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Season Two Episode 19: Crossing Point Arts

There are so many amazing gifts that come each week with Charity Matters. I think one that I really appreciate is meeting super interesting people from all over the globe that I would not meet any other way. This week’s guest, Anne Pollack is a perfect example. Anne and I connected online before having our conversation about her incredible story of helping heal survivors of sex trafficking.

Join us for today’s podcast to learn about Anne’s own story of healing through creativity and the path that lead her to found Crossing Point Arts. It is an incredible journey where all of life’s paths intersect at a place of service. Ann shares her story using her multiple gifts as an artist to heal victims of human trafficking.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Crossing Point Arts does?

Anne Pollack:  Our mission is to bring the healing and restorative power of the arts to survivors of human trafficking through expressive arts workshops, helping them to release trauma, reclaim their once-silenced voices and learn long-term coping strategies. We reignite the spark of life that has been repressed by experiences of exploitation. As survivors forge a path beyond trauma, our Teaching Artists support their talents, self-validation, growth, and healing. They do this by working with survivors in dance, music, visual arts, poetry, spoken word, theater, and more.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  Crossing Point Arts?

Anne Pollack: As an eight-year-old child I learned of Harriet Tubman in school, and I wept. It was the first I knew of the enslavement of Africans. From that point forward I worked hard to inform myself about the history of slavery. I read I traveled, I found culture and community. But it was/ is where my heart took me.

At age 50, I was devastated to learn that there were more enslaved people on earth now than ever before. I knew then that I could take the energy of my life use it as a force for transformation. I allowed nothing to get in my way.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Anne Pollack: The greatest challenge of my work is the endless amount of education I must do. The general public is only vaguely aware of human trafficking due to their choice to look the other way. This, of course, translates into enormous challenges in funding our work. Though anti-trafficking work regularly receives Federal & State funding, it is hard to capture this same funding for our work.

Fundraising is a constant challenge, and it is not easy. Despite the vast number of people we have reached, we have done it with far too little funding. I am not even yet on salary and wear most of the hats in the organization. I keep about 15 Teaching Artists regularly engaged with survivors, and I personally mentor numerous survivors who are visual artists.

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

Anne Pollack:  Seeing the results of our work is stunning. Survivors, who have experienced years of compound, complex trauma, come back to life. The power of creativity is astonishing, and it is transformational for survivors, as well as the Teaching Artists (of which I am one).

I am a survivor of sexual assault (when I was age 21). Creativity in the form of music and art and dance and poetry saved my life. Therapy most definitely helped, as did acupuncture and other bodywork. Creativity, however, was at the core of my chance to thrive once again. I know the arts have this capacity, and I am committed to sharing the power of the arts with a wildly overlooked population.

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

Anne Pollack:  We have reached about 6000 survivors, over the course of 9 1/2 years, with over 1000 workshops delivered. Our metrics prove year after year that our work is making a real difference. Therapists and Social Workers who support survivors report that our offerings accelerate the therapeutic process of survivor’s healing. And, the more survivors feel confident in their own creative process, the more therapeutic coping strategies they can employ, supporting their life-long post-trauma growth.

photo credit: @seanwaltrous

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

Anne Pollack: Getting involved in the needs of the world is a rich, necessary, and expansive thing to do. In my opinion, to become fully human is to give back. And to give generously. To move beyond the confines of the life you have organized for yourself is to become aware of one’s own humanity, and the universal suffering that must be addressed. It is the only true way to become a citizen of the world. And doing so joins you with all the others who have understood this, and who have acted on it.

I would advise people to follow their hearts to where they feel drawn. Somewhere, there is someone working on an issue that awakens one’s compassion and brings out the spirit of service. Act on it. Stay consistent. Show up. Experience the inner expansion, and learn to not be afraid of the pain of others. We each have the gift of our lives, and it is that gift that must be shared to become truly human.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Anne Pollack: My life is realized, and that gives me a great sense that I didn’t skip over something because it was scary. I feel so blessed that service chose me as much as I chose it. And it’s an exquisitely beautiful way to go through a really unjust world. And, to keep creating beauty and possibility for others and to help people get where they’re going, was nothing better. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please connect with us:
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Season Two Episode 18: Distance for Difference

Welcome to Season Two of the Charity Matters Podcast! For the past decade, I have focused all of my attention on organizations based in the United States that help people. With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United
States alone, it seemed like a reasonable perimeter. Like I mentioned last week, people often come into your path for a  reason. When a mutual friend connected me with today’s guest I knew that rules were meant to be bent every now and then.

