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Charity Matters. Heidi McNiff Johnson

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Holiday gifts that give back

I have to admit that I am really struggling finding meaningful gifts this year. After our move two years ago and the realization that we do not need any more “stuff,” I also realized that so many of my friends and family do not need it either. So how are we supposed to show the ones that we love with a meaningful gift? I have been looking and here are a few gift ideas that give back that I thought worth sharing.

 Gifts that benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

This year St. Jude’s has partnered with fantastic retailers such as William Sonoma, Home Goods,Brooks Brothers, Pottery Barn, Tumi Luggage, West Elm and Mark and Graham all with proceeds from certain items going to support cancer research and  the St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital where parents do not receive a bill for any of their child’s medical care. To support St. Jude’s and shop 

 LSTN Sound supports Starkey Hearing Foundation

LSTN Sound has amazing speakers, headphones and all things music for the music lover in your life. Their philosophy is that what is good for business should be good for the world. That is why proceeds from every product they sell go to support the Starkey Hearing Foundation.  So this year check out LSTNSound for all things music and to provide the gift of hearing to those in need.

 Public Supply Company in support of education

The Public Supply Company makes beautiful suede,velour and leather notebooks for the writer in your life. More than that their mission is to support creative work in our country’s public schools by channeling 25% of profits from every sale to a teacher in a high-need classroom who will use the money for a project that drives creativity. To find that thoughtful gift that gives back, visit Public-Supply Co. You will be happy you did!

GIVE Lotto Love Scratch Cards

This amazing organization has created their own lotto where everyone is a winner. Play LottoLove to win for someone in need. With the purchase of each scratch card, LottoLove donates to one of its nonprofit partners to support a different worthy cause.

For every card purchased LottoLove donates to their Non-profit partners to fulfill their social mission of helping people receive: clean water, solar light, nutritious meals or literacy tools. Each ‘Basic Needs’ card gives one of the following:
1 week of clean water
3 weeks of clean water
1 month of solar light
4 months of solar light
1 set of literacy tools
3 sets of literacy tools
To purchase these fantastic cards, which by the way make great stocking stuffers, check out Give Lotto Love 

EverythingHappy.com for children’s gifts  in support of children’s hospitals and orphanages

Everything Happy is a one-stop shop for baby blankets, bags, and bibs. This site matches each product sold by donating a second product to a child in hospitals and orphanages around the world, so one purchase makes two kids happy.  This was David Holdridge’s intention when he created Happy Blankie at the mere age of 7 years old. He wanted to create something that would make the world smile. Everything Happy products are distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger and poverty by providing livestock and agricultural training to communities in need. In addition to providing you with the opportunity to give a family in need an animalsend a girl to school, or help launch a small business, Heifer International also sells products made by the locals that they assist.

You can buy coffee and chocolates made with coffee and cacao beans grown by farmers in need in order to support projects that champion sustainable farming and higher quality of life for these farming communities. All of their gifts or donations come with an Honor Card marking the donation. Take a look at some of their gifts here.

Gifts for Good

Lastly, there is a great website called Gifts for Good where if there wasn’t anything above that fit your holiday list that this is the place for you. Gifts for Good’s mission is to change the way the world gifts. According to their site U.S. corporations spend over $60 billion every year on corporate gifts, but donate less than a third of that to charitable causes. If every corporation purchased gifts that gave back―without spending any more money―we could redirect an extra $60 billion a year to addressing our world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges.

To solve this Gifts for Good has an incredible catalog of gifts that all give back and just might be the final place to finish up your shopping.

Hoping that these suggestions are helpful in making this season of giving meaningful for all.

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.

 

Charitable children, it’s never too late to start

I am always so amazed that is the same time each year that I find people asking me for suggestions for raising philanthropic children. As a result, I share this post once again as refresher for all, holidays or not.

When my sons were younger I wondered if they were really understanding what we were doing as a family for others. We wanted to raise compassionate and charitable children, good humans. While my sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they certainly do a lot to help others. I am proud that each of them has found different ways to give back and share the gifts that they have been given. My oldest has a passion for serving inner city children. His younger brother, has recently gotten behind Movember and men’s health through his fraternity. His house is one of the top Greek organizations in the country for fundraising this year. The youngest, at 16, has recently gotten involved with a nonprofit, Once Upon a Room, that does hospital room makeovers for very sick patients.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what our family will do this season to help others. We have adopted soldiers for a year, adopted families over the holidays that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Childrens’ Hospitals and voted on which non-profits we want to support. Each person trying to convince the others why their cause is most worthy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to this question and that raising charitable children is an ongoing process. Families now have resources such as the nonprofit Project Giving Kids, which cultivates volunteer opportunities for young children and families. I read an article recently that said role modeling philanthropy is simply not enough. The article referenced a new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. The director, Debra Mesch, said “the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

