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Charity Matters. Heidi McNiff Johnson

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Gifts that give

“The greatest gifts are not wrapped in paper but in love.”

Finding the perfect gift is never an easy task. So many of the people in my life really need for so little and so many need so much, so why not combine the two this holiday season? There are a variety of great ways to give back and give, it is like having two gifts in one….or a gift with purchase.  After moving a few years ago, it became clear that we did not need any more stuff and it seemed that 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? In my search I came across some thoughtful gift ideas that give back worth sharing.

Luxanthropy

Founder Jennifer Hillman combined her passion for philanthropy and high end luxury goods in one brilliant online stop to shop. LuxAnthropy is a place where you can find a fabulous bag, dress, accessory or the perfect gift and a percentage of every sale goes to a host of amazing nonprofit partners. On top of that, LuxAnthropy even gives an additional percentage to each cause. This is a win-win! Beautiful gifts that give back!

The Giving Keys

The Giving Keys began in 2008 when founder, Caitlyn Crosby, stayed in a hotel room that used real keys. The keys reminded her of each person’s uniqueness and she began having keys made with inspirational words such as DREAM, CREATE, or INSPIRE engraved on keys. Caitlyn began giving the keys away to anyone who needed to be inspired. The purpose is to embrace your key and your word and then to pay it forward and give your key to someone who needs that message. The Giving Keys is not a nonprofit but every product purchased supports job creation for individuals transitioning out of homelessness and to date The Giving Keys has provided over 146,318 hours of work and created over 70 jobs for those in need.

One Hope Wine

In 2007, Jake Kloberdanz  had an idea, 168 cases of wine and eight friends just out of college. No, it was not a party but the beginning of his company, OneHope that’s mission is to make the world a better place through every product they sell. OneHope‘s core product is wine but they have expanded their brand and their charitable donations along with it. Every product benefits a cause and to date OneHope has donated over one million meals to the cause Why Hunger, 65,000 diapers to help premature infants, planted 52,000 trees, provided clean drinking water and the list goes on.  OneHope has donated over $1.6 million dollars since its inception. Now that is a cause worth raising your glass for and a great gift that gives!

 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 

 

 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 

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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Raising Philanthropic Children 2018

” You are never to young to change the world.”

Author unknown

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to a room full of elementary school principles on the topic of fostering empathy and service in students. As I spoke to principles I recalled my own kindergarten teacher who asked that we bring in pennies for the poor, no longer politically correct but this was the 1970s. Our teacher gave us lollipops for each penny, so I’m not sure how pure my motivation was but Mrs. Thompson planted a seed in each of us. The goal as parents is to plant that seed and continue to nurture and cultivate it.

As parents today we have many challenges, especially during the holidays. We all walk the fine line of asking our children what they want, realizing that they don’t really need anything and all while trying to explain to them the real meaning of the season.

So the question becomes, how do we raise philanthropic children? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Start young, the earlier the better. For little ones (4 or 5), keep it simple, perhaps canned food for a local shelter or blankets for Hurricane Sandy relief. Something that they understand.

2. Be age appropriate. Don’t overwhelm young children with world hunger but rather something relatable to them, perhaps something local in your community.

3. Engage your children in the process, especially the older they get. Find out what they care about? Perhaps they love animals and want to support a local shelter? Have them use their passion to make a difference. Catch them where they are and meet them there. Your children’s service choices will evolve as they do so be flexible.

4. Research together and suggests a few choices. With 1.7 million non-profits it can be overwhelming for all of us. Our family usually picks 3 or 4 ideas and then we vote on a holiday philanthropy project. We have adopted soldiers, fed homeless, adopted inner city families for Christmas. Ultimately it is the kids vote that decides. Utilize tools like Project Giving Kids for age appropriate ideas.

5.  Be intentional with your own giving. Teach by example. Discuss what causes you care about. Let your children hear and see your volunteer efforts or participate in them if possible.

6.  Make giving habitual by being consistent. Whether its part of your allowance structure, a holiday tradition or something you do at birthdays, be consistent and establish giving as a tradition and habit. It’s no different from any sport, the more you participate the easier and more fun it becomes. Ultimately it becomes a part of who they are.

7.  Emphasize the joy and the experience of giving rather than money. Philanthropy is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Giving is so much more fun than receiving. Make it a joyful experience for your family and something you share in together. Perhaps, start with entering a 5k walk or charity run or volunteering together.

The benefits of philanthropic 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

Like everything we do with raising our children, it takes time , patience, consistency and love.  Chances are you already do most of these things and don’t even realize it and your children do too. This holiday season, enjoy the process of giving in whatever way you decide to participate. You and your children will experience the real joy of the holidays….together.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF)

There is nothing better than friends supporting one another. A few weeks ago Jennifer Hillman of LuxAnthropy asked me if I had met the amazing people over at The Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation? The answer was that I hadn’t and to be honest I was completely naive in my thinking about AIDS, that was until I spoke with Joel Goldman who has acted as the Executive Director of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) for the past five years. With World AIDS Day here, this Saturday, December 1st, it seemed like the perfect time to share our enlightening and moving conversation.

