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If Nuns Ruled the World….

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?

Charity Matters.

 

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Cell Phones for Soldiers

 

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.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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 heart warming follow up of Saving Tiny Hearts

“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.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Saving Tiny Hearts….

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.

With Gratitude & Very Best Wishes,

Francie

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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 Do Good Bus

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.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

 Copyright © 2017 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.

Always a storyteller, rarely the story

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.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 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.

 

Here to serve

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.”

Charity Matters.

 

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Operation Photo Rescue

Operation Rescue Mission

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.”

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Friends with Causes

alzheimers-fwc

Last week I was invited to my friend, Alexandra Dwek’s home for another amazing and inspirational evening in support of Friends with Causes. Not book club or bunko but girl’s night with a wonderful speaker, cause and philanthropic goal. We are always surprised by the non-profit, the speaker and are completely engaged and last week’s dinner was no exception.

The first speaker was Kate Edelman Johnson, who shared the journey of her loving husband’s slow deterioration with Alzheimer’s. Kate reached out to her friend’s daughter for guidance, Patti Davis, who been through the journey with her father, Ronald Reagan. Kate spoke about what caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients endure with this disease.

Kate began attending Patti’s Beyond Alzheimer’s support group and soon realized that she was in the position to not only support Patti’s amazing work but also the bigger problem of funding Alzheimer’s research. So Kate founded the Deane F. Johnson Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. She told us that without the discovery of new treatments, the number of Alzheimer’s victims will grow from 35.6 million to 65.7 million in 2030.

As we listened to Kate share her journey and then Patti Davis sharing hers, both as a daughter and as someone who has spent the last six years with these families in her work. Patti told us, “You need to be with other people who know what you’re going through, who won’t judge you or dismiss you. Several group members have told me that, before coming to this support group, no one had ever asked them how they were doing.”

These family members become patients too with this disease and it is people like Kate and Patti who take their suffering and turn into hope for others, that continue to inspire.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 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.

St. Sebastian Project

The Gurbach Family
The Gurbach Family

As fall kicks into gear and we all begin to settle into our new school year routines, one thing that I always look forward to is watching my boys participate in sports. There is nothing more fun that sitting with a group of parents who are all cheering their children on.

A few weeks ago, I sat down for lunch with an amazing woman and non-profit founder, named Clare Gurbach. Clare has two daughters that are college athletes and her youngest daughter seems to be following in the family footsteps. We talked about our children, sports and the moment that all of those came together to inspire Clare to help so many children keep playing sports.

 

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

Clare: In 2007, I was watching our oldest daughter play volleyball and seeing the disparity in resources between our team and one we were playing. The other team did not have nice uniforms. Some of the girls had masking tape on the back of their shirts for their numbers. Many did not have knee pads or proper shoes. Our team had everything and a professional coach as well. Winning that game 25-2 was not a good outcome for anyone.

We were called to action to “level the playing field” in providing uniforms, sports equipment and resources for under-resourced Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  We named our non-profit The Saint Sebastian Sports Project after the patron saint of athletes.”

CM: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Seeing the huge impact we are having as we have grown. We know that sports help children in so many ways. Beyond the obvious physical benefits of playing sports, children also learn sportsmanship, commitment, and leadership and have fun at the same time. Our students must maintain a minimum GPA to play on their teams so they are incentivized to work hard in school.”

CM: When do you know you have made a difference?

“When we see the smiles on the faces of all the children we serve. When we visit the students at school and bring the schools’ funds and equipment to support their sports programs.  When students attend our various tournaments, camps and college visit days at USC and LMU.  Many of our students are now trying out for their high school teams that never would have had this opportunity in the past.”

Tell us what your impact been? 

“During the 2009-2010 academic year, we were able to support seven sports programs. This academic school year we will assist 39 schools with grants and  will serve at least 2,500 students this year.

There are 100 schools in Archdiocese of Los Angeles that need funding. We hope to find more foundation money and person donations to fuel additional growth in the future.”

Now that is a win-win for everyone.

 

Charity Matters.

 

 

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Guest blogger: Molly Yuska Project Giving Kids

Since Charity Matters just celebrated its 5 year anniversary it seems time for some fresh perspectives. So I have invited our first guest blogger, my friend and non-profit founder, Molly Yuska. Molly is not only a mother but founded Project Giving Kids, a place to empower and teach children about philanthropy.

