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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.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.
New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

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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.

Loss

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. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Copyright © 2022 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The 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.

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 © 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 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.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

The days are long and the years are short. That is exactly how I feel about summer. There are moments that the long hot days feel never ending and yet in the blink of an eye summer is practically gone. Some  schools are actually back in session! It truly is a wonder.

Summer is a crazy time for me, especially with TACSC. Our summer youth leadership programs are the pinnacle of our year.  As a result, Charity Matters takes a brief vacation. So thank you all for your patience. We are excited to launch Season Four of our Podcast next week and we have been busy these past few weeks gathering some amazing stories for you.

It’s hard to believe that we already have four seasons under our belt. We are so grateful for all of you who have subscribed  and left reviews, we are grateful for every last one! We had thought about launching Season Four today because it is National Nonprofit Day. 

What is National Nonprofit Day? It is a day set aside to recognize the immense effort nonprofits put into impacting their communities across the globe. We decided to give everyone another week to get settled and back to school. New episodes of Charity Matters  celebrating all the incredible humans who work tirelessly everyday to make your world better through the nonprofit organizations they create. It is all cause for celebration. So happy end of summer, happy back to school and Happy National Nonprofit Day!

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 © 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.

Love Your City

It is always so nice when the tables are turned, being a guest is always much easier than being a host. So when Bob Dalton, the founder of Love Your City, podcast reached out it was an easy yes. Bob is an amazing entrepreneur who founded the socially conscious company Sackcloth and Ash. His business follows the Tom’s Shoes model that you buy a blanket and give a blanket to the homeless. His mission is to blanket America.

In addition to Sackcloth and Ash, he has launched a new venture called Love Your City. His goal is to connect people to their  local grassroots nonprofits to get them to donate, volunteer and advocate for their communities.  He is highlighting this work  by interviewing nonprofit founders across the country who are doing great work. Sound familiar? If you like Charity Matters than you will most definitely enjoy Love Your City. 

Here is the link to our fantastic conversation. It was so fun chatting charity, good people and our mutual journey of finding them. Take a listen and make sure to check out Love Your City.

Thank you again for continuing to join us on the journey for good people doing amazing work.

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 © 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.

Melanoma, looking twice

Summer is in full swing and that means the sun is strong. I was recently at the dermatologist getting checked out. My visit reminded me of this conversation a couple years back. So I thought I would re-share it again today for all you sun lovers.

Growing up in LA, Marianne Banister was a familiar face on daily on our local ABC news station. She was always reporting from a storm, a flood, a fire…some sort of disaster. When a friend suggested that I reach out to interview Marianne, who now lives in Baltimore, I was a bit intimidated. Marianne and her husband lost their 17-year-old daughter Claire to melanoma.

Their family was determined to fulfill  Claire’s vision to provide clarity and hope in the fight against adolescent and young adult melanoma through their work at the Claire Marie Foundation. They are on a mission to ensure awareness, education, and prevention of cancer that has increased 250% in the last forty years.

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. 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 deaths in young women 25 to 30. For young people, this disease is more aggressive and invasive than in older people.

We’re the only nonprofit in the country that focuses on preventing melanoma specifically in adolescents and young adults. We are not trying to treat it and we’re not doing research to find an answer to find the new drug or the therapy. Nobody’s helping to prevent it and that’s our job.

CMF Five Year Retrospective 2019 from Claire Marie Foundation on Vimeo.

Charity Matters: Can you tell us what the risk factors of Melanoma are?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  If you wear sunscreen, if you wear up 50 SPF clothing,  if you don’t go to a tanning booth and if you advocate for yourself. That’s it, then you’re good. I want to add empower yourself to advocate and get at the front of it. Our whole goal is to get people in and connect them with a dermatologist. If you don’t already have a patient relationship with a dermatologist, it can take three to five months to get your first appointment. 

Charity Matters: Can you share some of Claire’s Journey?

Marianne Banister WagonhurstClaire got a routine skin exam at 13.  Every year we had them checked and had no history in the family. We had lived in Southern California and being a reporter I was aware of it. We went back six months later for her yearly exam. About a week before that the mole on her ankle that she was born with started to change. However, it didn’t look like what we’re educated to look at for melanoma. It wasn’t thick, it wasn’t dark. The borders were not irregular, none of that it just looked a little dusty gray in color. Unfortunately, it was a melanoma. 

