Anything else we should know about Blogunteer?
Jerone Hsu- Prime Produce’s official mission is to innovate new channels for positive impact in the non-profit sector, particularly for creative and entrepreneurial students. The logic behind it is that we think there are a lot of conscientious people out there, but it isn’t cost-effective for everyone to do relief work. People’s aptitudes vary and they have their own personal needs to adhere to. At the heart of our organization we’re about creating channels for people to convert whatever aptitudes or resources they have at their disposal and then provide each of them a way to convert those into usable capital for the non-profit sector as a whole. Our programming is really about the volunteers at the end of the day. Through our programming we assist other non-profits, and our volunteers get We started in 2007, and are still a small outfit but are doing more and more work everyday.
JH- We run a program called PreProBono. It provides pre-law students who have demonstrated interest in altruistic or volunteer law practice and provides them with the tools necessary to get into law school. That includes top-tier LSAT curriculum and admissions consulting. We are working on building a community that bridges the gap between public interest and law. We also bring in keynote speakers from the public interest sector to speak to the students about what it means to practice public law and how to gear their law school experience in that direction. Since April 2008 we’ve had over 250 students in six cities go through this program.
L+W- What inspired you to come up with the idea for Prime Produce?
JH- There was no organization that addressed everything I was interested in pursuing. Prime Produce allows people to leverage resources to their disposal and comes up with ways to help people harness personal resources using their free time in an altruistic way.
L+W- Plus you have Prom coming up on Sept 25!
JH- Yes! The objectives for the Prom are threefold: to provide a platform for non-profit networking and resource-sharing, to provide and auxiliary fundraising opportunity to non-profits at no cost and to have a great Prom-themed party full of good people. 100% of the proceeds from each entrance fee goes to each attendee’s chosen non-profit. There will be live music, live art, auctions, raffles and a Prom Afterparty. Also, many of our friends, because we’re very grassroots oriented. We feel strongly that this emphasis on immediate personal networks has given us a real backbone. Doing these projects is fun, a great way to learn together and allows us to build a community around the idea that fuels us.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far?
JH- There have been so many and many different levels. I have one friend from school who ended up becoming my partner on Pre-Pro-Bono, and we’ve become so much closer as a result. He is one of my closest friends as a result of us working together, and we’re very productive as a result. Another one was last year we were able to go to Nepal after raising money from a benefit t-shirt to conduct arts programming and pay for a playground at an orphanage there. I think also the day-to-day challenges of figuring out how to make certain projects happen and then watching the results is very rewarding.
Get tickets for the Prime Produce Prom:
Friendship Circle started in 1994 in Bloomfield, Michigan as a volunteer service to provide company and assistance for kids with special needs. It has now grown to one of the largest facilities and volunteer service for special needs kids, with over 80 divisions around the world. I spoke with Tzvi Schectman about the amazing organization that Friendship Circle have evolved into.
Tzvi Schechtman- Friendship Circle started because there were some kids with special needs who needed some extra help with their homework back in 1994. Our founders, Rabbis Levi and Bassie Shemtov provided volunteers to help them, and began to see the larger need for these kids to have some friends. The program then shifted to the Friends at Home Program, which provided volunteers to go to individuals who had special needs once a week for an hour or so. It didn’t matter what the disability was- it could be ADD or a more severe disability- their purpose was to develop a friendship connection with them. Typical kids have play dates with friends, which makes for a healthy life. But these kids didn’t have that for the most part. There were stories where they would throw a birthday party and no one would show up, or they would ask kids to play with them and get turned down. The kids began to gain so much from the volunteers spending time with them and getting to know them that from there we built a 23,000 sq. foot building called the Ferber Kaufman LifeTown Building that serves as a therapy and activity center, complete with activity rooms and gym. The most striking part of the facility is the Weinberg VIllage, a unique, interactive box village where schools with special education departments could come with groups of kids to teach them life skills. Through role play they can learn how to cross the street properly, time management, money management and many other skills they may not have the chance to learn on their own.
