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There is a season turn, turn, turn…

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and while I wanted to write about gratitude, this year I wanted to share this message. The first week of October I went back east with my sister to see the glory of fall. I did an instagram post with the lyrics of this song. For those of us old enough to remember the Byrd’s song, these lyrics have stayed with me since. As we witness so much chaos in our world,  I thought I would share them in hope they give you a little food for thought this Thanksgiving instead of just food. Knowing that each of us continue to look towards all the good we have in our world and our daily lives.

To everything turn, turn, turnThere is a season turn, turn, turnAnd a time to every purpose under Heaven
A time to be born, a time to dieA time to plant, a time to reapA time to kill, a time to healA time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything turn, turn, turnThere is a season turn, turn, turnAnd a time to every purpose under Heaven
A time to buid up, a time to break downA time to dance, a time to mournA time to cast away stonesA time to gather stones together
To everything turn, turn, turnThere is a season turn, turn, turnAnd a time to every purpose under Heaven
A time of love, a time of hateA time of war, a time of peaceA time you may embraceA time to refrain from embracing
To everything turn, turn, turnThere is a season turn, turn, turnAnd a time to every purpose under Heaven
A time to gain, a time to loseA time to rain, a time of sowA time for love, a time for hateA time for peace, I swear it’s not too late

It is fall and the season to shed all that no longer serves us. It is time to shed the hate, shed the fear, shed the ugliness about this political side or the other. The world is so divided right now and we need to lean into hard conversations. We are in a time of war but let us all work towards peace. It is always a season to love, to be loved and learn. So as we embrace the beauty of fall let’s embrace what we can shed and make a time for peace…and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

Wishing you all the most joyous Thanksgiving.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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 65: Curiosity 2 Create

The world gets scarier each week. You are here to be reminded of all of the goodness that exists all around us. These days teachers and educators are being vilified and under extreme microscopes as our world becomes more polarizing each day. Today’s guest is a bright light in a dark world, as she strives to invigorate and inspire thousands of educators to rediscover their love of teaching, inspire and foster creativity and critical thinking in the classroom and ultimately help our children.

Join us today for an inspirational conversation with Katie Trowbridge, the founder of Curiosity 2 Create. A nonprofit that is on a mission to help our teachers and ultimately our students. Their mission is to equip K-12 educators with the skills needed to embrace their innate curiosity and encourage critical thinking by providing leading edge resources for our teachers.  Like Charity Matters, Katie is on a mission to help the helpers. If you have a student, know a teacher or care about education in our country you are not going to want to miss this conversation.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what CURIOSITY 2 Create does?

Katie Trowbridge: It’s amazing what we do. And as we work with the teachers, and that the educators, administrators to help build in and infuse creative thinking, critical thinking into existing curriculum.  A lot of teachers today have very scripted lessons that they have to teach or they have an outline that they need to teach. And they think  I can’t put any creativity into that. And yet, there’s so many possibilities and ways that we can use what you’re already doing in your classroom to promote that way of thinking.

If you look at any of the research right now they’re all saying that out of the top ten skills that people need to be successful in the future. One is critical thinking and two is critical thinking. We’re in the schools and our teachers don’t really know how to teach these skills.  I keep hearing I don’t know how.  So we really are passionate about helping teachers make sure that when their kids leave the classroom, they’re thinking about things.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Curiosity 2 Create?

Katie Trowbridge: So Curiosity 2 Create is only about two years old. So we’re still babies.  We have been working in education for a while after school programs. But about a year ago, I was at a board meeting and someone said, “You know what would be really great is if instead of just having these after school programs, we really reach out to teachers.  Because if you can impact one teacher, you’re impacting 1000s of students.” And that’s when they looked at me and said, “Great, do you want to run that?”  And now this is my full time working in a nonprofit.

It was a big decision for me to make this move and I thought about it a lot, obviously. I love teaching, it’s in my heart. Over the last couple years, not only was I not happy but my coworkers weren’t happy.  My students weren’t happy and there was the lack of engagement, the lack of thinking for themselves. This idea of just give me the A. What’s the right answer?

  I saw that this excitement that used to be in schools of curiosity was just disappearing. Sometimes you can’t get the kind of coaching that you need on a teacher’s salary.  A lot of schools don’t have the money that they could to put into this kind of development. So I went to the Driscoll Foundation and they were very gracious and giving me a grant to make sure that this is able to be offered to everyone.

So no matter what, what size district, no matter where you are we can help. I was at a conference speaking, and a woman came up to me and said, “I’m in the middle of Nevada, and I teach, four different subjects, we have a really tiny school, could you help us?” And I said, “Absolutely.”

Charity Matters: Did you grow up in a family that was involved in their community? 

Katie Trowbridge:  I was a pastor’s kid and I was an only child. So if I wanted a youth group in the school in the church that we were currently ministering in, I would have to create it. My dad would go into these churches that were dying, and he would raise it up and make it work. And then he’d leave. So a lot of times, as a kid, I was like, wow, I want a youth group, there is none. So I’ll just start my own.

Then I’ve always worked with teenagers and had a passion for teenagers and for children. I was in marketing for a while and went in to get my teaching degree. A couple of schools wanted to start looking more at character traits, or SEL before it was SEL and so I started a nonprofit called Kids Matter. And that is still going. I always want to be helping and doing things when I was young to make sure people are happy and getting along.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Katie Trowbridge: I would absolutely say fundraising. I would also say that raising awareness since we’re a new nonprofit. For example, on Giving Tuesday, we thought, Oh, we’re just gonna flood social media and on Giving Tuesday, we’re gonna get all this money. And it didn’t work. Because we’re new, and we’re middle and people are giving huge organizations not just like us. So I think raising awareness is a big one. Once people understand what we do and believe in what we do. They absolutely will be more willing to invest in what we do.

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

Katie Trowbridge: Getting your mind off of everybody’s you. I was sitting here,  thinking oh, man, what do I need to do next this week? I’ve got to make sure that my staff is okay. Then I have to make sure that I’m helping change education. That’s a huge goal.

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

Katie Trowbridge: One of our challenges is how to measure something that takes years to measure. We are measuring our impact by giving the testimonials saying look at this teacher said that this has absolutely changed the way she envisions teaching in your classroom. Another teacher who said, “My classroom is so much more fun. So I enjoy teaching much more.”

Well, how do you measure that? Right? That’s awesome. So maybe that teacher was going to quit, which we know a lot of teachers are right now and now they found joy, through teaching creatively and critically. You know, putting in a graph for a donor to see is nearly impossible. I think  that’s part of when you talked about some of the challenges.  Part of the challenge is how do we have the data to prove that this is working, besides stories from our teachers who say that it is.

