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It just isn’t summer without camp

Monday marked the first official week of summer. This year, post-COVID, the world is ready for all the fun that summer brings and that many of us were denied last year….travel, beach, lakes, backyard barbeques, and summer camp. Over six million American children participate in some sort of day or overnight camp each year. Many of these camps are nonprofit organizations. Last year, while many children were quarantined in their homes camp did not happen for these kids. Now more than ever these children need to reconnect, have fun, and learn.

While Charity Matters is my passion, my day job is running a non-profit leadership organization, which also has a summer camp program. We have incredible high school and college students volunteering to serve as camp counselors and mentors. Many counselors are alumni of our program and want to give back to an organization that changed their lives.  Students teaching students to be the best of themselves. Showing one another respect, how to learn from different opinions, and how to work together towards a resolution. Ultimately, teaching students how to lead.

Last year, we sent camp in a box and sold out our online program. Tomorrow, I will happily be greeting hundreds of smiling faces as our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders arrive with their nervous parents. For some, it will be their first time away from home.  All of these children have been isolated in some way this year. It is such a great feeling to bring everyone together. There is no greater joy than knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself and that your work makes a difference. This video below from one of our students a few years back, pretty much says it all.

Nothing brings greater joy than planting the seeds of compassion in these incredible students year after year.  When the world seems to get a bit crazier, these students give me hope. I can’t help believe that our children will be better than we were, they will learn, listen, come together to lead us all. These children are our hope. As one of our students said, “It is an eyeopener to learn that you can do something to change the world...”

Charity Matters.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Season One: It is all in the family

This weekend is Father’s Day, a time to celebrate the men that raised us and showed us the way. Fathers are those special humans who make us feel safe, who guide us through surviving the world, and most of all who give us love. They are our anchors in rough waters and the calm in our storms. I simply can not imagine life without my dad. A man of few words, who loves his family deeply, and a man of great faith. Sadly, there are many children who are not blessed with an amazing father. I am for sure a lucky one.

In thinking about my dad, I thought about two incredible conversations I had recently about the importance of family. The need for children to have forever homes where people will love and guide them.  A few months back I spoke with Brian Mavis, the founder of America’s Kids Belong, and Becky Fawcett of Help Us Adopt. Two inspirational humans who have made it their life mission to create families.

America’s Kids Belong

Have you ever had a call that changed your life? Brian Mavis and his wife Julie both did and that call was to help children. More specifically the 400,000 children who are part of the foster care system in this country. Three-quarters of those children will be reunited with their family or another family member. The remaining 100,000 children need forever homes. What these children have in common is that they all need a home whether a temporary or a permanent one.

Join us for a fascinating conversation with Brian Mavis as he shares his family’s calling and journey in starting America’s Kids Belong. The remarkable story of what one family has done to change what family means for thousands and thousands of children. A true example of the power of fatherhood.

Help Us Adopt

Another powerhouse and true inspiration is Becky Fawcett, the founder of Help Us Adopt.  We recently caught up and had a fantastic conversation about what motivates this wonder woman, our favorite candy, and her incredible mission to build families. Becky may not be a father but she is a woman on a mission to ensure that children have families. The brutal reality is that over 100 million children in the world need homes and adoption is the answer.  Becky said, “We didn’t want to tell those children that people can’t afford to adopt, we wanted to be the ones who make their adoptions a reality. Help Us Adopt does that by raising funds to provide grants to people who need financial support to begin their families.

I hope as we think about our dads this week that we take a moment to think about all of the amazing humans who work so hard to create  family. Brian and Becky are two incredible humans who work tirelessly to bring the basic fabric of our world together, family. Each one uniquely different and making a huge impact in their communities as they tackle unique ways to create families. If you are looking for a little summer inspiration, you’ve come to the right place.  Happy Father’s Day to all those amazing dads!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 If you enjoyed today’s episodes, please:
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YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Season One: A place to call home

There are a few things that most of us assume will happen every day; the sun will rise, the sun will set and we will have a place to call home. However, for many that isn’t the case.  In Los Angeles alone, it is estimated by some reports that we have more than 100, 000 people living on our streets.  Homelessness is a growing epidemic and not a problem that is easy to solve by any stretch of the imagination. This season I had the privilege of interviewing three incredible women who have set out to tackle this problem in a variety of different ways. Today, I wanted to re-introduce you to  Eyvette, Sr. Judy, and Abeni. They are amazing!

Urban Possibilities

The first is Eyvette Jones-Johnson. She is one of the most soulful and remarkable humans I have ever had the privilege of talking to. Eyvette shares her amazing journey from growing up in the Southside of Chicago to becoming a successful television producer and now an entrepreneur nonprofit founder. She and her husband are the founders of Urban Possibilities A nonprofit that provides homeless or inner-city job seekers the tools to reach their highest potential from the inside out. This episode is good for your soul!

