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The Wait is Almost Over

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

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

I have a dream or two

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

Martin Luther King Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Chasing the Insights

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The Heroes of 2022

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

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

Miracle Messages

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

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

Roots For Boots

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

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

A Place At the Table

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

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

Free Wheelchair Mission

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

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

Drink Local Drink Tap

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Merry Merry 2022

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

Peg Bracken

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

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

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

Merry Merry Christmas everyone…

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 We would love to hear from you and stay connected:
  • www.Charity-Matters.com
  • On IG @Charitymatters 
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidijohnsonoffical and @Charitymatters so we can repost you.
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Be my guest, be my guest, put your service to the test

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

Who is your ideal listener? Who loves your show?

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

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

What made you start this podcast?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which other podcasts do you love listening to?

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

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

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

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

Episode 51: Free Wheelchair Mission

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo credit: Ralph Alswang

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Episode 50: Mindful Littles

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Episode 48: Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation

Growing up in LA the surf culture is a huge part of many of our lives. For those families that live on the water the connection between community, family and ocean is a very special one. Today’s guest, Nancy Miller, raised her family in a beach community where surfing was a huge part of their lives. When an unexpected tragedy happened to their son Jimmy they knew their lives were forever changed.

Join us today for an inspirational story about the power of one family’s love and the incredible legacy Jimmy Miller has left on thousands with the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation. An organization that uses adaptive surfing, to help  children with disabilities, veterans, health care workers and so many more heal through their amazing work and the power of the ocean.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what THE Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation does?

Nancy Miller: The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation uses surfing and a form of adaptive surfing, that we created, to help those with mental and physical disabilities feel the healing power of the ocean.  Knowing that what we know about how people react to being in the ocean, whether it’s the chemistry of their bodies, their joy,  their happiness, and the complete giddiness of changing their whole mental well being when they go to the beach. So that’s that’s the basis of the Jimmy Miller Foundation. Teaching people to surf using an adaptive form of surfing and combining it with group therapy. The result is letting the healing begin for youth and adults all over the country.

Charity Matters: Did you have a philanthropic BACK-ROUND?

Nancy Miller: Prior to Jimmy Miller foundation, I was a wife, a mom, student, and my jobs have been everything to prepare me for what I’m doing now. I never thought that what I did in the past would so well prepare me for what I’m doing now.  I worked with the Elton John AIDS Foundation when it very first got going, so we’re talking 1994.  And I was lucky enough to be part of a incredible staff there and I did special projects for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which is a foundation that deals with helping those with HIV and AIDS. 

After I left the Elton John AIDs Foundation, my husband came home saying he had met an amazing man from a board that he was on. His name was Jean-Michel Cousteau.  Everybody knows his father, Jacques Cousteau and the Cousteau Society. Well, Jean-Michel had started his own foundation called Ocean Future Society. And after spending a week with him I signed on to help. 

It was such a joy to work with Ocean Futures and Jean-Michel.  All the people I met that were so they were absolutely consumed with making the world, especially our water world,  safer and better for humans. One of the things that I loved best about Jean-Michel is that he was so non-proprietary. He wanted all the nonprofits in the ocean world to join together. They weren’t in competition to raise funds but they were there to help the world. The way they could help the world was by joining forces. So to me, that was a huge lesson in collaboration on a global scale that I was able to absorb.  I just feel so lucky to have worked with these such exceptional people who have changed our world so much.

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

Nancy Miller: We were pretty normal Manhattan Beach family. My kids grew up in Manhattan Beach, California. And most of our family activities were all centered around going to the beach. Jimmy fell in love with surfing when he was seven. He knew from that age on that that’s where he wanted to be in that in that water space. That’s how he lived his life. So by the time he was 10, he was surfing in contests. After high school,  before he went to Cal, he passed the Los Angeles County lifeguard test. So he became in Los Angeles lifeguard which was ultimately a life changing occupation for him. Jimmy was a scholar athlete. He got into Berkeley and started the first surf club it Cal ever had. 

After he graduated, he started his company called Pure Surfing Experience. When he started it he wanted to bring surfing to everyone. He was running this company and he met and married a young model.  Unfortunately, they separated after a few years. At this time, Jimmy had grown his company, traveled all over the world, teaching lessons, and he was writing newspaper articles. He tore his labrum in his shoulder and was going through this very difficult separation. And he had been the joy of everyone’s life and a golden light in the world, all of a sudden, he became very anxious and concerned.

