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Happy 12th Birthday Charity Matters!

Twelve years ago I had a dream. For someone who sleeps through earthquakes and their own children crying it was extremely in usual to be woken up in the middle of the night by a dream. This was one of those dreams that was so real that you felt as if you watch the scene from your life. It was unlike any dream I had ever had before. The dream was to tell the stories amazing humans who make the world better. The dream was Charity Matters.

I remember it so clearly, I literally got out of bed, found paper and pen and wrote it all down. The next day I told my husband that I think I’m supposed to be starting something. He replied,” That’s great! What are you going to start?” I replied, I was going to start blog and a website that told and empowering stories about real life heroes. His response,” A website? You can barely operate a computer.  Are you sure this is the right direction?”

His comments were valid. Technology and I were barely friends in July of 2011. That is the truth. Since I had just walked away from running a nonprofit my skills were a little rusty at best. Building a website by myself, which I did was an enormous challenge. Knowing where to go for help, how to start finding my heroes and all of it was more than a little daunting. In reality, what did I have to lose? Nothing. What did I have to gain? The ability to leave the world better than I found it. To connect people to causes that matter. Helping the helpers and creating an upward spiral of kindness and goodness. There was no option but forward.

Today, 12 years later I still feel the same way. I continue to have technological challenges. However, the risk versus reward definitely points in favor of reward. Rewarding is exactly the word for this 12 year milestone. Charity Matters has been more than rewarding. Its hard to believe that we have had almost 2,000 posts, hundreds of nonprofit interviews  and over 60 Podcast interviews. We have met remarkable humans from all walks of life. Learned so much about resilience, kindness, compassion and the human spirit.

Each person we have met has been an incredible gift and privilege. They have trusted us with their story, shared openly and honestly the huge challenges of this work. More than that, each nonprofit founder lifts us up. Reminds us who we can be and shows us the best of humanity. To all of the nonprofit founders who have shared, thank you. To all of you who listen and read this each week, thank you. You bless me and this work and propel it forward. My gratitude has no words.

So here is to onward and upward! My birthday wish is for Charity Matters to continue to grow and spread. So if you feel like giving us a gift this year, tell a friend, share a post that inspired you. That is how we collectively change the world. One small action, one story, one person at a time. Thank you for changing mine.

Happy Birthday 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.

Speaking of Impact

I hope you all are having a great weekend. We don’t usually publish our post on Sunday’s but our site was down for a little work. The unexpected break gave us a little time to get out of town to celebrate another lap around the sun. With LA’s June gloom, finding some sun was in order too!

Before I get the celebration going, I wanted to share a fun conversation I had a few weeks back with Bob De Pasquale as a guest on his Speaking of Impact Podcast. Bob is a great guy whose podcast focuses on interviewing leaders who use their gifts to make the world a better place. He lives a purpose driven life and was really fun to talk too. It was a terrific conversation so if you have time over the weekend please take a listen here.

At the age of 18, Bob  found himself in a fight for his life when diagnosed with cancer. It would become a journey that ultimately shaped his view of himself and the gifts that he could share with the world. His podcast Speaking of Impact is an empowering and educational show that helps people to recognize their time, and gifts  that bring joy and fulfillment not only to themselves, but to the world around them.

Last week’s conversation with Dana Bouton has continued to stay with me, as powerful conversations often do. Like Bob, Dana really left such an indelible mark on me with how she is choosing to spend her remaining time on this earth. While Dana might have more clarity on her timeline, most of do not. As a result, we waste so much precious time. Both conversations with Bob and Dana are reminders to use our gifts and time to make a difference.

As this weekend marks another trip around the sun, the gift that Dana and Bob have given each of us is to ask how are we living our best lives and impacting others? I am grateful for my health, the time I have with those I love, the opportunity for a little adventure and most of all the privilege it is to connect amazing people to incredible causes. I will continue to try my hardest to be a joyful messenger of service and to hopefully inspire a few people along the way to do the same.

Wishing you all a fantastic weekend. Please know how grateful I am for this incredible community of kind and good humans.

 

Charity Matters

 
The best way to be a part of making a difference is sharing good news. 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:
 

Across the finish line!

For the past twelve years you have been a part of my life. When I started Charity Matters in 2011 our sons were 15, 13 and 9 years old.  You have followed our families journey from the last football game to taking our first son to college and everything in between. I wrote about it all and you not only read these crazy stories, you replied, you understood and cheered us on. It was as if I were running a race and all of you have been on the side lines cheering. So many miles were tough and you got me through. As in most races, the clarity comes once you have finished and in looking back.

I remember getting on the team football bus for our middle son’s last game and having parents passing the post I had written around the bus on their phones. People hugging and thanking  me for expressing their feelings about The Last Pass post. It was the first time I really realized people were actually reading Charity Matters.

Each Christmas Charity Matters shared the Raising Philanthropic Children post as we tried so hard to guide our sons towards service. Teaching them to find their gifts and those they had to share with the world. You cheered them  on as they served so many great organizations and helped start a few. More than that, you shared what your kids were now doing which was even better.

When I dropped our oldest son off at college I was devastated. Again, all of you were there. I wrote this post and you sent so many supportive notes I could cry just thinking about them. You began the TCU journey of service with me as well. Then watched as I made The Last Lunch and the second son become a Horned Frog and finally the third.

Each ceremony marked the ever quickening passage of time. It was if each ceremony was a mile markers in a marathon. Some miles were harder than others.  When our youngest graduated high school and we became empty nesters, those struggles were real. The post, Someday has Arrived is a reminder of those struggles.  Supposedly, the last few miles of the marathon always are.

Then that moment comes when you see the finish line. It doesn’t seem real or possible. The race has been so long. The push for homework, for grades, not to mention the finances of it all. It feels as if it will never end. Suddenly, there you are …at your youngest child’s college graduation. Is it real? The finish line always seemed so far away. Now it is right in front of you, the final marker. How did the race go by so fast?

You push through that finish line with hands raised and a feeling of incredible joy. Your heart is filled with pride and beating so fast. The pictures are snapped marking this incredible moment. The diploma is given. You reach your neck out for the medal. The ticker tape flies. The crowd cheers (that’s you). And in a blink the race is over.

You have raised three great men. They are employed and launched. You smile, you cry, pat yourself on the back and then you wonder…now what?

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.

Episode 59: Project Libertad

I was recently having a conversation with friends about what our grandparents and great grandparents went through coming to America. I love these conversations for a few reasons. First because we all have these stories. Secondly, because they remind us how strong and resilient our ancestors were and what they sacrificed for us. The immigrant story is the story of our country.