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

Katie Trowbridge:  I think one of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned is patience.  I want to go go go as a visionary as an implementer. I want I want to be speaking at all these districts I want to have my curriculum all over the place.  I want it now.  So patience has been a real life lesson for me lately. I also think asking for help, has been something that I’ve learned.

I think that that is a major life lesson that I’ve learned that I can’t control everything. And a little bit of chaos is a good thing, because that’s where some of the the learning really takes place. But you know, being patient has been a really big one for me.

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

Katie Trowbridge:  My biggest dream is that students and teachers and schools start seeing the importance of these soft skills and see them more as essential skills. So it’s not just the Common Core standards,  but it’s how do we get kids to start thinking. A huge win for me is when we hear from teachers saying, my kids are actually asking better questions. My kids are actually thinking, because they’re excited about what they’re learning.  So my dream is that we’re writing the curriculum across the nation and that people start really embracing the the way to think for themselves.

What a better way to solve social issues, but then being a creative and critical problem solver. So when we have these issues in our society, our kids know how to think for themselves and how to solve these 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. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:

Copyright © 2023 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 Six Premiere: Riley’s Way

Welcome to the Season Six premiere of the Charity Matters Podcast. I am thrilled that Season Six is here and with it comes an entire new group of modern day heroes that we can not wait to introduce you to. Today’s guest is not your average nonprofit founder, not that anyone who sets out to make the world better is average…It is unusual for most of our guests to have a full time day job in addition to a nonprofit. When you hear his remarkable story you will understand.

Please join us for an inspirational conversation from our guest Ian Sandler. Learn as Ian shares the heartbreaking story behind the creation of Riley’s Way and the beautiful lasting legacy he has created to honor his beloved daughter.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Riley’s Way does?

Ian Sandler: Riley’s Way is a national nonprofit that invests in supporting the next generation of confident leaders. We provide young people with leadership training, coaching, funding and the community that they need to thrive, to develop into kind leaders and to make a difference in the world. So we work with emerging leaders, ages 13 to 22, who’ve started Social Impact organizations in areas like food insecurity, homelessness, equity, and education and environmental justice all through the lens of kindness, empathy, and human connection. And to date, we’ve supported more than 3000 young people across the country with over $2 million in grants and programs.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Riley’s Way?

Ian Sandler: Riley Hannah Sandler was our first child or our eldest daughter.  She was a magical young girl who loved more than anything to connect her friends. Riley would get excited when we would go out for dinner because that meant a babysitter and a chance to make a new friend.  She would talk about her friends accomplishments, you know, my friend got second place in a swim meet or got a lead role in the play as if it was her own accomplishment. She was so happy and so proud.

We found ourselves in a horrible situation where Riley had gone off for her first year of sleep-away camp.  She was having the summer of her life.  We ended up getting a phone call in the middle of the night, the night before she was supposed to come back from camp. And you just can’t make this stuff up, got a phone call, saying you need to get to the hospital. We took a four hour Uber and by the time I’d gotten to the hospital, Riley was gone.

It was just a case of her being too far from a hospital when she had gotten sick, and her throat had closed on her. We found ourselves in this just unfathomable situation. We just weren’t prepared to let this little girl who was gonna have a huge impact on the world…. we weren’t in a position to say we’re gonna say goodbye and we’re gonna let her light go out. And so we started Riley’s Way that day. So on August 18th, nine years ago, we actually started Riley’s Way in the hospital that day.

Charity Matters: Did you grow up in A family that modeled charity or volunteered?

Ian Sandler:  My late father was from South Africa. He came over here to get a PhD in Nuclear Physics, and came over with nothing. He started companies his whole life and was very, very involved in philanthropy from an early time in this country.My father was one of the people who created the Birthright program.  I actually think the numbers like 800,000 people have actually participated in The BirthRight program.

I lost my dad when he was 64, to stomach cancer. Before this whole notion of kind leadership, my dad was the guy  we couldn’t get home for dinner because he was stopping and talking to everybody at this company about what’s going on with them. He always taught me you can learn something from someone else. What I was able to take from seeing the impact he had between his philanthropic work and entrepreneurial work,  it really taught me the impact you can have, if you just kind of go at something, and you don’t stop.

And so the really amazing thing about Riley’s Way is we started it nine years ago, we didn’t know what we’re gonna do. We had just got a great group of people who loved Riley and my family. And we kept going at it. For us as a family,  it’s just our way to show our daughter how much we love her. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Ian Sandler: I’m lucky that my career has always been as a business builder. I’ve been a chief operating officer for technology at Morgan Stanley, and then at the Carlyle Group. So what I’m good at is finding people who are really good at things and putting them together. What I truly love doing is building and scaling. We just found great people, each individual is more spectacular than the next. We have now nine full time staff which would have given me a heart attack in 2016 or 2017 when we were starting.

Riley’s Way is a youth led organization. What that means is we have our teams on our board, they do the bulk of our interviewing when we hire people, they do the bulk of our judging and so the very work we do on a day to day basis. And what we found is if you just give our youth teams this opportunity to work with one another, give them scaffolding and support, and let them figure things out.

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

Ian Sandler: When you ask what fuels me, it’s a combination of things, right? It’s being a dad and Ruby knows so much more about her sister Riley than she ever would because of this work, so that’s super meaningful to us. Then you get exposed to these incredible teams, and you see what they’re doing. And you’re able to see the beauty of the work we do in nonprofit land.

When one of our team’s programs is successful, that is joy. And that is our overarching goal, taking the world out 30 or 40 years, and just instilling kind leaders everywhere. So  that’s it. It’s fuel from all this time with these incredible change makers and seeing the way they’re going to go out into the world and look at everything in a different way than they perhaps otherwise would. It just instills in this theory of change, which is Riley’s vision of  having kind friends everywhere. So that’s what we’re shooting for. And we’re gonna keep going.

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

Ian Sandler:  We have served 3000 students in terms of our programming and given out more than $2 million in grants and programs and that’s that’s really powerful. And yet it’s a lot of  very individual stories. 

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

Ian Sandler:  I want Riley’s Way to be synonymous with the most impactful philanthropic organizations on the planet.  We already think we’ve got it right with these next generation of kind leaders. We think we have the next fortune 500 CEOs, the next the senators, the next teachers, the next doctors, we need these folks everywhere. You need this approach to kind leadership so that you can really counterbalance this incredibly divisive landscape.  We need to get back to this notion of community that we look out for one another, we look out for our planet and we really have to think about this in a much different way. 

