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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photographers get to share in the most special times in the lives of families.  Weddings, family portrait sessions, maternity photos, and other special events fill their typical sample galleries.  However, a network of professional photographers have come together to share in a time of grief and to create cherish memories.

The Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS) organization has a mission to introduce remembrance photography to parents suffering the loss of a baby with the free gift of professional portraiture.  These images serve as an important step in the family’s process of grief by honoring their child’s legacy. 

In February 2005, Maddux Achilles Haggard was born with a condition called myotyular myopathy that prevented him from breathing, swallowing, or moving on his own.  At just six days old, his parents had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support.  Before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son.  Puc’ photographed Maddux with his parents, before and after being removed from life support, including photos where he was free from the tubes and wires that sustained his short life. 

Maddux’s mom, Cheryl Haggard said, “That night was the worst night of my life.  But when I look at the images, that’s not what I’m reminded of.  I’m reminded of the beauty and blessings he brought.  Those tender photographs documenting Maddux’s eternal connection with his parents inspired Cheryl Haggard and Sandy Puc’ to found a nonprofit organization that has provided thousands of families of babies who are stillborn or are at risk of dying as newborns with free professional portraits with their baby.

The organization is based in Centennial, Colorado, but they have volunteer over 12,000 photographers across the United States as well as forty countries worldwide. 

This feature from 2008 on the NBC Today Show is a touching view into a NILMDTS session:

How can you help?

  • Photographers can learn more and apply to be a volunteer photographer or photo retoucher via the organization’s website
  • If you work in or with a hospital, you can NILMDTS to make the hospital staff aware of the program, download a guide for hospital staff, request brochures, and find training options on the organization’s website.
  • If you know of a family who may need the services of a NILMDTS photographer, you can direct them to the organization’s website and click “Find a Photographer”.
  • Individuals can also volunteer as area coordinators or volunteer to help the existing area coordinators in your area.  To find nearby area coordinators, you can go to the Find a Photographer section of the website and enter your zip code.
  • Monetary donations can also be accepted via the organization’s website.

You can read stories of some of the families touched by the NILMDTS organization on the website, however, I will warn you that some of the stories are hard to read.

You can learn more about the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep organization on their website, www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org.  You can also follow NILMDTS on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

Related Posts: Mikayla’s Grace, Ella’s Halo, and Project Sweet Peas

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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College Possible

Typically I write my organization profiles based on a questionairre that I send to organizations.  Today’s organization responded by writing something that was good enough to post, so enjoy this post by Hannah Balder from College Possible.

Each year, high schools across the United States graduate 200,000 capable low-income students who do not go on to college. These students have the intelligence, the dedication and the desire to get there, but a lack of financial and informational resources as well as cultural barriers keep them from attending college. Consequently, students from upper-income families are ten times more likely to earn a college degree than their lower-income peers.  And yet, a college degree is the likeliest pathway out of poverty for a student and his or her family forever and is the surest provider of an educated workforce for our communities.  As College Possible™ sees it, this is a crippling injustice to both our students and our nation. Echoing Robert F. Kennedy’s “Ripple of Hope,” College Possible (formerly Admission Possible) believes that acts against injustice send forth a ripple of hope that can overcome even our biggest challenges.

College Possible aims to create these ripples by providing low-income students with the intensive guidance, resources and support needed to earn college admission and a degree, thus breaking the cycle of poverty for low-income families and building an educated workforce for a globally competitive economy. In after-school sessions, dedicated AmeriCorps volunteers – “coaches” – lead 30-40 low-income students through a two year academic curriculum of ACT and SAT preparation, intensive college application assistance, financial aid consulting, and guidance in the transition to college. Students then receive a continuum of support through their four-year degree completion. Currently, College Possible operates in three locations across the nation: Twin Cities of Minnesota, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Omaha, Nebraska.

Jim McCorkell, College Possible founder and CEO, knows just how important a support system is for college-hopeful low-income students, as he once was one himself. With the support of his parents and a few important teachers and friends, McCorkell earned a scholarship to Carleton College and later earned his earned master’s degrees in political science at University of North Carolina and public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  McCorkell then returned to Minnesota and, applying the cost-effective AmeriCorps model to the issue of college access for the first time, founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, College Possible in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2000. In the first year, the program served 2 high schools and 35 students.   

Since then, College Possible has grown 250-fold. Currently in 29 partner schools across the nation, College Possible proudly serves nearly 8,700 low-income students, of whom 91% are students of color. But even with this rapid growth, College Possible continues to produce dramatic results: juniors increase their ACT scores by an average of 21%, 98% of College Possible students earn admission to college and nearly 80% of College Possible college students are either continuing to work toward their college degree or have already graduated.  A recent Harvard study showed that College Possible more than doubles the chances a low-income student will enroll in a four-year institution. For these top-of-field results, College Possible earned national recognition in 2011 receiving the Elfenworks In Harmony with Hope Award and the Mutual of America Community Partnership Award.

But College Possible is nowhere near finished making ripples. College Possible plans to be in 10 metro areas and serving 20,000 low-income students annually as soon as 2015. Ultimately, however, College Possible is working toward the day when the future of America’s children is determined solely by their talent, motivation and effort rather than their socioeconomic status.

For more information visit the College Possible website. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and their new blog.

