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Action For Healthy Kids

Rob Bisceglie CEO of Action for Healthy KidsI recently had the opportunity to interview Rob Bisceglie, the CEO of Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK).  This organization works to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives.  They provide resources to volunteers in schools and school health leaders across the country to learn about physical activity and nutrition best practices in school, act through programs which promote healthy lifestyles and wellness policies in schools, and transform schools to provide healthier foods, physical education and comprehensive physical activity for all students.

Blogunteer: Rob, can you start by telling me how your organization began?

Rob Bisceglie:
We were formed in response to the December 2001 special report, The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. That very sobering report examined the serious obesity problem impacting all segments of our communities and identified schools as a key setting for addressing childhood obesity.

It was such a startling call to action that in October 2002, nearly 500 experts in children’s health and education convened in Washington, D.C. at the first Healthy Schools Summit to address schools’ role in reducing childhood obesity. Out of that meeting, Action for Healthy Kids was launched with 51 State Teams (this includes Washington, D.C.) and 30 partner organizations. Dr. Satcher became the founding chair of our Board of Directors.

Since then, legions of truly dedicated AFHK volunteers – from within the ranks of our 50,000+ network – have worked diligently across the country to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can be healthier. Through their efforts, we’re bringing fun physical activity and nutrition lessons and changes to classrooms, cafeterias and school playgrounds so kids can eat nutritiously and play actively every day that they attend school.
Action for Healthy Kids

Blogunteer: There are a lot of organizations working with kids, what makes Action for Healthy Kids unique? 

Rob Bisceglie:
We provide schools with everything they need – programs, grants, volunteer support and technical expertise – to create healthier environments so students can thrive.

Since our founding, Action for Healthy Kids and our 70+ partner organizations have turned the spotlight on the childhood obesity crisis so that it’s now widely acknowledged as a top priority by health and public health professionals, government leaders, school systems and the popular media.

Blogunteer: Do you have any facts you would like to share about your work?

Rob Bisceglie:
Our volunteer and constituent network has grown from fewer than 700 in 2002 to more than 50,000 (and still growing) in 2013.  Last year, our volunteers contributed more than $6 million of their time and resources to schools nationwide.  Last year, we reached more than 20,000 schools and 8 million kids through our volunteers and State Teams.

Although there are tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of fantastic non-profit and government organizations working every day to combat the obesity epidemic, the most recent projections around the epidemic state that by 2030, 50% of Americans may be overweight or obese, unless we reverse the trend.  So, there is still considerable work to be done.

Blogunteer: Sounds like there is still a lot of work to do!  What is a recent accomplishment of Action for Healthy Kids that you would like to share with my readers?

Rob Bisceglie:
Through our work to expand school breakfast programming this school year, we are supporting schools as they serve an additional 1 million breakfasts to hungry kids. I’m proud of that program given the importance of school breakfast on student health and academic achievement. We note in The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn, for example, that on average students who eat school breakfast have been shown to attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests.
Blogunteer: Do you have any specific stories of how your organization has made a difference? 

Rob Bisceglie:
Yes, there quite a few. One of the things I’m proudest of is how truly committed our volunteers are to fighting childhood obesity and ensuring kids and their families understand the importance of physical activity and good nutrition.

Blogunteer:
Rob shared the story of Allison Stewart, a mom who sought out ways to make a difference when her daughter shared that she was rewarded with a cookie for doing her school work.  Allison found Action for Healthy Kids online and was impressed by the number of resources available to parents who want to make a difference in the area of school wellness.  Allison says her efforts are not just about combating childhood obesity, but also about teaching kids how to be healthy.  You can read more about Allison here.

Rob also shared the story of Linda Miller, another Colorado mom who made it her mission to get all the students at her son’s elementary school a free breakfast.  Linda did her research and shared the link between a healthy breakfast and academic success to encourage school leaders to serve breakfast to every student in school.  You can read more about Linda and other AFHK success stories here.

Blogunteer: How can others get involved in Action For Healthy Kids? 

