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Episode 13: Her Smile, a lesson in divine time

It is a rare human that touches our soul. When my path crosses with these angels on earth there is something indescribable that happens. My conversation with Dena Betti was exactly that, one that had me in tears more than a few times. Yes, if you have ever wanted to hear me cry, this episode is for you. More than that was Dena’s message of love and resilience after losing her 14-year-old daughter, Jenna, in a tragic accident.

Dena took that pain and turned it into a nonprofit called Her Smile that funds programs to empower and inspire young people to thrive despite adversity.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation…

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Her Smile does?

Dena Betti: Her Smile helps families who have experienced the loss of a dependent child or the loss of a parent with dependent children. We did that primarily for the first five years. Just last year, with the pandemic and the severe fires, we thought we want to do more than what we’re doing. So we broadened our brushstroke so we could also help families going through really difficult circumstances. So not only death, which is the ultimate loss, and to lose a child is beyond measure, so we now are helping those who are in the throes of really challenging circumstances. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Her Smile?

Dena Betti:  But what brought me to this work is, tomorrow will be seven years, when I got this horrific call from my husband. It was a Sunday and, and he was screaming on the phone, Jenna, it was Jenna.  Jenna is my oldest daughter, and she was 14 at the time. And you know, we let her go out on a walk in our neighborhood. they took the like the short what would be the shortcut home. And that was along the railroad tracks.

What we know now is when they sat down on the railroad tracks,  Jenna had put her phone down.  When a train approached they got up and were able to safely get away from the train. But Jenna went back to grab her phone and she was hit and killed from the back. Her phone survived but she didn’t. What we think is that she probably thought the width of the train was the width of the train tracks, which it’s not, the train is wider.  

A moment like that changes you in so many ways that change you. What I want to share is something that leads into why we started Her Smile. That is all the love and support that came from family, friends, strangers, people descended on our home.  I remember the moment so clearly and  I thought if I shut this door and I do not let these people in my home, they might not come back.  I learned one of life’s great lessons, which was when you let people in they will love you and hold you up.  They will give you all of the strength that you need to get through whatever it is.

I have three daughters and they all had the same third-grade teacher, Mrs. Travis. Something very magical happened that she did, she started a Memorial Fund for our family. She started that to help with the burial costs for Jenna and to feel like she could do something for our family. So that raised a lot of money and it helped us put Jenna to rest. We had money left over and I thought you know I don’t want to keep this money. This money needs to go back out to help other people and that is where Her Smile was born. It was born in that spirit.

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

Dena Betti: Gosh, so those moments come in little moments for me.  They come when people reach out to me, and ask how do I help my friend who just lost their son or their daughter?  Or what can I say to them? Those are moments that make me feel like I can be of service. Even though it’s much smaller than I originally wanted, it’s as impactful. Those are the moments so they’re not grandiose. They are very humble, but they mean everything to me

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

Dena Betti: When Jenna passed away, that was big about the control in my entire life. I’ve just learned that there’s so much fear built into that statement. We want to control because we want to feel safe and secure.  And then when you realize when something happens, like, what I experienced, or other hardships, maybe we don’t have as much control as we thought we did?

 My biggest life lesson is divine time. That’s been my biggest challenge is being able to see it in my mind. feeling like I want it now and having the grace and patience to wait. Having the faith. You know, I’ve asked myself many times, and I prayed to my higher power. And I said,” Is this really what I should be doing?” And the answer has so far come back. Yes. And to have the patience to let divine timing play out has been my biggest life lesson. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Dena Betti: I see life much deeper. Much deeper.  I’ve always been a much deeper thinker and tend to lean on wisdom a lot.  I didn’t really feel like I have anything to prove anymore. Like I feel like I’ve done the inside work. You know, I’ve definitely got to the top of the mountain when it comes to my internal resilience. So, for me, that’s how much I’ve changed or to the degree, I’ve changed is I’m at peace. And that, isn’t that the ultimate goal? Yeah, I think the ultimate goal is to know that you’ve done your best. You’ve carried that bucket You’ve worked your hardest. And you’re at peace with what you’re doing and what you’re putting out into the world and what you’re giving to everybody. 

