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Episode 41: Sow Good Now

Sports teach all of us so many lessons. We learn as children how to get along, how to work together, and physical fitness. When we think of youth sports we don’t usually think about philanthropy. That is until Mary Fischer Nassib and her friends came along to change all of that.

Mary and her friends were all college athletes and mothers of athletes. They had seen teams of kids that had too much and they had seen those with too little. They decided they could change all that with their nonprofit Sow Good Now. Join us for an uplifting conversation about a new way to teach philanthropy, leadership, and service to others with this amazing organization.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what SOW Good Now does?

Mary Fischer Nassib: There are 45 million youth that are involved in organized sports in the United States every year. In contrast, there are only 500 youth philanthropy programs.  So I thought, philanthropy is good for youth, it’s leadership development, and finding your passion. We know that it’s good for you, that’s good for communities, you lift diverse voices, the communities get the benefit of it, and the young people not only become beneficiaries but become active agents for philanthropy programs.

The kids come together, and they play sports to raise money for other kids. The teams are not only where the volunteers share their skills with youth from underserved areas but fundraise for them in the process. Let’s say there are 30 kids on a high school soccer team and they bring 30 kids from the Boys and Girls Club seven miles away.  That high school soccer team plans the match, arranges it, and coordinates a fundraising event, which we call a GiveBack,  to make it happen.

In the process, the high school team learns leadership skills, event planning, and service learning or doing it in its activity-based philanthropic education. Why we’re so unique is that we give the team ownership. You do the fundraising, you do the planning and you decide what organization you want to grant to. There’s a kid on your team that has a special cause you can help. Not only do you have the power to run this give back, but you’re organized and if someone else needed help, you’d be able to do that too.

The part that Sow Good Now does that work is we bridge the relationship between the team and the underserved youth. We set up a donor-advised fund with three or four players or the coaches, sometimes we even invite the program director from the youth group, whether it be the Boys and Girls Club or another organization. We want the students to understand that they do have tools that can maximize their personal lifetime impact. The fund is named by the team and they will grant out some and keep some in the fund.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Sow Good Now?

Mary Fischer Nassib:  We named it Sow Good Now because we want young people to start sowing their seeds of goodness, today. Most philanthropy starts near retirement age and by the time philanthropists get into their stride, they’re facing the end of their life. So, as a mother of five athletes, I noticed that there was great disparity in a lot of the players in their access to sports.  That was symbolic of the great disparity that we have in our country. And I always thought, “Well, gosh, there’s so much excess here. And so much need there? How can we build bridges?

In July of 2018, the three of us founders (also former college athletes, and mothers of athletes) got our kids and their friends together, and we told them about philanthropy. We invited kids from the Middle School in an elementary school to a football Give Back.  As a mother, and a former financial advisor I know my way around the financial services industry, as well as the sports industry. I studied philanthropy and decided that I would bring others along with me, ie, the athletes.  They’re already primed, they already understand the value of teamwork and diversity, right.  You can’t win if you’re thinking about yourself and that is the same with athletes.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Mary Fischer Nassib:  That first year, everywhere we went, everything played out the way we hoped.  We got into high gear, gained some traction had a good fundraiser.  Then COVID in February of 2020 was the biggest obstacle.

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

Mary Fischer Nassib:  I’m really trying hard to bridge these long-term relationships and I think it’s through relationships, that we will ultimately build confidence.  We are taking those geographically adjacent kids but socioeconomically diverse, putting them together, and then connecting them at a higher level.   I’m passionate about that, and I know I can help them.

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

Mary Fischer Nassib:  As far as Impact Reporting, we measure volunteer hours. We also say have you volunteered in the past X number of years, so we can report out on the volunteer rates. The other impact report, which is really a byproduct of the work we do is college campuses are reporting that 86% of their athletes are saying that mental health is an issue for them. The work we do at Sow Good Now reverses those two numbers. By volunteering all the research shows that you feel better, and you’re more connected.

We say we shift the focus from achievement to service, that’s really our goal.  Service to others is a way to pause that is a way to let them glimpse that there is life outside of achievement. The two impact pieces are the improvement of mental health and the increase in volunteerism.

One of our softball players did her first Give Back and engaged her team during the pandemic.  She got her players to do virtual videos for kids. She developed leadership skills by building her Give Back and has now been hired by a nonprofit. So those are very measurable results. In a very short time, we’re not four years old yet, and one and a half of those years were COVID. So I have no doubt what we can do. And we’re trying to get work so that we can do more and meet the demand. Everybody is one huge energetic team.

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

Mary Fischer Nassib:  That dream to me is that every team has its own identity. I dream that there are teams of philanthropic athletes who share the same passion, the same level of skills, and give back as they do in their sport. That the number of 500 youth philanthropy programs grow and the financial services industry makes charitable giving one of its priorities to make giving more effective, more inclusive, and more diverse. That’s my dream. The athletes are making it happen, and I’m honored to serve them when I look at them. I think of the potential that they have to do good.

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

Mary Fischer Nassib:  I think  I really focus on what’s in front of me. The saying is to work with what you have.  Everybody’s striving for whatever else is out there, I wish I figured that out earlier than I did.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Mary Fischer Nassib:  I’ve changed a lot. I am definitely more fulfilled, I’m happier, I feel closer to where I should be and I am proud of myself for being a role model. There are a lot of risks, I’m from a family that really doesn’t understand the nonprofit world.

One day, I got a note from my goddaughter and she said,” Happy Birthday, and thanks for being a great role model.” I’m hoping that not only am I changing the world for the good in the sports world, but others are able to see that piece of themselves. I hope that they want to give back and that they say, “Well if Mary can do it, I can do it.” And that’s what I’m I’m kind of hoping for because that’s what makes me happy.

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 40: Girls Leading Girls

These days when the world thinks of soccer Ted Lasso comes to mind. The loveable soccer coach from TV.  Today’s conversation is equally inspiring because that is exactly what our guest, Bre Russell does, coach soccer and SO much more!  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 join us for Episode 40 of our podcast! It truly makes me so happy sharing these incredible conversations.

 

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.

For example, there’s one girl, I’ll say her name is Melinda, not her actual name. She was not having great experiences at other organizations that were soccer-focused. She’s a very talented athlete and she took a year off from playing because she was not thriving on these other teams. Her friend who was playing with us encouraged her to join our organization, which she did.  I felt an instant connection with her because we had similar backgrounds.  Her family was just trying to survive, she was often having to take care of and be responsible for her younger siblings at a young age. And she didn’t have a lot of resources or support.

I would pick her up and take her to practice.  For the last two years, she improved so much in her soccer skills, and in her leadership, and she was awarded goalie of the year.  Today, she’s now a paid coach for us and she’s playing soccer at SF City College.  I just made it my job to support her and see her through this and be her mentor. Obviously, I can’t do that for all the 700 Girls we serve but I can model it and be an example. So other coaches want to do it too.