Rob Bisceglie:
Our volunteers focus their efforts on increasing opportunities for kids to play actively and eat well. These are, after all, the two proven paths to ensuring kids are healthy and ready to learn. So, volunteers, for instance, might introduce students to “healthy” foods through tastes tests using our free program Game On! The Ultimate Wellness Challenge. They might participate in a Get in the Action event at a local school and install or refurbish playground equipment. Or, they might provide educational information to school superintendents, teachers and parents to organize statewide meetings on school health issues for legislators. Volunteer work really varies and is always based on the needs of the local schools, communities and, of course, the kids.

Here’s a sampling of how people can get involved as AFHK volunteers:

  • Help schools develop and put into place wellness policies or action plans
  • Serve on or advise school wellness councils
  • Help schools understand and bridge cultural differences
  • Offer expertise and coaching to help schools put in place Action for Healthy Kids’ programs, including Game On! The Ultimate Wellness Challenge and Students Taking Charge, that will bring their action plans to life

Anyone who is interested in volunteering with Action for Healthy Kids can do so  by clicking the “Volunteer” button right on our website.  And, starting next school year, Action for Healthy Kids will launch a new online Volunteer Center in which our volunteers will be matched to volunteer opportunities happening in their local schools.  We see this new technology as a game-changer for our field of school wellness.


Blogunteer: Any last comments you would like to share with my readers Rob?

Rob Biscegle:
Yes, please encourage your readers to visit our website, read The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn and take the Every Kid Healthy Pledge. By doing so, they’ll become informed on the issues and learn how easily they can make the kinds of healthful changes that will benefit their children.

Blogunteer:
Thank you to Rob for taking the time to speak to me about Action for Healthy Kids.

If you would like to learn more, visit their website, ActionForHealthyKids.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Flickr.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Artists for Trauma


Healing yourself is connected with healing others. 
~ Yoko Ono 

The founder of today’s organization healed herself and has since turned to heal many others.  In May of 2008, a helicopter crash on Catalina Island, just off the coast of Southern California, killed three people and injured the other three people on board.  Laura Sharpe was one of those three survivors.  She had 43 broken bones and burns on more than 40 percent of her body.  She spent four weeks in a coma and endured multiple skin grafts and the partial amputation of her foot.

Just three short years after her traumatic accident, she co-created The Laura Project, a collaboration with five artists in Southern California.  The project portrays the crash and her recovery in a variety of mediums including photographs, film, sculpture, paintings, dance, and music.

In an article on the project in the Ventura County Star, Laura said, “It was such a spiritual engagement and so helpful for my healing process.  It’s about how you can make art from tragedy, something beautiful and artistic from the negative occurrences of life.”

Artists for Trauma

After her experience of using art to assist in her healing and feeling compelled to help other trauma survivors through recovery, Laura founded Artists for Trauma.  The organization is dedicated to enriching the lives of both civilian and military trauma survivors by pairing recovering patients with established artists from various disciplines.  They aim to expedite recovery through artistic expression and human connection.  Artists for Trauma provides a creative portal to help patients process complex emotions, regain confidence and build self-acceptance after suffering a traumatic experience.

Watch Laura tell her own story in the video below.

How can you help?
Volunteers are needed throughout the United States.  

  • If you are a trauma survivor, you can sign up to become a student artist.  Learn more on their website.
  • If you are an artist, you can sign up to be a volunteer artist to assist trauma survivors.  Volunteers are needed all across the United States.  You can learn more and sign up here.
  • You can also make a financial donation on the organization’s website.  Donations fund the equipment, supplies, and community outreach among other things to support the work of the organization.
  • If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can help Artists for Trauma at a an event on Saturday, May 4th, from 11:00

    AM-1:00 PM in Los Angeles. There is always room for more volunteers

    so if you would like to join in and participate in this fun, creative day, you can email them at info@artistsfortrauma.org.

To learn more about Artists for Trauma visit their website, artistsfortrauma.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, YouTube, or their blog.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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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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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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Underwearness

Underwearness

Raise your hand if you have ever received underwear as a gift.  It may seem like an embarrassing gift for many of us, but imagine if you never had your own new underwear.  The Salvation Army states that underwear is the second most requested essential item after food and water, but it is the least donated item.  Today I write about an organization that is helping fill this underserved need.

