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How to be Neighborly in Boston this Winter

snow shoveling
Want to be neighborly in Boston this winter? Grab a shovel! / Image: Nicole Hennig via Flickr CC.

Generations of Bostonians are used to enduring low temperatures during the winter months, but nothing could have prepared the city’s residents for the record amounts of show they have received so far this year. “Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he was at a loss for words Sunday, after yet another blizzard brought white-out conditions and raised snowfall totals to historic levels,” reports CBS News.

Various lines of public transportation have had to temporarily shut down, workplaces have shuttered, and the sidewalks continue to collect more and more snow. Despite the harsh conditions this year, some residents have gone above and beyond to help their neighbors with shoveling, including Joseph Porcelli, founder of Snowcrew.

According to the Snowcrew website, “Snowcrew is the brainchild of Joseph Porcelli who is a Professional Neighbor. Joseph has been helping his neighbors in need get dugout from Snowstorms since 2010. […] Snowcrew is just the tip of the iceberg for neighbors helping neighbors,” of the inspiration behind the network of good neighbors helping residents in their area. Porcelli, who is from the Jamaica Plain neighborhood in Boston, started the site by taking requests for help to shovel out cars, sidewalks, and stoops, and then tasked neighborhood volunteers.

Whether or not you would be up for the challenge of helping your neighbors shovel their walkways and cars buried under feet of snow this winter, it’s pretty remarkable that such volunteer networks exist. For an elderly or disabled person, this act of neighborly kindness means so much.

BetaBoston also notes that even if Snowcrew isn’t active in your Boston neighborhood, there are other volunteer initiatives such as Help Around Town and the “Adopt a Hydrant” project, two programs that help neighborhoods by inviting residents to participate in helping one another collectively. This may be one of the harshest winters that Boston has experienced in some time, but happily, that doesn’t mean that locals have to endure it without the help of caring neighbors.

What do you think about programs like Snowcrew? Would you help shovel out a neighbor in need?

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News

Eva Longoria Tied to Charity Used to Pocket Millions

Eva Longoria
Despite her philanthropic work, Eva Longoria might be contributing to the negative side of Hollywood charity. Image via Instagram.

 

Eva Longoria has long used her celebrity status to support important causes. The Eva Longoria foundation supports women and children in the United States Latino community, and her namesake foundation is just one of the many she donates vital funds to charities annually. It’s her dedication to philanthropy that makes a recent charity scandal involving her friends all the more surprising.

Two close friends and philanthropic associates of actress Eva Longoria have used non-profit organizations to generate millions of dollars in business for for-profit entities that they also own. Longoria is very active in the political world as both a big donor for the Democratic Party and a part of the party’s outreach to Latino voters.

The Hollywood Reporter found that two close friends of Longoria, Maria Bravo and Alina Peralta had intertwined the operations of the Global Gift Foundation with their own event planning and advertising companies in ways that don’t pass the test for accountability. Experts around the world on non-profits say that the philanthropically active celebrities like Longoria need to have the responsibility to do research on the groups they give their name to.

Bravo and Peralta were very public saying that nearly all the money they raise goes to a good cause but, they are very silent on how their event-production company, MandA and their advertising company actually make profit.

“It’s all about transparency,” says Phil Buchanan, president of the Cambridge, Mass., based Center for Effective Philanthropy. “It’s hard to imagine how, if these people are in these leadership roles, they are contracting with a company they run—that is the very definition of a conflict of interest.”

The well-liked Longoria has her own production company and when she is not busy tending to her brand, she can be found either cozying up to her handsome boyfriend Jose Antonio Baston, 45-year-old president of Televisa (Latin America’s largest media company) or with her philanthropy guru Trevor Neilson.

Read an in-depth report of how celebrities and “philanthropeneurs” are creating a negative image for Hollywood charity in The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation.

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News Organizations The Power of Giving

Woodruff Arts Center Receives $6.6 million Grant

woodruff arts center

Earlier this month, the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta announced that it was awarded a $6.6 million grant from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation. According to Philanthropy News Digest, the grant is part of a three-year initiative to “provide families and students with greater access to its core art and arts education offerings.”

