11-Year-Old’s Nonprofit Allows Foster Children to ‘Carry With Confidence’

Carry With Confidence collects new and gently used luggage for children in North Carolina's foster care system.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Imagine this: You are a child in the foster care system. You have no expectation of consistency or home. You have been moved four times in five years; the reasons don’t matter, but they keep coming up. You’re too expensive, you’re not a good fit, a judge you met once has decided you’re in the wrong school district. You get five hours’ notice that a social worker is coming to escort you to a different foster home or a different relative or back to your biological parents, but you know in a week or a month you’ll be moving again.

You stuff the things you own into a black plastic garbage bag because it’s what you have, and you lug it to the car, hoping it doesn’t split and drop everything you own in the mud. It looks like garbage, and it’s hard not to feel as though you do too.

It sounds like a scene from a Lifetime special, but it’s reality for many kids in the system. In a discussion board thread asking what small things could make life better for foster kids, several cited luggage as an important want; a way to feel more human and valued.

Montgomery Lanier, an 11-year-old girl in Wilmington, North Carolina, witnessed a friend who “had to leave her house with all her stuff in trash bags.” Despite her young age, Lanier couldn’t see that and do nothing.

She founded Carry with Confidence in response, a local charity to gather donated luggage and get it to kids in the foster care system who need it. Her stated goal is to collect 100 pieces of new or like-new luggage by Christmas.

If you would like to donate, please consider washability. Donations of luggage, travel bags, or cash can be sent to Atlantic Janitorial Supply, 1519 N. 23rd St., Wilmington, NC 28405.

Alaska Airlines Donates $100,000 to 10 Hawaii Youth-serving Nonprofits

Alaska Airlines recently made $100,000 in donations to charities that serve Hawaiian youth.

An Alaska Airlines jet decorated in special Hawaiian livery shows the connection the airline has with Hawaii, as do the donations the airline recently made to Hawaiian youth-serving charities. Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

“Hawaii has a special relationship with Alaska Airlines. During the Great Recession, the airline provided a U.S. West Coast connection and a much-needed boost to our economy,” said David Ige, the Governor of Hawaii. “Ten years later, it’s the number one carrier from that market, and its passengers contribute over $2 billion to the state’s economy each year. But the bond goes beyond the economic impact. Alaska Airlines is part of our ohana and our shared values. We look forward to a long and productive future together.”

Productive indeed. Alaska Airlines flies nearly 180 flights each week from the Hawaiian Islands to the mainland. And Monday, November 6, marked 10 years exactly of Alaska Airlines service to Hawaii’s four major airports. To celebrate, they got involved locally.

Throwing a party at The Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki, Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden was on hand to hand out the big checks. The airline’s charitable foundation awarded 10 grants, each in the amount of $10,000 to organizations that provide youth, education, or workplace support in the state.

Those organizations include:

  • AccessSurf, to provide accessible water programs for people with physical or cognitive disabilities.
  • Aloha United Way, for the organization’s program to improve childhood reading proficiency.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, for mentorship programs and youth support.
  • Boys &d Girls Club Hawaii, for mentorship, skills development, and providing safe places for kids.
  • Disney’s Make-A-Wish Hawaii, to provide encouragement to critically ill children and their families.
  • Friends of Hawaii Robotics, to support robotics programs in Hawaiian schools, encouraging STEM skills and boosting students’ chances of attending university with competitive scholarships.
  • Hawaii Youth Symphony, to advance music study, academic achievement, and emotional development.
  • Islander Scholars, to honor and connect high school juniors who show merit in leadership skills and Hawaiian values.
  • Kapiolani Health Foundation, to support Hawaii’s only maternity, newborn, and pediatric medical center.
  • Kupu, to train and mentor youth to become advocates for Hawaii’s cultural and environmental needs.

D.C. City Councilor Proposes Drug Donation Program to Help Needy Seniors

D.C. City Councilor Brandon Todd hopes to launch a drug donation program in his city.

D.C. City Councilor Brandon Todd hopes to launch a drug donation program in his city.

“I meet with about 400 seniors every month, and I’ve heard from a number of them about the fact that prescription drugs can be a huge financial burden for them” because of the deficiencies in medical coverage in the United States under Medicare, Medicaid, and even private insurance, said Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), a D.C. Council member.

