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The Wait is Almost Over

They say good things are worth waiting for. We promise that this will be worth the wait.  Season 5 of The Charity Matters Podcast will launch next week on February 1st.  Like everyone, we needed to take a little break to celebrate the holidays. A moment to catch our breath, to regroup and to work to bring a great new line up of guests for Season 5.

We are experimenting a little bit this season with how often we post and how many episodes to bring to each month. It is hard to believe that we already have over 50 podcast episodes! As I mentioned earlier this month, we are trying our hands at being podcast guests more regularly and not always host. So we promise to share those conversations with you too. Our mission is to spread the word of service and bringing that message to larger groups is part of the job. You might be hearing more of those conversations this season.

Bringing you amazing guests who inspire you, fill you with hope and renew your faith in humanity is our goal. We are always so excited when our guest end up getting national attention after we interview them . A little shoutout to our friend, Maggie Kane from A Place at the Table. Maggie was just on the Kelly Clarkson Show last week. Way to go Maggie!  If you haven’t read her post or listened to our conversation you can below.  Maggie is so much fun and her work is so inspiring.

Speaking of amazing guest, our Season 5 launch will not disappoint. Next week get excited to meet Susan Axlerod of Cure Epilepsy.  Susan will inspire you with her remarkable story of working to find a cure to help her daughter. It is a story you don’t want to miss and the perfect way to start your year and ours.  Susan set out to achieve a goal 25 years ago. Each year Susan and her community  paved the way raising ninety million dollars towards epilepsy research. Her work and story should inspire anyone with a goal that feels too big.

So join us next week. Take a listen to our conversation with Maggie Kane, if you haven’t yet. Get excited to meet the most amazing people this season.  We can’t wait to keep spreading that message of goodness and hope.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

Copyright © 2023 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.

I have a dream or two

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

On Monday, we celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service. It was a rainy day here in LA so not one that I spent volunteering, in full disclosure. Instead I spent the day thinking about dreams, vision, goals and service. All of these things are constants in my life but as the New Year starts how can I create a vision for myself and my work that continues to serve others?

These are some of the questions I have been asking myself since the New Year. I do feel incredibly grateful that I have a regular outlet to serve with Charity Matters and with my day job running a youth leadership organization.  At TACSC we talk all year to our students about being a servant leader. We teach our students that they can not lead unless they serve. When we ask these middle school students to give us examples of true servant leaders, Martin Luther King is always at the top of their list. We teach that we are never too old or too young to serve, there is always someone in need of a little help.

Most importantly, we teach our students that before they begin anything they must have a goal, vision or a dream. It sounds so simple when we are teaching this and yet, the reality is that these take time. I dream of being a messenger of service but how do I break that dream down into manageable realistic goals? How do these goals and dreams work within my life?

I think when most of us think about service, we wonder where will we find the time? Many of us think charity and we think that people are coming for our wallets. There is nothing wrong with these thoughts but how can we all shift our perspective? When I ask myself, “What things make me feel great?” The answers usually include service, helping others, being with my friends. This year, I am going to try and organize a way for my friends to join me for some sort of service. I’m not sure what that is just yet, but I promise to report back.

At 56, I’m past the halfway point of my time on this planet. There is still so much I want to accomplish with the time I have remaining. I believe the greatest gift we can give the world is a life well lived. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s time on this earth was not long but the life he lived left a legacy of love and compassion. As I work on my dreams, I am thinking of his and asking myself, ” What are you doing in service for others?”

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

Copyright © 2023 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.

Chasing the Insights

If the past twelve days are any indication of what 2023 is going to be like then I think its time to buckle up! Our 2022 ended on New Year’s Eve with our TCU Horned Frogs beating Michigan at the Fiesta Bowl. It was an unexpected win and crazy game that brought our small school from Fort Worth onto a National Stage. The game and experience brought so much more than football.

Our New Year began with a crew of our youngest son’s fellow TCU students as house guests. Each counting the days until the National championship game, that was earlier this week. The odds of TCU even getting to this place were 250 to one. So to say that the journey has been a crazy one would be an understatement. It had all of the making of a Hollywood movie with small town boy as quarterback at small Texas school making it to the National Championship. Except perhaps the ending. It wasn’t the big Hollywood finish but the opposite.

