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The sweetest thing to do this Halloween

” We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.”

Orison Swett Marden

How much do we love Halloween and more importantly Halloween candy? If your like me, you have already been eating your favorites for the past few weeks and hope to never see a Snickers again. Here is some good news, now Halloween candy is twice as sweet (whether it’s from your own bag or your children’s) because there are a number of ways to donate your candy.

So think about giving a treat to these amazing organizations that support our troops:

Operation Gratitude:

You may remember the amazing story of Carolyn Blashek and her incredible cause sending care packages to our troops. Operation Gratitude just sent their 2,000,000th care package. Add your candy to one of their amazing care packages. They also love hand written notes too, so if your children are so inclined this is a great way to teach philanthropy and compassion.

Soldiers Angels:

A similar organization to Operation Gratitude in that they support our troops. Soldier Angels coordinates Treats for Troops each year and this year their goal is to raise over 17,000 pounds of Halloween candy. That is some serious sugar!

Operation Stars and Stripes:

This nonprofit runs Trick or Treating for Troops but sends care packages to service men and women who are stationed in the United States, as well as abroad. They collect unopened candy all year, and so don’t forget them after Christmas or Easter.

Operation Shoebox:

This organization distributes candy all year-long to the troops that are missing the holidays at home. What makes Operation Shoebox unique is that you get to choose which branch of the military you would like to send your treats to; Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.

When you think about it Halloween is all about giving candy away, so why not keep the giving going just a little bit longer? This Halloween think about a sweet way to inspire compassion, kindness and a little patriotic spirit in your children or yourself. Truly there is nothing sweeter than making someone else’s life better. That is a treat we can all enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Legends

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does it take to be a legend? These past few weeks we have lost two legends, two very different legends, Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain. Two people that could not be more different, in their backgrounds, upbringings or their work. Yet, two people that were legends and at the end of their lives have been revered in the same way. So what made them legends?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP/REX/

Was it what they did when they were alive or how they are remembered when they are gone?

A legend is defined as; Legend – a person whose natural reflex is to be selfless and make an extraordinary effort to put others before themselves.

Aretha Franklin was known as one of the bestselling musical artist of all times, the Queen of Soul, an artist without boundaries, a trailblazer and someone who brought joy to all by sharing her passion and gifts with others. Her music made us think and her passion connected us all.

John McCain, an American who is the product of two Navy Admirals, his grandfather and father. A man tortured as a prisoner of war for over five years. A United States Senator that was known for standing for principals before politics, a maverick and a man who believed his true strength lied in his love of country.

Two different people that used their lives to make others lives better. They served by sharing their gifts. They are not nonprofit founders but they both exemplified the same traits. Individuals who give of themselves to make the world better.

Charity Matters is not a place for music or politics but a place to highlight remarkable everyday heroes who make our world better. John McCain’s last words, in his recently published book The Restless Wave, remind us that we all have the ability to do just that….make our world better than we left it. So as we celebrate  Labor Day today, I think these final words from Senator McCain explain why the word legend is so fitting.

“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. ‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in [Ernest Hemingway’s] ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.‘ And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.

I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.

What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”

 

Charity Matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Wreaths Across America

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

Apologies for the delayed post this week but Christmas and a cold set me back a bit. As usual things happen for a reason because last night as I watched the evening news I came across this beautiful story, that was more than worth a share.

The story is about a couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester from Maine, who own a Christmas wreath business. In 1992, their Worcester Wreath Company found that they had an 5,000 extra wreaths that year. Morrill remembered a childhood visit to Arlington National Cemetery and had always believed that his good fortune and success was in large part due to the values of this country and the Veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. This visit was the inspiration for his idea of what to do with the extra wreaths.

Merrill wanted to place a wreath on every grave site at Arlington National Cemetery. So he reached out to his Senator to make arrangements to place the wreaths at Arlington in an older section of the cemetery. This went on for a number of years until in 2005, when the image above of the snow-covered wreaths  went viral and suddenly thousands of people wanted to help. In 2007, Wreaths Across America received their nonprofit status.

