Category

Charity Profile

Category

AnnieCannons

Have you ever heard of Annie Cannon? She was a pioneer, who worked at the Harvard Observatory in the early 20th century. Annie Cannon and a group of women discovered the very categories that stars fall into. If ever there was a more perfect name for an organization about two stars who are truly pioneers, it is Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley’s nonprofit organization Annie Cannons.

Truly one of the most innovate organizations tackling one of the most horrific problems, human trafficking or slavery. The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. Sixty-eight percent are trapped in forced labor, twenty-six percent are children and over fifty percent are women and girls. According to the nonprofit organization Polaris there were over 8,000 reported cases in the United States in 2016. I truly had no idea and was shocked by these statistics.

What was even more stunning was two Stanford graduates (one a Masters from Stanford and the other Stanford Law) who were determined to find a solution to empower these victims by teaching them skills, earning income and building solutions to empower them to break the cycle. Last week I had one of the most incredible conversations, I have ever had…. with Co-Founder Jessica Hubley.

Charity Matters: What is the back story to Annie Cannons, your nonprofit is pretty unique?

Jessica Hubley: Laura was the manager of the Program on Human Rights on Stanford and had worked as a Senior Research Associate for Stanford’s Anti-Trafficking Project. I was an attorney, we had both gone to Stanford and in September 2013, I was writing a nonfiction book about human trafficking. Laura was going to Myanmar for work and asked if I wanted to come along. We met and interviewed nine people who were victims of human trafficking and they all said the same thing. That they were desperate for work, they were poor, vulnerable and trusted someone.

This was shocking to me, but not to Laura who had been in this space for much longer. I asked Laura, “What if we got these people a job?” The answer wasn’t as simple, but we knew that if we could find away to address the financial piece we might be able to impact change.

When we came home, I was a successful attorney working with digital media companies in the technology industry. I was seeing so many people in software development making $400 an hour writing code and couldn’t help but wonder what if we taught these women victims of human trafficking how to do this?

Charity Matters: What did you do then? 

Jessica Hubley: First we spent an enormous amount of time talking to people who ran nonprofits, shelters here in the Bay Area that housed women who were victims of human trafficking, we spoke to Fortune 500 companies and gathered a lot of information.

 We are self-proclaimed huge geeks. That being said, we taught ourselves to write code. Laura taught herself, then she taught me, we began essentially putting a school together for these women and kept refining our curriculum. We knew the market and need for coders and believed that these women who had escaped unimaginable past had what it took. They were good problem solvers, they were survivors, hard workers and they had grit. It turns out that is exactly what it takes to  be a perfect coder.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work? You are running a nonprofit and a school, essentially and then you are  helping these women get jobs writing code? It is an enormous undertaking, how do you do it?

Jessica Hubley: I think there are three things. One, I still feel I have something to prove to the world. Two, we built the kind of work place that we both always dreamed of that is supportive and collaborative, where we all learn from one another. Lastly, Laura understands and having a partner to lift me up ….and we keep each other going.

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

Jessica Hubley: When I see one of our students thriving and being successful. When I receive a card or note saying you changed my life and my children’s’ lives. When our customers love their apps and websites and when we have found hidden figures in the world that no one is looking at and have given them the economic power to break the cycle of human trafficking. We have helped people build solutions.

Charity Matters: What have you learned from this experience?

Jessica Hubley: I have learned that most people are good but more than that, I have learned that what really matters is the mark we leave on the world.

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

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

Celebrating our Veterans and Wellness works

Over the years I have interviewed and profiled a number of amazing organizations that serve our troops and veterans, Hugs for Heroes, Operation Gratitude, Veterans Career Exchange, and the list goes on. All fantastic organizations that have served our men and women abroad or helped returning Veterans get jobs once they were out of the military. However in all my interviews, I have yet to meet an organization that’s main focus is  to restore hope and a sense of wholeness of body and soul turning their post traumatic stress into post traumatic growth, until now. The place is Wellness Works, a home for healing  and hope.

