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The Kindness Campaign

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” 

Scott Adams

Say what you will about social media but sometimes it brings amazing people together. A while back I was commenting on a LinkedIn post about Kelli Kelly, you may remember her from Hand to Hold in Austin? A fellow Texan, named Andra Liemandt, also commented on the post and her company read The Kindness Campaign. I was naturally intrigued and of course, it was a nonprofit.

I am not a cyberstalker I promise but Andra’s LinkedIn intrigued me. She had a career in large corporate account management and is the founder and drummer of the Mrs, a pop-rock band that has been on Good Morning America and featured in a host of magazines and opened for Bon Jovi. Naturally, I needed to know more. So I reached out to her and we connected via phone this past week for an amazing conversation that I hope leaves you as inspired about kindness as I was. What better way to start a New Year and decade than with kindness?

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Kindness Campaign does?

Andra Liemandt: We are on a mission to normalize emotional health. We all know that bullying, loneliness, and isolation exists but instead of allowing them to go unchecked we provide positive and acceptable tools that really promote emotional health. At the heart of what The Kindness Campaign (TKC) does it aims to create societal change by teaching emotional awareness, empathy, community and most importantly the development of building a healthy positive self-image. The place where we all tear ourselves down the most is with ourselves and that self-image is really where we try to build people up. Bullying has gone beyond the walls of our schools and now we need more help to access our teens and that is why we are building out tools to do that. That is exactly what TKC does.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  The Kindness Campaign?

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

We just couldn’t get our heads around what had happened. As a mom of two girls, I was terrified that something could happen to them. I began worrying what if my daughters felt alienated and I didn’t know, what if there was a bully, so many fears popped into my head. So I started a feelings journal where the girls and I could discuss emotions like grief and anger. From there the project grew to a general feelings journal, which I copied and took into my daughter’s school. Before I knew it the principal asked for a copy of my homemade journal and then shared them with four other schools. In 2015, we launched The Kindness Campaign as a 501c3. It was really something I was being led by and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other as I feel called to do today as this journey keeps going.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Andra Liemandt: Besides the fact that I am working against the second largest cause of death in teens? That is the real challenge. Since the beginning when we started out as this simple little feelings journal, we then just scaled very quickly. By far I think one of our biggest challenges has been ensuring that we are scaling the right way being able to meet the demands for the tools that are being created. I think every entrepreneur has to approach growth differently and because of the nature of our work, it is extremely important that we are serving our end-users, schools, and educators in the most quality way possible.

We have been super laser-focused on proof of concept along with our programs and curriculum. Our biggest challenge is trying to meet the needs of those that we serve. We receive 150 requests nationwide and are currently serving 40,000 students in 82 schools.  This year our curriculum is available nationally through Erin Condren’s stores and the TKC website so we are excited about that. The reality is that the need is always going to be greater than anyone can meet. Partnerships like Erin Condren’s and so many other amazing corporate partners make this work possible in building emotional health a reality.

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

Andra Liemandt: When I got into this work my motivation was simply to save lives. I carry my friend’s daughter in my heart always. Being able to give families and teachers solutions to address emotional health and to have conversations is so powerful and fulfilling.  I was at the gym recently and a woman came up to me that I didn’t know and she thanked me for connecting her and her daughter. The woman said, “You don’t understand we did not speak the way we are speaking now because of the tools you gave us. I can not thank you enough.” We are creating tangible tools for emotional health and I believe that the work we are doing now will have an impact on suicide statistics in the future.

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

Andra Liemandt:  There are so many sweet stories, emails from parents and teachers. We have an event called the KIND5 and it is a four-hour program where I walk away feeling moved by the day and from the difference we have made in our student’s lives. I receive notes telling me about how impactful it was and I’ll never know the complete one hundred percent impact but I do feel that there is trajectory for these students who might not ever have this type of opportunity. We did one recently called I Am Enough and we had our signature activation, the Magic Mirror , which is one of our tools. When I am there with the kids it always reminds me that we are making a difference. It is not about me, it is about the tools and opportunities we create. I am simply a vessel that allows these opportunities to flow through me and happen.

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

Andra Liemandt:  I believe there is a touchpoint from the first time somebody ever felt kindness to when it actually gets played out years from now. What I do know is that from the very first day that I knew this (TKC) was going to be something more than me and my daughters in my apartment working on the feelings journal and was going to become a nonprofit because it was growing so fast.  I said then,”that our work needed to be measurable.” I knew then that we needed surveys to collect data and I do believe that there are direct outcomes from our work. In doing that we have had proof of concept tracking data from the beginning when we were one school and then five and now 82 schools. I do actually believe that there are indirect outcomes to measure emotional health. 

We serve over 40,000 students nationally with our online programming. We just had our second annual House of Kindness event, we don’t do benefits but house parties and we had a great success which will go along way in serving our students. We launched a national PSA before every AMC movie in the fall because we have been so blessed with incredible partnerships. We have a national reach because of our online programming, which we are incredibly proud of.  Success is measured in so many different ways.

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

Andra Liemandt:  I’m a big dreamer. Personally, my dream is for TKC’s reach to be so large, that schools and families can access us anywhere. We mean it when we say we want to raise a generation where emotional fitness is normal – as normal as physical fitness, and just as mainstream, too. We have life-changing tools for students, and we’re constantly innovating. So, my dream is to put these resources within reach for anyone, because children from all walks of life deserve access to this critical health metric.

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

Andra Liemandt: Life lessons evolve as you are on the journey. Where I am today on this journey and what we talk about at TKC is what if emotional wounds showed up on our bodies the way that physical wounds do?  We would all take this conversation a lot more seriously. I think about this on a daily basis.

When I look at my life today, my biggest life lesson is from the Magic Mirror (video above) and that the life lesson is that everyone wants to be seen and heard. The Magic Mirror has also taught me that attention is a really important healer. When we feel safe and secure we then have space for empathy. I have learned that through kindness organic outcomes from emotional health happen when we feel connected to one another, then we feel seen and heard.  Very often the impulse to bully just drops away. When we feel safe and secure we have emotional space for empathy which can be taught and that is huge. All of these lessons are the lessons that have added up in these past six years. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Andra Liemandt: This journey has allowed me to think in a deeper, calmer and more empathetic way for others. It has allowed me to give myself grace and forgiveness.

 

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 © 2020 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.

New year, new decade….

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

C. S. Lewis

Well, it is here. A new year and a new decade. A new chance to look back at what 2019 brought you in the way of challenges, gifts, and direction. Now a time to look at where you are going in 2020. What is your vision for 2020? As Germany Kent said, “Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.” Something I believe in but first, we need to figure out what we want to do?

2019 is so last year but I am proud of the continued growth Charity Matters had. We interviewed more nonprofit founders than ever before. Our social media and email subscriptions continue to climb so thank you to all of you for sharing this work with your friends and family. My goal continues to be to get the word out about these remarkable humans who work to serve others.

