Let Us Do Good to All People

I love to give. I will donate my time, my services, and/or my money to just about any legit charity. It apparently is no secret.

This morning, I awoke to a text message asking me if I’d like to purchase a tub of cookie dough for a preschool fundraiser. This is the 5th tub of cookie dough that I’ve been asked to purchase in the past week. Apparently, people freely spend $15 on 3lb of frozen lard & sugar. Although I have graciously declined everyone’s offer to purchase something so incredibly unhealthy, I don’t mind sending a check over to the schools to show that people actually DO give without expecting anything in return…

…or do they? Am I the only person who does this? My mind became cluttered with so many thoughts, and I suddenly questioned how (and why) these fundraising efforts work.

I have been fundraising for various charities for 15 years now. I have raised thousands of dollars for well-known nonprofits. The most successful fundraisers have been those where people purchased something, knowing that a portion of their proceeds go to charity. No one stops to ask how much; they seem fine with just knowing “some” of it does. The more I pondered over that, the more I became frustrated. Why do so many schools hold these fundraisers? Why cookie dough? Shouldn’t we be promoting a healthier society? Are these fundraisers really necessary? What is purchased with these donations? Why won’t people give just $5 to MY kids?

There… I said it. Perhaps part of my frustration is that I see healthy children going to private schools here in the United States of America trying to raise money – and succeeding – while “my” kids in Haiti struggle to have food to eat. Most of them do not own shoes, and their families (if they’re blessed with families) do not have transportation. That means these sweet children have to walk barefoot over rocks and through unclean water. So many Haitian children are still living in tents, having lost their homes to the 2010 earthquake. The “fortunate” children who live in houses still do not have running water and electricity. A large amount of children in Haiti never get an education. There are also a lot of children who have medical problems that cannot be cared for in their country. They have to go through a long application process and waiting period to see if they are even eligible to come to the US to receive treatment. Since when did a human life fall short to luxuries of education here in the States?

It is so hard for me to understand why I can’t even get small donations for our mission. I’m not asking for much… less than a tub of cookie dough! I am asking folks to please give up a McDonald’s combo meal or a Starbuck’s Venti Latte for just one day. Then, donate $5 a month to Invest Hope… or another charity in a country stricken with poverty and disease. If you’d prefer to stay local, please find a Children’s Home, Food Bank, Shelter, or Special Needs program in your area. Look for the small, struggling nonprofits who have a greater and more direct impact to their communities. Give to them without expecting anything in return… and I promise, you will receive more satisfaction from it than you will ever get from cookie dough.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
– Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

To learn more about Invest Hope, click here. For details on how you can invest hope in the future of Haitian children, please contact us at info@investhope.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

SoGeeky South

I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you three upcoming social media/technology conferences that you may find worthy of attending:

SOCIAL FRESH Charlotte 2011
via www.socialfresh.com

During Social Fresh Charlotte’s two days of training – September 6-7, 2011 – our educational track can be broken down into a few core focus points:

Training Topics — Social Fresh is adding more and more training opportunities. Our sessions focus more on teaching actionable lessons and less on broader strokes or concept discussion. Attendees told us they wanted more hands on training, so now we have including training topics for teaching tactics and strategy throughout the entire conference. We avoid talking ABOUT social media and focus on showing you what you can do today.

We select the topics and sessions we think you will learn the most from. We include brand lessons that will teach you. Attendees from Social Fresh can hit the ground running after the event. They take away tons of notes and insights that can be implemented right away.

Better Speakers — I don’t know of a training event that can say they have the experience that Social Fresh has with finding the right social media speakers and topics for an audience of marketers. We have hosted hundreds of top industry speakers. The best speakers are one part high level insights, one part first hand knowledge, and one part not boring the attendees to tears.

We know who can convey the best social media lessons and brand lessons. We know who is rated the highest by your marketing peers, event after event. And we know which speakers can actually send people away inspired and more confident, as opposed to more confused and wanting more.

Our Charlotte conference has the best line up of smart speakers that we have ever put together. These thought leaders get it and put this stuff into practice for clients and big businesses every day.

WHY IS SOCIAL FRESH DIFFERENT?

Focus on Networking
Focus on Fun
Focus on Actionable Content
Focus on Case Studies

Hosted by Jason Keath and Corey Creed. Please visit the Social Fresh Charlotte website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for ticket information.

ConvergeSouth 2011
via www.convergesouth.com

ConvergeSouth is the annual tech users conference held in Greensboro, NC. Entering our 7th year, the conference is organized completely by volunteers. Originally based on the “blogger-con” concept, ConvergeSouth has grown as technology has developed and has tried to meet new needs of our community via Social Networking, Social Media, App Development and more without ignoring new users’ needs – that’s why there will always be a “101″ or Beginners Track at ConvergeSouth.

Mark your calendars for October 6-7, 2011 in Greensboro!

ConvergeSouth has also added a one-day Nonprofit Track this year to draw in tech-savvy nonprofits who do so much for our communities. The three special sessions are designed at the introductory (101) level to assist nonprofits move deeper into the tech world.