Charity Matters: Joel give us some HISTORY of how the ETAF began?

Joel Goldman: In 1985 Elizabeth Taylor planned a benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles, that was the same year that Ryan White was banned from entering school for having AIDS. Elizabeth’s friend, Rock Hudson died of AIDS that year along with 12,529 other Americans and Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson’s doctor, Dr. Michael Gottlieb, created the National AIDS Research Foundation, which became AmFar. By 1987 over 40,000 Americans were dead from AIDS and a year later that number jumped to 61,800 deaths. 

In 1991, Elizabeth Taylor sold her wedding photos to People Magazine for one million dollars to begin the funding for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. That same year Freddie Mercury of Queen died of AIDS and by now, one million Americans were infected with HIV. By 1996, the United Nations estimated that 22.6 million people worldwide were living with HIV and by 2002 HIV was the leading cause of death worldwide for people between the ages of 15-59. When Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 there were 34 million people living with AIDS.

I came to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation five years ago to lead this incredible organization without Elizabeth Taylor at the helm. My mission was to take her legacy and build a continued legacy in global health.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation Does?

Joel Goldman: We were established to provide funding and grants to organizations around the globe that offer direct care to people living with AIDS and HIV.  We also focus on HIV education around the globe and advocacy programs.  We work on HIV criminalization reform that still exists in 31 states across our country. We have mobile clinics in Malawi that are treating up to 1,000 people per day.

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

Joel Goldman: What fuels me to keep doing this work is the global disparity in access to medication. There are over 36 million people globally living with HIV and millions do not have the same access to the medication they need. Our work is to ensure that everyone has an equal playing field.  Part of that work is education and going to Washington DC for AIDS advocacy on Capitol Hill.

Joel Goldman with Elizabeth Taylor’s grandchildren (photo:Sean Black)

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

Joel Goldman: We know we have made a difference with the education and awareness work we fund. We have made an impact on our advocacy laws and in the millions of people we serve with our support services. The ETAF has granted over twenty million dollars to over 675 organizations in 44 countries and 42 states. We make a difference every day in big and small ways.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from your time at the ETAF?

Joel Goldman: There have been so many life lessons learned during my five years here at ETAF. This was my first time in the Executive Director role and there was an immediate lesson in responsibility and truly caring for an organization and it’s legacy.

I have learned how much better our world would be if we all partnered instead of competed. I learned this when we partnered with a malaria organization in Africa because people were willing to be tested for malaria and afraid of being tested for HIV. Today because of that partnership we treat more malaria in Africa than HIV because we were willing to build a bridge to work together. More than anything, I have learned that if we are going to defeat something we ALL need to come together.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Joel Goldman: I was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, the next day I needed to fly to Los Angeles for a job interview from Indiana. I was in shock with my diagnosis and thinking I was going to die of AIDS, I upgraded my plane ticket to first class…thinking why not? On the plane I ended up seating next to Ryan White’s mom, Jeanne. I thanked her for all she had done and was doing for AIDS patients, not sharing with her my diagnosis. I asked her why she was going to LA. She replied that she was going to give Elizabeth Taylor an award for her work with AIDS.

Five years ago, on my first day at the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation they gave me a stack of folders on the history of the organization. The first one I opened was the photo of Ryan White’s mother presenting Elizabeth Taylor with her award. I knew then and know now that I was meant to be here and to do this work. All I can hope is that I have done Elizabeth Taylor proud.

CHARITY MATTERS

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

What it means to truly be thankful

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are all trying to get here and there, whether we are  rushing to the airport, to the grocery store or loading up the car to see family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are frantic, stressed, concerned about this relative or ingredients  for that special  traditional dish.  Looking at everything going on around me, I wondered if our country’s founders, the Pilgrims, worried about such things? My sense is that they simply wanted to come together to celebrate gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of tomorrow’s holiday.

So what does it mean to truly be thankful? Being thankful begins with simply being in this moment right here right now. Being grateful for being alive, being able to read this, being grateful for your vision, your ability to read, and being filled with joy because you have family or friends to celebrate with. It begins with just knowing how blessed we are to be alive.

I learned the lesson of true gratitude from my dad on Thanksgiving sixteen years ago. My Dad had been on vacation with my mom and his best friends early that November. They had all been at lunch and were heading to the perfect beach, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, when in a blink their lives were forever changed by a horrific car accident. My mom was gone, my dad’s long time friends were gone and he was in a coma. He had a broken back, broken ribs, punctured lungs and he died twice. He awoke from his coma to learn he had lost so many people he loved, a nightmare.

However, he survived and came home that year from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. A day that traditionally my mom would have been cooking, fussing, ironing napkins and bringing everyone together as she always did. That year we ordered our turkey and Thanksgiving dinner as take out. We set the table and all of us were numb, we had just had three funerals and a newborn niece, born a day after my mom’s funeral.

We wheeled my Dad into the house and rather than cry, or complain, or say one unkind word my Dad was remarkable. He was quieter than normal but he was filled with enormous gratitude to simply be alive. His gratitude was his presence and he showed each of us through example what mattered was that we were alive and we were together. Nothing else mattered. It was the best Thanksgiving we ever had.

