Today is February 1st and the beginning of heart month. Over the years, I have interviewed a number of non-profit founders who have started incredible organizations to find a cure for congenital heart disease, which is the number one birth defect in the world.
This month, I will share some of those stories with you and re-visit some old Charity Matters friends to update you on their progress. I came across musician and heart transplant recipient, Paul Cardall’s video the other day and thought it sets the stage for this important month.
So, as we begin the month of February, let’s all remember to keep our hearts open to those who suffer with this horrible disease.
On a rain soaked day, a couple of weeks ago I met the most remarkable woman for lunch, her name is Katie Quintas. Katie is a living example of C.S. Lewis quote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” Katie’s hardship re-routed her destiny.
Katie’s life was fantastic. She had a husband, Silvio, she adored. A wonderful son, Bryan and a fantastic career consulting non-profits. Then all of that changed in 2006, when her husband Silvio was diagnosed with leukemia and six months later, her only child Bryan, was diagnosed with Stage Four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 16.
Katie’s employer was supportive as she tried to manage a full-time job and the two most important people in her life’s cancers. What Katie didn’t realize was how was she going to manage to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, update everyone on Bryan and Silvio’s conditions, deal with the offers for help, all while working and driving between two hospitals over an hour apart from each other? She was overwhelmed, wondered how families manage and didn’t even know where to look for help.
It turns out that she was not alone.
As 2007 came to an end, and both Katie’s husband and son were finishing up their cancer treatments, she began looking for organizations that help families through daily life during an illness, especially the illness of a child. In 2009, when she still hadn’t found an organization that fit the need, she began discussing the idea of creating one with her husband Silvio. With her husband’s encouragement, she did just that launching Here to Serve.org in 2011.
The Quintas family had been through so much but realized that there were so many people who had less. With Silvio’s support Katie set up her non-profit to connect and create online care communities that come in at the beginning of the health crisis to organize, friends, resources, medical information, funding, support all without overwhelming the caregiver, who is typically the parent.
As I sat at lunch and listened to Katie’s story, it was almost too much to process what she had been through but even more to grasp what she does for others. When we both went onto her web-site together and I saw what a care community looked like for a family, it was unbelievable. Once I was part of a sick patients community, I could sign up for everything from walking the dog, bringing a meal, doing laundry, running an errand, donating groceries and the list goes on. The services Here to Serve provides is everything that Katie needed when she went through this and didn’t have.
Sadly, Katie lost her beloved husband to cancer, but she said his memory still keeps her going. Katie told me, “I can’t imagine not doing this. Here to Serve gets me up in the morning, it motivates me and I was created to do this work. This is my purpose.”
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.”
With the rain pouring down this past week in LA, I have been thinking about something that has literally NEVER occurred to me…a flood. I know, crazy isn’t it? However, floods are reality in many parts of the country and when a flood or natural disaster strikes, the first concern is safety, housing and food. Once those needs are met victims begin the process of recovering their possessions, most especially trying to find and repair their families photos. This is when Operation Photo Rescue steps in to literally rescue a families memories.
In 2006, photojournalists Dave Ellis and Becky Sell launched Operation Photo Rescue after they witnessed victims throwing out treasured family photos that had been destroyed. Their mission became, “Insurance doesn’t restore memories but we do.”
A few weeks after a natural disaster or flood, OPR‘s team of volunteers set up a location where people can begin to bring in the photos they have found to see if they can be saved and restored. The damaged photos are digitally copied and a host of volunteers from around the globe use Photoshop and give hours of time to restore the images.
Over 12,000 photos have been restored thanks to more than 2,000 volunteers around the world. For many of these volunteers the work behind the scenes becomes personal and being able to give families their memories back is a gift.
It seems fitting to end the week where we began, with Aaron Siskind’s quote, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, a successful black friday, are enjoying your cyber monday and are now ready for the most important day of all…tomorrow’s #GivingTuesday. What is #GivingTuesday, you ask? It is a movement that began in 2012 to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy.
More than that, #GivingTuesday has become a global movement that last year united over 70 countries around the world by sharing our human capacity to care for and empower one another. And today more than ever we need to be doing a little bit more of that…
What I think is even more fantastic, is the volunteering efforts that go along with the day. If you are not sure where to start then merely go to the #GivingTuesday link here and you will find a list of local volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood. Last year alone over 700,000 people volunteered for clothing drives, tutoring projects and a wide range of activities aimed at helping local non-profits across the country. Almost 40,000 charities, corporate and civic partners registered to officially be a part of Giving Tuesday this year.
Sheila Herring from the Case Foundation was quoted as saying,”The biggest thing for us is that Giving Tuesday directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you have analysts lining up to look at the numbers as a gauge of the health of our economy. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity?”
What if? Our world would be a better place. And it already is because what started as an idea, just five years ago, raised over $116,000,000 last year for charities and causes around the world. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen. I can’t wait to hear what you are doing tomorrow on #GivingTuesday.