While immigration has been a hot political topic these days, regardless of your stance, there are still people coming to our country who need help. That is where today’s guest, Rachel Rutter comes in. Rachel is the founder of Project Libertad, an organization that helps immigrant youth in a multitude of ways. Join us for an inspirational conversation about some of the challenges these children are facing and how she and Project Libertad and making a difference.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

Rachel Rutter: We are a nonprofit organization serving newcomer immigrant youth. So we’re working with kids who have recently arrived in the US and their families. The people we primarily work with arecunaccompanied minors from Central America and Mexico. In addition, we also work with a lot of families from Brazil.

There are fewer services in the counties outside of Philadelphia, so we’re providing legal services,  helping kids with their immigration process, and trying to address the other needs that they have. For example, we have kids who struggle with housing insecurity, food insecurity, mental health support, and all those sorts of things. So we’re trying to not only meet their, their need for immigration status and help them with that process, but also all these other challenges that they face as they’re adjusting to being here in the US.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Project Libertad?

Rachel Rutter:  When I was in college, I had this idea that I wanted to start a nonprofit someday.  I was very naive about how hard it would be. So I started all of the paperwork, and incorporating and 501 C 3 status in law school.  Then at the same time, I was working with all these clients who had legal needs, needed asylum, or they needed to apply for immigration status. 

Then they always have all these other needs. For example they don’t have a safe place to live, have family issues, trauma, and need food. There are any number of different issues that they have.  I just wished we had a social worker that we could partner with and have like a wraparound approach. A place where we are meeting all the needs, not just this legal needs.

So the idea came to create an organization that does try to do all those different things in a one stop shop.  We are doing that now, and we had just hired a case manager to connect kids to resources in the community and social services.  I’m obviously doing the legal part. And we hope to continue replicating that and growing in new areas. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Rachel Rutter: One of the biggest things I remember getting really frustrated with was applying for different grants.  It’s really hard to get your foot in the door as a new nonprofit. Nobody wants to take a chance on you, you’re tiny, and they want to see that you have money before they give you money. But you can’t show them that unless someone gives you money. It’s just kind of like a chicken and egg problem. So that was really frustrating.

We took classes on grant writing.  I just practiced and got better over time. Eventually, we did a grant in partnership with HIAS which was the first ever grant that we got. Just being able to say that this other foundation gave us a grant went really far. Being patient, learning how to talk about your mission in a way that people want to fund it. Because it’s really important. It’s like writing a thesis in college where you have to structure it the right way so that people want to support it.  That was a big learning curve for us.

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

Rachel Rutter: It can be really hard, but the most important thing for me has always been like the relationship that I have with the kids that we work with. So that’s definitely like the biggest motivator for me. I also have like a very supportive family, husband, and friends who work in this industry as well.

So I feel like I have not only my team, my project like that, but also my colleagues from other organizations  who are always supportive. We can always like work together to solve problems.  It can definitely be challenging, but I feel like I have a good support system. Working directly with the kids is what gives me energy. Usually, that’s what I’m trying to focus on. If I need to push through, I’m thinking about the kids and that connection that we get to have with them.

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

Rachel Rutter:  In terms of our impact, we served over 1000 people last year. The times I think when I feel like the most impactful are when a student shares some things that were going on in her family.  After hearing this we were able to provide support with that. There was food insecurity in the household and so we went grocery shopping. It doesn’t always have to be complicated. This kid said I need food and we went to the store and we got food and like that was that. My colleagues and I do stuff like that all the time.

I think those are definitely the moments for me that are the most rewarding when you can just help somebody in such a concrete immediate way. So I love that we have the ability to do that. Sometimes those kind of moments don’t necessarily get captured in the numbers you put in a grant report. 

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

Rachel Rutter: I have two thoughts about that. One is to continue expanding and replicating what we’re doing now in our current locations. Having the combination of lawyers and social workers reproducing that in new counties as we grow.

Then the other thing I would love to do is to have some sort of shelter for youth who are 18 to early 20s. Something that we run into a lot is youth who have housing insecurity. They don’t either have anywhere to go because the foster care system doesn’t help them once they are 18. We run into cases like that where kids don’t have anywhere to go. There are really limited options currently for them. We would really love to do is eventually have some sort of space for kids like that. So that would be  another dream that I would have for the future. 

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

Rachel Rutter: I think one thing is just like the importance of these relationships with the kids.  So I think just the value in those long term relationships is so so important, and like sustaining for me. I’ve definitely been learning to delegate more, now that we have more staff.  It’s always hard for me to kind of let go of things because this is my baby.

 I also realize when I’m feeling burned out that having a good team that you can trust to do things so that you aren’t trying to do everything as one person is really important. I’m learning to  relax a little more. A lot of things work themselves out if you if you wait long enough. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Rachel Rutter:  I think when I started this out, I was a little bit naive about how difficult it might be to get funds. So like I mentioned, I’ve learned a lot there. I just think I have more confidence in myself and my knowledge as an attorney.  We’ve really developed our niche where we are the local the experts working with this population.

I think that took me a long time to kind of see this as like a real thing and now other people seeing it that way too.

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.

April flowers…

We interrupt this regularly scheduled podcast to tell you we are ready for spring! California this year has had record rain and snow, as you saw in one of my recent stories. Sunshine is a daily staple like oxygen and there has not been very much sun this year. This California girl was in need of signs of spring, so I headed East to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. It is something I have always wanted to see, so when my girlfriend said, “Come visit!” I packed my bags and headed East.

When I discovered that April is National Stress Awareness Month, it seemed like as good as time as any to get out of town. Life is stressful for many of us these days. The state of the world is a little more messy than usual.  The price of things are crazy and life just seems more challenging than usual. Never is that felt more than in the nonprofit space.  When the economy is bumpy so is fundraising. As nonprofit founders and Executive Directors, we have so many people depending on us to help. Some days it feels like heavy lifting.

Rather, than stew in the what I can not control I decided to do something about what I can control. That is my attitude. I can decide that life is short and to make the most of it. Use those frequent flyer points, phone a friend and hop on a plane to do something you have always wanted to do. So that is exactly what I did!

Speaking of control, when I booked this trip I carefully checked the peak date of the cherry blossoms blooming. However, cherry blossoms and spring are definitely things that I can not control. So when I discovered that these gorgeous trees decided to show their colors a little early, there was simply nothing I could do about it.

However, I didn’t let that deter me and boy am I glad I made it. The morning we got to the tidal basin, the cherry blossoms had been in bloom for about a week. Luckily, there hadn’t been any storms to knock off those beautiful blossoms. It felt like they waited for me.

When we arrived early on a Saturday morning, it was drizzling slightly. The most bizarre thing was that there wasn’t a single person anywhere to be seen. We had the monuments and all those beautiful blossoms to ourselves. Standing there as it began to drizzle and rain cherry blossom petals was pure magic.

