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Mentoring

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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.

 

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

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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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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.

 

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The gift of mentoring

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 
Benjamin Franklin

A few weeks ago my friend, Alexandra invited me and a few of her inspiring friends, to a very special lunch. The purpose was not to catch up, but rather in a mentoring role. Alexandra has been involved with a local school here in LA,  a place where barriers crumble and community grows. Students from all walks of life come together in this unique school to learn, thrive and grow.

Alexandra spoke to the school’s principal and asked for ways she could support the school and out of that conversation came this age-old and brilliant idea of real conversations with mentors. Something so simple, so perfect and truly missing in our busy lives.

The guest list of mentors included; our wonderful hostess and Friends With Causes Founder, a very inspiring Academy Award nominated documentary filmmaker, a super hip successful interior designer,  and myself. We were asked to come armed with questions for these young ladies and to be ready to answer some as well.

None of us knew one another, and yet we were all there to learn and that in itself created a beautiful beginning for conversation. Our discussions ranged from prom dresses, to college, to boys, failures, careers, following your passion and my favorite question, “Who do you think you mentor or inspire?” From that question alone we learned about one girl’s experience with foster care, another who mentored after school at the Boys and Girls Club, another’s younger siblings….but more than that, you saw these girls (young and old) shift in the thought that someone looks up to them.

We all mentor someone, whether we realize it or not. Ask yourself whose life you inspire? I think you will find your self surprised and smiling too. That is the gift of mentoring, you always get so much more than you give.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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The journey continues

TCU football player and Rhodes Scholar, Caylin Moore, stands on the

I am not a stalker, but lets face it…we all like to follow certain people, whether on Instagram or in the media, it could be a top chef, an author, or a celebrity. What these individuals all have in common is that they intrigue us, they seem to be living their purpose. They know who they are and seem to know where they are going.

That person for me isn’t Victoria Beckham or Oprah, while I’m sure they are lovely, the person who I have loved to follow is young man I met in Watts at Verbum Dei High School five years ago and his name is Caylin Moore. He is the one I am following.

As a young man he was a student athlete, a stand up young man with a deep faith. I have followed him via the media, when he headed to Marquette on a full scholarship. I watched when he became a Fulbright Scholar, and then when he landed in my literal path at TCU in February, I was stunned.

I followed Caylin as he created SPARK at TCU to inspire young underserved youth to follow their dreams and to become whatever they dream of. I sat in front of him as he said he had to give back to those that helped him along the way.

Now, I will watch from a far, as he graduates from TCU and heads off to Oxford, England to become TCU’s second Rhodes Scholar. We all need heroes, people to look up to and to inspire us to be our best…Caylin Moore is mine….and one to watch!

 

Charity Matters.

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Alliance of Moms

This upcoming weekend we will celebrate our moms for Mother’s Day. Last week, I had an incredible conversation with two inspiring mothers, who have taken their journey into motherhood and transformed the lives of hundreds of young mothers in the foster care system. These amazing women founded Alliance of Moms, a non-profit organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.

Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser were both pregnant in 2012, 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.

What inspired you to start Alliance of Moms?

Yasmine: I was pregnant with my son, having a child makes your heart burst wide open and makes you see everything every differently. I wanted a part of motherhood to be looking out for all children, not just our own. From my previous work with  The Alliance for Children’s Rights, I knew we needed to explore more volunteer opportunities for children’s rights.

Jules: 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.

Tell us about when you knew, your work had made a difference?

Yasmine: In July 2014, five of us began exploring this idea of creating an auxiliary group to support The Alliance for Children’s Rights but more than that we wanted a mother to mother, community to community event. Six weeks later, we had our first program, Raising Baby, inviting 70 youth in foster care and their children for a day of fun, educational parenting workshops. We were determined to be there for these moms, when so many have let them down.

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.

What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jules: Having a hands on relationship with our pregnant girls and seeing them on an upward trajectory. Knowing that these young mothers are now talking and singing to their unborn children, or reading to their children at bedtime, creating family rituals, and using  the little things that we teach them, which have a big impact on their children.

These young parents are motivated to change their lives and their children’s’ and more than that, it is seeing people being kind.  

What is your dream for Alliance of Moms?

Yasmine: My dream would be to create something sustainable and scalable that we could take outside of Los Angeles and to other communities of mothers across the country. We know and see the value of creating community and a village for mothers.

Jules: My dream would also be to see our program expand to other places and perhaps to help all teen moms. The real dream would be to have the public start seeing these young moms in a different way…with humanity and empathy.

As Yasmine and Jules both said, “We are all different and yet we are all the same. We all want the best for our children, we all get overwhelmed, stressed, worried that we are not doing the right thing. We are all learning about ourselves and our children as we struggle to do our best.”