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

Ian Sandler: I lost my dad and I was like well, this is gonna be my life’s challenge, and I’m gonna rise above it. Then losing Riley. And I was like I don’t know how I’m supposed to do all of this. And yet the paradox in everything is, I feel like I’m able to just recognize what really does matter.  Being surrounded by people you love and making an impact in people’s lives. 

What I’m able to realize nine years into this is just what matters in life. All these things that I used to think were worries, were not. Don’t overthink it, because life’s gonna throw so much stuff at you. And by the way, that really starts with yourself. You can’t be good to your family, to your friends, to your colleagues,  if you’re not in a good place.  You have to figure out what that recipe is so that you can then go out and shine for others.  I definitely try to do one thing every day that is just purely joyful for me. And I kind of just float through life as a result of all this. So much of it is just the love and the joy we get from this work and community.  And knowing that you’re working for a purpose…I really do feel like I’ve found my life’s purpose.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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 break

Sometimes you just know when it’s time to take a break. For me, I know the time is now. The tank is empty and it is time to rest, relax and refuel. Running a nonprofit is a labor of love. You give all you have and somehow it never feels like it is enough. A little like parenting, I suppose. The work is rewarding beyond measure but the emotional heavy lifting of those that we serve can take it’s toll.

For TACSC the year kicks off with raising money to send about one third of our kids to our leadership camp. We  have amazing volunteers but our entire organization is four employees, so we all do A LOT! Once the money is raised the next challenge can come to explaining what over night camp is to underserved families who have never sent their children away. This is a process! As the school year comes to a close we have to make sure that we have everybody registered and ready to come to camp. The paperwork, parent calls and getting our team ready is a huge undertaking.

By the third week of June, when our first campers arrive we have already been pushing hard.  The great thing about giving is that once these smiling faces show up, they do refill our tank, for sure! Then we take a break and get ready for the next round of students join us. Finally, we close up July with our High School students.

The results make it all worth it. Our students have transformed in their confidence, leadership skills and notes come pouring in from parents and campers about their experience. Life long friendships are formed and we know that the world is just a little bit better because of the work we do. We are happy, fulfilled and exhausted.

So as I wrap up my tenth year at TACSC and Season Five of our Charity Matters podcast, it seems like a good time to refill the tank for a couple of weeks. I’m not officially on vacation but slowing down the pace to enjoy what’s left of summer. We will be getting interviews going for Charity Matters and getting ready for Season Six of our podcast. Until then, we will be sharing a few interviews you may have missed or want to revisit. So relax, go on a walk, lay on a chaise lounge, take a listen and a rest. You deserve it too!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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.

Across the finish line!

For the past twelve years you have been a part of my life. When I started Charity Matters in 2011 our sons were 15, 13 and 9 years old.  You have followed our families journey from the last football game to taking our first son to college and everything in between. I wrote about it all and you not only read these crazy stories, you replied, you understood and cheered us on. It was as if I were running a race and all of you have been on the side lines cheering. So many miles were tough and you got me through. As in most races, the clarity comes once you have finished and in looking back.

I remember getting on the team football bus for our middle son’s last game and having parents passing the post I had written around the bus on their phones. People hugging and thanking  me for expressing their feelings about The Last Pass post. It was the first time I really realized people were actually reading Charity Matters.

Each Christmas Charity Matters shared the Raising Philanthropic Children post as we tried so hard to guide our sons towards service. Teaching them to find their gifts and those they had to share with the world. You cheered them  on as they served so many great organizations and helped start a few. More than that, you shared what your kids were now doing which was even better.

When I dropped our oldest son off at college I was devastated. Again, all of you were there. I wrote this post and you sent so many supportive notes I could cry just thinking about them. You began the TCU journey of service with me as well. Then watched as I made The Last Lunch and the second son become a Horned Frog and finally the third.

Each ceremony marked the ever quickening passage of time. It was if each ceremony was a mile markers in a marathon. Some miles were harder than others.  When our youngest graduated high school and we became empty nesters, those struggles were real. The post, Someday has Arrived is a reminder of those struggles.  Supposedly, the last few miles of the marathon always are.

Then that moment comes when you see the finish line. It doesn’t seem real or possible. The race has been so long. The push for homework, for grades, not to mention the finances of it all. It feels as if it will never end. Suddenly, there you are …at your youngest child’s college graduation. Is it real? The finish line always seemed so far away. Now it is right in front of you, the final marker. How did the race go by so fast?

You push through that finish line with hands raised and a feeling of incredible joy. Your heart is filled with pride and beating so fast. The pictures are snapped marking this incredible moment. The diploma is given. You reach your neck out for the medal. The ticker tape flies. The crowd cheers (that’s you). And in a blink the race is over.

You have raised three great men. They are employed and launched. You smile, you cry, pat yourself on the back and then you wonder…now what?

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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 59: Project Libertad

I was recently having a conversation with friends about what our grandparents and great grandparents went through coming to America. I love these conversations for a few reasons. First because we all have these stories. Secondly, because they remind us how strong and resilient our ancestors were and what they sacrificed for us. The immigrant story is the story of our country.

While immigration has been a hot political topic these days, regardless of your stance, there are still people coming to our country who need help. That is where today’s guest, Rachel Rutter comes in. Rachel is the founder of Project Libertad, an organization that helps immigrant youth in a multitude of ways. Join us for an inspirational conversation about some of the challenges these children are facing and how she and Project Libertad and making a difference.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

Rachel Rutter: We are a nonprofit organization serving newcomer immigrant youth. So we’re working with kids who have recently arrived in the US and their families. The people we primarily work with arecunaccompanied minors from Central America and Mexico. In addition, we also work with a lot of families from Brazil.

There are fewer services in the counties outside of Philadelphia, so we’re providing legal services,  helping kids with their immigration process, and trying to address the other needs that they have. For example, we have kids who struggle with housing insecurity, food insecurity, mental health support, and all those sorts of things. So we’re trying to not only meet their, their need for immigration status and help them with that process, but also all these other challenges that they face as they’re adjusting to being here in the US.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start Project Libertad?

Rachel Rutter:  When I was in college, I had this idea that I wanted to start a nonprofit someday.  I was very naive about how hard it would be. So I started all of the paperwork, and incorporating and 501 C 3 status in law school.  Then at the same time, I was working with all these clients who had legal needs, needed asylum, or they needed to apply for immigration status. 

