Project 24: The Grey Muzzle in Raleigh, NC December 2012

They are some of the saddest stories at shelters across the country, pets of an advanced age that have found themselves homeless.  Some are now dealing with the noise and commotion of a shelter after living years in a loving home with the same family.  Though different circumstances they may have arrived there, perhaps surrendered after the death of an owner, their situation now is the same now. They are running out of time and need help.  If they are lucky, this is where The Grey Muzzle Organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization enters the picture. Grey Muzzle is not a shelter or rescue group. Instead they support a network of shelters around the country with programs that save senior (age 8+) canines.  Through public donations they advocate for senior dog adoption, provide funds for hospice care, medical screening, and other special programs. Spend a few minutes looking around their website and you will be hooked.

Making grey hip, this dog is 15 years young and has a lot of love to give.

This organization is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, but they utilize volunteers from across the country.  If you live in: Colorado Springs, Fort Worth, New York City, Portland, St. Louis, or San Francisco, you can sign up to be a Grey Muzzle Ambassador. I don’t, so I signed up to be part of part of their virtual administration and writing volunteer pool. I look forward to helping potential adopters see the benefit of going with an older pet.  As I think about adding a dog to my house, an older dog makes sense for our lifestyle. We aren’t puppy proof and a calmer older pet would mesh well with our cats.


Project 23: Boys Town Nevada December 2012

some of the items on their way to Boys Town

Ninety years after it was founded in a small Nebraska town, Boys Town is still helping America’s at-risk youth. Now serving communities coast to coast, the programs are in every state touching lives and helping children in crisis situations. Hundreds of thousands of children don’t have the opportunity to grow up in a safe, nurturing home. Boys Town is there to help pick up the pieces and turn today’s youth in crisis into the healthy adults of tomorrow.

For the holiday season I reached out to the Nevada Boys Town chapter and provided a gift for a child that can be used for the holiday season.  I donated a watch, lip gloss and some luggage.  Children and teens who are moving into or between foster homes sometimes have to use garbage bags to move their belongings according to an employee of Boys Town.  When I heard that my heart panged for those young adults.  With Boys Town programs available these youth have the possibility of being on the path to a bright future.  I was happy to be able to provide one of them with a set of luggage to carry their belongings towards it.

Project 22: Detroit Dog Rescue November 2012

Michigan gets cold in the winter.  It can be especially brutal for the thousands of homeless pets trying to stay alive on the streets of Detroit.  Detroit Dog Rescue is a newly formed animal rescue working towards the goal of opening the first no-kill shelter in Detroit. They describe themselves as a small group of highly committed individuals dedicated to help make a difference in the city, one dog at a time.  Detroit has lots of depressing problems. There is the poverty, crime, the high unemployment rate, and large amounts of vacant land.  There is so much vacant land that if you lumped it all together you could fit the city of Buffalo, NY in it. The poverty mixed with the vacant land has caused the stray dog population to flourish. Packs of dogs roam the streets taking up residency in abandoned buildings. New dogs join their ranks each day as residents turn dogs they no longer want to care for loose.  It takes a special kind of enthusiasm and dedication to work hard at turning things around when they seem to be at their lowest. DDR has it.   I ran into them right before Thanksgiving.  Critically low on supplies, I made a monetary donation for food.  I am excited to support them as they work towards opening a no-kill shelter in Detroit.  For more information visit

Below is a list of supplies that are desperately needed:

  • Dog food, adult and puppy, any brand
  • Soft, meaty dog treats
  • Large dog bowls
  • Blankets and towels
  • Dog collars and leashes- large, thick and durable
  • Dog Houses *HUGE NEED for the cold winter season*
  • Crates/Kennels – Wire or plastic
  • Dog toys – heavy duty, durable brands for our big chewers
  • Dog beds
  • Flea & Tick preventatives (spray, topical, shampoos)
  • Paper towels
  • Gift Cards to Pet Supplies Plus or PetSmart
  • Gas cards for the field agent DDR van


Project 21: The Marysville Express Hurricane Sandy Relief November 2012

For now Keely Barone is back to being your average 15 year-old high school student, she looked forward to winter break and texts her friends after school.  However, after super storm Sandy, Keely was anything but average.  She motivated her Michigan community to give back to those in the storm’s path that lost nearly everything.

Keely and her family watched as the images of the storm’s destruction were revealed.  Within hours of the known devastation Keely knew she had to do something.  The Marysville, Michigan resident worked to get a tractor trailer donated and began accepting donations.  Working with a family member on the east coast they were able to find a church, Zion Lutheran Church on Staten Island that was struggling to support five different shelters housing those displaced by the storm.  “I knew right away when I saw that news that something needed to be done”, said Keely.

