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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.

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Reflections on Motherhood

“Having kids…the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings-is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

Maria Shriver

Lately, I have been thinking about being a mother. Motherhood isn’t something you typically think about, it is a verb, an action and rarely a mere thought. The reflection began last week, when I saw a young mother in the grocery store trying to contain her toddler. I smiled and told her to enjoy this moment because it goes by so fast. She looked at me as if I was insane and her expression said that this moment was already way too long and she hoped it would go by quicker.  I clearly remember being that young mother with three toddler boys in the grocery store.  Older women,(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) would share these  same words of wisdom with me and my reaction at the time was probably pretty similar. Last week,  I realized with horror, that I was now that older woman.

I am really not sure where that time went or how it slipped by so quickly, especially when those days felt like eternity.  The days when the boys drank food coloring and stained their faces, fingers and everything else in sight. The day we were painting the nursery for their new baby brother’s arrival when they knocked over a can of paint, ran through the spilled paint and all over the house leaving baby blue foot prints on the carpets, wood floors and most surfaces.  The upstairs sink they turned on without my knowledge that ran for hours, flooding the upstairs and my husbands treasured old convertible in the garage below. The memories of dirt, destruction and chaos are vast and yet, each crazy moment is now a treasured gift.

The goal in those days was mere survival. If you were showered and nothing was hugely destroyed, the day was a victory. Little by little those toddlers, ran faster and farther. They started using bikes, skate boards  and pushed every boundary mental and physical that they possibly could.  Those beautiful little faces could destroy you and wear you down, motherhood  was an endurance sport where only the strong survive.

Like a triathlon, you begin the race of motherhood full of energy and excitement for the journey ahead.  The swim is the first part of the course, as you dive in you realize the water is colder than you thought but you are just beginning, so  you visualize your finish line. You focus on that moment on the podium and your shiny metal at the end of the race with these amazing humans you have molded, supported, guided and loved. Quickly, very quickly into the race you realize you are sinking…fast and that the race is going to be longer and harder than expected.

Not to worry, if you can survive the swim, then you are ready for the ride. Once on the bike, those twists and turns on the road of motherhood where school, hurt feelings, sporting activities, homework and planning your daily course is harder than planning a military strategic operation. The ride seems as if it has to be better than the swim and yet the challenges are never ending. They just keep coming.

Still, you hold onto your vision, you dream of the finish line. A polite, kind, educated human, with a diploma and perhaps a job. You finish your ride and begin the run. You are now slower, much slower and yet you are determined to finish the race. You will get that prize and so you push through those last hurdles, roadblocks and obstacles. They are big ones, high school, getting into college and everything teenager that will test your mental strength like never before. You are a survivor. You are strong, you are a mother and you are so close to finishing. Then you see it, the finish line and the tears begin because you now realize you no longer want the race to end.

You see those beautiful children, kind, polite, and good and realize that it was the race, the journey and the challenges that were the joy. Each obstacle overcome is a victory and each failure a lesson in love, patience and endurance. You survived the frigid deep waters of babies and toddlers, the twist and turns along the ride to adolescence and the run through the teenage years and college. The tears stream down your face as you cross the line exuberant, proud, strong and tired. Your vision is real, your prize is waiting with open arms….those beautiful, kind, polite and amazing humans are there just as you imagined and dreamed. You are a mother and your race is almost over and now you just wish you could run part of it again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.

Random Acts of Flowers

“where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Lady Bird Johnson

As we enter the month of April, we think of flowers and springtime, both bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits, which is why this seemed like the perfect way to kick us into spring. The story of Random Acts of Flowers and founder Larsen Jay is as uplifting as a spring bouquet.

You never know what is going to inspire someone to make a difference. In Larsen’s case, it was an almost fatal fall from a ladder in July of 2007. While he was in the hospital for his long recovery, he received so many beautiful flower arrangements that truly lifted his spirits. Once Larsen was well enough to leave his room he saw so many other patients who didn’t have any flowers, so decided to repurpose his and give them to others, which was just the beginning of a beautiful idea. The memories of that gesture inspired him to start  Random Acts of Flowers in 2008.

