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Opening Minds Through Art (OMA)

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Dr. Seuss

Almost a decade ago I made the most amazing friend through a wonderful happenstance. I was filming a fundraising video for my  alma mater and the filmmaker, Noah Applebaum, was so talented, compassionate and smart that I asked him to help me with another nonprofit project, and then another and then another. Through the years Noah’s heart has shown through in a multitude of nonprofit videos we have worked on together and our friendship has been a wonderful gift. Last week Noah told me about this incredible documentary film that he is now fundraising to make for an Alzheimer’s program called OMA, which stands for Opening Minds Through Art.

Noah’s late grandfather had gone through the program and Noah wanted me to meet the nonprofit’s founder, Dr. Elizabeth Lokon.  We had an incredible conversation and it became abundantly clear why Noah wants the world to know about this remarkable woman and her journey to give the elderly an opportunity to express themselves through art once dementia has left them without a voice. If anyone can tell their story it is Noah. Talking to Dr. Lokon was beyond inspirational and a privilege.

Opening Minds through Art (OMA) from NoahApplebaum.com on Vimeo.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what OMA does?

Dr. Lokon:  Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) is an intergenerational art making program for people with Alzheimers disease. The program provides opportunities for creative self expression for people with dementia.

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

Dr. Lokon: I had my Master’s Degree in Fine Art and got my PhD in 1997. I had been teaching teachers in Japan from 2000 to 2006 and I had a student club called MICA where we did service for a number of causes. We cleaned beaches, bought toys and were very involved with an organization that prevented sex trafficking of Cambodian children through education. When my husband retired he said to me, “What do you want to do now? Our kids are grown.”  I knew that I wanted to go back to school to make a difference and that my primary goal was to live a life of service.

In education I learned about the first half of life but I knew nothing about the second half, so I decided to study Gerontology. When I came back to the U.S., I moved into a nursing home to learn a new culture, it was like a whole new world and I approached it like an anthropologist. Then I saw people with dementia. They were kept clean, safe and ignored. They were zombies.

 As an educator I knew this was not fair. Children have programs and advocates but with older people there is no one to speak for them. Even with dementia people can have joy. So, I went back to school and worked with a theater program that was for people with dementia. The program used photos to trigger memories to tell imaginary stories. So, in 2007 I asked if I could intern and I moved into a nursing home.

I quickly realized that art was a way of connecting with the patients, like the theater program. Verbal skills may have been impaired but people with dementia could flourish if there wasn’t any language, they could paint. In 2007, I had the idea for OMA.

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

Dr. Lokon: No! I did not. I am Chinese but grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. When I grew up there was a large gap between the wealthy and the poor. I had to walk through the slums to get to school and I remember on my way home from school as an 8 year old bringing younger children home from the slums just to be bathed.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Dr. Lokon: Funding. While we are funded under the Scripps Gerontology Center, an Ohio Center of Excellence at Miami University.Scripps Gerontology Center, an Ohio Center of Excellence at Miami University for operations, the biggest challenge is trying to plan our work and the expansion of our work with extreme financial variability . The other challenge is that I know that our program works and we want to expand our work to other medical schools. We want them to be able to have OMA training. I want to give schools the opportunity to train students to be better health care providers. We need to create awareness to fund this work and it takes a lot of time and effort to make this happen.

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

Dr. Lokon: I continue to go to a site each week and I see the magic happen and it keeps me grounded and going.

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

Dr. Lokon: Students realize that it is a privilege to be with someone vulnerable with dementia. Students change and see a shift in themselves. The students begin to see themselves differently and value themselves. I know I have made a difference when I see a student put their arms around their partner with dementia and I see the connection between the two. From a distance you cannot tell that that there is dementia because the old and young person look “normal” and that is the power of human connection.

The patient feels normal and in return the student knows they have made a difference. This is something special. The students write in their journals about their experiences and you know you have made a difference.

Charity Matters: Tell us about your impact at OMA?

Dr. Lokon: We began the program in 2009 and since that time we have  trained over 2,00o students  from Miami Ohio alone. We have 150 locations in the United States and Canada that are using our program and are serving eight retirement programs locally. We are currently working with ten universities and their medical/nursing schools to ensure that their students know how to treat those with dementia and communicate with them. When I think of the ripple effect of just the 2,ooo plus students  who become kinder to people with dementia. People who no longer dismiss the elderly, students who are more respectful. I think the measure of success is a cultural change within the aging world, one student at a time. 

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

Dr. Lokon: I have learned there is value to everyone in any stage of life regardless of age, condition or disability. There is a reward in seeing that value and in making a human connection. I have learned the importance of social connection and seeing everyone as worthy of your time, attention and love. In the end, it is just what it means to be human.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Dr. Lokon: This journey has changed me by making me more aware of the deeper purpose of what it means to be together. What it means to connect and how much is really happening in that connection. We are so busy meditating and going to yoga that we are depriving ourselves of the very substance that makes us whole.

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Changing children’s lives:Centinela Youth Services

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” 

Abraham Lincoln

Office Benny Abucejo and Executive Director Jessica Ellis

In my crazy life one thing always seems to lead to another. This past Christmas I met the amazing Jessica Ellis at a holiday work party. Jessica is the Executive Director for an incredible nonprofit called Centinela Youth Services. Their mission is to reduce the number of youth attached to the criminal justice system. After last week’s conversation with the remarkable Jill Weiss from UpRising Yoga, I thought the time to circle back with Jessica was now. There is so much work happening in the juvenile justice system and I wanted to know more.

It truly never ceases to amaze me how a  simple idea can impact generations of lives in such a positive way. That is exactly what happened in the 1970s when a few Inglewood police officers recognized that kids who were doing stupid things didn’t really need jail, they needed guidance. More than that, these juveniles’ needed to own their mistakes and face (literally eye to eye) the person that they had harmed.

Charity Matters:  Tell us a little about what Centinela Youth Services (CYS) does?