About her junior year when we thought we were well past Claire said, “Mom, why do you think this happened to us?” I said, “Maybe being who you are because you’re so positive and energized. And being what I do professionally, you know, maybe we can do this together when you’re ready?” Claire said, “Yeah, when I’m a senior, then it won’t matter. And I can advocate.”  

She still was not quite there yet wanting to share her story. So we knew down the road, that’s what she would want to do. The bottom line is I just couldn’t sit here with this information and not warn other parents. If someone had raised the flag of awareness before us, then maybe she’d still be here.

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  We started with community support and  launched in October 2014.   Claire’s friends from her school wanted to help and do something.  One of her best buddies since childhood called me and said,” Hey, Miss Marion, do you have a logo?”  I was like, Why? I mean, we knew we were going to do something, but we are just trying to get through the grief and to deal with things.

Claire’s friends did this dance a THON and raised $24,000 called Moves for Claire. I didn’t know how many people my daughter knew.  There were 500 kids there and they had sponsorships. We realized they’re listening and paying attention now, so we need to take advantage of this. If we wanted to do this in her memory, we had to do it quickly. Her friends have been our biggest force.

So because of them we then went forward. We have collegiate ambassadors, who started the program.  They were in the high school class of 2015 and the college class of 2019. Almost one hundred of them are now  on 46 campuses. Each of them are doing peer to peer education, mentoring and awareness programs.

My husband cycled 620 miles to symbolically take her to college. Claire was accepted to college just a couple of days before she passed. So she got accepted to Georgia, Southern University, Alabama. So he cycled from Charleston to Georgia Southern into Bama. We did this big media raising campaign and because it was a football game that she promised her dad he could go with her. It was a way of him to process it and honor her. In addition, it was a way for us to raise awareness. 

The kids came up with a lot of these ideas. Today, we have partnerships with US lacrosse and we work with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Our organization has been to Capitol Hill to campaign for funding and support for research. We are developing a partnership with Teen Cancer America. If a young person is going through cancer, guess what that puts them at elevated risk for melanoma.

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. If I don’t keep this foundation going and do the work that needs to be done, then I’m not fulfilling her purpose.  That means we would have lost her for no reason.

She has changed lives and she has saved lives. We have had a number of young people who have found melanomas early and they always tell me,” You know, I thought of Claire, and I went and got it checked and it was a melanoma.”

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: My husband always says if we save one kid, we’ve done our work. We’ve done that many times over. I think what I’m most proud of is we’re changing the narrative.  Because of us, many organizations are now creating a Young Adult adolescent melanoma focus.  In six years, we’re starting conversations, and making people understand that it’s just not a matter of putting on sunscreen, and calling it a day.  It’s elevating the importance and value that young people are getting this disease to the rate they are and that it is not rare.

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst:  The dream would be that every young person from two-years-old on should incorporate full-body dermoscopy-based skin screenings every year, as part of their WellCare. When they go to their pediatrician and their eye doctor and their dentist, they see the dermatologist, they get checked, that becomes part of their routine.

 We just don’t want anybody else to go through what we did, because it’s so darn preventable. When you think about it, melanoma is one of the cancers that you have the best odds of seen visually externally on your body. A screening takes 10 minutes.  You don’t have to drink anything, don’t have to get an MRI and you don’t have to get a CAT scan. All you need is 10 minutes with a dermatologist with a scope. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: I think one of the changes that surprised me is you get a different identity. You realize that you cannot go back to life as it was because it’s no longer there. So you have to recreate yourself. I’m in a different world.  So I’ve expanded the people in my life.

 I’ve had a lot of loss in my life.  I’ve always lived my life as you have to thoroughly embrace it each day as it is. My faith is stronger than ever because I know she’s fine. I know she’s okay. 

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

Marianne Banister Wagonhurst: We’ve been asked this by other parents often how we dealt with the grief. We just had to dig down to this just horrendous feeling and we had to feel but then able to come out the other side. And it seems like to me that at some point of grief you have to process this pain. I think for me because I always remembered that conversation we had about Claire helping others, I know she would be proud of this.  

It’s not that you ever want this to happen, but if it does, to know that something has been inspired by her in a positive way. That’s what we look at.  Our daughter is having a great impact because of what we’re doing and that’s the best we can do for those we love.