Last week, I sat down with the Co-Founder, Mary Lu Coughlin, of the non-profit Wellness Works to learn more about the journey our Veterans go through and the story of this amazing non-profit that continues healing our Veterans. Today we celebrate Veterans Day and all those who gave so bravely for our freedom. It is the perfect time to share about the remarkable work that is being done to support the Veteran community and their families. This video (that sadly isn’t embedding but you can old school click the link) gives you a deeper dive into Wellness Works impact on Veterans.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to start Wellness Works?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Beginning in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my Co-Founder Nancy was teaching wellness education workshops and holistic healing therapies to nurses mainly to help healing with the large AIDS/HIV population at the time. Our goal was always to he a source of healing and service to the community.  As medications became available for AIDS patients our client focus began to shift, September 11th happened, the war began and then in 2005  when we read Dr. Ed Tick’s book War and The Soul about healing Veterans from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. We knew that we had a healing skills that could help our Veterans and their families.

Soldiers began coming home in 2006 and we knew our healing community needed to support and love these Veterans and give them a place that felt like home. 

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work in serving our Veterans?

Mary Lu Coughlin: Twenty-two veterans a day take their own lives. I know that when we (Wellness Works) have a tangible felt experience and love can come thru us to our Veterans that we are an instrument of healing.

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

Mary Lu Coughlin: When veterans come through our door they feel welcome, they feel at home, they know their invisible wounds are seen and they are not judged. When I over hear one veteran telling another,” I am finally home thanks to Wellness Works.” 

Another veteran, who now serves on our board, said on his second visit to Wellness Works that, “his life’s purpose had been restored. He now had a community with which he could once again strive to serve the greater good.”

Charity Matters:What do want people to think about this Veteran’s Day?

Mary Lou Coughlin: This Veterans Day gives us as a caring community and society, the opportunity to acknowledge the service of the many men and women who have served us so well.

Charity Matters.

 

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

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

Hand to hold

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

Joseph Campbell

I like to say that I have a front row seat to humanity. I am privileged to meet and share the stories of the most remarkable people and this week’s conversation with Kelli Kelly was so inspiring that I can’t wait to share. Kelli is a real life hero, a woman who went through enormous pain and suffering when her son Jackson was born 16 weeks premature in 2000, weighing a little over a pound. What she did with that experience is a lesson for us all.

Kelli said, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

In 2000, after the weeks in the NICU (Neo-Natal ICU) Kelli was sad, stressed, traumatized, depressed and emotionally drained not knowing the fate of her newborn son. She said, “The guilt, grief, anguish and pain was overwhelming. Now 17 years later, I can still relate to that defining moment.”  Here are the highlights from our inspiring conversation:

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: “When I realized that 1 out of 8 babies born in the United States is pre-term. We started as a March of Dimes Ambassador family but I realized early on that there were  many organizations to support premature babies but nothing to support the families. I was looking for an organization to help me meet other families going through this same stress, isolation and anxiety and there wasn’t one to help us.

So, at first I gathered some families together at our local hospital and created a program, connecting NICU families but it wasn’t enough. In 2008, we began Hand to Hold to provide families a  peer-to-peer support network for seasoned families of premature babies. We knew we needed to give families ways to survive and navigate their time at the NICU and beyond.”

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

Kelli Kelly: First and foremost it is remembering what it felt like to be a parent of a child in the NICU and the impact, trauma, ptsd and stress that causes in all areas of your life. Secondly, it is the cards, the emails from the people we touch. We just started a podcast and are now hearing from families all over the world who are grateful we are sharing with them. Most of all, it is a strong faith in those difficult moments that keeps me moving forward.”

Charity Matters: When do you know that your work has made a difference?

I know we are making a difference when organizations like the Preemie Parent Alliance, realize that parents voices need to be a part of this conversation. When we were the keynote speaker at the National Neonatal Nurses Convention or when I’m speaking to national pharmaceutical companies and their employees about what is happening in this space.

We are truly trying to make foundational changes to help families to be better parents and to not only survive but thrive after this experience.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your impact and where you are headed next with Hand to Hold?

Kelli Kelly: We know that our impact and reach continues to expand through our national database that connects these families, through our expanding list of health care partners and because we continue to help break down the barriers to reach families going through this experience.

