Archive of ‘TFG Spotlight’ category

TFG Spotlight: The Dreamcatcher Foundation

Last week in reaction to the Derrion Albert killing and other violence in Chicago, I blogged about getting involved with our youth and the need to recognize community organizations leading the fight. While trying to think of my first spotlight, my mind immediately went to a story that I read in the Chicago Weekly about The Dreamcatcher Foundation. This organization was started by Stephanie Daniels and Brenda Myers-Powell, two Chicago-based survivors of the sex trade industry. Focused on Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, the mission of The Dreamcatcher Foundation is reach out “to girls and young women between the ages of 12-25 years old with the hopes of igniting confidence, courage, independence, and inner strength within them.” Englewood is one of Chicago’s most crime-ridden communities with high rates of violence and prostitution.

Some of the young ladies who participate in the programs have been victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. This past makes them vulnerable for sexual exploitation, and this is exactly what Daniels and Myers-Powell want to help them avoid. In addition to traditional mentoring activities, such as arts and crafts, field trips, and academic support, the girls also have access to health services, emotional and psychological services, and personal development workshops.

I think the work done by The Dreamcatcher Foundation is some of the most important work being done in our community. Many people, young/old and male/female, often make unsafe and unhealthy lifestyle choices because they aren’t sure about their self-worth. This foundation makes an earnest and holistic approach to helping these girls set goals and understand that they are so much more than a vessel for sexual relations, either consensual or forced situations.

To learn more about The Dreamcatcher Foundation and how you can become involved, please visit http://www.thedreamcatcherfoundation.org!

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Why The Chicago Lighthouse ROCKS!

On September 11th, I went to visit The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired to check out some repairs donated by Mr. Handyman (Read my Examiner article). While there, I was BLOWN away by the facility, the programs, and the services offered. As the Director of PR, Dominic Calabrese, took me on a tour of the place, I literally kept saying “Wow” and “This is awesome!” Up until the moment that I walked in that building, I felt like I was up to speed on the issues facing disabled individuals. But, I realized that lack of mobility and lack of sight are two different monsters (in the same family). Learning about the challenges faced by the blind and visually impaired completely opened my mind.

1. The facility houses a school for blind and developmental disabled young people between the ages of 3-21. The Chicago Lighthouse Development Center provides free, year-round services for students who need the additional attention that public schools often can’t provide.

Clocks!

Chicago Lighthouse Industries Clock Factory!

2. There is a clock factory at the Chicago Lighthouse. Yes, I’m talking a full out factory. See, The Chicago Lighthouse has been producing clocks for federal agencies for over 32 years. Today, the facility continues to employ visually impaired workers and cranks out clocks for the government, some colleges, and companies.

3. There’s a house band that rehearses in-house and performs at Lighthouse functions and across the city. The day that I visited, they performed with Bears coach and legend Mike Ditka! I missed the performance but I definitely plan on making my way back to hear them. The word is that they are GOOD!

4. Ever tried to wash clothes or do other living skills with your eyes closed? Probably not. But, if you did, then you would know how crucial your sight is to these tasks. Visually impaired adults can learn independent living skills in a room equipped with a washer, dryer, kitchen appliances, and more. Other lessons include learning spatial cues, reading Braille, and folding/stuffing.

5. Providing employment opportunities for blind/visually impaired individuals is a huge priority at the Chicago Lighthouse. While there I found out that the unemployment rate for the blind/visually impaired is 70%! In addition to the employment seeking resources, the Chicago Lighthouse also employs many great and dedicated visually impaired employees. They also have employment partnerships with local companies

6. Our veterans are some of our most important citizens. They’ve sacrificed their lives for us, and as they deal with their vision issues, The Chicago Lighthouse will be right their supporting them. The organization distributes low vision equipment and independent living aids to veterans around the country. This includes canes, talking watches, magnifiers, etc!

7. The Chicago Lighthouse has been providing services to the blind and visually impaired for 103 years, and is regarded as a nationwide leader in issues related to this population.

I only listed 7 reasons, but this list could honestly go on for awhile. There are computer labs to teach office skills, a radio station, a national help line for technology for the visually impaired. Honestly, I can’t imagine navigating this world without my sight, but everyday, plenty of people wake up and do it for themselves. I think that it’s so wonderful that The Chicago Lighthouse is around to provide support and programs for this population. I’m looking forward to building a relationship with The Chicago Lighthouse now and in the future.