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Voluntourism in 2022

It’s summertime and with that means travel and family trips. It seems that summer gets shorter every year and that means a very small windows for travel. I’m not letting that slow me down but rather am already beginning to plan for next year.

Our youngest will be graduating from college and it seems like the perfect time for a family trip that involves voluntourism or volunteering and travel. Since I have begun my research I thought I would share it with you. My first stop was a web-site chock full of information called Voluntourism.Org where you can learn about hundreds of opportunities and how to plan your trip.

Pre-planning check list:

A few things to keep in mind in the planning stages of your trip.

1. Do your homework

2. Ask yourself and your family what do you really want to achieve from this experience? Help others? Bond with your family? Get into a great college?

3. Choose a reputable organization to partner with

4. Involve your family in all the pre-planning process.

5. Document the experience with video, photos and journals.

There are thousands of online sources promising you and your family amazing experiences but finding reputable ones can be overwhelming. Here are a few volunteer programs that had some great endorsements:

Volunteer Programs to consider:

1. Global Volunteer Network

2. Cross Cultural Solutions

3. Rebuilding Together U.S. based program that builds homes across the country

4.  Pack for a Purpose

5.  Peace Jam

6.  Projects Abroad

There are also organizations that would love to have you visit learn about their mission, and volunteer to help further a given cause.  The downside is that you will have to do the investigation yourself by reaching out to organizations individually.  This can be a daunting task and challenging from a booking perspective. It can also be rewarding if you have a charity, organization, or cause you want to devote your time and efforts too.

Ecotourism is incredibly popular so if you are looking for a trip that involves working to save the planet or a species here are a few suggestions:

Ideas for Ecotourism travel:

1.  GoNomad

2.  Transitions Abroad

3.  GoAbroad 

4.  GoVoluntouring

5.  GoEco.org

So whether you go now or next year, travel near or far….know that your time is your greatest gift. Think about sharing that precious resource with your family in helping another. Those are the moments that make an impact on all involved.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

 

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

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Looking back at West Coast Sports Associates

Summer is in full swing and it is a season when we all what to go outside and play. For many students who live in the inner city playing, sports more specifically isn’t an option. Twenty-five years ago four college buddies who loved sports decided to change all of that for thousands of kids across Southern California.

Join us today as we look back at a fantastic conversation with one of the founders of West Coast Sports Associates, Mike Gottlieb. As Mike shares the journey of turning a passion for sports into an incredible nonprofit organization that has raised millions for inner-city youth.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what West Coast Sports Associates does?

Mike Gottlieb: It’s not like a lot of other charities out there.  We found kind of a gap in the youth sports world that we’re hoping to fill and grow. Our niche is lower and middle-school-aged children who live in underserved areas, getting them access to team sports.  We all have such great experiences with youth sports growing up, that we just can’t imagine what things would be like for kids if they couldn’t afford to play sports? And there are so many benefits to youth sports.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start West Coast Sports Associates?

Mike Gottlieb: It all started with three really good friends of mine that I’ve known since college, Chip Eggers, Alan Lynch, and Mike Rosenberg. What we all have in common was a passion for sports. We didn’t necessarily have the end result of what West Coast sports Associates was but we knew we had something. A few morning breakfasts and we finally kind of came up with the concept.

We all have had such great experiences playing team sports growing up and we want to make sure that all kids had the same access. To start, we didn’t know what to do. So we decided to have an event where we’re each going to invite five or 10 friends of ours. We would host it, and tell people about our plan. And honestly, we’re not expecting anything.

Meanwhile, Alan was good friends with Steve Soboroff, who at the time, was the head of La Parks and Rec. Alan worked with Steve who identified a park in South LA called Jim Gilliam Park. They had a lot of at-risk kids who were foster kids and or their parents couldn’t afford to pay the entry fee to play flag football, soccer, basketball, or whatever sport. So we decided whether we put up $10,000 to support their programs for the year and let the park director pick the kids. He focused on kids who stayed out of trouble and went to school.  We put them all on scholarship.

