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JJ Watt Provides One-Year Update on Hurricane Harvey Fundraiser

On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey blew through Houston and the surrounding areas to become the most costly hurricane in American history, both in lives and livelihoods. It killed 88 people and caused nearly $200 billion worth of property and economic damage.

In the aftermath, J.J. Watt, a player on the Houston Texans team, saw the intense need in his adopted hometown immediately. By September 1, 2017, he had put up a fundraiser on the site Youcaring (now absorbed by GoFundMe) with an initial goal of $200,000 dollars.

“Hurricane Harvey has taken a catastrophic toll on our great city, while leaving many stranded and in need of assistance. We must come together and collectively help rebuild the aspects of our community members lives that were damaged or lost. Any donation that you can spare, no matter how large or small, is greatly appreciated. We will come out of this stronger than ever. We are Texans,” wrote Watt in the fundraiser’s initial pitch, which was accompanied by a video of the athlete making a heartfelt plea.

Within three weeks, more than 200,000 individual donors had amassed a donation of over $37 million.

On August 27, 2018, one year after Harvey, Watt, who had promised transparency to his donors, posted an update detailing the reach of the donated funds. Managed by Watt’s charity foundation, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, the money grew over the next year to more than $4.1 million, and was put to use rebuilding more than 600 homes and supporting Houston Food Bank and Feeding America, who together served over 26 million meals to those displaced and put in need by the hurricane. It also supported the rebuilding of 420 childcare centers to serve over 16,000 children, and got medicine to more than 10,000 patients in need.

The fund is not exhausted, either. The Foundation intends to continue building homes and assisting Houstonians with medical and food needs as long as they can, alongside nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Club.

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News

Investor David Tepper Donates $3 Million to Feeding America

Over 200 centralized food banks comprise the nationwide network of Feeding America, which supplements food to nearly 50 million people via 60,000 food pantries and meal delivery programs in the U.S. The entire network has been strained to the breaking point this autumn, by the hurricane disasters in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

In a glimpse of what the wealthy should be to America, hedge fund billionaire David Tepper pledged $3 million from his David Tepper Charitable Foundation and Appaloosa LP to support Feeding America’s hurricane relief efforts.

Last week, Tepper told reporters that ensuring food banks have access to food, safe drinking water, and the other resources they need to remain open in times of crisis is “vital to helping these communities recover.”

CEO of Feeding America Diana Aviv said that the Tepper Foundation pledge will reach thousands of those displaced and impacted by the hurricanes. On their website, Feeding America quips that every dollar of donation furnishes 11 meals to the hungry. By that rubric, this pledge could feed more than half of the network’s regular recipients. By comparison, in 2016, they reported taking in a total just under $2.5 million in public support and revenue.

Tepper, son of an accountant and a school teacher, is currently worth nearly $12 billion, putting him among the 200 wealthiest people in the world. He’s known as a “philanthropist with a loose wallet.”

Tepper’s $3 million pledge, while game-changing for Feeding America, is chump change for his foundation. In 2013, he donated a whopping $67 million to his alma mater of Carnegie Mellon University (the university named their school of business after him). As if that’s not cool enough, Tepper also regularly supports charities targeting Jewish communities and education.

Another reason to love the guy? After Hurricane Sandy, he donated $200,000 in gift cards directly to families in affected cities to help them rebuild.

The world needs more David Teppers.

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Organizations Resources

The Easter Seals Blake Foundation Fosters Compassion and Advocacy for Those In Need

Easter Seals Blake Foundation
IMG: via Easter Seals Blake Foundation

The Easter Seals Blake Foundation (ESBF) has been on a mission to spread help, hope and answers to its Southern Arizona community for more than six decades. Originally formed in 1950 as the Cerebral Palsy Foundation of Southern Arizona, the ESBF has since expanded its services to provide a deeper community impact. Over time, the Foundation has been able to reach more people through education programs, residential services, and other resources, and is even part of a national initiative to support those with disabilities and special needs. The organization’s detailed history commemorates the changes and growth ESBF has experienced in its more than sixty years of service to those in need.

ESBF provides transportation, behavior health services, autism support services, camping and recreation programs, employment and training, medical rehabilitation, family support, as well as services that benefit veterans, seniors, children and adults. These are just a handful of the extensive services provided by the foundation that build upon its mission of helping all people access healthy, productive, and independent lives. As the ESBF’s Events and Marketing manager Carrie Durham explains, “We provide services to a sector of the population that is in the most critical need,” of the importance of having such wide-reaching programs.

