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Episode 9: America’s Kids Belong

Did you know that there are more than 400,000 children who are part of the foster care system in this country. Three-quarters of those children will be reunited with their family or another family member. The remaining 100,000 children need forever homes. What these children have in common is that they all need a home whether a temporary or a permanent one. May is National Foster Care Month and I thought it was a great time to revisit the incredibly eye opening conversation I had a while back with my friend Brian Mavis the founder of America’s Kids Belong.

Join us today for a fascinating conversation with Brian Mavis as he shares his family’s calling and journey in starting America’s Kids Belong. The remarkable story of what one family has done to change what family means for thousands and thousands of children in finding their forever home and family.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what America’s Kids Belong does?

Brian Mavis:  Nationally, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care today. And a way to think about that group of over 400,000, is to then put them into two different groups. There’s a group of those kids about three-quarters of them, who are on a path towards reunification with their family and their parents. Then a quarter of those kids, so just roughly over 100,000, right now, they’re on a different path towards needing to find a new forever family. 

We work with both sets of kids because both groups, there is a deficit of families, a big one, between families who are willing to what we call, for now, families that will say we’re here for you, for now, to take care of you until your biological family can. And then forever families, the ones that will say, will be your new forever family. So we work on both sets.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start America’s Kids Belong?

Brian Mavis:  This story starts in my wife’s heart and began early for her as a teenager. She was living in Southern California, had gone on a high school missions trip with her church into Mexico, and they worked in an orphanage. While she was there, she said, she heard God tell her this three-word sentence. Care for orphans. She knew she knew as a teenager, her calling on her life.

 In 2005, Julie said, “I want to be a foster mom.” So we go to the orientation and so you’re learning about trauma and all that kind of thing.  One of the first things they let you know, is who are these kids? Why are they in foster care? Right? And so, right off the bat, they say, there’s a myth that these kids are in foster care because of what they’ve done.  And that’s a myth because what actually has happened is something has been done to them. 

Brian, his wife Julie, their two daughters, and their first foster child.

Keegan became our first foster child. Two years later, in 2007, I’m a pastor at a church in Colorado. A child welfare worker called me and asked, “Can I meet with you to talk about child welfare in our county?” I said, “Sure.” So this woman, Cindy, comes to visit and says, “In the 27-year history of Child Welfare in our county, there has never been one single day, not one day, where kids weren’t waiting for grownups to take care of them. I have a challenge for you. So this was the three-word sentence that changed my life. My wife’s was “Care for orphans.” Mine was this. She said, “I have a challenge for you. Change who waits. Help me change who waits.”

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

Brian Mavis: Conviction and commitment and this sense of like, there’s an injustice that needs to get set. Right? And then it’s you have to look for the victories. You can look at the numbers and say we increased this by 40%, and all that. But that doesn’t move your heart as much as knowing that  Adrian now has a family. And he had been raised in institutions for the past seven years. And now he’s got a mom and a dad. It’s that kind of thing that says, Okay, I’m gonna fight another day.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? 

Brian Mavis:  We increased the number of recruitment of foster families by 40%. Statewide, within a year. That is an intellectual case. You know, the emotional cases sharing a kid sharing a story. The transformational case is when a kid goes into a home, and a family changes everything for them, it changes their future, which could be one that is bleak. And to one that is hopeful.

 And what when you come down to saying, Let me tell you the story of it, Adrian he was he went into foster care when he was eight, he’s 15. Today, he’s had no inquiries on his life, he feels unwanted. And we did his video, within three weeks of promoting it, we had 24 families asking about and being their son.  And if he had aged out of foster care, just on the financial side, it would have cost you know, throughout social services hard cost $300,000 of services as a young adult for him so there’s that side to it.

The Mavis Family and their foster grandbabies.

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

Brian Mavis:  I’ve learned a lot. I still have a long way to go still about learning the effects of trauma on people, especially on kids. There are different kinds of trauma, there’s acute trauma, something that happens once. There is chronic trauma, something that’s happened over a period of time. And then there’s complex developmental trauma, which is something that happened in reason it’s complex.

Those first two didn’t happen by the hands of somebody who was meant to love you and care for you. And so that kind of trauma is profound. On the other hand, when there are enough skilled people who understand that and understand how to help give hope and healing and love, a lot of that trauma can be healed. I wish people and churches would become trauma competent and formed. It would really help everyone to understand.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 4: Cathy Gott, Danny’s Farm

Before Autism Awareness Month comes to a close I wanted to make sure that we are highlighting incedible work that so many are doing for Autism. I’m so excited to share today’s conversation with you. I’ve known and admired Cathy Gott for a very long time. We both raised our sons in the same small town outside of LA. A small city where everyone knows everyone and supports one another. Cathy has always been a bright light, someone with amazing energy, and a person who makes things happen. She and her husband, (legendary baseball pitcher) Jim Gott have two sons, Danny and Nick. When Danny was diagnosed with autism Cathy and Jim went to work.

Cathy is the co-founder of Education Spectrum, a social skills, and community integration program that supports children and their families with developmental needs. Cathy didn’t stop with Education Spectrum, she kept going to found Danny’s Farm an amazing nonprofit that is so much more than a petting farm. It is a place for the community to come together while employing adults with developmental differences.

Join us today to learn about Cathy’s journey, the challenges she faced as the mother of a child with autism, her journey of service, and to learn about the incredible work she is doing today for adults with developmental needs. She is a true inspiration!

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Danny’s Farm does?

