A Day of Service

Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m always taken by surprise when a month comes to an end, in particular when it’s the first month of a new year!  I find myself a little panicked and want to say “WAIT!”… I’m not ready for February!  I still have items on my January “To Do” list!  Of course, my internal rants will not stop the clock ticking…so, I am taking time on this first evening of the second month of 2011 to reflect on the last 31 days.  A smile appears – overall, it was truly a lovely month!  One of the highlights of the lovely month was a simple day of service.  Not even a full day, a morning really where I stood side by side with over 1500 energized volunteers at the Rosemont Elementary School near downtown Los Angeles where we created two new literacy gardens, painted numerous murals and taught workshops for parents and students to prepare them for college.  This awesome community project was given to my community for the last six years by  LA Works.  I am proud to be a member of the board of LA Works, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to creating and mobilizing volunteers for hands-on community service projects throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

If I were to be honest and a little embarrassed to share, when I woke up on Dr. King’s birthday, the last thing I wanted to do was to get up  to spend the day to work with strangers so I tapped the snooze button a couple of times.  Then Lacey, my beautiful German Shepherd, nudged me with her cold wet nose, and her big beautiful brown eye gaze prompted me to say “You’re right, I need to get going.”  I jumped in the shower, dressed, poured coffee in my travel mug and headed downtown.  With it being a holiday, I flew to my destination arriving in 20 minutes.  I secured an awesome parking place close to the project.  As I walked to registration, numerous teams were forming and I heard lot’s of laughter. I smiled.  No sooner did I grab a yummy breakfast muffin then I heard announced an opportunity to warm up with a guest Zumba instructor.  I tossed the fattening muffin after taking a nibble and joined several hundred people doing a high energy fun “funky” dance.  I was awake, energized and excited to be a part of this special project!

The day got even better! I was assigned to paint a beautiful mural of birds and mountains.  I LOVE murals and I LOVE birds so, what could be better?!  I joined two members of the Target team and we took our bird painting very seriously.  We painted a big red bird soaring over a green mountain and when completed, I then moved on to other images and colors and when I glanced around the campus to view all the numerous murals making an otherwise dreary campus come alive with color, creativity and inspiration, I smiled again.  WOW! I was so proud to be volunteering with so many committed volunteers.  They all made the choice to serve… a choice to make a difference…a choice to not hit the snooze button one more time!

Every time I volunteer, I feel energized and a part of something special. It gives me the opportunity to meet amazing people and my spirits are uplifted.  Yet, I started the day wishing I could stay in bed!  I would venture a guess that you sometimes may feel the same way.  It is my goal to volunteer at least once a month in 2011.  Would you like to join me?  Let me know.  Let’s be great together!

Some helpful volunteer sites you may enjoy and a cool video to motivate you:

Volunteering in America

Volunteer Match

United We Serve

Global Volunteer Network

The Responsibility Project


Why Volunteer?



When I launched my blog, I never thought I would be a daily or even weekly blogger… but, I never dreamed I would let so many months pass before capturing my reflections.  This was not from lack of ideas to share as my blog file is overflowing with clippings, websites, photos and information that I think you will find interesting and inspiring.  I am blessed that I continually find myself inspired by my resilient and generous family, friends, and the charity that manifests positive change every day.  This morning, I was sparked by my dear friend Cindy Yantis (read her blog at www.cindyyantis.com) to write and post a blog in celebration of the many gifts of 2010.  So… here I sit in my cozy studio with my two dogs, a cup of hot tea and my laptop perched upon my lap…


During the holiday season, our mailman delivered among the beautiful holiday cards, dreaded bills and hundreds of magazines and catalogs, numerous requests from not-for-profit organizations asking for support of their very worthy causes.  In that this year my husband and I are both unemployed, donations this year needed to be re-imagined.   It was never an option not to give but, we took time to determine what and how much.  My husband often makes fun of me as I’m the ideal person for agencies to send the unsolicited cards and address labels as I will send them a check, if you send me photos of animals needing love and shelter, the check book comes out, if I hear stories of how to ensure the homeless have a nice holiday meal, count me in for a donation and if a friend has a cause they are passionate about and they ask me for support, I rarely do not send something to help the cause.

