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Category Archives: Fund Raising

We Get By With a Little Help from Our Friends

I’m asking for your help again, but this time it isn’t for a school, a daycare center or a library. It’s for my friend–a dear friend in Ohio, Brian​. Brian was recently diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). We went to high school and college together and he was the lead singer in the first band I was in (and the second … and the third​).

[For the purposes of this story, I’m only counting a “band” as a musical group that actually performed in front of an audience. No offense to the countless folks that I’ve visited in your homes to plug in an amp and blunder our way through Smells Like Teen Spirit and a half dozen Zeppelin riffs. Also, if any of the details below aren’t quite right, it could have something to do with the fact that this tale starts out over 20 years ago, and it’s all from my biased point of view.]

The truth is, Brian (along with our friend Matt) is directly and indirectly involved with many of the musical projects of my past. Of course, Brian and Matt were part of the regular crew in the high school marching band (with our other friends Tom, Paul, Aaron, Steve, Mark, and so on, and so forth). And like lots of teenagers in our area at the time, we were inspired to start rock bands by what we were hearing from Cleveland’s 107.9 (“The END”) and the videos from MTV’s 120 Minutes. So, we did. And ask any musician, playing music with somebody is a good way to forge a friendship. Or maybe we would have been friends anyway and it just turned out that we liked to play music together. Either way, we were teenagers, we were friends, and we started a band (or three).

The first band was called Crosstown Traffic (yes, after the Hendrix song). You see, the guitar player in that first band, Jeremy, was crazy for Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. And rightly so – he could play a lot of that stuff even when he was 14 years old. I wanted to play guitar in the band, too, but bassists were hard to come by. So I borrowed a bass for a while and became a bassist. Still in search of a drummer, we played our first show on my front porch for my older brother’s graduation party. The adults were more impressed than the kids, because they actually knew the songs. A few weeks later, Matt asked me if I wanted to come to his house with Jeremy to jam. Finally, a drummer! Later that summer, after marching band had started up again, I was at Matt’s house after marching practice, and Brian was there, too. He said he should be the singer in our band. I’m not sure if either Matt or I were convinced, but we went along with it. Lo and behold, in the span of a few months, Crosstown Traffic went from two dudes on a front porch to a real sounding band.

After some time and a handful of real gigs, Crosstown Traffic found itself at an impasse. Everybody wanted to play newer music (like Pearl Jam and Nirvana … or at least some Van Halen or Pink Floyd) except for Jeremy. Brian, Matt and I soldiered on without Jeremy. When Bob, the quirky little guy from the other end of my street found out, he applied … to be the bassist! This was especially good news for me; I could finally put all those Pearl Jam riffs I had been learning on the guitar to use. I think it was great for Bob, too–he wanted to be in a band more than just about anybody I had ever met.

We named the new formation Flower Punks (yes, after the old Mothers song) and started playing as much as possible at Colonial Lanes in Canfield (they didn’t have liquor, so it was one of the only places for all us under-agers to go on a Friday night). And we were good! We couldn’t pull off a lot of the Stevie Ray Vaughan songs we had been playing before, but the kids at Colonial Lanes really seemed to dig us – even our original songs. We also figured out a promotion scheme: Brian, Matt and I would go there (usually with my older brother, Dale, driving us) when other bands were performing and ask them if we could play a song or two on their break. Even without Bob and with Brian filling in on bass, we could pull off a handful of cover songs (stuff from Weezer’s first album comes to mind) over the span of about 10 minutes. Not that we wanted to show them up (though I know we kinda’ did), we were able to get some of those bands’ friends interested to come see us the next time we were playing there. It worked.

The third band came about when Bob got grounded for the umpteenth time since the formation of Flower Punks. (It was very common that he and his mother would not see eye to eye, but she would always seem to win.) He had already missed our recording sessions some months prior due to a punishment (thanks to a multi-track recorder, I could fill in for him). However, this last grounding not only prohibited him from leaving his house, but rendered his bass guitar contraband. Apparently, he not only would have had to sneak out of his house, but would have to break his bass out of a locked closet in order to remain a working musician.

