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Episode 51: Free Wheelchair Mission

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo credit: Ralph Alswang

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 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:
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 49: Free to Thrive

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

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:
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 47: Drink Local Drink Tap

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Episode 46: A Place at the Table

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

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

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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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.

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Welcome to Season 4!

Welcome to Season 4 of the Charity Matters Podcast. We are thrilled to continue bringing the best humans on earth to share their journeys in service to others. So grateful for your continued belief in good.

Since we are at that crazy time of year when summer blends into back to school we thought today’s guest would be the perfect person to launch our new season. Natalie Silverstein is a nonprofit founder and the author of a new book inspiring the next generation of philanthropist. We are thrilled to have her share her journey in philanthropy and in raising philanthropic children.

Join us for a terrific conversation about her journey starting a nonprofit for Parkinsons to writing a book to inspire others to serve.  Natalie is pure sunshine in a bottle and just what we need to get inspired for a new school year. More importantly, her new book, Simple Acts: The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference is inspiration for the entire family.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Growing up did you have a philanthropic family?

Natalie Silverstein: My parents were immigrants from Ukraine, they actually met in a displaced persons camp, which is what we would call a refugee camp today. They both came over to the United States after the war, in 1949, and they married in 1950.  I’m a first generation American, I’m very much a Ukrainian American.

As immigrants without very much education,  they gave back to their church. They gave to other Ukrainians who were coming over to get settled. They very much volunteered and participated by giving so much to their church community because that was really foundational for them.

Charity Matters: Tell us about the journey from growing up to starting a nonprofit?

Natalie Silverstein: I think I always wanted to do something where I was helping people. So as I was coming up through high school and into college, I decided to study health policy and administration. I wanted to work in a healthcare environment where I could help people. After getting my Masters Degree, I had a 15 year career in health care, hospitals and managed care companies. That sort of thing was sort of foundational to this other work that I’m doing. 

I decided to stay home and focus on raising my kids and all of that. And at some point in those years, this work of becoming sort of an expert/resource for people who want to do service in their community  really started to develop. Then simultaneously, we found out that my young husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

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

Natalie Silverstein: My husband has a particularly unique sort of genetic form of Parkinson’s. He said to me, “You know what, I have all of these friends in research and in science and in venture capital, I think we should start a foundation.”  I have a background in running health care companies and I worked for nonprofits  which was sort of a funny synergy. You know, it was sort of like two people that had this terrible thing happen. Yet, we decided to turn that around and try and make something positive out of it. So we founded this foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA, The Silverstein Foundation. Our mission is to fund research to find a cure for Parkinsons but more specifically for Parkinson’s with GBA. 

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

Natalie Silverstein: Since March of 2017, we have made 35 research grants being made through partnerships with biotech and pharmaceutical companies to find a cure for this disease. My husband had worked in healthcare venture capital,  mostly focused on funding companies that were doing research into rare diseases. He could have taken this news and just feel sad but we also became sort of energized.

We said, “If there’s a solution to be had, if we can accelerate research into finding a cure, why would we not do that?”  There are so many of these stories where people are faced with this very, very difficult news. They could turn that inward, and they could get sad and feel sorry for themselves. Or you could turn it outward and say, “What small thing what, what kind of legacy might I leave, if I could move the needle, even a couple of inches?”

Charity Matters: How did you go from nonprofit founder to Author?

Natalie Silverstein: Let’s just be really honest, life is what happens while you’re making other plans. When my kids were little and I’m here trying like hell to raise them to be grateful, grounded empathetic kind people. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing that we can do as parents. I was desperate to find opportunities to volunteer in our community. We live in New York City.  So I was just flabbergasted that there weren’t a lot of nonprofits that were welcoming us with open arms.

 I decided to figure out a way to create a database or a listing or something to help families like mine. And I partnered with an organization called Doing Good Together. They’re based in Minneapolis. I reached out to the founder and said,  “I’m flabbergasted that I can’t find opportunities here in New York City. Just like a straight listing of places that would accept us. And I want to start doing that.”

She said, ” I’ve been dreaming of sort of franchising this idea and sending, Doing Good Together branches all over the country, and you would be the first. So sometimes, there are no coincidences.  I launched the first regional branch of Doing Good Together I’ve been doing that for nine or 10 years, and I curate a listing of family friendly volunteer opportunities, that is pushed out to subscribe 1000s of subscribers every single month. It’s how I learned about organizations and volunteer work that we can do in the five boroughs of Manhattan of New York.