In December 2014, Wreaths Across America achieved its goal of placing 226, 525 wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Earlier this week on December 16th, close to one million wreaths were laid at 1,000 locations across the United States and beyond. From Bunker Hill, to Valley Forge and to the September 11th site, thousands of fundraising groups, wreath makes, truckers, corporate sponsors  and volunteers contributed  to make this possible.

The Worcester’s hope is that their gesture will inspire us all to remember our fallen veterans, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom.

Charity Matters.

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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.

Celebrating our Veterans and Wellness works

Over the years I have interviewed and profiled a number of amazing organizations that serve our troops and veterans, Hugs for Heroes, Operation Gratitude, Veterans Career Exchange, and the list goes on. All fantastic organizations that have served our men and women abroad or helped returning Veterans get jobs once they were out of the military. However in all my interviews, I have yet to meet an organization that’s main focus is  to restore hope and a sense of wholeness of body and soul turning their post traumatic stress into post traumatic growth, until now. The place is Wellness Works, a home for healing  and hope.

Last week, I sat down with the Co-Founder, Mary Lu Coughlin, of the non-profit Wellness Works to learn more about the journey our Veterans go through and the story of this amazing non-profit that continues healing our Veterans. Today we celebrate Veterans Day and all those who gave so bravely for our freedom. It is the perfect time to share about the remarkable work that is being done to support the Veteran community and their families. This video (that sadly isn’t embedding but you can old school click the link) gives you a deeper dive into Wellness Works impact on Veterans.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Wellness Works?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Beginning in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my Co-Founder Nancy was teaching wellness education workshops and holistic healing therapies to nurses mainly to help healing with the large AIDS/HIV population at the time. Our goal was always to he a source of healing and service to the community.  As medications became available for AIDS patients our client focus began to shift, September 11th happened, the war began and then in 2005  when we read Dr. Ed Tick’s book War and The Soul about healing Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. We knew that we had a healing skills that could help our Veterans and their families.

Soldiers began coming home in 2006 and we knew our healing community needed to support and love these Veterans and give them a place that felt like home. 

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work in serving our Veterans?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. I know that when we (Wellness Works) have a tangible felt experience and love can come thru us to our Veterans that we are an instrument of healing.

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

Mary Lu Coughlin: When veterans come through our door they feel welcome, they feel at home, they know their invisible wounds are seen and they are not judged. When I over hear one veteran telling another,” I am finally home thanks to Wellness Works.” 

Another veteran, who now serves on our board, said on his second visit to Wellness Works that, “his life’s purpose had been restored. He now had a community with which he could once again strive to serve the greater good.”

Charity Matters:What do want people to think about this Veteran’s Day?

Mary Lou Coughlin: This Veterans Day gives us as a caring community and society, the opportunity to acknowledge the service of the many men and women who have served us so well.

Charity Matters.

 

 

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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.

Invictus

This week’s news certainly seems to be about football and country. While many are talking politics, there is another game involving the two, that is all about strength in the face of adversity. It is the Invictus Games that are happening this week in Canada.

Prince Harry is perhaps an unlikely nonprofit founder.  In 2013, while he was on a trip to the United States visiting the Warrior Games, Harry saw how the power of sport helped to heal physically, physiologically and socially. In that moment, he decided to create the Invictus Games to be an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick service personal.

The word Invictus means unconquered and the purpose of these games is to harness the power of sport to inspire recovery. This week over 550 competitors will gather from over 17 countries to compete in eight days of fierce competition.

Prince Harry wanted to honor those that he has served with and all military service men and women around the world in hopes of creating a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.  The motto of the games is based from a poem entitled “Invictus” which says, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”

As Prince Harry said, “These games have shown the unconquerable character of service men, women and their families Invictus spirit.  These games show the very best of the human spirit.”  Here is to an amazing week of recognizing those who serve and cheering them on!

Charity Matters.

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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.

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

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!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.