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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit’

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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: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Men in need of a suit for a funeral, say, or a job interview can get one fitted to perfection at the nonprofit Sharp Dressed Man in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

When my daughter-in-law’s parents were doing spring cleaning one year, they donated boxes of clothes in excellent condition to one of the Providence agencies where I’m an ESL volunteer. Dorcas International has many services besides English classes, and one of them is a secondhand shop that provides household goods and clothes for refugees (if you are used to Africa, you definitely need a warm coat for Rhode Island winters) and for needy residents referred by other agencies.

I was glad to learn that there are similar services in other cities.

David Karas writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “On a frigid December afternoon, Tyler Freburger is standing in front of a set of mirrors wearing a suit picked out for him by a tailor. He sorely needs the attire for a funeral later in the week.

“A homeless veteran living in Baltimore, Mr. Freburger would usually have difficulty securing such an outfit, especially one selected for him personally. But in this instance, he was referred to the nonprofit Sharp Dressed Man.

“Since 2011, the organization has been helping men improve their lives by equipping them for job interviews and other occasions with well-fitting suits and accessories. …

“ ‘It’s a blessing that they are here,’ says Freburger, who notes that the organization has treated him well and has been working to supply what he needs – something he is not accustomed to in his daily life. …

The nonprofit was founded by clothing designer Christopher Schafer, who sought to give those in need an experience more like a visit to his custom clothing shop than stopping at a warehouse. …

“[Some years ago,] When Schafer was delivering some custom suits to a client, he was handed two bags of gently worn suits in return.

“ ‘He said I spoiled him with how I made his custom suits fit, and he couldn’t wear his old suits anymore,’ Schafer says. ‘They were still very nice, and he didn’t know where to take them.’

“Schafer found a nonprofit that would accept the suits and put them to good use, but as time went on, more of his clients did the same thing. At the suggestion of a friend, he decided to launch his own nonprofit, Sharp Dressed Man. …

” ‘Since those two bags of clothes, I believe we have dressed about 7,000 people,’ Schafer says. .. ‘If you treat a guy with dignity, he has a better chance of treating himself with dignity. … It is really powerful when you see guys when they are suited up and they are kind of glowing,’ he says. …

” ‘I had a battle with drugs and alcohol for 20 years, and if I wouldn’t have changed my life, I either would have been dead or I would have been in line asking for free soup,’ he says. … ‘That’s why I do it.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: City of Asylum
City of Asylum Books specializes in translation and world literature. 

With Amazon opening retail bookstores in Greater Boston and elsewhere, the independent bookstores we all love are more threatened than ever. What new models will help them survive?

The Nonprofit Quarterly discusses one idea.

Louis Altman writes, “Conventional wisdom is that the goliath Amazon, the dominant and diversified Internet retailer of everything from books to 7-string zithers has, with unbeatable pricing and almost infinite selection, crushed all brick-and-mortar booksellers in its path. …

“The truth is that independent booksellers are thriving, with 30 percent growth in the number of these stores from 2009–2016, to 2,311 as of 2016. Between 2014 and 2015, independent booksellers saw their market share actually grow from 7 percent of all book sales in 2014 to 10 percent in 2015. …

“The answer may lie with niche-filling shops like Pittsburgh’s new City of Asylum Books, part of a nascent multipurpose cultural center on the city’s North Side called Alphabet City Center. Alphabet City is a consolidated space recently acquired by City of Asylum, a nonprofit arts organization providing sanctuary and forums of expression for exiled writers of all genres from other countries, introducing many unsung voices to the Pittsburgh public through literary community events. …

“The nonprofit bookstore opened … January 14th, offering some 10,000 titles on a wide range of subjects, specializing in translated works and world literature, in 1,200 square feet of space in the Alphabet City building, which includes a bar, restaurant and a venue for readings, performances and workshops. The bookstore sells everything from cookbooks to children’s books to poetry and harbors a giving library, where patrons can take—and give—books for free. …

“Kepler’s Books of Menlo Park, California, [restructured] as a community-owned bookstore, creating a ‘hybrid model’ maintaining operation of the for-profit bookstore, connecting it with a nonprofit arm housing and sponsoring local literary events and presentations for local schools and the community.” More here.

