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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Smile Network

Smile Network

I recently saw a story about encore careers on the news.  According to Encore.org, encore careers combine personal fulfillment, social impact and continued income, enabling people to put their passion to work for the greater good.  Today’s organization was founded by someone seeking a change and an opportunity to do something more meaningful.

In May of 2003, Kim Valentini decided to leave the corporate world to make a difference.  In an interview in Minnesota Business, Kim said that she had a desire to do something more with her life.  She “wanted to be a voice for people who didn’t have one.  What we all have in common is a need to belong…when you’re a child born with a disfigurement, you don’t fit in.”

Kim Valentini with Farzhad

Kim Valentini with Farzhad

Kim started by committing five hours a week to a charitable cause with a goal of creating one mission site in Mexico and gifting 50 smiles per year.  However, those five hours quickly turned to 55 hours per week and Smile Network International was born.  Smile Network is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota and provides life-altering reconstructive surgeries to impoverished children and young adults around the world.

Since 2003, Smile Network has developed 24 surgical sites in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Tanzania, Armenia, India, Ecuador, and Uganda.  They recently completed their 50th mission and have provided 2,500 new smiles through their free surgeries.

Eliseo

Eliseo

Each of these 2,500 surgeries have changed a life, here are just a few of their stories:

  • Eliseo was 72 years old and had never known what it was like to sit at a table and share a meal with family because food would come out his nose.  He was born with a cleft palate and abandoned at birth.  With tears in his eyes, he begged the Smile Network team to take a risk to operate on him stating that he would rather die than to continue living this way.  This simple request was hard to deny.
  • Rosealva was a little girl abandoned by her family and left to die under a blanket because of her cleft lip.  She was was given a new life after she was found by a local mission team and brought to the Smile Network mission site.
  • David’s mother was forced to walk to the end of her village and leave her infant son to die because they thought he would bring a curse to the village causing their crops and livestock to die.  Instead, she kept walking to a mission site where David received an operation.  She and David returned to village to be reunited with their family.

Same Child

You can watch a video of one of the Smile Network’s trips to Peru from an episode of On The Road with Jason Davis from KSTP TV to see some more moving stories of lives changed.

How can you help?

  • Smile Network’s Champions of Children program allows students and schools to raise money to fund surgeries.  You can learn more about his program and read stories of schools who have participated on the organization’s website.
  • Their Global Ventures program offers individuals and groups a chance to raise money to hike the Inca Trail or Mount Kilimanjaro to bring about change.  At the end of your hike, you participate in the screening process to identify the candidates for surgeries.  To learn more about this program and to hear from others who have participated, visit their website.
  • You can also volunteer for a surgical mission to help transform lives around the world.  You can find the mission schedule and more information on their website.
  • The easiest thing to do is to make a donation.  It takes just $500 to pay for an entire surgery.  A donation of $250 covers the surgical supplies for one child, $100 covers a child’s medication, and $50 covers the care kit given to each child.  You can make a donation directly on their website.

To learn more about the Smile Network, visit their website, smilenetwork.org.  You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter or contact them via phone at 612-377-1800.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Face It Foundation

Face It Foundation

“Six million American men will be diagnosed with depression this year. But millions more suffer silently, unaware that their problem has a name or unwilling to seek treatment.  The result is a hidden epidemic of despair that is destroying marriages, disrupting careers, filling jail cells, clogging emergency rooms and costing society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical bills. It is also creating a cohort of children who carry the burden of their fathers’ pain for the rest of their lives.” – Julie Scelfo (from a 2007 article named Men and Depression: Facing Darkness in Newsweek)

Today’s organization is focusing on men facing depression.  Roughly 12% of men experience depression in their lifetime, but men are less likely than women to seek treatment for their depression.  Untreated depression is the primary cause of suicide, and suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for men in the United States.

Mark Meier founded Face It Foundation after his own first-hand experience avoiding his own depression for 14 years.  Mark’s depression caused him to avoid his wife and be “useless as a parent.”  He had no tolerance for his children’s needs or requests, so he avoided them, wasn’t engaged in their life, or was angry at them.  One night, he quickly put his children to bed after his wife had gone to work.  He turned to his usual distraction of alcohol then retreated to his bedroom where he sat with a gun in his mouth.  Before he could pull the trigger, his then nine month old daughter cried and jolted Mark back to reality.  He was soon thereafter admitted to the hospital by his wife and slowly gained control over his life.  That was seven years ago.  Mark now has a successful consulting practice, serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota, and travels the United States speaking, training, and building programs about depression.  You can read the detailed story from Mark here.