Alexandria House

Join us to hear our fascinating conversation with Sister Judy Vaughan. We discuss everything from her work in founding Alexandria House to her tattoo, her motto, her sheroes, their feature in Justin Beiber’s video, and most importantly to her tireless dedication to the community. The Tory Burch Foundation and the Upworthiest nominated Sr. Judy as their Empowered Woman and once you listen to this conversation you will see why. I knew Sister Judy Vaughan was someone special the moment we began our email exchange and she did not disappoint. A third-generation Angeleno who has been on a mission to serve women, children, and families with transitional housing for 25 years since founding Alexandria House.

Haven House Youth Services

Abeni Carr is not only a high school principal in Compton, CA but in addition, had started a nonprofit when she realized a number of her own students were homeless. I am so excited to share our conversation about Abeni’s work helping high school youth deal with homelessness, her journey in founding Haven’s House Youth Services, and how she juggles it all. Shortly after our interview Abeni was featured on The Ellen Show for her inspirational work in service to homeless youth. Abeni is a true leader and role model for all!

I’m thrilled that you had a chance to get reacquainted with Eyvette, Sr. Judy, and Abeni. Three inspirational women have dedicated their lives to helping the homeless in three very different ways. Each one uniquely different and making a huge impact in their communities as they tackle homelessness. If you are looking for a little summer inspiration, you’ve come to the right place.  Now you can do a little binge-listening….enjoy!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 If you enjoyed today’s episodes, please:
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Connect with us:

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Season One..thats a wrap!

Well, we did it! We set out to share these incredible stories of our favorite humans in a different format and sixteen podcast interviews later we have! I am always amazed when I set out to do something I have never done and somehow with a huge leap of faith and a lot of help, it happens. The journey was bumpy, that is for sure! When you look in the rearview mirror there is an incredible sense of accomplishment in seeing how far you have come. Honestly, the journey would not have been possible without all of you, the best traveling companions a girl could ask for.

Like all long journeys, this one began last July with more than a handful of cheerleaders nudging me towards the podcast.  Once the idea took root, it came time to figure out how to make it happen. There were more than a few learning curves along the way, almost all technology-related. Once those hurdles were overcome we were off to the races in January. Now that the first lap of the race is completed, it is time for rest.

Taking a moment to reflect on the lessons learned, the challenges, and the next steps. During this interim, we will still be sending out weekly emails and we will be working on Season Two which will debut in July.  Speaking of July, Charity Matters will be celebrating its official 10th birthday on July 17th. With that milestone comes our renewed commitment to introducing you to amazing humans each week who inspire each of us to give the best of ourselves, to one another and the world.

Thank you again for subscribing and telling your friends about the Charity Matters Podcast. We are so grateful for you continuing to support this work and journey.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Episode 16: Havens House Youth Services

I went to a school whose motto was “Actions Not Words.” This phrase was repeated my entire life in Kindergarten through high school and after a while, it does start to sink in.  A few weeks ago, I was speaking to the Alumni relations coordinator at my alma mater. She mentioned an incredible alumnus that I needed to meet, Abeni Carr. She went on to tell me that Abeni was not only a high school principal in Compton, CA but in addition had started a nonprofit when she realized a number of her students were homeless.

I am so excited to share our conversation about Abeni’s work helping high school youth deal with homelessness, her journey in founding Haven’s House Youth Services, and how she juggles it all. Actions Not Words definitely made an impact.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Havens House does?

Abeni Carr:  We really support homeless youth specifically and much of our focus goes for high school-age youth that are dealing with housing instability. We make hygiene packets, we also help with young people getting housing, we’ve helped with young women who’ve been trafficked, making sure that they are getting to safety and making sure they get lawyers, and we try to pay for some of their fees. 

We’re hoping to expand to have a community center where we can really have our clothing closet and be able to support high school-age youth, which I think is one of the most vulnerable populations. We started doing this work in 2018 and now we are in three different areas throughout LA County.

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

Abeni Carr:  I was adopted when I was three by my mom and I purposely waited until I was 30, to look for my biological family.  I found both my birth mother and my birth father about six years ago through a lot of Google searches on Facebook.  Immediately we were united and then about a year later, I just went through the process of meeting my siblings.  

My sister Miracle, from my birth mother, came out to meet me with her boyfriend. When I’d asked her a question, her boyfriend would answer it.  I thought it was very odd and so just through talking to her, and my mother I found out that my sister was being trafficked. 

