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My Hope Chest

” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.”

Author unknown

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had a friend who has recently undergone a mastectomy. Well sadly, since I wrote those words, yet another friend has experience the same loss and this time a double. Breast Cancer isn’t something that only happens in October it is something that happens every two minutes every day. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer does not discriminate from the rich or the poor. To be honest I had never thought about what happens when you get breast cancer and have no insurance? I assumed that Medicaid and Medicare covered everything. Well, I was wrong.

Last week, I had the most inspiring conversation with nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, a women who lived this journey of having a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, the only national nonprofit in the country that takes these women and helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation and I left feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew that you needed to act and start My Hope Chest?

Alisa Savoretti: Hearing you have cancer is a devastating moment. It’s one thing to hear you have cancer but it is another thing to realize you have cancer, you do not have insurance and you do not qualify for Medicaid. This is what happened to me at 38 years old. I had been working in Las Vegas as a showgirl and had recently moved to Florida to begin an online furniture  business, before companies like Pottery Barn exsisited. I had borrowed funds on credit cards to launch Retrohome.com in 1999, when I found out I had cancer. The doctor said to take care of the cancer, focus on surviving and worry about the reconstruction later. 

I survived but lived without my breast for almost three years. You have no idea what this does for you as a women, for your mental well being. During those three years I reached out to organizations all over the country, government, nonprofit, anyone who could help me to become whole again. I discovered that there wasn’t anywhere to go. I felt deformed, depressed, frustrated, had metal anguish and enormous financial stress.

I went back to Vegas to work at The Rivera and the 1998 government law now mandated that their group policy could not decline me insurance in order to get my reconstructive surgery. I realized how my own self esteem, confidence and self worth as a woman returned when I could look in the mirror and could see my whole physical being once again. It was my healing, a restoration in body mind and spirit.

While I was in Vegas, I volunteered for a NAWBO (National Association of Womens Business Owners) event. I told the women from NAWBO my story and these women rallied around me and with their help I was able to start My Hope Chest and had my 501c3, six weeks later on December 3rd, 2003. We will celebrate our 15th anniversary this year.

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

Alisa Savoretti:Some days it feels as if I am pushing a boulder uphill with a toothpick. And fifteen years of doing this at the grassroots level, the work is very hard. What fuels me is knowing that thousands and thousands of women are missing their breast and this shouldn’t be happening in our country. Making women whole again is our mission. I think about more women are surviving breast cancer and thats true, but what about their quality of life if they are not whole?

These women are sick and often lose their jobs because they can’t work. They are now disfigured, deformed and depressed. The ripple effect of not being whole is devastating  on marriages and families. This work has become my life’s mission. I am not married, cancer made children no longer an option and for the past fifteen years this work has been my life.

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

Alisa Savoretti: We pick up where the government programs leave off. That is why we exist.  Our biggest referrals come from nonprofits such as American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and Care.org.  We get referrals from them weekly and we can not tell our clients if or when they are going to be helped. They sit on a wait list while we try to raise the funds to make their reconstructive surgery happen. Helping women to become whole again is what fuels me and just knowing that there is always a list of women waiting for us to find the funding.

I know that we have made a difference when we can help them with whatever they have asked for and the letters they send us.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Alisa Savoretti: We help women every year in a small way and I feel blessed that God picked me to do this task. Every time we get the word out about our work it helps fund someone’s surgery. Shining a light on this cause is SO important. We have been able to fill a gap where other breast cancer charities leave off. If there was another organization doing our work we wouldn’t do it but sadly there isn’t anyone else. The women we help are eternally grateful for all we have done and to me that is the success.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for My Hope Chest going forward?

Alisa Savoretti: We will only exist until there is a cure for breast cancer. Of course the big dream is that there is day when our services are no longer needed. Ten years from now I dream that we have enough resources, funding, surgical partners and angel warriors that we can help women as quickly as they are referred to us. I dream of no longer having a wait list and being able to have a more efficient meaningful impact on these women’s lives.

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

Alisa Savoretti:God had a different plan for my life. I have a quote on my desk that says,” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.” I feel like that is what happened with My Hope Chest. My life’s lesson is that when you persevere you will make a difference. The fact that this even exists in 2018 and is still flying under the radar that there are women, thousands of women in this country living without their breast.  I have refinanced my home three times to keep the funding going for My Hope Chest. I have taken extra jobs at the grocery store to fund this. I have learned that I have to persevere to help these women in any way I can. I cannot give up on them.