Cathy Gott: Danny’s Farm is a labor of love, no doubt about that. It is a petting farm, that employs adults with developmental differences. We provide a lot of volunteer opportunities and vocational training. In addition, we go out into some of the most underserved communities and special needs communities in Los Angeles, either through our mobile petting farm and visit groups of kids who sometimes never even seen a farm animal.

I mean, it’s remarkable and is a really interactive, lovely experience. Then we also have hours at the farm where we host field trips and tours and individual visits depending on the needs of the individual. So it’s an inclusive nurturing loving place. We share the property with another organization called Special Spirit which provides therapeutic horseback riding. So, it’s hard to separate because you know, you can’t pass up a pig pen when you’re going over to ride your horse or a sheep or a goat or a bunny or you know, it’s just really fun. So we share a lot of that.

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

Cathy Gott: Well, when Danny was little as with many people with autism, there’s a number of sensory issues and in particular, sound sensitivity. And lots of different ways to take in the environment tactfully from touch to you know, just how we move in our body and space. He had a lot of difficulties navigating things like amusement parks or baseball games or things that a family would typically enjoy. It would be very overwhelming for Danny.

One of the few places that he loved to go, were petting farms, wherever we were because they’re quiet and they’re peaceful.  He got a lot of tactile input by petting and holding and squeezing and hugging and loving all those animals. Danny has always had a tremendous affinity for animals. So that’s the background story.

Then somewhere in the early to maybe 2010, something like that Danny was a teenager. I was attending a conference at this taskforce Blue Ribbon Commission for autism in California. I learned about some grants that were available to fund micro-enterprises or small businesses. That’s when the light bulb went off, you know because a lot of parents as their kids are about to exit high school or thinking what’s next? What is my child going to do and have meaningful employment in life? And it just all clicked together. That’s what we decided to do and it truly is Danny’s Farm. He has a lot of pride and works very hard. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Cathy Gott:  We had some location issues but you know, they all turned out great in the end.  The first location we opened was an Altadena at a beautiful little horse stable. We used a lot of the grant money to build a barn that served a number of wonderful things.

What happened is we were a victim of our own success because once the word got out about Danny’s Farm we were very busy, very fast serving kids in and around Los Angeles County. And this poor little neighbor. Bus after bus come in and out and the neighbors were not happy. So we politely had to close our doors there and that was devastating.

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

Cathy Gott: I have learned so many lessons. I think the one that comes to mind is the saying, “Man makes plans and God laughs.” I used to be such a planner. I had planned where Danny would live and work and I learned to let it go. We adapt to do the best with what we have. We learn to manage our expectations and disappointments. Being able to pivot is extremely humbling.

I feel closest to God now when I just listen. It is such a privilege to simply listen.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
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Copyright © 2024 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.

Becoming a force for Good

You may remember that in February I went to an incredible event hosted by the publisher of my upcoming book. At that event, I was thrilled to finally meet Cindy Witteman in person. Cindy is the nonprofit founder of Driving Single Parents. We had already connected in so many ways so it was a treat to be in person together. In addition to being a nonprofit founder, Cindy has already written a number of books, hosts a TV show called the Little Give and is now launching a magazine called FORCE. There is no better word to describe my new friend than a serious force.

I was incredibly flattered when Cindy asked me to write about my thoughts on “force” for her premiere issue.  Even more exciting, is the fact that Cindy has asked me to become a regular columnist for the magazine contributing monthly and having a Charity Matters column. FORCE Magazine will be available in 13 countries and sold in over 10,000 retailers, so you can imagine how excited I am! For the first issue, I was asked to write in third person which isn’t my usual voice and was actually difficult becaise I am so comfortable talking to you in first person. Here is a little of what I shared about what it means to become a FORCE for good.

In a world often marked by individual pursuits and ambitions, there exists a powerful force—the act of giving back. It’s a force that transcends personal boundaries, offering the potential to create lasting positive impacts. The ability to harness one’s own personal force for good, by serving others through involvement with nonprofits and charities, becomes a formidable tool in shaping a better world.

Within each of us resides an innate force—a unique blend of skills, resources, and passion. While this force can certainly be directed towards personal gain, its true potential lies in its capacity to contribute to the well-being of others. By recognizing and embracing this inherent power, one can become a force for good, driving positive change and making a meaningful difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

In the United States alone, there are approximately 1.6 million nonprofit organizations, each serving as a powerful vehicle for channeling personal force towards societal betterment. These nonprofits were all founded by individuals who recognized a problem and were determined to find a solution. They are remarkable individuals dedicated to addressing various social, environmental, and humanitarian issues. Each nonprofit founder is a living example of being a force for good. By understanding the impact of nonprofits, we can strategically engage with these organizations to amplify their force for good and our own.

One poignant example of the transformative power of collective giving is Meals on Wheels. Founded by Enid Borden and supported by a volunteer army of 2 million, Meals on Wheels is the largest hunger-relief organization for senior citizens in the United States. Every day, they provide meals to over a million elderly individuals across the country. Enid Borden aptly summarizes the essence of giving back, stating, “The biggest problem we have is that there are many charities… So which one is more valuable than another? The answer is they’re all valuable, they’re all worthy, and they all need help. My message is just give. I always tell people: Once you give something back, whether it is a meal or something else, you’re hooked. It doesn’t pay monetarily, but it pays spiritually.”

