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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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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.

 

New episodes are released every other week!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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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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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 49: Free to Thrive

In our litigious society, attorneys are rarely the heroes, rather they are usually the villains. However, in this story, the attorney is the hero. Her name is Jamie Beck and she is an attorney whose career took an unexpected turn when she decided to do some pro-bono (free) work for a victim of human trafficking. What happened next is a remarkable journey of service and compassion.

Join us today for an inspirational conversation with Jamie Beck, the Founder of the nonprofit Free to Thrive. Jamie shares with us an insight into human tracking and remarkable work she and her team are doing to help so many.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Free to Thrive does?

Jamie Beck:  Free to Thrive helps human trafficking survivors with their legal needs. We also do policy advocacy, training and education. A big part of our training is to help educate the community about this issue through kind of more traditional trainings. We also produced two films to help the community learn about this issue.  I’m so often surprised about how steep the learning curve is with human trafficking. This is not an issue we talk about as a community and most people don’t even know the basics of human trafficking.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Human Trafficking is?

Jamie Beck:  Human trafficking is essentially  exploiting another person. Generally speaking, it’s exploiting them for sex or labor. It can be other things as well. Really, it’s just taking advantage of someone and using them as a source of free labor.  When we’re talking about retracting, it involves force, fraud, or coercion. When we’re talking about labor trafficking, or sex trafficking, it is any minor involved in the commercial sex. That’s human trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion. And an adult involved in any sort of commercial sex act requires force, fraud or coercion is human tracking.

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

Jamie Beck:  I was always very involved in the community growing up, helping out in ways big and small. And that’s something that I grew up with, that mentality of giving back.  I really thought I would do that as a lawyer and that’s a huge part of why I went to law school.

I went to law school wanting to be a public interest lawyer.  Like most law students, I had student debt but got a great opportunity law firm. I said, “I’ll work there for a couple of years, and pay down my student loans, and then I’ll figure out my path from there.” While I was there, the way that I filled my cup of this need to give back and to do some good in my community was through volunteer work and pro bono work at my law firm. That was actually the very beginning of what put me on this path. 

I was really involved in Lawyers Club of San Diego, and taking pro bono cases from local legal nonprofits. I first learned about human trafficking there and discovered there’s a huge need for lawyers to help survivors. And I was like, Okay, well, I’m a lawyer, I can help survivors. So, I took a pro bono case with a survivor who she had some criminal charges related to her trafficking. She came from a loving two parent home. She was very close with her middle class family, a very good student, and was just a normal teenager.  Then she fell in love with an older guy and it was actually him and his family that exploited her. 

There’s so much shame that happens, that she didn’t tell her family was going on. It just kept kind of pulling her further and further into this world. By the time she turned 18, he had complete control over her. She had been kidnapped at that point, and was  no longer able to talk to her family. After I got  to know her story, I helped her with these criminal charges. Essentially,  the ultimate outcome of her criminal case was was an expungement. As a result, we were able to erase her record, or so we thought.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Jamie Beck: One of our challenges is legislative advocacy. In the case above the law and expungement didn’t clear her record. The girl went on to college and she’s trying to get a job and she couldn’t get a job because of her background. They were were running it and her record still showed. We learned there are these laws called vacatur laws that California didn’t have.  So we we had this legislative roundtable where we pitch ideas to elected officials for new bills that will help survivors. Just two months later, in December, we pitched this a local state Senator who took up the bill. He said, “We’re going to pass a vacatures laws.” They did.

Shortly after, a request for proposal or a contract with the County of San Diego for somebody to provide free legal services to trafficking survivors presented itself. This really happened because there was a huge unmet need. Nobody was doing this work in San Diego.  I definitely can’t take all the cases of all the survivors that need this help. We now have this new law. So we have all these survivors who not only need it now, but survivors for years who’ve needed this help, but never get it. So a  huge backlog of cases. At this point, I’ve been involved in anti trafficking work for two or three years and this is now my passion.

 I applied for this funding. I had a name of a nonprofit, I filed articles of incorporation. I’ve created this nonprofit but I don’t have a board, I  just have a name. I had a vision and I understood what the services that we’d offer and how we deliver them. We just didn’t have the funding to do it or the organizational structure to do it.

There was not enough time in the day, I was doing this by myself. We had no staff, we had some pro bono lawyers, and I had some volunteers, but it was just me. So I’m trying to do this by myself and try to get it started with enough very little funding. It was like drinking from a firehose. I think one of the hardest things about being a nonprofit is that there the need for your services. If you are doing something that is having an impact on the community, the need for your services almost always will outpace your capacity to fill it. 

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

Jamie Beck: What fuels me is truly our clients. I mean, they are so incredible. When I think about both their stories and what they’ve overcome pales in comparison to what I’ve experienced. So like on any hard day,  I think about my clients and their strength and their resilience.  I also think about the wins.  We spend a lot of time at Free to Thrive, we have a lot of hard days, and we talk a lot about the wins because they’re so powerful. When we think about what does it mean to have this client’s record completely cleared?  Or what does it mean for her to have a restraining order custody of her child?  These are things that you just can’t quantify the impact on that person’s life, on their children’s life and  on breaking generational cycles. It’s just it’s incredibly powerful.

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

Jamie Beck: So we we’ve been a nonprofit for six years serving clients for five years. You know, the first couple years are our numbers were so small because we’re  trying to get up and running and learning how to do the work. We’re about to hit a huge milestone and just completed our 500th legal matter.