I think that changing even one life is important. Things are bigger than us, this mission is bigger than me and I have tied my life to making a difference. For me, I am grateful I was chosen for this journey. I am grateful to keep doing this work and I pray the Lord that My Hope Chest gets to leave a legacy on this earth until there is no longer a need for our services. That is my utmost prayer.

In the end,  I know that I have done my very best.

 

Charity Matters

 

 

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The Wellhouse

Our world seems to shrink everyday as technology and communication continue to advance. A few weeks ago, I was attending an online webinar for nonprofits and started a conversation with a woman named Kat Kirkpatrick from Alabama who is part of an amazing nonprofit called The Wellhouse. What began as an online conversation became multiple emails and phone calls to learn more. I have done two interviews this past year on organizations similar to the The Wellhouse and initially thought twice about writing this now. However, I believe things happen for a reason and there are no accidents, so I am excited to share our conversation with you.

Kat told me that 40% of the human trafficking that happens in the United State happens in the South East off of Interstate 20 and the average age of young women who are trafficked is 12 to 14 years old. That information was more than enough to continue the conversation on this uncomfortable topic.

Charity Matters: So tell us about what The WellHouse does?

Kat Kirkpatrick: The Wellhouse is a safe place that rescues and restores young  women from human trafficking. We restore these women so they can live their lives. We are a residential safe place that can help these women deal with trauma, addiction, health care and counseling. We give them mentors and set them up for life to be successful.

Charity Matters: When did your nonprofit begin and what is the back story to the WellHouse?

Kat Kirkpatrick: Our founder was a victim of human trafficking. She escaped from her trafficker with $33.00 in her pocket and was taken into a place in Birmingham, Alabama called The Dream Center because she heard about it on the radio. Our founder became a mentor there in helping other young women and realized that more needed to be done so in 2010 she began The WellHouse.

She realized there was not a facility that existed only for trafficked victims and she conceived the idea of a home that would not have any prerequisites that can often hinder victims from obtaining needed help. Her goal was to welcome survivors who wanted to move forward in their lives.

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

Kat Kirkpatrick: The team. Seeing everyone work together and support these women. The women who change their lives.

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

Kat Kirkpatrick: We know we have changed lives. We have rescued over 400 women since 2010. We know we have made a difference when a girl has a safe place to be for the first time. We know we have made a difference when they share their story and then graduate into our long term program. We know we have made a difference when they graduate and when we celebrate every little step along their journey.

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

Kat Kirkpatrick: I have seen the public’s misconception and stigma for these girls. They are victims of horrible crimes, victims of violence and yet there is hope. They are coming from the darkest of times and yet their resilience is astounding.  I have learned that people are good and are always there to help.  I know when we walk along side these young women on their journey they can accomplish anything.

 

Charity Matters

 

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

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The Clarity Project

 

Earlier this week I posted about losing legends, well it appears that on Monday, we lost another one. Her name was Claire Wineland and she was 21 years old. Claire was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that creates an overabundance of mucus and ultimately results in respiratory failure. She grew up knowing that she was terminally ill and what we would think of as tragic, she simply used as fuel. Her message and life were truly remarkable.

Claire endured over 30 surgeries in her short 21 years and spent an incredible amount of time in the hospital. About six years ago, after being in a coma for over 20 days, flat-lining twice and being given a less than 1% of survival, Claire survived. She came out of the experience determined to help others with Cystic Fibrosis. From that near death experience began the creation of the Claire’s Place Foundation,whose mission is to relieve families financially with CF, to help with their rent, mortgage, car payments, etc.

The foundation became a way to celebrate Claire’s life. She once said,”It is important for people who are sick to feel empowered. It gives them a reason to take care of themselves.” And if that wasn’t enough, Claire decided shortly after in high school to begin a YouTube series called The Clarity Project, where she talks about topics such as how to talk to a sick person or even what it is like to live like you are dying.

Claire moved out on her own, decided not to go to college because she was not sure she would live long enough to graduate. She spent her time sharing her inspirational message doing Ted talks, running her foundation and recently partnered with Zappos to take on project similar to Once Upon a Room by decorating children’s hospital rooms in Las Vegas.

