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.
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.
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.
I have to admit that I love the Academy Awards, it is my Superbowl Sunday. While we all love to see the celebrities, the red carpet fashions and the after parties. What we don’t always realize is how many fundraisers and charitable events these stars have been supporting this past week. There were more than a few winners before the academy awards even began….
It kicked off last Wednesday with a Vanity Fair event to support Oxfam, an organization that addresses the elimination of global poverty. Thursday was a A lister’s event called Unite4Good, which honored celebrities for their philanthrophy…who knew? Hallie Berry received an award for her work with the domestic violence non-profit the Jennesse Center, Jeff Bridges for his work with No Kid Hungry and Ewan McGregor for his commitment to Unicef. Friday, celebrities dashed to an Alfa Romeo luncheon in support of the non-profit Girl Rising. By Saturday, it was time for the big Night Before Party in support of The Motion Picture and Television Fund. That was simply the week before!
Last night, the biggest fundraiser was Elton John’s Annual Aids Foundation Dinner which has raised more than $321 million for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS since its inception in 1992. So while we all wanted to hear from the winners, the real winners of last nights Academy Awards were the incredible causes that benefitted from all that star-dust.
Last weekend I hosted an event for a board I am on and a cause that is near and dear to me. The cause is Verbum Dei High School which is a part of an incredible network of schools that is transforming urban America and our inner cities.
A few years ago I had the good fortune to have lunch the founder of Cristo Rey, Father John Foley. He is an amazing man and his story is remarkable and defitiitly worth re-telling.
In 1995, Father Foley was living in Peru working with the poor when he was asked to return home to Chicago by his Jesuit Provincial. The Provincial wanted Father Foley to use his 34 years experience educating the poor in Peru to help educate the underprivileged Hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago. Their request was to create a college prep high school and the challenge was how and with what funds?
Not to be stopped by something like money, Father Foley met with an “out of the box guy” where they brainstormed solutions to what seemed like an impossible challenge. The result was simple and brilliant. The students would work one day a week in an entry-level job at a company that would basically underwrite their tuition costs.
After going door to door visiting old students and friends and asking them to sponsor a student with a job. Father Foley told me, ” I had more jobs than students and thought, I think this just might work.” The following year he opened the first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.
In fact, the Corporate Work Study Program worked so well, that in 2001 Father Foley was approached by groups in Portland, Denver and Los Angeles about taking his business model and duplicating it in other disadvantaged communities across the country. The result was the creation of the Cristo Rey Network of Schools, which became a non-profit in 2003.
Father Foley’s mission has now educated over 7,400 students in 25 schools with 100% of the students going to college. Today, after seeing these amazing results of what a job and an education can do for a student, foundations and corporations are getting behind The Cristo Rey Network in the hopes of doubling their efforts with an additional 25 schools.
Did Father Foley ever dream that this brilliant simple idea would positively impact thousands of students? His response, “No, I just did what I was asked to do.”
Once upon a time, long ago I was an interior design student and one of my favorite joys continues to be following the interior design world through magazines and media. Interior design is one of my guilty pleasures, so imagine how thrilled I was when I was reading my Traditional Home Magazine and came across this inspiring story.
The story was about a woman named Margaret Trost who was a young widow in 1999, when she was asked to volunteer in a Haitian orphanage. She had a young son and wasn’t sure the trip was a good idea but once she decided to go, she never looked back. One look at the hunger and poverty changed everything. Margaret found herself asking the question, “What if I could help these children?”
Today, Margaret’s question of “What if” has turned into $4.5 milion dollars to fund over 6,000 meals each week, school scholarships and now a building to house this dream. Margaret said, “The world is a mosaic, and each of us is called by a little piece of it.” Simply asking the question “What if ?” opens a world of possibilities.
With the millions of non-profits just in the United States, I often feel like my job is like looking for a needle in a haystack. To make the search easier, I have tried to keep the focus on people helping people in the United States. I have also tried to avoid politics and religion, for the same obvious reasons that you don’t discuss them at holiday parties either. When searching for a holiday non-profit that shares the joy of the season and spreads the message of Christmas, I found myself breaking most of my rules this week.