Thanks to the staff for their amazing hospitality!

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Houston, Show Your Charity!

Charity Chicks Houston Founders at an Event

Charity Chicks Houston Founders at an Event

I had the extreme pleasure of coming across Charity Chicks Houston during a random Twitter search for “charity.” What I discovered has truly been amazing and inspiring all at once! After learning about Charity Chicks Orlando, Tam’ra and Jayme, decided to incorporate a similar idea in Houston. Charity Chicks have been fundraising and volunteering their services all over H-Town for some great causes. In the past, the group has volunteered at charity walks and raise funds via chic happy hours.

If you’re living it up in H-Town and looking for ways to get involved and meet other great “chicks,” there is a listing of upcoming events posted on the site. And, even if you can’t make an upcoming CC event, the site includes other great opportunities in Houston and resources/organizations that are always looking for extra hands!

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Blog Fab: Gave That

Gave That is a blog focused on great gift ideas. The selection of merchandise presented is vast and ranges from jewelry to housewares. Gave That also gives readers the chance to join invitation-only sample sales sites like Gilt Group, ideeli, and Billion Dollar Babes. Now, provided that you are a Fabulous Giver, you will definitely want to keep an eye out on their “Give Twice” posts, a roundup of products and companies who’ve released a product for a great cause. Check it out for yourself at http://www.gavethat.com…You can also tweet them (@gavethat)!

Happy Giving…

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"Look Good…Feel Better" Turns 20!

While treatments such as chemotherapy are an essential part of fighting cancer, no one denies that it can and will change your appearance. And, of course, outer beauty isn’t everything, but things like the loss of hair or skin changes definitely have some effect on the way some women see themselves. And, studies have found that addressing the non-medical effects of cancer can be just as important as addressing the actual physical symptoms.

Look Good…Feel Better started in 1989 when a physician “prescribed” a makeover for a cancer patient who experienced depression related to her change in appearance. Twenty years later, the organization has helped many women offset appearance-related changes from cancer treatment through makeovers and one-on-one beauty sessions.

The cornerstone LGFB small group program is offered in all 50 states and DC. There are also international LGFB programs as well! The show doesn’t stop there. In select cities, individuals can also participate in bilingual (Spanish) or teen programs!

Participants spend two hours in a hands-on workshop that includes a 12-step skin care/make-up application lesson, demonstration of options for dealing with hair loss, and nail care techniques. Additionally, the ladies receive advice on wigs and scarves, along with free cosmetics kits! Each year, More than 50,000 individuals participate in the program. That’s a whole lot of beauty for a great cause 🙂

"Hope Is Beautiful" Execution

"Hope Is Beautiful" Ad

In celebration of Look Good…Feel Better’s 20th anniversary, the organization just launched the “Women of Hope is Beautiful” campaign and blog which encourages past program participants and cancer survivors to share their stories of hope and survival. You can share your story by clicking here. They’ve also unveiled a great ad campaign! My favorite execution is above, but you can view the rest here.

There are three main organizations which serve as a partners in making all of this happen. There’s the Personal Care Products Council, the nation’s cosmetic industry leaders; the American Cancer Society; and the National Cosmetology Association, which encourages member cosmetologists to volunteer their services. Each year, cosmetic companies, such as Mary Kay, Elizabeth Arden, and Benefit, donate over one million individual products (valued at $10 million) and raise more than $2 million for LGFB.

To celebrate their partnership with LGFB, OPI has designated a portion of the proceeds from the sale of its Bubble Bath Nail Lacquer in July and August to benefit the organization with a minimum $25,000 commitment.

OPI_SL500_AA235_

OPI Bubble Bath Nail Lacquer

LGFB is always looking for volunteers. Whether you’re a licensed cosmetologist or just looking to do more general service, there is an opportunity for you. I could probably go on and on about all the great things that Look Good…Feel Better is doing across the country, but I’ll let you explore it for yourself! If you head on over to http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org, you will find studies, videos, photos, beauty tips, and MUCH more!

You can also follow LGFB on Twitter at twitter.com/lgfb! Happy 20th birthday to such a great cause!