Claire’s message is a reminder to us all. If you give yourself one gift today, listen to Claire’s talk (above). She was a reminder to each of us how precious life is, how blessed we are to have our health and regardless of our circumstances, that someone always has less than we do.

Claire lived her life as an example to each of us. Even in her death her organs were donated to help over 50 people. In her last video Claire said, “Go enjoy your life. I mean really seriously, go enjoy it, cause there are people fighting like hell for it.” Claire’s legacy tells us that we not only have the power to help…. but more than that…..to live our lives fully.

Charity Matters.

 

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

Legends

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What does it take to be a legend? These past few weeks we have lost two legends, two very different legends, Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain. Two people that could not be more different, in their backgrounds, upbringings or their work. Yet, two people that were legends and at the end of their lives have been revered in the same way. So what made them legends?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ross D. Franklin/AP/REX/

Was it what they did when they were alive or how they are remembered when they are gone?

A legend is defined as; Legend – a person whose natural reflex is to be selfless and make an extraordinary effort to put others before themselves.

Aretha Franklin was known as one of the bestselling musical artist of all times, the Queen of Soul, an artist without boundaries, a trailblazer and someone who brought joy to all by sharing her passion and gifts with others. Her music made us think and her passion connected us all.

John McCain, an American who is the product of two Navy Admirals, his grandfather and father. A man tortured as a prisoner of war for over five years. A United States Senator that was known for standing for principals before politics, a maverick and a man who believed his true strength lied in his love of country.

Two different people that used their lives to make others lives better. They served by sharing their gifts. They are not nonprofit founders but they both exemplified the same traits. Individuals who give of themselves to make the world better.

Charity Matters is not a place for music or politics but a place to highlight remarkable everyday heroes who make our world better. John McCain’s last words, in his recently published book The Restless Wave, remind us that we all have the ability to do just that….make our world better than we left it. So as we celebrate  Labor Day today, I think these final words from Senator McCain explain why the word legend is so fitting.

“Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different. ‘The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,’ spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in [Ernest Hemingway’s] ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.‘ And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I‘ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.

I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.

What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a ‘part of the main.‘ I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.”

 

Charity Matters

 

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

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Empathy

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

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

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

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

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

 

charity matters.

 

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

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

Gordie, a story worth retelling…again and again

Gordie's story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.

 

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

Wow, you are impressive!

“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

Elizabeth Andrew

In these last dog days of summer the last thing we seem to be able to muster is any extra energy. The days are long and hot, the pace is slow and energy low. We have had a busy year and are feeling the need to recharge our batteries before our routine starts up again and the kids head back to school in a few short weeks. So now seems like as good as time as any to reflect on all the hard work we did this past year to serve others. Last month we discussed how much Americans gave to nonprofits (4 billion in case you missed it!) and this month we are looking at the results from a division of the US Labor Department called The Corporation for National Community Service, which conducted surveys on 60,000 households to ask the question who is volunteering in America?

Here are the answers….

It seems that the majority of our American volunteers are married white women aged 35 to 44, who are parents of children under the age of 18. This accounted for 28.9% of volunteers and the next age group of women was right behind at 28% of volunteers ages 45-54. The younger crowd did not seem as interested with only 18.4% of 20 to 24 year olds volunteering. 

Just how much time did we give? Well it seems that the average amount of time spent volunteering was 52 hours and most people worked for one or two causes. That is more than a full work week and a really impressive number! Lets hear it for the girls, they out volunteered the boys 27.8% vs. 21.8%! The boys numbers just keep climbing which is fantastic news for everyone!

Since we are breaking this all down it seems that race and education factor into the numbers as well. The races broke down like this; whites 26.4%, blacks 19.3%, Asians 17.9% and hispanics at 15.5% volunteering. When it comes to giving up your time it seems that the higher your education, the more time you give. Those with college degrees or higher education volunteered more than 10% than those without.

Lastly, where you live may have something to do with your volunteering.  43% of everyone in Utah volunteers time, which ranks them the number one state with Minnesota coming in second place and Louisiana in last place at 50th. However, those roles were reversed when it came down to top cities, the number one city was Minneapolis and Salt Lake came in at second place, so next year the competition is on!