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:
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.

Pick up the Six

Ten years ago when Charity Matters began there were not many people telling the stories of service. At that point in time, I didn’t think there were any. It turns out that across the country in Raleigh, North Carolina there was someone else who had a similar idea. His name is Brian Jodice and he is the creator of the Pick Up The Six Podcast.

Brian and I were recently connected and I learned about his work at Pick Up the Six. In the military, the  term
“six” refers to behind you. In a group of runners picking up the six means to turn around and get the person trailing behind you. Brian’s mission is service before self and he uses his platform to tell the stories of men and women from all walks of life doing just that. Last week, it was a privilege to be a guest on his podcast talking about service and just how good people are.

So today, I thought I would share our conversation above and introduce you all to a new audience of amazing humans who serve. Brian interviews everyone from police officers, first responders, community heroes, and occasionally nonprofit founders too. So if you get a minute, please take a few to check out his podcast Pick Up the Six here. As Brian and I discussed the more people like us who focus our attention on all the good happening in the world, the greater the positive spiral up will be. 

When we all come together and put service before self, we make the world a better place. One person, one podcast, one conversation at a time.

 

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 39:West Coast Sports Associates

Spring 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 for 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?

Mikee Gottlieb: It’s not like a lot of other charities out there, which are all great.  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.

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 38: Foster the Mind

I never ceased to be amazed at the fascinating way nonprofit founders find me, or perhaps the ways I find them? A few months ago I was at a board meeting and was seated next to a new board member. We began talking about what she did and it came up that her husband Bryan had recently founded a nonprofit. She explained that Brian had a challenging upbringing and had struggled with depression. Through an incredible journey (worth listening to) Brian was introduced to neurofeedback.

The CDC has said that the economic fallout of mental health from COVID is two trillion dollars. Brian’s nonprofit, Foster the Mind helps children from the foster care system who struggle with trauma and mental health challenges from trauma. Join us for a fascinating conversation looking at mental health and the foster care system in a totally different way with our guest Bryan Butler. This conversation will most definitely open your mind!

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Foster The Mind does?

Brian Butler: We improve the lives of children and adolescents with mental health treatment, more specifically neurofeedback. Foster children have more trauma than most of our veterans if you study their brains. Neurofeedback which is an expensive therapy helps to alleviate that trauma.

So primarily we’re focusing on abuse and the foster youth population. Our model is we calm the brain down with something called alternating current stimulation.  It’s just a very light stimulation and a pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. So it basically forces the right-left hemisphere to alternate while you’re telling a story. And what that does, is it doesn’t erase the memory. Rather, it starts to remove the emotional impact that that specific memory has, it’s really powerful.

Oftentimes, there’s a lack of understanding in the mental health field of trauma and the impact it has. There’s a book called The Body Keeps the Score and so that’s actually what happens is there is a connection between the mind and the body. So you see these people, and they have just a slew of issues because their childhood trauma has never been addressed.

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

Brian Butler:  I grew up in a very chaotic home. When you have an environment like that, you don’t have a center intact. So I would be close to somebody and then push them away. They’re called deactivating strategies that your brain does to keep you safe.

In graduate school, one of my professors talked about how we minister of who we are. I had to write a paper on the topic. After he read it, he said, “This is really dark.” The professor wanted me to go see a therapist. And so I did and was given the diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

After that initial diagnosis, I spent 20 years and the current standard of care. I went to the psychiatrist and volunteered at church working with a lot of foster youth who were also struggling. Later on in life, you realize that you’re trying to find some meaning. So in saving them, you’re giving yourself meaning because I always felt worthless.

I tried to commit suicide. The week after,  I went to my professor and said, “Look, I am doing everything I’m supposed to do. I’m taking all the meds, exercising, praying, going to church, and doing it all. There’s gotta be something else because this is not working. And I’m going to kill myself because of the pain.” So he said, “Well, there’s a guy who has a clinic, Burleson, doing neurofeedback, I think you should try it. “

After I got much better, where I was treated, he offered me a job to come back to work at the clinic that treated me. When I got married and told my wife about what I wanted to do, she said, “Okay, let’s just do it.” She helped me put everything together. That was in 2018 we started Foster the Mind.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Brian Butler: A lot of people really don’t understand this work. So more than fundraising, I’m teaching people that there’s a better model for trauma, recovery, and trauma treatment. I have a split model because we have a clinic with paying customers and then we have a nonprofit where we work with children recommended by the court. Balancing both can be challenging.

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

Brian Butler: Yes, we do have successes, which is really, really exciting. It’s cool when people give us cards saying, thanks for changing my son’s life or daughter’s life.

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

Brian Butler:  I’ve got two or three patients now who were having panic attacks all day long. You can see it in the brain waves. Now they can have a conversation and not have panic attacks. And it’s just very miraculous. It feels very surreal. We see lots of people, but still every time it’s still amazing to me to see that happen.

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

Brian Butler: My dream is to create a home or a campus for kids that age out of foster care that has mental health treatment. A place that has an art studio and where they teach everything else that might be helpful for someone who isn’t going to go to school or college. These kids still want to find a home. Texas is one of the few places where when you turn 18, as a foster child they no longer support you or help.

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

Brian Butler: That no matter what you’ve experienced, no matter what you’ve been through, the brain can be rewired and changed. These challenges can become a strength as opposed to a downfall. That’s been my personal experience. So when I when someone comes to me, and they’re having panic attacks all day long every day.  I’m telling them my own story, my own journey.  I can see, I guess it’s part of my gift, and maybe I’m seeing my own self, but I can see three months from now where I think they can be.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Brian Butler:  What’s been cool about my journey of healing, especially with Amanda, because she’s been absolutely amazing for me. I’ve never been married before and I’m just feeling a sense of peace. My wife’s big and talking about things that happen in seasons. So I hang on to that.  Because of my own story, I keep reminding myself of the whole seasons’ thing. I’m learning to enjoy the present moment and I’m grateful to actually have a family.  I never thought I would be a part of a family. So I really enjoy the connectedness and how grounded I am.

Now that I’ve started the nonprofit my vision has been able to change.  I get to keep sharing part of who I am and part of my story and then helping them realize the same thing. They’re the ones doing the work and I get to be around for part of it. My desire is for them not to suffer the way I suffered.

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 37: Empty Frames Initiative

Online dating happened well after I was married. Swiping left or right is completely foreign to me. However, when someone suggested I go to Podmatch to look for podcast matches I was intrigued. I am incredibly lucky that our guests always land in my path organically, the old-fashioned way. Curios,  I completed my profile to be a podcast guest and to find them.  Imagine my surprise when I received the sweetest note from today’s guest, Miriam Cobb the founder of the nonprofit Empty Frames Initiative.