Whether the independent bookstore will find salvation in nonprofit approaches remains to be seen, but creative thinking is sure to be a requirement for longevity. I myself think independents will need to provide services that many used bookstores, particularly nonprofit used bookstores like the Bryn Mawr Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., provide — for example, tracking down out-of-print books for a fee.

My local independent doesn’t offer many extras. It won’t order self-published books for customers, so I am forced to use Amazon if I want one. “Self-published” can include popular books published in England but not yet available in the US through normal channels. Amazon will provide. Why not independents?

There are other issues with my local independent such as shelving two of my three ordered books when they are all the same title, not offering delivery for a fee, and having a website they know is not worth using. But I want the shop to survive, so I order anything from there that it is willing to get for me.

I’d be interested in other people’s experiences and advice for independents.

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This story has received coverage in a bunch of different venues, but I caught it on WNYC’s the Takeaway, with John Hockenberry, on my drive home from Providence today. Just had to share it.*

“General Electric’s CEO announced that all new hires, whether or not they’re working in tech, will now be required to know how to code. New York public schools are also introducing mandatory computer science classes into their curricula.

“These initiatives seem to indicate that coding is the key to getting hired and the panacea to all employment problems, and as the needs of the U.S. job market shifts, people are putting that theory to the test.

“Coal miners in particular have suffered the brunt of the changing job market. With 40 percent fewer jobs than in 2012, coal miners are seeking out second jobs to support their families, and many have turned to coding.

Amanda Laucher, co-founder of Mined Minds, a free computer coding training program in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, is helping struggling coal miners in her area. Click on the ‘Listen’ button.”

I loved that Laucher told Hockenberry she and co-founder Jonathan Graham were “having a blast.” They didn’t feel like the free service they are self-funding was even a chore. She added that the support of the community made it all possible.

PBS had a bit more background, here:

“When tech consultant Amanda Laucher realized her brother in Greene County, Pennsylvania, the third largest coal-producing county in the country, was at risk of losing his job as a coal miner, she and her husband, Jonathan Graham, decided to help. They began driving about 500 miles from Chicago every weekend to teach him and others in the community how to code.

“Laucher and Graham said they saw an opportunity to wean Greene County off an economy that is heavily dependent on energy. They recently relocated to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, and co-founded Mined Minds, a nonprofit that offers free coding classes to laid-off coal miners and other unemployed workers.” Oh, my. Bless their hearts!

*Update May 12, 2019: Uh-oh. Read about an unfortunate outcome, described at the New York Times, here. I still think it was a worthy effort.

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Heifer Project is a charity founded by Dan West, “a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?”

Recipients of Heifer Project’s cows, chickens, pigs, and other assistance commit to giving the offspring of the donated animals to others in need. That way the giving grows and spreads.

Recently, Heifer Project has been helping poor farmers in Guatemala make enough from their cardamon crops to live on.

Editor Jason Woods, has the story in the nonprofit’s magazine, World Ark.

“Miguel Xo Pop farms his own plot of land. Everyone in the Sierra de las Minas depends on two crops, cardamom and coffee, to survive. Xo and his family are no different. Traditionally, the cloud forest’s climate helps the two plants thrive, but in the past few years a pair of plagues cut cardamom prices in half and reduced coffee income to nothing.

“Recently, Xo joined a Heifer International Guatemala project that will help him keep the pests away from his cardamom while adding more crops to his farm, but the project is still in its initial stages, gaining momentum. So for now, Xo spends a quarter of a year away from his wife and five kids to earn money.”

More on the lives of the farm families, here.

The reporter also describes how an altruistic businessman moved to a “double bottom line,” one that includes charity.

“A couple of years ago, McKinley Thomason was searching for a way to use his Nashville-based spice business to make a positive impact. After hearing about Heifer International’s burgeoning work with cardamom, he knew he had found his organization.

“Shortly after contacting Heifer, Thomason’s company, The Doug Jeffords Co., started donating 10 cents to Heifer Guatemala for every seasoning blend sold from their J.M. Thomason line. But Thomason’s passion for Heifer’s work in Guatemala moved him to do even more.