Over a conversation with her brother-in-law, Koree Khongphand-Buckman was inspired.  He told her how his family grew up without much money and he would be so excited when they received barely used underwear as part of their donations rather than very used underwear.  She left that evening feeling sad to know that children grew up with used underwear or no underwear at all.  The next morning she shared the story with her co-workers and it tugged at their heartstrings too.  They formulated a plan to make a difference in children’s lives, one pair of underwear at a time.  Soon the UNDERWEARNESS organization was born.

UNDERWEARNESS is based in Thornton, Colorado and is on a mission to provide new underwear to children in need.  Underwear is kind of a taboo subject so it is rarely donated.  The organization may not be saving the world, but they are providing brand new packages of underwear to children so they can have underwear that is theirs and theirs alone.  UNDERWEARNESS serves a unique need by focusing on underwear.  They do not donate directly to individuals, they provide their new donations to children through other 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that assists families and children in need.

Since 2009, they have donated over 61,000 pairs of underwear to locations all over the United States as well as the Dominican Republic, Africa, Haiti, and Mexico.  This has helped approximately 10,000 children.  They recently collected about 4,000 pairs of underwear to the Salvation Army in Staten Island, New York to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  What makes this accomplishment even more impressive is that they did this in just 3 days.  Earlier in 2012, their third annual Drop Your Drawers 5K event was held in Denver and collected over 4,000 pairs of underwear and $15,000.  The underwear was donated to the Salvation Army of Denver to go to the Colorado Wildfire Victims.

Like many other organizations, UNDERWEARNESS is run completely by volunteers so they have a variety of ways you can help.

  • You can make a monetary donation through the organization’s website.
  • You can also host an underwear drive in your own community and the organization will donate the underwear to the organization of your choice.  They have details on how to run a drive on their website.
  • If you are in the Denver, Colorado area, you can participate in or volunteer for their annual “Drop Your Drawers 5K” event.  You can find the details about the upcoming May 2013 event here.

You can learn more about the UNDERWEARNESS organization on their website, underwearness.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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TV Reporter Finds a New Mission

Kristi Piehl
Today I have a guest post from Kristi Piehl.  During her 12 year television career, Kristi worked as a reporter and anchor at 5 television stations. She won numerous awards for her work including two Emmy awards for stories she covered at KSTP in Minneapolis. Kristi has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Dateline NBC and several national radio shows.  Kristi prides herself on building the most effective media-focused public relations team in the area. In addition to having a team dominated by former TV news professionals and storytellers, Media Minefield also has a graphic designer, videographer and photographer on staff.  Kristi holds a BA in English from Bethel University. She studied Professional Writing and graduated with honors.

 

Knocking on the door of a homicide victim to ask the grieving mother for an interview.

Picking through remnants of a tornado-ravaged home for a prop.

Driving through a snow storm to tell the public that travel is not advised.

Yes, running towards the disasters that other people run away from is the reality of a TV reporter. For 12 years, it was my life. Thankfully there were some opportunities to tell positive stories. However, it always frustrated me when I’d try to do a positive story with a local non-profit, church or ministry and the administrators would decline. I couldn’t figure it out. A journalist teamed up with a talented videographer with the purpose of telling a non-profit’s story to a large audience is a powerful way to bring in donations and volunteers.

Don’t get me wrong, many non-profits make an attempt to grab headlines. Non-profits send press releases by the hundreds to newsrooms hoping for coverage of their gala or fundraising campaign. I’ve seen the pile of releases and I’ll be honest, it’s tough for small or medium sized non-profits to get noticed.

While media will ignore a run-of-the-mill news release, no self-respecting journalist will turn down a powerful story.

So in 2010, I found myself in a strange place – a storyteller detoxing from a career in television news with a heart for non-profits. The timing was perfect; my church was offering a class to teach people how to use the talents they have to help others.

Media Minefield was born.

The company is an intentionally different public relations and video production firm. At first, I had a hand-full of non-profit clients in the Twin Cities. Some wanted their stories transformed into short videos for special events or fundraising campaigns and others wanted their stories in the media.

Two years later, we have both for-profit and non-profit clients in Minnesota and around the country. Our office is in Minnetonka and there are eleven employees. The majority of the men and women on the Media Minefield team have a background in television news. In our front office, it says “your message is our mission” and that is what makes us unique. We work with every client to define and distill their message. That message then becomes the foundation of the kind of story that inspires others to take action.