Stéphan Pieterse is the founder of the South African nonprofit Distance for Difference. His story of challenge, faith, and resilience is one for us all regardless of our country of origin. Stéphan and I  spoke a few months back and he referenced the corruption and social unrest that they were experiencing at the time. This week’s news has more violence in South Africa and is a perfect time to share Stéphan’s message of hope, love, and goodness.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Stéphan PieterseWhat an honor and privilege to be with you today. And you know, hopefully, I’m the first of many stories you can start to share worldwide, there are so many feel-good stories in South Africa as well. And I’m just one person out of 1000s that can tell amazing stories. So it’s for me, it’s an honor to almost represent South Africa today,  with your program.

Heidi Johnson:  At the end of the day, people are good. And it doesn’t matter where they are on the globe, there are amazing things happening all around the world. And sharing those stories, just makes us closer and makes us realize how small our planet has become. And the fact that we’re even having this conversation is a perfect example of it.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Distance For Difference does?

Stéphan Pieterse: Our main objective is really just to positively impact the lives of children in need. We do this by raising funds for children’s charities, or individuals caring for abandoned or abused children. And we basically raise these funds in two main ways. We have two sporting events,  the gratitude run and then we also have a 24-hour 301-mile cycling endurance event and we call that 500.

Then we also support individual athletes doing something challenging, like swimming across the sea, doing extreme cycling events, ultra marathons and we were even running marathons around their houses like we had to do during the lockdown in South Africa. We set up campaigns for these athletes to help them to market these fundraisers amongst their colleagues and families and friends and so on. We are very serious about the wise and very thoughtful distribution of these funds that are entrusted to us to become a beneficiary of Distance for Difference. 

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

Stéphan Pieterse:  Perhaps the earliest experience of charity was at the age of five when I lost my father in a vehicle accident. And he was only 37 years old at the time was a pastor. My mother was left with four children, the youngest was only eight months old, I was five.  I think it was during those early years that I experienced how it was to be on the receiving end of charity, and so many people really gave me hope for the future. 

My entire outlook on life, and especially doing things for others, changed dramatically during the last few weeks of 1996. We went on a three-week mission trip to India. it was really during those weeks experiencing,  both physical and spiritual sort of poverty of the people of India, that my entire outlook on material things in life really changed. I returned to South Africa, with a totally different outlook. I just had this burning desire to really reach out and help other human beings. And it didn’t all start then, it took another decade after that experience.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Stéphan Pieterse: One of the biggest things is at times losing hope. There’s so much corruption in this world, also in South Africa. The staggering the figures that they mentioned, in terms of how much corruption costs countries in South Africa. We talk about a figure of 68 billion US dollars. For me, that’s a staggering amount of money. When I use those figures, it sometimes takes the wind out of my sails.  I then think about Distance for Difference and our 10 years of hard work and toil and long hours.  We raised this minuscule little amount in comparison to that figure and that sometimes makes me want to cry. Then I think if we could just take 1% of that amount and distribute that to children in India and South Africa? What impact that would have been? 

Charity Matters: Do you have a favorite motto or phrase?

Stéphan Pieterse: I love the quote by Gandhi,” Be the change you want to see in his world.” You know, that became my catchphrase because there’s so much negativity, especially in our country right now. What is it that I can do to make a small difference? It doesn’t need to be starting an organization like this, just maybe joining some way. This world will be a better place.

How has this journey changed you?

Stéphan Pieterse:  This journey changed me from a self-centered individual who did things for others to feel good and to be recognized into somebody that doesn’t want recognition at all. It made me realize how blessed I am. We all have to think loud and clear about why are we being blessed?  Why are we in such a really fortunate situation?  What do we do with those blessings?

It really just changed me to have an eternal outlook and to know that life on earth is finite.  We are not going to be here forever. What are we doing with the time that we’ve been given? And are we really collecting treasures in heaven? Maybe you have one individual who’s listening right now who thinks that they want to do something? Just go out and start something small. It doesn’t have to be big. Get your family members involved. Start communicating about your desire. Get in contact with us, if you want advice.  Don’t sit and wonder anymore, go out and do and have an impact and make a change. 

