As the President of Communities In Schools of Wake County (CIS Wake), I am thankful for many things: my life and wonderful family; the privilege of serving the students and families of Wake County; and working with a great team (Board, staff and volunteers) in the process.
I don't use the word "thankful" carelessly. A few years ago my life changed, after a friend introduced me to a non-profit organization dedicated to serving the poor in Caribbean and Latin American countries.
The organization does much more than feed the hungry. They drill life-giving water wells for those who otherwise wouldn't have clean drinking water; provide lifesaving medical care; build homes for families without adequate shelter; provide skills training and micro-enterprise opportunities to enable the poor to work and give children an education that will enable them to break free from the cycle of poverty that has ensnared generations. Since its inception, the organization has distributed more than 35,000 tractor-trailer loads of aid; built more than 33,000 housing units; and completed 239 water projects. In 2005, they shipped more than 5,000 tractor-trailer loads of aid valued at $734 M, and built 7,182 new housing units.
The leadership of the organization invited me to see the need for their work firsthand. To say that I was not prepared for what I would encounter is an understatement.
v I saw people living in dangerous shanties without windows, doors, roofs or water.
v I saw elderly people living among raw human sewage in rickety homes on faulty foundations.
v I saw women and children exposed to the elements.
But I also met people with faith the size of a mustard seed. I spoke to families who were "thankful" for what they do have.
v June is the mother of two daughters, one son and the grandmother of two. She lives in a dilapidated shack with no doors, or windows. She suffers from several illnesses but has learned to re-cover furniture to make a living. In addition, she grows peppers, and raises chickens and sells their eggs in the market. All she wanted was a sewing machine so that she could re-cover and sell more furniture.
v Marcia learned how to plant and harvest culinary herbs. She now sells them to local hotels and employs two people.
v Sandra suffers from a severe case of Osteoporosis and lives in a group home. Even though she has only one healthy arm and is confined to a wheelchair, she was a gold medalist in the Special Olympics; has become a computer specialist and has a job waiting for her upon completion of a degree program.
I witnessed how The POWER in ONE person can make a difference.
v Barbara is the mother of eight who lives in Jacksonville, FL. She responded to the need she saw on an economically depressed island by building 34 homes now called "Barbara's Village." Even though, at the time, she didn't have a home of her own and lived in an apartment, she invested her savings and raised $75,000 in the Jacksonville area on behalf of the Island's poor.
v A 17-year-old in Ft. Wayne, Indiana helped organize funds to build a library on the Island. She organized the donation of over 20,000 books.
v Pastor Kelly is a Pastor from Washington, DC who moved to the Island after seeing the need of the poor. He is now working with community leaders to revitalize some of the most economically depressed and drug-infested neighborhoods.
After returning from my visit, I was moved by the POWER (strength, compassion, hope, courage, ability, faith and commitment) demonstrated by others and immediately went into action.
At that time, I was the CEO and owner of a national satellite radio network with over 40 affiliate stations, so my team organized a radio-thon for the organization, entitled "A National Day of Hope" on Wednesday, January 24, 2007. On that day we raised over $140,000 in pledges. Since, an entire house could be built for only $2,600, we were able to build 55 homes on the Island. Corporations, churches and non-profits, and individuals joined us from 40 different U.S. cities in The Power of Oneness to make the dreams of others become a tangible reality.
Right here in our nation, in our states, cities, neighborhoods and backyards, there are many worthwhile organizations and Americans who are working to improve the living conditions of their neighbors in need. The purpose of my story is to share my appreciation of the enormous potential in all of us to make a difference in this world. The potential to give hope to the hopeless; help to the helpless; and power to the powerless is what makes America the greatest nation on Earth!
As we at CIS Wake continue our efforts to help students stay in school and achieve in life -- in the days, weeks, months and years ahead -- please know that we are grateful for your words of encouragement, prayers and labor of love. Even if were the case that we've never met or if you've never heard of CIS Wake before, you empower us and inspire us with your positive words and acts kindness towards others. We thank you on behalf of those you do positively impact (your family, friends and loved ones).
And if you are one of the thousands we are privileged to call "partner", then your investment of time, talent and treasure today in CIS Wake, has positively impacted the future leaders of tomorrow (click here to see the results of our 2010-2011 academic year). Together, as ONE in vision, in mission and in direction with you, we will certainly achieve success beyond our highest goals, hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations.
With heartfelt thankfulness,