Category

Homelessness and Hunger

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Hope and Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you feel moved or inspired, please inspire another…

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What we can do….

This week was supposed to be about back to school, but somehow it just didn’t feel right when thousands of Texans are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. So rather than talk about beginnings, it seems more appropriate to talk about what happens when people come together in times of crisis to help one another and what we can do to help the 6.8 million people affected by these storms.

Texas Monthly, provided this amazing list of ways we can help those in Houston and I thought it was worth sharing here, with a variety of ways to help children, families, the sick, disabled and animals.

The Texas Diaper Bank  Each year The Texas Diaper bank helps change the lives of 15,600 babies, seniors and the disabled. They distribute over 1.1 million diapers every year.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital  The hospital served over 171,000 children last year and is in need of blood donations as well as financial support during this challenging time as the staff works to serve these children and families.

Port Light This nonprofit is a grassroots organization that was established in 1997 to help those affected by disasters, specifically those with medical equipment needs and disabilities. Since that time, the organization has grown and in addition providing disaster emergency services, they spend much of their time educating others how to be prepared.

Direct Relief USA  This organization operates the largest charitable medical program in the United States serving more than 23 million Americans each year. 72% of those served live under the poverty level in the  United States. They are working to provide medicine and medical care to those people evacuated from their homes and in need.

Houston Food Bank In 2016-2017 The Houston food Bank distributed over 83 million meals! That was before Hurricane Harvey. With thousands and thousands of people living in shelters the Houston Food Bank is in desperate need of support to feed so many additional families.

Galveston County Food Bank  was founded in 2012 to provide meals to Houston’s surrounding area and helps to provide food and meals to over 53, 000 people each day who struggle to feed their families. They need your support to help so many more during this crisis.

Global Giving  is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofitsdonors, and companies in nearly every country. This organization helps nonprofits from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe (and hundreds of places in between) access the tools, training, and support they need to be more effective and make our world a better place. Their goal is to raise over 2 million dollars towards the Hurricane Harvey Relief effort.

SPCA of Texas is overwhelmed with need to rescue, care and support the thousands of animals effected by Hurricane Harvey. They annually help over 50,000 animals each year in addition to the seven thousand they spade/neuter and the other seven thousand animal cruelty investigations each year. The SPCA needs your support to rescue and care for the thousands of pets affected by the storm.

Aesop said, “In union there is strength.” This is the time we need to stop, click a link and help those who need it most, I just did……because together we can really do something.

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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Homelessness…where to start?

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.

Charity Matters.

 

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When Clouds Embrace

One of our dear friends lives in Athens, Greece and recently introduced me to a very special lady, Maria Kostaki. As most of you know the Syrian refugee crisis has had an enormous impact on Greece. While we all watch the news here in America with horror, many in Greece watch in person while children are orphaned and abandoned.

So many in Greece can barely take care of themselves with the financial crisis and feel helpless, but not Maria, she decided to act.

She did so in the most beautiful of ways, Maria wrote a children’s book, called When Clouds Embrace. Her mission to use her gifts, as an author, to help those in need. I had the opportunity to speak to Maria recently and here is our inspiring conversation, from this remarkable woman, who can no longer sit by and watch, but rather, who is using her talent to inspire, educate, and help these abandoned children.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act?

Maria: The day that I woke up to the photograph that shocked the entire world. It was of the three-year-old Syrian boy washed ashore on a beach of Lesvos, an island that I visited many times for vacation. He was dead.

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

Maria:The feeling that one day, I will make a difference, and maybe inspire others to do the same. I know that selling books won’t save the world, but I’m a writer, that is what I do, that is what I have to offer. I hope that people around me will realize that any help and kindness we can spare, on any level, can have an impact on the lives of others.

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

Maria: I like to believe that I already have. I’ve raised awareness in my own circle, few people would have known that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids, alone, without shelter, without access to food and clothes, without a grown up hand to hold, roaming a country, foreign to them. It’s terrifying, devastating, if you think about it.

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

A large part of the funds for the publication of “When Clouds Embrace” was actually crowdfunded. I had contributions from all over the world, from people I did not know, from friends who I know are in tight financial spot here in crisis-stricken Greece. It was a humbling experience. But it was just the beginning. Success will be success when I donate the all of the proceeds to Giving for Greece, an organization that is doing wonderful work for unaccompanied minors.

But the first sign of success was seeing the “temporarily out of stock” alert for “When Clouds Embrace” on Amazon. It was its publication day.

As Pablo Picasso said, ” The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Thank you Maria for reminding us that there are so many ways we can help, support and inspire one another.

Charity Matters.

 

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The Empowerment Plan

This past week, you would have to be hiding under a rock to know there has been a lot of talk about empowerment, but today I would like to share with you an inspiring non-political, good old-fashioned kind of empowerment. It’s the story of a young woman named Veronika Scott, who in 2010 found herself in a college class with an assignment to create a product that would fill a need in her Detroit community. An assignment that would change her life and empower so many more.

