Woman Donates Over 10,000 Handsewn Toys to Refugee Children

Woman Donates Over 10,000 Handsewn Toys to Refugee Children

Aug 03

Sarah Parson of Cedar Hills, Utah, has five children and a good heart. When she heard from a friend about refugee children in Greece who had nothing to play with in their camps but garbage and wildlife, she imagined her own children in their place. Her five are dedicated to their toys, and take so much joy in them. Parson realized after that 2015 conversation that she could offer something to children in straits like that. She had always made dolls for her own girls, so she could make them for anyone. She began immediately, founding Dolls of Hope, a charitable organization centered on sending children’s toys to refugee camps all over the world. As of 2017, they had sent over 10,000 toys to 23 countries. According to their most recent Facebook post, they are currently collecting for children in Syria, Uganda, Pakistan, and Kenya. Parson began the effort, but she’s not making toys alone. Her Facebook group posts patterns and organizes crafting groups to make and send handsewn dolls and bears abroad. A recent shipment sent 1,200 stuffed toys from her local group to children separated from their parents at the Mexico-U.S. border. “My hope is we are giving a little piece of their childhood back,” said Parson to Inside Edition. “That they can find comfort in that stuffed animal, or that doll. And that they can love that doll and hug that doll, even though they can’t hug their parents.” Of her own commitment, she said: “While it may seem overwhelming or we think the problem is too big, we could never solve the problem. We can’t let that immobilize us to doing nothing because that doesn’t help. So we have to start where we are, doing what we can.” Being a refugee is traumatizing. Being separated from one’s parents is traumatizing. Anything any of us can do to give play and childhood back to these effected children increases their chance of a successful future. Parson and her like are doing vital, needed...

Lottery Winner Starts Her Own Charity with Winnings

Lottery Winner Starts Her Own Charity with Winnings

Jul 13

Rachel Lapierre won the lottery in 2013—a one in seven million stroke of luck, netting her C$1,000 a week for the rest of her life. At the time, she was a nurse, a former Miss Quebec, and already a person dedicated to helping those around her. At 20, she ran a modeling school to help young women build careers under their own control in the fashion industry. Later, as a nurse, she worked in emergency departments and was a part of overseas humanitarian organizations. Lapierre was 56 when her numbers popped up on the Canadian National Lottery. “I figured that if I won, I would go ahead with this project of founding a charity,” she told le Journal de Montreal in 2013. And she’s done just that. Using her winnings to organize teams of volunteers under a charity called Le Book Humanitaire, she has worked in eight countries and counting. Beginning in her hometown of Montreal, providing food and clothes to the homeless, she has also traveled abroad, building things like street clinics in India, Haiti, and Senegal. “Money is money,” said Lapierre in an interview with the Mirror about her passion project. “When you’re born, you don’t have anything. And when you go, you go with nothing but your memories. You go with what you did here in life. “We just try to promote good deeds. Good deeds can be so many things. It can be a bike, it can be food, it can be transport to go to the hospital.” Lapierre’s winnings are supplemented by a number of partner companies to fund the charity, including Les Ateliers, Lunettes Dépôt, and international shipping company Transport Charrette. Lapierre’s whole life is a story about making sure that her successes elevated others with her. If one can be said to deserve to win the lotto, surely she did. And she continues to make sure that her rising tide lifts all...

Late Special Education Teacher Leaves $1 Million to Students

Late Special Education Teacher Leaves $1 Million to Students

Jul 11

For 45 years, Genevieve Via Cava taught and helped students with learning disabilities in Dumont, New Jersey. It was her life. In 2008, she told the superintendent of her school district, Emanuele Triggiano, that she would donate a million dollars to the Dumont School District. He assumed it was hyperbole, and laughed it off. When she passed away in 2011, he remembered her life of service and education, but not the off-hand promise. This April, he was reminded of the “joke” in the best way possible—by a check for $1 million from Via Cava’s estate. It may seem strange that a woman working in special education for a public school district could amass a million-dollar nest egg, but Via Cava lived a quiet, frugal life, and most of her needs were taken care of by her late husband’s pension. With no children or close family, her only thought of a legacy was towards the students to whom she dedicated her entire life. James Kennedy, a friend of Via Cava, said that she would continue to help her special education students into their adult lives, as long as 20 years after they graduated her classes. “She had an uncanny memory when it came to her students and could remember things that happened a long time ago,” said Kennedy. He met her as a student himself, and then proceeded to work with her as an adult, when he became director of special services and later principal of one of the schools in her district. The money Via Cava donated will be invested, the interest to provide scholarships to special education students from Dumont School District seeking opportunities in secondary education, $25,000 at a time. An incredible legacy from a woman who no doubt has left many such legacies in the people she helped to...

