Is the Truth Divided Between Community & Law Enforcement? - Interview with Author & Officer Nakia Jones of "The Truth Divided"
In our recent interview with Nakia Jones, we discussed the reasons behind writing her book “The Truth Divided” and gained some insights into the book’s title, the Black Lives Matter movement, and what the book can do for all who read it.
Q: What is discussed in your book and why did you feel it needed to be written?
A: In my book, I discuss why I became a law enforcement officer and the challenges of being a women in law enforcement and being an African American mother of two sons and dealing with the divide between the color of my skin and the uniform I wear. The difference is I can remove my uniform, but I can't remove the color of my skin. The book also talks about the first time I felt the divide between law enforcement and the police during the Rodney King beating. It also touches on black on black crime as well as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, and the importance of them both to me .
Q: Would you call “The Truth Divided” a “tell-all” kind of book?
A: No, “The Truth Divided” is not a tell all book. There were many things I couldn't discuss. The next book will definitely fill in a lot of the blanks.
Q: Were there any parts of this book that were difficult for you to write?
A: The entire book was difficult to write because it’s about such an emotional topic, a subject that has a mass effect on our country, even outside our country, today.
Q: What did you learn through the process of writing this book, about yourself and others?
A: I learned that writing and reading this book has begun to help me heal. It also has taught me that no matter what the color of your skin is in a lot of ways we are all saying the same thing. Lives matter and rights have no color. I also believe that if we can just dispel some of our fears and biases we will all be capable of living in harmony. Because, at the end of the day, we are all one race, the human race. Our skin, hair and eye color may be different, and we may have come from different regions, but we are all human beings and one race is not superior to another.
Q: How do you feel “The Truth Divided” will help the Black Lives Matter movement?
A: I believe this book will help the Black Lives Matter Movement, because it allows others to see what and why we are fighting and why the movement is so important. It also will help people understand why a movement like this even exist and that it’s not to downplay or be against any other race. Black Lives Matter understands and has never disputed that ALL LIVES MATTER. It is just right now it seems to be fact that the only lives that seems not to be a part of ALL LIVES MATTER are BLACK LIVES.
Q: What do you hope that “The Truth Divided” will do for people?
A: I pray that this book first of all brings Unity and Understanding between Law Enforcement and the Minority Community, as well as it becomes a teaching tool to dispel the myths and biases that we learn when we are younger, which in turn will end racism. I also hope that it brings the Minority community together and also to let Mothers of African American sons know they have a voice.
Serving Homeless Youth Through Education: An Interview With Motivational Speaker, Author Michael Gaulden
I recently had the opportunity to speak with homelessness activist, motivational speaker, education enthusiast, musician, and author Michael Gaulden. We spoke about serving homeless youth in America and the need for more support. All questions are asked by me (Lyn Lomasi) and all responses are Mr. Gaulden's words.
What is one area you feel is lacking when it comes to serving homeless youth in America? Explain the area, how it's lacking, and how you think this could be changed.
I believe that homeless youth are lacking the proper education for an opportunity to liberate themselves. We are talking about individuals who have been traumatized at a very early age and we must take a trauma informed approach when educating these students. Traditional schools and methods of teaching do not work because they fail to acknowledge that a child cannot focus on school if their life is falling apart.
For example, picture an unaccompanied youth who roamed the streets all night and has no access to toiletries or a shower. How can you justifiably expect them to come to school with a sharp mind ready to take an exam for the final grade?
We must acknowledge first that homeless youth exist and are prevalent in our communities. Secondly, we must acknowledge their circumstance and do our best to help supplement the basic needs required to live.
The Monarch School, the K-12 institution for homeless youth where I work, has a parent resource center, showers for families and students, family dinners, bus passes and resources to help remedy some of the everyday struggles of homeless youth and their families.
Although we can’t house them, I believe a safe environment that is proactive about homeless necessities is required for the growth and development of homeless student learning. After their basic needs are met, give them opportunities to develop, such as internship programs (like the one I coordinate) and/or college preparatory programs to provide guidance and allow a homeless child the same liberties as any other student.
I can attest that all you need is an opportunity and a positive environment to learn and grow.
Are there enough organizations, individuals, and grassroots organizations reaching out to homeless youth? Why or why not?
Not at all. A major factor is that people believe that homeless youth are myths or consist of snobbish suburban kids in open rebellion. We need to understand that this is simply not the case. There are millions of homeless children, in families, unaccompanied, couch surfing, domestic violence victims and many more who are homeless because of unfortunate circumstances.
When the average person thinks of a homeless youth, their mind takes them to a mischievous sixteen year old. The average person cannot see the three and four-year-olds in tents or five-year-olds crying from shock in shelters. I have seen young children, seven and eight, break down from mental depression. Middle and high school children drop out because the system does not address the life skills they need.
People have a hard time digesting the thought of Foster Care kids who would probably be homeless if child protective services had not come. So the concept of homeless children is unthinkable. It is such a desolate situation but we must address it. If we acknowledge the problem with good intentions, I am positive many more organizations will bloom once we have fully understood the magnitude of youth homelessness. After all, I doubt any one wishes to see children homeless on the street.
Does the state of homelessness in America seem to be getting better or worse since you were affected years ago? Explain.
This is a hard question. Innately I would want to say worse because it is all I see. However, I ponder if it has indeed worsened or if this is how it has always been. More light has been shown on homelessness as a whole over the past years and the numbers are rising. It may be a direct correlation to the lack of jobs, resources, opportunity, unstable environments, natural disasters, and viral outbreaks that force good people into homelessness.
If you look at the metaphorical glass with this perception it is easy to say that homelessness has worsened and people are as desolate as ever. However, the light has barely begun to shine on homelessness and youth homelessness. It is not like you can take a census poll. Most data comes from shelters and third party organizations, maybe some live counts, but most homeless people are ghosts floating through society. There are millions of them. Good people who have vanished into that world. Good people who are ashamed to search for opportunities because of sheer humiliation, and those who do realize there are few to none.
When I was lost in homelessness, I saw homeless people everywhere from all places united under one demoralizing umbrella. If you look at the glass through this perception, you could say it has not worsened but has always been this way; endless transience as far as society can reach. But one thing is for certain, I believe it is not getting better.
I do not have an answer for the elderly homeless or the veterans harassed on the street. It is truly a tragedy outside of my personal realm of control. However, if we educators educate the homeless youth, if we equip them with tools to survive life, mentors, support, and opportunity, they can then go forth and graduate college or learn a trade, start a business, and liberate themselves. Thus, ending their homelessness themselves and hopefully their future offspring, materializing a new legacy.
I am a huge believer of “teach a man to fish, he can eat for a lifetime.” If we try and save kids, they will be rescued momentarily. If we assist them in saving themselves, they will forever be free. But, they cannot achieve success alone.
Questions for Author Michael Gaulden? Would you like to add anything to this discussion? Agree? Disagree? Have a story to tell? Please feel welcomed to comment below.
By Phoenix Desertsong, Concerned American Citizen
It's finally time to stop choosing sides in the wake of the US Presidential Election. It's well past time to step back and reflect on just how divided we've become. It's time to set rhetoric, dangerous and otherwise, aside and focus on what we all have in common.
It is the opinion of many in America that this country has elected a man that is extremely unpredictable. His early actions in transition have been hailed by some. To others, they are questionable at best. Much louder voices than mine have called out hypocrisy on both sides. And it's true.
People are understandably upset at what Trump stands for. He is continuing to say and do some things that many Americans are going to hate. Some of these things are going to and already have destroyed some lives. But this is not all Trump's fault. In fact, Trump embodies a greater part of the American population that many would like to believe.
I voted for neither major candidate. I voted for a third party candidate who best reflected my own views. Perhaps in the eyes of many that was a wasted vote. But no, it was still exercising my right to vote for the candidate who I best felt represented me.
I may not personally like most of what Trump is proposing and I may be befuddled by a great many of his choices for his Cabinet. But what worries me most is how loud his supporters are in support of bigotry, homophobia, sexism, racism, and xenophobia. It's extremely important to understand that these people always existed. While they are not the majority of Americans, they are a loud and powerful minority.
