Volunteering to Help Schoolchildren

More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

Schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced lunches get those lunches only on school days. On Friday afternoons, these kids are each given a Power Pack—a sack which looks like a lunch sack yet is filled to the rim with power food. These Power Packs are provided by Freestore Foodbank and dependent on volunteers to bag the power food for them.

Yesterday, Saturday, I joined other volunteers at the Freestore warehouse and together we bagged nearly 1,500 Power Packs! Fifteen hundred may sound like a lot, but in reality, it barely scratches the surface to keep Cincinnati area kids from going hungry over the weekend.

According to the Freestore Foodbank, these are the stats and how our volunteer work impacts the community:

  1. More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

 

  1. Donated food items are provided by area grocery stores, local partnerships, and community members and stored at the warehouse for distribution.

 

  1. Volunteers—there were about forty of us in the ware house yesterday—we unloaded pallets of donated food and packed sacks—“Power Packs.”

 

  1. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, distributing these Power Packs to schools.

 

  1. These Power Packs are given to school children on Fridays so they can go home with power food to carry them over until the next school day, Monday.

 

Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks, which includes Freestore Foodbank. It is also the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state of America.

Feeding America and Freestore Foodbank are dependent on volunteers. Another way to reach out with your volunteering support is to contact any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help.

Resources

Feeding America
Find your local food bank and who to contact for volunteering, based on your zip code.

The direct link to sign up for volunteering through Feeding America is at  feedingamerica.org.

I hope you will join in the efforts to make our communities a better place for our children. Please share in the comments about your volunteer experience. Together, we can ensure a better tomorrow—Children are our future.

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do! Link here.

-Elle-

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Sharing is Caring: Coat Drive how-to and more….

Cold weather is on the horizon. It’s time to pull our scarves and hat out of the closet. And it’s time to think of those struggling in the moment who need a scarf or hat—or especially, a warm coat.

Autumn and winter months are a terrible struggle for many people. Low income families with growing children often need help when it comes to sending their child off to school—coats, mittens, and rain or snow boots are a must have. Yet, many parents who already struggle with increasing bills in the winter months (heating bills, for one), can only wonder how to keep their kids safe and warm.

Those experiencing homelessness also have it rough. Sure, there are overnight shelters. Yet, there are not enough shelters and some turn people away for lack of identification or other problems. And some homeless people, who perhaps out of mental illness, are unwilling to turn to these shelters for help. And many over night shelters are just that—overnight—not letting people in until after dark, and then shut their doors early next morning. Outdoor temperatures are still frigid at seven or eight in the morning.

That’s their reality.

We can lift their burdens. Getting a warm coat and other winter gear to those in need can be naturally easy.

Some ways to help are:

  • When you buy yourself a new hat or pair of gloves, grab a second one and donate. Often, stores have sales of “buy one, get one half-price” or of a like-wise bargain—perfect for helping someone.
  • When Christmas shopping (or other holiday shopping), include a coat on your shopping list; a coat for someone in need.
  • As your child(ren) grow out of their coats, donate the old.
  • Keep extra gloves and hats in your everyday bag, or an extra coat or two in your car. When out and about, if you see someone, perhaps someone homeless, who is begging for assistance, offer them one of these extras.
  • Donate to coat drives. These drives are sometimes found through employers, local stores, clubs, schools, churches and synagogues.

Years ago, when living in New Mexico, and starting when the winter months hit, a child’s red wagon was parked in the sanctuary of my church. Coats and toys were collected by putting them in this red wagon. As we congregated for worship services every Sabbath, we’d see the wagon was fuller than the week before.

 

Or, you can run a coat drive yourself. This can be as simple or as involved as you’d like.

Earlier this month, through a community organization I belong to, I helped run a coat drive; a simple one.

Starting a month before our October monthly membership meeting, I put the word out that we would collect coats. I then followed up with messages on Facebook and other online places that our members hang out in. On our meeting night, I designated a table for collections. At the meeting’s conclusion, we bagged up the coats. These will be given to a community agency for disbursement. It was a “one-night” collection and went well.

