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Homelessness and Hunger

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The Big Easy

Big Easy

As you all know I recently returned from my first Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Since today is Ash Wednesday and the celebration is winding down on Bourbon Street I thought it only fitting to share a little about a New Orleans non-profit today. The organization is called HandsOn New Orleans.

In the after math of Hurricane Katrina this incredible organization was formed to bring everyone together for the singular purpose of ” engaging, empowering, and transforming the community through volunteer service by connecting every passion with its purpose.” How great is that?

HandsOn New Orleans is a huge master calendar for the city bringing together all of the incredible opportunities and needs in one singular place. What I love is that this unique city and non-profit, hosts visitors from around the world, as well  long time residents in the New Orleans community. Since the hospitality in New Orleans is unlike any place I have ever been, HandsOn New Orleans doesn’t care if you are a party of one or a corporate team, a local or a tourist. Either way they promise to provide you with worthwhile  volunteer options.

While the hurricane has long past, the commitment to rebuild and reshape this amazing city has not gone away. Like most cities that have experienced a tragedy or natural disaster, that bond only makes them stronger. New Orleans is no different.

 

Since March of 2006, HandsOn New Orleans and their 35,000 volunteers have; completed 600,000 hours of service,organized 110 customized corporate projects with twenty Fortune 500 companies,impacted 19,500 underserved youth and trained 230 volunteer leaders that saved the community $13 million through volunteer time.

As many of us begin the season of Lent and the countdown to Easter, perhaps it is fitting to think of New Orleans. A city that shows us in good times and in bad that coming together is really what matters.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2014 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.

 

FEED

FEEDI promise I am not really the jealous type. That being said, every once in a while I come across a person that really seems to have it all going on and perhaps I get a small pang. Its human right? From the outside their life looks perfect. The person I’m talking about was a super model, the president’s granddaughter and niece and is now married to Ralph Lauren’s son and her name is Lauren Bush. Doesn’t sound too bad does it?

When you look a little closer, you realize that with all of that, it would be easy to simply be beautiful. However, that is exactly what makes Lauren Bush Lauren so striking. Her beauty comes from what she has done for others.

In 2004, Lauren started her work as an Honorary spokesperson for the World Food Program, when she helped to launch their Universities Fighting Hunger initiative. Inspired by her travels all over the globe she began to learn about the realities of hunger and poverty firsthand. In 2005, she created the first FEED 1 bag, which feeds one child in school for one year through the World Food Program. The following year she graduated from Princeton and then in 2007, she started FEED Projects. By 2008, Lauren co-founded the FEED Foundation to increase FEED’s impact in the fight against hunger.

To date, FEED has partnered with companies like Whole Foods Market, Barnes & Noble, the Gap, Lord & Taylor, Pottery Barn, Harrods, and many more. Since its beginnings, FEED has donated over $6 million dollars to the World Food Program through the sale of their FEED bags and with their FEED Foundation. That donation works out to be over 60 million meals to school children.

Now that is something to be jealous of….just a little.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2014 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 opposite of full

feeding the hungry at Thanksgiving-2011

The week of Thanksgiving seems to be a week about food and eating. What is the opposite of eating? Not eating or hunger. So it seems only natural that Thanksgiving and feeding the hungry always go hand in hand. The fact is that 1 in 6 people in this country are suffering from hunger.

I have to confess, I have fed the homeless, on more than a few occasions, but never on Thanksgiving. I applaud those that do. I can only imagine how much more grateful you are, for what you are lucky enough to have, after you have witnessed someone without.

I think the most beautiful part of the tradition that many families have, is showing children compassion and gratitude. Any time you give of yourself for another, it is a gift. When you teach and show compassion and kindness it is much, much more.

As you begin to plan for this Thursday’s meal, the arrival of relatives, hustling to the market, think about ways your family can impact another. Here are a few simple ways to get started and make sure to include your kids in the process:

1. Go to Great Non-Profits website, type in your zip code, “feeding the homeless” and find local organizations in your community that you can help.