Last year, I committed to each of you that I was going to be brave and put myself out there more and I did. It was a year of loss with our youngest son off to college and one of my dearest friends moving away. With that loss came new opportunities for growth. That book I said, I would write when my son left for college, I started. This year the goal is to finish it. Trying to stretch and challenge myself in new directions is exciting and terrifying all at once. That is what life is all about…moving ahead.

This year I am committing to finding new ways to get the message out about these amazing people I bring to you each week. The book, possibly a podcast and any other platform that helps me shout from the rooftops just how amazing and good people really are.

So far, I have reviewed what went great last year and what didn’t and am still pulling my full list of resolutions together. List aside, this first week of January is time to pause and reflect on what matters and how we want to achieve that.  More than anything I am immensely grateful for love, health, family, faith and friends. The best way I know to show that gratitude is to channel that abundance and love into service. So for 2020, I commit to gratitude, to giving of myself, to being brave and to spreading the love….which is just another word for charity.

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 © 2020 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.

Raising Philanthropic Children 2019

” You are never too young to change the world.”

Author unknown

This past weekend I attended Once Upon a Room’s holiday fundraiser, where my youngest son has been Santa for the past few years. I couldn’t help to be proud of all the work he has done for this organization but more importantly who is because of his service to others. Our goal as parents is to plant that seed of compassion in our children and continue to nurture and cultivate it.

As parents today we have many challenges, especially during the holidays. We all walk the fine line of asking our children what they want, realizing that they don’t really need anything and all while trying to explain to them the real meaning of the season.

So the question becomes, how do we raise philanthropic children? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Start young, the earlier the better. For little ones (4 or 5), keep it simple, perhaps canned food for a local shelter or blankets, something that they understand.

2. Be age-appropriate. Don’t overwhelm young children with world hunger but rather something relatable to them, perhaps something local in your community.

3. Engage your children in the process, especially the older they get. Find out what they care about? Perhaps they love animals and want to support a local shelter? Have them use their passion to make a difference. Catch them where they are and meet them there. Your children’s service choices will evolve as they do so be flexible.

4. Research together and suggests a few choices. With 1.7 million non-profits it can be overwhelming for all of us. Our family usually picks 3 or 4 ideas and then we vote on a holiday philanthropy project. We have adopted soldiers, fed homeless, adopted inner-city families for Christmas. Ultimately it is the kid’s vote that decides. Utilize tools like Project Giving Kids for age-appropriate ideas.

5.  Be intentional with your own giving. Teach by example. Discuss what causes you care about. Let your children hear and see your volunteer efforts or participate in them if possible.

6.  Make giving habitual by being consistent. Whether its part of your allowance structure, a holiday tradition or something you do at birthdays, be consistent and establish giving as a tradition and habit. It’s no different from any sport, the more you participate the easier and more fun it becomes. Ultimately it becomes a part of who they are.

7.  Emphasize the joy and the experience of giving rather than money. Philanthropy is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Giving is so much more fun than receiving. Make it a joyful experience for your family and something you share in together. Perhaps, start with entering a 5k walk or charity run or volunteering together.

The benefits of philanthropic children: 

  1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are
  2. Develops empathetic thinking
  3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have
  4. Enhances self-esteem
  5. Correlates to improved performance in school

Like everything we do with raising our children, it takes time, patience, consistency, and love.  Chances are you already do most of these things and don’t even realize it and your children do too. This holiday season, enjoy the process of giving in whatever way you decide to participate. You and your children will experience the real joy of the holidays….together.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2019 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.

 

Brave Minds Project

This past week I was in the New York visiting friends and getting into the holiday spirit and had the chance to talk to an amazing New Yorker and recent nonprofit founder, Alyssa Carfi.  A young dynamo with a public relations career by day and someone determined to make a difference as a new nonprofit founder by night and weekends and every minute in between. I often think that people forget that nonprofit founders are entrepreneurs of the best kind, people who start businesses to serve others. Alyssa is exactly that, she has taken her experience as someone who had a brain condition called, ‘cavernous malformation’ and turned it into a remarkable nonprofit called Brave Minds Project.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Brave Minds Project does?

Alyssa Carfi: We are a 501c3 that focuses on supporting patients between the ages of 10-29 with brain and brain stem conditions. They are the forgotten demographic, it’s a time when your hormones are changing, your life is changing and you are trying to figure out who you want to be, trying to go to school, or launch your career and then when you find out that there is something wrong with your brains, it’s devastating. It completely changes your whole life and affects the people around you as well.

I was 15 when I was diagnosed and 18 when I had brain surgery. When I look back at what I had there were certain resources missing. I was very fortunate to have both a great support system and great doctors but I wanted to provide some of those resources. I remember my 15th birthday, I was in the hospital and a clown came in and gave me a teddy bear, while it sounds funny it wasn’t really age-appropriate. So what we do besides building a community of young people with brain and brain stem conditions, we have created a mentorship program to pair up a patient with someone in the outside workforce, so if they want to be a doctor or a teacher or an actress we pair them with a  mentor in that field so they have someone to look up too. In addition, we provide things such as courage kits which are care packages for our patients and their siblings which is a fun way we can bring them a little sunshine and a smile.

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

Alyssa Carfi: Last November, the day before Thanksgiving I told my parents that I wanted to start Brave Minds Project  I am ten years out of my own brain surgery and am still affected by it. Being an adult, I wanted to give back because not everyone is as fortunate as I have been. I’ve been able to go to college, to study abroad, to work and now as I navigate my own place in the world, I knew I had to do this. So, I told my parents I wanted to start a nonprofit and they agreed it was a great idea. So I applied and this past June we got our 501c3. We are just getting started.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Alyssa Carfi: Because of my day job in PR, getting the word out has been pretty easy but the big challenge is that our patients are everywhere and we have to be wherever our patients are so the logistics can be difficult.  We continue to partner with more hospitals and build momentum and we would love to be nationwide eventually. It is one step at a time but I honestly didn’t even think we would be this far in our first year.

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

Alyssa Carfi: It is a lot but it is also very rewarding to hear the patient’s stories and they are inspired that I went through the same thing. We had one patient who was 24 and a year out of brain surgery. I talked to him and told him how incredible he looked for being only a year out of surgery. I told him that I waited for ten years until I met someone else who had even gone through what I had. He was so excited to just have an honest reference point for how he was supposed to look. The work is hard but it is truly rewarding to connect people going through this. Now that same 24 year old is sharing his story to help others as a Brave Minds Project Ambassador. 

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

Alyssa Carfi: It is those moments when we support our patients which means so much. We had a patient recently that is 19 years old college student with a brain tumor that affects her vision. She needed a very special and expensive contact lens. The Brave Minds volunteers surprised her with this special lens so that she could see. She was beyond grateful, those are the moments that remind me that we are making a difference.