The Empty Frames Initiative is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower orphaned and vulnerable youth as they transition out of state foster care by providing community, training in life skills and counseling. Join us today to meet Miriam and learn about the beautiful work she is doing to help our young adults as they age out of the Foster Care System.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Empty Frame Initiative does?

Miriam Cobb: What we like to do is empower orphaned and vulnerable youth as they transition out of state care. We do this by providing training and life skills, community, and counseling. We’re working with youth who are coming out of the foster care system and that can happen between ages 18 and 21. 

 

Charity Matters: Tell us about your name?

Miriam Cobb: When I was originally pitching the idea of this nonprofit, I was with a group of entrepreneurs. They asked, “What is something you would really love to do?” I replied that I would really love to photograph adoptions.  Many of these orphans don’t have a lot of baby pictures.  I wanted to honor their story, and there’s this synonymous idea of your picture being on the wall, meaning that you’re part of someone’s life and family. And it’s important. That was something that was really important to me. After I pitched this idea, the entrepreneurs in the room, decided they only liked the name.

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

Miriam Cobb:  After crying. from the entrepreneur’s comments there was this other piece of this that I hadn’t really considered. The more I dug into it, the more this image kept coming back to my mind. I had served with an organization in Eastern Europe. While I was over there, I saw these really old, abandoned Soviet buildings that are just completely empty in the middle of nowhere, not being used.

I thought that seemed so strange because organizations could use the space. The person I was with said, “No, it’s just abandoned.”  I asked, “Well, are they gonna at least tear it down?” It like stuck with me for some reason. There was this merging of ideas of these places that people saw no value in? That these children were these big, empty frames that could be filled with purpose.

 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Miriam Cobb:  There are challenges. And it mirrors life.  There’s an up and down cycle for each nonprofit and you have those really great moments, then you have those moments that just feel like it’s a down cycle. Some of the challenges that I feel personally that have been kind of hard is learning how to really equip volunteers and provide them with meaningful roles. 

It’s an entrepreneurial venture and this life isn’t for everyone. When you pitch what you’re doing, there are so many wonderful and well-meaning people who want to be involved. And  I need people on the board. I think perhaps my age was the negative factor was trying to figure out how to really equip volunteers. Really learning how to manage volunteer roles and make it something that’s worthwhile to them. Because this is something that should be a beneficial experience that builds on your life too.

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

Miriam Cobb: Personally, my faith does play a major role in this. It does. It’s absolutely what I’m called to do as a person.  To walk away from it is to walk away from something that I’ve been shown on purpose.  Trials and setbacks are challenging, but there’s this really wonderful motivation knowing that this is what you’re called to do. That’s how I feel about it. I’ve been really, really fortunate to have a family that supports me while I do this work that helps me with that load you’re talking about. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my family’s support and my community’s support. Ultimately, the answer to that question really is, God. That’s what I feel I feel completely called. This is what I meant to do. 

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

Miriam Cobb: The big dream is taking our program throughout the US and then internationally. Equipping communities to have multiple sites that are serving these youth.  I think if more people knew about what would happen when these young adults aged out, we would have more people stepping into the role beforehand to be parents, mentors, and give a sense of community.

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

Miriam Cobb: Life comes in seasons. As much as we’d like to kind of bypass some, they all build on each other. Each one gets us to the right place. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Miriam Cobb:  There are things that it hasn’t changed. It has not changed my personality.  I’m not a really extroverted person but I’m not scared to talk to people.  I’m not shy, I’m quiet. There’s a difference. So I’ve been talking to more people and it has stretched me in ways that I wasn’t really expecting.

Building on that same thought from before about the seasons, I had some really specific plans for my life. I was like, this is gonna work just like this and then it didn’t.  Working towards something that I feel passionate about really changes the way that those things happen. You know, it’s like what it felt like to be complete. Derailment gets put into a different perspective of walking in your purpose. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Episode 36: Miracle Messages

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

Join us today, 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 was 19 at the time and had never thought about the life that Mark lived when he wasn’t at our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table. 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: What are your biggest challenges?

Kevin Adler: It’s always been a privilege to do this work, but it has not been without challenges. There was a point that I got down to $600 in my savings account doing this work in San Francisco and it wasn’t sustainable. As a person of faith, I prayed at times. The first prayer was, please let someone else steal this idea and run with it because I don’t know if I’m up for it.

I had to come to a realization a few years ago, that I could not make myself the first casualty of a good cause. I was en route to doing that and was just working nonstop.  The work left me feeling isolated and lonely. So for me, the beginning of being able to sustain this work in the tough times was by making sure my own foundation was in order.  You need to put your oxygen mask on first and if you don’t do that, you can’t be of service to others.

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.  I don’t need to dream bigger, to know how that’s not going to be happening in the next few years.

I have been around enough where I see five-year plans, we’re gonna have homelessness by this year. Those years have come and gone and the numbers are increasing, right? And it’s only getting worse.  So, I don’t think we’re ending homelessness anytime soon. What we can do in a step towards ending homelessness, is making sure every single human being…. all 550,000 people who go to bed every night and wake up in the morning, homeless without a stable home in this country in 2022… that they have at least one person, they’re connected to either a family member or friend social support and that they know they’re not going through it alone.

To me is something we are able to envision and realistically achieve through Miracle Messages with our partners on the ground. You know, and I think giving people money so that they can resolve the issues that are in front of them. 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: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Kevin Adler: Hearing the stories of our volunteers and why they commit their time, why they donate and why they show up. I get so much joy and gratitude, just being able to give and be there for someone else. We can all envision bank accounts with a couple more zeros at the end of them. Once you’re at a certain, baseline level, what do you need? What else are you really lacking? I mean, how many more square feet do you need in your house? Who cares? So just being able to see the joy of doing good with the time that you have on this earth and helping others unleash the good that’s within their hearts that they just don’t know how to share. That’s, that’s really what drives it.

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.

A little talk about founders

There is nothing I love more than talking about the amazing humans who start nonprofits, the founders. These very special humans are angels among us.  I was recently asked to be a guest on Nonprofit Radio with Tony Martignetti to talk about founders. Like all people who start businesses our nonprofit founders are some of the most incredible entrepreneurs. They run businesses that rely on the generosity and kindness of others. Not an easy business model for sure. Today, I thought I’d share both our conversation and a few highlights from it.

Common Traits of Nonprofit founders

Of the hundreds of people I have spoken with over the years, it is amazing how much they have in common. Every nonprofit founder I have interviewed never had a plan to be one. Something happened, a catalyst and a moment that changed the direction of their lives. That catalyst lead them to this work and altered the course of their life forever. Whatever happened to them or someone they love, that founder was determined it wasn’t going to happen to another human. That is the WHY to their work and how these remarkable people are so passionate about their cause.

