Katie Couric’s Spotlight on Kids, Part 2

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Greetings from sunny California, the breadbasket of the world.

This week the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric continued their Children of the Recession report. Most recently, they interviewed a 13 year old boy, named Lewis Roman, living in a single room at a Philadelphia shelter, with his mother and several siblings. Lewis tells CBS:

“I don’t like letting nobody … know I’m hungry,” he says. Lewis told me about trying to fall asleep (and sometimes not being able to) as a way to deal with hunger. He told me how he’ll get so hungry that he’ll feel like throwing up.”

Ms. Couric continues:

Hunger in America isn’t what you might think. In extensive phone calls and while doing research for this story, I learned that a child may technically be eating something but can still be hungry – and thus damaging IQ and impairing cognitive growth. Perhaps a child’s last meal was a bowl or cereal or box of inexpensive noodles. While technically they may have eaten something, it wasn’t nutritious enough to help them develop. When a child is growing — it’s particularly important in years 0-5) – what little of nutritional value consumed is going to basic organ and body development, and the brain is starved of the nutrients it needs.

I have to admit, both Rachel and I weren’t sure if CBS and Katie Couric were going to be able to make good on their promise to keep coming back to these issues. Call me a cynic, but without the mainstream media shining a light on these issues, the American public will soon forget about these little stories after the news cameras go away. CBS and Ms. Couric, if you are reading, it would be an amazing public service if you spun off this segment into a special program, a la Harvest of Shame.

I keep thinking about this one article I read on poverty and hunger in America. These words keep coming back to me:

That kind of poverty is inherently less visually spectacular than a tent city. It’s less likely to get Oprah’s TV audience up in arms. But when the damage from the economic collapse is finally accounted, it is these millions of little stories that will likely leave the most enduring imprint on America’s social landscape.

Millions of little stories add up to something greater. In 20 years we will be older and our babies will have grown up. They will be living in a society with the kids who go hungry TODAY. We hear from all of our partnering agencies that the families who come to them for help are having to make tough choices between food and diapers.

This is *such* a big issue, let’s not bury our head in the sand. Here are some people who turned rhetoric into action:

The Lemon Lady collects fresh produce to donate to Contra Costa food banks. You should check out her blog to get some great ideas on non-profit gardening.

Taking a more punk rock approach, Secret Freegan, rescues food from grocery store dumpsters and donates it to homeless shelters. We follow this person on Twitter, and you should too. Check out their blog here, if only for the pictures of food waiting to go to the county dump.

Have you heard of anyone else who is doing good on this issue? Tell us about them here.

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Thank You From Brighter Beginnings!

Brighter Beginnings Staff With Donated Diapers

Brighter Beginnings Staff With Donated Diapers

Thank you to all of our readers and supporters who purchased diapers for Brighter Beginnings! Because diapers are the HIGHEST NEED, and in such short supply, Brighter Beginnings must ration out their supply to ONLY THREE  diapers per emergency case! Because of YOU, our friends at Brighter Beginnings were able to help many of the families who came to them for help in Oakland, Antioch, and Richmond.

We wanted to share with you the following communication we received from our friends at Brighter Beginnings to let you know how we made an IMPACT.

Emergency service resources are always in short supply for families without financial means, but in recent months the need has increased dramatically. Local food bank resources are low, and money that may have been going to basic needs is now going toward food.  Families receiving public assistance have only a few hundreds dollars every month to make ends meet, including rent, utilities, and household needs, and working families are struggling just as hard.  One of the most expensive items in a home with a baby is diapers. This spring, Brighter Beginnings has seen the need for diapers at least triple, especially toward the end of the month when money isn’t stretching as far as it used to and parents are forced to make tough choices.

Rosa, a client with a 22 month old and a newborn, was unable to purchase diapers until she received her paycheck, which was eleven days away.  Andrea, who has 6 month old twins, was just a few days away from the first of the month, but had to choose between diapers and the utilities bill, which was already late.  Sammy, a single dad with a 14 month old daughter, was just laid off and has no savings.

Brighter Beginnings was able to help these parents and more get through a few more days with the generous donations through Help a Mother Out, which provided over 1800 diapers and over 30 packs of wipes to our agency with this Mother’s Day campaign.  While these donations will help in the short-run, the need for emergency diapers is ongoing.