Then they always have all these other needs. For example they don’t have a safe place to live, have family issues, trauma, and need food. There are any number of different issues that they have.  I just wished we had a social worker that we could partner with and have like a wraparound approach. A place where we are meeting all the needs, not just this legal needs.

So the idea came to create an organization that does try to do all those different things in a one stop shop.  We are doing that now, and we had just hired a case manager to connect kids to resources in the community and social services.  I’m obviously doing the legal part. And we hope to continue replicating that and growing in new areas. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Rachel Rutter: One of the biggest things I remember getting really frustrated with was applying for different grants.  It’s really hard to get your foot in the door as a new nonprofit. Nobody wants to take a chance on you, you’re tiny, and they want to see that you have money before they give you money. But you can’t show them that unless someone gives you money. It’s just kind of like a chicken and egg problem. So that was really frustrating.

We took classes on grant writing.  I just practiced and got better over time. Eventually, we did a grant in partnership with HIAS which was the first ever grant that we got. Just being able to say that this other foundation gave us a grant went really far. Being patient, learning how to talk about your mission in a way that people want to fund it. Because it’s really important. It’s like writing a thesis in college where you have to structure it the right way so that people want to support it.  That was a big learning curve for us.

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

Rachel Rutter: It can be really hard, but the most important thing for me has always been like the relationship that I have with the kids that we work with. So that’s definitely like the biggest motivator for me. I also have like a very supportive family, husband, and friends who work in this industry as well.

So I feel like I have not only my team, my project like that, but also my colleagues from other organizations  who are always supportive. We can always like work together to solve problems.  It can definitely be challenging, but I feel like I have a good support system. Working directly with the kids is what gives me energy. Usually, that’s what I’m trying to focus on. If I need to push through, I’m thinking about the kids and that connection that we get to have with them.

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

Rachel Rutter:  In terms of our impact, we served over 1000 people last year. The times I think when I feel like the most impactful are when a student shares some things that were going on in her family.  After hearing this we were able to provide support with that. There was food insecurity in the household and so we went grocery shopping. It doesn’t always have to be complicated. This kid said I need food and we went to the store and we got food and like that was that. My colleagues and I do stuff like that all the time.

I think those are definitely the moments for me that are the most rewarding when you can just help somebody in such a concrete immediate way. So I love that we have the ability to do that. Sometimes those kind of moments don’t necessarily get captured in the numbers you put in a grant report. 

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

Rachel Rutter: I have two thoughts about that. One is to continue expanding and replicating what we’re doing now in our current locations. Having the combination of lawyers and social workers reproducing that in new counties as we grow.

Then the other thing I would love to do is to have some sort of shelter for youth who are 18 to early 20s. Something that we run into a lot is youth who have housing insecurity. They don’t either have anywhere to go because the foster care system doesn’t help them once they are 18. We run into cases like that where kids don’t have anywhere to go. There are really limited options currently for them. We would really love to do is eventually have some sort of space for kids like that. So that would be  another dream that I would have for the future. 

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

Rachel Rutter: I think one thing is just like the importance of these relationships with the kids.  So I think just the value in those long term relationships is so so important, and like sustaining for me. I’ve definitely been learning to delegate more, now that we have more staff.  It’s always hard for me to kind of let go of things because this is my baby.

 I also realize when I’m feeling burned out that having a good team that you can trust to do things so that you aren’t trying to do everything as one person is really important. I’m learning to  relax a little more. A lot of things work themselves out if you if you wait long enough. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Rachel Rutter:  I think when I started this out, I was a little bit naive about how difficult it might be to get funds. So like I mentioned, I’ve learned a lot there. I just think I have more confidence in myself and my knowledge as an attorney.  We’ve really developed our niche where we are the local the experts working with this population.

I think that took me a long time to kind of see this as like a real thing and now other people seeing it that way too.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 57: Mission Launch

Did you know one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record? That means almost 80 million Americans today have an arrest or conviction rate. Today’s guest is no stranger to these numbers, she is actually part of that statistic. Since April is Second Chance month there seems to be no better time to talk about new beginnings than today.

Join us to learn the incredible story of one woman’s journey from prison to nonprofit founder. Teresa Hodge is an absolute inspiration. Learn about Teresa’s tireless work to help those who have been incarcerated rebuild their lives with her organization Mission Launch.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

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

Teresa Hodge: Mission Launch is focused on helping the men and women who have arrest or conviction records get back on their feet. The reentry process is where we focus. Reentry is that period of time right after they come in contact with the legal system. It is when they’re just trying to get back on their feet and reintegrate back into society. We  focus on helping people with jobs, housing and getting into higher education. 

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

Teresa Hodge: One of my dad’s favorite statements was when life gives you lemons make lemonade. I was an entrepreneur and  part of a group of other entrepreneurs. The company we founded was investigated by the government. From the moment the company was investigated, my life just drastically changed. I spent about five or six years, fighting the charges. When I went to trial, I knew very little about our criminal legal system.  I went to trial and  lost.  As a result of that, I was given an 87 month federal prison sentence or seven years and three months. I was the first person in my family to be charged and I was heartbroken and devastated. 

I just knew that there had to be meaning and a greater purpose. In hindsight, it was as if all seeds have been planted. One of those seeds was  how was I going to use my time in prison? When I looked at the time, I said, “God, when I come out, what I’m going to know the most about?  What will be the most relevant from going to prison?” 

It was about 10 days after I was convicted, that I began writing a version of the work that I’m doing now.  I had experienced about five years of fighting on the front side. I was scared to death, quite frankly. Seven months felt like a life sentence, but seven years, three months was unimaginable. So it was just a really difficult time. What I knew was that if I could survive it, that I was going to bring good out of it.

The reality is I actually had to endure the long journey of incarceration. That was the lemon and it was a long time sucking on those sour lemons. I was already as an entrepreneur and knew how to write business plans.  As you know,  I was a part of a captive audience in prison. So I was able to ask questions and do market research.  I watched women leave prison and then I watched come back.  Why would someone return? I didn’t understand and was baffled.  

The thought is prison is supposed to do some level of correcting while people are incarcerated.  And yet, when people return, there’s often no pathway back. While I was sitting in prison I just felt like I’m going to create the pathway that I need to go back. And I’m going to bring all of those experiences and all those stories into my design so that we create enough pathways for people who were trying their best. 

I came home in 2012 and we started Mission Launch in 2012.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Teresa Hodge:  The challenges were I was underfunded. I knew a lot about prison but I knew nothing about a nonprofit. We were new entity and were unknown. And we had this huge vision for how we could disrupt and change and make life and society better for all of us. In the end, I had the ability to stick to something. And so and to learn and to evolve and to grow,  I’ve been able to navigate to a good place. 