“Thomason has been acting as a project adviser to Guatemalan farmers, sharing his market knowledge and technical expertise in the world of cardamom. He is also making connections and introducing Heifer Guatemala to other like-minded spice companies that could support this or other projects.”

More at Heifer Project, here.

Photo: Dave Anderson

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The Providence-based Capital Good Fund, which helps low-income folks get on their feet financially, has been testing an interesting fund-raising idea. Participating artists donate to the Capital Good Fund half the proceeds of a work that they sell through the fund’s platform. The art offerings change every few weeks. I include one example below, and there are more at https://squareup.com/market/cgfund. The selections feature a range of styles. Some works are representational, others impressionistic or abstract.

The organization’s website explains its mission: “Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit, certified Community Development Financial Institution that takes a holistic approach to fighting poverty. We offer small loans and one-on-one Financial & Health Coaching to hard-working families in America. Our mission is to provide equitable financial services that create pathways out of poverty.” More here and here.

The Rhode Island Foundation posts at its own blog about its latest partnership with the Capital Good Fund, an initiative designed to overcome the incentives that drive people to costly payday lenders. Read about that here.

Art: Carol C. Young
Barn on Robin Hill, 11″ x 11″ Giclée, limited edition signed print

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Looking for an affordable venue for your chamber music group, your living-room theatrical production, your poetry group’s public readings? Need a performance space with a cat to give your book promotion that certain je ne sais quoi?

Nidhi Subbaraman has a nice piece at the Boston Globe‘s betaboston site on a tool that can help you find the perfect space.

“Gregorian Oriental Rugs opens at 10 a.m. every weekday, and with wood floors and high ceilings, this converted paper mill in Newton is an airy showroom for antique Turkish flat-weaves, Ikats from India, and countless other intricate, handmade imports from the Far East and Middle East. Some evenings, however, the expensive carpets and rugs are folded, stacked, and put aside, and the store is transformed into an intimate performance venue for local artists. …

“Most people hear about this unusual event space from friends. But to reach community art groups, Gregorian recently listed his venue on SpaceFinder Mass, a kind of Airbnb for the performance world that came to Massachusetts in January. The service connects artists hunting for budget performance or rehearsal space with unusual, informal, and affordable venues.

“ ‘We talk about SpaceFinder being a discovery tool,’ said Lisa Niedermeyer, its program director. Venues can share their calendar for availability, and artists can search by square footage, rates, and timing. The website also handles payments for the bookings.

“Started in New York three years ago, SpaceFinder was developed by Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit group that supports artists. SpaceFinder lists more than 6,600 spaces in 11 cities in the United States, plus Toronto, where you can rent a pirate ship. In Philadelphia, artists can rent a mosaic sculpture garden. …

“SpaceFinder was launched in Massachusetts in partnership with the Arts and Business Council of Boston, and more than 200 venues in the state are listed, most of which are themselves in the arts business — small museums and theaters, for example, dance studios and art galleries.

“In addition to Gregorian, other outliers include a fitness club in Dorchester and a winery in Southampton. …

“To connect with active art communities in far-flung corners of the state, Fractured Atlas reached out to Seth Lepore, an independent artist in Easthampton, to spread the word about the service among artists and to enlist venues.

“ ‘Space is a huge issue here in Western Massachusetts,’ said Lepore, who helped connect SpaceFinder with local studios.” More here.

Photo: Jessica Renaldi/Globe staff
Gregorian Oriental Rugs on a regular work day.

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It’s hard to read about the deprivations of refugees, especially the children and especially in winter. That’s why I appreciate hearing about any kindness extended to them. National Public Radio recently had a story on the kindness of Clowns without Borders.

Laura Secorun-Palet writes, “On a cold November morning, 300 children gather in a soccer field in Zaatari, a Jordanian village next to the country’s largest refugee camp. …

“Today the children are not lining up to collect food coupons or clothes from NGOs: They are here to watch the clowns.

“On the ‘stage’ — a space in front of a velvet curtain covering the goal — a tall, blond woman performs a handstand while doing the splits, while two other performers run around clapping and making funny faces. As the upside-down woman pretends to fall, the children burst into laughter.