Veronika  was the daughter of parents who had struggled with addiction and unemployment. So she found herself in a warming center for Detroit’s homeless with an idea to create a coat the could also become a sleeping bag. While she was working on her design, a homeless woman angrily confronted her and said, “We don’t need coats, we need jobs.” It was that moment that Veronika realized she could do both. She said, ” I wanted to create an opportunity, that I wish my parents had when I was a kid.”

In 2012, she created the Detroit based non-profit The Empowerment Plan, to elevate families from the generational cycle of homelessness. Veronika began hiring single parents from the local shelters, trained them as seamstresses to make the coats to meet the needs of the homeless community. More than that, she gave these women a purpose, a job, education, full-time employment and a chance to regain their independence.

Today, Veronika at age 27, has founded the non-profit The Empowerment Plan, employed 39 homeless women and made and distributed over 15,000 coats since 2011. As C.S. Lewis said, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Veronika is a living example when she said, “No matter what you’ve gone through, you still can do a lot with what you have.”

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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Cheering on the LA Regional Food Bank

cheering-on-the-la-food-bank

The last two weeks have been crazy ones, filled with meetings, deadlines for non-profit I work for and many fun non-profit events. One of the fun nights out was a wonderful event welcoming the Rams to LA.  In return the Rams brought their philanthropy partnership with regional food banks, a Taste of the NFL,  from St. Louis to LA, all to support those in need.

Many of you may remember a post from long ago, about the beginnings of the LA Regional Food Bank, which started with a man named Tony Collier. He was a cook who saw leftovers going to waste and decided to do something about it.

Sound simple enough? As a cook, for a Los Angeles based non-profit, Tony received more donations than he needed.  So, he decided he needed to share his leftovers with other charities that were trying to feed the hungry as well.  Tony had heard about a food bank in Phoenix that had done something similar and decided to bring that model to Los Angeles and founded Los Angeles Regional Food Bank in 1973.

From the very beginning the 200 square foot garage quickly filled up and soon had to move into a converted 2,600 square foot dry cleaning facility in Pasadena. By the early 1980’s Tony’s simple idea was distributing more than 3.5 million pounds of food to over 70 different agencies in LA.

Today, The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank distributes 65 million pounds of food or the equivalent of 42.4 million meals. The LA Food Bank served over 320,000 people per month with the help of 32,000 volunteers.

One man’s simple idea is no longer housed in a garage but now resides in a 96,000 square foot facility that distributes the food to over 653 different agencies throughout the LA area. One man, one idea and a legacy of compassion that continues to inspire.

Now that is something to cheer for!

Charity Matters.

 

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The Conditioned

Never should a man abandon himself.”

The Conditioned

the-conditioned

Every once in a while a story comes across my path that touches my soul and melts my heart. This story is exactly that. The story of a homeless man in Brazil, named Raimundo  Sobrinho, who dreamed of becoming a poet. Yet, for thirty-five years he was faceless, nameless and one of thousands of homeless, that was passed by everyday.

Yet, in 2011 a woman named Shalla Monteiro, befriended him and his life was forever changed.

A beautiful story and reminder to us all that everyone we pass belongs to someone, has a story, a dream and a purpose.

 

Charity Matters.

 

 

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The great one…

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Muhammad Ali

the great one

This weekend we lost a great one. A man born into a family of pre-Civil War era American slaves, who experienced the segregated South first hand and was determined to use his life to help others, which is exactly what he did.

Muhammad Ali devoted his life to helping promote civil rights, cross cultural understanding, interfaith relations, hunger relief and world peace. He did this through a variety of actions and causes. According to the National Constitution Center, he has been responsible for providing over 232 million meals to serve the hungry in such countries as Indonesia, Mexico, Cuba, Morocco, and Cote d’Ivoire, to name a few.

In addition, to his work abroad as a Goodwill Ambassador he also used his fame and success to bring attention to causes such as Make A Wish Foundation, Special Olympics, Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center and the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

The Muhammad Ali Center’s mission sums up the legend’s life and legacy best, “To promote, respect, hope and understanding and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.”

He was great and continues to inspire us all, to do the same.

Charity Matters.

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Beauty in the eye of the beholder

beauty in eye of beholder

I have had friends tell me over the years that I often see things that they do not. Perhaps, my filters are adjusted a certain way. Sometimes, I wonder am I the only one who is watching this? We all live in a busy world and so often, we are too busy to see the beauty right in front of us.

Last week, I was in a huge hurry trying to make a grant deadline and rushing to Kinkos to pick up my order. Traffic prevented me from turning into the Kinkos driveway, so I was parked just waiting and watching and what I saw brought me to tears.

Standing almost in front of me was an elderly homeless women, with no shoes, white hair and her face was literally black with grime and dirt. She was not begging but simply standing there. Her physical condition took my breath away. As I waited in traffic wondering what to do, I saw an elderly gentleman in his mid-seventies hop out of his car, leaving it running in the parking lot and ever so kindly, sweetly and thoughtfully approach the woman. He bowed his head, in respect of greeting her, and handed her what appeared to be everything he had in his wallet.