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

Alyssa Carfi: The biggest impact so far has been the patients that we have helped and their patients. Overall, the connection we have created by bringing people together within this community is something you can’t put a number on. We connect patients to other patients and have incredible events at The Brain Bar, in patrnership with Stroke of Genius,  where we bring in speakers such as well known neurosurgeons to talk about various topics, like combining yoga and brain surgery and why its best for recovery. Friends and family of patients have also met and created another level of support. 

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

Alyssa Carfi: As we come upon our one year anniversary of the Brave Minds Project, my dream would be to raise more funds to put resources into building more programs. I want to continue to foster our community along with our programs. We have so many great things in place and I am really excited about where we are heading in trying to help this demographic of patients along with the hospitals and institutions.  I think that we are bringing people together that can really help to move the needle.

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

Alyssa Carfi: I always knew I was going to do something based on what happened to me. I  know I was put on this earth for a larger purpose and this experience has taught me that anything is possible. I work really hard to make this happen and I work really hard at my job. All the funds raised by the nonprofit go right back into the organization. I have gotten very good at focusing and compartmentalizing to get things done. The Brave Minds Project has reminded me that people always want to help and I am always amazed by the gifts of time and effort put into showing up and supporting this work.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Alyssa Carfi: I have grown as a person. This has been really freeing because not everyone knew my story. I wear my story every day I have 6th and 7th nerve palsy which is where your eye and smile are affected. As a result, I  have had a lot of cosmetic surgery and it is definitely better. Starting the Brave Minds Project has forced me to be vulnerable and to open up and say, “Yeah I had this, this is what happened to me and because of this I now run a nonprofit to help others like me.” People no longer see my limitations anymore but the whole picture of what happened to me and how I was able to turn it into something good and that fuels everything that I am doing right now.

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 © 2019 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.

Giving Tuesday is here!

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, a successful black Friday, are enjoyed your cyber Monday and are now ready for the most important day of all… #GivingTuesday. What is #GivingTuesday, you ask? It is a global generosity movement that began in 2012 to celebrate and support giving and the power of people to transform their communities and the world. Giving Tuesday began as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good and something to counter Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Over the past seven years, this idea has transformed into a global movement that has inspired hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate and celebrate generosity.

Since I’m heading to the birthplace of Giving Tuesday today to kick off the holiday season, I only thought it was fitting to share a little about this special day. For those of us in the nonprofit space (all 1.7 million nonprofits in the US) Giving Tuesday is one of the biggest days of the year. It was started by New York’s 92nd Street Y, which has over 140 years of fundraising experience. They reached out to the United Nations Foundation with this innovative idea and joined as partners. Soon after, big corporations and non-profits signed on to help spread the word and the rest is history, as they say.

Giving Tuesday has become a global movement that last year united over 100 countries around the world by sharing our human capacity to care for and empower one another. Today, more than ever, we need to be doing a little more of that. What I think is even more fantastic is the volunteering efforts that go along with the day. If you are not sure where to start then simply go the link here and you will find a list of local volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood.

Last year alone over 700,000 people volunteered for clothing drives, tutoring projects and a wide range of activities aimed at helping local non-profits across the country. Almost 40,000 charities, corporate and civic partners registered to officially be a part of Giving Tuesday this year. Sheila Herring from the Case Foundation was quoted as saying,”The biggest thing for us is that Giving Tuesday directly challenges Black Friday and Cyber Monday. What if, as a nation, we focused that kind of attention on giving and we wanted that to be our identity.”

What if? Our world would be a better place. And it already is because what started as an idea seven years ago, has raised over one billion dollars in the United States alone online for charities and causes, around the world. When we come together in unity, we can make beautiful things happen.

Charity Matters.

Sharing is caring, if you are so moved or inspired, we would love you to pass the torch/post and inspire another.

Copyright © 2019 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.

Infinite Strength

October may have come and gone but there are way too many amazing humans doing incredible work for breast cancer to fit them all into one month. Breast cancer doesn’t happen only in October but every two minutes in the United States someone’s life is changed by the diagnosis. There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States and one of them is Roberta Lombardi. She is an incredible woman who I met through the Female Founder Collective recently. Roberta is the mother of three daughters, a breast cancer survivor, the founder of a line of beautiful bras for women who have had mastectomies and the founder of the nonprofit Infinite Strength.

Her mission is to support women in every possible way (groceries, bills, emotionally, medical bills) who have breast cancer and do not have health insurance. Roberta and Infinite Strength give these women the extra hope they to fight.  She is a bright light and exactly what our world needs more of.  I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did!

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

Roberta Lombardi: While most people have been touched by breast cancer in some way, you do not really understand what it can do to your life unless you have had it yourself. Breast cancer doesn’t just take your breast, it can ruin relationships, shatter you mentally and is capable of destroying major areas of your life. How can you try to heal and have the best possible outcome in fighting this disease if on top of all this you are worried about bankruptcy, feeding your family or paying your bills? Infinite Strength is there to help financially and emotionally support those women so they can hopefully have the best possible outcome from their treatment. 

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

Roberta Lombardi: I am someone who never wanted to ask anyone for anything. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, most people had no clue that I had been sick. When I was done, I felt very blessed. They never tell you when you get cancer that when you are on the other side you are somehow estranged from who you were before cancer. I could not figure out how to get back to my previous life after fourteen months of going to the hospital every week.

My husband and I were standing in our kitchen and opening the last of our insurance bills and realized that my last round of chemotherapy had cost $80,000. We just looked at each other and my husband said, “What do people do without good insurance or without insurance at all? ” I was lucky, I didn’t need financial help but the minute my husband said it, I thought of all the women I had sat with at chemo for months and knew many of them were those women without support.

When I started to put all of this together, I just kept thinking about what if we hadn’t had the financial resources? What if we had not been able to afford food or rent because of medical bills? So, I went to the hospital where I had been treated and asked how I could help? I had been an event planner in my previous life and wanted to help them do an event to help those women who needed financial support. I also realized it was time to pick up the pieces of my own life and make things better for others. The hospital suggested that I start a nonprofit.  I was so grateful and I knew I needed to do this for these women and that was the beginning of  Infinite Strength. 

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Roberta Lombardi: I think our biggest challenges are in creating those long term partnerships with sponsors. After everything I have been through, I now know how important wellness is and trying to find the right sponsors who are aligned with wellness, who mirror our values and want a long term partnership is challenging. 

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

Roberta Lombardi: Just when things get difficult, I believe the universe sends me a sign. I can not walk away from this work because it is a part of me and who I am. I need to take that part of me to help someone else and I need to make it better. On those days when life is overwhelming, I’ll receive an email with a story of what they are dealing with in addition to breast cancer. That is what motivates me to keep going and that is what motivates me to keep upping my game. They say that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer but it literally feels almost like an epidemic to me and Connecticut has the third-highest rates of breast cancer in the country.