2. Consider donating a few dollars to a local food bank, ours here in LA, can make $1.00 buy 4 Thanksgiving meals. Here is the web for LA Regional Food Bank.

3. Think big and get involved in a big or little way with Feed America.Org, an organization designed to support the network of food banks across the country.

One last tip, Thanksgiving is more than a day but rather a spirit, that lasts much longer. Consider putting some of these thoughts into action, the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday, to show your family that giving is more than seasonal. Showing your children the reality that being full is just not just about our stomachs is a Thanksgiving legacy.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 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.

 

Food for thought

Blurry photo by me
Blurry photo by me

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from a friend, to volunteer at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. I jumped at the chance, not only to see this incredible place, but more importantly to show my youngest son how easy it is to make a difference. I wanted him to realize how the small gift of time can have a huge impact.

I did a post on the history of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank last spring and in the process learned about this incredible facility that provides 42 million meals a year to the 1 out of 6 people who suffer from hunger in Los Angeles County. However, this was different, this was an opportunity to spend time with my youngest son and show him by example how great it feels to help.

We arrived, watched a video about hunger in Los Angels and learned that children, who suffer from hunger, receive their only meal each day at school. As a result, they have no food over the weekends. Hunger is a foreign concept to my son and yet, I could see him trying to process the facts. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, packs and prepares weekend backpacks filled with food so that children will not be hungry.

The “I Love Lucy” assembly line began and about 15 of us started to fill the backpacks. An hour and a half later we were told that we had fed 711 children. My 12-year-old beamed, and asked when he could come back to help. I had wanted to show him by example but he actually showed me. Our small gift of time working together to make a difference for others was actually a gift for us.

We gained way more than we gave, which for my son, was food for thought.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2013 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.

 

Are you hungry?

LA food bank tonyimageThe power of one is a concept that always intrigues me. How can one person create so much change? How can one idea create something that feeds one million people a year? The thought is humbling, empowering and pure inspiration.

The “one” I am talking about is 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 51 million pounds of food or the equivalent of 42.4 million meals. The LA Food Bank served over 1 million people last year 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.

Charity Matters.

  Copyright © 2013 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.

March Madness

cheerful giversIn our house we take March Madness seriously, no it’s not because of basketball, it’s because all three of my sons have birthdays this month…which of course leads to true March Madness. I am always trying to find ways to remind my boys how fortunate they are and birthdays are always a good opportunity for gratitude.

This year I wanted to find a cause that involved birthdays that the boys could contribute too and I came across the most remarkable cause called Cheerful Givers.Org and the person behind it all, just as amazing.

He name is Robin Steele and in 1994 she was touring a local shelter in her community in Minnesota and discovered that parents often looked for a favorite box of cereal or canned good to give their child as a birthday gift.  Robin couldn’t bear the thought of a child’s birthday passing without any acknowledgement and immediately got to work assembling 12 birthday bags that she dropped of at her local homeless shelter.

The next day Robin received a call from the shelter to share the story of the birthday bag. A woman had come into the shelter looking for some sort of favorite food item to recognize her child’s birthday and panicked when there wasn’t anything. However, when the shelter gave her a birthday bag the woman replied, “The whole way over on the bus I prayed and prayed that there would be something here for me to give my child, but I never dreamed  there would be something so beautiful.”

Robin got to work, enlisted volunteers and began Cheerful Givers. However, three years later  Robin still wondered if she was doing enough. So in 1997 she traveled to India to meet with Mother Teresa. Robin met with her hours before her death and returned with a message that we are all hungry for love.

She was more determined than ever to ensure that her birthday bags, “celebrates those lives that matter and that they are a symbol of unconditional love we have for our anonymous neighbors and their children.”

Today, over 622,045 birthday bags have been distributed and counting. March madness in all its glory. The celebration of birthdays is the celebration of life and Robin Steele reminds us all why it is such a gift.

Charity Matters.

 Copyright © 2013 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.

What Matters?

