Ways to Help Local Domestic Violence Shelters

One great branch of community service to get involved with is helping out at a local domestic violence shelter. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Victims of Crime, 25% of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime – that’s one out of every four women you pass on the street each day. Women are abused in different ways, ranging from financial situations to being abused mentally and physically.

jack ryger stop domestic violence

Unfortunately, it’s very hard for these women to flee their homes and get away from their abuser. But, domestic violence shelters have been set up across the nation for these women to feel safe, and with your help they can get even more of the resources and care that these shelters provide. Here are some ways you can help:

First, donate gift cards. According to an article published by the Pixel Project, “Women many times leave their homes very quickly without packing. All they take with them are their children and the clothes on their back. A great way to assist would be clothing or superstore gift cards…” (16 Ways to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter). With these gift cards, women can buy the right size clothing for themselves and their children, along with getting professional attire to wear to job interviews so they can secure their finances independently.

jack ryger women's shelter

Next, volunteer to work at a hotline. Local shelters or even rape crisis centers have hotlines that are in need of volunteers since they are generally open 24/7. Volunteers usually have to go through certain training courses and commit to work a few days per week answering phones, so being willing to do these things even though they can be time consuming is key. Just remember, working for hotlines is extremely rewarding – you can save lives.

Lastly, think about writing a newsletter. Especially if you are a strong writer, using words to assist a local shelter’s quarterly or monthly newsletter can help the shelter out immensely. Writing articles about women’s rights and healthy relationships are two great topics to speak about and may even help women reach out about their own struggles. Keeping people aware and educated of the problem at hand (in this case, abuse) is the most important step towards eliminating it.

If you want to know more ways in which you can help your local domestic violence shelter, please read Pixel Project’s article here, where you can further learn about their previous campaign concerning women’s rights and domestic violence.

Why You Should Join the Peace Corps

After a decline in voluntary membership from 2009 to 2012, the Peace Corps is happy to see a resurgence of eagerness to participate in developing foreign communities.

jack ryger peace corps logo

The Peace Corps itself can attribute this to a simple tweaking of its application for participation, whereby it allows volunteers to select the country in which they wish to serve. Of course, volunteers without any inclinations can let the organization decide their location for them. Any 18 year old American citizen can pick his destination of choice, even his own country of origin, and begin contributing to the development of health and education programs, environmental sustainability programs, economic programs, etc., thereof.

The Corps is certain many will appreciate the opportunity to go back to their countries of origin and help out, even after leaving for the United States. In its youthful years, the organization was a little less liberal with its offerings, designating locations to applications based on need. The attraction of the modified system is that volunteers can choose locations that offer programs in line with their interests and skills from farming to computer science.

The Corps also encourages volunteers to develop their own clubs and programs with purposes that tend to to a community’s specific needs. In this way, the Corps mimics the college major-minor system, which grants students control over what they study. This lets the Peace Corps better guarantee the education and growth of not only the countries it serves, but the volunteers it hires. There will undoubtedly be far more productive use of talent when it is focused to certain tasks over others.

jack ryger peace corps

The socio-political principles of the Peace Corps are also adapting to today’s climate, a necessary change if the organization is to stand by its mission to promote and stimulate cultural growth. President Barack Obama has requested greater funding for the programs, now upward of $400 million dollars, which will be used to develop more technologically relevant programs, even helping developing countries gain familiarity with social media platforms and developing their own business ideas. Graduate students are also offered scholarship opportunities, and benefits like greater chances of being hired for governmental positions.

If the program’s service isn’t enough of an educational experience on its own, its aftermath advantages should convince the unsure. Students can expect tuition cost defrayment, access to scholarships, and government stipends for their service. What’s more is applicants can also apply to serve as couples given that they provide the appropriate documentation. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples are invited to participate, able to serve as a unit in the same location if they so please. In this day and age, adaptations such as these are pivotal to the continuing success of the organization.

Substitute Teacher Dreams of Starting Non-Profit

Amy Aubrey is a substitute teacher in Elizabethton, Tennessee. In her time working with the district, she has taken note to the high number of children that obviously come from impoverished conditions. Originally, her knee-jerk reaction was to blame the parents for failing to adequately care for their children. However, she has since reevaluated the situation, believing that no one has invested in the lives of the parents thus far either.

According to an article from WCYB News, the statistics for the district indicate that the socioeconomic situation of the town is not in positive condition. However, Aubrey and Candace Patai, principal at Harold McCormick Elementary School, both believe the situation is even more imperative than the figures on finances suggest.  Patai believes the number of children and parents that struggle financially is high and constantly on the rise.  Many of the children’s basic needs aren’t being met, such as clothing and food; the problem is getting worse, not better.

teamwork nonprofit

The Elizabethton community center will raise funds for needy families.

