Do you remember that childhood toy that you treasured and cherished? A stuffed animal or doll that you carried everywhere, that made you feel safe and loved? I think most of us can conjure up an image of that one special toy we loved as a child and more importantly how it made us feel. So, a few weeks ago when a mutual friend told me about the work that Dollies Making A Difference was doing, I knew I needed to find out more about the inspiration behind this amazing and very special organization.

Earlier this week I had a fantastic call with Co-Founder, Cindy Simon, who told me the heart warming story of this amazing organization that simply believes that to give is to receive.

Charity Matters: When and how did you start Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: In 2010, I was back east and had just read an article about a group of women who had gotten together to sew some dolls for the children suffering from the earthquake in Haiti. These east coast women were inspired by Dianne Sawyer’s coverage of the earthquake and knew the moment  they saw Dianne Sawyer pull a doll from a pile of rubble and say, “Look some little girl has lost her dollie.” that they needed to act.

The article about these women inspired me to act. I called them up, went over to see what they were doing, learned their process and said I wanted to help. When I got back home to Los Angeles, I called some friends to ask them to help me make 500 dolls for the children of Haiti. My dear friend, and non-profit co-founder, Dorothy Miyake, was the first to help. She had a large group of friends that were crafty and we decided to meet every Wednesday in my dinning room to make these dolls.

Charity Matters: What was your goal when you started Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: The mission was simply to help the boys and girls in Haiti by providing homemade dolls and teddy bears but we quickly learned that what we were doing was not about a doll and was so much more. Our mission is that to give is to receive and we quickly learned that with the Three Cs:

Community, the group of women who sit around my dinning room table every Wednesday for over a decade sharing, caring for one another. We have gone thru  health issues, death, birth and life together. We are a community.

Connection, we don’t send our dolls and teddy bears through huge organizations. We find Ambassadors that can be people we know or small nonprofit or church organizations. We request that each of our handmade toys is delivered by hand from an Ambassador to a child and that the human connection is what makes the experience special for both the child and the person delivering the dolls.

Comfort, is what the child receives from having and holding their own doll or teddy bear.

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

Cindy Simon: We know we have made a difference when we make a child smile, when the person who delivers the doll is moved and this had made a difference for all of us making these dolls.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work 10 years later?

Cindy Simon: This work has given me a passion, a purpose, I feel worthy and relevant. It is fun to be connected to wide variety of people and organizations around the world. More than that it renews my faith that there are a lot of good people in our world who are helping people they will never know.

Charity Matters: Tell us about your success and impact?

Cindy Simon: What started out as a small project has turned into over 13,000 hand-made dolls and teddy bears being hand delivered to over 300 organizations around the globe. In addition, we have given over $107,000 away to other nonprofits in grants with the funds we raise. 

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

Cindy Simon: Everyday I am reminded of how many good people and organizations are out there in the world. I think I underestimated the power of community and what goes on with the connection and community we have in making the dolls, it is the sharing that just happens.

This journey has made me more compassionate to all the needs out there. I have learned that we can all be of help to others and especially to those who we will never meet.

charity Matters.


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