So I said to myself after I became this lady in my community, this kind of free resource. “Hmm, seems like there’s a book here”. If you look out in the world of literature of parenting guides and things, there really aren’t very many. I did a little competitive analysis and I’ve always been a writer. So, I put together a proposal and somebody bought it. The first book kind of magically happened in 2019. Now my second book, Simple Acts: A Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference.

Charity Matters: What do you hope your book accomplishes?

Natalie Silverstein: I hope that we can teach the importance of service to the next generation. There’s so much research around this that it is kind of staggering. We know that volunteers live longer, they are happier, they are less depressed and they are more connected. Young people who volunteer are more likely to stay in school.  They’re more likely to do well academically and  they’re less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Young people who volunteer with friends are more likely to continue to want to do that. Young people, children and young adults who volunteer with their families are more likely to do that, as adults with their families.  We also know that when you do something nice for another person, even if that person doesn’t acknowledge it, or doesn’t know that it’s you, you get an endorphin rush. There is literally an adrenaline endorphin rush, it is similar to a runner’s high. They call it the helpers high, and it’s a real, physiological experience.

I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to give that gift to our children, and to our teens. Particularly right now, in terms of social isolation. Volunteering is a real way to connect with other people to look a person in the eye and have a conversation and learn about their life experience. It gives kids a worldview. It is just so vitally, vitally important. I can’t I can’t stress enough the benefits.  I don’t think there are any downsides.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Natalie Silverstein: I think that I have a lot more gratitude for my life. Certainly, and I appreciate so much the work that people do. You know, I’m also part of a couple of giving circles one here in New York City called the Impact 100. NYC which is a women’s giving circle.  I am just blown away by the nonprofit’s that come to us with grant applications. We get to review and  visit and then we give out one or two transformational grants of $100,000 each.

Over and over and you see this through your work on this podcast, that a person has a dream a person has an idea a person has a passion, something they’re concerned about something that has impacted them personally. Then they say what can I do to help?  Somehow, they just make it happen on a shoestring with no money and no resources and no place.  Regularly,  I am blown away  by the nonprofits that I have met through the giving circle, through my work with Doing Good Together, through my research from my books and through the organizations that we’ve personally gotten involved with as a family. When I look at these nonprofits that I’ve learned about over these years of doing this work, they give me hope.

 

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

Natalie Silverstein: You know, you mentioned earlier, we’re living in a really tough time. It is a very, very sad, sad world that we’re living in and so much that feels very helpless and hopeless. And you think to yourself, “What can I possibly do to affect any change and make this any better? ” 

 I hope if I can inspire even one teenager to say, “You know what, there is something I can do.  I can’t change the whole world. But maybe there is one person that I can help today.”  That could impact that person’s whole day, their week or their life.  I just want people to know that they can do that, we call can.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Love Your City

It is always so nice when the tables are turned, being a guest is always much easier than being a host. So when Bob Dalton, the founder of Love Your City, podcast reached out it was an easy yes. Bob is an amazing entrepreneur who founded the socially conscious company Sackcloth and Ash. His business follows the Tom’s Shoes model that you buy a blanket and give a blanket to the homeless. His mission is to blanket America.

In addition to Sackcloth and Ash, he has launched a new venture called Love Your City. His goal is to connect people to their  local grassroots nonprofits to get them to donate, volunteer and advocate for their communities.  He is highlighting this work  by interviewing nonprofit founders across the country who are doing great work. Sound familiar? If you like Charity Matters than you will most definitely enjoy Love Your City. 

Here is the link to our fantastic conversation. It was so fun chatting charity, good people and our mutual journey of finding them. Take a listen and make sure to check out Love Your City.

Thank you again for continuing to join us on the journey for good people doing amazing work.

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.

Looking back at West Coast Sports Associates

Summer is in full swing and it is a season when we all what to go outside and play. For many students who live in the inner city playing, sports more specifically isn’t an option. Twenty-five years ago four college buddies who loved sports decided to change all of that for thousands of kids across Southern California.

Join us today as we look back at a fantastic conversation with one of the founders of West Coast Sports Associates, Mike Gottlieb. As Mike shares the journey of turning a passion for sports into an incredible nonprofit organization that has raised millions for inner-city youth.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what West Coast Sports Associates does?

