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Charity Matters Inspiration

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Life…

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

Marcus Aurelius

I am the first to admit that Mondays are not my favorite. The list that looms with the week ahead is often overwhelming.  The pull of obligations can make me feel like an old Stretch Armstrong toy, with people pulling from all directions. While some weeks are certainly easier to embrace than others, I must be honest, I am not a fan of Mondays.

However, recently I have been getting up a little earlier, in trying to find a moment of solitude. A few short minutes to simply think. No cell phones, electronics, back round noise or distractions. The challenge is trying to keep my mind from the  dreaded “to-do” list. When, I do simply sit in stillness, it creeps in slowly like the old friend that it is….gratitude.

A gift so simple, so profoundly powerful and completely life altering, that is what gratitude does. So this week as we begin our Monday, take a tiny moment to find gratitude for the simple gift of being alive….because you have to start somewhere.

Wishing you a beautiful week, happy Monday!

Charity Matters.

 

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Hope and Comfort

In the recent weeks following Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma we have watched the citizens of Houston as they struggle with the most basic of needs, food, water, shelter but one thing we often forget about when discussing basic needs is toiletries. Something as simple as a toothbrush, deodorant or a bar of soap and more importantly the huge effect that not having these basic essentials has on our self-esteem and life.

I recently had a fantastic conversation with a remarkable man named Jeff Feingold, who identified this need in 2010. An unlikely nonprofit founder, with an MBA from Harvard business school and over 20 years working as a portfolio manager at Fidelity, yet his huge heart and overwhelming gratitude inspired the nonprofit, Hope and Comfort in 2010. Their mission is to improve the health and self-esteem of school age children and young adults in the Boston area. His story is one of gratitude, inspiration and hope….

Charity Matters:  What was the moment you knew you needed to start a nonprofit?

Jeff Feingold: It started in 2010 when my daughter was having a birthday party, and my wife and I decided she didn’t need anything but so many other children did. We asked people to bring items needed by a local nonprofit.  We were overwhelmed by the toys, toiletries and clothes that  friends brought to donate. In delivering these items, I met a social worker who shared with me a statistic that 58% of low-income families are unable to buy personal care items. She said, if you don’t have a bar soap it is hard to go forward.

We knew then that we needed to do more and began sourcing toiletries out of our garage. In 2011, we applied for our nonprofit status for Hope and Comfort.

Charity Matters: You have a full-time job and run a nonprofit what fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jeff Feingold: I think the realization that life is short and fragile and there is so much need. We have been blessed but there are so many kids who are not. Children who do not go to school because of their hygiene, that are afraid to smile because they haven’t brushed their teeth, students being bullied because their families can’t afford soap or shampoo, who are refusing to go to school.  Knowing that we are able to bring resources together to change this for so many kids is what keeps us going. That and the need seems to keep growing.

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

Jeff Feingold:  I know we have made a difference when we hear that children are going back to school, when they send us notes saying that they are smiling again. I know that we have been able to thrive in a crowded nonprofit landscape by partnering with food pantries, human services, children’s organizations and bringing everyone together in partnerships creating a distribution network to get these toiletries to those who need them.

We have made a difference in inspiring hundreds of volunteers, young families and young children, including our own on teaching them how to give and make a difference.

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

Jeff Feingold: In May 2010 we started with a donating a few items from our daughters birthday party and within the first year of working from our garage we distributed over 1,000 toiletries. By 2014 we partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs and Mass General Hospital to provide products and hygiene lessons, distributing over 50,000 toiletries. Today, only seven years later we have distributed over 375,000 toiletries to close to twenty thousand children in need. 

As Jeff said, Hope and Comfort has gone from soap to hope…..a shinning example of what love and gratitude can do!

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Never forget….

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Virgil

It is almost impossible to fathom that sixteen years have passed since that fateful day September 11th, 2001. We all remember where we were when we heard the news. Our brains could barely comprehend the surreal images being flashed on our televisions. Family members called family members, all of our lives were forever changed in that moment, and our innocence lost.

I will never forget taking my young son on a private tour of the makeshift 911 museum a couple of years after that fateful day. Our tour guides were the survivors’ families, the brother of a fireman, the other lost her husband in tower two and both of these grief-stricken people walked us around the Twin Towers perimeter of the rubble, while recalling the path that their loved ones took that morning of September 11th.