Allstate Donates Books to Schools Hit by Hurricane Harvey

Allstate Donates Books to Schools Hit by Hurricane Harvey

Jul 05

Before Hurricane Harvey, it had been 12 years since a major hurricane made landfall in the United States, the last of which being Katrina and Wilma in 2005. Within a four-day span, Hurricane Harvey pounded eastern Texas with as much as 40 inches of rain, which caused major flooding before it dissipated on September 2, 2017. Thousands of homes and businesses and dozens of schools were destroyed by the elements. Nearly a year later, some of those schools are being rebuilt. In the Houston Independent School District (HISD), which is the largest school district in Texas, four elementary schools were hit the hardest: Braeburn, Hilliard, Mitchell, and Scarborough. They lost everything, including their entire library collections. The Allstate Foundation, the philanthropic branch of the insurance giant by the same name, announced commitments immediately after Harvey to help Houston rebuild its schools. On July 3, 2018, the foundation donated $400,000 to help replenish those school libraries, as part of their “Rebuilding Our Readers” campaign. Friday, July 6, Allstate leaders will bring the donation in-person to the new building of Scarborough Elementary School, which was relocated. “We’re committed to helping Texas communities recover from this disaster, which is why we’re honored to be a part of this effort to replenish Houston ISD libraries with new books to replace those lost during Harvey,” said Larry Sedillo during a tour of the school. Sedillo is the Field Senior Vice President of Allstate in Texas. Since the hurricane, companies across the nation have donated over $72 million to relief efforts for Houston and other areas in need of restoration. Estimates for the total economic losses amount to between $81 and $125 billion, the higher of which puts Harvey on par with Katrina. In response to the outstanding nature of the damage, the name Harvey has been retired from the list of names for rotating...

Feeling Generous? Here’s Some Tips for Giving

Feeling Generous? Here’s Some Tips for Giving

Jun 27

In times like these, it’s easy to want to help and not know how. The news is packed with stories of economic injustice, much of it urgent. A thousand children need legal representation today. Schools in Puerto Rico are closing down. Michigan’s donated water has run out. It’s something different every day, and for most of us, the only help we can offer is to open our wallets. The urgency makes it difficult to gauge the effectiveness and trustworthiness of charity campaigns. GoFundMes and the like set up by private individuals feel good to support, as they represent the kind of grassroots activism we all admire. But even well-meaning organizers may fall short of their promised activities, and many don’t have good intentions. That’s why it’s important to take the time to investigate a charitable campaign before giving. A quick search may turn its name up on a list of common scams. For a more concrete review, check with Give.org and Charity Navigator, which hold charity organizations responsible for transparency and fiscal responsibility. New organizations that pop up immediately following a disaster are difficult to verify. Crowdfunding campaigns, while often among the first to pop up in response to an emergency, are difficult or impossible to vet. If you do decide to donate to one of these, follow up by monitoring the campaign’s activity and discussions. If anything seems off-base, quick reports to the hosting site may keep the money from disappearing. If you do support small grassroots campaigns, look for a few earmarks of good planning. Specific uses for donations and how they are intended to help is a good starting point. Avoid vague and broad promises. Organizers who set up transparency from the beginning, with real names and contact information available, are far more credible. We all want to help, and monetary donations are desperately vital. Lawyers, marches, soup kitchens, and clean water all cost money. But take the time to ensure that your money will go where you intend it...