Mike Gottlieb: It’s not like a lot of other charities out there.  We found kind of a gap in the youth sports world that we’re hoping to fill and grow. Our niche is lower and middle-school-aged children who live in underserved areas, getting them access to team sports.  We all have such great experiences with youth sports growing up, that we just can’t imagine what things would be like for kids if they couldn’t afford to play sports? And there are so many benefits to youth sports.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start West Coast Sports Associates?

Mike Gottlieb: It all started with three really good friends of mine that I’ve known since college, Chip Eggers, Alan Lynch, and Mike Rosenberg. What we all have in common was a passion for sports. We didn’t necessarily have the end result of what West Coast sports Associates was but we knew we had something. A few morning breakfasts and we finally kind of came up with the concept.

We all have had such great experiences playing team sports growing up and we want to make sure that all kids had the same access. To start, we didn’t know what to do. So we decided to have an event where we’re each going to invite five or 10 friends of ours. We would host it, and tell people about our plan. And honestly, we’re not expecting anything.

Meanwhile, Alan was good friends with Steve Soboroff, who at the time, was the head of La Parks and Rec. Alan worked with Steve who identified a park in South LA called Jim Gilliam Park. They had a lot of at-risk kids who were foster kids and or their parents couldn’t afford to pay the entry fee to play flag football, soccer, basketball, or whatever sport. So we decided whether we put up $10,000 to support their programs for the year and let the park director pick the kids. He focused on kids who stayed out of trouble and went to school.  We put them all on scholarship.

We started in 1994 with just four of us committing $10,000 to today giving out about $200,000 a year. And it just happened because we all had this same passion for sports.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Mike Gottlieb: Well, I would say when we first started, we grew slowly.  We were all volunteers for maybe the first 10 years. We had no, literally no help and we just did it all ourselves.  I think during Mike Rosenberg’s term, he finally brought on a part-time executive director. Over time the part-time Executive Director evolved into a full-time Executive Director.  Our treasurer and board members we’re all volunteers.

All of the founders have all taken turns being President. Between the four founders, everyone in our group, there’s a connection to one of the four of us. We all have this passion for sports. I guess you could say we turned an addiction to sports into something positive.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We’re not here, because we’re searching for the next professional athlete. We’re just here to help the average kid just participate in sports. We want them to get the life lessons when you play sports, you have to be more organized with your time, learn time management, learn how to listen, follow directions and learn how to be a leader. The statistics about the future health of these kids that do and don’t participate in sports are really mind-boggling. Students who participate in sports have better grades, stay out of trouble, form friendships, have more self-confidence, are healthier and the list goes on. We are just trying to help the average kid and there are so many benefits that we know we are making a difference.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We’ve been doing this so long. I read the other day that Russell Westbrook used to play sports at one of our parks. And there’s Tony who played for the Dallas Cowboys who played another park. So we do it enough, we’re going to get some success stories. Those success stories are, are pretty exciting, because you just you never know, the kid who can’t play, he’s going to do something else. In those underserved areas, that’s something else that may not be good. I think we all know in our hearts, that there are kids we’ve saved because they’ve been able to play sports. How many I don’t know that. I know for a fact that that happened.

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

Mike Gottlieb:  I would say, half of our programs are different parks in LA City Parks and Recs. The other half are nonprofits that directly do different sports like Heart Harlem lacrosse or Beat the streets for wrestling. We not only support the Parks and Recs departments but then, in addition,  give funds to nonprofits that are supporting work with special needs kids.

We did actually, the first-ever public-private partnership between The City of LA, twenty-some years ago with youth soccer. When you understand how AYSO works, they’re all volunteers and they don’t have a big budget, like the clubs. So they really have to just kind of scrap to get facilities to get fields. So we put together the first-ever partnership with LA. and have done more of those public-private partnerships since.  We’re trying to do more to empower a nonprofit or the parks.  The idea is that we hope when we start with a particular location, that we can get them off the ground, and ultimately they can become self-sufficient in raising their own funds. Then we can take that money and find someone else and that’s what we tried to do.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We have thought about expanding,  so we are doing more in Orange County. That was kind of a test model and we’ve sponsored some programs down here. Can we do something in San Diego, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Portland, and Seattle? Then we’re really on the whole west coast. I would love to be able to see this happen in other cities and there are other groups that do things like this. Not exactly, but in every major city there is some group that’s helping with youth sports. In theory, we could franchise. It would be great to see this adapted in other cities and help welcome.