Today, sixteen years later my dad can still be grumpy on the outside (think of Clint Eastwood, “get off my lawn”) and yet when you ask him how he is doing, he looks you in the eye and says he is here and that is a good thing. What I’ve learned from my Dad is that no matter what is happening right now, you need to find gratitude, even when things are bad.

I’ve learned that life is precious and to live it like each moment is your last. Make the most out of opportunities that come across your path. We are each given one shot at this thing called life and we need to make choices everyday if we want to spend it being present with those we care about or worrying about something insignificant….those moments are a choice.

Being grateful to simply be alive and for the life you have is what it truly means to be thankful.  My sense is that the Pilgrims felt the same way, their life was not a picnic and yet they were grateful for food and freedom. This Thanksgiving,  I am grateful I am not cooking, grateful to be with those I love and grateful for love, health and family…all lessons my Dad taught me on what it truly means to be thankful.

Wishing each of you the joy of gratitude and blessings for the most joyous Thanksgiving!

 

Charity Matters.

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Project Angel Food

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

Marianne Williamson

As we enter the month of November, it is time to think about food, hunger, and Thanksgiving, sort of the ying and yang that is life. It is a bit bizarre, that as we begin to think about the feast we are about to have, we somehow become acutely aware of those who struggle to have food or make a meal. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine connected me to an amazing organization called Project Angel Food. As someone who has a strong affinity for angels and who believes in signs, I knew I was being sent there for a reason.  I wanted to know more about the cause before taking my field trip to meet Project Angels Food’s Executive Director, Richard Ayoub.

The organization began in 1989 by the famous author and spiritual trail blazer, Marianne Williamson, as an outreach program of the LA Center for Living. The Center for Living was created to help people with life threatening illnesses and provide services and lunch for those who were too ill to leave their homes.  In response to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic at the time, Project Angel Food moved into the kitchen of the Cresent Heights United Methodist Church.

I went down to see what this organization that really rose up to meet the HIV/AIDS crisis was doing today and have an enlightened tour and visit with their fantastic Executive Director, Richard Ayoub.

Richard Ayoub, Derbeh Vance, a volunteer of 20 years and Chef John

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Project Angel Food does?

Richard Ayoub: Project Angel Food cooks and delivers over 12,000 nutritious meals each week, free of charge, to the homes of men, women and children affected by life-threatening illnesses. Our vital food and nutrition services, include medically tailored meals, help the underserved people throughout Los Angeles County who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. We are referred by over 150 agencies and while we were created in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we expanded our mission in 2004 to help our neighbors who are struggling with any life threatening illness burdened by hunger and malnutrition.

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

Richard Ayoud: I like to go out and deliver meals to our clients and hear from them. Many of them are very sick and are not super sociable but many of them are craving someone just to talk too. We were visiting with an HIV patient in his fifties and he looked at me and said, “Can I give you a hug?” This man was SO grateful for our work, for his meal, and he held me in the longest biggest hug to let me know just how much our work meant to him. The one universal thing we see with all of our clients is gratitude.

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

Richard Ayoub: I know I was meant to be here and it was a calling. I was in broadcast journalism , I was a newscaster and yet I always wanted to make a difference more than anything. I believe that I was put here to serve these people. They fuel me to keep going.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had at Project Angel Food?

Richard Ayoub: Project Angel Food sometimes feels like LA’s best kept secret and people do not know how deep our commitment is to make made from scratch, healthy nutritious meals. Our favorite phone calls are when our clients call and say they are healthy and no longer need the meals, please give the food to someone else.

We have just entered into a pilot program with the state of California that is proving food is medicine, proving that we can keep people healthier and the results are amazing. We drive all 4,000 miles of LA County everyday. We believe in all forms of equity and we go the distance for our clients. In the last two and half years we have increased the people we feed by 30%. Our goal is always to feed more people. It costs us $2,000 to feed one person for a year. This year alone we will serve over 500,000 meals with over 4,700 volunteers.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has it changed you?

Richard Ayoub: I think one of my biggest life lessons is to just believe and to turn it over. The theory of just believing truly works with everything in our lives. In this work, one day you have a grant that you are counting on to feed people and you do not receive it. You want to give up and then out of nowhere you receive unsolicited donations that are even more than the grant. We have a supporter here who calls that “Divine Choreography.” These miracles constantly happen in this work.

This journey feels like my calling and everything I have done prior to this moment has prepared me for this. I am doing something to make the world a better place, even in a small way. This journey with Project Angel Food has brought out the essence of who I am and simply amplified it.

Everyday I walk into this building, I am grateful that I can simply come to work. Our clients dream of going to work, they are home bound and often times forgotten.  They are often times the invisible people of LA and we want them to know we remember them. We want everyone to know that, “you are not alone.” I think it is a message that we all need to hear.

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Adopt Together

Amazing and inspiring people are all around us every single day, and yet somehow we don’t know their stories. These stories and people continue to fascinate and inspire me. I seek them out, track them down and want to shout from the roof tops their stories.

