Category Archives: Doing Good

Changing Lives

This is an inspiring video – where someone’s passion became a way of life and changed the lives of many others.  I would love to meet Veronika Scott, CEO of the Empowerment Plan, a young woman with great compassion and the understanding that empowerment and sustainability are the foundation to solving humankind needs.

The Empowerment Plan’s mission is to educate, employee and empower homeless people so they can provide for their families while producing a product for those in need.  From GED and post HS education, to employee training, daycare scholarships, tools like computers, sewing toolboxes and sewing machines, employees can gain back independence, secure housing and, once again, take care of their families.

By now you must be wondering what do The Empowerment Plan employees produce.  It’s called the EMPWR Coat, a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag.  Click here to read more about this amazing coat, how it is made and the Empowerment Plan’s mission to produce 6.500 of these coats this year for the United States and Canada.  To date twenty-nine states and three provinces have benefitted.

The Employment Plan

 

 

 

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A Few of My Favorite Thin gs 2015

As another year wraps up I thought I’d update my annual mention of a few of the people and organizations making the world a better place.   Yes, even after the indescribable acts we’ve experienced this year, we need now more than ever, to focus on the good that surrounds us.

Some of the organizations are local and some  faraway but all deserve high praise for their vision, commitment, dedication and generous spirit.  This year the list includes some smaller and perhaps not yet well-known organizations but their vision and passion give me personal inspiration and hope for the future.  Take an opportunity to fill yourself with the warmth and love generated by these stories.

Greetings of the season to all my friends and family.

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Holiday Ideas for Little Free Libraries

Wondering what to do with your Little Library during the holidays? Dressing it up with wreaths, garland, candles orBlind Date With A Book special holiday books is always fun. Some stewards, though, like to go a step further.

Check out these unbelievably creative ways to celebrate reading along with the holidays.

Blind Date With a Book

Here’s how it usually works: you cover some books with brown paper and write only the first sentence on the cover. The goal is to intrigue the reader into picking out a book they may not choose otherwise. This is a popular Valentine’s Day idea called Blind Date with a Book.

Steward Mia Villeta Alvarado gave this idea a holiday twist! Try wrapping a handful of books with wrapping paper like little presents and placing them in a special basket for your lucky visitors to discover and take home.

Santa’s Mailbox

We’ll admit, our jaws dropped a bit when we saw this idea. If you ever wrote a letter to Santa as a kid, just imagine how cool this would have been.Maria Gallegos News Article 1

Instead of a trip to the post office, you walk down the street to your neighborhood Little Library and drop that letter in an authentic iron drop box, right at your height.Your letter is sent express to Santa and then you pick out a book from the Little Library to take home. Amazing!

Steward Maria Gallegos got special permission from her local post office in Dillon, Montana to make this happen. She reported, “It has been a hit! Plenty of kids, young and old, have been making trips to the Library, no matter what the weather is doing!”

Advent Library

Did you ever have one of those advent calendars where you counted down the days to Christmas? Maybe you got a little chocolate, lit a candle or hung a new ornament on the tree each day. Well, steward Debbie Bedbrook has a slightly different take on this holiday tradition.

“I do this every year for my two boys on the last 10 days before Christmas. Each night before bed…they take it in Library Advent Calendarturns to choose a parcel to open (they are all picture books), and this is their bedtime story for that night. They love it. Even now, the 12-year-old still joins in and is happy to listen to a picture book before bed!”

A few weeks ago we shared a slightly different take on this idea on our Facebook page.

You may be thinking but wait, what’s the fourth idea? Well, it’s not a specific idea but rathera fantastic holiday tradition  in Iceland that we think everyone should start doing. It involves reading a book and eating chocolate before bed on Christmas Eve. Um, yes please.

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TJ Still Talking Turkey

Back in December of 2013 I posted a story about then thirteen year old TJ Tracy and his mission to provide Thanksgiving dinners for the needy in Saratoga County in upstate New York.  I promised I would continue to follow TJ and report on his progress.