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

Mike Gottlieb: Oh, gosh you know, you look back and realize we didn’t know when we started where we were going. In looking back on it I feel really good that not only have we helped the kids, but we’ve energized people in our group to go out to help our mission.  They’ve also expanded into other youth helping other youth out whether it’s sports or academics or other at-risk kids.  I think we’ve created an inertia that and we’re examples to other people. I think, “Okay, we’ve energized hundreds of people. And we’ve raised probably $5 million-plus but it’s just I think it’s the domino effect. A really positive domino effect.  We know without our work and without us, that doesn’t happen so that that feels good.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Mike Gottlieb:  The other hope is that whatever your passion is you can do the same thing. Whether it’s sports or a cure for a disease, whatever your passion is you can do the same thing. Our hearts just happened to be sports and kids, because that was just pure.  Whatever your passion is, all you got to do is find one other person, and then talk about what you’d like to do. Don’t have any ambitious plans about how fast you grow, it can be small, if you just affect one other person, you’ve done something positive. That’s why I love what you’re doing, getting the stories out of the founders, in hopes that it’ll encourage other people to do the same thing.  You know, at the end of the day, give more than you get.

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.

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Looking back at Girls Leading Girls

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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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.

Looking back at Miracle Messages

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

Episode 43: Roots for Boots

Today is Memorial Day, a national day when we honor and and recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of service. So it is only fitting that today we are having a conversation with an incredible nonprofit Roots for Boots that serves those who serve, our veterans.

Christy Lucus, founder of Roots for Boots is an inspiration and was beyond fun to talk too. Join us to learn the amazing story of Christy’s journey from a school principal to a nonprofit founder. You will see why her official title is Chief Enthusiasm Officer!

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Roots for Boots does?

Christy Lucas: We are a grassroots organization and our mission is basically to meet whatever need or challenge a veteran active duty or military family would have. And we like to invite the community to come in to use their own gifts, talents and resources to help us and we like to say that your way of serving your country.

The thing about Roots for Boots is we don’t have a specific niche.  A lot of nonprofits do hunting trips or fishing trips with veterans. For us, no day is ever the same. We could be helping with rent, utilities, home repairs, or car repairs. One of the things that I love to do is to provide the All Terrain action track wheelchairs for our veterans. Those are for our veterans that have issues with mobility outside. These are the wheelchairs that have the tracks on them, a fishing pole attachment, and they’ve got a swivel on for their firearm. The wheelchairs even have a snowplow and they’re just amazing.

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

Christy Lucas: From very early age, all I ever want to do is help people. When I was little, that’s all I did. And then when I had to figure out what I wanted to do as far career, I decided to go into teaching. So I went to teaching got my degree and I ended up at a Catholic school in Missouri Sound, Pennsylvania. It was just the little town that reminded me of Mayberry that was just a very simple close knit community. So I taught there for 14 years.

I always see God’s hand and everything that I’ve done here.  You just never know where he’s going to take you. When I decided to teach, I went back to school to get my master’s in education. Well, I got the job and Annunciation in the middle of that program.  I was like, I do not want to ever be a principal ever. 14 years later, the school needed a principal…. and I’ll tell you, that was a hardest job. That was the absolute hardest job I’ve ever had.

When I taught and when I became principal,  I did the Veterans Day assemblies.  I think this is where everything started. When I did the Veterans Day assemblies, I got to hear their stories, and the struggles of our veterans, especially our local, military. Then we saw some of our families have deployments who had military members in their family.  And I saw that end of it as well. So I really got a connection there.

I come from a patriotic family where my dad’s a Marine. My grandfather served in World War II, my  great grandfather served in World War I and an uncle in the Navy. My father in law was in the Korean War. So it was just all around.  Love that surrounding your whole time yet you don’t always see it. So when I became principal, I used that platform more.  I brought military in to help a science lesson, Social Studies lessons to talk about patriotism.