After soaking it all in, we left content and happy. A few hours later DC prepared for 50 to 60 mph winds that were going to blow all of the beauty away. We literally just made it.

Every time I look at a cherry tree I will be reminded that there is so much in life that I can not control. Just because I can’t control it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy its beauty. So no podcast this week but we promise to be back next week with another fantastic conversation from a remarkable human making our world better. Until then, I will just enjoy the view and hope you will too.

Happy Spring 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. 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.

Episode 57: Mission Launch

Did you know one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record? That means almost 80 million Americans today have an arrest or conviction rate. Today’s guest is no stranger to these numbers, she is actually part of that statistic. Since April is Second Chance month there seems to be no better time to talk about new beginnings than today.

Join us to learn the incredible story of one woman’s journey from prison to nonprofit founder. Teresa Hodge is an absolute inspiration. Learn about Teresa’s tireless work to help those who have been incarcerated rebuild their lives with her organization Mission Launch.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

Teresa Hodge: Mission Launch is focused on helping the men and women who have arrest or conviction records get back on their feet. The reentry process is where we focus. Reentry is that period of time right after they come in contact with the legal system. It is when they’re just trying to get back on their feet and reintegrate back into society. We  focus on helping people with jobs, housing and getting into higher education. 

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

Teresa Hodge: One of my dad’s favorite statements was when life gives you lemons make lemonade. I was an entrepreneur and  part of a group of other entrepreneurs. The company we founded was investigated by the government. From the moment the company was investigated, my life just drastically changed. I spent about five or six years, fighting the charges. When I went to trial, I knew very little about our criminal legal system.  I went to trial and  lost.  As a result of that, I was given an 87 month federal prison sentence or seven years and three months. I was the first person in my family to be charged and I was heartbroken and devastated. 

I just knew that there had to be meaning and a greater purpose. In hindsight, it was as if all seeds have been planted. One of those seeds was  how was I going to use my time in prison? When I looked at the time, I said, “God, when I come out, what I’m going to know the most about?  What will be the most relevant from going to prison?” 

It was about 10 days after I was convicted, that I began writing a version of the work that I’m doing now.  I had experienced about five years of fighting on the front side. I was scared to death, quite frankly. Seven months felt like a life sentence, but seven years, three months was unimaginable. So it was just a really difficult time. What I knew was that if I could survive it, that I was going to bring good out of it.

The reality is I actually had to endure the long journey of incarceration. That was the lemon and it was a long time sucking on those sour lemons. I was already as an entrepreneur and knew how to write business plans.  As you know,  I was a part of a captive audience in prison. So I was able to ask questions and do market research.  I watched women leave prison and then I watched come back.  Why would someone return? I didn’t understand and was baffled.  

The thought is prison is supposed to do some level of correcting while people are incarcerated.  And yet, when people return, there’s often no pathway back. While I was sitting in prison I just felt like I’m going to create the pathway that I need to go back. And I’m going to bring all of those experiences and all those stories into my design so that we create enough pathways for people who were trying their best. 

I came home in 2012 and we started Mission Launch in 2012.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Teresa Hodge:  The challenges were I was underfunded. I knew a lot about prison but I knew nothing about a nonprofit. We were new entity and were unknown. And we had this huge vision for how we could disrupt and change and make life and society better for all of us. In the end, I had the ability to stick to something. And so and to learn and to evolve and to grow,  I’ve been able to navigate to a good place. 

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

Teresa Hodge: We measure Deep Impact, the stories and the people that we can talk about.  I can tell you a story of a young man who came into our hackathon just a few days after being home from prison, and he just had lots of potential. He didn’t want to work at McDonald’s and he had the ability to do something different. And he was inspired to start a business and struggled to start the business. Long story short, today, he runs a National Cooperative. He now hires other formerly incarcerated people. That idea and  the ability to build that was birthed inside of a space that we hosted. I served on his board for a while. We validated him, incubated him and were his fiscal sponsor. So it’s that level of deep impact 

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

Teresa Hodge: I want to shorten the time it takes a person to come home and get back on their feet after incarceration.  The big dream is for us to have a national strategy with a localized approach. Reentry is hyperlocal. Right? The statistics are one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record. That means over 70 million, almost 80 million Americans today have an arrest or conviction rate. It’s staggering and not a small number.

I am on a mission to normalize the fact that we have so many people in our country with an arrest or conviction record. If we normalize that as a fact, then we can move beyond the fact that a person has a record. Then we can create all the pathways of opportunities for 80 million people.

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

Teresa Hodge: I think the greatest life lesson is for me was in prison, when my life became smaller.  It’s had so much meaning when my life in prison was the great equalizer. When you think of one in three Americans who have an arrest or conviction record, prison is a microcosm of the United States. It’s a microcosm of society. It’s disproportionately black and brown. People who go to prison are gay and straight,  black, white, brown, yellow, Native American and all religions. In that moment, we all just wanted the same thing to endure and get back home.  I learned to be so accepting of so many people and cultures  that maybe I would not have been. So I think the greatest lesson is we’re just more alike than we are not.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Teresa Hodge: I have and I am currently on a mission to restore some of the joy. I have been heads down doing this work for 11 years. So it’s changed me in the sense that I’m a workaholic and I’m too focused on it. Now I’m on a mission  to let up a little bit. You’ve done your part. It may or may not be fixed in your lifetime but you’re going to do your contribution. And that’s all you can do.

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.

All good things must come to an end

As many of you know, I fell in love almost a decade ago with TCU. Yes, it was an unexpected love affair that I really never saw coming. The best relationships usually are the ones that blind side and blow us away.

Ten years ago, my oldest son was admitted to TCU. Through a crazy twist of fate,  I interviewed a nonprofit founder named Ann Louden, for this blog. The interview happened late afternoon on the day before my son left for college. In full disclosure, I knew I was interviewing someone who had started a breast cancer nonprofit. She was in Pasadena filming a video for her organization with Josh Grobin. Other than that, I didn’t know anything but her name.

Short story long, Ann Louden did start a great cancer nonprofit that was called…wait for it…TCU Frogs for a Cure. You may remember the post?  If not you can find it here. Ann is the woman who brought pink to all football games in October. After an inspirational conversation and connection with Ann, we became fast friends. She asked me if I had interest in getting involved at TCU.  I honestly answered, “No.” In that moment, my singular focus was packing and getting my son off to college. In hindsight, she was getting ready to set me up on a blind date.

photo via: WestFWlifestyle.com

A few days later, I called her back. I told Ann that there was something incredibly special about this school. After time spent there, I would be happy to help. And looking back, that was the beginning of the love affair. You know, the early phase of love when you get to know one another? In getting to know TCU, I really liked what saw.  Happy and kind people, a thriving campus and people that were connected and going places. Ann then asked,” Do you want to join the Chancellor’s Advisory Council?” The invitation felt like a first date. I accepted and joined an incredible group of alumni, donors, friends and parents at TCU.