Jessica Ellis: Centinela Youth Services, or CYS as we call it, mission is to reduce the number of vulnerable high needs youth attached to the juvenile justice system in partnership with the Los Angels Police Department, seven other police departments, Inglewood and Compton School Districts, the Public Defender and the District Attorney. We work to keep kids out of the justice system and service the victims of crimes in the process in order to create a more human approach to healing.

When our kids and the victims of crime meet face to face they are put together with two trained community volunteers. We are healing the child and the victim and the community. Our volunteers are the true champions. The magic is bringing two people together towards resolution.

Charity Matters: Give us a little history of CYS?

Jessica Ellis: Between 1973 and 1975 there were a number of police officers in Inglewood, CA who thought that there were kids who really needed to be helped rather than arrested. A couple guys on the police force on their own started to connect these kids to after school programs or counseling rather than to jail. It ended up demonstrating that there was a need for this. It became more than they could do on top of their day job so the city of Inglewood along with five local cities ended up coming together to charter our nonprofit to divert students from arrest to counseling.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Jessica Ellis: The interesting thing for us right now is that there is a very unique window of opportunity that has been going on the past couple years for our kind of work in restorative justice. We have been doing diversion (from juvenile hall) since the 1970s and restorative justice since the early 90s and now it is sort of the new hip thing and all of the sudden there is political will for this work and a quite a bit of it.

We have been doing this work in actively transforming the juvenile justice system and our model has influenced others to replicate our program across the state and country. We started the first diversion program in LA County, so when a child is picked up the arrest is not recorded on their record if they complete the diversion program successfully that they have been assigned. While the replication is hugely exciting, we get pulled in as the experts to help replicate our work for this juvenile justice transformation. We don’t necessarily get funded to be the experts. So the challenge is to meet our core capacity  and help to  expand and replicate work. 

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

Jessica Ellis: What I love most is that we transcend all criminal justice systems. We bring people face to face to resolve conflicts. We bring the child face to face with the victim of the crime and this two sided approach brings us back to our humanity. It is so much more rewarding. A lot of us have been impacted by both  sides of the justice system, I have close family members who have spent time in prison and I have a family members who was murdered. People that I love have hurt other people. We need to recognize both of those sides and that we can repair humanity, move forward, make people whole and not just give up and throw away people, especially kids.

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

Jessica Ellis: I know that we have made a difference when a child connects with the person that they have harmed.  A fifteen-year old boy vandalized a school really badly with graffiti everywhere. He really did a huge amount of damage. The principal was so angry he didn’t want to meet with him. The principal sat in the room with the images of the damage on his laptop fueling his anger. The boy walked into the room and the principal would not look up at him. 

When the mediator asked the boy why he wrote bad things about his school and his teachers. The boy didn’t answer. The boy’s mother said to her son, “Tell the principal about what your teachers did.” The young boy tells his principal that when his father went to jail, his teachers were kind and that they bought him clothes and food. The principal now looked at this boy now with humanity. He said, “Your dad went to jail?” The boy replied, “Yes, and I was angry.” The two began talking about art because some of the “damage” was very artistic. The principal loved art as well. He ultimately mentored the boy and enrolled him in a special art program and had him draw a mural at the school

Resolution like this happens everyday. This is very typical of our work. One third of kids are dealing with some sort of mental illness in their homes, one third deal with trauma…we see so many kids do dumb things on the heals of a parent’s death. Kids act out so often due to trauma . Our system is set up to feed that anger and bipolarity, the prison system does not get to the underlying issues where we do. 

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

Jessica Ellis: Our greatest impact is that we have created a space where kindness and compassion can grow for over 1,000 children a year. We believe that our kids deserve quality. Our crime victims have a 98% satisfaction rate with our work, the kids rate our program fair and equitable 96% of the time.  Our recidivism rate (or the rate with which students are rearrested) is significantly reduced. If you lock kids up they have a higher chance of going back to jail by two-thirds. If you don’t lock them up but put them on probation there is a 23% to 33% of recidivism. Our kids a have less than 8%rate.

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

Jessica Ellis: It is so easy as humans to want to fix or to blame and to not look at ourselves. If we are helping other people resolving conflicts at work, how can we do this in our own families and lives? Looking at our own lives reminds us how hard this work is and how important.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Jessica Ellis: Our work is having such a huge impact here in California. Nationally there is so much discord. All politics aside, the amount of change we are making here in California that moves the criminal justice system to be better for kids, just gives me so much hope. We are seeing law enforcement, District Attorneys, community advocates, criminal justice reformers all coming together to make this change. 

Having hope is a good thing to have.

Charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Uprising Yoga

 

While I am still compiling my final New Years resolutions one of them is definitely to do more yoga. In a recent yoga class I was talking to my instructor about her work volunteering in juvenile hall teaching trauma informed yoga with an organization called Uprising Yoga. My yoga teacher and friend introduced me to the amazing and beyond uplifting founder, Jill Ippolito Weiss. Jill has taken her gifts to bring yoga to both underserved communities and to the incarcerated kids at juvenile hall.

I came away from our conversation inspired, invigorated and moved.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Uprising Yoga Does?

Jill Ippolito Weiss: The mission of Uprising Yoga is to bring trauma informed yoga to the incarcerated and to underserved communities. Trauma informed yoga helps people understand the impact of trauma on your entire mind and body, it helps understand the imprint left on the brain.

We have now had such growth that we are training the trainers to bring our program to social workers, probation staff and more teacher awareness. We are building sustainable business models where others can take our curriculum into their communities and use to provide trauma informed yoga.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Uprising Yoga?

Jill Ippolito Weiss: In the summer of 2010, I was dating a man named Nick, now my husband and he came home from work and was shaking and upset. I asked what was wrong and he explained that he had just toured a youth prison camp. He described what he saw and I asked him, “Can I teach yoga there?” 

I was working at a yoga college with my friend Mary and she was trying to put a group of instructors together to teach in juvenile hall already. Between the two of us we tried to find a way to actually get into juvenile hall. Getting clearance to work in prisons is a big deal. For months we tried to offer our services and got nowhere. Then in 2011, Nick and I were at a Christmas party and I was talking to a man who worked in the prison system and told him what I wanted to do. He and his colleagues all reached out and said, “When do you want to start?” So Mary, Nick and I began teaching trauma informed yoga on Tuesday nights to juvenile hall’s most vulnerable kids, the foster care sexually trafficked minors. 