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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The Heroes of 2020

If ever there was a year that turned our planet upside is has been this one. Last year we all began 2020 with such hope. A new decade and such expectation that was to come crashing down three short months later. Now we are all counting down the days until 2020 is behind us. As someone who tries to find the silver lining in everything when I look back at 2020 I smile thinking of the amazing humans we met this year. Each of these people gives selflessly to make our world better. I thought today we would look back at some of the remarkable conversations of 2020. And a few highlights.

The Kindness Campaign: Andra Liemandt

We began 2020 by talking to the founder of the Kindness Campaign to learn about their mission to serve the socio-emotional needs of children. This year their work was more important than ever. You can revisit the full conversation, here.

CHARITY MATTERS: WHAT WAS THE MOMENT YOU KNEW YOU NEEDED TO ACT AND START  THE KINDNESS CAMPAIGN?

Andra Liemandt: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens. Several years ago this touched my life in a very powerful and profound way when a dear friend of ours took her own life and she was just 12 years old and it was a direct result of bullying.  There was no path for me to start a nonprofit or any inkling that I would be sitting here five years later talking to you about this. That event changed my life forever and was the catalyst for an ongoing healing process with my daughters.

Homelessness:

There are so many incredible organizations trying to help the homeless. This year we met more than a few. These two women especially stand out for their incredible compassion and dedication to serving the homeless.  Heather Carmichael has been working with homeless youth for almost two decades at My Friends Place and  Caitlin Adler works to ensure that the homeless have proper clothing through her nonprofit Project Ropa.

 My Friends Place: Heather CArmichael

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Heather Carmichael: There are so many. The landscape around addressing homelessness is under such dynamic change. For years, no one spoke about homelessness and now we have an epidemic crisis. Communities are overwhelmed and LA is in such pain about this. How do we continue to engage communities in meaningful ways so that we maintain momentum towards a solution? 

I feel very grateful to be doing the work at My Friend’s Place, where our main priority is to resolve these young people’s homelessness while continuing to create meaningful opportunities to see the impact and to feel involved. How do we scale to that in a meaningful way? A multitude of things got us here and it will take a multitude of things to fix this. We need to create meaningful opportunities to get our community and supporters involved in understanding and being a part of the solution.

Project Ropa: Caitlin Adler

Caitlin Adler created Project Ropa in 2015 to address the challenges that homeless people face in obtaining and keeping clean clothes. Though homelessness is accompanied by many things, one of its greatest indignities comes from the absence of hygiene services.

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

Caitlin Adler:  Most homeless people literally have only the clothes on their backs. Access to clean clothing is essential to the overall well-being of a person and can be the key to opening doors to employment and housing. How you look affects how you feel about yourself and how others treat you. Now, because of the health threats posed by the coronavirus, the need to overcome those challenges has become ever greater.

Health:

Claire Marie Foundation: Marianne Banister

When former LA reporter Marianne Banister lost her 17-year-old daughter, Claire to melanoma. She and her husband went to work to get the word out about this cancer and created the Claire Marie Foundation.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what THE Claire Marie Foundation does?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: When this happened to our family, to our daughter, Claire, we were blindsided. And because even the medical profession did not realize kids could get melanoma at this age. It looked different than adult melanoma and it was more aggressive and more invasive. according to pediatricians. Melanoma is the number two, cancer in adolescence from 10 to 19 and the number one cancer in young adults from 20 to 29. This cancer is the number one cause of cancer death and young women 25 to 30. In young people, this disease is more aggressive and invasive than in older people.

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  Claire. There’s never anything that’s going to make it right that we lost her. There’s never any sense to it. But I truly believe this is her purpose. And if I don’t keep this foundation going and do the work that needs to be done, and I’m not fulfilling her purpose, and we would have lost her for no reason.