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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A rabbit hole with a message

Have you ever had an afternoon where you just can’t focus? After a week of our leadership camp, I found myself meandering on social media. My LinkedIn feed presented an article from a mutual connection I didn’t know. Before I knew it I had gone down a tech and time rabbit hole in search of more.

The initial hook was an article about a Subscription Box that teaches children to volunteer. You can see why I was instantly engaged? Of course, I now needed to know more about this person that shared more than a few mutual friends on LinkedIn.  Her name was Jessica Jackley and she is best known as the co-founder of Kiva.  The nonprofit micro-lending organization that literally changed the face of philanthropy as well as how we look at poverty.

Kiva lets users lend as little as $25 to individual entrepreneurs, providing borrowers affordable capital to start or expand their business. Since its founding, Kiva has facilitated over $1.5B in loans worldwide. I knew her name sounded familiar…Before I knew it I was sucked into Jessica’s 2010 Ted Talk called, Poverty, money, and Love. You will be too because Jessica touches your soul in her authentic quest to make a difference.

 

For those of you not going down the rabbit hole with me, Jessica talked about three things near and dear to my heart. First,  entrepreneurs….hers are from third-world countries and mine are nonprofit founders but close enough. They are both people working hard to make life better for others. Second, the importance of community which is what all nonprofits build.  Lastly, we both agree that people are innately good. We all care and want to help but so often do not know-how. Ultimately, Jessica reminds us that it is a simple fact that caring gives us hope.

The next time you end up going down an unknown technological path, be open to what you may discover at the end of the journey. You never know what message is waiting for you.

Wishing you all a festive holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July!

 

CHARITY MATTERS

 

 

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It just isn’t summer without camp

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

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

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

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

Charity Matters.

 

 

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

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

Season One: It is all in the family

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

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

America’s Kids Belong

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

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

Help Us Adopt

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Season One: A place to call home

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

Urban Possibilities

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

Alexandria House

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

Haven House Youth Services

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

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

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

 

Season One: 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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Connect with us:

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Season One..thats a wrap!

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

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

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

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

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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Episode 15: Infinite Strength

I have met so many people in a decade of interviewing nonprofit founders but a select few have left a real lasting impression and Roberta Lombardi of Infinite Strength is one of them. We hadn’t spoken in a few years and I wanted to touch base and see what she was up to, you may remember her remarkable story. As a breast cancer survivor, Roberta wondered about the women she sat with in treatment who didn’t have the same resources she did and was determined to change that.

Infinite Strength began to help underserved women with breast cancer with the financial costs associated with breast cancer. are astronomical. I recently had a chance to catch up with Roberta and talk about how Covid has impacted cancer, single moms, her challenges in trying to support all of the above with her incredible organization.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Infinite Strength does?

Roberta Lombardi: We exist mainly to help single mothers who are in active treatment for breast cancer by giving them grants for what we call basic human needs, mortgage, and rent, car, utility, and phone.  I think we’re one of the few nonprofits to do that recurring funding for women with metastatic breast cancer. These are early-stage breast cancer patients who come to us once in a calendar year.  A patient with metastatic breast cancer, who’s basically going to be in treatment for the rest of their life. Their average lifespan at that diagnosis is two to three years.

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

Roberta Lombardi:  I was in the middle of treatment, and was getting more depressed from all the chemotherapy drugs and the steroids and the loss of hair. One day my husband walks into the kitchen and says, “Honey, we just got a bill for one of your chemos from insurance. But it’s $80,000!  Hon, how do people that don’t have money afford this?”  He throws the bill on the counter and it was like a lightning bolt for me.

All of a sudden, it really made sense to me.  How are these women ever going to be able to stop the cycle because it is a never-ending cycle? The woman we help, they’re already having trouble financially anyway.  How do you get off the roller coaster?

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

Roberta Lombardi: Every single time I have felt a little bit worn out that’s when somebody crosses my path. It reminds me that this is why I do this work.  And it’s the truth. It’s either it’s a patient who’s contacted me, and their story just touches me. It’s meeting their children and seeing what it does to the kids to have their mother ill.