When you fall in love there are a number of things that happen. You begin to take stock of qualities you admire and strive for. There was no shortage of admirable traits. I witnessed exceptional leadership, vision, connection and community at TCU. Our group met every few months. I found myself looking forward to our meetings. Because like all good love affairs it is so fun learning about the other person. In this case it was a college I was learning about but I was head over heals. Regardless,  we learned about everything  from; the campus of the future, supporting student athletes,  admissions, providing students with a life full of meaning to opening a medical school. With each meeting and conversation I became a little more smitten.

Last week, I went back to Fort Worth for my last Chancellor’s Advisory Council (CAC) meeting. Insert big sad sigh here. The love affair wasn’t over but it looked like after a decade we were going to have to make this relationship more long distance than it already was. While it felt like a break up, it wasn’t.  It was however, my final meeting. In looking back, so many things we discussed that were mere ideas ten years ago had become realities.

The medical school the Chancellor and board dreamed of opened. The first class of TCU Medical School graduates this year! That National Championship Game…well we did get there. Boy was it memorable! The buildings that were built,  celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the school and the list goes on and on.

Like all good love you learn from it. This experience taught me so much, most especially about leadership. Watching a great leader is a gift. When you see a visionary in action, it is a privilege. Seeing the accomplishments from the past decade at TCU is truly remarkable. Time at TCU has been a lesson is vision, communication, connection, consensus, mentoring and service. What was not to love?

So while this love affair isn’t over, my time at TCU is coming to an end. Our youngest graduates in eight weeks and it is time to close this incredible chapter. To say my heart is heavy would be an understatement. I am forever grateful for my time with TCU, the lessons learned and all the amazing people I met. Endings are never easy. Ultimately, it is the people, the friendships made and the all the great memories that make the endings so worth it.

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.

Episode 56: Start Lighthouse

What happens when one person answers a call? In this situation, the call was to an elementary school teacher from a concerned parent about their child. Join us to learn about what one teacher has done to inspire 5700 children to learn to read and love learning.

There is a reason and a story behind today’s guest, Rina Madhani’s mission to inspire literacy in thousands of underserved children. Join us for an incredible conversation and see why Rina was a L’Oreal Women of Worth. She is a bright light!

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Start Lighthouse does?

Rina Madhani: Start Lighthouse is committed to addressing the literacy crisis within our community. The reality is that thousands of students are growing up illiterate in our city, or state and our nation. Zooming into the Bronx in particular, which is one of the poorest congressional districts in the entire country, 70% of students are still reading below grade level.

What Start Lighthouse does is we build robust home libraries with brand new multicultural books. We host nationally recognized award winning authors and artists so that students can see the process of creating a story. And we also rehabilitate abandoned defunct library spaces within title one public schools. We then convert them into full time literacy centers where we provide high quality literacy programming. It is also a safe space for students to gather during the day after school and throughout the summer.

Charity Matters: Did you grow up in a philanthropic family?

Rina Madhani:  My parents would allocate like weekends where we would volunteer together as a family. That was really important to my parents. It was something that they prioritized, because that was a way to always bring the family together.  I think that’s really also shaped me as an individual today, because I do believe that we’re products of our environments.

Charity Matters: What were your early memories of giving back?

Rina Madhani: As a child, I was always interested in social impact in particular.  I just remember traveling back home to India, and just trying to understand why there was disparities that existed between social classes.  And wondering why the government wasn’t doing enough to address those gaps?  That was something that I also saw back home here in the States.

When I was younger, I was always thinking about how can I make a difference in the community? Even in high school, I created my own organization where it was bringing my peers together for us to be talking about issues that were affecting the world. We talked about Haiti, learned about micro financing,  created school supply kits back for children in Iraq during the Iraqi war. So those things were always in my mind.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and Begin Start Lighthouse?

Rina Madhani:  I remember when the pandemic started to unfold, and we really had no certainty what was taking place. Then suddenly, schools and libraries closed. Certain districts struggled to get tech devices for students that needed them in low income communities. I was in the Bronx, and a lot of my students and their families were reaching out to me asking me for additional materials and resources.  When I spoke to one of my student’s parents she said, “I don’t want him to continue to fall further behind. And I’m particularly worried about his reading ability.”

That phone call inspired me to get Start Lighthouse off the ground.  It really began with just a modest goal of getting 500 brand new multicultural books in the hands of students. Creating learning materials, resources that they could leverage while they were back at home.  I started to mobilize individuals within my network.  I was cold emailing publishers reaching out to elected officials, talking to community members, inquiring about which schools were operating as meal distribution sites. Finding where were students and families gathering daily for hot meals.

 That phone call that I had with one of my student’s parents stated it all.  I realized that I have a call to answer for not only my students, but for the community.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Rina Madhani:  I think the most challenging part has been around fundraising. Early on, I didn’t realize how to actually go about fundraising. I had never formally pitched my organization and I didn’t have a theory of change model in place. So I didn’t know how to raise money for the work that I was doing.  I just thought I would just be going to schools and just giving our services and products just for free as they need it.

Then I realized that’s not going to be sustainable as an organization. So that’s where I had to pivot a bit and really think intentionally around how the organization was going to develop. A lot of the work has really entailed around relationship building and cultivating a community based approach. So involving not only administrators, superintendents, but also elected officials, community members, families and the work that we do. That’s really been a key aspect of it because that those are the folks that can really help mobilize resources and funding.

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

Rina Madhani: I think I’m just so fueled by the students and families that I have the privilege of interacting with every day. And the fact that our students now know things around like interacting with authors and artists. They’re able to verbalize the fact that they want to become authors or artists. The fact that they’ll tell me that they have a home library and that they know what those words mean. They can actually point to it and that fact that they come up and just tell me how much they love and enjoy reading. I think those are the moments that add up to me and really help fuel the work that I do. Because, for me, everything is rooted in community.  I want to be able just to support the next generation of readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

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

Rina Madhani: Our impact is now centered around us rehabilitating these defunct library spaces and converting them into full time literacy centers. That’s where I’ve seen just how impactful our work is. Because now we have the privilege and the opportunity to serve students every single day. So we are there during the day and after school. So now students are able to have access to our programming year round. With that, we are now able to study and unpack student reading proficiency data.