Thursday’s keynote speaker is a globally-recognized blogger, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the AdAge Top 50 blogs of the world, Mark Schaefer. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for nearly 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development and holds seven patents. Mark enjoys teaching social media marketing courses at several colleges and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University.

Mark is the author of The Tao of Twitter and has a new McGraw-Hill-published book arriving spring, 2012.

Please visit the ConvergeSouth website to read more about the event and speakers. Click here for full-event ticket information or here for Non-Profit Day registration.

GEEKEND 2011
via www.geek-end.com

Geekend is the interactive conference phenomenon you have been waiting your whole life for. It is your chance to interact with people taking the tech and creative industries by storm.

Geekend is the annual gathering of the geek tribe. Geekend is what you might call an interactive conference with some truly awesome parties. It’s the kind of event that you’ll be texting, Tweeting and Facebooking from, while making all your friends back home super jealous.

Geekend is a mashup, a meetup, and a Tweet-up all mixed together in a delicious Low Country boil of innovative ideas. It’s networking, Savannah style. It’s a veritable supermarket of fresh thoughts and delicious camaraderie. To sum Geekend up in one word is really quite impossible, but we tend to use this one: Fun.

Join us this October and November as the brightest geeks, designers, developers, artists, and social media mavericks flock to Boston and Savannah for several days filled with cutting edge speakers, fun-filled after parties, and amazing networking opportunities.

Go to our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter for all the Geekend details and updates.

Our Mission:

To bring together the brightest geeks, designers, artists, social media mavericks and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

Founded by Miriam & Jacob Hodesh and Sloane Kelley, you will be blown away by the events Geekend 2011 has in store for you. Visit Geekend’s website to checkout the schedule and list of speakers. Please click here for ticket information.

You will not want to miss these three conferences. Why are you waiting? Get your tickets now! Comment below if you already have your tickets and plan to join me. See you there!

My Name is Jenn, and This is My Ah-ha Moment.

What an honor it was last month to receive an invitation to participate in Mutual of Omaha’s Ah-ha Moment campaign. What a surprise to find out the campaign’s tour would be scheduled in Winston Salem on June 10th, my 35th birthday. Without hesitation, I quickly accepted the offer with both gratitude and enthusiasm. This would certainly help make my day memorable.

What exactly is an Ah-ha Moment?
Mutual of Omaha describes it as:

It’s a moment of clarity, a defining moment where you gain real wisdom – wisdom you can use to change your life.

Whether big or small, funny or sad, they can be surprising and inspiring. Each one is unique, deeply personal, and we think, worth sharing.

Mutual of Omaha celebrates and honors these moments and the people who act upon them. We’re proud to have the products and services that can help people insure their possibilities.

A few weeks after accepting the invitation, it started to sink in that this was really going to happen! I needed to prepare. I researched the campaign, and debated which of my life’s many ah-ha moments would I choose to share. The more I anticipated this somewhat surreal situation, the more nervous I became. Am I really worthy of this invitation? What IS my ah-ha moment? Does anything I say or do really inspiring others? Finally remembering that I also had to renew my license on June 10, I considered contacting Mutual of Omaha and gracefully stepping down.

How many invitations were given out? Would backing down from this opportunity be a huge mistake? I continued to review my life, searching for something that would be meaningful. I knew that I had many moments of clarity in my life, but one alone just didn’t seem to hold the value of all of them put together. Then it hit me. There is something pretty amazing about my journey. It is like a giant puzzle. Could this realization be the ultimate in ah-has?

I started to make note of my time line:

  • At age 4, I decided I wanted to be an artist.
  • Age 18, I entered art school.
  • Age 22, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
  • Age 24, I was victim to my first layoff.
  • Age 26, I fell victim again.
  • At age 30, I was burnt out. Tired of ‘corporate America’, I desired a job that meant something. I wanted a job that made a difference. I looked to the medical field for a solution, and enrolled in nursing & coding courses. In September of that same year, I had officially retired from Graphic Design and was employed in a medical office.
  • At age 32, I realized that even a job in medicine doesn’t always make your life fulfilling. That, and I really missed being creative. I looked for opportunities to freelance, but I still sought something more. I dove into volunteer work with well-known charities. Although I gained a lot of knowledge working with these nonprofits, I was heartbroken at how some ran their organization like a corporation. Yes, a corporation – the same thing I fled from two short years before.

 

I had spent the better part of the past three years fine-tuning my freelance business into JennB.Creative. I wanted my creativity to be used to a maximum, while assisting nonprofits and start-up businesses. I wasn’t in it to become rich; I just knew the struggle of wanting to get a business off the ground. I aspired to give them the opportunity to have professional marketing material on their budget. I did all of this while working full-time for a local hospital and searching for the right nonprofit that best suited my beliefs.

As you read last month, my search is over. I am now happily involved with Invest Hope, a faith-based mission seeking to end poverty in Haiti by providing means for Haitian businesses to get off the ground. I never saw the entire correlation between my life’s desires and Invest Hope until I was forced to search for my perfect ah-ha moment. I think it’s pretty awesome to see things come full circle. It reminds me that there IS a purpose to my life, and it is unfolding at just the right speed.