Veterans Day was my absolute favorite day in the school.  That was because it didn’t take a lot to make our Veterans happy or to make them smile.  The third year of my contract, I was really burned out and didn’t know what to do. I thought, well, maybe if I volunteer with a Veterans Organization, I’d be able to find my passion that way. I asked a friend who was a Marine, “Do you know any place I could I could do that?” And he says no, but why don’t you start your own thing?  And when he said that, it’s like a spark went off my head. I knew what, no clue what I was going to do no clue what this was going to look like.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Christy Lucas:  I think one of the challenges we have now is with growth. It’s just growing in leaps and bounds.  I run a food bank, the second Tuesday of every month for veterans. That started with eight veterans back in 2018 and it’s now almost 150. It’s it’s more than a Foodbank because I have a Veteran Service Officer there. He’s able to help with any VA issues that they have. We have lunch for the volunteers and the veterans. And that’s priceless. having them sit around a table together and have a  conversation.

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

Christy Lucas: I never take credit for this, I always say it’s God working through me. He’s bringing people to me that need help. And he brings people to me that can help me and I work with a wonderful team of volunteers. The one story that I always do tell is Jeremy Jacoby. He’s a young veteran, and he’s in his 30s. He’s got a young family and Jeremy was deployed twice.  During his deployment he was exposed to chemicals and he’s losing mobility from the waist down.

Three years ago I got contacted because he he was trying to see if he could get up on one of the alteration track wheelchairs. So I met Jeremy at a local restaurant here and I just remember looking across the table.  I could just see the pain in Jeremy’s eyes. What he so desperately wanted was to be able to run with his young son to be able to play football. He wasn’t athletic guy to begin with and now he’s reduced to a cane and a wheelchair.

All he wanted to be able to go out and hunt and fish and be able to play with his his son.  So I remember hearing his story and then you see this, this soldier across from you and all sudden he starts to choke up. I looked across the table as Jeremy I grabbed his arm.  And I said,” Jeremy, I will get you that tractor by Christmas.” And we did.

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

Christy Lucas: if I had a dream super big, the one thing I always say that that we that we were are in need of is our own space.  I work out of my home and always having to borrow other people’s conference rooms. My core values for Roots for Boots is serve, educate and inspire.  So I thought there’s these little one room school school houses around here that are all boarded up. So if somebody would just like buy one of those for me?  Renovate it, make it lots recruits headquarters and  pop a flagpole up in the front of it. I’d be able to meet with my veterans there and we’d have our own conference room.

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

Christy Lucas: When I was principal we would adopt an active duty servicemen each year. They have taught me perseverance and I’ve carried this on into what I do now,  never get up or never give up. You know, live to fight another day. Just keep going forward. That’s a lesson that was has been priceless for me.  I tend to be somebody that doesn’t run from a challenge, I go right towards them.

My biggest struggle was always failure. When I finally just said, “You know what, this is way too stressful. ”
I just had to be myself and figure this out. And I never thought that I would ever be able to handle the job is principal.  I always thought I wasn’t smart enough to do certain jobs. Then I realized I was smart enough. And I was smart enough to form a nonprofit in this community, and opened it with welcome arms.

I was lucky because  I think it’s something that community was looking for. When I look back on all those stumbling blocks and all those failures. And I just think you know what, I’m so glad that I just kept going, because I could have missed out on what could have been my greatest moment. You know, and I always tell people, just keep going, you could be you could be missing out on what could be your greatest moment.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 42: Greenline Housing Foundation

I love to learn and I love to meet new people who teach me. Most especially, I love to learn from risk takers who take on some of society’s biggest challenges head on and look for a solution. This week’s guest is a perfect example. Jasmin Shupper, the founder of Greenline Housing Foundation is a dynamo and a woman on a mission to combat the age old practice of redlining. Her mission is to offer financial assistance and continued support to people of color who wish to be homeowners.

Join us today for an informative conversation about redlining, if long term effects and what Jasmin and her nonprofit are doing to create lasting change.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Greenline Housing Foundation does?

Jasmin Shupper:  Greenline Housing Foundation gives grants to qualified people of color to purchase a home. Specifically for the purpose of reversing the effects of systemic racism and housing, through practices like redlining, blockbusting and steering. We facilitate access to homeownership for people of color who were previously very intentionally and legally prevented from from homeownership. We strive to really close that gap, close the racial wealth gap, facilitate access and provide financial education. And we can make sure that our our homeowners are not only set up well to purchase a home, but also to thrive once they’re in their home. Our goal is to seek to just facilitate access, close the racial wealth gap and repair what generations of systemic racism and housing have broken.

Ceasar and Bonnie’s Story from Greenline Housing Foundation on Vimeo.

