Charity Matters Podcast


Raising Philanthropic Children

Raising philanthropic children 2014

I am always so amazed that is the same time each year that I find people asking for suggestions on raising philanthropic children. Once again, it’s worth sharing.

While my sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they certainly do a lot to help others. I am proud that each of our sons has found different ways to give back and share the gifts that they have been given. Now in their twenties their giving is changing yet again. Time is now a rare gift so the older two are giving funds while our youngest is still involved in volunteering for his favorite cause.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what our family will do this season to help others. We have adopted soldiers for a year, adopted families over the holidays that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Childrens Hospitals and voted on which non-profits we want to support. Each person trying to convince the others why their cause is most worthy.

The reality is that there is no simple answer to this question and that raising charitable children is an ongoing process. A study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University said, “the research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20 percent the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

Six Tips for Raising charitable children:

  1. Start early, as early as 4 or 5 years old. Giving becomes a habit.
  2. Talk to your children about what causes interest them and bring causes to their attention.
  3. Be intentional by involving your children in your own charity endeavors.
  4. Use online tools to research organizations to involve your children
  5. Be consistent. Make charity a part of your traditions, the holidays and birthdays.
  6. Emphasize the joy because giving feels great.

Benefits of raising charitable children:

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

While this topic is relevant for the holidays, it is important to remember that giving does not just happen once a year. Teaching the gifts you receive from giving should become a way of life not seasonal. Once your children feel how great it is to give, their lives will forever be altered in wonderful ways.

Charity Matters.


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Episode 51: Free Wheelchair Mission

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Ralph Alswang

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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



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Time to build some bridges

As I write this the Sunday before the election, I have no clue what Wednesday, November 9th will look like…the day you will be reading this. If I had a crystal ball I don’t think I would even want to look. What I see from my Sunday view is a country that has been pulled apart like a tug of war. Honestly, it breaks my heart. Our friends, families, schools districts, small towns, communities and our country has never been so torn apart. Our bridges are down. Those roads that connect us. I know that today, of all days, the media and the noise will be loud. It will be coming at us from all sides. Regardless of the outcome, there will be a lot of emotions, fear, anger, confusion, to name a few.  The only thing we can control is our reaction.

There is nothing about Charity Matters that is political. Charity Matters is about people coming together to help one another. Not one person I have ever interviewed has asked me my political beliefs, nor I theirs. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. What does matter and is our human connection to one another. Our willingness to reach out and help.  Our ability to disregard political beliefs for the greater good of caring for each other. Something we all seem to lose sight of these days, myself included.

The pandemic did a lot to destroy connections and the election before that didn’t do our communities any favors either. We talk about our friends and families differently now because of their politics. Something that has never happened in my lifetime. We categorize people and listen less. Rather than coming together to discuss where we are similar, we write people off because they believe differently.

If bell curves are a real thing, and I believe they are, then we are all actually in the middle together. Somehow, the media has us all playing tug of war at the bottom of those bell curves with CNN on one side and FOX on the other. We should be working together not pulling ourselves apart, because we are more alike than different.

We are afraid. Yes, there is much to worry about gas prices, inflation, education, crime, safety, and the environment.  These are real and valid reasons. However, fear should not stop us from listening to one another.  Different ideas need to be valued, respected for their similarities and differences. Life would be oh so dull if we all thought the exact same way. Each conversation is an opportunity to learn how someone else feels and sees things. These conversations are how we begin to build a consensus and a common ground to move forward.

This country was built on helping our neighbors, it is who we are as Americans. My wish is for all of us to turn off the TV, phone a friend or a neighbor to say hello. Make a human connection. Remember, we all need to lean in little by little to get bridges built again. It starts with simply phoning a friend. We are stronger when we work with one another and not against.  It is the only way the state of things gets better when each of us becomes our best. It all starts with us.





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Episode 50: Mindful Littles

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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



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

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Looking back: 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 couldn’t let October come to an end without discussing Breast Cancer. You may remember a few years back,  I interviewed an amazing nonprofit founder and breast cancer survivor, Alisa Savoretti. Since that interview, I have had four friends who have undergone mastectomies. 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.

Nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, had breast cancer, a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, a nonprofit that helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation that left me feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one. She has left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to re-share her story.

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. It’s another to realize 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 existed. 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 woman, 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 to Vegas to work at The Rivera. 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 Women’s 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. Six weeks later, I  had my 501c3 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. After 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 that’s true. 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 the 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 waitlist 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 a 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 waitlist 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 and that there are women, thousands of women in this country living without their breast.  My home has been refinanced three times to keep the funding going for My Hope Chest. I have taken extra jobs at the grocery store to fund this. The lesson I have learned is 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



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

Episode 49: Free to Thrive

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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



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

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Effective Altruism

Last week I was asked to be a part of an interesting conversation from an East Coast Think Tank. One of the topics that came up was Effective Altruism. Today, I thought we would jump into the topic. There has been a lot of recent talk about the term Effective Altruism. What is exactly is effective altruism?

What is Effective ALTRUISM?

The simplest way to define it is to answer the question, “How do we use our resources to help others? ” In 2011, philosopher Peter Singer began asking these questions of the global community. Since that time there have been a number of books and the movement has grown.