The reason was because of a cause called Operation Christmas Child, which is part of a larger non-profit called Samaritans purse. Their mission is to help the poor and suffering of the world, and yes there is a little religion mixed into the formula. However, once I saw the faces of these children and how easy it is to bring Christmas joy….I needed to share.
One of the ways they accomplish this mission is to have people put together a shoe box for a child with toys, school supplies, tooth paste, a handwritten note and a picture of the sender which are delivered all over the world to the neediest children. The beauty is in the simplicity and the sheer joy of giving.
If you are looking for a simple way to spread the love of Christmas for a few dollars, or looking for a project to do with your children creating a Christmas box is simple. That is why 113 million of these have been sent since 1993. That is a huge amount of Christmas, joy and love. At the end of the day, Christmas isn’t about rules it is about spreading love to all…
In our house we take March Madness seriously, no it’s not because of basketball, it’s because all three of my sons have birthdays this month…which of course leads to true March Madness. I am always trying to find ways to remind my boys how fortunate they are and birthdays are always a good opportunity for gratitude.
This year I wanted to find a cause that involved birthdays that the boys could contribute too and I came across the most remarkable cause called Cheerful Givers.Org and the person behind it all, just as amazing.
He name is Robin Steele and in 1994 she was touring a local shelter in her community in Minnesota and discovered that parents often looked for a favorite box of cereal or canned good to give their child as a birthday gift. Robin couldn’t bear the thought of a child’s birthday passing without any acknowledgement and immediately got to work assembling 12 birthday bags that she dropped of at her local homeless shelter.
The next day Robin received a call from the shelter to share the story of the birthday bag. A woman had come into the shelter looking for some sort of favorite food item to recognize her child’s birthday and panicked when there wasn’t anything. However, when the shelter gave her a birthday bag the woman replied, “The whole way over on the bus I prayed and prayed that there would be something here for me to give my child, but I never dreamed there would be something so beautiful.”
Robin got to work, enlisted volunteers and began Cheerful Givers. However, three years later Robin still wondered if she was doing enough. So in 1997 she traveled to India to meet with Mother Teresa. Robin met with her hours before her death and returned with a message that we are all hungry for love.
She was more determined than ever to ensure that her birthday bags, “celebrates those lives that matter and that they are a symbol of unconditional love we have for our anonymous neighbors and their children.”
Today, over 622,045 birthday bags have been distributed and counting. March madness in all its glory. The celebration of birthdays is the celebration of life and Robin Steele reminds us all why it is such a gift.
I am writing this post in honor of the two fathers in my life, my dad and my husband….both lovers of the greatest invention ever made…..the bicycle. My husband is a cyclist and my dad more of a bike rider who has yet to realize that wearing spandex is a privilege and not a right at the age of 73.
Since it is almost Father’s Day I thought this might touch the cyclist in your lives. It’s the story of two brothers who went on a cycling vacation in 2006 in Cambodia. After their trip they thought it would be nice to donate their bikes to an orphanage. Problem was they had only 2 bikes and the orphanage had 88 orphans.
So they got online to friends at home and raised enough money for 88 bikes.
In 2008, Dan Austin and his brother made 88 Bikes an official non-profit and started an endowment fund to offset some of the expenses related to their success. They have now replicated that magic moment over 2000 times across the globe.
Every time the joy in the children, the freedom the bicycle provides and the difference an $88 bicycle can make rekindles Dan’s passion for cycling and giving. The bicycle still may be the greatest invention but giving them is far greater.
February is all about love. Yes, Valentines Day is behind us and the chocolate wrappers are scattered throughout the house, the red roses maybe shedding their petals but love is still in the air. When I heard the name of this sweet cause, well it seemed the perfect follow-up to Valentines Day, which is no easy feat.
Loved Twice started in 2005 when Lisa Klein, Founder, responded to an online community appeal from Louisiana for donations of baby clothing after Hurricane Katrina. Having just had her first child, Lisa was deeply moved to contribute. She rallied other San Francisco Bay Area mothers and collected 200 pounds of babywear in 4 days. Mailing the onesies, swaddling blankets, and other donated newborn clothes off, she realized that the simple process of recycling gently used babywear to provide for infants in need could be applied to her home state of California. Lisa turned her compassion into passion and started Loved Twice to help underprivileged newborns in her own community, giving disadvantaged babies a better start in life.