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

Jamie Beck: I have lots of dreams for Free to Thrive both big and small,  short and long term. So the kind of big visionary dream is to be a global organization. To work on this issue, not just locally or regionally but on a on a global level because human trafficking is a global issue. I would love Free to Thrive to be to have a global footprint, and help survivors everywhere.  You know, there’s such a huge unmet need for services for survivors 

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

Jamie Beck:  I’m learning my own strengths and weaknesses and growing as a leader.  It’s one thing to run an organization and it’s another thing to have a staff of people, to be able to have a vision, lead them forward and support them.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Jamie Beck: I’m just constantly learning and growing and finding  how to how to be better and do better.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  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.

Effective Altruism

Last week I was asked to be a part of an interesting conversation from an East Coast Think Tank. One of the topics that came up was Effective Altruism. Today, I thought we would jump into the topic. There has been a lot of recent talk about the term Effective Altruism. What is exactly is effective altruism?

What is Effective ALTRUISM?

The simplest way to define it is to answer the question, “How do we use our resources to help others? ” In 2011, philosopher Peter Singer began asking these questions of the global community. Since that time there have been a number of books and the movement has grown.

Some of the key leaders in this global movement are Give Well and the organization 80,000 Hours. These two groups are asking questions such as, “Which charities improve global health the most per dollar?” Other questions such as, “How can I use my career to make a difference?”

The 80,000 hours Philosophy

The 80,000 hours philosophy is this: You have about 80,000 hours in your career: 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for 40 years. That’s more time than you’ll spend eating, socializing, and watching Netflix put together. And it means that time is the biggest resource you have to help others. So if you can increase the overall impact of your career by just a tiny amount, it will likely do more good than changes you could make to other parts of your life.

The Give Well Philosophy

The Give Well Organization wants to help guide you and your dollars towards global issues such as malaria and a host of global issues where your dollar is stretched farther. They are willing to guide you in investing your giving as well. Here are a few of their thoughts: We take zero fees and use our most up-to-date research to grant your gift where we believe it will help the most. We typically grant this pool of funds to one or more of our recommended charities each quarter. Once we grant your donation, we’ll email you to let you know which charity or charities we selected and what we expect your donation will accomplish.

While Effective Altruism is not one organization but rather a global movement with many groups coming together trying to change the way we look at our world’s problems. There is also a large group of people that are trying to get us back to our roots which is taking care of our own communities at home. Another grass roots movement where going local, supporting small business and your local nonprofits versus the global movement presented by effective altruism. The local movement believes that if we each take care of our own communities we will not have to worry about those around the globe. Almost a shift back to the primitive days of tribes when no one in the tribe went hungry.

Both groups want the same thing, and that is to make our world better. Each side of this argument has their own ideas and beliefs. No matter how we help our fellow man, as long as we are helping, well that is good enough for me!

Charity Matters.

 

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Episode 47: 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. Today’s guest, Erin Huber has an incredible life experience of serving others that started at age 12, 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.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Drink Local Drink Tap does?

Erin Huber: Well, some people think it’s about beer.  We actually work locally and globally to solve water quality and equity issues. In the States, specifically, mostly in Northeast Ohio, and in the North American Great Lakes region, we do water education and activism and engagement activities. Globally in East Africa in the other Great Lakes region of the world. We build water and sanitation projects in rural Uganda, and we’re solving water equity issues, they’re in a different way.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Drink Local Drink Tap?

Erin Huber: One thing that I always remember was my father teaching me to root for the underdog. He wanted me to help people or things that maybe didn’t have a voice that couldn’t speak up. That always stuck with me and he passed when I was 12. And just an awesome guy.

Right after my father passed, I was like, “How can I solve every problem in the world?” I went vegan, I didn’t want to hurt animals. I was picking up trash, I didn’t want to hurt the environment. As a teenager, I was protesting  against drilling in the Arctic Refuge. And I was just trying to do everything from helping soup kitchens, to Big Brothers Big Sisters. When I was 16, I started volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. I was doing all kinds of soup kitchens on Sundays and holidays. And all of this happening, I ended up founding my first nonprofit when I was 16. It was called Covering Cleveland to help the homeless.

I was working three jobs and stayed in schools getting good grades. But then as I’m working three jobs and figuring out my life, I realized, Oh, I’m not going to have money for college. So I didn’t start college until I was 21 and I used those years to save up. By the time I reached Cleveland State, that’s when I kind of closed out Covering Cleveland. It had been such an awesome journey.

I knew that water was a thread for me. Water could help me touch the human and environmental issues that I cared about. Also, I knew I wanted to work in water. My first week of grad school, I went to this sustainable Cleveland summit and a bunch of people got together and decided we wanted to solve all the issues of the Great Lakes.  Then the 10 of us came up with this drink local drink tap campaign. We said we can’t solve all the issues of our Great Lakes, but we can maybe get people not to  drink out of plastic bottles. So we started this campaign, which accidentally became our name.

In 2010, I started an NGO (nonprofit) that’s now an international NGO. I never saw myself just working locally, I always saw myself working locally and globally. I had no clue how that was going to happen.

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

Erin Huber:  I think, two things. So with our local work, what I’ve loved seeing our WaveMaker program with youth grow over time.  So I mean, just building curriculum to support teachers, hiring educators on our staff to be in classrooms teaching, zooming.  While I’m in Africa, drilling a well,  explaining the drilling process, showing them the village, having the kids talk to each other, that is awesome. And then we just published this book for teens to help them make an action plan to impact the problem they care about. So creating,

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

Erin Huber:  On the Uganda side of our work, just knowing every day that our projects are supplying 40,000 people with clean water every day and 16,000 people have toilets. It just keeps me going. I have a goal of helping 100,000 people with water and sanitation by 2030. 

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

Erin Huber: I would love to see our curriculum and or this Make Waves for Change book for teens, everywhere in the US. I feel like young people today need an outlet to impact the problems that are so in front of them. It’s so different from when I was worried about solving all the world’s problems. I needed this book when I was a teen I can’t imagine the pressure and the stress that’s on teenagers today.

