Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for expectant women who are alone or on the streets and wish to achieve their goals in a dignified atmosphere. They provide for the immediate physical and emotional needs of the mothers including shelter, food, clothing, and a supportive community. In addition, Maggie’s Place connects the mothers to the appropriate agencies and resources including prenatal care, health insurance, low-cost housing, and education programs.Women can join the Maggie’s Place community at any point in their pregnancy and stay until the child is at least six months old.
I supported this organization for my 32nd project by volunteering to assist the women in writing resumes. I also donated work appropriate attire.
Located in Pflugerville, Texas, Hearts of Purpose is a nonprofit that provides journals to Central TX emergency shelters and hospitals that serve children who are dealing with illnesses, neglect, or abuse. The individuals can experience the healing power of the written word. Some of the best gifts that I have ever been given are journals. My older cousin and mentor gifted me a gorgeous journal with a wood cover that he acquired in Russia when I left home for the first time to strike out on my own. My friend Ellen in Abu Dhabi gave me a gorgeous gold cloth covered journal that I use to keep track of books that I have read. I was really inspired by this project and mailed a dozen journal.
If you would like to join me in the project, at this time they are not accepting monetary donations. But they do need journals. You can mail the journals to:
Hearts of Purpose Journals
P.O. Box 1332
Pflugerville, TX 78691
What could be more fun than dressing up in red and encouraging your friends to take care of their health? February 1st reminds us each year that not too much tops the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Day! This year I dressed up in red and passed out 10 red dress pins to some of my family and friends. The Go Red campaign reminds us that heart disease is the number one killer of women, more deadly than all of the forms of cancer combined. From cutting out sodium to taking the stairs instead of the elevator, there is also much that we can do to decrease the risk of the number one killer. To find out more about the factors that increase your risk for heart disease, please visit The Go Red For Women page.
Project number 29 was my most delicious project, by far. I attended the world renowned Heard Museum Haute Chocolate Market & Festival fundraiser. A nonprofit doesn’t keep the doors open without funds and I was happy to contribute. It was an amazing night at an amazing venue, the museum itself hosted the event. The The mission of the Heard Museum is to educate people about the arts, heritage and life ways of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with an emphasis on American Indian tribes of the Southwest. It houses unique collections.
Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona works to bring the healing powers of the creative arts to abused, neglected and homeless children by partnering with over 100 group homes, treatment centers and shelters in Maricopa County. To look at the size of their operation, the number of volunteers with boots on the ground in different areas of the county, is to be in awe.
They rely on creative volunteers to share their talents in the visual arts, music, theater, dance, creative writing and other artistic projects, Free Arts helps children build self-esteem by unlocking their imaginations. The children served have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect, and have been placed by the state into a group home. Still other children live with one parent in a domestic violence shelter or both parents in a homeless shelter. Some children live in residential treatment centers where they work to conquer painful issues of physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, and violence. This organization gives children need the chance to express their hopes, fears, frustrations and emotions.
Lost our home pet foundation truly does amazing things. Based in Phoenix, AZ, Lost Our Home Pet Foundation is a resource for real estate professionals and other members of the community who discover an abandoned pet, and to provide options for pet owners faced with difficult economic circumstances while promoting the spaying and neutering of pets. They re-home pets abandoned by owners and keep families together (four legged members and all) when the family is undergoing a housing transition. I volunteered on a bright and sunny January day when there was a cat being housed and cared for that had been burned in a fire. The obviously grouchy kitty was able to relax in the Lost Our Home adoption facility while his human focused on finding new house.
Arizona Realtor Jodi Polanski founded the organization in 2008. Walking into a foreclosed home and seeing a pet abandoned or expired is, unfortunately, nothing that shocks most veteran realtors. When some people move out they leave their pets behind to fend for themselves. The lucky ones are happened upon by real estate professionals or reported by neighbor with a keen eye. The not-so-lucky ones die alone in the house that was once their home when they run out of food and water. Jodi decided that she had seen enough and wanted to be a part of the solution. Lost Our Home has rescued over 2,0000 dogs and cats in four years. They have also fed 10,000 more helping them stay with families. One client that touched Jodi the most was a professional woman that lost her job and struggled with homelessness. After finding an apartment that she could afford, Jodi provided her with the basics to give to her dog and a few treats as well. The client was overjoyed at the thought of just being able to provide a biscuit to her dog after struggling for so long just to provide the basics for herself and her pet, this was an extra that brought tears to her eyes.
