Giving Back


Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten

Do you remember that book called Everything I know I leaned in Kindergarten? I was thinking about that book title the other day after interviewing one of our guests for the podcast. I was asking our guest about growing up with role models that gave back.  It is always fascinating to discover people’s earliest acts of kindness. Who they modeled? Where they learned the importance of helping others.

As the interview ended, I found myself trying to answer the question myself. What were my earliest memories of charity? Actually, it is one of my most vivid early memories. So I thought I would share it here. Let me set the scene first. The year is 1971, I’m five years old and in Mrs. Thompson’s kindergarten class.

Mrs. Thompson, who might have been 100 at the time was the sweetest kindest woman. She asked all of our class to bring in pennies for the poor. I know poor is no longer politically correct but it was the seventies. I vividly remember going home and emptying my own piggy bank and cramming a handful of pennies into my chubby hands. Something  about this made me so happy.

The next morning Mrs. Thompson asked the class of twenty who had brought in pennies. I raised my hand along with five other students and she called us all up to the front of the class and gave us a sucker for every penny we brought in.  It was amazing.  I felt so excited to be getting rewarded but still didn’t understand why we received lollipops.  Mrs. Thompson didn’t say anything else but thanked us for caring for others. I remember feeling very proud and excited about the bonus of candy.

The next day the remaining students brought in way more pennies than the six of us had the day before. A boy in my class asked Mrs. Thompson when they were getting their suckers for all their pennies. Mrs. Thompson very calmly explained, “The first group of students brought in their pennies because they wanted to help poor children and they didn’t expect anything in return. They just wanted to help the poor. Those students didn’t know about the suckers and gave just to give. All of you brought in pennies to get something for yourselves and that isn’t real charity. Charity is when you help someone and expect nothing in return. I want all of you to learn that when you give for no reason, then you are always rewarded.” 

I remember a few of the boys saying that wasn’t fair. To be honest,  I’m not sure that I really understood exactly what Mrs. Thompson meant. What I did know is that I felt really proud to give my pennies and really excited to get a bunch of candy I didn’t expect.  Somehow knew this was a feeling I wanted again. Mrs. Thompson empowered me in a way I had never felt before.

It is amazing that over fifty years later I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. We are all made up of so many moments and life experiences that shape us and set us down certain paths.  We never know when once seed that was planted long long ago will sprout and grow. While I’m not a kindergarten teacher, I do have the privilege of working with thousands of students each year and one can only hope that we are all planting many more seeds of giving.




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Dollies Making a Difference

Do you remember that childhood toy that you treasured and cherished? A stuffed animal or doll that you carried everywhere, that made you feel safe and loved? I think most of us can conjure up an image of that one special toy we loved as a child and more importantly how it made us feel. So, a few weeks ago when a mutual friend told me about the work that Dollies Making A Difference was doing, I knew I needed to find out more about the inspiration behind this amazing and very special organization.

Earlier this week I had a fantastic call with Co-Founder, Cindy Simon, who told me the heart warming story of this amazing organization that simply believes that to give is to receive.

Charity Matters: When and how did you start Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: In 2010, I was back east and had just read an article about a group of women who had gotten together to sew some dolls for the children suffering from the earthquake in Haiti. These east coast women were inspired by Dianne Sawyer’s coverage of the earthquake and knew the moment  they saw Dianne Sawyer pull a doll from a pile of rubble and say, “Look some little girl has lost her dollie.” that they needed to act.

The article about these women inspired me to act. I called them up, went over to see what they were doing, learned their process and said I wanted to help. When I got back home to Los Angeles, I called some friends to ask them to help me make 500 dolls for the children of Haiti. My dear friend, and non-profit co-founder, Dorothy Miyake, was the first to help. She had a large group of friends that were crafty and we decided to meet every Wednesday in my dinning room to make these dolls.

Charity Matters: What was your goal when you started Dollies Making a Difference?

Cindy Simon: The mission was simply to help the boys and girls in Haiti by providing homemade dolls and teddy bears but we quickly learned that what we were doing was not about a doll and was so much more. Our mission is that to give is to receive and we quickly learned that with the Three Cs:

Community, the group of women who sit around my dinning room table every Wednesday for over a decade sharing, caring for one another. We have gone thru  health issues, death, birth and life together. We are a community.

Connection, we don’t send our dolls and teddy bears through huge organizations. We find Ambassadors that can be people we know or small nonprofit or church organizations. We request that each of our handmade toys is delivered by hand from an Ambassador to a child and that the human connection is what makes the experience special for both the child and the person delivering the dolls.