One year later, Larsen delivered his first bouquet from Random Acts of Flowers to the patient in his old hospital room, bringing the moment full circle and a renewed commitment to brighten the lives of others with this beautiful gesture and simple kindness. By 2011, the organization had delivered over 10,000 bouquets and by 2013 had begun to expand in other cities.

Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Today, a decade later Random Acts of Flowers is located in four major metropolitan cities; Knoxville, Chicago, Tampa and Indianapolis and shows no sign of slowing down. They are delivering smiles to over 9,000 people in hospitals, senior living centers and organizations in need  every month. As of today, they have delivered over 310,801 bouquets and smiles. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

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.

Teaching service and leadership

As many of you know I run a youth leadership nonprofit organization as my daytime job. Teaching over 3,000 students each year how to be leaders. This time of year at work we are doing leadership days, so think about a school field trip where a few hundred middle school students are going to a local high school to be taught leadership by high school students.

All year the college alumni of our program teach the high school students leadership skills and then like a waterfall, the high school students turn and teach the middle school students, which is how we run an organization that serves 3,000 students with only two employees. More than any of that, what constantly inspires me is seeing the power of peers. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 and looking up to those a few years older or 12 and looking up to a 15 year old, that peer relationship is so powerful and never really goes away.

We spend so much time in our schools talking about bullying and negative things that are happening with our youth and so little talking about the good, which is why I needed to  share this. I have been working with hundreds of these inspiring teenagers as they teach these middle school students. I watch as they take, shy, sometimes awkward, sometimes overly confident middle schoolers and they validate them, accept them, include them and as a result empower them. These small gestures of kindness are transformative.

I watch these young adults transform others lives through their service and transform their own by recognizing their own power and the power of kindness. I continue to be in awe of watching these students transform themselves, their schools and communities through their service and leadership.

This isn’t a post about school violence, politics or bullying but rather a place to point out that these teenagers can fix almost anything. If our youth continue to come together to reach out to an alienated or lonely child, include someone who feels isolated, help another who is feeling left out…. those simple gestures can have the most powerful results. We don’t need marches on Washington, we simply need kindness, compassion, inclusion and acceptance that is how we are going to take back our schools, society and safety.

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.

Service

“Use your life to serve the world, and you will find that it also serves you.”

Oprah

This quote could not be more true. The most fascinating thing is that when we set out to serve, we are not looking to receive but rather to give. To help a cause, be apart of something bigger, volunteer in our children’s classrooms and the list goes on as to why we serve.  We do these actions for a variety of motives but thinking about what we get from giving is never one of them.

What is so fascinating is that as the years roll by and the service continues, grows and expands so does what comes back. It is hard to see at first, oh of course, there is that immediate warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing something great. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have used your life to make another’s better.

I have served in so many capacities in my five decades and all with different motivations. As a young girl I served because I was told to. As a teen I served because that’s what my friends were doing. In college, I served because it was a great way to meet people and do something nice for someone. As a young mother, I served to make new mom friends and to begin to show and teach my children about giving.

It was only later, when I was overwhelmed with grief, lost and bereft that service healed and saved me.  Like a lifeline to a drowning victim, service was there to rescue me as I was going under from grief. Service pulled me from my despair and showed me so many others whose lives were in need. Being able to help families at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, not only healed my grief but it gave me a new purpose.

Now decades later, it sounds so cliché to say you get what you give but honestly, you get so so much more. My life is beyond abundant, I could have never dreamed this journey. I ask God each day to use me towards my greatest purpose as I continue to strive to serve. It is a privilege to know that you have used your life to make an others better. Truly the greatest gift of all.

 

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.

