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Not on Our Watch….

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

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

Photo credit: Pasadena Weekly

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

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

Charity Matters.

 

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

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Memorial Day 2017

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life for something bigger than oneself.”

Joseph Campbell

Over the years I have interviewed a handful of veterans who started non-profits; Eve Chase of American Women’s Veterans, Mark Brenner of Veterans Career Xchange to name a few.  I have also interviewed so many more who started incredible organizations to serve those who serve us….Carolyn Blashek of Operation Gratitude, Rob Berquist of Cell Phones for Soldiers and the list goes on…each person more inspiring than the next.

The common thread between all of these extraordinary individuals? Gratitude. Each one is grateful to have either survived their journey and inspired to help their fellow veterans. Or they are like you and I, ordinary Americans, filled with gratitude for the country we are blessed to live in and the freedoms which we have. They have used that gratitude to fuel their work to serve and honor our veterans.

So today, I will take a page from Carolyn and Rob’s book of gratitude, as I reflect on those who sacraficed to serve us. I am filled with gratitude for these heroes who gave their lives for something bigger than themselves…..

our freedom.

Wishing you all a day full of gratitude.

Happy Memorial Day.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

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.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Cell Phones for Soldiers

 

As many of you know I run a non-profit youth leadership organization as my day job. One of the things I love the most about my job is having the privileged position to inspire thousands of middle school students each year by teaching them how to serve others. In order to do that effectively, we look for non-profit partnerships with amazing causes. This year we partnered with a remarkable organization called Cell Phones for Soldiers, that was started by two kids, brother and sister, Rob and Brittany Berquist in 2004.

These two heard about a soldier with an $8,000 cell phone bill and decided that just wasn’t right. What these two siblings did next was even more surprising and the most inspiring story to inspire thousands of today’s kids.

Rob, who is now 27 ,and still runs Cell Phones for Soldiers has continued his mission to ensure that no military service person should ever have to pay to call home.  Today, his sister Brittany works in marketing for the Kind Company. To date Cell Phones for Soldiers has donated over 300 million minutes in free talk time, recycled more than 15 million cell phones and still mails about 1,500 calling cards to service men and women around the globe per week.

This past January, Robbie and Brittany were honored by Forbes Magazine in their 30 under 30 issue for their incredible, vision, service and mission.  What began simply because a brother and a sister saw an injustice and wanted to right a wrong, turned into something, so very right.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Soaring Valor

My grandmother and mother used to cut articles out of the newspaper and send them to me. Nowadays, my sweet mother-in-law sends links instead. I received this link from her recently and it coincided with a dear friend’s dad being honored as a veteran of WWII.

As I watched the video below, tears streamed from my face and I was so touched to learn about all the work, actor Gary Sinise has done to support our veterans.  Coming from a military family he had always done work for Veteran’s causes going back as early as the 1970s. After September 11th, 2001 Gary decided to focus all his efforts on helping those who serve our country, whether first responders or members of our military.  In 2011, Gary decided to establish the Gary Sinise Foundation, with a mission to continue to “spread the word about the importance of service and sacrifice.”

The actor’s most recent focus has been to collect and preserve the oral histories of our WWII veterans. He has been bringing soldiers to WWII museum in Louisiana, to collect these stories before they are gone.

Since the foundation has been established in 2011 they have:

  • Served and provided for over 5,775 children of fallen families
  • Served over 83,000 veterans meals
  • Collected over 8,000 oral histories from WWII Veterans
  • Provided over 5,800 veterans nights out for art and theater
  • Performed over 365 concerts for veterans
  • Adapted 51 veterans homes and counting to be handicap accessible

This work in service of those who have given their life to serve and protect us, is beyond inspiring. As Gary Sinise said, “While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation’s defenders, we can always do a little more.” Thank you Gary Sinise for showing us what service is all about.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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Pearl Harbor Day 75 years later

pearl harbor vj day

Today is December 7th and for most of us, that day doesn’t really ring any bells. However, for some of us either lucky enough to grow up with parents who told us about this sacred day, or perhaps, old enough to remember, it is a day in infamy.

So, while this may not be a non-profit moment, it is one even bigger. On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese . 75 years ago today, Hawaii did not look like this. A recently discovered family film uncovered the moment the war began and along with it,  uncovered the moment that it ended.

So while you are out Christmas shopping today, remember that you have that luxury because of those who went before us. The ones that gave us the gift of freedom.

 

Charity Matters!

 

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American Women Veterans

americanwomensveterans-org

Today is Veterans Day and the day that we celebrate all of those amazing men and women who have served our country. Last week I had the privilege of speaking with one incredible veteran and her name is Genevieve Chase. At only 38, she has served two tours in Afghanistan, is the recipient of the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Badge, and is the Founder of AmericanWomensVeterans.org

Genevieve had trained for two years as a counter intelligence agent and was in Afghanistan for only two months, in April 2006, when a car bomb detonated and changed her life forever. She and her team survived but suffered varying degrees of traumatic brain injuries. She told me, “Angels watched over us and I knew I survived that bomb for a reason.” 

At the end of 2007, Genevieve came home, depressed, unsure about her purpose and began volunteering for another military non-profit. She began to realize that women veterans where not being heard, served or listened too. More importantly she discovered that there are 2.2 million women veterans in the United States.

