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NeighborLink Network

NeighborLink Network

A couple weeks ago, after a series of rainy days, my husband was attempting to mow the lawn.  He was struggling because the grass had grown so much since the last mowing.  The neighbor stopped by and asked if he could help.  He has a riding lawnmower that easily cuts even long grass.  We accepted his offer and plan to pay him back with an invitation to dinner.  Today’s organization is enabling neighbors to help other neighbors even if they cannot directly witness the need.

In 2003, John Barce and Doug Crane participated in a competition called Leadership Fort Wayne.  Their idea to create a web platform to connect volunteers with people in need received second place in the competition and the NeighborLink model was born.  Since 2003, similar platforms have been created in nine other cities using the same model.

NeighborLink uses a web platform to connect vulnerable homeowners including the aging, people with disabilities, and low income single parents, with volunteers who would like to help.  The volunteers typically help with home repair or yard work projects.  In addition, they encourage volunteers to build relationships with the recipients of their help.  NeighborLink’s goal is not only completion of the projects, but also developing a sustainable solution for community development by connecting neighbors.

NeighborLink is a Christian, faith-based organization with a mission of “practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love.”  They frequently work with churches but appreciate and welcome volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.  They are currently in nine locations: Fort Wayne, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; DeKalb County, Indiana; Porter County, Indiana; Liberty County, Georgia; Van Wert County, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Owensboro, Kentucky; and Evansville, Indiana.

One NeighborLink volunteer named Andrew volunteered, along with a small group, to help Jean paint her house one summer.  During that project, Andrew was made aware that she also needed assistance with other projects from a long list of code violations.  He was able to raise funds to make repairs to her porch.  Just before Christmas, Andrew stopped by with a basket of food and learned that Jean’s son had just passed away.  Andrew continued to show Jean love and support by mowing her lawn and helping with other tasks in the years that followed.  This relationship encouraged Andrew’s involvement with NeighborLink and he eventually became the organization’s Executive Director.  This willingness to continue helping and desire to get to know her better instead of just completing the project at hand is the type of relationship that NeighborLink strives for.

How can you help?

Any individual in the cities that NeighborLink exists in can get involved.  Individuals simply register to be a volunteer on the NeighborLink website for their city.  You can find the current cities on their affiliate and non-affiliate pages.  Once registered, volunteers can look through current projects and choose one.  There are also opportunities for groups to do projects together.

You can also make a monetary donation through any of the specific city NeighborLink websites.

You can learn more about NeighborLink by visiting their website, neighborlinknetworkfoundation.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Life Pieces to Masterpieces

Life Pieces to Masterpieces

According to the 2012 United States Census, individuals who graduate from high school earn an average of $10,000 more annually than those who do not.  Average annual income raises almost $10,000 more with an associate’s degree and jumps even higher with a bachelor’s degree.  Yet, in the United States as of 2011, only 32% of people age 25 to 29 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher according to the US Department of Education.  Today’s organization has focused in on one population in an attempt to increase their education rates.

The mission of Life Pieces To Masterpieces is to provide opportunities for African American boys and young men in Greater Washington, DC by developing character, unlocking their potential, and empowering them to transform their lives and communities.  Their goal is to nurture, embrace, encourage and elevate African-American boys and young men so they can grow into mature men who demonstrate social responsibility and create positive change in their communities.  Their do this by focusing on arts and education while supporting young men and boys in disadvantaged communities in Washington, D.C.

Over 90% of the young males age 3 to 25 in the Life Pieces to Masterpieces program live in Wards 7 and 8 of Washington D.C.  They call their program participants Apprentices.  These participants come from communities with a variety of challenges including social, physical, and mental health problems and gang activity.  Over 70% of the households in these wards are headed by single females which causes a lack of positive male role models for many of the Apprentices.  These conditions cause the boys and young men in the community to stray from academic development and other positive development opportunities.

So, what is Life Pieces To Masterpieces doing to make a difference for these boys and young men?  They utilize their “4 Cs” as part of their curriculum:

  • Students connect to themselves and to their classmates.
  • They create — homework, artwork, and poems.
  • They contribute — sharing their work and their thinking with a greater community.
  • And they celebrate their successes.
America What About the Children

America What About the Children
(available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

I think this is best brought to life through the stories of their program participants.

Lorenzo was 13 years old and had a lot of responsibilities when he was first introduced to the Life Pieces to Masterpieces program.  His parents had split up and his mother was battling addiction.  Lorenzo was left to help his eight brothers and sisters by ensuring they were fed and did their schoolwork.  He found Life Pieces to Masterpieces as his home away from home.  He is now 20 and is pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism while serving as a mentor and teacher at Life Pieces to Masterpieces.  He credits the program for “aggressively pursuing education” and for the importance it places on getting the best grades possible.

You can find additional stories of the difference that the program has made on their website.