Easter Seals Disability ServicesDurham was kind enough to share one of her personal experiences at ESBF, one that affirms the importance of the hands-on approach that the foundation employs:

While shadowing with a Program Manager in our Children and Family Services (CFS) division I met a very shy, small for her age 16-month-old little girl.  She was brought to our facility by a “transporter” – someone that just picks up the child and brings then to our facility.  She’d been taken away from her young parents and was currently in Foster Care.  From the lavender pansy hair clips to the purple shirt and multi shades of purple tutu down to lavender socks and sandals with pansies on the toes…she was a cutie batootie!  She’d been brought [to the Children and Family Services] for supervised parental visits. 

Normal 16-month-olds are very curious and active.  This [girl] clung to her driver’s side. [I] attempted to engage her by smiling and saying hi.  Without any response once again…I got up and grabbed a book off the shelf and sat on the floor about 10 feet away from her.  I started reading aloud a book about farm animals. I had gone through every duck, dog, horse, cow, chicken sound without even a peep from her – until I came to the pigs.  The book read ‘oink oink oink,’ but I said ‘That’s not the way they really sound.’ I began snorting and then…I felt, a very gentle and small hand on my shoulder.  I almost cried and peed my pants at the same time! 

WE continued to read the book together while waiting for her dad to show. (Which for some reason unknown to me, he didn’t or couldn’t). Maybe he missed his bus, had to work late, or just forgot.  Whatever the reason, a child was waiting and my heart ached for her. 

ESBF has the daunting task of reviewing whether these children are able to go back to their birth parents or place them elsewhere.  Some in society may want to quickly pull the child away without looking back.  Our goal is to educate, train, and reunite without harm.  It doesn’t always work, but you’ve got a child that will grow up knowing someone cared about them and tried to keep their family together. This one of MANY services we provide gives both parents and children services that include counseling, parenting classes, nurse practitioners, mentoring, job training to name a few.”

This example of how closely ESBF works with families, young people, and adults is indicative of the organization’s impressive, proactive approach. Although ESBF is part of a larger, national initiative, the Southern Arizona branch still feels like a more intimate, caring community. Durham says, “Nothing inspires me more to do my job well then (sic) to visit with the people we serve.  I can’t do what our CFS staff does on a daily basis, but someone needs to and I’ll keep working hard to keep them doing so,” of the remarkably community-driven efforts of the foundation.

Learn more about the Easter Seals Blake Foundation, how to get involved, and how to support them at their official website.

You can also connect with ESBF on Facebook and Twitter.

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Organizations Profiles

Clinton Family Launches Fundraiser for Charitable Trust

Bill Clinton
Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

The William J Clinton Foundation is the charitable foundation created by former President Bill Clinton.  Now the entire Clinton Family is involved with a new campaign to create an endowment fund for the newly renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.  The new foundation will expand on issues that the Clinton Global Initiative originally championed.  In addition to fighting AIDS, climate change and poverty worldwide, Hillary and Chelsea will focus on more localized issues.  The new campaign aims to raise $250 million to help the foundation expand and includes events in London and San Francisco, as well as offers for one on one meetings for large enough donations.

To read more about the Clinton family and their foundation, head over to our profile.

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Organizations Profiles

Tammy Tibbetts Changes the World With Cupcakes and Content

Tammy Tibbetts
IMG: via shesthefirst.org

When Tammy Tibbetts was 23, she worked as a web content manager for a women’s magazine.  She loved seeing first hand how social media can create change in how we accomplish things and connect with others.  When she became frustrated by an article on teen pregnancy in Liberia, she realized she wanted to help promote education for girls in developing countries.  Education is the primary factor in decreasing rates of teen pregnancy, unemployment, and domestic violence.  Tibbitts founded She’s the First with a group of friends in 2009, with a simple social media campaign calling young people into action to raise enough money to sponsor just one girl to finish school.

In 2011, Tibbetts was able to relaunch She’s The First into a fully-fledged nonprofit.  The organization’s fundraising projects have included several fun activities. These include promoting bake sales of tie-dyed cupcakes (300 cupcakes at one dollar a piece raises enough to sponsor one girl), to a benefit concert called Girls Who Rock.  The organization researches the highest quality education partners, and provides them with profiles on girls that the organization’s donors are supporting.  The site is now an interactive community connecting donors to organizations and subsequently girls in developing countries that are now able to go to high school by participating in one of various programs.

For Tammy Tibbetts entire profile, click here.

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Organizations Resources

Carry 5 Walk for Water Raises $90,000 at Seattle Center

Carry 5 Walk For Water
IMG: vai water1st.org

On May 5th, over 500 people gathered at the Seattle Center to carry containers full of water to walk 5 kilometers in solidarity with those who have to make similar journeys every day.  Water 1st International of Seattle organized the event to raise money to support clean water and hygiene products in the world’s poorest communities in six different developing countries.  The walk began at the International Fountain and made two laps around the Seattle Center, bringing attention and camaraderie to the fight for social justice.

