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GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

All Learning Begins with Connection

By: Julie Kirchner

Talking about building connections is a love of Jonnah Buchanan’s. “Truly, all learning begins with connection,” she enlightens. Jonnah is the executive director of Launch Learning Preschool, an innovative new nonprofit in Merritt Island, Florida, offering a unique whole-family education framework designed to strengthen families in raising happy, healthy humans.

“We know from brain research that connections on the outside—like when we physically connect with someone face-to-face—literally build the connections in the wiring of our brains,” explains Jonnah.

Brain-based research is at the heart of Launch Learning’s program design, including their monthly Parent Connect education classes for parents. “That’s why, from the beginning of the day, we get down eye-to-eye with our kids, and we are intentionally doing fun hand games and greetings with them . . . it’s because that first immediate connection with them actually helps strengthen the neural connections within their brains,” Jonnah says. These kinds of connections form a strong foundation for early childhood brain development and help build cooperation, impulse control, and other social-emotional skills like empathy.

For Florida’s Space Coast (home to the Kennedy Space Center), it’s probably totally appropriate for a preschool to sound like rocket science. This preschool has some serious local roots, too. Launch Learning is a legacy program modeled after the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC) Lab School founded in 1967, a program that served more than 7,500 children and 14,000 parents over 55 years. During the pandemic, the EFSC Lab School program closed, and a new opportunity came to light.

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2023-01-03T01:16:26-05:00January 1st, 2023|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Camp Cranium Empowers Kids Living with Brain Injury to Enjoy Life to Their Fullest Potential

By: Julie Kirchner

Imagine a world where kids with brain injuries splash in a swimming pool and captain paddleboats around a lake. A world where they fly down the zipline one minute and create works of art the next. Where a kid in a wheelchair climbs a rock-climbing wall. A world where kids of all abilities can dance, ski, and play.

This is Camp Cranium’s fight song, and the impact made by the Pennsylvania-based, volunteer-led nonprofit organization founded in 2008 with a mission of empowering children with brain injury. Camp Cranium is dedicated to providing one-of-a-kind experiences for children ages 6-18 with brain injuries.

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2022-10-02T16:52:31-04:00October 1st, 2022|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Gulfside Healthcare Services Supports Local Families When They Need It Most

By: Julie Kirchner

Founded in 1988, Gulfside Healthcare Services (Gulfside) is a community-based, nonprofit healthcare organization providing hospice, non-hospice palliative care, and skilled home health care throughout Pasco County and the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Powerhouse was recently blessed with an opportunity to partner with Gulfside to support business growth and help expand Gulfside’s capacity for local community impact. When Powerhouse President Jessica Bertsch first learned about the nonprofit’s work and mission, she knew she had to get involved with this amazing organization and its people.

Gulfside President and CEO Linda Ward speaks passionately about the team of nearly 400 staff and over 200 volunteers at Gulfside. She shares, “Our people are what make this organization magical. We can share story after story of the compelling effects that every single person makes on patients and families.” (more…)

2022-07-07T11:13:31-04:00July 1st, 2022|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Service Doesn’t End, It Just Takes a Different Form

By: Heatherlynn Akins

If you know anything about Powerhouse Planning, you know it’s got military ties. Our founder and president is a proud Coast Guard spouse who started Powerhouse because of her deep desire not only to have a portable career for herself, but also to be able to offer the same to other military spouses and veterans. You might say that supporting military families is a passion of hers. While not all of us are military spouses or veterans, we all love our military-connected coworkers. Which is why we thought April was the perfect time to shine some light on two of our Powerhouse freelancers, as April is Military Spouse Appreciation Month. Both are veterans and military spouses who have made service part of their lifestyles.

Sarah Zerr, one of Powerhouse’s project managers, and Crystal Toy, one of our social media strategists, have been with Powerhouse for less than a year after serving in the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, respectively. We recently sat down with both of them to reflect on their experiences and how they’re continuing a lifetime of service even after their active-duty time has come to an end.

PH: What branch did you serve in and for how long?

Sarah

Sarah: I went to the Naval Academy and served in the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot. All told, I spent over 10 years in uniform.

Crystal

Crystal: I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 14 years and 11 months. The majority of my work was concentrated in port security, federal law enforcement, and search and rescue missions.