We started in 1994 with just four of us committing $10,000 to today giving out about $200,000 a year. And it just happened because we all had this same passion for sports.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Mike Gottlieb: Well, I would say when we first started, we grew slowly.  We were all volunteers for maybe the first 10 years. We had no, literally no help and we just did it all ourselves.  I think during Mike Rosenberg’s term, he finally brought on a part-time executive director. Over time the part-time Executive Director evolved into a full-time Executive Director.  Our treasurer and board members we’re all volunteers.

All of the founders have all taken turns being President. Between the four founders, everyone in our group, there’s a connection to one of the four of us. We all have this passion for sports. I guess you could say we turned an addiction to sports into something positive.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We’re not here, because we’re searching for the next professional athlete. We’re just here to help the average kid just participate in sports. We want them to get the life lessons when you play sports, you have to be more organized with your time, learn time management, learn how to listen, follow directions and learn how to be a leader. The statistics about the future health of these kids that do and don’t participate in sports are really mind-boggling. Students who participate in sports have better grades, stay out of trouble, form friendships, have more self-confidence, are healthier and the list goes on. We are just trying to help the average kid and there are so many benefits that we know we are making a difference.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We’ve been doing this so long. I read the other day that Russell Westbrook used to play sports at one of our parks. And there’s Tony who played for the Dallas Cowboys who played another park. So we do it enough, we’re going to get some success stories. Those success stories are, are pretty exciting, because you just you never know, the kid who can’t play, he’s going to do something else. In those underserved areas, that’s something else that may not be good. I think we all know in our hearts, that there are kids we’ve saved because they’ve been able to play sports. How many I don’t know that. I know for a fact that that happened.

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

Mike Gottlieb:  I would say, half of our programs are different parks in LA City Parks and Recs. The other half are nonprofits that directly do different sports like Heart Harlem lacrosse or Beat the streets for wrestling. We not only support the Parks and Recs departments but then, in addition,  give funds to nonprofits that are supporting work with special needs kids.

We did actually, the first-ever public-private partnership between The City of LA, twenty-some years ago with youth soccer. When you understand how AYSO works, they’re all volunteers and they don’t have a big budget, like the clubs. So they really have to just kind of scrap to get facilities to get fields. So we put together the first-ever partnership with LA. and have done more of those public-private partnerships since.  We’re trying to do more to empower a nonprofit or the parks.  The idea is that we hope when we start with a particular location, that we can get them off the ground, and ultimately they can become self-sufficient in raising their own funds. Then we can take that money and find someone else and that’s what we tried to do.

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

Mike Gottlieb: We have thought about expanding,  so we are doing more in Orange County. That was kind of a test model and we’ve sponsored some programs down here. Can we do something in San Diego, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Portland, and Seattle? Then we’re really on the whole west coast. I would love to be able to see this happen in other cities and there are other groups that do things like this. Not exactly, but in every major city there is some group that’s helping with youth sports. In theory, we could franchise. It would be great to see this adapted in other cities and help welcome.

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

Mike Gottlieb: Oh, gosh you know, you look back and realize we didn’t know when we started where we were going. In looking back on it I feel really good that not only have we helped the kids, but we’ve energized people in our group to go out to help our mission.  They’ve also expanded into other youth helping other youth out whether it’s sports or academics or other at-risk kids.  I think we’ve created an inertia that and we’re examples to other people. I think, “Okay, we’ve energized hundreds of people. And we’ve raised probably $5 million-plus but it’s just I think it’s the domino effect. A really positive domino effect.  We know without our work and without us, that doesn’t happen so that that feels good.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Mike Gottlieb:  The other hope is that whatever your passion is you can do the same thing. Whether it’s sports or a cure for a disease, whatever your passion is you can do the same thing. Our hearts just happened to be sports and kids, because that was just pure.  Whatever your passion is, all you got to do is find one other person, and then talk about what you’d like to do. Don’t have any ambitious plans about how fast you grow, it can be small, if you just affect one other person, you’ve done something positive. That’s why I love what you’re doing, getting the stories out of the founders, in hopes that it’ll encourage other people to do the same thing.  You know, at the end of the day, give more than you get.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

As summer camps are in full gear everyone is looking for great ways to engage their children this summer. Since we are looking back at some fantastic conversations we had earlier this year, it seemed like a great time to revisit our conversation with Bre Russell.  Bre is developing the next generation of women leaders through her amazing nonprofit, Girls Leading Girls.