Life isn’t Hollywood. Nor is life about a singular destination, it is about the insights and lessons learned along the way. Life is about the journey and not the destination. The journey in these past two weeks has been a brilliant reminder that we are all here to learn and enjoy the ride. We are here to chase the insights and gather lessons from each experience in order to grow and evolve as the best versions of ourselves.

You may remember that last week I wrote about New Year’s goals, about being open to receiving, asking for help and promoting the message of goodness that is Charity Matters. Well, ask and you shall receive. My plea to the universe was answered from across the globe. An extremely popular podcaster, Vince Warnock invited me to be a guest on his show, Chasing the Insights. Vince has a huge international audience and it’s pretty obvious why.

He is bursting with positive energy, kindness and goodness on his quest to help entrepreneurs launch their business. We talked about ways to bring good and philanthropy into everything you do. His message is that we are all here to learn from each other and help one another.  Our conversation, which you can listen to below, was a terrific reminder of just that.

So as we wrap up the second week of 2023, I hear the universe speaking loud and clearly. Life  isn’t about the destination but the journey. TCU had an incredible journey and took all of us on it. We didn’t win but we met so many incredible people along the way and learned so much. Thank you Vince Warnock for reminding us that this is what matters. Chase the insights and leave a path of kindness along the way.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

Copyright © 2023 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.

New Year, New Dreams and Goals

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when we catch our breath and begin to really think about what we want in 2023. I’m guessing that you have been pondering this, consciously or subconsciously, for the past week or so. I know I have. Honestly, just getting through the holidays feels like a victory. For some of us we are too tired to think about what we are eating for lunch let alone what we want for the year ahead. If there is one thing I have learned over the years is that those list and intentions become real and it all starts with the dream.

My sons call me Dharma, like the old TV show Dharma and Greg. You know the one, where the kooky Dharma is all about manifesting and the universe. I have to admit that I do have a solid Dharma side to me. The reason isn’t just faith, although that is a part of it. The main reason is that I set goals and that I can begin to see myself making that happen. Some people think this is odd, some call it manifesting, I like to make plans and make them happen. Call it what you want.

Here is a small example, last year one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2022 was to learn to play pickle ball. I talked about it all year and even was sad that most of my friends had already formed groups. Yet, all year I didn’t do anything about it. Nothing. For Christmas my husband gave me a racquet and a membership to a pickle ball place. I played with my son the day after Christmas and am still smiling. Definitely cutting that 2022 New Year’s resolution a little close but I made it just under the wire. It took a nudge to pull the trigger and now that I am setting 2023’s goals, becoming better at pickle ball is definitely on there.

While pickle ball is one tiny example of moving something forward in my life, it gives me such joy and a sense of accomplishment. Those are the feelings that I want to bring into the New Year, joy and accomplishment. So this year, I am taking a little extra time with the 2023 goals. I am breaking them down again this year into categories. Goals for health, relationships, career, our home and travel. Will I achieve them all? Absolutely not. Looking at my 2022 goals, Christmas in Bali so didn’t happen. Not even close. Will it get pushed ahead to 2023, absolutely!

The goals for Charity Matters are also something I am really thinking about. Charity Matters, each of you and the people we  interview fill me with joy, always! What is challenging is the expectation I place on myself and our team to create content each week. More often than not, amazing nonprofit founders cross my path and it is an organic process, which I love. There’s the Dharma again:) Tracking people down, scheduling interviews, and all the time that goes into each episode is a huge commitment. Finding the right balance of posting/creating every other week or every week is challenging. I look to each of you for guidance so please let me know your thoughts?

This year I am really thinking hard on the best way to be messenger for good. We spend so much time creating but we don’t do any PR or self promotion. Trying to find a smart and authentic balance to that this year is definitely one of our goals at Charity Matters. Finding a path for good news and good stories is challenging in the negative news that our media seems to like to churn out. If any of you have suggestions, I am open to any and all ideas. Or if you have any media connections, let me know. This is not my area of expertise so I can use all the help I can get. Another 2022 resolution, ask for help more often. People are always happy to help, we just have to ask.

