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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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Rise

photo credit: Abe Kislevitz

 

The other day, as I rapidly scanned my very full email inbox, a letter for an upcoming women’s conference caught my eye. I glanced ahead to see whether this would be one of the rapidly deleted emails to enter my trash when I saw the words vulnerable and Rise.

As I continued reading, I discovered an incredibly personal story shared in the letter about the author, a tragedy, the survival and how that moment fueled and shaped this woman’s life. Today, she is using all that fuel to bring women together to empower them, teach one another, evolve and to Rise. I am continually in awe of the human spirit, our vulnerability and resilience. These people are my heroes, my fuel, my inspiration.

Each of us is dealt a band hand in life at some point, at least I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t had one? It is how we play that hand and use it, not only to empower ourselves, but more importantly how we use it to empower others. In a world, where we all put on our social media mask to shield that vulnerability, I want to salute, pay tribute and share stories of these brave people who take their pain and inspire us that the human condition is one we all share.

This post is dedicated to all of those who rise up and continue to inspire.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Circling back and moving forward

If you have been a long time reader of Charity Matters, you know I have certain causes, as we all do, that are near and dear to my heart. As a result, I love to re-visit these from time to time. In 2014, I wrote a post on a most remarkable young man from Verbum Dei High School in Watts (a favorite cause of mine for sure) and his name was Caylin Moore.

Last week, while I was at TCU, this inspiring young man and I had a few minutes to connect and hear about his incredible life in the service of others. Caylin grew up in Compton, with a strong single mother, two siblings and a deep faith. He attended Verbum Dei High School, where he was a scholar student and star athlete. After high school graduation he headed to Marist College on a full scholarship to play football. He became a Fulbright Scholar and then  transferred to TCU and walked onto the football team.

I came across a Charity Matters post from 2014, which opens with Caylin being asked where he sees himself in five years. His answer was insightful, as were his feelings about college. He said, “You go to college to change the world.”

Today, Caylin is still studying hard, working on a book, running his campus organization called SPARK (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids) where he and fellow athletes are inspiring the underserved youth of Fort Worth to be their very best and to dream big.  Caylin is also getting ready to head to Oxford, England as a Rhodes Scholar.

I can’t wait to circle back in a few more years and see how this remarkable man continues to inspire so many in his faith and service to others. A force in forward motion and compassion.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Nothing sweeter than Girl Scouts

Late February and early March may be a gloomy time of the year in most parts of the country, but if there is one thing that brightens all of our lives it is the beginning of Girl Scout cookie season. Half of the year I suffer from a mild depression when my freezer no longer contains thin mints and don’t get me started on how much I love tagalongs.  This year, there is something really special about all of this, its the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scout cookie and their sales. Who knew a cookie could make such a difference in all of our lives?

The other day with my cookie order on my mind,  I had a great conversation with a friend, who told me I needed to meet one of his dear friends, an amazing woman named Frances Hesselbein. My friend, author Mike Stallard, began describing this incredible woman who transformed the Girl Scouts and so many more lives.  I knew I needed to know more about this amazing woman and how she has used her life to inspire so many others…

Frances, the mother of one son, went from Girl Scout troop leader to CEO of the Girl Scouts and was accredited with turning the organization around. She grew the organization to over 2,25 million girls and had a volunteer workforce of 780,000 during her time. In 1998 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work with the Girl Scouts.

In November, 2011 she told Forbes Magazine, “When I left the Girl Scouts in 1990, it was the largest organization for girls and women in the world. Six weeks later I found myself CEO of the Drucker Foundation, with no money, no staff and just a powerful vision. Peter encouraged us to focus on the type of change that will determine whether or not we are, all of us, a part of the future.”