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

Roberta Lombardi: I know I am on the right path. For me when I have a quiet moment I think about what we have done when someone really needs our help. One of our women had a toddler who wouldn’t hug her because she was scared of her mom, so trying to find her a human hair wig so that her child would recognize her. I think about that and feel a moment of peace. I sit and think about what we have done and from every moment that I’ve been able to say we made a difference today, it seems that from that something else builds and it always leads to the next opportunity to do more.  

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

Roberta Lombardi: We began Infinite Strength in February of 2018 and in our first year we gave away $135,000. More than anything we give women strength and hope so that they do not give up. We come in and help them so that they can keep fighting and not worry about the bills. Sometimes it’s just that one little thing that gives them that light that they need to go on.

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

Roberta Lombardi: My dream would be that they wouldn’t need us and that they will find a cure. I know that if I hadn’t gone through this I would have never met any of these incredible women who have not only survived breast cancer but they have also turned it something amazing for others. Breast cancer survivors stick together like a family and hearing their stories makes me want to be a part of making this dream reality.

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

Roberta Lombardi: I am very mindful now. I have learned that no one knows what is going on behind someone’s smile. We all have something that we are going through. I have learned patience, not to judge and to give kindness…even if it is just a smile. It is SO simple! Saying good morning to someone can change their day. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Roberta Lombardi: All of this has made me a better person and I am more grateful than ever before. I feel so blessed with the life that I have had. In the grand scheme of things, breast cancer has led me to this. I am genuinely happy with myself. Before my happiness was about others and making them happy. Now, I take care of myself. I think true happiness can be just being alone with yourself being peaceful. I am peaceful inside. My life has been good.

Charity Matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

Copyright © 2019 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.

Moving Day:Parkinsons Foundation

People who move change the world. That is the slogan for the Parkinson’s Foundation and this past weekend that is what our family did, we moved. We are a family of action but this weekend our movement was different. On Saturday,  we moved to support my stepmother, Nan, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease ten years ago. This year alone another 60, 000 people will be diagnosed with the disease. So when my sister-in-law reached out to everyone and said let’s walk for Nan, we were all in.

Over one million Americans live with Parkinson’s Disease and every nine minutes someone new is diagnosed. There are ten million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s disease. While we think that Parkinson’s affects older people, ten percent of the diagnosis are for people under the age of fifty.

So before we began our walk on Saturday we each grabbed a ribbon to walk with. The blue ribbon was for the person with Parkinson’s disease. The gold for the caretaker living with someone with the disease and the silver ribbon for those of us that supported a loved one with Parkinson’s.

What exactly is Parkinson’s Disease? It is a chronic and progressive disease that at its most simple definition is a movement disorder that affects the ability to perform common daily activities. Parkinsons is often characterized by its most common motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness of the muscles and slowness of movement.

The American Parkinson’s Disease Association was founded in 1961 and even google could not help me find out who founded the organization, so that will have to wait for another post. What I do know is that since that time the organization has raised over $185 million dollars to help research, educate and help us to find a cure for this disease.

So on Saturday, we carried our ribbons and walked for Nan and for my dad and for all of those who love and care for someone with Parkinson’s.

We raised money, sent emails and did social media to get the word out and my sister and brother-in-law even sponsored the porta potties for the event. This isn’t our typical family photo….

As the Parkinson’s Foundation says, “People who move change the world.” There was simply nothing better than seeing Nan and my dad moving together, our family and hundreds of people supporting one another to change the world and the face of this disease one step at a time.

Charity Matters

 

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Honoring our Veterans with Higher Ground

Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day. 

Charles B. Rangel

Today is Veteran’s Day, a day that our nation comes together to honor those who have served our country. Brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free.  According to statistics, twenty-two veterans die each day in the United States from suicide. I was thrilled when I had the privilege of connecting with Kate Weihe, the Executive Director of an amazing organization called Higher Ground that serves our veterans and their spouses and supporters through amazing outdoor experiences as they adapt and learn to deal with their disabilities. In addition to Kate, I spoke to Higher Ground’s Director of Military Programs and a veteran himself, Rich Cardillo. An inspiring and emotional conversation that had me in tears a few times. The passion that Rich has for the veterans he works with was palpable.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what Higher Ground does?

Kate Weihe: We enhance the quality of life for people of ALL abilities. Our biggest programs are with our veterans, their trauma, PTSD and we exist to serve and support them.  Our mission is to use recreation, therapy, and support to give people of all abilities a better life. Together we build the bridge between disability and belonging. One of our biggest programs is working with Veterans and active duty service members with traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress syndrome, military sexual trauma, and other military trauma. We serve people with disabilities from ages 2-101 and we do this by using outdoors and nature along with family, friends, and community to support them.

Rich Cardillo: As a veteran, myself, who wanted to continue to serve veterans and servicemen in any capacity after I left the service. What drew me to Higher Ground in 2013 was the care and passion for people. We are now a staff of twenty-four and we are fully committed to enhancing our veteran’s lives as well as the local non-veteran community, here in Sun Valley, Idaho and in our other chapters in New York and LA.

Charity Matters:  Tell us a little about Higher Ground began?

Kate Weihe: Higher Ground began as an adaptive arm of the Sun Valley, Idaho Ski School. There was a local skier who had Multiple Sclerosis and wanted to get on the mountain again and there was not an instructor or equipment to take her. We began in 1999 when Mark Mask, our founder, talked the resort into getting their first sit-ski.  Kara Barrett who was there from the beginning developed all of our programs that initially were based on skiing and that evolved to a summer camp for children with cognitive disabilities.  In 2004, when we started seeing our Veterans coming home with PTSD  and we pivoted to embrace or veteran community. Initially, we were working with Veterans who were visually impaired from their service and then that translated into the invisible injuries of war. Today, we continue to have winter programs and summer family camps and a host of outdoor programs for our veterans as well as others with disabilities.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Rich Cardillo: Our biggest challenge is trying to help the volume of veterans that still need our services. We are such a small organization compared to some other larger veteran based organizations. We want to grow our programs to continue to chip away at an insurmountable number of veterans. The financial need for expansion is critical. We are looking at alternative ways to reach more veterans and at the same time while trying to save money. Currently, Veterans come to us but we are beginning to fly our teams to them. We know that one of the true benefits of the program is the community they establish during their time with us.  We want them to be able to go back home and have others in their community that they call can call up and say let’s go do something together. 

Kate Weihe: I think our biggest challenge is to make sure that we continue to have exceptional programs and consistency as we scale and expand.

Charity Matters: What fuels to keep doing this work?

Kate Weihe: Undoubtedly, being with our program participants and seeing how effective our work is. When we hear from Veterans and their testimonials proving that our work truly made a difference for them and even better is hearing from them years later when they share that they are thriving. The other piece that fuels me is our exceptional staff.

Rich Cardillo: Having the opportunity to be a part of this process of witnessing the transformation that happens in the five days of our program. We get to witness our veterans become more of themselves and work with their partner or spouse to deal with their injury. It fills me up.