Globally. I would love to see rural water issues in Uganda go away. I think as countries develop what I’ve heard and seen in the water and sanitation sectors that cities are getting a lot of help rule water is a lot more difficult to prioritize. There’s less people, less voters, rest, money, money being put there. And so we really work from the bottom up with people who are probably not going to get helped by bigger, outside impact going on.  I would love to see rural water, get the attention it deserves. Allow people to stay in their family’s land and be productive, healthy citizens of their communities.

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

Erin Huber: Oh, there’s, there’s so much. I guess what I’ve appreciated is that people are so complicated.  I’m still trying to get better and learn from others.  When I originally went to Africa, I thought I was bringing this thing to the table.  I’m there a couple times a year and I just come back completely changed. Every time I learn so much about myself. I get humbled by the complexity of the world, the awesomeness of the world and the problems of the world. One big lesson is just to always be open to learning and changing and growing. Allowing your opinions to change and what you think you know, to change.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Erin Huber: I’m very appreciative to be doing what I’m doing and to be focused on helping to solve some issues in the world. I think as a teenager, I was very overwhelmed. And I’m happy to be focused and water equity and quality issues.  I think honestly, Drink Local Drink Tap probably saved my life. Otherwise I would have  gone crazy from trying to solve all the worlds problems.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Episode 46: 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. Today’s guest, 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.

Join us for 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.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what A Place at the Table does?

Maggie Kane: It’s the best place and I really just feel so fortunate to work there every day. A Place at the Table is in Raleigh, where I  grew up. So I am also biased to how great Raleigh is. We are a Pay What You Can restaurant. So let that sink in for a minute. There’s not many of us around the country. What that means is we look and feel like any other restaurant that you might go to every single day with your friends and your family or by yourself.

But what makes us different is that you pay what you can and all of our prices are suggested. So you can choose to pay the suggested price or you can choose to pay more and pay it forward for someone else who can’t afford their meal. You can pay less, because we know some weeks are harder than others and all you can do is afford less.  Or you can also pay by volunteering with us. When you walk in, you feel like you’re in that regular restaurant I was talking about.  You would not know that anything’s different until you get up to the register.

A Place at the Table smells  delicious with bacon, coffee and cinnamon rolls. Its warm and beautiful and has  great music.  You feel like you’re in this regular Cafe but then you get up to the register. That is when you get to make that choice of how you pay. Our mission is community and good food for all regardless of means. The main reason we do this is to build community. We use that suggested pricing of bringing all people together no matter who you are. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start a Place at the Table?

Maggie Kane:  I’m so fortunate, I have the best job in the world. I’ve the best team in the world. This is a whole community wide effort with a twenty person staff and thousands  of volunteers that make this happen. I grew up in Raleigh and kind of always thought I would leave. I ended up going to North Carolina State University, which is in Raleigh, and it was awesome.  While I was in school,  I was a part of a club where I heard this speaker come in as a speaker that ran a day shelter. 

A day shelter is a place where folks experiencing homelessness folks who sleep outside can come in the day.  I heard the speaker talking about it and I was immediately intrigued. I went to visit and I ended up staying there every single day, working the front desk, chatting with people, and getting to know people who slept outside. 

When I graduated college, I ran the day shelter and I got to know so many more folks on the street. I truly  mean they’re my friends. I always thought,  what do you do with your friends?  You eat with them or you get coffee you get to drink. Food is that tool to bring people together.  So I worked with folks on the street and we would eat at the soup kitchen. Raleigh has an amazing soup kitchen that feeds 300 people in an hour. It was in that moment, where I’d be eating with them and I thought wow, this is so different than my life experience.  I can go and eat wherever I want.

I just thought we should go out for other meals and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and really just spend that time together. My friend John changed my life forever, when he picked a restaurant called Golden Corral. When I asked him why he picked it he said,” There are two reasons.  I have choice.  I get to choose if I want to order a steak or if I want to salad or if I want to waffle.  Living in poverty and living on the streets people make every choice for me from what I eat to where I sleep.  Second is I feel seen and heard here.  Living on the streets people literally step over me they treat me as invisible and here I have value. People greet me at the door.”

That got me thinking, how do we create a place where everyone can come together?  Where we can build that community? I started researching and  I found the pay what you can model. There are over 15 Other Pay What You Can cafes across the country. I started chatting with some of these other cafes, and said,” You know if other places can do this, then Raleigh can too.”  

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Maggie Kane: First and foremost, anyone working for nonprofits or working for restaurants,  you’re saints.  I commend you because it is just hard work. It is not for the faint of heart. The long hours, there’s always something that happens and you’re always short staffed. Running a restaurant in general is difficult.

In the early stages, we couldn’t find a space. So no one would rent to us because we were a wacky idea that you no one really understood. We started asking how can we educate this community around poverty and homelessness? I remember, the kindest real estate agent worked with us for four years before the space and I remember him calling places and landlords actually saying, “No, we don’t want those homeless people there.”

It’s like how do you raise money? But also how do you get a space when this concept is so foreign? I know all my financial people out there are thinking, how does this work? Fifty percent of our customers pay the suggested prices, or more 50% of our customers pay less or volunteer for their meal. So we have to fundraise a lot of money on the outside. But that’s a whole nother concept, and story, but 50% of our diners pay and pay more. And, and that is important.

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

Maggie Kane:  The answer to everything in life in my life is good people. Every moment I meet someone new, who reminds me of why I am doing this.  People who encouraged me, cheered me on and sat with me while I cried and cried and said, “I’m not sure how I am ever going to make this work.” You know, how many people told me that this was never going to happen? Most people really think they just thought I was crazy.