Thank you all for helping by being beacons of light and believing in goodness. you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Each of you sharing these posts, subscribing to our podcast, and sharing our work on social media validates Charity Matters mission of connecting people and causes. So thank you for cheering us on and joining in this quest to be a messenger of goodness. I am running into 2023 with my heart wide open and full of optimism, ready to serve and receive.  Wishing you a magical year ahead filled with love, joy, abundance, fun and much goodness. I know your going to achieve all of this and more with your goals!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

Copyright © 2023 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 Heroes of 2022

As we say goodbye to 2022 and look ahead to the New Year, it seems like a good time to recognize some of the extraordinary heroes from this past year. Each one of these people has dedicated their lives to helping others and to service. They have committed to a purpose driven life. Many of us are using this week to think about what we want for ourselves next year, well these folks are a good place to start for some inspiration. So if you missed an episode or two or if you are new to Charity Matters this might be the perfect thing to listen to as you put Christmas decorations away and prepare for the year ahead.

Disclaimer: Everyone I interview is miraculous and inspirational but these were some of our extra special conversations this year…enjoy!

Miracle Messages

I have had some pretty amazing conversations in the past ten years. Conversations that really make me think and look at the world around me in a totally different way. The conversation I had a few months back with Kevin Adler, the founder of Miracle Messages was game-changing for me. It’s my hope that it is for you as well. I will never look at the homeless the same after this eye-opening exchange.

Kevin shares the story of his uncle who lived on the streets and how his uncle’s death inspired the creation of Miracle Messages. A nonprofit that not only reconnects the homeless to their loved ones but also provides a social connection through a phone buddy system and provides cash for rent once the unhoused person is ready.

Roots For Boots

Roots for Boots is a nonprofit that serves those who serve, our veterans. Christy Lucus, founder of Roots for Boots is an inspiration and was beyond fun to talk too.  Christy’s journey from a school principal to a nonprofit founder will amaze and inspire you. You will see why her official title is Chief Enthusiasm Officer!

If you love Veterans, teachers, and all who serve then this hero episode is for you. Christy reminds each of us that we all have something to give, even if it is a positive attitude and a smile.

A Place At the Table

When you think about hunger and homelessness the first thing that pops into your mind is rarely a restaurant. Instead you probably visualize tents, soup kitchens and a host of  images. Maggie Kane has created an amazing community and a wonderfully unexpected solution for homelessness. Her nonprofit, A Place at the Table, provides community and good food regardless of means. Her delicious Raleigh, North Carolina cafe is a cozy, warm, friendly cafe with great food and everyone is welcome.

Like Maggie this is a fun, high energy and inspirational conversation about food, community, hunger and the unhoused. Maggie’s warmth, passion for making a difference and southern hospitality will make your day! So join us for A Place at the Table.

Free Wheelchair Mission

Did you know that there are 75 million people on this planet in need of a wheelchair? Can you imagine being disabled  and not having access to get around? That is only one of the amazing insights I learned from Don Schoendorfer. Don is the founder of Free Wheelchair Mission. His story is incredible, as is his work in providing over one million wheelchairs to people in need.

Learn how a MIT Biomedical engineer changed his life and millions of others. You won’t want to miss this amazing conversation. Don Schoendorfer is a truly special human who is an inspiration for all with his journey of service.

Drink Local Drink Tap

One of the questions I always love asking our guest is did you grow up helping others? It is always fascinating to see where and when the seed of compassion took root in all the incredible people who do nonprofit work.  Erin Huber has an incredible life experience of serving others that started at age 12. She founded her first nonprofit at 16 and continues to this day with her award winning nonprofit, Drink Local Drink Tap.

Join us for an inspirational conversation about what one person can really do to change the world. Erin Huber has been changing it for decades. Her work ethic, passion for helping others and amazing life journey is an inspiration for us all.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting so many heroes this past year and re-visiting these special few today. As you look ahead to 2023 and ask yourself what kind of life do you want?  What will your legacy on this plant be? These five people and everyone we interview at Charity Matters are outstanding examples of kindness, compassion, empathy, love and service. At the end of the day isn’t that really the legacy we all want to leave?

