Monthly Archives: January 2012

Project 365 – The Lowcountry Orphan Relief

Low Country, in South Carolina, is one of the most beautiful areas along the East coast.  It’s also a popular vacation spot with a rich history and some of the finest golf courses and resorts in the South.  It’s a place that makes you think of warm breezes and beautiful beaches.

It’s also home to a small but rapidly growing non profit that is focused on providing clothing and support to orphans – The Lowcountry Orphan Relief.

Orphans, in this country?  You don’t hear a whole lot about them, perhaps because the number of children orphaned in the United States in 2010, according to UNICEF, was  low – 2100.

That’s not a big number when compared to the more than 2 million children that are orphaned every year in Africa or the 31,000 orphaned in India last year according to UNICEF’s comprehensive report entitled The State of the World’s Children 2011.

So, why write about an organization named Lowcountry Orphan Relief (LOR)?

Simple.  This small but dedicated group of people doesn’t just help orphans; it helps abused and neglected children, too.   If you look at those numbers, you’ll understand why their work is even more important.

In 2010, there were more than 700,000 verified incidents of child abuse in this country, 85% of which involved either neglect or physical abuse.

The Lowcountry Orphan Relief is catching and caring for children in and around Charleston, as fast as they can.  Founded in 2003 by a woman whose job it was to speak for children caught in the court system, this organization provides clothing, toiletries, books and school supplies within 48 hours of a child’s removal from his or her home.

Two statistics define this mostly volunteer group that makes up Lowcountry Relief:

  1. They have clothed more than 10,000 needy children since 2008.
  2. 90% of all income given to this group is used to provide for the children’s needs.

LOR has also built libraries at emergency shelters and group homes in the tri-county area and continues to attract support of its neighbors and neighboring businesses in its quest to meet its mission statement:
…to provide services and aid to meet the meet the needs of abandoned, abused and neglected children in the Lowcountry and specifically intervene where government aid ends.

That’s why Lowcountry Orphan Relief is on my list of 365 organizations and people who are changing the world.  If you want to learn more about this wonderful organization, check out this article:  Guardian Angel.

My thanks to fellow WordPress blogger Andy who nominated Lowcountry Orphan Relief and whose posts make me grin.

If you have a group or a person who you think belongs in the list of world-changing people, please share it with me.  I will do the rest!

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Project 365 – Smile!

Maybe a smile is all you have to give but the power of that smile to lift up someone who is having a bad day or whose life is changing cannot be underestimated.  

And guess what? Smiling doesn’t just make you feel better; it makes the other person feel better, too according to researcher Ron Gutman.

Gutman says that smiling is also associated with reduced levels of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine, increased levels of mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins and lowered blood pressure.

Researchers at UC Berkeley demonstrated that smiles can yield information about the smiler including how fulfilling and long lasting their marriages would be, how highly they would score on standardized tests of well-being and general happiness, and how inspiring they would be to others.

In fact, UC Berkeley has created a new area of study centered on what it’s calling the science of happiness.

So next time you’re feeling down or a co-worker or friend is having a bad day, consider sharing your smile with someone else. It’s easy, it’s free and it’s just one way you can start changing yourself and your world.

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Project 365 – She’s Not Katharine Hepburn

Both women were actresses.   Both were slim, both beautiful.

But unlike the woman whose last name she shares,  Audrey Hepburn, the elegant, beautiful fashion plate, the woman who shared the screen with a Who’s Who of Hollywood’s leading men, turned away from acting in films to acting on a far larger stage – saving the lives of children around the world.

Her drive to do that may have come from her stint as the  goodwill ambassador for UNICEF but Hepburn didn’t just do her bit and walk off stage.  She used her name and fame to tell the world about the needs of children living in the United States and the half dozen continents she visited.

From 1989 until just before her death in 1993, Hepburn continued to travel, talk, testify before Congress and tell anyone she could reach just how important the work of saving children’s lives was.

Her dedication to this cause lives on today in the fund started by her sons and her long time companion –  the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.

So, why write about a woman, an actress, long dead and no longer able to be heard?  Because she may be gone but her work, the personal investment that this one woman made in helping to save children continues 18 years later.

Sure, she had a leg up.  She had wealth, fame and a following but so did Katharine Hepburn.  Only one of these Hollywood legends used all of the weapons she had to make a difference in our world.   That’s why Audrey Hepburn made my list of 365 people and organizations who are changing the world.

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Project 365 – The Simple Act of Planting a Seed

Some people might think I’m talking about a metaphysical seed – the kind that germinates into a new life, a new business, a new charity, a new product.

Actually, I am talking about real seeds – lettuce seeds, tomato seeds, pepper – eggplant – pumpkin – vegetable seeds of all sizes and shapes.  An organic gardener for close to 30 years, I spend the cold, dark months of winter planning what will grow in my garden, when I will plant it, and how much I will need for my family.

