RU Blog Archives - ResourcesUnite!

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Connection

The process of connecting people to resources and volunteer opportunities is important for us at Resources Unite, but it’s not what drives us to be our best every single day. No, it’s about the actual connection; the relationship we hope to build with the person. Our greatest strength is probably listening more than anything else. We want to hear your story. With every answer provided, we’ve got another question to ask in hopes of learning more. Your story is important to us.

We were delivering water to complete strangers in Flint Michigan when the power of connection became clearer than ever before. Over and over again, people would refuse the free water. “Thank you, but I would prefer you give the water to my neighbor and just spend some time with me. I feel alone and forgotten.”

People were choosing connection over clean water.

At the beginning of every presentation about our work, we share what we believe about people. We know with absolute certainty that people want to get involved in their community and make a difference. This is what matters most. It’s not about how much money we make or the things we collect along the way. No, we want to be able look back on life and know that we made an impact.

There’s more to that though. A lot more. I think about the years I was in the Marine Corps. I was, and still am, very proud of my work in the Marines. There was no question that we were making a difference every single day that we laced up our boots. But what’s stayed with me more than anything now twenty years removed, is the relationships I made during that time. They became my brothers. I would be on a plane tomorrow if I received a call today from one of those guys if they called saying they were in need. Without hesitation.

And so when I think about the people who come through our doors at RU asking for resources or suggestions of places to volunteer, I know that most often they are asking for connection. They are asking for something that we all so often take for granted and don’t have the courage to ask for ourselves.

This is who we are. We are a connection center. Stop in. See what we’re all about and don’t be surprised if you leave feeling like you just made a new friend.

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Dinner Time! (for some)

We’re going to Coe’s tonight for dinner. They’re in Bernard. People will go out of the way to get their bar food. I’ll be encouraging people to try the steak. The steaks are incredible and are one of the very few guarantees that I make in life. I guarantee it is the best steak you’ve ever had. I’ll eat, but I’m really not that hungry. I’ll probably have onion rings too.

Mindy from Hillcrest stopped in the office the other day. She was helping someone transition out of the Rescue Mission and into an apartment. Mindy was hoping we could help find a bed, some kitchen supplies and maybe some food for the person in need. Her client starts at Mcdonalds in a few days and is hoping to have some extra money at that time.

We know better though. “Extra money” isn’t going to happen.

I’ve moved a lot in my life and it’s always a pain. All the bags, the boxes and I never really label anything the way I promise myself that I will. It feels like an eternity before everything is in the right place. I think I still have stuff in our storage room in boxes from the last move. 12 years ago.

I imagined for a moment living in a homeless shelter and moving into an apartment of my own. I’m sure it’s a great feeling getting your place, but I would guess it’s also really depressing too. Imagine moving into an apartment with everything you are wearing, a black garbage bag half full of clothes and a bicycle. That’s it. That’s your everything.

This is what the starting line looks for many.

Mindy and I sat in my office brainstorming how to get her client the necessities. “We can get a bed and I know someone that has some kitchen supplies. Let’s work on the food,” I said.

The Dubuque Food Pantry wasn’t open, very few people know the right person to contact for the food pantries that exist in the local churches, and we didn’t have the vouchers needed for many of the other programs. I thought about giving the Epworth Food Pantry a call. How are we here again? How is it that the programs (including us) trying to connect people to resources aren’t able to come up with food for the weekend for someone in need?

Can you imagine trying to navigate this process on your own? Impossible. You’re going hungry.

There must be a better way. Food should not be a barrier. Ever. For anyone. No one should have to wait for food. Not in our communities. Not in Dubuque. If a family needs food at 2am on a Saturday morning, they should be fed. No paperwork, no waiting for office hours. And as service providers, we must improve the way in which we share information. The resources are often there, but are too often unknown by many.

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Mariana

Each night we laid in bed and listened to the sounds of gunfire and police sirens. I would hold Mia tight and pray that someday we would be in a better place. Chicago is my home, but we need to move. We’re not going to make it here. It’s not like it used to be. Everything changed the night Eric took everything from me.

It was my friend that suggested I apply for section 8 housing out-of-state. We all knew that it was more than a 10 year wait in Chicago. Wisconsin or Iowa. I met a friend on Facebook that was from Dubuque and she told me about the city and how her move from Chicago happened pretty easily. And so I went on the list. I was number 4,056.

Six month later I was number 1,743! I couldn’t believe it. “This is actually going to happen,” I thought. We’re going to have a new home; a new life. Mia and I started to pack. Soon we were number 148.

The owner of our building stopped one night and told me that he was selling the building. He told me I had to move out immediately. “But I’m number 148 in Dubuque,” I persisted. “We’re so close. Please let us stay until we get the phone call.”

The very next day we rented a U-Haul truck loaded with everything we owned and headed west. I’ve had it worse, I thought. I can make this work. I have to. My entire world is sitting in the passenger seat. Mia deserves better. She’s been through so much in nine years. The Asbergers, the ADHD, the Tourette Syndrome. She’s so strong though. “She’s my little monkey.”

It was a beautiful drive to Dubuque. As we drove over the Mississippi bridge my heart swelled with hope and confidence. Everything looked perfect. We’re going to make it. I just knew it.

A week has gone by and everything I was promised has disappeared. The apartment is not ready. We need to get the inspection done and section 8 needs to approve everything. We’re living in our car. I put all of our belonging into storage and we sleep in the car parked between the moving trucks near the storage units. The trucks give us a little protection from the world.

Seven days have passed and it’s getting harder to get by. I’ve called all of the local resources and we’ve been doing great for food by eating at the Rescue Mission and other churches. I only have $600 to my name outside of the SSI I get for Mia. I’ve got to make this work until we get into our apartment, I get Mia into school and I’m working again.

I can do this.

I withdrew $50 yesterday. We needed to shower and feel clean. It’s six bucks to get into the Flora pool. At least Mia can shower there and go swimming. I’m also on my period and I really need to get myself clean. My emotions are all over the place. I usually don’t cry this much. Everything is starting to come back to me.

How could Eric have done this to me?! We were friends. He raped me! I had a good job managing the storage units and cleaning houses. I had lots of friends and felt pretty good about myself. The depression got bad after what he did and I gained nearly 100 pounds. I’ve lost 50, but I still can’t shake the nightmares.

No one could believe that I kept the baby. Nine years later though and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I love my little monkey.

Sarahjayne and everyone at Hillcrest has been great. They’ve been helping me connect to resources and gave a me a number I should call. “I’m sorry Mariana, we just don’t have the resources to get you and Mia out of the car until you are in the apartment. But, give these guys a call.”

I lost the number she gave me. Days passed and I went into chat with Sarahjayne again. As I was leaving yesterday I asked for the number again.

Resources Unite? A volunteer center? Why would strangers help us? I’ve always been a giver. I’m not a taker. I’m the volunteer; the person that helps others. It’s so hard to ask for help.

But maybe someone can help or would just be willing to listen. We’re so alone.

I guess it can’t hurt to give them a call…

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Band-Aid vs. the Cure.

I stood on the sidewalk staring into the eyes of a two-year old that sat naked on the crumbling front steps. He looked me up and down while he drank his Pepsi while I wondered about his clothes, his parents and his future. We were there to deliver beds to a family that lost everything in a fire.

The wooden floors were worn and covered in dirt. The front door hung from only one hinge and had a missing window. Maybe it was my training in the Marines years ago or just curiosity, but I found myself scanning each room as I passed. Each room was the same as the last. Empty.

“Where was the furniture”? I thought. There was not a chair, couch, table, dresser or bed in the house. Nothing. The walls stood bare. For just a moment I imagined what it would be like to live there. I stared out the window and felt a sense of despair wash over me. I felt trapped. Hopeless. Alone.

I am proud of what our community has done for this family. This family of seven now has beds to sleep on. Progress has been made. But not enough. And that lack of significant forward movement has gnawed at me for as long as I can remember. I wonder at times if this is why I’m at Resources Unite, doing what I do, meeting the people I meet.

I am surrounded by the reminders of what could be.

I can still name each of the girls at the Florence Crittenton Center. We housed 52 teenage girls and 12 of their babies at any given time. That job in East Los Angeles 15 years ago is where I really began to examine my effectiveness as a social worker and the effectiveness of the work itself. I cringe when I think back of those girls and what we could have done for them instead of simply providing for their basic needs. We could have been so much more for them in such a critical time in their lives. We did our jobs.

I am sorry Dynasty, Desi, Shenell, Keena, Essie and so many others. You deserved better.

FCC girls

The girls needed an ongoing system of support. Like me and most everyone I know, they needed family, friends, mentors and anyone else to be by their side during the ups and downs of life. They needed more than beds.

Week after week we receive phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from people in need. Their needs are great. Sometimes we are able to connect them to resources and rally the community behind them and sometimes we cannot. Too often what we provide though is the band-aid versus the cure.

The people who need beds, repairs on their cars, a partner that does not abuse them, clothes for a job interview, a place to live and food all have one thing in common. They need to not feel so alone. They need people in their lives that can provide the hope they so desperately need.

There are severe consequences for allowing people to live with such despair and hopelessness; consequences for you and me.

Guns and physical abuse become the only road to power. Drugs become the only escape. Lives are lost. The future of the two-year old on the steps is never realized.

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The Sounds of Silence

My head is full of blog posts from so many recent experiences. It’s time for a release. I write with music playing in the background. The music moves me and helps me feel things in a deeper, more sincere way. Other distractions fade to black, while memories from long ago begin to well up within my heart and mind. Everything starts to feel connected.

So many of my recent experiences have revolved around meeting with people who are struggling with issues that are indescribable. It is hard to find the words that best detail their pain. Hopelessness and despair fill the silence. The wars they have been waging feel like they have long been lost.

Imagine visiting a city with a population of 102,000 people. You realize that something is definitely different about this town as you begin to drive around. You can feel the tension in the air. The streets look as if they have been on the receiving end of mortar fire. Potholes two feet deep and the same in diameter litter the roads, making it nearly impossible to navigate. Someone years ago decided that fixing the streets was no longer a priority. The grocery stores have all moved out and places like Jimmy Johns and Dominos no longer deliver for fear of their safety. We were in town for 72 hours and didn’t see one police officer.

The city of Flint is in a state of crisis and has been so for decades. We went door to door delivering water to people who were in the most severe need. What they needed most though didn’t come in the water bottles we were delivering. They desperately needed to be reassured that somebody cared; that even one person was out there paying attention and cared enough to do something for a community that has long been silenced. Their greatest fear was to be forgotten.

flint hug

People begged for us to stay. “Please come in. Just sit for a few minutes. Keep the water. Just stay.”

This would never have happened in Dubuque, Iowa. We live in a city full of people with voices that are heard and respected. In cities where the poor, black and brown are the majority, those voices are not heard. They have no real influence or power. They don’t fear being forgotten. No, they realized long ago that they never mattered enough to be forgotten in the first place. And the silence from the people who can change this reality is deafening.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” —-Martin Luther King.

I had just finished a session with the Chicago Cubs and noticed one of the guys hanging around afterwards. He thanked me for the training and shared his very personal story of what it was like growing up in his home as a child. Tears began to well up as he shared the pain he felt living in an abusive home and how those experiences and the lack of support has shaped him into the “shell of a man” he is today. He quickly ran out of words while the sadness that he has felt for years began to fill the room.

Where were the friends and family in this man’s life that could have been that support he so desperately craved? Surely someone along the way knew of his struggle. Why did they remain silent? Why do I remain silent when around others that are filled with pain and sadness?

I’m afraid. My fear keeps me silent. My guess is that your fears work the same way. We need to do better. We must. And not just for others, but for ourselves as well.

“Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again. Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping. And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains. Within the sounds of silence….”

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This is my rifle.

My transformation began the moment I stepped on the painted yellow footprints 20 years ago. Our heads were shaved and the word “yes” was replaced with “kill.” Every day we were told of the enemies that wanted nothing more than to destroy the people we love and our country.

I was given my M-16 A2 service rifle and quickly memorized the “Rifleman’s Creed.” We would recite it together while lying in bed with our rifles. “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life…”

I had never fired a gun before. It felt clumsy in my hands. Within a month though, I was firing my rifle with accuracy from 1,000 yards. It never left my side. My rifle had a name.

After three short months, the transformation was complete. I was a Marine. More specifically though, I was ready to fire my rifle into any and all perceived threats. The enemy was real. Or so I thought.

If I close my eyes now and imagine standing on the rifle range in San Diego, I can feel the weight of the gun in my hand. My fingers gripping the cold, plastic hand guard with the sling wrapped through my left arm. My breathing begins to slow. My finger is straight and off the trigger until I have acquired my target. I slowly begin to squeeze the trigger and now twenty years removed, the smell of cordite fills my nose and my chest swells with confidence.

The enemy did not fear my rifle. They feared the Marine. They feared the man I had become.

Another day has passed and yet another shooting has taken the life or lives of many. We once again begin to question gun control, mental health resources and people that don’t look like us. The script never changes.

But what if we took the time to step back and examine why people are picking up a gun and killing so many? Maybe we would find that it’s not about the kind of guns that are being used or the state of someone’s mental health. Imagine if were able to have the courage to empathize with the individual carrying the gun into a school or place of business.

Imagine what we would learn.

I think we would find men that are struggling with their identity; men that are angry and that are desperately looking to feel confident and powerful.

We would find me standing on the rifle range again.

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Black Lives Matter?

I woke up with a profound sense of sadness. My heart felt heavy. I felt like crying. I had been on the road for a few days and a little depression was to be expected. Away from home, family and routine can get me down.

This was different though…Darker.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the people in our community that are distressed; feeling despair and without hope. I haven’t completely processed the recent meeting with community leaders from Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. The agenda focused on violent crime and community engagement. We spent most of the meeting talking about increased gun violence, specifically in the black community.

“We can’t police our way out of this. People are hurting. We need to do more as a community.” I could feel the pain the Waterloo Police Chief felt as he shared. I imagined for a moment what he sees everyday. The tears, the rage and the blood.

We talked more about the broken families, the lack of job opportunities, the disconnection from community and the ways people cope when they are desperate. Again I tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I couldn’t imagine that kind of desperation.

I thought a good workout would shake off my blues. I was three miles into my run before it hit me. I had to stop to catch my breath. The realization of where my sadness came from nearly knocked the wind out of me.

The college team that I was working with was like any other team that I’ve worked with on any given college campus in the country. They were probably 19 or 20 years old, but acted like they were 12. My classroom management skills were put to the test. There was a lot of cross talk going on. It was like a party. The room would erupt with laughter after someone would pass gas. Time and time again.

I should have been frustrated, but I wasn’t. I think I understood before really knowing.

I was leading a discussion on overcoming adversity when the laughter was sucked out of the room in an instant and the room fell dead silent when I asked someone to read aloud the quote that was projected on the screen. The quote was from Nelson Mandela:

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

The deafening silence had nothing to do with Mr. Mandela. The room was quiet because no one wanted to read the passage out loud. It became painfully obvious that there were guys in the room that couldn’t read the sentence.

Oh my God! What are we doing?, I thought. This can’t be happening. Not again.

You are more than this! You have so much more to offer than to dribble a basketball, throw a football or run around a track. You are being tricked…Used…Taken advantage of. And so much more.

The lure of status and importance now is blinding them for what may be coming so very soon. I wanted to remind them that this is not the real world. Please get your education! Get everything you can while you are here. All of it. I wanted to tell them how difficult it was for me when I got out of the Marine Corps. I had everything and was told everyday that I was invincible.