Join us as Bre shares her inspirational journey from a student-athlete to a nonprofit founder teaching thousands of young women how to lead. So if you haven’t heard this conversation, treat yourself with a long summer day and listen  to this amazing human.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Girls Leading Girls does?

Bre Russell: We are a nonprofit that trains girls and women in leadership advocacy and life skills through soccer. We are the first-ever all-girls soccer organization with all-women coaches. Every year we serve over 700 girls ages five to 17 in the Bay Area.

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

Bre Russell:  I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. That was always something that appealed to me.  I worked at a young age because we were just trying to survive my family. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, and I relied on a lot of people to help.  My coaches making soccer even possible for me was huge. As a result, seeing other people helped me made me want to pay it forward and help others.

I’ve been playing soccer since I was five years old. Soccer was the game that I fell in love with it. It was a place where I was recognized, I could just be myself, and I could escape the struggles that I was facing at home or in school. During my time at Sacramento State, I played soccer and then after college, I decided to go into the Peace Corps. I was living in a village on a really small rural Island. A place where women didn’t have a lot of opportunities. Some girls saw me playing and then asked if they could play with me. After that,  we formed a team.

I found out FIFA was hosting a tournament nearby on another island and I organized to get us fundraising for uniforms. We went to the island and played on this hot volcanic ash. Three days into this tournament, we ended up winning first place. It was one of the highest moments I ever felt from such a big challenge. We won this huge Wimbledon size trophy. When we came back to the community they were waiting for us with flowers on the beach, to congratulate us. They were so proud of us! The team wanted to run around the community with the trophy.

A light bulb went off that soccer is not just a sport, it’s a vehicle for women’s empowerment, economic opportunity, equality, and community change.  These women were now seen as winners and that was all that I needed. When I came back from that experience, I knew I needed to start Girls leading Girls.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Bre Russell: Well, it’s definitely a grind, I think all entrepreneurship starts as you are grinding, you’re hustling. After Peace Corps, I was working full time for another nonprofit and building this on the side.  I was also coaching soccer in the community and that’s really what helped me get it going.  People in the community here in San Francisco, saw me coaching and said, “Can you coach our daughter? Because there are not enough women coaches.” This was in 2014 in San Francisco.

There’s definitely a lack of representation of women in sports at all levels. Eight years later, we’re starting to see that change.  When will we have women as not just referees and athletes, but owners of these higher-level clubs and teams? The challenge is there are not enough women coaches. We are essentially trying to change something that is also making it hard for us to do what we do.

We are recruiting, training and mentoring women to become coaches, which most never think that they can. So there are psychological barriers there. And we’re going up against male-run the old traditional model of coaching.  This is why we are trying to create something different because the old traditional model really was a disservice to girls.  Girls dropping out of sports at young ages, the statistics are there. Did you know that girls drop out of sports by age 12? That is over 50% rate that boys do.

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

Bre Russell:  There are a couple of things that fuel me. One is the girls in the program. Some of them I’ve known for eight years. To see them start with me and then to see them develop from a young age into confident, strong, young women on and off the field is just amazing. I mean, this is the beauty of kids that grow so fast. You can see that growth right before your eyes.

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

Bre Russell: We serve 736 Girls.  That was our biggest year yet and that was amazing coming off a COVID. As I said the demand is higher because of health issues and the stagnation of being home. It’s all come out in the surveys we put out to the girls and their parents. To hear things like, “Oh, my daughter lost her joy for life during COVID, when she came to your summer camp, it was like, she was a new person.”  Or,” I’ve never seen her smile like that once. ”

Hearing those stories are really an impact. That’s the depth. It’s not just soccer, we are teaching these girls confidence, self-esteem, and positive peer relationships, and we’re building them up, because, there is this huge confidence gap for girls. For me, it’s seeing this organization grow and how many girls we serve, but then also seeing the impact.

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

Bre Russell: When I was coaching, one of the key things I would say is,” What’s the most important play on the field?” They would say,” The next play.” So whatever just happened, let that go. Now you are focused on the next play.  I think we can apply that to life too. Because things happen to us and it can help you see that moments are temporary. It can help you really savor the positive wonderful moments too because you know, it’s not going to last. Then it also gives you the action of okay, what am I in control of? What is important to do next?  So it’s teaching many different things.