In some ways it's sort of a good thing that Trump won. We got to have a coming out party for all that's evil still in America. Is that all Trump's fault? Not really. Many would have rather had Hilary win. But now that a Trump win has legitimized some of the worst elements of American society to rear their ugly heads, it's now clear who the true enemies of freedom and democracy are.
We do indeed have a chance to Make America Great Again. I'm not sure it was ever truly Great to begin with, but over the past 200 plus years, we've made progress. Will all this progress disappear overnight? I don't actually think so. That is, as long as we all come together. conservative and liberal, Democrat and Republican, and realize most of us are not political at all. Most of us just want to live our lives and be ourselves.
We need to see the painful realities of what the Red vs Blue political party system has done to us. I fear that there is a social civil war on the horizon unlike no other in the history of this country. I hope that I'm wrong, but I'm sure we are going to watch things get much worse before they get better.
In the meantime, we have to stop beating on each other over whose fault this election is. We need to remember that this election is over and that we need to make the best of what has happened no matter where we stand on the political spectrum.
I'm on America's side, not with any politician. Some are saying good things. Others are not. But we are just all people, and we just need to let go of political affiliations. We need to look in the mirror and recognize our own shortcomings.
As a nation, we cannot stand divided. There is not yey the liberty and justice in this country that our Pledge of Allegiance mentions. Yet that is what the flag many of us as kids in this country were led to believe. If we are truly going to Make America Great, then we need to realize these ideals as best as we flawed human beings can instead of just using them as patriotic rhetoric.
Let's just move on, and truly Make America Great, shall we?
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
If the whole world is a stage, then the United States of America, and I use the term loosely, is front and center in the eyes of all who are watching this spectacle we are calling Election 2016. The best Hollywood writer could only dream of coming up with a story line so complex. By the time the general election takes place, we will be so close to another civil war that the term “United” may become a thing of the past no matter who becomes president.
Once upon a time when you ran for office as a politician you would talk about issues that were important to your constituents such as taxes and jobs for the people. But as we have progressed more as a culture, the list of important issues gets a little bit bigger, and as in the case of the current political situation in the country, weirder. If you are a wise politician you give the people what they want, or should I say, promise the people that you will “try” to give them what they want and then you play the right tune on your flute, you know, the song of doom that preys on their fears, and they will mindlessly follow you anywhere. And it doesn’t hurt if you’ve got your own money to burn and can finance your game plan because everybody loves the person who doesn’t ask for money. There is a push in America to stop bullying and countless hours and resources have been put into teaching our young people about the horrors of bullying. Some young people have committed suicide from being bullied and the families of those lost loved ones know all to well that a bully is a long way from a role model. Would you want one to become president of your country?
Fear, that insidious feeling of doom and that feeling of self preservation is so powerful for some that they make irrational decisions. A opportunistic slick talker can turn fear into a handsome ally to gain the confidence of the people. A person who fears Muslims wants everybody to fear Muslims because of the actions of a few. Tell people that there are terrorist coming into your neighborhoods and the next thing you have is an old time lynch mob where you hang the suspect without a trial. What makes Donald J Trump so popular with his followers is that he is saying what they want to hear based on their fears. His suggestion that we do not allow anymore Muslims into the country implies that all Muslims are terrorist. And I can only imagine the outrage as he tries to register the Muslim Americans that are now in the country. By telling the country that Mexico is sending America their worst citizens to rape and rob the country, he planted another seed of discrimination, not to mention his intentions of making Mexico pay for a wall all along the Mexican, American border.
Donald Trump, a man who has done absolutely nothing for the country, and yet with the tongue of the Devil himself, has succeeded in dividing this country to the point that another civil war is not far away. There are those who say they stand for Trump because he will close the borders and we will all be safe. Isn't the solution worse than the threat? Mr. Trump has stated that if he wins, there should be a statue of him in Washington D.C. I agree, the first man in the history of this country to make fools out of so many people including the “beloved” Republican party. For Trump, conning his way into the White House would be his greatest crowning achievement. And we would go down in history as the only country foolish enough to elect a reality show host to run what use to be known as America. If that happens, heaven help us all.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
How many times have you heard, “don’t eat this, cut back on that, drink plenty of water”, etc, and your plate should look like a rainbow. Then you’re suppose to portion it just right and chew a certain number of times before swallowing. You could go crazy just trying to eat right. There are numerous diets out there that say that they can get you down to the ideal weight, but at what cost? You are bound to lose a vitamin here or a chemical there that will require you to supplement a particular diet with a multi-vitamin. There are hundreds of multi-vitamins on the market and each say they have the ideal formula to bring your body back to life. Pushing multi-vitamins is a billion dollar a year business, what else would they say?
Americans have always had a long standing relationship with pure cane sugar that goes so far back, there are those who actually go into withdrawals from not having their daily supply, But adding pure sugar to certain products for consumer ingestion got to be expensive and we all know that businesses thrive on their bottom line profits so chemist went to work on a cheaper sugar replacement In 1970 the solution was born, “high fructose corn syrup.” The biggest contributor to the increase in diabetes diagnosis in the last 25 years, and what’s worse, we are hooked on the stuff. Today, there is a big push to steer us away from this addictive chemical. Trouble is, they have no substitute sweeteners that can even come close to the same taste of our beloved sugar. We consume one half billion Twinkies a year, and chase down whatever we eat with fifteen billion gallons of soft drinks flavored with high fructose corn syrup. Krispy Kreme doughnuts produces 7.5 billion doughnuts a year; that’s a doughnut fried every 22 seconds.
I don’t know about a lot of you, but my mother fried everything in lard which in the late 50’s and early 60’s was the ultimate frying grease. She didn’t learn about vegetable oil or olive oil until the 70’s, and as a child growing up in the south, she learned from her mother who also used lard. Yet, my mother lived until she was 76 years old and was never concerned about high cholesterol. Every year the Food and Drug Administration approves a new chemical for human consumption, and did you know that some of these chemicals are dual use chemicals. One such chemical compound that is well known is “shellac”, which was originally made for woodwork, and is now responsible for putting the shine on those jelly beans eaten during Easter. Next time you see a shine on that juicy apple, thank the Kerria Iacca insects who gave up their lives so you could see yourself in the shine on that old wooden cabinet. They always talk about reading the labels on what we are about to consume, but in order to understand a lot of what these compounds do one would have to be a chemist.
It is true that we are becoming overweight at an alarming rate in this country and millions are being made on America’s desire to lose pounds. And everyday they come up with something that’s bad to eat and every other day they change their minds so what’s a body to do? The choice is naturally yours as to what you chose to eat, but as for me, I’m going to eat what’s yummy and if I got to go, I will go with a smile on my face and pure sugar on my lips.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
Where would you be if your life was different than it is right now? Life itself is the programmer that dictates our mental and moral attitudes while circumstance is a constant wild card. If you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth so to speak,then your views of the world differs slightly than those who fight every day to survive. As a poor person you try to imagine what it would be like to be able to feed your family a healthy meal three times a day. Those who live on “food stamps” have a very hard time surviving and the well to do seem to have trouble understanding that. But as a poor person you are the first to understand the burdens of those in line at the food pantries. Strange, no one ever does a story on the day in the life of a person trying to get enough food for a family meal.
The false assumption that everybody on welfare is either a drug addict or alcoholic or both, with a lazy streak running down their spine is light years from the truth. The politicians like to talk that rhetoric to ease their conscience’s when they cut funding for the poor. They talk about saving the taxpayers money but they forget that 79 percent of the people on welfare had a job once in their lifetime that was taxed in which some went into the same fund that goes to social programs. These programs are suppose to be the safety nets when those same workers fall on hard times themselves. But instead of those nets being there, we find that mismanagement by politicians has caused these safety nets to have numerous holes in them. In the scheme of life our destinies are pre-determined and how we define ourselves is a constant work in progress. The man down the street may not have much food, but he is willing to share because his heart tells him that this is the right thing to do. Would his heart tell him the same thing if he was well off? Can money change the real you inside?
