Monday, January 23, 2017

Story of Giving from Stephanie Roberts on Behalf of Assistance League of Pomona Valley

Operation School Bell®, Assistance League® of Pomona Valley October delivery day finally arrived. Preparation had been underway for weeks to order and receive clothing, then fold and put on shelves or hang up on racks. It was Operation School Bell Delivery Day. Assistance League of Pomona Valley initiated their program in 1999 and joined many other chapters of this special charitable organization called National Assistance League. The volunteers work hard in this organization and see what it has done for the local communities. Pomona Valley chapter provides at least five of these shopping days each school year and help individual families as the need arises, helping about 1,200 children each year. This particular day was a very wet one, not unlike what we have been experiencing as of late. The usual clients came in. Some with just mom or dad, some brought their kids. Shopping was a new experience for most of these children. They delighted in picking out their tops. Each child had their own opinion as to what was just right for them. Some girls would want 5 pink tops and moms would be doing some ‘back seat shopping’ and advising them as to what they needed. By the time they finished with their new socks and underwear their smiles were ear to ear. The boys liked to look for their 5 t-shirts with sports insignias or Spiderman or Laker colors or just their favorite color. It was all there for them to select the perfect item for maybe the first time in their young lives. The families would leave not only content but feeling that someone cared for them. Their children could now go to school and fit in. They could raise their hands in answer to questions and not have rips and tears under their arms. They could take their shoes off and not have holes in their socks. They could wear their new underwear that many had never owned before. They could feel comfortable in their own skin. They could receive compliments on their cute sweatshirts or patterned leggings. They could fit in with their new jeans. And the members and volunteers felt like they had helped in some small way to make the world a better place. But this was an October of a few years ago, and there was more to come that day. The volunteers were tired. It was almost 4 o’clock and time to close the doors. A woman appeared at the open door with her 2 sons. She was panicked she was not going to be able to get clothing for her sons. She was encouraged to come on in and go shopping. The family was checked in and the 2 boys had their own personal shoppers. The members were delighted to help these two young people that were out of breath from running. The mom waited at the counter just watching them shop. This particular delivery day there were some shoes in stock. But they would not take off their shoes. One volunteer finally convinced them, finding a hole where the sole of the shoe should be. The socks were soaked. New socks were immediately given to the boys. They did not want to wear them. They did not want to ruin their new socks. An extra pack was given to each and explained that they would also be taking home detergent so they could wash the ones that were soiled. In the meantime, at the check out counter, the mother asked if there was any place that could help out at Christmas time. Their lives had been so disrupted having escaped from an abusive relationship and she wanted some continuity in their lives. Fortunately, “Act of Giving” is a special delivery for Operation School Bell in December. She was told they would be included that day. The member at the desk realized that water was running off the counter. The mother was wearing a mohair sweater that was dripping wet. This old sweater had seen better days. Mom was very slender and was finally convinced to pick some clothing from the gently used clothes that hung close by. She was elegant in her new sweatshirt and jacket and so thankful for what they had been given that day. With umbrellas and all their new garments, they departed. The boys with smiles, the mom with tears in her eyes. December came, and as promised, her family was included in this delivery too. Two handsome boys, wearing clothes they had picked in October came down the stairs. But what the volunteers saw was this beautiful woman, in clothes that had been given to her. She was different. Her head was held high, her smile was bright. She shared that she had found a job. But what was most important to her was to relate that that October day, she was unraveled. She did not know if she could make it. But the volunteers had made her feel cared for and that she was valued. Something everyone can understand. Submitted by Stephanie Roberts

Story of Giving from Patrick and Christina Hartrick

We would like to share with you a close friend of ours who lives in Upland, CA. Molly Ondich is an exceptional 13 year old in many ways. Due to some serious medical problems, she has been home schooled since second grade. As life goes on, more medical concerns have arisen. The most serious diagnosis is EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which attacks the connective tissue, causing most of her organs to be compromised). She has also been diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which affects the heart. There are other medical problems, which stem from these two major syndromes. She is learning to pace herself, and there are days that she cannot get out of bed. Being a “typical” 13 year old, she is quite adept on social media. Several months ago, she asked her parents if she could start a charity to help children and teens who suffer from Pots. So Molly started MOLLY’S MAIL, a charity that sends packages of encouragement to those in need. The word spread so fast, that she now serves children and adults, who suffer from physical or mental life- altering or terminal diagnoses. Many of those she has assisted are young cancer victims. On more than one occasion, she has attended funerals of children who succumbed to their disease. The parents of these kids have personally invited her, as they are so grateful for the joy she has brought to their stricken children. (There are many testimonies on her Molly’s Mail Facebook and Instagram accounts.) Her “care” packages are full of words of encouragement, as well as aids that keep these people positive. To date, she has sent out over 140 packages all over the world. It is a costly endeavor, and her family has assisted by raising money via garage sales and Go Fund Me. But the funds go quickly, as she is never short on requests! Not only because awarding her a gift would be helpful to those she encourages, but it would also be such a morale booster for Molly! She has the most contagious smile and an unbelievable positive attitude about her work. She is a wonderful, bright, caring young lady, with a heart of gold and a real understanding of those who suffer. If you would like to see some of the amazing work Molly has done, I've included a screen shot of her Instagram account. Feel free to look her up and follow her! Sincerely, Patrick and Christina Hartrick