I’ve heard more powerful stories in the past two years than in the previous twelve. The difference is that I, surrounded by some of the most talented former news minds in the Twin Cities, can now focus on maximizing and telling those positive stories.

We’ve produced videos for local and national non-profits and have watched how a media appearance can bolster a bottom line. After all, a powerful news story or video could be used on social media, at gala events and on websites. For our team, it’s so rewarding to see a non-profit empowered to do even more to help others.

What makes a good story? A main character, a clear purpose and a concise message. For television news, it’s critical to have compelling video to accompany the story. For newspaper, magazine, online and radio mediums, a main character with a powerful story who understands how to communicate with control and speak in sound bites is all it takes.

Tell your story. People want to hear it.

Kristi sent me just a few of the nonprofit stories Media Minefield has done.  I have included these below.

7 Year Old Using Music to Help Hungry Kids

Minnesota Man Skis Again after Being in a Coma

Dan’s Restart Story

Related Post: Storytellers for Good

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Guest Post

 

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Navigating for Non Profits

Navigating for Non Profits

I was recently at an event where someone asked the question “what is on your bucket list” as an icebreaker question.  Most questions around the table were travel related.  The founders of today’s organization found a way to put together travel and giving.

Maggie and Jenna served two terms with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community (NCCC) where they fell in love with giving back to communities and traveling.  In NCCC you travel with a team every two months supporting existing nonprofits.  This experience really made Maggie and Jenna understand how beautiful America is and gave them both a passion for seeing it all.  However, they were not ready to stop volunteering as their NCCC program came to a close, so they began Navigating for Non Profits.

After their NCCC experience, Jenna was planning to move to Tennessee, had a car, and wanted a road trip partner.  Maggie was planning to head to North Carolina and both of them were hoping to get involved with a nonprofit to begin their careers.  Their idea started as offering to volunteer in State and National Parks in exchange for a free campsite, but a light bulb moment turned it into something bigger.  They decided they could work for all kinds of nonprofits, picked the name Navigating for Nonprofits, and applied for and received their 501c3 status.

As they planned their itinerary they considered several factors: they wanted to see unique places, visit friends, have reasonable drive times, and work for a variety of nonprofits.  They took some suggestions from people about nonprofits and cities and then spent some time mapping out their trip.  At this point, their itinerary is locked down and their trip is underway, but they are still planning some of the volunteer events in the cities they are visiting.  Jenna told me that they left San Francisco “with a dream two and a half months ago and we are still living it.  We get excited every time someone comes out and volunteers for the first time…We have seen both coasts and the Great Lakes.  We have met truly inspiring people.  This road trip has been incredible.”

They are keeping a page of their achievements of their road trip.  At this point they have recruited over 140 volunteers and given over 600 hours to 34 nonprofits.

Their journey is scheduled to come to an end in mid-December and then a whole new journey will begin.  After this trip, they have plans to help others plan volunteering road trips.

How can you help?

  • If you see your city on their itinerary, you can volunteer with them or reach out to visit with them as they see the sights.
  • You can also donate to their trip on their website.  Donations help pay for gas and their $9 a day food budget.
  • You can also spread the word about their trip.  The more people that hear about their trip, the more people will come out and get involved in the communities they visit.
  • Maggie and Jenna also encourage everyone to volunteer.  Just search the Internet for volunteer opportunities, grab some friends, and make a difference in your community.

You can learn more and follow their adventure on their website, navigatingfornonprofits.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Do Good Bus

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Cancer Poetry Project

The Cancer Poetry Project

I come across organizations to write about in a variety of ways; random searches, suggestions, my own experiences, and happening upon them, to name a few.  Today’s post falls into that “happening upon them” category.  I actually saw someone mention the Cancer Poetry Project on a chalk board at a local coffee house and after looking into it, I decided that it would make a great story for The Blogunteer.

When Karin Miller was expecting her first child, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  This took Karin on an emotional roller coaster and she turned to writing poetry to help sort out her feelings.  After her husband went into remission and her daughter was born, she kept writing poetry.  One morning she woke up with the idea of creating a poetry book written by a variety of people who have been touched by cancer.  She told me that “it felt like a calling.”  