For a more involved coat drive, visit the website for One Warm Coat. It is a resourceful tool to help you plan and promote your coat drive. They even have a map to click on to find out which agencies or places in your community to donate those coats.

Together, we can make positive change in our communities. We can help those in need. I hope you will join me in the efforts to ease the burden that cold weather brings to low income families, to those experiencing homelessness, and to others who simply need a helping hand.

Resource:
One Warm Coat
https://www.onewarmcoat.org/

Please share in the comments how you plan to get involved, knowing that someone doesn’t have to face the cold season alone.

-Elle-

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“What’s that book you’re reading?”

Have you ever wondered if you should pick up a certain book?

If so, you’re not alone. People turn to others to ask, Is that book any good?”

Have you ever wondered why (or otherwise, been frustrated that) your favorite bookstore or neighborhood library doesn’t carry the book you want?

Many factors go into book buying decisions for these places. And it’s the reviews that count! Every single review, even the critical review stacked next to the 5-star reviews is a powerful and positive influence in the book buying industry. Ultimately, these reviews keep the author writing based on readers’ needs and gets books out into the world.

Have you ever read a book and then thought, “That was great!” or “Gee, I want to tell the author what I think.” (??)

There is a way. It’s called Posting a Review.”

Writing a review for a book is not rocket science. (Trust me, it’s not.)

Tip 1: Say something about the story line without revealing spoilers.

For example, Author Richard DeVall says in his full-length review “Elle Mott is like Marilyn Monroe, men want to rescue her, and women want to be her friend.” (How is she like Marilyn? Rescue—how, why? Women? Who? Tell me more.)

Tip 2: Add your feelings. Could you resonate with the story, even if the details are different? If so, say how and why. Or did you experience that too? If so, say so.  A library worker put this in her review:  “Elle Mott’s chaotic journey makes one appreciate who we have in life and how we get through both trials and victories.”

Tip 3: Keep in mind that stories and memoirs are subjective, and just because it didn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to someone else. If it didn’t grab you, explain in your review why you didn’t like the story. That’s what reviews are for. (But) remember that the author put their heart and soul into this piece of work and a lot of time. If you did not like something in the book, be constructive.

An example from my reviews: “Difficult to read at times, but like a train wreck, just couldn’t walk away for long. I found myself back in the pages, rooting for this woman. As the title suggests, she really does make it out of chaos.”

Tip 4: Keep it sweet and simple. A paragraph—your definition of a paragraph—is great. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. More so, think of it as sharing your input with someone. “Elle Mott doesn’t sugarcoat. Instead, she gives us an intimate, unflinching look….” (Emily Hitchcock).

Tip 5:  An author-to-author comparison or the like can be a fun and easy way to give that review. When at my recent author presentation, one reader came up to me and said “It’s like the Ocean 11 movie, only it’s the Ocean 8 movie.” More than once I’ve heard it’s like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

In the replying comments found below this post,  a comparison is made with Down And Out In Paris And London by George Orwell.

You may ask, “Where do I post my review?”

Amazon is the leader when it comes to answering that question. However, it is not the only place to shout out your review. Goodreads, which is a community of readers, is another great place. And more simply, where you purchased your book (Barnes & Noble.com or Walmart.com for Kobo and more) is like-wise perfect. If you got it at the library, tell your librarian.

You may say, “Is there another way?”

Comment: “I don’t want to open an account on Goodreads or anywhere else.”

Message me your review and I’ll handle it from there.

Comment: “I don’t want to give my name.”

No problem. If where you post your review lets you do so anonymously, go for it. Another option is to message me your review and let me know not to include your name. I’ll take it from there, respecting your privacy.  It’s the review which counts.

Comment: “Amazon won’t let me.”