“The performers are circus artists from Sweden …

“Clowns Without Borders is a global network of nonprofit organizations that, for the past 20 years, has been spreading laughter in the world’s saddest places. The group’s most recent annual report says more than 385 artists performed 1,164 shows for its chapters in 2012 in 38 countries, both in the developing world and for refugees and other disadvantaged children in Western countries.

” ‘It’s very important to give kids a chance to be kids again,’ explains Lilja Fredriksson, one of the Swedish performers.” More here.

Another way to help refugees is through the wonderful Minneapolis-based nonprofit American Refugee Committee.

Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP
Lebanese clown Sabine Choucair, a member of “Clowns Without Borders,” performs for children in June at a Syrian refugee camp in the eastern town of Chtoura, Lebanon.

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The mother of the cofounder of Meaningful Wins is not big on gambling, but as John reminds her, she is the one who took him to Suffolk Downs once when he was 12 and let him bet on a horse, so she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

In any case, she is proud that John and his college friend Thad Levine (Texas
Rangers) have successfully worked with nonprofits and baseball players, among others, to provide a way that people who play fantasy football can donate their winnings directly to charity.

Peace Players International writes, “Ellis and Levine recently founded Meaningful Wins which allows fantasy football players to compete in leagues for the charity of their choice. Leagues are first set up on commercial platforms such as NFL.com, ESPN.com, and Yahoo.com just as usual. After doing so, they can then register on MeaningfulWins.com. Each league player then receives an email asking them to register, pay their entry fees, and then choose a charity to play for, upon which completing this information they will receive a tax-deduction receipt. At the end of the fantasy season, the winning player’s charity receives the money!”

See John interviewed, here, at New England Cable News. Read about Meaningful Wins at the Nonprofit Times, here.

Photo: Doctors without Borders, now partnering with Meaningful Wins to receive donations from fantasy-football players.

 

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I’ve heard of nonprofits like Dress for Success that provide women with business clothes for their job search. At work, we’ve had donation drives for Dress for Success.

Recently, I read that there are similar organizations for men. NY Times reporter Rachel Swarns interviewed several men who have benefited from such organizations.

Joseph Campbell, writes Swarns, “didn’t have a suit hanging in the homeless shelter where he lives. So he arrived at a job placement agency last week in a black T-shirt, green canvas shorts and Nike boots. He had a job interview scheduled for 3:30 p.m. — his first in months — and he was itching to get going.

“But the case managers at the agency told him he had one last appointment before he headed out, for something unexpected: a fitting, and a second chance. …

“When the job counselors directed him to the Suited for Work office last week, he felt as if he had stumbled into a new world. Brand-new suit jackets from designers like Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis and Michael Kors hung from the racks. A kaleidoscope of ties beckoned. Dress shirts sat neatly stacked on the shelves, their pearly buttons calling for nimble fingers.

“Mr. Campbell had landed at one of the few nonprofits that provide jobless men with free suits and business attire. …

“With his job interview less than two hours away, the Suited for Work helpers scrambled to hem his trousers with safety pins and to replace his Nikes with a pair of wingtips.

“And then he was out the door, on the subway and arriving at his job interview right on time. The company manager, who interviewed him, offered him a part-time position on the spot, for $8 an hour.

“The two men shook hands on it and Mr. Campbell said goodbye.

“ ‘Nice suit,’ the manager said.”

More here.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen/The New York Times
Joseph Campbell, 32, deciding on a tie as he prepared for a job interview.

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For years, I’ve been a fan of Bikes Not Bombs, a local bike repair and training outfit that got its start providing donated bikes to poor people in Central America.

Now I find out that an architecture charity also likes Bikes Not Bombs — enough to donate time to renovate the shop.

The Christian Science Monitor and Cathryn J. Prince have the story.

“Inside the sleek steel and cement workshop of Bikes Not Bombs in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, at-risk youths recondition bicycles before sending them on for use in developing countries.

“Halfway across the country at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, a ‘showcase suite’ shows how a child’s hospital room can be made less intimidating and more comfortable.

“The ‘1 percent’ built the bike-repair workshop. The ‘1 percent’ also built the hospital room.”