They all encouraged me and said this a fantastic job and this is what the community needs. So, I definitely think people people is one. And then I think also, it’s  people who aren’t going to eat tomorrow.  It was knowing their stories, sitting with them, hearing him. It’s those relationships.  I feel like I’m the luckiest person, I said this before but I have the best job. 

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

Maggie Kane: It’s the power of relationships is the story we tell.  I definitely think numbers are important. We feed a lot of people at A Place at the Table, anywhere from 100 to 150 people every single day. We see new people coming in the door every single day learning about what we’re doing, getting a meal, paying what they can. So I definitely think that’s important. But I also think that the community we are building, with  relationships of people who really feel present and welcome. Then I think the third thing is  by telling the story of our staff.  I truly would believe that we should all be paying our staff above a living wage and making sure that they are treated well.

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

Maggie Kane: We opened in 2018 operating this tiny cafe and we fed maybe 50 to 70 people a day. At the time, we thought we were killing it. Then the pandemic hits and we go to doing some 50 people a day from this tiny cafe, to doubling in size. Very fortunate to expand our whole space and get more space, and serving 400 people a day, a free meal. Wow, it was wild!

Now we’re sitting at about 100 to 150. As nonprofits, you have to start realizing are you actually doing you’re supposed to be doing?  So we pause for three weeks, we expanded our space and we reopened getting back to our original mission of community and good food. Now that we got through the pandemic, we’re starting to dream which is really, really exciting. 

So my dream is really to see Pay What You Can cafes across the country everywhere. And we feel lucky to have such a support here in Raleigh and figured out how a Pay What You Can restaurants can work in a busy downtown setting. So we want to help other people open

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

Maggie Kane: So many things! I’ll start with people are everything!  Relationships are every thing! I always tell people, lean on people around you for help, people want to help you. People are powerful, and it’s better when you’re in relationships with people. Life is better when you belong and you make people feel like they belong.

People want to help people want to feel a part of something. So do not be afraid to ask. I think the third thing is to celebrate everything!  I learned very early on to celebrate that first $5 donation check. From then on, celebrating every little moment. Just celebrating every little part of the journey because it’s it’s more fun that way. And it just it’s short. We only have so much time here.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Maggie Kane:  I definitely still feel the same way I did 10 years ago when I  had no idea what I was doing. And I was thinking, there are people going to figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing. But I have definitely grown in and just felt more confident in this work and just felt more love in this work than I’ve ever felt.  Now I truly 100% know my purpose in life and, and I will continue to do that doing that until the day I die. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 45: Happy Community Builders

Over the years in all of my conversations, the story of founding a nonprofit usually involves a tragedy. Today’s conversation all began with one man who was going to become a grandparent and didn’t like the world his future grandchild would inherit. So, he got to work in trying to create a better world with kindness through his nonprofit The Happy Community Builders.

Join us today for an inspiring conversation that will confirm that one person can make a difference. Our guest, Barry Braun, shares his motivation and very clear ways that each of us can become Happy Community Builders in our own communities across the globe. His message of getting back to taking care of our local communities as the world always has is truly inspiring. You won’t want to miss this.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Happy community Builders?

Barry Braun: Well, it started when I was becoming a grandfather. I was reflecting on my grandchildren’s future. At that time, there was only one granddaughter, but now there’s four. The picture that was forming in my mind looked troubled to me, it didn’t look like a happy picture. So I decided I wanted to do something about that. And it has been a journey to get from there to here. I started off by thinking who’s making all the problems in the world? 

It evolved into thinking, okay, so communities are foundational to our well being, we have always been in community. And, it’s only been in the last 40 plus years or so that we started to devalue the importance of community. Where we started to place greater emphasis on self reliance, and personal gratification and that sort of stuff. We started to lose our sense of responsibility to the community.

Today, it’s more of the government that should fix all my problems and make me happy. All I need is a place to live,  a shopping center close by and everything’s good. Right?  Take care of me.  I don’t think that’s the future I want for my grandkids.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Happy community Builders does?

Barry Braun: The idea of Happy Community Builders, is that community builders, connect, share and CO -create in a sandbox of ideas so that they can be more effective at what they’re actually doing now, but more importantly, empowered to take on a new vision for the future.

The research says there’s over 200 variables that affect communities but they all come down to a commonality. That commonality is that people know each other. People have a sense of belonging with each other. And they look out and care for each other. How do you rebuild that kind of community? So I had developed a process. My background is coaching and cultural change.

We enable citizens in a community to follow a prescribed process, where the shift the story of their community. So one of the things that I’ve learned is that, like you, and I, we each have our own personal story. And that personal story, pretty much defines our behavior. And we act according to our story. But community communities also have a story. So if you ask a half a dozen people where you live, tell me what’s the story of our community here? Then you’ll start seeing a commonality show up.

If you wanted to shift a community, what I learned was you have to change the story of the community. So we developed a process that was able that ordinary citizens were able to actually take this process into their community. And over an 18 month, 24 month period, the story shifted, and the community’s attitude towards themselves shifted. And wow.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Barry Braun: There’s a lot of blind faith that I could actually do this. And the first first couple of tries, it’s semi work, but not really worked. But as we went through more communities, we got it down pretty solid as being able to work. When COVID happened, we kind of went on a hiatus for a while.  That gave me time to sort of reflect on my goal in changing this world for the benefit of my grandchildren and my grandchildren aren’t going to live where I live.

So how’s it get scalable? And from there, that’s where Happy Community Builders started showing up.

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

Barry Braun: We have representatives from six countries at this point in time. The Happy Community Builders actually only got launched in March of this year. Our predecessor launched in 2013. So we’re making pretty good progress. 