It’s true, our industry giant has rules and regulations and restrictions and oh my! If Amazon is a no-go, jump to Barnes and Noble.com or any of the other places mentioned.

Comment: “I’m really not that good at computer stuff.”

No worries—skip the logistics and shoot me a message. I’ll take it from there.

All-in-all, I hope I’ve shared well with you that reviews are ever so important and how to offer a review. For me, as an author, it will help leverage my current debut book and will help me as I write my next book.

Please review “Out of Chaos.”

I write to share not only my story but to hopefully touch you, making a difference in your life; a kindly one. As reviews filter in, you help me, and I help you. It’s a community thing. And I am so glad you are in my community.

Conclusion:

With any book you read, please know that your review is paramount.

In the comments, as a reader, please let me know how have any of the above questions affected you and have any of my answers helped you? If so or if not, share with us, as a community of writers and readers who hope to change our world for the better.

Helpful Links:

Post your review on Amazon. (Link here.)

Post your review on Goodreads. (Link here.)

Post your review on Barnes and Noble. (Link here.)

Message me.

See reviews for my debut book, a memoir, “Out of Chaos.”

-Elle-

*This post was revised on October 2, 2018.

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No longer in Chaos (Author Presentation)

Thank you to Tri-State Freethinkers (TSF) for asking me to share my journey at the September meeting.  TSF is a community involved, social, educational, and activist group. Speakers include local experts and organizations about the science of our world, experience of those from different backgrounds & causes that could use our help.  I was the first of four speakers on this night.

I discussed my debut book, a memoir: “Out of Chaos”.

Yes, my book is published and available for your reading. What is my book about? Well, that’s why I stepped up to the podium on this night at the TSF meeting. Through this group, I have had ample opportunities for volunteering. These volunteering commitments have given me a way to show my gratitude for life today, a life out of chaos.

A recent volunteer commitment took me to the Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati, near me, here on Liberty Street. It’s a choice pantry, laid out much like a grocery store. Volunteers are needed for keeping shelves stocked, bagging food, and helping customers. On that day, I was a runner. My job was to help load groceries into people’s cars or to help them gather their bags for their walk home. As we’d walk out together—me pushing their shopping cart to their car, it was easy to chat. One woman kept saying she was sorry for being so needy and for almost forgetting to get diapers.

I let her know there was no need to explain or be sorry. I’ve been there before, on the edge, wondering if I’d survive. I know what it is like—that raw empty feeling inside our gut, breaking down our mental and emotional cognition when having to depend on others for our very basics.

Yes, sometimes, I feel as though it’s an effort to choose to volunteer rather than hang out at home. But, I know that all I have to do is show up. From there, any inconvenience is uplifted as my happiness to get out of myself and be a real part of the community shows its face.

When we step up to volunteer, we make a difference in people’s lives. I know this. During the times I needed help, help was at times tough to find.  When I did get help; that help helped me help myself.

No matter what hardships we endure—or what mistakes we made—no matter where we go wrong or where society fails us, we can survive. And more than survive—by doing the action, we can make a life which gives us inner peace, a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning.

 

A recap of my volunteering thus far with Tri-State Freethinkers:

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How about you? What difficulty have you faced and what has helped you to overcome such a troubling situation? Please share in the comments. Community is a “we thing.”

Together, we can and will make a difference; a positive difference!  -Elle-

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Rubber Ducks Help the Community

Rubber duck races are used in family-fun fundraising events by organizations worldwide.

HOW IT WORKS:  People donate money to the organization by sponsoring a rubber duck. Behind the scenes, before the event, volunteers put a bar code sticker on the bottom of each rubber duck. These bar codes tell who paid for the duck to race.

ON EVENT DAY:  These rubber ducks are then dumped into a waterway. The first rubber duck to float past the finish line wins a prize. These prizes are paid for and sponsored by area businesses.

Proceeds benefit a charity in need.

AFTER THE EVENT:   Rubber ducks are pulled out of the waterway or river with fishing nets. Each rubber duck has a buoy to keep it afloat.