My heart sank with each request that was delivered and I tried hard not to feel like a failure when the envelopes went unopened.  My holiday routine was being disrupted  and I was uncomfortable and nostalgic for the old days of abundance.   After my little pity party, I reminded myself that it does not take a checkbook to make a difference (and rarely does) and this year I could mainly give the gift of my time and talent sprinkled with a little treasure.  I sprang into action – I cleaned out every closet in my home and we donated clothes, coats, umbrellas, blankets and other assorted items to our favorite homeless shelter, Midnight Mission, in downtown LA.  I organized a giving circle of extraordinary women who “adopted” a family who are starting a new life free of abuse with the help of  the Su Casa agency.  In addition, the group supported the Los Angeles Children’s Bureau by being Secret Santa’s and making 24 foster childrens holiday wishes come true.  Do I wish I could have done more?  Of course!  Do I feel that I helped to make a brighter holiday for others?  Yes.  I also believe with all my heart that even a simple smile to someone in need is a true gift.  Here’s to embracing and sharing  our many gifts in all their varied forms.  As Cindy shared with me today… when sparked… take a moment of self-reflection and then take action whether it be a smile, sharing your time and talent or pulling out the check book.  Your action will make a difference.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
~Dalai Lama

In 2011, I hope to blog more because there is so much I would like to share.  For now, my gift to you is to share my TOP TEN websites that spark me to action:


(Click logo to go to website of each organization.)


My #1 favorite site of the year! Crowdrise is about raising money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it.  Identify a cause, create a site and start raising money.  It’s that simple.  Great way to get connected and have a wonderful time while making a difference
Dirty water kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects.


VolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect.  If you haven’t already done so… sign up today!
FOUR: Dedicated to creating comprehensive tools and services to make charitable giving a part of everyday life, JustGive is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase charitable giving by connecting people with the charities and causes they care most about.  FIVE:

WWF is  committed to reversing the degradation of our planet’s natural environment and to building a future in which human needs are met in harmony with nature.


At this website, you can learn about social causes ranging from global warming to women’s rights. You can join a cause, take an action or donate, and recruit your friends to do the same. There is also a page for each one of the 1500 or so member nonprofits.


This popular site provides an easy way for donors to give to their favorite charity, keep all their giving records in one place, and spread the word about those charities to friends. For nonprofits, it is a cost-effective way to receive donations online.


World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their    communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.


Kiva invites donors to make interest-free microloans to entrepreneurs in poor countries all over the world. It has been so popular that, at times, it has run out of entrepreneurs to fund. The appeal of this program is that you can directly see the impact your funds have.  Check out the KIVA c0-founder,Jessica Jackley, inspirational talk on TED.


This site uses the power of online to get teen to do good stuff online.  Pretty cool site!


GrapeDish:  A new blog that I recently launched with my friends, Travis and JJ, because

life is too short to not drink wine.



Toasting you and wishing you a joyous and abundant New Year!

With love and gratitude,


Earth Hour

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dripped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity.”   Hazel Lee

Today the world is coming together to help our planet by doing one simple thing… turning the lights off for one hour at 8:30pm.   This day symbolizes that by working together with a common goal, we can each make a positive impact on our future.

Earth Hour was launched in Sydney, Australia, in 2007.  I remember seeing pictures on the news of the city skyline going dark and was so impressed and inspired.

The founders of this effort had a global vision and after proving it could be done, have each year invited more cities around the world to participate.  “Since its inception, Earth Hour’s non-partisan approach has captured the world’s imagination and became a global phenomenon.”  Last year, nearly one billion people, 4,100 cities in 87 countries on seven continents participated.   In the United Sates, I’m proud to share that 80 million Americans and 318 cities pledged to flip the switch.  Just imagine iconic landmarks around the world going dark… the Las Vegas strip, the Empire State Building and Golden State Bridge, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament in London and St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City to name just of few.  Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?! Watch the official Earth Hour video: http://www.youtube.com/earthhour2009

Victoria Harbour during Earth Hour 2010

The first time I signed up and pledged to turn the lights off was the second year of this movement.  I loved the concept and it gave me a lovely excuse to bring together friends for a lovely candlelight dinner.  My husband, George, and I put tape on all the light switches to remind us not to use them because it is such an automatic action and we tied a bow around the handles of our refrigerator preventing us from opening it.  We lit over 70 eco-friendly candles around our home and garden, prepared a green themed dinner and found such joy in sitting at our table with good friends, drinking wine and sharing stories in the glow of the soft light.  Our music that evening was conversation and laughter.  Our reward was knowing that we were part of something very special and with a simple action, we were making a difference.