In December 2008, Genevieve and her sister (shown above) put a call out on Facebook to any women Veteran’s in New York City to come join them for breakfast and thirteen women did. As she listened to stories about their shame to be a veteran, the way they were treated or ignored she knew something had to be done and that was the beginning of AmericanWomenVeterans.org

eve-chase

Today, almost eight years later the American Womens Veterans has become a change agent for women veterans. Genevieve has testified before U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Veteran Affairs Committee to bring change and attention to these incredible women who have served. The American Womens Veterans is proud that they have helped to bring women’s health care to every VA facility in the country, helped acknowledge women veterans who were not allowed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery and continue to shine a light on the remarkable role that women veterans have played and continue too, as they serve our country.

As we honor all of our veterans today, we need to remember that not every GI is a Joe.”

 

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.

Push up challenge

22 push up challenge

Last year this time it was the ice bucket challenge to bring awareness to MLS and this year the challenge no longer involves ice but push ups…..22 push-ups to be exact. I have been challenged to do the 22 push ups a day by a friend of mine to bring awareness to the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day across this country due to PTSD.

In 2012 a Veteran’s report came out releasing the shocking statistic about our veterans and suicide. In 2013 a non-profit called Honor Courage Commitment began to spread the word about this epidemic amongst veterans. In July 2015, the non-profit split into an additional non-profit called #22Kill . 22Kill’s mission is to create a global movement that will bridge the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support.

 

A bucket of ice last August helped spread international awareness and raise millions for ALS. Today, 22 push-ups a day to bring awareness to the suffering of millions of our veterans, is a small sacrifice and privilege to help those who have served us so bravely. Join us, in honoring those who have served us.

 

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.

Memorial Day-Arlington

Memorial Day Arlington

Each year this day comes and I wonder how can I convey and share my gratitude for those that have served our country. There is no real way to express how grateful I am for our freedoms. While searching for something, this video came to my attention.

While I am an occasional country music fan, I had never seen this song called Arlington. If you do one thing today, to stop and feel grateful, watch this.

As we light our barbecues and pack up from our long weekends. Let us be mindful of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us all and their families. God Bless America and Happy Memorial Day everyone!

 

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.

Real service, Veterans Day

Veterans Day

Today, we celebrate Veterans Day. We honor, remember and salute all of those who have shown us what real service is. I talk about service every week and don’t get me wrong, volunteering is important, but to serve, to give your life, your time and complete commitment to ensuring your country’s freedom…well that is service at an entirely different level.

So today, we salute you, our veterans….thank you for showing us all what real service is.

God bless America and all our servicemen and women.

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 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.

That indescribable feeling

Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.”

Carrie Chapman Catt

OGrat letters

I had lunch with a girlfriend last week and we were discussing our mutual addiction to that indescribable feeling you get when you give. I had just come from Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to our soldiers around the world. I had dropped off 1800 cards, on my way to lunch, written by student’s in my leadership organization, that would go in care packages for soldiers.

The feeling I had as I handed the boxes and boxes of heartfelt colored cards and notes was of pride, joy and as the quote says, “more happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life.” As my friend and I discussed, it is that feeling that becomes something you simply want more of. The gift of service is a gift you give to yourself, even if that isn’t the intention…..it is always the result.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 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.

A Widow’s Memorial Day

Taya Kyle and her children walk behind the coffin of her slain husband former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle during a memorial service for the former sniper at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who have served and sacrificed for our country. No one understands this more than a military spouse.  The other day when I saw this piece on CBS News This Morning, I knew I needed to share. It is a letter from Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, to herself. To me this puts Memorial Day in perspective and I hope it does the same for you.

Today, think about all of those service men, service women and their families who give so much to each of us.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

American Sniper

American Sniper

This past weekend I went to see American Sniper, an amazing movie. It made me think of many of the military non-profit post I have done over the years. More than anything the movie reminded me of the incredible sacrifices our military families make.

The movie is one that stays with you. When sitting down to write I couldn’t decide if I should write about the Navy Seal Honor Fund, which supports the children of fallen Navy Seals or if I should revisit one of my favorite, The American Widow Project…which I decided to do here. The story begins with that fateful knock and the nightmare that followed of the then 22-year-old Taryn Davis.

It was 2007 and she was told that her young husband, Michael had been killed in Iraq. Taryn’s life was shattered. She felt alone, devastated and didn’t know where to turn.  She decided to travel the country and interview other military widows and the result was both her healing and a documentary she entitled “The American Widow Project.” A few short months later she founded a non-profit with the same name, The American Widows Project.

Taryn’s goal was simply to ensure that no military widow should feel alone in her grief. She believes that each military widow deserves the opportunity and tools to help rebuild her life. When a widow reaches out to The American Widow Project they immediately receive Taryn’s film, a phone call from another widow and thousands of online supporters as well as local support groups. In addition there are monthly activities such as sky diving, zip-linning or surfing, to help these women feel alive again.

While the movie American Sniper was about a hero, it is the people like Taryn Davis who take care of those left behind , who are also hereos.

To date Taryn has helped over 800 military widows and counting.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

Homecoming Thank You

Homecoming thank you

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July, truly one of my favorite holidays. Since most of us are still in a patriotic mood I thought I would follow-up on a post I shared a few weeks back.

Last week we had Operation Gratitude come and speak at our leadership camp and tell the students just how important the two words, “thank you” really are. Our students wrote thank you letters to the troops, that brought tears to my eyes.

When I saw the video below, another example of saying thank you in a very big way, I simply had to share.

Just another reminder of the power of gratitude and saying thank you.  A great way to start our week and remember that we all hold the power to make the world better…..simply by saying thank you.

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.