Brave Gowns: Summer Germann

Summer Germann is no stranger to hospitals, illness, tragedy, or adversity. What is remarkable about Summer is that she uses all of this adversity, including COVID, as fuel for good. She is a bright light who started a nonprofit Brave Gowns and when COVID hit she reached out to her team to begin manufacturing PPE (personal protective gear) in the form of masks for thousands of health care workers across the country. A modern-day hero.

Charity Matters: How did you decide to get into the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) for COVID?

Summer Germann:  Friday, March 13th  I called my designer and I knew we had to figure out a way to help. We had talked about making masks and families have asked us for years. I knew we could make them fun. I called my factory and told them what I wanted to do and they had already started a prototype three weeks before. I said you have to give me a product that I believe in and this isn’t about money. They sent over the prototype and I said, “Okay, I just launched.” By Monday we had 11,000 orders.

Scarlet C of COVID

I hate to end this year with this story but COVID was the defining story of 2020. This article was reprinted by a number of magazines and publications and had more views than any piece I wrote in 2020 so it was worth an honorable mention on the list.

 While I didn’t interview any specific health care workers but rather organizations that support them, it is worth mentioning that our front line workers were THE true superheroes of 2020.

There are so many remarkable humans on this planet and these are just a few. As 2020 comes to a close and we look to a New Year ahead I think there are so many qualities to emulate that each of these heroes possesses. Tony Robbins sums up these heroes perfectly when he said, “The people who are most alive, driven and fulfilled are those that seek to lead a life of contribution and service. To something greater than themselves.”  Thank you, Andra, Heather, Caitlin, Marianne, and Summer for showing us by example what true service and living a life of contribution looks like. At the end of the day isn’t that what we are all striving for?

Wishing all of you blessings for a most joyous and Happy New Year!

 

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.

Somethings happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…

 

I think we will all agree that this week has not started off as intended. While I had planned a fantastic story to inspire and lift you up, rather than share that now, I think it is so important to take a moment and recognize what we are all dealing with. We are living in a crazy time. Somedays it is truly hard to focus with all the pain and suffering in the world.

 

In the past month alone we have had multiple hurricanes with thousands left homeless, the earthquake in Mexico City, terrorism across the globe and now this horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. None of it makes any sense. It is simply impossible to wrap your head around what is happening around us. It is scary, so shocking that it doesn’t seem real, and the sadness is palpable.

 

We all feel it together and come together. We help brick by brick, and unite to support one another.

While I wish I had the answers, but sadly, I do not. However, rather than focusing on the chaos, the sadness and all that we can not control, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what we can control.  We can talk to one another about how we feel. We can give blood, smile at a stranger, be kinder, hug our children and tell those that we love how much they mean. We can live fully and without fear. More than that we can love with abundance. That is in our control.

When the world doesn’t make sense, I think of this quote from Leo Rosten, “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think that the purpose of life is to be useful, responsible, to be compassionate. It is above all to matter, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”  We can make our lives matter, the choice is ours….

This is dedicated to all those who lost their lives too early and to each of you who strive to live a life that matters.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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

 

Mothering

Mothers. We all have one or had one. Just the word warms our hearts and brings a flood of images and memories of our moms. For me when I think of my mom, I think of her huge smile , contagious laugh and the midwestern warmth she shared with every person she encountered. She was gracious and kind and her life was all about who was in it and who was in front of her. My mom was joyful.

I have been without her now for 15 Mother’s Days. It is just so crazy to think she was only 60 when her life ended so abruptly, a decade from where I am now. Yet, her legacy to me is the reminder of how precious life is, how you never know when your time will come and to live each day with joy and purpose.

She died as she lived, having fun with friends she loved and cherished. Even in the moments before her death, she was living fully with those she was with. It is this gift and reminder that I   hold dear, as I celebrate her and Mother’s Day.

Wishing each of you and your mother’s the gifts of joy, presence, and cherished moments with those you love this Sunday.

