Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Helps 101 Year Old Woman Reclaim her Foreclosed Home

Last fall, Texana Hollis, 101, sat in her wheelchair in her front yard and wept as she watched workers move her furniture out of her home and onto her lawn. A great-grandmother, Hollis had lived in her house for more than 60 years, ever since her husband purchased it after returning from World War II.

She was evicted. Her son had failed to pay taxes on the property, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed.

Mitch Albom, author of the popular memoir "Tuesdays with Morrie" and Detroit resident was stunned as he heard of Hollis' troubles on the local news.  "This is what happens when people forget people," Albom said. "You can't throw someone out like that; I don't care what the numbers are."

Albom went to work purchasing the home from HUD and mobilizing his charity S.A.Y. Detroit to make the home livable again. Caring people came together to make renovations so that Hollis can live in her home again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rescuing Children from Prisons

Pushpa Basnet doesn't need an alarm clock. Every morning, the sounds of 40 children wake her up in the two-story home she shares with them.  As she helps the children dress for school, Basnet might appear to be a housemother of sorts. But the real story is more complicated.  All of these children once lived in Nepal's prisons. This 28-year-old woman has saved every one of them from a life behind bars.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world -- according to UNICEF, 55% of the population lives below the international poverty line -- so it lacks the social safety net that exists in most Western nations. Space is extremely limited in the few children's homes affiliated with the government.

So when no local guardian is available, an arrested parent often must choose between bringing their children to jail with them or letting them live on the streets. Nepal's Department of Prison Management estimates 80 children live in the nation's prisons.

"It's not fair for (these) children to live in the prison because they haven't done anything wrong," said Basnet, who started a nongovernmental organization to help. "My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls."

Basnet is one of several in Nepal who have started groups to get children out of prison. Since 2005, she has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. She runs a day care program for children under 6 and a residential home where mostly older children receive education, food, medical care and a chance to live a more normal life.

Pushpa Basnet has been nominated as a 2012 CNN Hero.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Giving Wildlife a Second Chance

Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue heals sick and injured animals and prepares them for release back to the urban wild.  They also care for orphaned animals until they are able to live on their own.
When an injured or orphaned wildlife mammal is found, we nurse these animals back to a healthy state where they are able to be released back into the wild. Through education to children and adults alike, we try to raise awareness of these wild residents of our cities in the hope that a better co-habitation will lead to less injuries/orphans and more enjoyment of the urban wildlife with which we share our cities. 
As a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, Yggdrasil educates people of all ages in the wonder and enjoyment of wildlife and nature and why it is so vital we protect it.   Patience and compassion for urban wildlife helps the creatures to be viewed in a positive light by everyone- not as pests, but as important co-habitators of our environment.

We are a grassroots organization and are 100% volunteer-run and donation-funded!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Teen Starts 3 Nonprofit Organizations

Jillian Roels knows what it's like being bullied.  The grief she experienced in junior high school inspired her to start three nonprofits, including a chapter of Girl Talk, a mentoring program for middle-school girls.

“I wish I’d had something like this to go to when I was dealing with tough stuff in junior high,” she said.

Jillian meets with a group of elementary school girls at Rosa Parks Elementary once a week. Using free materials provided by Girl Talk, the girls discuss subjects such as body image, friendship, and dealing with divorce.

She also meets with a group of junior high girls once or twice a month, discussing topics more appropriate for this age group, such as teen partying, depression and dating. By sharing her own experiences, Jillian helps the girls open up about theirs.

Listening skills are emphasized. Vanessa, a sixth grader, says, “You can say what’s on your mind, and they’ll listen and try to help sometimes.”

Marisa, also in sixth grade, was very shy when she joined the group. Now she speaks up confidently and likes being able to share her feelings. She also likes having an older role model.

“Jillian is a good person to look up to,” she said.

BEFORE STARTING her Girl Talk chapter, Jillian was already giving back in big—and small—ways. Two years ago, she created Spark Your Heart to inspire and perform small acts of kindness.

The idea grew out of an encounter with a homeless man selling roses on a street corner. She brought him snacks and small gifts to cheer him up, and the experience inspired her to continue performing acts of kindness all over town.

Since then, Jillian has babysat for special needs students, cheered on Special Olympics participants, written letters to military personnel overseas, brought flowers to retirement homes, collected items for the homeless, and—well, the list goes on.

“My passion lies in helping others,” she said.

When she learned about families who couldn’t pay the bills for their children’s medical care, Jillian created Spark Your Little Heart, a Seattle Children’s Hospital Guild that raises funds for uncompensated care. She has organized auctions, teddy bear teas and other events, and recently collected hats for children with cancer and stuffed animals for young hospital patients.