 We’re able to assess attendance levels to you in terms of the frequency of them coming to the literacy hub. Also ensuring that they’re in school because chronic absenteeism is a prevailing issue within our community. So now we have the opportunity to measure these items. Beyond just thinking about the 23,000 books that we’ve delivered and students that we’ve been able to work closely with. That’s where we’ve been able to see the true trajectory of our work. It’s just that we are able to join students as early as pre k to be able to follow them through their entire journey and ensure that they’re reading proficiently by fourth grade.

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

Rina Madhani: The big dream is to become a national organization. Right now we’re course based in the Bronx. But I always tell folks that we’ve got an ask for us to expand to Harlem and to Brooklyn. So, I envision us having a New York takeover. But then for us to be able to bring this all across the country through various chapters that exist.

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

Rina Madhani: I think, for me, the biggest thing has been around putting myself out there. Even if I do receive a no, that’s absolutely fine, because I will find someone else that will also want to champion our cause. And not to get too derailed by that because of course, I’ve received my own fair share of rejections. Along the way, even when I submit a grant proposal, maybe we’re not the right fit right now. But who’s to say and won’t come back again later and thinking that we could pursue when were maybe a bit more developed. So I think for me, that’s been the biggest thing is just not letting that derail me too much. Just to keep going and really just to find your champions. Once you’ve identified folks that truly believe in you and believe in the vision, hold on to those people because those are the relationships that will continue to carry you forward

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Rina Madhani: I think I’ve evolved tremendously. Since I’ve stepped into the shoes of becoming an entrepreneur, I feel so much more confident in terms of my ability to be in a room full of strangers and to be able to advocate for myself.  I think that when I was younger I was so much more introverted. And I always thought that like speaking out, wasn’t like the best way to like go about things. And now I have no problem doing that.

 I think I’ve just become so much more sure of who I am today. And I’m just so grateful, because this journey has allowed me to really step out of my comfort zone and have conversations with individuals that I never envisioned myself having a chat with before. Now that I have the opportunity to to share it share my story, it just reminded me that I also have something to say. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Snowed in and the kindness of strangers

I am interrupting this regularly scheduled podcast to share a recent story of kindness. Each week we share others stories but this week I thought I would share something that happened to me a couple weeks back. As many of you have seen on the national news that recent snow storms hit our local LA mountains, the San Bernardino Mountains.

My husband’s family has had a home there for years and it is a very special place for us. We don’t spend much time at the lake in the winter but it is always a treat to get away. When we had a call that there was water left on in the house, we decide to make a quick trip up. The thought of bursting pipes with freezing temperatures and a pending storm was big motivation.

Our plan was to go up early Friday morning and head back down on Sunday. We both had flights in opposite directions scheduled for Tuesday. So we wanted to make sure we had time to get ready for our upcoming business trips.  So we grabbed two days of food and put chains on our four wheel drive and hit the road.

The previous storm had left a couple of feet of snow that had yet to be plowed. When we got to the house we were surprised by how much snow we hadn’t been plowed. We were sure that the plows were just backed up and would eventually get to us. So we enjoyed our home, the fire, the s’mores, secured the house and settled in.

However, on Sunday morning when we hadn’t seen the plows and the snow kept piling up at a rapid pace, we got a little nervous. I called our local Fire Department which is about a mile away.  When I asked if they had seen any plows. The fireman said, “ No we haven’t seen them in a few days.  We heard that all of the plowing equipment was sent off the mountain to open the Cajon Pass.”  That’s when we became nervous. If the Fire Department can’t get out to help people then things were worse than we realized.

We shoveled snow off the dock, from around the house and quickly realized we had used up most of our food. That wasn’t our big concern. Rather it was getting down the next day to make our flights. We began reading the local Facebook post with people that were much worse off than we were. People without heat, power, firewood, food, medicine and the list went on and on.

So Monday morning when we had eaten the last of our food we thought we would try to shovel our way out. Well, that didn’t go so well and we got stuck. Once we dug the car out and had it back in the garage, my husband had an idea. He went onto the local Facebook group and asked if anyone had plowed roads within a mile of our home. In addition, he asked, if anyone was going down the mountain and could we get a ride?

That is when this story took a very different turn. Strangers named Debbie and Dustin replied to our online plea. They said that they were leaving in less than an hour if we could get to their home. So we turned off that water, grabbed our computers, our dog and left. We left behind our clothes, our car and hiked out about a mile in hip deep snow towards total strangers.

The second storm had now hit and snow was dumping down. When we got to their car we were told they were taking two cars down in order to pick up family friends coming into LAX the next day. They loaded us in, put a dog bed out for our dog and drove us down the hill and off the mountain. We passed tons of abandoned cars on our way down and saw the carnage from the past week’s storm on the roads.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, in two cars, we saw news crews and so many people detained trying to get back up the mountain. Police had closed the road back up due to the danger. We filled up our new friends car with gas and asked where they were going to stay for the night? They didn’t have a plan for their family that included two teenage boys and two chocolate labs. So we invited them to stay with us and they accepted.

It isn’t every day that you Facebook hitch hike and meet strangers who blindly take you into their cars. Alternatively, I don’t think we have ever invited strangers to sleep over at our house but we did. This experience left such an impact on us both. There is such power in the kindness. We are all so afraid and so nervous to open ourselves up. I am the biggest fraidy cat of them all!  However, this experience made me realize just how walled off we all are and how easy it  can be to open up.

It wasn’t just our situation that brought out the best in everyone, it happened all over the mountain. Neighbors checking on neighbors. People bringing others into their homes, shoveling snow for their elderly neighbors, delivering food and so much more. I’m not sure why it takes the worst situations to bring our the best in all of us, but it does.

We are incredibly grateful for Debbie and Dustin for their extraordinary kindness. If we could all be little more open and loving like our new friends the world would be a much better place.

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:

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Episode 55: Grass Roots Grocery

If you have been to the grocery store recently you know how insane food prices are these days. When eggs are $8.99 something isn’t right! When one New York school teacher realized that his students were going without food he decided to step up in a very big way. It turns out that 1 in 4 New Yorkers who are experiencing a food emergency can even access a food pantry.

Join us today to hear the inspirational conversation of one man’s journey from the classroom to major food distribution to serve thousands of meals to his neighborhood. Dan Zauderer is an inspiration for us all in his mission to get all of us to be neighbors helping neighbors.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Grass Roots Grocery does?

Dan Zauderer:  Our mission statement is to advance food justice by cultivating a community of neighbors helping neighbors. What that means in action, is it means neighbors coming together, in grassroots service.  Making sure that their fellow neighbors have enough food to eat.

There are two different programs that we do that do but it’s really just founded upon the notion that we all need to come together to to take a bite out of food insecurity. This is not something that big food pantries can do alone. It’s not something that we can just leave up to the policymakers. The  problem is so big, that the only way to really shift it is for everybody to be involved.