Stories of Giving from Joseph Iwobi

When a new chapter in our lives approaches, we usually make an opportunity to reflect on our past and how it brought us to the present. With this in consideration, I would like to take this moment to recognize an association that has done much for people like me. I speak of an organization whose sole purpose is to provide advice and services to those diagnosed with diabetes, and by this I mean the American Diabetes Association. In the early 1990's, I needed a physical for my place of work. During this medical procedure, my doctor brought to my knowledge that I had diabetes. Even though diabetes has been in my family’s history, hearing about it came as a bit of shock to me. From then on, I had to change my lifestyle especially my way of eating. The routine would be anything to keep my blood sugar in check to prevent any other bodily complications like kidney failure, eye defects, and leg amputation. Since the establishment of the American Diabetes Association in the early 1940’s, it has supported and taught those with diabetes on how to work hard to control the aforementioned problems caused by this metabolic disease. Its diligent efforts in diabetic research inspired me to subscribe to their membership program in 2013. For example, one of the most important aspect to my diabetic routine, dieting, is emphasized on each monthly subscription. There is a featured recipe that is catered towards healthy eating. In conclusion, talking from the viewpoint of someone with diabetes, I can without any hesitation, say that the American Diabetes Association has helped me, my friends, and my relatives immensely in enlightening and controlling the bad effects of this dangerous disease. Joseph Iwobi

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stories of Giving from Nancy Dufford on Behalf of Madelene

When 10-year-old Madelene shuffled into Uncommon Good’s office, her hair flopped in front of her eyes so no one could see her face. Her voice was barely above a whisper. That was 12 years ago, and it’s a far cry from the confident Fulbright Scholar who is spending a year in Spain teaching low-income immigrant students from Africa. That change in Madelene is just an example of why I admire the work of Uncommon Good. Madelene grew up in Pomona, the eldest daughter of two parents who had no formal education beyond elementary school. Her parents spoke little English and had no idea how to help their daughter overcome her insecurities and awkwardness or how to find a more prosperous path in life. Madelene’s fourth grade teacher suggested that she enroll in Uncommon Good’s Connect to College Mentoring Program. There, Madelene was matched with Emily, a Scripps College student who became her mentor. In addition to having a role model who exposed her to college life, Madelene took advantage of the enrichment opportunities that Uncommon Good offers to its students when she enrolled in a summer theatre program. Between her mentor and her stage debut, Madelene started to develop confidence and find her voice. She continued to participate in Uncommon Good’s programs and eventually enrolled in their High School Scholar’s Program. There she received the encouragement, knowledge, and skills she needed to get to college. Uncommon Good helped her to enroll in the International Polytechnic High School, and gain admittance to the selective Pomona College Academy for Youth Success summer program. Uncommon Good gave her SAT test preparation, helped with her college applications, college application personal statements, and financial aid documents. She rose to the role of President of Uncommon Good’s Teen Green environmental program. Because of the support Madelene received from Uncommon Good’s Connect to College Program and her own dedication, she was accepted to the prestigious Bates College in Maine with a full scholarship. While there she also did research and studied at Columbia University. The education and opportunities she enjoyed at Bates typically prove elusive for most young, low-income Latinas. Madelene, however, graduated from Bates in May 2016 and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to do international research and teaching in Spain. She recently rewarded her family for helping her to defy the odds…she flew them to Spain during the holiday break. I am confident that Madelene will go on to do great things for society, as will the other hundreds of students who are achieving success because of Uncommon Good. Submitted by Nancy Dufford

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stories of Giving from Anonymous