I recently watched a segment on 60 Minutes about “influencers.” Yes, Kim Kardashian and a host of other people I have never heard of all trying to gain favor amongst advertisers for surprise…guess what….our attention…which of course equates to dollars. I get it, I do.
I don’t write for myself, well kind of, I do… but truth be told I write to inspire people to want to help others. Sounds crazy I know…but the more people who are inspired the more that are helped..it is just that simple. So, in watching the 60 Minutes piece, I probably should have been inspired myself but somehow I felt the exact opposite. The reason being, is influencing others from their vantage point, does not feel authentic, but rather feels sad.
Of course people want to be entertained, they want to watch others glamorous lives, none of this is new. Yet, the need to win over others for something external, is where I am having an internal struggle. How can I judge the Kim Kardashians of the world, when in reality the more people I “influence” the more people I help. That makes me as much a part of this ugly system as the people featured on the show….and for whatever crazy reason, I am having a hard time with that.
No, I am not better or worse than the Kardashians, the youtube makeup artist, the international sensation who does the splits around the globe or a funny guy who cranks out 6 second Vine videos…each person brings their own talent to the world and each of us vie for the same thing…attention. Honestly, a painful truth to admit.
I must confess, for me, it’s not about your “eyeballs” it’s about your heart and your soul. If one person is inspired to do a kind thing for another because of what they have read here…well then my heart is full and my job is done….influencer or not…that is the real deal.
Last weekend, I attended my first TED talk. While I have listened to an occasional talk here and there, I am one of the rare people on the planet who is not addicted or really even familiar with TED. I was even more surprised when I learned that TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit organization….but isn’t everything these days?
The TED concept was created in 1984 from Richard Wurman’s observation of three amazing fields converging, technology, entertainment and design. The very first TED talks included demos from revolutionary new products, the compact disc and the e-book. However, even with such a wow factor the conference and idea lost money and six years later, in 1990 Richard Wurman tried again and this time it worked.
A decade later, media entrepreneur, Chris Anderson met with Wurman and in 2001 Anderson’s non-profit, the Sapling Foundation acquired TED. Anderson believed in the concepts that make TED great and was determined to seek out the most interesting people on the planet and let them communicate their passion.
So as I sat in an auditorium and listened to speakers talk on such topics as, The Future of Women in Science, Troubled Water on water conservation, Transforming Prisons from the Inside, Out, Accepting my transgender daughter, and the list goes on….I was inspired. Each speaker and topic more unique than the previous, and yet they were all the same.
What was it that made this very different group the same? Their passion. Each speaker was passionate about their topic and their passion and insight was real, it was human and the hundreds of us in the audience became one…..and that is the magic of TED.
Last week I was invited to my friend, Alexandra Dwek’s home for another amazing and inspirational evening in support of Friends with Causes. Not book club or bunko but girl’s night with a wonderful speaker, cause and philanthropic goal. We are always surprised by the non-profit, the speaker and are completely engaged and last week’s dinner was no exception.
The first speaker was Kate Edelman Johnson, who shared the journey of her loving husband’s slow deterioration with Alzheimer’s. Kate reached out to her friend’s daughter for guidance, Patti Davis, who been through the journey with her father, Ronald Reagan. Kate spoke about what caregivers and loved ones of Alzheimer’s patients endure with this disease.
Kate began attending Patti’s Beyond Alzheimer’s support group and soon realized that she was in the position to not only support Patti’s amazing work but also the bigger problem of funding Alzheimer’s research. So Kate founded the Deane F. Johnson Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. She told us that without the discovery of new treatments, the number of Alzheimer’s victims will grow from 35.6 million to 65.7 million in 2030.
As we listened to Kate share her journey and then Patti Davis sharing hers, both as a daughter and as someone who has spent the last six years with these families in her work. Patti told us, “You need to be with other people who know what you’re going through, who won’t judge you or dismiss you. Several group members have told me that, before coming to this support group, no one had ever asked them how they were doing.”
These family members become patients too with this disease and it is people like Kate and Patti who take their suffering and turn into hope for others, that continue to inspire.
As we wrap up our week on dreaming big, I can’t let the moment go by unnoticed, that I am not the only dreamer in my family. While my husband and sons enjoy reading Charity Matters, they have been pretty clear that they do not much enjoy being written about. However, when you are married to an entrepreneur who has spent the last two years dreaming of a product and that dream becomes a reality….well I had to make the exception….whether he likes it or not.
As I have mentioned before, I am married to a tri-athele who loves to spend time outside, running and cycling. A few years back, when he was riding with a buddy using ear buds, he watched as his friend was almost hit by a car because he didn’t hear it coming.
That moment got him thinking, dreaming and trying to find a way to eliminate ear buds. Well, my dreamer has not given up and has given everything to see his dream become a reality. Last week he officially gave birth to his dream, AudioNoggin. Wireless surround sound blue tooth speakers that mount on your helmet or hat and produces amazing sound. He is creating an Earvolution and a new way to hear your music.