That’s why he’s sponsoring a proposal for a two-year pilot program to put donated prescription drugs in the hands of people in the nation’s capitol who would otherwise go without. The plan would allow individuals, clinics, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies to donate unexpired, non-narcotic prescription drugs for redistribution, under the auspices of the D.C. Department of Health.

The program isn’t arising out of nowhere. Thirty-eight states have laws that specifically allow drug donation programs, but fewer than half of those states don’t actually have any such working programs. Neighboring Virginia and Maryland both do have operating programs, but Virginia’s only collects from select clinics, and Maryland only distributes through three pharmacies in the entire state and serviced only 250 people in 2016. The drugs typically donated are insulin and anticoagulants, often by the families of deceased patients.

Opponents argue that ensuring the safety of those served by the program would make it as costly or more than other state aid programs, but Todd and Anita-Bonds (D-At Large) who co-sponsored the bill with him argue that there isn’t enough data to support that supposition.

If the pilot program shows the idea isn’t feasible in the District, Todd said, that’s fine, but he said he wants the information from a test run of a program to drive that decision, citing the other states that have set up programs as proof that it isn’t impossible.

“I don’t buy that we can’t institute something,” he said.

Tech Company Donates $500K to African-American Museum

The founders of BenefitFocus have pledged $500,000 to an African-American history museum being built in Charleston, South Carolina.

Historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: Shutterstock

Charleston, South Carolina, was a major port in the sea trade of slaves, tobacco, rum, and sugar that built the American South. The local historical archive has bills of lading, bills of sale, publications, and ship’s records that indicate an estimated 100,000 enslaved Africans arrived in Charleston at a single 18th-century wharf between the years of 1783 and 1808, the peak of the slave trade. At just that one wharf.

The wharf was called Gadsden’s Wharf after Christopher Gadsden, a general in the Continental Army of the American Revolution and a prosperous merchant after the war, dealing heavily in all kinds of commodities, including human beings.

The site fell into ruins and disappeared under the growth of modern Charleston, but a 2014 dig found pine timbers and a buried brick floor exactly where research said they’d be.

The dig was done on behalf of the proposed Charleston’s International Museum of African-Americans, which has not yet broken ground. But it is another step closer this week; BenefitFocus cofounders Mason Holland and Shawn Jenkins pledged half a million dollars to the museum’s fundraising efforts.

“Given our backgrounds in the technology space, we see the value and potential of this museum,” Jenkins said in a written statement. “This institution will evolve over time, serving generations to come. It’s exciting to support a cultural landmark that will serve this community and its families far into the future.”

BenefitFocus is a publicly traded business that helps organizations and individuals navigate the insurance marketplace. They reported a profit over $125 million in 2016, and donate widely. There is a children’s hospital in South Carolina named after Jenkins, thanks to a $25 million personal donation he made.

The Charleston International Museum of African-Americans has stepped up its fundraising in 2017, with major donations this year from endowments and corporations around the country. An estimated $9 million more is needed for their construction, which is scheduled to begin in 2018.

The museum will include the recently excavated wharf site, preserving it as a monument to how so many were brought to this country, which was built on their backs, against their will.

Women Called Moses Helps Domestic Violence Victims

Women Called Moses, a Dallas charity that helps domestic violence victims, has been given a large home to turn into a shelter for families fleeing abuse.
Women Called Moses is a nonprofit in Dallas, Texas which benefits women, children, and families in crisis. They provide links to advocacy, crisis counseling, and what support they can offer, mostly to families affected by domestic violence. Founded and run by women of color, it’s a valuable mission for the vulnerable, and one that survives on donations.

They hold a number of fundraising events each year, which keep the doors open, but a recent donation has given them a whole new service to offer.

Anita and LaTroy Hawkins, also residents of Dallas, have donated a large home to the charity. With only slight renovation, it will be able to house up to twelve families in need.

The Hawkins are community contributors themselves—they run “Find One Reason to Smile,” an independent campaign benefiting Women Called Moses. They will be hosting an event, “Open Mic Night—Comedy, Spoken Word, and Music” to be held at a local bar on November 12 to help cover the costs of renovation.

The stats cited on Women Called Moses’s website say that one in four people will experience domestic violence. The task of supporting them cannot be overstated. WCM offers over a dozen services, from parenting education to court advocacy to men’s outreach. They also offered emergency housing support as well as connections to the ‘underground railroad’ app SafeNight, but being able to directly offer shelter gives them a new shield to offer families in need. The new shelter will be an asset to the entire city, as Dallas’s women’s shelters are consistently operating at peak occupancy and Texan women account for more than 10 percent of the national total of domestic violence victims.