While Meals on Wheels exemplifies the impact of large nonprofits, it’s important to recognize that every nonprofit started with one founder. The power of giving back extends beyond financial contributions or organizational affiliations; it encompasses individual efforts that, when combined, create a significant force for good. Volunteering time, skills, or expertise to local charities or community initiatives amplifies the impact on a smaller scale but with no less significance.

Charities, regardless of size, often rely on the dedication of community members to address specific needs. Whether it’s assisting at a food bank, participating in neighborhood clean-ups, or mentoring youth, individuals contribute to improving their communities. The collective force of these small-scale efforts enhances the overall well-being of their communities.

Most nonprofit organizations benefit from individuals offering their specific skills and expertise. Professionals in fields such as marketing, legal services, or IT can provide valuable assistance to organizations that may lack these resources. By leveraging their unique skills, individuals become a force for good, enabling nonprofits to operate more efficiently and effectively. Organizations like www.catchafire.org serve as terrific resources to connect skills to a nonprofit’s needs.

In harnessing the power of giving back, individuals become agents of positive change. Nonprofits and charities provide structured platforms for directing personal force towards addressing pressing societal issues. By contributing time, resources, or expertise to these organizations, individuals amplify their impact and collectively shape a better world.

When we acknowledge the inherent goodness in people, it becomes natural to want to be of service to them. By providing value to others, not only do we help them, but we also enrich ourselves. This cycle of giving and receiving fosters an upward spiral of positive energy and change, strengthening the force for good in the world.

This force for good resides within each of us, waiting to be unleashed. As individuals recognize their unique abilities and align them with the missions of nonprofits and charities, they not only improve the lives of others but also experience the profound fulfillment that comes from being a force for good.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Copyright © 2024 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 74: 4GIRLS

A few weeks ago a friend reached out and said, “Heidi, you need to know Claudia.” She was right, I did. You do too. So I am excited to introduce you today to the founder of 4GIRLS, Claudia Copely. Join us for an empowering conversation about her amazing work helping young girls to identify themselves as authentic, confident and resilient preparing them for real life success.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what 4Girls does?

Claudia Copely: Our mission is to empower and inspire middle school girls so that they identify as confident, authentic and resilient. Preparing them for real life success.

Charity Matters: Did you grow up Giving Back? 

Claudia Copely: I did not learn philanthropy or giving back in my household. I grew up in a household that was very dysfunctional, and there was a lot of trauma. It was more about let’s just survive,  let alone do any type of philanthropic work. There was a piece of me that helping others is innate.  I think all of us know to our core what is true.  I think my one of my core values is generosity and connection.  I love meeting new individuals and connecting. So I think for me it was a drive that was big for me.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start 4Girls?

Claudia Copely:  So I was at a women’s conference and there were 100,000 people there.  The central theme from the host, Maria Shriver, was what are you gonna do for your community? How are you going to be an architect of change?  I was so inspired, empowered, and I left there driving home thinking what am I gonna do? I can be an architect of change. Then all of a sudden, this voice crept into my head, and it said, ” What are you gonna do? We’re gonna want to be part of anything you do.”  It stopped me in my tracks.

 I followed the thread. And I thought for me it was middle school, that tough time where I just didn’t know what to do with myself.  I just felt lost, not just because of the trauma and dysfunction in my house but I just felt so alone. I’m the only one experiencing all this. Driving home from the conference,  I thought why not have a conference similar to what Maria Shriver has done brilliantly?  Lets focus just on empowering and inspiring middle school girls, just that target. 

 I polled all of my friends and everybody across the board said Middle School was the hardest time.  I decided that I’m going to create a community. I had to read Nonprofits for Dummies because  I was coming from the corporate world.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Claudia Copely: I think the biggest challenges were at that time and still are visibility and outreach. We are a 100% volunteer organization. With what I get paid I could not buy a loaf of bread. But I could light up a room. Being a 100% volunteer organization  is a good really good thing, or a really bad thing

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

Claudia Copely:  A few things, first the communit.  The connection to some really great amazing humans that are really talented, hardworking women that I’m surrounded by. It’s beautiful to see what we create for these girls.  At the end of the two day workshop, we invite girls to come up to the stage and to share their empowering word. We have words all over the room, so they can pick one. But some of the girls that come up are thinking, “I would never come up and speak in front of a room full of people.

By Sunday, there’s a line to come up and share their empowering word. And we ask them to do that in order to give them a sense of identity.  They can have this word that they can grow into and see how it feels. There’s been many girls throughout the 13 years. But there was one in particular, who said,” My word is valuable. Because before this workshop, before today, I didn’t realize how valuable I was. Now I know that I’m valuable.” It gets me every time. 

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

Claudia Copely: You can’t put on a grant paper or proposal, a parent coming up to you and saying, “Oh, my gosh, what did you do to my child? They are a whole different person, they believe in themselves, they have more confident, they’re engaging with us.  Thank you!” The mother will tell me with tears in her eyes. Thank you.

Then the second, which I’m seeing it right before my eyes. So we now have a few girls that had gone through the program when they were in sixth grade, seventh, and eighth grades. Then they became high school as mentors all through high school. Now they’re in their first years of college and they’re sitting with us at the board table. They are being part of the workshop team, which helps us to create the agenda, the curriculum, and stay relevant to what the girls need. They’re there with us in the trenches, creating this, this workshop and forming it to the next generation. That impact is that the seeds that were being planted are now going to be harvested.

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

Claudia Copely: I would say visibility and outreach.  I think because we still are like considered a grassroots organization.  I’d love that broader reach. 