Then one day it was all gone. Reality settled in and I was lost.

But what happens when college is over and they can’t read? I thought specifically about the 12 black guys in the room. I wasn’t worried about the two white dudes. Their privilege would help them more than they will probably ever realize.

I wanted to scream.

I wanted to give the guys a hug and give them the heads up that they so desperately needed. But maybe they already know. Maybe that’s why everyday right now is a party. Maybe they know that right now is just a break from the real world; a break from being forgotten, marginalized and overlooked.

My heart breaks over that possible reality.

black lives matter image

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Baltimore is NOT an anomaly.

For four years I believed that I was one of the toughest SOB’s on the planet.  I was/am a United States Marine.  My first two years I was stationed in southern Maryland on a Navy base responsible for guarding assets vital to national security.  Every single day we were reminded that today could be the day.  Today could be the day that terrorists take over our small base and try to steal an airplane.  And we ate it up.  Hook, line and sinker.

Each Marine had a 9mm pistol holstered to their leg and a Mossberg 590 shotgun on their shoulder. The Marines that guarded the fence line carried M-16’s.  We also carried pepper spray, a gas mask and had gone through countless hours of hand to hand combat training.  Should someone make the mistake of traveling to the sleepy town of Lexington Park, Maryland with the intentions of taking an airplane that they would never be able to get off the ground, we were ready to unleash hell on Earth without a moment’s hesitation.

After fulfilling my two years in Maryland, I was relocated to 29 Palms, California.  I was a machine gunner and this is where Marines went to train for war.  Temperatures would sometimes reach a smothering 130 degrees on the desert floor. We didn’t care though.  We eagerly waited to see the black flag raised on our base.  Black flag days meant that it was too hot to train outside and all work would be done at night.  For us though, that flag represented an opportunity.  We would sneak out after lunch during these days and go for a 3 mile run with our flak jackets on.  We ate nails and broken glass for breakfast.  Each morning we would dress in our military fatigues, ride out to the training area in our Humvees and fire thousands and thousands of rounds through our weapons of mass destruction, while sometimes secretly hoping that some day we would be asked to use our specific skills outside of the training area.

(the Marine standing on the right holding a M-16 with K-Bar in his mouth is me)

Marines 29

Every Monday morning in Maryland and in California looked the same.  Fellow Marines received consequences for starting fights in a local bar or even with each other, for damaging property and for domestic and sexual assault.  But I mean, what did they really expect?  You can’t be a life-taker and a heart-breaker just during the week, right?  Some of that is bound to spill over.

That’s what they created.  That’s what they wanted.

As I watch the local law enforcement in Baltimore enforce a nightly curfew driving Humvees with rifles in hand, I am reminded of my days in the Marine Corps.  I have some great memories.  I am incredibly proud of being a Marine.  But for a period of time, I lost my identity.  I became someone I am not.

I wonder about the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department.  When they signed up they probably envisioned days and nights of protecting and serving the communities they love most. They joined to be a peace officer, not a warrior.  I doubt anyone dreamed of learning how to drive a tank through their neighborhood or how to identify civilian targets through the scope of a sniper rifle.

What have we created and why?  Who are we at war with?  The consequences for this transition are obvious and will most definitely continue to spill into every community across the country.  Baltimore is not an anomaly.

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Car Seats, Cash and Connection

Creed called.  I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was upset.  I asked what was wrong and he told me about what his wife had experienced the night before.  My heart began to race and I could feel the blood rushing to my face as he described how she came across a lonely six-year-old child wandering the streets, lost and alone.  He was scared and disconnected from everyone.  She couldn’t understand how anyone could let this happen and was determined to get him back home.

It was the same night that a couple of teens were found firing guns at one another in a local park.  “With children lost in the streets, why is anyone ever shocked when those same kids years later are trying to get the attention of anyone; willing to do whatever it takes to get noticed?”  I was upset now.

I met with Jennie from Reach and Rise the very next day.  I turned in my application to become a mentor and answered a few questions about my background.  She shared with me that there are nine young men waiting to be matched to a male mentor.  Not one of those young men had a father figure in their lives.  I don’t know any of them, but in a way I do.  I’ve worked with enough kids in that position long enough over the years.  They desperately longed for a connection that most of us have had, and have taken for granted, from day one.  They were robbed of that incredible gift early on and have been paying the price ever since.

Over the course of the last two days I have provided 24 thirty minute presentations to all 500 Sedgwick employees.  My objective was to get everyone well versed in Resources Unite’s mission of connecting individuals and businesses to volunteer opportunities and to reinforce our philosophy.  “We know that at the end of the day, everyone wants to get involved, make a difference and feel connected.  Sometimes though, we just don’t know where to start.  Resources Unite is that starting point.”

I then provide examples of how when our community is connected to one another, we can accomplish incredible feats.  The greatest resource we have in our community is one another.  Every time, over and over again, that truth is reinforced.  I tell the story of Jim.  Eyes start to well up when they hear of a man in our community that has gone without electricity for three years.  It’s hard to fathom.  Tears begin to stream though when I share how the community rallied for a man they will never meet.  In ONE HOUR after sharing JIm’s story months ago, Boyle Electric committed to repairing his damaged electrical line and after 48 hours, thousands of dollars worth of goods were donated by complete strangers to help get Jim back on his feet.

Jim’s doing pretty good now.  I actually visited him tonight.  As I pulled up to his place, I noticed this sign hanging on his home.  I felt such pride in what our community had done and continues to do for this man.  We have so much potential, I thought.

thank you from jim

An anonymous donor reached out to me yesterday, asking how Jim was doing.  He shared with me how he was moved by Jim’s story months ago and how he decided to save some money each pay period to give to him.  It felt good giving Jim the $471 donation from a complete stranger.  He once again didn’t understand why someone he would never meet would be so generous.  I shared with Jim how good it made that man feel to help.

cash money

My son Isaac was with me when we met with Jim tonight.  As we pulled away he asked me if there were others in need and how they were getting help.  I told him about the woman this morning that needed a car seat for her 18 month old baby.  Heather had sent us a message asking for help for this woman.  “I’ve tried every resource.  I’m at a dead-end,” she said.  I told Isaac that I shared that message with a friend of mine while I was waiting for my protein shake and he immediately gave me $30 to help the woman out who was also fleeing an abusive relationship.

shake money

I posted the need on our Facebook page and within just a couple of hours, the team at “In the Zone Nutrition” raised the $100 needed to buy that car seat.

Then an amazing thing happened over lunch. I was sitting at Carlos O’Kelly’s talking with Kari when I received a message from Sara at “Steve’s Ace.”  It turns out that she and her sister are a car seat check at their store and they have access to FREE car seats for people in need.  Tomorrow the woman desperately trying to start her life over is going to get a free car seat and more than $100 to buy any other resources she and her baby may need.

The amount of success and happiness in our lives depends heavily on the connections we have with one another.  I’m fortunate.  I have a phone filled with contacts that I can reach out to 24/7 if I need to get immediate support. Others are not so fortunate though.  There are countless people in our community that desperately need someone to reach out and to offer a helping hand.  They have been forgotten and are roaming the streets lost.

This support though doesn’t always have to come in the form of car seats or cash.  Jim would tell you that he would give back every nickel of the donation he received tonight for people to just come out and sit in his yard with him and talk.  It’s the connection he misses most.

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Spring Training

In the last couple weeks I’ve presented to six different Major League Baseball teams during their spring training, from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Cubs. Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past year, you’ve heard about a number of professional athletes who have physically assaulted the people they claim to love the most. The conversation that I’ve been facilitating with professional athletes from NASCAR to MLB to the WWE is leadership based with the objective of compelling the attendees to challenge the varying forms of abuse that exist in our culture and to realize the incredible influence they have over so many.

After defining leadership, we talk about what it means to be a bystander. Too often, when in the position of the bystander, we opt to take a very passive role for a variety of reasons. “It’s not my business,” some will say. Others talk about how they are afraid to get involved. “What will they think of me if I say or do something that no one else will?” Invariably, though, it comes down to people believing that someone else will do something. This cultural phenomenon is known as the “bystander effect.” In other words, extensive research shows that the probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. The more bystanders present, the less likely it is that any one of them will get involved.

Before we can get into specific strategies of how these athletes of significant status can get involved and make a difference, though, we make sure we’re on the same page about men’s violence against women in our country. We talk about why domestic and sexual violence is serious. Men will share examples from their childhood when they watched as their fathers abused their mothers. Other men share how they are bombarded with examples of violence in the media. It’s at this point that I offer the first and only statistic in this conversation.

A number of years ago a study was conducted in the United States that had nothing to do with domestic violence. The objective of this research was to determine why people go to the emergency room. What they found was quite striking. The number one reason why women and girls ages 15 to 44 are admitted to the emergency room is because of domestic violence they experience from the men in their lives (skull fractures, broken bones, lacerations, burns, etc.).

You can feel the air get sucked out of the room when I share the results from that study. I let the room remain silent for a few extra moments before I ask the men how they feel about this. Some report being sad. I can see the anger in others’ eyes as they imagine a woman or girl in their life that may someday be impacted by this reality.

Indians Photo

“Given the fact that everyone in the room agrees that men’s violence against women is serious and that you now know the severity of this major public health issue, why do you suppose so many men remain silent in the face of this ugly truth? Why do we find it so impossibly difficult to challenge other men’s degrading and abusive behavior towards women?”

The answer to that question is why I am sitting here outside my hotel between training sessions, writing this post. I’ll admit that it is a surreal experience when first walking into a room with people who get paid millions of dollars to do their job and who are idolized by even more people around the globe. The men in the room have a certain amount of status and privilege that is only bestowed on a select few. They are undoubtedly special.

Cubs photo

But at the end of the session, when the men are trying to answer why so many remain silent, it occurs to me how they are just like the rest of us. They struggle with accepting the responsibilities they have as leaders much as we would. The difficulties in challenging our peers is the same as for someone who we watch during the big game on Sunday afternoon; the same as it is for the guy sitting next to us in church that same morning. Throughout each and every session the men in the room talk about how they care about the thoughts and opinions of others. More specifically though, their fans. Remember, these guys are human too.

I recognize that this is probably the first and last time that I may ever be in front of this group of people talking about this issue. I’m only one voice for a mere 90 minutes in their lives. I have to wonder though how much more effective this conversation would be if each of us as fans were more of an active bystander in the lives of these men, letting them know how we feel about men’s violence against women and the expectations we have for them as leaders.

Cardinals photo

darmowe automaty do gier hazardowych

2

The Humane Way

I sat at home this past weekend scrolling through Facebook, watching the anger of many turn into hate. Countless people attacked a local organization and the individuals entrusted to carry out their mission. It was evident that many were not interested in having a conversation. For reasons probably only known to themselves, their only interest was to hurt others.

It was hard to watch. I wanted to jump in and tell people to stop. I wanted to remind some that what they were writing was hurting people. I’ve been in those shoes before. I’ve had that kind of hate dumped in my lap too many times. I would not wish those sleepless nights and anxiety on anyone. Ever.

Come to think of it, my first experience with this kind of hate happened exactly four years ago to today’s date. I had created a tv commercial and some fellas at an organization called “A Voice for Men” got a hold of it and were not happy, to say the least. Take a look: Josh Jasper’s hate campaign and what to do about it

You see, their mission is to “promote an end to chivalry in any form or fashion and to push for an end to rape hysteria, domestic violence hysteria and false allegations. Yeah, these guys are some VERY angry dudes. I remember early on thinking that I could reason with them. Surely they would understand my perspective once I gave them all the facts. No deal. Providing them with the information they requested only enraged them more. They wanted a fight.

I never did fully understand the venom that these men spewed toward me from across the planet, but I did learn that I was not going to change their opinion of me or my work. Sadly, there are some people out there that want nothing more than to hurt others and bring them down. It is so easy to get angry and defensive when on the receiving end of this type of vitriol.

I was relieved to see how the local organization handled this recent firestorm. They shared their side of the story in a professional and thorough manner and never got defensive. They didn’t fall for the bait.

Don’t get me wrong, people have the right to voice their concerns and should do so whenever they feel so inclined. What needs to stay out of the conversation though is the other stuff; the stuff that has nothing to do with what is presented and everything to do with their misplaced feelings of hurt and anger. Filling our hearts with compassion, tenderness and sympathy for others will help ensure the best and most effective way to be heard.

Thank YOU, Jim.

There are times in my life when I wish people could see through my eyes and hear through my ears. Today was one of those days.

I was excited to get to Jim’s house today. My car was jam-packed full of donations from the floor to the ceiling and the trunk lid barely closed. Jim was sitting outside when I pulled up. He had just taken a break from splitting firewood and was resting his sore back. We shook hands and Jim took me over to the severed power line in his yard. He explained to me how the line got cut three years ago when his trailer burned to the ground and offered some ideas as to how an electrician could run a line from the junction box to his camper. I caught myself feeling a little annoyed that he was taking his time explaining everything while we were standing out in the cold.

“Well, enough about all of this, come on inside and we can chat.” After Jim’s trailer burned down, he bought a camper to put in its place. A few years later someone gave him a used RV that didn’t run. Between the camper and RV, Jim had created a porch like area that was walled off by plywood, canvas and a number of tarps. “Don’t mind Big Puppy. She just likes to hear herself bark. She’s a good girl.” I wasn’t worried about the dog. It was the half a dozen cats I saw sitting around. I was sure the cat dander was collecting in my lungs as we made our way into the camper and wondered how he was going to carry me out when I collapsed from an epic allergic reaction.

“Don’t worry about me, Josh. I was an Eagle Scout. I’ll get by.” I asked about his life and Jim told me about his 14 years working in commercial flooring. He traveled the globe remodeling Target stores. “I’ve been to Middleton to Burbank and up to Seattle working in Targets.” He then told me about the day he was working and heard a young girl screaming for her life. He looked out the window and saw a massive dog on top of a 6-year-old girl, “tearing her to pieces.” Without hesitation, Jim ran to the girl. He successfully tore the dog away from the little girl, but unfortunately was mauled in the process. Jim almost lost one arm and the other was nearly as bad. The physician treating both Jim and the little girl said he never saw anything like it before. “She shouldn’t have lived,” the doctor stated. “You saved her life.” 225 stitches later, that little girl walked out of the emergency room and Jim was unable to go back to work because of his life threatening injuries.

“After that accident happened, Josh, I had a string of more bad luck including my trailer being vandalized and being burnt to the ground. After awhile you just don’t understand why it’s all happening. I didn’t want to leave my home for a few years.”

I took Jim back down to my car and told him about how hundreds of community members flooded our Facebook page wanting to help. “That would be so nice to have an extra blanket or jacket,” he said. Oh Jim, I thought. You have no idea. I opened the door and he peeked in and looked at me like I was crazy. “Is that all for me?” Yes sir, I said. “Why? Why would anyone care?” We walked back toward the camper with bags in hand and I could tell Jim was stunned. He was trying to make sense of what was happening. His entire world had been turned upside down. He had convinced himself for so many years that he was all alone and now complete strangers wanted to do everything in their power to help a man they would never meet.

Bag after bag of pants, sweatshirts, coveralls, jackets, blankets, food, dog food, denture glue, and so much more was stacked inside of his camper. I told him that an electrician was on his way to survey the damage and that people were going to start bringing firewood to his home. We sat down again to soak it all in. We talked some more.