Wishing everyone peace and joy in the New Year! Happy New Year!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 If you enjoyed today’s episode, please 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 © 2022 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.

Merry Merry 2022

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas. “

Peg Bracken

As we round the home stretch until Christmas, I wanted to take a moment to pause. A deep breath of stillness amongst the noise. My gift to you is one I hope you can give to yourself right now. Stop and think of all of those you love. See their faces, hear their voices and feel your heart swell with joy. That is Christmas. The love we have for one another and the way we share that love.

As we try to get all of those last minute details wrapped up, remember what matters. Those you love and the time spent with them . Treasure that because it is all that matters.

Wishing you all of the love and joy the season brings.

Merry Merry Christmas everyone…

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2022 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.

 We would love to hear from you and stay connected:
  • www.Charity-Matters.com
  • On IG @Charitymatters 
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidijohnsonoffical and @Charitymatters so we can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get new episodes 

Be my guest, be my guest, put your service to the test

It is always nice when the tables are turned and rather than ask the questions we get to answer them. So when I received an outreach from across the pond, from Global Comment, I was excited to chat about Charity Matters.  It was fun to sit in the passenger seat for a change. Today, I thought rather than ask the questions I would share some of our answers.

Who is your ideal listener? Who loves your show?

Heidi Johnson: Our ideal listener is someone who is tired of negative noise and looking to hear about all the amazing good happening everyday in our world. It is a person who cares about making their community / our world better and is inspired by those who do just that, everyday.

If you love stories where the good guy is the hero then you will love and be inspired by Charity Matters.

What made you start this podcast?

Heidi Johnson: After starting a nonprofit almost twenty years ago, I became fascinated by who does this work? It is always hard to start any business, let alone a business that relies on the kindness of others to survive.

About twelve years I began interviewing non-profit founders for my blog, also called Charity Matters, to share these modern-day heroes with the world. I realized that we were having these incredible conversations and our thousands of blog subscribers didn’t get to hear them, only read them…which just isn’t the same.

I wanted them to know these unbelievable humans better by hearing their stories first hand. We decided to create the podcast and as a result, have garnered an entire new audience, which has been fantastic!

What have you learned about your subject thanks to this podcast?

Heidi Johnson: Every week I am inspired by the human spirit’s resilience. Each guest has undergone incredible loss or adversity. Rather than be angry, they decide to use their situation as fuel for good. They want to be a part of a solution to whatever happened to them or their loved one.

Each founder’s tenacity and passion is simply the best of humanity.

What has your experience of podcasting been? What do you love / hate about the process?

Heidi Johnson: My experience in podcasting has been overall great. I love being able to share these conversations and podcasting has been such a great platform to do that.

To be honest, technology and equipment is never something that I enjoy. It is the people that make podcasting magical for me, our incredible guests and our amazing listeners.

If someone wants to start listening to your podcast, which episode would you recommend they start with? Why?

Heidi Johnson: Hmm. I should say the first episode because that really explains my why and personal story to service. I shouldn’t – and don’t – have favorites. However, I will say Episode 36 with Miracle Messages was a really inspirational and eye-opening conversation about the homeless.

Anytime someone makes me look at a problem in a different light and solves a problem in a unique way as Kevin Adler is doing, reuniting the homeless with their families. it is pure sunshine.

Which other podcasts do you love listening to?

Heidi Johnson: I really enjoy NPR’s How I built that because, like Charity Matters, it tells the struggles of entrepreneurs building incredible organizations. The only difference is that Charity Matters tells the stories of entrepreneurs who want to solve humanities biggest challenges rather than make a profit.

I have to confess love a good Super Soul Sunday, who doesn’t love Oprah?

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2022 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.

 We would love to hear from you and stay connected:
  • www.Charity-Matters.com
  • On IG @Charitymatters 
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidijohnsonoffical and @Charitymatters so we can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get new episodes 

Raising Philanthropic Children

Raising philanthropic children 2014

I am always so amazed that is the same time each year that I find people asking for suggestions on raising philanthropic children. Once again, it’s worth sharing.