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All Stars Perform and Excel in Chicago

Chicago All-Stars with Executive Director, David Cherry (bottom right)

Chicago All-Stars with Executive Director, David Cherry (bottom right)

Historically, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds have less opportunities than their counterparts. There’s no question about that. However, just because something is true, doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed. All it takes is a little opportunity, some dedication, and great talent.

Founded in 1981 in New York City, the All Stars Project is a nonprofit “dedicated to promoting human development through the use of an innovative performance-based model.” The program creates educational and performing arts activities for thousands of young people with the goal of opening more doors for their future.

In 2007, the All Stars Project brought its vision and mission here to the Windy City, under the guidance of Executive Director, David Cherry. Cherry has worked in Chicago communities for over 16 years, and has a deep passion for assisting the youth who come through All Stars. Chicago’s first All Stars Talent Show was held in March 2007. Since that initial show, over 1000 young people from across the city have had the opportunity to showcase their performing prowess.

Last Wednesday, I was invited to attend a benefit luncheon at the Metropolitan Club of Chicago and enjoyed an afternoon of learning more about the organization and its programs in Chicago. At each of our tables sat a youth host who’d previously participated in the Developmental School for Youth program. Being the curious young lady that I am, I asked her to tell me about her experiences within the program. She enthusiastically described workshops including resume building, training on business attire, and public speaking. These workshops were often developed and facilitated with the assistance of Chicago professionals volunteering their skills.

As the luncheon went on, I was very impressed by the way that members of Chicago’s business community have rallied around the All Stars to invest in the future of these deserving students. In addition to financial support, companies such as MetLife and Dun and Bradstreet, will provide summer internships for a dose of real-world experience. In college, I had the opportunity to intern in Corporate America and I can’t stress how important it was to me, both at that moment and even now.

“I can honestly say that I learned a lot during the program,” my table host told me. What’s beautiful is that this statement isn’t just limited to her experience. According to Cherry, one of the great things about All Stars is that they’ve created programs that the students “actually want to participate in.”

I would love for you guys to check out the All Stars Project, especially the talent show! During the luncheon, two of the cutest young ladies performed on stage, and they were good! The next shows will be held in August on the South Side of Chicago. To find out more, please visit http://www.allstars.org/chicago.html!

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Jeannette, Juvenesse, and a Journey

“When you decide to do something for the good of mankind, the universe comes behind you and supports you.” – Jeannette Kravitz Last month, I attended a charity spa event at Juvenesse Spa (520 W. Erie, Chicago). The  proceeds of the event went to a nonprofit organization called Peace Journey. That’s really all that I knew. That is, until I was introduced to the owner of the spa, Jeannette Kravitz. She is full of energy and life, but at the same time is extremely centered. As we sat there talking, I found myself being more and more drawn in to every sentence.

Jeannette Kravitz

Jeannette Kravitz

Jeannette, like myself, had a background in corporate America and often wondered what was her life purpose. While traveling the world with her husband, she encountered many individuals who slammed the US for its policies without knowing about the many giving and selfless individuals who were proud Americans. In an effort to increase the dialogue between America and the world, she started Peace Journey in 2000.

After 9/11, she decided that she would use this organization to introduce middle schoolers and high schoolers to teens around the world, and build partnerships based on open and honest communication. On Peace Journey’s first overseas trip, students from Chicago high schools, Roberto Clemente, Kennedy, and Latin, participated. “It was like the UN of students,” Jeannette chuckled.

Peace Journey continues to sponsor groups of students and teachers  on trips to select foreign countries. They travel with a computer lab as our gift to each culture, opening doors to communication and lasting friendships online and offline.

With Peace Journey underway, Jeannette came across the opportunity to purchased local Juvenesse Skin Care line in 2006. Within 2 years, the Peace Spa collection was added and Juvenesse Spa opened on International Peace Day in September 2008.

Juvenesse’s motto is “beauty with a conscious,” and it absolutely rings true. The skincare line includes cleansers, toners, masks, and much more. You can also purchase makeup products including mineral eyeshadows, skin primer, and gorgeous glosses. The products can be purchased at the spa or online at http://www.shopjuvenesse.com. Proceeds from the skincare line, as well as the spa, benefit the great work that Peace Journey is doing around the world.