Guys get depressed, but are often too stubborn, proud, or unaware of their symptoms to address it.  Thoughts such as only women get depression or that you can just get over it are common among men.  Many men also tend to be taught not to talk about their problems in public.  These are some reasons why men are often unwilling to consider treatment for depression.  Mark founded the Face It Foundation to help, “Depression in men is common, but far too often men don’t recognize they are suffering from depression and equally often when they know they are suffering it is difficult to talk to someone.  Face It wants men to know that depression is treatable, but to begin the recovery process a man must come forward.”

The mission of Face It Foundation is to work with men to understand and overcome depression through education, online tools, and peer support.  Their website offers a wealth of information including signs and symptoms of depression, frequently asked questions, real life stories, treatment options, articles, videos, podcasts, and more.

Mark told me in an e-mail, “The treatment for depression is complicated and has many facets.  The use of antidepressants and psychotherapy are the primary approaches used, but many men reject both of these options.  Face It believes that there are many ways to deal with depression and the first step is to begin talking to others who understand the issue.”

You can hear more about the founder and the Face It mission in this short video:

How can you help?

  • You can spread the word about the information available on the Face It website.
  • You can read the stories and articles on the Face it website if you feel depression may be impacting a man in your life, then utilize the tips for discussing depression from Face It.
  • You can also support the mission of Face It by making a monetary donation.
  • Face It is also seeking men who have gone through depression and are willing to be peer mentors to other men.  You can contact Face It Foundation via e-mail or phone (612-600-3953) if you are interested in helping with this online peer connector system.
  • In July, the third annual Alive at the Market event will benefit the Face It Foundation.  You can learn more about this event and how to volunteer or donate to the silent auction at aliveatthemarket.com.

You can learn more about Face It Foundation on their website, faceitfoundation.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, via e-mail, or their blog.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Raptor Center

The Raptor Center

Most of the organizations I write about are places I have never visited.  In December, I visited today’s organization along with my family.  The Raptor Center was an interesting place to visit and an organization that has been ensuring the health of raptors since 1974.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Gary Duke, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, was conducting some research on grain-eating turkeys.  Dr. Patrick Redig, a veterinary student was working with Duke when four baby great horned owls offered them an opportunity to expand their research to avian meat-eaters.  Redig offered to care for the resident owls as well as other birds that they did not need for their research.  He also began to repair their injuries and return them to the wild, pioneering avian orthopedic and anesthetic techniques that are still used by avian veterinarians today.

Omaha the Red Tailed Hawk

Some of the birds were unable to be released back to the wild, so he used these live birds to educate the general public about raptor behavior, habitat, and threats to their survival.  Since their founding in 1974, The Raptor Center has become an internationally renowned education facility.  The Raptor Center has also made a huge difference for raptors including the Midwest Peregrine Falcon Restoration Project which helped remove the Peregrine Falcon from the endangered species list, a book named Medical Management of Birds of Prey that details medical and surgical techniques for birds of prey, a manual named Raptors in Captivity: A Guide to Care and Management that has been adopted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as their standard on captive raptor management, among many other accomplishments listed on their website.

In 2012, The Raptor Center received nearly 800 patients including eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons.  These birds are all raptors because they have hooked beaks, sharp talons, and sharp talons.  When we visited in December 2012, they had 52 bird patients.  One long term winged ambassador resident is Leuc, a male bald eagle that has called The Raptor Center home since 1983.  He arrived with a broken right wing.  It healed but left him unable to fly.  In 1999, Leuc was also treated for a cancerous tumor on his right leg.  Luec has served as an education bird at the center since he was unable to be released back into the wild.

Luec from The Raptor Center

The Raptor Center reaches over 250,000 people annually though their unique public education programs and events.  Anyone can visit the center’s facility for a tour and meet a variety of raptors.  In addition, some of the raptors go on visits to local schools and other events.

How can you help?

The Raptor Center provided me with a many things we can all do to help birds and the environment.

  • Get involved in local conservation organizations such as The Raptor Center or your local nature center.  The Raptor Center has volunteer opportunities including transporting sick or injured birds and helping in the clinic.  You can learn more about volunteer opportunities here.
  • Learn about the various species of raptors here.
  • Lead alternative ammunition will help reduce lead poisoning in bald eagles and other birds.  Click here to learn more.
  • Eliminate unnecessary pesticide use.  According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 50 pesticides currently used in the United States have caused bird die-offs.  Even the small amounts used by individuals on their lawns have a cumulative affect.
  • Modify your windows to help avoid collisions by adding screens, blinds, or bird feeders.  For examples and more information on this topic, please visit the Audubon Society website.
  • Properly dispose of toxic chemicals such as latex paint and items containing mercury.  Mercury is a potent nerve toxin, which is increasingly found in our water, fish, and loons.
  • Attend special events that The Raptor Center holds throughout the year, including its semi-annual Raptor Release, where rehabilitated raptors are released back into the wild.  You can watch their online calendar or sign up for their e-communications.
  • You can also make a monetary donation using a variety of options on their website or via their fundraising page on Razoo.com.  In addition, there are opportunities to adopt a specific raptor.  You can learn more about raptor adoption here.