Their program results are impressive.  They have served over 1500 young men and boys over the last 17 years with 100% of their young men graduating from high school and gone on to pursue a post-secondary education.  Many of their alumni return to serve as mentors and teachers in the after school program.  In addition, 100% the participant’s parents show satisfaction with the program and state that their young men and boys are more confident, make better decisions, and speak in a positive manner about their future.

Expressing Love (available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

Expressing Love
(available for purchase at lifepieces.org)

How can you help?

  • If you live near Washington D.C., you can help serve as an after-school program mentor.  Individuals serve as a positive role model and support the lead classroom teacher.  They are also working on a corporate art leasing program to share their Apprentices art with local corporations and provide additional revenue for their program.  Other volunteer opportunities include social media, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment.  You can learn more and contact them about these and other volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • You can show your support by shopping their store of logo merchandise or by making a donation on their website.
  • In kind donations are also appreciated.  Their current wish list includes art easels, healthy food for their summer program, a 14 seat a minivan, and boxes of white printing paper for their office.

You can learn more about Life Pieces to Masterpieces on their website, www.lifepieces.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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AbleGamers

AbleGamers

I enjoyed playing video games in my youth.  Now there are games everywhere…on our computers, phones, and televisions.  Some offer learning opportunities while others offer opportunities to connect.  Today’s organization offers video games as a catalyst to level the playing field.

In 2004, Mark Barlet his usual Friday evening plans to meet his friend Stephanie Walker in a game called EverQuest for a weekly game time.  When she did not show up in the game, Mark became concerned and called her house.  Albert, her husband, answered the phone with Stephanie crying in the background.  She was experiencing a severe Multiple Sclerosis attack which had left her unable to use her left arm.  She could not feel the mouse in her hand, let alone use it to play.

Mark searched the Internet in search of information to help her play despite her disability and became dismayed to find nothing was available for those who need help gaming with a disability or war trauma.  Mark started AbleGamers as a blog to help fill the void and help others going through a difficult time gaming.  Today, AbleGamers is a large international non-profit that believes there should be no barriers to fun.  They work to improve the lives of those with disabilities through greater access to the world of video games; a world that allows individuals to run, jump and soar despite their physical barriers in life.

The AbleGamers Foundation’s mission is to bring greater accessibility in the digital entertainment space so that people with disabilities can gain a greater quality of life and develop a rich social life that gaming can bring.

You can watch this video to learn more about their mission and impact:

AbleGamers reaches out to the gaming industry to speak to developers and publishers to educate them on game improvements that are most effective and practical.  They do this through direct consultation and their guide to game accessibility.  They also help people on an individual basis with their community website.  Through forums, individuals with disabilities and/or their caretakers can post questions.  The forum community can participate to help come up with a solution.  In addition, AbleGamers holds the largest database for video game reviews addressing the specific purpose of addressing the accessibility of the game.  They also run many grant and outreach programs to help the community members as their funding allows.

Steve Spohn, editor-in-chief at AbleGamers shared one story of their work with me.  “One of my personal favorite stories is from an event called Abilities Expo in Chicago, Illinois. We were there with our Accessibility Arcade™ showing all of the latest and greatest assistive technology the world has to offer. One day, a couple and their son who had a severe neuromuscular disorder came up to our booth and asked what would be possible to help him game.  We noticed that although he was not able to use his upper torso, his feet were still kicking. Mark pulled out a foot pedal, plugged it into our Adroit-a device which we helped create that allows switches to be plugged into an Xbox instead of the standard controller-and held the pedal up to the six-year-old child.  He was ecstatic. He giggled and smiled watching a race car run around the track from his foot operating the controls. They had a great time and we feel very satisfied to have helped another gamer with disabilities.  A few hours later, the father came up to me and placed his hand on my shoulder from behind. I turned around to see a very proud, strong and tall man with tears in his eyes thanking me for giving his son the opportunity to enjoy video game like any other young boy.  It is an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

AbleGamers is currently working on a project called AbleGamers to go which will be the first of its kind double decker bus filled with accessibility equipment, assistive technology, and videogame apparel.  They have plans to bring this bus around the country to children’s hospitals and veteran’s centers to help bring gaming to them.

How can you help?

AbleGamers is always looking for new volunteers.

  • Volunteers are needed to write content for the website, help with real-life conferences, assist with fundraisers, and spread the word about the importance of gaming with a disability.  To volunteer, submit the form on their website.
  • You can make a monetary donation through their website.
  • If you develop video games, you can review their guide to game accessibility and incorporate accessibility into your games.
  • You can also spread the word about this organization by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter.

You can learn more about AbleGamers on their website, AbleGamers.com.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also visit their guide for game accessibility at includification.com.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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A Broader View

A Broader View

ThirdEyeMom is a fellow Minnesota blogger who is also using her blog to make a difference.  She writes about her volunteer vacations (among other things) and recently wrote about her journey to becoming a global volunteer that inspired me to write about today’s organization.