Six Tips for Raising charitable children:

  1. Start early, as early as 4 or 5 years old. Giving becomes a habit.
  2. Talk to your children about what causes interest them and bring causes to their attention.
  3. Be intentional by involving your children in your own charity endeavors.
  4. Use online tools to research organizations to involve your children
  5. Be consistent. Make charity a part of your traditions, the holidays and birthdays.
  6. Emphasize the joy because giving feels great.

Benefits of raising charitable children:

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

While this topic is relevant for the holidays, it is important to remember that giving does not just happen once a year. Teaching the gifts you receive from giving should be a part of the year, not simply the season. Once your children feel how great it is to give, their lives will forever be altered in wonderful ways.

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.

 

Giving

“For it is in giving we receive.”

St. Francis of Assisi

It is here, December has arrived and with it comes the season of giving. Lately I have been wondering why is giving just for one season? Let’s be real, we all give all year…whether we volunteer, support a cause, give a few extra dollars at the market or in a more meaningful way. We give because it feels great to give.

Why I don’t necessarily love  Christmas shopping, I do love that feeling I get when I give a gift that brings the recipient joy. It is just the best feeling. This year I have really struggled with the holiday shopping because my sons really don’t need anything. I attempted boycotting Christmas and presents in lieu of a trip, with no such luck. My thought was the best gift we could all have would be time together. However, the boys opted for traditions, extended family and friends.

So, I am embracing the art of giving, it is a privilege to be able to give. Finding joy in little ways to make people and causes I care about happy. The result is always the same, you get so much more when you give. Wishing you all a happy season of giving this month and no boys……we are not getting a puppy!

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.

 

 

The history of philanthrophy

As long as people have been on this planet, they have taken care of one another. It is what we do as humans. It is at the essence of who we are. Why I know this to be true, I can honestly say that I have never really thought about the history of philanthropy, which by the way, literally means for the love of mankind.

This past weekend in an effort to avoid all of the holiday junk in my in box I came across an article from The National Philanthropic Trust that was so interesting, I felt compelled to share a few highlights. I highly recommend you take a look yourself.

Here were a few fun facts as broken down from The History of Giving.org

Age of Discovery (1500-1750)

1526-In Spain the government consolidated all charitable resources for those unable to work.

1601-Parliament passes the statue on charitable use

1710-Cotton Mather publishes an essay entitled Do Good and is considered the father of American philanthropy

Upheaval and Reform (1750-1890)

1750- Benjamin Franklin begins a donor match program to build the first American General Hospital that helps serve the poor.

1844- YMCA was founded in London and U.S. Supreme Court establishes Donor Intent for estates.

Lasting Change (1890-1930)

1899-Andrew Carnegie called on the wealthy to distribute their wealth to serve others.

1901- Alfred Noble leaves his estate to create the Nobel Peace Prize.

1904- Gandhi’s social movement transforms India’s concept of giving.

1913- John D Rockefeller creates his foundation

Redefining Philanthropy (1930-1980)

1935- Social Security is established in the United States

1945- World War II relief efforts span the globe but are originated in the United States

1960-Philanthropist fund the Civil Rights Movement.

Again, just a very few facts, from a much longer and more comprehensive history of giving article. The reason why I think it is so important to share, especially this time of year, is to remind each of us that mankind has been taking care of one another from the very beginning. It is just what we do.

So this holiday season, think about what your families history of giving is? Maybe it’s starting with you, if so what will your legacy be?  We don’t have to be the Rockefeller’s to be philanthropist, we simply have to love mankind…however, we choose to do that.

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.

Its back…Giving Tuesday is here

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.

Giving Tuesday  began as something to counter Black friday and Cyber monday. It was started by New York’s 92nd Street Y, which has over a 140 years of fundraising experience. They reached out to the United Nations Foundation and joined as partners. Soon after, big corporations and non-profits signed on to help spread the word and the rest is history, as they say.

More than that, #GivingTuesday has become a global movement that last year united over 98 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. 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 six years ago, raised over $177,000,000 last year for charities and causes around the world. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen.

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.