The Woodruff Arts Center, founded in 1962, has a rich history and is considered “the heartbeat of Atlanta’s arts community.” It’s been a vital part of promoting arts and culture in Atlanta for 45 years, and has enriched many communities with help from the generosity of donors. According to the Center, the funding from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation “will allow expanded family-oriented programming and greater activation of the Arts Center’s campus, including family festivals, art-making activities, drop-in acting classes and more on a weekly basis beginning later in 2015.”

woodruff arts centerThe Lettie Pate Evans Foundation has been instrumental in helping museums and arts organizations like the Woodruff Arts Center flourish and expand their programming. “The Lettie Pate Evans Foundation recognizes the importance of arts and cultural institutions to creating a vibrant community and attracting economic development,” explains the Foundation. “Mrs. Evans was a patron of the arts and made generous gifts to organizations like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where she was a trustee,” explains the Foundation of its beneficiaries. The Foundation funds historical societies and preservation projects, museums, performing arts organizations, and other arts and cultural organizations that Mrs. Evans supported during her life.

“This gift from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation will allow us to make our art available to a much broader base of the community and will build upon our commitment to arts education,” said Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center of the generous contribution. “We are extraordinarily grateful for the generosity of the Foundation and for their belief in the value of the Arts Center as a community asset,” she said.

Learn more about what this donation means for the Woodruff Arts Center in this recent press release from the organization.

Images: via Facebook.

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Charity Fraudster Adam Shryock Faces Extended Sentence

breast cancer ribbon
Adam Shryock’s fake charity tricked thousands of people across the country into thinking they were donating vital funds to breast cancer-related charities. IMG: via Shutterstock

The founder of a fake charity fundraiser Boobies Rock! is now serving six more months in jail. Adam Shryock was taken to jail after the Denver judge found overwhelming evidence that he had violated his 2013 order. Back in 2013, it was discovered that Shryock’s fake charity misled thousands of people across the country by making them believe that they were donating vital funds to breast cancer-related charities.

“Adam Shryock is now a repeat charity-fraud offender, which is why it is fitting that he received the maximum penalty for thumbing his nose at the court and continuing to commit charitable fraud,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said, of the most recent allegations against him. “Mr. Shryock victimized both the young women who believed they were raising money for charity and the charities themselves by using their names without permission.”

The first time around Shryock was ordered to stop his practices in 2013 after the Attorney General’s office had filed a lawsuit against him alleging he was committing charitable fraud. That order was now violated twice and then on Wednesday there was enough evidence to show that Shryock was the driving force behind a fundraising event that took place in fall of 2014.

In July 2013 a temporary restraining order against Shryock, Boobies Rock!  Inc., The Se7ven Group, and Say No 2 Cancer for deceiving consumers into thinking they were donating money to charity. In the latest claim, Shryock claimed to only be the wholesaler and consultant to the woman running the tour, but the judge found he was heavily involved in the tour’s day-to-day operations.

It’s deeply upsetting and almost unbelievable that a person could commit fraud for their own benefit in the name of charity. Remember to always take the extra steps of doing thorough research on any organization, or person claiming to collect for the organization before donating so that your money is finding it’s way into the right pockets.

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News Profiles

Taylor Swift Helps Lucky Fan With Student Loans

Taylor Swift with fans
Taylor Swift greeting her loyal fans.

Taylor Swift has already made a name for herself for her catchy pop music, and now the star is gaining serious traction as one of the most philanthropic-minded celebrities out there today. Swift has always been very open about how much she values her fans, and lately, she’s taken this appreciation to new heights by making efforts to personally thank some of them in truly creative ways.

Swift’s latest effort to thank one lucky fan involved handmade gifts, photos, and funds to help start chipping away at her college loans. “Swift, who has a reputation for being super-generous with her fans, just helped one Swiftie pay her student loans” reports The Huffington Post. Various media outlets call Swift’s unprecedented fan appreciation “#taylurking,” because of how she finds fans on social media that go above and beyond to support her music, and then surprises them with gifts in equally impressive ways.

Taylor Swift Philanthropy
Not only is Taylor Swift a popular musician, she’s a model for celebrity philanthropy. Image: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

Her most recent gift was hand-delivered to Rebekah Bortniker by Swift’s bodyguard. It included a watercolor painting that Swift created, a Polaroid photo, a necklace with a note that said “was mine, now yours,” a “New York Is My Boyfriend” tote bag, and, in a nod to her most recent album 1989, a check for $1,989.

“I really really really really hope you like it,” wrote Swift in a handwritten card inside the package. “I’m not a good painter but I think you’re so beautiful and positive, even though you’re dealing with the stress life brings, so I wanted to make you something.”

This kind of personalized thank-you might seem over the top, but it’s something that Swift has been doing for some time now. Over the holidays, the singer surprised some of her biggest Tumblr fans with Christmas presents and handwritten notes, for example. Swift has also been donating significant funds to worthy causes for many years, even during the earliest stage of her career.