Slowly, the classes began to grow and grow. We received a grant to determine how yoga was helping these kids. A friend said, “Have you thought about starting a nonprofit?”  So in 2012 we started officially. We were having a fund raiser and I called my mom to ask if she would donate. She asked what for and I told her to help the kids in juvenile hall. My mom said,” Jill, I picked you up there when you were a kid.” I was speechless because I honestly did not remember that I had been in the juvenile hall that I was now teaching in. Because I didn’t remember I began to study trauma and how it affects your brain and how we heal from trauma. That is how I connected trauma and yoga. 

I knew that I had gotten into trouble and I knew that recovery and yoga had saved my life. I hadn’t really been able to figure out why I was drawn to incarcerated youth until that moment. What pulled at my heart is that my mom came for me and no one is coming for these kids.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Jill Ippolito Weiss: I had no idea when I started how this was going to grow and expand. Our biggest challenge is that there is not enough man power and so much need that we simply can not meet.

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

Jill Ippolito Weiss: Connection and the stories I hear about what we do works. The thank you notes that I receive from students that say, “Thank you for letting my body detox.” It makes me high on the universe . My work matters. The ultimate gift is hearing that how you changed someone’s life for the better.

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

Jill Ippolito Weiss: There are so many ways but when we receive a letter, an email or a picture from juvenile hall saying, “Thank you for caring about us.” I know we are teaching life skills and that what we teach lasts a lifetime. I was recently asked to participate in a book about best practices for yoga in the criminal justice system. When people recognize me for my work that is touching.

We recently had a hostage/shooter situation at our local Trader Joes a block from our home.  The day after the situation I called volunteered my services to teach trauma informed yoga to the hostages.  I felt so helpless and thought what can one person do to offer their gifts and talents?  There was so much pain and trauma in my own neighborhood. So now we come together once a week and the trauma informed yoga has brought us all together. The yoga is healing these victims of violence and has given me an opportunity to use my gifts to let others know I care. These hostages have told me how this class has healed them.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your impact? The successes you have had?

Jill Ippolito Weiss: Our impact is on many levels. It can be as small as what we do for one person with our one on one work or large when we do large events. We know that violence goes down significantly after we work in the prisons. Today is our work is recognized nationally and internationally. Our Uprising Yoga curriculum is spreading across the country because it works and people are replicating our model. That is when you know your work has impact.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned since beginning Uprising Yoga and how has this experience changed you?

Jill Ippolito Weiss: I have learned that people are good and want to keep doing good.  Once the nonprofit got started, people who cared came out of the woodwork to volunteer, to help, to donate and that literally shifted my entire perception of humanity. I didn’t know people had SO much good in them. I continue to believe that.

This experience made me go from suspicion and confusion into understanding why I went through my pain and how my healing process became available to others. I understood what my own healing journey meant. The yoga just didn’t heal me but it also healed everyone around me. My husband Nick has been a part of this entire journey and I feel that our love is shared out into a community.

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

 

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

“There are those who see the need and respond, I consider those people my heroes.”

Fred Rogers

As the New Year kicks into gear I have been thinking about what is important and what to focus on this year. There is so much negatively in our world or at least in the world presented to us in the media. How does one small voice overcome such noise? In the midst of my pondering, I unexpectedly watched the documentary film, Won’t you be my neighbor? There right in front of me was the answer coming from Mr. Rogers.

A quiet and gentle man who had the idea to give children something meaningful in the midst of the turmoil of the late 1960’s.  Fred Roger’s mission was to build a community or neighborhood on the basic principles of loving your neighbor and yourself. He said,” Love is at the root of everything.” His life’s work was to make goodness and he believed  that the power of television could build a real community where he could inspire the best in children to do just that.

When I think about New Years and what to focus on in 2019, Mr. Roger’s life and work seemed to capture the true essence of what really matters. There were so many beautiful messages in this film that it is impossible to share them all. Here are a few of my favorite take aways and something to think abut as you begin looking at what matters in your year ahead.

“Although children’s “outsides” may have changed a lot, their inner needs have remained very much the same. Society seems to be pushing children to grow faster, but their developmental tasks have remained constant.”

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.”

What can change the world?  When someone gets the idea that love can abound and be shared.” 

 

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

 

Many Hopes

 

” If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are stories and then there is this story, one of the most remarkable journeys I have encountered in my nonprofit adventures. A beautiful tale of survival, love, goodness and hope. The setting is Kenya, where there are 2.6 million homeless children and sixty percent of the country survives on less than a dollar a day. Like any great tale there is a heroine, her name is Gift. The story opens when Gift’s mother died of AIDS. Gift was six years old and was carrying her six month old baby brother on her back to find food and medical help for him. A group of street children told Gift that the baby she was carrying was dead. These street children took Gift to meet their friend Anthony.

Anthony Mulongo

Anthony Mulango was a prominent journalist in Kenya and from a well to do family. He was doing a report on the street children in Mombasa and had befriended many of them when young Gift appeared. Anthony brought Gift into his home, hired a woman to take care of her, sent her to school and essentially raised Gift as his daughter.

The story takes a twist in 2007, when Irish journalist Thomas Keown was traveling to Kenya and met Gift and Anthony. He came back to the United States where he had a newspaper column published in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Thomas wrote a column about sacrifice and mentioned Anthony and Gift. The article’s response came with letters and checks which became the start of Many Hopes. I spoke with Thomas this week and I came away from our conversation in awe of what love, dedication and vision combined can achieve. Here is our conversation:

Gift

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Many Hopes Does?

Thomas Keown: We rescue, educate and advocate for children. Fundamentally we believe that children who suffer injustice are the most powerful agents of change. We want children to defeat the causes of injustice that they survived. We work for Gift, she is the true founder of Many Hopes. Many Hopes is more than a school  it is a long term strategic solution to the corruption and poverty that exploits the most vulnerable children. When the poorest children are educated along side children with means they help one another to have confidence and to build a network that will make them free to make their own choices and not need charity.