This is the incredible story about a guy named Hank Fortner, who grew up in an amazing family made up of biological children, foster children and adopted children. His family fostered 36 children and adopted six children from five different countries while he was growing up. Friends who wanted to adopt a child began coming to him and telling him how expensive adoption can be, often times up to $50,000 to adopt a child.  He thought there must be a better way to help these children and these families. This is his story…

So, in January 2012 Hank decided to create AdoptTogether which is the world’s largest nonprofit crowdfunding platform for adoption. Think of it as a hybrid version of KickStarter or GoFundMe, except for a nonprofit, where every donation is tax deductible. This is how it works:

However, that wasn’t even enough for Hank. He wanted to go one step further and inquired about a World Adoption Day, it turns out that it didn’t exist. It also seemed that the United Nations was in charge of approving and  sanctioning such a day. Hank was not deterred and on November 9th, 2014 he launched the first World Adoption Day campaign.

Today, AdoptTogether has raised over $17 million dollars for more than 4,000 families in just over six years. Their dream of a world with a family for every child continues.  So this Friday, November 9th celebrate family and the incredible humans that bring us together every single day.

Charity Matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The sweetest thing to do this Halloween

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

Orison Swett Marden

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

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

Operation Gratitude:

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

Soldiers Angels:

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

Operation Stars and Stripes:

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

Operation Shoebox:

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

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

Happy Halloween!

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The measure of a life

“There is not one big cosmic meaning for all; There is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person.”

Anais Nin

Last week we lost a dear friend to cancer, someone we had known since college who was not even 50. Sadly this was not unexpected but losing a friend so young and so full of joy was and still is beyond difficult. It is moments like these that make us all stop in our tracks and hit the reset button to think about what is truly important? I found myself asking how am I  using my precious time  and what really matters?

I came home from the service a bit numb, sad and depressed. I decided to read to try to take my mind off the days events. I began to read an article about Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder who had also just passed away. The article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy talked about Paul Allen’s passion for life. It discussed his love of learning, of music, sports, exploring ideas and world’s unknown. Paul Allen donated over 2.3 billion dollars in his lifetime and in addition to that he also took the Giving Pledge, vowing to donate more than half of his estate to charity.

When he took the giving pledge he had to write an essay and in it he said, “My philanthropic strategy is informed by my enduring belief in the power of new ideas.  By dedicating resources that can help some of the world’s most creative thinkers accelerate discovery, I hope to serve as a catalyst for progress-in large part, by encouraging closer collaboration and challenging conventional thinking. When smart people work together with vision and determination, there is little we can’t accomplish.”

Each life, whether our friends, Paul Allen’s or our own is ultimately only as good as the meaning we give it. We are the author, we have the pen and now to script that meaning, our individual plot, our novel and our book. The meaning is for each of us to find and to live.

 

Charity Matters.

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

My Hope Chest

” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.”

Author unknown

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a friend who has recently undergone a mastectomy. Well sadly, since I wrote those words, yet another friend has experience the same loss and this time a double. Breast Cancer isn’t something that only happens in October it is something that happens every two minutes every day. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer does not discriminate from the rich or the poor. To be honest I had never thought about what happens when you get breast cancer and have no insurance? I assumed that Medicaid and Medicare covered everything. Well, I was wrong.

Last week, I had the most inspiring conversation with nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, a women who lived this journey of having a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, the only national nonprofit in the country that takes these women and helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation and I left feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew that you needed to act and start My Hope Chest?

Alisa Savoretti: Hearing you have cancer is a devastating moment. It’s one thing to hear you have cancer but it is another thing to realize you have cancer, you do not have insurance and you do not qualify for Medicaid. This is what happened to me at 38 years old. I had been working in Las Vegas as a showgirl and had recently moved to Florida to begin an online furniture  business, before companies like Pottery Barn exsisited. I had borrowed funds on credit cards to launch Retrohome.com in 1999, when I found out I had cancer. The doctor said to take care of the cancer, focus on surviving and worry about the reconstruction later. 

I survived but lived without my breast for almost three years. You have no idea what this does for you as a women, for your mental well being. During those three years I reached out to organizations all over the country, government, nonprofit, anyone who could help me to become whole again. I discovered that there wasn’t anywhere to go. I felt deformed, depressed, frustrated, had metal anguish and enormous financial stress.

I went back to Vegas to work at The Rivera and the 1998 government law now mandated that their group policy could not decline me insurance in order to get my reconstructive surgery. I realized how my own self esteem, confidence and self worth as a woman returned when I could look in the mirror and could see my whole physical being once again. It was my healing, a restoration in body mind and spirit.

While I was in Vegas, I volunteered for a NAWBO (National Association of Womens Business Owners) event. I told the women from NAWBO my story and these women rallied around me and with their help I was able to start My Hope Chest and had my 501c3, six weeks later on December 3rd, 2003. We will celebrate our 15th anniversary this year.

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

Alisa Savoretti:Some days it feels as if I am pushing a boulder uphill with a toothpick. And fifteen years of doing this at the grassroots level, the work is very hard. What fuels me is knowing that thousands and thousands of women are missing their breast and this shouldn’t be happening in our country. Making women whole again is our mission. I think about more women are surviving breast cancer and thats true, but what about their quality of life if they are not whole?