Regardless of where you live, what your ethnic backround is or your education…over 62.6 million of you gave your time to help someone else last year and that is what really matters. People helping people, improving others lives and their own in the process….now that is impressive!

charity Matters

 

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

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

Celebrate Charity Matters!

Birthdays are always cause for celebration, for coming together and for presents. If you are receiving this today for the first time, this is my  birthday gift to you. Today is Charity Matters 7th birthday and in honor of that I wanted to give each of you the weekly gift of inspiration. For the past seven years I have been on a mission to share  the stories of the most incredible people, those who give of their lives to make others better. As quick as a cup of coffee, a short inspirational read that starts your day with an uplifting story, a quote, or a thought to that leaves you thinking positively.

In the past seven years, so many of you have followed this journey and come along to meet incredible people like JoAnn Thrakill of Pablove, Jenny Hull of Once Upon a Room and so so many more….all who have taken their challenges and turned them into something positive for the next person. Almost a thousand posts later and I am continually inspired, uplifted and motivated by these individuals who show us the best in ourselves and who we can be.

Charity is defined as help, aid and contribution. It is not about money, but rather it is about converting passion into change. Matter is a substance, a subject and something of importance and that is what Charity Matters strives to provide.

So thank you for all of you who have joined me along the way and welcome to those of you who are just joining in. We are each a link in the human chain that joins us all. I hope you will stay and be a link that connects people and causes that matter. Like any birthday gift you don’t want you can always return it (or unsubscribe) or you can regift it and share it with someone else. I know together we can do anything.

charity matters

 

 

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

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

Happy 4th of July!

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely than this our own country!”

Daniel Webster

It is hard to believe that today is already the 4th of July! It seems that when this incredible holiday falls in the middle of the week, just a little piece of summer goes missing. However, any day off is usually a good one! The 4th of July is one of THE best holidays because there are no gifts to buy or wrap, no huge elaborate decorations but rather it is a day to do something simple with friends and family…a beach, a picnic, a barbecue and of course fireworks.

Today, we celebrate our country’s 241st birthday. As a nation we are still young and it is evident that we still have more than a few growing pains. While, it has been hard to watch our country so divided in so many ways, I think we often forget how much more connected we are than separated. Our media thrives on conflict and so rarely do we get to witness images of resolution, collaboration, kindness, teamwork and hard work. All of which are things that I have the privilege of seeing in my America.

Interviewing people over and over who give of themselves, their finances, their time, energy and commitment simply to help their fellow man. That is my America. Our 1.7 million nonprofits and the 11.2 million Americans who work for them are there for one reason only, to serve someone else. To help someone who needs it. That is what I see everyday in my America. Hardworking dedicated volunteers and nonprofit employees choosing to give of themselves, just as those who came before us did. Whether service through military, through church and community or simply to one another that is what Americans do.

When September 11th happened we all reached out to one another. We held each other up, we gave of ourselves to help those that were suffering.

That is the America that I know. Yes, we do not all agree on everything and chances are high that we ever will. However, I do hope that today you agree how lucky you are to live in a free country filled with good, kind and hardworking people who model to the world what freedom is. We are Americans, that is what we do.

Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTONMARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Happy 241st birthday America and Happy 4th of July!

charity matters.

 

 

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

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

I Am Waters Foundation

You never know what a lunch invitation is going to lead too…..A few weeks ago a friend of mine reached out and invited a handful of girlfriends to connect with a remarkable woman named Elena Davis for lunch. She was coming into town from Houston and had started a nonprofit organization there serving the homeless in 2009. I of course could not wait until lunch to meet and connected with Elena last week via phone to chat and ask about her journey in beginning I Am Waters Foundation.

I have to say, it was one of the most remarkable stories and amazing conversations.  Elena is truly an inspiration and  I am sure you will feel the same way…

what is the i am waters foundation’s mission?

Elena Davis: I Am Water’s mission is to do one perfect and complete thing: to deliver water. Clean drinking water in a bottle with a message of hope, love and faith to remind the person holding and drinking from the bottle that something important lies beyond physical sight.

charity matters:  there is usually a connection between nonprofit founders and their causes, what is yours?

