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A grateful heart: Alliance of Moms

As this week of gratitude begins, I am thankful for so many people, opportunities and moments that make my life and heart full. There is a saying, “it is not joy that makes us grateful but rather it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” In meeting and working with so many nonprofit founders over the years, I have discovered that people either start nonprofits because something happened to them that they want to prevent from happening to someone else or they begin their organization because of gratitude.

This weekend I spent time with the most amazing women, the founders of Alliance of Moms, who are just that….grateful. Women whose hearts are full with gratitude who  wanted to inspire and help other young mothers. You may remember the interview with Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser a few months back about their incredible organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.

In 2012, Yasmine and Jules were both pregnant, 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.

Jules told me back in May,”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.” 

This past Saturday was the organizations fourth annual Raising Baby event where over 100 underserved youth in foster care and their children came for a day of fun and educational parenting workshopsThese young mothers in foster care engaged with parenting experts and learned practical tips about how to help develop their babies brains during the critical first three years of life. While the parents were learning, Alliance of Mom member volunteers provided childcare for their children.

Yasmine said,”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.”

It was a day of fun, giving, education, and above all gratitude. These young mothers in foster care were grateful for the support, the education and the childcare. More than that, it was a day of women and community coming together to support one another. The full hearts and gratitude were abundant.

Charity Matters.

 

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Something else to cheer for….

The difference between the impossible and the possible, lies in a person’s determination.”

Tommy Lasorda

So often when we are cheering on our hometown team in sports we forget the amazing philanthropic work that almost all sports organizations do for their communities. Since today is the first day of the World Series and being a LA girl, I thought it only fitting to see what those Dodgers are doing around town to make our city and world better.

While the Dodgers have been supporting the city and hundreds of causes since they first came to Los Angeles, in 1995 they created The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Their goal, to focus on underserved youth and more specifically; sports, recreation, education, health and literacy.

Since 1995, the team and foundation have been busy supporting these incredible organizations:

photo via: LA Dodgers

Vision to learn                          Serves low-income youth with glasses and eye exams

SPARK LA                                  Serves at risk youth

Summer Night Lights              Provides community events to prevent gang violence and build community.

Jackie Robinson Foundation    Provides scholarship and literacy for low-income students

City Year LA                               Enriches education for high poverty areas of Los Angeles

LA Reads                                    Supports 13 organizations to encourage reading and literacy

If that wasn’t enough, the Dodgers have built over 47 baseball fields in Los Angeles spending over $7.3 million dollars. More than that, the Dodgers have provided over 7,800 children (that is a whole lot of kids…) aged 5-18 with baseball uniforms and equipment. So tonight when you turn on that game, regardless of your team, you have something really amazing to cheer for…a true home run!

Go Blue!

Charity Matters.

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Grades of Green

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

John Muir

You may remember a few years back I interviewed the founders of Grades of Green, a nonprofit that was founded in 2008, by a few passionate mothers, who wanted to educate and inform children about their choices and the impact on their environment. After receiving an award from the EPA, the founders created a non-profit so that other schools would have free and easy access to the tools and information needed to empower and inspire students to care for the environment.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with this incredible organization and chat with Emily Stewart, Program Coordinator for Grades of Green.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and participate in a non-profit?

I was raised with environmental values and completed a degree in environmental policy, so I always knew that I would be involved in the nonprofit world. When I found out about the work that Grades of Green was doing across the globe to inspire children to start their own grassroots sustainability movements, I knew that I needed to be part of it.

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

Grades of Green: Climate change poses very real threats to the future of our planet. I believe that if enough students become involved in the environmental movement, they can tip the scale and create a safer and more sustainable world.

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

Grades of Green: When students that you have mentored take the initiative to innovate their own solutions to environmental issues in their community, you know that you have made a lasting difference by encouraging the next generation to become environmental advocates. For example, a Grades of Green Youth Corps student named Antonio’s work to champion cleaner air through No Idle Zones inspired the passing of ACR 160, a statewide resolution in California.

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

Grades of Green is a very exciting and rewarding place to work because its impact in terms of benefits to the environment is measurable, and yet the environmental values and leadership skills that children gain from participating last a lifetime. 568 schools across 43 states and 17 countries are involved in our green programs, and the number of schools and students involved grows every week! Their actions to protect the environment translates to thousands of tons of waste diverted from landfills, gallons of water saved, tons of CO2 emissions reduced, and toxins removed from the environment.