These women are sick and often lose their jobs because they can’t work. They are now disfigured, deformed and depressed. The ripple effect of not being whole is devastating  on marriages and families. This work has become my life’s mission. I am not married, cancer made children no longer an option and for the past fifteen years this work has been my life.

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

Alisa Savoretti: We pick up where the government programs leave off. That is why we exist.  Our biggest referrals come from nonprofits such as American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and Care.org.  We get referrals from them weekly and we can not tell our clients if or when they are going to be helped. They sit on a wait list while we try to raise the funds to make their reconstructive surgery happen. Helping women to become whole again is what fuels me and just knowing that there is always a list of women waiting for us to find the funding.

I know that we have made a difference when we can help them with whatever they have asked for and the letters they send us.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Alisa Savoretti: We help women every year in a small way and I feel blessed that God picked me to do this task. Every time we get the word out about our work it helps fund someone’s surgery. Shining a light on this cause is SO important. We have been able to fill a gap where other breast cancer charities leave off. If there was another organization doing our work we wouldn’t do it but sadly there isn’t anyone else. The women we help are eternally grateful for all we have done and to me that is the success.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for My Hope Chest going forward?

Alisa Savoretti: We will only exist until there is a cure for breast cancer. Of course the big dream is that there is day when our services are no longer needed. Ten years from now I dream that we have enough resources, funding, surgical partners and angel warriors that we can help women as quickly as they are referred to us. I dream of no longer having a wait list and being able to have a more efficient meaningful impact on these women’s lives.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this changed you?

Alisa Savoretti:God had a different plan for my life. I have a quote on my desk that says,” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.” I feel like that is what happened with My Hope Chest. My life’s lesson is that when you persevere you will make a difference. The fact that this even exists in 2018 and is still flying under the radar that there are women, thousands of women in this country living without their breast.  I have refinanced my home three times to keep the funding going for My Hope Chest. I have taken extra jobs at the grocery store to fund this. I have learned that I have to persevere to help these women in any way I can. I cannot give up on them.

I think that changing even one life is important. Things are bigger than us, this mission is bigger than me and I have tied my life to making a difference. For me, I am grateful I was chosen for this journey. I am grateful to keep doing this work and I pray the Lord that My Hope Chest gets to leave a legacy on this earth until there is no longer a need for our services. That is my utmost prayer.

In the end,  I know that I have done my very best.

 

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Creating the Change

“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else’s life forever.”  Margaret Cho

Nothing makes me happier than planting the seeds of compassion in our children. A few years ago, that common thread connected me to nonprofit founder, Molly Yuska of Project Giving Kids. We met  when I interviewed her for Charity Matters.  Project​ ​Giving​ ​Kids​ ​(PGK)​ ​is​ ​a​ ​nonprofit​ ​organization​  that cultivates empathy in youth by connecting them to meaningful and age-appropriate community service activities.  Their mottos is,“connecting kids to causes.”

Molly initially  ​launched​ Project Giving Kids ​in​ Boston in ​November​ ​2013 after realizing there was no source for families to find age appropriate service projects for their children and families. With 1.7 million nonprofits in the United States, Molly saw clearly that there was a need to leverage technology by creating an online platform and mobile app, Youth Give, to make it easier for kids to​ ​be​ ​powerful​ ​agents​ ​of​ ​positive​ ​change​ ​in our​ ​world.​ ​

Molly is the ultimate connector as is Project Giving Kids. PGK  reaches out to nonprofit partners to find volunteer opportunities for a multitude of ages. This weekend was a full circle moment for me as Project Giving Kids came to LA for the first time for their Create​ ​the​ ​Change​ ​Day​ ​LA. The day was  hosted by Kidspace Children’s Museum, a place very near and dear to my heart and twenty years ago the main source of my volunteer work.  ​

However, this past Sunday, Kidspace was all about teaching hundreds of children and their families the joys of serving others. Think of the day as a trade show for kids where they could shop causes and projects that they were interested in and cared about.

Whether it was decorating duffle bags for children in foster care so they were not moved from home to home with a trash bag or putting toiletry kits together for low income families or making toys for shelter animals, each of these projects benefitted nonprofits such as;Access Books, Crayon Collection, Do Good Bus, Food on Foot LA, Heal the Bay, Heaven on Earth Society, Grades of Green, Karma Rescue, LA Family Housing, North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry,PATH, School on Wheels, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Together We Rise.

As Molly said, Project​ ​Giving​ ​Kids​ ​is thrilled to offer an afternoon of hands-on service to kids and families in the Greater LA area. Create​ ​the​ ​Change​ ​Day​ ​was​ ​the​ ​perfect way​ ​to introduce young children to the joy of service to others. At PGK, we strive to connect youth and families to the amazing nonprofits in their own backyards they often do not know about that would love to benefit from their passion and involvement. We do that through our website and mobile app where youth can find fun and age-appropriate service opportunities and through select events like Create the Change Day.”

I was lucky enough to man the PGK booth where children could make a holiday pledge of service either by drawing a picture or writing a pledge to create change and PGK will be sending them their postcards in early December to remind them of their idea.