While my sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they certainly do a lot to help others. I am proud that each of our sons has found different ways to give back and share the gifts that they have been given. Now in their twenties their giving is changing yet again. Time is now a rare gift so the older two are giving funds while our youngest is still involved in volunteering for his favorite cause.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what our family will do this season to help others. We have adopted soldiers for a year, adopted families over the holidays that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Childrens Hospitals and voted on which non-profits we want to support. Each person trying to convince the others why their cause is most worthy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to this question and that raising charitable children is an ongoing process. A study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University said, “the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

Six Tips for Raising charitable children:

  1. Start early, as early as 4 or 5 years old. Giving becomes a habit.
  2. Talk to your children about what causes interest them and bring causes to their attention.
  3. Be intentional by involving your children in your own charity endeavors.
  4. Use online tools to research organizations to involve your children
  5. Be consistent. Make charity a part of your traditions, the holidays and birthdays.
  6. Emphasize the joy because giving feels great.

Benefits of raising charitable children:

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

While this topic is relevant for the holidays, it is important to remember that giving does not just happen once a year. Teaching the gifts you receive from giving should become a way of life not seasonal. Once your children feel how great it is to give, their lives will forever be altered in wonderful ways.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2022 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.

 

#GivingTuesday

giving-tuesday-2016

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, a successful Black Friday and enjoyed your cyber Monday. Now it’s time to get ready for the most important day of all, #GivingTuesday. What is #GivingTuesday? It is a movement that began in 2012 to celebrate and support giving and philanthropy.

More than that, #GivingTuesday has become a global movement that unites over 70 countries around the world by sharing our human capacity to care for and empower one another. Today more than ever we need to be doing a little bit more of that…

What is even more fantastic is the volunteering efforts that go along with the day.  If you are not sure where to start visit the #GivingTuesday link  to find a list of local volunteer opportunities. Last year over 700,000 people volunteered for clothing drives, tutoring projects and a wide range of activities aimed at helping local non-profits. Almost 40,000 charities, corporate and civic partners registered to officially be a part of Giving Tuesday.

Sheila Herring from the Case Foundation was quoted as saying,”The biggest thing for us is that Giving Tuesday directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where you have analysts lining up to look at the numbers as a gauge of the health of our economy. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity?”

What if? Our world would be a better place. Today it is because what started as an idea raised over 2.7 billion dollars in the United States alone last year for charities. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen. I can’t wait to hear what you are doing for #GivingTuesday.

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2022 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.

Be thankful

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

GK Chesterton

Today is Thanksgiving and a national day of gratitude but why is being grateful something that only happens once a year? There has been a slew of scientific research and studies on the topic of gratitude and happiness. One that I read recently called, Eight Ways Gratitude Boost Happiness by Lyubomirsky which stated that there is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings about happiness for the one giving thanks. The more thankful someone is the less room there is for negative thoughts. Really who has time for negatively?  With that, I wanted to share a little poem I came across about being thankful and my Thanksgiving wish for you is that you find gratitude and joy today and every day.

 

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something,
for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,
because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for health, family, friends and all of you. This community who believes in goodness and the power we all have to make our world better each moment. Wishing all of you a most joyous Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2022 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 51: Free Wheelchair Mission

Did you know that there are 75 million people on this planet in need of a wheelchair? Can you imagine being disabled  and not having access to get around? That is only one of the amazing insights I learned from today’s guest, Don Schoendorfer. Don is the founder of Free Wheelchair Mission. His story is incredible, as is his work in providing over one million wheelchairs to people in need.

Join us today to learn how a MIT Biomedical engineer changed his life and millions of others. You won’t want to miss this amazing conversation. Don Schoendorfer is a truly special human who is an inspiration for all with his journey of service.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Free WheelChair Mission does?

Don Schoendorfer: We’ve designed and learned how to manufacture an inexpensive, durable functional wheelchair that we provide for free to people in developing countries who need a wheelchair. World Health Organization’s estimates that there are 75 million people in need of a wheelchair around the world.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Free Wheelchair Mission?

Don Schoendorfer: My father worked in a railroad for 49 years as a machinist. One of my older brothers was a chemical engineer and the other one’s a civil engineer.  I just knew from the way we operated at home, always taking things apart and putting them back together, that I would be an engineer. I always knew I was going to do something to help people.