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

Teresa Hodge: We measure Deep Impact, the stories and the people that we can talk about.  I can tell you a story of a young man who came into our hackathon just a few days after being home from prison, and he just had lots of potential. He didn’t want to work at McDonald’s and he had the ability to do something different. And he was inspired to start a business and struggled to start the business. Long story short, today, he runs a National Cooperative. He now hires other formerly incarcerated people. That idea and  the ability to build that was birthed inside of a space that we hosted. I served on his board for a while. We validated him, incubated him and were his fiscal sponsor. So it’s that level of deep impact 

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

Teresa Hodge: I want to shorten the time it takes a person to come home and get back on their feet after incarceration.  The big dream is for us to have a national strategy with a localized approach. Reentry is hyperlocal. Right? The statistics are one in three Americans have an arrest or conviction record. That means over 70 million, almost 80 million Americans today have an arrest or conviction rate. It’s staggering and not a small number.

I am on a mission to normalize the fact that we have so many people in our country with an arrest or conviction record. If we normalize that as a fact, then we can move beyond the fact that a person has a record. Then we can create all the pathways of opportunities for 80 million people.

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

Teresa Hodge: I think the greatest life lesson is for me was in prison, when my life became smaller.  It’s had so much meaning when my life in prison was the great equalizer. When you think of one in three Americans who have an arrest or conviction record, prison is a microcosm of the United States. It’s a microcosm of society. It’s disproportionately black and brown. People who go to prison are gay and straight,  black, white, brown, yellow, Native American and all religions. In that moment, we all just wanted the same thing to endure and get back home.  I learned to be so accepting of so many people and cultures  that maybe I would not have been. So I think the greatest lesson is we’re just more alike than we are not.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Teresa Hodge: I have and I am currently on a mission to restore some of the joy. I have been heads down doing this work for 11 years. So it’s changed me in the sense that I’m a workaholic and I’m too focused on it. Now I’m on a mission  to let up a little bit. You’ve done your part. It may or may not be fixed in your lifetime but you’re going to do your contribution. And that’s all you can do.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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.

All good things must come to an end

As many of you know, I fell in love almost a decade ago with TCU. Yes, it was an unexpected love affair that I really never saw coming. The best relationships usually are the ones that blind side and blow us away.

Ten years ago, my oldest son was admitted to TCU. Through a crazy twist of fate,  I interviewed a nonprofit founder named Ann Louden, for this blog. The interview happened late afternoon on the day before my son left for college. In full disclosure, I knew I was interviewing someone who had started a breast cancer nonprofit. She was in Pasadena filming a video for her organization with Josh Grobin. Other than that, I didn’t know anything but her name.

Short story long, Ann Louden did start a great cancer nonprofit that was called…wait for it…TCU Frogs for a Cure. You may remember the post?  If not you can find it here. Ann is the woman who brought pink to all football games in October. After an inspirational conversation and connection with Ann, we became fast friends. She asked me if I had interest in getting involved at TCU.  I honestly answered, “No.” In that moment, my singular focus was packing and getting my son off to college. In hindsight, she was getting ready to set me up on a blind date.

photo via: WestFWlifestyle.com

A few days later, I called her back. I told Ann that there was something incredibly special about this school. After time spent there, I would be happy to help. And looking back, that was the beginning of the love affair. You know, the early phase of love when you get to know one another? In getting to know TCU, I really liked what saw.  Happy and kind people, a thriving campus and people that were connected and going places. Ann then asked,” Do you want to join the Chancellor’s Advisory Council?” The invitation felt like a first date. I accepted and joined an incredible group of alumni, donors, friends and parents at TCU.

When you fall in love there are a number of things that happen. You begin to take stock of qualities you admire and strive for. There was no shortage of admirable traits. I witnessed exceptional leadership, vision, connection and community at TCU. Our group met every few months. I found myself looking forward to our meetings. Because like all good love affairs it is so fun learning about the other person. In this case it was a college I was learning about but I was head over heals. Regardless,  we learned about everything  from; the campus of the future, supporting student athletes,  admissions, providing students with a life full of meaning to opening a medical school. With each meeting and conversation I became a little more smitten.

Last week, I went back to Fort Worth for my last Chancellor’s Advisory Council (CAC) meeting. Insert big sad sigh here. The love affair wasn’t over but it looked like after a decade we were going to have to make this relationship more long distance than it already was. While it felt like a break up, it wasn’t.  It was however, my final meeting. In looking back, so many things we discussed that were mere ideas ten years ago had become realities.

The medical school the Chancellor and board dreamed of opened. The first class of TCU Medical School graduates this year! That National Championship Game…well we did get there. Boy was it memorable! The buildings that were built,  celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the school and the list goes on and on.

Like all good love you learn from it. This experience taught me so much, most especially about leadership. Watching a great leader is a gift. When you see a visionary in action, it is a privilege. Seeing the accomplishments from the past decade at TCU is truly remarkable. Time at TCU has been a lesson is vision, communication, connection, consensus, mentoring and service. What was not to love?

So while this love affair isn’t over, my time at TCU is coming to an end. Our youngest graduates in eight weeks and it is time to close this incredible chapter. To say my heart is heavy would be an understatement. I am forever grateful for my time with TCU, the lessons learned and all the amazing people I met. Endings are never easy. Ultimately, it is the people, the friendships made and the all the great memories that make the endings so worth it.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Snowed in and the kindness of strangers

I am interrupting this regularly scheduled podcast to share a recent story of kindness. Each week we share others stories but this week I thought I would share something that happened to me a couple weeks back. As many of you have seen on the national news that recent snow storms hit our local LA mountains, the San Bernardino Mountains.

My husband’s family has had a home there for years and it is a very special place for us. We don’t spend much time at the lake in the winter but it is always a treat to get away. When we had a call that there was water left on in the house, we decide to make a quick trip up. The thought of bursting pipes with freezing temperatures and a pending storm was big motivation.

Our plan was to go up early Friday morning and head back down on Sunday. We both had flights in opposite directions scheduled for Tuesday. So we wanted to make sure we had time to get ready for our upcoming business trips.  So we grabbed two days of food and put chains on our four wheel drive and hit the road.

The previous storm had left a couple of feet of snow that had yet to be plowed. When we got to the house we were surprised by how much snow we hadn’t been plowed. We were sure that the plows were just backed up and would eventually get to us. So we enjoyed our home, the fire, the s’mores, secured the house and settled in.

