If you haven’t heard about Smiles Forever, it’s certainly a place worth knowing about. They have provided free dental services for over 15 years in Bolivia. They also offer oral health education. Over 30,000 poor children have received quality, free preventative and restorative dental care and 37 disadvantaged women have completed the Smiles Forever two year vocational dental hygiene program.
As explained on their website, “Smiles Forever believes the only way to break the cycle of poverty in developing nations such as Bolivia is to educate young women and girls. The culture may relegate females to second-class status, yet there is no denying that the woman is the primary socializing force of the family. An educated woman practices family planning. An educated woman knows that equal opportunity should be afforded to both male and female children. An educated woman understands and values the importance of prevention when it comes to both medical and dental care. She is less likely to accept domestic violence as a situation she must tolerate. She has self esteem, which allows her to make appropriate decisions within her household, community and country.”
Learn more about Smiles Forever and see how you might get involved, or replicate this program in other places.
Now this is a lovely idea for Valentine’s Day and one that more schools might want to implement. Alma’s Stepping Stone school in Arkansas, which was organized in 1972 to help almost 300 children with developmental delays and disabilities, has a fundraiser every Valentine’s Day. All money that is raised goes back to buying supplies for the school classrooms.
The way that it works is that there is a gift shop filled with Valentine’s Day items include premade gift bags, stuffed animals, candy, balloons and more. Items range in price from $6 to $20.
As Mariann McCause, the service coordinator, said, “It’s a great way to not only raise funds but also to be out in the community. It gives people the opportunity to come in and see what we do and how we help the children.”
As a nice addition, the organizers will even deliver gifts to other schools in the area.
The fundraiser will run through Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. Stepping Stone is located off Highway 64 East, and their doors are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser and we just get anything we need like supplies for the classroom,” said McCause.
Organizers will also deliver your gifts for you to any school or residence in the River Valley. The deliveries will be made to Fort Smith, Van Buren, Alma, Mountainburg, Dyer, Kibler and Mulberry.
Portillo’s is stepping up to the plate with their charitable work. They have just launched their donation program Portillo’s For Good. With this non-profit, organizations can partner with them to assist in fundraising and support of charitable causes. As its first initiative, Portillo’s For Good is teaming up with the American Red Cross on the program Cake for a Cause. Portillo’s is offering a heart-shaped chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day. They will be available from February 10-14 and a portion of the proceeds (up to $25,000) will be donated to the relief organization.
They will also take pre-orders by calling 866-YUM-BEEF or ordering online at www.portillos.com.
As the CEO Keith Kinsey said,
“Portillo’s has always valued the importance of belonging to the local community and finding ways to support charitable endeavors. As a Marine, our founder Dick Portillo has supported charitable giving to support our service men and women. It was a natural fit to partner with the American Red Cross in launching our Cake for a Cause and Portillo’s for Good programs.”
It is always heartwarming to hear stories of people who have helped others in their time of need. Most of us don’t expect to have to come to the rescue as we go about our daily lives, but it’s possible that if we do, we could actually save someone.
This was the case in August, when financial executive Jeff Feig suffered a cardiac arrest while vacationing in Pine Lake Park in Cortlandt Manor, New York. When he collapsed, rather than watching helplessly, his neighbors jumped into action. One person called for an ambulance while another started doing chest compressions. Someone else did mouth-to-mouth ventilation and a fourth person ran to get the defibrillator.
Jeff Feig would probably not have survived had it not been for their help. The ambulance took ten minutes to arrive. As Jeff Feig told Jane E. Brody for her New York Times article entitled “Increasing CPR Training to Save Lives”
“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance at life and I’m not going to waste it. My goal is to spread the word to increase the level of CPR training in the population and get every institution to have a defibrillator on hand and people trained to use it.”
The American Heart Association runs programs around the country training people in CPR and in the use of defibrillators. Certainly, the Red Cross does as well. And there are many people like Jeff Feig who are giving their time and their money educated others about heart health and about CPR.
One such person is Bob Schon who suffered a heart attack at the age of 51. He started to volunteer for the Minneapolis North Memorial Medical Center’s Mended Hearts, which is an affiliated organization of the American Heart Association. He then created the Heart Center Volunteer Program which has grown to include 60 members in the last 13 years. He also helped to form a “Heart Club” which is a monthly, one-hour program that focuses on health issues.
These are examples of people who have taken their health issues seriously and have worked to help others in similar situations.
Here is a great idea. While most people feel their charitable giving, since it comes out of their pocketbook, there are ways to give that you don’t really feel. There are credit cards that allow you to redeem your points and miles towards charitable organizations. Here are three cards that let you donate your points.
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World MasterCard: Here you can donate your miles. They have ways for you to partner with organizations that can help those in need. For instance, with the Miles for Kids in Need you can give your miles so that a sick child can take a vacation. Or you can partner with Miles for All Who Serve which supports military families.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: They have also partnered with some places to offer you a way to donate to others. The Clean the World organization is a recycler of hotel soaps and amenities. Check Out for Children, another organization, has raised $30 million to help improve the lives of children.
- JetBlue Card: Another idea is the JetBlue Card that also lets you donate your points to many organizations and cardholders get three times the points on Jet Blue purchases, two times the points at restaurants and grocery stores and one time the purchase on all other items.
Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C has a new exhibit, “Giving in America.” Museum curator Bonnie Lilienfeld explains that the exhibit shows the history of giving and how many of the fundraising operations have come about.
For instance, the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started with a blue plastic bucket that belonged to a New York woman, Jeanette Senerchia. With a husband who had ALS, Senerchia was challenged to dump ice on her head to raise awareness about ALS.
There is a silver plate at the museum from 1764, for instance, that was given by Thomas Hancock to his church in Boston.
Lilienfeld explained that charity isn’t always just about money. As she said pointing to a blood donation kit, “That’s really sort of the ultimate gift of really giving of yourself. We included that story here to get people to understand, sometimes the smallest act really is an act of philanthropy.”
There is a tool belt on display, as well, that a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity used to build a house.
The exhibit is now on permanent display at the museum.
A recent survey from RBC Wealth Management-US and City National Bank shows some surprising, and disheartening, statistics about charity in America. While 82% of American say that it’s important to them to give charity, most people don’t actually give throughout the year.
47% of respondents said that they give to charity sporadically without any specific plan. This can have consequences, say experts at RBC Wealth Management-US.
As Van Pate, Wealth Strategies Consultant at RBC Wealth Management – U.S , explained “A well-planned program of lifetime gifts to family, friends and charities can provide income and estate tax benefits and help preserve more assets for heirs. Taking a deliberate approach to giving can help you make well-informed decisions and increase the benefits to both you and the recipients of your good will.”
When Americans do give, do they do so to just a few causes? No. 53% give to three or more charities and 10% give to 6-10 charities. 4% even admitted that they support 11 charities or more.
Malia Haskins, Wealth Strategies Consultant at RBC Wealth Management – U.S., explained why dividing up the money may not be a good idea. As she explained,
“There is a strong argument that, if you’re interested in doing the most good, you should concentrate your giving on one, maybe two organizations.”
And who gives more in the country? Midwesterners give more than Southerners, the West and the Northeast.
Most people don’t think of Minnesota as a technology hot spot, but apparently ChangeX is trying to change that. The Dublin-based social enterprise startup has just tagged Minnesota as the destination for its first foray into the American market. And, to mark their international launch, they held a gala on September 12th at the Pillsbury A-Mill Artist Lofts in St. Anthony Main.
As CEO Paul O’Hara explained, “It’s crazy to think that barely a year ago, we were just getting started, and now we’re getting ready to launch in another country.”
So, of course, one must ask, Why Minnesota? As O’Hara explained, “We chose Minnesota for a combination of reasons…a vibrant civic society, a thriving nonprofit sector and a variety of social issues.” As part of ChangeX’s “humble” goal they want to improve the lives of 1 billion people in the next 10 years.
As O’Hara said at the gala to the crowd from Minnesota, “This whole thing is pointless without you all. So please share your ideas, join other initiatives and spread the word about ChangeX.”
It’s always nice to see the rich and famous doing well by others. And that’s why it’s heart-warming to see that Bon Jovi is being honored in New York on September 19th at the 10th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards. He’ll perform and enjoy being honored for the 10th anniversary of his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. The Foundation offers aid for housing and hunger issues in the US. He’ll be honored along with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, Dr. Haw Abdi and social activist Adi Godrej.
Bon Jovi is joining a long list of truly worthy people in receiving the Clinton award. Past recipients include Sting and Trudie Styler, Quincy Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio. And, if you’re lucky enough to be in attendance, you’ll also see a performance by opera tenor Andrea Bocelli.
It is certainly refreshing to see executives giving back to those in need. Bruce Fink is one such example. Co-founder of Executive Channel International, the parent company of Executive Channel Network in Australia, France, the UK and Holland, Fink is their Executive Chairman. One area of Bruce Fink’s time and financial commitment has been directed at The Salvation Army’s Oasis (Sydney) Youth Support Network Education Centre.
The Education Centre supports young homeless and disadvantaged people while they are in the process of completing their Higher School Certificate. Often, for people in precarious situations, re-integrating into the mainstream schooling system isn’t an option. Oasis, and their Education Centre, provides an alternative in situations such as these. They have a learning environment that is tailored to the individual learning preferences of the student.
Currently, they have over 90 employees, 25 programs and the ability to support more than 350 young people every year.
While Mr. Fink has offered financial contributions, he has also been a presence at the graduation ceremonies each year. This past year, Bruce Fink invested in upgrading and updating the learning tools that the Centre uses including textbooks, study guides, field guides and new technology. As he explained, “Education is key to young people carving out a future for a better life and I can think of very few causes that are more important than this”.
Mr. Fink was first introduced to the Salvation Army’s Oasis about six years ago. He said, “I really fell in love with the place. Many of the kids come from unbelievably difficult backgrounds and it is just extraordinary how transformative the experience of Oasis has been to them. It gives them a real chance at a satisfying and meaningful future. The work that the staff does in building trust and a loving environment, as well as nurturing these young people, is quite extraordinary!”
Mr. Fink has another important reason that he supports causes such as this one, and it’s a reason from which many of us can learn. He said he believes that it is important to show his children that “life is about giving and not just taking.”