We started off the principle of the happy community process, if you start with one, expanded to five, five grows to fifty and fifty grows to 500, etc,. It grows more or less organically and that’s what’s happening right now with Happy Community Builders. There are people joining pretty much every day. And they’re joining because other people have talked about what is going on at the Happy Community Builders and that they should be there too.

Charity Matters: So if I want to make my community better, what would I need to do?

Barry Braun: So it’s really simple, you go to Happy Community Builders.com and register. So that’s the first step. you’ll find that there’s a pile of resources that you can use today to help you with what you’re doing. Happy Community Builders is filled up with professionals like yourself who are working in community to try and make it better. And they each know things that are special. They have expertise so they share their expertise in workshops, and we record those workshops.

There’s a library of their workshops on how to do this and how to do that community, there’s also a library of ideas. So in a library of inspiration or, or brain food, where you can go and see what other community builders are finding in their reading lists that they find helpful. We’re just setting up a library of forms. So at Happy Community Builder you don’t have to invent it all over again, it’s going to be there.

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

Barry Braun: That our governments, our business, and our citizenry would all put community well being at the first of their list of things that are important.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Barry Braun: Well, I have hope. But it’s probably got a pessimistic side to it. Because  I’m watching people in the United States. And I don’t see that going in a happy direction from where I can tell. I really, really hope and I believe it’s possible.  I really, really hope that the citizenry of the United States can want a different future than the way that their politicians are building for them right now.

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

Barry Braun: What I’ve learned is that it can happen at the community level. We’ve taken a community of 20,000 people and completely changed the mindset of the 20,000 people.  People now reach out to each other when they would be hesitant to reach out to somebody and now they actually look out for each other. They actually look for somebody else’s problems to see how they might help, rather than looking the other way, which is what they used to do. So if we can do that on that scale, then why can’t we do it on a much bigger scale? And that’s one of the biggest lessons I think I’ve learned.

 I’ve also learned that people actually want a different world. The only thing that’s keeping them from having that different world is their own fear. If we can tap into the people who want the world different, which is actually most people, and keep them safe, they will become a very powerful force to make our world a better place.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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The wait is almost over

The days are long and the years are short. That is exactly how I feel about summer. There are moments that the long hot days feel never ending and yet in the blink of an eye summer is practically gone. Some  schools are actually back in session! It truly is a wonder.

Summer is a crazy time for me, especially with TACSC. Our summer youth leadership programs are the pinnacle of our year.  As a result, Charity Matters takes a brief vacation. So thank you all for your patience. We are excited to launch Season Four of our Podcast next week and we have been busy these past few weeks gathering some amazing stories for you.

It’s hard to believe that we already have four seasons under our belt. We are so grateful for all of you who have subscribed  and left reviews, we are grateful for every last one! We had thought about launching Season Four today because it is National Nonprofit Day. 

What is National Nonprofit Day? It is a day set aside to recognize the immense effort nonprofits put into impacting their communities across the globe. We decided to give everyone another week to get settled and back to school. New episodes of Charity Matters  celebrating all the incredible humans who work tirelessly everyday to make your world better through the nonprofit organizations they create. It is all cause for celebration. So happy end of summer, happy back to school and Happy National Nonprofit Day!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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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Melanoma, looking twice

Summer is in full swing and that means the sun is strong. I was recently at the dermatologist getting checked out. My visit reminded me of this conversation a couple years back. So I thought I would re-share it again today for all you sun lovers.

Growing up in LA, Marianne Banister was a familiar face on daily on our local ABC news station. She was always reporting from a storm, a flood, a fire…some sort of disaster. When a friend suggested that I reach out to interview Marianne, who now lives in Baltimore, I was a bit intimidated. Marianne and her husband lost their 17-year-old daughter Claire to melanoma.

Their family was determined to fulfill  Claire’s vision to provide clarity and hope in the fight against adolescent and young adult melanoma through their work at the Claire Marie Foundation. They are on a mission to ensure awareness, education, and prevention of cancer that has increased 250% in the last forty years.

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. 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 deaths in young women 25 to 30. For young people, this disease is more aggressive and invasive than in older people.

We’re the only nonprofit in the country that focuses on preventing melanoma specifically in adolescents and young adults. We are not trying to treat it and we’re not doing research to find an answer to find the new drug or the therapy. Nobody’s helping to prevent it and that’s our job.

CMF Five Year Retrospective 2019 from Claire Marie Foundation on Vimeo.

Charity Matters: Can you tell us what the risk factors of Melanoma are?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  If you wear sunscreen, if you wear up 50 SPF clothing,  if you don’t go to a tanning booth and if you advocate for yourself. That’s it, then you’re good. I want to add empower yourself to advocate and get at the front of it. Our whole goal is to get people in and connect them with a dermatologist. If you don’t already have a patient relationship with a dermatologist, it can take three to five months to get your first appointment. 

Charity Matters: Can you share some of Claire’s Journey?

Marianne Banister WagonhurstClaire got a routine skin exam at 13.  Every year we had them checked and had no history in the family. We had lived in Southern California and being a reporter I was aware of it. We went back six months later for her yearly exam. About a week before that the mole on her ankle that she was born with started to change. However, it didn’t look like what we’re educated to look at for melanoma. It wasn’t thick, it wasn’t dark. The borders were not irregular, none of that it just looked a little dusty gray in color. Unfortunately, it was a melanoma. 

About her junior year when we thought we were well past Claire said, “Mom, why do you think this happened to us?” I said, “Maybe being who you are because you’re so positive and energized. And being what I do professionally, you know, maybe we can do this together when you’re ready?” Claire said, “Yeah, when I’m a senior, then it won’t matter. And I can advocate.”  