Owl from The Raptor Center

You can learn more about The Raptor Center on their website, theraptorcenter.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and their blog.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Edible Schoolyard Project

The Edible Schoolyard Project

I grew up watching my mother and grandmother tend their huge gardens full of vegetables and some fruits.  In the last couple years I have started a small garden at home and have watched my kids enjoy helping and even trying the vegetables we have grown (which is a breakthrough moment for my anti-vegetable daughter).  Today’s organization has been bringing vegetables into schools for over 16 years.

In 1995, Alice Waters was quoted in her local paper stating that the school she passed each day looked as if no one cared about it.  The principal of that school, Neil Smith, contacted her to see if she had an idea to help.  Alice, a chef, wanted to start a garden and teaching kitchen at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.  She saw these as tools for enriching the curriculum and the life of the school community.  The idea slowly began to take to form and through the involvement of faculty and parent volunteers, The Edible Schoolyard was born.

The garden and kitchen are not just used to teach gardening and cooking.  Lessons have included teaching fractions in the kitchen and growing heirloom grains to learn about early civilizations.  In addition, students who are involved in the garden are more likely to try the foods grown there.

The mission of the Edible Schoolyard is to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program.  At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California the Edible Schoolyard curriculum is fully integrated into the school day and teaches students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities.

You can watch the Edible Schoolyard in action in this short video:

The Edible Schoolyard Program now supports school garden programs throughout the world by providing resources and tools for teachers, parents, and advocates.  During the summer, the Berkeley location opens their doors to host the Edible Schoolyard Academy to provide hands-on activities, presentations, guided discussions, and curriculum building sessions to provide participants with the tools for teaching edible education.

How can you become involved?

  • Explore the network of school garden programs on the Edible Schoolyard website to see if a school near you is participating.  You can also register your school program.
  • Utilize the resources for school garden programs on the organization’s website or even contribute your own resource.
  • Sign up for the Edible Schoolyard Academy to learn how to incorporate edible education into your school.
  • You can also make a monetary donation to support the Edible Schoolyard program on their website.
  • If you live in Berkeley, California, you can volunteer at the Edible Schoolyard there.  Learn more on their website.  You can also volunteer at a school program near you.  To find one, search here.

To learn more about the Edible Schoolyard, visit their website, edibleschoolyard.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, as well as their newsletter and blog.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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FareStart

FareStart

If I was ever forced to pick a new career, I would probably choose to be a chef.  Today’s organization is helping people realize their dream of working in the food industry.

In 1988, David Lee, a chef in Seattle, Washington, saw a need to serve the local homeless with culturally appropriate and nutritious food, so he started a for-profit business called Common Meals.  Through this work he recognized that food was a powerful way to help individuals transform their lives, so he transformed his company into a 501c3 nonprofit job training program named FareStart in 1992.

The mission of FareStart is to provide a community that transforms lives by empowering homeless and disadvantaged men, women, and families to achieve self-sufficiency through life skills, job training and employment in the food service industry.

Their adult culinary program is a comprehensive 16 week program that builds a strong foundation and support system by working with students individually.  The program combines hands on food service training and classroom instruction along with individual case management and job placement services.

The program is free and allows students to give back to the community by preparing food that is delivered to homeless shelters and low income daycare centers.

Homeless and disadvantaged men and women in the program are prepared for jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry after completion of the program.  Today the program serves more than 750 individuals a year with over 80% of the program graduates securing living wage employment in the food service or hospitality industry.

In 2003, FareStart added a Barista Training and Education Program (in collaboration with YouthCare) to provide at-risk youth on the job training, life skills classes, and counseling to youth between the ages of 16 and 23.  Students provided an opportunity to build a better future through the program.  In 2011, 52 youth graduated from the program and 80% secured employment or went back to school.

Over the past 20 years, nearly 6,000 people have found opportunities to transform their lives through the FareStart program.  At the same time they have served over five million meals to disadvantaged men, women, and children.  You can read stories of some of the program’s graduates here.  In 2011, FareStart launched Catalyst Kitchens to bring the success of FareStart to communities around the country.

FareStart has a restaurant, café, and catering business that helps support the adult culinary programs.  The restaurant serves lunch Monday through Friday and has a guest chef night on Thursday nights.  The lunch service provides a training opportunity for students to work in a kitchen serving real customers.  The Thursday night meals give the students an opportunity to work directly with a local chef to create a gourmet three course meal.  The FareStart Café is an on the job training site for the Youth Barista Training and Education Program.  They offer a full selection of espresso drinks as well as pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches.  The revenue from these businesses are used to fund the training programs.

How can you help?