Over time the founder and their cause can become one and the same. The founder’s life work and identity is in their nonprofit. This is the same for founders of regular businesses too. Think of Colonel Sanders and KFC or Martha Stewart where is the separation of church and state? It is often hard to know where one ends and the other begins. Like many small businesses across the country, there is very often not a succession plan.

When is it time to think about a succession plan?

No one ever wants to face their mortality. We all think we will live and work forever. However, that isn’t usually the case. Making a retirement plan and a succession plan is important for everyone. As my husband says, ” Everything you enter, except for a marriage, should have an exit strategy.” When do you know it’s time to exit the organization you founded?

  1. The organization stops growing or becomes flat.
  2. New people are not joining your mission or cause.
  3. You notice that innovation stops.
  4. The organization only looks to the founder for direction.
  5. When the founder and the organizations are one and the same.
  6. People support the founder and not the organization.
A few insights 

Every founder should have an exit strategy when they start the organization. If you don’t have one, it is never too late to start thinking about one. We all want to leave a legacy of goodness, regardless of our work. Nonprofit founders should begin thinking about what that legacy looks like. Their boards should engage in active succession conversations. Never wait until it’s too late. The WHY, the reason the nonprofit founder started this work is what needs to remain long after the founder is gone. The organization is the WHY and not the founder. Lastly, we can not lead unless we serve. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own ways to help those that we set out to help from the start.

 

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 35: Beverly Hills Community Farm

When you think about nonprofits the words Beverly Hills and farm usually are not top of mind. However, after meeting today’s incredible guest, Jennifer Levy you will begin to think differently. Join us for an educational and fascinating conversation about the exciting new ways Jennifer and her nonprofit organization, The Beverly Hills Community Farm is educating and feeding her community with her innovative work.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Beverly Hills Community Farm does?

Jennifer Levy: There’s definitely not a ton of nonprofits who start with the word Beverly Hills. And so we’re hoping to change the narrative a little bit. The three co-founders, myself and two other women, grew up together in Beverly Hills.  We are super excited to be bringing something back to the city that we grew up in.   Beverly Hills is a small town, both population-wise and geographically. So having an urban farm that can grow local food for hopefully a significant portion of the residents, the restaurants, the community was super important to us.

We can make a pretty big impact in a small space by the work we’re trying to do. Our mission is really to be an educational, urban farm, and to cultivate health and well-being while growing local food with hands-on community involvement. So we see ourselves as way more than just a farm, the food is definitely one piece of it. But really, as a space, a gathering space, an event space, an education space, to really provide tips and tricks and education on sustainable ways to grow food. So we don’t get enough of that in the city. Farming is a big part of what we’re doing but education is really at the core of what we’re doing. 

More specifically, we really are passionate about intergenerational education. Including so many different members of the community to learn and grow and be able to teach other members of the community. So we’re kind of all-encompassing. Growing local food is really one of my passions, but equally one of my passions is education. So really, we wanted to figure out a way to kind of combine all those things in the city we grew up in.

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

Jennifer Levy:  I learned a lot from it from my family. Giving to different organizations that they were passionate about, or going to fundraisers things with my family.  And also, through my religious school upbringing. I remember being in kindergarten every Sunday going to Hebrew school and having to bring leftover change or cans for a food drive or coats or shoes or things like that. So I think both between my family and my upbringing from a giving backside, it’s always been a part of what we do.

 I  have always loved volunteering. I started volunteering in high school at both Cedar Sinai Hospital UCLA hospital and I volunteered at a summer camp, Camp Harmony. That’s always been part of kind of my journey. To this day, I think that volunteering is kind of the best job on the planet, right? You get to pick and choose who you want to help out. And there’s no pressure and you just get to go support amazing people doing amazing things. In my later life, I spent a few years in Ohio and I volunteered for a water nonprofit, which led me to my first trip to Africa. So you never really know what’s gonna happen when you kind of put yourself in situations to learn new skills and meet new people.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Beverly Hills Community Farm?

Jennifer Levy: We launched in January 2020. I am an educator by trade and was a classroom teacher. Then I started a school garden program and got really into gardening and have always been pretty passionate about the environment, specifically water usage. That led me to spend a summer in Ohio working on a farm summer camp there. It was in Ohio that I met all these farmers and all these people doing pretty amazing work.  I finished the next year of teaching here in Los Angeles, and then I moved to Ohio. So I could learn how to farm essentially.

Sometime between coming back from that summer in Ohio, and going back to my job teaching, I realized that I wanted to do more. I wasn’t getting the same fulfillment of education as I thought I could from combining education and farming. I just didn’t know how to farm and had never done it.  So I quit and I moved to Ohio really working and learning to farm.  That brought me to Colorado, where I worked on an urban farm for two seasons.

But knowing that I kind of always wanted to be back, not necessarily in Beverly Hills or Los Angeles, but closer to Southern California. Then trying to think about how I could create a space where I wanted to do all of these different things? It just didn’t really exist here. So clearly, the rational decision was just to start it on my own. Why not?  I never in my wildest dreams had imagined I’d be a business owner or start a nonprofit or kind of even a farmer for that matter. Life definitely took me on so many different kinds of paths. Once my co-founders were involved and we had these conversations, it just felt like we were going to do this.  I couldn’t have predicted any of it.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Jennifer Levy: We launched in January 2020 and then COVID happened.  So we just stopped literally.  We didn’t get accepted from the IRS till 2021. So there were lots of things we thought were gonna go smoothly that did not.  It just took a long time. We worked with an amazing fiscal sponsor, so we could at least start fundraising and kind of get up and running. That was a whole set of different things we had to learn.

We were reading for months, how organizations weren’t getting fresh produce, and there was such a need right now. So January 2021, we opened in a commercial space in Beverly Hills, with 15 hydroponic towers. Since January, we’ve been growing food and donating to three main partner organizations. That has been like the biggest joy for everybody. We’ve just been allowed to use this beautiful space. We get foot traffic, and people are there and they get to see what we’re doing.  I get to teach every day, people who come in and want to hear about hydroponics. More than that, we’ve donated almost 150 pounds of lettuce and herbs, which don’t weigh that much. Actually volume-wise, a lot of lettuce. We’ve impacted over 600 people and we really have formed these relationships with some really amazing partners. So it’s kind of been like a lifesaver.

Charity Matters: Can you explain what Hydroponics is?