“I was watching 60 Minutes years ago and a 9-year-old inspired me. So I can’t take any credit for the idea.” Jim took me back into what should have been his shower/tub in the camper and here he had converted it into a shelving unit. “I saw this little boy create a Pet Pantry and thought, I’ll do the same thing. A lot of people go through rough times, but their pets shouldn’t go without food because of it.”

I stared at the bags of dog food and cat food in his bathroom as he told me how he calls companies, asking them to donate food for his pet pantry. Jim talked about his love for his volunteer time at the Humane Society. Here’s a guy that has gone without electricity for three years in his home and is logging in more volunteer hours than most and giving up his own food when necessary to feed the animals in the neighborhood.

Walking back to my car after saying goodbye, I felt a little sad. I could tell Jim wanted me to stay. He was overwhelmed and brought to near tears with the outpouring of support, but what he wanted most was someone to talk to. He yearned for connection. We take so much for granted with our personal belongings and luxuries, but what we minimize most is our inherent need to connect with others. Take that connection away and we are lost. Everything else is a mere distraction.

14

Rest in Peace, DeMarkel

We had just gotten out of church this morning and I was waiting for everyone to get buckled in when I got the message. It was from Michelle from Jefferson Middle School. She was one of the first persons to reach out to me when we shared the story about DeMarkel, the 13-year-old boy who had been recently diagnosed with cancer and lost his leg. “If you could let me know what specifically they need or would like, we can make this happen,” she confidently wrote.

DeMarkel was doing everything in his power to get discharged from the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, but he needed help from our community. In just a few short days, volunteers were assembled to build an accessible wheelchair ramp for a young man they would never meet. Gifts for the family began to pour in.

Michelle’s message to me today was an update as to what the team at Jefferson was able to do for DeMarkel and his mom. They raised nearly $700 and showered the family with gifts on the Friday before Christmas. Michelle went on to tell me that on Christmas morning DeMarkel began to struggle with his breathing and had to be taken to Iowa City. The 13-year-old that aspired to be a mechanic passed away a day later.

My heart sank. I remembered the hug that his mom gave me after we finished the ramp. It was one of those kind of hugs that you never forget. She held me tight and said thank you in a way that is rarely expressed with such sincerity. She couldn’t understand why people she didn’t know would do so much for a single black woman and her son living downtown on Jackson Street.

Sitting here now I find myself rereading the last sentence of Michelle’s message. “Our Jefferson family is grieving, but we are so fortunate that we had the opportunity to provide DeMarkel and his mom the gift of knowing how much the Jefferson family cared about them.”

The gift that Michelle wrote about is exactly the reason why DeMarkel’s mom held me so tight in her kitchen that afternoon. Over and over again she said it when I was on the phone with her while they were still in Iowa City. “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Why would so many people care?” Our community was making a lasting impact on that family well before the first nail was hammered or the first Christmas gift was delivered. She will never forget what so many have done for her family.

When we finished the ramp, Shawn asked me to help him carry a couple of gifts for DeMarkel into the house. They were beautifully wrapped and ridiculously heavy. Shawn got wind of the fact that DeMarkel wanted to be a mechanic when he grew up and went out and purchased an entire tool set for him. I can only imagine the excitement he must have felt opening up those gifts on Christmas morning.

Imagine though how he and his mom must have felt that Christmas morning surrounded by gifts from complete strangers. They undoubtedly felt the outpouring of love from our entire community. DeMarkel felt like someone believed in him. Someone out there wanted to see him succeed and an entire community was hell-bent on making sure that happened.

There is no greater gift.

At the end of the day we all want to get involved and make a difference. Sometimes though we over think it. It’s not about curing a life threatening disease or helping someone off the ledge. To make the greatest impact we must simply be present for one another and be ready to step up to do what we can when needed. Each of us have extraordinary gifts to share with one another. Identify what they are and share them with the world. Because believe me, if you do, you will do more than make a difference.

You will change the world.

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Just Breathe

It was after my meeting today with Ermina that I found myself sitting in the car feeling angry and then so very sad. I turned the radio on hoping to find a song that would help soothe the pain. Pearl Jam’s “Just Breath” came on and I was convinced the DJ played it just for me. Eddie Vedder’s words struck me right in the heart and I started to cry.

“Oh I’m a lucky to count on both hands the ones I love. Some folks just have one, yeah, others they’ve got none, uh uh…”

We talked today for nearly two hours about the people who fall through the cracks and how they are so easily dismissed and forgotten. I thought about when Kip and I sat in the Dream Center last night watching the boys play basketball. Sitting there I couldn’t help but think about the hate that some people have toward these young men. They’re just kids, I thought. I think about the mom we are helping right now. Sometimes she feels completely alone. I can see it in her eyes.

“Under everything, just another human being, uh uh. Yeah, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed…”

There isn’t a day that passes anymore that I don’t receive a message from someone who is struggling and feeling hurt by others. They talk about being judged and shamed by individuals and organizations. They don’t want that life. And now they feel obligated to prove to me and others how hard they are trying to pull themselves up and to never have to ask for help again.

Yeah, under everything, we’re just people. Rich, poor, black or white. It doesn’t matter. We all struggle and we all need help from time to time. I believe with every fabric of my being that we don’t want to hurt others. But sometimes we do. Sometimes, we hurt people in ways we never realize. We’re better than that.

“Did I say that I need you? Oh, did I say that I want you? Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see. No one knows this more than me.”

I am a fool so very often. I really struggle with admitting that I need others. But I do. Imagine how difficult it must be for someone who feels beaten down and oppressed to reach out. I’m amazed that they ever do.

Stay with me…let’s just breathe.

3

We Are the Same

I’ve got 3 or 4 different blog posts rattling around in my head. It’s been hard for me to organize my thoughts with everything that’s been going on with Resources Unite and with everything in Ferguson, and now New York City. The more I learn, the more I don’t understand. Everyday it seems like I’m reading another article that reinforces that reality that black lives do not matter or that I’m meeting someone who has fallen through the cracks and is in a state of complete despair.

It’s hard for me to comprehend these realities.

But I’m trying. I’m really trying to empathize with what it must be like to be black in America. Would I too feel the hurt and rage that so many others feel right now? And if so, why would I feel that way? What brought me to the point in which I no longer trust or feel compelled to riot and loot?

I also imagine reaching out to Resources Unite requesting basic needs and feeling so completely hopeless. Call after call and Facebook message after Facebook message, one thing is abundantly clear:

There a lot of people in our community that are not getting the help they need and are feeling completely alone, while being judged by so many.

In both scenarios I feel disconnected. I don’t feel part of my community. It’s obvious that the majority doesn’t care. If they only would take a moment to see life through my eyes. I see the endless online comments that judge people like me. You don’t want me here. I get it. There’s so much hate.

Take a moment though. Please. Imagine what it must be like for people who are not like you. What you will find is that the people we all find so easy to judge and condemn are just like you and me.

We are no different. We are the same.

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8

Twelve Mile

twelve mile

I live south of Dubuque off of Twelve Mile Road. The road earned that name due to being located exactly 12 miles south of downtown Dubuque and 12 miles north of Cascade. It’s also the exact distance between two very different realities.

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook news feed erupting about a shooting that took place in downtown Dubuque. Police were once again at a bar called Mad Hatter located on Central Avenue. I had no idea anything had taken place, but again, I live 12 miles from this part of town. I began to wonder what it’s like to live there and how it’s so very different from here.

There’s only one thing that causes members of our family to rush toward the living room window. It starts with a rumbling in the distance. “Hurry up, get over here! Look what’s coming!,” Isaac often exclaims.

It’s all about colors here in Bernard. Before you get to the window, you can assume the disturbance is being created by one of two colors. Red or green. We’re more favorable to green in our house. Grandpa retired from John Deere and says he doesn’t even see other colors. “It’s green or its junk,” he says. Isaac likes both. Tensions flare when the big red Case tractors roll down the road. I can hear some of the neighbors now. “They’re not from here! Probably from some big city. Definitely not from here.”

I wonder about the seven-year old boy who rushes toward the living room window when he hears a disturbance near his home on Central Avenue. What is he expecting to see? What has he already seen? That scares me. It’s the roar of the tractor’s engine that initially warns Isaac of the action that is taking place outside here. It’s gunfire that alerts the boy on Central Avenue that something is happening and that there is more to come.

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(photo taken by KCRG)

The questions start swirling in my head about the little boy from downtown Dubuque.

Who does he assume is responsible for the commotion?
Is he making assumptions based on color as well?
How often has he heard this before?
And at what point does he no longer rush to the window because it has become the norm?

He’s seven years old. He’s paying attention and he’s learning.

The only gunfire Isaac hears is from the distant farmer trying to rid his barn of pesky pigeons. He wouldn’t understand why neighbors would be shooting each other. But somehow we can make sense of it all a mere 12 miles from our home. We can make assumptions as to why the shootings are taking place, who is involved and where they are from. Because as my news feed on Facebook reinforces, “they’re definitely not from here.”

Twelve miles. It might as well be a million.

Seminarians and the WWE

Everyone in the room was strongly encouraged to be there. I’m kind of used to it at this point. I’ve found that it’s often best to not get into detail why I’ve been hired. It’s my job to lay out the ground rules and get the conversation moving. I typically have a short period of time to cover a lot of ground.

The moment I walked in the packed room I could sense that my classroom management skills were going to be put to the test. Everyone had something to say and they were all very much accustomed to being heard. This is a group of individuals that is loved by people from all over the world. I was intimated, to say the least.

A week later I found myself working with a different audience. I was in a very sacred place to them and was mindful of being the outsider. I couldn’t remember ever working with such a close-knit group of people in all of my travels. This was a family. Nearly everyone hugged when greeting one another. They talked about fellowship and mentoring as if it were the norm. I began to question why I was even there.

As I wrapped up the training with the professional wrestlers from the World Wrestling Entertainment, (WWE) I couldn’t help but feel like I was back at Wartburg Theological Seminary just a week ago. As crazy as it sounds, they are so much alike. Part of the mission at the seminary is to “form valued leaders.” I was working with them to help gather input about the type of leadership they were looking for with a new President of the institution. A week later I was flown to Buffalo, New York to deliver a leadership development training to the Superstars of the WWE. During both trainings we explored what it meant to be a leader. The same words came up over and over again. The 7 foot, 400 pound wrestler shared that it was most important for leaders to have integrity and to lead by example. The pastor in the back of the room stood and shared why integrity was so important and how it was imperative that he lead by example in front of his students and fellow peers.

wartburg leadership

Men that get paid to slam folding chairs across the backs of their friends talked passionately about how although we all understand the importance of doing the right thing, it’s not always easy to do. The influence from our peers can be great and can too often prevent us from speaking out and supporting someone in need. The men and women called to serve God were no different. When asked how he acts with integrity, one young pastor replied, “I pray for the strength needed to do the right thing.”

At the end of both of these trainings and at the end of every single other training I have ever provided on this topic, one absolute fact remains. We are all leaders in our own very unique way. Each of us has the integrity needed to accomplish greatness, but sometimes it’s hard to put that integrity to work when it’s needed most. And when it’s hard and feels impossible, we need support from our peers to act; to be the one person that does not hesitate. Encourage others to be amazing and you will undoubtedly follow suit.

So often I talk about what we can prevent, but what if we imagined for a moment what we can realize?

3

The “Meet Seth Gold” Event!

We’re excited to be partnering with Allied Pawn to offer the community the “Meet Seth Gold” event where RU is sponsoring a Volunteer Fair! This event will allow local nonprofit organizations to showcase their volunteer opportunities to everyone in our community looking to get involved with an organization and make a lasting impact.

If you’re part of an organization and are interested in learning how you can be a part of the Volunteer Fair, simply follow these steps:

  1. Contact Kari to reserve a space for your organization. You can e-mail her at kari@resourcesunite.com or call her at (563) 580-9585. There is no cost for the space.
  2. Each organization at the event will have a vote bucket. Each individual who attends the event will receive a ticket that he/she can use to vote for their favorite organization by placing a ticket in their bucket. The organizations with the most tickets will win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes.
  3. You are encouraged to advertise the even via social media, email, phone, etc. Get as many people to the even as possible to increase your chances of winning.
  4. Be creative! There will be many people in attendance that have not heard of your organization and may want to become a volunteer or vote for you. Show them what you’re all about!
  5. Set up begins at 10:30 AM. There will be a tent in case of bad weather. Bring your own table, chairs, etc.

Feel free to download and share the Seth Gold NonProfit Flyer

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3

Resources Unite!

It’s been nearly a year since grandma fell out of her bed in the middle of the night and broke her arm. At 89 years old, that one injury changed her life forever. After her immediate stay in the hospital, she transitioned to the Dubuque Nursing & Rehab Center and stayed there for a few months. Although her arm grew stronger, she struggled in other areas and it was decided that it be best that she no longer live alone. Grandma now lives across the river with my uncle and aunt in the land of beer and cheese.

I met with Nancy from Home Instead Senior Care today. She asked if we could get together to talk about how Resources Unite could help them and the Red Cross work together on serving senior citizens in our community. I never heard of Home Instead Senior Care before. Nancy talked about the work they do and how they help seniors stay in their home. I couldn’t help but think of grandma. Where were they when my grandma needed them before the fall? Why didn’t we know about all of the great care they provide to people struggling with Alzheimer’s and Dementia?

The truth is, they’ve been here for 20 years.

This is why we originally started Resources Unite! We knew people were struggling with reaching the more than 500 service providers in our community. There wasn’t a centralized location online to learn of all the help out there. To date, there are 21 different services for senior citizens in our directory. We know there are probably another 21 missing. (Home Instead was added today)

But the real reason for today’s meeting was to talk about collaboration. Nancy was asking for our help with reaching the Grandma Lou’s of our community, but what she desperately needed was a better, more effective way to communicate with other like minded providers. She knows they can’t do everything for everybody at Home Instead. But she also knows that if organizations were communicating more and sharing resources, people would be experiencing a better way of life. At one point in our meeting, Nancy leaned toward me with excitement in her eyes and imagined aloud a different reality. Her speech raced as she hoped for one day having the opportunity to share the needs of the people she serves in our community with other senior citizen providers. And to maybe…just maybe then create meaningful partnerships with community members and businesses for the purpose of supporting seniors when the traditional “providers” can do no more.

I left that meeting feeling buzzed. Everything was moving a little slower and some things became clearer than ever before about our work. I was seeing the potential we have as a community unfold before my eyes.

We need to think differently. The days of operating in silos are gone. It doesn’t work. We have to let go of the fear that can consume us at times and trust one another. We owe it to ourselves, the people we serve and to the community that we want to realize.

Resources Unite is more than the name of our organization. It’s a call to action.

0

Preaching To The Choir

Every Sunday we entered into church through the west side door. I always liked getting there early so I could make my way to the top of the stairs and watch as the dozen or so select women and men marched up to the choir loft. When mom stopped by the church on the weekends to help clean I would sometimes wander up there and be in awe of the enormous organ and the fantastic view. Everyone revered the choir. Over the years though, the choir got smaller and they eventually started singing from the front of the church. They had lost their impact.

It’s been an interesting month. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. An unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson Missouri. And most recently, Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens physically assaulted his fiancée in an elevator; a brutal assault that was caught on camera for the whole world to witness.