Some of the key leaders in this global movement are Give Well and the organization 80,000 Hours. These two groups are asking questions such as, “Which charities improve global health the most per dollar?” Other questions such as, “How can I use my career to make a difference?”

The 80,000 hours Philosophy

The 80,000 hours philosophy is this: You have about 80,000 hours in your career: 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for 40 years. That’s more time than you’ll spend eating, socializing, and watching Netflix put together. And it means that time is the biggest resource you have to help others. So if you can increase the overall impact of your career by just a tiny amount, it will likely do more good than changes you could make to other parts of your life.

The Give Well Philosophy

The Give Well Organization wants to help guide you and your dollars towards global issues such as malaria and a host of global issues where your dollar is stretched farther. They are willing to guide you in investing your giving as well. Here are a few of their thoughts: We take zero fees and use our most up-to-date research to grant your gift where we believe it will help the most. We typically grant this pool of funds to one or more of our recommended charities each quarter. Once we grant your donation, we’ll email you to let you know which charity or charities we selected and what we expect your donation will accomplish.

While Effective Altruism is not one organization but rather a global movement with many groups coming together trying to change the way we look at our world’s problems. There is also a large group of people that are trying to get us back to our roots which is taking care of our own communities at home. Another grass roots movement where going local, supporting small business and your local nonprofits versus the global movement presented by effective altruism. The local movement believes that if we each take care of our own communities we will not have to worry about those around the globe. Almost a shift back to the primitive days of tribes when no one in the tribe went hungry.

Both groups want the same thing, and that is to make our world better. Each side of this argument has their own ideas and beliefs. No matter how we help our fellow man, as long as we are helping, well that is good enough for me!

Charity Matters.


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Episode 48: Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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



To learn more about The Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation view their video Here
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Episode 47: Drink Local Drink Tap

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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



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

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.

Gordie: A legacy of teaching

Gordie's story

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

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


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

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

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

Gordie’s Story

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

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

Turning Grief into Hope

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.


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Episode 46: A Place at the Table

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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



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

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The Importance of Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately. More importantly, I have been wondering what is happening to our communities? Our country was founded on taking care of your neighbor. Being an active member of our towns, schools, churches and being there for our neighbors. Our communities once were our foundations. At the core of nonprofits is community. Places where we all have a common goal that is about caring for others above ourselves. Healthy nonprofits create thriving hives of activity where all the members work very hard to support the members of their group. Healthy communities do the same. Lately, it seems that our communities seem to be suffering. As a result, our world is too.

the importance of our local tribes

In August, I spoke with Bob Dalton of the Love Your City Podcast about the importance of staying local. We discussed why the grassroots work that our local nonprofits do to help others in their community is so important. It’s not to say that huge national organizations are not important. Rather, we need to not lose sight of our local needs and care for those in front of us first.

Then last week, I spoke with Barry Braun of Happy Community Builders. Barry spoke about how we as a human species began and stayed in tribes for thousands of years. In those tribes, there wasn’t hunger or homelessness. The reason is that the tribe insured that everyone was cared for. I can’t stop thinking about that conversation. Somewhere along the way, we became more concerned with ourselves than with our tribe. In addition, we became more concerned about the global community instead of the one we live in.

The Benefits of helping your community

What would our world look like right now if each one of us took care of our own local tribe? If we were actively involved with helping those in our own communities with jobs, food, education, support? If everyone supported each other at a local level the need for global support wouldn’t exists. This may seem like an oversimplification and perhaps it is. When you think about it, which I can’t seem to stop doing, it makes sense.

Community makes us feel connected. It makes us feel safe. Our mental health is stronger because we have that feeling of belonging to a group. Community gives us that safety net that tells us someone is looking out for us. However, today people look to the government for that feeling rather than next door. We live in neighborhoods where we don’t know our neighbors. Do we know the name of the people who work at our local market? These tiny threads of kindness are what strengthens the fabric that keeps us together.

What happens when Connections erode?

When these threads are cut our connections erode. Then isolation sets in which is usually followed by fear.  Sadly, the result of fear brings the innate need to self protect rather than the need to reach out to others. We become overwhelmed and shut down. That fear can erode so much goodness. We lose faith in one another and distrust becomes a cancer that destroys connection.

As humans, we are meant to be connected, to support one another like bees in a hive. We all have a job and a role to make our communities stronger by working together. Fear robs us all of the honey and the sweetness of feeling connected. But where and how do we start to change this?

What can we do to make our world better?

What are we to do when the news tells us the sky is falling? First, turn off the news! Secondly, we all need to take baby steps towards knowing our neighbors, teachers, grocers and the people in our communities. We need to strengthen our neighborhoods by getting together. Support our schools and places of worship. Get involved!  If each of us takes these tiny steps to make our own communities stronger. As a result,  we become more unified. Ultimately, we make our world a better place one community at a time. It all starts with us.




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Episode 45: Happy Community Builders

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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

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

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



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

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 4!

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

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

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


Here are a few highlights from our conversation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters: What do you hope your book accomplishes?

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

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

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

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

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

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


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

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

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



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

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.