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

Claudia Copely: I’ve learned that we are more common than we are different. That’s for sure. I’ve learned that we really want to be seen, heard and validated. Most of us really want to connect with other people. And I really enjoy making those connections and working with individuals that have different perspectives.  I get to learn from all these amazing humans. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Claudia Copely:  The journey has  provided me with a strong sense of my purpose.  I know I love empowering individuals. While my degrees are in international business, but I’m now trained and accredited as an empowerment coach. That fulfills me so much and fuels me. I’m definitely more purposeful, more mindful, more aware. Everybody gets to participate on this earth. We’re here at this moment and that’s all we got. Let’s give each other room to create and be who we want to be 

In order to do this work I had to change my life.  I had to let go of those limited beliefs in order for 4GIRLS to be born and to help it. If I would have stayed with those limited beliefs and my self sabotaging behavior this would have never happened.  So I just I love helping individuals  letting go of those beliefs. We all have them. Let’s do what we can get rid of them. When we can move the inside, beautiful, magical things happen.

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 © 2024 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.

A decade of leadership

today is National Philanthropy Day and it seems only fitting that it is also my ten year anniversary as the Executive Director of TACSC, a youth leadership organization. It is amazing how fast a decade can fly by when you are having a great time. These past ten years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It is hard to fathom that our sons were in middle school when I started at TACSC in November of 2013 and today they are grown men who are launched. More than my actual children, it is awe-inspiring thinking of the 22,789 students that I have been privileged to serve over the past decade. Students who were also in middle school in 2013 and today are in their twenties. To witness these young leaders’ development has been one of the greatest privileges of my life.

My first summer at TACSC, I sent our youngest son to Summer Conference as a 7th grader. To be honest he went kicking and screaming saying that he wasn’t going to go to “Crazy Catholic Council Camp.” What he wanted to do instead was to go to surf or lacrosse camp that summer, not a leadership camp. Well, he went, and within five days he identified himself as a leader. Once he did that, he truly became one. The transformation I saw as a parent was unbelievable. That experience and so many others had me hooked at the beautiful positive and transformational experience TACSC is.

It is this same transformation that I see year after year, generation after generation, leader after leader of young students changing the world that has kept me doing this important work for ten years. It gives me hope to see our students learn about goal setting, communication (the old fashioned in person kind with real handshakes), becoming mentors and serving others. It all sounds so simple and basic, but it is so much more.

Each student  inspires the next generation of leaders and does so much good for our world. As I wrap up this decade at TACSC, I am grateful for the gift of this work.  It has been a gift to witness kindness, empathy, faith, compassion, and leadership. We have never needed kind good moral leaders more.  I continue to be grateful for the tens of thousands of TACSC leaders making a difference in our world each day.

 

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.

Episode 66: You, Me and Neurodiversity

The power of inspiration and motivation can come at any age and anytime in life. Today’s guest is an old soul doing remarkable work for the Autism community. Inspired by her younger brother, Alyssa Lego set out at age 14 to help him by creating lesson plans. Before long that work turned into creating her first nonprofit.

Today, Alyssa is joining us to share about her latest work with Autism and her new project called You, Me, Neurodiverstiy. Join us as Alyssa shares her inspiring journey from big sister, college student and nonprofit founder.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what You, Me, NeuroDiversity does?

Alyssa Lego: Our mission is to embrace neurodiversity and autism acceptance in ways that really haven’t been done before. I am such a firm believer that education creates change. And I’m such a firm believer in the fact that that starts with our youngest generations. 

So when I was 14, I actually started a lesson plan program with a fourth grade teacher of mine, it was called Friends Who are Different and it was in all the school districts in my area. And it was all about autism acceptance and inclusion. But a lot of things have changed since then. You, Me Neurodiversity has really brought me back to creating content, visiting classrooms. And again, starting with that sentiment of motivating our younger generations to accept autism, embrace neurodiversity, and really become catalysts of change. So the human neurodiversity movement donates 100% of our proceeds to autism focus charities, with each book purchase, each purchase that somebody makes is making a difference. 

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

Alyssa Lego: This really all began from my relationship with my younger brother.  I learned pretty early on that the world just was not designed for autistic people. We have a long ways to go in terms of true autism acceptance, rather than just awareness. And there were so many moments that just broke my heart as a young girl. I remember instances of sheer bullying because my brother couldn’t communicate. He communicated in a different way just because his brain was wired a certain way. He was discriminated against in school and in the community.

As that older sister, I wanted to do whatever I could to make the world a better place for my brother and people that were experiencing the world in a similar way to my brother. And for me, I love to write and I love to speak. So that’s how the lesson plan program started all those years ago.

Charity Matters: what or who influenced you to start giving back at such an early age?

Alyssa Lego: I was raised in a home that really embraced volunteerism and giving back to your community. My earliest introduction to volunteerism was with the Special Olympics.  I volunteered as an ambassador with the Special Olympics from I think the time I was nine years old  until I was maybe about 14. So I would fundraise for the organization and I got the chance to attend events. 

The Special Olympics was the first time where I actually delivered a motivational speech. I was 12, at one of the Special Olympics events, and I remember just thinking to myself, this is a space where I can use that force for good.  I believe that is really where it all started. I remember I hosted, with a lot of help from my parents, an ice cream social to benefit the Special Olympics when I was in the fifth grade. Everybody came out my whole school came out all my teachers.  But I think even at that young age, I realized wow, I am part of something so much bigger than myself. Then as I got older, I started to realize that I really want to see what these proceeds and what these funds are doing. That’s what led me to create things like You, Me and Neurodiversity. I could really see where that money was going, and feel that impact and continue making those connections firsthand.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Alyssa Lego: I think I’ve really seen ageism in action a lot. Being 14, my mom was in the back because I was a minor, pitching to the Board of Education for why they should put my lesson plan in schools at that young age. So I really, I have seen a lot of ageism, and people just just not understanding that young people can be the change. Young people can start great things and be a part of great things. And unfortunately, I think that’s something that deters a lot of young people away from volunteerism or starting their own organization. They think that’s for people who already have established careers or who already have X amount of years doing certain things.

