Posts Tagged ‘ann hermes’

The past couple holiday seasons, I’ve heard of acts of charity such as paying off a stranger’s layaway items. In November, a Minnesota couple deposited half a million dollars in a Salvation Army bucket.

As Lonnie Shekhtman notes at the Christian Science Monitor, “More than Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the Salvation Army’s iconic and ubiquitous red donation kettles, accompanied by bell-ringing volunteers, signify that the holiday season is upon us.

“This year, the century-old tradition got a major boost by an anonymous and unprecedented donation: a $500,000 check slipped into a kettle …

“This was the biggest single kettle donation ever deposited in a Salvation Army kettle in the Twin Cities, reported the Tribune

“In a statement from the donors the charity provided to the Tribune, the [donors] said they made the generous donation in honor of their father, who served in World War I and was grateful to Salvation Army volunteers who brought soldiers free coffee and doughnuts.

“The two also said they were inspired by challenges earlier in their lives that forced them to collect food discarded at a grocery store to feed themselves. …

“This was the same spirit that inspired Manhattan philanthropist Carol Suchman to buy an entire toy store and donate its contents to underprivileged children earlier [in November].

“The mother of three has preferred to donate anonymously in the past, but this year agreed to go public to inspire generosity in others.

” ‘I know everyone can use a gift around the holidays,” Ms. Suchman told the NY 1 News.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
A Salvation Army donation kettle sits outside a shop on 5th Avenue in New York.

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Once again, the Christian Science Monitor comes up with a story about a person creating positive change in the world.

Jessica Mendoza writes, “Behind a low, unobtrusive brick building [in Boston’s inner city] is a lush, green forest. Brown and silver-gray trees cover the building’s wall, their leafy canopies blocking the sky. Sun-dappled stones sit on tangles of grass. A boy perches on the largest rock, gazing at a distant meadow.

“On the wall’s lower left corner, the word ‘Love’ appears in bright green; opposite is the word in Spanish, ‘Amor,’ in vibrant red.

“The forest is a mural, and even in the dead of winter the 18-by-85-foot painting gives a sense of beauty, warmth, and life – qualities that artist Alex Cook tries to convey in all his work.

“ ‘Art was always a deeply spiritual thing, the most real thing in my life,’ Mr. Cook says. ‘You want to share that kind of feeling.’ …

“An artist for most of his life, Cook has painted on walls all over the United States and has even packed his brushes to travel to and paint in Kenya, Nigeria, and most recently Panajachel, Guatemala. …

“The project began in the fall of 2013 when Cook was performing in New Orleans. There he met Amy Hoyle, then a principal at a local elementary school. Ms. Hoyle was looking for new ways to engage her students and invited Cook to paint a mural on campus, based on the motto of Woodland West Elementary School: ‘Stay curious.’

“Cook delivered, painting two huge faces side by side in a strange, beautiful picture that prompted more questions than answers.

“But he did more than that. Touched by the students, many of whom were poor and had difficult home lives, Cook decided to paint something that would remind them every day of how special they were. The result was a hallway filled with a palette of colors and messages telling all who passed by that they were beautiful, needed, important, and loved. “It’s like walking through a warm hug,” Hoyle says.

Read how Cook made his projects increasingly collaborative, inspiring people from all walks of life (here).

Photo: Ann Hermes
Alex Cook stands in front of one of his large murals, an 18-by-85-foot depiction of a forest in Boston.

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In 1972, an idealistic young man graduated from Duke University and returned to St. Louis.

There Joe Edwards became both a successful entrepreneur and “a powerful force for civic good,” writes Marjorie Kehe in the Christian Science Monitor.  …

“Casting about for a career, he decided to bank on his love of music and opened Blueberry Hill, a small restaurant and bar that featured live performances. For his venture he chose a storefront on Delmar Boulevard, a retail area that locals call The Loop (named for the trolley that once used to turn around there).

“Back in the 1920s and ’30s The Loop was an elegant shopping street, and up through the ’50s it remained a major draw for young St. Louisans …

“But by the early 1970s the street had become a ghost town. About half The Loop’s storefronts were vacant or boarded up, and crime was rampant. Edwards remembers sweeping up debris and broken glass in front of Blueberry Hill each morning and feeling despair.

” ‘Within a week of opening Blueberry Hill I realized that I wouldn’t make it if the neighborhood didn’t make it,’ he says.

“And so began his campaign of gentle persuasion. ‘I talked to other residents, to city hall, to the police,’ Edwards says. He reminded them of what many seemed to have forgotten – that The Loop was a valuable asset, graced with appealing architecture and a rich history. He formed The Loop Special Business District and served on committees that worked on issues from lighting to sanitation to flower planters to security.

“But Edwards’s best move was to become a success. ‘The business establishment has been willing to listen to him because he’s been so successful,’ says Bill McClellan, a columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. ‘He’s an unusual combination – a hippie-visionary-business type.’ ”

Read more about how one person made a big difference in a city he loved.

Photograph: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Joe Edwards sits in the display window of his restaurant Blueberry Hill on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis.


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An article in the Christian Science Monitor talks about Family-to-Family, a nonprofit group started by a kindly New York woman who was moved to help people less fortunate.

Reporter Katherine Arms writes that Pam Koner “started her charity, Family-to-Family, in 2002 when she saw a newspaper article about Pembroke, Ill., which noted that 51 percent of families with children there were living below the poverty line.

“She was shocked to read that the town had little in the way of infrastructure: no supermarket, no pharmacy, no bank. Many families lived in houses with dirt floors.

“She immediately sprang into action and found families [in] Hastings-on-Hudson, a small commuter village just 19 miles north of New York City, who wanted to help families in Pembroke. Soon food – canned vegetables, fruit, spaghetti sauce, tuna – was on its way.”

Here is Koner’s story and the story of how Family-to-Family efforts spread.

Now here is my question. Since there are many organizations doing nearly the same thing, why do so many people start their own organization?

Answer: Because it’s theirs. That’s what I think anyway. Rather than work for the Red Cross, the Salvation Army or any other established group, people like to do their own thing. It’s more motivating. Even though only the big organizations can handle the big disasters, everyone can do a little bit that is important to some person in need.

At the same time, I can’t help wondering about the rest of the Pembroke story. Do the people need to rely on donations forever? Has the state noticed Pembroke? Has it offered home renovation or weatherization? Training? Jobs? If you know anything about Pembroke, please tell me.

Photograph: Ann Hermes/ Christian Science Monitor Staff

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