With my staff, we say,” Done, is better than perfect.” This is particularly important for women because perfectionism is a problem. We want to be so perfect that no one can criticize us. That’s what it stems from. I tell them all the time,”Done is better than perfect.” Perfectionism doesn’t exist.  We’re here to learn, right? I’d rather see something than nothing.  I’d rather you take a risk than not at all because you’re waiting for it to be perfect.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Bre Russell: I’ve definitely changed. When I went into the Peace Corps, I was 25 wide-eyed, and hopeful. I think I’ve changed in a variety of ways. Growing this organization, I’ve definitely learned to be more patient. In the process, of working with people in growth being more patient is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned.

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

Bre Russell:  The dream is to expand and open branches of our program all over the world, starting in the US, and then having that impact worldwide. That would mean serving hundreds of 1000s of girls and women, empowering them to be confident and be leaders on and off the field.  It would give them the tools they needed to succeed whether or not they continued in the sport. We’re teaching them how to take risks, how to speak confidently, and how to go after what they want. So when they are older, they can have that conversation about a pay raise with their boss, or they can ask for that promotion. The goal is to just help the girls we serve to live the best life and go after what they want with confidence.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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Looking back at Miracle Messages

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

Join us as Kevin shares the story of his uncle who lived on the streets and how his uncle’s death inspired the creation of Miracle Messages. A nonprofit that not only reconnects the homeless to their loved ones but also provides a social connection through a phone buddy system and provides cash for rent once the unhoused person is ready.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Miracle Messages does?

Kevin Adler: We help our unhoused neighbors rebuild their social support systems and financial security, primarily through family reunifications, a phone buddy system, and direct cash transfers.

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

Kevin Adler: This work begins really with my own family. I had an uncle, who was very beloved to me. Uncle Mark was his name and he suffered from schizophrenia. He lived on and off the streets of Santa Cruz for 30 years. One day I was in college and I got a phone call from my dad telling me that Uncle Mark was found deceased at a halfway house at the age of 50.

I never thought about the life he was living on the streets. It wasn’t until years later that I was in San Francisco, that I found myself walking by our neighbors experiencing homelessness. I said, Gosh, everyone I’m walking by that’s someone’s son or daughter, brother, sister. So it got me thinking, what would it look like to help neighbors experiencing homelessness, people like my Uncle Mark, maybe share their stories, the stories that I didn’t know.

It wasn’t trying to solve a problem and create an organization.  I started a side project storytelling project called The Homeless GoPro. For one year, I invited 24 individuals experiencing homelessness to wear wearable cameras around their chests and narrate their experience of what life is like. When I got the footage back I was just shocked by what I heard and saw. One quote really stood out. It was,” I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing. Only when I lost my family and friends.”

Long story short, I approached everyone I saw who was experiencing homelessness and asked, “Do you have any loved ones you’d like to reconnect with?” That’s how I met a man named Jeffery. He told me he hadn’t seen his family in 12 years. Jeffery recorded a video with his niece and nephew, his sister, and his dad. I went home and I got on Facebook and found a Facebook group connected to his hometown.

So I posted the video there and within one hour, that video got shared hundreds of times. It made the local news that night the leading story. Classmates started commenting, I went to high school with Jeffrey, I work in construction. Does he need a job? And in the first 20 minutes of the post, his sister got tagged. We got on the phone the next day and it turned out Jeffrey had been a missing person for 12 years.

The starting point of Miracle Messages was when Jeffrey reconnected with his family. I asked sister Jennifer, “This thing that seems to be bigger than just Jeffrey and your relationship. There seems there might be others, who are experiencing this issue. What should we call this, this initiative?” She said, “Well, we’re in this small town and people have referred to it the story as the miracle of Montoursville. And it’s Christmas, maybe it’s called the Miracle message.”

That’s the name and the vision from day one, which no one should go through homelessness alone. Hard to believe that was December 2014.

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

Kevin Adler: An impact is a person who’s experiencing homelessness, potentially getting off the streets. About 20% of the reunions lead to housing. Impact involves the cost savings that generates. When it costs us thousands of dollars compared to cities spending between $40,000 to $60,000 per unhoused person per year to maintain them on the streets for one year. The impact can be measured in the lives and the perspectives of the volunteers, who say, “I never knew I could do anything on the issue of homelessness, I felt a very low sense of personal efficacy in making an impact. But now I feel empowered.”