If these cards were any indication of our future, I think the world is only going to get better and that the kids pretty much said it all….

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Breast Cancer Research Foundation

In my world, the more people you have helped the bigger the celebrity you are. So last week when I had the privilege to talk to Myra Biblowit, the President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) I was everything you would be when meeting your hero…nervous, anxious, excited and truly thrilled to share her remarkable journey to change the lives of millions of women around the globe.

Our conversation was timely because just two days before we spoke, a friend of mine had a mastectomy. Myra was beyond lovely, compassionate, soulful and truly inspirational in her commitment to prevent and cure breast cancer (the second most common cancer) by advancing the world’s most promising research. Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, this disease doesn’t care what day or month it is. Every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Myra, her team and a remarkable group of people are all changing the game and after our conversation I can see that cancer doesn’t stand a chance with this beautiful lady starring it down.

photo by Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com ©

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what BCRF does?

Myra Biblowit: We want to put an end to breast cancer and our goal is to have no more fear, no more hospital visits, no more side effects, no more needless suffering and no more loved ones lost to breast cancer and the only way to achieve our goal to prevent and cure breast cancer is through research. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment that The Breast Cancer RESearch Foundation began?

Myra Biblowit: BCRF started in 1993 but I met Evelyn Lauder in 1985 and we forged an incredible friendship. Evelyn called me and said that she had an idea to create a foundation that focused on breast cancer research after seeing the pace at which breast cancer research was moving. Evelyn had looked around the country and there was not one organization that was doing research with a laser sharp focus.  Evelyn said, “I can do this and if I can do it and I don’t it, it would be a sin. Will you help me?” Evelyn had a soul and a heart that were enormous. She was working on the pink ribbon symbol and knew she could make this an ubiquitous symbol of the cause and get this issue out of the closet.

The story doesn’t end with creating awareness , it extends to harnessing dollars towards research to change the future. I told Evelyn, I would help her find an Executive Director and help her get BCRF off the ground. I was working at the Museum of Natural History at the time. In 1993, BCRF began at Evelyn Lauder’s kitchen table with our dear friend Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Seven years later when I was working at NYU, I had had a few job opportunities arise and I reached out to Evelyn and Leonard Lauder for their advice as friends and Evelyn said, “Well this is a slam dunk, this is bashert (yiddish for meant to be)….last night the Executive Director told us she wanted to stop working.”

By Monday, I was the President of BCRF. Evelyn gave up the Presidency and became Chairman and Founder and I went to work for my darling friend. I started April 1st, 2001 and I told her I would take the organization international, I would raise a lot more money and I would create a strategic thoughtful grant program to ensure that the dollars we are raising are wisely meeting the organizations targets.

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

Myra Biblowit: We lost Evelyn in 2011, and I do what I do in her memory and in her honor. BCRF is her legacy and I work hard to make sure that we are the gold standard. Our work stands as a tribute to her vision. Today we  are the largest global funder of breast cancer research. We are the most highly rated breast cancer organization in the country. Evelyn had such vision and clairvoyance, breast cancer was in the closet when we started and thanks to pioneers like Evelyn breast cancer and women across the globe, it is out there now.

The dollars that we are investing at BCRF are not only answering questions about breast cancer today but a multiplicity of other cancers as well. Evelyn would not have envisioned the relevance that BCRF would have.

Myra Biblowit and Dr. Larry Norton, photo credit Suzanne DeChillo

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

Myra Biblowit: Since BCRF was founded there has been a 40% decline in breast cancer deaths worldwide. Proof is in the pudding and truly we can tell you that BCRF has had a role in every major break thru breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship as well as an advancing knowledge about other metastatic diseases. 

When Evelyn and I were working together we were mainly talking about diagnosis and treatment. We knew then and know even more now that research is THE reason.  Today that continuum begins with prevention and extends with survivorship. The connector is that research is THE reason, it is the glue.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had at BCRF?

Myra Biblowit: I think it is important for people to know that breast cancer is rapidly transitioning to a manageable chronic disease. People need to not be fearful from the stories of the past from their mothers and grandmothers. Treatments are much more targeted. When a woman is diagnosed today they can try to find what type of tumor she has and then find the right treatment for that tumor type, that is huge.

We now know that breast cancer is not one disease but made up of four or five different diseases in terms of tumor types and each one has more in common with other forms of cancer than with each other. Today’s treatment have far greater likelihood of success and they are far less toxic.

One study that BCRF was involved with was the TAILORx, a major multi-year and multi country study to determine what women needed chemo who had early stage estrogen positive breast cancer. We knew women who had a high score needed chemo and women who had a low score did not need it. We didn’t know for the 70,000-100,000 women in the middle range if they needed chemo or not. Today we now know that those women do NOT need chemotherapy.  This study proved the power of research. These are the advances that change the future for our mothers, our daughters and our friends.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for the Breast CAncer REsearch Foundation going forward?