Today, after renewing my license, I pulled up to a Silver Stream travel trailer parked outside of the Old Salem Visitors Center. Still a bit nervous, I walked up to a petite blonde sitting under a canopy, and introduced myself. It was time to share my moment with the world. I was still very nervous… okay, beyond nervous. Even with words of assurance from the Mutual of Omaha crew, I could feel my chest turning red with anxiety. I was escorted to a bar stool in the front of the travel trailer, and prompted to tell my story. I was probably too enthusiastic about it, but the emotion overwhelmed me. Anxiety turned to appreciation, and I was overcome with happiness. This experience was, in fact, my biggest eye-opening moment. Ah-ha!

I was told the video should be posted on Mutual of Omaha’s YouTube channel in roughly 14 days. Although I’m a bit embarrassed to see my video, I am really looking forward to it, checking out the other videos taped in Winston Salem, and to see where the tour stops next. I am forever indebted to have had this experience. Happy 35th to me!

Mission Statement

It seems as though I have had some struggles lately… pondering my life’s purpose. I was on a mission to determine how I could make the most of my years and figure out just why God has lead me down the path that He has.

I woke up one day – figuratively – when I realized that graphic design wasn’t satisfying my desire to help people. My solution was a job in the medical field. Certainly that service-oriented career would appease me. After going back to school and receiving certifications in Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing & Coding, and Nurse Aide, I quickly realized how badly I missed the creative release found in my previous art positions. Still trying to find my niche, but forgetting often to pray for guidance, I spent the course of 5+ years becoming more involved in community groups and national nonprofits.

Each year I donated more and more of myself, from designs to cash to time. I spent hours folding tshirts, selling ads, and raising money. I fell in love with the idea of turning this new-found hobby into a career, and started to apply for area organizations. With my marketing experience and my years of volunteering, I was called in for some interviews but all-in-all was unable to secure a position. This made me start to question my involvement… was I donating myself for the right reasons? …were the nonprofits I helped close to my heart? …did the money I raised or donated truly go towards the purpose I had intended?

After establishing my freelance business, I felt like I should start focusing more on faith-based or small local organizations, especially start up nonprofits. I was disappointed with the way larger nonprofits lost their focus and were filled with too much drama. I wanted to help on a smaller scale, in hopes of making a larger impact.

Jump ahead a few months. After making a VERY difficult decision to walk away from my most comfortable nonprofit (and the group of folks who I felt had become an extension of my family) I began praying that I would be introduced to whatever it was that was meant for me to serve God the best. I knew only He could provide me with the organization that would pull all of my strengths and fulfill my passion to help others. I was tired of trying to make things work on my own. I was bored with the limitations. I was annoyed with the drama. I was ready for a change. I was ready to make a significant difference!

Today I received a phone call from a friend. A friend, whom I have actually never met… and was only introduced to six short months ago. He (JW) was calling on behalf of his sister Ginny, whom I have also never met and have known for even a shorter amount of time. It’s one of those cases where I feel like I’ve known them longer than I have, and I just never stop to question it.

Ginny lives in Haiti. She is an RN from Ohio who has put a halt on a comfortable life here in the States to serve in a third-world country  devastated by earthquakes in Jan 2010 – the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Ginny spent most of her time in Haiti working as a Missionary Nurse for a nonprofit based out of the midwest USA. During that time, she was introduced to and later granted guardianship of her daughter, Odessa. The first time I heard her story, I actually was a bit jealous. A nurse, living on an island, helping people – AND the adoptive mom of one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen. I joked that she was living the life that I thought would best fit mine!

However, the more I learned by reading her blog, the more I realized how strong Ginny is and how weak & unprepared I am to take on such roles. My biggest set back was that I never finished nursing school due to financial reasons. I didn’t feel that I had anything to contribute, even for a short-term mission. However, I couldn’t help but feel like she and I had been introduced for a reason.

The phone call today was brief, but covered a lot and can probably be considered life changing. Ginny has decided to start her own mission in Haiti. She wants to offer microloans and vocational training to Haitians as a way to build their trade skills and boost the economy. Initially I was asked to design the logo and assist with social media marketing. Before I could jump at the chance to scream YES! the conversation went a little further. I couldn’t believe what JW was asking. He said that Ginny wanted me to sit on the mission’s Board of Directors, if I would be interested. He said that if I agreed, Ginny encouraged me to start planning a trip to Haiti within the next year and explained that her mission would be built around the principal that everyone has something to contribute to the country. Having lived in Haiti for the past 3 years, Ginny has seen first hand the need for more than just medical and construction missionaries. In this 10 minute phone call, everything practically fell into place. God not only puts people in your life for a reason, but He uses them to answer our prayers.

I am so excited to see where this adventure takes us all. I hope that it will provide a chance for me to meet these friends, to gain new friends, to travel, to advocate, to help make a difference in Haiti, and most importantly to serve God!

Our first step is to actually name the mission, and establish the board members so that we can request nonprofit status and a 501c3. I’m sure I will be posting regular updates as this thing unfolds. Please keep Ginny & Odessa in your prayers, as she is the heart of this mission & the only one on the board living in Haiti, and pray for our mission.