Elena Davis: My life as it stands now is far from where I started. As one of four kids raised by a single mother on less than three thousand dollars a year and food stamps, my life was lived in extreme need and on the margins of society, with struggle as a constant companion. At the age of fourteen, after having attended over a dozen schools, I started dreaming of a better life than the one into which I was born.  I was introduced to a photographer who took the first shots of me and I began to realize my dream of becoming a fashion model. At the age of 16, having signed with the renowned Ford Agency, I set off to Paris to begin what was to become a lucrative and successful career as a print and fashion model.

 After 15 years of hard work and a successful career as a model, I was able to contribute to alleviating my family’s financial woes . In 1994, I married into one of the country’s more prominent families. Twelve years of marriage and 3 kids later, I had all that I had dreamed of. Or so I thought.   In 2009, while going to pick my kids up from school a homeless woman knocked on my car window. I reached for money and she shoved it back to me and said, “Please, I am so thirsty can I please have your water?” As I handed her the water and felt a jolt, like an electric current. She said, “Thank you and God Bless you.” And she disappeared.

Charity matters: what was the moment you knew you needed to start your nonprofit?

Elena Davis: After meeting that woman, I couldn’t get her out of my mind and I knew that I was being called to do something. I just wasn’t sure what. Then a series of things happened that kept pointing to water and homelessness. I knew I needed to revisit my past and I was scared to face the deeply buried part of myself, my childhood, that I had kept a secret from my friends and the people I knew. Yet, I knew that if we could heal one crucial aspect of the intense need that a person without a home has to deal with daily, by providing water, we could make an impact and so in 2009 we began the I am Waters Foundation.

charity matters: homelessness has so many layers where do you start?

Elena Davis: Did you know the average age of homeless person is 9 years old? We have more than 3.5 million people that are homeless in this country every night and of the 31 million people living in poverty more than 12 million of them are children. We start by providing the most basic human need, water.

charity matters: what keeps you doing this work when The job is never ending and the need is enormous?

Elena Davis: The work is hard but I really believe that I was called to do this. The short answer is God. What are the chances that I was born into poverty and married into a great family? I think I am a bridge between two worlds and this was God’s way of saving me.  Also, my husband has been incredibly supportive through this entire journey.

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

Elena Davis: On a micro level I think we have been able to track people and follow our progress. On a macro level we have worked tirelessly to help change the systems by working with cities, calling out injustices and simply by not giving up. We are excited to be launching a new program I Am Jobs to continue our mission to serve this underserved  population.

charity matters: Tell us the success you have had and your impact?

Elena Davis: We have distributed over 4.1 million bottles of water to the homeless in six states.  We have partnered with countless homeless agencies and 45 shelter partners that we research. We are now working with cities to begin an I Am Jobs program in addition to supplying water and hope to the population we serve. The water continues to be the tool we use to reach people and connect. Each bottle has a phone number that connects us to the individual in need. We have partnered with incredible organizations to help the next steps in the job process. It all starts with the individual person who is asking for help.

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

Elena Davis: Growing up transient I kept to myself. My heart was buried and this journey has cleansed me, given me gratitude and perspective. I have learned that our gifts are tied to our wounds. You need to go down to the core of who we are and face that to move forward to help others.

charity Matters: Thank you for sharing your remarkable story, You truly are an inspiration and more than a super model but a super role model for us all.

 

charity matters

 

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

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Leaders come in all shapes and sizes

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

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

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

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

charity matters

 

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

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

The Giving Update

I must confess numbers are not my thing and never really have been. However, when numbers involve how much we give and to who….I must admit I’m fascinated. Each of us gives in different ways and at different times through a variety of options.  Who knew that all that giving has been combined, tallied and pulled together? Well this years numbers are in from Giving USA’s 2018 Report and the numbers just might surprise you.

The report is done by Giving USA which is a public service initiative of The Giving Institute and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IU. It is the longest running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America. According to Aggie Sweeney, chair of Giving USA Foundation, “American’s record breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid. As people have more resources available, they are choosing to use them to make a difference, pushing giving to over $400 Billion.” 

Last year alone, individuals in the United States collectively gave $286.65 billion dollars, which is up five percent from the previous year. That is a serious amount charity. Individual donations were not the only way people gave;

  • Sixty-six billion dollars was given to foundations in 2017 which was a six percent increase.
  • Thirty-five billion was donated via bequest from people’s estates, which was also a number that went up.
  • Over twenty billion dollars was given by corporations last year, up almost six percent as well.