Today the Girl Scouts is the world’s most successful organization dedicated to creating girl leaders with 3.2 million active members and over 59 million alumni! Truly nothing sweeter than using your life to make others better. Frances will be 102 in November.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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When one spark ignites another

While I know this has been a crazy week with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday and the Presidential Inauguration today….I find my mind somewhere else. Each week I try to find a theme for Charity Matters and Martin Luther King Jr.’s question of,” What are you doing for others?” This has become my mantra for the week, that common thread of service.

Really, more than that, I am fascinated with people’s journeys to serve. On Wednesday, it was the story of InsideOUTWriters and Sr. Janet’s program for incarcerated youths in juvenile hall. But what happens when one person’s service inspires another? The goodness is contagious.

That is exactly what happened to Scott Budnick. In 2003, he was asked by a friend to attend a writing workshop  through the InsideOUTWriters program. Scott is the infamous producer of The HangOver movies, a Hollywood producer and man who had no idea that his life was about to change.  His first trip to juvenile hall, to mentor incarcerated youths, changed everything.

Scott not only committed to mentoring incarcerated youths (which he still does)  but he took it so much farther when he realized that these young men and women had a 54% recidivism (going back to jail) rate and decided to do something about it.

He decided to start a non-profit called ARC to change that statistic, one youth at a time by providing the support, mentoring, education, housing, employment and guidance needed to make the transition out of prison a final one.

Today, ARC serves more than 300 formerly incarcerated men and women, who commit to living crime-free, drug-free and gang-free and dedicate themselves to being of service to their community and paying it forward to others in the ARC network.

One man, one moment volunteering and now Scott Budnick is a non-profit founder, who has taken on prison reform, mentored hundreds of young men and women, transformed their lives, the prison system and less than five percent of his kids ever go back. They only go forward passing that torch of service that Sr. Janet ignited in him, to others.

Charity Matters.

 

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Its never too late to write your own ending..

Its never too late to write your own ending

When I heard the words, “It’s never too late to write your own ending.” I knew I needed and wanted to know more about how this phrase came to be, especially from an incarcerated youth in juvenile hall.

Before I can tell that story, I need to share another, and that is the story of Sister Janet Harris. In 1989, Sr. Janet took the role of chaplain at the LA Central Juvenile Hall. A facility that houses anywhere between 1,700 and 600 incarcerated youths. In 1996, a LA Times reporter named Duane Noriyuki came to interview Sr. Janet for a story he was doing. Sr. Janet asked the writer if he could lead some creative writing classes with these kids and that was the beginning of InsideOUTWriters.

inside out writers

Those classes turned into weekly writing classes and in 1999 and IOW officially became a non-profit. Their mission is to reducing the rate recidivism (translation: the tendency for a convicted criminal to re-offend) by providing services, such as creative writing, as a catalyst for personal transformation. Sr. Janet, Duane Noriyuki and a handful of volunteer writers wanted to create an environment of trust and camaraderie where students creativity could flourish regardless of their harsh surroundings.

 

Today, there are over 42 weekly classes, twenty-seven volunteer teachers, teaching 400 boys and girls the power of writing at over four juvenile detention facilities and the LA County Men’s Central Jail. There is now an alumni program that helps InsideOUT Writer‘s alumni transition as they are released from prison. Since 1996, more than 11, 000 incarcerated youth have participated in over 15, 000 classes.

An InsideOUTWriters alum, Mario Rocha was quoted saying about Sr. Janet, “She is one of the greatest examples of human loyalty and spiritual dedication. For her, religion isn’t something you read, its something you experience by giving your self to the struggle of other people.” 

And to end where we began, it is never too late to write your own ending.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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The spirit of giving

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting.

It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others.

It is discarding the meaningless and stressing true values.”

Thomas S. Monson

those-in-need-christmas

 I know this is a crazy week for everyone. We are all running around, checking off our list and trying to get ready for the big weekend ahead.

With so much to do, it easy to focus on the list, the food, the gift and….

Not the moment, the people and the joy we get from giving…

Not just giving presents but presence. 