I think another challenge that I still face day to day is just time management. Being a full-time college student, the creator of You, Me, Neurodiversity,  being involved in school,  reserving time for family and friends and of course taking care of myself it’s definitely not easy.  By being disciplined with myself, and taking care of myself allows me to kind of fill all of those buckets.  I’ve really learned the importance of teamwork and communication. Time management is a skill that I’m continuing to develop as I get older. It’s just been such an incredible journey and I’m so grateful for all of the people that have really helped me get to this point and inspire me to continue on.

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

Alyssa Lego: My brother, it just goes back to the initial inspiration.  I actually just became one of my brother’s legal guardians because he just turned 18 years old. That is one thing that certainly keeps me up at night but also continues to inspire and motivate me.  Just the prospect and the idea of my brother, being able to live a thriving, a fulfilling life in a community that supports him is what inspires me. This is what motivates me to write that social media post when I don’t really feel like doing it, or change the dimensions of the book for the 7,000,000th time.

I think that’s the most magical thing about founders and about the nonprofit space because everybody has that story. Everybody has that. It’s almost like a duality between the vision, and what makes you tick. Seeing the present, seeing the past, but then knowing what the future can be and knowing that you’re a part of that. Knowing that you’re writing that story,  in my case, literally writing that story is just incredibly inspiring. And then of course, knowing that I don’t walk alone is another thing that really inspires me as well.

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

Alyssa Lego: I would love to turn You Me Neurodiversity into a household  name for reading about autism acceptance. I really would love to continue developing our interactive activity books and  just taking all of these great experiences that kids have in the classroom and making them inclusive.  I really do believe that we could do that with our books and programs. And I’m hoping to partner with more schools, speak with the children and really have them understand what it means to be an ambassador of acceptance. Then one day pass the torch on in the hopes of creating a more inclusive world.

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

Alyssa Lego: I think listening as much as you speak is one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned.  I think I’ve really learned the great power of teamwork and of listening as a tool for leadership.  It’s really not about having the loudest voice in the room, but making sure that everybody else in the room feels like they have a stake in the conversation and feels like they’re being heard.

 I think another great lesson that I’ve learned is listening to the communities that you serve. I am  big on self advocacy, and amplifying autistic voices. It’s in itself, it’s such a powerful tool. That is one piece of advice that I would give to any founder. Really listen to the communities you serve to understand those nuances. Because if you’re in a space where you can really affect change, you want to make sure you’re going you’re using your passion for a purpose. One of the most important things that really guides everything I do is listening to the communities that I’m serving.

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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Everything I know I learned in Kindergarten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 53: Hearts of Gold

Since this week is all about love and Valentines, it seems only fitting that today our guest is all about love. Her name is Deborah Koenigsberger and she is the founder of the nonprofit Hearts of Gold. So many of us pass the homeless in our cities and keep on walking. Not because we don’t care but because we are afraid and often feel helpless.

Not Deborah! As a young mother, she didn’t pass a homeless woman and child i the park, she stopped. When you hear here remarkable story about the impact one person can make, it will make you think differently. So join us for a remarkable conversation about love and action. Think of this as a belated Valentines Day gift to yourself!

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Hearts of Gold does?

Deborah Koenigsberger: Hearts of Gold is a 28 year old nonprofit organization that supports homeless mothers and the children in shelters. We do that by what we call adopting shelters that house this demographic. So the shelters already exists. They are run by their city shelters or whomever entity owns the shelters and we go in with all the frills.

When we started it was really about making sure the moms and kids had something in their lives that would give them a good memory. So many of them coming out of domestic violence. We have programs with moms, and we have programs for the kids. Our goal is to basically help them get out of shelter life transition into housing and into permanent housing. We want them to just have a chance at what we all have, which is a normal life.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Hearts of Gold?

Deborah Koenigsberger: There isn’t one moment but three that all built on one another. The first, I would say is a Stevie Wonder song that started it all.  Peace sign is the name of the album and the song is take the time out. the lyrics are, ” take the time out to love someone reach your arms out and touch someone, the king or some homeless one. We are one underneath the sun.” I was 12 when I heard it and it left a huge impact on me. 

What I get from that song is that these people who are homeless on the streets, somebody gave birth to them. One day, there was a joy. Somewhere along the line, life took a left turn. And it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen to any of us. It just means that it didn’t happen to us, right? It happened to those people. So if we are not a part of the solution, if we don’t attempt to be a part of the solution, then we really are a part of the problem.

The second thing was on my way between work and home was a woman and her three year old daughter. They were sleeping in a cardboard box in the park. I walked through park and my boys were babies at the time. This was our neighborhood park. I finally approached her and had a conversation with her a few times. She told me that the shelter wasn’t safe and she’d rather take her chances on the streets. This went on for just a couple of weeks. And then she was gone.  She disappeared but she motivates me every night.  She powers my narrative because I know that out there. 

