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.
While the post name sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, it is the reality for two New York City brothers Bradford and Bryan Manning who were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration at the age of 7. Growing up they knew that their eye sight would continue to deteriorate over time, potentially leaving them both blind.
Rather than having that as a disadvantage both brothers pursued their goals attending University of Virginia and began careers in finance and sales. The two decided to quit their day jobs and begin a clothing line that would raise funds to cure blindness. Bradford, who is on the board of the Foundation Fighting Blindness believes that the science is there and that the research funding can cure their disease. The result is Two Blind Brothers.
These two brothers have made it their mission to help cure blindness. Their clothing is soft, has braille tags, which the brothers were taught to use as children for the pending loss of their eyesight and is flying off the racks. More than that, all of their proceeds go towards finding a cure. They do not take a salary and donate everything towards their mission.
They both believe the cure is with in sight. As Bryan said recently,”Call me optimistic but there is a cure in there.” Something we all want to see.
Like all good fairy tales, it begins with once upon a time…there was a beautiful woman named Jennifer Hull and her heart was so huge that she not only adopted one child but created a non-profit to help hundreds more sick children at children’s hospitals around Los Angeles. Jennifer and I have known each other for a number of years, and last week we not only sat down together to catch up, but my son and I were invited to help Jennifer, her daughter Josie, and best friend Sienna, with their incredible cause called Once Upon a Room. A non-profit organization that decorates rooms for children who have long stays in the hospital.
Rather than me continuing this fairy tale, I think the conversation tells this story the best.
Charity Matters: Give us a little back round on you and Josie?
A little history about Josie and I…I am the very proud, adoptive mother of Josie. Josie and her sister, Teresa, were born in Guatemala and were conjoined at the head. They came to the US at 9 months old. At 1 years old they underwent surgery done by a 50 person medical team to separate them. After 23 hours in the operating room our two beautiful girls were rolled out in 2 separate beds.
We were granted a miracle that day and have spent everyday since trying to do everything in our power to better the girls’ lives and those around us. As one can imagine our medical journey did not end at separation surgery. There have been countless hospital stays with over 30 surgeries combined and hours upon hours of physical therapy.
We know from first hand experience when you are in an environment that makes you happy and calm healing is easier to achieve. It was important to Josie and I to help others in medical situations feel better. The main portion of our program is to decorate hospital rooms for pediatric patients going through active medical treatment.
Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?
Jennifer Hull: Once Upon a Room has a tag line…Every child has a story. My sweet daughter, Josie spends so much time in the hospital. Every time we are inpatient, I noticed her spirits were lifted when we would bring in items that were ours and set up a mini “house” like atmosphere. We have had the pleasure of meeting other patients and families over the years and when we would visit them we would bring something to brighten their room we could see the joyous effect it had.
We wanted to expand our reach and really transform the hospital setting into a personalized, happy environment. Josie and I got excited about the possibility of spreading joy to others in the hospital. We knew we needed to do this. We wanted to serve others and this was such a perfect fit for us.
Charity Matters: Who along the way has helped you make this journey happen?
Jennifer Hull: Siena Dancsecs is a huge contributor to our success and is one of Josie’s best friends and has been through so many ups and downs with Josie medically. Siena’s passion to help others started to light on fire. At 11 years old she called to tell me that we the organization should be named Once Upon a Room. She said that our mission should be to serve pediatric patients in and out of the hospital that were in active medical treatment.
Siena says, “Through my friendship with Josie I wanted to do more. We do what we do because we can see the long-term impact it makes. I remember getting asked to go to the hospital for the first time. I honestly had no idea what to expect, what I would see or what I would hear. Normally when I think about a hospital I think about all of the needles, medicine and doctors. We get to see a different side of it. When we walk into those rooms we get to brighten this patient’s room with what they like. It becomes all about them in a different way. It’s not all about their disease or injury; it’s about them as a person. That’s what makes it so special. Getting to make these patient’s days just a little bit brighter. And truly it affects not only their environment but also everyone around them. It brings this glow to their surroundings, helping them start fighting a little harder.”
Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Jennifer Hull: This is an easy question…making other people happy!! As Josie says, “We do this to make other kids happy. I know how hard it is to be in the hospital so I want to help them too.”
We can’t change the medical outcome but we can change how they feel when they are going through this journey. You can’t believe how rewarding it feels to know that you put your heart and soul into doing something for someone else that hopefully makes a difference in his or her life. Every room we do we put ourselves into their shoes for a moment. We do our best to anticipate what they would want or what would bring joy to them.
When we get the theme of the room we try to do the best we can to make it perfect for them. You would think after doing over 500 plus rooms it would be redundant but instead we try to make each room better and more personalized. Making someone else happy fuels us. Hopefully that person is the patient, but also the family. Being in the hospital is so stressful for the whole family.
We are one of the few people who walk into the room and can concentrate on the person not the medical diagnosis. We get to recognize them and their interests. The family gets to be reminded of theperson not the condition.
The other part that fuels us is the excitement that it brings to the medical staff. You almost see them invigorated. It is so much fun to watch them and their reactions when they are watching a room reveal for one of their patients that they clearly have compassion for. It is a gift to us to make to make others feel special.
Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?
Jennifer Hull: There is an interesting thing that happens in our group. It isn’t only the patients and families that we affect. Many times it is the volunteers or vendors that we see affected by our work. It is so much fun to go into Target and the cashiers are all excited to see what rooms we are shopping for. It is so rewarding to see the change in our volunteers when they come to help.
Witnessing the love and compassion that kids and teens give to patients is one of the best gifts in my life. We don’t give them enough freedom or opportunities to give to others in a meaningful way. Giving them a positive experience serving others at young age while hopefully help them remember that feeling when they are adults and they will find a cause that they can make an impact giving to as adults.
Charity Matters: Last question before we end this fairy tale, tell us what success you have had?
Jennifer Hull: Our success isn’t measurable. Success for us is determined by the about of love and compassion we are able to spread to our patients, families, staff, volunteers and vendors. It is the ability to spread hope and happiness. Our success is based on helping and serving others.
Now that is happily ever after….if ever I have heard one.
Regardless of where you live, you have witnessed homelessness. It seems to be an epidemic on the rise and a problem with so many layers, that many of us simply don’t even know where to begin? In communities across the country people are coming together, as Americans do, to roll up their sleeves to support those in need.
Last week a dear friend of mine, reached out to tell me about his amazing aunt, Norah Miller, and the work she is doing in her community to help the homeless. Norah lives in Pennsylvania where the economy has struggled, the opioid addition has skyrocketed and Veterans are unemployed and facing homelessness. It would be easy to turn a blind eye, but Norah simply couldn’t look away. Instead she decided to act.
In 2009, Norah and four friends came together to do something and founded Cornerstone, to support the homeless in their community and by 2016 these five received their official nonprofit status.
Here is what Norah had to say last week:
CM: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?
Norah Miller: It was a bitter cold morning in western Pennsylvania, January 2012, when a young man called me. He identified himself as a veteran who had lost his job and his home in Akron and was doing temp work at a steel mill. His take-home pay wasn’t able to cover the $40 a night charged by the motel. When he called me, he didn’t have enough money for gas to get his family to a relative’s home in Ohio. I met him in a parking lot and gave him $100 in gift cards for gas or food. The windows in his old car were steamed up and he looked toward his wife, three children and their dog. I told him I could help him with housing. He said, “It’s too late.” Then he thanked me profusely and said, “I wish I had met you sooner.” That’s when I knew.
CM: What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Norah Miller: Committed colleagues, support from the faith-based community and a lobby full of people including a 10 month old baby girl in an old stroller, extending her arms to me last week.
CM: When do you know you have made a difference?
Norah Miller: When someone – a recovering addict, a disabled veteran, a family with children – is handed the keys to their very own apartment.
CM: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?
Norah Miller:Prior to its 501c3 designation, The Cornerstone was already recognized as the single point of entry to the county’s homeless and housing stabilization programs. $64,000 in private funding was raised in the first 9 months, $450,000 in government funding was allocated and more than 100 people a week receive assistance.