About twenty years ago, we went on a vacation to Morocco.  The first day we were in a very old part of the city, Toronto, probably built during the Crusades. There were dirt roads, buildings close to each other just wide enough for a wagon and donkey to get by. Between the legs of people commuting back and forth on foot, we saw a woman drag herself across the dirt road. She was using her fingernails for traction. And she’s looking at her hands. She’s not looking at anything else but her hands and she’s very careful about how she places them. Her feet were just dragging behind her. Like, they’re just connected to her and they’re not functioning in any way.  She was  bleeding, very filthy and her clothes are torn.

 It was our first trip in a developing country and we were shocked. Shocked at her appearance, but also shocked at the fact that people were just basically just stepping over her. Like she was some kind of garbage and not helping her. We went home and got on with our lives. That’s what I did for 20 more years. Every now and then something would remind me or in the middle of the night. I  would wake up and I’d be thinking about that woman and the struggle she had just to keep alive. 

Charity Matters: What Happened 20 years after you saw that woman?

Don Schoendorfer: A call from God in the middle of the night, in 2001.  He said, “I need to talk to you”  What about? He said, ” Why are you wasting your time? “And I said, “What do you mean?” God said,”Why don’t you use the gifts I gave you to do something for the Kingdom?”   I don’t want anybody to misinterpret, I do not have that kind of relationship with communicating with God. But if I summed up what was going through this was really what I came up with, “Hey, I’m an engineer, I’m an inventor, I can do this stuff.”

I thought, where do I focus my energy?  All of a sudden, there’s this woman crawling across the dirt road. What’s the need, what does she need? I go to Toys R Us and I get some bicycles.  Then I go to Home Depot and I get some white resin lawn chairs.  Then I spend five or six months trying to figure out how to effectively connect them together. And, it’s a white resin lawn chair with mountain bike tires. It doesn’t, it doesn’t look like a wheelchair. But I’m thinking that woman probably would have loved to have something like this. 

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

Don Schoendorfer: When I saw this family change.  Can you imagine if you were carrying your 11 year old son with cerebral palsy?  Can you imagine that this boy’s parents had carried him every day of his life. His parents can’t work, and therefore they can’t make enough money to live on.

When they got their son a wheelchair it changed their life. The parents could work and  take their son with them. They could move him to the shade of the rice paddies where they worked. Now, they could both work and they can make enough money to advance a little bit in their economy. Even better they now have the freedom.

Of course, they didn’t know what was going to happen after we put their son in the chair. They probably thought we’re going to take take some pictures and then take it away from him. Instead, we drove away at the end and left that chair to them. We didn’t come back and take the chair. 

These people are already happy. When you give them a wheelchair, it’s so profound. You can just see how hard it is for men to express their gratitude, some are just choked up and they can’t get the words out. They’re just crying and smiling at the same time. The whole family  doesn’t have to carry anyone anymore. He can go by himself. 

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had and what your impact has been? 

Don Schoendorfer: Over these last 22 years, we’ve given out over 1.3 million wheelchairs in 94 different countries, developing countries. We don’t give them away in developed countries because there’s usually options for a wheelchair. In the developing world, there’s no option.  If we don’t give him a wheelchair, they’re going to live their life without one. We’ve got partners who actually give the wheelchairs away for us.

So we work through these distribution partners, and we ship them to the closest ocean port, and then they take it from there. At first I was focusing on just the individual, the woman crawling across the road in Morocco, right? And I didn’t see her family, but she probably has one because there’s no way she could keep alive without having a family. After you’ve given away a few wheelchairs you see how it impacts the family because they are the wheelchair.


Photo credit: Ralph Alswang

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Don Schoendorfer:  The people I associate with changed. I’m more associated with people that are in this field of humanitarian efforts.  Most of my best friends are in developing countries and I rarely get the chance to see them.  I always think about them. These are the people that totally live on faith. They don’t know where the next meal is gonna come from. Yet, if they met somebody who needed a shirt, they would take their shirt off and give it to him. And that’s the way they live.

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

Don Schoendorfer: There’s so many other things we can do. Think about what you’re good at. Maybe you get the call from God. Or maybe you don’t. Ask yourself,  what am I really good at? And is that what I’m doing to help people? Am I using those tools to help people?  