Tonight, at 8:30pm, I will be on stage performing in a play, The Diviners, at The Chandler Studio Theatre, and will not be able to officially participate as the lights will need to remain on so the audience can see the show!  However, at the welcome speech our producer will announce that the theatre marquee will be turned off and he will invite them to join the effort by considering spending a candle-lit hour at home after the theatre.   At our home, George has pledged to turn off all our lights and will practice his piano for an hour by candlelight ala Liberace!

What will you do?

Here is some inspiration:

The Inspiration Room –  a global effort designed to influence, affect and involve creative communities in the development of a world standard for inspiration.

Earth Hour Lights Off Video – just do it!

Earth Hour Global’s Photostream – stunning images!

Earth Hour Change.org/Take Action Video – love this video!

Change.org raises awareness about important causes and empowers people to take action.

Earth HourVideo from Brazil – you don’t have to speak the language to understand the message.

HOW TO: Support Earth Hour With Social Media – spread the word to your network!

Twitter –  get ongoing updates on this inspiring day on our planet.

"Do not disturb" signs created for placement on the street lamps as a part of Earth Hour ads campaign in Ukraine

Mr. Incredible

Recently, as I scrolled through my Blackberry searching for an email address, I paused and stared at a name that logic would say needed to be deleted but, my heart was simply not ready to make that happen.  I wanted more than anything to send a message to my friend and ask how he was and how his beautiful children and wife were doing.  But, if I sent this message, I knew it would not be received. This brought to mind a personal story that Maria Shriver shared at the Women’s Conference 2008 about journalist, Tim Russert, a very dear friend of hers.  When Maria saw his contact information as she scrolled through her phone shortly after Tim had died of a heart attack, she was compelled to press “call” and was soon connected to his voicemail message and heard his familiar voice.  Realizing this seemed anything but practical, she went ahead and left a message… “Maureen, if you are picking up this message, I’m thinking of you.  Luke, if you’re picking up the messages, I’m proud of you and thinking of you too and Tim, if you’re picking up the messages, I want you to know that I miss you and I love you.”  And with these simple words, she had said her last good-bye to her friend.

The friend whose number I find myself staring at is Doug Ashworth, who recently lost his long battle with cancer at the age of 42.  I met Doug at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) several years ago when he was a senior manager in audit and he would later become a partner at the firm.  Becoming a partner at one of the Big Four firms is one of the most difficult and demanding career journey’s anyone can take.  Doug was well respected by his fellow partners and beloved by the staff that worked with him.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with him on a few community projects over the years.  I learned a great deal from him about strategy, leadership, compassion for the community and most of all, the importance of having a healthy and vibrant sense of humor.

To me, Doug will forever be known as “Mr. Incredible”. 

He received this most impressive of titles when as a new partner he was asked by the managing partner to lead the annual United Way campaign for the Los Angeles office.  I had just returned to the firm after being gone for four years and was leading the community relations efforts for the office. I knew that the campaign was no easy task and there were high expectations in meeting the aggressive goals, adding a level of stress on top of an already demanding schedule.  This did not phase Doug, he happily rolled up his sleeves and we went to work.  He believed that helping our community especially the children was one of the most important things a person could do in their life.

After many a meeting and late night, we launched the campaign on Halloween and our theme was “Treat the Community”.  We invited children from a local UW agency to come to the office to go Trick-or-Treating in the office and held a costume and pizza party for the staff.  Doug shared that for Halloween his family was dressing up as The Incredibles.  This prompted my asking him if he would be willing to don the costume in the office at our campaign launch.  Now, let me pause here for a moment.  To my knowledge, no PwC partner had to date pranced around the office in a Super Hero costume and probably for good reason!  But, for a good cause, Doug replied without pausing, “Sure, happy to wear the costume!”  Needless to say, the staff and partners got a kick out of this and I’m happy to report that we surpassed our campaign goals!  The Super Hero theme would be carried on for the next four years and more partners would graciously don costumes for the campaign and to honor Doug, our very special community hero.

The fictional Mr. Incredible is married with three children and known for his superhuman strength and strong sense of self.  Doug’s strength during his battle was courageous and throughout the horror of the disease, he held firmly to his shield of humor.  One day while we were instant messaging, I shamelessly kept asking him how he was doing…really?!  He did not go into details, only shared how joyous it was to have quality time with his wife and three beautiful daughters and that he was proud that he was able to get in touch with his inner Soccer Mom.  I thought about how wonderful to see the world through Doug’s eyes and how incredibly lucky I am to have known and worked with him.