It is those types of extras that are the hallmark of Lost Our Home. The volunteer opportunities are plentiful and well advertized. The facility itself is bustling with life. Volunteers, donors, and staff are in and out all day. The staff gives the volunteers big meaty jobs that volunteers want. I was able to walk dogs, clean cat litter boxes, mop the floor, and play with puppies. Oh, such hard work!! It was a day well spent and it was fun to hear from other volunteers that are lucky enough to be able to volunteer all the time just how passionate they are about the organization. This is truly a nonprofit to watch! They are going places.
While in Arizona I had the chance to talk with Best Buddies Arizona Staffers and learn more about Best Buddies volunteer opportunities. I signed up as a volunteer for e-Buddies. E-Buddies promotes social inclusion online for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As an e-Buddies, I will be matched with someone with a developmental disabilities, such as autism and Down syndrome. We have the chance to come together online to form friendships and a community that celebrates their diversity of character and abilities. It allows individuals with a developmental disability to make new friends and practice communication skills. This is an all around fun program. I am looking forward to this great opportunity and being more involved with the Best Buddies organization.
Jana and Jeff Holst of Austin, Texas, know all too well that life can change in an instant. Their adorable four-year-old son, Colin, drowned while playing at a busy pool in plain sight of lifeguards, family, and friends. After their loss, Colin’s family was shocked to discover that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under five. It didn’t take long for the Holst family to transform their tragedy into a movement. The family was driven to start a charity to raise water safety awareness to prevent children from drowning. Through Colin’s Hope they have definitely succeeded, distributing water safety packets and educating thousands of children and adults. They have also been able to completely eliminate the number of near drownings and drownings of children in some of their targeted zip codes. “We felt compelled to do everything in our power to stop another family from being torn apart by drowning, a preventable death,” said Colin’s mom, Jana Holst.
It may be surprising that, in the haze of grief and sorrow, a family could think about taking action to help other families across the country. When you have just buried a beloved family member, how do you even start to think about paperwork and websites and board meetings? As J. Worth Kilcrease, a licensed professional counselor and bereavement specialist, explains it, this is a fundamental aspect of mourning. “This family is using the moment of tragedy as a catalyst for good,” Kilcrease said. “This is a part of the grief process where we rebuild our lives, and finding a way to honor those that have left us is an essential part of that process.”
And the Holsts aren’t the only family to turn the loss of a child into a vehicle for nationwide change. In December 2008, Carson Starkey’s parents, Scott and Julia, received the call that shattered their world. It was from the County Coroner’s office. Their beloved son Carson, who was just off to college to pursue his dream of becoming an architectural engineer at California Polytechnic University, was gone. During a Fraternity initiation ritual, he was compelled to drink large quantities of alcohol and passed away from acute alcohol poisoning with a blood alcohol level of .40. Even worse, the Starkeys learned that several of the people present with Carson that night could have saved him after he lost the ability to save himself – but they didn’t follow through. Since Carson’s death, the Starkeys have been on a mission to educate young adults nationwide about the signs of alcohol poisoning and save lives. They don’t want even one more family to suffer the loss they endured.
The Starkeys have dedicated themselves to the nonprofit they founded in Carson’s memory, Aware Awake Alive. The Texas couple has also advocated for legislation to create Good Samaritan laws allowing teens to seek help for a friend in trouble without suffering legal repercussions themselves. Clearly, they have their work cut out for them. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that binge drinking causes 80,000 deaths in the United States each year. Specifically, 1 in 3 college students are binge drinking and there is a death on a college campus every 12 days resulting from Alcohol overdose. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, teenagers are the most vulnerable to death as a result of alcohol poisoning, as many do not understand its effects on the body and drink too much in a short period of time. About half of the teenage deaths from alcohol poisoning occur after drinking alcohol for the first time. In addition to the advocacy, Aware Awake Alive provides a free, online toolbox to empower students and a non-judgmental awareness and social media campaign.