Jennifer Levy: We’re using vertical hydroponic towers. So in these towers, essentially, there is a reservoir at the bottom where the water stays and the nutrients go. And there’s a pump that essentially pumps the water to the top, and then it kind of rains down onto the root systems of plants. It’s like this self-contained tower. They’re only about three feet wide by six feet tall, and ours grow 28 plants. Since we’re inside in a commercial space, we have LED lights, but you can have them outside. It’s allowed us to grow and donate this whole calendar year, which has been amazing 

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

Jennifer Levy: There are a few moments like getting to harvest and deliver hands down is always so fulfilling and everyone is so beyond appreciative. The wins are kind of the education piece, right? So because we’re in a storefront in Beverly Hills, we get a lot of foot traffic. Anytime someone comes in, I get to have these very organic conversations with them about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how they can get involved.

Just over the past couple of months, I’ve been able to go into schools, which is really amazing.  Education is at the core of everything we do. We have a tower in one of the elementary schools locally in Beverly Hills and we actually have two towers in a school in Ohio. Nobody’s seen this technology before.  A lot of people have kind of heard about it,  but really showing people that there are sustainable ways to grow food grow delicious, healthy, like nutrient-rich food. 

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

Jennifer Levy:  I think definitely our vision and dream are to have an outdoor far educational farm. We’re just starting a big campaign to purchase our first shipping container farm, which is hydro-powered built inside a refurbished shipping container. The impact of that is we can harvest over 1000 plants every single week. So the goal is to be able to provide for local restaurants, local grocery stores and start a community-supported agriculture program. Then residents or non-residents can purchase farm-fresh produce directly from us.

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

Jennifer Levy: Having passion and being excited is great, but there’s gonna be bumps in the road. So just trust the process. I’m learning as I’m doing this. So just having faith and trusting the process. I’ve learned that you do need a team around you, you need community. Not just the co-founders or our board or kind of our big supporters, but you need people you can call to ask for marketing help or social media help or just to complain to because you can’t do this alone.it won’t work.

Really be committed to what you believe in.  I think that what you believe is important enough for you to start a business then other people will too. Have faith in what you’re trying to do. The work we’re trying to do is going to help so many people in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s harder to remind myself of that. I do trust that what we’re doing is for everyone’s good.

 

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 34: Saving Tiny Hearts

February is heart month. Heart disease kills over 659,000 people in the United alone each year. In addition to that 40,000 children will be born with congenital heart disease (CHD) this year alone. When Francie Paul’s son Joshua was born with CHD she and her husband Brian decided to make a positive impact for their child and so many others. They founded the nonprofit Saving Tiny Hearts. A nonprofit organization that is determined to put an end to Congenital Heart Disease, which is the number one birth defect of children

Francie was one of my very first interviews over a decade ago and her story and work have continued to inspire me. I recently had a chance to reconnect with Francie and her board chair Dr. Larry Kluge to discuss the incredible work Saving Tiny Hearts is doing. If ever there were two humans with huge hearts to mend all the broken ones it’s Francie and Larry.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Saving Tiny Hearts does?

Larry Kluge: Every day, we’re looking to raise as much money as we can to fund as much research as we can. Nearly every dollar we raise goes to support research. Recognizing how important it is that difference in raising money for research makes in the lives of children. We’ve already found that that was the case, in terms of many of the projects that we have funded have actually changed and improved the lives of children born with congenital heart defects. This is what Saving Tiny Hearts does.

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

Francie Paul:  On August 11, 2005, we had our first child, a beautiful baby boy named Joshua Bennett Paul. My pregnancy was “normal” and the doctors reported nothing “remarkable” about it.  Four hours after his birth, Joshua was rushed from the local hospital to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Joshua was diagnosed with Severe Complex Congenital Heart Disease.

Like many parents in the same situation, we became very angry and considered litigation as a course of action. After meeting with high-profile medical malpractice attorneys, we decided this course of action was not for us. In the elevator on the way out of the attorney’s office, we called Brian’s corporate attorney to find out how to start a public charity. We wanted to channel our energy into something positive instead of negative.  On September 1, 2006, the United States Internal Revenue Service officially recognized the Saving tiny Hearts Society as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Francie Paul: Our challenges.  I have a good friend who said it’s her first instinct not to talk about it. And I always say, if we don’t talk about it, the world won’t know that our kids need help. Right?  They cannot yet fix what Joshua has. So I need medicine to catch up faster than what we’re doing.  I wish people knew that the research we fund could save their aunt’s life,  their mother’s life, and could save their life

 Joshua’s heart surgeries are a direct result of ongoing research. There are not yet adult survivors that have had his heart surgery versions. So like every year is a blessing and every year is also a race against the clock for me. I feel like I could shout to the world and say, “Everybody if you knew how much of your money directly goes to the scientists that our medical advisory board decides?” They only pick what is most worthy for Saving Tiny Hearts grants.  If people knew that their money went to actually change the world, by changing medicine and science. How remarkable the future could be.

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

Larry Kluge: Our motivation remains the same year after year, month after month, day after day, as we struggle to get the word out and raise those urgently needed funds to support more and more research that will ultimately save the lives of children born with CHD.  Our work has just begun and will continue until we can eradicate CHD.

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

Francie Paul:  I can but I can share a quick story about a boy. His name was Gray. He collapsed on a hockey rink, and from sudden cardiac death. And it just so happens that one of Joshua’s CV surgery nurses was there. So she ran and people were trying to do CPR. She said,” Call 911 Get me the AED.” She did CPR on him using the AED and saved his life.

We had Gray come to our gala and it happened to be his high school homecoming, so he brought his date. Gray got up there at our gala and said, “You know, I’m one in a million kids this happens to.”  That night we also had a doctor come up whose research we funded. And the doctor said to Gray, ” You’re not one in a million. This happens more than you realize. But I’m coming up with a study that will prevent it from happening to kids just like you.” 

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

Larry Kluge: Success is continuing since 2006 on our mission to fund life-saving research.  Sixteen years have gone by and we are still here committed to raising funds to support life-saving research.  Our Medical Advisory Board continues to review and evaluate all the grants that we receive year after year and determines which ones are most worthy of our funding efforts.  We have raised over 6 million dollars and funded 60 research projects.  Many of the research projects funded have already made a difference in the lives of children born with CHD.  Not only children but today after funding the development of a heart in a lab, an adult has received the first heart transplant from a pig which stemmed from research we have funded.

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

Francie Paul: To eradicate CHD.  To have a world filled with healthy children never to be born again and suffer from CHD.  Live long and healthy lives without fear or restrictions.