I doubt I will be deleting Doug’s number from my Blackberry any time soon.  It will be my reminder that friends are the most precious of gifts, humor will always help you weather the storm and when in doubt, put on a Super Hero costume and brighten someone’s day!

Good-night, sweet prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.  ~Shakespeare

Sealed With A Kiss

As a child, did you ever play the game that you are going to be stranded on a deserted island and you can only take one beauty product with you?  Now guys, don’t let this topic scare you away… replace “beauty product” with “power tool” and stay tuned for gift tips at the end.  I loved playing this game as a little girl, listing the pros and cons of each product and debating with my friends why my choice was the best.  The item I declared most important on the island was and still remains, lipstick. Trust me, I’m scary looking without it plus, being practical, in addition to keeping my lips moist and pretty on the island, it can also be used for blush.  This silly childhood game came to mind because I recently learned about an awesome fundraising campaign that I wanted to share with you.

Not being a M.A.C. Cosmetics girl, I’m late to discover that in 1994 this company established the M.A.C. AIDS Fund in support of men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally.  That same year they introduced VIVA GLAM lipstick and since that time have donated every cent of the selling price to the fund. To date, they have raised over $160 million!

In celebration of the indestructible idea that all girls (and boys) just wanna have fun,

Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga have joined forces to spread the word and two of this year’s VIVA GLAM lipsticks have been named after them, VIVA GLAM CYNDI (light reddish coral) and VIVA GLAM GAGA (light blue pink.)  In addition to these two fabulous colors, there are seven additional lipsticks and two ”lipglass” from which to choose.  Rarely will you find an opportunity to buy something that you need, knowing that all the money will be going to make a difference in our world! The lipstick and lipglass cost $14 each.  Visit the M.A.C. AIDS Fund website to learn more about the program.

This would be a wonderful and economical gift for your girlfriends, sisters, moms and sweethearts this Valentine’s Day!  Glam up the 14th this month by spending $14 on your gift.  You’ll put a smile on their lips and help in the fight against AIDS.  Gotta love that!

Here are some other beauty products and sites that give back in a beautiful way:


“Using Beauty To Change the World” – This luxury skin care and cosmetic company donates a percentage of sales of several of their beauty collections to numerous environmental and wildlife causes.  Their compacts are gorgeous!

The Body Shop

I always enjoy pampering myself with products from this company focused on enhancing natural beauty.  The company values are to Activate Self Esteem, are Against Animal Testing, Support Community Trade, Protect Our Planet and Defend Human Rights. They donate 100% of the profits of their “Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream” to their global partner ECPAT:  End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Child Trafficking.

Beauty with a Cause

This woman-owned business provides healthy and affordable cosmetics with 10% of all proceeds going towards breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and scleroderma research. This month, they celebrate Colleen as “Our Passion & Purpose Customer of the Month.”  She designated the Susan G. Komen Fund to be the recipient of their monthly 10% donation.  Great excuse to become a frequent shopper on this site?!

If you are a traditionalist and prefer giving beautiful flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s, consider ordering them from the

Gift Back Website

Their mission is to connect individuals with the non-profits of the world by providing them with innovative tools to incorporate giving into everyday activities like shopping and interacting onlineThey donate 10% of your gift back to a charity of your choice!

If you would like a few more ideas, then you might enjoy this article from the Huffington Post: “Top Ten Valentine’s Gifts That Give back.”

No matter what the gift, give it with love and seal it with a kiss.

I am big a fan of George Clooney and not just for the obvious reasons.  My shift from fawning on this charismatic, gorgeous and talented actor to a humbled state of respect occurred in September 2001.  At this time in my life, I was working for United Way of Greater Los Angeles as the Vice President of Major Gifts.  On a now infamous fall morning, I was up very early getting ready for a 7:00am meeting at my office in downtown LA.  I made a pot of strong coffee and turned on the TV for my AM dose of caffeine and news.  With mascara wand in one hand and coffee mug in the other, I quickly prepared for what promised to be a busy day at the work.  It was then that my breath was taken away, both hands dropping as I watched in shock and heartbreak as the fateful events of the day played out.  I was able to catch my breath again as I listened to and read hundreds of heroic stories which offered comfort in the aftermath of the terrorists attacks.  One of my favorite stories is about Mr. Clooney.