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

Rich Cardillo:  For me those moments are emotionalI retired from the military in 2008 and told my wife that we screwed up thirty years of our lives serving our country on active duty. My wife said, “What are you talking about?” I told her she needed to come witness the transformations that happen on our programs and see the changes being made, for me that is my life. The work we are doing at Higher Ground. fills my cup. When you can be a part of that change and know that you have made an impact on someone’s life it is powerful.

Kate Weihe: Rich gets to witness life-changing experiences in his work with our Veterans. In 2010, I received an email from one of our veterans who was one of the toughest people and stories you have ever heard. He was completely broken when he came to us and faced a lot of challenges. Today he is thriving and the long term impact of our work is why we do this. 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about your success and impact at Higher Ground?

Kate Weihe: We are a quality over quantity organization that focuses on individuals. We transform veterans’ lives being in the outdoors with the people they love and we are able to lend a unique and heartfelt way to help them find their own fulfillment. We do a lot of connecting our veterans with their family members and we are lending a unique way to help people realize their own potential.

Rich Cardillo: Our impact is only three words, we enhance lives. Whether it is a Veteran or a non-veteran that has an injury, everything we do makes their lives better. We know we have made an impact even if we have improved one component of their lives, even one piece is huge. I do know that what we do gives our veterans a better quality of life moving forward.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for Higher Ground what would it be?

Kate Weihe: My dream would be that we would no longer have a waitlist for our programs. We serve 200 Veterans in our Military Program a year and we have over 1,000 on our waitlist. 

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

Rich Cardillo: I think for me personally a life lesson is have learned the importance of communication and having the ability to have a real conversation. We give our veterans the tools to do this and it’s called a win-win, so in the course of a conversation, no one loses.  In the end, both people involved in a conversation can feel good about themselves. For me, my life lesson is definitely communication.

Kate Weihe: I think overall in the bigger bucket my perspective has changed. Every time when I have had a rough day, I am reminded how lucky we are. Spending time with our veterans gives me gratitude on a daily basis. I know talking to my friends and family that they do not have that same opportunity that I have in my work. I am so grateful and so fortunate for the life I have been given. Now I can share that with others, a whole lot of gratitude.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Kate Weihe: I think I’ve grown up a lot. I think I have learned to move a little bit slower and reflect more and take time to step back and be more compassionate.

Rich Cardillo: Higher Ground has shown me that there is hope. We are doing the right things for the right people. This work has reinforced my hope in humanity and that has come from our donors, our volunteers, and our veterans. They all remind me every day of the fact that people want to do the right thing and that gives me hope.

Charity Matters

 

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How do you measure a year in the life?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure,
Measure a year?

In daylights?
In sunsets?
In midnights?
In cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in a life?

This past weekend we celebrated my Dad’s 80th birthday. It was a fantastic celebration of a man who has lived many lives, faced death more than a few times and never thought he would be here to talk about it eighty years later. Like all birthdays it was a time of reflection, a moment to pause and to assess what really matters…family, friends, health and love. Our celebration was all of that and then some. As my dad spoke to everyone, he talked about how grateful he was to have such a life and reminded us all that none of us get out of here alive….which if you know my dad speaks to his humor.

My dad is one of seven children and all of the siblings rallied from near and far to be with him for his special day. The only one missing was my aunt, the firstborn of the clan who had passed away a week before. So, on Monday we had her service and celebrated my aunt’s life in a different sort of celebration, a celebration of life. The juxtaposition was palpable and yet both events were joyful times honoring my amazing family.

I came home from the service and couldn’t help but take a pause for the legacy my grandparents created in their seven children. First and foremost, they (my aunts and uncle) are a team. Always one hundred percent there for each other and every life event. Years ago when my parents were in their car accident and my dad was in a coma, his siblings came from everywhere and took turns sitting by his side 24 hours a day for weeks so he was never alone. They are always there for one another, no matter what.

All of my aunts and uncles have incredible faith and each has served others in a variety of ways. They have all been either teachers, champions for those who struggle with addiction, volunteers, board members, community leaders and above all humans who are kind, generous and who use their time to make others’ lives better. As I drove my family to the airport I followed a car that’s license plate said it all, GRYTFUL or grateful. …..beyond grateful to measure two amazing lives with love.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear.
five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure,
Measure a year?

In daylights?
In sunsets?
In midnights?
In cups of coffee?
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a year in a life?

Charity Matters

 

YOUR REFERRAL IS OUR GREATEST COMPLIMENT,  IF YOU ARE INSPIRED, PLEASE SHARE AND INSPIRE ANOTHER.

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My Hope Chest

” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.”

Author unknown

I couldn’t let October come to an end without discussing Breast Cancer. Last year I interviewed an amazing nonprofit founder and breast cancer survivor and since that interview, I have had four friends who have undergone mastectomies. Breast Cancer isn’t something that only happens in October it is something that happens every two minutes every day. One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer does not discriminate from the rich or the poor. To be honest I had never thought about what happens when you get breast cancer and have no insurance? I assumed that Medicaid and Medicare covered everything. Well, I was wrong.

Last year, I had the most inspiring conversation with the nonprofit founder, Alisa Savoretti, a woman who lived this journey of having a mastectomy and no insurance for reconstructive surgery. The result was the creation of My Hope Chest, the only national nonprofit in the country that takes these women and helps to fund their reconstructive surgery. Alisa and I had an incredible conversation and I left feeling inspired by this amazing warrior who fights for women who truly need one. She has left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to re-share her story.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew that you needed to act and start My Hope Chest?

Alisa Savoretti: Hearing you have cancer is a devastating moment. It’s one thing to hear you have cancer but it is another thing to realize you have cancer, you do not have insurance and you do not qualify for Medicaid. This is what happened to me at 38 years old. I had been working in Las Vegas as a showgirl and had recently moved to Florida to begin an online furniture business before companies like Pottery Barn existed. I had borrowed funds on credit cards to launch Retrohome.com in 1999 when I found out I had cancer. The doctor said to take care of the cancer, focus on surviving and worry about the reconstruction later. 

I survived but lived without my breast for almost three years. You have no idea what this does for you as a woman, for your mental well being. During those three years, I reached out to organizations all over the country, government, nonprofit, anyone who could help me to become whole again. I discovered that there wasn’t anywhere to go. I felt deformed, depressed, frustrated, had metal anguish and enormous financial stress.

I went back to Vegas to work at The Rivera and the 1998 government law now mandated that their group policy could not decline me insurance in order to get my reconstructive surgery. I realized how my own self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth as a woman returned when I could look in the mirror and could see my whole physical being once again. It was my healing, a restoration in body mind and spirit.

While I was in Vegas, I volunteered for a NAWBO (National Association of Women’s Business Owners) event. I told the women from NAWBO my story and these women rallied around me and with their help, I was able to start My Hope Chest and had my 501c3, six weeks later on December 3rd, 2003. We will celebrate our 15th anniversary this year.