TS- One of the moments that comes to mind is when we had a boy who we helped when he was young with special needs. He was high-functioning in the sense that he could talk and get himself around, but he had various special-needs issues. He decided when he got older that he wanted to volunteer with us, and we wanted to make that work. He has aspergers syndrome so we placed him with another child who had aspergers. Their friendship really flourished, and the beauty of it all was that this boy had received a volunteer and benefited from it for many years and now he wanted to give back. Another part of this job that is so moving is when the kids come for a session and see their volunteers, and they run to them and hug them, and you can see the look in their eyes as they light up. It’s a very special feeling to witness that.
TS- It’s all about the volunteers who come here to make a difference. We are based in West Bloomfield, but there are now 80 Friendship Circles around the world, all independently run but based on our model. I work with the families to coordinate what would be best for them and match up volunteers with homes, and I see first-hand how effective and rewarding the programs have proven to be not just for the kids but for the families as well. It is all about bringing a smile to a child’s face, which is what we are all about.
Heather Jack wanted to find an organization for her daughter and herself to volunteer for together in Boston, and couldn’t find one. So she started her own organization that helps families nationwide find local volunteer opportunities. Since then Volunteer Family has participated in many other programs to teach children the power of volunteering, including starting one of their own called Future Philanthropists. Read more about these two truly amazing and inspiring programs.
Love + Water- What was your inspiration to start Volunteer Family?
Heather Jack- I founded the organization in 2003, right after my daughter was born. I used to do corporate work when I first got married, and my husband started his own law firm, so both of us were working more than we ever had. When my daughter came along I decided to quit my job and wanted to get back into volunteering, which I had always done growing up. I started looking for places where I could volunteer with my daughter, and surprisingly found it really difficult to find programs that allowed us to volunteer together. The more I started talking to other parents the more I realized that most parents want their kids to be involved in charity work, especially during their high school years, but generally don’t know where to begin. Initially I created a small database of places where families could volunteer together in the Boston area, and from there I was able to raise enough funding to hire AmeriCorps members to help make Volunteer Family a national organization. Through the software they implemented we were able to cover 40 states, which was a huge step. Now families can log on from almost anywhere in the U.S. and find volunteer opportunities in their area.
L+W- Where does most of your funding come from for Volunteer Family?
HJ- Our main sponsor is Bright Horizons Children’s Care Centers. We’ve partnered on many programs with them and they help support Volunteer Family. The main program we have helped them with is developing ways to help kids under five years old learn to give back to their communities by having them work on arts and crafts projects to give to those in need. We have a great relationship with them.
L+W- How has social media been helpful to Volunteer Family?
HJ- I’ve been recently working on implementing social media into our site, which is being redesigned at the moment, because I would like to give the families who utilize our service ways to report back about their experiences and to share them with others through our site. I think it’s a great way to share not only their experiences but also information about the kinds of work they’ve done in order to inspire others who are interested in doing the same.
L+W- You also have another organization for young people under the umbrella of Volunteer Family.
HJ- Yes, we have another organization that we just started in 2009 called Future Philanthropists. We’ve partnered with some groups who have funded us to give $10,000.00 to a number of high school groups as part of an after school program that is designed to teach about various non-profits operating near them and how they can get involved. The kids learn how the non-profits work and then go out and interview them about what they need the most funding for at the moment. Then they discuss which groups could most benefit from their support and allocate the funds to the charities of their choice. The overall vision is to get kids to give back.
L+W- That sounds like an incredibly empowering program for kids.
HJ- This year we worked with eight groups and gave away over $100,000.00. It has been amazing because we can literally see the results, both for the organizations and with the kids’ experiences with it.
L+W- How do you choose the high schools you work with?
HJ- We try to work with schools in underprivileged areas in order to give them the opportunity to give back to their communities and also see future possibilities for themselves. By having them research non-profits in their areas they are able to expand their horizons and envision possibilities for themselves. They are able to see that they might be able to work for an organization like The Boys and Girls Club, or start a non-profit of their own, or choose a career path focused on their personal interests.
