April 20, 2010

Maximum Impact: Giving Back for 7 Days
to Recognize National Volunteer Week

Happy National Volunteer Week!

I hope this blog post finds you giving back in some wonderfully great way.

As my calendar started to take shape for this week, I decided to put on my philanthropic hat once a day – give back in some way for seven consecutive days.

Again, I'm not pounding on my chest and/or looking for praise – I simply want to share my passion for giving back with hopes that one person takes notice, gets motivated and says, "I want volunteer, too!"

It doesn't have to be an army of people – or even a large group – I just hope I can inspire one person to roll up their sleeves and start giving back.

Here is a snapshot of my week (I also provided some statistics about each organization, the event or volunteering in general):

– Volunteered at Big Taste for Big Brothers Big Sisters

• This is a fantastic event held in downtown Fort Worth. I ate a lot of delicious food, had a couple glasses of wine, and helped with the clean up. Reminder: Giving back doesn't mean you have to bust concrete – it can be light and fun.

Stat: Big Taste raised approximately $135,000 to help mentor kids across North Texas.

– Attended Western Region Board Meeting for BBBS

• The Tarrant County Junior Board – which I'm heavily involved in – received an invitation to attend this meeting. It was a great chance to re-spark my passion for Big Brothers Big Sisters and share where we are going as a junior board.

Stat: Children with a mentor in their lives are 52 percent less likely to skip school. (source: BBBS)

– Took my Little Brother (BBBS) with me to Presbyterian Night Shelter

• I love taking Anthony (right) to the shelter with me. He is so engaged with the clients and eager to lend a helping hand. It is great to combine two things I care about very deeply.

Stat: Volunteering heightens psychological, social and intellectual development and growth in adolescents. (source: Kids Care)

– Completed my application – which included getting a TB test – to be a mentor within local jails.

• My M.O. for giving back has evolved since I started volunteering on a regular basis. I believe that everyone deserves a fighting chance to be successful. That's why I'm involved with BBBS and the shelter. I think adding prison mentoring to my volunteer activities is the next logical step.

Stat: According to government reports, 30 percent of released prisoners are rearrested within the first six months and 44 percent within the first year. (source: Change.org)

THURSDAY (Earth Day)
– Attending Volunteer Appreciation Party for Presbyterian Night Shelter

– Planting a tree

• I was recently named Volunteer of the Year at PNS, and I am being recognized at the volunteer appreciation party. (Blog post on why I volunteer at the shelter.)

• In conjunction with Earth Day, I am planting a tree in our front yard. I tried this once before but the tree died. FAIL! If I'm successful this time around, I will get to mark No. 65 off my list AGAIN. (Click here to see original blog post)

Stat: Only 26.8 percent of the population volunteered in 2009 – mostly white women between ages of 35 and 44 years old. (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

– Donating books and other items to Safe Haven, a shelter for abused women

– Running audio/visual equipment for men's fellowship at church

• Got the idea to donate books to victims of domestic violence from the wonderfully great book "How to be An Everyday Philanthropist." The author, Nicole Boles, points out: "Women who have no fixed address or who are on the run from violent partners don't have the luxury of taking their favorite books (or their children's) along with them."

Stat: Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. (source: American Bar Association)

– Running audio/visual equipment for men's fellowship at church

– Playing frisbee golf with my Little Brother

• Great way to close out a busy week.

• I was already going to attend the two-day men's conference – "A Credible Man" – so I thought I would put my degree from Midwestern State to work.

• Since Anthony agreed to help out at the shelter on Tuesday night, I thought it was important that we did something fun. My wife made plans to go out of town with the baby, and she encouraged me to use that free time to hang out with Anthony.

Stat: There are 1,500 kids on the BBBS waiting list in North Texas. These are kids – just like Anthony – begging for a mentor.

REMINDER: This is NOT a typical week for me. Like I said before, I REALLY put an emphasis on giving back these seven days for #VOLWK. I'll take a much needed break next week.

If you are interested in giving back, here are few tips to get started:

• Don't shoot for the moon (e.g. seven consecutive days of volunteering)

• Keep it simple (Examples: Buy Girl Scout Cookies, donate toiletry items to a homeless shelter, recycle)

• Figure out what tugs at YOUR heart strings

• Be creative (e.g. Donating books to abused women's shelter)

• Make it part of something you're already doing (e.g. Growing a garden? Plant an extra row for a needy family.)


April 17, 2010

Taking Steps to Make Shadow Mission a Reality

I have used this blog to express my affinity for the non-profit Back on My Feet several times.

• I shared the first correspondence I had with BOMF founder, Anne Mahlum. (blog post)

• I Tweeted at every mile of the Cowtown Half Marathon to raise awareness about this great organization. (blog post)

• I have solicited donations to support their cause on several occasions. (blog post)

Needless to say, I have a soft and passionate place in my heart for this wonderfully great non-profit. It combines two things that I love: Running and giving the homeless a fighting chance to be successful.

Since that very first e-mail that I sent Anne Mahlum, I have not been shy about my shadow mission: Bringing a chapter of Back on My Feet to Dallas/Fort Worth.

Well...the opportunity has officially presented itself.