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

Alisa Savoretti: Some days it feels as if I am pushing a boulder uphill with a toothpick. And fifteen years of doing this at the grassroots level, the work is very hard. What fuels me is knowing that thousands and thousands of women are missing their breast and this shouldn’t be happening in our country. Making women whole again is our mission. I think about more women are surviving breast cancer and that’s true, but what about their quality of life if they are not whole?

These women are sick and often lose their jobs because they can’t work. They are now disfigured, deformed and depressed. The ripple effect of not being whole is devastating on marriages and families. This work has become my life’s mission. I am not married, cancer made children no longer an option and for the past fifteen years, this work has been my life.

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

Alisa Savoretti: We pick up where the government programs leave off. That is why we exist.  Our biggest referrals come from nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, and Care.org.  We get referrals from them weekly and we can not tell our clients if or when they are going to be helped. They sit on a waitlist while we try to raise the funds to make their reconstructive surgery happen. Helping women to become whole again is what fuels me and just knowing that there is always a list of women waiting for us to find the funding.

I know that we have made a difference when we can help them with whatever they have asked for and the letters they send us.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had?

Alisa Savoretti: We help women every year in a small way and I feel blessed that God picked me to do this task. Every time we get the word out about our work it helps fund someone’s surgery. Shining a light on this cause is SO important. We have been able to fill a gap where other breast cancer charities leave off. If there was another organization doing our work we wouldn’t do it but sadly there isn’t anyone else. The women we help are eternally grateful for all we have done and to me, that is the success.

Charity Matters: What is your vision for My Hope Chest going forward?

Alisa Savoretti: We will only exist until there is a cure for breast cancer. Of course, the big dream is that there is a day when our services are no longer needed. Ten years from now I dream that we have enough resources, funding, surgical partners and angel warriors that we can help women as quickly as they are referred to us. I dream of no longer having a waitlist and being able to have a more efficient meaningful impact on these women’s lives.

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

Alisa Savoretti: God had a different plan for my life. I have a quote on my desk that says,” When you come to the edge of a forest and there is no path-make one that others will follow.” I feel like that is what happened with My Hope Chest. My life’s lesson is that when you persevere you will make a difference. The fact that this even exists in 2018 and is still flying under the radar that there are women, thousands of women in this country living without their breast.  I have refinanced my home three times to keep the funding going for My Hope Chest. I have taken extra jobs at the grocery store to fund this. I have learned that I have to persevere to help these women in any way I can. I cannot give up on them.

I think that changing even one life is important. Things are bigger than us, this mission is bigger than me and I have tied my life to making a difference. For me, I am grateful I was chosen for this journey. I am grateful to keep doing this work and I pray the Lord that My Hope Chest gets to leave a legacy on this earth until there is no longer a need for our services. That is my utmost prayer.

In the end,  I know that I have done my very best.

 

Charity Matters

 

 

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Create the Change Day

“Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways, it can change someone else’s life forever.”  Margaret Cho

Nothing makes me happier than planting the seeds of compassion in our children. A few years ago, that common thread connected me to the nonprofit founder, Molly Yuska of Project Giving Kids. We met when I interviewed her for Charity Matters in an attempt to learn more about Project Giving Kids (PGK). I quickly learned that PGK is a nonprofit organization that cultivates empathy in youth by connecting them to meaningful and age-appropriate community service activities.  Their mottos is, “connecting kids to causes.” 
Molly initially launched Project Giving Kids in Boston in November 2013 after realizing there was no source for families to find age-appropriate service projects for their children and families. With 1.7 million nonprofits in the United States, as a young mother herself, Molly clearly saw that there was a need to leverage technology by creating an online platform and mobile app, Youth Give, to make it easier for kids to be powerful agents of positive change in our world.

 Project Giving Kids reaches out to nonprofit partners to find volunteer opportunities for a multitude of ages. This past weekend was an amazing experience as Project Giving Kids came back to LA  for their second annual Create the Change Day LA. The day was hosted by The Today Show’s Natalie Morales and was all about teaching hundreds of children and their families the joys of serving others.

 Think of the day as a trade show for kids where they could shop causes and service projects that they were interested in and cared about. Whether it was decorating duffle bags for children in foster care so they were not moved from home to home with a trash bag or putting toiletry kits together for low-income families or making toys for shelter animals.

Each of these projects benefitted nonprofits such as; Access Books, Crayon Collection, Baby 2 Baby, St. Joseph Center, Reading Partners, The Jared Box Project, Karma Rescue, LA Family Housing, North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, PATH, School on Wheels, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels and Together We Rise.

These incredible kids  packed over 325 toiletry kits for low-income, homeless, and elderly individuals, made 175 Veterans Day cards for local veterans and random acts of kindness notes for homeless neighbors to lift their spirits, asssembled 70 Jared Boxes full of cards, games and toys for pediatric patients at UCLA Mattel and Cedars Sinai, made 115 dog toys for shelter animals,packed 125 backpacks full of school supplies for homeless youth, made 100 keychains for families transitioning to permanent homes,decorated 80 bookmarks to benefit local students receiving reading help and made the beginnings of “welcome home kits” for 100 homeless individuals/families getting ready for a new home to name a few of the projects with the nonprofit partners there, which is why they are jumping for joy!

As Molly said,Project Giving Kids is thrilled to offer an afternoon of hands-on service to kids and families in the Greater LA area. Create the Change Day was the perfect way to introduce young children to the joy of service to others. At PGK, we strive to connect youth and families to the amazing nonprofits in their own backyards they often do not know about that would love to benefit from their passion and involvement. We do that through our website and mobile app where youth can find fun and age-appropriate service opportunities and through select events like Create the Change Day.”

I was lucky enough to man the PGK booth where children could make a holiday pledge of service either by drawing a picture or writing a pledge to create change and PGK will be sending them their postcards in early December to remind them of their idea.

 

If these cards were any indication of our future, I think the world is only going to get better and that the kids are ready to create some change for good. 

CHARITY MATTERS

 

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SPY Safe Place for Youth

“We must all work together to end youth homelessness in America.”

Jewel Kilcher

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what A Safe Place For Youth (SPY) does?

Alison Hurst: Homelessness is our number one crisis in LA County. We created a one-stop-shop where young people who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness come and access to a whole array of services to assist them while they are homeless and also assist them getting out of homelessness and into stability.

We provide all of the services one would need including; education, employment, health and wellness services, housing and case management services and of course a sprinkle of fun stuff because young people need fun stuff like our healing arts program which provides music, art,  poetry, meditation all ways to lure our young people into our services because young people need different things. All of this is topped off with really awesome food, access to showers and clothing. Today we have nine comprehensive programs that make up our continuum of care. All of our programs weave together to meet the different needs of the young people we are serving.