We started a podcast last February and have had over 13,000 downloads in 42 countries. So we know there is a need and that we continue to reach these families. That was the goal to find, connect and support as many families as we can. Our next steps are to begin our work with “Beyond the NICU” with a book and an App to help families navigate the invisible diagnosis that is a factor with preemies. We will be developing a care map to help navigate families through the process of  first all the way through their child’s education.

To end where we began with Kelli’s inspiring words, “There are defining moments in our lives. Some bring great joy-others sorrow and pain. If we embrace these moments, they can mold us into new and improved versions of ourselves-one that allows us to ignite change, instill hope and find a purpose for our lives we never thought possible.”

Kelli is an inspiration to all with her purpose driven life in service of others.

Charity Matters.

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

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

The Good Journey

I have to confess, a few years ago when an acquaintance of mine started a podcast, I was not really sure what that was, when or how you listened to them. Since that time, I have a better understanding of podcasts but have not been bitten by the bug…until now. I was on LinkedIn and came across what I thought was an article about a nonprofit founder but instead it was a podcast interview on The Good Journey Pod. A few minutes into it and I was hooked.

Naturally, I needed to know more about the person behind this brilliance and I reached out to find out who was behind all of this? I discovered the answer, Brady Josephson, a man passionate about the poor and changing charity. He has worked for nonprofits, been a part of technology companies trying to make giving a part of daily life and has built businesses that use technology to help nonprofits grow. While he may call himself a charity nerd, he is anything but. Brady is an entrepreneur, charity strategist, professor, writer (for the Huffington Post and his blog RE:Charity) and the man behind The Good Journey. I can’t wait for you to meet someone who inspires so much good.

Charity Matters: What inspired you to get into the nonprofit sector?

Brady Josephson: I went to college in Chicago and was studying business and playing baseball. I remember seeing the news about the Tsunami in 2004 in Phuket and realized in that moment that somehow I needed to help. That moment changed my focus to wanting to mix business, purpose and technology to make a difference. 

After that,  I spent a few years at a nonprofit called Spark, while getting my graduate degree, and became more passionate about the poor and using my skills with business and technology to help change charity for the better.

Charity Matters: What do think about the state of philanthropy today?

Brady Josephson: On one level the nonprofit sector is fractured, there are simply way too many nonprofit organizations. There is an area in my hometown that has 88 nonprofits within a six block radius all trying to serve the poor and homeless. They all compete for the same donors , dollars and market share. From this level philanthropy can be more effective.

On the flip side do we need another nonprofit like Charity Water? Actually, yes we do. New nonprofits, like Charity Water, are bringing innovation, technology and inspiration to people who have never given before. I think we are going to see more hybrid versions of nonprofits like B Corporations that do social good, like Toms shoes in the future.

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

Brady Josephson: When I was working directly for nonprofits I was directly impacted by the people we served. Today, helping nonprofits to be better at what they do, the rewards are not as direct. I do hear from nonprofits that thank me for my work, I know I am better for going through the process. Now, I just treasure the micro-moments when I know I have made a difference.

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

Brady Josephson: Initially being altruistic, when I started working for an international nonprofit, I saw $2 save a life. I know that with the impact of generosity we can literally save lives.  If we can continue to create a culture of giving, then we all win. The more people we can get to truly understand giving and how to make a difference then we can transform our world for the better.

Thank you Brady for bringing us along on your Good Journey and reminding us that our world is a better place when we are better to one another.

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you feel moved or inspired, please inspire another…

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

Grades of Green

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

John Muir

You may remember a few years back I interviewed the founders of Grades of Green, a nonprofit that was founded in 2008, by a few passionate mothers, who wanted to educate and inform children about their choices and the impact on their environment. After receiving an award from the EPA, the founders created a non-profit so that other schools would have free and easy access to the tools and information needed to empower and inspire students to care for the environment.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with this incredible organization and chat with Emily Stewart, Program Coordinator for Grades of Green.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and participate in a non-profit?

I was raised with environmental values and completed a degree in environmental policy, so I always knew that I would be involved in the nonprofit world. When I found out about the work that Grades of Green was doing across the globe to inspire children to start their own grassroots sustainability movements, I knew that I needed to be part of it.

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

Grades of Green: Climate change poses very real threats to the future of our planet. I believe that if enough students become involved in the environmental movement, they can tip the scale and create a safer and more sustainable world.

