Tag Archives: giving

Spreading Hope, Love and Joy to the Hopeless

Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy, Part II

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Point to Ponder:
How do you view the homeless or those on the street asking for help?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Sadly, in Austin and in most cities it is common to see homeless, desperate or hopeless people standing at busy intersections asking for help. Despite being advised by law officials and professionals to not give them money, if I have cash, change or any unopened food I always give what I have. And, when I do not have anything to give I get embarrassed and avoid eye contact. Ugh! Definitely not a mature and or compassionate response! I realize that by giving money I could be enabling their pursuit of getting a job or supplying funds for their next possible drug fix, but I don’t know their life story or history so to judge seems wrong and unfair.

Shamefully, there was a time when I didn’t feel this way and my heart was filled with judgement. While I didn’t voice it, when I saw someone asking for help my thought was that they should have more pride and work ethic than to lazily ask for my hard earned money. After all, I grew up with limited financial resources yet managed to work my way through college and make it. Why can’t they? However, several years ago I attended a Caritas luncheon where the co-authors of the book, Same Kind of Different as Me spoke. This experience changed my heart and perspective.

If you haven’t read the book, I encourage you to. Or if you wait until April 2016 it will be out in the theaters. In summary, through volunteering at a homeless meals program in Fort Worth, the co-authors Ron Hall (a wealthy Fort Worth art dealer) and Denver Moore (a literal modern-day hobo) developed a unique friendship. An intense bond was formed and both lives were changed– with Ron’s heart experiencing the greatest transformation. As a result of the book’s message and success, the two men traveled to speaking engagements, with Austin being one of them. Towards the end of the luncheon, Denver, the modern-day hobo and former prison inmate spoke. While he had no formal education, he understood life, the spiritual world, and had a connection with God like I had never seen or heard before. The room was silenced by his compassion, faith and wisdom and while I clung to every word he spoke, it was his advice on whether or not to give the homeless and hopeless money that I will never forget.

Having lived a life of homelessness, desperation and having people look down on him, Denver passionately urged the audience to bypass judgement towards the homeless, as we will never know what they have experienced in life and why they are in the situation they are in. Furthermore, he acknowledged that we’ve all been told not to give the homeless money, however he pleaded that we give what we can, and in doing so respectfully look them in their eyes and smile. Ultimately, he reminded us that we will never know if it will be our dollar, our smile or our words that will be the difference in their life.

After his sincere message, rather than look down on the homeless or beggars, I began to view them, their situation, and people in general with more compassion. I contemplated how I would want someone to treat me, my children, my family, and friends if we where homeless, desperate or falling on hopeless times. Or, if we were just in need of some help, support or encouragement. In doing so I realized how self-righteous and judgemental I had been. Then recently it was upon reading Matthew 26: 34 – 45, verses that I have listened to many times before, that I finally heard and realized how much more I can and need to do:

On His right, he will say; (Jesus) Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink; I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives; I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.
Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.
Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find you naked and clothe You? When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.
And then He will turn to those on His left hand.
Jesus: Get away from Me, for I was starving, and you left Me with no food. I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifully naked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.
Unrighteous: Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see you without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?
Jesus: I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.

Despite your faith or belief, the idea that we should treat others as we would want to be treated says it all. And, we have all been given a conscious that guides us and gives us valuable information, which is why I am unable to make eye contact when someone is asking for help and I don’t have anything to give them. I know it’s not right or respectful to not show someone respect and give them the dignity they deserve by simply looking in their eye and exchanging a smile.

As a result, several months ago I began creating baggies of crackers, rice crispy treats, and breakfast bars. And, as of last week I added our printable ‘iGnite spread hope love and joy’ note cards. I keep the bags in my car so that I can have them with me at all times and it truly has made a difference! Therefore, as we continue to focus on spreading hope, love and joy, I hope you will consider doing the same and making care packages that you can hand out when needed. While the person you give the goodie bag and smile to will appreciate your generosity, I promise that your heart will be the one filled with hope, love and joy.

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Goodie Bag Basket

Action Item:
Create goodies bags and fill them with helpful items and the printable iGnite note cards. Keep them in your car and with a smile and eye contact, hand them to the homeless, hopeless or someone in need.