Yes, there are those who give all they can to help those less fortunate, and yes they do include some very well to do individuals such as Bill Gates. But can you imagine the impact in the world if all the millionaires got together to wipe out hunger? Or how about a collaboration to bring clean drinking water to every remote village where the men and women now have to walk miles just to get non-clean, contaminated water. There are countless organizations who do what they can for those without, but they can only do so much with what they have. They have plenty of heart, but not enough money and it’s sad to say that there are those who have plenty of money and no heart. I do not begrudge the wealthy because they are rich, I’m just saying that there are a lot of unfortunate people around the world who could be saved if more of the wealthy would realize that we are our brothers' keepers. Just sayin'.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
During the holiday season we have a tendency to go all out in our attempts to make this holiday season better than the last one, even if it means going into debt to do so. It is a time of family closeness, and we become far to aware that some relatives may not be here another year. So we are determined to create a lasting, happy memory for the seniors of the family. We see the television commercials showing families gathered around the perfect Christmas tree and a dining table overflowing with food, and all seems right in the world. These are treasured moments indeed and we would do well to enjoy every bit of it because all is not right in the world, and we are headed for an uncertain future. And if you have young children, how did you explain the violence that’s happening in a world that was singing “Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Men"?
How did you tell your children that Santa would be safe as he flew across the skies with Rudolph and that nose shining bright? How do you tell the children that they will be safe and that nothing bad will happen to them while they are attending an event at school? While those may be difficult questions to answer, there is no harder question to answer than the question, why don’t we have any food to eat? We have come to define the holiday season as being a happy time and it is for most, but there are millions who spent Christmas hungry, cold and alone. In a perfect world, there would be no hunger and everybody would have a giant Christmas tree with lots of presents underneath and the word terrorist would never be spoken. But alas, the world is far from perfect and that’s why it’s so important that we make sure that during these troubling times we endeavor not to tarnish the hopes and the dreams of our youngest people. The message that we need to keep sending is yes Virginia, in spite of what you see, dreams still can come true.
Educating our children about the evils in the world is a job better left to parents, not social media. Molding and shaping young minds is a delicate task these days, and we all know what could happen with the wrong teachings. And we should remember that some children are smart enough to know that household circumstances make it impossible to get that new X-Box like the kid down the street. And since every story has villains and heroes it should be very easy to explain to your children that there are bad people everywhere in the world and that there are just as many heroes and that good always wins. Life is full of ups and downs and by taking time to explain this to your children they will understand the meaning of hard times and the values of having morals and knowing right from wrong. Best of all you show them that no matter how gloomy the picture, they may see you suffer, but it is important that they never see you give up hope. Teach the children well.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
Angel is 16 years old and she gravitates to the beat of a different drummer. She likes Roy Harper comics, reading the Hobbit, and choreographing dance moves to Korean music. She lives in the world of panda bear tattoos and rainbow colored hair. She is truly unique but more than that, she's family, my niece's daughter, and all she is is what we love about her. Her life at this stage should be a never ending song of happiness yet she has had to overcome bouts of low self-esteem due to being bullied just for being who she is. Low self-esteem is just one of the by-products of being bullied and if there’s two things that’s known about self-esteem is that there’s nothing innate or God-given about it and that it's something that must be dealt with along life’s way. Those who are unique like Angel are often a target of others who's own lives are dismal so they are opposed to change in the status quo. Sometimes the changes that they see are a direct result of a bullied person who decided that their self image needed improvement in order to belong in a society that’s forever unforgiving. How ironic. When a person is bullied, their lives and their happiness becomes restricted and it often leads to fundamental feelings of inadequacy which in turn leads to other problems such as overeating, alcoholism, and depression. In women, low self-esteem is viewed as an epidemic that causes them to make unwise life choices such as marrying unworthy men, making bad career decisions, and going from substance abuse to tolerating being abused. Some believe that women are more vulnerable to the symptoms of low self-esteem because the world as a whole is seen as a male dominated society.
It’s hard to have self-esteem when society as a group, is constantly defining you, and in your eyes, you see yourself as not good enough. You acquire all the symptoms of the dreaded “if only” syndrome. You begin to think, "if only I was prettier or smarter or had a better body". We all have been programmed to believe that we must meet a certain criteria as far as our appearance. goes. The desire to be thin has women starving themselves. That sends out the wrong message and starts some women on a never-ending perpetual journey trying to “fix” themselves to gain societies approval. You weren’t born with low self-esteem, it either came from parents who told you that you were worthless, or the sad fact that you never got picked to join the “in” crowd because you chose to color your hair red. How does one change those “worthless me” messages? Sometimes it requires counseling and or a support group. It will also require the best weapons of all, family and friends. Angel has her good days and her bad days, and when she feels overwhelmed, she reaches out to family and friends and we are all there to keep her spirits up. You must take the time to identify the good points you have and don’t put so much emphasis on the bad points. The greatest victory in life is the ability to live with yourself and to accept your shortcomings. You may be a long way from where you want to be, but if you really take a good look at yourself, you may realize that you’re not so bad after all.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
We are at a tipping point as far as police and community relations are concerned and now those sworn to “protect and to serve” need protecting themselves. And after hearing news reports everyday about police being ambushed and killed, surprisingly, the statistics say that the deaths of police officers is at an all time low. On the other side of that statistic is the troubling trend of police officers shooting unarmed suspects which has risen by 40%. The latest killing of a man in a wheelchair by police highlights that we have a long way to go on this matter, and a very short time to solve the problem. Why are police shooting first and asking questions later, it’s simple, self preservation, commonly known as fear. When you are in an occupation that requires you to carry a firearm, it means your life will be in danger at some point and your mind will automatically kick into survival mode powered by adrenaline, then in the human brain it’s either kill or be killed. There is no neutral ground.
The average person has no clue about what it's like to be in a gun fight with someone intent upon killing you to get away at all cost. If you peek out from behind your cover at the wrong time, it’s curtains. Bulletproof vest are fine for protecting the body, but that leaves the head vulnerable which makes you a 50/50 target. But when the threat is from a knife or any other non firearm, hand to hand combat should be an alternative to lethal force. There is a fine line between the two, and this is where the unrest in the community rears its ugly head.The public does not have a problem with an officer using reasonable force to protect citizens from harm, and any life threatening circumstance should be met with likewise retaliation. But for a police officer to willfully shoot an unarmed suspect in the back 5 times is no less than murder. On the other side of the spectrum, a police officer was just cleared in Cleveland, Ohio for jumping on the hood of a probable suspect's moving car and shooting through the windshield at point blank range 17 times, killing an unarmed man and women and saying he feared for his life was a pure case of panic shooting and in my opinion was unjustified. He was however telling the truth when he said he feared for his life. The number of times he fired his weapon is proof of that.
More modern crime fighting techniques with an emphasis on non lethal ways to take down a suspect without shooting him numerous times is in order. Sure, as heartless as it might sound, killing a suspect saves local and state governments from having to foot the bill for a lengthy trial, not to mention not having to house the criminal for years at a cost to the tax-payers. I for one am not saying that the rise in police shootings amounts to executions but emotions should not be a deciding factor in the search for justice especially if the so called suspect turns out to be innocent. For a police officer to be the judge, jury, and executioner is justice moving in reverse, and all non lethal avenues should be explored to protect not only the suspects rights, but the officer"s as well. Use of stun guns should be more of an option when possible as one solution. With that said, if a police officer finds him or herself in an all out gun fight, then I am all for whatever it takes to protect lives. Body-cams are a very good idea as they will record the truth and will not distort it to fit the circumstances, and is the perfect tool to protect all involved. The other problem that has come to light now is the decrease in the number of police recruits. Many now see being a police officer as too dangerous especially when they see themselves becoming targets. Should there be a lot more psychological testing done on recruits to make sure they are not prone to becoming trigger-happy? Possibly, but I do know one thing, without the police to draw a line in the sand between us and the criminal element, life would be hell.