The Cancer Poetry Project book was published in September 2007.  The profits from the book go toward cancer organizations.  The two of Karin’s favorite organizations that have been supported by the book are Gilda’s Club and Cancer Legal Line.  Karin is currently working on a second volume to be published in early 2013 which will include about 140 poems selected from over 1,000 submitted poems.  The top 12 poems chosen received a cash prize plus each were able select their favorite cancer organization to give a donation in his or her name. 

Every poem in both volumes is followed by a brief bio of the poet including who he or she wrote the poem about and why the situation moved them to the write the poem.  Karin mentioned, “I like to provide context for each poem.”  She also mentioned that readers often tell her how much it means to them to understand the stories behind the poems. 

One poem was written by a woman who met her current husband after her children suggested she meet their friend’s dad.  He had also just lost his spouse to cancer.  They met to talk, eventually fell in love, and now have been married many years.  One poem included in the second volume was written by a five year old boy about his mother’s breast cancer. 

Many poems included have been written by people who have never written poetry until a cancer diagnosis of their own or a loved one.  Karin states, “It’s so exciting to call someone and let them know they’re going to be a published poet.”  A few poets have gone on to get publishing contracts or be featured on Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac. 

You can help spread the word about this collection of poems by buying a copy for yourself or in memory of a loved one.  You can also have a copy sent to a favorite clinic, hospital, physician, or nurse.  Poetry offers a great addition to the lobbies and waiting rooms of hospitals.  Reading the poems in this book helps people feel not so alone during their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.  Readers, even those who have never read poetry, are sometimes surprised to find poems that resonate so well. 

You can learn more and purchase the current book, The Cancer Poetry Project, on their website, cancerpoetryproject.com.  You can also purchase the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can also connect with The Cancer Poetry Project on Twitter and Facebook.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Other

 

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Cookie Cart

Cookie Cart

A while back today’s organization visited my workplace to sell cookies.  The cookies were delicious, but had no impact on my desire to write about this great organization.

Cookie Cart began in the early 1980s as an extension of Mercy Missionaries when Sister Jean Thurerauf recognized the need to get youth off the streets of North Minneapolis.  She wanted to keep the youth away from crime and engage them in creative, educational, and empowering activities.  Sister Jean reached out to youth in the neighborhood to invite them into her home for help with schoolwork and to learn to bake cookies.  Word spread quickly of her generosity and commitment to the local community and before long her home no longer accommodated the growing number of young people and the large number of cookies they baked.  Supporters of her efforts stepped in to answer the call for the growth of the project.  They furnished a pushcart to allow the youth to begin selling their cookies throughout the North Minneapolis community.  In 1988, Cookie Cart registered as a 501c3 nonprofit and moved its operations to a bakery on Emerson Avenue North.  In 1996, they moved again to their current location at 1119 West Broadway Avenue in the heart of North Minneapolis.

The organization’s mission is to provide teens with lasting and meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban nonprofit bakery.  For over 23 years, Cookie Cart has helped thousands of youth build the foundation to become successful employees and attain their life goals.  They are the largest year-round employer of teenagers aged 15-18 on the north side of Minneapolis.

The organization has several programs:

  • The Bakery Program offers hands-on job training in a nonprofit bakery.  The young people in the program prepare, package, decorate, and sell cookies while learning basic employment skills.
  • The 360 Degree Program, is an advanced work readiness program that builds upon the bakery experience and prepares youth to transition to jobs in the mainstream workforce.  In this program, participants work in small groups and one-on-one with adult staff to identify areas of interest for potential careers.  They prepare resumes and cover letters, learn about job search tools, and practice interview skills.
  • The Customer Service Training Program allows youth employees to learn the concepts and skills required to provide positive service to customers.  The core to this training is interpersonal communication skills.
  • The National Career Readiness Certificate Program (NCRC) is an assessment and certification issued by ACT that measures skills that employers believe are essential to job success.  These skills include applied mathematics, reading for information and locating information.  This nationally recognized credential indicates that the individual has the foundational skills necessary to be a successful employee.