His belief that kids can help kids has grown by leaps and bounds with, not only Thanksgiving dinners, but Christmas dinner, holiday gifts, Easter bags and more.  Along the way, he’s garnered many supporters, including businesses and organizations that help him raise money to buy the items that go into the dinners – turkeys, potatoes, cranberry sauce and more.  On December 17th a Shopping Fundraiser is planned by the Collamer Building businesses with proceeds going to TJ’s Turkeys.

Over the past six years, TJ’s Turkeys has raised over $30,000.00 to help feed hungry kids.  His goal this year is $15,000.00 because the need has doubled.

Childhood hunger is at a all-time high – depending on what or where you get your information, there really is no doubt this is a major problem.  People like TJ are doing something about this, not just talking about it.  They are making a difference in the lives of children and families because they believe no one should go hungry.

Thank you TJ Tracy.

TJ 2016

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Thank You To Alex, One Special Guy

This blog is about people and organizations doing good in the world, making a difference, showing kindness and compassion in challenging situations and events.  I write from personal knowledge of the subjects.  But every once in a while something or someone grabs me and holds on.  This is what happened when I read about Alex and the East Orange NJ Animal Shelter on the Facebook page of Susie’s Senior Dogs .  SSD shines a spotlight on adopting senior dogs and I look forward to their photos and posts that help educate people on the joyful experience an older dog can bring to a home.  (Side note here:  we adopted a then-13 year old West Highland White Terrier two years ago, the love of my life.)

When I read about two dogs who were at the East Orange NJ  shelter, I cringed at what people can do to animals but then became immersed in the story about Alex, the animal control officer for the city and caretaker of the animals at the shelter.  Just the location of the shelter, literally behind the city dump – they share the parking lot – was attention-getting.  Then I read that Alex furnished his office by finding and repairing furniture he found at the dump  and painted with paint he found there too.  Wow! I thought there is someone who knows how to make the most out of any situation.

At the time I must share I was a little off my Pollyanna game: in pain from an injury, cold from a long, snow-filled winter, complaining about various and sundry, this story knocked me over with kindness, goodness, compassion and inspired me to write about this young man, Alex, someone I don’t know – but surely admire.

So who is Alex?  A hard worker for sure.  When Susie’s Senior Dog humans visited they found the shelter cleaner than most shelters and with no other staff besides Alex.  He also rescued the two dogs featured on Susie’s posting, from a life in a foreclosed house filled with dirt and filth.  Apparently the shelter’s reputation has not been the best but the prior staff is gone and Alex is turning things around.  The city provides little in the way of funding or other help which is very sad but hopefully when they see the outpouring of love for the work Alex is doing, they will find a few dollars to help these beautiful homeless animals.

Alex also must have that rare ability to see things as they could be, not as they are.  Check out the photo of the office with repurposed furniture and files from the dump!  He must also have a good heart to care for the cats and dogs with so little in the way of resources*.  And he must also enjoy a challenge – rebuilding a shelter’s reputation is no easy job.  The other thing I noticed is that, on a regular basis, he is the only human at the shelter so he must really enjoy his animal companions.  Alex has the dedication and other qualities I admire, that inspire me, that make me want to be a better person.  Thank you Alex.

As Eleanor H. Porter wrote in Pollyanna so many years ago, “When you know you will find the good-you will get that.”

alex and the dump furniture

 

 

 

*This story is to inspire and motivate others to step up and help when and where they can.  It is not a request for donations or contributions.  But do consider adopting an older dog, a rescue if possible, and perhaps volunteer or provide resources for a shelter that is home to so many of our animal friends.

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Rotarians Got Heart

Today is Valentine’s Day and many people are celebrating love and romance with gifts of candy, flowers, cards and special events.  We see the heart motif everywhere and for some reason this morning I wondered where we get the term ‘you got heart?’  According to many traditions, the heart chakra has important meaning – it’s the center of love, caring and compassion, selflessness.  According to Llewellyn attributes of the heart chakra are love, balance, relationship and compassion.  Well this gave me some information but I decided to leave the study of chakras to the experts and moved on to an area I knew a bit more about – sports.

You’ve seen the Rocky movies where Rocky just won’t give up; he digs deep down inside himself to find the strength.  Boxing is well-known for the use of the term ‘he has heart.’  In this context it seems to have meanings of motivation, spirit, energy, and perhaps, passion.  And of course the musical Damn Yankees belts it for us.