After securing the truck and a place to park it while it was filled up with donations, things fell into place rapidly.  Since she was in school during the day, friends and family helped her out by watching the trailer and accepting donations. After a story ran in the local paper and a Facebook  page was created, the word was out and area residents eagerly responded.  They too had been impacted by the images of devastation left by the storm and wanted to help out.  Keely was giving them a way to send donations of cleaning supplies, food, toiletries and pet care items right to those impacted.  That was a powerful feeling for area residents. “What really surprised me was when people gave things to the trailer they would hug me and thank me when they were the one making the donation,” Keely exclaimed.  “Everyone in the community gave so much; we were happy to give them an outlet to reach out to those in need.”

I met Keely when I dropped off donated items for those affected by the storm. Keely left to take the donated items to the church shortly after we spoke.  Driving 11 hours and 700 miles, she was noticed the storms devastation as she got closer to New York.  One hundred miles away from their destination, she saw trees broke in half ten feet in the air in Pennsylvania. Arriving on Staten Island was a surreal moment.  The tiny civilian convoy that was conjured together by a fifteen year old was the first outside help to arrive to the community. “When we were going over the bridge to head to Staten island the National Guard was headed to Manhattan, we were the only vehicles going to the island,” Keely mused.

Unloading the truck

Once at the church they were greeted joyously by those in need.  The large semi truck was unloaded in about 90 minutes they had so much help.  The contents were placed into a gymnasium briefly and then passed out to those that were in dire need.  I asked Keely during her holiday break from school what she is up to these days. She quickly responded that she was just focusing on being a high school student.  While there are no big charity projects in her immediate future, this adventure has changed her.  She hopes to one day work for a nonprofit and help people just the way she did with the Marysville Express.  I think that she would be a fabulous addition to any nonprofit team. Before we parted I asked her what advice she would give to others who have an idea like hers that they think will help others.  Keely laughed and said, “If you have an idea and you have that gut feeling that this could work, just go with it.”

And there are hundreds of recipients of her community work on the east coast that are glad that she did.

Project 20: Central Illinois Honor Flight in Washington D.C. November 2012

Honor Flight volunteers distribute coffee

I have wanted to volunteer for Honor Flight since I first learned about the organization.  Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit dedicated to honor America’s veterans.  The group transports heroes to Washington DC to see their memorials.  Since 900 WWII veterans die each day, top preference is given to them and ill veterans.  The inaugural Honor Flight left from Ohio in 2005 when six small planes filled with veterans headed to Washington DC.  The trip was the brain child of Earl Morse.  Earl a physician assistant and Retired Air Force Captain, was hired to work at a clinic.  In 2004, the World War II Memorial was completed and dedicated in Washington, D.C.  It became a topic of discussion among his World War II veteran patients.  Earl quickly learned that while his patients were enthusiastic about the memorial, many of his patients simply were not going to be able to get to the memorial on their own.  Time was not on their side. It seemed that a dream would be unfulfilled unless someone, somehow could do something.

That spark of an idea grew and was nurtured by others that fanned the flame and simply had to be a part of it. I was a part of all of that hard work on Veterans Day 2012 in Washington DC.  I volunteered with the Central Illinois Honor Flight of WWII and Korean War veterans on that day.  I was able to meet with and personally thank Earl Morse and Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur who fought for over 20 years to have the WWII Memorial built.

Seeing an honor flight in action is in some sense to witness a finely turned tribute to logistics.  Everything that everyone touches the entire 2-3 day trip has to be planned, transported and delivered to the right spot at the right time.  Coffee, wheel chairs, oxygen tanks, lunches, buses, water bottles, umbrellas, blankets flow in and out of the picture for 169 people.  Their movements seamlessly executed by a team of volunteers.  Our group also had several medical professionals, RN’s and PA’s, that had donated their time.  This is just another example how people can always use their talents to partner with nonprofits and help them grow.

Seeing the group of veterans at the memorial, smiling in the sun and hearing the applause and gratitude from total strangers at the memorial makes you want to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Project 19: Forgotten Harvest in Oak Park, MI November 2012

Forgotten Harvest is a food rescue organization that was formed in 1990 to fight two problems: hunger and waste. Americans waste 29 million tons of food each year according to a University of Arizona study by anthropologist Tim Jones. That is enough to fill up the Rose Bowl every three days. Hunger also impacts one out of five people.  Many of our friends and neighbors are going without food to afford their rent, medications and utilities.

To combat both of these problems in southeast Michigan, Forgotten Harvest works with a network of organizations to rescue food that would otherwise go to waste, produce in fields, food from large catered events, and excess products in stores, and get it to emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless and domestic shelters, children’s homes, senior centers and group homes. To do this they need a network of volunteers. I signed up online utilizing their very organized volunteer registration process.