In 2011, Cookie Cart hired and trained 120 youth to work the equicalent of over 15,000 training hours.  This exceeded their annual goal by 18%.  They also provided customer service training to 47 youth employees and conducted 49 sales and promotional events to give youth employees opportunities to hone their skills.  In addition, they educated 61 youth through the 360 degree program.

How can you help?

Cookie Cart has a variety of volunteering opportunities for both individuals and groups.  Please contact If Meggie McCauley at mmccauley@cookiecart.org or 612-521-0855 x 112 if you are interested in volunteer opportunities with the Cookie Cart.

  • You can assist with cookie production by scooping dough, decorating, and assembling bakery boxes with the youth in the program.
  • You can also use your skills and knowledge to assist the youth employees identify areas of interest and potential careers.  You can help them prepare resumes, cover letters, and learn about job search tools and interviewing skills.  Your assistance will help the youth gain a better understanding of the workforce.
  •  Cookie Cart also allows you to customize your volunteer experience by providing youth with more insights into your expertise.  This may be a corporate tour, personalized workshop, or an interactive field trip.  They would love to hear your ideas to help give their youth a well-rounded experience.
  • You can also donate through GiveMN.org, order cookies through their website, or visit their retail bakery.

You can learn more about the Cookie Cart organization on their website, www.cookiecart.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Melodic Connections

Melodic Connections

If you have been reading for a while, you have heard me mention that I was a band geek when I was young.  While I stopped playing music with a band after graduation, I still enjoy music and sharing music with my family.  Today’s organization sees the power of music in enhancing lives. 

In August 2003, Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh left a private music therapy practice to accept a position teaching music and music therapy in Cincinnati Public Schools.  She worked with many students with special needs but one student in particular moved her.  Latron was an autistic boy who did not speak except to echo back words spoken to him.  He was different in the music room.  He showed signs that he had perfect pitch.  In December 2005, he learned a simple blues progression on the piano and when he returned after winter break in January, he sat at the piano and played the beginning of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata after just listening to it on a recording each day.  Through music therapy, Latron found his voice, a way to communicate. 

A music therapist works to achieve musical and non-musical goals such as improvement in communication, academics, and motor skills.  Other families were inspired by Latron’s improvement and expressed interest in lessons.  Unfortunately, the cost of private music therapy is hard to fit into a budget already stretched by the expenses of occupational, physical, speech, and other therapies. 

Like-minded people around the Greater Cincinnati area were willing to donate their time and resources toward the cause.  A board of directors was formed including area writers, business people, teachers, therapists, and parents who had seen the benefits of music therapy first hand.  Space was donated by the successful Starfire Council non-profit and other community members were willing to donate instruments to the cause.  In April of 2009, Melodic Connections anticipated the possibility of 16 students receiving services from two music therapists.  Over 40 individuals expressed an interest in participating. 

The mission of Melodic Connections is to empower special learners through therapeutic group and individual music education and performance experiences. Melodic Connections also works to enhance the lives of Greater Cincinnati community members through the enjoyment of performance based musical art created by exceptional persons.

In 2010 the organization already needed to expand due to the growing interest and wait lists for their programs.  They moved into a new location dedicated solely for their lessons.  Since opening their new location in October 2010, they have expanded their adult conservatory day program from 3 members to 20.  After school classes have doubled in number as well.  They are proud to offer their programs at low or no cost to those who can benefit from the music therapy. 

In addition to their in studio adult daytime and youth after-school programs, they go to several local schools to offer music therapy.  They also offer summer social skills camps for kids ages 5 to 15. 

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Melodic Connections has a variety of ways you can help them further their mission. 

  • One way to help is hands on with the music and musicians.  They need regular volunteers to assist with their classes.  Every class is led by a board certified music therapist and you will receive instruction in how to best help the students.
  • They also need help spreading the word about the organization and helping them grow.  They need assistance with social media, their website, as well as other marketing and public relations tasks. 
  • They could also use event planning assistance for their concerts and fundraisers. 
  • They can also use monetary donations to help them continue to offer low and no cost music therapy to students in the Greater Cincinnati area.  You can find a PayPay donate button on their website or contact Betsey directly.  

You can learn more about Melodic Connections on their website, MelodicConnections.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter


Related Posts:
Ear Candy Charity and Making Music Matters

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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