She still was not quite there yet wanting to share her story. So we knew down the road, that’s what she would want to do. The bottom line is I just couldn’t sit here with this information and not warn other parents. If someone had raised the flag of awareness before us, then maybe she’d still be here.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Claire Marie Foundation?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  We started with community support and  launched in October 2014.   Claire’s friends from her school wanted to help and do something.  One of her best buddies since childhood called me and said,” Hey, Miss Marion, do you have a logo?”  I was like, Why? I mean, we knew we were going to do something, but we are just trying to get through the grief and to deal with things.

Claire’s friends did this dance a THON and raised $24,000 called Moves for Claire. I didn’t know how many people my daughter knew.  There were 500 kids there and they had sponsorships. We realized they’re listening and paying attention now, so we need to take advantage of this. If we wanted to do this in her memory, we had to do it quickly. Her friends have been our biggest force.

So because of them we then went forward. We have collegiate ambassadors, who started the program.  They were in the high school class of 2015 and the college class of 2019. Almost one hundred of them are now  on 46 campuses. Each of them are doing peer to peer education, mentoring and awareness programs.

My husband cycled 620 miles to symbolically take her to college. Claire was accepted to college just a couple of days before she passed. So she got accepted to Georgia, Southern University, Alabama. So he cycled from Charleston to Georgia Southern into Bama. We did this big media raising campaign and because it was a football game that she promised her dad he could go with her. It was a way of him to process it and honor her. In addition, it was a way for us to raise awareness. 

The kids came up with a lot of these ideas. Today, we have partnerships with US lacrosse and we work with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Our organization has been to Capitol Hill to campaign for funding and support for research. We are developing a partnership with Teen Cancer America. If a young person is going through cancer, guess what that puts them at elevated risk for melanoma.

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. If I don’t keep this foundation going and do the work that needs to be done, then I’m not fulfilling her purpose.  That means we would have lost her for no reason.

She has changed lives and she has saved lives. We have had a number of young people who have found melanomas early and they always tell me,” You know, I thought of Claire, and I went and got it checked and it was a melanoma.”

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: My husband always says if we save one kid, we’ve done our work. We’ve done that many times over. I think what I’m most proud of is we’re changing the narrative.  Because of us, many organizations are now creating a Young Adult adolescent melanoma focus.  In six years, we’re starting conversations, and making people understand that it’s just not a matter of putting on sunscreen, and calling it a day.  It’s elevating the importance and value that young people are getting this disease to the rate they are and that it is not rare.

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  The dream would be that every young person from two-years-old on should incorporate full-body dermoscopy-based skin screenings every year, as part of their WellCare. When they go to their pediatrician and their eye doctor and their dentist, they see the dermatologist, they get checked, that becomes part of their routine.

 We just don’t want anybody else to go through what we did, because it’s so darn preventable. When you think about it, melanoma is one of the cancers that you have the best odds of seen visually externally on your body. A screening takes 10 minutes.  You don’t have to drink anything, don’t have to get an MRI and you don’t have to get a CAT scan. All you need is 10 minutes with a dermatologist with a scope. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: I think one of the changes that surprised me is you get a different identity. You realize that you cannot go back to life as it was because it’s no longer there. So you have to recreate yourself. I’m in a different world.  So I’ve expanded the people in my life.

 I’ve had a lot of loss in my life.  I’ve always lived my life as you have to thoroughly embrace it each day as it is. My faith is stronger than ever because I know she’s fine. I know she’s okay. 

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: We’ve been asked this by other parents often how we dealt with the grief. We just had to dig down to this just horrendous feeling and we had to feel but then able to come out the other side. And it seems like to me that at some point of grief you have to process this pain. I think for me because I always remembered that conversation we had about Claire helping others, I know she would be proud of this.  

It’s not that you ever want this to happen, but if it does, to know that something has been inspired by her in a positive way. That’s what we look at.  Our daughter is having a great impact because of what we’re doing and that’s the best we can do for those we love.

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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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Voluntourism in 2022

It’s summertime and with that means travel and family trips. It seems that summer gets shorter every year and that means a very small windows for travel. I’m not letting that slow me down but rather am already beginning to plan for next year.

Our youngest will be graduating from college and it seems like the perfect time for a family trip that involves voluntourism or volunteering and travel. Since I have begun my research I thought I would share it with you. My first stop was a web-site chock full of information called Voluntourism.Org where you can learn about hundreds of opportunities and how to plan your trip.

Pre-planning check list:

A few things to keep in mind in the planning stages of your trip.

1. Do your homework

2. Ask yourself and your family what do you really want to achieve from this experience? Help others? Bond with your family? Get into a great college?

3. Choose a reputable organization to partner with

4. Involve your family in all the pre-planning process.

5. Document the experience with video, photos and journals.

There are thousands of online sources promising you and your family amazing experiences but finding reputable ones can be overwhelming. Here are a few volunteer programs that had some great endorsements:

Volunteer Programs to consider:

1. Global Volunteer Network

2. Cross Cultural Solutions

3. Rebuilding Together U.S. based program that builds homes across the country

4.  Pack for a Purpose

5.  Peace Jam

6.  Projects Abroad

There are also organizations that would love to have you visit learn about their mission, and volunteer to help further a given cause.  The downside is that you will have to do the investigation yourself by reaching out to organizations individually.  This can be a daunting task and challenging from a booking perspective. It can also be rewarding if you have a charity, organization, or cause you want to devote your time and efforts too.