By, Crystal S. Kauffman, Contributing Writer
Do you ever have unwanted gift cards after the holiday season has passed? If so, think about how many friends and family will be giving out gift cards you may not want. Additionally, you may not be able to use each gift card for many different reasons, which means the gift card will expire and become worthless. During the upcoming holiday season, think about how you can change someone's life using the very gift card, which you may not use or want.
Many different websites will allow you to resell the gift card to them and offer you cash back for each unused card. However, how about donating your cards to the military, patients in the hospital (with cancer or other illnesses), or to the less fortunate in your community? During this holiday season, many families may not have food or presents for Christmas. Therefore, why not take your unwanted gift cards or even gifts order to donate them to others, who will enjoy knowing that you are thinking of them.
These families will enjoy the fact that you are thinking about them during this holiday season. During the holiday season, many children and seniors are unable to celebrate Christmas for whatever reason, whether it is because of financial reasons or they have no family. You could pick someone in your own neighborhood to give unwanted or used gift cards too. Additionally, soldiers and military families could use the unwanted gift card.
The family could use the gift, in order to buy special things that his or her loved ones may need. Many websites or organizations can help you find a perfect family to donate your unwanted gift cards too. Sometimes, patients at nursing homes or in the hospital could also use the gift cards. This act of kindness will brighten his or her holiday season to receive a gift from a caring person. Try contacting a local nursing home or hospital for details on how to give the gift cards to the patients.
Furthermore, you could help bring joy to many patients by collecting unused gift cards from others you know. This is a great way to help others who are less fortunate and bless others during this holiday season. Additionally, ask others to get involved and help you to collect unused gift cards, like school and church. This holiday season; take a moment to bless others with your unwanted gift cards and cards you collect.
Getting involved in your community is pretty much as simple as having the desire and just getting out there. There are plenty of organizations that are ready and willing to let you help out. Even if volunteer work is not normally on their agenda, there are many things you could offer to do for them that would be appreciated.
Check With Local Schools and Organizations That Help Children
Local schools always need a helping hand. Whether you are helping to build a playground or reading a book to a classroom of kindergartners, it is likely a school will welcome volunteer work with open arms. Check with the administration at your local schools to see what is needed. If you have ideas, don't be afraid to make suggestions.
Another good way to find about volunteer and community opportunities involving children is to seek out companies and organizations that might serve children. For instance, the Texas Farm Bureau helped third and fifth graders with a cabbage garden and a butterfly garden. This may sound small, but both are educational, as well as fun. From this type of activity, kids can learn about teamwork, learn gardening skills, learn to appreciate nature, get some exercise, as well as just plain have fun. Not all kids have opportunities like this on a daily basis.
Give Back at Work
Many companies give back to the community as well. Ask your boss if your company participates in volunteer work. One company that has an excellent volunteer program for its employees is The Home Depot. There are various ways Home Depot gives back to the community. Employees are encouraged to volunteer for The Home Depot Foundation (established in 2002). Home Depot associates (called Team Depot) can volunteer by building and restoring playgrounds, assessing and correcting safety and accessibility issues within the community, participating in affordable housing projects, helping with emergency preparedness, and more.
Look Up Various Shelters, Educational Assistance, and Other Programs
Perhaps there are adults in your area that don't yet have their high school diploma or GED. Rather than them paying high costs for classes, you may want to volunteer for tutoring. Oftentimes, shelters will offer programs to help people in this situation. If you would like to help, try going to your local shelters and asking administration about these programs.
Speaking of shelters, another way to volunteer and help those in need is by going to local shelters and asking about their greatest needs that a volunteer such as yourself would be able to provide. If they cannot think of any needs, but would like help somehow, you could make suggestions based on your talents and skills. For example, if you have experience counseling, you may want to provide counseling to families in tough situations, such as the youth at a shelter like Covenant House in Houston, TX.
No matter what type of volunteer work you choose, you can be sure that it will help someone in some way. Getting involved in the community is a great way to help others, gain character, and build a great resume. Not only can volunteering make the recipient of your efforts happy, but it also can lift your spirits as well.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
(this version updated 8/27/2015)
If you need help getting free food in Denver due to low-income, emergencies, and more, this long list of food banks in Denver County, Colorado will help. These food banks provide free food for families, free food for seniors, free school supplies, free formula, free diapers, and more. We have listed the most updated information we have. However, we do recommend calling ahead to check current details, as these can change to better serve the community. This list is in alphabetical order, along with addresses, phone numbers, and websites (when applicable). If we have other information about them, it will be listed as well.
Food Banks in Denver County with Free Food and Other Assistance
ACS Community Lift
5045 W. 1st Ave.
M-Th from 9 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Agape Christian Church
2501 California St.
Fridays from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
(Education, prison, youth, & other services also offered)
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Denver Cathedral)
1530 Logan Street
M-F 1 - 1:30 p.m.
Berkeley Baptist Church
4050 W. 44th Ave.
Thursdays from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Bienvenidos Food Bank via NW Family Assistance Center
2224 W. 32nd Ave. (at Wyandot)
1st, 2nd, and 4th Thursdays of the month 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 4 - 5:30 p.m.
Campbell Chapel AME
1500 E. 22nd Ave.
4th Friday of the month 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Christ Body Ministries
16th and York St.
Saturdays at 2 p.m.
Church in the City
1580 Gaylord St.
2nd and 4th Sunday each month at 12:30 p.m.
Colorado AIDS Project
2490 W. 26th Ave. Building B
(303) 837-1501 (ext. 105)
T, Th from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m, W from 1 -5 p.m, and Sat from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
1755 S. Zuni S
M, W, Th from 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. and Tues from 2 - 4:30 p.m.
Crossroads of the Rockies
2707 W. Mississippi Ave.
T, Th from 9-11:15 a.m, Sat 9-9:30 a.m.
Denver Indian Center
4407 Morrison Road
T, Th from 2-4:45 p.m.
(other assistance services also available)
Denver Inner City Parish
Mon & Fri from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Denver Rescue Mission
23rd & Lawrence St
Tues - Sat from 8:30 - 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
(other assistance services also available)
Denver Urban Ministries (denUM)
1717 E Colfax Ave.
M, T, F from 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m, W from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m, & Th from 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
(other assistance services also available)
East Denver Fish
Epiphany Lutheran Church and Washington Park United Church of Christ
Phone calls only M, W, F from 8 - 11:30 a.m.
(Delivery service to area zip codes, call for info)
Front Range Seniors
1200 El Paso Blvd.
55 and older only - Thursdays at 9 a.m.
Greater Park Hill Community - Emergency Food Pantry
2823 Fairfax St.
M, W from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
(must be a Park Hill resident)
His Love Fellowship
910 Kalamath St.
Thursdays at 8 a.m.
House of Joy Church
3082 Leyden St.
Thursdays from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
House Worship Center
195 S. Monaco Parkway
(303) 333-9477 and (303) 355-0297
M, W, F from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
(must call ahead, pick-up at another location, other services offered)
Jewish Family Service of Colorado
3201 S. Tamarac Dr.
First-time clients call (720) 248-4716 for appt.
(W, F 10 a.m. - 1 p.m; Seniors Tues 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. - closed last Tues each month; other assistance services available)
Macedonia Baptist Church
3240 Adams St.
T, Th 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (must call the day before)
1100 E. 18th Ave. (temporarily at 16th & Ogden)
M, W, Th - call for schedule
(other assistance services also available)
Metropolitan Community Church
980 Clarkson St.
2nd, 3rd, and 4th Monday each month from 3 - 6 p.m.
(welcoming to LGBT community)
Ministry Outreach Center
5725 E. 39th Ave
M-F from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m; appts from 12:30 - 2 p.m.