 The women that we support with Infinite Strength, their whole life’s been a battle, they just don’t get a break.  Many of the women we help are black women and are underserved.  They don’t have the access to medical care and this disease hits them harder. Their death rate is higher than a woman that’s white. A lot of these women that I interact with, they’ve just not had a fair shot in life and a lot of things and they’ve struggled. Their kids are a part of this and that’s the heartbreaking part for me. I have to find a way to really make an impact and to give these kids hope that their mom’s going to be okay. Also to remind them that there’s kindness in the world that somebody cares.

Charity Matters: What has your impact been? 

Roberta Lombardi: For me, it’s the emotional impact of the peace of mind, we’re giving to these women. That’s how I measured it. The kind words that they write or when their child says something to me. That is when I know what I’m doing is very worthwhile. And that’s what spurs me on to keep going and to keep growing.

How has this journey changed you?

Roberta Lombardi: I think that one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to be so judgmental. You don’t know what somebody else’s life is. They show you what they want to show you and you don’t know what they’re going through. Right? You just don’t. The more somebody is maybe aloof or maybe not as kind, maybe the more kind I am because they need it. I’ve realized in my work, just that little bit of kindness or a smile, or doing something extra makes a person’s day so much better. And you don’t know where they were at that moment.  It’s little things of trying to be understanding.  I think that’s one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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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:
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Episode 8: Rhonda’s Kiss, a Mother’s Legacy

We never know when life is going to change in an instant. Kyle Stefanski is one of five children who grew up with a big happy family in Cleveland, Ohio. Kyle’s mom Rhonda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014 and passed away eight short weeks later. Their family was devastated but knew that their mom, Rhonda would want them to do something positive for others. The result and legacy is a nonprofit called, Rhonda’s Kiss. a nonprofit organization that supports cancer patients with the non-medical expenses that come with cancer.

Families experience loss all the time but not all families take their grief and turn it into something positive for others. I am excited to share the story behind Rhonda’s Kiss and more than that, the beautiful legacy that this mother has left her children and all those they serve through their incredible organization. Join me for an inspiring conversation with Rhonda’s son, Kyle Stefanski about his and his family’s work in creating this beautiful legacy in honor of their mom.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation:

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Rhonda’s Kiss)

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Rhonda’s Kiss does?

Kyle Stefanski: Rhonda’s Kiss raises money for the non-medical expenses tied to cancer.  It’s covering expenses like keeping your lights on, food in your fridge, wigs, childcare, rent, mortgage, and rides to and from the hospital. You see a lot of cancer patients either not going to the hospital because they can’t afford the ride, or stuck at the hospital for hours after their meeting with their doctor.  It’s just all these hidden costs that people don’t even think about because they’re just focused on cancer. 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you all knew you needed to act and start  Rhonda’s Kiss?

Kyle Stefanski: So I think it really came about when the family came together maybe a month or two after my mom passed. We were trying to figure out what happened and trying to say that we needed to turn this into something. So we sat down and said there’s so much money going into cancer. Why not put some money into something that we can actually tangibly feel is affecting people? Once funds are donated, the money goes to that partner hospital, and the social workers immediately start executing grants right away to help these cancer patients.

Charity Matters: This is hard work, running a nonprofit, what fuels you when the days are long and the work is hard?

Kyle Stefanski: How do I keep going? That hospital floor, where my mom passed, at the Cleveland Clinic, has stuck with me so, so deeply, I will never forget that feeling. When I walked away from her after she had taken her last breath, and I  just walked by myself through the hallway. I just felt the energies of each room and wanted to remember every piece of it.  So that’s a huge piece for me to always, always, always remember. 

You don’t have to have it emotionally bring you down, but it will never leave. And so I go to bed, it’s a thought of mine. When I wake up in the morning, it’s the first thought of mine. That is something that I live with, and everything else circles around that.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Kyle Stefanski: In only five years we’ve been able to donate over $1.5 million through all of our partner hospitals.  The Cleveland Clinic, Cedar Sinai, and the City of Hope, Cleveland Clinic Florida, and we are coming to New York City this spring. When we started the Cleveland Clinic had only three social workers in their cancer department working with patients. Just three workers. Since we’ve started this program that has grown to 28 social workers and that is just one of our hospitals.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Kyle Stefanski: Well, this process has taken me on such a spiritual path as well. A lot of it has been opening my eyes because we live in this very capitalistic society. And that’s a big reason why we don’t see the people in front of us and we don’t connect.  There is no human condition to really feel because we’re moving so fast and worried about ourselves. And so when you feel that gratitude, our spiritual side of how we’re supposed to be there for others. You realize we’re all in this together.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  If you enjoyed today’s episode, please:
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Connect with us:
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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.