L+W- Who works with the kids in each group throughout the program?
HJ- I give the teachers the curriculum for the program, which lasts 13 weeks, and once they learn it I leave it in their hands and come back at the end of the program to see what they’ve done. I’m consistently blown away by how inventive and effective the teachers have been with the groups, and how much they are able to accomplish with the money and the amount of time they have to complete their projects.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had with Volunteer Family and Future Philanthropists?
HJ- Future Philanthropists did a program at Cathedral High School in Boston recently. When the kids were researching non-profits in their area they discovered a shelter for battered women across the street that they hadn’t known about before. They visited the shelter, and found that it had beds for the women, but nothing else. They decided they wanted to fund a kitchen for them, which they were able to do with a portion of the $10,000.00 they had. But in addition to that, they went home and told their parents they needed canned food for the kitchen and any other utensils they could spare so they could stock it. That was really moving to me, the fact that they really went the extra mile because they wanted to. It showed me that the program is inspiring them in the right way- that they are able to take action on their own. It’s really wonderful.
Follow Volunteer Family on Twitter
After following the National Conference on Volunteering and Service via social media for the last three days, I’m moved not only by how effective and productive the speakers were, but how easily I was able to participate without physically being there. Twitter made it possible for me to get updates all day from conference participants, Four Square allowed me to meet up with founders of charities and business owners I hadn’t met before, and the NCVS website allowed me to watch some key conferences online.
To say that social media is the key to the future is not an understatement by any means. I believe we can utilize it to reach farther than we thought we could to accomplish what we believe in.
The best conference I viewed online is the “Here’s To YOU” Inspiration Event. You can view it online by going to the NCVS homepage and clicking on the title. If you want to sit back for an hour or two and get a great reminder of what it means to give back and feel great about the resources we have to give, watch this.
Thank you, NCVS, for making this conference so accessible, so moving and so enlightening.
The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is taking place right now in NYC. As it says on the home page, it is the largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the non-profit, government and corporate sectors. The best part about this amazing event is that you can follow it almost entirely via social media, and let me tell you IT IS WORTH FOLLOWING!
What we so often forget is that a lot of a little adds up to a lot, FAST. By your taking a few minutes to look at the opportunities presented at this conference, you are in fact committing a portion of your time to community service. And that’s what it’s all about.
If you do anything, watch this video which sums up the conference, then go to the home page and find one of the social media outlets that works for you and hook in, even for just a few minutes, to see what’s taking place at this groundbreaking event.
Love and Water- What prompted you to start MHMC?
Tammy Pendleton- This past November I envisioned Many Hearts Many Causes (MHMC) upon reflection of the inspirational work of an extraordinary group of individuals whom I have had the pleasure to support and collaborate with on various fundraising campaigns and charitable efforts over the past years. This remarkable group of individuals have tirelessly crusaded on behalf of countless thousands around the world. Their efforts have changed the lives and touched the hearts of many. I thought’ “What if we were to team up to become one voice, one force, one heart, and together, channel all this energy, passion and love for helping others into a coordinated effort.” With this effort, we could endeavor to reach out to many as a group and continue to raise awareness and funding on an even larger scale. We could aid one cause at a time once a month.
TP- The love and dedication felt in all the hearts of our members. MHMC members have demonstrated their steadfast willingness to reach out to those in need in countless ways, hour after hour day after day, cause after cause, tweet after retweet. Our members’ unending acts of generosity and kindness are blessings to those who are in need around the world and that is the heart, soul and driving force behind MHMC. You need only to read the efforts of the individuals on our 2009 Highlights page http://newenglanderprops.webs.com/2009charityhighlights.htmto get a glimpse into the driving force and dedicated compassion of our members, of whom I am so proud to say you are one.
L&W- That is so wonderful. What gives you the most satisfaction in leading your organization?