BOMF is starting the discussion of adding five new cities in 2011. They started in Philadelphia and have already expanded to Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago and Boston.

Through an e-newsletter, the organization requested suggestions for possible expansion cities next year.

They wrote: "Be passionate and persuasive and tell us why we should expand to your city in 2011 here."

I think I will.

Here is what I submitted:

A little over a year ago, I planted the seed to bring a chapter of Back on My Feet to Dallas/Fort Worth.

I sent Anne an e-mail and copied anyone and everyone who would potentially play a part in making this dream a reality in DFW.

I got mayors in on the conversation, high-wealth donors, runners and running companies. I included volunteers and shelter administrators from across the Metroplex.

I copied potential coaches and city officials. I even asked several homeless clients, "What do you think about this?"

It was wonderfully great to receive everyone's pledge of support. I was blown away by their excitement.

My affinity for the homeless problem in our area had already been established, and they quickly recognized and supported my passion for bringing a chapter to our area.

If Back on My Feet expanded to Texas, I would want to be involved in EVERY capacity – from full-time employment to fund-raising, volunteer coordination, and financial support.

Based on my philanthropic involvement, I feel like I am positioned to do this. I believe I can be more than a supporter of BOMF. I could be a champion.

I currently serve on the Board of Directors for Presbyterian Night Shelter, the largest night shelter in Fort Worth. I also serve on an advisory committee for the Cowtown Marathon and have worked closely with the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition.

Through a lot of prayer and self-analysis, I have finally figured out why I give back to the causes that I do. Whether it's Big Brothers Big Sisters, prison mentoring, or going to the homeless shelter once a week – I firmly believe that EVERYONE deserves a fighting chance to be successful.

A very similar vision/mission of Back on My Feet.

If BOMF brought a chapter to DFW, I would raise awareness about the organization, the homeless problem in our region, and the power of running. I would do this through my experience in communications – specifically media exposure, social media and events.

Last summer I traveled to Philadelphia to learn as much as I could about BOMF. I also wanted to prove to Anne and the entire Back on My Feet family that I was dedicated to making my vision of a DFW chapter come alive.

I volunteered for 20in24 – stayed up all night at one of the check points. I met tons of fantastic people, but the best part of my trip was actually running with a team before flying back to Texas.

Before I did that run, BOMF had peaked my interest.

After that, this organization had a hold of my heart.

I don't know who will be reading this "persuasive" essay, but hopefully my name, my passion for BOMF, and my intense desire to bring a chapter to the Metroplex is already recognized.

Maybe...just maybe...these 450 words will push us over the top.

Other general information:
• Based on 2009 homeless count, there were approximately 7,500 homeless across Dallas/Fort Worth

• In 2008, Fort Worth put an emphasis on ending homelessness, adopting a 10-year strategic plan.


If you would like to support our efforts in showing our Back on My Feet that we are serious – you can financially support BOMF's expansion campaign. DONATE HERE

April 10, 2010

I Volunteer Because...

I was recently named Volunteer of the Year at Presbyterian Night Shelter in Fort Worth.

I'm definitely not bragging – or fishing for an "attaboy" – I just feel like I should clarify a few things.

First of all...I was very humbled and honored by the nomination. Over the last couple years, the shelter has grabbed hold of my heart and gloriously ruined me. My wife and I have dedicated a lot of time and effort to PNS, and I felt like the nomination acknowledged that.

It made me feel appreciated.

It made me smile.

This might sound a little crazy – especially since I practically dared my friends and family to carry me across the finish – but winning the award was not that important to me.

Don't get me wrong....I'm glad I won – because I HATE losing.

But I feel like I snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a couple Facebook updates and several mass e-mails.

As I started writing this blog post, my wife said to me, "Don't feel guilty..."

I don't.

It's just VERY important to me that people know that it's not the awards or the recognition that motivates me to give back. (I put that in several of the e-mails that I sent out.)

I thought this would be appropriate time to explain why I volunteer at the night shelter (I should have done this a long time ago):

I volunteer at the shelter because I believe that everyone deserves a fighting chance to be successful.

I volunteer because of the one-on-one interaction with the clients.

I volunteer because I want to measure success in my life by the relationships I develop along the way.

I volunteer because I want to make giving back sexy and cool.

I volunteer because I've been extremely blessed in my life – I want to pay it forward.

I volunteer because when I'm having a bad day, the shelter provides perspective.

I volunteer because the smiles and hugs of the clients warm my heart.

I volunteer because I love it when random people reach out to me on Facebook and ask, "Can I go with you to the shelter?"

I volunteer because I want to inspire my family and friends to give back.

I volunteer at the shelter because I love hearing stories about clients moving into permanent housing or getting a job.

I volunteer because significance is one of my top life facets – right behind spiritual and family.

I volunteer because every few months, a client asks me my name or "When are you coming back?"

I volunteer because I've started to recognize the power of presence.

I volunteer because that's exactly where God wants me to be.

Thank you to all of the people who voted for me and encouraged me throughout the "competition."

I also want to give a special shout out to B.J. Lacasse – she is the real Volunteer of the Year. She single-handedly put a face on the homeless problem in our community through her wonderfully great images. (Click here to see a news story about her exhibit, "The Street.")

Never stop giving back!

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