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

Grades of Green: When students that you have mentored take the initiative to innovate their own solutions to environmental issues in their community, you know that you have made a lasting difference by encouraging the next generation to become environmental advocates. For example, a Grades of Green Youth Corps student named Antonio’s work to champion cleaner air through No Idle Zones inspired the passing of ACR 160, a statewide resolution in California.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been? Number  of people impacted, funds raised…..any and all

Grades of Green is a very exciting and rewarding place to work because its impact in terms of benefits to the environment is measurable, and yet the environmental values and leadership skills that children gain from participating last a lifetime. 568 schools across 43 states and 17 countries are involved in our green programs, and the number of schools and students involved grows every week! Their actions to protect the environment translates to thousands of tons of waste diverted from landfills, gallons of water saved, tons of CO2 emissions reduced, and toxins removed from the environment.

Four moms set out to educate their children and others on how to care for our world and one another. Almost ten years later their message has spread across the country and the globe. To circle back week  with John Muir’s words,When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 

Charity Matters

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

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

Katie’s Krops, a seed that grew

After the chaos of last week, I wanted to bring you the incredible story about an amazing young woman who is living a life that matters…….a life of purpose.

Working with students everyday, I truly believe that kids can do anything. Like a garden, they simply need the seed planted, cultivated, fertilized and time for it to grow. The story below is exactly that, about one 9-year-old girl who had an idea to end hunger.

Her name is Katie Stagliano and her story begins with a seed. In 2008, as a third grader Katie received a package of cabbage seeds. She went home excited to plant her seedlings and began taking daily care of her cabbage. Her hard work paid off and her cabbage ended up being over forty pounds! She knew her plant was special and needed to find a special home for it. Katie and her mother reached out to a local program, that served the homeless and hungry. She helped prepare her cabbage and served so many grateful people and now knew she needed to do more.

It was at that moment that Katie began to understand how many people in our country are hungry and she was determined to do more. She went to her school and asked if they could start a school garden and give the produce to the local soup kitchen, which they did. Still her dream expanded, Katie said,”If people (I hope lots of kids too) could grow even one vegetable plant and donate the harvest to a local soup kitchen we could make a huge difference in the fight against hunger.”

Katie is now 18 and this past month she headed off to College of Charleston as a freshman.

In under ten years Katie has created her nonprofit Katie’s Krops and established over 100 gardens in 33 states. She has summer camp where children learn about growing vegetable gardens and her team of young gardeners has grown thousands of pounds of produce, come together to cook and serve thousands meals since 2008…..all because of a seed, an idea and a boundless heart.

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you feel moved or inspired, please inspire another…

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

Never forget….

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Virgil

It is almost impossible to fathom that sixteen years have passed since that fateful day September 11th, 2001. We all remember where we were when we heard the news. Our brains could barely comprehend the surreal images being flashed on our televisions. Family members called family members, all of our lives were forever changed in that moment, and our innocence lost.

I will never forget taking my young son on a private tour of the makeshift 911 museum a couple of years after that fateful day. Our tour guides were the survivors’ families, the brother of a fireman, the other lost her husband in tower two and both of these grief-stricken people walked us around the Twin Towers perimeter of the rubble, while recalling the path that their loved ones took that morning of September 11th.

When the tour ended at the American Express Building, we all gathered around the fountain of eleven tears that was created for the eleven American Express employees that lost their lives. There was not a dry eye amongst us as we watched tears drop into the fountain and roll down each others faces recalling the stories, the people, and the lives which ended too soon.

Last year we went back to NYC and took our youngest son to the 911 museum, a cavernous space that was filled with thousands of people and yet, the museum is silent. Each person walking through, what was the bottom of the World Trade Center buildings, remembering, reliving that day, the loss, hearing the loved ones memories of each of those faces, reminding us never to forget.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, it is overwhelming to think of so much suffering, yet it is up to each of us to remember that, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you feel moved or inspired, please inspire another…

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

ME to WE

Summer’s end is bittersweet for me. It is not just the long days, the sun, and the inevitable back to school but it is saying goodbye to the remarkable students that we are privileged to work with all summer long through the youth leadership organization I work with. These students are beyond inspiring and we give them the skills to change the world and it is amazing to see what they can do.