Time is the greatest gift, use it well, cherish each moment and remember to discard the meaningless and find time for others.

Charity Matters.

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826Valencia

826-valencia

There is something magical and cathartic about writing. For me, it is a time to hear my inner voice and explore the outside world, as well as a gift that I cherish. That is why when I heard about 826National.org I was smitten with their mission and story to encourage the gift of writing.

Their story began in 2002, when author Dave Eggers and educator, Ninive Calegari were looking for a solution to help overburdened teachers, while connecting talented working adults and students who needed help. They located a store front in the Mission District of San Francisco, aptly at 826 Valencia Street, where they opened a pirate store in the front and built a writing lab for kids in the back of an old gym space.

Word spread quickly and before long 826 Valencia was serving 6,000 students, between the ages of 6 and 18, annually with over 1,700 volunteers.


Only two years later in 2004 a second chapter of 826NYC, opened in New York City and the following year chapters opened up in Los Angeles, Ann Arbor and Boston. By 2008, 826’s fifth anniversary the non-profit had published its first book with their students work and opened their national headquarters called 826 National with a mission that believes great leaps in learning can happen with individual attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Today, 826 National.Org serves over 30,000 students across the country with over 5,300 volunteers, the organization has been a part of over 886 publishing projects and currently has seven chapters nationwide.

Now that is something to write about!

 

Charity Matters.

 

 

 

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TED

photo credit: Forbes
photo credit: Forbes

Last weekend, I attended my first TED talk. While I have listened to an occasional talk here and there, I am one of the rare people on the planet who is not addicted or really even familiar with TED. I was even more surprised when I learned that TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organization….but isn’t everything these days?

The TED concept was created in 1984 from Richard Wurman’s observation of three amazing fields converging, technology, entertainment and design. The very first TED talks included demos from revolutionary new products, the compact disc and the e-book. However, even with such a wow factor the conference and idea lost money and six years later, in 1990 Richard Wurman tried again and this time it worked.

A decade later, media entrepreneur, Chris Anderson met with Wurman and in 2001 Anderson’s non-profit, the Sapling Foundation acquired TED. Anderson believed in the concepts that make TED great and was determined to seek out the most interesting people on the planet and let them communicate their passion.

 

So as I sat in an auditorium and listened to speakers talk on such topics as, The Future of Women in Science, Troubled Water on water conservation, Transforming Prisons from the Inside, Out, Accepting my transgender daughter, and the list goes on….I was inspired. Each speaker and topic more unique than the previous, and yet they were all the same.

What was it that made this very different group the same? Their passion. Each speaker was passionate about their topic and their passion and insight was real, it was human and the hundreds of us in the audience became one…..and that is the magic of TED.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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When two worlds collide

caylin_moore_spark

Don’t you love it when your worlds collide? As many of you know I have been a passionate supporter at an all boys school in Watts, called Verbum Dei, also referred to as “The Verb.” The Verb is a school where young men come from poverty, are given a white-collar job one day a week and attend school the remaining four days. One hundred percent of these amazing young men are accepted to four-year colleges.

Another school, that I am a passionate supporter of is Texas Christian University, also known as TCU. A school that has incredible connection culture and a spirit of kindness. The other day, it was brought to my attention that one of our Verb boys is at TCU playing football as a Quarter back, his name is Caylin Moore.

Caylin was raised in poverty by a loving single mother. He went to Verbum Dei High School, where he was a star student and athlete. This past week he was recognized for his community service work as the founder of SPARK, which stands for Strong Players Are Reaching Kids. A TCU Student organization whose mission is to, “Inspire the youth to rise above their circumstances, build bridges to success and ultimately spark a change in their communities.”