The goal of both the Hawkins and Women Called Moses is for no victim in need to be turned away from necessary shelter. Twelve rooms may not seem like much, but it’s twelve rooms closer.

Merck Foundation Launches Diabetes Care Initiative

The Merck Foundation has recently launched a five-year initiative to improve diabetes care among vulnerable and underserved populations.

The Merck Foundation has launched Bridging the Gap: Reducing Disparities in Diabetes Care, a five-year initiative to help improve diabetes care and health outcomes for vulnerable and underserved populations in the U.S.

The initiative will bring $16 million over five years to eight clinics across the United States. The funding will help the grantees bring together high-quality medical care with services and resources from outside the health care system to address a variety of factors that influence diabetes outcomes. Some examples of needs where the Bridging the Gap initiative hopes to make a difference include access to healthy foods and safe places for physical activity.

The University of Chicago will serve as the national program office. It will support the grantees’ efforts and provide leadership in building a public-private partnership to help reduce disparities in diabetes care.

“We need to look beyond the usual health care solutions to address the growing burden of diabetes, especially among vulnerable populations in the United states,” said Merck Foundation CEO Julie L. Gerberding. “Through Bridging the Gap, we are pleased to bring together these eight diverse organizations, and look forward to leveraging their expertise to help more people effectively manage their diabetes and improve their overall health.”

Bridging the Gap program grantees will:

  • Build sustainable partnerships between the health care sector and other sectors to address the medical, social, and environmental factors that influence health.
  • Redesign health care systems, particularly primary care, to improve the delivery of diabetes care for vulnerable and underserved populations.
  • Improve health outcomes for individuals with Type 2 diabetes through measures such as better blood sugar and lipid control.

The grantees are Alameda County Public Health Department in Oakland, California; Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino, Idaho; La Clinica del Pueblo in Washington, D.C.; Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia; Minneapolis Health Department in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Providence St. Joseph Health in Renton, Washington; Trenton Health Team in Trenton, New Jersey; and Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland.

Billionaire Carlos Slim Donates to Mexico Earthquake Recovery Efforts

After the September 7 and 19, 2017, earthquakes in Mexico City, controversial billionaire Carlos Slim has stepped up to help.

After the September 7 and 19, 2017, earthquakes in Mexico City, controversial billionaire Carlos Slim has stepped up to help. Photo: Shutterstock

The two earthquakes that shattered Mexico on September 7 and 19, 2017, did an estimated $2 to 4 billion in damage and killed more than 400 people. Hundreds of buildings were damaged or collapsed outright, particularly in booming Mexico City, and recovery efforts have been steady but slow, hampered by massive infrastructure damage.

Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who was the world’s richest man from 2010 to 2013, intends to donate over $110 million from his foundation to the recovery effort. Accompanied by $20 million in outside donations, it will be the single largest contribution to the effort.

In a press conference on Tuesday, October 10 in Mexico City, Slim announced that the foundation’s priorities would be schools, hospitals, and at-risk historic buildings.

“I think it will be a very good factor, a big factor of employment in all of the affected zones,” Slim stated to the press.

It is a generous gift, but hopefully only the tip of Slim’s generosity. The business magnate, king of multiple industries, is worth nearly $70 billion, enough to fund the entire rebuilding process himself without a blink. His net worth is more than 1/20 of Mexico’s gross domestic wealth. The entirety of his very large donation is still less than the average daily increase to his holdings.

He looks to benefit from his own donation, as well. Part of the reconstruction will be carried out by Mexico’s Real-Estate Development Association, an umbrella organization that includes Slim’s banking and financial services company, IDEAL.

The donation is still laudable, but it’s important to put it in the context of Slim’s status in Mexico. The average Mexican citizen earns less than $14,000 a year, and spends at least $600 of that on goods or services from businesses that Slim owns. He has monopolies or near-monopolies in many industries, most notably telecommunications. He owes his country a great deal. A great deal more than a single day’s wage.

The Magic Yarn Project Crochets Wigs for Children With Cancer

The Magic Yarn Project's many volunteers make special crocheted wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy.