Today, Loved Twice has grown into an effective grassroots philanthropy that is embraced by the communities it serves. They celebrate every volunteered hour, every contributed dollar, and every stitch of donated baby clothing. But their work is just beginning. Over nine hundred thousand babies will be born into poverty in the United States this year. With support, they could reach out to every one of them with warmth, and with hope.
We all just want to be loved even once, but Loved Twice is so much sweeter!
I am so intrigued by that moment, that light bulb, that overtakes someone and springs them into action. What happens that touches their soul and compels them to do something to help someone else? In the case of Don Schoendorfer, it was witnessing a handicapped woman dragging herself across a dirt road while others simply looked away.
For this M.I.T. graduate and Orange County dad, this was unacceptable. This was his moment, his light bulb. He was going to use his talents as an engineer to create an inexpensive wheelchair for handicapped people in third world countries. That moment, nine years ago became FreeWheelchairMission.org.
Don knew that his mission was not going to be scientific but rather a “push of passion and compassion.” He knew he had hit the mark, after creating his first wheelchair out of bike tires and a plastic resin chair. It simply took seeing the look on a mother’s face who had carried her 70 pound son for miles to know that he had made an impact. That is when Don knew his life would be different forever.
Don quit his day job and devoted himself to helping the over 100 million people around this planet who are in need of a wheelchair. So far, Don has donated over 600,000 wheelchairs and for $63.48 he says anyone can change a life.
Those moments, those light bulbs and seeds of compassion are really what matters. Charity Matters.
When I heard the name of this great organization, My Two Front Teeth.Org I was so excited to share it with you all this holiday season. This Bay Area non-profit organization reached out to needy children during the holidays to fulfill Christmas wishes. However, I received a present and a true symbol of the season when I discovered that this small non-profit merged with a bigger non-profit called The Family Giving Tree. The selfless reason, is that by merging and combining resources they would be able to reach even more children in need during the holidays.
The Family Giving Tree began in 1990 as a San Jose State University MBA class project. Jennifer Cullenbine and Todd Yoshida were asked to “create a program that adds value to someone else’s life.” They created the Family Giving Tree with the hope of providing holiday gifts to 300 children in East Palo Alto. Encouraged by the success of the first year, Jennifer decided to continue and expand the organization. In the 20th year of the program’s existence, the total number of gifts and backpacks donated had grown to over 700,000, making the Family Giving Tree the largest gift and backpack donation program in California.
So, whether its your two front teeth or a giving tree this holiday, it all gives to the magic of the season. Smiles on children’s faces is Charity that Matters!
Here in LA, Father Greg Boyle is a bit of a local legend. I had the opportunity to meet him yesterday and hear his incredible message of hope. He spoke to my Alma Matter and said, “We are all called to create a community of kinship.”
Father Greg has created that “community of kinship” with thousands of local gang members in Los Angeles. He not only gives them a chance for a fresh start after life on the streets or in prison but a chance to feel their worth.
He started Homeboy Industries in 1988 as a job project through the Dolores Mission. Their motto is “Nothing Stops a bullet like a job.” Homeboy serves as a place of hope and opportunity for those trying to leave gang life where there is no other way out.
Homeboy Industries is recognized as the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the county, and has become a national model. Father Greg has created a community of kinship and at the end of the day isn’t that what we all want to be a part of?
Tomorrow is my son’s first day back to school and as I tucked him into bed last night he told me what he had planned to wear. That nervous excitement of seeing your friends for the first time in months brings joy and excitement for most children.
However, for thousands of homeless children the power of that first day impression brings anxiety and stress. Heather Hopkins, the founder of My New Red Shoes heard her mother’s childhood stories of poverty and decided she could change the first day of school for thousands of children.
Since 2006 over 10,000 homeless children have gone back to school with smiles and new shoes.