 

Caylin and his fellow TCU athletes are traveling around the Fort Worth community inspiring children to reach for their dreams, regardless of where they are starting. Caylin uses his own story to encourage others. As he said, “I’ve seen how important education is and how it can change a life.” 
One amazing young man and two incredible institutions collide to create a SPARK of goodness for so many.
Charity Matters.
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Crayon Collection

crayoncollection

Ever wonder what happens when you go out to eat and your children leave all their free crayons behind at the restaurant? Well you are not alone, one LA mom did too. Her name is Sheila Michail Morovati and after dinning out weekly at their families favorite restaurant, she noticed all of the unused crayons being left behind. After a little research she learned that there are actually 150 million neglected crayons that get tossed every year in the U.S. Who knew?

Determined to teach her children And so the Crayon Collection was born. Here is how it works:  The non-profit organization creates presentations for each restaurant that signs on, gets trained in how to collect the crayons so that they are clean and not soiled, and how to store them. The restaurant is paired with a school about 2-5 miles away and a crayon pick-up is scheduled for about once a month, to get those crayons to the school and in the hands of students who will actually use them.

Believe it or not, they even take those scrappy not so pretty crayons too. “The schools we are serving are so under supplied that even the chalky crayons offer some benefit,” said founder Sheila Morovati.

The goal is simply to reallocate gently used crayons from restaurants, and in the process begin to teach children at a very young age about the needs of other children who can benefit from this simple resource so often taken for granted, teaching the joy of generosity and recycling for a greater good….all while helping another.

Now that seems like the perfect art of childhood….

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Women in leadership and a life full of purpose

Women in leadership

Last week I was privileged to speak at the launch of the USC’s Women in Leadership Society at the Annenberg School for Communication, my alma mater. An amazing organization founded by Professor Christopher Smith to provide support, build self-confidence, build community and connect  young female undergraduates who are at the intersection of tech, media and entertainment. So what could I possibly say to these young women?

First, I remembered what a challenging time USC was for me, my parents had gone bankrupt and I was putting myself through school. I had boyfriend problems, was trying to figure out my path and the basic challenges of having fun, growing up and juggling it all that all young co-eds face.

I wanted these young women to know that we all go through this. More importantly, I wanted them to have a bigger goal and keep their eye on the prize. So often, the vision is short-sighted and they can only focus on the internship, the A, the diploma or the job. I want them to focus on living a life full of purpose, where you are using your gifts to the greatest ability.

While leadership is a tool that helps you on the path to acquiring all of the above, isn’t the real goal of leadership simply one life inspiring another? I shared my favorite leadership quote by Woodrow Wilson who said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

Because Leadership is at its essence….one life simply inspiring another and after all, isn’t that is the purpose?

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Happy Labor Day!

Happy labor Day 2016

I hope this finds you enjoying sometime relaxing with friends and family, as we celebrate Labor Day and the official ending of summer. This year, I found myself curious about the history of Labor Day and thought this little snippet did a good job explaining why we have this wonderful holiday.

So enjoy learning a little…..

 

And wishing you a wonderful Labor Day!

Charity Matters.

 

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Back to school…dear teacher

dear teacher, back to school

As thousands of students head back to school in the next few days and weeks ahead, it is time to take a look at what these young brilliant minds have to say about school and learning. More specifically, these wiggly little souls with learning disabilities, who are now facing months of sitting still, (oh the agony ahead of them) after a summer full of playing.

As the mother of children that faced similar challenges, once upon a time. Brilliant and extremely smart, but their brains do not process like the average brain, the following video really spoke to me.

Today, there a so many resources for parents and students with learning disabilities. The most well-known, is The Learning Disabilities Association of America or the LDA, which was founded in 1963 by a group of parents in Chicago that wanted to explore their concern over this growing group of students. By January 1964, these parents had formed a 501c3, non-profit to do just that.

Since that time, a number of significant Federal Legislations were passed because of these passionate parents. Today, hundreds of volunteer leaders across the country continue this important work and LDA‘s national conference draws over 3,000 people committed to the mission of helping those with learning challenges.

 

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.