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

Jasmin Shupper:  I like to say that Greenline is the culmination of many years of lived experience and education and everything that just kind of converged. One day Greenline was born.  I’m  a real estate agent here in California. As I was studying for my exam, I was struck by the fact that it wasn’t until 1968 that it became illegal everywhere to discriminate on the basis of race and the sale financing and leasing of real estate. My mom was alive in 1968 and that’s not that long ago.

In 1967, it was legal to say I’m I’m not going to lease to you, or I’m not going to sell this property to you because you are a person of color. So that really, really struck me. I think that we learn this history to some degree but learning  the implications of that and what that means,  in my real estate practice.  Going back even further than 1968, things like the FHA refusing to ensure loans made to people of color. Learning the economic legacy that is afforded through homeownership. Then juxtaposing that with the reality of how intentionally people were kept from homeownership at a time when homes realized the biggest depreciation left a huge impact.

I’m the Business Director of this church where I’m managing the budget and really learning the ins and outs of nonprofit management. That’s when I kind of was feeling the stirring of all the pieces coming together. Then one day, I was doing a devotional, it was Psalm 82. That was my swift kick in the pants when I was trying to decide, what was next? What to do with this burden that I felt for so many years?  And Psalm 82 gave me my answer. I absolutely knew.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Jasmin Shupper: Our tagline is restoring justice one home at a time. And that’s really important because if I get too caught up on the magnitude of what we’re trying to accomplish, it can be paralyzing, right? If I focus on one home at a time and even recognizing the rippling effects of that one home at a time in terms of the the generational legacy helps to make it seem less daunting.

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

Jasmin Shupper: My faith component is deeply helpful for me. Another thing that fuels me when just feels so big and I wonder how am I ever going to do this? Who am I? I’m just one person is just reading the statistics and learning the history, and how blatant it was, and just the burden. That’s the only word that I can really use to describe that is just a burden to do something about it is what keeps me going.

This deeply held conviction that something has to be done. There needs to be some justice because of how blatant, insidious and rampant discrimination was in housing.

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

Jasmin Shupper:  In terms of successes, the money that we were able to raise before we had a website. Just me, painting the picture, casting the vision and giving the why, of why we exist in raising these funds. And you know, we started to have a couple of applicants here and there.  We wanted to have the infrastructure and be able to sustain the volume, but had a couple of applicants came in.

We did the interviews support, they submitted all their supporting documentation and we took a board vote. They were poster families for what our program is intending to accomplish. When I communicated to them, that they had been awarded a grant and the grant amount, they broke down in tears.  It’s really, really beautiful.  Now they are homeowners and they have three kids. What that’s going to mean for their family was one of our biggest and earliest success stories.

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

Jasmin Shupper: I think at first pass our dream is to raise millions and millions of dollars and have this humongous impact for so many families of color to change the trajectory of the legacy.   So that’s the dream, the big scale impact multiple families in different regions and specifically the cities where redlining was most egregious.  I have a map of cities where I would love to  give grants in those cities that were the biggest culprits of redlining and housing injustice. So that’s a big dream of mine.

When I’m really, really dreaming big it has to do with raising money, multiplying impact for all the people in all the houses. So it’s about the the what the participation in this looks like. I would love to have banks participate in this initiative, real estate agents, brokers, and specifically real estate investment firms. I think to invite participation from those institutions that have wielded power. If we’re being honest, historically have kind of perpetuated the injustice on some level in terms of loans and to now invite them into participating in the repair. Getting somebody into a home takes a village. So to invite these players to really magnify the participation among these institutions and groups is just such a big dream of mine.

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

Jasmin Shupper: So many lessons, I think one is that I am only one person.  The importance of surrounding myself with with good people.  Allowing people to help that are passionate about this as well and not thinking that the whole thing rises and falls on me.  I’m holy responsible for the failure or success of this.  Just inviting people in to help accomplish the mission is a really, really big thing that I have learned.

I think I have a view of hope and a way that I maybe didn’t have to the same degree before.  I saw people giving to this initiative based on a phone call that I had with them.  They didn’t know who I was and had never met me. I painted this vision.  They mailed a check for $10,000 based on that conversation.  We then took that $10,000 and directly applied that to a grant for somebody in a very practical and tangible way. I just think  it restored my hope in the goodness of people even and in humanity.

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.