The third part of the trifecta was when my oldest son was a baby, we met Bobby Brown. This was just before Bobby became Bobby Brown THE makeup artists.  She was telling me that she did this volunteer work in a shelter where she would apply makeup to the moms teach them how to do makeup and give them product.  I went with her to the shelter. I did styling Image Consulting so Bobby said, ” Why don’t you talk to the moms about just what to how to put themselves together. and I will do my makeup there.”  So we did this workshop together and she would provide makeup artists.. But in that workshop, the moms came with their kids.

I decided that  Christmas  I literally went out and bought all these gifts for each child. At the time it was just me and that was 1994. I became a nonprofit, because when I approached the shelter saying I wanted to raise money for you to do these events. They said, “We can’t guarantee that that money will do that, which I appreciate it very much. Our challenge is that we have so many emergency things that happen we can’t guarantee the funds will go to your program.”  So I said, “Okay, then I’m gonna do it myself.” 

Charity Matters: What were some of your biggest challenges when you started out?

Deborah Koenigsberger: It’s particularly hard when you realize the problem that you are trying to solve is not solvable.  And you certainly are not going to be the one to fix it.  I believe in the starfish story. Although you couldn’t save every starfish on the beach, the one you threw back today got saved.  That’s what saves me when I would fall down and feel that this is so frustrating.  Then I would look at one of my moms, or get a phone call or a text from somebody, and they will say this happened today. And for me it’s just like joy.  

You’re also realizing the best thing that we can realize as founders is that you have to get help. And you have to accept help to bring in people.  So there are all these learning curves.

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

Deborah Koenigsberger:  There’s so many ways to educate people out of darkness. Darkness is ignorance. I’m an immigrant, from an immigrant family. The only thing that we know as immigrants is you gotta work. That’s the only reason why you’re here because work is gonna provide something better and different for you. So I know that it’s the American way. Work was what this country was built on.

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

Deborah Koenigsberger:   When I met Stevie Wonder in 2001, he said something to me, because I told him why started Hearts of Gold. Stevie said, ” My little song made you do all of that.” Like, do you have any idea? Oh world, and I just thought, that little song wasn’t just words on paper. It was such an invitation to open your heart and see something besides yourself. 

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

Deborah Koenigsberger: Over 37,500 moms and kids helped her impacted children who were the first one in their entire family line to go to college. This Christmas we bought, wrapped and distributed over 5000 toys. I think we should understand that what we’re doing is bigger than all of us and call in our communities.

If you are blessed enough, if you are given the gift of sharing yourself with somebody else in a way that will have impact and change something, you’re blessed.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Deborah Koenigsberger: I’ve matured a lot.  I have found and met incredible people along the way who have taught me invaluable lessons. And I’ve learned invaluable lessons from people who weren’t really trying to teach me anything, but I learned it anyway. 

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

Deborah Koenigsberger: I learned that a single human being can really affect major change and it all starts with an idea.  I think of myself as a vessel. And I think that I am just there because I have that kind of energy.  We don’t all have the same energy or the same way of thinking about things. Some people have the talent to help you create something, and that’s magical, some people have treasure and that  is immeasurable. Now you have time, talent, treasure, and everybody has a different one of those that they can bring to your to your cause. One of the lessons that I think is really important that I’ve learned is that there are so many kind people out there in the world.  

When we lift one we lift all.

What I’ve learned is that you can’t save all the starfishes  even if you have all the resources in the world because it’s just not possible. But what you can do is get a whole bunch of more people on that beach.  God of the things I’ve learned a lot, there’s so many ways to love people.

 If you’re at the end of your story and you could write that one person’s life was significantly impacted by your being here, walking the earth leaving a footprint.. Then for me, I am full. I am full. 

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 39:West Coast Sports Associates

Spring 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 for 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?

Mikee Gottlieb: It’s not like a lot of other charities out there, which are all great.  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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A Little Fear Come New Year

Happy New Years everyone! I hope you had the best of holidays and are off to a great 2022. I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days about the New Year. I am historically someone who can’t wait to make my list of resolutions, excited by a blank piece of paper, goals, and a list. Type A all the way. Sad but true.

However, this year I don’t feel that way and it’s been perplexing. Why would I not get excited and hopeful about a new year and a chance to start anew? Honestly, I think the answer is that I am afraid. Afraid of having hopes, wishes, and dreams squashed. If you don’t dream them then they can’t be taken away, right? If you don’t write them down then maybe you don’t have to work so hard trying to achieve them. These past two years have definitely taken their toll in that department.

In late November of 2019, I was on the cusp of achieving something I had dreamed of for a decade. It was a pinch-me sort of moment and in an instant, something totally out of my control, temporarily suspended the dream. That was tough but still okay because 2020 was coming and we were going to relaunch this dream in March of 2020. Well, we all know how that went. I think for many of us big dreamers 2020 was a time for us to really throw ourselves all out. We were so sure that the new decade and year was going to be our year, THE one.

Last year, I admit I was a little gun shy in the New Years’ resolutions department. My attitude was a bit like control what you can control and let the rest go. I did that. We launched the Charity Matters Podcast, which was great. However, last year felt like a transition year. A transition from what to what remains to be seen but that is how it felt.

Now, here I am again with the blank piece of paper in front of me and 360 some odd days in this New Year and I am gun shy. Nervous, tentative, and a little scared. That is life, it is scary and not being in control for us control freaks is the scariest. If I learned anything from the last two years it is that I am not in control of anything but my decisions. As a result, I am deciding to face my fears and jump back into the ring in 2022.