We had to move on, though we didn’t have to look further than my own house for our next bass player. My brother, Dale, was always hanging out with us anyway, and he was as good as any of the rest of us at playing the bass. The spot was his for the taking. We named the new band “Trace” because one word names for bands were popular at the time, and that was the best we could come up with. We played some more shows, recorded some more songs, and had more fun, but like most bands rooted in high school, it eventually just kinda’ fizzled. Dale and Brian had already graduated and started at Youngstown State, and Matt and I were about to do the same.

Throughout those high school years, Brian was a regular guest at our house which meant he was a regular guest performer. All the music gear was set up in the basement, and countless audio cassettes have been filled with whatever nonsense was going on at the time. The music usually wasn’t anything to write home about, but you can count on Brian to be funny. His subject matter was most often the people we knew, and he would roast them in song. If you weren’t in the room at the time, you were fair game. There were many about friends, friends’ girlfriends, and the respective family members of all the guys in the current band. A particular song (more of a rock opera, really) was recorded about me while I was away at a teen church weekend. It had multiple characters, all of whom seemed to end up in “catholic hell.” (If it ever surfaces, I’ll put it online for the world to share a laugh.)

As our high school days came to a close, I think we all actually got a lot better at performing music. Brian, Matt and Bob formed another band, Plunge, with a friend of Bob’s named Joel. And it was at an early Plunge​ show that I was introduced to my subsequent band, Raul, that I played with for about six years.

In the years that followed, everybody more-or-less settled into regular, grown-up lives: jobs, marriages, houses, some with kids … the usual. Dale and I both made our way to Arizona. Matt and Brian ended up living in the same neighborhood in our hometown. And sometimes, the not-so-usual happens.

The story above is merely how my friend, Brian, relates to me, as I got to know and befriend him … and just a glimpse of why he is important to me. The story below is from a website set up to get donations to help Brian and his family and tells how he relates to the world right now, how he has been important to his community and how your contribution can be so important to him.

On August 12th 2015, Brian Newhard was diagnosed with an AGGRESSIVE form of ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease), a terminal illness. Brian is a loving father of three beautiful kids ranging in age from 6 to 11: Mitchell, Carter, and Olivia. He is also a husband to his loving wife Jenny.

Brian is a full time police officer. Brian and his family live and work in the Mahoning Valley. He is a hard worker, often times working two other jobs to support his family. This diagnosis and the subsequent debilitating symptoms have prevented this  hard-working man from working at all. In fact, he has trouble walking, speaking, eating, and many other basic functions that we sometimes take for granted. 

Brian has always helped others in his job, his personal life, and whenever anyone needs him. Unfortunately at this point, Brian desperately needs your help. His family is absolutely destitute without his income.

Please find it in your heart to donate to Brian so that his family may have the basics in life: shelter, food, and clothing.

Brian needs help. And if his friends (and my friends, and your friends) give a little help, he’ll get by because his wife and kids will get by. The truth is, we ALL get by with the help of our friends … just ask the guys in the band.

To donate online, go to http://www.gofundme.com/newhardalsfund and for more information about the trust that has been set up for his family, go to: http://newhardalsfund.org

Brian and Family

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Posted by on 28 August 2015 in Flashbacks, Friends, Fund Raising, Music

 

Almost There

“Are you counting days?”

I was asked this question by different people at different times and in different situations over the past few weeks. I want the answer to be “yes,” but that’s not yet possible.

My host family recently hosted a small gathering of Peace Corps Volunteers in this area to say farewell. My last day at the school will be September 5. My last official day as a Peace Corps Volunteer was supposed to be September 11, but it looks like that will have to be postponed a week or so due to some scheduling conflicts with Peace Corps. Zandy’s visa interview will be on August 21, unless we can’t get the proper copy of her birth certificate in time, forcing that appointment to be postponed (again). A good cliché for this situation: I’m shooting at a bunch of moving targets.

And then there’s the daycare fundraising project. Between two fundraising events run by my family and friends in two US cities, plus direct donations, $5415 has been raised of the needed $6685 to construct the building.

Almost there.

If you haven’t already attended one of the fundraisers or donated directly, please consider donating online this week. If nothing else, keep sharing this information. Know a celebrity on Twitter? Get them to re-tweet this link: bit.ly/1vpRJYe Know someone looking for a worthwhile tax-deductible charity? Drop my name.