The 1% program of Public Architecture, based in San Francisco, “connects nonprofit groups in need of design assistance with architecture or design firms. The name for the group comes from the idea that if firms across the country donate just 1 percent of their time each year to charitable work it would equal 5 million hours. …

” ‘In a moment of ambitious insanity, I decided to start a nonprofit,’ says John Peterson, the founder and president of The 1%. …

“Most architecture and design firms, he found, were unfamiliar with the idea of doing pro bono work. Initially, holding design competitions was the only way to get firms to participate.

“ ‘But competition [projects] rarely get built,’ says Amy Ress, project manager for The 1% program. ‘We wanted to do projects that would get built.’

“Mr. Peterson launched The 1% in 2001. More than 10 years later, more than 1,000 architecture and design firms (between 3 percent and 5 percent of all American architectural firms) and 600 nonprofit organizations are participating. About 18 new firms join each month, he says.

“One of the earliest design ideas was The Station, which would serve as a gathering point for day laborers. Day laborers normally must hang out at spaces meant for other uses, such as gas stations and parking lots. Today a handful of official Day Labor centers exist across the country.”

More.

Photograph of John Peterson: The 1% program of Public Architecture

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More and more nonprofits are creating investment opportunities for well-wishers who want to support the charity’s mission while also receiving a modest return on their money.

New Hampshire Community Loan Fund is one I know about. “Investments in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund are stable, pay interest to the investor and create opportunity many times over in New Hampshire’s communities,” says their website. “The money that people and institutions invest in us, combined with our own capital, creates the pool of funds from which we lend to create opportunity for decent housing, child care and jobs for families with low or moderate incomes.

“Our borrowers are people and nonprofit organizations that won’t qualify for a bank loan, but that are responsible and motivated to achieve their goals, including repayment. We connect them with the specialized training and support they need to be successful.”

The website also notes that the Community Loan Fund “received the highest honor in our field: the NEXT Award for Opportunity Finance. We were selected from among the country’s top community development financial institutions for providing fair, fixed-rate mortgage loans to help people in New Hampshire’s resident-owned communities build value in their home.” (Resident-owned communities are parks for manufactured housing at which the residents own not just the home but also share ownership of the land. They are a specialty of the Loan Fund.)

At The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Holly Hall writes about how the Nature Conservancy is using the concept of an investment vehicle for supporters.

Hall writes, “Project manager Jeff DeQuatro walks on a protective reef built by the Nature Conservancy off Coffee Island, Alabama. The environmental group has started Conservation Note, an investment program that returns the principal and interest of up to 2 percent to the charity’s supporters.

“Since April 2012, the Nature Conservancy has secured more than $16 million with the Conservation Note, a new investment program that will return an interest rate of up to 2 percent to the charity’s supporters. Under the arrangement, supporters who provide at least $25,000 to the Nature Conservancy to invest for a term of one, three, or five years will earn 0 to 2 percent in interest and get all their money back. The Conservation Note has been given a double-A rating by Moody’s.

“The Nature Conservancy will use the money from supporters to help it shoulder the costs involved in transferring a protected piece of land.

“For instance, the Nature Conservancy recently purchased a Colorado ranch on sensitive land and obtained a conservation easement that prohibits the land from being developed, thereby lowering its value. The lower price made it possible for five families with adjacent ranches each to buy a portion of the property back from the Nature Conservancy. The buyers all agreed not to develop the land.

“Money from the Conservation Notes helped the charity make up the costs involved in selling the land and getting the easement.

“ ‘What is so exciting is that it opens up a whole new avenue of supporting conservation with resources aside from philanthropy,’ says Charlotte Kaiser, who manages the program.” More on how it works.

Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters/File
Project manager Jeff DeQuatro walks on a protective reef built by the Nature Conservancy off Coffee Island, Alabama. The environmental group has started Conservation Note, an investment program that returns the principal and interest of up to 2 percent to the charity’s supporters.

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Shawn and Laura Sears were touched by inner-city kids with too many strikes against them and invited a few for an outdoor camping experience. The outing was so satisfying all around that they just kept doing it.

Marilyn Jones has the story at the Christian Science Monitor.

“Leaving college with liberal arts degrees – his in psychology, hers in geology – Shawn and Laura applied to Teach for America and were eventually placed to teach in one of the poorest regions in the country.