The amount of hate that has surfaced from these tragedies is noteworthy and should serve as a teachable moment for all of us paying attention. Despite numerous eye-witness accounts of what took place when Michael Brown was killed and endless discussions on how the police officer did not use appropriate escalation of force, there are droves of people who continue to believe that Michael deserved to be shot and killed. You need but look on any online forum to find thousands of people weighing in on this crime, defending the shooting, using racially charged slurs and stereotypes. Nearly every conversation gets deleted because it gets out of control with hateful rants.

The commissioner of the National Football League knew Ray Rice knocked his fiancée unconscious. The team and his fellow players knew. For this hateful act, Ray was suspended for two games. It was only until the infamous video surfaced that he received a penalty more deserving of the crime. Listen to what is being talked about though. The focus is on her. People are mystified as to why a woman would support a man after being physically assaulted. “She hit him first,” they wildly exclaim. Remember the tweet sent out right after the assault by the Baltimore Ravens? “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” Really? What role did she actually play in this heinous assault other than being a woman?

Coming from the guy that’s been in the equal rights work for nearly 15 years, don’t kid yourself for one second that we are anywhere near eliminating hate against black people and women in our communities. Michael Brown’s death and Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancée make me seriously question our efforts. We have not done enough of the real heavy lifting.

I ask you to think about the conversations you’ve had about these incidents. Who were you talking to? If you’re like me, you’ve been preaching to the choir. Maybe you’ve had a couple of people challenge your opinions, but for the most part, everyone in the room agrees with you. Those guys in the online forums that have been spewing hate should not be ignored. We should be challenging the racist and sexist jokes that are shared daily. Some will never change, but that only applies for a select few. Many more are actually wrestling with the hate that fills them.

If we want to eliminate the hate in the world, (and that’s a big “if”) we need to be actively recruiting more choir members. Let’s fill the loft and move downstairs not because we are small and unheard, but because the entire church is singing the same tune.

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9

Never Forget

I have an associate degree in criminal justice, a bachelor’s degree in criminology, a master’s degree in social work and a phd in faking the funk. I so often present as a very confident and outgoing person when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is I often get quite anxious in social settings and default to hanging out in the periphery whenever possible.

I hate feeling that way. I absolutely love feeling connected to others and feel like I am my best self when doing so. I just need help getting there; needing permission to let my guard down and be vulnerable.

Lately I’ve felt different though. Isaac and I were at the Holy Cross parade and ran into quite a few people who I haven’t seen in years. Usually when that happens I pretend to be blind and completely oblivious of my surroundings in hopes of avoiding of what I imagine would be an awkward interaction. That wasn’t the case this time though. I initiated contact. We immediately connected and there was no discomfort. It felt natural.

The same thing happened today in every one of my meetings. I didn’t need to warm up. I was already there, ready to give of myself in a very genuine way. I ended one meeting with giving someone a hug…and this guy is NOT a hugger! It felt so good. I was being my true self and so was everyone else around me.

Our community has been shaken to the core. Everyone has been impacted. No one has gone unscathed. We’ve been reminded of how fragile and precious life actually is in the most unforgiving and unimaginable way. And how in a moment, it can all be gone.

I see the countless pictures on Facebook of people from all over the state already wearing the Bobcat Strong shirts. Nearly 10,000 have already been printed. Most couldn’t tell you where Western Dubuque is even located. They don’t care. We’ve been united in this tragedy. Our pain and suffering has brought us closer together.

Bobcat_Strong_Tshirt

 

Donations are pouring into local businesses, scholarships are being created, ribbons are being worn, and every man, woman and child in our community is ready and willing to do anything to ease the pain felt by so many. Nothing else matters.

We’ve been reminded of how great we can be and how we fill our lives with so many distractions and excuses that prevent us from being our best self. If we do anything moving forward, let’s commit to never forgetting.

Never shall we forget the young men that lost their lives. Nor shall we forget the countless others that have forever been changed by that one fateful afternoon. Let us also never forget how we are right now. Remember our willingness to give of ourselves in the most genuine and meaningful way.

They deserve at least that.

9

Pray And Be Present

We were standing in the last pew in church today. Being six and a half feet tall and having two kids under the age of seven automatically qualifies me and my family for seating in the rear. I stood there this morning with a heavy heart, thinking about the four young men that died yesterday in Epworth. And judging by the amount of people around me, I wasn’t alone. The church was packed. Families were standing along the back wall and were crammed into the small space upstairs.

A retired priest was called 30 minutes before the mass to pinch hit. I can only imagine what the last 24 hours must have looked like for Father Schueller. It made sense that he needed help this morning. I think we were all there looking for some help; seeking guidance in this very difficult time. We were told to pray and to be present. I stood there struggling with those instructions. Of course I’m going to pray, I thought. But that didn’t feel like it was enough.

I caught myself looking around for a bit. I wondered what others were thinking and how they felt about what had happened. How were they coping with this tragedy? Then I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. People were standing really close to each other. At first I assumed it was because we had more people in attendance, but after looking around some more, I was wrong. It was if people were holding onto each other. Just as I was making sense of what was going on, we were about ready to give each other the sign of peace. This is always the moment that I quickly scan my surroundings and determine where I’m going to offer my first handshake. It’s a good way to eliminate the possibility of a false start handshake or even worse, offering to shake someone’s hand and have it get denied. I like to try to make a little eye contact with the first person to make sure we are a go and then spread the love from there.

Before I could complete my assessment, the guy standing to my right leaned into me and gave me one of those handshakes that include the other arm holding my elbow. He locked eyes with me and said “peace be with you” in a way that made me believe he really meant it. I shook Isaac’s hand, gave Lila a high-five and then looked up to find a woman in the pew in front of me leaning toward me for a hug. She patted my back while we embraced. During the average sign of peace ceremony, I probably average five handshakes. This morning I hit a PR of 11. (counting the high-five)

sign of peace

People were standing on top of each other not because we had exceeded the fire code, but because we were yearning for connection and support from one another. And it didn’t matter who it came from. At that moment, it made no difference if the guy in the pew next to me was white, black or yellow. He could have been a Bobcat, Blazer or a Mustang. It didn’t matter. He could have been the farmer that just got done doing chores or the retired teacher. None of that was noticed.

Father’s opening remarks came back to me. “Pray and be present.” After 60 years of delivering sermons, it was evident he knew a thing or two about navigating times like these. We need to pray for the families and not just be present for them, but for each other as well. They need our entire community right now.

Together. United.

 

2

Writing This Made Me Cry

What is Resources Unite?

I’m going to try to explain it without worrying about how I write it. I need to share this with you from my heart, completely unfiltered and edited.

Resources Unite is about connections. It’s been three years since the Dubuque School District called my partner, Jon Filitti and asked if we could help with a problem they were struggling with. The district had more than 10,000 students. And on what felt like a daily basis, their guidance counselors struggled with connecting their student body to resources in the community. “Where do I send a kid that needs counseling?” “I’m working with a child in which the gas was turned off in his home last night. Who do I call?” “We’ve got so many kids that need school supplies. Who should I call?” Questions like this poured in…Every. Single. Day.

This is really what started Resources Unite. We met with the school district and were eventually hired to create an online resource directory that the community could access to refer people to community services. Our first tool to connect the community had been created.

Jon had been doing mental health counseling for years in the Dubuque area and I had been working in social services my entire career from Los Angeles to Dubuque. Our individual career paths brought us to one absolute certainty. In order for Jon’s clients to realize their greatest potential or for any of the nonprofit organizations I worked for to realize success, they all depended greatly on the connection they had with other people and whether or not they felt connected or engaged in their community.

Resources Unite set out to create those needed connections. Our focus became volunteerism. Jon created a website (www.resourcesunite.com) and we began showcasing the volunteer opportunities in our community much like any volunteer center that you would find throughout the country. It took us about a week to figure out though that simply listing opportunities for people was merely step one. It was too passive. We knew people wanted to get involved and make a difference, but too often we don’t know where to start. Listing countless options was only going to confuse and overwhelm someone. We asked ourselves why people get involved in first place. What makes that initial connection?

Inspiration. I think back on any time I ever volunteered and more often than not, I did it because someone or something inspired me to action. If Resources Unite was going to successfully connect community members to volunteer opportunities, we knew inspiration needed to be a main ingredient to make it happen. So we went back to the nonprofits and started digging deeper into their missions. We wanted to make sure we were effectively telling their story in a way that would connect people to their important missions.

It’s hard for organizations to tell their story or relay their mission in a way that is the most engaging when every waking hour and resource is spent on the services being delivered. And at the same time, volunteers want to feel like what they are contributing is meaningful and that they play a significant role within the organization they support. They want more than stuffing envelopes and painting fences. Volunteers want to feel connected to the people they are serving!

So to recap, we learned a few things:

  1. People want to make a difference and feel connected to one another and their community.

  2. Organizations struggle with establishing that connection but are in dire need of additional support.

  3. Volunteers want a more meaningful role. They want to tap into their respective talents and strengths.

These were important lessons for us to really soak in and appreciate as a business. If we were going to effectively connect people to volunteer opportunities and resources, a much more active strategy must take place than a static list of opportunities.

To begin, we needed to focus much of our energy on supporting organizations, specifically around how to tell their story in a way that is meaningful and inspiring. Additionally, these stories must be seen and heard. Nonprofits cannot compete in the traditional sense of marketing. They don’t have the money and are too often chastised when they do spend money to advertise their work.

Nonprofits need their own platform to tell their story to help level the playing field and get noticed. This is why the Resources Unite magazine was created. The magazine was not about Resources Unite. The focus was on the nonprofits and individuals in our community that are making a difference. The objective was to raise awareness of organizations and to inspire community members to get involved with very specific opportunities. And it worked. Beautifully.

Connecting people to volunteer opportunities must be a two-way street. We knew that our team needed to spend a significant amount of time meeting with prospective volunteers. A team member takes the time to really get to know that person and what they want to do to make a difference. A volunteer profile is created and we then are able to use that information to effectively link that person to an organization that ideally results in a meaningful experience for both the volunteer and the nonprofit.

We had the online tools created and were effectively creating connections, but it was clear that we were missing the biggest piece of the puzzle. In order for us to be truly effective in strengthening our community by creating connections and to showcase the work that nonprofits do in our community, we needed a place to call home.

Enter Inspire Café. I believe it was fate that brought the Resources Unite team together with Sara Post and Scott and Julia Theisen to realize this dream.

Inspire Cafe will be the volunteer center of our community and so much more. Quite honestly, it will be like something you have never seen before. I guarantee it. Nonprofits will have a place to showcase their work. Community members will know that this is the place to learn about how to get involved. But what really will be happening inside of Inspire Café is so much bigger than all of that. This will be the place for people to connect and establish personal and professional relationships. There’s not a man, woman or child that has never felt alone or disconnected at one point in their life. Inspire Café will be the place for that person to go and feel connected once again.

It’s going to be a safe place where people will no longer feel the need to hide behind their phones, pretend to be busy or avoid eye contact. Everyone will be welcome and no one will be turned away. People will come to work there knowing that it is the creative center of our community. You will want to share your ideas openly and you will find that support for your dreams will be met with open arms.

Community engagement will soar. And why? It won’t be because we’ve done a good job showcasing volunteer opportunities or because we’ve inspired you to take action. No, that will just be a piece of it. You will get engaged because you will feel a sense of connection to your fellow community member that you may have never felt before. You won’t need to be asked. You will offer.

And here’s the real beauty of it all: once you start, you won’t want to stop. Just ask Kevin Greene and so many other volunteers in our community. Ask Kevin why he gives so much.

He’ll tell you that he loves giving back and helping others, but he’ll talk more about how it makes him feel working with other people, creating friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime.

Because in the very end, isn’t that what life is all about? Doesn’t it all come down to just two very simple things?

  1. We want to know we made a difference.

  2. We want a life filled with meaningful relationships.

The final lesson we’ve learned as an organization is that the greatest resource in our community is not a specific business or organization. The greatest resource is the individual community member. We’re seeing it already. From the support of individuals, problems that seemed liked mountains to some, have been overcome by the support of people like you and me. Families have been fed, electricity has been turned back on, and ramps have been built.

If we want a strong community, we’ve got to make every effort to make every person feel like they have something to bring to the table. Everyone has value. Now imagine if each person in our community was connected…or united. Nothing would stand in our way. Social issues that we see now as impossible to overcome would no longer exist.

I’m wiping away the tears from my eyes now.

This is Resources Unite.

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Tell Me A Story

As a leader within your non-profit organization, a big part of your job is to move people to act. I would argue that it is your most important job.

In one way or the other, you are always trying to engage individuals, groups and businesses. Maybe this week your focus is on your upcoming fundraiser. Next week could be the volunteers you need. And the week after that you are recruiting new board members.

Gone are the days that you engage and inspire people through Powerpoint slides, graphs, and glossy brochures. By and large, these methods do not work. Truth be told, they never really did. We got lazy. No, if we truly want to engage people, we need to look backward for the most effective strategy when it comes to inspiring the masses.

We need to be masters of storytelling. Stories are what gets inside of us and makes a lasting impression. Skewed statistics are forgotten almost immediately. A recent article in Forbes titled “How To Tell A Good Story,” referenced a Stanford research study that showed statistics alone have a retention rate of 5-10%, but when coupled with anecdotes, the retention rate rises to 65-70%.

Listening to you tell the story of the woman or child that was forever changed because of your work stays with people forever. Looking into your eyes as you share this personal story creates an instant connection. The passion you have grabs a hold of your audience and refuses to let go.

With so many organizations competing for the same donors, volunteers, and board members, a good story will set you apart from the rest. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to how others are effectively engaging you. What drew you in?

For me, it’s the person or organization that allowed themselves to be vulnerable. They were genuine, spoke from the heart, and didn’t pretend to have all the answers. The passion they had for their work was evident and they weren’t shy about showing it to the world. They painted a vivid picture of their work.

The stories you tell must permeate everything you do. You simply can’t afford to only tell your organization’s story in person. Your stories must be shared by others and most definitely needs to be found in your marketing. Facebook is a good example of this. Do me a favor. Write a status update 2-3 sentences long. No pictures. No video. Write about your mission or even a specific service you provide. Now wait two or three hours and tell a story about your mission or of a service you provide. Include a photo or a video. Write 2-3 sentences about how your agency made a significant difference in someone’s life. Share the person’s feeling. Maybe even mention how that experience made you feel.

Compare the two posts later on how many people viewed it, liked it, and maybe if you’re lucky, shared it.

There is no comparison. It won’t even be close. People will swarm to the second post. We want to hear your story and get inspired. And when you do that, you’ve got us.

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The Not-So Mighty Mississippi

When traveling to a new destination, I like doing some reconnaissance of the area to get a feel for the community. Kevin was at the wheel and I was riding shotgun with my iPhone in hand, reading up on all things Mississippi. I had never really spent any significant time in “The Magnolia State” and was eager to learn something new. There was a reason we were bringing the Bird Chevrolet truck filled with clothes and household items to Morton, Mississippi. We knew people were in need. But we had no idea until we saw it for our own eyes.

I’ve traveled interstate 55 a hundred times to Springfield, Illinois for various meetings. For the most part, everything looks like back home until you get south of St. Louis. The corn fields start to disappear and other crops begin to appear. The sun feels stronger and the air is so much heavier. Once we made the bend around Memphis and crossed the state line into Mississippi, the change in scenery was jarring.

My recon informed me that Mississippi was the poorest state in the country. High school graduation rates were just over 60% and the average yearly income for someone in Morton is less than $16,000. The population has changed dramatically in just the past few years. A significant increase of immigrants from Central America have been relocating to the community, taking jobs at the COUNTLES food processing plants. (Tyson, Koch Foods, Williamson Poultry, to name just a few we noticed)

I’ve never seen so many mobile homes. The ground was barren. Yards became parking spaces for cars. More often than not, 10-15 people occupied one home.