Growing up in Belfast during a time of termoil. I learned early and was privileged to witness that lessons that seemingly unsolvable problems can and do have solutions if the right ingredients come to bare. If you can transform a generation, you can transform anything.

Thomas Keown

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew that you needed to start Many Hopes?

Thomas Keown:When I met Anthony I was struck by his life of sacrifice and I wondered what I would have done at 28 if I had seen Gift? I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to make the sacrifice that Anthony made. Would I have taken Gift into my home and arranged for the burial of her brother?

I had seen poverty in my travels before going to Kenya in 2007. I came home from my trip and wrote my weekly newspaper column and talked about what people need to do to have a useful and purposeful life. I mentioned Anthony and Gift in the last two paragraphs of the column, as an example of people doing that. I asked people to consider to use their lives and resources for good. I had never thought about a nonprofit organization.

The power of story kicked in and the reality is that every human being wants to be impactful.  I had never seen letters before like we did from this article. An editor in New York began to forward all the emails she received and reached out to me. People wanted to do good, to meet me and to help Anthony. In the beginning we were just trying to help Anthony and raise some money. I knew he was very smart and that I had access to resources living in the States so I volunteered trying to raise funds and became part time and six years ago came on full time for Many Hopes.

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

Thomas Keown: Most fundamentally I’m a  a Christian, this is what I am on earth to do. My driving motivation is my faith. Growing up in Northern Ireland during a violent time I have always been driven by work that supports justice. I believe the work that we are doing is transformational. I see results in the lives of individual children. I am fueled to keep doing this work when I see students who should be dead are now in college instead. When you get tired you just need to look at the individual milestones.

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

Thomas Keown: To be honest, sometimes I don’t know we have made a difference. You don’t always know the love and education that a six year old child receives will do to them, you do know it will do something. We see girls are afraid who become trusting. We see children find faith. We see the worst of what humans can do to one another and the best. Then you see one of our first students like Brenda. Brenda told us from the time she was little that she wanted to be an attorney. She said, ” I hope I can become an attorney to defend someone’s rights because someone defended my rights.” Seeing Brenda graduate with her law degree and then to use her degree to advocate for other children, like herself, that is when I see the work we have done.

I also see the people who support our work. The favorite part of my job is inviting people to partner with us and to feed their souls.I get to help people discover or rediscover the joy of generosity and the pleasure of changing other peoples lives. We get to change these donors lives and our children in Kenya’s lives as well.

Charity Matters: Tell us what successes you have had?

Thomas Keown:We have built girls’ homes, built a school for 900 boys and girls where students of priveledge and poor students are educated together. We are reservoir of aspiration that is narrow but deep. We are not trying to educate millions of people. Rather we are  focusing on love and education on these few, we are creating leaders and influencers who will create great change.

Charity Matters: how has this experience changed you?

Thomas Keown: I have learned to overcomeI am much more committed and persistent than I used to be. I know that I am doing the thing that I am supposed to be doing. I am more optimistic than ever having seen donors and children’s lives changed. I have no unmet needs.

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

Thomas Keown: Life lessons, I’ve learned so many in the past eleven years. I have learned self care and to rest. This work is so important that often we keep pushing on overdrive but I have learned to rest. I have learned that I don’t need to worry about rejection or failure but to simply overcome. 

I used to need tangible success but have  learned that you don’t know the immeasurable lasting impact you have on someone’s life until years later. We don’t always know who we will carry so when in doubt be kind.

Charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Creating the Change

“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else’s life forever.”  Margaret Cho

Nothing makes me happier than planting the seeds of compassion in our children. A few years ago, that common thread connected me to nonprofit founder, Molly Yuska of Project Giving Kids. We met  when I interviewed her for Charity Matters.  Project​ ​Giving​ ​Kids​ ​(PGK)​ ​is​ ​a​ ​nonprofit​ ​organization​  that cultivates empathy in youth by connecting them to meaningful and age-appropriate community service activities.  Their mottos is,“connecting kids to causes.”

Molly initially  ​launched​ Project Giving Kids ​in​ Boston in ​November​ ​2013 after realizing there was no source for families to find age appropriate service projects for their children and families. With 1.7 million nonprofits in the United States, Molly saw clearly that there was a need to leverage technology by creating an online platform and mobile app, Youth Give, to make it easier for kids to​ ​be​ ​powerful​ ​agents​ ​of​ ​positive​ ​change​ ​in our​ ​world.​ ​

Molly is the ultimate connector as is Project Giving Kids. PGK  reaches out to nonprofit partners to find volunteer opportunities for a multitude of ages. This weekend was a full circle moment for me as Project Giving Kids came to LA for the first time for their Create​ ​the​ ​Change​ ​Day​ ​LA. The day was  hosted by Kidspace Children’s Museum, a place very near and dear to my heart and twenty years ago the main source of my volunteer work.  ​

However, this past Sunday, Kidspace was all about teaching hundreds of children and their families the joys of serving others. Think of the day as a trade show for kids where they could shop causes and projects that they were interested in and cared about.

Whether it was decorating duffle bags for children in foster care so they were not moved from home to home with a trash bag or putting toiletry kits together for low income families or making toys for shelter animals, each of these projects benefitted nonprofits such as;Access Books, Crayon Collection, Do Good Bus, Food on Foot LA, Heal the Bay, Heaven on Earth Society, Grades of Green, Karma Rescue, LA Family Housing, North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry,PATH, School on Wheels, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Together We Rise.

As Molly said, Project​ ​Giving​ ​Kids​ ​is thrilled to offer an afternoon of hands-on service to kids and families in the Greater LA area. Create​ ​the​ ​Change​ ​Day​ ​was​ ​the​ ​perfect way​ ​to introduce young children to the joy of service to others. At PGK, we strive to connect youth and families to the amazing nonprofits in their own backyards they often do not know about that would love to benefit from their passion and involvement. We do that through our website and mobile app where youth can find fun and age-appropriate service opportunities and through select events like Create the Change Day.”

