boy!”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.