 I ended up helping her and it really made me turn around and look at my students. Do I have students that are homeless?  We realized that maybe we did and just don’t know. So my school started doing the work.  We had to figure out how do we identify our students? Sure enough, I did have some students that I had no idea had been dealing with housing instability. Because people don’t willingly come to a school and say, “Hey, we’re dealing with homelessness.”

 One day I got like five phone calls for different needs. Some people needed, a hotel to stay at and another family that was living in a car. The school found out and asked me, “Do you know where they could get help? ”  I thought with the multitude of phone calls there’s a great need.  So I really just started reaching out to everybody I know. I have a great group of friends and we just came together and said, “Let’s help out as many people as we can.” That’s how Haven’s House got started.

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

Abeni Carr:  I know my dream.  I want to be able to build a campus that has a school, mental health,  a community center, and housing. Kind of like a one-stop-shop where we build a community and where students know it’s a safe place for them. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it’s really true, right? If we can build safety, the home, the access to food, then you know, that’s the first step to even get them to that next place. So I would love one day to be able to have our own little community on the same campus. A place where there’s schooling, there’s shelter, there’s a community center and we help them with job readiness. 

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

Abeni Carr:  I’m just very goal-driven. This work has really shown me how to slow down and really listen to people. Everybody really does have a story. Sometimes as a leader, I didn’t really take out the time when I was younger to really hear people out. I felt like my way was the right way. In time, I’ve really learned to slow down, delegate and trust people.  Just like I’m asking my young people, to trust me. You have to start trusting other people that they can get it done too.

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

Abeni Carr:  I got into education a long time ago, not because of the honors and not about what you’re going to get back from it. But I will tell you, this cohort that we have right now, every single one of them got into college.  We’re giving them the tools to learn, how do you advocate for yourself when you do go to college? Or how do you get a job? We are really trying to end cyclical homelessness. One of our board members actually was one of our clients. Now she’s 24 years old, has a job she’s living on her own. Every day she asks, “What can I do to help?”  I think that that’s what really reminds me why are we doing this.

 If you can help people with the tools to get on their feet, they will turn around and help somebody else out. Right?  You want to take it from cyclical homelessness.  So when there are those hard days, I remember Marie and the other young people that I’ve been able to help out.  They have turned around and now become amazing advocates for other young homeless youth that now they’re helping, and mentoring. Being able to share their experience and say,” This is temporary, you can make it through this.” 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidimcniffjohnson and @Charitymatters so I can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts
  • Subscribe to new episodes each week!
Connect with us:

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Episode 14: Building families with Help Us Adopt

One of the many things I love about finding my tribe and interviewing these amazing humans is the friendships I have made over the years. One of those people is the remarkable Becky Fawcett, the founder of Help Us Adopt. You may remember our conversation from a few years back? We recently caught up and had a fantastic conversation about what motivates this wonder woman, our favorite candy, and her incredible mission to build families.

So join us today for a fun conversation that will have you inspired and remind you that one person can make a difference.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Help Us Adopt does?

Becky Fawcett:  Help Us Adopt began in 2007 at our kitchen table and an idea to help build families through adoption. Our platform was families combined with a commitment to equality, something everyone could believe in. The brutal reality is that over 100 million children in the world need homes and adoption is the answer. We didn’t want to tell those children that people can’t afford to adopt, we wanted to be the ones who make their adoptions a reality. Help Us Adopt does that by raising funds to provide grants to people who need financial support to begin their families.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Help Us Adopt?

Becky Fawcett:  One of my favorite topics in this world is infertility and adoption. I tried to do IVF, we did five rounds of IVF. We got pregnant three times and had three miscarriages. It was not easy, it was awful. Everybody knows someone who’s been through what I’ve been through and they probably didn’t get the support they needed.

I never thought it wouldn’t work and I didn’t want to adopt it scared the living bejesus out of me. It then got to a point where it was like either you adopt or you don’t get to become a mom. Not becoming a mother was not an option. This was 15 years ago. No one wanted to talk about this and miscarriage and IVF. There’s nothing shameful about being infertile,  about miscarriage or about adopting.

photo credit: Classic Kids

I won’t lie to you. It’s also very expensive. In order to do the IVF, and then adopt twice my husband and I spent $190,000 and after-tax dollars in our early 30s. I never want to be misleading, I had help from my grandparents. But we spent every single penny in our savings account. We were probably one step shy of taking out a second mortgage on our house.

I had this idea of how lucky was I that I got to do all of this on my own terms. I had nothing left in as far as money goes, but that could be rebuilt. And how could I help people and with no money, being a loudmouth publicist?  So, I wrote a business plan in about 20 minutes and just knew what needed to be done. What needed to be done was an adoption grant program that was all in on the family quality period. That was it.  