(clothing and furniture assistance also available)
Most Precious Blood Catholic Church
2250 S. Harrison St
M-Th from 9 - 11 a.m. and 1 - 3 p.m.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church
2200 S. Logan St.
M-F from 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Park Hill 7th Day Adventist Church
3385 Albion St.
T, W from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Praise Center Church
3105 W. Florida Ave.
3rd or 4th Fri of the month at 10 - 10:15 a.m. (schedule on website)
(homeless/transitional services also offered for women)
Rising Star Baptist
1500 S. Dayton St.
Third Saturday from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Rose of Sharon Food Bank
5306 Lincoln St.
call for schedule
Scott United Methodist
2880 Garfield St.
2nd and 3rd Thursday of the month from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Senior Assistance Center
2839 W. 44th Ave.
Thursdays only from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
(other assistance services also available)
Senior Support Services
846 E. 18th Ave. (at Emerson St.)
55 and older; M-F 1-2 p.m.
(other assistance services also available)
Servicios De La Raza
3131 W. 14th Ave.
Call for appt.
(other assistance services available)
St. Anthony’s Church
8301 W. Ohio Ave.
Tues from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. and Fri from 10 - 11 a.m.
St. Frances De Sales
Serves 80209 zip code
Delivery only - call for appt.
Twin Parishes - St. Vincent De Paul Society
3663 Humboldt St.
T, Th from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Volunteers of America
2877 Lawrence St.
M-Th from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Zion Senior Center
5151 E. 33rd Ave.
M-Th at 11:30 a.m.
(other assistance services also available)
By, Crystal S. Kauffman, Contributing Writer
If you look in a history book, you will never find the name Viola Liuzzo as a martyr for civil rights. However, in 1965, she became an unknown martyr in the hearts of many civil rights activists. She was shot by self-proclaimed KKK members in Selma, Mississippi, during a civil rights march on March 25, 1965. Now, there is a memorial on the spot that she died, yet no one mentions her name in the history books. According to Mr. Simkin, she was a 36 year old mother of five kids, who wanted to make a difference in the fight for civil rights.
She was married to a man named Anthony J. Liuzzo, who was very supportive of his wife's ambitions. Viola graduated from "Wayne State University" and was pursuing a career as a "medical lab technician" (Simkin) After she watched 'Bloody Sunday' unfold on television in Selma, Alabama. She empathized with the pain and torment of those who fought for the right to vote.
So she decided to stand up and become a civil rights activist, who helped out with driving people to the marches. They followed Martin Luther King and 25,000 others in a march from Selma to Montgomery. Once getting involved, she witnessed the brutality of other Americans in the south.
As a white woman, she could have decided that it was too dangerous to go, but she was also a trained nurse who felt she may be able help. Then, on the night of March 25, 1965, she was shot in the head twice by three KKK members from Birmingham. Viola was brutally killed, while driving some of the protesters home. However, according the FBI, a man named Leroy Moton was driving and became an eye witness to her murder. Before long, three men were arrested and charged with violating Viola Liuzzo civil rights. According to the FBI, an undercover agent named Carl Rowe was also riding with the KKK members that night.
These self-proclaimed KKK members were Collie Wilkins", "William Eaton", and "Eugene Thomas" (FBI, 2006). They were found guilty and sentenced to ten years in prison. Fortunately, the undercover FBI agent Carl Rowe was compelled "testified against them" (Simkin) in court. In an attempt to discredit Viola, some vicious rumors alleged that she had abandoned her children and husband for a black man's affection.
According to Simkin, these damaging rumors, were believed to have been started by the FBI. Sadly, she tried to stand up for the civil rights of others, but was ultimately was denied her own civil rights.. How come Americans are not taught about her courageous decision to stand up, which ultimately cost her own life? Why did the undercover FBI agent choose not to protect her and her companions? What made them spread this vicious rumor about a woman, who chose to stand up for others and their right to be a free American?
Simkin, John (1997) Spartacus Educational: Viola Liuzzo
Retrieved on the World Wide Web on June 13, 2007
Federal Bureau of Investigations (2006) Viola Liuzzo Murder
Retrieved on the World Wide Web on June 13, 2007
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
In 1963 the presidential political campaign was finally taking shape, and the Republicans had Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller as their leading candidates,and President John Kennedy was wondering what could Democrats offer the average voter in the upcoming elections. “What can we do to make them decide to vote for us? We hope we have to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy the prosperity is nil. He’s not unprosperous, but he’s not very prosperous, and the people who really are well-off hate our guts.” That same statement can be made today by the odds on favorite and the number one Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton. Since the redistricting of the country by the Republicans to gain a voter advantage, the world of demographics really comes into play and will play an important part in the election. While some say that the Democrats have some advantages because three of the four biggest states have growing Hispanic populations, it will never trump the slight of hand that the GOP is so famous for and especially now that they are in “desperation” mode. With that said, there are still some noteworthy problems that lay ahead for Hillary and the Democrats run to the top.
The GOP can always count on the south to be forever loyal to the Republican Party just as you can just about count on the African-American voters being equally dedicated to the Democratic Party. While that may be the genuine Democratic voters creed, there are politicians in the party who are without honor, who claim to be a loyal Democrat, but as we saw right before the mid-terms last year, there were some wishy-washy Democratic politicians who threw their own president under the bus in lieu of popularity votes from the “dark side.” And with voter turnout at an all time low for the mid-terms, the Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate. Even though the south lost the Civil War, some southerners still hold on to beliefs that’s been handed down through the generations.They still speak a language that the Democrats don’t understand, but is well known and understood clearly by the southern politician. Being forever optimistic, the Democrats have high hopes of returning to power in Texas, the land of Rick Perry, which will be a daunting task to say the least. Did you know that among all those cattle and oil wells in Texas, there are thousands of poor, isolated people starving to death. They are out in rural areas, so distant that some have to travel over 20 miles to food pantries, and making these people travel that same distance to get identification cards or drivers licenses in order to satisfy the paranoid Republican requirements to vote is unbelievable. Voting is suppose to be easy and idiot-proof and not laced with a bunch of unnecessary legal mumbo-jumbo as to why you need a picture I.D. to vote. The Republicans claim that voting oversight, theirs, is needed because there is wide spread voter fraud taking place goes right in the same category with the belief that the world is flat.
Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and surprisingly, West Virginia, who identified itself as a southern state when 62 percent of the state voted for Mitt Romney during the last presidential election, make up 41 electoral votes, all of which went to Romney. Texas itself has 38 electoral votes, hardly a reason for the GOP to really worry about losing it. Another reason that the Republicans are feeling rather cock-sure of themselves leading up to the 2016 elections is that someone in their party apparently had a rare light bulb moment and declared that since the black unemployment rate was so high, there was no incentive for African-Americans to get out and vote like they did for Barack Obama. They are under the misguided impression that blacks somehow feel resentment that Obama didn’t get them their “40 acres and a mule”, and have uniformly decided voting was a waste of time then and will be in 2016. Wrong answer! My take on that kind of thinking is that what they are really saying is that African-Americans are so disenchanted with the system, that they will go back to being lazy non-voters who have no desire to get involved with the social issues that are so important in the inner cities. It seems to me that making sure a Republican doesn’t get in the White House to make more draconian budget cuts to those same social programs is all the incentive the poor, black or white, needs to get out and vote. It's plain to me that the Republicans are betting their whole party's future on wishful thinking. Do they have a chance of getting into the White House, of course they do, after all, they have more than a dozen candidates who say they are better than the other Republican. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the front runner when the dust settles at the Republican jamboree in Cleveland. One things for sure, there will be world record backstabbing and name-calling, but in the end, they'll be holding hands, and singing kumbaya and you can take that to the bank.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
You see them everyday walking the city streets, or maybe you don’t see them, after all, they are part of the population that’s increasingly becoming invisible. They are not labeled, and if you didn’t know what to look for, they would look like everyday teenagers except for one thing, they are homeless high school honor students. They live in cardboard boxes under bridges, or take refuge in boarded up abandoned houses and usually shy away from shelters. They do their homework at public libraries, eat at soup kitchens, and do their school clothes shopping at donation bins. Some come from homes where the parents were drug addicts, or life long criminals, but for the most part, they are the fallout from an economy that tanked thanks to the Wall Street bright boys and the likes of Countywide's “mortgage-gate”. Often when a family loses their income due to lack of work or some other unfortunate circumstance the bad luck doesn’t “trickle” down, it cascades. If you have a son or daughter that is of high school age, they are more apt to want to graduate with their friends and do not want to be embarrassed and uprooted to a foster home or a shelter, so they break out on their own hoping to finish their education covertly. Some families stay together by moving in with relatives, but for some, there is no such lifeboat.
