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Poverty

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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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Homelessness…where to start?

Regardless of where you live, you have witnessed homelessness. It seems to be an epidemic on the rise and a problem with so many layers, that many of us simply don’t even know where to begin? In communities across the country people are coming together, as Americans do, to roll up their sleeves to support those in need.

Last week a dear friend of mine, reached out to tell me about his amazing aunt, Norah Miller, and the work she is doing in her community to help the homeless. Norah lives in Pennsylvania where the economy has struggled, the opioid addition has skyrocketed and Veterans are unemployed and facing homelessness. It would be easy to turn a blind eye, but Norah simply couldn’t look away. Instead she decided to act.

In 2009, Norah and four friends came together to do something and founded Cornerstone, to support the homeless in their community and by 2016 these five received their official nonprofit status.

Here is what Norah had to say last week:

CM: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?    

Norah Miller:  It was a bitter cold morning in western Pennsylvania, January 2012, when a young man called me. He identified himself as a veteran who had lost his job and his home in Akron and was doing temp work at a steel mill. His take-home pay wasn’t able to cover the $40 a night charged by the motel. When he called me, he didn’t have enough money for gas to get his family to a relative’s home in Ohio. I met him in a parking lot and gave him $100 in gift cards for gas or food. The windows in his old car were steamed up and he looked toward his wife, three children and their dog. I told him I could help him with housing. He said, “It’s too late.” Then he thanked me profusely and said, “I wish I had met you sooner.” That’s when I knew.

CM: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Norah Miller:  Committed colleagues, support from the faith-based community and a lobby full of people including a 10 month old baby girl in an old stroller, extending her arms to me last week.

CM: When do you know you have made a difference?

Norah Miller: When someone – a recovering addict, a disabled veteran, a family with children – is handed the keys to their very own apartment.

 

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

Norah Miller:Prior to its 501c3 designation, The Cornerstone was already recognized as the single point of entry to the county’s homeless and housing stabilization programs. $64,000 in private funding was raised in the first 9 months, $450,000 in government funding was allocated and more than 100 people a week receive assistance.

Norah and her team are working to make a difference. They spend every penny they raise on helping others, they do not have a web-site, a logo or a marketing budget. When I asked her what she needed she said, “Our vote.” The Cornerstone is one of three non-profits chosen to win a website. If you are so inclined to take three seconds to click this link, https://digitalboostvoting.isynergy.io to help an amazing woman who is helping others, then you too will be making a difference.

Every decision we make with our time is a choice. Thank you Norah for inspiring us all.

Charity Matters.

 

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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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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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The Empowerment Plan

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.

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When two worlds collide

caylin_moore_spark

Don’t you love it when your worlds collide? As many of you know I have been a passionate supporter at an all boys school in Watts, called Verbum Dei, also referred to as “The Verb.” The Verb is a school where young men come from poverty, are given a white-collar job one day a week and attend school the remaining four days. One hundred percent of these amazing young men are accepted to four-year colleges.

Another school, that I am a passionate supporter of is Texas Christian University, also known as TCU. A school that has incredible connection culture and a spirit of kindness. The other day, it was brought to my attention that one of our Verb boys is at TCU playing football as a Quarter back, his name is Caylin Moore.

Caylin was raised in poverty by a loving single mother. He went to Verbum Dei High School, where he was a star student and athlete. This past week he was recognized for his community service work as the founder of SPARK, which stands for Strong Players Are Reaching Kids. A TCU Student organization whose mission is to, “Inspire the youth to rise above their circumstances, build bridges to success and ultimately spark a change in their communities.”

 

Caylin and his fellow TCU athletes are traveling around the Fort Worth community inspiring children to reach for their dreams, regardless of where they are starting. Caylin uses his own story to encourage others. As he said, “I’ve seen how important education is and how it can change a life.” 
One amazing young man and two incredible institutions collide to create a SPARK of goodness for so many.
Charity Matters.
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Cheering on the LA Regional Food Bank

cheering-on-the-la-food-bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that is something to cheer for!

Charity Matters.

 

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Love is a decision.

love-is-a-decision

Have you ever heard a speaker who left you thinking? Really thinking? Two weeks ago, I attended an event down at USC that left me deep in thought. The talk was given by a local priest who had worked with Mother Teresa years ago in Calcutta, when he was on a year’s sabbatical. The Monsignor spoke about being lost and shared his journey of self discovery during his time in India serving the poor.

He spoke about feeling, ” so alive and on fire” about his time there and the work he was doing with the poor, the sick and the dying. This feeling had him, at times, contemplating staying permanently in India. The priest shared this idea with Mother Teresa, who told him to, “Go home.” The priest in turn told each of us,” that we must all find our own Calcutta and that love is a decision.”

Something to think about for sure…..

 

Charity Matters.

 

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The great one…

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

Muhammad Ali

the great one

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.

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Charity Water

Charity water

With 1.9 million non-profits and more stories to share than we possibly could right here, Charity Matters had to put some filters on who we covered. The core root, is people helping people in the United States. As a result, we don’t always cover some amazing international causes because its is a little outside the scope.