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

Francie Paul:  It’s been a humbling journey. And I think, through those moments of heartache, you see the goodness in people.  I think you see the goodness and the true heart and passion in people.  When somebody raises money for research for us, and my baby was given a chance… And I can only dream about what the future will be like because of everybody’s helping everybody.  Really when everyone comes together it is just the best. And just, I feel like the best is yet to come. And for lack of a better way of saying it, I only dream for it to only be bigger and better.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Larry Kluge: Recognizing how fortunate we are and how we can be of help to others is what we strive for day after day. My personal commitment is to make a difference in someone’s life every day.  To put a smile on a child’s face, to make someone laugh, or just bring some cheer and hope to another individual is what life is all about.  Making a difference.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Episode 33: Matt Kamin Nonprofit On the Rocks

Each of us walks a path in life that takes us with a multitude of twists and turns. Today’s guest, Matt Kamin is no exception. Matt has lived a life full of philanthropy in so many ways. Before Matt became the host of the popular podcast, Nonprofit on the Rocks...which is how we met and Co-Founder of Envision Consulting, he was a two-time nonprofit founder.

I am so excited to share this incredible conversation with Matt about his multitude of experiences in the nonprofit space. Matt’s story is the perfect example of how one seed of compassion turned into an inspiring life full of service. Matt is truly a ray of sunshine and you won’t want to miss our joyful and uplifting conversation.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about Your early philanthropic experiences?

Matt Kamin: So that is a really good question. And I also agreed, where does that come from? Why do we take on jobs that pay nothing for more stress and more pressure at work? So I think that my nonprofit passion, the love that I have for this space comes from my grandma.

My grandmother was born with polio, and she moved to LA on her own with two kids. In the 1940s, she put together a booth at Santa Monica Pier. It was like a nickel and a dime machine and she saved her pennies.  She saved and started investing in real estate. This is a woman in the 1940s in LA on her own and she grew this empire, this actual real estate empire. So first off, I’m just beyond impressed by this woman who, who was able to go and make all this happen for her family. right. And as a huge part of that, she gave back.  I would tell you, like 25% of whatever it was that she made, she gave back to nonprofits.

As a child, she used me to raise money. I remember I think the first thing that I ever did was I helped auction off a car. One of her nonprofits was selling a donated car and she used me a six-year-old to sell tickets. That was my first taste and watching her do it and that was it. She also inspired my mom and my dad to also give back they chaired nonprofits as well. So in college when I came out, that was the time, and it was like, Okay, this is time for me. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Your first Nonprofit?

Matt Kamin:  I volunteered at the time it was called the Gay Lesbian center.  What we did was we went out on the weekends and talked to kids who were basically selling themselves in the park. The first kid that I talked to, had been kicked out of his home.  I remember looking at him, he was my age and he was on all the drugs you can possibly be on. He had a pimp and he was trying to make money in prostitution.  I  remember saying to myself, how did I get so lucky?   And that was it. That was the switch and when I said this is my life. And so I started a nonprofit at UCLA to bring support networks for gay kids at college. And that’s how my nonprofit career started.

I’m very proud of that college nonprofit because it still exists. They have a multi-million dollar budget, and it’s an international nonprofit.

Charity Matters: Now that you are helping nonprofit Founders, What are the biggest challenges you see?

Matt Kamin: Envision Consulting does both strategy and searches for nonprofits. That’s all we do. So it’s half strategy, half recruiting. On the strategy side, strategic plans, board retreats, mergers are huge things right now. Then on the search side, it’s recruiting for C suite individuals.. I’ll give you an example.  I have a friend who started a nonprofit. And, she has over the last few months, been losing faith in her organization, because she was not able to find the people to fundraise period.  She’s been like beating her head against the wall trying to figure out what to do. And so we’ve, we’ve had many conversations about what she can do.

 What I will say is most important is when you run a nonprofit is that it’s lonely at the top. You have to fundraise, you have to meet the budget, you have to report to your board of directors who are all volunteers. You have to deal with your staff, you have to deal with all kinds of things and especially in COVID, it’s been impossible. Loneliness at the top is what I will tell you is the most challenging part of being an executive director and a founder. 

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

Matt Kamin: We’ve been talking about this whole year. How do we keep going? How do we stay motivated? It’s hard and the honest answer is there are days that I just want to be done. But it’s really remembering why I do this at the end of the day, why it’s worth sometimes being yelled at by a client, right?

I’ll give you an example of what makes me so happy. We placed a CEO at a domestic violence shelter. We found her. She not only grew the organization but also received a grant for $5 million and just acquired another domestic violence shelter. So now they’re serving that many more victims of domestic violence. Big Wow. She is spectacular in every which way, but that is something that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for us.  So I may not be running a homeless shelter anymore. I may not be making those direct impacts on people’s lives. But she is and she wouldn’t have had that job and be doing this great work if it wasn’t for us.

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

Matt Kamin: This country’s become like the rest of the world, we’ve gotten ugly and we’re all politically just so divided. We can all get together no matter where you are, no matter who you are and we can volunteer at a soup kitchen to give out food to people who are hungry. Right, we can all do that?  I think that it’s really important for us in the nonprofit space and for us all to think about giving back.

The thing to remember is, there’s always going to be somebody who has more, but there’s also always going to be somebody who has less. And so what gets me going is remembering that and giving back.  I can always work harder to get the nicer car,  or whatever it is, but I always try to remember why I did this, to begin with.  I think that’s really important.

At the end of the day, that’s what my grandmother has taught me. You get to where you need to be in life and then don’t forget it.  Don’t forget.  Remember how lucky you are to give and give back regardless of where you are.  

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.

Welcome to Season 3! Episode 32: Diveheart

Welcome to Season Three of the Charity Matters Podcast! We are so excited to introduce you to another incredible season filled with amazing heroes. Today’s guests are the perfect way to dive into this new season. As a lifelong recreational scuba diver, I know how scared I am every time I enter the water. So many things are out of my control, the fear of not being able to breathe followed by the peace, stillness, and beauty of the ocean. Overcoming that fear every time leaves me feeling recharged and accomplished. So when I heard about the nonprofit Diveheart.org that works with people with disabilities to live better lives, I knew they were the perfect organization to launch Season Three of our podcast. So let’s dive in!

We are so excited to introduce you to Jim Elliot the Founder of Diveheart.org and their Executive Director, Tinamarie Hernandez. Join us for a fun and inspirational conversation about what can happen with a positive can-do attitude, a scuba tank, a body of water, and a passion for making people’s lives better. You won’t want to miss this one!

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

Tinamarie Hernandez: Diveheart is an organization that works with people with disabilities, physical and cognitive. We’re also a training agency for people who want to work safely with people with disabilities in the water. And we use scuba diving as a therapy.

So we start people in a pool, we get them to where they’re comfortable.  We see a lot of stuff, self-improvement in the people that we work with. They get the confidence and a renewed vigor of life. Some of the people we work with might have been in an accident. We also work with people who’ve dealt with their condition their entire life.