When the tour ended at the American Express Building, we all gathered around the fountain of eleven tears that was created for the eleven American Express employees that lost their lives. There was not a dry eye amongst us as we watched tears drop into the fountain and roll down each others faces recalling the stories, the people, and the lives which ended too soon.

Last year we went back to NYC and took our youngest son to the 911 museum, a cavernous space that was filled with thousands of people and yet, the museum is silent. Each person walking through, what was the bottom of the World Trade Center buildings, remembering, reliving that day, the loss, hearing the loved ones memories of each of those faces, reminding us never to forget.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, it is overwhelming to think of so much suffering, yet it is up to each of us to remember that, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Charity Matters.

 

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Gordie, a story worth retelling…again and again

Gordie's story

Next week we head to Parent’s Weekend at our son’s college. The weekend will include tailgates, football games and the obligatory fraternity party (parents included). All of it will be fun, nostalgic and take us back to our college days. Thinking of our trip, reminded me that the 13th year anniversary of Gordie Bailey’s death is coming up and while I do not typically repost, I have shared his story every September because the lesson is invaluable and sadly, needs to be told over and over.

So often we do not make discoveries or connections until it is too late.  We do not realize the value of a friend until they have moved away, we do not appreciate our child until they have left for college or we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed.

Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? This story is perhaps no different, however, the beauty of it lies in the ability to take that clear vision and create something that matters.

This month thousands of college freshman have left home, including my own son, and many are beginning the process of Rush as they look to make new homes away from home in sororities and fraternities across the country. That is exactly what Gordie Bailey did in September 2004, as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Gordie, a fun-loving freshman who had been the Co-captain of his varsity high school football team, a drama star, a guitar player and a walk on at Boulder’s lacrosse team was adored by all. He pledged Chi Psi and on the evening of September 16th, Gordie and twenty-six other pledge brothers dressed in coats and ties for “bid night”, were taken blindfolded to the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest where they were “encouraged” to drink four “handles” of whiskey and six (1.5 liter) bottles of wine.

They were told, “no one is leaving here until these are gone.” When the group returned to the Fraternity house, Gordie was visibly intoxicated and did not drink anymore. He was placed on a couch to “sleep it off” at approximately 11pm. His brothers proceeded to write on his body in another fraternity ritual. Gordie was left to “sleep it off” for 10 hours before he was found dead the next morning, face down on the floor. No one had called for help, he was 18 years old.

The nonprofit Gordie Foundation was founded in Dallas in 2004 by Gordie’s parents as a dedication to his memory. The Gordie foundation creates and distributes educational programs and materials  to reduce hazardous drinking and hazing and promote peer intervention among young adults.  Their mission is committed to ensuring that Gordie’s story continues to impact students about the true risks of hazing and alcohol use. As Gordie’s mother Leslie said, “Parents more than anything want their dead children to be remembered and for their lives to have mattered.”

In ten years, the Gordie Foundation which is now re-named Gordie.Org has made an enormous impact on hundreds of thousands of students across the country through its programs and educational efforts. If you have a college age student, think about asking them to take the pledge to save a life, possibly their own.

Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? Why is it that we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed? Perhaps more than a decade later, our vision is becoming clearer and we realize just how much precious each life is……

Charity Matters.

 

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A storm of support

The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”

Helen Keller

As we all have watched the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston over the past few days, we continue to be inspired by the way that families, neighbors and even strangers have come together to help one another. It is how we are hard-wired as human beings, to reach out and help one another.

The city is literally underwater and it is going to take a big group effort to rally around and help these people out. Houston football star, JJ Watt of the Houston Texans began a crowd-funding effort to support those effected by the storm, if you are so inclined, the link is here to donate.

When moments like this happen, we roll up our sleeves, and reach out to help. It is during challenging times that we become the best of ourselves and who we are supposed to be to offer a storm of support. As we begin our week, remember that, “The welfare of each is bound in the welfare of all.”

Charity Matters.

 

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ME to WE

Summer’s end is bittersweet for me. It is not just the long days, the sun, and the inevitable back to school but it is saying goodbye to the remarkable students that we are privileged to work with all summer long through the youth leadership organization I work with. These students are beyond inspiring and we give them the skills to change the world and it is amazing to see what they can do.