Learn more about Swift’s charitable contributions in our full profile of the singer.

Featured Image via Instagram.

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News The Power of Giving

Philadelphia is Paying it Forward…with Pizza!

rosas fresh pizza philadelphia
Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia is paying it forward one slice at a time. Image: via Facebook.

Like most northeast city dwellers, Philadelphians are serious about their pizza. And at Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, the owners and patrons are just as serious about paying it forward as they are about noshing on a delicious slice of pie.

According to NPR, “At Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia the shop is adorned with post-it notes and letters. The messages are from customers who gave $1 so homeless members in the community could get a slice, which cost $1,” of the unique, colorful notes that adorn the walls of Rosa’s.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza owner Mason Wartman explains that the “pay-it-forward pizza program” started about a year ago, after a paying customer asked if he could buy a slice for a homeless person. “I said, ‘Sure.’ I took his dollar and ran out and got some post-it notes and put one up to signify that a slice was purchased,” Wartman explained to The Salt. And thus, the philanthropic pizza program was born.

rosas fresh pizza philadelphia
The wall of pay-it-forward sticky notes at Rosa’s. Image: via Facebook.

According to Wartman, customers have purchased 8,400 slices of pizza for their homeless neighbors in Philadelphia to date, and that the program has inspired some of the beneficiaries to get back on their feet. Apparently, the word is out, and now Wartman sees between 30 to 40 members of Philadelphia’s homeless population each day. “This is a super-easy way, a super-efficient way and a super-transparent way to help the homeless,” he says.

NPR’s Elizabeth Fielder points out that this kind of pay-it-forward system is not exclusive to individuals and small businesses, and that even chain companies participate in similar programs. She mentions Starbucks and Panera’s “Panera Cares” program as examples of more corporate leaders of pay-it-forward initiatives.

What do you think of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza and its pay-it-forward pizza program? Have you paid it forward lately?

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Orange Sky Laundry Helps Those In Need

Orange Sky Laundry
Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi, friends and founders of Orange Sky Laundry in Australia.

When you’re down on your luck, sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. At Philanthropic People, we’ve discussed inspiring services that restore dignity to those in need, featuring individuals who know that just the simple act of reaching out in a small way can mean so much. Mark Bustos took his skills as a stylist to the streets of New York to cut hair for the homeless, for example; similarly, Cathy O’Grady’s everyday acts of kindness impact her community and inspire a pay-it-forward mentality.

In Australia, two young men decided that giving back meant reaching out to the local homeless community and empowering these people one load of laundry at a time. Friends Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi founded Orange Sky Laundry in July, 2014 to improve the hygiene standards and restore dignity to the homeless population in their area. In just a few months, their compassionate idea has really grown, and shaped a culture of giving in their community.

“Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi wanted to help the homeless in Brisbane, Australia, so they bought an old van, installed two washing machines and two dryers, and rode around the city offering a mobile laundry service,” reports Fast Company of the duo’s efforts to help their community. “Four months later, they have 120 volunteers, sponsorship from major corporations, and a lot of publicity.”

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“We are run by volunteers,” explains Orange Sky Laundry. “We want to harness the energy of 18-30 year olds who are keen but struggle to find simple ways to help people in need.” The greater mission of Orange Sky Laundry is to raise health standards, restore respect, and reduce the strain on resources locally, and the organization is a testament to the creativity and philanthropic vision that young people possess. Patchett and Marchesi took a thoughtful idea and turned it into a charitable organization that many people are drawn to and want to participate in.

Patchett and Marchesi hope to expand Orange Sky Laundry services across Australia by the end of 2015. Learn more about their project and how to get involved by visiting www.orangeskylaundry.com.au.

Images: via Instagram.

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News

Stuart Scott Fought Like Hell to Help End Cancer

 

stuart scott
Image: via Twitter

Stuart Scott, who passed away this week after a long battle with cancer, left a legacy far beyond reporting scores on ESPN. The beloved sports anchor gave generously which will live on in the causes he supported for years to come. The anchor died of cancer after battling the disease for more than seven years; he was 49 years old when he passed away.

Scott played a huge role in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for both the V Foundation and the Livestrong Foundation, and donated much of his time and efforts to a variety of other charitable groups. Both the Livestrong Foundation and V Foundation are committed to fighting cancer through research and raising awareness.