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Operation Spread Hope, Love & Joy

makesomeoneslifebetter 2

Point to Ponder:
Where does spreading hope, love and joy fall into your Christmas festivities?

iGnite Neissa

by Neissa Brown Springmann

Each year and upon entering the Christmas season I always set out to be more intentional and purposeful than in the previous years. Inevitably, my goals are always the same: don’t overspend, stick to the Christmas list, avoid perfection, resist shopping for myself while I am shopping for others (how does that always happen?!), and most importantly to live outside of myself by giving and sharing the spirit and meaning of Christmas: to spread hope, love and joy.

I cringe to think how extra self-centered my holidays would be without my attempted annual goals. Frustratingly, I always spend more money that desired, I get caught up in materialism and commercialism, and I exhaust myself by trying to make everything perfect which in turn stresses me out! Shamefully, beyond my immediate family members, friends and neighbors there is very little thinking outside of myself, no extra sharing of love, hope and joy and therefore no additional lives impacted. Really, it’s nauseating that I live in this perpetual state of insanity (setting the same goal and taking no additional action yet expecting a different result), therefore to end this ridiculousness and attempt to really spread hope, love and joy and make a difference in at least one life during the Christmas season, I’ve come up with a plan of action entitled “Operation Spread Hope, Love and Joy”, and I hope you will join me!

The goal of Operation Spread Hope, Love and Joy is exactly as it sounds: to spread hope, love and joy by putting a smile on someone’s face, being a source of encouragement and light and continuing to express gratitude which will in turn positively impact lives.

Starting today and throughout the next four weeks leading up to Christmas I will announce the weekly action. For this week, the suggested action is to print the provided note card printable, cut out the individual notes and give to as many people as possible. If you are like me, you will experience some fear and hesitation when handing out the cards, especially to a total stranger. You may likely make an assumption that the potential recipient isn’t going through anything, doesn’t need a pick-me-up and/or will think you are weird. Repeat these words: Nonsense! Everyone is going through something, everyone can use a little light and iGnite in their lives and if spreading some hope, love and joy by means of positive note cards make us weird, I gladly welcome the label! After all, the worst thing that can happen is the card gets thrown in the trash, but what if it makes somebody else’s life better?

Finally, share how you are spreading your hope, love and joy note cards by posting pictures via your favoritie social media outlets, using the hashtag #spreadhopeloveandjoy and tagging iGnite. This is not at all to be braggadocious or draw attention to your or iGnite’s actions. Instead, it’s an opportunity to let social media do what I believe social media has the greatest potential in doing, which is to be a catalyst for uplifting messages, positive change and spreading good around the world.

Action Item:
Print the provided note card printable, cut out the individual notes and give to as many people as possible. If you are able, share how you are spreading your hope, love and joy note cards by posting pictures via your favorite social media outlets, using the hashtag #spreadhopeloveandjoy and tagging iGnite.

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Special Edition Heart Month T-Shirts Benefitting AHA

Special Edition Heart Month iGnite T-Shirts

Help us support the American Heart Association for Heart Month!

Join the effort by:

  1. Wear red on Friday, Feb. 6th for national Go Red for Women Day
  2. Buy one of our special edition Heart Month t-shirts — of which we’re donating 100% of proceeds straight to the American Heart Association to help them continue their amazing work and further the Go Red for Women awareness campaign
by Catherine Sanderson

by Catherine Sanderson

Our Favorite Non-Profits, Round 2

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“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
– Mother Theresa

Point to Ponder:
What non-profit is special to you?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

During a conversation a few weeks ago between my mom and I, she candidly said, “If in this day and age anyone complains of being bored, they aren’t looking hard enough because there are always people to help.” I think she’s right. For sure there are always people to help, and “in this day and age” we are fortunate to have access to so many wonderful organizations that do amazing work!

Last week I shared with you my favorite philanthropies and non-profits, and this week our leaders are sharing some of theirs. For some of us, support is through monetary contributions, and for others of us it’s our time. The important thing is that it comes from loving hearts, and that’s what matters most.