Kanye West Drama Results in the Renaming of Beloved Charity

Kanye West Drama Results in the Renaming of Beloved Charity

Jun 08

Kanye West and Che Smith grew up together in Chicago during the 80s and early 90s. Smith, who would become the rapper known as Rhymefest, was very close with West’s mother, Dr. Donda West. After she passed away in 2007, the two songwriters teamed up to begin a charity in her honor, known as Donda’s House. In 2013, the program launched with Smith and his wife, Donnie Smith at the head, connecting with schools to offer education in sound design to students. After the program’s launch, West had very little involvement outside of fundraising, which many attribute to a dislike between West’s wife, TV celebrity Kim Kardashian, and Che Smith, who is the program’s creative director. On May 25th, Donda’s House released a news statement condemning West’s current political platform, calling for a boycott of the artist himself, and dissolving their ties to him. West himself did not respond but Kardashian did, in a passionate series of tweets threatening to take the charity away from Smith. He responded by asserting that this was the first interest she had ever shown in the organization. “I wouldn’t characterize our relationship right now. I’d be lying if I said things weren’t sensitive and tender,” said Smith of West and his wife. A few hours after the exchange on Twitter, the charity released a statement removing Dr. Donda West’s name from the organization. Donda’s House became Art of Culture, Inc (although their website, at least as of this writing, remains www.dondashouseinc.org). “Our community actually selected the new name. And we did a review of programs and decided we’re going to continue our old programs, and also add some new ones contributed by the community,” said Donnie Smith, executive director, in reference to the 500+ artists that Art of Culture has helped mentor since its...

Comic Book Collector Makes Historic Donation to Library of Congress

Comic Book Collector Makes Historic Donation to Library of Congress

May 31

Comic books are an oft-underrated part of literary history, with fingers in every direction from novels to television and movies. And of course, the comics themselves. Stephen Geppi has built his career on publishing and distributing comic books, beginning with a small chain of comic shops in Baltimore in the 1970s. In 1982, he founded Diamond Comic Distributors. By ’96, after the acquisition of major competitor Capital City, he had a near-monopoly on comic book distribution in the U.S. and was a major force abroad. Over time, Geppi amassed a substantial collection of comic and pop-culture history. He opened a private museum in his home town of Baltimore to trace the history of American pop-culture from the days of newspaper comics on forward. He also opened a series of galleries, the Diamond International Galleries, to show comics and collectibles as having a place in the fine art world. Much of the collections shown in those galleries comes from Geppi’s private collections. This year, he will close his museum. And it’s from that collection comes his recent gift to the United States. Announced Wednesday, May 30th, Geppi will be donating more than 3,000 items from his collection to the Library of Congress, their largest-ever donation of comic books and related articles. The donation, which is estimated to have a value in the millions, includes items from 80 years of American comics, including storyboards from the early Mickey Mouse short “Plane Crazy,” Beatles memorabilia, and newspaper strips from the very first American serial comics. The Library of Congress has the world’s largest collection of comic books, with approximately 140,000 issues from 13,000 titles, according to Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. “When Steve asked about making this gift, I was just thrilled, because it supports something here that is a touchstone for many people who might not otherwise think the Library of Congress is a library for them,” said...

Dolly Parton Gives $1 Mil to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

Dolly Parton Gives $1 Mil to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

May 21

“Twenty-six years ago is when Hannah was diagnosed with leukemia and for five years we didn’t know if we’d be keeping her or not,” said Dolly Parton on Thursday, May 17th, in an auditorium at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. “But Hannah now stands here as our chemo hero. She shows that miracles do happen with good care, great doctors, and great nurses.” The legendary country singer was referring to Hannah Dennison, her niece. For Hannah’s 30th birthday, she and her aunt visited the hospital that saved her life as a child. In front of an audience of doctors, nurses, patients and families, Parton donated $1 million to the hospital. “They took such good care of her and just looking at the little faces of the kids going through this and the parents who suffer so much as well; it’s just touching and moving,” said Parton. “If you’re in a position where you can do something, you should do something.” That is Parton’s general philosophy in life. The country singer has been a big name in American philanthropy for her entire career. Her charitable foundation, Dollywood, provides free books to more than three quarters of a million children and hundreds of libraries, supports hospitals and wildlife conservation, and backs charity drives to help the victims of natural disasters. Parton decided she would make this donation to mark a landmark in her niece’s life a year ago, when she visited Vanderbilt to release her children’s album, I Believe in You. The album was targeted at children who face heavy challenges in life, such as illness and bullying… children like Hannah. As a demonstration of gratitude for the donation, Vanderbilt dedicated their rooftop butterfly garden to Hannah Dennison.. “Now that we have Hannah’s butterfly garden, we may come up and do little shows now and then and bring some joy to the kids,” said Parton, raising her...