Scott also was a part of the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic in 2013, which raised $1.15 million for cancer research through the V Foundation. Last July Scott was even awarded the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs, where he opened up on his disease and its effect on him. For 21 years, Scott was one of ESPN’s and ABC Sports’ most recognizable and quotable TV personalities and had become one of the world’s most popular sportscasters.

Scott’s two teenage daughters, his parents, three siblings and his girlfriend survive him. Scott’s family has asked that fans and supporters donate to the V Foundation, which has put a memorial fund in place in honor of the late anchor—rather than sending flowers.

In a tribute to the longtime ESPN anchor, Steve Wulf writes, “When [Stuart Scott] passed away, he left behind so much…He inspired his colleagues with his sheer talent, his work ethic and his devotion to his daughters, Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15. He defied convention and criticism to help bring this network into a new century. He spoke to the very athletes he was talking about with a flair and a style that ESPN president John Skipper says, “changed everything.”

“ESPN and everyone in the sports world have lost a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure in Stuart Scott,” ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement.

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News The Power of Giving

Conrad Prebys Gives Massive Donation to SDSU

Conrad Prebys Gives Massive Donation to SDSU
Local philanthropist Conrad Prebys recently gave $2.5 million to San Diego State University. / Image: via Instagram.

Last month Conrad Prebys, a generous philanthropist who is known for supporting the arts, as well as health and education sectors, gave a massive donation to San Diego State University (SDSU), his second donation to the institution in 2014. According to SDSU, “When Conrad Prebys gave San Diego State University a $20 million gift earlier this year to support student scholarships, it was only the beginning. Just 10 months later, Prebys and the university have announced a $2.5 million endowment to support a new faculty position in Bio-Medical research,” of where the funds will go.

One of SDSU’s areas of excellence is in viromics, which focuses on the genetics of viruses. Reportedly, the new faculty position will be filled by an expert in this field. “The Conrad Prebys Chair in Bio-Medical Research will be a newly created faculty position that will join SDSU’s world-class faculty researchers in the area of viromics, which takes a cross-disciplinary approach to learning more about bacteriophages and exploring their potential for medical usage,” explains Greg Block of the SDSU News Center.

The $20 million gift that Prebys bestowed upon SDSU back in February was the single largest donation that the university has ever received. The gift will make it possible to provide scholarships for 150 students annually. Although he is not a SDSU alumna, Prebys has often remarked that he feels very connected to the institution.

Conrad Presby
Conrad Prebys. / Image: via ucsdnews.ucsd.edu

“As one of our most distinguished community leaders, Conrad Prebys has, literally and figuratively, helped build San Diego from the ground up through his real estate development and his philanthropic support of our cultural, educational, and medical institutions,” said SDSU President Elliot Hirshman after Prebys presented the university with his first donation of 2014. “We are deeply grateful for this gift and Conrad’s profound commitment to our students and their futures,” he said.

The new position made possible by Prebys’s most recent donation is the largest endowed Chair in the history of SDSU. It is the university’s hope that this momentum will help SDSU become a top national public research university.

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Why it Feels So Good to Give

Giving Tuesday
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get after doing something kind for someone else? Science says that giving to others actually gives people a boost of happiness, not unlike a runner’s high! / IMG: via Shutterstock

Tis the season of gift giving! Sure, Christmas may be over, but many people still find themselves heading to a few holiday parties scattered throughout the month. It’s always fun to open presents, but it turns out that being generous and giving gifts to others can actually give you a boost of happiness too. One study that was published in 2009 suggested that being on the receiving end of generosity can trigger a release of oxytocin, which is a hormone commonly associated with feelings of love and trust.

While many of us believe that spending money on ourselves will make us happier, we actually get happier when we spend that money on others. When you spend money on others there is a physiological response that causes your brain’s pleasure and reward centers to light up as if you were the recipient of the good deed. You get an instant boost of feel-good endorphins, just like a runner’s high. In fact, when you do a single act of kindness, this can inspire others to do several more acts of generosity, because recipients of kindness are more likely to pass it forward.

Even if you can’t physically give a lot, start with a domino effect for the warm and fuzzy feelings. For example, maybe offer your seat to someone else on a crowded train or bus, pick up some trash on your walk home or try inviting a neighbor over for dinner. Before you run out and spend too much (more) money this season, try to be thoughtful and unique in your giving. For example, create an experience like a vacation or day trip for a loved one. Or maybe buy someone a cooking or music lesson, or tickets to a sporting event or concert.

Don’t be stingy this season (or ever!), as giving will give you a happy high.