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Posts Tagged ‘donate’

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Photo: David Sowells via Upworthy
Henry Sowells, 16, in his garage in Bethesda, Maryland. Sowells is selling homemade furniture and donating the profits to Bethesda Cares to help people experiencing homelessness.

Enterprising folks have taken advantage of being home all day to take on a new challenge. This high school student and his father enrolled in an online woodworking class. But they didn’t stop there.

As Teddy Amenabar reported in a July Washington Post article, “Three months ago, 16-year-old Henry Sowells didn’t know the first thing about woodworking. Now, he has people asking him to renovate their kitchens.

“Henry is quick to say he can’t install your granite countertops, but he can build you furniture out of pine. Henry, a rising junior at Walt Whitman High, has turned his budding hobby into an act of goodwill with help from his father, David. For every piece of furniture Henry builds and sells to neighbors, he is donating [the profits] to a local nonprofit, Bethesda Cares, which serves those experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County. …

“After schools shut down in the Washington region in mid-March because of the growing number of novel coronavirus cases, David and Henry started a six-week online woodworking course from Steve Ramsey, a YouTube creator who uploads instructional videos for those interested in learning the craft.

“When Henry’s high school classes moved online, Henry and his family noticed that the school district’s priority was making sure students with free and reduced-price meals had food.

There were frequent discussions around the Sowellses’ dinner table about the wealth disparity in the United States, which led Henry to his idea — to sell the furniture he has built and donate the profits to people nearby who are fighting hunger. …

“Henry sells seven different products for a variety of prices — a small bench costs $100, wooden crates are $35, and a patio table is $85. Each item on the website includes a cost breakdown for the parts and how much money would go to Bethesda Cares.

“For example, he explains that for the $100 bench, parts cost $60 and $40 goes to Bethesda Cares. Henry said some customers have paid more than the asking price, and he donates any extra money to the nonprofit.

“Most of the designs come from the tutorials that Henry followed with his dad. But he also created his own design for a raised planter bed after a request from a customer. …

“David Sowells learned the basics of woodworking along with Henry, but he said Henry runs the show. David’s contribution is that he drives three times a week to Home Depot so he can stock up on wood and other supplies. …

“Henry’s first orders came from dog walkers in his neighborhood, Woodhaven. To get the ball rolling, Henry made one of every product he offers and set up a display in his driveway. That way, when people walked by, they could see the furniture and take a flier to learn more about how to buy their own stool or bench. …

“Heading into the summer, Henry was going to intern at a local dentist’s office, but the coronavirus made that impossible. … Depending on how the school year goes, Henry’s plan is to keep building and selling furniture through the end of the year. Henry said he already has ideas to make cutting boards or other gifts around the holidays.”

More here.

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Photo: Veronica Blaylock
Lucy Blaylock of Gallatin, Tennessee, makes blankets for kids who need a little extra love.

I’ve shared a lot of articles lately about kids stepping up to help people in distress, but I never get tired of them. Oftentimes, it’s not just the product that matters to recipients, but the sense that someone is thinking of them. Feeling connected to a kind stranger can be as comforting as a favorite blanket.

Andrea Sachs wrote about this at the Washington Post, “Blankets can keep you toasty on cold nights or clean and relatively ant-free on picnics. Lucy Blaylock and Tori Holmes make blankets for a different purpose: to comfort people going through difficult times. … We spoke to the girls, who each won a Prudential Spirit of Community Award, about their inspiration, who has received blankets and how kids can get involved in helping others.

“Lucy learned to sew three years ago, when she was 8. After she made a flannel blanket for a friend’s birthday, she started to think about other kids who might need a little extra love. She asked her parents if she could organize a giveaway and shared her idea on her mom’s Instagram account (lucysloveblankets). She received 16 responses from children facing issues such as cancer, autism, bullying, divorce and the death of a grandmother.

“ ‘It makes me excited when I think of the kids getting the package in the mail and opening it,’ said the 11-year-old, who just completed fifth grade in Gallatin, Tennessee.

‘I always hope they know someone cares about them.’

“Since 2017, Lucy has donated about 500 Lucy’s Love Blankets to kids living in 14 countries and nearly three dozen states. She spends about two hours sewing the fabric by machine and hand-stitching her name inside a heart — her logo, of sorts. During the coronavirus pandemic, she turned her attention to making masks for health-care workers, but she jumps back into blanket action when she receives a request from a child suffering from a terminal illness. ‘Even though it gets a little hard sometimes,’ she said, ‘it is always the right thing to do.’

“For kids interested in volunteering, she recommends they forge ahead without overthinking it. ‘Don’t wait until you have everything figured out. Just do it, and keep going,’ she said. ‘Even when you feel like it might not be making that big of a difference, serving other people always matters.’

“Tori knows firsthand the challenges of being separated from a parent. When she was 6 years old, her mother was hospitalized for six months with leukemia. Tori moved into her aunt’s house, leaving her Corning, New York, home so quickly that she had only enough time to pack an overnight bag.

” ‘I missed my blanket and, of course, I missed my mom,’ the 13-year-old said. … Last July, inspired by her own experience, Tori started to make pairs of blankets for family members kept apart by unfortunate circumstances, such as illness. The parents receive one blanket; the kid gets the other one.