Hannah Balder is the Communications VISTA in the College Possible National office. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in 2011 with a degree in English and Communication, and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, thrifting, biking, and nourishing her caffeine addiction in coffee shops with friends.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Guest Post, Nonprofit Organization

 

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Mikayla’s Grace

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.   ~ Walter Anderson

 

Many organizations are born from a loss or struggle.  Today’s organization is one that was founded after one of the most difficult struggles: the loss of a child.

Mikayla’s Grace was founded by Mike and Melissa Terrill in February of 2011.  They were inspired to create the organization after they experienced the premature birth and death of their second child, Mikayla Grace.  After Mikayla’s short 36 hour life, they felt the need to give back to other parents in similar situations.  While they did have support while they were in the hospital, they felt a lot more could be done.  They did not want other parents to leave the hospital with regrets of things they should have done while they did have their child with them.  They also wanted to ensure other parents had the resources they needed to continue on the journey of grieving the loss of their child.

The organization’s mission is to support families with a baby in the NICU and those who experience the death of an infant at hospitals in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  They provide NICU care packages and angel memory boxes that offer both practical and emotional support for the parents.

Mikayla’s Grace is the first organization of its kind in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  While hospitals sometimes get donations of handmade baby blankets and hats, they have not had an organization that plans to consistently donate.  The items in the care packages and angel memory boxes are also unique.  The care packages include a camera, a NICU specific scrapbook, journal, baby items, toiletries, and resources for preemie parents.  The angel memory boxes include hand and foot molds, keepsake envelope for hair, a special burial gown, other keepsakes, and resources for grieving parents.  So far, they have donated over 100 angel memory boxes and 100 NICU care packages in addition to many other items to support these families.  

In addition, they hosted the first ever Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day in October 2011.  This event brought together over 150 people who came to remember all babies who were gone too soon.  The event is planned again for October 13, 2012; you can read more about it at www.foreverinourheartsmadison.com.

Mikayla’s Grace also has an extensive list of resources for parents, friends, and family of those grieving the loss of an infant child. 

How can you help?

  • The organization has an Amazon wish list to make donations to the care packages and angel memory boxes simple.  Place an order and the items will ship directly to the organization.
  • They also need volunteers, auction donations, and sponsors for their Forever in Our Hearts Remembrance Day in October.  Go to www.foreverinourheartsmadison.com to watch for details on this event.
  • Monetary donations also help because each memory box costs about $50 and each care package about $60.  Donations can be made on the organization’s website.
  • Handmade blankets are also accepted.  You can learn more on the donation page of their website.
  • Those near Madison, Wisconsin can also volunteer for one of their assembly days when they put together kits to be donated to the hospital. 
  • You can also check out the organization’s online auction here.

To learn more about Mikayla’s Grace, you can visit their website, www.mikaylasgrace.com.  You can also read the family’s full story for each of their children here.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.

Related Posts: Ella’s Halo and Project Sweet Peas

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Bridging

Several organizations offer assistance to those dealing with homelessness.  Today’s organization helps bridge people into a home while helping reduce the waste that goes into landfills.

In 1987, Fran Heitzman was working as a custodian at a church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  A woman brought in a crib and asked Fran if it could be used in the church nursery.  There wasn’t a need in the nursery, but Fran was sure he could find a home for the crib.  After finding a social service agency that wanted the crib, Fran thought he should be able to find a home for other furniture items to truly help those in desperate need and Bridging was born.

The mission of the Bridging organization is to provide families and individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty with a gift of quality furniture and household goods to stabilize and improve lives while effectively using community resources.

They are headquartered in Bloomington, Minnesota in a 26,000 square foot warehouse.  They also have another 22,000 square foot warehouse in Roseville, Minnesota.  Together, these two locations serve over 4,000 households from the Twin Cities Metro Area each year.  Since its founding in 1987, Bridging has served over 57,000 households consisting of over 175,000 people.  87% of these families have an annual income of less than $15,000

Bridging is now the largest furniture bank in North America and was one of the founding members of the Furniture Bank Association of North America.  By accepting quality used furniture and household goods, Bridging reduces the amount of waste going to landfills by approximately 7-10 million pounds every year.

To receive services from Bridging, clients are referred by one of their 140 community partners. Comprised of social service agencies, nonprofit organizations and churches, these community partners verify there is a need for each client prior to coming to Bridging.

Bridging clients are very grateful.  One client said, “After months of sleeping on the couch, it has been great to have a bed.  We have a couch that doesn’t sag, enough towels and sheets, a coffee maker and a blender.  I used the light you gave us to finish my first year of nursing school.”  Another said, “Words are not there to say what this means…beds to sleep on, a couch with my kids sitting next to me.  It’s the little bitty things that matter.  I’m so thankful that people gave these things to Bridging. It makes a world of difference to those who don’t have.”  You can find even more success stories on the organization’s website.

How can you help?

  • Each year, Bridging has over 80,000 hours of time donated by generous volunteers.  There are opportunities for individuals and groups to help clients pick out furniture, sort donated items, and provide administrative support.  You can learn more about volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • You can also learn more about donating your stuff to Bridging on their website.  There you will find a list of accepted items as well as drop off locations and hours.
  • Each winter for the past 14 years, a local ski hill has been the host of the Subway Bedrace for Bridging.  Teams race down the hill and raise funds for the organization.  In 2012, this event raised $80,000 for Bridging.  Check out their website for information on getting involved in this event.
  • You can also make a monetary donation directly on the organization’s website.

You can learn more about Bridging on their website, www.bridging.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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