I was lucky enough to man the PGK booth where children could make a holiday pledge of service either by drawing a picture or writing a pledge to create change and PGK will be sending them their postcards in early December to remind them of their idea.

If these cards were any indication of our future, I think the world is only going to get better and that the kids pretty much said it all….

Charity Matters

 

 

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Breast Cancer Research Foundation

In my world, the more people you have helped the bigger the celebrity you are. So last week when I had the privilege to talk to Myra Biblowit, the President and CEO of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) I was everything you would be when meeting your hero…nervous, anxious, excited and truly thrilled to share her remarkable journey to change the lives of millions of women around the globe.

Our conversation was timely because just two days before we spoke, a friend of mine had a mastectomy. Myra was beyond lovely, compassionate, soulful and truly inspirational in her commitment to prevent and cure breast cancer (the second most common cancer) by advancing the world’s most promising research. Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, this disease doesn’t care what day or month it is. Every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Myra, her team and a remarkable group of people are all changing the game and after our conversation I can see that cancer doesn’t stand a chance with this beautiful lady starring it down.

photo by Rob Rich/SocietyAllure.com ©

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what BCRF does?

Myra Biblowit: We want to put an end to breast cancer and our goal is to have no more fear, no more hospital visits, no more side effects, no more needless suffering and no more loved ones lost to breast cancer and the only way to achieve our goal to prevent and cure breast cancer is through research. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment that The Breast Cancer RESearch Foundation began?

Myra Biblowit: BCRF started in 1993 but I met Evelyn Lauder in 1985 and we forged an incredible friendship. Evelyn called me and said that she had an idea to create a foundation that focused on breast cancer research after seeing the pace at which breast cancer research was moving. Evelyn had looked around the country and there was not one organization that was doing research with a laser sharp focus.  Evelyn said, “I can do this and if I can do it and I don’t it, it would be a sin. Will you help me?” Evelyn had a soul and a heart that were enormous. She was working on the pink ribbon symbol and knew she could make this an ubiquitous symbol of the cause and get this issue out of the closet.

The story doesn’t end with creating awareness , it extends to harnessing dollars towards research to change the future. I told Evelyn, I would help her find an Executive Director and help her get BCRF off the ground. I was working at the Museum of Natural History at the time. In 1993, BCRF began at Evelyn Lauder’s kitchen table with our dear friend Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Seven years later when I was working at NYU, I had had a few job opportunities arise and I reached out to Evelyn and Leonard Lauder for their advice as friends and Evelyn said, “Well this is a slam dunk, this is bashert (yiddish for meant to be)….last night the Executive Director told us she wanted to stop working.”

By Monday, I was the President of BCRF. Evelyn gave up the Presidency and became Chairman and Founder and I went to work for my darling friend. I started April 1st, 2001 and I told her I would take the organization international, I would raise a lot more money and I would create a strategic thoughtful grant program to ensure that the dollars we are raising are wisely meeting the organizations targets.

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

Myra Biblowit: We lost Evelyn in 2011, and I do what I do in her memory and in her honor. BCRF is her legacy and I work hard to make sure that we are the gold standard. Our work stands as a tribute to her vision. Today we  are the largest global funder of breast cancer research. We are the most highly rated breast cancer organization in the country. Evelyn had such vision and clairvoyance, breast cancer was in the closet when we started and thanks to pioneers like Evelyn breast cancer and women across the globe, it is out there now.

The dollars that we are investing at BCRF are not only answering questions about breast cancer today but a multiplicity of other cancers as well. Evelyn would not have envisioned the relevance that BCRF would have.

Myra Biblowit and Dr. Larry Norton, photo credit Suzanne DeChillo

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

Myra Biblowit: Since BCRF was founded there has been a 40% decline in breast cancer deaths worldwide. Proof is in the pudding and truly we can tell you that BCRF has had a role in every major break thru breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship as well as an advancing knowledge about other metastatic diseases. 

When Evelyn and I were working together we were mainly talking about diagnosis and treatment. We knew then and know even more now that research is THE reason.  Today that continuum begins with prevention and extends with survivorship. The connector is that research is THE reason, it is the glue.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had at BCRF?

Myra Biblowit: I think it is important for people to know that breast cancer is rapidly transitioning to a manageable chronic disease. People need to not be fearful from the stories of the past from their mothers and grandmothers. Treatments are much more targeted. When a woman is diagnosed today they can try to find what type of tumor she has and then find the right treatment for that tumor type, that is huge.

We now know that breast cancer is not one disease but made up of four or five different diseases in terms of tumor types and each one has more in common with other forms of cancer than with each other. Today’s treatment have far greater likelihood of success and they are far less toxic.

One study that BCRF was involved with was the TAILORx, a major multi-year and multi country study to determine what women needed chemo who had early stage estrogen positive breast cancer. We knew women who had a high score needed chemo and women who had a low score did not need it. We didn’t know for the 70,000-100,000 women in the middle range if they needed chemo or not. Today we now know that those women do NOT need chemotherapy.  This study proved the power of research. These are the advances that change the future for our mothers, our daughters and our friends.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for the Breast CAncer REsearch Foundation going forward?

Myra Biblowit: In the current year we raised $80 million dollars and we awarded grants of $63 million dollars to over 300 researchers across 14 countries. We could have funded more had we had more funds. We are one of the few engines who give resources to cutting edge researchers. We are the engine that tells researchers to take that chance. We are a rare funder in our flex-ability taking research down the path of greatest opportunity because the stakes are so high.

We devoted a fund to metastatic disease, when Evelyn died by creating a Founder’s Fund. We want to use that fund to find more about metastatic disease, we want to invest in young researchers and the more dollars we can give to our researchers the more breakthroughs we can make.