We don’t care who you love or who you’re with. We don’t care about any of that. Don’t send us a picture of what your family looks like. We don’t want to know, that’s not why we’re helping you. We’re helping you because you want to adopt a child, you have a valid home study. And you need a little help.

Charity Matters:  What has your impact been? 

Becky Fawcett: How do you put a value on giving this child an opportunity to know you were worthy, right? I mean, that you were worthy, you deserved this family? How do you know?  

Well, my impact is all of the family pictures of the families we helped to build. My impact is the 2000 donors a year who are out of the box thinking who are ahead of the game and philanthropy. Donors who do believe in the nonprofit that came out of nowhere and who support us every year.  Last year, we built 56 families during the pandemic. What is more important than a family?

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

Becky Fawcett: Reading these grant applications. Talk about salt of the earth, good people. Are you kidding me?  I am inspired by our applicants, those who will let me into their life once they become grant recipients. I love staying in touch with them on Facebook, I love watching their kids grow up. Someone once wrote to me, one of the grant applicants, her name is Erica. She wrote to me and said, “Because of your story, I have mine.”

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidimcniffjohnson and @Charitymatters so I can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts
  • Subscribe to new episodes each week!
Connect with us:

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Episode 13: Her Smile, a lesson in divine time

It is a rare human that touches our soul. When my path crosses with these angels on earth there is something indescribable that happens. My conversation with Dena Betti was exactly that, one that had me in tears more than a few times. Yes, if you have ever wanted to hear me cry, this episode is for you. More than that was Dena’s message of love and resilience after losing her 14-year-old daughter, Jenna, in a tragic accident.

Dena took that pain and turned it into a nonprofit called Her Smile that funds programs to empower and inspire young people to thrive despite adversity.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation…

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Her Smile does?

Dena Betti: Her Smile helps families who have experienced the loss of a dependent child or the loss of a parent with dependent children. We did that primarily for the first five years. Just last year, with the pandemic and the severe fires, we thought we want to do more than what we’re doing. So we broadened our brushstroke so we could also help families going through really difficult circumstances. So not only death, which is the ultimate loss, and to lose a child is beyond measure, so we now are helping those who are in the throes of really challenging circumstances. 

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

Dena Betti:  But what brought me to this work is, tomorrow will be seven years, when I got this horrific call from my husband. It was a Sunday and, and he was screaming on the phone, Jenna, it was Jenna.  Jenna is my oldest daughter, and she was 14 at the time. And you know, we let her go out on a walk in our neighborhood. they took the like the short what would be the shortcut home. And that was along the railroad tracks.

What we know now is when they sat down on the railroad tracks,  Jenna had put her phone down.  When a train approached they got up and were able to safely get away from the train. But Jenna went back to grab her phone and she was hit and killed from the back. Her phone survived but she didn’t. What we think is that she probably thought the width of the train was the width of the train tracks, which it’s not, the train is wider.  

A moment like that changes you in so many ways that change you. What I want to share is something that leads into why we started Her Smile. That is all the love and support that came from family, friends, strangers, people descended on our home.  I remember the moment so clearly and  I thought if I shut this door and I do not let these people in my home, they might not come back.  I learned one of life’s great lessons, which was when you let people in they will love you and hold you up.  They will give you all of the strength that you need to get through whatever it is.

I have three daughters and they all had the same third-grade teacher, Mrs. Travis. Something very magical happened that she did, she started a Memorial Fund for our family. She started that to help with the burial costs for Jenna and to feel like she could do something for our family. So that raised a lot of money and it helped us put Jenna to rest. We had money left over and I thought you know I don’t want to keep this money. This money needs to go back out to help other people and that is where Her Smile was born. It was born in that spirit.

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

Dena Betti: Gosh, so those moments come in little moments for me.  They come when people reach out to me, and ask how do I help my friend who just lost their son or their daughter?  Or what can I say to them? Those are moments that make me feel like I can be of service. Even though it’s much smaller than I originally wanted, it’s as impactful. Those are the moments so they’re not grandiose. They are very humble, but they mean everything to me

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

Dena Betti: When Jenna passed away, that was big about the control in my entire life. I’ve just learned that there’s so much fear built into that statement. We want to control because we want to feel safe and secure.  And then when you realize when something happens, like, what I experienced, or other hardships, maybe we don’t have as much control as we thought we did?