We’re so close to funding the construction of this facility. The sooner the money is raised, the sooner they can start construction. We will all be proud to hand this project off to my local colleagues. The icing on the cake will be knowing it was funded before I had to leave the village. Help me make that happen.

A good friend in Arizona commented online earlier today how great my family and friends are. I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t have come this far without them. They are all so eager to meet Zandy, too, and she is excited to join this great extended family I’m so lucky to be a part of.

And thank you all, now more than ever, for all of your support.

 
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Posted by on 11 August 2014 in Community, Engagement, Friends, Fund Raising

 

Meet Lettie

I sat down with Lettie – the driving force behind Vikelani Abantwana Crèche – to get her story. This is a person who sees a chance to better her community, her family, and herself, and is taking it head on.

Lettie is a woman with a vision for her community: clean surroundings, healthy residents, and proper care for children and the elderly. These may seem like the basic ideals and the top priorities for any community, but in rural KwaZulu-Natal, progress on any of these fronts can be daunting and slow.

Lettie was born in 1967 across the border in Mozambique, just north of the village where she currently resides. Part of a large family in this rural, Southern African region, she naturally grew up learning subsistence farming practices common for the region, and went to the local Mozambican school where she was taught in Portuguese.

But after grade seven, the family relocated to the village where she currently resides in South Africa. At that point, she essentially had to start her schooling over again, now learning in Zulu, English and Afrikaans, not reaching grade 12 until well into her twenties. Even after passing high school, in the 90s there weren’t many jobs available in the area. She began obtaining further training whenever possible for healthcare related certificates.

In 1996, Lettie wasn’t happy with the conditions of the local town. It was dirty and no one was doing anything to clean it up. The town had no municipal governance, so everything was under tribal authority which had no provisions for sanitation.

Wanting to make a positive difference and with hopes of preventing disease, Lettie took it upon herself to request to the tribal authority for permission to start a clean-up project. It was a approved. She used her first payment to buy “dustbins” – garbage cans – to begin cleaning the town. However, due to some local corruption and sexist attitudes, some local men wouldn’t stand by while a woman was suddenly employed and they were not. They forced themselves into the job she had created and remained until a municipality was formed in that region. At that point, her idea and work had been appropriated again and she had nothing to show for it.

Still holding on to her integrity and ambition, in 2000 Lettie began a project for building reed and grass huts for tourists wanting to have an authentic experience in rural South Africa. Soon after, she sold those huts and resumed her training in healthcare, eventually obtaining a total of 15 certificates in various healthcare related programs.

Lettie, now 47, has held the role of a Community Caregiver since 2005, originally for a local non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), and now for the local hospital. Her duties include going to sick and elderly people’s homes to check on them, make sure they are taking medications and eating well. This role is considered to be a volunteer position, and the pay is a low, monthly stipend that she uses to help provide for her family.

Lettie and the site of Vikelani Abantwana

Her husband, Jose, also provides, but from a distance. Jose works as a barman at a restaurant in Johannesburg, nearly 400 miles (over 600 km) away and rarely sees his family. Her 13 year old daughter, Mbali, attends grade 7, and 9 year old son, Sizwe, attends grade 4 at the local school where I teach. They are both clever, high achieving students.

Lettie’s work takes her around the community, and many people know who she is. As she makes her rounds, she sees the needs of individuals and of the community at large. So, her idea for building a daycare center is not new, but has really started to become a reality in late 2013 and early 2014. She started by organizing a team of residents in the village that has become the board of directors. They named the organization Vikelani Abantwana Crèche, wrote a constitution for the organization, and then applied with the province to be a registered non-profit in KwaZulu-Natal. After she obtained the land from the tribal council, she had a local contractor draw up blueprints for a 100 square-meter building. Her next step was finding funding for construction of the building, and she came to me for help.

Naturally, people in the village are getting excited for the services Vikelani Abantwana Crèche will provide, and a list of clientele has been growing little by little as word of this new organization spreads. Lettie is currently negotiating with her church to use their building while she waits for the construction the organization’s own building. She expects she’ll have to use her stipend from her job to compensate the church until the crèche is built, but she is eager to make her dream a reality.

Lettie is delighted that so many people from across America and beyond have contributed in ways large and small to help fund this project. When I asked her what she wants the people helping in America to know, she said “I wish maybe one day that people who donate can come to see what you have done here for us in 2014. I have faith that it will be a success. Thank you for your help.”