 

 

 

Grateful, just grateful

“It is not joy that makes us grateful; but it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

It’s here. There is no avoiding it, this is it. Today is the last day before they arrive….no not the in-laws or the kids home from college but the holidays. Today is the last day before the email box is bombarded with holiday sales and Black Friday deals. The last day before people start talking about holiday cards or even worse before they begin arriving. This is it. The calm before the storm. Right now, this moment, it is our gift.

So before it happens I am taking a moment, a breath, a pause to simply count my blessings. A moment to be grateful for the three crazy boys who will be home raiding my refrigerator any time. Grateful for the fact I have a refrigerator stocked with food when so many will go without.  Grateful for the all the friends that will pop by this weekend for football and chili, when there are so many who are alone. Grateful for my crazy wonderful family who fills my life with life, chaos, drama, humor and so much love, when there are so many with broken hearts and homes. Grateful for my health and the health of those I love, knowing so many will spend the holidays in the hospital. Grateful for work I love and for all of those who serve others. Grateful for being safe, happy and healthy and grateful for being mindful that no matter what I have, someone else has less.

They are coming whether we are ready or not. So when it gets scary, stressful, overwhelming, one thing too much, just stop and think about what you are grateful for. I know your list is long and your heart is full. It is not joy that makes us grateful but gratitude that makes us joyful.

Blessings to you and yours for a joyous Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,

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.

A grateful heart: Alliance of Moms

As this week of gratitude begins, I am thankful for so many people, opportunities and moments that make my life and heart full. There is a saying, “it is not joy that makes us grateful but rather it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” In meeting and working with so many nonprofit founders over the years, I have discovered that people either start nonprofits because something happened to them that they want to prevent from happening to someone else or they begin their organization because of gratitude.

This weekend I spent time with the most amazing women, the founders of Alliance of Moms, who are just that….grateful. Women whose hearts are full with gratitude who  wanted to inspire and help other young mothers. You may remember the interview with Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser a few months back about their incredible organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.

In 2012, Yasmine and Jules were both pregnant, along with three other girlfriends (Danika Charity, Emily Lynch and Kelly Zajfen) all at the same time. For some it was their first child, for others their second or third but the girlfriends all experienced  a profound change in becoming mothers. Together they were determined to use that shift in each of them to help other mothers, the most at risk, those in the foster care system.

Jules told me back in May,”My mother grew up in foster care and was a teen parent at 17. I understood the need to break the cycle, 66% of babies born into foster care become teen moms. I also understood that my child had won a lottery that he didn’t even knew he entered, just by luck. We needed to help support all mothers.” 

This past Saturday was the organizations fourth annual Raising Baby event where over 100 underserved youth in foster care and their children came for a day of fun and educational parenting workshopsThese young mothers in foster care engaged with parenting experts and learned practical tips about how to help develop their babies brains during the critical first three years of life. While the parents were learning, Alliance of Mom member volunteers provided childcare for their children.

Yasmine said,”While we set out to serve these young women in foster care, our members were also impacted by serving. The women we serve have changed all of our lives for the better because regardless of your circumstances, we all walk away stronger knowing that we all struggle as mothers.”

It was a day of fun, giving, education, and above all gratitude. These young mothers in foster care were grateful for the support, the education and the childcare. More than that, it was a day of women and community coming together to support one another. The full hearts and gratitude were abundant.

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.

AnnieCannons

Have you ever heard of Annie Cannon? She was a pioneer, who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the early 20th century. Annie Cannon and a group of women discovered the very categories that stars fall into. If ever there was a more perfect name for an organization about two stars who are truly pioneers, it is Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley’s nonprofit organization Annie Cannons.

Truly one of the most innovate organizations tackling one of the most horrific problems, human trafficking or slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Sixty-eight percent are trapped in forced labor, twenty-six percent are children and over fifty percent are women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Polaris there were over 8,000 reported cases in the United States in 2016. I truly had no idea and was shocked by these statistics.

What was even more stunning was two Stanford graduates (one a Masters from Stanford and the other Stanford Law) who were determined to find a solution to empower these victims by teaching them skills, earning income and building solutions to empower them to break the cycle. Last week I had one of the most incredible conversations, I have ever had…. with Co-Founder Jessica Hubley.

Charity Matters: What is the back story to Annie Cannons, your nonprofit is pretty unique?

Jessica Hubley: Laura was the manager of the Program on Human Rights on Stanford and had worked as a Senior Research Associate for Stanford’s Anti-Trafficking Project. I was an attorney, we had both gone to Stanford and in September 2013, I was writing a nonfiction book about human trafficking. Laura was going to Myanmar for work and asked if I wanted to come along. We met and interviewed nine people who were victims of human trafficking and they all said the same thing. That they were desperate for work, they were poor, vulnerable and trusted someone.