While Water 1st is continuing fundraising through May 31st, the walk has raised over $90,000 dollars, which is enough to provide 1,200 children with clean water in their homes for a lifetime.  Currently, over 200 million people, mostly women and young girls, have to spend 5 hours a day walking several miles to collect water for drinking, cooking and washing.  The full containers of water weigh about forty pounds.  About 5,000 deaths each day are attributed to causes that could be prevented by having access to sanitation and clean water.  Water 1st International is dedicated to preventing these deaths and lessoning the burden on young girls to collect water so that they have time to attend school and live a full life.

One Seattle teen fundraiser stood out above the crowd. Fourteen year old Giuliana Sercu has raised nearly $10,000 for the Carry 5 event after being inspired by a trip to Ethiopia in 2011.  She says her passion from the cause comes from seeing the problems first hand, and knowing that an amount as little as $75 can change a child’s life.  Another young person, a 6th grader named Elli, raised $7,500 dollars.  Her inspiration was from watching a video Water 1st showed at her school in 2nd grade.  Mobilizing youth to change the world is making a big impact in the communities that need the most help.  Both young ladies said the best way to raise money is send emails, letters and talk to as many people as possible.

Anyone can still donate to the Carry 5 event through Water 1st International’s page.  A donation of $75 dollars can give a child a lifetime of access to clean water.

To view Water 1st International’s entire profile, click here.

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Organizations

Robin Hood Foundation Gala Raises Over $80M

jessica biel robin hood gala
IMG: Helga Esteb via Shutterstock

On Monday, May 13th, the Robin Hood Foundation hosted a gala to raise money to help fight poverty in New York City. Over the course of the evening, the foundation raised over $80 million. The event was chock-full of celebrities, business leaders, and other well-known faces, many of them donating significant amounts of money to the cause.

Mary J. Blige, Bono, Elton John, and Brian Williams were among the entertainment for the night, as were comedians Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld. Newlyweds Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel also attended the event, stopping to chat with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Paul Simon and Sting performed together on stage.

In 2011 the event raised about $47 million. In 2012, that number was beat by an impressive haul of $59 million. This year’s $80 million knocks both those numbers out of the water. The event was co-chaired by Timberlake and Biel, as well as by Paul Tudor Jones II and his wife Sonia; Henry Kravis and his wife Marie-Josee; and Leslie Moonves and his wife Julie Chen.

This event certainly isn’t the first time the Robin Hood Foundation has brought in big names, though. Last December, the foundation put on a benefit concert entitled “12-12-12,” with proceeds going to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Musicians like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones performed at the concert.

Funds raised and distributed by the Robin Hood Foundation have been used to install libraries at public schools in NYC, feed homeless and hungry New Yorkers, provide for victims of 9/11, and support victims of Superstorm Sandy—to name a few.

Read our profile of Henry Kravis here.

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Organizations Resources

Sandy Relief Foundation Facing Scrutiny

Nearly four months after Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast, one major charity is having its operations and motives questioned. The Sandy Relief Foundation raised about $1 million in the wake of the storm, but according to an investigation by the Asbury Park Press, few of those funds have been released. It’s also not a tax-exempt organization, as its website claims.

The Sandy Relief Foundation is run by John Sandberg and his girlfriend, Christina Terraccino. Sandberg says he began planning for the foundation just before Sandy hit New Jersey and records indicate that the two filed paperwork to incorporate the foundation as a nonprofit corporation in New Jersey on October 30, 2012.

Though it’s not officially tax exempt, the two founders claim that tax exemptions can be filed retroactively once they gain official nonprofit status. The couple is getting help on their IRS application from Melanie Swift, who is a nonprofit expert. She said she had told the two to take down the “tax-exempt” status claim previously.

According to Sandberg, the delay in funds distribution is due to a large backlog of applicants. He says those on the waiting list should receive gift cards within 30 days if they qualify for aid.

There are some who have already received aid from the Foundation, such as Michael Armstrong, who says he was given two gift cards to Lowe’s totaling $500.
They were gracious enough to stop in the Highlands and they checked everything out and they gave us gift cards,” he said.

But because the foundation isn’t officially registered in New Jersey—or any other state—it technically isn’t supposed to be allowed to fund raise there. Many are beginning to question the operations of the organization as a whole. A few other details uncovered by the Asbury Park Press make Sandberg seem less than trustworthy. He never received a degree from Steton Hall University (as the resume claims he did) and two of the foundations corporate sponsors say they’re not affiliated with the charity at all.

The Sandy Relief Foundation’s website claims that it was founded “by the victoms for the victims” of the storm. “We decided to take it upon ourselves to bring attention to our neighbors in need of immediate relief. With no funding, and limited resources we started our journey to raise donation to bring necessary supplies to local shelters, restore power, clean up debris, and rebuild communities,” it reads. “With an anticipated 6-8 year recovery and 2 year clean up this will not be a sprint, it will be a marathon.”