Of interest, the same rubber ducks are used worldwide. When one community is done racing the ducks, the ducks are shipped or trucked to the next location for their next race. (Wow! These rubber ducks sure swim a lot, working hard in their fundraising efforts.)

 

Here, in the Cincinnati area, the 24th annual Rubber Duck Regatta will happen on Sunday, September 2 on the Ohio River off the Purple People Bridge. People will watch the race from both Kentucky and Ohio. Those on the Kentucky side of the river will gather at Newport on the Levee; and those on the Ohio side of the river, at Sawyer Point Park. Rubber ducks will race toward the Serpentine Wall.

Each year, twenty-four years strong, The Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati has sponsored this event. It is their largest fundraiser, raising money for children at risk of hunger. Every duck purchased (at $5) provides 15 meals for a child or family in need. (Wow! $5 goes a long way.) Partnering with area grocery stores, farmers, and others, The Freestore Foodbank has resources to stretch their budget.

PREPARING FOR EVENT DAY:  Yesterday, Saturday, I was behind the scenes in this effort. Me and many other volunteers showed up at their warehouse, putting those bar code stickers on the bottom of the ducks. Sadly, we’d sometimes come across a duck that just can’t make another race—their head is torn or the buoy in their bottom is no longer any good. These went into a box labeled, “Dead Ducks” (how sad).

In the morning shift, volunteers got 2,500 rubber ducks ready to race. In my afternoon shift, we did another 3,900. More volunteer shifts are available. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 rubber ducks will race next weekend!

Yesterday, I learned that this fundraiser is a huge help to the Freestore Foodbank when it comes to providing Power Pack Lunches for school kids throughout the year. 

 

These power packs are given to those children who are on the Free Lunch Program.  I’ve had my hands in these Power Packs, having volunteered to help put these together. Link here for that post.

 

 

Cincinnati’s Rubber Duck Regatta is the largest race in America, yet by far, not the only race which is impactful in the community. With hundreds of races held internationally, here are a few recent past rubber duck races:

The Incredible Duck Race in Tampa, Florida was on August 16, raising funds for their Kiwanis Club.

Reno, Nevada had their Duck Race and Festival on August 9 at Wingfield Park to benefit the Humane Society.

Chicago Ducky Derby was August 8, in support of Special Olympics.

In Columbus, Ohio, there was the Zoom Duck Derby on August 3, which benefited the Alpha Group in financial support for services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

And yesterday, August 25 was the Duck Race in East Peoria, Illinois. Proceeds from their event benefited The Center for Prevention of Abuse.

Szentendre, Hungary also had their charity event yesterday, August 25. (Pictured at right.)

 

 

 

 

Of the many-many upcoming races, these here are but a few:

The Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash to help Special Olympics is September 2. It will be at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

On October 13 at the Bridgeport Park in Santa Clarita, California, their Rubber Ducky Festival will raise funding for under insured persons needing healthcare.

And the Incredible Duck Splash happens November 3 in Glendale, California, in support of their Kiwanis Club.

We can be a real part of our community.  I hope you will consider supporting the Rubber Duck Race in your area. It is a family-fun way to think of others and to help those in need, ultimately helping the whole community.

Please share about the Rubber Duck event in your community. You can drop your comments below, in reply to this post.

RESOURCES:

Cincinnati area: http://rubberduckregatta.org/

To find out more about Rubber Duck events in other communities– in your local area, visit the website for Game Fundraising or call 1-800-779-RACE.

-Elle-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community: Giving = Gratitude

 

Community is Connection

As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop, and to our community as a whole. We find community though family or friends, work or organized sports, and through other activities.

Demographic, social, and economic status can bring a threat of alienation. Community involvement is the thread to bring people together to advocate and support each other in the fight to overcome such threats.

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.

