While I spend the majority of each year doing education reports for the newspaper I work for, there are the few summer months when school isn't in session that I can branch out and write about other things happening in the community. This week was mostly all about our area nonprofits and organizations making a difference, and I also felt called to make an impact.
The week started by interviewing Heather Hood, who manages one of our area nonprofits, the Walker County Fairy Godmothers Association. I had the opportunity to speak with Heather a few months ago about their group, which helps provide prom dresses to area young girls, free of charge. Juniors and seniors who would have never been able to afford the cost of prom are now getting a chance to go, and I think that's a beautiful thing. This week's news was that the nonprofit will soon receive a donation of 300-600 dresses, which means they will be able to help even more girls go to proms or school dances for many, many years to come. Isn't that fantastic?
I also spoke with Cynthia Patton, who is the president of our Jasper Alabama Aglow Lighthouse chapter of Aglow International. The group is currently collecting cleaning supplies to benefit our local women's shelters. The women in these shelters are often victims of domestic violence or simply need a second chance to begin a career and become independent. Women at these shelters are expected to provide some cleaning supplies to keep their living areas clean; however, many can't afford those items. I admire Jasper-Aglow for giving these women assistance during their time of need. Jasper-Aglow has also held fundraising drives for a number of other groups.
The week ended with a trip to visit Make-A-Wish Alabama, located in Vestavia Hills. I met with Julianna Hallman, their development and communications coordinator, who I will be highlighting next month in Walker Magazine. One of the most impressive sections of the Make-A-Wish office was the area where wish children can play. Inside were shelves stocked with toys, provided by Mattel, that the children can take home with them free of charge. In addition, a local woman had handmade many teddy bears for the children to keep. There are so many children in Alabama and surrounding states waiting on a wish, and many of them simply need Make-A-Wish volunteers to come visit them to determine what their wishes are. In the county where I live, I was informed that there are no volunteers, meaning the process of granting a wish to children here is slowed. This has weighed heavy on my heart, because I can't help but picture how much these children have been through due to cancer and other illness, and if the process of having a wish granted is delayed, some of these children may never get their wish. Over the next couple of months, I am going to consider and pray about being a volunteer.
On a personal note, I have been working on a project with The Tiger Frances Foundation that I am very excited about. TTFF is a nonprofit animal rescue group based in California and founded by Jude McVay and Maggie Lawson. I became close with Jude and Maggie through our mutual love for animals, and I continue to be blessed to work with these angel people. I have been collaborating with them and Jude's sister, Elizabeth, on something that's different than anything we've done before. While everything is still in the works, I'm very excited to see the finished product. The ladies are sure to enjoy it.
Lastly, an actor I love, Tim Omundson, recently suffered a stroke. I knew I wanted to do something to bring people together during this time, and after a few weeks of thought, I decided to start a fundraiser through the American Heart and Stroke Association. Over the past four days, nearly $1,500 has been donated in Tim's honor from friends I have known for years and others I have never met. I am deeply grateful that something good is coming out of tragedy. Just like Tim brings light into our lives through his work, you all have brightened the world with your donations, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My grandmother had a series of strokes before her passing years ago, and this fundraiser is also in her honor. Here is the link for anyone who would like to contribute: http://honor.americanheart.org/site/TR/FunRaiser/NAT-IFEFUNraise?pg=team&fr_id=2320&team_id=287213.
If you aren't familiar with nonprofits in your area, I encourage you to learn, make donations, and become involved, if possible. Please also find a cause(s) near to your heart. There are so many ways to contribute and be part of your community, and the world. More than ever we need to come together, learn from one another, and be a light in the darkness.
The idea of starting my own website/blog has been swirling around in my mind for over a year now. What took me so long to take that step? A million fears and ever-present procrastination. "Will people be interested?" "Will I run out of things to talk about?" "Will I put in so much work and fail?" The possibilities were endless, but I eventually told myself to take the chance. After all, any decision in life — big or small — is based on the sheer hope for a positive outcome.
While a portion of my website will serve as a running resume, I want to use the majority of this space to examine issues, inform and hopefully share content that others can relate to. My blog posts will primarily focus on observations, life experience and perhaps product reviews (i.e. everyday lifesavers). Of course, my blog will not be complete without talking about my kids — those with paws and claws. Carlton, Walter and Jasper keep me busy, and I can't wait to share their adventures with you.
I also want to welcome guest bloggers to my website, and I'm in the process of reaching out to people I know who can share their insights, inspiring work and personal stories with you. The website's action zone will serve to introduce you all to nonprofits and organizations close to my heart, while encouraging you all to give back either hands-on or through monetary support. An important part of my life as a journalist is to tell people's stories, and the website's exclusive interviews section will do just that.
For those who are reading this sentence, thank you for sticking around. I look forward to us going on this journey together.