Comfort, is what the child receives from having and holding their own doll or teddy bear.

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

Cindy Simon: We know we have made a difference when we make a child smile, when the person who delivers the doll is moved and this had made a difference for all of us making these dolls.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work 10 years later?

Cindy Simon: This work has given me a passion, a purpose, I feel worthy and relevant. It is fun to be connected to wide variety of people and organizations around the world. More than that it renews my faith that there are a lot of good people in our world who are helping people they will never know.

Charity Matters: Tell us about your success and impact?

Cindy Simon: What started out as a small project has turned into over 13,000 hand-made dolls and teddy bears being hand delivered to over 300 organizations around the globe. In addition, we have given over $107,000 away to other nonprofits in grants with the funds we raise. 

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

Cindy Simon: Everyday I am reminded of how many good people and organizations are out there in the world. I think I underestimated the power of community and what goes on with the connection and community we have in making the dolls, it is the sharing that just happens.

This journey has made me more compassionate to all the needs out there. I have learned that we can all be of help to others and especially to those who we will never meet.

charity Matters.


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What we can do….

This week was supposed to be about back to school, but somehow it just didn’t feel right when thousands of Texans are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. So rather than talk about beginnings, it seems more appropriate to talk about what happens when people come together in times of crisis to help one another and what we can do to help the 6.8 million people affected by these storms.

Texas Monthly, provided this amazing list of ways we can help those in Houston and I thought it was worth sharing here, with a variety of ways to help children, families, the sick, disabled and animals.

The Texas Diaper Bank  Each year The Texas Diaper bank helps change the lives of 15,600 babies, seniors and the disabled. They distribute over 1.1 million diapers every year.

Driscoll Children’s Hospital  The hospital served over 171,000 children last year and is in need of blood donations as well as financial support during this challenging time as the staff works to serve these children and families.

Port Light This nonprofit is a grassroots organization that was established in 1997 to help those affected by disasters, specifically those with medical equipment needs and disabilities. Since that time, the organization has grown and in addition providing disaster emergency services, they spend much of their time educating others how to be prepared.

Direct Relief USA  This organization operates the largest charitable medical program in the United States serving more than 23 million Americans each year. 72% of those served live under the poverty level in the  United States. They are working to provide medicine and medical care to those people evacuated from their homes and in need.

Houston Food Bank In 2016-2017 The Houston food Bank distributed over 83 million meals! That was before Hurricane Harvey. With thousands and thousands of people living in shelters the Houston Food Bank is in desperate need of support to feed so many additional families.

Galveston County Food Bank  was founded in 2012 to provide meals to Houston’s surrounding area and helps to provide food and meals to over 53, 000 people each day who struggle to feed their families. They need your support to help so many more during this crisis.

Global Giving  is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofitsdonors, and companies in nearly every country. This organization helps nonprofits from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe (and hundreds of places in between) access the tools, training, and support they need to be more effective and make our world a better place. Their goal is to raise over 2 million dollars towards the Hurricane Harvey Relief effort.

SPCA of Texas is overwhelmed with need to rescue, care and support the thousands of animals effected by Hurricane Harvey. They annually help over 50,000 animals each year in addition to the seven thousand they spade/neuter and the other seven thousand animal cruelty investigations each year. The SPCA needs your support to rescue and care for the thousands of pets affected by the storm.

Aesop said, “In union there is strength.” This is the time we need to stop, click a link and help those who need it most, I just did……because together we can really do something.

Charity Matters.


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Copyright © 2017 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.

When Life Gives You Lemons….


I have to admit that I have spent a little time lately being nostalgic and looking back, which includes looking at past Charity Matters post. The post below was one of my very first and probably not seen by too many at the time so I thought it was worth sharing with each of you. Enjoy!

Just the other day my 10-year-old son and his friend asked if they could set up a lemonade stand. It was a hot day and he and his pal worked hard to get business up and running. I was so touched that many of his “customers” stopped and asked my son if he was doing this for a cause.

He wasn’t, but at the end of the day we decided to see what causes there were involving lemonade stands and this is one that we came across. It may not be a “small non-profit” but it is a perfect example of small ideas that create big change.


Every non-profit started small and most began with lemons. So next time you drive by a lemonade stand, stop…you never know what can come from one glass of lemonade.

Charity Matters

Copyright © 2011 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.