Aubrey, in her experiences in the district, has seen just that.  Seeing the conditions has sprouted a new dream for her; she wishes to start a new nonprofit organization in Elizabethton, entitled Community Center.  The center would help children and families, investing in the help of parents as well as their kids.  Upon hear of the idea, Patai encouraged it, saying that the community really needs a program like the one Aubrey has in mind.

Aubrey has already started putting plans together for the center.  She regularly blogs and sends out a monthly newsletter to update those who support the initiative on her progress.  However, this is a marathon, not a sprint; she knows it will be a long process and she’s already taking it just one step at a time.  She’s already started meeting with business leaders in the hopes of getting some funding, as she knows that nonprofits cost quite a large sum of funds to start.  Aubrey has also started the process of filling out the required paperwork.  With every passing day, she attempts to take slow steps towards become an official nonprofit, in the belief that, even if it fails, if she is able to help one sole family or person, it will be well worth it.

Budget Struggles for Allocations to Nonprofits

The Community Human Services Partnerships is responsible for allocating funds to all of the nonprofits in the Tallahassee area.  However, with every passing year, the funds allocated to the partnership decreases.  According to an article recently completed by the Tallahassee Democrat, this year’s budget is almost two million dollars less than the request issued by the organizations affected by the allocations.  For the 2014-2015 year, 4.3 million dollars have been provided to the Community Human Services Partnership; the original request issued from participating organizations was for just over six million.  The allocated four million dollars will need to be spread between sixty-three nonprofit organizations that work to represent one hundred and one programs.

The number of participating nonprofits and organizations is down from the average, which is approximately seventy agencies who work to represent one hundred twenty programs.  The article speculates that the steady decline in funding provided by the Community Human Services Partnership has forced such severe cutbacks in monetary means that the missing programs and agencies have been forced to fold and close their doors.  Those who have survived have worked to revamp their methods of generating money, as the funding only grows scarcer with every passing year.

Officials for the Tallahassee area are distraught at the news of budget cuts to the nonprofits that loyally serve their community.  In particular, they do not care for the fact that nonprofits are forced to ask for less while the needs of those they serve continue to not be met.  Citizens who volunteered to make the decisions as to which funds from the allocated 4.3 million dollars would go to which organizations feel similarly.  All eighty volunteers visited the sites of the services and experienced detailed presentations on the goals and inner workings of the organizations.  Several were so struck by the work and efforts that the organizations make—despite having very little money to do so—that they were brought to tears.  In general, it was found that, despite having very little money to get by, that which the organizations do have gets selflessly infused back into the community.

Remembering Willie Fliegelman

When I decided to pursue a career in philanthropy, I picked one of the largest social service organizations in the country-UJA-Federation. UJA-Federation represented over 130 social service, religious, and educational agencies in New York, Israel, and around the world . It was my good fortune to work with one of the longtime  directors of the federation, Willie Fliegelman. Willie had originally started in the mail room when he was 17 years old for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.

The original federation supported local programs in the New York metropolitan area. The Federation’s counterpart was UJA, which supported Israel and the greater Jewish diaspora . The fundraising year was split into two parts, with the Federation and the UJA alternating events. Willie  gradually moved up the ladder to become- in order- an office clerk, assistant fundraiser, fundraiser, a part of major gifts, and eventually assistant director. He handled various campaigns including community campaigns, trades, and professions. The federation segmented various campaigns. There was a milk division, a bakers division, policeman’s division, tire and automotive division, plate glass , electrical , toy, textile, tobacco and confections, etc. Eventually the Federation and UJA merged and became a powerhouse in fundraising.

Willie hired me as a fundraiser for Long Island’s North shore, or Gold Coast. During the interview process, when Willie asked me about raising funds, I replied, “you run affairs.” Willie quickly responded, “affairs are between people, we run events.”

He explained the nuts and bolts of fundraising developing relationships and event planning. Wille was also very dogmatic and wanted things done in his own inimitable style. When someone deviated from that course, the results were not as optimal. During that time,  we planned hundreds if events. We would obtain an honoree build committees and have events that raised significant funds to support  our agencies.  One chief tool that we employed was a card calling event. We would have a program with a guest speaker. The speaker would make a pitch for contributions. The key was to immediately call people’s names and ask for their pledges. This was done in a room of their peers. It was quite effective, especially when you started out with a major contribution. But times have changed, and you cannot utilize this fundraising tool as expansively as we did in the past .