Whether it’s by people roping in their corporate workplace, reaching out to their local girl scout troops, taking a couple of hours out of their week  to help make sure that their neighbors are nourished and fed. That’s what this is about. It’s kind of a narrative shift focusing on on bottom up direct action from the people. it’s just basically about operationalizing this notion of neighbors helping neighbors and applying it specifically to the realm of food justice.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Grass Roots Grocery?

Dan Zauderer:  It kind of begins with me having a career in the startup world, doing sales in New York.  So I set off into the startup world and I loved the element that involves working with people but I just hated the things that I was selling. I decided that I was going to stop everything, move out to Costa Rica, take a life break and teach English. I fell in love with teaching.

So I went back to Columbia University to get my Master’s in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I started working at a school called the American Dream School, in the South Bronx. The student  population is the children of mostly undocumented Central American and Mexican immigrants.  One day, I am walking home and I see one of my students on the sidewalk. Next to my students, I see that there’s this elderly woman who’s digging through trash can dumpster diving.

So, I reached out to my student the next day and I asked him to share about what I saw. He told me that the woman was his grandmother and then this was something  that was a normal activity. When Covid hit, I thought  how can I rally my family and friends around something that would be helpful to my student community?  I decided that we should just raise a bunch of money because I knew it wasn’t just this one student and there were other families who had to deal with food insecurity. We then found out that one out of every four families were cutting down on meals a few times every week in my school community.

Then I learned about community refrigerators, the idea is literally a fridge on the sidewalk put down by an organizer. You place a refrigerator into a local store and you get people to donate food that have extra. Then we rallied together staff, my own family and friends and said, “Alright, let’s start a community fridge in Mott Haven”. That’s the way that this was started  as a teacher’s passion project that ultimately was renamed Grass Roots Grocery.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Dan Zauderer: Funding is was a huge challenge.

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

Dan Zauderer:  A couple of things, one is my amazing girlfriend, my mom, my dad and family.  Having great people in my life is one thing. Another is the amazing community of volunteers. We’ve recruited over almost 3000 volunteers to help out  with this work and they light me up.  Whether it’s little kids, or high schoolers engaging in some kind of direct action to support their neighbors with food justice.

Every Saturday, we have what I call it produce party.  Where we come together with over 100 volunteers in a parking lot in the South Bronx. We unload a truck filled with excess surplus produce that we’ve picked up from the Hunts Point produce market, which is the biggest produce market in the country. Then every Saturday, we work together as volunteers to unload that truck and  to sort through all the food. After that, we load it up into the vehicles of our volunteer drivers. The drivers who come and bring it to our network of community liaisons.  

This past Saturday, I think we had 36 volunteer drivers. Wow. Over 100 people I want to say, and we delivered to I think it was 32 or 34. communities. So far, with not everybody reporting their numbers, we reached over 1000 families in that one Saturday. And I mean, that fuels me.

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

Dan Zauderer:  For example, all of our volunteers that came out this past Saturday, they got an email saying that you moved about 10,000 pounds of excess produce to 34 different communities throughout Harlem, the Bronx, and reached over 1000 families through community leader liaisons. Those liaisons  gave out that food to their neighbors in need in the way that they thought best. So that’s something that every volunteer received. That happens every weekend. 

 This crew of community leaders, I call them grassroots grocers and they all have stories of their own. They’re all doing this work for free because they’re leaders in their community. They want to give food to their people in need and so they’re volunteers.

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

Dan Zauderer: The real dream is to end food insecurity. But that’s not going to be in my lifetime,  although it would be amazing. My dream is for this mindset of neighbors helping neighbors to promote food justice becomes ingrained into the the habit of people’s lives. And it’s already happening. We have families that are that are making sandwiches or that are taking leftover meals and putting them into Tupperware containers and filling the community fridges. People  taking time out of their Saturday once a month to join us in a produce party.

If it just became commonplace, right? It’s this idea that we all need to come together. We can’t just rely on these big food rescue trucks, big nonprofits and the policymakers.  It’s up to all of us, even if it’s just a couple hours a month. That’s really my dream is for that mentality to just wash over the world. 

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

Dan Zauderer: The life lesson that I learned and that is just so important is to have meaning in the work that I do.  It’s really important for me to do something that this that that feels meaningful.  I’ve been sober for 12 years, and you know, starting a nonprofit is even harder than getting sober. 

I’m just so lucky that I created that this amazing community of neighbors helping neighbors. The fact that I can do this work and light people up and get people’s kids involved and spread this message. It is just what fills my cup. Centering on meaning and finding a way to remember all of the blessings of the work that you’re doing is what it’s all about.

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:

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Episode 54: One Block UWS

Have you ever walked by litter or a pile of trash on a city sidewalk? Most of us have and keep walking, thinking it may smell or what a mess. How many of us would stop and try to figure out how to clean up their neighborhood? I haven’t but today’s guest Ann Cutbill Lenane did just that. She not only saw a growing problem but she rolled up her sleeves to do something about it.

Ann Cutbill Lenane is a very successful residential realtor in the Upper West Side of New York City and is the founder of One Block UWS.  Join us today for an inspirational conversation about one woman’s journey to clean up her neighborhood, employee people in need of jobs and revive a community One Block at a time.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what ONE Block does?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: One Block is a nonprofit that facilitates the filling of more than 1,000 bags of trash every week on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We coordinate group events so neighbors can connect and clean their community. In addition we employ three full time workers who were formerly homeless.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start ONE Block?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Back in 2020 New York City had $106 million dollar budget cut to their sanitation. As you can only imagine NYC was a very scary place to be during the pandemic. During the pandemic, on the Upper West Side where I work as a residential realtor there are three homeless shelters. Eight hundred homeless were moved into hotels during the pandemic on the Upper West Side. People were really upset.

Regardless of that situation, I saw the neighborhood begin to turn in a really bad direction. This neighborhood where I raised my kids and still work was something out of a zombie apocalypse. I saw the neighborhood going in a very bad direction.  In the 1980s, I remembered what Mayor Giulani said about cleaning up neighborhoods. He said, ” If we start by cleaning up the trash and the graffiti then people will feel better about being there and be more respectful towards their neighborhood.” So while I didn’t have a solution for the homeless problem, I figured I could find a way to get trash picked up. I can start with the garbage.

I also had three homeless shelters with people who needed work. So I thought, simple I will hire a few people who need jobs and we will go clean up some garbage. However, it wasn’t that simple. We ultimately reached out to ACE a program that trains unhoused people on the skills needed to help us. The real breakthrough happened when the local neighbors, who were upset by the homeless situation started a Facebook page. It was 2020 and we were all locked up and this Facebook page had 16,000 followers instantly. One day a neighbor on the page said,”Who wants to help sign up to clean up garbage?”