Four moms set out to educate their children and others on how to care for our world and one another. Almost ten years later their message has spread across the country and the globe. To circle back week  with John Muir’s words,When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

Charity Matters

 

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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.

Katie’s Krops, a seed that grew

After the chaos of last week, I wanted to bring you the incredible story about an amazing young woman who is living a life that matters…….a life of purpose.

Working with students everyday, I truly believe that kids can do anything. Like a garden, they simply need the seed planted, cultivated, fertilized and time for it to grow. The story below is exactly that, about one 9-year-old girl who had an idea to end hunger.

Her name is Katie Stagliano and her story begins with a seed. In 2008, as a third grader Katie received a package of cabbage seeds. She went home excited to plant her seedlings and began taking daily care of her cabbage. Her hard work paid off and her cabbage ended up being over forty pounds! She knew her plant was special and needed to find a special home for it. Katie and her mother reached out to a local program, that served the homeless and hungry. She helped prepare her cabbage and served so many grateful people and now knew she needed to do more.

It was at that moment that Katie began to understand how many people in our country are hungry and she was determined to do more. She went to her school and asked if they could start a school garden and give the produce to the local soup kitchen, which they did. Still her dream expanded, Katie said,”If people (I hope lots of kids too) could grow even one vegetable plant and donate the harvest to a local soup kitchen we could make a huge difference in the fight against hunger.”

Katie is now 18 and this past month she headed off to College of Charleston as a freshman.

In under ten years Katie has created her nonprofit Katie’s Krops and established over 100 gardens in 33 states. She has summer camp where children learn about growing vegetable gardens and her team of young gardeners has grown thousands of pounds of produce, come together to cook and serve thousands meals since 2008…..all because of a seed, an idea and a boundless heart.

Charity Matters.

 

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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.

Not on Our Watch….

In the town I grew up in, we have the most beautiful bridge, that was built in 1913. I drive over this bridge almost daily, its architecture and views bring me such joy. The bridge’s most recent fame was being feature in LaLa Land. However, over the years the Colorado Street Bridge has sadly become famous for something much more tragic and that is for suicide. Many locals refer to the bridge as suicide bridge because of the long history associated with it. Seventy-nine people jumped off that bridge following the Great Depression and sadly, many have followed in the years sense.

This month is Suicide Prevention Month. A sad and depressing topic that many do not want to discuss, but the reality is that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. An even more shocking statistic is that 22 Veterans commit suicide EVERYDAY.

Photo credit: Pasadena Weekly

When I heard that a local nonprofit, Wellness Works, that works with veterans healing PTSD, was bringing in hundreds of veterans to patrol The Colorado Street Bridge with a mission of promoting awareness about suicide and veterans, I knew I needed to do the same. For three days, 24 hours a day, in an event called Not on Our Watch, these veterans will walk to hold a vigil to honor those that have died and to offer hope to those that feel there isn’t any.

Today when I drive across that bridge, I will think of those who have so bravely served our country and say a prayer for those still suffering. My hope is that they are brave enough to reach out for help.

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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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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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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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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Always better when we’re together

“The world needs new leadership, but the new leadership is about working together.”

Jack Ma

This past weekend was the last day of camp. I sat in the front row like a proud mother listening to 175 children that were not truly my own, talking about love and kindness and acceptance. Never have I been more proud.  The lessons these 6th, 7th and 8th graders taught every parent in the room about their experience at camp were awe-inspiring. If ever this message was needed…it is now.

I am privileged to serve over 3,000 students a year, as the Executive Director of a non-profit leadership organization, which also runs a summer program. We have two full-time employees and hundreds of high school and college students volunteering that serve as camp counselors and mentors. Students teaching students, to listen to one another, to respect and learn from different opinions and how to work together towards resolution. Ultimately teaching them how to lead.

Every night as I watch the news and see the continuing political discord rearing its ugly head,  I can’t help believe that our children will be better than we were, they will learn, listen, come together to lead us all. These children are our hope…just as one of our students said, “It is an eyeopener to learn that you can do something to change the world…”

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.

Purpose and a punchbowl

It is graduation season and along with graduations come a slew of commencement speeches. Last year, I was asked to give the Commencement address to my high school alma mater…..a wonderful crazy and surprising experience. A number of you requested this, but let’s be honest by late June..the last thing we want to see is another speech.

So, I thought I would share it with you here, figuring if the speech was going to land anywhere, it should be here on Charity Matters. The story is my own, the only one I have.  The message is about finding that elusive thing we call happiness..when those intersections of passion and purpose connect.


As Pablo Picasso said, The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”

 

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.