Norah and her team are working to make a difference. They spend every penny they raise on helping others, they do not have a web-site, a logo or a marketing budget. When I asked her what she needed she said, “Our vote.” The Cornerstone is one of three non-profits chosen to win a website. If you are so inclined to take three seconds to click this link, https://digitalboostvoting.isynergy.io to help an amazing woman who is helping others, then you too will be making a difference.
Every decision we make with our time is a choice. Thank you Norah for inspiring us all.
This upcoming weekend we will celebrate our moms for Mother’s Day. Last week, I had an incredible conversation with two inspiring mothers, who have taken their journey into motherhood and transformed the lives of hundreds of young mothers in the foster care system. These amazing women founded Alliance of Moms, a non-profit organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.
Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser were both pregnant in 2012, along with three other girlfriends (Danika Charity, Emily Lynch and Kelly Zajfen) all at the same time. For some it was their first child, for others their second or third but the girlfriends all experienced a profound change in becoming mothers. Together they were determined to use that shift in each of them to help other mothers, the most at risk, those in the foster care system.
Yasmine:I was pregnant with my son, having a child makes your heart burst wide open and makes you see everything every differently.I wanted a part of motherhood to be looking out for all children, not just our own. From my previous work withThe Alliance for Children’s Rights,I knew we needed to explore more volunteer opportunities for children’s rights.
Jules: My mother grew up in foster care and was a teen parent at 17. I understood the need to break the cycle, 66% of babies born into foster care become teen moms. I also understood that my child had won a lottery that he didn’t even knew he entered, just by luck. We needed to help support all mothers.
Tell us about when you knew, your work had made a difference?
Yasmine: In July 2014, five of us began exploring this idea of creating an auxiliary group to support The Alliance for Children’s Rights but more than that we wanted a mother to mother, community to community event. Six weeks later, we had our first program, Raising Baby, inviting 70 youth in foster care and their children for a day of fun, educational parenting workshops. We were determined to be there for these moms, when so many have let them down.
While we set out to serve these young women in foster care, our members were also impacted by serving. The women we serve have changed all of our lives for the better because regardless of your circumstances, we all walk away stronger knowing that we all struggle as mothers.
What fuels you to keep doing this work?
Jules: Having a hands on relationship with our pregnant girls and seeing them on an upward trajectory. Knowing that these young mothers are now talking and singing to their unborn children, or reading to their children at bedtime, creating family rituals, and using the little things that we teach them, which have a big impact on their children.
These young parents are motivated to change their lives and their children’s’ and more than that, it is seeing people being kind.
Yasmine: My dream would be to create something sustainable and scalable that we could take outside of Los Angeles and to other communities of mothers across the country. We know and see the value of creating community and a village for mothers.
Jules: My dream would also be to see our program expand to other places and perhaps to help all teen moms. The real dream would be to have the public start seeing these young moms in a different way…with humanity and empathy.
As Yasmine and Jules both said, “We are all different and yet we are all the same. We all want the best for our children, we all get overwhelmed, stressed, worried that we are not doing the right thing. We are all learning about ourselves and our children as we struggle to do our best.”
Over 600 members, hundreds of families and young mothers served and countless lives forever changed by a group of mothers who know what it is to share the love, create an alliance and to inspire us all.
The beauty that is Charity Matters, is the incredible people who I have the privilege of meeting and telling their stories. Mark Brenner is one of them. A few months back, when I attended a non-profit seminar I was fortunate enough to be seated with this dynamic man, with a huge smile, a zest for life and an unlikely non-profit founder.
Mark told me that in the end of 2013, he had recently sold his recruiting business and attempted to play golf for a few months, but knew there was something missing. A life long connector and recruiter he knew he still had people that he could help with his skill set.
In 1967 at 19 years old, Mark served in Vietnam, and was a Veteran. When Mark came home from Vietnam, they threw rocks at him as he stepped foot in the U.S. for the first time in a year from being away. He said,”The way I was treated coming back from Vietnam, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through that.”
More than that, Mark had learned recent statistics on Veteran’s unemployment and thought, “Now this is something I can help with, I know how to get people jobs.” His help turned into a 501c3, non-profit called Veterans Career Xchange. His mission to coach veterans to get full-time employment and to retain their jobs.