Freedom had crept up and surprised me one morning at 5:30 a.m. The intercom blared: "INMATE WA4561 REPORT TO THE NEAREST OFFICER". It was finally August 21, 2011. I had waited for this day for what felt like a lifetime... I always knew it would come, just not as suddenly as it did. I tiptoed around my cell, careful not to wake my 7 (still) sleeping cellmates as the locks clicked and I was let out. Walking down the hallway to the officer who had just let me out, I was struck with the sad knowledge that if this "Crossroads" place didn't take me, I would've been out on the street. You see, I didn't have any family that could've or would've taken me in. I didn't have any money, unless you counted the $200 they give to you as you're walking out of the prison gates. Which, if you weren't as lucky as I was, you had to use part of that $200 pittance on a Greyhound ticket home. Where ever "home" even was... And that's it. $200 is next to nothing when you factor in food, shelter, clothing, etc. What would I have done? I knew what I would've had to have done. I would've had to sell my body to avoid being penniless and homeless... Not an ideal thought to have, just minutes after being freed from prison after a few years. I knew that I was lucky to have been accepted into the coveted Crossroads program. I knew that I was lucky that someone was going to make the drive to Chowchilla and take me there. Months before, I had been told that I was eligible for the drug program in prison. If successfully completed I would be placed in a halfway house and get out of prison 3 months earlier than my release date. After completing the program with 0 hiccups, I was told that there was a local halfway house I might be interested in. At first I was taken aback. "What?! There's no half way houses in Claremont sir.... It's Claremont. I grew up there, there's no way something like that exists. I would've heard about it." Yet, my drug counselor at CCWF was correct. There was, indeed, a halfway house in Claremont. What he failed to mention, was that it was usually meant for (older) ex-lifers. I was only 20, and a short timer. I got lucky again. Sister Terry was out of town when the newbies were being evaluated, so her director, Jackie White had accepted me on Crossroads behalf. When I got to Crossroads, I couldn't believe where it was. I've literally walked past it hundreds of times growing up, eating at Wolfe's, or just being in the village in general and never knew. I was greeted immediately by friendly staff and handed an immense care basket. In this care basket was everything one would need or want after just being released from prison. Toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, shampoo, conditioner, soap, loofah, washcloth, towel, bathrobe, hair ties, etc. but then there was something else. A warm, hand written card from a Crossroads volunteer, wishing me well and congratulating me on my freedom. Inside the card was a packet of flowers for me to grow. I was touched. After a few weeks of being in the house, learning the rules and completing tasks like obtaining a CA ID and birth certificate, we were allowed to job hunt. During this time, Crossroads had a relationship with the Browns, a local family that owned a few McDonald's restaurants nearby. They had a special relationship with Crossroads and offered the women there immediate employment after an in-home session of job training and food handling certification. I had declined, citing that I was better than fast food and better than McDonalds. I didn't want to participate in the job training, so Jackie had taken me in the car with her and we drove into the village. It was in that car that we had somewhat of a fight. She had asked me why I didn't want to participate in the McDonalds hiring process and I reiterated that I was better than fast food, therefore I would find my own job. Skeptical, she pulled over and told me good luck, and not to come back until I had a job. Jokingly, I think she thought that I wouldn't, therefore would be forced to come back with my tail between my legs and ask for the damn McDonald's application.... I didn't. After 12 no's all around the village, from Jamba Juice to Verizon Wireless, I had finally found a job. Ironically, it was right as I was about to walk back up Harvard and admit defeat, when I saw in gold plating, "The Zetterberg Building". Chuckling, I remembered how Mrs. Zetterberg was my favorite teacher at El Roble growing up, so I assumed I had this in the bag. It MUST be her husband, I'll just casually mention I was her student and see where it takes me. WRONG. Turns out the building belonged to her late father-in-law and has/had absolutely nothing to do with her. I even found out that her husband didn't even practice in his fathers building, he was right across the street on Yale. Determined not to work in the fast food industry, I asked the receptionist if there were any attorneys in the building that were hiring. To my immense surprise she said yes, he's actually here right now, let me get him. I'm greeted by an amazon of a man, at 6'4 who informs me that he is an Attorney and he is looking for an assistant for his firm. Do I have time right now to interview? As it so happened, I did and was pleasantly surprised with how well it was going til the end when he asked if I had a criminal background. Chuckling, he said he assumed no, but that he had to ask. That's when I decided to open up and tell him the whole truth. You can imagine how surprised I was when he exclaimed that I was hired, just drop off a resume the next day and meet his wife. That was October 5, 2011. I'm still here to this day, and it's all thanks to fighting with Jackie, and Crossroads. Crossroads is amazing at what they do to help women from prison stay OUT of prison. I wouldn't be where I am today without them, and all of their generosity. Crossroads allowed me to save each and every paycheck so that when I completed their program, I had saved over $6,000.00. I was able to parole 4 years earlier than what was mandated. I was able to rent my own spot. I bought my first TV. I also made countless friends at the Claremont colleges through their partnership with Nancy Neiman Auerbach who teaches at Scripps doing 'Meatless Mondays'. My favorite memory will always be teaching the older women that just got done doing 10, 15, 20 years in prison how to use Facebook. How to not only use Facebook, but help them find their kids, grand kids, friends and family members they haven't seen for all that time. Thank you for reading, and I hope you select Crossroads as the winner of your Stories of Giving!