The other day I was looking into other organizations that do similar work and I came across the most remarkable story about a young man named Craig Kielburger and his older brother Marc. Craig, at the age of 12 saw a news story about a young man his age, that changed his life, ignited a fire within and sparked a generation of youth to give back.

That moment was the beginning of the nonprofit Free the Children, whose mission was to free children and families of poverty and exploitation but that was simply the beginning of a remarkable journey and story. Free the Children grew and expanded into ME to WE, the WE Movement and a remarkable organization that empowers youth to change the world.

More than twenty years later, their vision and scope has expanded into empowering youth at home, connecting them with global and social causes, partnering with schools, service oriented travel programs for youth and families, along with a social enterprise that provides products that make an impact with their everyday consumer decisions.

These two brothers, used a spark to ignite a flame of service that has inspired hundreds of thousands of youth to be the change. In Craig’s words,” Over the years, we’ve discovered that it’s far more important to reach as many people as possible-especially our youth-empower them with the knowledge that it’s not up to anyone else, it’s up to them to make a difference.” 

Charity Matters.

 

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A different way to view the eclipse

“Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.”

Victor Hugo

Today millions of people around the world are celebrating a cosmic moment, a solar eclipse. Hotels are full across the country for those in the path of totality. Communities are coming together for viewing events, neighbors are gathering for parties and it seems that the world is taking a much-needed pause to realize just how tiny we are in our universe.

In light of all the recent headlines, I think the eclipse is just what we need….a moment to stop and to come together. Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling all of us that we have been acting a little crazy and that perhaps we should simply take a pause.  Step back and watch the wonder of our world, think about our role within it and perhaps, ask ourselves what are we doing to make it better?

However you decide to view the eclipse and start your Monday, remember this opportunity isn’t coming back until April 2024. It isn’t just about your view today but more importantly about your perspective. So, as you watch that moment as the moon passes in front of the sun, think of Victor Hugo’s words, “the reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.”  Think of your light and how you can make your universe a better one.

Charity Matters.

 

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Unforgettable

There are days, when I really wonder what is going on in our world? I turn on the news and get seriously depressed, last week Charlottesville, yesterday Barcelona and I could go on and on. Yet, everyday I am privileged enough to meet, interview and learn about remarkable people who inspire, lift us up and show us the sunny side of humanity. These are my people.

Yesterday, in the shadow of the Barcelona attack, I came across this piece from an unlikely source but the perfect messengers of how love must overcome. These women are truly unforgettable.

 

This isn’t about religion, or race… it is about being human. It is about being kind and good, which if you are reading from a site called Charity Matters, chances are high that you are already amazing. So in the spirit of that goodness, we all need to #WeRemember and spread our love to all.  Love will always over come.

Charity Matters.

 

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Service comes in many forms

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

I honestly don’t think there is a single person on this planet who enjoys moving, at least I have never met  one. This past week I flew to Texas to unpack my son and get him settled in his new college “home,” a process thousands of parents across the country are all getting ready to do. A messy chaotic time, but a rite of passage for sure, making sure our chicks our settled in their new nest.

Rather than stop with that move, I continued on across the country to help a very dear friend with a very big move. She is moving from the home she raised her children in and now that her nest is empty, she is simplifying. Since I recently went through this painful process, I realized I could actually be of service. More than that, I wanted to be there for her as she has been there for me, so many times.

While it seemed like an odd way to spend my vacation, it really wasn’t at all. Because at the end of our lives there is no possible way to express the joy and love that both my son and friend have given me. Both of these humans have enriched my lives in immeasurable ways and if serving them, in even the smallest of gestures, expresses an iota of my love…well then it was time well spent.

Charity Matters.

 

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Live simply

“Live Simply, so you can give boldly.”

Dr. Allen Hunt

As the precious days of summer go by ever faster, I find myself savoring the most simple treasures of the season. While my day job does not always make the summers of my youth a reality, certain simple pleasures of summer do.

Since the month of August began, I have committed to myself to find a little piece of summertime each day this month. No, I have not been to the beach or on vacation, but I have learned to find joy in the simplest of things. My first slice of watermelon this season, a beautiful peach, the sounds of my sons in the house….all gifts.

At 8pm the other night, I realized that I had not yet experienced a summer moment all day, which ensued a late night search for a soft serve ice cream cone…successfully I might add. It isn’t just food, but rather the simple pauses to stop and soak in the beautiful summer sunsets we had this week, all moments to be savored. The full moon, this past weekend, made me stop and take pause…all these beautiful gifts of summer slowly begin to refill an empty tank.