Today, Mark is working harder than ever. He and his team at Veterans Career Xchange have coached, mentored and gainfully employed hundreds veterans, with over 80% who have remained employed. His passion for helping these men and women who have served our country is simply contagious. Mark said, “When the Veterans you serve get a job and donate back to your cause and tell you that they have purpose and are happy again, it makes you just want to keep going.”
While I don’t typically do follow-up stories, I think we are just at the first chapter with this one and I can’t wait to share with all of you what is next for this remarkable man and organization. Mark is proof that regardless of where you are in life you, you always have something to give.
I was at the bookstore recently and came across a book entitled, If Nuns Ruled The World. I thumbed through it because I have an aunt I adore, who is a Sister of the Holy Child. Like most nuns that I have met, my aunt is an exceptional human being. Intrigued by the book title, I flipped through the pages and found ten nuns who were profiled for having done extraordinary things and one in particular caught my eye. Her name is Sr. Tesa Fitzgerald.
Tesa Fitzgerald was born into an Irish Catholic family on Long Island and surprised them all when she entered the convent after graduating from high school. Sr. Tesa worked in Catholic schools as a teacher and ultimately a principal, until her life had a change of direction.
Another nun, Sister Elaine Roulet, had created a program that helped incarcerated women to stay with their newborn children until they were at least one year old. Sister Elaine reached out for help with the problem.
Learning that there are approximately 150,000 women incarcerated nationwide, Sister Tesa wondered what happened to these women’s’ children? So, in 1985 Sister Tesa answered Sister Elaine’s prayer by becoming a foster parent and turned a convent into a home for six children, with the goal of maintaining the bond between mothers in prison and their children.
In 1992, she created Hour Children as a nonprofit to offer supportive services to other children of incarcerated mothers and to the mothers themselves. She named it to reflect the hour of the mother’s arrest, the hour visit allowed to the children and the hour of her release.
Today, Hour Children oversees three apartment buildings, three thrift stores, a day care center, an after school program, a group home, a food program, a mentoring program and four communal homes, all while continuing to work with women during their incarceration. Sister Tesa has been recognized by the White House, received the Opus Prize and of course was featured in the book, If Nuns Ruled the World……which just makes me wonder what our world would be like?
As many of you know I run a non-profit youth leadership organization as my day job. One of the things I love the most about my job is having the privileged position to inspire thousands of middle school students each year by teaching them how to serve others. In order to do that effectively, we look for non-profit partnerships with amazing causes. This year we partnered with a remarkable organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers, that was started by two kids, brother and sister, Rob and Brittany Berquist in 2004.
These two heard about a soldier with an $8,000 cell phone bill and decided that just wasn’t right. What these two siblings did next was even more surprising and the most inspiring story to inspire thousands of today’s kids.
Rob, who is now 27 ,and still runs Cell Phones for Soldiers has continued his mission to ensure that no military service person should ever have to pay to call home. Today, his sister Brittany works in marketing for the Kind Company. To date Cell Phones for Soldiers has donated over 300 million minutes in free talk time, recycled more than 15 million cell phones and still mails about 1,500 calling cards to service men and women around the globe per week.
This past January, Robbie and Brittany were honored by Forbes Magazine in their 30 under 30 issue for their incredible, vision, service and mission. What began simply because a brother and a sister saw an injustice and wanted to right a wrong, turned into something, so very right.
“If someone had raised funds for research for us 30 years ago and our baby was given a chance to live. Ten years from now will be a whole different ball game into medicine, science and technology into heart defect research. We don’t want to wait for what doctors say ‘will be….’ we want to fund research to change the future for ‘what can be…’ for all children, like my beautiful Joshua suffering from heart disease. Out of our heartache, there is hope….”
The words above were sent to me five years ago from non-profit founder, mother and champion for families dealing with congenital heart disease, Francie Paul. I spoke with Francie and board chair of Saving Tiny Hearts, Larry Kluge, to see what has happened since they began this journey over a decade ago to bring awareness and research to Congenital heart disease .