Like all dreams, whether starting a non-profit, a blog, writing a television show or dreaming of a product….they all take a community of people to become a reality. Since you are my community, I had to share this moment with you.
Christopher Reeve said it so well, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
All of you who know me, know that I am technically challenged. From the TV remote and beyond, technology and I continue to struggle to work together. And yet, every once and awhile, something comes along that inspires me to take on my tech challenges.
This past week, a friend of mine, a USC student, reached out to share a new app called drops.la Not being much of an app person, I was a bit unsure. However, I love what they are doing. They are dropping the change into a non-profit/charity/cause of your choice every time you shop.
Not being a big fan of extra change myself, I am the first person to add my quarters to the tip jar at the coffee counter. Well, that’s what drops does by rounding up your purchase and giving the change to a cause. It is all done with your credit or debit card. You pick the causes, you can give your drops for a few days, weeks or more….and stop when you want.
A simple, brilliant and easy way to create change for others, one drop at a time. Now that is a tech challenge worth taking.
Over and over we hear it said that one person can change the world, a phrase I do believe in. Anyone who inspires change, knows it takes a village to do so. It is a global village that billionaire Manoj Bhargava is creating to deliver products that can directly impact humanity and he is seriously the real deal.
Manoj has taken his fortune, created from 5 hour Energy, to focus on three areas to improve the world;water, energy and health. His approach is to, ” make a difference in other people’s lives, not just talk about it.” A new documentary called Billions in Change, follows his journey. Take a small peak here at what one man can do to improve the lives of seven billion people.
As our world becomes increasingly smaller and the global village a reality. It is people like Manoj Bhargava, who will not only change our world but inspire each of us to do the same.
Since this week is all about love, it seems only fitting to talk about the newest matchmaker in town. This isn’t your average speed dating site, but rather a brilliant concept that connects volunteers with non-profits who need help on specific task and its called CatchAFire.
So often when we think about volunteering, we think about stuffing envelopes, collecting trash or the most mundane activities. In 2009, Rachael Chong had an idea to connect professionals and their skill set to non-profit organizations. Rachael had a vision to “forward a cause you believe in” by using your professional skills to help a non-profit organization. So if you are a graphic artist, who is passionate about the environment….Catch a Fire would connect you to an environmental non-profit that is working on a new logo. You get the idea….
Rachael’s platform CatchAFire.Org is an amazing way to make a difference. She is changing the face of the non-profit workplace, creating a pro-bono movement and making our world better by inspiring people to share their gifts and talents for a greater purpose. I think her bio best sums her up by saying, “Rachael wants to leave this earth known as a leader who empowers others to be better than her.”
This Valentines week, I would say Catch A Fire is a match made in heaven and definitely something to love.
I am constantly being reminded by my teenage sons that I struggle with technology and change. Sadly, both observations are true. It takes something really inspiring for me to turn to technology for the solution. That is exactly what I felt, inspired, when a girlfriend introduced me to the Gratitude App.
For me, being happy begins with the simple act of being grateful. Whenever, I begin to feel self-pity or find myself turning slightly green with envy…I turn to gratitude. The shift is profound, every time. Sometimes, I write it down, sometimes I merely think to myself what makes me grateful? Now, on my phone is a way to simply log it, reflect, review and be reminded of all of life’s blessings.
I downloaded the Gratitude Journal, The Happy Tapper, and the first thing I see is the quote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I quickly list what I am grateful for and am instantly rewarded with a quote….and you know I love quotes. Every time you log your gratitude you receive a new quote, like this.
So the next time you are playing with your phone or feeling grumpy, go to the Gratitude app and give your self the best gift you can, feeling grateful and happy. Once you feel great, so does everyone around you.
Everyday it seems there is a new technological way to get involved and it looks like today is no exception. Last week LinkedIn announced their latest tool, called Volunteer.linkedin.com, as a platform for volunteers to search for a volunteer fit by a variety of keywords such as; non-profits name, location,field of interest, etc…..For those of you not familiar with LinkedIn, it is best known as a corporate job networking site. In the past few years, I have to say it has become so much more and this is a perfect example.
I went to take a peak at some of the opportunities on LinkedIn and I immediately saw something for my husband. A non-profit organization called Bike and Build is looking for a board member who can help them 5-10 hours a month with marketing. My husband is a triathlete, avid cyclist, MBA and has been a VP of Marketing and is currently launching a product for the cycling/athletic market….so this seemed like a great fit.
What makes LinkedIn’s platform different from others is that LinkedIn realizes that your volunteering enhances your employment in a multitude of ways and that by volunteering in an industry that you area already involved with, such as cycling….you only enhance your resume, contacts and do the same for the organization that you are trying to help.
LinkedIn claims that,”41% of hiring managers consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience when evaluating candidates and unemployed people who volunteer are 27 % more likely to be hired than people who do not volunteer.”
So whether you are looking for a job or a way to use your skills to help someone else, this just might be the place to go to find that connection to make your life and someone else’s that much better.