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

Myra Biblowit: You know Evelyn gave me an opportunity to do something professionally that touches peoples lives profoundly. How lucky am I? Evelyn was grateful for everything that came her way. She was a child of the Holocaust and her family fled when she was an infant. Everything that she and Leonard achieved was a partnership. She was magnetic and wonderful and when we lost her, Leonard stepped in. I am filled with gratitude everyday and for the opportunity to learn from the extraordinary Lauder family. What fed their soul was to make the world a better place and it was infectious. 

 

Charity Matters

 

 

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Empathy

“Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgement, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you are not alone.”
Brene Brown

Summer has flown by, Labor Day is just around the corner and now everyone is officially back in school.  This year in addition to making sure your children have their school supplies and their backpacks , there is something more they should be packing as they head into their new school year….and that is empathy. I know it isn’t a “regular” on your back to school list but something worth adding for sure.

Working with hundreds of high school students each year, I am always in awe of what these students can accomplish and who they can be with the right guidance.  Students have so much noise coming at them constantly and sadly most messages students are receiving are not positive and do not make them stop and think.

As the school year begins, I wanted to share a message that applies to each of us, whether at work or at school. The simple reminder of empathy….which is the ability to understand and share the feeling of another.

So as we begin a new school year and talk to our children about what is important to focus on this year, lets remember that life is more than good grades, it is about being the best people we can be to one another. As Bill Bullard says, “The  highest form of knowledge is empathy.”

 

charity matters.

 

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

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Gordie, a story worth retelling…again and again

Gordie's story

Next week our son heads back to college.  He attends a big college football school where  weekends include tailgates, football games and the obligatory fraternity parties…..all of it fun and takes us back to our own college days. With so many students heading off to college this week I was reminded that the 14th year anniversary of Gordie Bailey’s death is coming up.  While I do not typically repost, I have shared his story every year because the lesson is invaluable and sadly, needs to be told over and over.

So often we do not make discoveries or connections until it is too late.  We do not realize the value of a friend until they have moved away, we do not appreciate our child until they have left for college or we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed.

Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? This story is perhaps no different, however, the beauty of it lies in the ability to take that clear vision and create something that matters.

This month thousands of college freshman have left home, including my own son, and many are beginning the process of Rush as they look to make new homes away from home in sororities and fraternities across the country. That is exactly what Gordie Bailey did in September 2004, as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Gordie, a fun-loving freshman who had been the Co-captain of his varsity high school football team, a drama star, a guitar player and a walk on at Boulder’s lacrosse team was adored by all. He pledged Chi Psi and on the evening of September 16th, Gordie and twenty-six other pledge brothers dressed in coats and ties for “bid night”, were taken blindfolded to the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest where they were “encouraged” to drink four “handles” of whiskey and six (1.5 liter) bottles of wine.

They were told, “no one is leaving here until these are gone.” When the group returned to the Fraternity house, Gordie was visibly intoxicated and did not drink anymore. He was placed on a couch to “sleep it off” at approximately 11pm. His brothers proceeded to write on his body in another fraternity ritual. Gordie was left to “sleep it off” for 10 hours before he was found dead the next morning, face down on the floor. No one had called for help, he was 18 years old.

The nonprofit Gordie Foundation was founded in Dallas in 2004 by Gordie’s parents as a dedication to his memory. The Gordie foundation creates and distributes educational programs and materials  to reduce hazardous drinking and hazing and promote peer intervention among young adults.  Their mission is committed to ensuring that Gordie’s story continues to impact students about the true risks of hazing and alcohol use.

There has been at least one university hazing death each year from 1969 to 2017 according to Franklin College journalism professor Hank Nuwer. Over 200 university deaths by hazing since 1839, with 40 deaths from 2007-2017 alone and alcohol poisoning is the biggest cause of death. As Gordie’s mother Leslie said, “Parents more than anything want their dead children to be remembered and for their lives to have mattered.”

In fourteen years, the Gordie Foundation which is now re-named Gordie.Org has made an enormous impact on hundreds of thousands of students across the country through its programs and educational efforts. If you have a college age student, think about asking them to take the pledge to save a life, possibly their own.

Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? Why is it that we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed? Perhaps more than a decade later, our vision is becoming clearer and we realize just how much precious each life is……

Charity Matters.

 

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Making Waves

As the summer days pass by faster and faster we all crave a little bit more sand and surf, especially here in California. The past few years my summers have been spent running a nonprofit leadership program where I have the privilege of working with  extraordinary high school and college age students. Five years ago when I showed up, I met a fantastic family of four girls ( The McDermott sisters) who had all been a part of our organization, each was at a different phase of their leadership journey.

We challenge all our students to find their magis, the Latin word for more, to search for their meaning and purpose and to share it with others.  We also teach our students that you cannot lead unless you serve. I am so proud of these amazing young women, identifying their gifts and finding a way to give back to others. Take at peek at their MORE and our fun conversation about their inspiring work mentoring young girls through their organization Making Waves.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Making Waves?

Micaela McDermott: Our goal was to provide a positive and supportive community of ladies that will always welcome and embrace one another. When I was working as a surf instructor, I realized the need for a strong female community in and around surfing. There are plenty of young girls that want to learn how to surf, but not very many ladies in the lineup. Entering into this sport can be intimidating when you don’t have a supportive community or role models to help guide you through it. Coming from a family of 4 girls, we all experienced some of the social challenges that girls go through during middle school. Our hope when creating the Making Waves community was to bridge both these experiences and provide young girls with a safe and welcoming group on and off the water.

charity matters: So tell us what is making waves mission and your hope for Making Waves?

Cameron McDermott: The mission of Making Waves is to promote a love of sun, surf, and good vibrations among all women. The sun represents promoting a conscious mindset of our impact on the Earth. Making Waves has been involved in multiple beach cleanups and discussions involving our environmental impact on the planet. Instead of leaving carbon footprints, we focus on our footprints in the sand. Surf stand for of course, surfing, but also all around staying active and taking care of our bodies. And finally, good vibrations refers to carrying ourselves in a positive light and passing that light on to others, like a vibration.  