This was shocking to me, but not to Laura who had been in this space for much longer. I asked Laura, “What if we got these people a job?” The answer wasn’t as simple, but we knew that if we could find away to address the financial piece we might be able to impact change.

When we came home, I was a successful attorney working with digital media companies in the technology industry. I was seeing so many people in software development making $400 an hour writing code and couldn’t help but wonder what if we taught these women victims of human trafficking how to do this?

Charity Matters: What did you do then? 

Jessica Hubley: First we spent an enormous amount of time talking to people who ran nonprofits, shelters here in the Bay Area that housed women who were victims of human trafficking, we spoke to Fortune 500 companies and gathered a lot of information.

 We are self-proclaimed huge geeks. That being said, we taught ourselves to write code. Laura taught herself, then she taught me, we began essentially putting a school together for these women and kept refining our curriculum. We knew the market and need for coders and believed that these women who had escaped unimaginable past had what it took. They were good problem solvers, they were survivors, hard workers and they had grit. It turns out that is exactly what it takes to  be a perfect coder.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work? You are running a nonprofit and a school, essentially and then you are  helping these women get jobs writing code? It is an enormous undertaking, how do you do it?

Jessica Hubley: I think there are three things. One, I still feel I have something to prove to the world. Two, we built the kind of work place that we both always dreamed of that is supportive and collaborative, where we all learn from one another. Lastly, Laura understands and having a partner to lift me up ….and we keep each other going.

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

Jessica Hubley: When I see one of our students thriving and being successful. When I receive a card or note saying you changed my life and my children’s’ lives. When our customers love their apps and websites and when we have found hidden figures in the world that no one is looking at and have given them the economic power to break the cycle of human trafficking. We have helped people build solutions.

Charity Matters: What have you learned from this experience?

Jessica Hubley: I have learned that most people are good but more than that, I have learned that what really matters is the mark we leave on the world.

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.

Planting the seeds of compassion in our children….

This past weekend I was in San Francisco working with the nonprofit  Project Giving Kids, an amazing organization that helps families connect with  incredible philanthropic opportunities. Their motto is “connecting kids to causes” with the hopes of planting the seeds of compassion in our children. Honestly, it was the perfect way to kick off the season of giving and to celebrate tomorrow’s National Philanthropy Day.

I think so often when we hear the word philanthropy we think of fancy parties, old school wealth and privilege, when in reality philanthropy literally means the love of humankind. In 1986, Ronald Reagan proclaimed November 15th as National Philanthropy Day to bring the world together to recognize and celebrate the work that volunteers and donors bring into our communities each and everyday to make our world better.

Watching young children participating in a multitude of service projects at Project Giving Kids Create the Change Day gave me hope for the future. With all the negatively in our world, seeing young children and families helping others was truly witnessing the love of humankind…..and that is something I hope we can all experience not just tomorrow….but everyday.

 

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.

Hand to hold

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

Joseph Campbell

I like to say that I have a front row seat to humanity. I am privileged to meet and share the stories of the most remarkable people and this week’s conversation with Kelli Kelly was so inspiring that I can’t wait to share. Kelli is a real life hero, a woman who went through enormous pain and suffering when her son Jackson was born 16 weeks premature in 2000, weighing a little over a pound. What she did with that experience is a lesson for us all.

Kelli said, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

In 2000, after the weeks in the NICU (Neo-Natal ICU) Kelli was sad, stressed, traumatized, depressed and emotionally drained not knowing the fate of her newborn son. She said, “The guilt, grief, anguish and pain was overwhelming. Now 17 years later, I can still relate to that defining moment.”  Here are the highlights from our inspiring conversation:

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: “When I realized that 1 out of 8 babies born in the United States is pre-term. We started as a March of Dimes Ambassador family but I realized early on that there were  many organizations to support premature babies but nothing to support the families. I was looking for an organization to help me meet other families going through this same stress, isolation and anxiety and there wasn’t one to help us.

So, at first I gathered some families together at our local hospital and created a program, connecting NICU families but it wasn’t enough. In 2008, we began Hand to Hold to provide families a  peer-to-peer support network for seasoned families of premature babies. We knew we needed to give families ways to survive and navigate their time at the NICU and beyond.”