So who did we give our hard earned funds to in 2017? We gave over $127 billion to religion or religious causes, our churches, synagogues , etc in 2017. Right behind religion was education where Americans gave $58.90 billion dollars. Followed by human services at $50 billion, then foundations, health organizations, public-society benefit organizations, arts and culture, international affairs and rounded up by the environment and animal causes.

Regardless of the cause or the way in which we gave last year, we gave. More than that, we gave big! $400 billion dollars worth of giving.  While the number is important and impressive, what is even more impressive is that despite our challenges at getting along with one another politically, we still at our core believe that we are all here to serve one another. Our actions are proof.

charity Matters.

 

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

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

One year wiser?

“aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always  should have been”

David Bowie

Even though it’s only been a week since we were last together, another year has officially passed and I’m hoping that means that more wisdom, not wrinkles! While I am past the mid part of life, the fact is we never really know where our mid-part is. My mom died at 60, each day our time is ticking and for me it feels like a race. Somedays I run too fast to notice what is around me…..and yet I race to use my time, each precious drop for the greatest purpose….whatever that may be….a walk with a friend, time with my children, service to my family and others.

The process of aging is an adventure for sure and like every growth process there are spits and spurts. We spend the first quarter of our life physically growing. The second quarter trying to figure out who we are. The third quarter coming into our stride and knowing our strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully in Q3 we find how to give those gifts away or our purpose.

I’m not sure if we have one purpose but would like to believe we have many. What I do know is that every one of us is here to love and be loved, to use our gifts to their greatest good and that life is so much more than about yourself, it is about being of service to others. I’m grateful everyday to be alive, for my health, to celebrate another year and looking forward to Q3 and becoming the person I always should have been.

charity matters

 

Your referral is the greatest compliment,  if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to share and inspire another.

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

Alzheimers

There is nothing I enjoy more than connecting friends and colleagues, especially when there is a good cause involved. So a few weeks ago when I connected two remarkable women, one a fundraiser for USC and the other a well known wealth strategist for Northern Trust, I was thrilled when I received the invitation for an event on Alzheimers the two partnered to put together.

It was a fantastic morning conversation with  Dr. Helena Chang-Chui, a world renown researcher and a top Alzheimer specialist. She is the chair of the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s Department of Neurology and has authored over 182 publications on the topic and was fascinating to learn from, which is why I wanted to share.

Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimers and chances are each of us knows someone who has been affected by this devastating disease. We learned that Alzheimers disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and according to the Alzheimer’s Association there are currently about 5.5 million people currently living with the disease. Without successful treatments that number is projected to rise to about 13.5 million by 2050! The longer people live, the more Alzheimer’s disease there will be.

So that’s the bad news. Here is the good news:

The National Institute of Health recently allocated $1.3 billion to Alzheimer’s disease research which was $884 million more than ever before! Now the top researchers in the country Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute will be working together with some of this funding to find a cure. In the meantime, Dr. Chui shared with us a few things we can all do to protect our mental health.

  1. Diet– A Mediterranean diet based on nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, coffee and coconut oil has all proven to activate the brain’s metabolic function and may prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimers disease.
  2. Exercise– The brain’s processing speed can begin to slow down as early as 25 but exercise bulks up existing neurons and improves communication between brain cells. The Doctor said it is like a bank account where what you do now strengthens cognitive resilience later.
  3. Quality Sleep- Six to eight hours of sleep for adults is critical so that toxic proteins that are implicated in Alzheimers disease are flushed out during sleep. It is the bodies time of rebooting and sleep gives the body time to restore.
  4. Connect with Others-Relationships are good for the brain and the heart and current research suggest that there is a connection between social interaction and brain health. Being social connects neurons and activities with friends can give the brain added benefits.
  5. Managing Stress-High stress encourages behaviors such as poor eating habits, isolation, or decreased exercise all which increase the risk of dementia which could lead to changes in the brain.

The take away from this fantastic conversation with Dr. Chang-Chui was that we all need to proactive with our health and that includes our mental health as well. We can all take steps today to make tomorrow better for ourselves and our loved ones.

charity matters.

 

 

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