 

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.

A mother’s sendoff

 

“Mother is her son’s first god; she must teach him the most important lesson of all – how to love.”

    T. F. Hodge

IMG_4077

This is it. The boxes are packed and tomorrow we leave to send our second son off to college. Many have said these past few weeks, “you have another son or you have done this before, it won’t be that hard.” Well, I am here to say that if I had a hundred children or just three, each time one leaves a piece of my heart is ripped out.

Our second son, is an amazing young man and is ready to fly. He is kind, compassionate, strong, smart, funny, sensitive and determined. He is the kind of person that walks into a room and lights it up with his smile and confidence. This is simply who he is, and has always been.

We are so proud of him and yet saying goodbye is agonizing. My brain knows that he is heading to an amazing school and that he will thrive. My heart however, is breaking. I know that this is a journey thousands of mothers are going through and a right of passage into manhood. The passage from this mother’s view is blurred, as the tears pour down my cheeks and I watch part of my heart walk ahead towards his future.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 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 new way to smile

amazon-smile-hero

While most of us are getting ready for turkey, the stores, catalogs and malls are gearing up for some serious holiday shopping. If you want to avoid the crowds this holiday season, Amazon is giving us a new reason to smile, that reason is called Amazon Smile.

Amazon Smile gives shoppers the chance to donate 0.5% of their purchase to over one million charities of choice. So instead of shopping at regular old Amazon, go onto Amazon Smile, pick your favorite cause and shop away. Almost all of Amazon’s products are eligible with some exceptions. What is really incredible is that Amazon doesn’t have a limit on what they will give, so the more you shop…the more they donate!

While these donations won’t help your tax write off, they will help Amazon’s and more importantly, help people in need. What could possibly be better during the season of giving? So happy shopping and don’t forget to smile!

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2013 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 every day!  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 lets 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 at 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.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

beauty in eye of beholder

I have had friends tell me over the years that I often see things that they do not. Perhaps, my filters are adjusted a certain way. Sometimes, I wonder am I the only one who is watching this? We all live in a busy world and so often, we are too busy to see the beauty right in front of us.

Last week, I was in a huge hurry trying to make a grant deadline and rushing to Kinkos to pick up my order. Traffic prevented me from turning into the Kinkos driveway, so I was parked just waiting and watching and what I saw brought me to tears.

Standing almost in front of me was an elderly homeless women, with no shoes, white hair and her face was literally black with grime and dirt. She was not begging but simply standing there. Her physical condition took my breath away. As I waited in traffic wondering what to do, I saw an elderly gentleman in his mid-seventies hop out of his car, leaving it running in the parking lot and ever so kindly, sweetly and thoughtfully approach the woman. He bowed his head, in respect of greeting her, and handed her what appeared to be everything he had in his wallet.

Tears began pouring from my eyes, at the most beautiful sight of her surprise and her smile. I looked at the elderly man as the tears streamed down my face and he gave a small nod and quickly got into his running car and drove off. The honking horns jarred me into reality of what I had just witnessed. The respect, compassion, grace, dignity and the sheer beauty of the moment, was one I will never forget.

The stress of the day gone, replaced with hope, compassion and belief that the world is full of goodness. We just simply have to look for it.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2015 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.

Gotta Have Sole

photo via: makeadifferenceday.com
photo via: makeadifferenceday.com

I have the privilege of working with amazing high school students all the time. The story I am about to share with you really hit a chord with me. This summer at the leadership camp I organize, a young girl arrived with shoes that were literally falling apart. We could tell she was embarrassed by her shoes but the reality was she couldn’t run and play games with the sole flapping around. So we used a little shoe goo, some fun colorful duct tape and made her smile and love her overhauled shoes. We saw first hand how much she wanted to fit in and the power of a simple pair of shoes.