Our hope in starting Making Waves was to provide mentorship for middle school girls through the sport of surfing. We want these girls to then take their passion, whatever it is, and make their own wave.  It is an amazing feeling when you know you are impacting the world.

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

Cameron McDermott: The best feeling in the world is seeing somebody catch their first wave! They are so stoked when they are able to finally stand up after falling a few times. Seeing the joy and excitement that the girls experience while surfing and learning together makes every moment worth it.

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

Micaela McDermott: When you see that big bright smile on someone’s face, you know you have made a positive impact. If each girl leaves feeling stoked and motivated to “make their wave,” then it was a successful day

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

Delaney McDermott: One of the achievements of Making Waves is receiving a  grant from The Pollination Project in 2017. We have also been invited to speak at several conferences for The Association of Catholic Student Councils, sharing out story with over 500 middle school students in Southern California. Among our events and meet-ups, we have had over 100 participants over the last 4 years.

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

Micaela, Cameron & Delaney McDermott: Throughout the life of Making Waves, we have had the opportunity to learn some amazing life lessons from the experience and from the ladies involved. We have learned to stay persistent and steadfast on goals, but also to enjoy the ride. We have learned the importance of a supportive and positive community, and the inspiration and motivation that this community provides to people. Most of all, we have learned how to be better friends, supporters, mentors, and sisters because of this experience.

Regardless of age, everyone has the ability to find their “more.” The McDermott sisters are an incredible example of sharing their passion through Making Waves with others!

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Learning Lab Ventures

Last December, I was at a friend’s holiday party and sat next to this amazing woman and we started to chat about philanthropy. The holiday celebration ended and we vowed to continue the lively conversation another time. So, two weeks ago we reconnected to continue the conversation, six months later.  The young woman I met was named Rochelle Gore Fredston and her philanthropic journey was and is inspiring. The last time we met, Rochelle was the mother of two little girls and when we sat down two weeks ago she beamed as we discussed the pending new addition her family.

Rochelle and I discussed how she got into the nonprofit world and the journey she has been on with her incredible work to break the cycle of generational poverty. She is the founder of  the Philanthropic Society of Los Angeles (PSLA) and more recently has taken over Learning Lab Ventures, a nonprofit that is an intensive after school and educational enrichment program that turns underserved students into college graduates. I have to say after our conversation it is official…. Rochelle is truly beautiful inside and out and her passion for making a difference is an inspiration to us all. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!

charity matters: Tell us a little about your back round and your journey into the nonprofit world?

Rochelle Gores Fredston: My dad came to the United States with very little and worked extremely hard. He taught us that we had to work hard and do better, not just for ourselves but for others. Some my earliest memories were feeding the homeless, as young children in Michigan, where we grew up. My brother has Cerebral Palsy and we were all raised to be involved and supportive of one another and our community.

charity matters: how did you begin the Philanthropic society of los angeles?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After college, I was moving to Los Angeles and I reached out to a family friend and said that I wanted to get involved in something philanthropic in LA.  Our friend connected me with the Children’s Institute, which is a great organization that provides mental health training and head start programs to over 20,000 children in Los Angeles. At the time I was in my twenties and the group at Children’s Institute was mainly people in their forties and fifties,  so I wanted to get some of my friends involved.

I owned a boutique and have always loved fashion, so I thought it would be fun to have a fantastic fashion show and involve a big group of millineals. I realized that my friends really wanted to do something but didn’t know how to start. So we created a group called PSLA to raise funds and support Children’s Institute. For eight years we very successfully raised funds with our events and each year our PSLA group of about seventy-five was giving their funding to educational projects for the Children’s Institute. We even created a family fund to help families with specific needs.

charity matters: so how did you get from the PSLA to Learning Lab Ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: After eight amazing years with great success, our group at PSLrealized that they still wanted to do more to support education, especially for at risk youth. So we began to explore the idea of funding another organization that was in need but also that had a great success rate. So as fate would have it, in 2017 we connected with Hathaway-Sycamores who were running an after school educational program and they asked if we wanted to take over? That program was Learning Lab and now Learning Lab Ventures.

Charity Matters: tell us about learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: Learning Lab was founded in 1982 by an amazing man named Simon Gee whose passion is tutoring and mentoring students. Today we still follow the incredible work that our founder began and have built upon his foundation. Our mission is to disrupt generational poverty via an intensive after schools education and enrichment program. We aim to enable underrepresented students to graduate from top colleges equipped with a college degree, skills and experience they need to excel in the workforce and beyond.

charity matters: Tell us about some of your success at learning lab ventures?

Rochelle Gore Fredston: At LLV we take students from age three all the way until their first job out of college. We have 100% high school graduation rate and 95% of our students go to a four year college with scholarships. We have students at Harvard, Ivy League’s and incredible four year colleges. We provide our students with mentors and our hope is to eliminate all the red tape to get them through school and into their first job.

We have focused on our core, education, which is what we do well.  With LLV we have taken an old nonprofit and made it better with great partnerships and resources.

charity matters: How has this journey in philanthropy changed you and what have you learned about yourself from your work in serving others?
Rochelle Gore Fredston: When I began this journey, I was newly married and getting involved in Los Angeles. Over the past decade I have committed myself to helping the most at risk youth in LA, and during this time I also had two beautiful girls. Having children of my own has made this a very personal mission for me and I am grateful that I am able to give back in a meaningful way.
charity matters:

Thank you Rochelle for  your extraordinary commitment to breaking the generational cycle of poverty through education. You told us,”I grew up to do better. Education is how we can do better and it is my job to help them do better.”  Thank you for inspiring us all to do better and be better!

 

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

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Eric’s Kids

The beauty of Charity Matters is that my friends love to connect me to their inspiring friends and then I turn get to share them with you. A few weeks ago, I had a girlfriend connect me an amazing woman named Jennifer Caspar, the founder of Eric’s Kids. Jennifer has had a remarkable life for someone as young as she is and is the perfect example of someone who has used all of their challenges and gifts to make others lives better. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

charity matters: Give us a little insight to your backround before starting Eric’s Kids?