The Olympics are another place that continues to define ‘you got heart.’  Just think about Oscar Pitorius.  Speak of motivation, energy, effort and passion.  There are hundreds and thousands of stories that help define ‘you got heart.’

I think about Rotarians around the globe working so hard to make a difference and to change and save lives.  Here in our district Rotarians traveled to Haiti to install water filters in villages with no source of clean water.  A Volunteer Training Team traveled to the Dominican Republic to teach doctors and nurses there lifesaving techniques of heart operations for children in need.  Another Team just returned from Kumudini Hospital in Bangladesh where they trained nurses in midwifery skills.  All around the world, Rotary Clubs are seeking grants from The Rotary Foundation to provide clean water, sanitation, education, economic recovery and disease prevention in some of the most difficult and remote places on earth.  They do it with love, compassion, high spirit, great energy and they don’t give up.

To me, that’s a true definition of ‘You Got Heart.’  Happy Valentine’s Day Rotarians everywhere.

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Some Thoughts On Doing Good

“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of  grace. A soul generated by love…”  so said the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  This blog is full of stories about great people and organizations who give heart and soul – some in simple ways, others in big, bold strokes.  But the outcome is the same.  Helping or serving others – contributing time, effort and skill or talent.

I’ve been contributing wherever and whatever I could for many years.  From Scouting, to boards of directors for various organizations, fund-raising, administrative work, hands-on with youth groups and the Y, community groups and even a short stint as the chair of my town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (short because I found herding cats was not something I enjoyed or did particularly well).  And then one day I came to Rotary.

I attended my first Rotary meeting in Danville, Virginia in 1991.  I was visiting one of the company’s offices and the manager said he would like to take me to his Rotary meeting in the morning.  Of course I asked the proverbial question, “What’s Rotary?”  I was stunned when I meet this energetic, happy group of community leaders at 7 AM the next morning.  They were meeting in the Rotary conference room at the local library which they had helped fund and outfit.  There was such a sense of camaraderie and commitment that I made a note to myself that if I ever worked and lived in the same place I would find a Rotary Club.  (I’ve learned since that you can join where you work OR where you live.)

Why Rotary?  I simply love the philosophy of doing good in the world surrounded by others with the same values and commitment.  I also love the structure it provides.  From financial stewardship, to projects already vetted and with long histories of success, to the ability to follow my own dream or jump on board with someone else’s dream.

Rotary gave me the world of literacy, fighting disease, saving children,  feeding the hungry, and promoting peace and understanding…..and all within my abilities.  I can read to children at the local library, work at the local Ronald McDonald House, visit those who may be sick or lonely at the local nursing home or raise some funds to buy books or other equipment.  I can visit Haiti and explore ways to provide clean water to villages or, as several friends have done, give polio vaccine to children in faraway places.  I can encourage economic and community development and the Rotary network spans the globe.

Over the years many organizations have grown from their Rotary beginnings:  ShelterBox, Gift of Life, Operation Warm, Pure Water for the World come to mind.  There are probably thousands of others that can be traced back to a Rotarian’s dream.  Rotary’s history is also something else I celebrate.  When I think of the impact Rotary had on the forming of the United Nations and our continuing relationship with the UN I stand in awe.

I don’t always agree with Rotary procedures and policy but I love the fact that I can impact change in the organization. Over the years, I’ve seen many changes and improvements   I find respect for others at the heart of Rotary – we are a diverse organization, one of many cultures, religions, ages and vocations.

Yes, there certainly are other service clubs as well as many, many fraternal and community organizations and contributing your time and skill to any of these makes the world a better place. Thank you for all you do.

For me, Rotary’s strong service ideal, the ethics it strives for, its history and the Rotary spirit gives me inspiration, motivation and peace of mind.  I hope I given back as much.

To be entirely transparent – I joined Rotary in 1996, served as club president in 2001-2002, 2005-2006, 2014-2015, district governor in 2007-2008 as well as several other positions.  Although I rarely write about myself on this blog, I hope others will gain insight into ways to give and do good in the world.

 

 

 

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