WE DID HELP A MOTHER OUT in a PRACTICAL and DIRECT way. Thank you EAST BAY folks, for being a part of our community campaign!

NOTE: HAMO’s current diaper tally for Brighter Beginnings clocks in at 2802 diapers. This only counts diapers donated via the Amazon.com wishlist.

As of May 27, 2009 our estimated TOTAL diaper count was 12, 154. We will have a more complete update and tally for our May donation campaign efforts in mid June.

What’s It Worth To You?

via Whimsical Walney

via Whimsical Walney

Today’s guest post is by Dana from Whimsical Walney. With her blog The Adventures of Whimsical Walney, Dana is a dedicated advocate for amending CPSIA legislation. For those unfamiliar with the cause, countless small business owners, including Dana, have been forced to close their doors (in this recession, no less) due to the CPSIA’s very broad mandate of third party testing of children’s products.

We know you are just going to love her story. Thank you, Dana, for Helping Some Mothers Out!

It seems like such a simple, straightforward question, but it is isn’t. There are just too many ways to assign value to the multitude of tangible things that surround as well as the relationships and the community we cultivate.

Sometimes, however, we are forced to find answer. In May of this year, I had to close my business because of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CSPIA). All of a sudden, I was faced with this question as it relates to the remainder of my business assets and I found that I didn’t have an answer at the tip of my tongue.

Like most, I immediately started to determine how I might recoup at least some of my start-up capital; but the question kept nagging at me.

What’s it worth to you?

No magic number came to mind. My Use Your Words™ t-shirt line was the result of a passion for childhood education and a lot of hard work. How in the world does anyone truly quantify that? You can’t.

Still, the voice in my head asked, “what’s it worth to you?”

And then the answer became clear: my clothing is most valuable to me when worn by a child. My wish has always been that my shirts became one of a child’s all-time favorites.

When I finally put it in its proper context, I realized that there is no value to me when I attempt to haggle with a prospective buyer at the flea market. There is no value to me when I create a listing on Ebay or Etsy in the hopes that I move 10 or 20 more shirts before suspending sales all together. That’s just wasted time, really, when a child in need could have a new shirt all his or her own.

I had always intended to donate some of my product, but didn’t understand how strongly I felt about it until confronted with the challenge of closing my business. So after some great conversations with the ladies at Help a Mother Out, I had a local contact at the San Jose Family Shelter and a weight was lifted from my shoulders.

WW_Shirts2

I was so excited about making a donation to this wonderful organization, not only did I hand-pick a selection of almost 80 baby and children’s shirts, but I also went through my own closet to see what I could donate to these families. Oh and of course I couldn’t arrive without a couple packs of diapers!

After dropping off the goodies and touring the facility, I drove away daydreaming (and still do) about a child who will finally have a new shirt of his own to wear on his first day of school, or a mom excited to have a never-worn bodysuit for her baby.

It feels like my own Mastercard commercial because this experience was priceless.

CA Safety-Net Program Cuts: Tell Us Your Story!

“A society in crisis should not throw women, children, and seniors overboard first.” ~ California Assemblymember Noreen Evans

This week there does not seem to be a whole lot of media coverage regarding the Governor’s proposed program cuts. Thank you San Jose Mercury News and the Los Angeles Times for practicing real journalism and covering the story.

Are you a parent who will be directly effected IF the state’s safety-net programs CalWORKS or Healthy Families are CUT out of the budget? Please TELL US YOUR STORY by posting a comment HERE (you can post anonymously).  We want to hear REAL STORIES from REAL FAMILIES on how this will directly change your life.

Per California Assemblymember Noreen Evans’ budget blog, here is a partial list of services that will be effected should the cuts happen:

· Elimination of the CalWORKs program;
· Elimination of the Healthy Families Program;
· Eliminating certain Medi-Cal state-only programs;
· Elimination of community based services programs at the Department of Aging;
· Eliminate State funding for Community Care Licensing;
· Elimination of remaining General Fund for Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health;
· Elimination of funding for community clinic programs, such as Rural Health Services and the Seasonal and Agricultural and Migratory work programs;
· Elimination of funding for drug treatment programs established by the voters through Proposition 36;
· Reducing in-home supportive services eligibility and care provider pay;
· Reducing funding for foster care rates; and
· Reducing SSI/SSP monthly payments benefiting the aged and disabled to the minimum allowed under federal law.

Dear readers, please forward this post to anyone who may want to share their story.