Stories of Giving from Brad Freeman

We have a client that runs a facility called The Blessing Center in Redlands, California. They tirelessly help some 6,000 to 7,000 families in the Inland Empire Region with the basic necessities of life. This organization is all volunteer and their efforts are certainly worth noting. The main person who is behind the vision of The Blessing Center is Dr. Craig Turley. Every time I have been to The Blessing Center to see him I find him with a Mop or a Broom in his hand. This is a great definition of humility along with tireless service from someone who gives most of their life to help others in need. The Blessing Center is a faith-based non-profit charitable aid organization. Their goal is to help alleviate poverty and despair through multi-faceted resourcing of poor and disadvantaged families and individuals who are hurting, in need of food, clothing, medical and dental care, job resources and many other needs. Sincerely, Brad Freeman

Stories of Giving from Megan Nehamen

Our community is filled with many worthy organizations that bring such value, each having a different vision. The mission of Foothill Family Shelter is to assure children and adults a future by helping them acquire skills that will enable them to maintain a home, job and at the same time develop the necessary self-esteem to function as a successful stable adult. Foothill Family Shelter has been serving homeless families since 1984. There is a critical need for these services and with sparse resources, community support is imperative. For over 32 years Foothill Family Shelter has shared their mission and vision in an effort to transition families from homelessness to stable, permanent housing. In addition to the community support, Foothill Family Shelter offers comprehensive services which empower clients to gain new skills, set attainable goals and develop a new and effective way of living. As a result of the work Foothill Family Shelter does each day, here is a story that shows the true impact this organization has on those in need. Samantha is a single mother with one teenage son. She was working a part time job with limited hours and was receiving food stamps. She was living with different relatives but mostly at her mother’s, who lives in a senior living community. Eventually she was given a final notice to leave mom’s house or her mother would also be asked to leave. She was drowning in debt with no relief in sight and her mental health was taking a toll due to unemployment, financial stress, low self-esteem, parenting issues, and worry that her vehicle would break down at any moment. Shortly after being accepted by Foothill Family Shelter, she was laid off and applied for cash aid and food stamps. Samantha graduated from the 120-day program and went on to the 1-year housing. She hit a few hurdles and became disengaged from the program. After progressive discipline the Shelter had to make a difficult decision; Samantha was asked to leave the program because she wasn’t meeting with her Case Manager or Therapist and she wasn’t saving any money. Samantha was encouraged to file an appeal where she then met with the Co-Executive Directors. Samantha’s request to stay was granted and she immediately refocused and got back on track. While in the program she obtained a good paying job , created a savings fund, learned to balance life stress in turn increasing emotional well-being, paid off old debts, bought a reliable vehicle and moved on to find permanent housing without any further subsidies or assistance. Samantha is pursuing a career in nursing and is preparing to take her Nursing Board Exam. Her hope is that once she’s settled in to her career she would like to get involved with Foothill Family Shelter by volunteering and donating. It is a privilege serving families who want to help themselves, but need a hand-up. Foothill Family Shelter is truly thankful to each volunteer, donor, business, service club, faith-based group and anyone who believes in the mission and strives to make a difference. As we begin the New Year, it is important to reflect back and realize that the work Foothill Family Shelter does is critical and our community makes it possible. Happy New Year! Sincerely, Megan Nehamen

Stories of Giving Shelby McNamara

Dear HLC Team, Thank you for the opportunity to share a nonprofit that has changed so many lives of children in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles. Camp Ronald Mc Donald for Good Times is a summer camp where children with cancer and their siblings can attend to spend a normal week just being a kid. “It gives the kids a chance to be compassionate and caring to others. It makes them ‘normal,’ and not alone. Nothing can compensate for the anguish that childhood cancer inflicts, but since 1982, Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times® has helped thousands of children and their family members recapture hope, enthusiasm, and love of life in a medically and psychologically safe environment created especially for them. Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times® offers a variety of residential camping opportunities for cancer patients, their siblings and parents all year long!” The donations to camp allow the families to send their children for a week without having to pay for a single thing. Camp Ronald McDonald has such a dedicated set of volunteer counselors that every year, the sign up list gets filled within minutes. Many counselors spend personal time volunteering and raising money so kids can attend camp. I was so thankful to raise $750 myself this past year from family and friends and make a small dent of what camp needs. I have been a camp counselor for the past 3 summers and it has truly changed my life. The counselors and children that I get the privilege to spend the week with, always restore my faith in humanity. This video is just one session of the summer camp: Thank you for allowing me to share my passion and wishing you all well in the new year. Sincerely, Shelby McNamara