Sit With Us

In light of last weeks events in Florida and the continued devastation of these schools shootings, my heart is heavy. These tragic events make me think there must be a way that we can come together to work towards a solution. Charity Matters is not a place for politics or debate but rather a community where people have gone through tragedy and turned their pain into  positive solutions, so the next person doesn’t have to suffer, as they did.

People that are hurting always hurt. A wounded animal will snap at you because they do not know what to do with their pain, other than to inflict onto the next. At the core of these shootings is a child isolated, rejected and in pain. So what can we do as a society to include these children before their pain grows and they become ticking time bombs?

One of the things that is different is that when we were growing up bullies didn’t follow you home, they didn’t taunt you on social media and the pain of not being accepted usually lasted as long as a school day. One brave young girl might just have the peer-to-peer solution to this bigger problem that stems from bullying and the isolation that goes with it. Her name is Natalie Hampton and she is the creator of the App Sit With Us.

Natalie was bullied just like an estimated 20% of American teenagers. She decided to change all of that by using technology not to be a victim but to empower and unite isolated teenagers. Her app allows students to find others who do not have a group to sit with at lunch and bring them together so that they are not alone.

The nonprofit that I run works with thirty-one high schools and we tried to partner with Natalie earlier this year on a project to create Sit With Us clubs, which is how I learned about her amazing work. While the project may have to wait until next year with all Natalie has going on. These days Natalie isn’t worried about being alone, but rather just the opposite. She has taken her pain to use it as fuel to bring others together. As Natalie said, “I am using my story to unite others.” 

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.

A camp with heart

While I know it is February and summer and camp seem to feel like a million years from now, I had an incredible conversation last week with an amazing human named Lisa Knight, who runs a camp (Camp del Corozon) for children who are living with heart disease. Since February is National Heart month this seemed like the perfect time to discuss our mutual challenges of running nonprofit camps but more specifically Lisa’s incredible work as a registered nurse and nonprofit founder, serving children with heart disease. I hope you enjoy our conversation half as much as I did.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Camp Del Corozon?

Lisa Knight: In 1995, I was working with Dr. Kevin Shannon with pediatric heart patients and we had a mother who came in to see us. Her son had multiple heart surgeries and was depressed. He didn’t want to go to sleepover or PE class because he was embarrassed about all of his scars and he didn’t feel like a “normal kid.” I suggested to Dr. Shannon that maybe we should try to send him to camp and began to look for a camp that could manage his health challenges or that would take him. There was only one, it was very far away and very expensive. So I suggested that we try to create our own.

Dr. Shannon loved the idea. I reached out to my friends in Catalina that had a camp and asked if we could come for a week with some heart patients, they agreed. We asked all our doctor and nurse friends to volunteer and within two months we had 49 heart patients and 100 volunteers coming to camp for free.

Charity Matters: What challenges did you have?

Lisa Knight: We had NO money, We maxed out credit cards, were not totally sure what we were doing but we were sure we should be doing this. Then we had a surgeon named Jerry Bucklin, who gave us $5000 to make it happen and we did.

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

Lisa Knight: I get so filled up by it all.  These kids have survived death, there are not camps for these types of kids due to their medical conditions. It transforms them. You see them show each other their scars. The most rewarding thing is when you hear children call you by your camp name, when you see them years later not at camp.  This year our first camper is coming back as a counselor, so to see not only these children grow up and give back but to watch my own 29-year-old daughter getting even more involved as she takes on more responsibility with her role at Camp del Corozon, is so rewarding. 

Charity Matters: Tell us about your successes at Camp del Corozon?

Lisa Knight: I think our successes is that thousands of children have been able to come to camp, to make friends, become more confident and just feel like regular kids.I think back to when we began and am so proud that it is continuing and going on. I get joy out of all our success, each child, each camp. This summer we will have close to 400 campers who will come to camp for free. Twenty-three years later that feels pretty amazing.

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

Lisa Knight: I’ve learned so much, how to dream dreams, connect the dots and make things happen. I have learned gratitude after having so many struggles and I have learned that there is nothing better in life than service, you simply cannot be happy without it.