Organic vegetables

My organic garden in June of 2011.

But then, I add a row or two extra of everything I plant; I grow food for the hungry.  So do millions of other gardeners across the country and around the world.

Don’t believe me?  Google “plant a row.”  You’ll get more than 27 million results.  A lot of the results are for programs that ask gardeners to Plant A Row (PAR), literally.  The PAR program began in Alaska almost 20 years ago to help feed the hungry but it has participants (couldn’t resist) all over the country.  (More on PAR in a later post.)

So there are a lot of people growing food to feed the hungry.  And there are a lot of organic gardeners like me who take the program just one step further.  We don’t buy just any vegetable seed; we buy seed that is locally grown, not genetically modified, and helps support other charitable programs.  I buy from a small but growing farm network — Hudson Valley Seed Library.

The farms that make up this group  raise seed you can trust, that’s a given.  But the partners who started this business, Ken Greene and Doug Muller, also use artists to create seed pack covers and donate free seeds to a school garden, community garden, or garden organization  in need.

One other program that really shows the power that a single gardener who has some seeds, some dirt and some determination has, is Ample Harvest.

Started in 2007 by a New Jersey gardener who grew more than he and his wife could eat, today you can find the gardeners who support this organization in all 50 states.  The first donation went to a shelter for battered women just 4 years ago.  Since then, Gary Oppenheimer’s “home grown” operation has drawn national attention including getting its founder named a CNN hero.

Ample Harvest has also gotten the support of some pretty heavy hitters including the US Department of Agriculture, Google, the National Council of Churches and the National Gardening Association in its quest to “…diminish hunger, improve nutrition and help the environment.”

Growing a garden this summer and want to help?  Ample Harvest offers an easy, zip code-based search tool that will help you turn up food pantries in your back yard that could use your extra veggies.

Got a food pantry that could use some fresh produce? You can also register at Ample Harvest so people in your neighborhood can find you.

Just one  small act, planting a seed, can make a huge difference in your neighborhood, your city, your state and  country….and yes, the world.

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Project 365 – We Can Make A Difference

Even if no one knows our name, even if we are not rich, even if we are out of work and a bit down on our luck, we can still make a difference.

And we don’t need money.  We don’t need connections.  We just need to open our eyes.  Look around and we will see someone who could use our help, today.  Here are some ideas to help get started:

Offer to pay for someone’s groceries.  This has only happened to me twice in the 45 years I have been buying food, most recently about a month ago.

The woman in line, in front of me was paying with a check but there was a hitch; she only had her bonus card. Her wallet had been stolen the night before.  When told they couldn’t accept her check without ID, she started to leave.  I quietly asked the cashier to add the cost of her groceries to mine.  It wasn’t much but the sweet smile it brought to the woman’s face and her thanks more than made up for the money.   All I asked in return was that she do the same for someone else if she got the chance

Clean out your clothes closet.  Another easy one, especially if you are changing jobs or leaving your career. I worked for years as an executive.  For the last 2 years, I have been unemployed and haven’t worn any of the expensive, business clothes that take up space in my closet and drawers.

Maybe I thought if I got rehired, I would use them again.  Maybe I thought I would sell them to bring in some money.  Whatever the reason, I woke up a few weeks ago, bundled them up and took them to a 
local mission that helps people get back on their feet and back into the job world.  I should have done it 2 years ago!

Volunteer at a library, school, shelter.  I know that volunteering could be a bit unnerving.  My first thoughts were I probably won’t be good at it.  It might take up too much time. The people I’m working with might not like me. All of those thoughts blew right out of my head the first time I sat and read to children at our local library. They were banished by the shy smiles, the giggles, the questions and the genuine interest the kids displayed.  I gave my time but they gave me something, too – their joy.

Donate canned goods.  Another simple idea but I know I’ve walked past the barrels asking for a can of beans or soup without dropping anything in.  Usually I was in a hurry, ran in for a couple of items like butter and half and half and just didn’t have an extra anything to toss in the barrel.  Sitting here, I am ashamed of myself for buying luxuries and not sharing necessities.  When I realized just how small my actions were, I vowed never to pass up another barrel or box and I haven’t.

Eat in and donate what you save to a cause.  Since I am no longer getting a salary, I have rediscovered  the economy of home cooking.  I think it hit me the last time my husband and I were at our favorite pub.  We both ordered hamburgers and side orders of coleslaw.  My 8 ounce burger cost $13.50 because I wanted it on ciabatta bread.  My husband’s was only $11.50.  The actual cost of our meal, without overhead, was about $8.00.  We paid $27.00 for 1 pound of ground beef,  6 ounces of coleslaw and two rolls.  