“ ‘I wanted to make a magic blanket that connects people,’ she said. ‘This way they have hope that they will be together again.’ …

“She donates the blankets to a children’s hospital, the medical-care facility that took care of her mother and the school where her mother teaches. Families can also request the twin blankets at operationstarways@gmail.com. …

“Tori, who will enter high school in the fall, said … ‘I want to give people who are going through what I went through hope.’ ”

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Photo: NBC Boston
Project Home Again helps low-income families get on their feet again with furniture from donors such as movie companies finished with their stage sets.

I love writing about experiments that someone has thought up to help people in need. Usually the initiatives blossom and flourish, like the one I will tell you about today. But now is as good a time as any to admit that occasionally an experiment fails (consider one I wrote about helping displaced miners learn coding). I guess, for me, the bottom line is that you have to risk failure in order to move forward. No successes without failures.

In Lawrence and Andover, Mass., success seems to follow each new effort that Project Home Again tries out.

As Judith Kogan reported at WGBH, “When a film is made, sets are built and decorated to make a story seem real. And now in Massachusetts, when filming is done, those sets are having real-life impact, empowering people trying to rebuild their lives to design their own homes, free of charge. …

” ‘Say we’re decorating a dining room,’ explained Melissa Cooperman, a set decorator and buyer for films and commercials shot in Massachusetts. ‘We’ll need a table, we’ll need chairs, carpet, dishes, glasses, artwork for the wall, lighting, curtains, and window treatments.’

“When a film wraps, the producer needs to decide what to do with the accumulated stuff, often an abundance of home goods.

“Cooperman worked on the 2014 television mini-series ‘Olive Kitteridge,’ which was shot on the North Shore and Cape Ann. It had a fully-furnished house and apartment, and fully-stocked drug store.

“ ‘They said they wanted to donate everything,’ Cooperman recalled. …

“Project Home Again gets goods to where they’re most needed and wanted, partnering with about 400 social workers, founder and president Nancy Kanell said.”

Social workers ” ‘go to their clients’ homes with a checklist of everything that we stock. And they sit down with their clients and they go room by room, and decide what they need to make them feel comfortable,’ Kanell said. …

“Project Home Again serves refugees, veterans, people transitioning from halfway houses, and survivors of domestic violence.

“ ‘When they come here,’ Kanell said of the abuse survivors, ‘we roll out the red carpet.’ … Kanell remembers one particular survivor: ‘She came on a day we were closed because she was very afraid of her own shadow at that point. And she just wanted beige. She said she didn’t like color, didn’t deserve color.’

“Kanell and Cooperman found her a green chair.

“ ‘A green that people would be either very drawn to or very opposed to having in their home,’ Kanell recalled. ‘But there was something about it she liked. She sat down on it.’ …

“Kanell and Cooperman started pulling colorful rugs and a colorful table to go with the chair. …

“ ‘She was uncomfortable with it, but you could see she was starting to like it. And I made a deal with her that she could take it home, and if she didn’t like the color, I’d come and pick it up, and she could get all beige things. We even had colorful pots and pans for her! And she called about two weeks later. She said she and her son were so happy they were living in a colorful world, and it changed their outlook.’

“Project Home Again hasn’t just been changing lives. It’s changed the industry as well. Many set decorators now have Nancy Kanell on speed dial so they can get rid of their stuff as quickly as possible.” More here.

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I need to ponder a bit before deciding how I feel about publishing books that don’t earn anything for the author and that cost the “buyer” only an unenforceable promise to make a donation to a charity.

I was discussing this with Asakiyume by e-mail this morning. She self-published the delightful Pen Pal and has often said she is more interested in getting people to read the book than in making a lot of money off it. But neither us feels that artists should be expected routinely to give away the fruits of their labors. (If they really want to, there are worthy groups like Artists for a Cause that can make it happen.)

Kathleen Burge describes the new publishing concept in today’s Globe. “When the Concord Free Press was just a radical idea with a one-title book list, founder Stona Fitch nervously pitched Wesley Brown, hoping to persuade the acclaimed author to let him publish Brown’s latest novel.

“ ‘You want me to give you this novel I’ve been writing for years,’ he recalls Brown saying. ‘You’re not going to pay me. And you’re going to give it away for free and hope that readers donate money to something else.’

“ ‘I said, “Wes, yeah, that’s pretty much it.” There’s this long pause and I’m waiting for something bad to happen. And he said, “I’m in.” ’ …

“Readers agree to give away money, in any amount: to a charity, a stranger on the street, or someone who needs it. Donations since 2008 total $409,250 — and that is just those reported back to the publisher. Readers are also asked to pass along the book once they are finished, so donations continue to multiply. …

Gregory Maguire , who wrote Wicked, the wildly popular novel that became a Broadway musical, saw a chance to free himself from his reputation as only a fantasy writer — the way he is promoted by his publisher, HarperCollins — and try a new kind of novel.

“After the book, a tragic farce titled The Next Queen of Heaven, debuted with the Concord press, his publisher paid him a very welcome advance to issue a second — much larger — edition of the work.”

More here.

I can see how this rather Utopian approach could work for an established writer who wants to try a new genre. But the big hurdle for new writers is publicity. They can’t generate their own very well. How do they get into the right hands once they are published?

Photo: Lane Turner/Globe Staff
The Concord Free Press gives away books for free to readers who will donate to a charity or person in need.

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