Every once in a while, we come across someone, who just gets it and it really doesn’t matter where they live or who they serve, it is what they do for others that becomes the filter for goodness. Without trying to create water and filter jokes, Charity Water is one of those stories. More specifically, the story of Scott Harrison, the former nightclub promoter who turned his life and thousands of others he serves around by creating Charity Water.

Scott says in his bio, “For me, charity is practical. It’s sometimes easy and more often inconvenient, but always necessary. It is the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. Charity is singular and achievable.”

Since 2006, Scott and his team have provided over 6 million people with the gift of clean water. Now that is a true filter for goodness.

Charity Matters.

 

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Thread

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche

threads

A few weeks back, a dear friend sent me a New York Times article on a non-profit called Thread, and I was instantly sucked into this beautiful storyPerhaps, a tale as old as time, but one that never gets old, the story of amazing people who take their own tragedy to make someone else’s journey better.

This story begins with a young man named Ryan Hemminger, who was a straight A student in high school in Indiana, when his mother was in a bad car accident. Her injuries resulted in her no longer being able to work, a subsequent pain pill addiction and a downward spiral into poverty. What happened next was that a community of teachers rallied around Ryan and provided clothing, bus fair and mentoring, to save him. The support resulted in transforming Ryan into a varsity athlete, an A student again and he was admitted to the US Naval academy.

This however, is not the happy ending, but the beginning. Flash forward to 2004, when Ryan, now married to Sarah, a John Hopkins biomedical engineering grad student, was driving by a local high school and saw a group of students. Sarah, realized that many of them could be like Ryan,”Exceptional individuals with extraordinary situations.” Sarah realized, that she and Ryan needed to be a part of community that could pay forward the gift that was given to Ryan. It was out of that moment that Thread began.

Thread’s mission is to thread people together, regardless of socioeconomic and racial barriers. It is their belief that by building new families, not defined by DNA, but rather love and support…that they can change the world. Since 2006, that is exactly what they have done.

This year alone, over 255 students have been touched by the Thread family. Ninety-two percent of their students graduate from high school and go onto college and 80% have completed a college degree or certificate program. It is these invisible threads that create the connection that changes another’s life forever, the best ending imaginable.

 

Charity Matters.

 

 

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The action of Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  

W.J. Cameron

Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow and there is much to be done, I looked back to my past post for inspiration and came across this. While not a fan of reposting, this is more than worth take two and will give you the spirit of gratitude as you begin to prepare for the holiday. 

There are so many amazing causes that we all support and get involved with, especially as we are feeling thankful. With 1.9 million non-profits in this country it is rare that Charity Matters ventures abroad, with so much to be done here. However, as we begin this week of Thanksgiving, I think this story is a beautiful way to begin our own personal journey of gratitude.

Narayanan Krishnan is a hero and I am in awe of his compassion, selflessness and grateful for his amazing inspiration. He is a living reminder that Thanksgiving is a word of action.

Charity Matters.

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Scott Neesom, The Cambodian Children’s Fund

Scott neesom and cambodiam childrens fund

Since my “enlightenment” this past week in the presence of his Holiness the Dalai lama, I began to research who else his Holiness spends his time with. In this search, I can across the most amazing man and story. His name is Scott Neesom and his journey during his short 56 years is simply remarkable.

As a young man, Scott grew up in Australia and wasn’t much of a student, dropping out of school at 17. He ended up working in a movie theater and before long had climbed the corporate ladder to film promoter, then buyer and in a relatively short amount of time, was head of distribution for 20th Century Fox in Australia. Before he knew it, Scott was in Los Angeles, very successful and within seven years was the President of 20th Century Fox International.

Three years later, in 2003, Scott was on a five-week vacation in Cambodia, when he asked to be taken to  Phmon Penh, the 18 acre garbage dump. Upon arriving, Neesom saw an incredible site which he describes as “an apocalypse” with over 1,000 children living and surviving from the trash and poverty beyond imagination.

“The moment I stepped there it was the single most impactful moment in my life. I was standing there facing into the abyss. The smell was almost visible.There’s this sudden moment when you realise it’s people – it’s children and they’re working. There were kids everywhere. In some cases, they’d been left there by parents that didn’t want them. They’d be going through the rubbish looking for recyclable, metals, plastic bottles making maybe 25 cents a day.”

Scott returned home a changed man and knew that he needed to do something. The following year, in 2004, he created the Cambodian Children’s Fund. He began the fund by quitting his seven-figure job and selling all of his possessions, cars, boats, homes and funneled them into saving these children.

What began more than a decade ago, as one man’s mission to save 87 children, has today cared for more than 2,000 students and 10,000 people annually providing to entire families and communities in crisis. Scott recently met the Dalai Lama, who told him, “Karma means action. Real impact comes from action, not just thinking.”  If there is one thing Scott Neesom’s life is about, it is action and karma.

Charity Matters.

 

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Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning, svdp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.

 

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.