TP- Leading this amazing group of individuals who believe as I do that together we can do great things for those in great need. This is accomplished through our monthly contributions, auctions, and campaigns that spread hope and healing through awareness and fundraising. And as a result of our efforts, perhaps a child may live to see another day and than another and another, or a mother/father will be able to give their thirsty child a drink of water and have medicines to see their children grow and be free of endless suffering, or a lonely orphan may be given hope and love, or a child suffering with a terminal illness will, for a while, feel the joys of childhood. By supporting the wonderful efforts of the organizations set in place to reach out to those mentioned above, we know that it will be more than just a hope but a realization that things can and will be better for those in need. Every single one of our members have already achieved reaching out in the ways mentioned above. Through MHMC, we can now combine our efforts and support one another in hopes of reaching an even greater number in the coming years.
L&W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far with MHMC?
TP- The most moving moment came in the first hours of the news of the Haiti quake. Every single one of the Many Hearts members snapped into action the very moment word broke about the devastation. There have been countless thousands of round-the-clock efforts by our members spreading news and awareness on this crisis while providing donations to Save The Children and many other organizations who the members have each individually chosen to provide assistance to in various ways. The outpouring of love is something that I shall never forgot.
L&W- You have really been using social media to your advantage. What kind of awareness have you been able to raise through Social Media for MHMC?
TP- First and foremost, the awareness that yes, a few can have an enormous impact on the lives of many! This was demonstrated within the first few weeks of the formation of MHMC. That through Social Media, one heart can touch another to inspire yet another, and set in motion an entire universal movement of caring individuals who want to use their talents to be the driving force behind change. When the online publication, The Daily Tell (http://www.thedailytell.com/), learned of our efforts by reading our Twitter postings, it featured our efforts among the many inspiring stories that “chronicle the philanthropy work of many caring people and organizations striving to make this world a better place, one person at a time.” I realize the powerful role social networking can play in changing the face of fundraising and how we can reach out – whether a huge corporation or a concerned individual citizen of the world. Each one of us are vital in playing a crucial role in making this world a better place. This is our time to stand up and get involved. Social networking has made it possible for us to do just that.
TP- I am deeply moved by your Love and Water community whose spirit echoes so much of what is in my own heart and the hearts of so many around the world today. Your gallant efforts and innovative creativity is a shining example of how to take compassion and caring to an exciting level of proactive philanthropy. Your efforts are very much in tune with and touch a chord with the amazing world of Social Networking. Your T-shirt design contest is going to have an enormous impact both through the generous donations and the immeasurable awareness. I am so very honored to have you as a dedicated member of our MHMC. Your company captures the very spirit of MHMC. Your work will continue to touch the lives of many in a major way, of that I am certain, and will encourage countless others to join your spirit of caring and philanthropy. Your efforts will leave a lasting impact upon many, both young and old, from varied walks of life around the world. I am so very excited and look forward to supporting your efforts in anyway that I can.
L&W- I feel that same about MHMC, and am very happy to let others know about your work as well. On that note, what is the one message you would like young people to understand about MHMC?
TP- The message that together we can make a difference in the lives of many by supporting the efforts of those organizations who are impacting the lives of others throughout the world. Together our individual contributions can grow into a substantially larger amount of much needed funding for the charitable organizations who are first on the scene and often times the only ray of hope for many in need. It is imperative that we not wait until disaster has struck to reach out in numbers, in a show of support. We can and will provide support year round so when the alarm bells of disaster ring out and the heroic efforts of the humanitarian organizations are once again called upon to respond, the much needed resources and financial support will already be in place. We believe THOUSANDS of dollars can be raised YEAR round, and not just in the darkest hours when disaster first strikes. I would like to invite all who are reading this article to join us and together we can touch the life of many and provide a tremendous amount of support to those causes that are near and dear to us all.
Join Many Hearts, Many Causes here: http://newenglanderprops.webs.com/manyheartsmanycauses.htm
Follow MHMC on Twitter: @ManyHManyC