Alli’s & Sha’s Favorite: Beyond Batten Disease Foundation

default-logo“Every year for the past 4 years I have participated in an event called “Run to the Sun” to raise funds and awareness for Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, and I am passionate about this event and this cause. BBDF is a local non-profit founded by dear family friends, Charlotte and Craig Benson, on behalf of their daughter Christianne, who has this devastating rare neurological disease. In just a few short years, BBDF has made huge gains in understanding and treating Batten, along with numerous other rare childhood diseases, and is now on track to find a cure in Christianne’s lifetime! Run to the Sun is a 90-mile overnight relay from Enchanted Rock to Austin in which runners symbolically experience Christianne’s journey — running into and through the night, “blind,” sometimes “alone” (but never really), always surrounded and supported by teammates, other runners, and volunteers along the course, culminating at sunrise with a finish-line celebration where everyone crosses and “comes into the light” together. The experience is truly life changing, and the work of the foundation is too.”

Amy’s Favorite: Austin Sunshine Camp

logo“One of my favorite, lesser-known, local non-profits is Austin Sunshine Camps. The camps’ mission is to engage and empower youth through outdoor experience and education. For over 85 years, kids from Austin and surrounding areas have enjoyed summer camp free of charge. There is a neat story to the camp’s beginning: In 1928, The Young Men’s Business League(YMBL) of Austin recognized the serious community threat of youth tuberculosis and became dedicated to making a significant contribution to the solution. YMBL members established the Summer Sunshine Camps in Zilker Park to provide afflicted local youth and economically disadvantaged youth an environment in which to gain weight, grow strong, and enjoy sunshine, as it was said that sunshine could assist in curing tuberculosis. Today, Austin YMBL Sunshine Camps continue to serve youth living near or below the poverty line. The programs have expanded to include education and a mentoring component. After-school programs and tutoring are now offered to middle and high school youth, empowering them to dream big and look towards college. The camps are in the process of building a new facility at Zilker Park which will enable many more central Austin youth to succeed through education and healthy living.”

Cary’s Favorite: Marbridge

marbridge-logo“If you ever doubt the adage ‘what you give, you get,’ just hop in your car and drive till you reach Marbridge Ranch. A home for cognitively-disabled adults, Marbridge gives life to those who might otherwise struggle fiercely if they lived outside of its warm and loving doors. Donations go to support the most loving and true people anyone will ever find on this planet. They literally ‘had me at hello’ the first time I volunteered there, answering phones in the main office. Two mischievous residents knew the regular gal was out, and that a green and unsuspecting little me was the gatekeeper-in-training…in other words, I had no idea who could come and go. So these two did just that, they came — time and again, carrying mail, bluebonnet seeds, papers, you name it…just to get past me so they could have a peek into the Big Boys’ offices. My face hurt, I smiled so much that day, and I haven’t looked back. Each time I go, I am visited by an angel…that is the truest way I can think to describe it. They love, they smile, they live, they learn, they teach. It is a beautiful place. You can give in the form of financial support, but also volunteer support, and there are a million opportunities for that. If you are able to become involved…I promise, you will never look back!

Catherine’s Favorite: Austin Community College

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.07.31 PM“This past year I have really come to respect and admire the work they do at Austin Community College. With both my husband and I taking classes there this year, we’ve witnessed first-hand how focused the instructors in the career-specific courses are on truly helping prepare the students for being successful in a career and finding good jobs, as opposed to just academics for academics’ sake (which I experienced through large Universities). Growing up, I had no exposure to or respect for community colleges, and since I’ve thankfully opened my eyes and learned that ACC does awesome things for students at a price that is actually manageable for those paying for their own school that want to pursue their dreams and become everything they dream of. The career-specific course instructors we’ve encountered are truly there for helping you learn more about what that skill is like in the ‘real world’, instead of focusing on school reputation, accolades, etc. Now, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the real deal… I just really love and value that at this point in my life! I’m so thankful that my prejudice against community colleges has been exposed and proven dead wrong, because ACC (a non-profit) is awesome and serves an incredible purpose for the people that want and need it.”

Kathleen’s Favorite: Campus Crusade for Christ

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.49.30 PM“My favorite non-profit thus far has been supporting Campus Crusade for Christ right here in Austin. I have sponsored a darling couple here on staff at UT. They have made such an impact on so many young lives just down the street from me on campus. I truly believe that these UT students will be forever changed by these young men and women on staff at Cru. I was involved with Campus Crusade when I was a student at UT and it was a life-changing event for me!”