In the past, Peace Journey has visited countries such as Tanzania, Morocco, and Mexico, and produced a documentary which received a Telly Award for Excellence in 2006. So, what’s next?  Well, all eyes are looking towards 2010 when Peace Journey will mark its 10th anniversary! Celebratory plans include starting an organic farm in Brazil, along hosting with a concert in conjunction with UN International Peace Day.

So, a nonprofit, a skin care line, and a spa? Whew! That’s a lot! With so much going on, I asked Jeannette about her keys to success. Her response? “Reaching out to the right people, not getting caught in an ego, and collaborating with other organizations.”

Sounds like a good strategy to me. 🙂

You can learn more about Peace Journey by visiting their website at http://www.peacejourney.com. To browse the Juvenesse Skincare line and to learn about the spa offerings, be sure to stop by http://www.shopjuvenesse.com!

(Make sure that you check out the Rescue Gel, for on-the-spot blemish treatments…I’m a fan!)

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Giving Dallas Youth An Artistic Edge

We all know that public schools are underfunded, and usually the arts programs are the first to go. Instead of letting that just be the status quo, CJ Johnson decided to do something and she started Fashion Benefiting Youth Artists, a Dallas nonprofit that hosts fashion-themed events in order to support students who dream of studying the arts, either in high school or college.

After interviewing CJ, I have to say that my inspiration has been renewed. Not only does she have a great vision, but she also has some words of encouragement for those of you looking to bring a little change to the world.

1. How did you decide to start FBYA?

I decided to start FBYA when I was laid off as a teacher from the Dallas School District in October 2008. I was a history teacher in one of the roughest and most challenged high schools with a very low socio-economic status. However, I had many talented students that were illustrators, musicians and some that dreamed of acting. However, the high school had no drama department, the art department did not have canvasses or acrylic paint and there were no other music enrichment classes besides band and choir. These kids were working with just their raw talent and I thought it was pathetic that there were not more enrichment classes offered at this school.

So, when my time with DISD came to an end, I thought about my love for fashion, the arts and youth. I decided to create a non-profit organization that would provide advanced art supplies to under-served Dallas high schools, sponsor young artists to attend out-of-state summer enrichment programs, and award college scholarships to young artists who desired to pursue a college degree in the arts.

fbyalogo

2. What’s been the response so far?

The response so far has been overwhelming. With our first fashion show, I was able to secure an amazing venue for free, and all others involved (make-up artists, hair-stylists, DJ, a rock band) volunteered their services for free. We even received a mention in D Magazine and several other arts and lifestyle related publications. We have selected our first two students to receive sponsorship to a summer dance enrichment camp and are awarding a college scholarship to a graduating senior. Now, we are working on a college job fair for creative industries at at local college here in Dallas in late July.

Backstage at Spring 2009 Fashion Show

Backstage at Spring 2009 Fashion Show

3. What’s the best lesson that you’ve learned so far working with the youth, partners, etc?

The best lesson that I have learned so far working with inner-city youth is that they are more resilient and talented than people would give them credit for. They will never cease to amaze you. Throughout this process, what I have discovered thus far about people in general is that more people are willing to donate their time, services and energy for philanthropy than I previously thought…if you just simply ask.

4. Any words of wisdom to someone who wants to step out and change the world (in their own way)?

To anyone who is inspired to do something philanthropic or to be a social entrepreneur, I would tell them to make sure that it is something that you’re passionate about. You can start small (like a clothes drive at your job) but do not hesitate to dream of starting off big. I did! Just don’t hesitate or have self-doubt. Just do it! Believe me. There is a segment of the population that can benefit from your dream! Be a leader and crusader for those who can not and you will be rewarded mentally!

CJ, I appreciate your time! Ladies and gents, check out Fashion Benefiting Youth Artists online at http://www.fbya.org and FByouthartists.blogspot.com!

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Chic Meets Social Good at Peters Path

Twitter introduced me to Peters Path last month ago, but this online boutique has been active for a lot longer than that. The store uses its online storefront to bring eco-conscious styles to individuals while also raising funds for different charities on a monthly basis.