An impact can also be measured in the fact that we’ve received over 100 million views on our videos on Facebook. We’ve had over a million shares, and over 700 articles written about us. These all change the hearts and minds of people. When you see a video about a person experiencing homelessness, reconnecting with a loved one or being in a phone Buddy Program, or getting $500 a month towards rent then it changes your perspective.

So you know, we take impact seriously. I also think anyone who listens to their unhoused neighbors and or volunteers and has their heart or mind shifted or opened as a result, that’s an immeasurable impact that we’re very proud of as well.

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

Kevin Adler: For us, that dream is that no one goes through homelessness alone. I would love to end that sentence one word early. No one goes through homelessness. People generally have the knowledge and wherewithal of what is best for them but they just aren’t given the agency. They are not afforded the same opportunities that we all expect in this country. So just giving people the financial support, they need to make ends meet, and the social support, they need to get through tough times and be celebrated at good times. That’s really what we’re committed to at Miracle Messages.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Kevin Adler: My values are the same. What drives me as a person, my faith, and how I look at people have not changed.  I think I’ve grown a lot. I’ve realized that my story is about one story and the importance of really hearing other stories.  I’ve realized how much harder this work can be, but also how it’s so so important to keep the core foundation in mind to keep the perspective. So yes, I think I’ve grown a ton as a person. But I also think fundamentally, I’m still the precocious kid who was just comfortable walking around the neighborhood talking to my neighbors.

 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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

Time for a little break…

Memorial Day has come and gone, college graduations are wrapped up and schools are just a couple weeks from summer. So it seems that it might be time for a little break. Our amazing Charity Matters team (Emma, Jack , Ana Sofia and Vinny) have worked tirelessly all year to help bring these stories to you. Everyone, even the hardest working students around need a little respite. For me, while running a nonprofit with a huge summer program is hardly relaxing, it does require my full attention.

So for the next couple weeks we are going to be looking back at this incredible season of interviews. We met remarkable people this past season who truly showed us each week how amazing Americans are. The news may tell us one thing but the fact remains that there are so many kind compassionate humans and it is our pleasure to introduce you to them.

Thank you in advance for joining us each week for these inspirational conversations. It is hard to believe that we already have three seasons of the podcast in the books. We can’t wait to look back at some of this seasons conversations and we are getting excited for Season 4.

We continue to be grateful for this community and for your incredible support.

 

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 © 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 43: Roots for Boots

Today is Memorial Day, a national day when we honor and and recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of service. So it is only fitting that today we are having a conversation with an incredible nonprofit Roots for Boots that serves those who serve, our veterans.

Christy Lucus, founder of Roots for Boots is an inspiration and was beyond fun to talk too. Join us to learn the amazing story of Christy’s journey from a school principal to a nonprofit founder. You will see why her official title is Chief Enthusiasm Officer!

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Roots for Boots does?

Christy Lucas: We are a grassroots organization and our mission is basically to meet whatever need or challenge a veteran active duty or military family would have. And we like to invite the community to come in to use their own gifts, talents and resources to help us and we like to say that your way of serving your country.

The thing about Roots for Boots is we don’t have a specific niche.  A lot of nonprofits do hunting trips or fishing trips with veterans. For us, no day is ever the same. We could be helping with rent, utilities, home repairs, or car repairs. One of the things that I love to do is to provide the All Terrain action track wheelchairs for our veterans. Those are for our veterans that have issues with mobility outside. These are the wheelchairs that have the tracks on them, a fishing pole attachment, and they’ve got a swivel on for their firearm. The wheelchairs even have a snowplow and they’re just amazing.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Roots for Boots?

Christy Lucas: From very early age, all I ever want to do is help people. When I was little, that’s all I did. And then when I had to figure out what I wanted to do as far career, I decided to go into teaching. So I went to teaching got my degree and I ended up at a Catholic school in Missouri Sound, Pennsylvania. It was just the little town that reminded me of Mayberry that was just a very simple close knit community. So I taught there for 14 years.

I always see God’s hand and everything that I’ve done here.  You just never know where he’s going to take you. When I decided to teach, I went back to school to get my master’s in education. Well, I got the job and Annunciation in the middle of that program.  I was like, I do not want to ever be a principal ever. 14 years later, the school needed a principal…. and I’ll tell you, that was a hardest job. That was the absolute hardest job I’ve ever had.