  • If you live near Seattle, you can visit their restaurant or café or hire their catering service.  In addition, you can support the companies who have hired graduates of the program or have supported the organization in other ways.
  • FareStart also has a variety of volunteer opportunities including shelter meal delivery, counseling, study hall tutoring, and mock interviewing, among other opportunities.  You can find all the opportunities and an application form on their website.
  • Anyone can make a financial or in-kind donation.  You can find donation opportunities as well as their current wish list on their website.
  • If you are not in the Seattle area, take a look at the Catalyst Kitchens website to find a similar program near you.

To learn more about FareStart, visit their website, farestart.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Blue Slide Project

The Blue Slide Project

Last summer I wrote about Dana Millington, a mom who is honoring her daughter by creating an inclusive playground in her Minnesota community.  Today’s post is about another mom who has built a playground for her son in Oregon.

When Mona Pinon’s son Isaac was just 4 months old, he was paralyzed after a cancerous tumor injured his spinal cord.  He has been in a wheelchair since he was 18 months old and is now in kindergarten.  In November of 2011, Mona visited the school where Isaac would attend kindergarten and found that he would not be able to play on the school’s playground equipment.  She met with the school principal who suggested she approach the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA).  She went to a meeting, told them what she wanted to do, and asked for help.  They agreed to support the project and Mona agreed to be the fundraiser.  The Blue Slide Project was born.

Over the summer of 2012, Mona and her team of fundraisers held a variety of events to raise money to build a new playground at the Parkside Elementary School in Grants Pass, Oregon.  They held a Bunco Night, Zumbathon, Concerts in the Park, a car wash, yard sales and more.

In July 2012, the construction of Phase 1 began.  You can see the groundbreaking in this video from KDRV TV.  In August 2012, Isaac was able to celebrate his 5th birthday by cutting the ribbon on the new playground.

IMG_7598

The community really rallied around the project to make it become a reality.  One example is a 64 year old man with Parkinson’s Disease who walked 46 miles from Grants Pass to Ashland, Oregon.  He said he was “doing what Isaac can’t.”  He ended his journey with a trip down a slide with Isaac.  Mona said she believed this was possible “because a community believed that ALL children should have the freedom to play.”  She has received e-mails from local residents thanking her for making the playground possible.  Even adults with disabilities are now able to interact with their children at the playground where before they could only watch from the sidelines.

There is a second phase to the project which will resurface the remaining area of the playground.  Anyone can purchase a tile for under $20 to help support the resurfacing.   Mona hopes to work with the local parks department to help make other local parks accessible to all as well.

I asked Mona for her tips to others who want to build an accessible playground in their community and she told me to be prepared to do a lot of research and do not be too proud to ask for help.  Ask the media to share the story of what you are doing.  “Keep your eye to the end and enjoy the people you meet along the way.”

To learn more about the Blue Slide Project, connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, or via e-mail.  You can also find the link to donate to the project on their Facebook page.

Watch Isaac use his blue slide here:

Related Post: Madison Claire Foundation

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Shot@Life

Shot@Life

Today’s post is about an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that is working to spread life-saving vaccines to kids around the world.  I encourage you to watch this short video from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to learn more about vaccines.

According to the United Nations Foundation, around the world, one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine.  The number of children dying each year from preventable diseases in developing countries is nearly equivalent to half the children entering kindergarten in the United States.

In September 2011, the United Nations Foundation unveiled their Shot@Life campaign to expand access to lifesaving vaccines for children in developing countries.  The campaign also serves to educate Americans about vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save children’s lives around the world.

Over the past 20 years, new cases of polio have dropped 99 percent making the world is nearly polio-free. The Measles Initiative has vaccinated one billion children in 60 developing countries since 2001, decreasing world measles deaths by 78 percent.  Additional vaccines for pneumococcal disease and rotavirus are currently being introduced globally and, if distributed widely, have the potential to save millions more children.  Vaccines provide a lifetime of protection for children and at just $20 per child anyone can help make a difference.

Shot@Life builds on the United Nations Foundation’s 13-year commitment as a partner in the Measles Initiative and Global Polio Eradication Initiative and spreads newer vaccines developed to prevent pneumonia and diarrhea, the leading killers of children.  Shot@Life is supporting the work of its partners to expand access to existing vaccines for children in developing countries to protect them against four vaccine-preventable diseases, measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea.

Shot at Life

How can you help?

  • You can start by visiting shotatlife.org to learn more about the initiative.  Their website offers several ways to advocate for childhood vaccines including writing a letter to your representatives in Congress and spreading the word about global vaccines.
  • You can also make a donation to help children around the world receive lifesaving vaccines.  Just $20 will vaccinate one child.
  • You can also help by spreading the word about Shot@Life by sharing this blog post on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media using the share options below.

You can learn more on the Shot@Life website, shotatlife.org.  You can also connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Pinterest.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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