Charity Matters: How has this changed you?

Lisa Knight: I feel that Camp del Corozon was just supposed to be. This is my whole life. I feel that I am on a chess board and God just pushes me in the direction I am supposed to go.”

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.

Dear Valentine

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.”

Nicholas Sparks

Dear Valentines,

Today is a day all about love and therefore, the perfect day to express mine to you. My guess is that lately you have not felt the love coming into your email box from Charity Matters and for that I apologize. I never left you but sadly, the email man who delivers these love letters to you a few times a week did, on January 18th. Unfortunately,  we didn’t realize the deliveries were not being made until last week.

So today, I am delivering some of my past love letters to each of you. 

http://charity-matters.com/2018/01/30/touched-by-an-angel/

http://charity-matters.com/2018/02/06/dear-rosalynn/

Thank you for your patience, understanding and continued support. Charity Matters exists because of you and your love for making a difference in this world. Wishing you the happiest of Valentines Days and happy reading!

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.

Max: A Force for Goodness

 

All of you who have been reading Charity Matters for the past few years know that Max Page  and his family have become dear friends to Charity Matters. You may remember Max as Little Darth Vadar of the infamous Super Bowl commercial a few years back or from a number of posts we have done featuring his incredible philanthropic work over the years.

I met Max and the Page family through our mutual work at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, where Max has spent a lot of time over the years. Max was born with a congenital heart defect and over the course of the last 13 years has had 12 surgeries. This past week Max went through yet another surgery on his heart,his 13th,  to replace a valve that his body has outgrown. Each year over 40,000 are born with congenital heart disease.

His mother Jennifer said, “When Max was an infant, he had an incredible will to live. At age 4, he asked how much surgery would hurt? At 7, he wanted to know why he needed to go through with this and now at 10 he is keenly aware of time and how precious it is.”

Max and his family have used his celebrity and innate goodness as a platform for so many wonderful causes. He is wise beyond his years and he and his brother are two of the most philanthropic young people I have ever had the privilege of knowing, thanks to their inspiring parents.

Max as always uses his experience to make others lives better, even at the tender age of 13. His hope is that if someone is inspired to do something because of his journey, that they would consider supporting a place that has given him so much and become a second home, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Heart Ambassadors program. Max recently said in an interview with Today, “I’m going to do whatever I can to help and do the best to bring awareness to kids like me.”  Max you already have and we are cheering you on during your recovery.

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.

 

 

Dear Rosalynn

Last Friday, was the most amazing and unexpected day. It wasn’t because it was 85 degrees in February that made it so glorious, but rather the invitation to celebrate Rosalynn Carter’s 90th birthday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that made it unforgettable. This wasn’t just any invitation, it was a love letter from one friend to celebrate another’s birthday in the most spectacular way.

These friends were not just any friends, but a remarkable man, author and school principal named Dan Horn and his dear friend, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. Dan wanted to celebrate this special friendship in an exceptional way. A morning filled with performances from his amazing students at St. Genevieve’s School at the Rose Bowl and his special birthday gift, a documentary film made by his students for over four years of Rosalynn Carter’s truly extraordinary life. It was a love letter to a woman who has quietly changed our world.

The story all began with a letter written over 30 years ago from a young man named Dan Horn, who had read Rosalynn Carter’s biography and reached out to her via a letter saying that he would like to meet her. To his surprise Rosalynn replied, the two had lunch and as Dan said, “Lunch was life changing and I just had a hunch that we were going to be friends.”

Flash forward a few decades and here we all were in the Rose Bowl watching the world premiere of this documentary about this beautiful friendship between a former First Lady, one very special school and a principal. In the hour hundreds of us sat and watched the story together, we were inspired, elevated and simply blown away by what the Carters have accomplished in their lives.