 My biggest life lesson is divine time. That’s been my biggest challenge is being able to see it in my mind. feeling like I want it now and having the grace and patience to wait. Having the faith. You know, I’ve asked myself many times, and I prayed to my higher power. And I said,” Is this really what I should be doing?” And the answer has so far come back. Yes. And to have the patience to let divine timing play out has been my biggest life lesson. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Dena Betti: I see life much deeper. Much deeper.  I’ve always been a much deeper thinker and tend to lean on wisdom a lot.  I didn’t really feel like I have anything to prove anymore. Like I feel like I’ve done the inside work. You know, I’ve definitely got to the top of the mountain when it comes to my internal resilience. So, for me, that’s how much I’ve changed or to the degree, I’ve changed is I’m at peace. And that, isn’t that the ultimate goal? Yeah, I think the ultimate goal is to know that you’ve done your best. You’ve carried that bucket You’ve worked your hardest. And you’re at peace with what you’re doing and what you’re putting out into the world and what you’re giving to everybody. 

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
  • Post a screenshot & key takeaway on your IG story and tag me @heidimcniffjohnson and @Charitymatters so I can repost you.
  • Leave a positive review on Apple Podcasts
  • Subscribe for new episodes each week
Connect with us:

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

Copyright © 2021 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Episode 10: Ryan Seacrest Foundation Following the heart

If there is one common denominator in all the people I have interviewed over the years it is their humility. People who give their lives and talents to serve others do not want the attention on themselves ever. These incredible humans will lovingly talk about the work they do but do not want the attention on them. It doesn’t matter who they are.  Whether they are from a famous family or used to being in the media, these modern-day heroes consistently do not want the spotlight.

Today’s guest, Meredith Seacrest Leach is no exception. Meredith is the Executive Director of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation. And yes, she is Ryan Seacrest’s sister. I’m excited to share our inspiring conversation about their families’ journey in service and the incredible way they are using their gifts to help eleven children’s hospitals and thousands of children and families across the country.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Ryan Seacrest Foundation does and how it all started?

Meredith Seacrest Leach:  Just over 10 years ago, Ryan would do a lot of visits to children’s hospitals through his various jobs. In particular, the radio show, where he would take his team down there and they’d set up at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, in California. They would bring in some special guests and broadcast live and he got so much feedback from families about the energy this brought to the hospital.

There was one visit that we were at the hospital and there was a little girl who hadn’t gotten out of bed in 72 days. But she got out of bed to be part of this broadcast and got to meet Selena Gomez. And it just moved all of us and the nurses had tears in their eyes. The power of creating this excitement in the hospital inspired this little girl to get out of bed.

 I know you’ve talked about this in your podcasts, that there’s this moment, and what is that moment that kind of triggers an idea of wanting to create something or do more? So after that moment, we road back in the car together, and Ryan just said, “What can we do that could live in the Children’s Hospital? I can’t broadcast every day. I’d love to but you know, I can’t.  But what could we create and do that could live in the hospital, to create this synergy?”

We sat down as a family and kind of talked about it. My brother reached a point that while he loved supporting other causes that he would love to create some into his own.  We really talked about rather than reinvent the wheel. He needed to do what he is good at, which is radio and television.

So, we decided through the relationships we have to kind of replicate his radio studio as well as folding some technical side for television. That evolved into what we now call Seacrest Studios. We decided to build the first one at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, our hometown, where we were raised and born. And we really started with that first hospital and had a conversation with them about the idea. They took a chance to see you know what this would be and it evolved from there 

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

Meredith Seacrest Leach: We have parents just say, “You know, my child smiled today or laughed.” It feels like such a small thing but if that space we create can bring that joy or that moment for a family or create some sense of relief. That’s when we feel while we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

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

Meredith Seacrest Leach:  I had worked in the entertainment business before moving into the nonprofit space.  I think knowing that each day, what we do is really helping someone, I’m not just going to work.  But this really has meaning and to be able to say that your job, if you want to call it a job, but your passion is really helping people and you get these stories back.

The fact that we can be that connective tissue to bring, not only the Seacrest Studios to the hospital, but also bring in different opportunities, whether it’s entertainment or educational experiences, fun toys for the kids. It is just so important. I just realized that every day that I’m lucky to do what I do and have the ability to do it.

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

Meredith Seacrest Leach: Well, I definitely have learned that you never stop learning. I’m continuously learning as we go. One thing I think that this was something you could truly make decisions on what your heart wants to do.  This was what feels right and this is the way we’re going to move this.

Listening to that kind of inner voice of what felt right to do, actually led us in a way to build something special. We felt it unitedly as a family.  We really just listened to our hearts about what we wanted to build and how we wanted to help.  I think it led us in a great direction.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Meredith Seacrest Leach: Now that I’ve worked in children’s hospitals quite a bit with working with 11, and visiting, even more, it definitely changes you. I think I have a lot of perspective, more than I ever had before. I know it sounds so cliche, but health is wealth. Just to be so grateful, for what I do have and not focusing on what I don’t have. Seeing some of these families and what they’re going through, is hard.