Many of these community service projects have been done in tandem with Jillian’s Girl Talk groups.

“Every day provides an opportunity to make a difference, and even a little bit goes a long way," she says.

Two years ago, she decided to try something new: a scholarship pageant. Besides the chance for scholarships, Jillian said she entered "for the experience.” She was chosen Miss Redmond Teen USA 2011, and she also competed in the Miss Seattle Pageant this Saturday, earning the scholarship award for community outreach.

Jillian is excited about college next year, where she plans to major in sociology. She hopes to find a way to combine her studies with some of her other interests—working with special needs kids, writing and interior design.

Whatever Jillian chooses to do with her life, you can be sure it will be more than just talk.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Teens for Jeans Helps Outfit the Homeless

Teens across the country collected a record-breaking 1 million jeans for homeless youth in just one month.

For the fifth year running, Do Something (dot) org partnered with retailer Aeropostale, and a few young celebrities, to execute its Teens for Jeans campaign, a program that galvanizes young people to collect jeans for people their age living on the streets.

The program has distributed 2.5 million pairs since it was first established.

"It blows my mind to see how many teens care so much about helping other teens with this campaign," Chief Marketing Officer Aria Finger said in a press release. "Our members really did an amazing job this year!"

The campaign hit the milestone with the help of 1,000 stores, 12,000 schools and 125,000 teens cleaned out their closets for the cause.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Colby Salerno's Hope for a Heart

Video Courtesy: CTNOW (dot) com

Colby Salerno doesn't feel his "story is more important than anyone else's" he writes on his Tales from the 10th Floor blog.  But he's thrilled about his own role in increasing awareness about organ donations in Connecticut.  The 24-year-old has spent the last 3 months in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. Salerno has been living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy for half of his young life. The condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. A heart transplant is Salerno's best chance at life, and 3 months of hospital living haven't soured him on his dream to go to medical school and become a cardiologist.

Besides having his story spotlighted for organ donation education, more than 5,600 people have rallied in support of Salerno on facebook on the Have a Heart for Colby page. The local Fox station in Hartford featured Salerno's blog, Tales for the Tenth Floor, and the $5,000 donation pledge that came from the Eric De La Cruz Hope for Hearts Foundation for financial assistance to the Salerno family.  The money was raised through the recent Raise a Glass wine mixer and benefit.
"Colby is an amazing young man whose strength, positivity, courage and overall approach to his illness is more than inspiring. I believe he has something to teach us all about life."  Veronica De La Cruz, Hope for Hearts Foundation
Veronica De La Cruz is an NBC/MSNBC anchor. She founded Hope for Hearts after the death of her younger brother, Eric, who suffered from severe dilated cardiomyopathy and was denied insurance coverage due to his pre-existing condition. Veronica worked diligently and feverishly through social media and raised funds for her brother's heart transplant, but Eric De La Cruz passed away on July 4, 2009 before the surgery could happen.  She's made it her mission since to help other heart transplant patients like Colby Salerno navigate the exhausting process.

With humor and infinite patience, Salerno regularly shares his life now on his tumblr blog.  You can send your good will his way with greeting cards mailed to: Hartford Hospital 80 Seymour St., Bliss 10-I, Room 6, Hartford, CT 06102

And a fund established for Colby's cause accepts donations:
The Colby Heart Transplant Fund 
P.O. Box 225
Cheshire, CT 06410-0225

Monday, March 5, 2012

Coral Reef Restoration Inspires "Voluntourism"

In the next few weeks, some springbreakers will forgo the "wild" life in Daytona and the Florida panhandle for undersea wildlife in the Keys. Ken Nedimyer has made volunteer vacations popular with his Coral Restoration Foundation.  The project is dedicated to rebuilding coral reefs and does so by farming coral off Florida's most southern coast.  Climate change, pollution, and overfishing have all contributed to the decline of corals which are tiny, stationary marine animals.  The corals spend about a year in an underwater nursery before being transplanted into the wild.
That passion led to Nedimyer starting the Coral Restoration Foundation, which has grown more than 25,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals in underwater nurseries. He and his staff of volunteers work three days a week maintaining the nurseries just off Key Largo. The nurseries cover more than an acre of the ocean floor. --CNN
The goal is to get them to reproduce on their own and repopulate an area where they no longer exist.  Once Nedimyer felt helpless, but now he see hope.  His is the largest underwater nursery in the Gulf and wider Caribbean.

Nedimyer and his Coral Restoration Foundation were recently spotlighted by CNN Heroes.