“Today, celebrating 14 years together (getting married along the way in 2004), they’ve seen the seeds sown during their experiences in Mississippi grow to fruition in the founding of Vida Verde Nature Education, a nonprofit outdoor education camp they’ve now run for 11 years.

“Located on northern California’s spectacular coast between San Francisco and Santa Cruz, this free camp for children from low-income families has served more than 7,000 kids from the inner cities of Oakland, East Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Jose.

” ‘We help them let go of much of the negativity they often carry,’ Shawn says. ‘It’s nonstop fun, and they get to just be kids for a few days. Three days later, they’re transformed.’ ”

Read more.

Tony Avelar/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Laura and Shawn Sears founded Vida Verde to give groups of students three days of exposure to and hands-on experience in the outdoors.

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David Karas writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “When Danielle Gletow adopted her daughter Mia, she began to learn about the American foster care system – and the challenges faced by more than 100,000 children and young adults who are part of it.

“Determined to do something to help them, Ms. Gletow made it her mission not only to educate others about the challenges these children and teens face, but also to give people an easy way to lend a helping hand.

“That’s how One Simple Wish was born.

“Founded in 2008 out of Gletow’s home office, One Simple Wish is a nonprofit organization that connects foster children and vulnerable families with potential donors who grant their wishes online or at the organization’s Ewing, N.J.-based ‘Wish Shop.’

“The wishes, which typically cost from $5 to $100 to grant, encompass everything from a desire for a musical instrument to a movie ticket, new clothes, or horseback riding lessons. …

“To date, Gletow has seen more than 2,800 wishes granted by her organization. And while each is special, Gletow enjoys remembering some of the first wishes that she herself helped to grant. …

“When Sarah, a girl who had grown up in foster care, was graduating from basic training in the US Army, Gletow was able to help arrange for her caseworker to fly to South Carolina. … Sarah was the only student who didn’t have family coming to the graduation, Gletow says. ‘She had no way to pay for [her caseworker] to come.’ ”

Read more.

Suzanne’s friend Liz has been something like a Big Sister and Legal
Guardian for many years to a girl in foster care who is now a young woman. Liz says that the transition out of foster care is an especially vulnerable period, as young people are thrilled to be “free” but still need the kinds of support that young adults with families have.

Photograph: Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Danielle Gletow, founder of One Simple Wish, stands next to a wall of thank-you notes.

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Fun time at Mass Challenge!​

Mass Challenge is an incubator “accelerator” for entrepreneurial companies, perhaps the biggest worldwide. I’ve blogged about it before.

Of the 125 finalists in this year’s challenge, 48 gave one-minute pitches last night to an audience of about 200 friends, family, and investors at 1 Marina Park on the Boston waterfront.

Besides being entertaining, it was inspiring. So many people working hard on so many great ideas!

A couple noteworthy presentations were from MIT people. Helmet_Hub tapped the skills of MIT materials science students to create a helmet-vending machine. They have already partnered with the City of Boston’s Hubway, which lends bikes point to point. Another MIT-based organization, Global Research Innovation & Technology (GRIT), uses bicycle parts to make inexpensive wheelchairs for Third World patients. Very impressive. (More on GRIT here.)

I also wrote down that soundfest has a better kind of hearing aid. Prime Student Loan screens students so banks can make a safe loan even if graduates have no FICO score.

Wanderu was one of the few female-run companies. It does for ground travel what kayak and others do for air. Zoomtilt creates ads that are said to be so funny and entertaining, people actually want to watch them. Guided Surgery Solutions helps oral surgeons drill into the right place.

Roameo helps you find out what’s going on near where you are right now. Newartlove helps artists sell their work. Social Made Simple helps small businesses with social networking. (Check it out, Luna & Stella.) CellanyxDiagnostics has a more precise test for prostate cancer than the PSA.

I will likely follow up on a worthy-cause business called Bootstrap Compost. They teach you to compost, give you the bucket, pick it up, deliver it to farms, and give leftover compost to schools. You can have some, too. Bootstrap is very low-tech, doing most travel on bikes. It is proud of keeping tons of food scraps out of landfills.

I was also impressed at the Mass Challenge diversity — men, women (OK, not many women), old, young, scientists, artists, business types, different races, different nationalities, humorous, solemn.

No need to worry about the economy long term. Not with the joy of invention alive and well.

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