This year, I am going to pursue my dream yet again. I am going to sit down and see what goals I can achieve, strive for, and work to make happen. I will do my best, celebrate the small steps forward and most importantly enjoy the journey of it all. At the end of the day, our resolutions are not about a list but they are a road map for the lives we want. If we don’t write down those maps then it is much harder to know the direction of our dreams.

Afraid or not, 2022 I’m coming for you. Hopes, wishes, and dreams. I hope that each of you is envisioning a joyous and magical New Year filled with everything you wish for. Happy happy New Year!

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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Episode 24: Be Perfect Foundation

I have been privileged to meet hundreds of truly remarkable humans over the years. All of them are amazing but there are always a few that are so dynamic, charismatic, passionate, and wise that you can never forget them. One of those people is the remarkable Hal Hargrave. You may remember his story from a few years back. Hal was involved in a tragic accident that left him paralyzed fourteen years ago. He used that experience to serve others suffering paralysis with his nonprofit the Be Perfect Foundation.

Join me today for a conversation that is better than caffeine. If you have read Hal’s story and not heard his passion, you need to take a listen. Trust me, this will be a gift you give yourself today. The man is pure light and inspiration.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what the Be Perfect Foundation does?

Hal Hargrave: Be Perfect Foundation– provides direct financial and emotional aid to individuals with paralysis. The foundation approves scholarships for everyday medical necessities such as; medical supplies, wheelchairs, home, and car adaptations, medical equipment, and exercise-based therapy.

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

Hal Hargrave:  Shortly after I got injured, I remember lying in my hospital bed and coming to the realization that with every individual that walked through my hospital room, that each individual that left my room and left the hospital took away a mindset, approach, mentality, and went about the rest of their day emotionally in a state that was directly predicated towards my mood state, mental state, and how well I was emotionally coping with my injury and circumstance.

 I came to a quick realization that I could give each and every individual a positive takeaway that could set the tone of their day for the rest of their life. Finally, I came to the consensus that each and every decision that I made about how I was going to treat, talk to, and share moments with individuals was going to directly affect them either negatively or positively.  I was not willing to be a part of the simple idea that I could negatively influence somebody’s life any longer.

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

Hal Hargrave: I believe that this is meaningful and purposeful work. I’ve stopped asking “why me” and I’ve started asking “why not me?” Once I came to the realization that this happened “for me” and started looking through the lens that I “get to”  do what I’m doing in my life. I started realizing that maybe this really is a blessing. That the life that I’m living is far bigger than just me and is for me.

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

Hal Hargrave: I know I have made a difference in this world when others see differences in their world being realized. When other’s dreams come true, their goals are achieved, and happiness is obtained. 

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Hal Hargrave: The success that we’ve had over the past 14 years of a philanthropic mindset as a family and as a community has been nothing short of amazing. We have raised over $7 million for individuals suffering from paralysis. This does not include the resource of hope that we have built through being a physical, literal, and emotional resource to those who are in need.

Charity Matters: What has your impact been? 

Hal Hargrave: Our impact has changed lives. Over the past 14 years $7 million and well north of 500 people and families. It has changed lives in the way that people live independently. How people live without despair any longer because they see hope and much more. The financial support that we provide to individuals to seek out therapeutic options has allowed them to achieve a healthier form of themselves. Having their health has contributed towards staying out of the hospital as well as finding a network of people that they can relate to. We provide a place where they will not give up, and emotionally being in a place where they see that their contributions to society and to others are life-changing.

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

Hal Hargrave: My dream is for us to get to a place where we have an endowment. An endowment would ensure that we would be around for life. Ideally, if this endowment was established, we would be able to continue to provide scholarships. This foundation should be around forever.

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

Hal Hargrave: One of the major life lessons that I’ve learned from this experience is the things that we think limit us just might be the platform that we need to propel ourselves forward to actually helping create change.  We always think that we have it as worse.  However, maybe life gave us an opportunity, not a setback.

When we start looking at life through a lens that maybe something was preventing us from something even worse happening, we start to live with the appreciation that we have a second chance. Sometimes these circumstances that put us into a deep, dark, and physically disabling place, actually are the opportunities that give us the tools that we need to create change in others’ lives. You don’t need to create change through physical activity. You can create change through intentionality, sincerity, words, and advocacy.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Hal Hargrave: This journey has changed everything for me. I will be honest with you, 14 years ago I did not think that my life would amount to anything. I was under the impression that my physical setbacks in life would propel me into a place of a life that was meaningless, hopeless, and unfulfilled. What has happened over the past 14 years, which has not been easy, and has not been because of the lack of tenacity, trying, and getting up with purpose, has been nothing short of a dream could true.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Season One: It’s all about the kids

When you think about philanthropy most people do not know where to begin. As humans, we have more than a handful of issues that could use a little extra help. One thing that most of us can agree on is helping our children. This season I had the privilege of interviewing three incredible women who have set out to help children in a host of different ways. Today, I wanted to re-introduce you in case you didn’t get a chance to meet Cathy, Amel and Meredith. They are amazing!

Danny’s Farm

The first is Cathy Gott. Cathy is married to legendary baseball player Jim Gott. When their son Danny was diagnosed with autism they went to work. Cathy began with co-founding Education Spectrum, a social skills, and community integration program that supports children and their families with developmental needs. Cathy didn’t stop with Education Spectrum, she kept going to found Danny’s Farm an amazing nonprofit that is so much more than a petting farm. It is a place for the community to come together while employing adults with developmental differences.