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You got the feeling that it wasn’t just the people who were struggling. It felt like everything in the state was feeling the weight of the poverty all around them. I wondered how anyone could keep their head up. It reminded me of when I lived and worked in East Los Angeles. The community was impoverished and the kids we were serving knew only what they saw in front of them. And what they saw was a struggle that most people can’t imagine. I remember always thinking about how amazing it would be for these young men and women to escape their reality for just a weekend and visit Farley, Iowa. I wanted them to see and know that life isn’t this hard everywhere….I so badly wanted to bring them home.

Our community had been so very generous to the residents of Morton, Mississippi. Nearly a hundred garbage bags were filled with clothes. Boxes were filled with books and household items. An impact was sure to be made. No question.

It wasn’t enough though. Not nearly. How were free clothes and household knickknacks going to help these people, I wondered. I asked our contact person this very question. To be clear, I wasn’t questioning the effort. The donations were needed. We could have driven a semi full of clothes into Morton and not properly met the need.

The employees and volunteers of the Excel Community Center knew this too. This is why they spend every waking hour not on collecting clothes, but on education and community building. They know how critical it is for each child to receive a quality education and how armed with a high school diploma, they can rise above their surroundings and realize success and independence.

I think they also need to know they are not alone in their struggle and that people are out there that support them; people they don’t even know or may never see again. Don’t we all want that for ourselves?

I know I do.

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Thank you, Dana

This video was on our Facebook page (Resources Unite) for about an hour last week before something really incredible happened. The Red Cross, DHS, and my good friend Anderson had reached out to me telling the same story. This family needed help.

After the video got a handful of likes and a couple of comments, Dana Fessler sent me a private message. She wanted to make a donation to this family that would take care of the entire need. She shared that she had been in a similar situation in the past. Her house had flooded and community members stepped up and helped her through a very difficult time in her life. Dana wanted to return the favor.

I had the opportunity to meet with Dana last night in person. I wanted to thank her. She had already met with the family and gave them her donation. I was hoping to record a minute or two of Dana on my camera talking about why she did such an amazingly generous deed. She declined. She didn’t think it was necessary. “I like to help when I can. Sometimes I can’t, but when I can, I do.”

Our Facebook page has a relatively small fan base. We are just over 1,400. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t imagine our Facebook page being followed up every person in our community. Can you imagine that? Imagine 60,000 people paying attention. Dana changed the lives of an entire family in less than an hour. Imagine what we could accomplish with everyone connected.

Needs would be met in seconds. People like Dana would feel proud knowing that they made a difference; knowing that her one deed changed the course of someone’s life. When first meeting with Racquel she shared, “We just need help right now. Please help us get back on our feet so we can help someone else.”

Please ask your friends to like Resources Unite’s page right now. I believe we can do something amazing together. United.

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Don’t Forget About Me

I woke up this morning to the alarm of my iPhone next to my head. (never too far to get a quick Facebook scroll in) I was a little chilled. The ceiling fan was on high and I could tell the central air must have been running all night. I limped into the bathroom with a full stomach from the night before at the Olive Garden. I overdid it. Again. A few minutes later I was at the kitchen table, eating my Special K, reading an article on ESPN.com on my phone about Lebron James’ next big decision. I remember being irritated that we were out of orange juice.

I had an early morning meeting at Jitterz and had my favorite ice blended mocha. I thought about adding a muffin, but declined. I remembered the lunch meeting I had scheduled to present about what we do at Resources Unite. Lunches like that usually have a pretty good spread. I could wait. My last meeting ended before my presentation and I dashed out to the van hoping I dodged a parking ticket. Win! I probably got away with 30 minutes of free parking. The day was looking up!

The conference room table on the third floor of the Historic Federal Building was full of food. They had catered sandwiches from Arby’s and 3 different bags of Sun Chips with a fruit platter from Hy-Vee for the lunch meeting. I got in line and filled my plate. I didn’t know anyone in the room so I sat down, started to eat, and listened.

I thought I was presenting to the housing department. It turned out that it was them and their housing advisory council. (people who lived in housing)

Tonya sat to my right. She shared that she’s been taking classes at NICC in Peosta but no longer has transportation to get to classes. She’s in the child development program. She talked about her struggle with trying to get ahead but too often falling farther behind. “There’s no busses that run to Peosta. What am I supposed to do, take a cab??” She wanted an answer from me. I didn’t have it. Someone suggested that she ask a friend or family member. “I’ve been living in Dubuque for 4 or 5 years and all I know is my neighbor and a few people from church.” She didn’t have their phone numbers and it didn’t matter because sometimes her phone was shut off anyway due to not being able to pay the bill.

Tracie was directly across from me and was talking about not being able to get a good job that covered the bills and how so many jobs that she can get want her to work 3rd shift or on Sundays. Her car broke down and no busses run at that time. “I have gone to every single place in town to get help. I am so sick and tired of telling my story over and over again, being turned down, and judged. I am working full-time. I’m doing my best, Josh. I really am.”

I thought about meeting Kim yesterday. She was sitting next to her car in the shade. They just turned her electricity off because she couldn’t pay the bills and was praying that she could find the gas money to get back home to Texas. It was cooler sitting outside than it was in her stuffy apartment. She could tolerate the gnats better than me. She sobbed as we gave her the gas card donated by the community. “I didn’t think anybody cared. I just wanted to give up.”

They were beating me over the head with the reminder of my privileged lifestyle. It was hard to hear much more. I could feel my iPhone vibrating in my pocket. It was probably one of my 1,200 friends on Facebook sending me a request to play Candy Crush. I wanted to disappear.

It’s so easy to forget. We don’t even think about them. Most times they don’t even exist. But they do. And the moment that Kim’s story was shared yesterday, the community responded with urgency to help.

I think we responded to help her and ourselves.

These stories need to be told; told for you, me, Tonya, Tracie, and Kim. This is how we grow as individuals and as a community.

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Moses called this morning

Moses called me this morning from Nairobi, Africa. He’s working tirelessly to support women and girls in his community. His primary focus right now is to ensure all women have access to sanitary napkins. He’ll take the monetary donations and even the donated napkins, but his real interest has to do with sustainability. He wants help securing 6 sewing machines so they can produce the sanitary napkins in the community and create employment. You know the life lesson:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”

He’s calling me because he needs 6 sewing machines? We can do that. Can’t we? I told him that we can help without giving any thought of how it will actually be done. I just believe it. There’s 60,000 people in our community and from my experience, most of those individuals want to help others and get involved. It’s simply about connecting the need with the right person and finding out how they can contribute in their own unique way.

Resources Unite strengthens communities by creating connections. We help connect people to opportunities and resources that lead to a happier and more engaged way of life. That’s our mission statement, but what does that really mean?

I’ve worked in organizations that focus on strengthening communities throughout my entire career. Whether I was working at Riverview Center supporting survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, working at the Florence Crittenton Center in Los Angeles counseling at risk youth, or volunteering my time supporting the homeless of Skid Row, one factor remained constant when trying to measure the success of our mission. It ALWAYS came back to community engagement. The better we connected our work with the community and provided opportunities for them to get engaged, the most successful we were with preventing violence, mentoring, and securing sustainable housing.

You cannot strengthen a community without the community being involved. It’s impossible. And the beauty of a completely engaged community is not just about the betterment of the community. It’s also about the betterment of the individual. I think you really do realize a happier life knowing that you are helping others and contributing to the greater good.

Back to Moses. He sees our community in Dubuque Iowa as one that is connected; a community that potentially could secure 6 sewing machines. He wants the same for Nairobi. I don’t think we’ve realized our fullest potential. Not even close. I’m sitting here at One Mean Bean, writing this post, listening to the conversations going on around me. The table to the right of me is talking about the gospel. (sounds like a Bible study group) The guy across from me is on his laptop, wearing headphones, surfing the internet. Three young women just walked in from Loras College.

I don’t know any of them. I don’t even know the guy behind the counter. But I bet each of them would support Moses in some way. Maybe the Bible study group would go back to their church and make as ask to their congregation. I bet the young women from Loras could find 10 more friends that would all kick in 5 bucks to buy a sewing machine. Who knows? Maybe the guy on his laptop would be willing to share the need to his social network.

I dream about connecting our community. I really do. I dream about creating a network that allows people to get involved in the most meaningful ways and for individuals and organizations to have their needs met overnight. I believe we have that potential. I think anything can be realized….at the very least, 6 sewing machines.

Clare Cares
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Clare Cares

What I learned recently from an 8 year old has forever changed the way I think about the work of non profits. Before I get into that though, let’s back up a dozen years. I spent so much time in Los Angeles trying to figure out the best way to implement different violence prevention programs to a city of nearly 4 million people. My job description as a domestic violence counselor with the Los Angeles Police Department didn’t include prevention efforts, but going into people’s homes day in and day out, creating crisis plans for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, practically forced my brain to start thinking of ways to stop that endless cycle.

Then I moved back home to Dubuque and worked for Riverview Center for 8 years. At the end of the day, I was the guy who signed off on any and all violence prevention efforts. During any one of my presentations I would share that the violence prevention program reached more than 44,000 students in one year. I was proud of that number. A team of educators throughout the tri-state area worked tirelessly to get into every school, business, and civic group in the hopes of branding the message of prevention. At the end of every year though, it was often difficult to measure success and to identify a lasting mark with any given audience.

It turns out that through all those great accomplishments, one critical ingredient was missing. Looking back, it seems so obvious. We were trying to own the work of violence prevention. Our vision of creating a community free of violence would most certainly never be realized by 25 employees and a few dozen volunteers. It was going to take the entire community.

When Clare approached Resources Unite with her vision of ending bullying at Hoover Elementary School it was tipping point for me when it comes to understanding how real social change is realized. I mean, who better to advocate for the end of bullying than a student that has seen and experienced it firsthand? It was evident after our first meeting with this 8 year old powerhouse that people were going to pay attention like never before bullying and harassment.

We’ve been helping Clare with her story, but it’s been her leading the way. It’s her passion. She knows what her school needs. And to be more accurate, she now knows what 23 schools need. That’s right. As of today, 23 Buddy Benches will be installed in elementary schools throughout the tri-state area. (and that list is growing every single day) People are coming out of the woodwork to sponsor a Buddy Bench. News of Clare’s success has made national headlines. In our last Clare Cares meeting, she mentioned that she would love to share her vision with Ellen. (yeah, that Ellen) She better get her dancing shoes ready because she’s probably going to get there.

I’m a hell of a storyteller. I know that to be true. When I get passionate about something, it’s hard for anyone to keep it contained. But what I’ve learned from Clare is that sometimes I’m not the right guy telling the story.

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“Care and Play With Me” Program: February Update

Jon here with another guest post from Jaclyn from the Care and Play with Me Program. To read previous posts by Jaclyn, please go here, here, here, here, here and here.

“Hello Everyone!

Care and Play with Me is still going strong! Recently we began having field trips to the YMCA/YWCA for Swim and Gym days! We also had a dental hygienist visit and tell us all about how to keep our teeth healthy!

This month’s theme is learning about life cycles. We have a lot of fun activities and art projects planned to learn about life cycles together. We can use a sheet to make a cocoon and then emerge beautiful butterflies in dramatic play. We can make a home for bugs at our lego table! We can explore life cycles with our life cycle puzzles of frogs, bears, chickens, and ladybugs. We can make beautiful and colorful butterflies out of coffee filters, watercolor paints, and pipe cleaners!

We’ve also been having a lot of fun learning new songs during circle time and large movement time! Our list of songs is growing each month and our caregivers love to dance while they sing with us! It’s always exciting to see a new face and have regularly returning caregivers help teach them the songs and movements!

It’s so interesting to learn where our various caregivers have heard about our program, some from this blog, some from my visits to the Library or WIC office, and some from the local grocery store! It’s heartening to be welcomed by the community and to have our program information so widely shared even though our program is still young!

Thank you for reading! Please come down and join us, we still have room for lots of Caregivers and their children! We also are in need of volunteers for the program!

For more information or to RSVP call the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA 563-556-3371 and ask for Jaclyn Sharp.

Our program meets Mondays and Wednesdays 9-11am at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ at 1795 Jackson St. and Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11am at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2025 Jackson St. The program runs through the entire school year and is open to all Caregivers and their children, infants and up.

Our program is FREE, you do not need to register and you do not need to be a Y member to attend. Please join us!

Thank you!

Best Regards,

Jaclyn Sharp

What I Learned in Las Vegas

I arrived in Las Vegas this past Thursday night and was excited to step outside of the airport and feel the warm air. It was 55 degrees. I stood outside, leaning on my luggage, remembering how good it felt to have the warm sun on my face again. I made my way to the taxi line knowing that I didn’t have a specific destination. I knew I wanted to stay downtown, close to everything that Tony Hsieh was developing.

I found a room at the El Cortez, the second oldest hotel in Las Vegas. It is located smack dab in the middle of the downtown Las Vegas Project. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has committed $350 million dollars to redeveloping that area. He and a group of passionate people are committed to helping transform Downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world. They are doing that by inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions to create a vibrant, connected urban core. (www.downtownproject.com)

I knew my impulse purchase of a plane ticket just a day before I left Iowa was the right decision the moment I got out of the cab and walked into Container Park. I mean, look at this place:

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That’s a 40 foot long Preying Mantis standing at the entrance shooting fire into the sky. A drum circle was banging out different beats and children and adults were taking turns on the drums and dancing the night I arrived. Inside of Container Park were 40+ repurposed shipping containers turned into small businesses. Boutiques, restaurants, toy stores, art galleries, and more could be found inside, all supported by Tony’s investment of helping people with a passion and a vision start their own business. This same area became the starting and finishing line for the 5K that I ran Saturday morning. (Las Vegas Strip Poker 5K) Runners dressed in layers for the run, only to strip them away down to their shorts and t-shirt to benefit the homeless population. The run was organized by an organization called the Downtown Runners, a business with the mission of creating a running community in downtown….funded by Tony Hsieh.

Next to the Container Park was an area called the Learning Village. This is where I spent each night. Catalyst Week started on Thursday and ran through Sunday. This is an event hosted by CatalystCreativ, an organization that focuses on creating unique and meaningful experiences for their community, asking speakers to present on their passions and efforts to change the world. (very much like a TED talk) Every night I left the Learning Village feeling more inspired, gaining just a little more clarity around Resources Unite and where we wanted to take our vision.

An announcement was made after the last speaker Thursday night that a group run would take place on Friday morning at 7am and led by one of the upcoming speakers. Awesome! I knew I was in trouble the moment I met everyone in the lobby for the run the next morning. There was about 10 of us, half of which were already doing sprints up and down the street to warm up. It turned out the woman leading the run is a ulramarathoner, as was 5 other members of the group. At one point in the run, I was running next to Rich Roll. Think you’re hard-core? Google this guy. In 2009, he was considered one of the 25 fittest men on the planet. He humbly shared during the run that he has run an event that consists of 5 Iron Mans in 5 days. He spoke that night and inspired the hell out of me. He’s got an incredible story. Definitely check it out.