Perhaps helping others or working to ensure that senseless losses don’t happen again, even – or especially – when we are at our lowest, can restore us to feeling human and connected. We can see this at work in Ann Curry’s call to perform 26 Acts of Kindness, which went viral with the hash tag #26 after the Newton elementary tragedy. Thousands heeded the call, giving of their time and money in an effort to do 26 nice things for total strangers. From comforting a child alone on a plane by letting him play Angry Birds on your phone to purchasing 50 new bikes for children in need, our nation reached out to give and receive that human touch. It is no surprise that the nonprofit community would be any different. “Some of the most significant organizations we have came into existence on the heels of a tragedy,” said Kilcrease. “The whole aspect of meaning-making is something that you don’t read a lot about in the popular media, but it is becoming very well recognized in professional circles as a crucial part of the rebuilding process.”
Taking Root: Innovation From The Nonprofit Community
Most adults have a memory or two from their childhood about a birthday that was truly special. For me, there was my 8th birthday where I received a Barbie bike. Another special memory for me was the year my mom made me a lemon cake shaped like a doll’s head. Many of us feel that every child should feel important and celebrated on their birthday.
To address this issue, The Birthday Party Project was formed in Northern Texas and has thrown over 800 birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters. The group invites everyone to be a Birthday Enthusiast by making donations, volunteering, and sponsoring birthday parties. I heeded the call and signed up to volunteer at a birthday party. I also collected a box of birthday party items to donate to future parties. My goal is to have a “birthday party in a box” ready to go in case there needs to be a last minute birthday party for a child.
The images and stories pouring in from the 12-14-12 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut were heart wrenching. The damage a single person can inflict on so many others is staggering. The cherished family members gone in a blink of an eye, the young lives lost and the brilliant careers cut short, quickly became too much to handle. While moments like this are enough to make you feel defeated and lose your faith in humanity, we must remember all of the good that a single person can do to touch so many others’ lives in a beautiful way. Each of us has it in us to make our community and the world a better place; I have personally witnessed it time and time again in the past year. In February 2012 I set out to volunteer with 35 different nonprofits in the course of 12 months. The things that I have seen and done this year have changed my life forever.
I met Dave Bambeneck in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day. Dave is passionate about making sure World War II veterans from across the country have the opportunity to see their Washington, D.C. memorial. With 1,000 WWII veterans dying every day, you could call this a mission on a time limit. They call Dave the Oxygen Man. Every year he coordinates thousands of oxygen canisters, snacks, and bottles of water for every Honor Flight from across the country. Hundreds of veterans would have never been able to see the memorial dedicated to them without Dave’s tireless volunteer services. Working with Dave, a volunteer named AJ makes sure that veterans and volunteers have hot coffee, breakfast and lunch during Honor Flights.
In Virginia Beach, I met Katie Lawson. She volunteers her time and skills by cutting hair for free at homeless shelters. I helped her out for a few hours as she snipped hair. Many of her clients that day already had jobs or were volunteering with national nonprofits while looking for work that would allow them to afford housing. Katie’s services allow them to maintain a groomed appearance despite their homelessness as they interview for jobs. She also collects and distributes grooming products for those living in transitional housing.
Carol Manos started the cat rescue organization Carol’s Ferals from the back of her van in 2006 in the west Michigan community of Grand Rapids. Since then, her nonprofit has gone on to provide spay or neuter services to over 6,300 stray or feral cats. An unaltered pair of cats and their offspring left to breed can produce 677 cats in just 24 months. With thousands of unwanted pets being put to sleep across the country each week, Carol’s impact in reducing the misery caused by pet overpopulation has been significant. In addition, she has provided adoption services that have placed 550 more homeless cats with loving families.
From those devoting their weekends to harvesting produce for soup kitchens, to spending their evenings picking up litter on beaches, to helping homeless pets find new families, there are things all around us worthy of celebration. When in the face of daunting times you make a conscious choice to focus on what is right with our world, you will see amazing things happening. Make 2013 the year that you celebrate everything that is right about our community and our shared destiny.
Taking Root: Innovation From the Nonprofit Community