The other day I was looking into other organizations that do similar work and I came across the most remarkable story about a young man named Craig Kielburger and his older brother Marc. Craig, at the age of 12 saw a news story about a young man his age, that changed his life, ignited a fire within and sparked a generation of youth to give back.

That moment was the beginning of the nonprofit Free the Children, whose mission was to free children and families of poverty and exploitation but that was simply the beginning of a remarkable journey and story. Free the Children grew and expanded into ME to WE, the WE Movement and a remarkable organization that empowers youth to change the world.

More than twenty years later, their vision and scope has expanded into empowering youth at home, connecting them with global and social causes, partnering with schools, service oriented travel programs for youth and families, along with a social enterprise that provides products that make an impact with their everyday consumer decisions.

These two brothers, used a spark to ignite a flame of service that has inspired hundreds of thousands of youth to be the change. In Craig’s words,” Over the years, we’ve discovered that it’s far more important to reach as many people as possible-especially our youth-empower them with the knowledge that it’s not up to anyone else, it’s up to them to make a difference.” 

Charity Matters.

 

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch and inspire another.

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

 

Guest blogger: Theresa Gartland

This past week I had a long over due catch up with my friend Theresa Gartland of Operation Progress. Theresa who is originally from the Washington DC area came to Los Angeles, more specifically Watts, right out of college. Watts is still considered one of the most dangerous places in Los Angeles, but Theresa fell in love with the children and families in Watts. In the past decade plus, she has worked for a few different organizations, all with the same mission of making Watts a place for children and families to thrive.

Today, I am handing the handing Charity Matters over to Theresa to share her remarkable story of service…she is a true inspiration to us all.

As I am embarking on my 15th year of working in Watts and serving the youth of the community, I cannot help but reflect on what keeps me energized and going, of course two words…the kids! Everyday, I’m so grateful that I get to fulfill my life purpose by provide the most incredible, life-changing opportunity for some of the most deserving youth.

Attending Holy Child High School in Potomac, Md, I was taught the values of giving back through action not words. This rang true for me during my high school service trips to an afterschool program in Southeast DC. During my service, I would play with the children, help them with their homework, and spend time getting to know they. I quickly learned that they only difference between them and me was our neighborhood, and they were just as deserving as all the opportunities I was given. It was my actions that were making an impact. Through service and volunteering I had found my voice, it sparked my passion but I no idea it would ignite my career.

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned through my work is that each child deserves to feel safe, validated and know that someone is proud of them. This has become my mission, to make sure every student feels apart of something bigger than themselves, to feel validated, nurtured, and empowered.

My biggest success thus far, has been watching two girls that I have known since they were in 2nd grade, now sophomores at an all girls catholic high school, flourishing and succeeding. To be apart of their journey and see how OP has literally changed their life trajectory has been of the biggest rewards of my career.

It’s truly been a joy, honor and privilege to work at amazing schools and organizations in the Watts community that are so committed to inspiring, fostering and developing the youth. Being able to be there for a children, to motivate, challenge, and encourage them is no short of a miracle.

Thank you Theresa for reminding us what it means to serve, you are an amazing example to all.

Charity Matters.

 

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

 

Two blind brothers…

While the post name sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, it is the reality for two New York City brothers Bradford and Bryan Manning who were diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a form of macular degeneration at the age of 7. Growing up they knew that their eye sight would continue to deteriorate over time, potentially leaving them both blind.

Rather than having that as a disadvantage both brothers pursued their goals attending University of Virginia and began careers in finance and sales. The two decided to quit their day jobs and begin a clothing line that would raise funds to cure blindness. Bradford, who is on the board of the Foundation Fighting Blindness believes that the science is there and that the research funding can cure their disease. The result is Two Blind Brothers.

These two brothers have made it their mission to help cure blindness. Their clothing is soft, has braille tags, which the brothers were taught to use as children for the pending loss of their eyesight and is flying off the racks. More than that, all of their proceeds go towards finding a cure. They do not take a salary and donate everything towards their mission.