In between touring co-working spaces, start-up businesses, listening to amazing people talk about their passions, and meeting countless others, I found myself madly scribbling notes on anything I could get a hold of. I was rereading Tony’s book “Delivering Happiness,” so tempted to scribble in there as well, but it was a loaner. By the time I got home Sunday I had a bag full of napkins, note paper from the hotel room, and a copy of the Sky Mall magazine from the airplane….all of which had something scribbled on it that connected back to Resources Unite’s mission of connecting a community. Like this game changer:

RU Diagram updated Carlos

 

At Resources Unite we’ve been talking for years about the transformative power of connection and how if a community created meaningful relationships with one another and were fully engaged, amazing things would be realized. I saw it happening on the largest of stages in Las Vegas. You want to know what’s most important that is happening in that diagram? It’s reinforcing our belief. Our belief that everyone was to get involved; everyone wants to change the world. They just need to be asked or supported. The next thing you know, one person is helping another, and another person is helping another, and so on and so on. Organizations are becoming stronger, people are feeling engaged, and a community is strengthening. All though connection.

Looking back at the weekend, I also learned a few important lessons:

  1. There are incredibly passionate, inspiring people all over the world, not just in our backyard. Take the time to meet them. In doing so, you may have some of their passion rub off on you.

  2. Surround yourself with positive people. Everyone I talked to over the weekend was so welcoming and genuinely interested in what everyone had to say. I felt comfortable and safe enough to be vulnerable and share my dreams and passions without fearing being judged. I thought about the people who have taken their shots at me over the years. (we’ve all been there) I realized I was giving those individuals too much energy; too much attention. Surround yourself with positive people and together, you can create something amazing.

  3. Follow your passion. Every single speaker talked at one point about making the leap. They knew instinctively what they should be doing, what they cared most about, what fueled their passion, and finally leapt. Most didn’t have a concrete plan and didn’t know what would be next, but EVERY SINGLE one of them followed their passion and are now incredibly successful, and most importantly, sincerely happy.

 

 

 

“Care and Play With Me” Program Update

Jon here with another guest post from Jaclyn from the Care and Play with Me Program. To read previous posts by Jaclyn, please go here, here, here, here and here.

Hello Everyone!

Care and Play with Me has been open since October and we are steadily growing! Recently (in November) we were featured on the front page of the Telegraph Herald and we received some new families who learned about us from that article! This month’s theme is “We Live Healthy!” and we’re learning all about healthy choices we can make every day. We can eat healthy foods, do some fun physical activities, and take care of our bodies! We’ve been visited by the Visiting Nurse Association of Dubuque to do a “Color Me Healthy” workshop which was a lot of fun. We got to learn about different types of foods we can choose and what colors they are, we also learned about fun and healthy activities we can do. All while listening to cool music, dancing, and coloring! Being healthy can mean many things. It is an awesome opportunity to join a program for 2 hours a day where you can do fun activities, meet new people, experience socialization, and eat a snack!

Every time a new family joins us, there is an impact. Wether it’s the use of simple sign language, learning songs with Grandpa, dancing with Mom, or getting excited to hear a story at circle time, everyone can learn and grow each day! We want to connect to our community and to learn and grow together.

Thank you for reading! Please come down and join us, we still have room for lots of Caregivers and their children! We also are in need of volunteers for the program!
For more information or to RSVP call the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA 563-556-3371 and ask for Jaclyn Sharp.

(Our program meets Mondays and Wednesdays 9-11am at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ at 1795 Jackson St. and Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11am at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2025 Jackson St. The program runs through the entire school year and is open to all Caregivers and their children, infants and up. Our program is FREE, you do not need to register and you do not need to be a Y member to attend. Please join us!)

The Importance of Uniting Community

Jon here, guest blog take over coming through. Please let me introduce you to Laurie Bushman who would like to share her family’s experience with our readers. We can all learn something from Laurie’s experience.

I was a college freshman when my oldest son was born. Our second son was born three years later. Over the next few years, my husband and I married, experienced a deployment, and had our daughter. But, it wasn’t until my oldest turned ten that we finally laid eyes on him and his brother. Our family wasn’t born from lack of planning though it may appear that way. If you look deeper, you will see five individuals’ stories interwoven through necessity and desire. The boys were struggling to survive and we were searching for a new addition to our family. When we added our boys to the family, we knew it would be an achievable, yet taxing, transition. Sign the papers, remember advice from the classes, and make new beginnings. Little did we realize the battle we were about to face.

We started out hiding all of our struggles to remain a seemingly “normal” family. One incident a few years in blew our cover, and we quickly realized it was better for everyone if we lived transparently. I had tried to cobble together a support system that, as it turned out, was painfully disjointed. We could subsist, but the pressure built until we were nearly suffocating under a blanket of stress. Those in our inner circle could sense the verge of a crisis and tried to help.

Sadly, many people had no resources beyond what I could muster. During this time, I also discovered an unwritten sense of shame often goes along with exhausting that last resource. My white flag went up, and soon, the reality of isolation came crashing down. I was often met with apologies or transferred to someone who had no offerings. I’ve made the struggle of locating help and resources for my children a second full-time job. It’s exhausting and often feels futile. I just ask that those who know our family support us. It gives us hope.

Many families are struggling and don’t know how to coordinate resources, not to mention find the hidden ones. Those supports may only come to the forefront when a crisis is looming, as we saw in our case. And, if it’s uncomfortable to ask, don’t count on people offering. Others may assume with no malice intended that someone else has stepped up. We need advocacy and coordination to help those who may not have the strength to take on the search.

Anyone struggling with an issue, whether health, social, or economic, needs a handbook with all the local agencies, contacts, and services to navigate their situation and feel empowered. Then the follow-up becomes the next step. Dubuque is teeming with people and organizations willing to help. Yet, individuals or families who need extra emotional and social supports are slipping through the cracks until an emergency arises. Let’s not allow this anymore.

What’s the best way to spread services far and wide? Communicate. Talk to your friend that is having a hard time parenting. Check in with your neighbor with the unique perspective. If you need help, ask. Not once or twice—as many times as it takes to get results. Mentor. Donate. Volunteer. Reach out. See where you can step in. You don’t have to offer a formal service. Provide time or emotional support. Think outside the box. Unusual ideas are often the best. Some of the “little” things people have done for our family during difficult times have left the most impact. From our son’s former teacher who supports him unconditionally (five years so far!) to the police officers who provide job shadowing, to people who keep in contact with me just because –these are unique supports worth their weight in gold. None of these are in a handbook or distributed by an agency. They’re homegrown and honest.

We, as a community, possess endless ways to offer assistance for families, organizations, and individuals who need it most. Often, people have impressive strengths begging to be uncovered. Celebrate those individuals. Resources are all around us and it’s up to us as a community to unite them.

“Care and Play With Me” Program: First Month!

Jon here with another guest post from Jaclyn from the Care and Play with Me Program. To read previous posts by Jaclyn, please go here, here, here and here.

Our program has been open for a little over a month now! We’ve met lots of new families both in community outreach events (you may have seen up at the Dubuque Kid’s Expo, the Library, or at the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA Halloween Parade) and during our program hours. The out pouring of support from the community has been wonderful to experience and everyone that learns about our program seems thrilled we’re here in their community.

Each month the program is opened there is a theme that goes along with the lesson plan for that month of sessions. Month two’s theme is “We are Part of a Community”. So this month we are learning about our community: Who’s in it? What is it? How do we fit into our community? How can we help our community?

Our themes range from learning about community helpers (firefighters, police officers, doctors, construction workers, farmers, veterinarians, dentists, paramedics, mail carriers, etc.) to learning about different types of housing (trailers, mobile homes, houses, apartments, condos, etc.) and learning about recycling to help our community.

I believe that the concept of ‘community’ is a very important one, and certainly a concept that children need to be a part of. What our community is and who we are in that community can help define us and give us purpose. Our Y value that goes along with the community theme is Respect. We respect those in our community, we respect our community and what it stands for, we respect the differences we see and are sensitive to the feelings of others, and we respect our community by helping our community (like through recycling).

I believe that Month Two’s theme “We are Part of a Community” has the power to create an impact, fostering a movement for the support and potential betterment of our community. I believe that this program goes beyond even that, I believe that this program has the power to impact not just our community but every community which is hosting a program like this. It’s important to support our Youth and their Caregivers. Likewise, it’s important to support our community. Together, partnering with the Community of Dubuque and the Caregivers, I believe we can make a lasting impact, a change for the better.

Thank you for reading! Please come down and join us, we still have room for lots of Caregivers and their children! We also are in need of volunteers for the program! For more information or to RSVP call the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA 563-556-3371 and ask for Jaclyn Sharp.

(Our program meets Mondays and Wednesdays 9-11am at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ at 1795 Jackson St. and Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11am at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2025 Jackson St. The program runs through the entire school year and is open to all Caregivers and their children, infants and up. Please join us!)

A License to Move Mountains

Vicky started an online discussion yesterday about witnessing a homeless man in our community, looking cold and alone. In less than 24 hours and with more than 200 comments, an initiative was born. Blessing bags are being assembled as I write this and will be distributed to any person in need. The bags are filled with words of encouragement, food, toiletries, and other necessities.

No one started the paperwork to file to the IRS for non profit status, created a board of directors or initiated a fundraising campaign. Instead, Vicky, Jeff, and a bunch of other concerned citizens organized and went to work.

Later today, a different dedicated group of community members met to discuss the creation of a more inclusive community, specifically supporting the LGBT community. Ideas flowed from the room. When asked who else should be at the table, name after name was announced. In one short and inspiring hour, a movement was underway; a movement driven by passion. It was infectious. I have no doubt that they will be successful with Michelle, Ellen, Nic, and many others leading the way.

In between my last couple of meetings, Kip called. We brainstormed about how he can make an even bigger impact with this year’s FXB Christmas gift drive. We didn’t talk about formalizing the process, but rather, we talked about identifying more partners; people like him that want nothing more than to give back to the community and to feel like they are making a difference…something we all want.

I just got an email from Matt, thanking me for the meeting today. The folks at Stonehill have made volunteering a priority within their organization. They know the stats: People live 7 years longer when actively volunteering in their community. They are hoping to match 500-1,000 people to specific community needs. They are ready to deploy an army of change agents.

So as I’m spending my every waking hour thinking about how RU can support community engagement and inspire volunteerism, today I learned that sometimes the most effective thing you can do is get out of the way. We need to make it easy for people to make a difference.

Maybe it’s as simple as giving people permission to change the world, because I tell you what, we’ve got a community filled with people ready to move mountains.

Breaking the Silence

Moto, moto, gotta a lot of motivation. Dedi, dedi, gotta a lot of dedication. Motivated. Dedicated. To the Corps. Your Corps. My Corps. Marine Corps!”

I think we sang that cadence in nearly every run, hike or walk while I was in the Marine Corps. The cadence goes on to talk about our love for being a United States Marine. We could be 25 miles into a hike across the Mojave Desert in the scorching sun, carrying our increasingly heavy machine guns, on our last canteen of water, and each of us would still muster up the energy to scream out that cadence. I vividly remember those moments; the moments when I felt the passion for being a Marine pour out of me. I would have laid my life on the line for my fellow brothers and they would have done the same for me, without question.

Passion and dedication are powerful things. I’d argue that those two things can change the world. Ben Minnis tapped into these characteristics recently, and it won him 100 free t shirts. (and much more) Last week Envision Tees ran a promotion for all non profits in our community. It was simple, but par for the course for Tom Rauen, it was also genius. He asked non profits to tag themselves on Envision Tee’s Facebook page and the winner would be determined by how many likes their respective tags received. 43 organizations participated and 791 votes were casted for this contest. Breaking the Silence, the organization that Ben started at Loras College won with an astonishing 270 votes!

Ben stated this organization with the purpose of supporting individuals that struggle with mental illness. I started noticing his work this past year on Facebook with his empowering “what do you live for” campaign.

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The campaign took off like wildfire. People were talking about the depression and anxiety they felt with people they didn’t even know. Breaking the Silence is effectively erasing the stigma that has existed with mental illness for decades. The dedication and passion Ben has for his organization is inspiring. He had me engaged in our first meeting together. I was ready to get involved and support his efforts.

When Tom announced his contest to all local non profits, Ben didn’t send a newsletter out to his volunteers, donors or constituents. Nor did he encourage all of his employees to vote for his organization. He simply asked his closest friends to “like” what he cared most about. And did they ever. But they didn’t do it because they are friends with Ben. No, I’d argue they voted in groves for Ben and Breaking the Silence because they know he lives and breathes his mission. If given the opportunity, he would meet with one person or a 100 people to share his vision, every hour of every day. Ben would spend every waking hour empowering individuals with mental illness and their allies.

We all want to be inspired and feel like we are part of something that is making a difference. Ben did that for 270 people on Facebook and undoubtedly thousands more.

Superheroes

Isaac could hardly wait to get home tonight to dig out his Optimus Prime costume and run over to the neighbor’s house to get some candy. Optimus is one of his heroes. He’s an Autobot that protects the human race from the likes of Devastator and his fellow Decepticons. When wearing his costume, Isaac feels strong and invinceable. He runs around the house, saving the day for his sister Lila.

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It’s no coincidence that the Resources Unite t shirts you’re starting to see around town have a superhero feel to them. We are committed to giving a RU shirt to every person we meet that is making a difference in our community. They are regular people like you and me, but at some point in their day or week, they take on another persona. They transform into mentors, hotline advocates, and all other forms of volunteers. These individuals are our modern day superheroes. Every day they are changing the way we change the world.

It’s Halloween tonight and I’m hoping see a bunch of little ones at our doorstep, dressed in what they want to be when they grow up. When I toss a few pieces of candy in their buckets I should tell them to keep their eye out for the real heroes in town donning the orange shirts, supporting organizations and individuals in our community every day; changing the lives of so many.

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Sign Up to Volunteer with the Circles Initiative!

Community Meal

Hello there, Jon here once again. I’m going to turn our blog over to Zachary Shay for a guest blog post. Zachary is working as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Circles Initiative as a VISTA Member. He’s writing to the RU community to describe upcoming volunteer opportunities and to spread the word on the good work Circles provides our community. Please give Zachary a call if you’re interested in finding out more about their program and any volunteer opportunities. Here’s Zachary…

The Dubuque Circles Initiative is a grassroots organization, modeled on the national Circles model, which uses community and relationship building to help people in our community out of poverty. Members of our community who have been living in generational poverty will go through an 18 week course called Getting Ahead, which examines how poverty impacts their everyday lives and exposes the hidden rules of the middle class.

Once they have graduated this class, they join the Circles Initiative which matches the community members making the transition out of poverty (now called Circle Leaders) with volunteer allies to create a circle of support. Together they work to set and achieve goals and build relationships to help the Circle Leaders make their way out of poverty.

The Circles Initiative is fairly new to Dubuque, we launched Circles here only 3 years ago, and we are in need of some new volunteers to help grow our organization! If you are interested in helping people in your community transition out of poverty, we have plenty of opportunities for you to donate your time to make an impact in the community!

There are 11 new potential Circle Leaders who will be graduating the Getting Ahead class in December. The Circles Initiative likes to match each Circle leader with between 2 and 4 allies depending on which allies will be able to help a circle leaders most. For example if a Circle leader is looking to be a home owner we would match them with one of our allies who has a network in the real estate business. Or if there is someone who is looking for a job as a Certified Nursing Assistant we would match them with members of the community who are connected in the health care field.

We are looking for skilled volunteers, even if you don’t know how your expertise could help someone in poverty, please come and check us out! We have a place for you! We need 25 to 35 new allies to match with this new class of Getting Ahead Graduates by January 2014!