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

Alison Hurst: There wasn’t one moment but rather a series of moments. The initial moment was in 2008 when I would take my son to the skateboard park in Venice Beach and see all of theses disconnected kids at the beach, which were actually sleeping on the streets.  I’m from London, where we didn’t have a large population of homelessness, but when I came here to  Venice Beach and then Hollywood I realized that we had a massive problem with youth homelessness and we didn’t have many resources here on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was the initial spark.

When I met with other nonprofit organizations that were working with the homeless population, I realized that people just didn’t seem to know what to do with the unhoused youth.  One of the other initial sparks was when I realized that even the other social service providers didn’t know how to meet the needs of the young people and that they didn’t believe that they wanted the same kind of resources. Even the old Federal policies entitled “Runaway homeless youth” which placed blame on the youth. These youth didn’t run away, they were tossed out and thrown away, neglected and abused.

In learning all of this, I immediately began handing out food packs to these kids on Venice Beach with a bunch of volunteers and realized once I got engaged with the youth that there was literally nothing that separated these kids from the kids in my normal everyday life, other than the fact that they had nowhere to live. The system had colossally failed them over and over again. The epiphany was that I became super engaged in the cause and I thought I could impact that cause by handing out food and very quickly realized that was not enough and started to build the program.

In the last eight years, we have become the leading provider for homeless youth on the westside. We now have a staff of 59 and eight years ago we had zero staff and a handful of volunteers and today we have hundreds of volunteers. While our growth is great the fact remains that more young people are falling into homeless than any other demographic and by young we mean ages 12-24. When we started SPY it was literally to meet the needs of hunger and then as our expertise grew so much of this became around policy change. We have worked with local businesses, government, individuals and the community to help us to be a part of the solution.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Alison Hurst: The biggest challenge we currently have is fighting the housing project that we are trying to expand. While having almost 60,000 folks residing on our streets has increased so has the neighborhood opposition to siting any kind of housing program.  Through Measure H and HHH, there are resources provided to build more crisis and critical need housing. The opposition from the community is being slowed down by neighbors’ opposition to all of these projects.

Having access to general housing funding is top of mind always but getting neighborhood buy-in on the two very large projects we are involved in, one is a 54-bed shelter for youth homeless shelter. We have never had a youth shelter ever which will transform the landscape and we continue to face enormous opposition. The second project is a 40 unit development that we will be operating. We have one hundred youth a day currently walking through our doors and we haven’t had any opposition but with these projects, we have had a lot. There is a lot of NIMBY or not in my back yard.

There is a lot of fear and shame. the shamefulness of what we have when there is so much unbelievable wealth all around us. So the shame that comes with recognizing the levels of poverty and drivers of homelessness. Rather than letting that shame motivate you to do something, it becomes a fear of others. I think it is much easier to write people off if we think that they are different from us. The truth is there is very little that separates us and once you come face to face with homelessness you can not deny the commonality between us.

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

Alison Hurst: The young people we serve. I regularly feel that I am pushing a boulder uphill. As you grow your budget gets squeezed and there isn’t always funding. What drives me is that I have to stay connected with the young people we serve. Every member of our team, myself included, spends a portion of their time in direct service with the kids to stay connected to the work. I have to be apart of the work so I don’t make decisions that are not based on reality. 

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

Alison Hurst: When we moved into housing. We had one housing program that we launched last year. We were literally placing young people in the spare bedrooms of community members and we were the first agency in LA to do that. In February of this year, we launched into a transitional housing program and to me, that felt monumental. For years we didn’t have anywhere for these kids to go and nothing to offer but love and connections to resources but now for the first time we at least have 20 young people safely off the streets. We are getting ready to launch a third program for young pregnant homeless youth and families.

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what success you have had and the impact you have made with SPY?

Alison Hurst: I think there is a combination of things that make us feel that we have had success. From the number of young people, we have moved safely off the streets, which was 127 last fiscal year and I think the number of young people that we have connected to education and employment. Because the two things are absolutely dependent on each other. Over one hundred youth that were connected to education and employment and the additional 127 who are off the street.  At the same time we served 1,400 youth and we still have a long way to go. The annualized national number of youth homelessness is around 10,00 young people between the ages of 12 and 25. 

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for SPY what would that be?

Alison Hurst: I would dream that we would continue to grow our housing resources and add an additional transitional housing program, that we would execute on our Venice Beach bridge housing project. That we can continue to be the first in the class agency that provides a hopeful, safe space for young people to access services and wonderful place that provides employment opportunities for people who want to be a part of the solution as well as a wonderful place to work.

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

Alison Hurst: The learning curve was SO steep and SO challenging, it feels like being in a Master’s program for the past eight years.  I left school at 15 and have never been back. I don’t have a Ph.D. or a fancy degree and never in a million years did I think that I would be here. I learned early to always hire people smarter than you. More than that SPY is all based on relationships, connection, community, and our youth members. Everything we do is about creating connections and community for everyone involved. We would be nothing without all of our community partners. Power in the change happens when you bring everyone to the table.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Alison Hurst: I think this journey has impacted me the most in my level of listening and understanding around poverty. I am a much more serious person than I was before because a huge weight has been put on me.  I am a much more focused person than I ever was which motivates me. This work never ends it is 24/7 but I am fearless, absolutely fearless and I never stop. SPY is all about light and love and I am not afraid to use the word love, it is the underpinning of everything we do.

Charity Matters

 

If you are so inspired feel free to pass this along. Who doesn’t love to hear about all the good in the world?  You will make someone’s day!

Copyright © 2019 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.

Thirst Project

 

I think the saying that you never know who knows who is a theme always present in my life. A few weeks ago I was at a wonderful event where I met and struck up a conversation with a girl named Allie. We talked nonprofit and Allie, in turn, said that I needed to know her friend Seth Maxwell. Seth is the founder of an incredible nonprofit called ThirstProject.  While this may sound like a crazy game of telephone, where that one moment leads to another, it is what ultimately led to my inspiring conversation with Seth and for that I am grateful. It’s not often that 19-year old’s start nonprofits’ but that is what happened in 2008 when Seth and seven college friends who took on an enormous undertaking and over ten years later are literally changing the world one well at a time.

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

Seth Maxwell: There are currently 663 million people in the world who do not have access to safe clean drinking water. In developing countries around the world, women and children will walk from their homestead to whatever standing water source is available. Most commonly pond, rivers, swamps and then drinking from those open and unprotected sources that are often shared with animals who defecate in the same water that people drink from causes those people to get really preventable water-borne diseases.  Most people don’t realize that diarrhea and dysentery kill more people every year than HIV and malaria combined.

So we build freshwater wells and washing stations in developing countries to give people clean water. It isn’t super unique, there are a lot of great water organizations in the world but what is unique is that we are the world’s leading youth water activism organization. We have a school tour where we send our youth activists to educate high school and college students about the global water crisis and challenge those students to do something about it. We will have 12 speakers total who will go to about 800 high schools and college campuses across the country. So about 175,000 students will sit and learn about the water crisis and in turn, they will do walks, dances, video game tournaments…all to raise awareness to build water projects around the world.