So, without further ado, here is Molly….

molly yuska pic

 

For many of us, the world has started to feel rather scary lately. Almost every week there seems to be a report of some major attack somewhere on our small planet. I can’t help but think how much scarier it must feel to kids who can’t remember a time when the world seemed at peace.

I believe when faced with these kinds of tragedies, we have a choice – to move away in fear and try to hold on even tighter to safeguard our own self-interest in hopes the tighter grip will protect us just a little bit more (or at least make us feel that way) OR to put the fear aside and see it as a call to action, a call to spread kindness and to turn that dark tide back toward the light.

I recently came across an article about kindness and kids. In it, a teacher by the name of Marlem Diaz-Brown states: “I have learned that when you teach kindness and compassion to students and they really understand the concept, everything else falls into place. This should be the first lesson of every teacher.” (Article: http://bit.ly/25IIynS)

Whether the teacher be a parent, an after-school mentor, a grandparent or an actual teacher, I think our children today, perhaps more than any generation that has come before it, need to be reminded of the power of kindness. I want my children to live in a world where they don’t walk the streets in fear of what senseless tragedy may come next. I want them to walk the streets knowing that the power of kindness is stronger than the fear that drives violence. And the sooner we turn them on to their own power to create ripples of kindness, the better off we all will be. After all, kindness is a choice like any other.

I couldn’t have said it better myself! If you want quick and easy project ideas your family can use to begin teaching kindness, visit Project Giving Kids.

Charity Matters.

 

 

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One Hope

one hope

A few weeks ago I was at a charity event and was offered a glass of wine. Nothing better than a chilled glass of chardonnay on a warm summer night, after a day of work. The wine was delicious and I asked the woman behind the bar about it. Her reply, was surprising because the wine was made to benefit charity….which just made it that much more delicious.

The story behind it is just as good. In 2007, Jake Kloberdanz  had an idea, 168 cases of wine and eight friends just out of college. No, it was not a party but the beginning of his company, OneHope that’s mission is to make the world a better place through every product they sell.

OneHope‘s core product is wine but they have expanded their brand and their charitable donations along with it. Every product benefits a cause and to date OneHope has donated over one million meals to the cause Why Hunger, 65,000 diapers to help premature infants, planted 52,000 trees, provided clean drinking water and the list goes on.

More than that, OneHope has donated over $1.6 million dollars since its inception. Now that is a cause worth raising your glass for!

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 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.

Charity Water

Charity water

With 1.9 million non-profits and more stories to share than we possibly could right here, Charity Matters had to put some filters on who we covered. The core root, is people helping people in the United States. As a result, we don’t always cover some amazing international causes because its is a little outside the scope.

Every once in a while, we come across someone, who just gets it and it really doesn’t matter where they live or who they serve, it is what they do for others that becomes the filter for goodness. Without trying to create water and filter jokes, Charity Water is one of those stories. More specifically, the story of Scott Harrison, the former nightclub promoter who turned his life and thousands of others he serves around by creating Charity Water.

Scott says in his bio, “For me, charity is practical. It’s sometimes easy and more often inconvenient, but always necessary. It is the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. Charity is singular and achievable.”

Since 2006, Scott and his team have provided over 6 million people with the gift of clean water. Now that is a true filter for goodness.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 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.

Billions in change

Billions in change

Over and over we hear it said that one person can change the world, a phrase I do believe in. Anyone who inspires change, knows it takes a village to do so. It is a global village that billionaire Manoj Bhargava is creating to deliver products that can directly impact humanity and he is seriously the real deal.

Manoj has taken his fortune, created from 5 hour Energy, to focus on three areas to improve the world;water, energy and health. His approach is to, ” make a difference in other people’s lives, not just talk about it.” A new documentary called Billions in Change, follows his journey. Take a small peak here at what one man can do to improve the lives of seven billion people.

As our world becomes increasingly smaller and the global village a reality. It is people like Manoj Bhargava, who will not only change our world but inspire each of us to do the same.

 

Charity Matters. 

 

Copyright © 2016 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.