Category Archives: Making A Difference
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.
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.
- Rotary International’s End Polio Now
- Operation Warm
- Pure Water for the World
- The Dictionary Project
- NABA – Northeast Association for the Blind at Albany
- The Century House Enjoy One, Share One program
- Vascular Birthmark Foundation
- The Animal Support Project
- Tiny Superheroes
- The Empowerment Plan
- Best Friends
- The Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary
Greetings of the season to all my friends and family.
Wondering what to do with your Little Library during the holidays? Dressing it up with wreaths, garland, candles or 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.
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!”
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 turns 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.
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.
When I was growing up polio epidemics were frequent. I lived in a small upstate NY town known for its beautiful mountains, cool stream waters and great summer weather making it the perfect vacation escape for thousands of people. Combine the time and the place and families were careful to shield the children from this crush of visitors.
We were lucky that my grandparents owned property up in those mountains and every year our family left our hometown the day after school recessed for our summer place, returning the day before school started. I remember eagerly packing the old station wagon with summer clothing, bathing suits, as many books as I could fit and games.
Those summers were bliss. Acres of property to run and play, forts to build, mountains to climb and brooks to wade. Although I was the only child around I never got lonely – too much to do, so much to explore. My sister was a baby but eventually,over the years we spent on this summer trek, grew into a fun, if sometimes a pesky playmate.
In the evening we would go for walks to watch the sun go down, catch fireflies, read, play Uncle Wiggly or listen to the radio or get my grandmother to tell us stories about life in Scotland.
These years, life was a blank canvas filled with experiences and we were willing sponges. I learned the names of birds and trees, devised games to amuse myself, read my way through all the Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, Pollyanna, and too many others to name, learned to swim, learned to enjoy being myself.
And then there were our only near neighbors, just a short walk up the hill. They lived here all year round, farming the land, haying, milking the many cows that grazed on the hillside. She was what they used to call a maiden lady, never married, and the owner of the old house filled with antiques, mostly china and books. She opened a new world of authors to me: Gene Stratton Porter, Albert Payson Terhune, Readers Digest Condensed book. I still have all she gave me each summer and enjoy remembering and re-reading even today. My secret wish was to go to Mackinaw Island and meet Freckles so he could teach me more about moths and butterflies and then I would marry him.
Her border, was an elderly man, blinded and scarred years earlier in a chemical fire. Born in Ireland he had the greatest Irish brogue – sometimes we had to guess what he said. He was jovial, friendly and fun to be around. He would take us into the barns with the cows, let us play with his dog and was always laughing.
We learned about Belleek China, drank watery tea from those cups, ate cookies, listened to stories and tried on old hats. It was an odd tea party but oh so delightful.
These years went on for a long time but then in the mid-50’s things changed. The reason for leaving our hometown – the chance of contracting polio, was no longer a threat. First the Salk vaccine and then the Sabin oral vaccine and polio epidemics died down and then out. Although we still continued to go to our summer place we were not so isolated and eventually we only drove up for long weekends.
I learned many years later that members of Rotary International made a promise to the children of the world to eradicate polio. Now most of the world is polio-free with a final push to finish what was promised over 30 years ago. I joined Rotary in 1997 and do my part in the eradication effort.
From-time-to-time I think about those summers, all the experiences and adventures, the life skills learned, the passion for literacy, the habits of mind and realize that if it hadn’t been for the polio scare my life might have turned out very differently.
I still visit that summer place the land now owned by others. Our neighbors long gone, the barns in neglect. But the trail down to the waterfall is still there, overgrown of course. The entrance to the pasture hidden by encroaching trees and maybe I’m the only one who remembers where the secret mountain spring is located. And I will see Rotary keep its promise.
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.”
*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.