And it’s one of those moments where they’re like, I’m getting a win, this is a winning day for me. And that’s something I tell parents and family members, you know because they’re nervous. I guarantee your loved one is going to leave with a win today. They’re going to be proud of themselves for something. So that’s what we do, we don’t cure ailments. What we do is help people live a better life.

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

Jim Elliot: I’m a media guy by trade. I’m a journalist. I took diving because I thought if I ever meet someone like Jacques Cousteau, I better know how to scuba dive.  I had a burning desire to learn how to dive and fell in love with it. As you know, it’s a great equalizer. It’s like being an astronaut in inner space. It’s amazing.

So during the 80s, I was in the media business and helped startup a TV station. I was also on these nonprofit organizations’ boards. And in the mid-80s, I started guiding and teaching blind skiers because my eldest daughter is blind.  I saw how that helped people and said, “You know, you can only ski at certain times of the year in certain places in the world, but there’s a pool in every community. So what if I were to do what I’ve been doing for decades in skiing, and taking people out of wheelchairs and putting them in the water and having them fly, learn to be an astronaut.” And that was kind of the premise of the whole idea. That was 2001 that we incorporated and this is our 20th anniversary.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Tinamarie Hernandez: The challenges are to evolve and to keep our finger on the pulse of what is changing. As a nonprofit that needs help with funding, all of our pool programs are free. So we need people to give us  99% of the money that we need to help us run our programs.  It’s about getting the word out and letting them know that, yes, you’re giving us money so that we can help people in the pool because even though it’s free for them, it’s not always free for us.  So that’s a challenge to keep going. 

Jim Elliot: We have a documentary called TurningPpoint that was done and airs on PBS every now and then. And we had somebody from Southern California call us and say, “You know, my husband and I watched turning point last night and we cried, where do we send a cheque?” Five years later, that donation (knock on wood )has increased every year. We just make sure she knows everything, all the good stuff that we’re doing. So she knows that her investment or donation is going places.

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

Tinamarie Hernandez: We have one particular individual with who we’ve been working with her since she was three months past her very life-changing. accident.  She’s now a complete quadriplegic and was injured at 19. You don’t know what you’re going to do with your life at 19, right? But when we met her she was still in her anger phase, which is understandable. She was a very decorated athlete before this accident.

This last week, she announced that she is going to finish her degree. I can’t say Diveheart did all the work. We didn’t but we helped get her that spark. I know we did. She’s worked with us and her whole life has changed. She’s been inspiring people with disabilities to get certified. They’re like, well, wow, I didn’t want to get certified or get in the water until I saw her.

Seeing this young woman coming up out of the water with a smile on her face with her energy makes others think, ” Maybe I am missing out on something.” Those are the impact moments. I can’t measure that impact. That person’s life is better. I know and I hope we can reach as many people as we can. 

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

Jim Elliot: I think you hit the nail right on the head when you said ripple effect. Because what we do, and what’s really cool about what we do is that it can happen so fast.  The first pool session can be so powerful because it’s not natural to breathe underwater. It happens to everybody that puts their face in the water and breathes it off that tank. And it changes the way they think and the way they really experience life.

We like to do to say that we take the unrealized human potential, and we create a paradigm shift. So now it’s not Johnny in a wheelchair, it’s Johnny, the scuba diver. Then what we do is, once they have this new identity, we point them towards being a good steward of the environment.  You know, get into marine biology or just be a helper and do good in the world. Then we try to help them go in that direction. In turn, they inspire people around them, like you said, the ripple effect. And this girl that Tina was talking about. She came to us and said, “You changed my daughter’s life. Thank you so much. “

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

Jim Elliot: One of the things that keep us going and able to adapt is when we are hit with an obstacle.  We take lemons and make lemonade, basically. What action do we take, that’s going to really be meaningful at this moment? Where we can just stay with it and then persevere, take that obstacle and turn it around. And we’ve been successful doing that many times. As the book says, the obstacle is the way.

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.

The Real Heroes of 2021

As we get ready to say goodbye to 2021, I wanted to take a moment to look back at what we accomplished at Charity Matters this year. Last January we launched our podcast, which in itself was a huge accomplishment.  In the past year, we have interviewed 31 extraordinary humans. Each story was a lesson in faith, resilience, courage, and compassion. These amazing nonprofit founders are the real heroes of our world in their quest to make life better for others.

While I have adored every conversation this past year, a few stood out especially from Season Two. I thought before we take our holiday break to get ready for Season Three we would take a moment to share a few stories that really touched our hearts this year. So let’s look back at some of the real heroes of 2021….

Love Not Lost Founder: Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones is the founder of Love Not Lost. Ashley shares her journey through grief with the loss of her young daughter and her transformational experience from loss to creating a remarkable organization that provides family photoshoots for the terminally ill. Her honesty and candor about grief are anything but sad.  You will leave this episode inspired by the joy and purpose found from an unbelievable loss.

The Bumble Bee Foundation Founder: Heather DonaTini

Heather Donatini, aka Queen Bee of the BumbleBee Foundation. Heather and her husband Jason, established the Bumblebee Foundation in 2011 in memory of their son Jarren who was diagnosed with rare liver cancer at the age of three. Their mission is to inspire hope, faith, and the overall well-being of pediatric cancer families.  Heather and her husband work tirelessly to serve pediatric cancer families. She is a lesson in resiliency and faith. She is truly remarkable and the work they do is just as inspirational.

The Be Perfect Foundation Founder: Hal Hargrave Jr. 

I have been privileged to meet hundreds of truly amazing humans over the years. There are always a few that are so dynamic, charismatic, passionate, and wise that you can never forget them. One of those people is the remarkable Hal Hargrave. You may remember his story from a few years back. Hal was involved in a tragic accident that left him paralyzed fourteen years ago. He used that experience to serve others suffering paralysis with his nonprofit the Be Perfect Foundation. A conversation that is better than caffeine. If you have read Hal’s story and not heard his passion, you need to take a listen. Trust me, this will be a gift you give yourself today. The man is pure light and inspiration.

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network President and CEO: Julie Fleshman

I have to admit I was a little intimidated meeting Julie Fleshman knowing what a huge organization she and her team had built.  Under Julie’s leadership, PanCAN grew from one employee to 150. PanCAN has funded over $149 million dollars in research for Pancreatic Cancer and created a platform that has fueled incredible change for the Pancreatic Cancer community. Despite my fears, Julie was beyond amazing, passionate and so much fun to talk to. Join me to meet this inspirational leader and learn about her incredible journey in changing lives.