However, on Sunday morning when we hadn’t seen the plows and the snow kept piling up at a rapid pace, we got a little nervous. I called our local Fire Department which is about a mile away.  When I asked if they had seen any plows. The fireman said, “ No we haven’t seen them in a few days.  We heard that all of the plowing equipment was sent off the mountain to open the Cajon Pass.”  That’s when we became nervous. If the Fire Department can’t get out to help people then things were worse than we realized.

We shoveled snow off the dock, from around the house and quickly realized we had used up most of our food. That wasn’t our big concern. Rather it was getting down the next day to make our flights. We began reading the local Facebook post with people that were much worse off than we were. People without heat, power, firewood, food, medicine and the list went on and on.

So Monday morning when we had eaten the last of our food we thought we would try to shovel our way out. Well, that didn’t go so well and we got stuck. Once we dug the car out and had it back in the garage, my husband had an idea. He went onto the local Facebook group and asked if anyone had plowed roads within a mile of our home. In addition, he asked, if anyone was going down the mountain and could we get a ride?

That is when this story took a very different turn. Strangers named Debbie and Dustin replied to our online plea. They said that they were leaving in less than an hour if we could get to their home. So we turned off that water, grabbed our computers, our dog and left. We left behind our clothes, our car and hiked out about a mile in hip deep snow towards total strangers.

The second storm had now hit and snow was dumping down. When we got to their car we were told they were taking two cars down in order to pick up family friends coming into LAX the next day. They loaded us in, put a dog bed out for our dog and drove us down the hill and off the mountain. We passed tons of abandoned cars on our way down and saw the carnage from the past week’s storm on the roads.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, in two cars, we saw news crews and so many people detained trying to get back up the mountain. Police had closed the road back up due to the danger. We filled up our new friends car with gas and asked where they were going to stay for the night? They didn’t have a plan for their family that included two teenage boys and two chocolate labs. So we invited them to stay with us and they accepted.

It isn’t every day that you Facebook hitch hike and meet strangers who blindly take you into their cars. Alternatively, I don’t think we have ever invited strangers to sleep over at our house but we did. This experience left such an impact on us both. There is such power in the kindness. We are all so afraid and so nervous to open ourselves up. I am the biggest fraidy cat of them all!  However, this experience made me realize just how walled off we all are and how easy it  can be to open up.

It wasn’t just our situation that brought out the best in everyone, it happened all over the mountain. Neighbors checking on neighbors. People bringing others into their homes, shoveling snow for their elderly neighbors, delivering food and so much more. I’m not sure why it takes the worst situations to bring our the best in all of us, but it does.

We are incredibly grateful for Debbie and Dustin for their extraordinary kindness. If we could all be little more open and loving like our new friends the world would be a much better place.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Episode 54: One Block UWS

Have you ever walked by litter or a pile of trash on a city sidewalk? Most of us have and keep walking, thinking it may smell or what a mess. How many of us would stop and try to figure out how to clean up their neighborhood? I haven’t but today’s guest Ann Cutbill Lenane did just that. She not only saw a growing problem but she rolled up her sleeves to do something about it.

Ann Cutbill Lenane is a very successful residential realtor in the Upper West Side of New York City and is the founder of One Block UWS.  Join us today for an inspirational conversation about one woman’s journey to clean up her neighborhood, employee people in need of jobs and revive a community One Block at a time.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what ONE Block does?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: One Block is a nonprofit that facilitates the filling of more than 1,000 bags of trash every week on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. We coordinate group events so neighbors can connect and clean their community. In addition we employ three full time workers who were formerly homeless.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start ONE Block?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Back in 2020 New York City had $106 million dollar budget cut to their sanitation. As you can only imagine NYC was a very scary place to be during the pandemic. During the pandemic, on the Upper West Side where I work as a residential realtor there are three homeless shelters. Eight hundred homeless were moved into hotels during the pandemic on the Upper West Side. People were really upset.

Regardless of that situation, I saw the neighborhood begin to turn in a really bad direction. This neighborhood where I raised my kids and still work was something out of a zombie apocalypse. I saw the neighborhood going in a very bad direction.  In the 1980s, I remembered what Mayor Giulani said about cleaning up neighborhoods. He said, ” If we start by cleaning up the trash and the graffiti then people will feel better about being there and be more respectful towards their neighborhood.” So while I didn’t have a solution for the homeless problem, I figured I could find a way to get trash picked up. I can start with the garbage.

I also had three homeless shelters with people who needed work. So I thought, simple I will hire a few people who need jobs and we will go clean up some garbage. However, it wasn’t that simple. We ultimately reached out to ACE a program that trains unhoused people on the skills needed to help us. The real breakthrough happened when the local neighbors, who were upset by the homeless situation started a Facebook page. It was 2020 and we were all locked up and this Facebook page had 16,000 followers instantly. One day a neighbor on the page said,”Who wants to help sign up to clean up garbage?”

I met with my young neighbor from Texas. We all started signing up and cleaning the neighborhood. Next thing we did was hire an attorney to help us get our 501c3.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Some of the early things were easier like getting help from an attorney at Gibson Dunn to help us with a 501C3. Our weekly cleanups and communication was easy because of the Facebook page and group. We had great community involvement. Most importantly, I was able to gather our neighbors emails through the Facebook page which Facebook no longer allows. Capturing our communities information was so important so that we could keep everyone informed of our progress. Those things were relatively easy.

As far as challenges, we had people leaving the route because of drugs that we had to fire. We had people selling our trash bags for money. Our employees couldn’t find restrooms in NYC. We gave employees gift cards so employees could get lunch and use the restrooms where they ate. Our employees didn’t have shoes. We went back to our newsletter and asked our neighbors for help to support the people we hired to help clean our neighborhood .

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: We have a woman named Jackie who takes care of everyone on our team. The thought that she wouldn’t have a job does fuels me. Each month we wonder if we can go on with our funding. I can’t picture these people without One Block. I want these people to be stable, to be appreciated and to have good lives.

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: There isn’t a block that one of our employees is working that people don’t approach them and say, “Thank you.” Putting a face and a name on a person who could easily become invisible in New York City changes that for everyone. 

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: Sometimes you think life is supposed to go in a certain direction and it doesn’t. I can only help along the way and I know we are making an imprint on these people’s lives. You can only do what you can do. You just never know what your impact is on someones life. The Upper West Side is cleaner, our team has shoes and we keep putting good out into the universe. 

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: The dream would be to be able to support the people that work for us. Getting them into a stable situation and lift them up. It’s not about One Block and garbage but about the people who need a leg up.