Holly Christensen had the original idea—to crochet a yarn wig for her friend’s little daughter as she went through chemotherapy. A part-time nurse with a background in oncology, Christensen knew that chemo could make kids’ scalps too sensitive for regular wigs. She wanted to make something fun and cozy for the three-year-old girl, so she made her a yarn wig styled after Rapunzel in the Disney movie “Tangled.” The little girl was delighted. And so was the internet. Christensen featured the gift in a post asking for yarn donations to make more wigs for more young patients, and the post went viral.

That was September 2015. In the two years since then, with the help of friend and now co-founder Bree Hitchcock, Christensen has organized over 3,000 volunteers in making and donating more than 4,000 yarn wigs in nearly 30 countries. (The tally on the website says it’s at 4,164.)

The wigs are simple. A crocheted beanie is the base, and then the ‘hair’ is hand-looped into the weave, styled as you go. They don’t take long—two to four hours, depending on the style. Volunteers, called Magic-Makers, have included everyone from Girl Scout troops to active duty soldiers. Some make entire wigs (following the Magic Yarn Project’s easy tutorials), some make crocheted accessories, like superhero masks, tiaras, or hats, and some just make the hand-decorated cards that accompany every donation.

The Magic Yarn Project has never charged a single recipient for a wig. They run purely on donations of yarn, time, and money. Volunteers host workshops in the U.S. and Canada to help teach the process, and you can find out if one will be near you soon by checking on their Facebook page.

If you’d like to support the project, they have several options for you to do so on their website.

Broadway Cares Shows It Does Care About Hurricane Victims

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to hurricane relief efforts in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

When Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the consequences were devastating. Photo: Shutterstock

The tally of damages done by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is still climbing, already assumed somewhere north of $200 billion dollars. Many communities, particularly in hard-hit Puerto Rico, will never recover to what they were. The need for aid is immense, and barely even touched by FEMA and government efforts.

Much of the hope for recovery in and around the Caribbean rests on charity contributors like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS(BC/EFA). Although the organization is mostly focused on supporting AIDS and HIV patients, they have drawn upon their industry support to donate $400,000 to charities in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Fully half of that, a $200,000 donation will go to the New York City-based Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit with a solid reputation, the funds exclusively to be used in Puerto Rico’s painful rebuilding process.

Feeding South Florida and to Feeding Tampa Bay, chapters of the Feeding America program, each got $50,000 to aid their efforts to feed the massive numbers of people displaced by storm damage.

An additional $100,000 was spread out to entertainment professionals across Florida and Puerto Rico. Restoring the cultural centers of affected communities may not seem as important as food or infrastructure, but art and performance will be an important part of community recovery.

Along with this $400,000, BC/EFA also donated $175,000 to Harvey relief in Texas earlier in September, making their contribution to this disastrous hurricane season over half a million dollars.

“These grants would not be possible without the tireless efforts and endless support from the Broadway community and Broadway Cares supporters,” said Tom Viola, the executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in a statement to Playbill. “Every ticket purchased to one of our events and every vintage Playbill bought at the Flea Market is making a real, tangible difference in the lives of those who need it most.”

NFL Star Chris Long Starts Scholarship for Charlottesville Students

NFL star Chris Long is donating his first six game checks to a scholarship fund for Charlottesville students.

Photo: Shutterstock

Chris Long, defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles, is from Charlottesville, Virginia. For him and his wife Megan, like his hometown, it’s been a long, trying summer.

“In August, we watched people fill our hometown streets with hatred and bigotry,” Long said in a press conference. “Megan and I decided to try to combat those actions with our own positive investment in our community.”

What the Longs have done, via Chris’s foundation, is to fund two scholarships for Charlottesville students. Each scholarship is a seven-year full ride, an incredible chance for any recipient. Long intends it to “promote equality through education.”

The scholarships are going to be funded by the first six game checks of Long’s 2017 season, and their recipients will be chosen through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Virginia and St. Anne’s-Belfield School, which Long attended.

“With everything that happened over the summer that really shed a negative light on a really good community that we have in Charlottesville, I thought it would be good to kind of put my money where my mouth was and take it out of the check that I get for doing something that I love,” said Long. He wants to show that the spirit of Charlottesville isn’t marching white supremacists, like the one who drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman.

Immediately after that August weekend, Long stood beside teammate Malcolm Jenkins as he protested social inequity during the national anthem before the Eagle’s next game. He’s continued to do so every week since.

“Malcolm is a leader, and I’m here to show support as a white athlete,” said Long when asked about that. “If you don’t see why you need allies for people that are fighting for equality right now, I don’t think you’ll ever see it.”