Photo courtesy: The Carter Center

This soft-spoken mother of four has truly had a remarkable life. Helping her widowed mother raise her younger siblings at age 13 and putting them all through college. Supporting her husband in her roles as First Lady of Georgia and of the United States. It was learning about the depth of her humanitarian efforts that were truly inspirational. Her tireless work for Equal Rights, the creation of the nonprofit The Carter Center, whose mission is to promote human rights the alleviation of human suffering.  Rosalynn’s passionate work in eliminating the stigma of mental health, the couples work with Habitat for Humanity that put the organization on the world’s stage and the creation of the Rosalynn Carter’s Institute for Caregivers, to name a few.

One post is not enough to cover the tireless, bold and beautiful work this First Lady and author of five books has accomplished. In her words, “we just planted a few seeds.” but as the film and students of St. Genevieve said, so beautifully, “Thanks to the Carters we know we are all capable of changing the world.” Based on what we all saw last Friday, I do believe they will.

 

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.

Well Hello February!

“In the coldest February, as in every other month in every other year, the best thing to hold on to in this world is each other.”

Linda Ellerbee

Well hello February! I must admit with 80 degree days in LA, I dream of seasons and winter ….some days. January for me was all about goals, dreams, planning ahead and thinking about what the year will bring. February is about rolling up our sleeves and putting the plan in motion, even if it is just the tiniest of steps.

More than that, February is a month about love. This month my hope is to introduce you to a few new nonprofit founders that are all about heart. In full disclosure, my day job as a nonprofit Executive Director, is in full swing, and juggle as I may, I have to admit that making everything happen has been a bit daunting lately.  I honestly believe that I can not talk about giving and philanthropy every week unless I walk the walk, which I do with a huge smile on my face.

However, running a nonprofit, serving on multiple nonprofit boards and sharing the stories of my nonprofit heroes can often times be a serious balancing act. So I am going to thank you in advance for being patient with me this month as I try to make it all happen. This Friday, I will have a chance to meet former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn at an event here in LA.  So stay tuned for more about this amazing humanitarian next week.

I hope this weekend brings your team a Super Bowl victory and that this month gets you thinking about how you can achieve your dreams. Dreaming big is one of my mantras and if you are not yet doing it, maybe February is the month to try? Lastly, if I don’t say it enough, know that I love you all for reading, sharing this work and believing in goodness. After all, we are all here to serve and love one another and not just in February.

 

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.

Touched by an Angel

 

“We are each of us angels with one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Luciano De Crescenso

I’m not sure if any of you remember the infamous tv show Touched by an Angel? The shows premise is about an angel named Monica who is tasked with bringing guidance to people who are at a crossroads in their lives. The show ran for years and honestly I only saw a few episodes. I started following Roma Downey on Instagram recently and perhaps as a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about angels lately.

As you know, I don’t believe in coincidences but time and time again angels cross my path in the most beautiful and amazing ways. Many of them I have met for Charity Matters, many have become friends but each person has come into my life at just the time they are needed most. Each beautiful person, teaches me, guides me and shows me the way. Over time I have been able to identify them as the angels they are and I truly believe we all have them, but do we recognize them in that way?

Angels have been a sign in my life ever since my mom died, over a decade ago. Recently, I was talking to a friend who had lost her husband unexpectedly. I was telling her that when my mother died, a friend called me and said, “Heidi, please look for the signs.” To be honest, in the trauma of unexpected loss it is hard to look for anything, let alone function, but low and behold the signs kept coming, over and over…and all of them were angels.

Years before my mom’s death, my sister had given our family these angel necklaces that were big, silver and well, we never wore them. Oddly, the first time the three of us were together we all had the big angel necklaces on. I lit a candle the day after my mom’s death and it melted into angel wings, I was given angel statues, and on and on, angels began to appear everywhere.  My mom was amazing but angel wasn’t really a word that came to mind in describing her. If we were playing a word association game, the words would be more like smile, joyful, fun, happy, loving, gracious… but not angel.