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

  Mother Teresa

We all get overwhelmed this time of year with donation request, causes, and so many people and places in need. We can not give to everything, we can not improve everything but we can make a difference in each gesture of love, kindness and compassion to another…..even if it is just one.  It matters.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2012 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.

 

Caterina’s Club

Last week was Thanksgiving and in my search for feeding the hungry, one name just kept reappearing, Bruno Serato. Call it coincidence but I had received a text from a girlfriend the same day about a non-profit called Caterina’s Club. What do you know? Caterina’s Club is founded by Bruno Serato. I just love it when the magic comes together.

So who is this Bruno Serato? Bruno is a chef and restaurant owner in Orange County, California. He is also a long time supporter of the Boys and Girls Club.  In 2005, after a visit to the Boys and Girls Club Bruno realized that many of those children were living in motels and were not being fed dinner.

Bruno shared this story with his mother, Caterina, who told him he must use his resources to feed these children pasta dinner.  That is how his non-profit Catarina’s Club began. Every night vans from the Boys and Girls Clubs pick up children at surrounding motels, where they live, and deliver them to the Boys and Girls Club for homework help, activities and free pasta dinner.

Today, Bruno has served more than 400,000 free pasta dinners. Bruno has called these children his favorite customers. What he feeds them is more than pasta; it is love, time, compassion and consistency in an often crazy world for these children. Bruno recognized that being fed isn’t always through your stomach but perhaps feeding a child’s spirit is just as important.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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 changing face of Skid Row

As you know this week we have talked about the amazing history of Skid Row and the Union Rescue Mission, as well as the inspiring story of Reverend Andy Bales. As the CEO of the URM, he has made eradicating homelessness his life’s mission.

How do you take on a problem like ending homelessness? It seems enormous, especially since Los Angeles County is the homeless capital of America with 74,000 men, women and children living on the streets every night. Well, the URM has had tremendous success with their program of getting people off the streets and back on their feet.

They do so much more than provide 1.2 million meals each year. URM begins with reaching out offering food, clothing and emergency services like housing. Women and children are sent to a facility called Hope Gardens where they are safe and far from Skid Row. The next step is the transformation phase where the Mission offers medical, dental and legal support. There is a full-time program that provides counseling, job training, volunteering and recovery from addiction….all with a 66% success rate.

The final phase is the restoration, take a look.

My experience at the Union Rescue Mission was truly inspiring. I began this journey unsure, nervous and not clear what to expect. I left Union Rescue Mission with a renewed faith in compassion, dignity and the power of one.  The face of homelessness will never look the same again, there is hope on Skid Row.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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.

To the rescue, Union Rescue Mission

 As I mentioned the other day that spending any amount of time on Skid Row is a humbling experience and one that I will treasure as a reminder of gratitude and perspective.

There are so many emotions that occur when I see a homeless person. It runs the gamete from pity to sadness to frustration, fear and sometimes even anger but usually ends with confusion. Then I drive on and the emotions are forgotten, because its easier to forget than to try to figure out what to do.

Sadly, I don’t think I’m alone. So when I heard Reverend Andy Bales (CEO of Union Rescue Mission) personal story, I was truly inspired to know that my reactions are not unique. What is unique however, is not Andy’s reaction to homelessness but his action. Take a look.

We are all faced each day with choices but what moved me so deeply about Andy’s story was that when he realized he wasn’t practicing what he preached he went back and took action. Not only did he feed the man who he turned away but he made a commitment to take on homelessness with a passion. He has since fed hundreds of thousands, 735,909 meals last year alone.

Like Lyman Stewart, the first steward of the Union Rescue Mission, Andy Bales has given a face to all of those that we pass. He has made feeding the homeless and breaking the cycle of poverty his life’s work.

The work is paying off, see what happens when one man can inspire a community, create a template that is followed nationally and run an organization that served 1.2 million meals last year on donations.

Reverend Andy is an inspiration and on friday I will share some of the great successes of    this amazing organization. The face of homelessness will never look the same again.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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.

 

Union Rescue Mission

A week before vacation I had the privilege to spend some time down on Los Angeles’s Skid Row at the Union Rescue Mission. It was so insightful that its worthy of more than one post.