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

Ann Cutbill Lenane: I’ve learned the power of one, which becomes the power of many. The impact is huge. I am used to speaking to people everyday and connecting people. What is your super power? You have one and how will you share it? 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Ann Cutbill Lenane: . We were blessed by something that felt like the end of the world during Covid. Something great came out of all of this. You have to start with one small act. Many people want to help. One person one block at a time.

CHARITY MATTERS.

To Support One Block UWS

www.oneblockuws.org

[email protected]

Instagram: @oneblockwestside

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Pablove

The world is full of amazing and inspiring humans, they are all around us. When you have a moment to learn someone’s life story, it is a privilege to share it.  Since February 4th was World Cancer Day I thought we would take a look back at the fantastic conversation with Jo Ann Thrailkill, the founder of Pablove.org. Jo Ann founded Pablove to honor her son Pablo and to invest in underfunded cutting edge pediatric cancer research and improve the lives of children living with cancer through the arts.  I know she will warm your heart  and inspire you as much as she did me.

Here are some highlights from  our conversation:

Charity Matters: What was your background before starting Pablove?

JoAnn Thrailkill: In my 20s through my 40s I was a music video producer. I absolutely loved my job and was living a dream. I was a single mother with a fantastic life and career. When I met my husband Jeff, who is also in the music business, and we had our son Pablo, I decided to slow my career down a bit and focus on my family and time with my two sons.

When Pablo was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer in May of 2008 everything changed. I went from producing music videos to trying to Executive Produce Pablo’s treatment and care. While Pablo was sick we had so many people who wanted to help, bring food, do something. A co-worker of my husbands, started a PayPal account just so people could do something. We were so involved with Pablo we weren’t really aware of how many people were supporting us through this. 

Charity Matters: When did you realize you were going to start a nonprofit?

Jo Ann ThrailkillWhen Pablo died six days after his 6th birthday we were devastated,bereft and overcome by grief. We were also overcome by people’s kindness and generosity. People really wanted to help us in so many ways, it was overwhelming. When we went to gather pictures for his memorial service, we found so many photos that Pablo had taken with all of our devices. They were everywhere and we had no idea he was such a photographer.

A few months after his death, my husband decided to ride his bike across the country, to deal with his grief and process all that had happened. When he came back, his co-worker asked, “What do you want to do with this PayPal account and the funds?” To be honest we had forgotten about the account and didn’t think it could have had more than a couple thousand dollars. To our total surprise there was over $250,000 and in that moment we felt an overwhelming responsibility to all of these people who had supported us and Pablo.

When my husband said, “You need to executive produce this,” meaning the beginning of Pablove.org, that was the moment.

Charity Matters: Where did you start?

Jo Ann Thrailkill: I went to see Pablo’s doctor, to get a direction and he asked me, ” What would you have wanted that you didn’t have when Pablo was sick?” And my answer was a cure. So I knew we were going to need to invest in research since pediatric cancer research is so underfunded, only 4% of cancer research funding goes towards childhood cancer.

He then asked me what Pablo would have wanted and I knew it was something in the arts and Pablo loved photography. I knew that Pablo just wanted to feel like a kid when he was sick and that his photography had been a form of self-expression. So that is how we began the Shutterbugs program which teaches children and teens with cancer the art of photography.

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

Jo Ann Thrailkill: When the kids tell us that working with a camera and photography has been a life changing experience for them. That is when you don’t want to stop and know you need to keep going. In addition, to know that we have created an organization that is filled with optimism, joy and laughter. 

Charity Matters: Tell us the success you have had?

Jo Ann Thralkill: Our very first year in 2010, my husband did a bike ride across the country again but this time to raise funds for The Pablove Foundation and we raised over $500,000. The momentum continued and we were able to fund a grant our first year. Today, almost ten years later we have thousands of Shutterbugs in 16 cities across the country and have provided seed funding for pediatric cancer.

Since 2010, we have awarded more than two million dollars in Childhood Cancer Research Grants to over twenty institutions worldwide.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this journey and how has it changed you?

Jo Ann Thrailkill:  This entire experience has been completely life-altering for me. I think one of the major things I took away from my own family’s cancer experience was that just when you think the world is filled with darkness and hate, you discover that it is actually filled with love.

Things don’t always end up how you hope or plan that they will, but when we were in the trenches of treatment with Pablo we discovered the most amazing support from our community and everyone around us. This gave us not only the financial support but the emotional strength that we needed to start the Pablove Foundation. The experience of starting Pablove has allowed me to always see the light. I am now reminded daily of the love that surrounded me during one of the most difficult times in my life.

charity Matters

 

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Copyright © 2023 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.

Looking back at a Force for Good

max page, the force

This weekend  millions of us will watch the Super Bowl and of course those very pricey ads. I thought it might be worth revisiting the one of my favorite philanthropic friends, Max Page. You might remember Max from his starring Super Bowl ad as Darth Vadar, a few years back.

Max has been a patient at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles  many times in his short life for multiple heart surgeries. He was born with a congenital heart defect and over the years has had over 13 surgeries. Each year over 40,000 are born with congenital heart disease. Since February is heart month and the Super Bowl, Max has been on my mind.

I met Max and his family when we worked together to launch the Junior Ambassador Program at CHLA . The Page family are some of the most philanthropic people I know. They have used their situation and celebrity to the benefit of others time and time again.

Max continues his acting and his passion for philanthropy. His hope is that if someone is inspired to do something because of his journey, that they would consider supporting a place that has given him so much and become a second home, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Heart Ambassadors program. Max said in an interview with Today, “I’m going to do whatever I can to help and do the best to bring awareness to kids like me.”  

Max’s heart may have been defected once upon a time, but today it is his heart and use of the Force that continues to inspire us all.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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Season Five Premier: Susan Axelrod CURE Epilepsy

Welcome to Season Five! It is truly remarkable to believe that we launched the Charity Matters Podcast just two years ago. In that time we have introduced you to some of the brightest lights on earth, those who serve. We promise Season Five has an incredible line up of people who will inspire you, give you hope and renew your faith in humanity. These nonprofit founders are not only entrepreneurs but they are problem solvers and doers. Each story gives us hope that we can tackle any obstacle in our own lives no matter how big.

Today’s guest is a perfect example of one woman with a huge goal.  Susan Axelrod is the founder of Cure Epilepsy. She will inspire you with the remarkable story of her journey to find a cure for epilepsy to help her daughter. It is a story you don’t want to miss and the perfect way to start your year and ours.  Susan set out to achieve a goal 25 years ago. Each year Susan and her community  paved the way and ultimately raising ninety million dollars towards epilepsy research. Her work and story should inspire anyone with a goal that feels too big.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what CURE Epilepsy does?