They both believe the cure is with in sight. As Bryan said recently,”Call me optimistic but there is a cure in there.” Something we all want to see.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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

Once Upon a Room

Like all good fairy tales, it begins with once upon a time…there was a beautiful woman named Jennifer Hull and her heart was so huge that she not only adopted one child but created a non-profit to help hundreds more sick children at children’s hospitals around Los Angeles. Jennifer and I have known each other for a number of years, and last week we not only sat down together to catch up, but my son and I were invited to help Jennifer, her daughter Josie, and best friend Sienna, with their incredible cause called Once Upon a Room. A non-profit organization that decorates rooms for children who have long stays in the hospital.

Rather than me continuing this fairy tale, I think the conversation tells this story the best.

Charity Matters:  Give us a little back round on you and Josie?

Jennifer Hull:

A little history about Josie and I…I am the very proud, adoptive mother of Josie. Josie and her sister, Teresa, were born in Guatemala and were conjoined at the head. They came to the US at 9 months old. At 1 years old they underwent surgery done by a 50 person medical team to separate them. After 23 hours in the operating room our two beautiful girls were rolled out in 2 separate beds.

We were granted a miracle that day and have spent everyday since trying to do everything in our power to better the girls’ lives and those around us. As one can imagine our medical journey did not end at separation surgery. There have been countless hospital stays with over 30 surgeries combined and hours upon hours of physical therapy. 

We know from first hand experience when you are in an environment that makes you happy and calm healing is easier to achieve. It was important to Josie and I to help others in medical situations feel better. The main portion of our program is to decorate hospital rooms for pediatric patients going through active medical treatment.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?

Jennifer Hull:  Once Upon a Room has a tag line…Every child has a story. My sweet daughter, Josie spends so much time in the hospital. Every time we are inpatient, I noticed her spirits were lifted when we would bring in items that were ours and set up a mini “house” like atmosphere. We have had the pleasure of meeting other patients and families over the years and when we would visit them we would bring something to brighten their room we could see the joyous effect it had.

We wanted to expand our reach and really transform the hospital setting into a personalized, happy environment. Josie and I got excited about the possibility of spreading joy to others in the hospital. We knew we needed to do this. We wanted to serve others and this was such a perfect fit for us.

Sienna, Josie and Ford

Charity Matters: Who along the way has helped you make this journey happen?

Jennifer Hull: Siena Dancsecs is a huge contributor to our success and is one of Josie’s best friends and has been through so many ups and downs with Josie medically. Siena’s passion to help others started to light on fire. At 11 years old she called to tell me that we the organization should be named Once Upon a Room. She said that our mission should be to serve pediatric patients in and out of the hospital that were in active medical treatment. 

Siena says, “Through my friendship with Josie I wanted to do more. We do what we do because we can see the long-term impact it makes. I remember getting asked to go to the hospital for the first time. I honestly had no idea what to expect, what I would see or what I would hear. Normally when I think about a hospital I think about all of the needles, medicine and doctors. We get to see a different side of it. When we walk into those rooms we get to brighten this patient’s room with what they like. It becomes all about them in a different way. It’s not all about their disease or injury; it’s about them as a person. That’s what makes it so special. Getting to make these patient’s days just a little bit brighter. And truly it affects not only their environment but also everyone around them. It brings this glow to their surroundings, helping them start fighting a little harder.”

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

Jennifer Hull: This is an easy question…making other people happy!! As Josie says, “We do this to make other kids happy. I know how hard it is to be in the hospital so I want to help them too.”

We can’t change the medical outcome but we can change how they feel when they are going through this journey. You can’t believe how rewarding it feels to know that you put your heart and soul into doing something for someone else that hopefully makes a difference in his or her life. Every room we do we put ourselves into their shoes for a moment. We do our best to anticipate what they would want or what would bring joy to them.

When we get the theme of the room we try to do the best we can to make it perfect for them. You would think after doing over 500 plus rooms it would be redundant but instead we try to make each room better and more personalized. Making someone else happy fuels us. Hopefully that person is the patient, but also the family. Being in the hospital is so stressful for the whole family.

We are one of the few people who walk into the room and can concentrate on the person not the medical diagnosis. We get to recognize them and their interests. The family gets to be reminded of the person not the condition.