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Time to build some bridges

As I write this the Sunday before the election, I have no clue what Wednesday, November 9th will look like…the day you will be reading this. If I had a crystal ball I don’t think I would even want to look. What I see from my Sunday view is a country that has been pulled apart like a tug of war. Honestly, it breaks my heart. Our friends, families, schools districts, small towns, communities and our country has never been so torn apart. Our bridges are down. Those roads that connect us. I know that today, of all days, the media and the noise will be loud. It will be coming at us from all sides. Regardless of the outcome, there will be a lot of emotions, fear, anger, confusion, to name a few.  The only thing we can control is our reaction.

There is nothing about Charity Matters that is political. Charity Matters is about people coming together to help one another. Not one person I have ever interviewed has asked me my political beliefs, nor I theirs. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. What does matter and is our human connection to one another. Our willingness to reach out and help.  Our ability to disregard political beliefs for the greater good of caring for each other. Something we all seem to lose sight of these days, myself included.

The pandemic did a lot to destroy connections and the election before that didn’t do our communities any favors either. We talk about our friends and families differently now because of their politics. Something that has never happened in my lifetime. We categorize people and listen less. Rather than coming together to discuss where we are similar, we write people off because they believe differently.

If bell curves are a real thing, and I believe they are, then we are all actually in the middle together. Somehow, the media has us all playing tug of war at the bottom of those bell curves with CNN on one side and FOX on the other. We should be working together not pulling ourselves apart, because we are more alike than different.

We are afraid. Yes, there is much to worry about gas prices, inflation, education, crime, safety, and the environment.  These are real and valid reasons. However, fear should not stop us from listening to one another.  Different ideas need to be valued, respected for their similarities and differences. Life would be oh so dull if we all thought the exact same way. Each conversation is an opportunity to learn how someone else feels and sees things. These conversations are how we begin to build a consensus and a common ground to move forward.

This country was built on helping our neighbors, it is who we are as Americans. My wish is for all of us to turn off the TV, phone a friend or a neighbor to say hello. Make a human connection. Remember, we all need to lean in little by little to get bridges built again. It starts with simply phoning a friend. We are stronger when we work with one another and not against.  It is the only way the state of things gets better when each of us becomes our best. It all starts with us.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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Episode 50: Mindful Littles

As parents we all want our children to be kind, empathetic and good humans. If you are reading this you are definitely someone with those goals. Recently, when a mutual friend introduced me to today’s guest, Tanuka Gordon I was intrigued by the name of her nonprofit, Mindful Littles. The conversation with Tanuka was even more intriguing.

Join us today for an inspirational journey of healing, service and making compassion a daily habit. One mindful habit can change your thoughts, your day, your life and the world.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Mindful Littles does?

Tanuka Gordon: . What we are focused on is making compassion, a habit. Our method of doing that is to focus in on service. That is not just service as you would think of from like a traditional community service standpoint, but to really think of this idea of mindful service experiences.

What I discovered very early on, was that we when we get to doing community service, oftentimes we’re doing good very quickly. There’s a huge opportunity to not just feel good in our bodies but by practicing things like mindfulness to really connect to the why behind our service work. And so we have a very high impact experiential framework that we use to bring these mindful service experiences to schools, to companies and community organizations.  We make service possible, accessible in ways that allow service to become a way of life. Hopefully something that sparks continued curiosity to give and to learn about the communities that we are helping through our programs.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Mindful Littles?

Tanuka Gordon: I’ve always wanted to volunteer. But really, it wasn’t until six years ago, with the start of this organization, that it became a full time gig and my purpose and in many ways. I was an applied mathematics major out of UCLA and wasn’t sure what I should do with applied mathematics. So I actually went into consulting at Andersen and then fell into a tech career doing product management for many years.  During that career path, what I did was really focus on customer experience. So to really think about how we design products and services, to create the most incredible customer experiences.

I loved the work. But I felt this itch literally this itch in my heart that I’m supposed to be doing something different. When I became a parent, it was then that I began to question how I was spending my time. If I was spending time, in a career where I felt like there was a gap and fulfillment I was, was like, well, I should really do a little bit more searching for myself?