Susan Axelrod: Cure Epilepsy is singularly focused on funding research in epilepsy. This actually started because I am the mother of a now 41 year old daughter with epilepsy. It started in her infancy and after many sort of tortured years of trying to resolve her problems. I started to meet some other parents and recognize that there was a woeful lack of of dollars and attention to epilepsy, both federal government funds and private dollars. That’s our focus because we want to eliminate epilepsy.

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

Susan Axelrod:  My daughter had been happy, normal, healthy baby until she was seven months old.  And she started to have a seizure, which was terrifying to witness as many seizures are. She was she was blue, I thought she was dying. I took her to the emergency room. While waiting to be seen there, she had another one of these episodes, which I still didn’t know what it was. In 1985, I received a report on an EEG that she had had. The report said something about epileptiform activity, and I panicked. I called her doctor, and I said, “Are you telling me she now also has epilepsy?”

I had started to meet some other parents with epilepsy through a support group, which I got wind of waiting in a doctor’s office, which we spent hours waiting in doctors offices and saw notice for a support group and met a few parents who fast forward a little bit ended up being some of my co founders of cure with.

Lauren, my daughter, had a surgical procedure to try to determine whether there was an area in her brain that they could resect that might help. There was indication for the first time that maybe they’d actually localized the focal point.  So we put her through a pretty horrific and barbaric procedure. They literally bored holes in her skull and  implanted electrodes and the  procedure ended up with nothing.

I sat there with my husband and we didn’t know what to do.  Later that evening, I thought to myself, you know, I can either cry for the rest of my life, or I can just slap myself in the face and do something. That is a really clear memory for me,  just saying that’s it, I’m done. I’m done waiting for anybody to provide answers. It just felt like I had to right this wrong and t was just wrong. 

Charity Matters: When did you know you were on the right path?

Susan Axelrod: We knew we had to raise dollars and that was critical. We were very fortunate in that my husband had done some work with Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. Towards the end of 1998, he was meeting with her and she asked how Lauren was doing. She said, “Is there anything I can do to help from my position?” 

She agreed to to be the keynote speaker at our first fundraiser in Chicago. January of 1998.  I’ve never put on an event in my life. The First Lady spent the afternoon visiting our hospital and learning about epilepsy.  Then she came and did the event. She spoke just eloquently about epilepsy and about what she learned that day.  Well, we had a lot of people that were there for her, who were just blown away by her. That was a big aha moment. Three months after we founded the organization  people were writing notes and were calling they were telling me that night I had no idea about epilepsy. We thought, okay, if people don’t know about epilepsy, they’re not going to give money to epilepsy. 

photo via: Boston Globe

Charity Matters: What were some of your earlier challenges?

Susan Axelrod: My daughter used to miss about a third of every school year just because of seizures. So there were times when I couldn’t get out of the house. The internet was relatively new at the time and email was like a brand new thing. We were working together and we loved each other. And we loved the work and it gave us hope. If we had an event or mailing to do, we all gathered for a long weekend, and stuffed envelopes and licked stamps. Epilepsy is a pretty lonely diagnosis and this gave us a community.

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

Susan Axelod:  I think the very first thing that we did that was huge and life altering for the epilepsy community was to change the conversation. And that was both between patients, families, and researchers and doctors.  I wanted to know, along with my co founders and other people who were working with Cure Epilepsy, why? Why did I have this seven month old baby, that was fine one day and not fine the next day? Nobody to this day yet has been able to answer that. 

I think we’ve, we’ve really gotten the community away from thinking, let’s just create another drug that’s going to maybe reduce the seizures  50% of the time. In our book, that’s not okay. It’s great. I should say that my daughter responded to a one of these new medications in April of 2000.

We’ve we have funded over 280 research grants around the country.  We have opened up new areas of exploration in terms of what they’re looking at and how it affects epilepsy and the development of epilepsy. Those are areas that we were willing to take risks. So I think that’s another thing that all nonprofit can do because who’s else is going to do it? 

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

Susan Axelrod: The happiest day of my life would be shutting down the office, closing the door, locking it up, because mission accomplished, right? That would be that would be amazing.

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

Susan Axelod: I’ve learned the importance of community, the importance of being inclusive, the importance of bringing all players with any sort of potential interest  in your cause together. And that it’s very grounding. It’s very humbling. But I think  it’s been one of the more amazing life lessons and it translates beyond my work with CURE.

Everybody has some value and something to contribute.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Chasing the Insights

If the past twelve days are any indication of what 2023 is going to be like then I think its time to buckle up! Our 2022 ended on New Year’s Eve with our TCU Horned Frogs beating Michigan at the Fiesta Bowl. It was an unexpected win and crazy game that brought our small school from Fort Worth onto a National Stage. The game and experience brought so much more than football.

Our New Year began with a crew of our youngest son’s fellow TCU students as house guests. Each counting the days until the National championship game, that was earlier this week. The odds of TCU even getting to this place were 250 to one. So to say that the journey has been a crazy one would be an understatement. It had all of the making of a Hollywood movie with small town boy as quarterback at small Texas school making it to the National Championship. Except perhaps the ending. It wasn’t the big Hollywood finish but the opposite.

Life isn’t Hollywood. Nor is life about a singular destination, it is about the insights and lessons learned along the way. Life is about the journey and not the destination. The journey in these past two weeks has been a brilliant reminder that we are all here to learn and enjoy the ride. We are here to chase the insights and gather lessons from each experience in order to grow and evolve as the best versions of ourselves.

You may remember that last week I wrote about New Year’s goals, about being open to receiving, asking for help and promoting the message of goodness that is Charity Matters. Well, ask and you shall receive. My plea to the universe was answered from across the globe. An extremely popular podcaster, Vince Warnock invited me to be a guest on his show, Chasing the Insights. Vince has a huge international audience and it’s pretty obvious why.

He is bursting with positive energy, kindness and goodness on his quest to help entrepreneurs launch their business. We talked about ways to bring good and philanthropy into everything you do. His message is that we are all here to learn from each other and help one another.  Our conversation, which you can listen to below, was a terrific reminder of just that.

So as we wrap up the second week of 2023, I hear the universe speaking loud and clearly. Life  isn’t about the destination but the journey. TCU had an incredible journey and took all of us on it. We didn’t win but we met so many incredible people along the way and learned so much. Thank you Vince Warnock for reminding us that this is what matters. Chase the insights and leave a path of kindness along the way.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Copyright © 2023 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.