I decided that I would help the group pick squash for the morning from a field.  The farmer was allowing Forgotten Harvest to take what they wanted, he had grown more than he could sell.  It was a great experience and it was fun to see how organized the group was as I worked picking squash with a dozen other volunteers. This was food that would be put in the hands of hungry individuals instead of rotting in a field near a highway. A very worthy cause and a great way to spend my morning.

Project 18: The Children’s Cove in Barnstable, MA October 2012

Throughout my journey I have come across several amazing nonprofits that I wish would go out of business.  I wish they would cease to exist because the service that they offer would no longer be needed, the problems of society they address magically solved.  Children’s Cove in Massachusetts is definitely one of those organizations that is amazing, but I wish in my heart of hearts that we lived in a safe and healthy society where no one needed the services.  Until then, Children’s Cove will be there making sure that victims of child sexual abuse and their non-offending family members have access to support and services in a safe, respectful, and compassionate environment.  They are committed to reducing the trauma endured by child victims, promoting accountability, fostering healing, and advocating on behalf of child victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse.

For many recent high profile cases brought the subject of child sexual abuse into the spotlight and on the front page of newspapers. Sadly, for many it was already a reality.  Every six minutes a child in the United States is sexually abused. The group does a great job fostering community awareness on statistics about abuse too.  Many people believe that it simply won’t happen in their family or their child would immediately tell them.  The facts are that stranger assaults only account for 10% of sex abuse and nearly 30% of survivors of sex abuse never tell anyone.

I was happy to support this group by sponsoring a participant in a wing eating contest and sending them blankets that I made for use at their facility.

Project 17: Church Health Center in Memphis, TN October 2012


On a trip through Memphis I picked up an issue of The Memphis news at my hotel. Inside the paper was an article by Andy Meeks on The Church Health Center’s 25th anniversary.  I was blown away to learn that such an organization existed.  The Church Health Center was Dr. Scott Morris.  Today the center provides medical care for 55,000 people in Memphis every year. They take care of those that could fall through the cracks or cant’ afford to participate in the health care system as we know it.


The Center has a $14 million dollar budget and sees 120,000 patients per year.  When they first opened their doors they saw around 12 visits booked per day.  The staff, volunteers, and donors are driven by the fact that there is such a need for affordable basic medical care. When I visited the facility they were running a best practices workshop attended by individuals from all over the country that wanted this valuable services replicated in their community.  For my project I penned an article on spirituality and fitness goals based on my project for next year, going from overweight to marathon material.


Project 16: Sonnenberg Mansion in Canandaigua, NY October 2012


The story: Perched atop the sun-bathed hill of the estate known as “Sonnenberg” (German for “sunny hill”) is a 40-room Queen Anne-style mansion. New York City bank financier Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, the daughter of New York State governor Myron Holley Clark, purchased the property in 1863 when it featured just a brick farmhouse on 14 acres.As business prospered, the couple purchased additional acreage and replaced the farmhouse with the mansion, which was built between 1885-1887. Today, visitors can view many of its stately rooms, including the impressive Great Hall, the Billiard and Trophy Rooms, the Library, Drawing Room, Dining Room, and upstairs, the Master Bedroom and several additional guest rooms.


To visit the mansion is to visit take in an afternoon of beauty.  It is truly an American gem.  Talking with the volunteers one October afternoon while I strolled with a friend, I learned that the nonprofit employs 3 employees and everyone else that runs the entire mansion upkeep, events and tours is a volunteer.  I decided that for my project I would assist with the rewarding of volunteers and send volunteer of the month trophies to the organization after my visit.

Project 15: No Kid Hungry October 2012


It is easy to feel both enthusiastic and disheartened by the mission of the nonprofit, No Kid Hungry.  They aim to eliminate child hunger in the United States, an amazing and worthy goal.  The group estimates that 16 million kids currently struggle to get enough to eat ever day.  An admirable cause, but why does hunger exist in a country with so many resources?  No Kid Hungry feels that the epidemic of child hunger is a solvable situation in America.


It is also a problem that will repeat itself if we don’t attack it right now. A child in American that is impacted by hunger right now isn’t going to do as well in school. How can you focus on math when your stomach aches from hunger.  Statistically that child is also likely to get sick more often, less likely to graduate from high school and go to college.  In 20 years you could be looking at that child as an adult now not being able to feed their own children enough food. And the cycle will continue unless we work together to break it.


To break the cycle of hunger and help feed America’s hungry kids I signed up online to be a No Kid Hungry Advocate.  I interact regularly with my member of congress when the No Kid Hungry sends me advocacy emails.  In addition to providing community services, nonprofits also need to educate members of congress on issues and policies  and I am happy to help.