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Guest blogger: Theresa Gartland

This past week I had a long over due catch up with my friend Theresa Gartland of Operation Progress. Theresa who is originally from the Washington DC area came to Los Angeles, more specifically Watts, right out of college. Watts is still considered one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles, but Theresa fell in love with the children and families in Watts. In the past decade plus, she has worked for a few different organizations, all with the same mission of making Watts a place for children and families to thrive.

Today, I am handing the handing Charity Matters over to Theresa to share her remarkable story of service…she is a true inspiration to us all.

As I am embarking on my 15th year of working in Watts and serving the youth of the community, I cannot help but reflect on what keeps me energized and going, of course two words…the kids! Everyday, I’m so grateful that I get to fulfill my life purpose by provide the most incredible, life-changing opportunity for some of the most deserving youth.

Attending Holy Child High School in Potomac, Md, I was taught the values of giving back through action not words. This rang true for me during my high school service trips to an afterschool program in Southeast DC. During my service, I would play with the children, help them with their homework, and spend time getting to know they. I quickly learned that they only difference between them and me was our neighborhood, and they were just as deserving as all the opportunities I was given. It was my actions that were making an impact. Through service and volunteering I had found my voice, it sparked my passion but I no idea it would ignite my career.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through my work is that each child deserves to feel safe, validated and know that someone is proud of them. This has become my mission, to make sure every student feels apart of something bigger than themselves, to feel validated, nurtured, and empowered.

My biggest success thus far, has been watching two girls that I have known since they were in 2nd grade, now sophomores at an all girls catholic high school, flourishing and succeeding. To be apart of their journey and see how OP has literally changed their life trajectory has been of the biggest rewards of my career.

It’s truly been a joy, honor and privilege to work at amazing schools and organizations in the Watts community that are so committed to inspiring, fostering and developing the youth. Being able to be there for a children, to motivate, challenge, and encourage them is no short of a miracle.

Thank you Theresa for reminding us what it means to serve, you are an amazing example to all.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

The Seeds of Compassion

Its not very often that I share about my own philanthropy or that of my children but as a proud mother I think its time. No, I promise this isn’t one of those painful maternal bragging moments. This is about my first born son, who like most first borns (myself included) likes to think that the sun sets only on him….that was until he went to Watts.

A few years back he was having a rough summer getting ready to go to high school.  Getting tired of the pity party I called a friend down at a non-profit in South Central Los Angeles, called Urban Compass and asked if they could use some extra help. Urban Compass  is a non-profit that works to combat poverty and violence and make a difference in the lives of children in Watts. My son had never left his bubble, let alone ventured to the housing projects in the most dangerous neighborhood in LA.

At 14, my redhead walked into Urban Compass and was embraced by these huge smiles and hugs, That was it, he was hooked. He spent that summer taking children to places like the beach, which they had never seen. He held children’s hands as he walked them back into the housing projects and they begged him not to take him home. He came back at vacations and Christmas time asking our family to adopt one of “his families”.

Now my son is 16, he is a part of a new junior board at Urban Compass and asked me if he could do something else for his required service hours. “Why, would you do that?” I asked. The response, “Because service hours are something you have to do and this is something I love to do.”

The miracle of Christmas has touched our home this season as I hope it touches yours. That seed of compassion was in there and it has sprouted and grown. True charity of the heart that matters!

Copyright © 2011 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.

Charity Profile: Theresa Gartland

“If you want to be remembered, do something memorable.”

Charity Matters wants you to get to know these inspirational people that will be remembered for their remarkable gifts of compassion to those in need. Theresa Gartland is exactly that, remarkable Here are her answers to Charity Matter’s Questionnaire.

What Charity Matters to you?

Urban Compass, of course!

What or who inspires you?

My students inspire me everyday!  Even though they live in a very violent and depressing neighborhood, they are the most resilient, positive, happy children I have ever met. They have a thirst for knowledge and a strong desire to succeed; they cherish every moment they are at Urban Compass.  They are risk takers – they want to explore and you can feel their excitement the minute they step into the UC van because they know they are going on an adventure they have never been on, exploring a new community, learning more about what life has to offer.  They don’t take for granted what for most of us are everyday experiences.

When did you realize that you made a difference?

It’s in the little moments that you realize you are making a difference in these children’s lives. It’s when they give you a hug and hold you tight and won’t let go.  It’s when you see them quietly working on their homework, striving to be their best.  It’s when a student says, “Thanks Ms. G- I want to be a good person when I grow up and stay out of trouble, just like you.”  When a teacher, principal or parent let’s me know the student’s math or reading scores are improving because of Urban Compass.  It’s when I get home at night and reflect on the day, thinking about the smiles I saw, the laughter I heard, and the hugs I received; and the tears I cry are coming from a place of compassion, knowing that we have provided a place for these children to create positive childhood memories that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

If you could get everyone to do one small act of kindness, what would it be?

I don’t know if this is an act of kindness but a small thing we all can do is to validate each other more.  Whether you are 8, 28, or 48 years old, you still want to hear that you are doing the right thing, that you are a good person, and that you are making good decisions in life. I see it all the time with the students I work with:  they want approval, they want recognition, and they want to know that they are ok.  I am constantly looking each one of them in the eyes and saying “I’m proud of you!”  Those words are so powerful, so meaningful.  The students respond with a smile and you can see new confidence in their eyes.  We don’t tell our friends, partners, spouses, children, parents, students, and co-workers often enough that we are proud of them.

What is your motto?

“The best thing you can do is help those who want to be helped.”

Copyright © 2011 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.

Urban Compass

With over 1.8 million non-profits in the United States alone, I thought where do you begin? For me Urban Compass is a place close to my heart and a place that gives children a beginning, a hope and pays everything forward.

Located in Watts, an economically depressed area known for its high drop out rates, poverty, crime and gang violence…which triples in the hours following school. The local elementary and middle schools are recruiting grounds for new gang members with some children joining as early as eight years old.

Urban Compass was formed in partnership with Verbum Dei High School and 112th Street Elementary School to combat poverty and violence and make a difference in the lives of children in Watts. This incredible after school program captures children at a very volatile age and offers an alternative model for them: an environment that challenges them to dream of a rewarding future where they can accomplish anything and escape poverty.

Urban Compass is featured in Daughtry’s video “What About Now” (at aprox 2min) you will see that Urban Compass is the path to now.

Copyright © 2011 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.