Willie recently passed away at the age of 84. He is dearly missed for his insight, perseverance, and erudite manners.  Willie Fliegelman left behind a legacy of fundraisers who continue to try and make the world a better place for all.

FUNdRaising

For those of us deeply involved in entrepreneurial or nonprofit causes, how much do we think about fundraising? As one of those procedures that we know we must undergo for a greater good, but can’t help dreading in the hours leading up to it? Or as an activity that is best left to others- something we can delegate to others within the team or organization while we busy ourselves with what seems like an affair that is more immediately important?

I guess a better question would be, why is fundraising a facet of nonprofit and entrepreneurship to which many people have an aversion? Is it because… we perceive it as boring?

Fundraising provides mutual benefit for both the fundraiser and the charitable giver.

In an op-ed article for the New York Times, social scientist, musician, and author Arthur C. Brooks argues that fundraising is not all-so bad. In fact, he argues that it can be fun. The op-ed, aptly titled “Why Fund-Raising is Fun”, is how Brooks presents his case. He starts with an anecdote that involves him asking a class of aspiring entrepreneurs a question related to fundraising- nothing too different than what I did to start off this post. Specifically, he asks the group how many of them are looking forward to fundraising, and understandably, gets zero cries of enthusiasm. He explains to them why this should not be the case, and goes on to use some interesting data to inform the reader about his thoughts. HIs extrapolation is also quite profound.

Brooks begins by telling us he detected his own patterns in the data he was given. He found that those who donated money often ended up with more money (post-gift giving of course). He said he passed this data off as “meh”, but when he told university professors about it, they were unsurprised because it just confirmed what basic psych had already figured out: that people who gave charitably are generally happier than those that do not. Spending on oneself usually just has a marginal impact of self-happiness, but spending on others has results in a much greater increase. This is, simply put, because giving money or resources to worthy causes bestows a sense of responsibility, self-efficacy, and meaningful impact upon the giver.

So how does this translate into fund-raising being fun? Brooks argues that the fundraiser has the tools to tap into the psyche of a giver and show them the virtues of giving. By convincing someone with the means to use their financial resources not on themselves (resulting in less happiness), but instead on noble causes (more happiness), the fundraiser achieves a great deal of enjoyment from it.

ALS Research Breakthrough, Record Fundraising

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), colloquially known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder. ALS has proved fatal in all cases, and so cures and effective treatment has been a major priority of scientists and researchers of the disease. I’d like to use this post to bring attention to some breakthrough work that has been conducted by Harvard stem cell scientists, as reported in the Harvard Gazette.

The research focuses on unconventional ways of treating the disease. The Harvard researchers have reportedly found a “meaningful treatment”, and are currently working with Massachustets General Hospital to drum up an intitial clinical trial to test not only the effectiveness of this new treatment, but the safety of it as well. The scientists were sure to add a cuationary note to their work, noting that much more work had to be done before physicians could offer it to patients with ALS.

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering exactly what this new treatment is, or what it entails. Basically, it’s helpful to know a couple of facts about ALS- principally, that it’s caused by a variety of mutations across dozens of genes. This in itself can be hugely problematic for researchers looking to develop a treatment because a clinical trials done on mice often focus on just one of these many mutations. Though these mutations are technically different, one commonality they all share is the fact that they increase activity in motor neurons to abnormally high levels. This overactivity proves detrimental to neuronic health. Put simply, the heightened activity causes production of defective proteins, and the strain from excitability of the proteins puts them in a vulnerable and weakened state. In order to further understand this, the researches used neurons developed from the skin cells of several ALS patients, and then conducted trials to see how the overactive neurons reacted to medication and treatment for epilepsy. It turns out the the anti-epilepsy medication effectively decrease the hyperactivity of the motor neurons.There’s still a long way to go, but clinical trials are now being conducted to see if there are any side-effects in patients being treated with this medication.

This does look pretty good, especially considering the time and financial resources that must go into researching diseases like this. And that brings us to even more good news.

This research out of Harvard is freshly on the heels of news of some great fundraising for the ALS Society. Only a week a ago, local news broadcasting station WAVE3 reported that Heaven Hill Distillers donated over $400,000 to the Louisville, Kentucky Chapter of the ALS. This is a record-setting corporate donation, and the funds have been raised via the sale of a bourbon called “Parker’s Heritage”. The spirit is named after founder Parker Beam, who has ALS. Oh, and the goal was $250,000. They raised over $200,000 in extra funds.

Another successful fundraising campaign comes from the organizers of LiveLikeLou.org. The site launched about two years ago, with a fundraising goal of $40,000. The Pittsburgh Gazette reports that the site recently held a fundraiser that brought in $140,000- bringing the total funds raised to over $800,000. Good work!