Myra Biblowit: In the current year we raised $80 million dollars and we awarded grants of $63 million dollars to over 300 researchers across 14 countries. We could have funded more had we had more funds. We are one of the few engines who give resources to cutting edge researchers. We are the engine that tells researchers to take that chance. We are a rare funder in our flex-ability taking research down the path of greatest opportunity because the stakes are so high.

We devoted a fund to metastatic disease, when Evelyn died by creating a Founder’s Fund. We want to use that fund to find more about metastatic disease, we want to invest in young researchers and the more dollars we can give to our researchers the more breakthroughs we can make.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Myra Biblowit: You know Evelyn gave me an opportunity to do something professionally that touches peoples lives profoundly. How lucky am I? Evelyn was grateful for everything that came her way. She was a child of the Holocaust and her family fled when she was an infant. Everything that she and Leonard achieved was a partnership. She was magnetic and wonderful and when we lost her, Leonard stepped in. I am filled with gratitude everyday and for the opportunity to learn from the extraordinary Lauder family. What fed their soul was to make the world a better place and it was infectious. 

 

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LuxAnthropy

A few weeks ago I was attending an event at a girlfriend’s home and was running late. I was dashing up to the front door alongside a very fashionable woman and we began to chat in our haste to make the party on time. Our conversation was fantastic and so inspiring.  It turns out that this amazing woman, Jennifer Hillman, has taken philanthropy and fashion and brought them together in the most inspiring way. She is the co-founder of a genius business called LuxAnthrophy. A brilliant online platform for men and women to sell their high end goods (bags, clothing, jewelry, etc.) and give a percentage to charity and LuxAnthropy also contributes to your cause.

Naturally, we needed to continue the conversation we started and I had to share it all with you. So get ready to be inspired to clean out your closet and or to go shopping for a cause!

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what your organization does?

Jennifer Hillman: We created LuxAnthropy based on the belief that conscious consumerism, along with small but thoughtful acts of generosity, breeds global change. 

LuxAnthropy is a high fashion resale website dedicated to giving back to its charitable partners.  We carefully select, authenticate and curate each luxury and designer item, generously provided by top celebrities, stylists, Hollywood insiders, fashion houses and influencers. 

Our sellers can make money and give money.  We wanted to allow giving amounts to be a personal choice, because all giving is good.  Therefore, our sellers determine the percentage of their commission to donate to one of our partner charities and LuxAnthropy contributes five percent of its proceeds to the same charity.  And, LuxAnthropy’s customers get great deals on top tier fashion, while also knowing that their purchase is helping others in need. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your philanthropic organization?

Jennifer Hillman: Having a mother who is a two-time breast cancer survivor, combined with working alongside iconic philanthropist Evelyn Lauder to elevate The Estee Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, propelled me in ways that are still surprising me today.  When we first came up with LuxAnthropy’s “make money, give money” business model, Myra Biblowit, President of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation was the first person I called.   And when Myra said “Wait, why isn’t this being done already?” I knew we were onto something that could really be powerful.  BCRF’s willingness to take a chance on LuxAnthropy is testament to the essence of who and what they stand for as a charity.  We’re incredibly proud to say that we have more than 15 highly-rated charity partners today, and are honored that BCRF was LuxAnthropy’s first.

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

Jennifer Hillman: The generosity of people fuels me.  There are so many who have helped us get to where we are today and we are incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.   Our fuel is also the responses we continuously receive from our charity partners, sellers and customers.  When we contact our sellers to let them know something of theirs has sold, the typical response we hear is “That’s amazing!  I’m going to send you more items from my closet. And tell my friends about LuxAnthropy.” A new customer called to say that she’d been looking for one of the designer dresses that she purchased on LuxAnthropy for a year, and was so excited to find it, and even more excited to know that everything being sold on the website supports wonderful charities.

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

Jennifer Hillman: LuxAnthropy is all about making a difference and helping others make a difference, in whatever way that works for each person’s lifestyle.  A few weeks back at an fundraising event hosted by a friend, I was singled out by several people in attendance as the person they needed to meet.  They all had things in their closet that they were no longer using and wanted to have LuxAnthropy sell them to benefit a particular charity.  That felt great.  A triple win.  Win for that person, win for that charity and a personal win for us at LuxAnthropy.  It’s great to see positive word of mouth is spreading about LuxAnthropy.

Making a difference from an environmental perspective is already part of everything we do.  This is because when new and almost-new designer items move from the back of one person’s closet to the front of someone else’s (vs. going into landfills), we’re helping to preserve our environment for future generations.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Jennifer Hillman:  We just officially turned 1 year old and are proud to have more than 15 charity partners already on board, with more to come.  The collective feedback has been universally positive.  We strive to make it super easy for sellers, charities and buyers.  We continue to have month on month growth — both in sales and in social engagement.  We’re just at the beginning of our journey and know that when we look back a year from now, we’ll be proud of our story.  We love giving back and hope we are an example on just how easy and fashionable giving can be.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience? How has this journey changed you?

Jennifer Hillman: I’ve learned that no matter what your job is, it’s important to remember the benefits of work, life balance.  To recharge by yourself or by spending time with family and friends.  Great ideas often come from when I’m not at the office but on a hike, in a pilates class or getting my nails done by my daughter.  I’m learning that it’s ok to take some time for myself as it only benefits everyone around me, especially the team at LuxAnthropy. 