So while I dream of a piece of sand and sun…I treasure all the gifts big and small that summer brings. It is these simple gifts that give me gratitude, renewal and the ability to continue to give boldly of myself in the service of others.

 

Charity Matters.

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Guest blogger: Theresa Gartland

This past week I had a long over due catch up with my friend Theresa Gartland of Operation Progress. Theresa who is originally from the Washington DC area came to Los Angeles, more specifically Watts, right out of college. Watts is still considered one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles, but Theresa fell in love with the children and families in Watts. In the past decade plus, she has worked for a few different organizations, all with the same mission of making Watts a place for children and families to thrive.

Today, I am handing the handing Charity Matters over to Theresa to share her remarkable story of service…she is a true inspiration to us all.

As I am embarking on my 15th year of working in Watts and serving the youth of the community, I cannot help but reflect on what keeps me energized and going, of course two words…the kids! Everyday, I’m so grateful that I get to fulfill my life purpose by provide the most incredible, life-changing opportunity for some of the most deserving youth.

Attending Holy Child High School in Potomac, Md, I was taught the values of giving back through action not words. This rang true for me during my high school service trips to an afterschool program in Southeast DC. During my service, I would play with the children, help them with their homework, and spend time getting to know they. I quickly learned that they only difference between them and me was our neighborhood, and they were just as deserving as all the opportunities I was given. It was my actions that were making an impact. Through service and volunteering I had found my voice, it sparked my passion but I no idea it would ignite my career.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through my work is that each child deserves to feel safe, validated and know that someone is proud of them. This has become my mission, to make sure every student feels apart of something bigger than themselves, to feel validated, nurtured, and empowered.

My biggest success thus far, has been watching two girls that I have known since they were in 2nd grade, now sophomores at an all girls catholic high school, flourishing and succeeding. To be apart of their journey and see how OP has literally changed their life trajectory has been of the biggest rewards of my career.

It’s truly been a joy, honor and privilege to work at amazing schools and organizations in the Watts community that are so committed to inspiring, fostering and developing the youth. Being able to be there for a children, to motivate, challenge, and encourage them is no short of a miracle.

Thank you Theresa for reminding us what it means to serve, you are an amazing example to all.

Charity Matters.

 

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Well hello August…

Well hello August!

I am so very happy that you are here, one of my favorite months of the year. Summer in full swing, long hot lazy days, camp season has come to a close…for me at least, and I think most of us have actually began to relax…

August is a gift for sure.

Wishing you all a magical month of sun, sand, water, reading, amazing summer fruit and all the goodness that comes with this special month.

Enjoy and savor every moment…

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Pedaling joy

I love summer and everything that comes with it….Sun, longer days, a change of pace and especially camp, otherwise known as, my day job.  I also love inspiring, connecting and uplifting others…however, the challenge becomes interviewing and tracking down my heroes while running a summer leadership program…which is exactly what happened this past week.

Since I was away last week, I am going to have to import someone all the way from Scotland to inspire you this monday morning. If anyone should brighten your day, this is the person to do so. His name is Fraser and he is a 20-year-old medical student with a huge heart and strong legs. His story simply made my day and I hope it does the same for yours.

Fraser, at only 20 years old, has already discovered that it just takes the smallest act of kindness to change someone’s day, brighten your own and make our world a better place.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Charity Matters: Summer Reading

A few weeks back a girlfriend sent me a book for my birthday. Now that summer is kicking into high gear, I am thrilled to be diving into a great book. When something is inspiring, heart warming and fills my soul…well I simply have to share.

The book I am reading is called The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The two icons decided to spend a week together to celebrate big birthdays but their gift was not only to each other but rather to the world. They wanted this book to be an invitation  to more joy and happiness.

There is more wisdom than I have space to share, but with one voice these two said, “No dark fate determines our future. We do. Each day and each moment we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield.” 

They go onto say, “Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It resides only in the human mind and heart, and it is here that we hope you will find it. Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday.”

So as your summer hits mid-way, I hope you find time to rest, relax and read this inspiring book. It is such a gift and I hope one that you enjoy as well. Happy Summer!

 

Charity Matters.

 

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