Another great opportunity to volunteer with the Circles Initiative is with the Guiding Coalition. Since we are a grassroots organization, the volunteers have a large role to play in creating Circles and helping it function and grow. Much of the logistics of Circles is done by our volunteers in the Guiding Coalition. It is made up of 5 teams, each one with a specific goal.

One team, the Recruitment and Retention team, will go out into the community and do outreach and tell the community about Circles and bring in new volunteers. The second team, the Resource team, manages some of the financial resources that we have as well as connects Circle Leaders to the resources in the community that will help fulfill a specific need. The Community team secures meals for our weekly meetings as well as plans the schedule for the weekly meetings and collaborates with other teams to plan special events.

We have just added two new teams that are also seeking new volunteers. The Income and Education team organizes and runs what we call outcome circles which are groups of allies and circle leaders who are matched for a short time to achieve a specific goal such as passing the GED, getting a driver’s license or filing taxes for free.

The final team of the Guiding Coalition is the Big View team whose purpose it is to engage the community to break down barriers in the community that are keeping people from transitioning out of poverty.

If you are interested in any of these opportunities or would just want to learn more about what Circles does, either come to one of our weekly meetings at Prescott Elementary 5:30-8:00pm every Tuesday night, they are open to the public! We provide a meal and childcare! Or if you would like contact Zachary Shay at zshay@cityofdubuque.org or (563)690-6102.

An RU Giving Update: Bird Chevrolet Does It Again

We recently shared a story for our RU Giving project detailing the generosity of Bird Chevrolet. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, please take a moment to read that blog post first. In it we told the story of Tara, a single mother doing all she can to make a better life for her and her son. Tara is part of the Circles Initiative, recently earned a new job and is quickly becoming an inspiration to all those around her.

Tara’s story with RU started when we found out her car had a rusted gas tank which made it almost impossible to use. We reached out to Bird, as described in our last post, and we were ecstatic when they decided to replace the tank free of charge to help Tara. We ran the blog post and ended our week on cloud nine.

However, come Monday we found out there was a major hiccup.

Chris, from Bird Chevrolet called to report they were worried about the deteriorating state of the rest of Tara’s car. Sure they could replace the gas tank, but in doing so they worried they would disrupt other parts of the car. Fixing the gas tank might actually make the car worse, even unsafe. It was a devastating blow. We’d have to go back and tell Tara her gas tank wasn’t going to be replaced after all.

But as Chris continued to talk it became clear this wasn’t the end of the story. The good people at Bird discussed the issue and came up with a solution to make sure Tara’s story had a happy ending.

They decide they would give Tara a car.

Yep.

A car.

For free.

We had the same reaction everyone has when they hear this story. It takes a couple minutes to comprehend. But then when it sinks in, it sinks in.

Calling Tara was one of the best feel good moments of my life. Telling her about the inability to replace the gas tank but then quickly moving on to the good news. If it took a while for the news to sink in for me, imagine how Tara felt. She was on an emotional roller coaster of thinking she had a new gas tank for her barely functional car, to thinking she couldn’t drive her car, to realizing she was being given a free car. All in about 4 seconds.

Suddenly shouts of bewilderment and joy filled my ears. And then, after all the shouting, tears. Tears and gratitude. Gratitude to Chris and Bird Chevrolet. Gratitude that her life will continue in this upward swing she has created for herself. Gratitude that there are people in our community who will do what it takes to help their neighbor.

Tara recently sent this thank you message for us to post on her behalf:

“I wanted to thank everyone at Bird Chevrolet and the Resources Unite community for all your help. I truly can’t express the hope this has given me. It is such a relief knowing I have a safe and reliable car for my son and I. I have found full-time employment and now I won’t have to worry about whether my car will get me to work every day. It has been such an unexpected and incredible experience. I still can’t believe it happened to me.”

I ended the last post by saying this story is “community at its best.” I never dreamed I’d be coming back to add more “best” to this story. Thanks again community. And thanks again Bird Chevrolet.

“Care and Play With Me” Program: First Week

Guest post alert! Jaclyn from the Care and Play with Me program is here to update the RU community on their first week! To read previous posts by Jaclyn, please go here, here and here.

Care and Play with Me has officially been open for a whole week now! We had an exciting week of meeting new people and discovering new things!

It’s always intimidating to walk into an unfamiliar environment, maybe even in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and join in like you’ve always been there. I understand how hard it can be to try out a new program, one that’s not just new to you but to the whole community. But we threw open our doors and put out our interest centers and hoped that everyone who stopped in would feel that they belonged, that they were a welcomed part of our program.

This program is best advertised through word-of-mouth and in past years at other YMCA’s around the U.S.A. it’s been shown that the best way to reach out to Caregivers is in person, not simply by putting up flyers and assuming they’ll come. We’ve done a lot of community outreach events, we were at Big Truck Night with Dubuque Parents as Teachers and most recently we were at the Library during Children’s Story Time. A lot of programs like our have not always had great success reaching out to Caregivers by week 1 of the program so I opened our program on day 1 with an understanding that I might not be expecting anyone at all but still hoping for people to have heard about us. I was so thrilled that a Grandma with her grand daughter came into our program on day 1!

We did our opening Circle Time, we sang songs, danced, and listened to music while playing in the interest centers. And at the end of the program time we wrapped up with our closing Circle Time. Already the little girl had gained a sense of the routine of the program and the next day she was ready for “school” with a backpack and a big smile for us!

By the end of the week we had gained a mom and her daughter who, due to scheduling conflicts, found this program so appealing not only because it was quality programming for free but also because it allowed them to experience an early learning environment on their terms, fitting in with their schedule.

We hope to continue to grow and are excited for each new week and every new face! We still need a volunteer for our Tuesday/Thursday class at St. Paul’s. Any caregivers and their children are welcome to come join us! Care and Play with Me runs Mondays and Wednesdays, 9am-11am at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ (1795 Jackson St.) and Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9am-11am at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (2025 Jackson St.) For more information or to RSVP call the Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA 563-556-3371 and ask for Jaclyn Sharp or Vicki Gassman.

Update: The “Care and Play with Me” Program Takes Off!

Hello again, this is Jon. Once again I’d like to give the floor over to Jaclyn from the Care and Play with Me program. To read previous posts by Jaclyn, please go here and here.

That point in our journey has arrived, we’re ready to throw open our doors to the public! The furniture is in place, the toys are out, and the program components are set up. We’ve had some successful public outreach events within the community; most recently we were at the library during story hour on Monday and were able to connect with a lot of Caregivers. My hope is that our connections were genuine and lasting; my hope is that on day one of the program we will already have several Caregivers joining us!

To a point, sometimes that’s all you can do, hope. I hope that this program will make a difference, an impact in this community. I hope that we have created an environment in which Caregivers and their children feel safe and engaged. But mostly, I hope that each Caregiver that comes through our doors feels welcomed and has the opportunity to build lasting relationships with our staff and with the other Caregivers. At the end of the day, at the end of this journey, if even one Caregiver was positively impacted then it will all have been for the better.

I will update again after the program has opened, so stay tuned for more!

Our program opens Monday, Sept. 30th and will be meeting Mondays and Wednesdays 9-11am at Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ at 1795 Jackson St. and Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-11am at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2025 Jackson St. The program runs through the entire school year and is open to all Caregivers and their children, infants and up. Please join us!

RU Giving: Bird Chevrolet

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Working on RU, whether it’s website creation, the RU Magazine, planning the Community Connections meetings or creating a volunteer center, is fantastically rewarding. On a daily basis something happens that makes us take pause, give thanks to our community and be proud to be a small part of it.

Today is no different, yet the stakes in the following story are much higher.

Recently we heard from a single mother we know. For the sake of this article I’ll call her Tara. Tara came to us looking to share her story and potentially problem solve her situation.

Her current obstacle was a rusted out gas tank in her car. Every time she went to fill up her car, half of the gasoline would end up running down the outside of the tank. But the rusted gas tank was just the most current obstacle. There were many more systematic obstacles that Tara has been battling her entire life.

Lack of emotional security growing up as a child in her family. Intense emotional and physical abuse in her early relationship. As you can imagine, this lead to depressive states which lead to difficulty holding a job, which lead to financial difficulties which came around in a viscous circle and compounded her depression. The cycle was spinning and Tara and her son were just barely hanging on.

Through all this, however, Tara continued to strive towards a better future. She continued to educate herself. She sought and received therapy to battle the emotional juggernaut that was her past. She focused on her relationship with her son. Through it all, her best attribute was her tenacity; her will power to never give up even under daunting pressure and against the odds. She understood her cycle of depression, her strengths and her weaknesses.

She would be too humble to accept what I’m about to say, but she’s been an inspiration to those who know her. Her story is truly one of perseverance and courage.

Recently Tara became involved with the Circles Initiative. It still warms my heart to remember her excitement when she called to tell me she had been accepted. She realized Circles could offer her a fresh start and the tools necessary to stop her world spinning out of her control. She’s attends faithfully.

Her excitement for being accepted into Circles was bettered only by the next source of good news; a new job offer. Not only did the job offer a good living, but it was also rewarding work. Good hours, good pay. Tara felt in control of her life for the first time in a long time.

So as she pulled in to the gas station one morning she felt like she was on top of the world. She had hope, which had been missing for some time. She had a community in Circles who was not only helping her achieve success, but was allowing her to help others. She got out of her car, grabbed the gas nozzle and began filling her tank.

As the gas leaked out onto the ground and formed a puddle at her feet, the self doubt blasted back in to her life. Was all her hard work just a wasted effort? Her world began spinning again.

Fortunately, she was able to get enough gas into her car and drove to Bird Chevrolet. After a quick diagnosis they determined the problem, the aforementioned rusted out gas tank. The entire gas tank would need to be removed, a new one purchased and installed.

Over $500 worth of parts and labor.

Tara was devastated. She didn’t have enough money to fill her gas tank, let alone replace it. She quickly began problem solving. She could get a used part to reduce the cost. She could get a friend to fix it, saving money but increasing other risk factors. She could cobble together a home remedy to get her through the winter (using a garden hose taped to the end of a gas can was discussed).

She had a job opportunity and she needed transportation. She was determined to make this work.

When we first heard from Tara we knew she should be included in a RU Giving story. RU Giving is our program where we pick a cause on Monday and with community support solve the problem by Friday. Tara’s story was a perfect candidate.

At first we thought we would try to raise money through individual donors in the community. But then we realized fundraising might complicate things and what we actually needed was a much more direct approach. We know that local businesses want to give back to our community. We hear it all the time. So we figured we’d simply call up Bird Chevrolet and make the ask if they would be able to order and install the gas tank for Tara, free of charge.

We called and asked Chris Muir at Bird Chevrolet. He didn’t even hesitate. He ordered a new tank and said they would have it installed. Done deal.

This success story is much more than simply installing a new gas tank. What Chris and Bird Chevrolet gave Tara was a reclaimation of hope when hope was a literally a puddle at her feet. At the exact moment when the vicious circle was restarting and feelings of “here we go again” were filling her mind, the community lent it’s talents to bring resolution to her troubles.

With a new tank, stable transportation and continued motivation, Tara and her son are well on her way to a better tomorrow. The appreciation Tara feels, expressed through her words and tears of joy, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the course of this week. It’s been inspiring to watch hopelessness turn to surprise then to exuberance and then to intense appreciation. This is community at it’s best.

500 Heroic T-Shirts, 500 Heroic Stories

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At nine years old, I stopped growing up. Sure I got older, grew taller, graduated high school, went to college, got married, became a father, and even started to look old. But in some ways I’m still nine years old.

You see, I’m an unashamed geek and I love superheroes. I think of this as remnants of my inner nine year old. With this love comes unabashed optimism and lofty dreams. Anything is possible when you problem solve with a nine year old mentality and ideals. Anything is possible.

For instance, changing the way we change the world.

When we were founding RU we were hoping to purchase the domain www.resourcesunited.com. Fortunately, in hindsight, it was already taken. This forced us to explore a couple of other options before eventually settling on ResourcesUnite, sans “d”.

At first glance, ResourcesUnite doesn’t make much sense as a name. And in truth it has caused some confusion. After all, if resources are going to band together, wouldn’t we would say they are “united”?

But what if we set the stage in a different way? What if the resources in question weren’t objects but instead were living, breathing things? And what if these living resources banded together, put on some tights, flew to the rooftops, put their rings together and heroically called out, “Resources Unite!”

Now that would be exciting. And it was. From the onset of RU my 9 year old self was indulged. However, being mindful we didn’t want RU to be thought of as a comic book company we started to tone down the comic book motifs while keeping the playful theme of exuberence.

I ended up creating a rocket ship in the initial logo for the site. The rocket set the tone for what RU wanted to do: blast off, reach for the skies, launch new ideas and ideals. Simply, to take us to new places not yet explored.

I know, lofty.

The rocket logo would continue to be reduced visually on the site in subsequent revisions. But eventually Kari Bahl brilliantly placed the original rocket in the “R” of our RU logo. For me, seeing the rocket come full circle, subtly in our logo, yet still so prominent, was a perfect blend of my 9 year old spirit and my adult ideals.

Now lets come full circle.

Tom Rauen from Envision Screen Printing and Embroidery was interested in partnering with RU to help spread our message of “Changing the Way We Change the World”. We quickly realized if we were going to make RU T-shirts they had to be RU Orange and they have to have the RU logo on the front. We immediately agreed the logo should be a heroic call to action for anyone who wears the shirt.

We came up with a simple emblem that looks like something you would find on the chest of a super hero. And while we have a ton of icons, content and tag lines we would like to share we knew the front needed to be bold, simple and heroic.

But how will a shirt be heroic? Well that’s where you come in.

We’re giving 500 RU t-shirts away for free. But there’s a catch. When you receive one of our shirts you need to tell us one thing that inspires you about our community. This could be an act of kindness you witnessed, a time you volunteered or any other action that made a positive impact on people’s lives.

We want to capture the inspiring stories of our communities everyday heroes.

Once we give away 500 shirts we’ll have 500 stories of heroism to share. We’ll post all 500 stories of inspiration and volunteerism and create a team of RU volunteers and inspiration leaders.

A team of RU superheroes if you will.

Please let us know if you want a t-shirt through our Facebook page or reach out to us on Twitter @ResourcesUnite.

500 heroic t-shirts, 500 heroic stories.

RU Center…so far.

I stood in the empty space again today for the 1,000th time. I looked around, imagining people sitting around, talking, working, and connecting with one another. I for one have never been in anything like I am imagining. Think of it as a coffee house on steroids. You’ll be able to get a cup of coffee, maybe a protein shake, and even a bite to eat. Nothing extravagant, but enough to help with connection. I think you need food and drink to help with connection.

The room will be filled with natural light. Imagine the most inspiring and comfortable space that you have been in and then multiply it by 10…maybe 20. The decor will be modern and retro. It will be an open floor plan with mostly modular furniture. We want spaces in which one person will be comfortable sitting in a corner looking out the window while working on their laptop and allow groups of people to work collaboratively on a project. It will be a hub for networking. People are going to get to know each other and their respective strengths.

The RU center will support people in pursuing their dreams. Imagine someone starting their own business and needing a logo, or maybe needing help with designing letterhead. Maybe the same person is in need of 10 volunteers. All of those things will be found in the center. It will be the volunteer center for the community and so much more. The RU Center will be a place where all volunteer opportunities will be known. This is where newcomers to the city and Dubuquers will go to learn how to get engaged in the community. They will have the opportunity to meet with the volunteer director and will help match people’s interests with volunteer needs in the community. Organizations will be given the opportunity to showcase their work in the RU Center. We will help advertise the good that so many people and businesses do for our community, resulting in additional support for their work.