You can read more about Vikelani Abantwana Crèche and help Lettie by donating here …

 
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Posted by on 10 July 2014 in Community, Friends, Fund Raising

 

$300 Plus and Counting!

In the first week of fundraising for the crèche (daycare center) in my village, we’ve already surpassed $300! Hooray! If you are one of these early contributors, consider this the first of many thanks from me and my South African community. Vikelani Abantwana Crèche is that much closer to becoming a reality because of you.

For everyone else still planning to make their tax-deductible donation, you can do so now by visiting my project page on Peace Corps’ website.

Does your employer offer matching gifts for your charitable donations? If you’re not sure, ask your human resources department. I’ve taken advantage of the matching gifts program at my previous employer, and it was always a great feeling to know they were matching my contributions to charities dollar for dollar. Just follow these simple instructions to make your donation dollars go further: http://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.mgifts

Want to contribute by check? I know if you are reading this, an online donation by credit card is probably fine for you. In the event it is not, please make the check payable to “Peace Corps” and be sure to include the project number – 14-674-009 – in the memo line, and allow at least four weeks for processing. Checks should be mailed to:

Peace Corps – Office of Gifts and Grants Management
1111 20th Street NW
Washington DC 20526

COMING SOON: EVENTS!
Friends and family in Ohio and Arizona have been talking with me to get fundraising events scheduled. I hope to have all the important details by this time next week. In the meantime, let me know if you are interested in helping out. So far, for the events in both states there is talk of entertainment, raffles and silent auctions for cool stuff. Plus, I hope both events will give people who don’t get to see each other often enough an opportunity to visit and get caught up. Attending one of these events will mean the world to me, especially if you all can take some photos and videos and send them to me to share with community members here in the village – they’ll love it! (I will, too!) I’m only sad that I can’t be there with you for the fun.

Once these events are scheduled, I will attempt to put a deadline on the fundraising overall. It isn’t my intention to hurry all the fine folks who plan to donate, but as you probably know, my time with Peace Corps South Africa will be finished before the end of 2014. My goal is to make sure we’ve broken ground and started construction before I leave. If necessary, I’ll pass on the duty of providing updates on Vikelani Abantwana Crèche to another Peace Corps Volunteer in the area, so everyone can see exactly what their donation dollars helped to provide.

Stay tuned for further developments and updates on the total money raised. I couldn’t do this without your help and I thank you for your continued support!

 
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Posted by on 18 May 2014 in Community, Fund Raising

 

This is where you come in …

After going through all the necessary channels to accept tax-deductible US donations through the Peace Corps, I am humbly asking for your assistance in funding the construction of a daycare center in my village, Vikelani Abantwana Crèche. In the coming days, I will be writing more and sharing photos to inform you of what is at stake here and how you can play a role in empowering these good people in improving their community. Your help can come in many ways; not just dollars, but organizing an event or other fundraising ideas. But to start off, check out this link and share it:

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=14-674-009

For more background information on this project, see this previous post, ask me any questions that might be on your mind, and/or stay tuned for details as they unfold. Thanks!

 

 

 
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Posted by on 11 May 2014 in Fund Raising

 

Please pledge to help – we’re building a daycare center!

vikelani – (Zulu) protect

abantwana – (Zulu) children

crèche – (British English usage) a nursery where babies and young children are cared for during the working day.

The village I live and work in is in need of a daycare center (or “crèche” in the local vernacular). If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that this community is poor and lacks many resources. In order to earn money, most of the people living here have to travel to the nearest town (or further) for employment opportunities. If they have children 4 years and under, they often have to leave their kids with other family members or neighbors. (Children 5 years and above are generally in school Monday through Friday throughout most of the year.) The parents with children from 0-4 years have few other options as there is no formal organization currently filling this need for this area.

A local group named Vikelani Abantwana Crèche has been developed to fill this need. Spearheaded by Lettie, a resident of the village, home-care worker, wife and mother of two, this South African non-profit organization has been formally organized with a constitution and board of directors made up entirely of residents of this village. They have secured land in an easily accessible, central location of the village to construct the 100 square-meter building from blueprints that were finalized this past February.