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work at Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: First and foremost it is remembering what it felt like to be a parent of a child in the NICU and the impact, trauma, ptsd and stress that causes in all areas of your life. Secondly, it is the cards, the emails from the people we touch. We just started a podcast and are now hearing from families all over the world who are grateful we are sharing with them. Most of all, it is a strong faith in those difficult moments that keeps me moving forward.”

Charity Matters: When do you know that your work has made a difference?

I know we are making a difference when organizations like the Preemie Parent Alliance, realize that parents voices need to be a part of this conversation. When we were the keynote speaker at the National Neonatal Nurses Convention or when I’m speaking to national pharmaceutical companies and their employees about what is happening in this space.

We are truly trying to make foundational changes to help families to be better parents and to not only survive but thrive after this experience.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your impact and where you are headed next with Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: We know that our impact and reach continues to expand through our national database that connects these families, through our expanding list of health care partners and because we continue to help break down the barriers to reach families going through this experience.

We started a podcast last February and have had over 13,000 downloads in 42 countries. So we know there is a need and that we continue to reach these families. That was the goal to find, connect and support as many families as we can. Our next steps are to begin our work with “Beyond the NICU” with a book and an App to help families navigate the invisible diagnosis that is a factor with preemies. We will be developing a care map to help navigate families through the process of  first all the way through their child’s education.

To end where we began with Kelli’s inspiring words, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

Kelli is an inspiration to all with her purpose driven life in service of others.

Charity Matters.

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

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.

When a hero comes along……

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

Joseph Campbell

This week is all about heroes. It is amazing to me that when you Google the word hero, the images that come up are Super Heroes. So often, I think in this crazy world we live in, why are we focusing on the wrong people? Heroes are everywhere and yet know one seems to know who they are.

This week I will be bringing you two very special heroes. The first is Kelli Kelly of the nonprofit Hand to Hold. Kelli shares her journey from being a sad, scared and isolated mother of a premature son to her journey of leading a purpose driven life where she turned her pain into a national organization to help thousands of families affected by pre-term births.

Our second hero is Mary Lu Coughlin of Wellness Works. Mary Lu has given her life in the service of others. First, as a nun but later when she left religious life she continued to heal and serve those affected by HIV/AIDS. When the AIDS crisis slowed down and the war began Mary Lu shifted gears and their nonprofit began serving our Veterans that we will honor this Friday on Veterans Day.

In light of all the chaos, sadness and uncertainty in our world, let’s focus on those amazing people who are serving others and continuing to give their lives to something bigger than themselves. True Heroes.

Charity Matters.

 

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A message from grey skies

On an overcast day, I found myself in the most unusual predicament; I was isolated, distraught and home in bed sick. Under the gun at work with year-end wrap-ups due, budget deadlines circling, grants looming ahead and a heap of pressure mounting. More than a cold and the daily life of a nonprofit Executive Director, was the fact that I was home sick, and that I was home without Internet.

The shocking reality began on a conference call from bed that kept going out. Since we live in a canyon, cell service is almost non-existent without the beloved Internet. The landline is also Internet dependent, as clearly, my life has become as well. By 9:30 am it became abundantly clear, as panic set in, that I was completely unable to communicate with the outside world. No phone, no computer, no work….nothing.

Deadlines looming, stress and fever building simultaneously, I thought I might actually combust. My mind spinning with an escape plan, should I go out like this in search of wi-fi or was I delirious from fever? By lunch, I was near hysterical when my husband came home worried since he couldn’t get a hold of me. He also confirmed my worst fear, we were cut off, there would be no Internet until the dreaded cable company was contacted and an appointment made. My reaction to this news was a full melt down of tears. Tears of feeling crappy, tears of frustration and tears because I simply didn’t know what else I could possibly do, except cry?

After, my husband left in search of a saner environment and one with wi-fi, I’m sure. I stared blankly at the white walls of my bedroom and collapsed from exhaustion. A few hours later I awoke with the realization that all of this was a gift. The universe’s way of telling me to rest, to slow down and to simply be….my worst skill by far.

I took a deep breath, leaned back and grabbed a book. Who gets to read in the middle of a grey overcast day from bed? I was just beginning to realize how blessed I was to be away from it all….off the grid, unplugged…whatever it is everyone calls it….when it happened. The buzzing began, the phone went insane with 39 text messages coming in rapid fire, every device pinging me at once and I realized once again to appreciate what you have, when you have it.

The sun broke through the clouds, my fever broke and one by one I dove back into my connected, wired and overly plugged in life.

 

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.

The sweetest thing to do this Halloween

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 © 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.