Since we started we have mobilized a couple of million students who have raised about ten million dollars. We commit to giving 100 percent of funds raised to building water projects and we have a pretty incredible group of donors, lead by our board who pay for our operating expenses. We have given 400, 000 people in 13 countries clean water for the rest of their lives.

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

Seth Maxwell: For me, I couldn’t NOT do something about the water crisis. I think I considered myself, a pretty well educated (then 19 year old) and was just struck by how massive in scale this issue was and the fact that I had never heard about it. for how sweeping the problem was both in terms of the number of people at that point. There were over 1.1 billion people without access to clean drinking water but also how far-reaching the negative impact of the water crisis was on so many issues. Whether it was health or access to education, I was truly struck that this wasn’t something that was on the news every night. 

It was one of those moments when I was swept up and just knew I had to do something about it. I wasn’t sure what one person could do but knew I had to do something. So, I gathered seven of my closest college friends together and we decided to simply tell these people’s stories. We pooled all our money together  ($70) and were able to purchase 1,000 bottles of water from our nearest store. We took to Hollywood Blvd and began giving bottles of water away if people would stop and listen. In one day we spoke to over 1,000 people and were able to turn our $70 into $1,700. and this was used to fund our first freshwater well.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Seth Maxwell: So many people really want to contribute to making an impact and contribute some amount of time and feel like they can walk away knowing they did something that day or at that moment. While this is the least sexy answer but we are pretty limited by the amount of funding we can raise to build our projects. We know how to bring safe water to communities. We know how to build wells and work with local contractors in the communities we serve who in turn get trained on maintenance, repair, sanitation, and hygiene.

This really is a very solvable issue. When we started a decade ago and the number of people who needed clean water was 1.1 billion and today it is down to 663 million people. In just a decade, while the global population has risen the number of people without safe water has literally been cut in half. There will be an end to this issue in our lifetime it is just a question of how quickly we can move this ball down the field.

Our biggest challenge is scale and funding. Especially given our commitment to give one hundred percent of our student donations to our water projects, it makes for some challenges. We are constantly coming up with new and exciting ways to address our challenges and it is an exciting time.

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

Seth Maxwell: One of two things…first is our students. The work we do with students and young people means there is never a shortage of inspiration. It is easy to keep going when you see a high school student who gives up their birthdays or swims around the Statue of Liberty to draw attention to this issue or raise funds.

We are constantly given the gift to interact with students who are selfless, innovative and creative. Similarly, they have amazing experiences. I can not tell you the number of times I have had a student writing to us saying, “Thank you so much for starting Thirst Project, if it wasn’t for thirst project I don’t know what the highlight of my Senior year would have been.”  Incredible things.

On the other side, it’s not hard to stay inspired when you look at our impact in the field.  The impact of the water crisis on health, on mortality, when you see a new freshwater project open in a community and have conversations with moms who say they used to have to walk three hours for water. I was worried about getting Collerea or dysentery or diarrhea and now knowing that my baby will never have to make that walk is incredible. These are the kind of things that keep you going when things get tough.

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

Seth Maxwell: It is like the examples I just gave above. When we talk to students who have had an impact because of their service whether it shaped their trajectory for their career, their leadership skills, their social-emotional skills development. It is countless conversations in the field and the idea behind each of those 400, 000 people in the field who now have clean water and the stories of how their lives are changed from clean water. 

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what success you have had and the impact you have made with the Thirst Project?

Seth Maxwell: Impact for us isn’t measured in the numbers that most people would typically look for; yes it’s meaningful to look at dollars raised or the number of water projects built or the number of people given safe water, those are all good and super meaningful but for us how we measure impact is the implication for each of those numbers.

So for example when we bring safe water to a community, yes we can measure the number of people in that community that now have safe drinking water but what is really more meaningful to us is measuring both before and after. Saying before this project was built there were only 39 of the 200 students in this community enrolled in school, presumably because one of their responsibilities would be collecting water for their family or because they were sick from something that prevented them from going to school. If six months to a year after our project we can report back and say we, measured an increase in school enrollment by fifty percent that is really meaningful to us.

We can measure waterborne disease rates before and after and if we can say that before we built a water project that there was a twenty-nine percent rate of cholera but if after our project, it was reduced to four percent, that is really meaningful to us. It is those kinds of things really that matter to us.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for the Thirst Project what would that be?

Seth Maxwell: To see the end of the global water crisis. We believe in a world where everyone has access to safe clean drinking water and we are running really hard at that goal.

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Seth Maxwell: I think it has changed me entirely. I think one of the biggest ways it has changed me is how I evaluate problems. think I somewhat struggle to empathize with my friends or family with their problems, which to me sometimes do not feel like an important issue in the context of what I see in our work. I have to literally remind myself to be empathetic. My perspective on life and the world has completely changed. 

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

Seth Maxwell: It is hard to pick just one life lesson because there are truly too many. For me learning how to build a community of people who are committed to using their gifts and resources and not just sort of throwing those resources but coming together with an intention and a strategy that is effective to make an impact on problems that are really meaningful. It has been incredible to learn that skill and be able to see it in action and amazing that people are willing to trust me with their time, money and gifts to make that impact a reality.

Charity Matters

 

If you are so inspired feel free to pass this along. Who doesn’t love to hear about all the good in the world? You will make someone’s day!

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Female Founders Collective

 

“We rise by lifting others.”

Robert Ingersoll

As they say, when God closes one door he opens a window. As you all know, my parenting door has closed or at least that chapter in my life when my sons are in the nest has come to an end. As any parent knows that door never really closes. The end of any chapter in our lives begs the natural question of what’s next? What does life without boys underfoot look like?

In some ways it looks a lot the same, except I’m not cooking  much and refrigerator is pretty bare.  I still run a nonprofit full-time, interview nonprofit founders in my spare time, and I have a few exciting projects that I am starting. “They” you know the proverbial “they”….well they say that this is “my time.” I’m not exactly sure what “my time” looks like since I haven’t had “my time” in twenty-four years!

So, imagine my surprise when I received an invitation from this incredible organization called The Female Founders Collective that celebrates amazing women who have founded businesses. Rebecca Minkoff founded the FFC as its known to create a network of businesses led by women, supporting women. The mission is to enable and empower female owned businnesses to positiveluy impact communities socially and economically.

Who knew that there are more than 11.6 million firms owned by women? The FFC believes that by increasing wealth and opportunties for women-owned businesses we can significantly impact our communities for the better. Since women reinvest their income in their families and communities at a higher rate than men, that means that communities become stronger as well.

If this is “my time” well, I’ll take it. Such a thrill to be included with these remarkable women who make the world better. And by the way, if you see that circle F logo anywhere, think about supporting that business because in turn you are also supporting a ripple effect of goodness.

Charity Matters

 

Copyright © 2019 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.