Over 600 members, hundreds of families and young mothers served and countless lives forever changed by a group of mothers who know what it is to share the love, create an alliance and to inspire us all.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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One Veteran’s mission to help Veteran’s get a job

The beauty that is Charity Matters, is the incredible people who I have the privilege of meeting and telling their stories. Mark Brenner is one of them. A few months back, when I attended a non-profit seminar I was fortunate enough to be seated with this dynamic man, with a huge smile, a zest for life and an unlikely non-profit founder.

Mark told me that in the end of 2013, he had recently sold his recruiting business and attempted to play golf for a few months, but knew there was something missing. A life long connector and recruiter he knew he still had people that he could help with his skill set.

In 1967 at 19 years old, Mark served in Vietnam, and was a Veteran. When Mark came home from Vietnam, they threw rocks at him as he stepped foot in the U.S. for the first time in a year from being away. He said,”The way I was treated coming back from Vietnam, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through that.”

More than that, Mark had learned recent statistics on Veteran’s unemployment  and thought, “Now this is something I can help with, I know how to get people jobs.” His help turned into a 501c3, non-profit called Veterans Career XchangeHis mission to coach veterans to get full-time employment and to retain their jobs.

Today, Mark is working harder than ever. He and his team at Veterans Career Xchange have coached, mentored and gainfully employed hundreds veterans, with over 80% who have remained employed. His passion for helping these men and women who have served our country is simply contagious. Mark said, “When the Veterans you serve get a job and donate back to your cause and tell you that they have purpose and are happy again, it makes you just want to keep going.”

While I don’t typically do follow-up stories, I think we are just at the first chapter with this one and I can’t wait to share with all of you what is next for this remarkable man and organization. Mark is proof that regardless of where you are in life you, you always have something to give.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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The Improved Man

A few years ago, my husband and I went to Wisconsin, where he competed to become a nationally ranked triathlete. We were sitting at an outdoor restaurant over looking a river, when I struck up a conversation with an older (in years only) gentleman, whose name was Don Ardell.   He was competing in the 70+ age group, where he is and continuous to be, the number one ranked triathlete and national champion in three sports, at the age of 79. He is a remarkable man and over the years we have become pen pals of sorts.

So, last week when I received this note from him in reference to previous week’s Gandhi quote, I had to share it with you…..It was so beautiful, I began to cry.

Here is the note from Don below….

Reading the Gandhi quote (Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men) led to my reflection on one of Ingersoll’s speeches that I think is a partial blueprint for the embrace of the common decencies, namely his “Improved Man” address, delivered in New York on February 23, 1890. Here are the concluding words of this lovely talk:

 The Improved Man will not give his life to the accumulation of wealth. He will find no happiness in exciting the envy of his neighbors. He will not care to live in a palace while others who are good, industrious and kind are compelled to huddle in huts and dens. He will know that a great wealth is a great burden, and that to accumulate beyond the actual needs of a reasonable human being is to increase not wealth, but responsibility and trouble.

The Improved Man will find his greatest joy in the happiness of others and he will know that the home is the real temple. He will believe in the democracy of the fireside, and will reap his greatest reward in being loved by those whose lives he has enriched.

The Improved Man will be self-poised, independent, candid and free. He will be a scientist. He will observe, investigate, experiment and demonstrate. He will use his sense and his senses. He will keep his mind open as the day to the hints and suggestions of nature. He will always be a student, a learner, and a listener–a believer in intellectual hospitality.  In the world of his brain there will be a continuous summer, perpetual sees-time and harvest.  Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth and with the other raise the fallen.

As we hit mid- week, I share Don’s words, wisdom and gift with you. A man who inspires others to be their best, to live a healthy lifestyle and shows us all by example what a life well lived is truly all about….most assuredly, an Improved Man.

Charity Matters.

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There is a reason its viral

I often find myself mindlessly scrolling Facebook, when I’m standing in line, bored or looking for some type of meaningful distraction. The key word being meaningful. So as I sat down to write and came across this video from the other say, I knew my writing direction had taken a swift turn.

The story is about a young Muslim man, named Ibn Ali Miller, who came upon two young men who were beginning  a fight. A crowd was gathered to watch the neighborhood street fight, when Ibn interrupted to talk to the two young adversaries. He calmed them both and drew the crowd’s attention, who naturally, filmed the entire thing.

It was not the words he spoke to the boys that touched my heart but rather the words he shared with the press, about growing up in poverty, his mother, staying on the right path and the best way to use his 15 minutes of fame.

Every week I bring inspiring people to your attention. This amazing soul reminds us all that charity starts at home, in our neighborhoods and most importantly inside our hearts.

 

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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Sweet inspiration

“People want to feel what they do makes a difference.”

Frances Hesselbein

On Wednesday, I shared the inspiring story of non-profit activist, author, CEO, leader, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom , Frances  Hesslebein. Her life and example of being a servant leader was so inspiring that I needed to share more.

In speaking to Frances and my mutual friend, Mike Stallard, he told me that his favorite quote of hers is,

To serve is to live.”

Today, Frances is 102 and still inspiring others through her work and life.

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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