There  wasn’t any prior evidence of any mental illness in our family.  With this injury, he couldn’t go in the water. When he wasn’t able to go in the water, it totally changed his body chemistry and his brain chemistry. Wow, it threw him into a real tailspin. In May of 2004, he had a psychotic break. 

On August 7, 2004, he took his life and changed all of our lives. He changed the lives of everyone who loved him, the surf community and the lifeguard community. The community of Manhattan Beach all came together, along with friends all over the world, in disbelief that Jimmy had had this undiagnosed mental illness.  Within six months of Jimmy’s death we began to plan a way to use surfing to provide self efficacy. A combination of a guided surfing adaptive surfing and talking about it or talk therapy.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Nancy Miller: For us, the challenges became finding enough volunteers.  Those first five or six years, we really didn’t not have that problem.  Being a being able to make sure there  was an occupational therapist in part of the program.  It’s not just about surfing, it’s about that talk therapy. It’s about having a therapist on on site at every single session. As we grew, and the numbers changed it was a matter of working overtime to find the qualified people to actually give the surf lessons.

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

Nancy Miller: We’ve had four major studies about surfing and depression published in journals. We have served 5000 at risk children and over 150 Marines and veterans with PTSD. There are about 120 surf therapy organizations worldwide who all use our technique and process. So what our impact is right now is unbelievable. What started as a family foundation is now worldwide. When people talk about Ocean Therapy, surf therapy, the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation is where everyone got the basics.

We have now added Health Care Workers from the front lines of Covid who suffer from PTSD, depressions and suicidal ideation.  Two hospitals are participating and their staffs have experienced significant anxiety reduction by surfing with JMMF. Our newest group is young adults with Special Needs from the Friendship Foundation.  Their ages ranged from 18-35, and included non-verbals, on the spectrum, Downs Syndrome and more.  Everyone surfed, rode a board on their tummy’s or standing up, and were able to share their experiences with exuberance and joy.

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

Nancy Miller: I think as I said, it takes a village. You cannot do something alone. It takes all it takes all of those inner people that are intertwined. And you need to be able to reach out and ask for help. It doesn’t just happen to you. Have faith in the process and being able to surround yourself with people who understand.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Nancy Miller: I really have. As I mentioned before, for the first five years, it was just too painful to talk about Jimmy.  For me, it wasn’t how he died but how he lived. The big difference now is that I can talk about how he lived and what a difference his life made. So I think in terms of my biggest change is that I couldn’t have had this conversation with you. I just couldn’t have, it wouldn’t have worked. Now, I’m so happy to share his stories. And if I shed some tears while I’m talking, it is just part of the story. It is part of my mother’s story and this is a family story.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

To learn more about The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation view their video Here
New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Episode 47: Drink Local Drink Tap

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Gordie: A legacy of teaching

Gordie's story

Next week we are heading to Texas for Parents weekend to see our youngest son.  He attends a big college football school where weekends included tailgates, football games, and obligatory fraternity parties. With so many students heading off to college and parents concerned about fentanyl, covid and so much more, it seemed like the right time to re-share this story.

Gordie Bailey was a college freshman who died of alcohol poisoning from hazing his freshman year of college. September 17th marks the 17th anniversary of Gordie Bailey’s death.  His parents created a nonprofit organization, The Gordie Center,  as Gordie’s legacy to educate college students about drinking.  The story is tragic and the lesson is invaluable. Sadly, it needs to be told over and over to each new generation of college students.

Loss

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 children until they have left for college.  Often, we do not realize the value of one’s life until it has passed.

Why is it that we wait to make these connections? How 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 freshmen have left home. Many students 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’s Story

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. On the evening of September 16th, Gordie and twenty-six other pledge brothers dressed in coats and ties for “bid night” and were taken blindfolded to the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest. There they were “encouraged” to drink four “handles” of whiskey and six (1.5 liters) bottles of wine.

The pledges 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 11 pm. His brothers proceeded to write on his body in another fraternity ritual. Gordie was left 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.

Turning Grief into Hope

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.  There have been forty 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 almost eighteen 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? How 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 eighteen years later, our vision is becoming clearer and we realize just how precious each life is……

Charity Matters.

 

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Episode 46: A Place at the Table

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 45: Happy Community Builders

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.