An amazing young man, named Nicholas Lowinger, had the same realization as a very young boy visiting a homeless shelter. Nicolas saw first hand children who missed school because they shared shoes with their siblings and it wasn’t their day to wear them, so they couldn’t go to school.  So Nicholas began donating shoes and clothing to the shelter but he knew these children needed new shoes that fit correctly.

A few years later, in 2010, when Nicholas had his Bar Mitzvah he used the opportunity to begin the Gotta Have Sole Foundation  to donate new footwear to homeless children. Nicholas said, “My goal is to reach as many children living in homeless shelters in the US as I can. It has always been my hope that the children will feel more confident about themselves because they have new shoes to call their own and that they will have the same opportunities afforded to them as their peers.”

Today, four years later Nicholas  has donated new footwear to over 10,000 children in homeless shelters in 35 states throughout the United States.  Rather than rest on his achievements Nicholas keeps expanding his program. He recently established SOLEdiers to assist disabled and needy veterans and their families, in honor of his WWII Veteran grandfather. This program provides veterans with gift cards to footwear stores so they can select the shoes they need, for their children.

Nicholas Lowinger is truly inspirational. While his peers are out running around in their new sneakers, he continues to expand his mission of providing new shoes to as many homeless children as possible. This inspiring young man elevates the meaning of Gotta Have Sole.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2014 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.

Happy 10th Anniversary Charity Matters!

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since I had a crazy idea to start blogging. So much has happened in the past decade, we have had three presidents. Ten years ago were dancing to Gangnam style, doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and waiting for the world to end from a Mayan calendar.  A decade is a really long time, so thank you for spending it with Charity Matters. We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone and to share it with you!

Today, we are excited to be celebrating our anniversary with the launch of Season Two of the Charity Matters Podcast. We are looking back at some of the incredible people we met along our journey who have taught us so much about life, kindness, compassion, community, connection, and ourselves. So join us as we look back and get excited for what is ahead.

The journey of Charity Matters is much like the journey of the Alchemist, my favorite book. ” We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” I set out on this path looking to find a tribe of like-minded people. Never did I expect to meet hundreds of everyday heroes who are changing our world and that so many would join this quest in search of goodness.

The Human Condition

The past decade has brought fascinating people into our path and taught us so much about the human condition. We have learned so much about humanity from these conversations. These explorations in suffering, loss, and brokenness have shown us the resilience of the human spirit. The stories and challenges faced from hunger to health to education and everything in between have opened our eyes.

The Helpers, the heroes

This journey has brought the most inspiring people, the helpers, and the heroes. People that through a series of events have experienced loss and have taken that pain to help others. Each one has had a calling or that light bulb moment when they knew they needed to serve and their lives are forever changed. They start a business, a nonprofit, and dedicate their lives to helping others. These nonprofit founders are the true heroes of our world.

Alexandra Dwek, Elena Davis, Lela Diaz and Jennifer Hillman

The Friends

People ask me all the time what are my favorite nonprofits. It is liking asking a parent who is their favorite child, there is no favorite because they all amazing. As a storyteller, there are stories and people that have stayed with me. I think of people who lost their children like the Pablove founder, JoAnn Thrakill, and what she has done for pediatric cancer. I think of Dena Betti, who we met last season, who lost her daughter and began #HerSmile. These women are truly remarkable inspirations of hope, courage, and purpose.

So many of the people I have met and interviewed have become dear and treasured friends. Alexandra Dwek, from Friends with Causes, who I interviewed more than six years ago is beautiful inside and out. Elena Davis of I Am Waters Foundation and her unending work for the homeless is my Gemini twin. Jennifer Hillman from LuxAnthrophy, who resells high-end fashion for nonprofits. Ann Louden brought pink and breast cancer awareness to sports across the country with her nonprofit Frogs for the Cure. All of these women are smart, strong, loving and on a mission to make this world better. I know that my life is better because of each of them.

The big and the Small

Nonprofits come in all sizes. They are no different than a business. We have interviewed small nonprofits that are similar to your tiny local hardware store and large nonprofit CEOs more similar to the Home Depots. Why we have loved our conversations with BCRF President, Myra Biblowit and Project Hope‘s CEO Rabin Tornay. Charity Matters has really become champions for the little guys, those without a voice and a huge heart.