Community is Social Justice

My memoir is aptly titled, Out of Chaos. My life was chaotic. I had made poor choices, was homeless at 25 years old and homeless again not long ago. No longer living in chaos, my life is good today.

Writing my memoir took time, lots of time. Lunch breaks at work, evening down time, and early morning wake-up calls got me through the first draft, which took more than a year.

During this year of my jumbled writing, life kept happening. When in my daily commute on foot, I’d see homeless folks and others struggling in the moment. When with friends, I’d feel their difficulties. And news reports would show effects of social injustices.

Giving back to my community is my way of showing gratitude for my life today. I do this through commitment to my library job, through volunteer work with organizations which help others, and through a listening ear for friends and strangers who I cross paths with.

It’s a matter of  working with others to make sure that good things happen. It’s about creating positive change. It’s a matter of avoiding contempt and embracing equality, support, and a sense of caring. So, for me, community is social justice.

What Does Community Mean to You?

There are many ways to get involved in the community through humanitarian efforts. I created an e-booklet, chock full of ideas, resources, and links, all to lead you with inspiration to your calling in your community.

Do you have the e-booklet? People Helping People is now available when signing up for my newsletter. This is new, so if you are already subscribe and don’t have it and want it, let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like to think of community as a collective effort for us to come together as one in celebration of, and not resistance of, our unique differences. Beliefs, goals, and identity may vary among us, but connection can be a constant attribute if we wish. Community has given me stability. It’s polar opposite to my old life; a life of chaos.

I’d like to hear your comments on community.    -Elle-

And if you like what you read here, please share.

 

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Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Teaming with the American Institute of Architects and other members of the construction and design industry, this charity drive offers a creative way to give back to the community, in many communities in America and beyond. Teams are responsible for purchasing their own canned food and creating their own structures. All food raised is donated to their local food bank(s).

Canstructures are made entirely from canned foods within a 10’x10’x8’ space. It easily takes several thousand cans, sometimes up to 20,000 cans to create a canstructure.

 

 

 

 

 

What

 ​is

 ​CANstruction?  

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CANstruction is a nonprofit organization in the United States. This charity combines the competitive spirit of a design contest while meeting the needs to feed the hungry. This collaborative event is held in more than 100 cities across America, as well as in other cities, world-wide. It calls our attention to the pervasive issue of hunger in our communities.

It happens each year at about this time. This year, the designs were built on April 10 for display and public viewing all month, through today, April 29. By individual votes and an anonymous jury, the completed canstructures were judged for Best Design, People’s Choice, and other awards.

In my community, here in the greater area of Cincinnati, Ohio, seven downtown places participated. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was one place. I’m both happy and proud to work alongside great coworkers here at this library, who are passionate in this worthy cause.        

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​impact​ ​of​ ​CANstruction?

This event raises awareness of the need for hunger relief. Many families and vulnerable individuals struggle when it comes to eating on a regular basis. Children who qualify for and receive reduced or free lunches at school, often go hungry on the weekends. More than 13-million American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

After the competition and exhibition, the structures are deconstructed, and all canned food is given to community food banks.

 

Volunteering at the Freestore Foodbank’s distribution center.

In my community, all cans are donated to the Freestore Foodbank, which operates nationwide and is part of the Feeding America organization. Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks. It is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community local food pantries in every state of America, bridging gaps.

Resources:

While CANstruction is over for this year, there are other ways to help. Link to Freestore Foodbank and Feeding America for volunteer opportunities.

Links:

Freestore Foodbank

Feeding America

CANstruction on Facebook

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on Facebook with Post on CANstruction.

Videos of Interest:

This first video was published prior to the event. It is narrated, explaining how to participate in the CANstruction. While locality specific, it is informative and brief, at just under 4 minutes.