For those who are without family, those whose parents are in prison, those who have been abandoned because there just wasn’t enough family resources have learned the time tested occupation of pan-handling to survive. And despite what you might think, only a small percentage turn to crime to survive. Child labor laws are a barrier to legal employment even in a hamburger joint, and many don’t have a real address and are afraid of winding up in some horrible social institution. You hear a lot about high school students dropping out of school, but the homeless honor student has only one thing on his or her mind, and that is to better their circumstances and that requires a good education. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million homeless high school students across the United States. The top four states with the most population of homeless students are California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Some schools are able to identify those students that are homeless, and offer some assistance, and most of the time that is in the form of a warm place to stay at night, or a good meal, truly valuable gifts.. And as long as they see an honest effort by the student, schools are more willing to be accommodating and overlook certain criteria.
There are ten other states that have seen an increase in homeless students and it’s clear this is the sign of the times. And while some of these students are getting help, there are thousands getting no help at all. There is talk of addressing the situation in Washington, but at the speed they move, well, need I say more. If you happen upon one of these courageous students offer what help you can because they bring a whole new definition to the term “Rhodes” (Road) scholar.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
When a person commits a crime he or she goes to prison. We all know that. If you commit a crime that takes another person's life, you stand a pretty good chance of getting the death penalty, although some states are now re-evaluating their stance on capital punishment in lieu of some dramatic and tragic events recently. For those who are on “death row”, there’s not much of a future to look forward to, and the years of appeals is a slow death sentence in itself. But for the criminal who stands a pretty good chance of one day getting out of prison, what is there for them to come home to? Across the United States, when a prisoner is released and they can’t find a legal way to support themselves or their families, they usually wind up back in prison. That’s because when they try to integrate back into society he or she has the label “ex-con” stamped on their forehead, and it’s like a plague with no known cure that will never go away. Once an employer finds out they have a criminal record, their employment chances go from zero to nothing pretty fast.
More than 40% of all inmates who are released eventually go back to prison and to the taxpayer, that’s an expensive revolving door. It cost taxpayers anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000 a year to house an inmate, and that’s why there’s talk of privatizing prisons. While you might think this would be a good idea, let me clue you in on some facts. Those who want to turn the prisons into a corporation have lobbyists who will prod state houses across the country to make stiffer laws. If a corporation buys a company, in this case a prison, then they must have product, prisoners, in which to make money. The "Death Race" movies was the privatization of prisons on steroids, and though just a movie, it's not hard to imagine the same thing happening in real life in the near future. The rich investors in such a "business" will lobby for stricter laws because stricter laws means more people breaking them, and then they go to prisons and that means more product hence, more money. For instance, as an example, a Texas man stole a candy bar (that's right, a candy bar) was convicted, and got a 16 year prison sentence and was sent to a privately run prison. This comes from a reliable news source and I for one believe the story to be true.
That is why there must be a way for ex-offenders to obtain meaningful employment so they don’t go back into a penal institution. When an inmate is released and they are successful in finding work, they pay taxes and contributes to society and they have no desire to go back and be institutionalized.. That’s why back in January 2012, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took steps to reduce some of the barriers that stood in the way of ex-inmates who were trying to make the transition back into society. They established guidelines that prohibit employers from denying people jobs based solely on their criminal records. Now while these guidelines do not eliminate background checks, they do urge employers to consider how long ago the crime was committed, the nature of the crime, and whether or not it has a bearing on the type of job the ex-inmate will be doing.
The American Civil Liberties Union has said that people with criminal records must have access to jobs to ensure that they can succeed in living a normal life because when they are able to do that, it will be a burden lifted off the taxpayer and a blessing for all of us and in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do. Don’t you think?
Photo courtesy of Associated Press
Every day, homeless children wander the streets or lie in shelters. They wonder if they'll get to use soap in the shower. They wonder where their next meal is coming from - if there is one. They also wonder if people like you and me even care. Show them you care by taking the time to donate low-cost items. Most areas have programs that serve homeless youth. It only takes a small amount of time and money to give something that could mean a great deal to a child.
Do you have soap for your shower every day? Unfortunately, some people do not - even children. A simple bar of soap can mean everything to someone who doesn't have this luxury. Dollar stores often sell multi-packs of soap, so stock up and deliver them to your local shelter or homeless aid program.
Shoes and Clothing
Try donating your family's used shoes and clothing. If you don;t have anything that would benefit kids, stop at a local thrift store. They often have sales or prices that will allow you to purchase a large amount for a reasonable price.
Tissue and Baby Wipes
Here again, tissue can be a precious commodity. When donating to shelters, remember that some of the people may need to carry items around all day. Try purchasing small packs of tissues that are easy to carry. Baby wipes are also great, as they are multipurpose. Homeless mothers can use them for their children and homeless youth can use them to keep clean.
Shampoo and Conditioner
Just like soap, shampoo is very important and hard to come by when your income is low. You can find low-cost shampoo at your local dollar store or other discount retailer. It would seem nice to treat the kids to some expensive shampoo. But the lower the cost, the more people you can help. So it's best to keep the price tag low.
Just like anyone else, homeless kids can use lip balm. This is especially true in winter and summer months. In the winter, the icy air dries the lips. In the summer, the harsh sunlight does the same. Choose the lowest cost lip balm with the highest SPF properties.
Hydration Drink Packets
Some hydration drinks now come in powdered form. These need to be mixed with water. These packets are great for homeless children and families. Not only do they help keep them hydrated, but they are very portable. People can carry around a large amount of these without having to lug too much weight. These can be found at many grocers.
Trail mix can be found everywhere now, including the dollar store. It's packed with protein and other nutrients that homeless kids may be lacking. Plus, it's lightweight and very portable. If you choose the right trail mix, some are actually balanced enough to take the place of a meal, if need be. Buy single-serving packets when buying these for homeless kids, as they will be easier to hand out at the shelter.
Now, since homeless kids will be carrying around all their items, they probably don;t want a big pile of books each. However, one or two books each would be extremely beneficial., Sometimes libraries have sales where you can fill a whole bag for a small amount of money. Also, if you have used children's books, consider donating those. Go for lightweight books of varied reading levels.
Bus Tickets or Tokens
Public transportation is likely what a homeless kid is using if they are using any at all. Tokens or tickets can help them get to school, work, or to a shelter. Consider donating bus fare to homeless children. This may cost slightly more than other items on the list. But it will be very valuable.
Reusable Grocery Bags
Sturdy reusable grocery bags can hold a large amount of items and are easy to carry around, This is very helpful to homeless kids, They may need to walk around quite a bit. So their bag needs to be something that holds all their belongings, but is not too hard to carry. Reusable grocery bags can be as little as fifty cents each. The insulated ones are especially nice because they can keep foods fresh and at their temperatures longer. I only paid three dollars each for my insulated ones.
As you are reading this, there are children in America who don't know if they will eat today. How is this possible when America has so many available resources? Are we really using what have to the fullest advantage? Urban gardens are known for reducing hunger. What if we took it a step further and required all schools to have them? Can school garden farms reduce childhood hunger?
Childhood Hunger in America
According to FeedingAmerica.org, 16.7 million American children faced hunger issues in 2008. In a country as abundant as this, why should this be an issue? Rearranging priorities may help. What if schools were required to have garden farms that provided nutrition for the entire neighborhood? This would be a simple program to implement. In fact, there are already grants and other plans in place for those who wish to do so.
Why Create School Garden Farms?