I think of one of my very first interviews with the founders of Saving Tiny Hearts Foundation, Brian and Francie Paul. An unbelievable couple took their infant’s son’s heart condition and turned it into a powerhouse foundation in search of a cure. Francie’s heart is as big as they come. Then there was Alisa Savoretti, the founder of My Hope Chest. Alisa was a Vegas showgirl who was diagnosed with breast cancer and didn’t have insurance for reconstructive surgery. She sold her home and worked in a grocery store to fund her nonprofit to help other women like her. Alisa’s grit, passion, and tenacity is a gift I will always treasure.

The lessons we learned

The lessons we have learned from each one of these interviews is a book onto itself. We have learned the resilience of the human spirit from people like Alisa. Hal Hargrave, the founder of The Be Perfect Foundation took a tragic accident that left him paralyzed and parlayed that into an organization that is a beacon of hope for others facing the same challenges. Interview after interview reminds us of the strength we have to overcome when faced with adversity. More than that, these people take that pain and use it for the betterment of others.

We have learned our need for community and each other. Each nonprofit founder builds a community of connection and reminds us that we are all here to serve one another, not ourselves. These communities reinforce daily the belief that people are innately good. Charity isn’t about taking or handouts, it’s about love. Loving one another in whatever way you do that. Some show their love through time and volunteering, others through donations, either way, it is sharing that energy with another human.

Gratitude

The most important lesson learned is that of gratitude. I want to thank all of our subscribers of the blog and podcast for joining us on this ten-year journey. You have become friends, taught me so much, and created a community where we believe in goodness. Ultimately, Charity Matters has been a weekly reminder of what love is as we continue to help the helpers. Please know how incredibly grateful I am to each of you for being here each week for the past decade. The past ten years have been amazing because of Charity Matters and you. Thank you.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Week!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
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YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Be Our Guest

Some people love to be the host and others love to be guests. Being more than a bit type A, the role of the host is more of my comfort zone. Truth be told I would rather drive any day than be the passenger. However, when I was recently invited to be a guest on the iSoulify Podcast it seemed like an invitation I couldn’t refuse. So, guest, it was.

You may remember the Charity Matters conversation a few weeks back with nonprofit founder, Dena Betti. It was one of the most inspiring conversations I have ever had and if you missed it you can read it or listen to Episode 13: A lesson in Divine Time here.

Dena and her friend Colleen Gianatiempo have a podcast called iSoulify. It is a podcast where they bring inspiring women together for soulful conversations. We sat down a few weeks ago and talked about the journey of service and the process that leads each of us to serve in different ways. .Today I thought I would share that conversation with you. It turns out that being a guest is almost as fun as being a host. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!

Tap to Listen to the interview here

 

As always, thank you for listening, for looking for good, and for all you do to make our world better.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidimcniffjohnson and @Charitymatters so I can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts
  • Subscribe to new episodes each week!
Connect with us:

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2021 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.

 

Season One..thats a wrap!

Well, we did it! We set out to share these incredible stories of our favorite humans in a different format and sixteen podcast interviews later we have! I am always amazed when I set out to do something I have never done and somehow with a huge leap of faith and a lot of help, it happens. The journey was bumpy, that is for sure! When you look in the rearview mirror there is an incredible sense of accomplishment in seeing how far you have come. Honestly, the journey would not have been possible without all of you, the best traveling companions a girl could ask for.

Like all long journeys, this one began last July with more than a handful of cheerleaders nudging me towards the podcast.  Once the idea took root, it came time to figure out how to make it happen. There were more than a few learning curves along the way, almost all technology-related. Once those hurdles were overcome we were off to the races in January. Now that the first lap of the race is completed, it is time for rest.