Straight to the Doorstep

A recent New York Times article highlights a health initiative making waves in the South Bronx. The project is known as the South Bronx Mobile Market, and aims to bring fresh produce and healthy food options to impoverished communities in the City’s northernmost borough. The South Bronx has some of the highest indices of health issues associated with poor nutrition: obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But many residents are concerned; fresh produce or healthy food options are not readily available. In fact some residents say that its actually easier and cheaper to grab fast food than go to a grocery store for a more nutritious option. And when they can make it to a grocery store? Lots of large chains label their produce with heightened prices (the article makes reference to one grocery store charging $7 for one pepper). One resident featured in the pieces says that she has to make the trip to Washington Heights or Chinatown- quite a ways from the South Bronx- for affordable food.

But South Bronx Mobile Market looks to challenge that unhealthy danger by breathing new life into the community. The program, modeled after similar initiatives in New Orleans, Detroit, and Chicago, was funded from about $65,000 of donations and grants to BLK Projek, an NPO that envisions food as a means to empower minority women and youth. The Mobile Market utilizes a repurposed school bus that runs on used vegetable oil that provides curbside grocery service. Customers climb aboard, and examine a healthy variety of produce. Founder Tanya Fields goes out and buys the produce, loads it onto the bus, and takes it to the communities in need. South Bronx Mobile Market accepts food stamps, as well as credit cards and cash. But for those who can’t afford the food, Ms. Fields says that she gladly gives it to them at no charge.

Although its making a beneficial impact on the community, there’s much room for growth and improvement. Right now, Ms. Fields just transports and delivers produce, but she hopes for the installation of solar panels. That way, she can power a refrigerator and provide meat and organic dairy. There were also a few kinks this winter- at least one occasion saw the bus’s need to be started with the assistance of jumping cables, and another that saw it fail to turn on altogether. However, its future looks bright; residents welcome the good will of BLK Projek and South Bronx Mobile Market, with a warm hope.

God’s Love We Deliver

God's Love We Deliver

God’s Love We Deliver is a charity that is dedicated to improving the health of people affected by serious illnesses. They do this by delivering nutritious meals to people living with these illnesses who are unable to prepare the meals themselves. They also provide nutrition education and counseling to clients, families, care providers and other charities.

God’s Love We Deliver provides meals to almost 5,000 clients. They serve people of all ages. The diagnosis of their clients include: HIV/AIDS, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Alzheimer’s/Neurological Disorders, Kidney Disease, MS/Musculoskeletal Disorders, among others.

Clients are so grateful for what God’s Love We Deliver has been able to do for them. Brian, after being diagnosed as HIV positive, turned to God’s Love We Deliver. He says, “It was a blessing from the very beginning.” Before starting the program, Brian’s budget often only allowed him eat one meal a day. Even then, that one meal lacked nutritional value. God’s Love We Deliver put Brian on their Grocery Bag Program. On this program, Brian receives one bag of nutritional foods per week, including fruits and vegetables. Brian says, “I am healthier than I have been in a long time and it is due to the help I receive from God’s Love.”

God’s Love We Deliver has a variety of programs that address specific needs of their clients. In addition to the Grocery Bag Program, they have: Home Delivered Meals, Children’s Meals, Senior Caregiver-Program, and the Cancer Program. They even have a Community Partners Program, where God’s Love We Delivers partners with long term care programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and etcetera. All services are provided free of charge.

God's Love We Deliver Volunteers

God’s Love We Deliver started by delivering 671,789 meals in 2007. They have projected to deliver 1,460,629 meals in 2015. This growth demonstrates the need for expansion, which is why they launched a $35,000,000 expansion campaign on October 19th,  2001. Currently they have raised $29,000,000 of their $35,000,000 goal. They have received generous donations from: Michael Kors, Steve and Alex Cohen, Jeff Gates, and Mike Moran. They’ve also received an $8,000,000 capital allocation from the City of New York.

The charity is largely supported by the kindness and commitment of volunteers. They have 8,000 volunteers annually, which totals to 132,000 hours of service annually. Only 5% of God’s Love We Deliver is run by a paid staff.

God’s Love We Deliver has a wide variety of opportunities for people to volunteer. They have opportunities for volunteers to: work in the kitchen, deliver the meals, assist van deliveries, assemble meal kits, and assist in the office.  With prior experience, volunteers can also work as videographers, video editors, and graphic designers!

To learn more about God’s Love We Deliver, visit their website. To sign up to be a volunteer, fill out a volunteer application.