Some of these young people have such a perspective on life.  I think it just really keeps me in check of what is important in life. Trying to focus on that and be present in all the positive things.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Well hello 2021!

Welcome, 2021! The world has anxiously been awaiting your arrival and we are so glad that you are finally here. Let’s face it,  last year we were all a little over-enthusiastic about your predecessor.  I think we will try harder not to put too many expectations on this year. Poor 2020 was somewhat doomed from the start. To make a joke of a year worse the hindsight that was 2020 is now crystal clear. Looking back it wasn’t so sparkly. It was a new decade, the economy was thriving and as we sat on the top of a mountain…well there only seemed to be one way off and that was down.

The expectations of 2020

What I think we didn’t realize then was that rather than a gradual hike down it would be a rapid fall with many bumps and bruises along the way. We didn’t see that the fall would be steep, long, and hard.  Most agree that we are at the bottom and some may say we still have a bit further to go. I think most of us agree that we all have a big climb back and that somehow we have to find a new way to get there.

The journey of 2020 began with the euphoric New Years filled with huge hopes, wishes, and dreams.  Maybe we were asking for a little too much? Or maybe we just didn’t realize what we had in those moments until it was gone? Again that ugly 2020 hindsight. Last year taught us gratitude in big ways. We learned to appreciate our health, freedom, gatherings, concerts, parties, school and the list goes on. We doubled down on what is important and we learned how to be patient when things didn’t go to our plan. Those were the gifts from 2020.

Goals for the New Year

Now that 2020 is behind us, what is it that you want from 2021? What is the most important thing to you? How do you want to live your life? These are the questions that I have been pondering lately. Last week when I wrote about the heroes of 2020 they all had one thing in common. Each of those heroes lives a life of purpose and one bigger than themselves. “The people who are most alive, driven, and fulfilled are those that seek to lead a life of contribution and service. To something greater than themselves.” Tony Robbins was right about that.

The Big Announcement

In 2021 I want to work harder to be that person. It means being vulnerable and putting myself out there for criticism and critique. It also means being brave and not caring about the criticism but about a purpose greater than myself.  I have been working hard for months to do just that. I am very excited to announce that I will be launching The Charity Matters Podcast where you can hear these conversations first hand. It feels selfish not to share them.! Yet, it is terrifying and invigorating all at once.

In the next few weeks, you will still receive your weekly post but it will be the highlights from the amazing conversations of these modern days heroes. Some of them are old friends you may recognize and I am so excited about some of the new inspiring conversations I have to share. I encourage you to click on the listen button and to hear them. I know you come away inspired by the best in humanity, the goodness in people, and their incredible journeys of service.

Charity Matters is Ten!

Charity Matters turns ten this year and so with a new decade and a New Year comes new growth. If there is one gift I can give to you to celebrate,  it is a front-row seat to the best of humanity.  Am I scared? Yes! Am I excited and thrilled? Absolutely! Change is good. It is scary and it is the one constant in life, another lesson we learned from good ole 2020.

So welcome 2021! I am thrilled you are here. Excited to embrace what is ahead and ready to work hard and to continue spreading the message of goodness. Thank you for being a part of this journey and wishing you all the happiest New Year! See you in a few weeks!

 

CHARITY MATTERS

 

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The Heroes of 2020

If ever there was a year that turned our planet upside is has been this one. Last year we all began 2020 with such hope. A new decade and such expectation that was to come crashing down three short months later. Now we are all counting down the days until 2020 is behind us. As someone who tries to find the silver lining in everything when I look back at 2020 I smile thinking of the amazing humans we met this year. Each of these people gives selflessly to make our world better. I thought today we would look back at some of the remarkable conversations of 2020. And a few highlights.

The Kindness Campaign: Andra Liemandt

We began 2020 by talking to the founder of the Kindness Campaign to learn about their mission to serve the socio-emotional needs of children. This year their work was more important than ever. You can revisit the full conversation, here.

CHARITY MATTERS: WHAT WAS THE MOMENT YOU KNEW YOU NEEDED TO ACT AND START  THE KINDNESS CAMPAIGN?

Andra Liemandt: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens. Several years ago this touched my life in a very powerful and profound way when a dear friend of ours took her own life and she was just 12 years old and it was a direct result of bullying.  There was no path for me to start a nonprofit or any inkling that I would be sitting here five years later talking to you about this. That event changed my life forever and was the catalyst for an ongoing healing process with my daughters.