I met with my young neighbor from Texas. We all started signing up and cleaning the neighborhood. Next thing we did was hire an attorney to help us get our 501c3.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Some of the early things were easier like getting help from an attorney at Gibson Dunn to help us with a 501C3. Our weekly cleanups and communication was easy because of the Facebook page and group. We had great community involvement. Most importantly, I was able to gather our neighbors emails through the Facebook page which Facebook no longer allows. Capturing our communities information was so important so that we could keep everyone informed of our progress. Those things were relatively easy.

As far as challenges, we had people leaving the route because of drugs that we had to fire. We had people selling our trash bags for money. Our employees couldn’t find restrooms in NYC. We gave employees gift cards so employees could get lunch and use the restrooms where they ate. Our employees didn’t have shoes. We went back to our newsletter and asked our neighbors for help to support the people we hired to help clean our neighborhood .

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: We have a woman named Jackie who takes care of everyone on our team. The thought that she wouldn’t have a job does fuels me. Each month we wonder if we can go on with our funding. I can’t picture these people without One Block. I want these people to be stable, to be appreciated and to have good lives.

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: There isn’t a block that one of our employees is working that people don’t approach them and say, “Thank you.” Putting a face and a name on a person who could easily become invisible in New York City changes that for everyone. 

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Sometimes you think life is supposed to go in a certain direction and it doesn’t. I can only help along the way and I know we are making an imprint on these people’s lives. You can only do what you can do. You just never know what your impact is on someones life. The Upper West Side is cleaner, our team has shoes and we keep putting good out into the universe. 

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: The dream would be to be able to support the people that work for us. Getting them into a stable situation and lift them up. It’s not about One Block and garbage but about the people who need a leg up.

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: I’ve learned the power of one, which becomes the power of many. The impact is huge. I am used to speaking to people everyday and connecting people. What is your super power? You have one and how will you share it? 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: . We were blessed by something that felt like the end of the world during Covid. Something great came out of all of this. You have to start with one small act. Many people want to help. One person one block at a time.

CHARITY MATTERS.

To Support One Block UWS

www.oneblockuws.org

[email protected]

Instagram: @oneblockwestside

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.

Pablove

The world is full of amazing and inspiring humans, they are all around us. When you have a moment to learn someone’s life story, it is a privilege to share it.  Since February 4th was World Cancer Day I thought we would take a look back at the fantastic conversation with Jo Ann Thrailkill, the founder of Pablove.org. Jo Ann founded Pablove to honor her son Pablo and to invest in underfunded cutting edge pediatric cancer research and improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts.  I know she will warm your heart  and inspire you as much as she did me.

Here are some highlights from  our conversation:

Charity Matters: What was your background before starting Pablove?

JoAnn Thrailkill: In my 20s through my 40s I was a music video producer. I absolutely loved my job and was living a dream. I was a single mother with a fantastic life and career. When I met my husband Jeff, who is also in the music business, and we had our son Pablo, I decided to slow my career down a bit and focus on my family and time with my two sons.

When Pablo was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer in May of 2008 everything changed. I went from producing music videos to trying to Executive Produce Pablo’s treatment and care. While Pablo was sick we had so many people who wanted to help, bring food, do something. A co-worker of my husbands, started a PayPal account just so people could do something. We were so involved with Pablo we weren’t really aware of how many people were supporting us through this. 

Charity Matters: When did you realize you were going to start a nonprofit?

Jo Ann ThrailkillWhen Pablo died six days after his 6th birthday we were devastated,bereft and overcome by grief. We were also overcome by people’s kindness and generosity. People really wanted to help us in so many ways, it was overwhelming. When we went to gather pictures for his memorial service, we found so many photos that Pablo had taken with all of our devices. They were everywhere and we had no idea he was such a photographer.

A few months after his death, my husband decided to ride his bike across the country, to deal with his grief and process all that had happened. When he came back, his co-worker asked, “What do you want to do with this PayPal account and the funds?” To be honest we had forgotten about the account and didn’t think it could have had more than a couple thousand dollars. To our total surprise there was over $250,000 and in that moment we felt an overwhelming responsibility to all of these people who had supported us and Pablo.

When my husband said, “You need to executive produce this,” meaning the beginning of Pablove.org, that was the moment.

Charity Matters: Where did you start?

Jo Ann Thrailkill: I went to see Pablo’s doctor, to get a direction and he asked me, ” What would you have wanted that you didn’t have when Pablo was sick?” And my answer was a cure. So I knew we were going to need to invest in research since pediatric cancer research is so underfunded, only 4% of cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer.

He then asked me what Pablo would have wanted and I knew it was something in the arts and Pablo loved photography. I knew that Pablo just wanted to feel like a kid when he was sick and that his photography had been a form of self-expression. So that is how we began the Shutterbugs program which teaches children and teens with cancer the art of photography.

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

Jo Ann Thrailkill: When the kids tell us that working with a camera and photography has been a life changing experience for them. That is when you don’t want to stop and know you need to keep going. In addition, to know that we have created an organization that is filled with optimism, joy and laughter. 

Charity Matters: Tell us the success you have had?

Jo Ann Thralkill: Our very first year in 2010, my husband did a bike ride across the country again but this time to raise funds for The Pablove Foundation and we raised over $500,000. The momentum continued and we were able to fund a grant our first year. Today, almost ten years later we have thousands of Shutterbugs in 16 cities across the country and have provided seed funding for pediatric cancer.

Since 2010, we have awarded more than two million dollars in Childhood Cancer Research Grants to over twenty institutions worldwide.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this journey and how has it changed you?

Jo Ann Thrailkill:  This entire experience has been completely life-altering for me. I think one of the major things I took away from my own family’s cancer experience was that just when you think the world is filled with darkness and hate, you discover that it is actually filled with love.

Things don’t always end up how you hope or plan that they will, but when we were in the trenches of treatment with Pablo we discovered the most amazing support from our community and everyone around us. This gave us not only the financial support but the emotional strength that we needed to start the Pablove Foundation. The experience of starting Pablove has allowed me to always see the light. I am now reminded daily of the love that surrounded me during one of the most difficult times in my life.

charity Matters

 

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Episode 53: Hearts of Gold

Since this week is all about love and Valentines, it seems only fitting that today our guest is all about love. Her name is Deborah Koenigsberger and she is the founder of the nonprofit Hearts of Gold. So many of us pass the homeless in our cities and keep on walking. Not because we don’t care but because we are afraid and often feel helpless.