CM: What do you want people to know about Congenital Heart Disease?
Francie: I want people to know that twice as many children die from heart disease versus all pediatric cancers combined and that cancer receives five times the funding for research.
Larry: Over a million children are born each year with congenital heart disease.
CM: What is your goal at Saving Tiny Hearts?
Francie: Our goal is to fund a project that will not only save our son’s life but to ensure that no one else should ever have to go through this.
Larry: We have been able to fund over 30 research projects that keep getting us closer to making this a dream a reality. We want to find the answer that makes Saving Tiny Hearts obsolete.
CM: What keeps you going?
Larry: The love, passion and support of our community is extraordinary and the researchers we support.
Francie: People carry you through your darkest days and they have made our journey all the more humbling. It is the heart, hope and passion of our team. We are all a part of this.
As Francie said, five years ago “Out of our heartache there is hope.”
February is heart month. Over the years, I have interviewed so many people with such heart warming stories, but one that has truly touched me is the story of the Paul family and their journey as parents of a child living with congenital heart disease.
You may remember them, because they are extraordinary people who took their pain and turned it into a non-profit foundation called Saving Tiny Hearts.
When I first interviewed Francie Paul five years ago she sent me this note, which I wanted to share here today. On friday, I will tell you what the Paul Family is doing now.
Thank YOU for your beautiful post– we are extremely honored to have Saving tiny Hearts featured.
We did have high profile malpractice attorneys at our doorstep…practically before we were out of the hospital from Joshua’s firstheart surgery…it wasn’t who we were…our life’s mission came out of the greatest need for medicine and science into heart defects to catch up to support all children, like our little love, afflicted with heart defects.
Starting the Saving tiny Hearts Society began before our Joshua’s second heart surgery (- he has had 3) at 3 months old, after pediatric heart surgeons told us that there was a desperate need to fund research, that young hungry scientists were being turned down for government funding because they didn’t have enough monies to beef up their revolutionary proposals….which is where we would come in, to provide the seed money for it all.
Most people don’t realize that so many babies and children do not survive because of lack of research to save them. We didn’t know that it was the #1 birth defect in the world and the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths….we didn’t know that it could happen to our baby.
Someone had raised funds for research for us 30 years ago and our baby was given a chance to live. Ten years from now will be a whole different ball game into medicine, science and technology into heart defect research. We don’t want to wait for what doctors say ‘will be….’ we want to fund research to change the future for ‘what can be…’ for all children, like my beautiful Joshua suffering from heart disease. Out of our heartache, there is hope….
I don’t know if you had seen the movie ‘Something the Lord Made’ but it was an HBO movie about one of the very first heart surgeries ever performed, the Blalock-Taussig Shunt (-BT Shunt). It was the very first successful heart surgery that began with a blue baby as doctors were afraid to touch the heart and felt that of these babies wouldn’t live otherwise, so they would try this most revolutionary procedure on a baby first. Nearly 60 years later,at 4 days old, after our baby was stabilized, he had a Blalock-Taussig shunt.
We can’t thank you enough for sharing our story; it has truly been a humbling journey for us and in the greatest of heartache, we have seen the very best in friends. Can’t wait to read more Charity Matters and see all of the amazing things that are happening because of you.
Since this week’s theme is teamwork, it seemed like the perfect time to share one of the most fun team building activities to hit the philanthropic world in a long time…The Do Good Bus. Last spring, I was at an event for Project Giving Kids and was introduced to this amazing woman named Rebecca Pontius . When I found out what she does, I knew I had to share with each of you…because it is just the coolest most fun thing EVER!
Rebecca is the founder of the non-profit, The Do Good Bus. The Do Good Bus idea came together when Rebecca and her brother were on a party bus for a 30th birthday party. They had friends from everywhere, who didn’t know one another and she and her brother surprised all the guests with the destination of the party last-minute. The party was such a success that Rebecca and her brother had an idea that they could use this same format to connect volunteers and non-profits, making volunteering fun. Their mission was to give people an opportunity to get involved, do good together and learn more about their community.