Nick & Mo Samantha Blouse, $38

Nick & Mo Samantha Blouse, $38

After serving on various mission trips, the owner, Christine Peters, knew that she wanted to do something on an ongoing basis to assist various charities. Originally, she thought about just creating a line of t-shirts but decided that she would open an online store instead. And, that brings us to Peters Path.

Every month, Peters Path donates a portion of their proceeds to non-profit organizations that promote equality and empowerment, fight poverty, aid those less fortunate and foster community service. Christine believes that we can all do our part to make a difference! “Helping people can be as simple as buying clothes,” says Christine. I wholeheartedly agree!

Nick & Mo Ruffle Dress, $48

Nick & Mo Ruffle Dress, $48

This month’s featured charity is Kate’s Club, a non-profit organization that empowers children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling by creating friendships with kids and young adults who share the experience. Participants go on buddy outings, enjoy time at a Clubhouse, and attend support groups where they are encouraged to discuss their feelings in an open, yet safe environment. Kate’s Club is an amazing organization, one which I may not have ever learned about if it wasn’t for Peters Path, so kudos to Christine and team for not only raising funds but building awareness!

Peters Path carries women’s clothing, accessories, and even home decor. Check out the cool salt and pepper shakers below! To learn more about the company, visit their website at http://www.peterspathstore.com!


Charity Is Always In Style at Akira

Chicago is full of dynasties and legendary families. Da Bears, the Daleys, the Pritzkers, the Obamas are just some of the few. You can definitely add local superstar and fashion favorite, Akira, into that roster. Over the past 7 years, Akira has grown from one store to 7 stores by focusing on superior style and service. Founded by college friends and U of I alum, Erikka Wang, Eric Hsueh, and Jon Cotay, their reign runs from Lincoln Park to the Magnificent Mile, and, of course, Bucktown, where they own 20,000 square feet of real estate divided into 4 stores and an office building.

While that is certainly impressive on its own, I am even more inspired by Akira’s unwavering commitment to charitable organizations and causes. My first introduction to Akira was three years ago at their annual Garden of Eden fashion show which benefits Imerman Angels, a charity which matches cancer fighters with survivors. In the past year, I’ve featured AKIRA events at least 6 times. So, I finally decided that it was time for me to profile this company and take a closer look at how and why they give.  I called Jon, one-third of the stylish trinity, and he was awesome enough to entertain my questions 🙂

Hsueh, Wang, and Cotay (NBCChicago.com)

Hsueh, Wang, and Cotay (NBCChicago.com)

When I entered the office on North Avenue, I was immediately caught up in the casual relaxed atmosphere. There were no fancy workstations and stuffy staff members. There were desks with piles of samples, files, and other documents on them, and cool people enjoying themselves and each other.

As Jon and I began talking, one thing became very clear. Akira’s charitable involvement is not just some half-baked business ploy. This company really does care about community organizations and has a real commitment to do what it can!

Every year, AKIRA donates numerous gift certificates for silent auction or raffle gifts, hosts several in-store events to benefit organizations, and sponsors a few charity fashion shows. This year, they either have helped or will help organizations including UNICEF, Imerman Angels, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The company has a reputation of always doing what they can to help the community. Junior boards, event chairs, and volunteers solicit donations from Akira staff on the regular. So, how does Akira determine which organizations to help?

Well, there is no formula, but there is a whiteboard. A whiteboard in the office which keeps track of all the companies’ charitable commitments for the year. I tried counting the number of organizations on the board but I lost track after 20, and that’s not counting any of the causes assisted at the beginning of the year. I asked Jon if Akira had a quota or maximum number of organizations that they helped yearly.

“There’s no set number. Actually, I just got a call this morning to provide some gift certificates for a charity event,” he stated matter-of-factly before scrolling through his Blackberry and adding the cause and form of assistance on the white board. It’s not uncommon to help at least 50 groups each year. And, it’s not just about hosting events. The company is also looking to add more products and brands in-store and online that have a charitable focus.

They are always looking for new ways to grow and maintain relationships with local organizations, so if you have an event and would be interested in Akira’s assistance, definitely reach out to them. Now, that’s fabulous giving!

Thanks to Jon for taking the time out to talk to me! To learn more about Akira and for store locations, visit their website at http://www.akirachicago.com.

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