Not Deborah! As a young mother, she didn’t pass a homeless woman and child i the park, she stopped. When you hear here remarkable story about the impact one person can make, it will make you think differently. So join us for a remarkable conversation about love and action. Think of this as a belated Valentines Day gift to yourself!

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Hearts of Gold does?

Deborah Koenigsberger: Hearts of Gold is a 28 year old nonprofit organization that supports homeless mothers and the children in shelters. We do that by what we call adopting shelters that house this demographic. So the shelters already exists. They are run by their city shelters or whomever entity owns the shelters and we go in with all the frills.

When we started it was really about making sure the moms and kids had something in their lives that would give them a good memory. So many of them coming out of domestic violence. We have programs with moms, and we have programs for the kids. Our goal is to basically help them get out of shelter life transition into housing and into permanent housing. We want them to just have a chance at what we all have, which is a normal life.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Hearts of Gold?

Deborah Koenigsberger: There isn’t one moment but three that all built on one another. The first, I would say is a Stevie Wonder song that started it all.  Peace sign is the name of the album and the song is take the time out. the lyrics are, ” take the time out to love someone reach your arms out and touch someone, the king or some homeless one. We are one underneath the sun.” I was 12 when I heard it and it left a huge impact on me. 

What I get from that song is that these people who are homeless on the streets, somebody gave birth to them. One day, there was a joy. Somewhere along the line, life took a left turn. And it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen to any of us. It just means that it didn’t happen to us, right? It happened to those people. So if we are not a part of the solution, if we don’t attempt to be a part of the solution, then we really are a part of the problem.

The second thing was on my way between work and home was a woman and her three year old daughter. They were sleeping in a cardboard box in the park. I walked through park and my boys were babies at the time. This was our neighborhood park. I finally approached her and had a conversation with her a few times. She told me that the shelter wasn’t safe and she’d rather take her chances on the streets. This went on for just a couple of weeks. And then she was gone.  She disappeared but she motivates me every night.  She powers my narrative because I know that out there. 

The third part of the trifecta was when my oldest son was a baby, we met Bobby Brown. This was just before Bobby became Bobby Brown THE makeup artists.  She was telling me that she did this volunteer work in a shelter where she would apply makeup to the moms teach them how to do makeup and give them product.  I went with her to the shelter. I did styling Image Consulting so Bobby said, ” Why don’t you talk to the moms about just what to how to put themselves together. and I will do my makeup there.”  So we did this workshop together and she would provide makeup artists.. But in that workshop, the moms came with their kids.

I decided that  Christmas  I literally went out and bought all these gifts for each child. At the time it was just me and that was 1994. I became a nonprofit, because when I approached the shelter saying I wanted to raise money for you to do these events. They said, “We can’t guarantee that that money will do that, which I appreciate it very much. Our challenge is that we have so many emergency things that happen we can’t guarantee the funds will go to your program.”  So I said, “Okay, then I’m gonna do it myself.” 

Charity Matters: What were some of your biggest challenges when you started out?

Deborah Koenigsberger: It’s particularly hard when you realize the problem that you are trying to solve is not solvable.  And you certainly are not going to be the one to fix it.  I believe in the starfish story. Although you couldn’t save every starfish on the beach, the one you threw back today got saved.  That’s what saves me when I would fall down and feel that this is so frustrating.  Then I would look at one of my moms, or get a phone call or a text from somebody, and they will say this happened today. And for me it’s just like joy.  

You’re also realizing the best thing that we can realize as founders is that you have to get help. And you have to accept help to bring in people.  So there are all these learning curves.

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

Deborah Koenigsberger:  There’s so many ways to educate people out of darkness. Darkness is ignorance. I’m an immigrant, from an immigrant family. The only thing that we know as immigrants is you gotta work. That’s the only reason why you’re here because work is gonna provide something better and different for you. So I know that it’s the American way. Work was what this country was built on.

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

Deborah Koenigsberger:   When I met Stevie Wonder in 2001, he said something to me, because I told him why started Hearts of Gold. Stevie said, ” My little song made you do all of that.” Like, do you have any idea? Oh world, and I just thought, that little song wasn’t just words on paper. It was such an invitation to open your heart and see something besides yourself. 

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

Deborah Koenigsberger: Over 37,500 moms and kids helped her impacted children who were the first one in their entire family line to go to college. This Christmas we bought, wrapped and distributed over 5000 toys. I think we should understand that what we’re doing is bigger than all of us and call in our communities.

If you are blessed enough, if you are given the gift of sharing yourself with somebody else in a way that will have impact and change something, you’re blessed.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Deborah Koenigsberger: I’ve matured a lot.  I have found and met incredible people along the way who have taught me invaluable lessons. And I’ve learned invaluable lessons from people who weren’t really trying to teach me anything, but I learned it anyway. 

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

Deborah Koenigsberger: I learned that a single human being can really affect major change and it all starts with an idea.  I think of myself as a vessel. And I think that I am just there because I have that kind of energy.  We don’t all have the same energy or the same way of thinking about things. Some people have the talent to help you create something, and that’s magical, some people have treasure and that  is immeasurable. Now you have time, talent, treasure, and everybody has a different one of those that they can bring to your to your cause. One of the lessons that I think is really important that I’ve learned is that there are so many kind people out there in the world.  

When we lift one we lift all.

What I’ve learned is that you can’t save all the starfishes  even if you have all the resources in the world because it’s just not possible. But what you can do is get a whole bunch of more people on that beach.  God of the things I’ve learned a lot, there’s so many ways to love people.

 If you’re at the end of your story and you could write that one person’s life was significantly impacted by your being here, walking the earth leaving a footprint.. Then for me, I am full. I am full. 

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.

Looking back at a Force for Good

max page, the force

This weekend  millions of us will watch the Super Bowl and of course those very pricey ads. I thought it might be worth revisiting the one of my favorite philanthropic friends, Max Page. You might remember Max from his starring Super Bowl ad as Darth Vadar, a few years back.

Max has been a patient at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles  many times in his short life for multiple heart surgeries. He was born with a congenital heart defect and over the years has had over 13 surgeries. Each year over 40,000 are born with congenital heart disease. Since February is heart month and the Super Bowl, Max has been on my mind.

I met Max and his family when we worked together to launch the Junior Ambassador Program at CHLA . The Page family are some of the most philanthropic people I know. They have used their situation and celebrity to the benefit of others time and time again.

Max continues his acting and his passion for philanthropy. His hope is that if someone is inspired to do something because of his journey, that they would consider supporting a place that has given him so much and become a second home, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Heart Ambassadors program. Max said in an interview with Today, “I’m going to do whatever I can to help and do the best to bring awareness to kids like me.”  

Max’s heart may have been defected once upon a time, but today it is his heart and use of the Force that continues to inspire us all.

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.