Molly’s Favorite: Susan G. Koman Foundation

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.54.58 PM“My favorite non-profit is the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I’ve known several women who have fought and won the battle with breast cancer, and several who have passed away, including my grandmother. My support of this cause is important because I wish for the doctors and researchers to find a cure so that no woman endures this pain ever again. I’ve participated in the Race for the Cure, and I love that family, friends and strangers join together to unite for this beautiful cause.”

Action Item:
Determine one way you can help support a non-profit that’s special to you during this giving season.

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The Giver’s Glow & The Helper’s High

Last year's diaper drive drop-off at Any Bay Can.  Thanks to your donations at our 2013 Christmas party, this was one of many fully-loaded carts

Last year’s diaper drive drop-off at Any Bay Can. Thanks to your donations at our 2013 Christmas party, this was one of many fully-loaded carts

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill

Point to Ponder: Is there a particular non-profit or charitable organization that means a lot to you?

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

We live in a day and age where non-profits and volunteer opportunities are abundant. Because of technology, it’s as simple as a click of a button to see the needs of people across the globe. Not only do we have access to helping our literal neighbors, but we can easily find ways to help and create real impact throughout the whole world. Pretty cool! Much like gratitude, when we help others by volunteering our time or making a donation, our brain releases our favorite feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. It also causes “the giver’s glow and helper’s high.” According to Dr. Stephen Post, professor of preventative medicine and bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, “brain scans show that even the mere thought of helping others makes people happier.”

“In the United States millions of adults volunteer their time to help others for a specific cause. This ‘giving’ population reports the following results:

  • Improved sense of well-being (89%)
  • Lower stress levels (73%)
  • Better physical health (68%)
  • Enhanced emotional health (77%)
  • Enriched sense of purpose in life (92%)
  • Increased happiness (96%)
(DeBoskey, Bruce. The Denver Post)

Now with Thanksgiving behind us and the Christmas season in full-force, if you’re like me you feel extra motivated to give and help others. While this time of year makes us want to give more, it’s also a time of year that can cause added stress and depression. So in an effort to get “the giver’s glow” and combat any holiday blues, we thought we’d launch the Christmas season in the right direction by focusing the next few weeks on giving and generosity and share some of our favorite philanthropies and non-profits (because if you’re like me, there are so many non-profits and philanthropies out there that it’s slightly overwhelming to determine who to give to).

There are so many great non-profits. Among my favorites are: Victory School Uganda, Austin Life Care, Dell Children’s Hospital, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Hospice Austin, Helping Hand Home for Children, Jeremiah Program and Any Baby Can. In addition to all of these amazing non-profits, there’s one specifically I’d like to make you aware of that I know you’ll love: WeViva. WeViva is a non-profit in Austin that provides accessible and affordable fitness and nutrition programs to people in low-income communities. A few weeks ago I met with the founder Carolyn Haney, and she shared what we all know to be true: that health and wellness starts and ends at home, and most often with mom. And, it’s great that children are being taught the benefits of exercise and healthy eating at school, but if it’s not reinforced at home, the healthy success rate significantly decreases.

The super cool thing about WeViva is that they offer Zumba, yoga, strength training, and nutrition classes every week day at 18 locations in the Austin area, providing 32 classes per week! Their classes are always full, with as many as 60 participants per class. They are changing the lives of women and their families — WeViva is saving lives! There are so many things I love about WeViva, but what drives it home for me is something my mother confessed several months ago. I knew we didn’t have money growing up, but when I asked if while raising my sister and I while working full-time if she would’ve spent $30/month for a convenient at-work exercise program, she said, “No. As much as I would’ve loved it and needed it, we didn’t have extra money and every penny I earned was going towards necessities and the things you and your sister needed for your school and extra-curricular activities.” Therefore, one of my main non-profit focuses this holiday season that will also give me the ‘Giver’s Glow’ will be WeViva, which will help provide women (much like my mother many years ago) have a free and convenient opportunity to receive the benefits of health and fitness — a gift with unlimited and infinite benefits!

Action Item:
Check out the video below to get a glimpse into the world of WeViva, and think about ways you might be able to give of your time and/or assets this holiday season to benefit a charitable organization that means something to you. 

   

 

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