The other part that fuels us is the excitement that it brings to the medical staff. You almost see them invigorated. It is so much fun to watch them and their reactions when they are watching a room reveal for one of their patients that they clearly have compassion for. It is a gift to us to make to make others feel special.

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

Jennifer Hull: There is an interesting thing that happens in our group. It isn’t only the patients and families that we affect. Many times it is the volunteers or vendors that we see affected by our work. It is so much fun to go into Target and the cashiers are all excited to see what rooms we are shopping for. It is so rewarding to see the change in our volunteers when they come to help. 

Witnessing the love and compassion that kids and teens give to patients is one of the best gifts in my life.  We don’t give them enough freedom or opportunities to give to others in a meaningful way. Giving them a positive experience serving others at young age while hopefully help them remember that feeling when they are adults and they will find a cause that they can make an impact giving to as adults.

 

Charity Matters: Last question before we end this fairy tale, tell us what success you have had?

Jennifer Hull: Our success isn’t measurable. Success for us is determined by the about of love and compassion we are able to spread to our patients, families, staff, volunteers and vendors. It is the ability to spread hope and happiness. Our success is based on helping and serving others.

 

Now that is happily ever after….if ever I have heard one.

 

Charity Matters.

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

Homelessness…where to start?

Regardless of where you live, you have witnessed homelessness. It seems to be an epidemic on the rise and a problem with so many layers, that many of us simply don’t even know where to begin? In communities across the country people are coming together, as Americans do, to roll up their sleeves to support those in need.

Last week a dear friend of mine, reached out to tell me about his amazing aunt, Norah Miller, and the work she is doing in her community to help the homeless. Norah lives in Pennsylvania where the economy has struggled, the opioid addition has skyrocketed and Veterans are unemployed and facing homelessness. It would be easy to turn a blind eye, but Norah simply couldn’t look away. Instead she decided to act.

In 2009, Norah and four friends came together to do something and founded Cornerstone, to support the homeless in their community and by 2016 these five received their official nonprofit status.

Here is what Norah had to say last week:

CM: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start your non-profit?    

Norah Miller:  It was a bitter cold morning in western Pennsylvania, January 2012, when a young man called me. He identified himself as a veteran who had lost his job and his home in Akron and was doing temp work at a steel mill. His take-home pay wasn’t able to cover the $40 a night charged by the motel. When he called me, he didn’t have enough money for gas to get his family to a relative’s home in Ohio. I met him in a parking lot and gave him $100 in gift cards for gas or food. The windows in his old car were steamed up and he looked toward his wife, three children and their dog. I told him I could help him with housing. He said, “It’s too late.” Then he thanked me profusely and said, “I wish I had met you sooner.” That’s when I knew.

CM: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Norah Miller:  Committed colleagues, support from the faith-based community and a lobby full of people including a 10 month old baby girl in an old stroller, extending her arms to me last week.

CM: When do you know you have made a difference?

Norah Miller: When someone – a recovering addict, a disabled veteran, a family with children – is handed the keys to their very own apartment.

 

CM: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

Norah Miller:Prior to its 501c3 designation, The Cornerstone was already recognized as the single point of entry to the county’s homeless and housing stabilization programs. $64,000 in private funding was raised in the first 9 months, $450,000 in government funding was allocated and more than 100 people a week receive assistance.

Norah and her team are working to make a difference. They spend every penny they raise on helping others, they do not have a web-site, a logo or a marketing budget. When I asked her what she needed she said, “Our vote.” The Cornerstone is one of three non-profits chosen to win a website. If you are so inclined to take three seconds to click this link, https://digitalboostvoting.isynergy.io to help an amazing woman who is helping others, then you too will be making a difference.

Every decision we make with our time is a choice. Thank you Norah for inspiring us all.

Charity Matters.

 

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

Alliance of Moms

This upcoming weekend we will celebrate our moms for Mother’s Day. Last week, I had an incredible conversation with two inspiring mothers, who have taken their journey into motherhood and transformed the lives of hundreds of young mothers in the foster care system. These amazing women founded Alliance of Moms, a non-profit organization whose mission is to break the inter-generational cycle of babies born to teens in foster care.