Ecotourism is incredibly popular so if you are looking for a trip that involves working to save the planet or a species here are a few suggestions:

Ideas for Ecotourism travel:

1.  GoNomad

2.  Transitions Abroad

3.  GoAbroad 

4.  GoVoluntouring

5.  GoEco.org

So whether you go now or next year, travel near or far….know that your time is your greatest gift. Think about sharing that precious resource with your family in helping another. Those are the moments that make an impact on all involved.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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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Looking back at Girls Leading Girls

As summer camps are in full gear everyone is looking for great ways to engage their children this summer. Since we are looking back at some fantastic conversations we had earlier this year, it seemed like a great time to revisit our conversation with Bre Russell.  Bre is developing the next generation of women leaders through her amazing nonprofit, Girls Leading Girls.

Join us as Bre shares her inspirational journey from a student-athlete to a nonprofit founder teaching thousands of young women how to lead. So if you haven’t heard this conversation, treat yourself with a long summer day and listen  to this amazing human.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Girls Leading Girls does?

Bre Russell: We are a nonprofit that trains girls and women in leadership advocacy and life skills through soccer. We are the first-ever all-girls soccer organization with all-women coaches. Every year we serve over 700 girls ages five to 17 in the Bay Area.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Girls Leading Girls?

Bre Russell:  I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. That was always something that appealed to me.  I worked at a young age because we were just trying to survive my family. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and I relied on a lot of people to help.  My coaches making soccer even possible for me was huge. As a result, seeing other people helped me made me want to pay it forward and help others.

I’ve been playing soccer since I was five years old. Soccer was the game that I fell in love with it. It was a place where I was recognized, I could just be myself, and I could escape the struggles that I was facing at home or in school. During my time at Sacramento State, I played soccer and then after college, I decided to go into the Peace Corps. I was living in a village on a really small rural Island. A place where women didn’t have a lot of opportunities. Some girls saw me playing and then asked if they could play with me. After that,  we formed a team.

I found out FIFA was hosting a tournament nearby on another island and I organized to get us fundraising for uniforms. We went to the island and played on this hot volcanic ash. Three days into this tournament, we ended up winning first place. It was one of the highest moments I ever felt from such a big challenge. We won this huge Wimbledon size trophy. When we came back to the community they were waiting for us with flowers on the beach, to congratulate us. They were so proud of us! The team wanted to run around the community with the trophy.

A light bulb went off that soccer is not just a sport, it’s a vehicle for women’s empowerment, economic opportunity, equality, and community change.  These women were now seen as winners and that was all that I needed. When I came back from that experience, I knew I needed to start Girls leading Girls.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Bre Russell: Well, it’s definitely a grind, I think all entrepreneurship starts as you are grinding, you’re hustling. After Peace Corps, I was working full time for another nonprofit and building this on the side.  I was also coaching soccer in the community and that’s really what helped me get it going.  People in the community here in San Francisco, saw me coaching and said, “Can you coach our daughter? Because there are not enough women coaches.” This was in 2014 in San Francisco.

There’s definitely a lack of representation of women in sports at all levels. Eight years later, we’re starting to see that change.  When will we have women as not just referees and athletes, but owners of these higher-level clubs and teams? The challenge is there are not enough women coaches. We are essentially trying to change something that is also making it hard for us to do what we do.

We are recruiting, training and mentoring women to become coaches, which most never think that they can. So there are psychological barriers there. And we’re going up against male-run the old traditional model of coaching.  This is why we are trying to create something different because the old traditional model really was a disservice to girls.  Girls dropping out of sports at young ages, the statistics are there. Did you know that girls drop out of sports by age 12? That is over 50% rate that boys do.

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

Bre Russell:  There are a couple of things that fuel me. One is the girls in the program. Some of them I’ve known for eight years. To see them start with me and then to see them develop from a young age into confident, strong, young women on and off the field is just amazing. I mean, this is the beauty of kids that grow so fast. You can see that growth right before your eyes.

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

Bre Russell: We serve 736 Girls.  That was our biggest year yet and that was amazing coming off a COVID. As I said the demand is higher because of health issues and the stagnation of being home. It’s all come out in the surveys we put out to the girls and their parents. To hear things like, “Oh, my daughter lost her joy for life during COVID, when she came to your summer camp, it was like, she was a new person.”  Or,” I’ve never seen her smile like that once. ”

Hearing those stories are really an impact. That’s the depth. It’s not just soccer, we are teaching these girls confidence, self-esteem, and positive peer relationships, and we’re building them up, because, there is this huge confidence gap for girls. For me, it’s seeing this organization grow and how many girls we serve, but then also seeing the impact.

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

Bre Russell: When I was coaching, one of the key things I would say is,” What’s the most important play on the field?” They would say,” The next play.” So whatever just happened, let that go. Now you are focused on the next play.  I think we can apply that to life too. Because things happen to us and it can help you see that moments are temporary. It can help you really savor the positive wonderful moments too because you know, it’s not going to last. Then it also gives you the action of okay, what am I in control of? What is important to do next?  So it’s teaching many different things.

With my staff, we say,” Done, is better than perfect.” This is particularly important for women because perfectionism is a problem. We want to be so perfect that no one can criticize us. That’s what it stems from. I tell them all the time,”Done is better than perfect.” Perfectionism doesn’t exist.  We’re here to learn, right? I’d rather see something than nothing.  I’d rather you take a risk than not at all because you’re waiting for it to be perfect.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Bre Russell: I’ve definitely changed. When I went into the Peace Corps, I was 25 wide-eyed, and hopeful. I think I’ve changed in a variety of ways. Growing this organization, I’ve definitely learned to be more patient. In the process, of working with people in growth being more patient is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned.