Homelessness:

There are so many incredible organizations trying to help the homeless. This year we met more than a few. These two women especially stand out for their incredible compassion and dedication to serving the homeless.  Heather Carmichael has been working with homeless youth for almost two decades at My Friends Place and  Caitlin Adler works to ensure that the homeless have proper clothing through her nonprofit Project Ropa.

 My Friends Place: Heather CArmichael

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Heather Carmichael: There are so many. The landscape around addressing homelessness is under such dynamic change. For years, no one spoke about homelessness and now we have an epidemic crisis. Communities are overwhelmed and LA is in such pain about this. How do we continue to engage communities in meaningful ways so that we maintain momentum towards a solution? 

I feel very grateful to be doing the work at My Friend’s Place, where our main priority is to resolve these young people’s homelessness while continuing to create meaningful opportunities to see the impact and to feel involved. How do we scale to that in a meaningful way? A multitude of things got us here and it will take a multitude of things to fix this. We need to create meaningful opportunities to get our community and supporters involved in understanding and being a part of the solution.

Project Ropa: Caitlin Adler

Caitlin Adler created Project Ropa in 2015 to address the challenges that homeless people face in obtaining and keeping clean clothes. Though homelessness is accompanied by many things, one of its greatest indignities comes from the absence of hygiene services.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Project Ropa does?

Caitlin Adler:  Most homeless people literally have only the clothes on their backs. Access to clean clothing is essential to the overall well-being of a person and can be the key to opening doors to employment and housing. How you look affects how you feel about yourself and how others treat you. Now, because of the health threats posed by the coronavirus, the need to overcome those challenges has become ever greater.

Health:

Claire Marie Foundation: Marianne Banister

When former LA reporter Marianne Banister lost her 17-year-old daughter, Claire to melanoma. She and her husband went to work to get the word out about this cancer and created the Claire Marie Foundation.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what THE Claire Marie Foundation does?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: When this happened to our family, to our daughter, Claire, we were blindsided. And because even the medical profession did not realize kids could get melanoma at this age. It looked different than adult melanoma and it was more aggressive and more invasive. according to pediatricians. Melanoma is the number two, cancer in adolescence from 10 to 19 and the number one cancer in young adults from 20 to 29. This cancer is the number one cause of cancer death and young women 25 to 30. In young people, this disease is more aggressive and invasive than in older people.

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  Claire. There’s never anything that’s going to make it right that we lost her. There’s never any sense to it. But I truly believe this is her purpose. And if I don’t keep this foundation going and do the work that needs to be done, and I’m not fulfilling her purpose, and we would have lost her for no reason.

Brave Gowns: Summer Germann

Summer Germann is no stranger to hospitals, illness, tragedy, or adversity. What is remarkable about Summer is that she uses all of this adversity, including COVID, as fuel for good. She is a bright light who started a nonprofit Brave Gowns and when COVID hit she reached out to her team to begin manufacturing PPE (personal protective gear) in the form of masks for thousands of health care workers across the country. A modern-day hero.

Charity Matters: How did you decide to get into the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) for COVID?

Summer Germann:  Friday, March 13th  I called my designer and I knew we had to figure out a way to help. We had talked about making masks and families have asked us for years. I knew we could make them fun. I called my factory and told them what I wanted to do and they had already started a prototype three weeks before. I said you have to give me a product that I believe in and this isn’t about money. They sent over the prototype and I said, “Okay, I just launched.” By Monday we had 11,000 orders.

Scarlet C of COVID

I hate to end this year with this story but COVID was the defining story of 2020. This article was reprinted by a number of magazines and publications and had more views than any piece I wrote in 2020 so it was worth an honorable mention on the list.

 While I didn’t interview any specific health care workers but rather organizations that support them, it is worth mentioning that our front line workers were THE true superheroes of 2020.

There are so many remarkable humans on this planet and these are just a few. As 2020 comes to a close and we look to a New Year ahead I think there are so many qualities to emulate that each of these heroes possesses. Tony Robbins sums up these heroes perfectly when he said, “The people who are most alive, driven and fulfilled are those that seek to lead a life of contribution and service. To something greater than themselves.”  Thank you, Andra, Heather, Caitlin, Marianne, and Summer for showing us by example what true service and living a life of contribution looks like. At the end of the day isn’t that what we are all striving for?

Wishing all of you blessings for a most joyous and Happy New Year!

 

CHARITY MATTERS

 

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A Christmas Wish for 2020

I know this year has been difficult for many of us. When I began thinking about how this year has affected us all, I think that we have a renewed appreciation for one another and most especially our health. This image from It’s a Wonderful Life is a reminder of what happens when we realize what we have and not what is lost. This year our priorities have shifted in the best of ways, our self-care, appreciation for what is important, and how we spend our time. 2020 has changed all of this. As Christmas is just a few days away I thought I would share a few inspirational thoughts to keep us focusing on the true meaning of the season and what matters.