Sarah and Oliver Ehlers took a trip to Chile, South America where they saw the overwhelming needs of the children in the local orphanage and the incredible difference volunteers could make in a short time.  After they returned home to the United States and researched a variety of service organizations, they were stunned at how costly and restrictive many volunteer travel programs were.  They utilized their backgrounds in hospitality management, tourism, and business to create an affordable, safe, and worthy program so that anyone can travel and volunteer to make a difference in the world.

A Broader View is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania.  They were founded on the belief that one person can make a difference in the lives of others.  They offer volunteer travel opportunities to many countries supporting local organizations in low income communities.  These community based projects allow volunteer travelers to live and work side by side with local people in a range of fields such as orphanage work, daycare, community development, teaching, and much more.  These projects offer travelers the opportunity to explore a new country while doing meaningful and rewarding service work.

A Broader View allows volunteers to customize each program by choosing when they want to travel, where they go, and how long.  The programs offered allow for a full immersion in the culture and language within a developing community to allow volunteers to see “a broader view” of the world.

You can read the stories of the many volunteers that have traveled with A Broader View on their website, watch videos from volunteer experiences on YouTube, and you can read about ThirdEyeMom’s recent trip to Honduras with A Broader View on her blog.

Last year, A Broader View, in a partnership with the Baird Foundation, donated $40,000 to their partners in Bulenga, Uganda to complete construction on the community center, expand volunteer housing, provide a holiday party for over 500 people in the community, and buy clothing and supplies for over 300 orphans.  In 2012, they also organized over a dozen university and medical groups to travel to Peru, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nepal to provide medical and dental care to hundreds of people who would have gone untreated otherwise.  Over the last four years, they have donated over $1 million.

How can you help? 

  • Be a volunteer traveler.  There are a variety of customizable programs for individuals and groups including teaching, orphanage support, social welfare programs, medical/dental care, sea turtle conservation, animal rescue, community development, women’s support projects, youth programs, and more.  Go to their website to start exploring the opportunities.
  • Donate a tweet a day to help them spread the word about their program.  You can sign up at JustCoz.org.
  • You can use the share options at the bottom of this post with others who may be interested in a volunteer vacation.
  • Make a monetary donation via their Guidestar page.

You can learn more about A Broader View on their website, abroaderview.org on contact them via phone at 866-423-3258.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Related Posts: Navigating for Non Profits

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Family-to-Family

Family-to-Family

Many families look for ways that they can give as a family.  Giving provides teachable moments for children to learn about generosity and gratefulness.  I wrote about one organization called Doing Good Together that offers many suggestions.  Today’s organization provides direct connections between families who wish to give and families that have a need.

In the fall of 2002, the New York Times ran a series of articles on poverty in the United States.  One article featured stories of poverty from Pembroke, Illinois where “some still live in crumbling shacks with caked-dirt floors and no running water.”  The article went on with other staggering statistics such as 98% of their school children qualify for free lunch and the average per capita income was less than half the national average.

Pam Koner, a mom and entrepreneur living in Westchester, New York, read that article and felt compelled to help.  She contacted an outreach worker in Pembroke to share her idea of linking families she knew with the neediest families in Pembroke.  She was given the names of seventeen families and then convinced sixteen friends and neighbors to help.  They began sending monthly boxes of food and letters – one family linked to another family.  The seventeen families quickly grew to 60 families, then after a flurry of media attention, they grew to 900 families linked across the United States.  The Family-to-Family organization was born.

They currently help approximately 2,000 moms, dads and kids in 22 communities across the United States.  Families sponsored through the program continue to be identified by local outreach partners who have specific knowledge of the needs of families in their communities.

Learn about the founding of Family-to-Family directly from founder Pam Koner in the following video:

The mission of Family-to-Family is to alleviate suffering, one American family at a time.  They started by providing groceries to supply seven dinner type meals for a family of five, but have expanded to help families in need in a variety of ways including sponsoring meals for families, a variety of literacy projects, donating seeds to a family to grow their own garden, and much more.

Learn about a recent addition to their program offerings where children in need are enabled to help other children in need to learn how it feels to give to others in the video below.

 

How can you help?

Family-to-Family offers a variety of opportunities to get involved.

  • You can sponsor a family.  They have multiple options on their website including packing and shipping your own sponsorship or sponsoring a family though an online donation.
  • Give a child in need a birthday party including a gift, decorations, and a cake through the Birthday Giving Project.
  • Give the gift of books through their Books for Life or One Book at a Time program.
  • Help a family build their own garden by donating seeds to one of the Family-to-Family community partners.
  • Help children with less learn how it feels to give by supporting the Giving Works program.
  • Monetary donations can be made on their website.  These donations help purchase food for families who are not currently sponsored, expand to additional communities, or general operating expenses.
  • Explore the Family-to-Family website to find additional opportunities to help.
  • You can also watch this video to see how you can help.
  • You can also help by spreading the word.  You can share this post using the share buttons below to encourage others to make a difference.

You can learn more about Family-to-Family on their website, family-to-family.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 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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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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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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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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