Chop-Chop, California

Updated 10:00pm 5/27/09: MUST READ on budget cuts to health and human services: check out the blog of Assemblymember Noreen Evans, Chair of California Budget Conference Committee.

Today, while some of us will be changing diapers for California’s next generation of voters,  some of our legislators in Sacramento will be holding a hearing that will weigh in heavily on the future of California’s most vulnerable children and families.  What’s the scoop?

Just yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger officially proposed to eliminate a bunch of state funded programs. On the chopping block include programs CalWORKS and Healthy Families.

According to their website, CalWORKS helps able bodied parents with children gain employment:

The CalWORKs program provides temporary financial assistance and employment focused services to families with minor children who have income and property below State maximum limits for their family size. Most able-bodied aided parents are also required to participate in the CalWORKs GAIN employment services program.

CalWORKS advocates argue that eliminating this program would send more of California’s vulnerable families out onto the street (Read: INCREASE of family homelessness).

California’s Healthy Families Program :

Healthy Families is low cost insurance for children and teens.
It provides health, dental and vision coverage to children who
do not have insurance and do not qualify for free Medi-Cal.

According to this fact sheet, nearly 1 million California children would LOSE health insurance if the Healthy Families program were eliminated (READ: MORE children slipping through the healthcare system’s cracks).

Here is a GREAT article in the Los Angeles Times that puts a FACE and REAL LIFE stories to the Healthy Families program.

The legislative Budget Conference Committee (including members of the state Senate and Assembly) will be holding a public hearing on these proposed program cuts. Hopefully, they will be talking LONG and HARD about the long term impact such program cuts would have on family homelessness and child welfare in California.

What can YOU do to help?

  1. CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS:  Tell them you are VERY concerned about the immediate and long term impact eliminating CalWORKS and Healthy Families will have on family homelessness and child welfare. Click here to find out who your representatives are.
  2. CONTACT THE GOVERNOR:  Click here for Governor Schwarzenegger’s contact information.
  3. SPREAD THE WORD:  Blog about it, Tweet it, or Facebook this action item to your network.

Below is a list of legislators who are on the budget conference committee. If you reside in these cities, please take some time out of your day to contact your representative.

Assemblymember Noreen Evans (Democrat – Santa Rosa) – Chair

Assemblymember Kevin de León (Democrat – Los Angeles)

Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (Democrat – Woodland Hills)

Assemblymember Roger Niello (Republican – Fair Oaks)

Assemblymember Jim Nielsen (Republican – Gerber)

Senator Denise Ducheny (Democrat – San Diego)

Senator Mark Leno (Democrat – San Francisco)

Senator Alan Lowenthal (Democrat – Long Beach)

Senator Bob Dutton (Republican – Rancho Cucamonga)

Senator Mimi Walters (Republican – Laguna Hills)

Please help us continue the dialogue by posting your comments below. We especially welcome those of you who work with families vulnerable to these program cuts.

Leave It to the Big O, Again!

via People Magazine

via People Magazine

Did anyone catch the Big O show last week on Heroes in Hard Times? Whether you watch the Big O show or not, you should check it out to catch some great ideas and inspiration on how YOU can help out others in these dire economic times (Hey YOU, buy some diapers!).The Big O partnered with People Magazine to highlight these amazing everyday people who saw a need in their own communities, and tried to fill it.

The stories highlighted in the show include a doctor who started a free clinic for his small working-class town; the owner of an auto repair shop who started a non-profit that donates refurbished cars to struggling families, and a little girl (pictured above) who started a charity to collect socks for the homeless.

The take away from these stories is that we ALL can help out in one way or another when we start at a place that we know. We started with diapers (recent tally 12, 154 as of 5/24/09).

How about you? What is a need you see that needs to be filled? Do you have a story of an everyday hero in your own community? Tell us about it here.

Welcome San Diego!

Updated 10:00pm. You can listen to Ms. Alicia’s interview by clicking here to download.

Just a quick shout out to Xavier The X Man’s MAGIC 92.5 FM listeners. If you just heard our gal, Ms. Alicia, live on the air, we welcome you to our cause. Check out the San Diego donation drive page by clicking here.

Hope you will be able to join us a week from today at Xavier The X Man’s Sunday Morning Menudo from 9am-12pm.

Congrats, Ms. Alicia, on a great LIVE interview!