“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope; The spirit of Christmas which is peace; The heart of Christmas which is love.”

Ada V. Hendricks

“Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see the joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.”

Thomas S. Monson

“At Christmas, all roads lead home.”

 Marjorie Holmes

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

 Bob Hope

 

It is a wonderful life despite the challenges we face. We have much to be grateful for. Wishing you and yours the most magical Christmas season. Merry Christmas! 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Another lap around the sun

The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”

Ernst Nightingale

Today marks another lap around the sun. Another year has passed and there is another candle on the cake. More than the passage of time or the counting of candles a new year brings another opportunity for growth. A chance to do better, to be better, to learn, and to try harder.

With every passing year, I see the hourglasses sand falling faster and realize that each precious grain is a moment. A moment to choose how to spend our time. Each grain is a gift that must be opened, treasured, celebrated, and used to the greatest good. It all sounds so simple and yet it isn’t. The grains fall so fast, the time passes, and then we ask ourselves how did I miss that moment? We find ourselves saying, “Where did the time go?” As the sand keeps on falling…

I chuckle when I think of the opening line from the soap opera my mom used to watch in the ’70s that said, “As the sand in an hourglass these are Days of Our Lives…”  Who knew that all of these years later I would find wisdom in something I once thought so silly? I think that is the pursuit, to continue to search for wisdom, for guidance, for light, and for love.

My life is so full of blessings of health, family, and dear friendships that I must continue to use the time remaining, whatever that may be, to use my gifts to be a voice for others. To be a messenger of hope. To help the helpers and to serve those who serve us.  My birthday wish is clear and I am committing that I will continue to do better, to try harder, to learn more, and to be better in this mission.

A birthday is a gift, just as a day or a moment is….another opportunity to use each grain of sand towards the greatest good. Another day to grow, to learn, to give….

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Happy 50th Anniversary Earth Day!

“The Earth is what we all have in common.”

Wendell Berry

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. With hundreds of thousands of non-profit organizations, I have to admit I find myself focusing on people helping people and less on the environment. However, as the daughter of a recycler (my Dad was in the wastepaper recycling business for decades, starting in the 60s before there was an Earth Day) I have spent a lifetime being taught about the environment and ecology.

I must admit I was fascinated to learn that Earth Day began when Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin witnessed the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and the subsequent protests that followed. Gaylord realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, he could force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment.”That first event was April 22nd, 1970.

That day over 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. That first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 1990, twenty years later, Senator Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, for his role as Earth Day founder. Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and historically over a billion people will volunteer each year, organize an event in their community, change a habit,  launch a community garden, reach out to elected representatives, do something nice for the Earth and make a difference.

This year Earth Day organizers are inviting us to sign up for virtual events around the globe. So if you don’t get a chance to do something great for our planet here are some ways to join in some virtual events. In addition, Earth Day organizers have a list here of eleven ways you can help the earth during a pandemic.

Some of these are simple ways we can make our lives and our planets healthier such as; plant a garden or begin to compost, cleaning out and giving away your things and take a real inventory of what you have and what you need to eliminate waste.

When we all come together, as we are seeing our planet do right now in historic ways, we can make an enormous impact.

 

Charity Matters.

 

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The Reset

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

To be honest I have somewhat lost count of days. We went into self-quarantine on March 12th after returning from our trip. We have everyone home and are safe.  Like you, we are wondering what’s next? It is a surreal time for every human on the planet. I am trying to find a new normal with work and the boy’s home while continuing to provide content that provides a little inspiration during these difficult times.

While I have a handful of interviews cued up, it somehow does not seem like business as usual and the next few week’s posts are probably going to be more on the state of things than our usual conversations and interviews. There will be time for that once we are through this. So for now, I wanted to share this poem I came across by Jeff Foster. It brought me to pause, reflect, to find grace and gratitude amongst uncertainty and I hope it does the same for you:

When y0u shift your focus from what is absent to what is present, 

From what is missing to what has been given, 

From what you are not to who you are,

From the ravages of linear time, to the immediacy of Now

You are reconnecting with love, truth, and beauty and abundance is yours effortlessly.

For in truth, nothing is lacking where you are, 

Nothing is missing from the present scene of the movie of your life,

And you are forever full and at the point of completion.

The only reason you cannot find Oneness is because you never left.

The day is just waiting to be lived.

So breathe in life friend, breathe in life.

 

Charity Matters

 

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