Tears began pouring from my eyes, at the most beautiful sight of her surprise and her smile. I looked at the elderly man as the tears streamed down my face and he gave a small nod and quickly got into his running car and drove off. The honking horns jarred me into reality of what I had just witnessed. The respect, compassion, grace, dignity and the sheer beauty of the moment, was one I will never forget.

The stress of the day gone, replaced with hope, compassion and belief that the world is full of goodness. We just simply have to look for it.

Charity Matters.

 

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Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning, svdp

We have begun our spring cleaning. No, not with mops and brooms but rather clearing out closets, drawers, garages of unwanted, unused and unnecessary possessions. Luckily for me, I was inspired by recent visit to the Los Angeles Chapter of The St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Time and again, I have cleared out my closets and driven to the Goodwill….and am embarrassed to say that I am not sure what it is exactly they do with my things? One of my earliest childhood memories was of the St. Vincent de Paul truck pulling up for our used donations.  Over the holidays, I met the Executive Director of the LA Chapter, and he invited me down to see what exactly it is that they do and trust me, it is so much more than a truck!

On my visit I learned the history of this amazing organization, which was founded in Paris in 1833 by a compassionate college student named Frederic Ozanam. He was challenged by the poverty he saw on the streets and organized a “Conference of Charity” to help the poor of all religions. Frederic wanted to create an avenue that assisted people to express their faith and grow spiritually through acts of charity. My kind of guy.

For over 100 years, SVDP has been serving the needy throughout the United States. The Society, as its called, is able to help provide the needy to become self sufficient by providing emotional and financial support, food, clothing, furniture and housing because of donations both financial and household. Many of the household items are passed on directly to someone in need.

Today, the Society, is an international volunteer organization with over 1,000,000 members in 142 countries and continues its founder’s mission to “seek and find the forgotten, the suffering or the deprived.”

So, as you start your spring cleaning, remember how much good your unneeded items are for another.

Charity Matters.

 

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Gotta Have Sole

photo via: makeadifferenceday.com
photo via: makeadifferenceday.com

I have the privilege of working with amazing high school students all the time. The story I am about to share with you really hit a chord with me. This summer at the leadership camp I organize, a young girl arrived with shoes that were literally falling apart. We could tell she was embarrassed by her shoes but the reality was she couldn’t run and play games with the sole flapping around. So we used a little shoe goo, some fun colorful duct tape and made her smile and love her overhauled shoes. We saw first hand how much she wanted to fit in and the power of a simple pair of shoes.

An amazing young man, named Nicholas Lowinger, had the same realization as a very young boy visiting a homeless shelter. Nicolas saw first hand children who missed school because they shared shoes with their siblings and it wasn’t their day to wear them, so they couldn’t go to school.  So Nicholas began donating shoes and clothing to the shelter but he knew these children needed new shoes that fit correctly.

A few years later, in 2010, when Nicholas had his Bar Mitzvah he used the opportunity to begin the Gotta Have Sole Foundation  to donate new footwear to homeless children. Nicholas said, “My goal is to reach as many children living in homeless shelters in the US as I can. It has always been my hope that the children will feel more confident about themselves because they have new shoes to call their own and that they will have the same opportunities afforded to them as their peers.”

Today, four years later Nicholas  has donated new footwear to over 10,000 children in homeless shelters in 35 states throughout the United States.  Rather than rest on his achievements Nicholas keeps expanding his program. He recently established SOLEdiers to assist disabled and needy veterans and their families, in honor of his WWII Veteran grandfather. This program provides veterans with gift cards to footwear stores so they can select the shoes they need, for their children.

Nicholas Lowinger is truly inspirational. While his peers are out running around in their new sneakers, he continues to expand his mission of providing new shoes to as many homeless children as possible. This inspiring young man elevates the meaning of Gotta Have Sole.

Charity Matters.

 

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Back on My Feet

2012 © Steve Boyle

I like to run. A few days a week, I throw on my tired sneakers and just go. It clears my mind, takes away the stress and centers me in a way that few things do. There are millions of other people who feel the exact same way about their runs, however, very few have the running story that Anne Mahlum has.

In May 2007, Anne was on her regular early morning run through the streets of Philadelphia and became friends with some of the men from the local Rescue Mission. She had an ephifany, what if running could help these men deal with their own challenges, the way it had helped her deal with her own?

By July 4th, a few shorts months later, Anne had nine men beginning their own version of Independence Day. It began by signing a Dedication Contract that committed them to arrive on time at 5:30am, have a great attitude and commit to running 3 days a week with her. That first run was the beginning of Back on My Feet. Six months later Charlie Gibson featured Anne as ABC’s person of the week and the donations, interest and program began to gain traction. By January 2008 Back on My Feet had its non-profit status and was up and running….literally.

Today, Back on My Feet has a $6.5 million dollar budget, 45 employees and has expanded to more than 10 cities from coast to coast. Since its inception in 2008, 743 of their members have obtained employment and 519 have housing. What began as a morning run has turned into a game changer one step at a time.

Charity Matters.

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