Join us to learn about Cathy’s journey, the challenges she faced as the mother of a child with autism, her journey of service, and to learn about the incredible work she is doing today for adults with developmental needs. She is a true inspiration! If you haven’t had a chance to listen here you go…

Children of War Foundation

A few months back a girlfriend of mine set up a lunch to introduce me to her incredible friend, Amel Najjar. Our lunch began at noon and ended at four and could have gone on all day. Amel is one of the most interesting, inspirational, and real people you will ever meet. I am excited for you to get to know Amel and her amazing journey from growing up in Jordan and witnessing war firsthand to beginning the Children of War Foundation. Children of War Foundation has two priority focuses, health and education. Their mission is to make these two essential in really fundamental human, basic human rights accessible to anyone at any time, from anywhere.

 When people say one person can not make a difference, they have not met Amel Najjar!

The Ryan Seacrest Foundation

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

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

 

I’m thrilled that you had a chance to get reacquainted with Cathy, Amel, and Meredith. Three inspirational women have dedicated their lives to helping children in three very different ways. Each one uniquely different and making huge impacts on children in their communities, across the country, and around the globe. Now you can do a little binge-listening….enjoy!

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

 

Episode 14: Building families with Help Us Adopt

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

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

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit: Classic Kids

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

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

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

Charity Matters:  What has your impact been? 

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

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

 

Episode 11: Fotolanthrophy, Storytelling with a purpose

Have you ever read about someone and think, I need to know that person? That is exactly what happened with this week’s guest, Katie Norris. A while back I was reading through a People Magazine and came across the incredible story of Chris Norton. Chris had an amazing story and the article mentioned this incredible nonprofit founder, Katie Norris, who was determined to tell it. Katie did just that through her amazing nonprofit, Fotolanthrophy. A non-profit organization that combines photography + film + philanthropy to share inspiring true stories of people who have overcome adversity…and I wanted to meet her.

Image how thrilled I was when Katie and I were connected? We sat down for an inspirational conversation about her organization’s beginnings and her latest film project, 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story.  Join us today for an incredible conversation with this very special human who will make your day. 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

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

Katie Norris: A lot of people say they hope to feel called in life.  I actually got a phone call that changed the course of my life forever. Nearly 10 years ago, I received a phone call from a mother that was just sobbing. I could barely hear what she was saying. She’s finally said, “My name is Kara. You don’t know me, but someone said you can help me. My son is just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He’s eight months old and I really would love pictures of him.”

 I had my own photography business at the time. And little did she know that a few months before, it kind of was just put on my heart that I wanted to start my own nonprofit, which was a wild idea. I was in my young 20s and I just didn’t move forward with that idea and I just needed the courage to go for it. It all came together at that moment and that phone call. I remember just kind of taking a minute and thinking, this is it, this is my call for my life. I need to go serve people with the gift that I have.

And I got to say, “Kara, you know, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. But yes, we’d love to serve you. Here’s what I’d like to do.” We got to surprise her with not only a photo session, but we brought in a videographer and captured the last moments of her son’s life. It was very, very challenging. I wasn’t a mom at the time, so it was hard. We got to serve her and that was the beginning of Fotolanthrophy.

Charity Matters: How did you go from photoshoots to becoming a nonprofit documentary filmmaker?

Katie Norris: Then things kind of continued to grow after that families would call and they would nominate families because sometimes when someone’s facing such a great tragedy, you don’t know what to do. And sometimes, you know, a casserole, you want to do more than that. And so it felt so good to say yes, we’ll be there. How can we help?

Then everything kind of went to the next level, when we were interviewing a young soldier, Travis Mills. He’s a quadruple amputee. And I came across his story. And my world kind of stopped when I saw a picture of him. And we made our way to Fort Bragg to meet him, we’re gifting his family Fotolanthrophy, which was a portrait session and a short film. And I’m sitting here interviewing this American hero thinking, why don’t we make him a full-featured documentary? 

Once we continued the mission and served many families we realized what it was going to take to produce these stories and that’s when we knew we needed to become a nonprofit. We received our 501 c3 status in 2012. It was a great day and it felt like a new start. We’re really doing this, you know, it was kind of an answer to a phone call. Then we continued to see people impacted and it was such a joy to serve these families that we just went step by step and they just kept coming.

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

Katie Norris: So when I’m tired, I think about those people that we could potentially serve and maybe bring a little bit of inspiration to and that, that keeps me going.  I’ve got that phone call, you know, I’m anchored in that phone call that this is what I was supposed to do. And that keeps me going.

Charity Matters: do you know have a Motto that you live by?

Katie Norris: Consistency compounds. I continue to say those two words because it does compound and it all adds up. And so if I can just stay consistent in who I am in what we’re doing in our mission, it all will continue to move.  And that’s really helped me from the day to day.

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

Katie Norris: You can never give up on your dream. I mean, there are so many times that I could have said this is too hard. This is too much. And I think about all those “miss moments” that would have never happened.  I think about all the people that are moved experiencing our film, 7 Yards. So sometimes when we’re in those moments of adversity, and we can’t shake it that day, and we want to give up because it’s too hard, and the sacrifices we make…just to never give up, just don’t.  

We’ve been given this mission and just to continue going.  I think that’s one of the biggest things that has taught me to see what I’m made of, and to see what’s possible. It’s nice, because each project we take on more, and I think some days are really hard.  I wonder what I would have said, what my life would be like if I didn’t say yes to all this?  I would have missed out on so much. So anyone listening, that’s following your dream just keep going, just keep going.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

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