More than that, I’ve learned a lot about human nature and that, for the most part, helping others is intrinsic in each of us.  Everyone feels good helping others.  It’s just that simple.  With our platform, we’re incredibly excited that we’ve created a way where giving back is made easy.    We all work really hard because we want to make a difference.  

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The Wellhouse

Our world seems to shrink everyday as technology and communication continue to advance. A few weeks ago, I was attending an online webinar for nonprofits and started a conversation with a woman named Kat Kirkpatrick from Alabama who is part of an amazing nonprofit called The Wellhouse. What began as an online conversation became multiple emails and phone calls to learn more. I have done two interviews this past year on organizations similar to the The Wellhouse and initially thought twice about writing this now. However, I believe things happen for a reason and there are no accidents, so I am excited to share our conversation with you.

Kat told me that 40% of the human trafficking that happens in the United State happens in the South East off of Interstate 20 and the average age of young women who are trafficked is 12 to 14 years old. That information was more than enough to continue the conversation on this uncomfortable topic.

Charity Matters: So tell us about what The WellHouse does?

Kat Kirkpatrick: The Wellhouse is a safe place that rescues and restores young  women from human trafficking. We restore these women so they can live their lives. We are a residential safe place that can help these women deal with trauma, addiction, health care and counseling. We give them mentors and set them up for life to be successful.

Charity Matters: When did your nonprofit begin and what is the back story to the WellHouse?

Kat Kirkpatrick: Our founder was a victim of human trafficking. She escaped from her trafficker with $33.00 in her pocket and was taken into a place in Birmingham, Alabama called The Dream Center because she heard about it on the radio. Our founder became a mentor there in helping other young women and realized that more needed to be done so in 2010 she began The WellHouse.

She realized there was not a facility that existed only for trafficked victims and she conceived the idea of a home that would not have any prerequisites that can often hinder victims from obtaining needed help. Her goal was to welcome survivors who wanted to move forward in their lives.

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

Kat Kirkpatrick: The team. Seeing everyone work together and support these women. The women who change their lives.

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

Kat Kirkpatrick: We know we have changed lives. We have rescued over 400 women since 2010. We know we have made a difference when a girl has a safe place to be for the first time. We know we have made a difference when they share their story and then graduate into our long term program. We know we have made a difference when they graduate and when we celebrate every little step along their journey.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Kat Kirkpatrick: I have seen the public’s misconception and stigma for these girls. They are victims of horrible crimes, victims of violence and yet there is hope. They are coming from the darkest of times and yet their resilience is astounding.  I have learned that people are good and are always there to help.  I know when we walk along side these young women on their journey they can accomplish anything.

 

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911 Day

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Virgil

Photo by Scott Lewis

Most of us have lost loved ones over the course of our lives and for many honoring them on the day they left us feels comforting. Over time as the sharp pain of grief subsides we often think of different ways to celebrate and honor the memory of those we loved. So this year as we mark this important day, September 11th we are turning a day of tragedy into a day of doing something good.

In observance of today’s September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, also known as 9/11 Day, we pause to remember the lives of those lost and injured as a result of terrorism on September 11th, 2001.  While this date will always be a day tinged with sadness it has been deemed by Congress as a National Day of Service and remembrance  under a federal law set in 2009 because of two remarkable men.

Their names are David Paine and Jay Winuk. Two friends who were determined to dedicating their lives over the past decade to ensure that this day is recognized not as a day of evil but as a day of good. Jay’s brother, Glenn, was an attorney in lower Manhatten, as well as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Glenn lost his life on September 11th. Jay said, “Glenn did what he was trained to do. He had the skills and courage to run into the burning World Trade Center, towards danger, to save lives. Glenn always put others ahead of himself, and he sacrificed his life the way he lived it, helping others in need.”

In 2002, David and Jay set out to start a nonprofit called MyGoodDeed.org and reached out to the 9/11 community for support. Their goals were to establish a nationally recognized day of service and then build national support for 9/11 Day. Their long term mission was to ensure that 9/11 Day transformed into a day of service, peace, unity and an enduring tribute for those who were lost and injured on 9/11 as well as those who rose in service in response to the attacks.

Seven years after beginning their journey they accomplished their goal of having 9/11 Day recognized as a National Day of Service and remembrance. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is the only other day of service officially established under federal law. Today, nine years later, 9/11 Day is the nation’s largest annual day of charitable engagement with nearly 30 million Americans taking time out of each September 11th to volunteer, support causes they care about and perform good deeds in tribute to those lives lost that day. MyGoodDeed became 9/11 Day.org, a nonprofit that supports this day and provides resources for ways to volunteer and serve.

David said,“Ultimately we wanted something positive to come from the loss of so many innocent people in such a terrible way. We didn’t want terrorists to forever define how 9/11 would be remembered. We wanted to focus instead on how our nation came together, the spirit of unity and compassion shared by so many.”  Jay said,”As a 9/11 family member, I wanted to find a very special and significant way to honor my late brother, along with the many others who died with him.”

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