Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Today, I wanted to share a recent blog post about an outstanding organization, Kidsave, dedicated “to create change – so forgotten orphanage and foster kids grow up in families and connected to caring adults.” The blog was written by two talented and inspiring women, Nancy Nyman and Heather McNama, “two chicks just trying to build a family.”  They have been on a journey to foster/adopt a child/children and have chronicled this emotionally difficult process sprinkling it with gentle and side splitting humor.  My heart races with each post and I marvel at how their hope and humor remain strongly in tact within the bureaucracy of the process. You can read their remarkable blog at TwoGirls Unleashed.

Kidsave  – Posted June 28, 2011 by TwoGirls Unleashed

Note: the names/identities/details of the foster children, foster parents and social workers have been changed to protect their identities

Emilio was getting close to aging out of the foster care system.  Having been taken from his family at 10 months old, he’d lived in over 25 foster homes.  Some treated him like family, some merely met his basic needs, and none wanted to adopt him.  Six months before his 18th birthday, he sat down with his social worker and learned about the grim realities confronting him.  Once 18, he’d be on his own (Note:  the age for termination of foster care services has since been changed to 21).

Having moved so many times and with no steady help from an adult, Emilio had fallen behind in school.  So college wasn’t really in the cards.  He would need to find a job and a place to live.  He’d have to rely on the staff of his current group home to help him coordinate after-school rides to Social Services in order to take advantage of the meager resources available to him, to work on his resume, and to fill out job and housing applications.

The irony:  society expected Emilio to create permanency for himself, despite the fact that the system had failed to provide him with any semblance of permanency in 17+ years.

Emilio had seen plenty of his foster brothers and sisters age out.  He’d witnessed the anxiety and stress and worry of having no place to go.  Upwards of 40% of foster children will end up homeless, which means former foster children have now overtaken veterans as the single largest population in our state’s homeless shelters.

Emilio could see his future.  He’d  heard about how groups of former foster kids would huddle up in the dried-up bed of the L.A. River to sleep, taking turns keeping watch; how many of them turned to crime and prostitution for money; and how some of them just disappeared.

Photo courtesy of Alejandra Reyes @ http://www.fillingtheframe.com

The foster care system, originally built on good intentions, removes children from their biological families in situations of abuse and neglect.  But so often the solution – the foster experience – is just as bad (and sometimes worse) than the original problem.

Statistics show that once a child turns six, his chances of getting adopted drop dramatically.  At 12 or 13, adoption is nearly impossible.  When a child reaches 16, who cares? 

These are the forgotten children.  They live in foster and group homes, and they attend school.   But their journey from foster care to the streets is hidden from view:  an exit paycheck from the state; a list of housing they may or may not be able to afford; a draft of a resume.  But no home base, other than a shelter.  No place to go at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  No social worker to call.  And no one to celebrate their birthday.

Enter Kidsave.  Specializing in ages 9 and up, Kidsave serves to create connections for older children in the foster care system.  With adoption as the ultimate goal, the organization strives to match each child in its program with a caring adult who will provide mentorship and advocacy and a steady relationship.

It works like this…  We start attending Kidsave monthly events (next one is July 10th) and meet the Kidsave kids (and maybe make a connection).  We go through a brief training that includes mentorship and advocacy, and when we are ready, Kidsave will work to match us with a child.

But wait!  This is different than the agency we worked with before in that Kidsave is NOT a foster/adoptive agency.  They are a nonprofit org that works to create long-lasting connections for kids.  So when we’re matched, we’ll hang out with our Kidsave kid twice a month – help with homework, introduce her/him to our peeps (all of you!), advocate for permanency, and basically serve as a strong, consistent, hopefully-lifelong connection.  If there’s a prospective family interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, we’ll help wherever needed.    But the point is to be a connection.  If WE’RE interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, and if our Kidsave kid is interested in being adopted by us (older kids actually have a say), we’ll get our foster/adoptive license through the county and adopt the child.

So…  We don’t typically include a call to action in our blog as this is a journey we’ve chosen to take.  But if you’re looking for a way make your personal difference in the world, please consider getting involved with Kidsave – whether it’s a donation or sharing their link or volunteering for an event, this org is crazy-awesome.

Sadly, Emilio’s social worker never referred him to Kidsave.  Instead, he aged out of the system without an adult role model, without a positive connection, without a mentor.  Determined to create a life for himself despite his circumstances, he applied to job after job after job, but with no experience and poor grades, he never made the final cut.  Unable to afford a place to live, and with shelters full, Emilio began to sleep on the street.  He had no place to shower, no way to keep his interview clothes clean, thus his dream of creating permanency for himself faded away.

Desperate to survive, Emilio took the only job he could get – he became a runner for a local drug dealer.  Emilio is currently serving time for possession with intent to sell. 