School gardens can help teach kids about agriculture. Giving them a head start in important sustainability lessons may help increase the chance of their success later in life. Schools are often the center of their neighborhood. It's where many events and gatherings take place. The farming could be implemented into the curriculum.
At harvest time for each plant, the kids can divide the crops evenly, according to how many people need them. There will likely be plenty for their families, as well as others in the neighborhood. If various crops are planted according to season, there should be plenty of food year-round. When school is not in session, the garden can still be maintained. This will help make up for the lack of nutrition many people suffer from.
Can School Gardens Really Reduce Childhood Hunger in America?
According to UrbanHarvest.org, community gardens help reduce hunger. Following that pattern, wouldn't it make sense that a school garden could help reduce hunger in children? If the food was distributed evenly to all neighborhood families by default, people may not be so hesitant to take it. Sometimes people are in need, but are embarrassed to admit they need help. Some may not have adequate transportation to get to that help.
By making the community garden a part of the school's curriculum and regular routine, it's possible that childhood hunger could be reduced significantly. Taking away the sometimes grueling application experience and other measures may make this option more desirable for some families. With this type of plan, no one needs to feel left out and no one needs to be put on the spot or labeled.
More on Hunger:
Feeding America Hunger and Poverty Statistics
Urban Harvest on Why Community Gardens are Valuable
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Urban Gardens
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
There is something new coming to the high schools that’s bound to become a topic of many a discussions among many arm chair lawyers. I speak of drug testing students. With the increase in violence and high rates of truancy, officials are trying to determine if high drug use is responsible for some of the problems.
Some students are already yelling "foul" and claiming that their rights are being violated, but some students welcome the testing saying someone on drugs has the tendency to disrupt classroom learning. Some say that it depends on what kind of drugs the student is taking and while some see marijuana as not a bad thing, most view heroin and cocaine as unacceptable. It seems unlikely that any drug, including marijuana, will ever be tolerated in any learning institution, and I for one totally agree.
Athletes should always be given a drug test as part of a physical before being allowed to play because of the number of recent on field deaths due to cardiac arrest. A lot of attention has been given to head traumas, but cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student deaths on the playing field. With the combination of physical stress and possible hidden medical problems, taking any kind of illegal drug could be a death sentence. Finding hidden health problems is a major concern in high school athletics because the problem can most of the time be successfully treated.
For the non-athlete, taking drugs could still kill you because you are not getting a physical exam and therefore any health problem you have may go undetected, and just because you are young is no guarantee that you are invincible. The whole reason that drug testing in schools is going to become the norm is that it makes the schools safe from a variety of things including the person being bullied and winds up addicted to PCP and one day goes home and gets a shotgun or an automatic rifle and returns to the school bent on revenge.
Schools should always be a safe place where one goes to obtain a good education and not have to put up with an addict who cares nothing for the opportunity to learn.
Sometimes weatherizing, hanging blankets, plastic wrapping the windows and stuffing towels under the doors isn't enough to bring a heating bill down to a budgetable range. This typically happens when the individual or family has extremely low income. Thankfully, there are ways to manage winter heating bills. Electric companies and gas companies have programs available for the very poor and families and individuals experiencing temporary hardships.
Electric companies are willing to work with the disadvantaged. However, the individual or family must be willing to communicate with the electric company. My electric company has two billing programs to help individuals, who are short on cash, including short term and long term extensions.
Short Term Extension
A short term extension splits the current electric bill in half and delays the first payment by seven days. The remainder of the bill is added to the next month. I utilize this option three to four times a year, depending on my financial circumstances.
If my current electric bill is $130 and due on the 11th, a short term extension will reduce the current payment to $65 due on the 17th. The remaining $65 will be added to my next electric bill.
Long Term Extension
A long term extension splits the current month's bill by 12.
With a long term extension, my current electric bill would be reduced to $10.83 and $10.83 would be added to every electric bill for the remaining 11 months.
Energy Efficiency Kit
My electric company also offers a free energy efficiency kit. The kit includes four CFL light bulbs, two low-flow shower heads, three aerators for kitchen and bathroom faucets, a hot water thermometer card and a thermometer for the refrigerator. By ordering this kit, I am saving myself more than $50 in supplies.
My gas company offers two budget plans, including flexible payments and budget payments, and they offer a complete list of charitable organizations that help the economically disadvantaged pay their gas bills.
The flexible payment plan is based on an individual or family's financial circumstances. To initiate this payment plan, the individual must contact the gas company and work out payment arrangements.
Budget payments allow households with gas services the ability to pay 11 months at a pre-determined amount. On the 12th month, the household must pay the remaining balance.
There are several charitable organizations that help families pay their gas bills. To find out the names and phone numbers of those organizations, dial 211 from your cell phone. The number is a nationwide number like 411, except is it a directory of charitable organizations that help families with their heating and cooling costs, home renovations and finding food.
Energy Assistance Program are available in most cities and communities. In Indianapolis, the EAP program is handled by the Community Action of Greater Indianapolis (CAGI). This organization helps the economically disadvantaged by paying a portion of their gas bills each month during winter. The funds are directly sent to the gas company on behalf of the disadvantaged customer.
Does your teen need something to do? Volunteer work is an excellent way to prepare teens for the career world. It also gives them great references for college and an opportunity to make a difference. But where can teens volunteer? My teenager and I have been researching the options to decide which one is best for her. Volunteering is a rewarding experience. But it's important to do all the research and find out which program your teen is most suited to. Many programs have one or two day positions that would be a great way to test the waters in several programs before finding a more permanent one.
Working with animals is fun and rewarding. There are various opportunities for teens to do so. Rescue organizations, veterinarians, horse ranches, and more often allow teens to help out. Call around to the organizations in your area to see who needs help. My daughter and I learned that, depending on age, the nature of the opportunity, and each organization, an adult may need to volunteer along with the teen. Some opportunities may include cage cleaning, dog walking, playing with animals, socializing animals, and more.
Help out the elderly. Nursing homes and assisted living communities may welcome teens willing to help out. This could include a variety of tasks, such as playing games, pushing around a wheelchair, talking, and more. Some of these people will have little to no contact from relatives. Someone just being there to spend some time can make a world of difference for them. Even those who do have loved ones who visit, another visitor can really brighten their day. If there are no such communities in your area, there may be an older person you know who needs help with groceries, walking the dog, washing dishes, and other small tasks.
Pitch in for those in need. Teens can volunteer at sorting centers, soup kitchens, churches, and other organizations that help assist those in poverty or homeless. Each has different rules on the ages of volunteers and what they can do to help. Listings can be found under homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, and churches. Not all churches have these types of programs, but many do. So if you can't find any shelters or other organizations in your area, call the churches.
Sharing knowledge helps fellow students. Tutoring other students in the subjects your teen excels in may be another option. This volunteer opportunity could be through your teen's school or through a private organization. Call the school first to see what is available there. If there is nothing available at the school or your child is homeschooled, call various educational organizations. Homeschool groups also may have opportunities for students to help each other. Some high schools may even have a class that allows students to help teachers in elementary or middle schools. I attended a class like this in high school and was able to assist a class of third grade students during their literacy block.
Search volunteer match programs. If the above options are not ideal or you have trouble finding them, try a volunteer match program. United Way and Red Cross are two good places to start in every area. They can help you find out some of what's available in your area and help get your teen started. There are also several great online volunteer matching sites that may assist your teen. Simply fill in interests, location info, and more to find the best volunteer programs for your teen. The application process may take place online or in person, depending on the organization.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
11-Year-Old's Story Proves to Kids That They Can Make an Impact if They Try
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Note: This is an older piece I originally published in 2010 via Yahoo Contributor Network. However, Olivia Bouler is still at it in even bigger ways.
If you met Olivia Bouler, your perception of things might change. She saw an opportunity and seized it. What's so unique about Olivia is that she is just 11 years old. Right now, Olivia is on tour to make a difference in her own way. When the oil spill happened in the gulf, Olivia made the decision to donate 500 bird drawings - one for each of the first 500 people to donate to the Audubon society to help. I recently was able to speak to this amazing little girl and feel her story is one all parents can use to teach their kids to stand up for what they believe in.