 

Charity Matters Episode 7: The Ternans, Song for Charlie

There is nothing more painful or devasting than the death of a child.  When Charlie Ternan died last spring at age 22, just three weeks shy of his college graduation, from fentanyl poisoning it devasted his family and the community.  The pill he got online turned out to be a fake painkiller made of the dangerous opioid a fentapill.  Since Charlie’s death, his parents, Mary and Ed Ternan have been researching fake pills and fentanyl and have formed a nonprofit, Song For Charlie dedicated to warning young people about this growing danger.

Mary and Ed envision a future in which the casual use of prescription pills is considered socially unacceptable, and in which sharing random pills is uncool.  They are working to change the ‘quick fix’ mindset of self-medication in favor of more organic and sustainable strategies for managing stress and anxiety. To accomplish these goals, Song for Charlie seeks to break through the noise and communicate with young people on their terms – to go where they are; speak their language, and get them talking about the danger of online pills.

Here are a few highlights from today’s episode:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about Song For Charlie?

Ed Ternan: Song for Charlie is an organization that we started after our youngest son died in May of 2020 of fentanyl poisoning, and we found ourselves thrown into an issue that we’d never even heard about. Charlie died after taking what he thought was a legitimate prescription medication. The mistake he made was he went online and got a Percocet pill. And it turned out that it wasn’t Percocet. It was a counterfeit pill made of fentanyl. So we had the double whammy shock finding that our son had died and we couldn’t figure out how. And very quickly like the next morning, we’re told by law enforcement we suspect fentanyl. Then the question was, well, what is fentanyl? What’s going on here?

Charity Matters: When did you decide to start the organization?

Ed Ternan:  When we dug into the problem and went online, we very quickly became members of this club. And it’s not only the grieving parents club but then it’s parents like us, who are literally shell shocked to find out that their kid died from something that they didn’t even know was out there.

Then we had identified this kind of information gap so we thought, okay, is there something we can do? It’s a little bit of that feeling of, you know, if not us then who?  So we started networking a little bit and thought, you know, maybe we can add some value here. Maybe there’s something we can do.

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

Mary Ternan: Charlie and helping others to save lives.

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

Mary Ternan:  This is what we’re supposed to do. To share our love and care for others and take care of ourselves and be very caring to ourselves and listen to our intuition and our hearts and souls of what we need to do every day. You know you can change from day to day but the most important thing is just walking, walking the walk.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

Charity Matters Podcast Episode 6: Alma’s Backyard Farms a lesson in feeding the soul

We are excited to share our inspirational conversation with Erika Cuellar and Richard Garcia the Co-Founders of Alma’s Backyard Farms. In today’s episode, we discuss the origins of Alma’s Backyard Farms. The journey that brought Richard and Erika to Compton and to begin their nonprofit organization. What fuels them to do this work and the life lessons learned in the process of creating this amazing organization that exists to reclaim the lives of formerly incarcerated people.

Almas Backyard Farm  re-purposes urban land into productive urban farm plots and re-imagine disenfranchised communities in Los Angeles as a hub for transformation. Co-founder, Erika Cuellar is an LA native and first-generation Mexican-American. Growing up in Watts, Erika witnessed how her community has been fraught with challenges in education and food insecurity.  Erika’s co-founder is Richard Garcia whose passion to grow food comes from a long line of Filipino farmers. Before launching Alma Backyard Farms, Richard initiated garden programs for schools and restaurants.   

A few highlights from our conversation:

Charity Matters: Tell us about the name of your organization? And who is Alma?

Richard Garcia: There is a lot in a name. Alma in Spanish means soul. Food is what we grow. Our programming and services are intended to nourish the soul. That being community, a place to thrive. kinship connection that’s why we chose Alma’s Backyard Garden because Alma is also the street where we first started our first backyard garden.

Charity Matters: Tell us More about how you began Alma’s Backyard Gardens?

Erika Cuellar:  I went on to work at Homegirl Cafe, shortly after my senior year of college.  And so, Richard had come back to Homegirl Cafe to work with us and help develop a few different components of the training program, including a gardening aspect.