You will walk into the RU Center and find a whiteboard in which you or anyone else can write down a need that they may have. Maybe an organization is in need of 100 DVD’s for children in shelter. This very specific need will now be seen by the entire community. RU will broadcast this need to our partners. I’m confident that before you know it, those DVD’s will be realized. People want to give; they want to get involved in the community. I believe though that we sometimes just don’t know how or where to start.

The space would have every resource and piece of technology needed to support people and organizations. We realize that many non profits or other groups don’t have conference rooms or specific technology to use when in need. We would provide that. (kinda goes with our name…Resources UNITE)

We want to turn everything on its head. We’re going to serve coffee, but most of the proceeds are going to go back to the community. People will have the opportunity to buy an extra cup for someone that might be in need later. Wouldn’t that be cool? Spend a few extra bucks to support someone you may never meet? We also want to serve lunch, but in a very different way. Lunch would be catered in from various companies much like it happens at bigger corporations in town. It would be a fairly inexpensive, good lunch with one major hitch. The company serving the food, would be donating the food. Every dollar of a respective lunch would go to a designated organization or community project. Again, how cool. Right? You could buy a 5 or 10 dollar lunch and know that EVERY dollar goes back to the community. Wouldn’t you go out of your way to eat lunch there?

Speaking of turning things upside down, the RU Center will largely be staffed and supported by the community. As mentioned previously, there will be a volunteer director, but we envision most of the support coming from volunteers. And why wouldn’t it? The entire space is for the community. I think if given the opportunity, volunteers will commit to much more than stuffing envelopes and running errands. Volunteers want to feel engaged and feel that they have a purpose. I know I do anyway when I’m volunteering.

The space will transform during the evenings and weekends into a place in which events will take place including classes that would engage the entire community. Yoga, dance, fitness, and anything else that people are interested in teaching and learning. I also think there will be classes led by community members with specific skills that would benefit others. Imagine someone that’s been in the marketing world for 20 years. She could give a class on effectively branding your mission. Another person might be a retired employee from John Deere with computer skills that could benefit so many.

There’s so much more to the RU Center and I’m hoping you will contribute to those ideas. Let’s build this together…as a community.

Update on the Care and Play with Me program

Hello everyone, Jon here. Jaclyn is going to take over this blog post in a second to update everyone on the status of the Care and Play with Me program. The program is starting soon and she is still looking for volunteers so we are reaching out to the RU community to help fill the spots. The program is only two days a week. Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering for this wonderful program and we will get you in touch with Jaclyn.
Here’s Jaclyn:

While searching for a site to house our program, there are a lot of things to consider. We want an environment that everyone can feel comfortable and welcomed in. Truly, just one site alone may not offer enough diversity of location or space to accommodate everyone’s individual expectations. We want a space that feels safe, inviting, and engaging; a space that can adapt to change and grow with the program.

I’ve done a lot of research into the concept of a space or classroom like environment going beyond physical attractiveness to something that can become a sacred space for a child. They need to know they will be safe, take care of, respected, happy, and have fun. We also want to engage our caregivers in our environment; we want our Caregivers to feel a connection to our site as well.

We have toured a lot of spaces and discussed options with many organizations around town for rooms or spaces to meet our needs. The Dubuque Community YMCA/YWCA has narrowed the selection down to 2 possible sites. One site would be for the Monday/Wednesday group and the other site would be for the Tuesday/Thursday group. Both sites are in the down town area and are within walking distance to many homes and buildings. Both sites are also located inside churches of different Christian denominations. We feel that both sites are warm, inviting, and safe places that go beyond being just a room with early learning items inside. Both sites will transform into a home-like environment allowing our Caregivers and their children to open up and engage with the space and activities.

Our hope is to connect with the congregations of the churches and increase their connection to the community through our program. Many places have a desire to serve and connect with the community but simply no program or man power to do so. We hopefully will be providing the means and programming for these churches to expand their community connections.

After firmly deciding upon our sites we need to set our focus on finding dedicated volunteers for our program. The program is going to be directly run by the facilitator, me (Jaclyn Sharp). Then 2-3 volunteers per session will be helping me engage and interact with the children and caregivers as well as help with the set up and clean up process. We will need volunteers to commit to at least 2 sessions a week from 8-12 (either the Monday/Wednesday sessions or the Tuesday/Thursday sessions) and then be open to meeting with me at some point (most likely during Friday mornings) to discuss program planning, ideas, and feedback. Ideally we would like the volunteers to continue on with us throughout the entire program, which runs until the end of June but if someone wanted to volunteers for a few months at a time we would definitely discuss that option.

We’re looking for people who value our local Friend, Family, and Neighbor Caregivers and their impact within this society. People who want to support these Caregivers and partner with them to bring about a united front in good child care practices and kindergarten readiness. We want to help the children through supporting the Caregivers that are caring for them and impacting their lives on a daily basis. We want to work with these Caregivers to help the children become as ready as possible for kindergarten.

Starting up a new program like this can be a long journey, but it has been an enriching and valuable journey to undertake. I’ve learned a lot and grown within the community. I want to serve this community and truly help bring about a change for the better. These Caregivers are doing great work with their children and I want to acknowledge this and help them continue to flourish and grow. As with every process for change, you have to start by putting one foot in front of the other. I cannot help anyone if I don’t have the program set up in a successful manner. So we’ve found our sites, and now we need volunteers. We want people in the community, our Caregivers to know about our program, to come to our program. We need our name out there. One foot in front of the other, and step by step this long journey will continue onwards for a brighter tomorrow.

Thank you for reading the Care and Play with Me postings! If you have any further questions or comments about the program please feel free to contact me at jsharp@dubuquey.org

Follow Your Heart

It was mid July in 1995 when I felt it the first time. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew one thing for certain: I needed to listen. I had just graduated from Kirkwood Community College and was looking for direction. I was walking to my car after the graduation ceremony and bumped into a Marine Corps recruiter. Two hours later I signed a four-year contract and was on the phone with my mom. I couldn’t explain it, I told her. All I could say was that I just knew this what I needed.

After finishing my term in the Marines, I found myself at the University of Northern Iowa studying criminology. Shortly after graduation, I felt it again. I couldn’t explain the feeling I had to any of my friends or family, but I just knew that I needed to move to Los Angeles to join the Los Angeles Police Department. I never did join the LAPD, but I found my wife and my real career out there.

I’m now married and have a couple of children, have a mortgage, and a job working for an organization that I love and have given every ounce of my energy to for the past 8 years. This is where I should be. Everything makes sense, but for one big exception. I feel it again. And it’s stronger than ever felt before.

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I’ve been and what I’ve learned along the way. I’ve been fortunate to work with incredible organizations that envision a community free of violence, work with at risk adolescents, feed the homeless, and protect our country, to name just a few. Although every one of those missions were very unique, they were also very much the same. They all wanted to create a stronger community. They realized their greatest success through collaboration and partnerships.

Nearly three years ago I thought I was just helping create something that would make my current job easier. We set out to create a directory for our community. We wanted to make sure that if anyone ever needed any type of service, they could find what they were looking for in one place. That was the birth of Resources Unite. Late nights and weekends were spent sharing stories about clients that needed services, services that struggled to deliver, and a belief that if everything was somehow united or connected, we would all succeed. We’re weren’t bold enough to write it down at the time, but what we were setting out to do was to change the way we change the world. And when I say “we,” I mean all of us. The entire community.

Now, that boldness has arrived. The boldness has come on like a freight train. Community resources are meeting monthly, sharing information and ideas. Both traditional and non tradition partnership have been forged. Our website has expanded well beyond a resource directory. In November, of this year, the RU Magazine debuts. A partnership with TH Media has resulted in a magazine that I believe will be the most effective tool in connecting our community. And last, but certainly not least, as 2013 comes to a close, a RU community connection center will be created inside of the Schmid Innovation Center in the Millwork District. This is the place where people will learn about all volunteer opportunities in our community. Most importantly though, this is the place that you will go to be inspired. People will bring their laptops down there to work on a project alone or as a group. They will sip on coffee and start hatching plans to change the world…together.

And so, this brings me to the third time in my life in which I have felt something in my soul that I cannot ignore. I have resigned from Riverview Center and will be working with the Resources Unite team full-time. You will find no one more committed to the mission of Riverview Center. I believe it goes without saying that I will always support this incredible organization. Although this is a bittersweet transition, I believe in my heart that the work I will support with Resources Unite will in fact strengthen the efforts of Riverview Center and many other organizations in our community.

My mentor and good friend asked me recently who I am and what I hold most important in my life. He talked about the importance of finding balance and listening to that inner voice. I sat out on my deck later that night doing some real soul-searching. ”Who am I? ” What kind of question was that? It turned out it was the exact question I needed to hear. I remembered that who I am is a person that finds great joy and satisfaction in working with others. I love getting to know people; hearing their stories and finding connections along the way. It’s why I do the countless Tough Mudders, why I’m deeply committed to my FXB family, and why I invite anyone that will join me for a protein shake or coffee any chance I get. (I don’t even drink coffee!)

I want the connection.

The Care and Play with Me program!

Today’s blog post is a written by Jaclyn Sharp. Jaclyn is the Early Learning Readiness Program Facilitator for the YMCA and she is starting a program called “Care and Play with Me”. Jaclyn reached out to RU for assistance in spreading the word on the program, for help recruiting volunteers and even for any ideas regarding finding a permanent location to house the program.

Of course, we are all about spotlighting organizations doing good work in our community, so publishing a blog post was a quick and easy decision. But I felt it would be best to have Jaclyn speak about the program herself, in her words. When I met with Jaclyn it was clear she lives and breathes the Care and Play with Me mission and is committed to assisting as many families in the community as possible. Our community needs a programming like this and I’m excited to watch it grow.

So without further ado, here’s Jaclyn:

Care and Play with Me is a program that seeks to partner with and support friend, family, and neighbor caregivers in our community. The program is unique in its target audience and is needed in our community. Dubuque has large pockets of friend, family, and neighbor caregivers and we want to reach out and support their efforts.

When deciding to work with the program and in learning what the program had to offer I kept coming back to one dream: I want every caregiver and child to have the same golden experiences as I had with Auntie Glo.

Auntie Glo is not related to my family, she was a neighbor who watched over all the neighborhood children and was recommended to my mother as an excellent caregiver. Some of my best childhood memories took place under her care, I remember experiencing fruit trees for the first time in her backyard, making new friends, and eating wonderful home cooked food.

Today, we are still in touch and I visit her every time I’m in the neighborhood. I want every child to have this experience, to be ensconced within awesome early learning environments with caregivers that truly care and are dedicated to their growth and development.

The Care and Play with Me program will support these caregivers and help them enrich their programs. We want caregivers to enter our early learning environment and be able to take away practices that will help enrich their program. We also expect and desire to learn from their experiences and commentary and use that to further enrich our own program. Our goal is to create a friendly, partnered community between ourselves at Care and Play with Me and the friend, family, and neighbor caregiver community.

The progress for this program has been steady, with few bumps along the way. We’re looking for a site to hold our program and we’re looking for dedicated volunteers who have a passion for what we do. I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to going out into the community and getting to know our potential community partners. I happen to be new here, I just recently moved from Arizona and working within this program has been a blessing for me as I’m not just meeting community partners as a part of an organization but I’m also meeting my fellow community members for the first time. As I travel around the city meeting people I marvel at the architecture that is all around. I’ve observed Dubuque as a warm community with a lot of willing hands and hearts wanting to help in community outreach programs.

I want to thank everyone so far for their wonderful support and commitment to this program. I look forward to continuing developing this program for the good of the community and getting to know everyone I encounter along the way.

Thank you all for reading and I look forward to writing future posts on RU to keep everyone updated. If you have any further questions or comments feel free to contact me at jsharp@dubuquey.org

Room full of passion

Some people just know what they’re supposed to do when it comes to supporting a community. Donna Ginter knew for decades that it was her calling to serve Thanksgiving meals to those in need. Bryce Parks learned from his father the importance of giving back and now makes sure that every child in need has a Christmas gift waiting under the tree for them through his Toys for Tots program.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that didn’t want to make a difference. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about? Everyone wants to matter to someone or some thing. We want to know that we made a difference; that we’ll be remembered for the impact we made. We’re all difference makers you see, some just do a better job of showcasing it than others. Don’t believe me? Get in a room full of people. I don’t care who they are. Stand up and tell them what drives you most to make a difference. Maybe it’s mentoring. It could be working for a crisis center. Or maybe it’s being a mom or a dad. Let them see into your eyes the passion that you have. Look them back in the eyes and convince them that nothing gives you more joy than the weekly meeting you have with the child that you mentor at the Multicultural Center. Let the passion pour out of you. Flood the room.

Suddenly that room full of strangers are now your best friends. You are connected in a way that you don’t initially understand. Individuals you’ve never met are telling you and others about their love for character education. You’ve got people introducing themselves to you, wanting to tell you about the work they do at the Boys and Girls Club. A guy over in the corner is pushing back tears telling someone about the youth group he leads in his church and how last Sunday one of the kids pulled him aside and said “thank you.”

The room flooded with passion is coming. Very soon you will have a place in our community to go that will inspire you to do more…so much more. It will be the epicenter of change and connection.

I can hardly wait.

Kevin Greene and his dream

“I wanted to thank you again. I appreciate your help more than you will ever know. Its great to know that there are other people willing to share my dream”.

I met with Kevin Greene the other day to help him in his effort to raise $5,000 to support the eradication of diabetes. He has joined the Diabetes Action Team and will be running the Chicago marathon in October. One of the most favorite things I like to do is meet with people to hear about their passions and dreams. As I sat there last week eating my sandwich at A.J.’s Cafe, listening to Kevin’s dream, I became immediately inspired. He got me. I was ready to sign a check. He talked about being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, how is mom was diagnosed and the toll it took on her, and how he got the motivation to change his lifestyle, resulting in no longer being diabetic.

Kevin talked about how much it would mean to him to help just one person in this journey, and in his “wildest dreams maybe help a lot of people.”

Kevin is one of the reasons we started RU. We believe that our community is FULL of Kevin Greene’s; guys and gals that want to make a difference in the world; people that at the end of the day, want to change the world. They already have the spark and just need a little nudging from others to realize their dream.

I can’t wait for October. Kevin is going to reach his goal of $5,000, and if I were a betting man, he’s going to exceed that number. He’s going to cross the finish line after 26.2 miles and feel a sense of satisfaction that he may never have felt before. And then, he’s going to want more. He’s going to realize that he is changing the world and will set new goals and will probably engage others to do the same.

Funny thing is, Kevin is already changing the world, and he doesn’t even know it…yet.

Changing The Way We Change the World

When we first came up with it during a brainstorming session I was initially turned off by it and wanted to stuff the words back in my mouth. I mean, who the hell are we to think we can change the world?

But I liked the boldness and for some reason it felt right. As I kept thinking about why I liked it so much, I realized it was because it’s exactly what RU is hoping to accomplish. We aren’t saying we are going to change the world, we’re saying we want to help organizations and communities change the world.

We want to facilitate sharing of knowledge, increase community efficiencies, increase inspiration through story telling and increase the uniting of resources.

When all is said and done, the tag line isn’t really that bold at all. It’s just who we are.

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