When I taught and when I became principal,  I did the Veterans Day assemblies.  I think this is where everything started. When I did the Veterans Day assemblies, I got to hear their stories, and the struggles of our veterans, especially our local, military. Then we saw some of our families have deployments who had military members in their family.  And I saw that end of it as well. So I really got a connection there.

I come from a patriotic family where my dad’s a Marine. My grandfather served in World War II, my  great grandfather served in World War I and an uncle in the Navy. My father in law was in the Korean War. So it was just all around.  Love that surrounding your whole time yet you don’t always see it. So when I became principal, I used that platform more.  I brought military in to help a science lesson, Social Studies lessons to talk about patriotism.

Veterans Day was my absolute favorite day in the school.  That was because it didn’t take a lot to make our Veterans happy or to make them smile.  The third year of my contract, I was really burned out and didn’t know what to do. I thought, well, maybe if I volunteer with a Veterans Organization, I’d be able to find my passion that way. I asked a friend who was a Marine, “Do you know any place I could I could do that?” And he says no, but why don’t you start your own thing?  And when he said that, it’s like a spark went off my head. I knew what, no clue what I was going to do no clue what this was going to look like.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Christy Lucas:  I think one of the challenges we have now is with growth. It’s just growing in leaps and bounds.  I run a food bank, the second Tuesday of every month for veterans. That started with eight veterans back in 2018 and it’s now almost 150. It’s it’s more than a Foodbank because I have a Veteran Service Officer there. He’s able to help with any VA issues that they have. We have lunch for the volunteers and the veterans. And that’s priceless. having them sit around a table together and have a  conversation.

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

Christy Lucas: I never take credit for this, I always say it’s God working through me. He’s bringing people to me that need help. And he brings people to me that can help me and I work with a wonderful team of volunteers. The one story that I always do tell is Jeremy Jacoby. He’s a young veteran, and he’s in his 30s. He’s got a young family and Jeremy was deployed twice.  During his deployment he was exposed to chemicals and he’s losing mobility from the waist down.

Three years ago I got contacted because he he was trying to see if he could get up on one of the alteration track wheelchairs. So I met Jeremy at a local restaurant here and I just remember looking across the table.  I could just see the pain in Jeremy’s eyes. What he so desperately wanted was to be able to run with his young son to be able to play football. He wasn’t athletic guy to begin with and now he’s reduced to a cane and a wheelchair.

All he wanted to be able to go out and hunt and fish and be able to play with his his son.  So I remember hearing his story and then you see this, this soldier across from you and all sudden he starts to choke up. I looked across the table as Jeremy I grabbed his arm.  And I said,” Jeremy, I will get you that tractor by Christmas.” And we did.

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

Christy Lucas: if I had a dream super big, the one thing I always say that that we that we were are in need of is our own space.  I work out of my home and always having to borrow other people’s conference rooms. My core values for Roots for Boots is serve, educate and inspire.  So I thought there’s these little one room school school houses around here that are all boarded up. So if somebody would just like buy one of those for me?  Renovate it, make it lots recruits headquarters and  pop a flagpole up in the front of it. I’d be able to meet with my veterans there and we’d have our own conference room.

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

Christy Lucas: When I was principal we would adopt an active duty servicemen each year. They have taught me perseverance and I’ve carried this on into what I do now,  never get up or never give up. You know, live to fight another day. Just keep going forward. That’s a lesson that was has been priceless for me.  I tend to be somebody that doesn’t run from a challenge, I go right towards them.

My biggest struggle was always failure. When I finally just said, “You know what, this is way too stressful. ”
I just had to be myself and figure this out. And I never thought that I would ever be able to handle the job is principal.  I always thought I wasn’t smart enough to do certain jobs. Then I realized I was smart enough. And I was smart enough to form a nonprofit in this community, and opened it with welcome arms.

I was lucky because  I think it’s something that community was looking for. When I look back on all those stumbling blocks and all those failures. And I just think you know what, I’m so glad that I just kept going, because I could have missed out on what could have been my greatest moment. You know, and I always tell people, just keep going, you could be you could be missing out on what could be your greatest moment.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
YOUR REFERRAL IS THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE SO MOVED OR INSPIRED, WE WOULD LOVE YOU TO SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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