Yasmine Delawari Johnson and Jules Leyser were both pregnant in 2012, along with three other girlfriends (Danika Charity, Emily Lynch and Kelly Zajfen) all at the same time. For some it was their first child, for others their second or third but the girlfriends all experienced  a profound change in becoming mothers. Together they were determined to use that shift in each of them to help other mothers, the most at risk, those in the foster care system.

What inspired you to start Alliance of Moms?

Yasmine: I was pregnant with my son, having a child makes your heart burst wide open and makes you see everything every differently. I wanted a part of motherhood to be looking out for all children, not just our own. From my previous work with  The Alliance for Children’s Rights, I knew we needed to explore more volunteer opportunities for children’s rights.

Jules: My mother grew up in foster care and was a teen parent at 17. I understood the need to break the cycle, 66% of babies born into foster care become teen moms. I also understood that my child had won a lottery that he didn’t even knew he entered, just by luck. We needed to help support all mothers.

Tell us about when you knew, your work had made a difference?

Yasmine: In July 2014, five of us began exploring this idea of creating an auxiliary group to support The Alliance for Children’s Rights but more than that we wanted a mother to mother, community to community event. Six weeks later, we had our first program, Raising Baby, inviting 70 youth in foster care and their children for a day of fun, educational parenting workshops. We were determined to be there for these moms, when so many have let them down.

While we set out to serve these young women in foster care, our members were also impacted by serving. The women we serve have changed all of our lives for the better because regardless of your circumstances, we all walk away stronger knowing that we all struggle as mothers.

What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Jules: Having a hands on relationship with our pregnant girls and seeing them on an upward trajectory. Knowing that these young mothers are now talking and singing to their unborn children, or reading to their children at bedtime, creating family rituals, and using  the little things that we teach them, which have a big impact on their children.

These young parents are motivated to change their lives and their children’s’ and more than that, it is seeing people being kind.  

What is your dream for Alliance of Moms?

Yasmine: My dream would be to create something sustainable and scalable that we could take outside of Los Angeles and to other communities of mothers across the country. We know and see the value of creating community and a village for mothers.

Jules: My dream would also be to see our program expand to other places and perhaps to help all teen moms. The real dream would be to have the public start seeing these young moms in a different way…with humanity and empathy.

As Yasmine and Jules both said, “We are all different and yet we are all the same. We all want the best for our children, we all get overwhelmed, stressed, worried that we are not doing the right thing. We are all learning about ourselves and our children as we struggle to do our best.”

Over 600 members, hundreds of families and young mothers served and countless lives forever changed by a group of mothers who know what it is to share the love, create an alliance and to inspire us all.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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

One Veteran’s mission to help Veteran’s get a job

The beauty that is Charity Matters, is the incredible people who I have the privilege of meeting and telling their stories. Mark Brenner is one of them. A few months back, when I attended a non-profit seminar I was fortunate enough to be seated with this dynamic man, with a huge smile, a zest for life and an unlikely non-profit founder.

Mark told me that in the end of 2013, he had recently sold his recruiting business and attempted to play golf for a few months, but knew there was something missing. A life long connector and recruiter he knew he still had people that he could help with his skill set.

In 1967 at 19 years old, Mark served in Vietnam, and was a Veteran. When Mark came home from Vietnam, they threw rocks at him as he stepped foot in the U.S. for the first time in a year from being away. He said,”The way I was treated coming back from Vietnam, I knew I didn’t want anyone else to ever go through that.”

More than that, Mark had learned recent statistics on Veteran’s unemployment  and thought, “Now this is something I can help with, I know how to get people jobs.” His help turned into a 501c3, non-profit called Veterans Career XchangeHis mission to coach veterans to get full-time employment and to retain their jobs.

Today, Mark is working harder than ever. He and his team at Veterans Career Xchange have coached, mentored and gainfully employed hundreds veterans, with over 80% who have remained employed. His passion for helping these men and women who have served our country is simply contagious. Mark said, “When the Veterans you serve get a job and donate back to your cause and tell you that they have purpose and are happy again, it makes you just want to keep going.”

While I don’t typically do follow-up stories, I think we are just at the first chapter with this one and I can’t wait to share with all of you what is next for this remarkable man and organization. Mark is proof that regardless of where you are in life you, you always have something to give.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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

 

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