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Over the last two decades, I have had the pleasure of working closely with corporations, not-for-profit agencies and hundreds of donors and volunteers in finding unique ways in which to connect them for the benefit of all.  I have worked on several sides of this equation – as a Community Relations Leader at one of the world’s largest professional services firms, as the Vice President of Major Gifts at one of the largest and oldest not-for-profit organizations in Los Angeles and as a member of the board of directors of an agency dedicated to mobilizing volunteers in my community.  I am also proud to call myself an actor and have spent many an hour over the years raising funds for several theatre companies.  In my experience, I have learned that there are four key elements that bring extraordinary results when inspired to help:


1.       identify your passion

2.       keep focused

3.       keep it simple and

4.       have fun!

With that said, I am really excited to share with you a new website that has captured this winning formula!

Recently, a gift arrived in my email in the form of a message from Stefani Beckerman.  Although I had not met her in person, we both belong to the same networking group.  The group is comprised of amazing woman and we often reach out to each other to ask for support and to share and celebrate successes.  The message Stefani sent was an announcement of a website that she and her two partners, Bryan Edwards and Ben Scharlin, were launching.  My interest was piqued and I wanted to learn more so, she arranged a meeting for us to get together.  We met early one evening at a popular coffee shop on the Westside.  I was greeted with warm handshakes and after we got comfortable on the patio with the traffic serenading us, they shared their story.


In August 2010, Bryan and Ben were searching in earnest for alternative and inspired ways to help the community, for cool forums to connect with friends, family and like-minded strangers around common charitable goals and for websites that were aesthetically pleasing and easy to maneuver.  They were greeted with tired, apathetic sites spouting statistics that did not pique their imagination nor motivate them to get involved.  What they wanted to find were sites that made them want to stop and stay awhile, that instilled a desire to jump in, sites that offered things like after-school programs that used the sport of skateboarding as an effective and fun teaching tool or programs that connected troubled teens with troubled horses that bond and heal together or programs that taught students in the inner-city to paint beautiful murals.  They wanted to find charities they could trust that offered social networking, continuous updates, online videos and special speakers sharing the impact of their involvement.  Jokingly, Ben tossed out the question… “So what do we do, search for…fresh charities?!”  Silence. It seemed almost too simple when the answer came.  Yes!  And thus, the idea for Fresh Charities was unleashed!


FRESH: an innovative twist on a classic idea, hip, inspiring, exciting, not boring or stale, not traditional, trend setting and bold in conviction CHARITIES: not-for-profit organizations whose generous and creative actions are kicking butt in our communities

Excited, inspired and motivated they set out to create an online presence and supportive community for charities that are not considered mainstream and tend to operate “under-the-radar” yet have extraordinary impact every day.  A site that would offer everything they were looking for and more.


The passionate leaders of this endeavor, Ben, Bryan and now Stefani, bring together a graceful combination of individual experiences and strengths that nicely complement each other.  “In sync” is the phrase that comes to mind.  It’s that camaraderie and shared vision that drives the journey, a journey that I believe will inspire and motivate many others to join them.

Ben, Stefani & Bryan

“We want to change the world – here is where we start.”

Bryan Edwards, Founder & CEO
Bryan is passionate about creating a peaceful world and protecting our environment.  He is an artist, dancer and graphic designer and is the talent behind the design of this beautiful site.

Ben Scharlin, Founder & President of Marketing
Ben is inspired to promote, protect and sustain both natural and urban environments.  He is an actor and artist and is all about connection, communication and taking action.

Stefani Beckerman, President of Operations
Stefani is a fire cracker and her enthusiasm for Fresh Charities is contagious.  She brings the gifts of structure and organization to the team


In just a few short months from the spark of their idea, a mission statement was developed, a stunning site modeled after Facebook was created and in March 2011 the site went live with a “soft” launch. Official site launch will be Summer 2011.

Mission StatementFresh Charities aims to connect the charitably
curious to the world of local and global organized giving by providing a place where the two can meet, communicate, connect and take action together
for the well being and general improvement of our planet and everything that lives on it.



YOU are the key for the next phase.  Fresh Charities would like to extend an invitation for you to join them in building and expanding their online community by:

  • Identifying charities that you would like to see benefit by joining a passionate, generous and action oriented community
  • Creating your own personal profile.  It’s EASY and FUN!  You can check out my profile at: http://freshcharities.com/users/ferrellmarshall
  • Sharing this invitation with your friends and family and ask that they share with family and friends and so on and so forth… let’s get “the buzz” going


Charities Get To:


o   Create, maintain and update a charity profile

o   Post updates, videos, pictures, and events

o   Increase visibility, awareness, and activity

o   Share essential facts about the organization

o   Connect with a public excited about charitable giving

Users Get To:


o   Find, follow, and interact with fresh charities

o   Create and update a personal profile

o   Share useful tips about smart and effective giving

o   Get updates from charities that resonate

o   Learn how to help your favorite charities


At a time in our lives when ideas, tweets and videos can go viral within hours plummeting people and issues onto the world stage, a time when the power of social networking has overturned governments and hundreds of millions of dollars can be raised in minutes to help people impacted by natural disasters… I think the timing for an innovative and socially conscious website like Fresh Charities is a gift to all who want to help create a better world.

I hope to see you online at Fresh Charities soon!

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