A year after her death, when a group of us got together to start a nonprofit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we needed a logo. A friend said, “let’s have our children all draw a picture and submit them to the hospital to choose.”  Yes, you guessed it, the logo was this angel and still is. We were trying to get the nonprofit off the ground and this charming gentleman, who lived on Angelo drive, became one of our guardian angels in Spiritual Care.

Since that time, more angels have come across my path than we have time for and each one has been a gift in my life bringing  guidance, direction, support and is always the right person at just the right time. Angels are everywhere we just need to look a little closer to see them…but trust me they are there.  Do you know who the angels are in your life?

We are each angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

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.

Investing in the future

People see inspiring stories and send them my way all the time, to me it doesn’t matter where the story comes from as long as it is full of goodness and inspires us to be better. A friend sent this one a few months back and the good news is that there has been so much good happening in the world that I am just now able to get this in the queue.


Photo by KEVIN SULLIVAN Orange County Register

The story is about an amazing couple Marty Burbank and his wife, who were planning on buying a big boat because of their love of sailing and the sea. Marty and his wife attended church and listened to their pastor talk about charity, kindness, compassion and giving.  The sermon had a powerful effect on a man who was getting ready to spend his life’s saving on his dream boat. Marty Said, “I can invest in a boat or I can invest in 26 kids and their lives. I am just grateful for the opportunity.”

Take a peak and see what the Burbanks decided to do with their one million dollars.

The Burbanks are examples for us all. While we may not be in positions to give as generously, they certainly inspire me to rethink how can I truly make a difference. Such a beautiful legacy of generosity, kindness and compassion.

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 Happiness Projects

A few years back there was a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list. The author had an epiphany that she wasn’t happy and didn’t spend enough time doing things that brought her joy. The result was a year long journey exploring her happiness and a bestselling book on the topic.

I have been following an amazing group on Instagram called by the same name but in no relation to the book. A few times a week I come across beautiful images of happy people doing service projects from feeding the homeless on skid row in Los Angeles, bringing brown bag lunches, visiting senior homes with flowers repurposed from other events (even plucked from Rose Parade floats) and the list goes on. So finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I reached out to find out who was behind The Happiness Projects?

The answer, a joy filled young woman named Ivy Luong, whose passion is to bring happiness to others. An event planner by day and philanthropist in every spare moment in between. I talked to Ivy earlier this week about what inspires someone with a full-time job, a full life and tons of friends to create a group that serves others? I think you will find her answers as inspiring as I did.

Charity Matters: What inspired you to start The Happiness Projects?

Ivy Luong: I have always felt grateful for all that I have. I am a first generation American and have watched my parents work so hard for our family. I know that there are so many people in need. Last January, I reached out to a bunch of my friends to see if they wanted to volunteer. I made it easy, fun and we called it The Happiness Project. I never thought a year later what we would accomplish.

Charity Matters: So what has your impact been in just 365 days?

Ivy Luong: We didn’t set out with a goal, we simply wanted to show people (the homeless, the elderly) that someone cares. We just wanted to help empower as many people as possible. I reached out to a few friends and a few nonprofits that I cared about and before I knew it there were more friends and more causes. Last year we completed 18 projects, had over 115 volunteers and delivered happiness to 1, 666 people.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work and when do you know you have made a difference?

Ivy Luong: All the people I meet. Bringing strangers together to do good. The interaction from the people we serve. Our lunch bag project on Skid Row, for example, when you feed someone who hasn’t eaten in days and they smile at you when you give them food. It not only makes you realize that their hurdles in life are bigger than your own but more than that it compels you to move forward to the next project.

Knowing that if I can help just one person, that’s when I know I have made a difference.

Charity Matters: What life lesson have you learned from The Happiness Projects? And how has this year of service changed you?

Ivy Luong: I have learned big lessons. First, is that you never know what someone is going through . More than that, give back whenever you can. Connecting people, opportunities and causes  has been one of the greatest experiences, not only for me but for everyone involved.  Just knowing you have helped one person let alone hundreds is what The Happiness Projects is all about.

Charity Matters.

 

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