Raise The Barr Foundation Co-Founder: Lori Barr

Lori Barr is no stranger to inspirational seasons because much of her life has been based around her now-famous son’s inspirational football seasons. Lori is the proud mother of NFL Minnesota Viking’s outside linebacker, Anthony Barr. However, it is much more than his football career that makes her proud, it is Anthony’s work to serve others with their nonprofit, Raise The Barr that is truly inspiring. Lori Barr talks about her journey as a single mother to nonprofit founder and shares her story of raising Anthony as a young single mother.  Learn how they decided to give back to help other single moms finish their education and support their families. Lori is pure sunshine and inspiration. This is a conversation you don’t want to miss.

There are millions of everyday heroes all around us. These five are just a small example of the millions who work in the nonprofit space and give their lives to serving and helping others. Each person is a reminder for us all that we get so much more when we give. As we look back at 2021 and reflect on what we accomplished at Charity Matters, we find ourselves asking what more can we do for our neighbors and communities in 2022? Thank you all for being a part of this wonderful community of caring compassionate people. We are so grateful for you all and wish you a most joyous New Year!

 

If you enjoyed today’s episodes, 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 © 2021 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 31: Raise The Barr

As we wrap up Season Two of our podcast, I can think of no greater guest than todays to conclude this inspirational season. Lori Barr is no stranger to inspirational seasons because much of her life has been based around her now-famous son’s inspirational football seasons. Lori is the proud mother of NFL Minnesota Viking’s outside linebacker, Anthony Barr. However, it is much more than his football career that makes her proud, it is Anthony’s work to serve others with their nonprofit, Raise The Barr that is truly inspiring.

Photo cred- Janae Johnson photography

Join us today for an incredible conversation with Lori Barr about her journey as a single mother to nonprofit founder. Lori shares her story of raising Anthony as a young mother and how they decided to give back to help other single moms finish their education and support their families. She is pure sunshine and inspiration, it is a conversation you don’t want to miss.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Raise The Barr does?

Lori Barr:  Raise The Barr’s mission is to increase opportunity and economic mobility for single parents, students, and their children through education. What that looks like, is providing holistic resources and support to low-income single parents, students who are in pursuit of a post-secondary degree training certification. The end goal of securing a career that offers a family-sustaining wage. We know that education is one pathway out of poverty. So that’s the road that we’ve taken because it was inspired by our own experiences.

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

Lori Barr:  It’s kind of a combination of a whole lot of things and an intersection of all these life experiences that brought us to this point. Growing up Catholic, we were always taught very, very early on that when the basket passed that we put a little something from our own piggy bank into the collection plate. As a result, that very early experience of helping your neighbor and paying attention to the experiences of others.

Then all this stuff happens through life and I end up getting pregnant at the age of 19.  I was going into my junior year at St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. So, I kind of had to reprioritize my life and figure out how I was going to take care of myself and my small child. Those experiences kind of fueled the vision for Raise The Barr. 

In 2014, when Anthony was drafted in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, we held a youth football camp.  It was free and for the local community to get to meet Anthony.  He was kind of a local star and he wanted to bring all these people together. It was an amazing day, we had over 300 Kids, 150 volunteers, and all of these people coming together. After that experience, he and I sat down and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could harness this energy, and this enthusiasm, with your platform to really do something big and have a big impact on families like ours?” That’s where Raise the Barr was born.

It really started from our own stories and experiences. What we originally thought was let’s just start a scholarship fund for single moms like me, who are trying to do something to support their family but they may need a little support. We thought that support looked like a scholarship. Although that is still part of our overall programming, that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of what single parents need in order to persist through post-secondary, it’s just one part of it.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Lori Barr: Right, it is hard work. I think that recognizing what your limitations are, is humbling.  It puts you in a place to realize that we need to kind of stay in our lane. For us, it was recognizing that one of our biggest challenges was diverse revenue sources.  Our biggest funder could not be Anthony.  We needed to be sustainable and we really had to dig to create diverse revenue streams.

Our second biggest challenge would be brand awareness. It really is about folks learning about you and coming up with a plan of how you’re going to market your product. In order for people to get engaged, you have to start with building a relationship and building trust. That’s brand awareness, trusting who we are. When you see our logo, when you hear tackling poverty, we want you to think about Raise the Barr.

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

Lori Barr: The families we serve, the relationships that we’ve built, and the belief in our mission. Also,  knowing that this works and that we are having an impact.  Seeing the results of our early work, that’s what keeps us going. That’s what when I’m lying awake at night thinking, oh my God, I need to do blah, blah, blah, and I remember why we’re here. It is one step at a time. And, you know, we’re doing good work and we keep that in mind every step of the way.

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

Lori Barr: 99% of our scholars have earned a degree or graduated.  When we talk about increasing economic mobility, the annual income on average of an applicant, when they come into the Raise The Barr family is about $15,000 annually. Upon leaving and securing a career, the average income is $64,000 a year. So there’s a huge increase, and they can now support themselves and their family moving towards true prosperity.

For us, it’s totally about the stories and where they are now.  A real quick story of Tanya. She is a Native American single mom who grew up in poverty. Father in prison,  a mother struggling to make ends meat and college was not in her plan.  She became a mom at a young age. And, like me, she decided she better get into school and figure something out. She went through community college and ended up transferring to a university. Today, she is now being invited by the American Indian Science and Engineers Council to speak and present at their conference. She is a chemist and will graduate this December. Her son is a fourth-grader, he’s achieving above grade level, three grades above with reading and math. Those are our success stories. That’s the impact that we’re having.

There are so many more stories like Tanya that we have and that we really celebrate because these are lives that are changed. That we can be a little part of that change, and create hope and opportunity to me, that’s a huge success.

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

Lori Barr:  I think mine would be so similar to so many other small nonprofits out there. The dream is that we have all the resources that we need to do the work that we do. Our dream would look like us being able to really provide the resources needed to single parents, students everywhere, so they could succeed.  That might look like something practical, like an endowed scholarship, that also might look like having strong partnerships with post-secondary partners.  There are little things like that, which I think would help us continue this work, and really have an impact and really start to crack generational poverty.

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

Lori Barr:  I’m a teacher at heart, that’s what I was trained to do, and I went on to pursue a master’s degree in counseling and psychology.  So, I would say that I think I’m a pretty good listener. This has taught me to listen more, and talk less. And it’s taught me to really be more thoughtful about how I approach my own life. I think about the experiences of others. Somebody else’s experience is just as valuable, if not more than our own, and so listening, thinking, and letting that help our decision-making. 

As a sports mom,  I always use a sports analogy but really learned to focus on how to build a championship team.  Bringing the right people on board,  all with different skill sets. As a single parent, so often I carry the burden completely on my own, and decision-making all by myself.  It was not really, within my experience for 29 years to say, I need to bring others into this to really help us have a great impact. And that’s changed for me.

I’m just happy for folks to inquire and to share what we’re doing.  A big part of increasing our impact is raising that awareness and really building that championship team.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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