Taking a moment to reflect on the lessons learned, the challenges, and the next steps. During this interim, we will still be sending out weekly emails and we will be working on Season Two which will debut in July.  Speaking of July, Charity Matters will be celebrating its official 10th birthday on July 17th. With that milestone comes our renewed commitment to introducing you to amazing humans each week who inspire each of us to give the best of ourselves, to one another and the world.

Thank you again for subscribing and telling your friends about the Charity Matters Podcast. We are so grateful for you continuing to support this work and journey.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

Connect with us:
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2021 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.

Episode 15: Infinite Strength

I have met so many people in a decade of interviewing nonprofit founders but a select few have left a real lasting impression and Roberta Lombardi of Infinite Strength is one of them. We hadn’t spoken in a few years and I wanted to touch base and see what she was up to, you may remember her remarkable story. As a breast cancer survivor, Roberta wondered about the women she sat with in treatment who didn’t have the same resources she did and was determined to change that.

Infinite Strength began to help underserved women with breast cancer with the financial costs associated with breast cancer. are astronomical. I recently had a chance to catch up with Roberta and talk about how Covid has impacted cancer, single moms, her challenges in trying to support all of the above with her incredible organization.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Infinite Strength does?

Roberta Lombardi: We exist mainly to help single mothers who are in active treatment for breast cancer by giving them grants for what we call basic human needs, mortgage, and rent, car, utility, and phone.  I think we’re one of the few nonprofits to do that recurring funding for women with metastatic breast cancer. These are early-stage breast cancer patients who come to us once in a calendar year.  A patient with metastatic breast cancer, who’s basically going to be in treatment for the rest of their life. Their average lifespan at that diagnosis is two to three years.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Infinite Strength?

Roberta Lombardi:  I was in the middle of treatment, and was getting more depressed from all the chemotherapy drugs and the steroids and the loss of hair. One day my husband walks into the kitchen and says, “Honey, we just got a bill for one of your chemos from insurance. But it’s $80,000!  Hon, how do people that don’t have money afford this?”  He throws the bill on the counter and it was like a lightning bolt for me.

All of a sudden, it really made sense to me.  How are these women ever going to be able to stop the cycle because it is a never-ending cycle? The woman we help, they’re already having trouble financially anyway.  How do you get off the roller coaster?

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

Roberta Lombardi: Every single time I have felt a little bit worn out that’s when somebody crosses my path. It reminds me that this is why I do this work.  And it’s the truth. It’s either it’s a patient who’s contacted me, and their story just touches me. It’s meeting their children and seeing what it does to the kids to have their mother ill.

 The women that we support with Infinite Strength, their whole life’s been a battle, they just don’t get a break.  Many of the women we help are black women and are underserved.  They don’t have the access to medical care and this disease hits them harder. Their death rate is higher than a woman that’s white. A lot of these women that I interact with, they’ve just not had a fair shot in life and a lot of things and they’ve struggled. Their kids are a part of this and that’s the heartbreaking part for me. I have to find a way to really make an impact and to give these kids hope that their mom’s going to be okay. Also to remind them that there’s kindness in the world that somebody cares.

Charity Matters: What has your impact been? 

Roberta Lombardi: For me, it’s the emotional impact of the peace of mind, we’re giving to these women. That’s how I measured it. The kind words that they write or when their child says something to me. That is when I know what I’m doing is very worthwhile. And that’s what spurs me on to keep going and to keep growing.

How has this journey changed you?

Roberta Lombardi: I think that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to be so judgmental. You don’t know what somebody else’s life is. They show you what they want to show you and you don’t know what they’re going through. Right? You just don’t. The more somebody is maybe aloof or maybe not as kind, maybe the more kind I am because they need it. I’ve realized in my work, just that little bit of kindness or a smile, or doing something extra makes a person’s day so much better. And you don’t know where they were at that moment.  It’s little things of trying to be understanding.  I think that’s one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidimcniffjohnson and @Charitymatters so I can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts
  • Subscribe to new episodes each week!
Connect with us:

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2021 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.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2021 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.