Here is how it works:
Today, almost six years later, the Do Good Bus has taken over 180 rides with almost 5,000 do gooders to over 109 causes. I asked Rebecca, if she knew when she had made a difference, and her answer was, “Every time you get on the bus and see strangers connecting, rolling up their sleeves to volunteer and do something great for a non-profit in need and then share stories together like old friends..that’s when I know we have made a difference.”
As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
For all of you that have followed Charity Matters over the past few years, most of you know that I truly enjoy being the storyteller. I am Irish after all, so I guess it comes naturally? However, when the Good News Only site called Hooplaha.com approached me about doing a story on Charity Matters….well, the tables were turned.
The Hooplaha team and I share a common belief that people are innately good and more than that, good news and stories about good people doing great work need to be shared. So with that in mind, if this so inspires you, please feel free to share. The world needs more kindness and goodness, so thanks for spreading some and check out Hooplaha if you need a little happy news to brighten your day.
On a rain soaked day, a couple of weeks ago I met the most remarkable woman for lunch, her name is Katie Quintas. Katie is a living example of C.S. Lewis quote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Katie’s hardship re-routed her destiny.
Katie’s life was fantastic. She had a husband, Silvio, she adored. A wonderful son, Bryan and a fantastic career consulting non-profits. Then all of that changed in 2006, when her husband Silvio was diagnosed with leukemia and six months later, her only child Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 16.
Katie’s employer was supportive as she tried to manage a full-time job and the two most important people in her life’s cancers. What Katie didn’t realize was how was she going to manage to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, update everyone on Bryan and Silvio’s conditions, deal with the offers for help, all while working and driving between two hospitals over an hour apart from each other? She was overwhelmed, wondered how families manage and didn’t even know where to look for help.
It turns out that she was not alone.
As 2007 came to an end, and both Katie’s husband and son were finishing up their cancer treatments, she began looking for organizations that help families through daily life during an illness, especially the illness of a child. In 2009, when she still hadn’t found an organization that fit the need, she began discussing the idea of creating one with her husband Silvio. With her husband’s encouragement, she did just that launching Here to Serve.org in 2011.
The Quintas family had been through so much but realized that there were so many people who had less. With Silvio’s support Katie set up her non-profit to connect and create online care communities that come in at the beginning of the health crisis to organize, friends, resources, medical information, funding, support all without overwhelming the caregiver, who is typically the parent.
As I sat at lunch and listened to Katie’s story, it was almost too much to process what she had been through but even more to grasp what she does for others. When we both went onto her web-site together and I saw what a care community looked like for a family, it was unbelievable. Once I was part of a sick patients community, I could sign up for everything from walking the dog, bringing a meal, doing laundry, running an errand, donating groceries and the list goes on. The services Here to Serve provides is everything that Katie needed when she went through this and didn’t have.
Sadly, Katie lost her beloved husband to cancer, but she said his memory still keeps her going. Katie told me, “I can’t imagine not doing this. Here to Serve gets me up in the morning, it motivates me and I was created to do this work. This is my purpose.”
With the rain pouring down this past week in LA, I have been thinking about something that has literally NEVER occurred to me…a flood. I know, crazy isn’t it? However, floods are reality in many parts of the country and when a flood or natural disaster strikes, the first concern is safety, housing and food. Once those needs are met victims begin the process of recovering their possessions, most especially trying to find and repair their families photos. This is when Operation Photo Rescue steps in to literally rescue a families memories.
In 2006, photojournalists Dave Ellis and Becky Sell launched Operation Photo Rescue after they witnessed victims throwing out treasured family photos that had been destroyed. Their mission became, “Insurance doesn’t restore memories but we do.”
A few weeks after a natural disaster or flood, OPR‘s team of volunteers set up a location where people can begin to bring in the photos they have found to see if they can be saved and restored. The damaged photos are digitally copied and a host of volunteers from around the globe use Photoshop and give hours of time to restore the images.
Over 12,000 photos have been restored thanks to more than 2,000 volunteers around the world. For many of these volunteers the work behind the scenes becomes personal and being able to give families their memories back is a gift.
It seems fitting to end the week where we began, with Aaron Siskind’s quote, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”