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

Bre Russell:  The dream is to expand and open branches of our program all over the world, starting in the US, and then having that impact worldwide. That would mean serving hundreds of 1000s of girls and women, empowering them to be confident and be leaders on and off the field.  It would give them the tools they needed to succeed whether or not they continued in the sport. We’re teaching them how to take risks, how to speak confidently, and how to go after what they want. So when they are older, they can have that conversation about a pay raise with their boss, or they can ask for that promotion. The goal is to just help the girls we serve to live the best life and go after what they want with confidence.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Looking back at Miracle Messages

I have had some pretty amazing conversations in the past ten years. Conversations that really made me think and look at the world around me in a totally different way. The conversation I had earlier this year 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.

Join us as 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.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Miracle Messages does?

Kevin Adler: We help our unhoused neighbors rebuild their social support systems and financial security, primarily through family reunifications, a phone buddy system, and direct cash transfers.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Miracle Messages?

Kevin Adler: This work begins really with my own family. I had an uncle, who was very beloved to me. Uncle Mark was his name and he suffered from schizophrenia. He lived on and off the streets of Santa Cruz for 30 years. One day I was in college and I got a phone call from my dad telling me that Uncle Mark was found deceased at a halfway house at the age of 50.

I never thought about the life he was living on the streets. It wasn’t until years later that I was in San Francisco, that I found myself walking by our neighbors experiencing homelessness. I said, Gosh, everyone I’m walking by that’s someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister. So it got me thinking, what would it look like to help neighbors experiencing homelessness, people like my Uncle Mark, maybe share their stories, the stories that I didn’t know.

It wasn’t trying to solve a problem and create an organization.  I started a side project storytelling project called The Homeless GoPro. For one year, I invited 24 individuals experiencing homelessness to wear wearable cameras around their chests and narrate their experience of what life is like. When I got the footage back I was just shocked by what I heard and saw. One quote really stood out. It was,” I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing. Only when I lost my family and friends.”

Long story short, I approached everyone I saw who was experiencing homelessness and asked, “Do you have any loved ones you’d like to reconnect with?” That’s how I met a man named Jeffery. He told me he hadn’t seen his family in 12 years. Jeffery recorded a video with his niece and nephew, his sister, and his dad. I went home and I got on Facebook and found a Facebook group connected to his hometown.

So I posted the video there and within one hour, that video got shared hundreds of times. It made the local news that night the leading story. Classmates started commenting, I went to high school with Jeffrey, I work in construction. Does he need a job? And in the first 20 minutes of the post, his sister got tagged. We got on the phone the next day and it turned out Jeffrey had been a missing person for 12 years.

The starting point of Miracle Messages was when Jeffrey reconnected with his family. I asked sister Jennifer, “This thing that seems to be bigger than just Jeffrey and your relationship. There seems there might be others, who are experiencing this issue. What should we call this, this initiative?” She said, “Well, we’re in this small town and people have referred to it the story as the miracle of Montoursville. And it’s Christmas, maybe it’s called the Miracle message.”

That’s the name and the vision from day one, which no one should go through homelessness alone. Hard to believe that was December 2014.

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

Kevin Adler: An impact is a person who’s experiencing homelessness, potentially getting off the streets. About 20% of the reunions lead to housing. Impact involves the cost savings that generates. When it costs us thousands of dollars compared to cities spending between $40,000 to $60,000 per unhoused person per year to maintain them on the streets for one year. The impact can be measured in the lives and the perspectives of the volunteers, who say, “I never knew I could do anything on the issue of homelessness, I felt a very low sense of personal efficacy in making an impact. But now I feel empowered.”

An impact can also be measured in the fact that we’ve received over 100 million views on our videos on Facebook. We’ve had over a million shares, and over 700 articles written about us. These all change the hearts and minds of people. When you see a video about a person experiencing homelessness, reconnecting with a loved one or being in a phone Buddy Program, or getting $500 a month towards rent then it changes your perspective.

So you know, we take impact seriously. I also think anyone who listens to their unhoused neighbors and or volunteers and has their heart or mind shifted or opened as a result, that’s an immeasurable impact that we’re very proud of as well.

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

Kevin Adler: For us, that dream is that no one goes through homelessness alone. I would love to end that sentence one word early. No one goes through homelessness. People generally have the knowledge and wherewithal of what is best for them but they just aren’t given the agency. They are not afforded the same opportunities that we all expect in this country. So just giving people the financial support, they need to make ends meet, and the social support, they need to get through tough times and be celebrated at good times. That’s really what we’re committed to at Miracle Messages.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Kevin Adler: My values are the same. What drives me as a person, my faith, and how I look at people have not changed.  I think I’ve grown a lot. I’ve realized that my story is about one story and the importance of really hearing other stories.  I’ve realized how much harder this work can be, but also how it’s so so important to keep the core foundation in mind to keep the perspective. So yes, I think I’ve grown a ton as a person. But I also think fundamentally, I’m still the precocious kid who was just comfortable walking around the neighborhood talking to my neighbors.

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  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.

Time for a little break…

Memorial Day has come and gone, college graduations are wrapped up and schools are just a couple weeks from summer. So it seems that it might be time for a little break. Our amazing Charity Matters team (Emma, Jack , Ana Sofia and Vinny) have worked tirelessly all year to help bring these stories to you. Everyone, even the hardest working students around need a little respite. For me, while running a nonprofit with a huge summer program is hardly relaxing, it does require my full attention.

So for the next couple weeks we are going to be looking back at this incredible season of interviews. We met remarkable people this past season who truly showed us each week how amazing Americans are. The news may tell us one thing but the fact remains that there are so many kind compassionate humans and it is our pleasure to introduce you to them.

Thank you in advance for joining us each week for these inspirational conversations. It is hard to believe that we already have three seasons of the podcast in the books. We can’t wait to look back at some of this seasons conversations and we are getting excited for Season 4.

We continue to be grateful for this community and for your incredible support.

 

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.