Putting Thoughts Into Action ("One Small Thing Can Make a Big Difference.")
Since the initial decision, Olivia has come out with a book called "Olivia's Birds, Saving the Gulf." All of the writing and illustrations in the book are Olivia's own. Those interested in following Olivia's efforts can follow her Facebook page, suggested by the Audubon Society.
If you thought the drawings are where Olivia's story ends, you would be very wrong. She has won several awards and even participated in beach cleanup with Disney's Friends for Change with Nick and Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers. According to Olivia, "My parents have always loved the environment. I've grown up in a very big-hearted family. Very loving brother, parents, and grandparents." Her efforts don't stop at a few small things. Although, as Olivia said to me "one small thing can make a difference."
How Parents Can Use Olivia's Story
Over $200,000 was raised through her efforts at the time I spoke to Olivia. Parents can talk to their kids about what she has done by using her Facebook page, reports on what she does, as well as her book. I found her illustrations to be beautiful and her words to be so inspiring. I have used lessons from Olivia's actions to teach my own kids.
But don't end the lessons at simply looking up the information. Let your kids put their dreams into action. For those interested in helping the environment Olivia suggests to start with "just throwing birdfeed or saving your food items to plant trees, recycling, everything - even just a little cup of water outside for the birds. It's one step at a time and you can could change the world."
What is Olivia Up To?
In addition to her book coming out and doing her drawings, Olivia Bouler made 2010 ASPCA Kid of the Year. She's currently on a book tour. As part of this, Four Seasons is flying her to Costa Rica to distribute books to schoolkids and read them. For that, she received a grant from Disney Friends for Change and the Youth Service of America . Four Seasons is footing the bill. Olivia is also a recipient of the Dale Earnhardt Legends Leadership Scholarship and a Dawn Jr. Wildlife Champion.
Is Olivia just a normal kid?
This is likely a question your kids will want to ask. Of course, she's a normal kid, just like any other. Everything you do doesn't have to be amazing. It's great to make a difference, but kids will still be kids. Olivia likes to play jazz music via her alto saxophone. She says her brother is pretty amazing, too. She also swims at the YMCA and does other things normal kids do. She does of course get tons of fan mail on Facebook. But underneath all that, she wants other kids to know that she is just like them and they can make a big impact, too.
by Dennis Townsend, Contributing Writer
You and your boyfriend started dating a little more than five years ago, and you’re both in your twenties, and for the most part, it’s been a good relationship. I say "for the most part," because as a child, your boyfriend was diagnosed with ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He is prone to bouts of hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, loss of self control and memory lapses. You have been living together for a year, and there is talk of getting engaged, but suddenly you don’t know if you can cope with his mental problems anymore. You love him and that’s a fact, but do you love him enough to take on the challenges that are destined to become a part of the relationship? That’s the big question in your mind at this moment. Should you stay, or should you abandon any dreams of having a normal cohabitation in the form of a marriage?
He gets annoyed and frustrated very easily which often leads into a verbal fight where he gets so angry that he slams his fist against walls and throws things around the room. In your mind you know that he wouldn’t do you physical harm, but watching him get angry makes you unsure and you have a tendency to cringe. And to reinforce the slight fears that you do have is the fact that he sometimes refuses to take his medication because he says that he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel. And so now you don’t know if you can deal with a future with both him and his symptoms. First of all I must stress that I am not a psychiatrist or a medical doctor of any sort, but I can tell you what I have learned after doing research and having discussions with a friend of mine who is in the field of mental health. The following opinions are my own and by no means dictate a viable solution, and is only suggestive information and should be taken as such.
If you are in a relationship like the one described above, the best course of action I would suggest is to leave. The woman in this situation is not up to the challenge, and it sounds like she doesn’t want to be and that’s all I need to know. When you’re choosing a life partner, it's about being open-minded and learning to be a noble person. It’s also about loving and being in love, it’s about something that you can understand that doesn’t make you "cringe" while you’re trying to make it work, and trust me, "foreign and scary" are two deadly ingredients when trying to form a relationship. Also, saying that you’re sure he won’t physically harm you is a crap-shoot and foolish and you don’t ever want to gamble with your life. Can a relationship like this work or does one give up hope? Yes, it can work, but it takes added diligence and the person with the illness has to manage the condition effectively and the partner needs to be temperamentally suited for and at peace with the challenge. It’s plain to see that the woman above is not ready for the challenges but obstacles like this can be overcome, just remember, it takes the right ingredients.
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Sometimes people get overwhelmed with trying to help their favorite causes by making things more difficult than they need to be. Advocating for the homeless is no different.
You don't need to be the leader of a huge organization or a millionaire to help the homeless. Advocating for those faced with homelessness can be achieved with ordinary acts.
Bake pies for the local shelter program
While people living on the streets could use more wholesome meals, maybe pie baking is your gift. Your pies could be a welcome addition after a balanced meal at the local soup kitchen. Pies may not be an absolute necessity. But comfort foods can help bring back good memories. Plus, even when you're homeless, you deserve a nice treat now and then too.
Give blankets to homeless kids
Are you good at sewing? Maybe you're just good at shopping. Either way, try donating blankets that homeless kids can use. A blanket may seem like a simple thing to you or me. But many homeless people go without blankets every day and children are our most vulnerable citizens.
Volunteer for uncommon activities
Do you know of a local shelter or other organization for the homeless? Try volunteering to read to kids, teach kids to read, do a magic show, take a family on a fun outing, and more. There are many possibilities. Volunteering to do the uncommon things can make a big difference, even when the act seems small.
Stacey Carroll - Contributing writer
Living on minimum wage or close to it is nearly impossible. It’s a horrible situation and worse than living paycheck to paycheck because you have to decide whether to eat or pay rent or other utility bills. I know because I lived it, and I am still living it.
At one point in my life, I had a job where I was working 40 hours a week at $8.10 an hour. I was bringing home $998 a month after taxes. That's $12,000 a year or $1,500 a year more than the poverty line for one person. No matter what the government says, I was living in poverty. My rent was $630 a month. My electricity was $120 a month. My cell phone bill was $75 a month, and my internet was $45 a month. That left me with $128 to buy food, essentials, and gas for the month or $32 a week.
Since I lived a mile from work, I put $10 in gas in my car every week for a monthly total of $40. That was enough to get me to and from work. It was not enough to take me anywhere else, so I did all my shopping at work since I worked in a large retail store.
With $20 left for the week, I had to budget for all my essentials. The number one thing I needed for the month was toilet paper, and I spent $6.98 a month on toilet paper. I spent .74 a bottle on shampoo and conditioner, and I needed two bottles of each a month for a total of $2.96. I bought 3-packs of ivory hand soap for .97 cents, and one bottle of dish soap for $1. Both of those items lasted the entire month for a total of $1.97. I bought one tube of toothpaste for the month at $1. I didn't buy laundry soap. I used dish soap to wash dishes and clothes. The total monthly cost of all my essentials was $12.91 or $3.23 a week.
After buying my essentials, I had $16 a week leftover for food. I'd buy a bag of rice for 82 cents, four packages of smoked sausage for $5.56, four cans of pork and beans for $2.60, and six $1 frozen pizzas. I'd eat a pizza for breakfast, skip lunch, and eat either beans and rice for dinner or beans and smoked sausage. It was a total weekly cost of $14.98. I did not buy bread, milk, eggs or cereal. All of those items were too expensive for my budget.
After taxes, my total weekly expenses were $30.63
The Other $2
My budget at the top says that I had $32 a week to spend. Yet, I only spent $30. The other $2 I regularly lent out to my coworkers who had to drive farther or couldn't afford lunch. Two dollars was three quarters of a gallon of gas at the time, and could mean the difference between getting to work on Friday and not getting to work. For others, $2 meant being able to afford lunch. Even though I was struggling to feed myself and get to work, some of my coworkers were worse off.