Jennifer Caspar: When my husband Eric and I moved to LA from the East Coast  for his work, it was such an exciting time. I worked in the nonprofit space in affordable housing, loved my career where I could use my entrepreneurial skills, creative abilities and problem solving skills to help support the homeless. We had two young daughters and in January 2009, I left my job. At the same time, my husband Eric decided to follow his passion of education and make a career change. So, for the first time we were both at home together and working on separate projects. It was a very special time for both of us.

charity matters: what was the moment you knew you wanted to start a nonprofit?

Jennifer Caspar: When Eric died unexpectedly on September 1st, 2009 I knew that we needed to do something in his memory. Our girls were ten and thirteen at the time and I knew that somehow we needed to help children who had lost a parent and knew that we needed to do something to honor Eric’s passion for education. We were fortunate that we had life insurance and some financial resources and knew we somehow had to help those that did not.

I reached out to my old boss and asked for her guidance and she pointed me to the California Community Foundation that partners donors and nonprofits. They explained that we could create a donor advised fund under their 501c3 and they could manage all of the administrative work that can be overwhelming for many nonprofit organizations. I was overwhelmed enough and knew this was the right step. Talking this all through we came up with the perfect way to honor Eric, to help grieving children and to support Eric’s legacy with education.

Charity matters: Tell us what ERic’s kids does?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric’s Kids is a nonprofit that provides scholarships, mentoring and grief support to at risk children who have lost a parent and are in financial need. We ensure that underserved kids affected by loss are provided with a quality education and grief support so they will have an equal opportunity to succeed. The fund works to provide financial support and services to children who would otherwise be unable to attend high quality, safe nurturing schools in their central Los Angeles neighborhoods.

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

Jennifer Caspar: Different things at different times. All of the people who support our work and cause continue to inspire me and knowing that I am not alone in this work really helps.

charity matters: when do you know that you have made a difference?

Jennifer Caspar: When I receive letters from the students we support. When families reach out to me to say how grateful they are that their child can stay in the same school regardless of the loss of a parent. Parents knowing that despite their grief and loss that somehow they are going to be ok gives me great comfort.

charity matters: tell us about your success?

Jennifer Caspar: We work to constantly fund as many students as we can. In eight years we have had seven fundraising events, supported over thirty plus students and funded over 100 years of school.

charity matters: what life lessons have you learned from this experience and how has this journey changed you?

Jennifer Caspar: This journey has changed me in many ways. I’ve learned about leadership and getting other people involved. I’ve learned how to inspire and motivate people in positive ways . The life lessons learned from this journey are all about gratitude and paying it forward. People want to help and be a part of doing something good for the world.

charity matters: what do think Eric would think of your work?

Jennifer Caspar: Eric helped me become myself in our 18 years of marriage. He was always my cheer squad. I think this would make Eric happy. I think he would be proud of how we (myself and the girls) have spent our time and focused our energy these past eight years. This is part of our life. Knowing that Eric was always moved by children who had a hard upbringing and that his legacy now gives kids an opportunity to go to bat would inspire him.

Charity Matters: Thank you Jennifer for inspiring us all. Despite loss, grief and challenges you found a way to honor Eric’s memory and change the lives of so many children and families through your work. You are an inspiration and we are sure that Eric is beyond proud.

charity matters.

 

 

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

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Leaders come in all shapes and sizes

As many of you know I run a nonprofit that is a youth leadership organization. During the summer we run three separate weeks of leadership camp, where middle school students stay on a college campus for week away from their parents, learning, having fun and having time to reflect on who they are and where they want to go. This past week we just ended our first session of camp with one hundred and fifty students transformed by their experience.

So often in the nonprofit space we are running a business like almost any other with budgets, timelines, goals and the list goes on. What makes our work (nonprofit work) different is that unlike a company when your numbers are down, less people profit. In the nonprofit world, when you don’t make numbers, someone doesn’t go to camp, get fed, receive medicine and the list goes on. The stakes are real and there is person effected by each choice, for better or for worse.

The other challenge in the nonprofit space is that you can often feel separated or removed from those you serve.  We work all year (our staff of two and 150 amazing volunteers, who will serve 3,000 students) to send one-third of our students to camp with scholarships. Then the moment happens, we see their faces, we watch them grow and learn all week and our efforts beyond worthwhile. Children who live in the inner-city, who have never been on a college campus let alone stay on one and then to hear them share their experiences….well there simply are not words with how incredible it feels.

Each volunteer gives of themselves to change the life of another. You can feel the love, the kindness, the joy, the gratitude between our campers and our volunteer staff. Regardless of what is happening in the world, I know that our amazing college and high school volunteers are transforming hundreds of children’s lives for the better….renewing my faith in humanity and inspiring me to strive to serve more.

charity matters

 

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

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Lessons learned from graduation

“you build a legacy not by one thing but by everything, your legacy is every life you touch.”

Maya Angelou

As many of you know, there many things in this world that make me happy, giddy and joyful. Last week at my alma matter more than a few of them came together. Talking, giving speeches, college graduations, USC Annenberg and Oprah….like a perfect storm they became one. While I was supposed to attend the graduation for one of our volunteers, I sadly couldn’t get there in time.

However, through the power of media I was able to watch Oprah’s speech. She has such wonderful lessons that I wanted to give you some of the highlights here. Oprah knew the first rule that they teach you at Annenberg and that is to know your audience. She certainly knew hers, future journalist, broadcasters and the messengers of the future. Oprah asked those messengers to give voice to the people who need a voice. She said,”Use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in the world.”  She asked the students to, “Be the truth” and asked,”what are you willing to stand for?”

Oprah quoted her friend Maya Angelou’s words saying, “You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything. Your legacy is every life you touch.”  Words that resonate.  As she wrapped up her speech with practical advise about making your bed, being kind, and investing in a good mattress, she pivoted and said,” Join forces in service of something greater than ourselves. Pick a problem, any problem and do something about it.”

These are not just words for USC Annenberg alumns or words for Oprah fans but rather words for all of us to process, think about and decide how we are going to act.

charity matters.

 

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