While our nation and the rest of the world desperately tried to comprehend what had happened and demanded to help, George Clooney quickly mobilized a team and in a few what I’m sure were very long days, organized America: A Tribute to Heroes.  This 2 hour telethon became one of the most successful fundraising efforts in history raising over $100 million to help the victims and their families.  The funds raised were in support of United Way’s September 11 Telethon Fund.  George Clooney passionately came to the defense of United Way when the organization was under siege from several media sources criticizing how the funds were being handled.  His support impacted me directly as I spent my days working closely with donors who had made generous donations to the fund and were now confused and upset.  Once again, I was able to breathe as George’s passion and star power calmed everyone and allowed the United Way team to get back to helping the victims.

This is when the shift occurred.  I would from this point on acknowledge George not as the actor who gave me weak knees but, as an advocate, humanitarian, and philanthropist first and foremost.  He would go on to join the Board of Trustees of United Way of America and become a champion for the call number 211 which provides free and confidential information and referral for help with food, housing, employment, health care, counseling and more.  George also helped to organize Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope and he along with friends, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub are making a significant difference in Darfur with their organization, Not On Our Watch. This organization focuses its attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world. They recently made a $1 million donation in support the victims of Haiti in addition to George’s personal gift of $1 million.

I could continue listing the numerous causes and not-for-profit organizations supported by this generous man but, today’s blog is to put a spotlight on tonight.  Applying his winning formula, George has once again organized a telethon: Hope for Haiti Now – A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief. He has convened a star-studded roster of volunteers (YouTube video) who will not only be performing but, answering phones to record donations.   Be prepared to be entertained and inspired and even if you have already made a donation, I hope you will consider supporting this global effort. The two-hour program will appear commercial free on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT and stream live on the internet tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

All proceeds from Hope for Haiti telecast will be split among the following relief organizations actively working in HaitiClinton/Bush Haiti Fund,   Oxfam America,   Partners in Health,   American Red Cross,   UNICEF,   World Food Programs & Yele Haiti.

You have only a short period of time in your life to make your mark, and I’m there now. ~ George Clooney

Lucky for us, George, that your mark is global and in the shape of a heart.  Mesi! (Thank you!)

Today, I am keenly aware of how very fortunate I am as I sit in my warm home, drinking a perfectly prepared cup of hot tea and watching images of the devastation of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti on my 42 inch HD TV.

It is times like this that I feel so connected to everyone – we all feel the impact when others are hurt and hurting and we feel the need to spring to action to help.  But, how?  Currently, it is very difficult to distribute hard goods such as clothes and tents and consequently, the common cry is for cash donations to organization that can deliver the basic needs in a timely and efficient manner.  Below are some options for you to consider:

  • Support the American Red Cross International Response Fund with an unrestricted donation
  • Support the American Red Cross their relief efforts by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation.
  • In researching Haiti, I discovered a wonderful website in support of a ministry, To the Least of These, lead by John and  Jodie  Ackerman.  They are doing tremendous work in Haiti and have produced a short film, Two World One Heart. that will give you a startling idea of what life was like  before the earthquake.  Per the home page on the website, they were not harmed on Tuesday and are continuing their work in this time of tremendous need.
  • Haiti Water is helping US task forces to rebuild the water system in Port-au-Prince.  You can opt in to remain in contact with them and they will send you ongoing updates on the impact of your donation.
  • Last night on our local news, a Haitian actor by the name of Jimmy Jean-Louis shared how his not-for-profit, Hollywood Unites for Haiti, is helping.  Jimmy founded HUFH in 2008 as a means of helping the people of his beloved native land.  He delivers an impassioned message on the home page and offers you an opportunity to make a difference by supporting his organization.
  • I have been a long time donor of World Vision International and believe they are uniquely positioned to make a significant and positive impact during this crisis.  World Vision has been working in Haiti for almost 30 years and they have 370 staff members in Port-au-Prince that are safe and mobilized in distributing basic needs to the earthquake victims.
  • Doctors Without Borders has already helped over 1,000 victims,  Your donation can help them help more.

I believe in the power of positive thought and ask that we each take a few moments and do a creative visualization exercise by painting a portrait of Haiti in our minds… see the beauty of the people, the promise of the land and a brighter tomorrow.