So we started an experiment, the idea of the entire food process of growing, preparing, and serving and so a lot of the women (previously incarcerated) that we were working with had never grown vegetables or had much exposure to what growing food is like.  It was during that work at Homegirl Cafe, that the fire was was was was ignited in our hearts to really pursue to pursue Alma.

And so we really started looking at backyards, like, how can we utilize underutilized space?  How can we take backyards that are not being maximized in Los Angeles, and create these farms? With the goal to grow foods to really nourish people and provide opportunities for folks who are we serving. The first backyard that we had installed was on Alma Avenue. That’s Richard’s house, which still remains a backyard farm.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to do this work? Your work is physically demanding as farmers and running A nonprofit, How do you keep going when it’s hard?

Erika Cuellar:  Good sleep, a good spiritual life, good prayer. And eating well, like, I like those three things. And exercise four things that keep us grounded and going.

Richard Garcia: There is a discipline with love, where you have to choose it every day. So it may not always feel wonderful. But there is a edify, deeper, an edifying feeling of knowing that the choice to love happens. Someone wants to describe farming is you know, picking up picking things up, and putting things down and that sometimes feels like the whole day.

Yeah, you’re picking things up putting things down, you’re loading, you’re offloading. The other day someone picked up kale and they’re preparing this kale for a kitchen that serves homeless folks. And then she looked around and she said to me, “I could see you love what you do.”  And I thought that was one of the nicest compliments.  There is this meticulousness about how we orchestrate the space because our intention is for people to really have a sense of presence in the space. So that is also fuel.

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

Richard Garcia: I think, you know, there’s a life lesson, it’s that God works through the challenges, not apart from it, not a distance from it, but through them. And so, I’m anticipating that there are challenges ahead. And, and I think, growing to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, has been one of the lessons that I’ve learned to appreciate.

Erika Cuellar:  The first word that came to mind when you said life lessons was the importance of honesty. To live a life that is honest.  I think there are many life lessons. But if you know we talk about what fuels and what motivates and what gets you going every day, and it’s that reminder to choose to be chosen and to choose love.

I guess it’s more than the lesson…. I think the lesson lies in embracing and accepting honesty. Being honest and all of your relationships and, as a business as a nonprofit business being honest in your transactions in stewardship. So I think that’s at the core of the values and lessons that I’ve learned. It is instrumental to really be able to live a life, not just for myself, but for others.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

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

 

Charity Matters Podcast Episode 5: Amel Najjar, 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.  When people say one person can not make a difference, they have not met Amel Najjar!

Here are a few highlights from today’s episode:

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about the Children of War Foundation?

Amel Najjar: So as of 2020 Children of War Foundation has two priority focuses. And that’s health and education. Our mission is to make these two essential in really fundamental human, basic human rights accessible to anyone at any time, from anywhere. I also think that it’s really important to shed light on where we were 10 years ago and how the organization has really evolved since then.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start the Children of War Foundation?

Amel Najjar: So 10 years ago, I had an opportunity to save one child’s life. And that was a nine-year-old boy who was a victim of war. At that time, I didn’t have experience managing a nonprofit, my only experience was volunteering with small organizations and bigger organizations. And at that time, what I had to offer was that could help this boy. I knew the region because I had lived there off and on as a child.  I also had family and friends in the region who could help me.

More importantly, I had access to resources and organizations that could help in Los Angeles. And so Children of War Foundation was born for the sole purpose of saving an innocent child who was caught in the crossfire of war. And I helped that one child successfully get to the US, secured a medical visa, and ensured that he had almost nine months of surgical care. My husband is a pediatric surgeon, here in Los Angeles, and between the both of us, I had my international experience, and he had his medical network, and I used that to my advantage. I used that network to build on to do more.

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

Amel Najjar: Okay, so I’m the type that is either go big or go home. This may sound really ridiculous. And I don’t care because that’s how I started in the first place. When I said I’m going to Iraq to bring a kid to LA, which sounded ridiculous at the time. But look what’s happened?  

My dream is to be the organization that drives change and influences world peace. This would lead to less poverty, by providing that access to health and education.  Which is the ultimate key to better decision making, becoming more compassionate people, healthier people who want to contribute to their communities, people who have something to live for. Overall, this would contribute to raising a future generation that understands what it is to learn, to be knowledgeable, to have choices to be healthy. And to give back. That’s my dream.

CHARITY MATTERS.

 

New episodes are released every Wednesday!  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.