We all see the homeless everyday and I know that I struggle with what to do? Do I turn a blind eye? Do I give a dollar or perhaps some food? Do I support an organization that does this and has been taking care of the homeless and hungry since 1893? After my time at the Union Rescue Mission, I think the latter option is the answer.

The Union Rescue Mission began during California’s boom at the turn of the last century. Men were coming by the thousands in search of gold and oil hoping to make their fortunes. However, when these people found themselves without a job, food or shelter there was no place to turn, until a man named Lyman Stewart decided to step in.

Lyman had made his fortune in oil and saw the hundreds of hungry and homeless and decided to take action. He had his men start providing food, to over 500 people everyday, with their horse driven wagons on Main Street. By 1907, the URM had purchased a site to continue its work.

When the Great Depression hit, the Mission supplied 42 percent of all free meals provided by private charities in Los Angeles. A staggering amount.

Today, the Mission provides over 1.2 million meals each year to the over 74,000 homeless men, women and children in Los Angeles County.

That legacy and growth of the Mission has been handed down over the generations to many stewards of this incredible organization. On Wednesday, I know you will be inspired by Andy Bales, the current CEO and his passion for breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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.

Bake Me Home

In case you haven’t checked your calendar Mother’s Day is less than a week away. When we think of our moms so many images come to mind, but for me one of them is baking cookies….something many of us did with our mothers.

One mom took her cooking with her children and her cookies to the next step.  In 2008, Alison Bushman and her then 7-year-old twin daughters had a conversation about children entrepreneurs. Her girls wondered can kids really make a difference?

The twins had already spent hours helping out with a local homeless shelter and wanted to do more. The solution, to give families their recipe, the dry ingredients to make cookies as they left the shelter and moved into a home.

The result is sweet, Bake Me Home‘s mission is dedicated to promoting volunteerism and providing disadvantaged moms and kids with something as simple as cookies that encourage shared family experiences.

The girl’s goal? To make the world sweeter one cookie at a time. How sweet is that? Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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.


Good Shepherd Center

One of the greatest joys of Charity Matters has been the realization that everyone has a cause they care about and want to share. There is nothing I love more than a friend telling me that I have to hear about their favorite organization and this one is no exception. The Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children found me through a friend and now it has found you.

In 1984, at age 60, Sister Julia Mary Farley and Catholic Charities responded to an increasing number of homeless on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.  She suggested using a former convent as an emergency shelter for the most vulnerable of the homeless population, women and children. These women and children became her focus.

Sister Julia’s mission was to offer shelter and hope for these women. She wanted them to rebuild their lives so they could experience a brighter future for their children. Her dream was to create a “Women’s Village” that would provide housing, job training, employment and other supportive services, to achieve independence.

Today, 27 years later Sister Julia’s dream has become a reality for over 1,000 homeless women and children each year. Every night 93 women and 40 children are off the streets because of her. The work she started has been carried on by Sister Rosaline and the staff at the center.  Good Shepherd Center has impacted the lives of over 25,000 homeless women and children by giving them the support they need to achieve self-sufficient lives.

Sister Julia said it best, “I think, to use whatever God has given you to help other people. We’ve got to make the world a better place, got to keep working at it.”

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 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.


Upward Bound House an alternative for homeless children

Did you happen to visit Peet’s Coffee on Christmas Eve?  If you did, you received a gift that truly spread the Christmas spirit. After ordering your drink (regardless of the size) the barista said,”Merry Christmas! Your drink is on the house. If you want to support Upward Bound House, we would be so grateful.”

What was Upward Bound House? I thought I would find out while waiting for my now donated latte. It turns out Upward Bound house is a non-profit that provides transitional housing to keep families together and off the streets.

Upward Bound House has a 95% success rate of getting families back on their feet and independently living on their own again. So, a little post holiday good will and cheer and a big hats off to Peet’s Coffee for showing us all that Charity Matters a latte!

Copyright © 2011 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.