About six years ago, my oldest was about five, I was looking for ways to engage her in volunteerism.  I made a commitment to myself that volunteerism wasn’t just going to be another to do. Rather, I wanted it to be a way of life. So I made a monthly commitment to go pack rice and beans at a local crisis center with my daughter. We would leave that experience and would feel disconnected from who we were helping.  I felt a little bit even board and volunteering doesn’t need to be exciting all the time. But having spent a career in customer experience,  I realized  we’re missing this massive opportunity to actually solve for family engagement. And that really started it all.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Tanuka Gordon: In the early days, I suppose the biggest challenge was even knowing and trusting that this was going to become a business. Just knowing how to keep up with the great demand without understanding the business model.  I would say that that’s probably one of the biggest challenges that we that we encountered is just there were there was a big appetite for this work. And I was really starting to understand with each new step that this thing had legs and that this thing could grow. Fully coming into acceptance of what that meant, not only for our organization, but for me as a leader. 

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

Tanuka Gordon: It’s two things. Each each of these two things are kind of layered, I suppose. It’s the internal impact and the external impact. By internal impact, what I mean is, with the start of this nonprofit, I began a deep healing journey for myself. And over the last six years really had an opportunity to heal. A lot of the practices we teach in this program, mindfulness, self compassion, that are woven into the service experiences that are woven into our compassion training programs, are literally practices that helped me on my own healing journey. So I vehemently really believe in this work because I, myself have healed through feeling good and doing good.

The external impact comes in multiple layers. First and foremost, my children and my family. And it has been absolutely a messy process. People just assume because you have a mind, an organization,  Mindful Littles, that everything is constantly peaceful at every moment. The reality is you’re growing a business, laundry, kids, pick up all this. But to find the ways of compassion within the space of chaos, that is the art, right? That is what we’re after.

When I see my older daughter, wanting to write gratitude cards for parents of her friends, who are organizing birthday parties, because she wants to thank parents for doing that.  Or I see my younger daughter in the way that she cares,  I can see this right. The impact we’re having on community, it is one miracle after another.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had and what your impact has been? 

Tanuka Gordon:  For us, engagement is really important.  Specifically, focusing in on connectedness. The CDC has specifically said that connectedness is the number one protective factor for mental well being and youth mental well being. So if we can harness the power of mindful service experiences, to increase engagement, and increase connectedness, through these experiences, then we can have a real impact. Amplifying that impact is the research evidence on the benefits you can gain from engaging in service. 

The social impact we have had in schools that we’ve delivered programs to is another impact. In Butte County schools we have assembled 52,000 meals. We’ve gifted 10,000 pounds of produce through kids Farmers Market experiences that we’ve brought. Assembled thousands of hygiene kits and backpacks. The power of putting the experience with the service that is getting to the doing good. You’re connecting it to the why, and getting to your felt experience. And when we do that, the impact is tremendous.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for your organization, what would that be?

Tanuka Gordon: I believe that in 10 years, we will be able to be in every public school district in the country. If it is in the cards for us to even think global. It’s a massive, massive opportunity. It’s not just I believe that our strategy to scale, using both live facilitation as well as digital content is also will help us get there. So I’m very, very excited to hold this big vision. I absolutely believe that it’s possible.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Tanuka Gordon: Absolutely. My own practice  of mindfulness has helped me through the mud and the chaos.  I know with faith that it’s going to be okay.  Everything’s going to work out exactly as it’s meant to in a purposeful way.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Looking back: My Hope Chest

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

Author unknown

I couldn’t let October come to an end without discussing Breast Cancer. You may remember a few years back,  I interviewed an amazing nonprofit founder and breast cancer survivor, Alisa Savoretti. Since that interview, I have had four friends who have undergone mastectomies. Breast Cancer isn’t something that only happens in October it is something that happens every two minutes, every day. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer does not discriminate from the rich or the poor. To be honest I had never thought about what happens when you get breast cancer and have no insurance? I assumed that Medicaid and Medicare covered everything. Well, I was wrong.

Nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, had breast cancer, a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, a nonprofit that helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation that left me feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one. She has left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to re-share her story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Charity Matters

 

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