But as of now they require start-up funds for building materials and contractors; this is where I ask you to pledge your help. I am in the process of finalizing an application that will allow individuals and businesses in the USA to make a tax-deductible donation to the Peace Corps Partnership Program to help fund this project. The estimated total needed from the US donations is about $7,000 USD.

All I need right now is a general idea of the amount of support I can get for this project. This is on the pricey end of the spectrum for projects that derive their funds through this program, and I want to make sure I have enough support before I launch it. If you think you can contribute, please send me an email at erikhendel@gmail.com (or private message on Facebook, including your preferred email address for correspondence) with the amount that you think you can donate. This will give me a ballpark figure of how much money can be raised from my friends, family and loyal blog readers AND I’ll have your preferred contact info for your official donation.

If you don’t know if – or how much – you can contribute, but want to be kept in the loop, please go ahead and let me know that, too.

Also, if anyone out there has other ideas for raising funds for this project in the USA (like church bake sales, office softball tournaments, dance parties, rock n’ roll festivals, dunking booths, etc.), let me know! I’ll feature your fundraising work on this blog and I’ll post some personalized videos of thanks to you directly from the folks you are helping.

And of course, don’t forget about good-old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. Tell a friend; click the appropriate icons below to share this link on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I expect to have the official link to fund my project from the Peace Corps Partnership Program within the next month or so. This will be the webpage where you can go to contribute directly and get your donation receipt for tax purposes. If you send me an email now pledging your support of this project, when the webpage is ready, you should get an official notification from Peace Corps about the program. (I’ll probably send you a reminder, too.)

There are local families already eager to enroll their children; childcare workers (certified and trained from another non-profit organization in a near-by town) are interested in employment and volunteer opportunities. The biggest obstacle to furthering this community-driven project is funding the construction of the facility. We hope to accomplish this task with the fulfillment of this proposed Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP) grant.

More on the Peace Corps Partnership Program from the PCPP handbook:

The Peace Corps Partnership Program (or PCPP) connects small, community-initiated projects with partners in the United States for financial support. These connections not only achieve goals in the host community, improving the quality of life for its members, but they also foster international understanding between the communities and U.S. Partners.

Since its inception in 1964, the Partnership Program has helped thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers in countries all over the world, addressing needs that benefit the health and well-being of communities abroad. While the Partnership Program does not directly fund projects, it serves as a link to groups, foundations, service organizations, and individuals wanting to contribute to the valuable work Volunteers do with their host communities. The Partnership Program is also the venue for host communities to convey their needs to potential donors in the United States. Finally, the program attracts Americans who share a concern for grassroots development. By establishing a link between Americans and communities overseas, the Partnership Program facilitates an understanding among different cultures and the opportunity for cross-cultural exchange.

Volunteers are invited to submit proposals to the Partnership Program to obtain financial assistance in support of community projects. By assisting community members in the application process, Volunteers become active players in promoting people-to-people assistance.

How did I get involved with Vikelani Abantwana Crèche?
The members of the board of directors for Vikelani Abantwana Crèche have driven this project 100% (especially Lettie) since its inception. The community’s need was identified, the organization was formed, and all of the progress in development was at the organization’s direction. Specifically, this includes registering with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development (pending processing), securing the land for building, and obtaining blueprints for construction. Contacting me for ideas about funding the construction was their first time looking outside of the community for assistance.

What Vikelani Abantwana Crèche aims to do in the long-term:

  • Protect the interests and promote the wellbeing of local children, including early education, proper nutrition, physical and socio-emotional needs.
  • Provide for parents/guardians of children in the community needing these services for the purposes of their own employment, especially considering the large number of young, single mothers.
  • Provide an environment for school-aged children to come after school for studying and completing homework.
  • Accept qualified volunteers from the community to aid teachers and caregivers, enabling them to use their experience working at the crèche for future employment opportunities for themselves.
  • Sustain itself through a small monthly fee from each child enrolled in the crèche’s care and assistance from the South African Department of Social Development.
  • Give back to the community with special considerations made for children of especially low-income families on an individual basis.

The facility built as a result of this project will enable the physical establishment of an organization that already has created a figurative “foundation” for their NPO all on their own.

Your help is appreciated! Email me now to pledge your support!

Get more info on the Peace Corps Partnership Program …

 
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Posted by on 22 March 2014 in Community, Fund Raising