I wasn’t feeling very well when we left the restaurant. But that experience led to an aha moment.  Home cooking was cheaper and healthier and it gave me the joy of being able to say, “I made that.”  It also gave me the joy of being able to donate the $50.00 we saved by “eating in” to a charity that would make that money go a whole lot farther than I ever could.

Each of these simple actions makes a difference.  Each action you take can make a difference, too.

Tomorrow, one more easy way to help make the world a better place just by planting a seed.

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Project 365 – Everybody Knows Her

Oprah Winfrey

Is there anybody in the world who doesn’t know her name?  And her name is usually introduction enough.  Owner of a television network, publisher of one of the most widely read magazines in the world, a woman whose endorsement, alone, launches businesses and books.

Oprah is the franchise — a business mogul who out “Martha’d” Martha Stewart – a force to be reckoned with. And she is a benefactor – a willing sharer of her money, but even more importantly, of herself.

Most people think of Oprah’s Angel Network when they think about her philanthropic efforts. Formed in 1998, The Angel Network was an anchor program that launched schools, built houses and rebuilt lives.

Like many very rich people who are willing to “buy” much needed things for the less fortunate, Oprah did give her money to fund projects. But she also gave and continues to give something far more valuable – the power of her personal commitment.

Just by asking her viewers to think about how they can “…use their lives” to change the world, Oprah moved more people to action than I’ll bet even she thought possible.

She inspired one marketing executive to stop climbing up the corporate ladder and use her energy to get thousands of pajamas for children who were living in shelters and group homes. A simple act from the outside; a life-changing act of kindness for those kids.

Or how about the millionaire who gave up his day job at perhaps the largest software company in the world to deliver books by the thousands to schools attended by impoverished children living in Nepal?

These are just two examples of how Oprah’s influence moved people to help others.

In a 1994 issue, Vanity Fair recognized just how influential Oprah was, saying, “Oprah Winfrey arguably has more influence on the culture than any university president, politician, or religious leader, except perhaps the Pope.”

Just 10 years later, in 2004, she made Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. And Oprah has made the list every year thereafter, including 2011, becoming the only person who has been on all eight of the TIME’S list.

I’d call that influence but in the hands of Oprah Winfrey I’d also call it a gift of incalculable value. Oprah’s gift is how she uses  her influence to better the lives of our neighbors and to inspire others to help out, too.   Her gift spreads like ripples from a pebble dropped into the pond we call earth, moving all of us to do more, give more.

That’s why she belongs on this list of 365 people who are changing the world.

Before you say that it’s easy for Oprah to be generous; she has so much — before you ask, “What can I do?” please think about this. There are a million small ways that we, you and I, can make a difference, a million ways we can ease the life of another.

Tomorrow, 5 quick ideas on how we can help change the world.

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Project 365 – Sunday Breakfast Mission

The Sunday Breakfast Mission started over a hundred years ago with one small objective – get tramps off the street and into church.

Founded in 1893 by the Christian Endeavor Society of Wilmington, today, the mission is still faith-based. But its purpose has grown well beyond preaching to and feeding homeless and jobless men in Delaware.

In 2010, this charity served more than 200,000 meals to hungry men, women and children and provided shelter for close to 300 people.  The numbers aren’t in for 2011 but an educated guess says they went up.

Many people still think that missions like this one serve what some consider the “dregs” of society, homeless, jobless, alcoholics or drug users who are only interested in free handouts. Delaware Online TV found that the people who come to The Sunday Breakfast Mission may be down on their luck but they’re also people just like you and me.

Many of The Sunday Breakfast Mission’s clients are victims of today’s economy. As layoffs rise and unemployment runs out, the need for and the work of this mission continue to grow.

Reverend Thomas Laymon, President and CEO, is the driving force behind the mission but he has a significant team of people — employees and volunteers – who help get the work done, work that has expanded well beyond providing food and shelter.

Today, this community-based charity offers job training, educational assistance, healthcare, parenting and life skills training and more.

These are the tangible services the The Sunday Breakfast Mission provides. The intangible given to everyone, no matter what their story, is hope.

That’s why this operation is on my list of people who are helping to change the world, one person, one child, one family at a time.

If you know someone who is working to make a difference in the world, please let me know! I would love to share their work and thank them for their effort.

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Project 365 – I AM by Tom Shadyac

I was thinking about joining the WordPress 365 challenge.  Mulling over what I would like to send out the world every day in 2012, it occurred to me that I could share 365 ideas to make the world a better place. Instead, I would like to share 365 extraordinary people who are doing something to make the world a better place.

While I am a day late (not unusual), I would like to share my first inspiration – a man and his film – and ask that you watch both, closely.

Borne of his own near-death experience, Hollywood Director Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar, Patch Adams, The Nutty Professor) has put together a symphony of thoughts, ideas, inspirations and images that could just start changing the world we live in. Check out the trailer. Then download the film. I promise you, you will not be disappointed and you may just be inspired.

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