For a time-lapsed viewing of creating a canstructure, check out this even shorter video:

Did you visit any Canstructures on display this year? How do you feel about the fight against hunger? I’d love to hear your comments.                        -Elle-

 

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Be In the Moment with a Veteran

Adlai E. Stevenson (23rd U.S. Vice President) said, (quote) “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” (unquote).xxxx
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Dear Veteran-Friends,
The dedication that you—our men and women fighting for our country—is indelible. Your fight on the front-lines and commitment to public service enables us to learn compassion and grow intellectually. Freedom isn’t free. Those who are willing to pay the price, the time away from their families, and the endless dangers of the battleground are our true heroes. Our hearts and minds are changed forever and we are grateful.
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Dear Friends, here are some ways to remember our Veterans.

REFLECTION

  • Read something a Veteran wrote about their experience.
  • Write in your journal how thankful you are for the service of Veterans.
  • Take a private moment to be proud of your country.
  • Observe a moment of silence with family and friends.
  • Take a moment to reflect on what it means to live in America.
  • Hang an American flag in your yard.
  • Use Social Media to #THANKAVET!
SAY THANKS
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  • Write and send a letter to someone who’s currently serving in the military.
  • Thank a Veteran co-worker for their service.
 GIVE THANKS
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  • Donate time or money or supplies to local Veterans Day drives.
  • Volunteer to help a Veteran’s service organization.
 ACTION
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  • Shake a Veteran’s hand.
  • Teach a child what it means to be a Veteran.
  • Send an email to the people on your contact list that tells a Veteran’s story.
  • Attend a Veterans Day event.
  • Go to a Veterans Day parade.
 BE IN THE MOMENT WITH A VETERAN
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  • Ask a Veteran about their time in the military, and really listen to the answer.
  • Visit a home-bound Veteran in their home.
  • Visit a homeless Veteran under a bridge.
  • Take a Veteran out to dinner.
  • Take dinner in to a Veteran.
  • Buy a homeless Veteran a cup of coffee.
  • Mark on your calendar a day each month to do one of the above listed—even though Veteran’s Day will have passed.
Examining our past and learning from it means seeing not only our achievements, but our failings. Accountability to our communities involves not only creating a society which makes us proud, but also recognizing and then changing those darkest impulses which have marred our country.
 xxx
Additional Resources:

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https://www.operationgratitude.com/

https://www.dav.org/

  Please share a Veteran-story with us in the comments.
*In memory of my father who I came to know and love only after his death: Robert Frank Wells (1943-2015), Commanding Officer, U.S.N.R., Retired 1969. 
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Thank you Dad, for life
xxx
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We Can Do It!

Since the latest political shift in our American society, people are taking a stand in unprecedented numbers — this latest wake makes it difficult to remain neutral.

In January 2017, our Capitol’s front steps saw the largest political demonstration in fifty years; a plea for human rights and equality. Our country hadn’t had such a large turnout since the days of the Vietnam War protest, back in the days I was born.

Eleanor Roosevelt had written a daily column for a syndicated newspaper; these ranged from women’s issues to general humanitarian causes. She was not just another First Lady. She was a changemaker.

 

  My great-grandmother penned an  advice column for women, Dear Polly Potter”. xxx

It ran in a  newspaper many years before Dear Abby. She was not just my role model. She made a positive difference in her community.

xxx

Likewise, we needn’t be just another concerned community citizen.

Through our chosen venue, we too can influence others.

As a Creative Nonfiction Writer and Memoirist, I see my passions include equal rights, advocacy for the homeless, and support groups which don’t isolate members. I’ve been adversely subjected to these problems in society, yet overcame them through action. Not many people can say the same, but many people are affected by these concerns….

The neighborhood I work in is in the heart of a big city, saturated with homeless folks. I put this concern in writing and it is now published in the inaugural issue of One Person’s Trash Literary Journal, even without any journalistic experience.

Like Eleanor Roosevelt, I believe I am making a difference, and I see differences all around me, thanks to my writing.

How will you influence change?

What will you do today to make a positive difference?

For a feel-good-story to get us started, check out the link to this photo (click on the photo), below:

Photo from Newsner

We can make a difference in our communities!

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