PH: And both of your husbands are also military, correct?

Sarah: Yes, my husband Greg is also in the Marne Corps. We actually met at the Naval Academy and married on graduation weekend. Now he is in the reserves. Proud wife brag: He was recently named the Defense Logistics Agency field grade reservist of the year!

Crystal: My husband has been in the Coast Guard since 2006. He’s currently serving as the Armory Supervisor and Lead Firearms Instructor for USCG Sector Puget Sound.

PH: Congratulations to both of you. Sounds like you have both moved successfully on to being military spouses and veterans. What made you decide to serve in the first place?
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2022-06-18T13:03:55-04:00March 31st, 2022|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Me Before Mom: How One Woman’s Desire to Help a Friend Led to Greater Outreach

By: Julie Clark

“There was a ‘me’ before there was a ‘mom.’” This statement encapsulates the lifestyle and message of Bert Anderson, creator of her lifestyle blog entitled Me Before Mom. Anderson is a wife as well as a mother of three, and her mission is to equip fellow mothers as they adjust to parenting and figure out how to keep a sense of self while in the throes of motherhood. We sat down with Anderson to get to know her better and to glean some of her wisdom.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your life, and how Me Before Mom (MBM) came to be.

My dad is retired Air Force, so that makes me a military brat. It’s a label I wear proudly because it dramatically defines how I view life, how I process problems and any kind of uncomfortable situation. I met my husband in college in Minnesota; he’s from Minnesota, and well, you can’t take a Minnesota boy out of Minnesota, so we’ve been here ever since. I have three kids, Brennan (13), Kendall (10), and Keira (7). I am a social media manager, that’s my consistent paying job. I like being able to figure out how to create a community for a brand without being the face of the brand. I have my website, bertmanderson.com; a podcast, Me Before Mom, with Matriarch Digital Media; and I’ve self-published a book, Me Before Mom: Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First.

The concept of MBM came up when I watched my friend go through a divorce. She had been married for 20 years and was a stay-at-home mom for 16 of those 20 years. When her husband asked for a separation, it came out of left field. She found herself alone, having to figure out a career and starting over in her 40s. I remember her telling me she felt like she had given so much to her family that she didn’t know who she was anymore. I took that in and started looking to friends and family members who had older kids leaving the nest. How did the moms feel? There seemed to be a pattern of feeling lost for many women, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to get to the end of Keira’s high school career, look at myself in the mirror and say, “I have no idea what I like or what I do or anything anymore.” The only way to prevent that from happening was to start practicing this concept of “me before mom” because there was a “me” before there was a mom and there will be a “me” after the kids leave. (more…)

2021-12-28T16:29:19-05:00December 28th, 2021|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

How A 100% Volunteer-Driven Nonprofit Sparked Community Involvement and Delivered 17,500 Baskets Full of Hope to Florida’s Space Coast Families in Need

By: Julie Kirchner

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving 2020, and a 10-year-old boy dances in the rain. Soaking wet but cheerfully oblivious, he enthusiastically directs cars while his Dad loads frozen turkeys that will be delivered to families in need. It is the first year this father and son have volunteered at the Space Coast Thanksgiving Basket Brigade in Viera, Florida. For the four years prior, they had been recipients of a basket—they had been the family in need. Now, in a better place and wanting to give back, they donate to support families and volunteer their time.

“This is the impact, this is why we do what we do, and why it’s so important to us,” says Jacqueline (Jackie) Giurleo, President of the Space Coast Basket Brigade. “We never set out to become a charity or this large, we were just trying to do the right thing, and something kind for others.”

  • In 2009, in the wake of an economic recession, a family set out to make a difference in their hurting Space Coast community. In the twelve years since their work began, the Space Coast Basket Brigade has grown to 2,000 annual volunteers, fed more than 17,500 families in need, supported over 130 schools and local charities, and created countless stories of hope to last a lifetime.
  • In 2019, over 2000 volunteers (50% youth volunteers) joined in to package, decorate, and personally deliver 4,983 Thanksgiving Baskets to families in need. And last year—during a global pandemic that completely paused many charity organizations and a concurring food shortage that impacted store shelves nationwide—the Basket Brigade persevered to deliver over 3,000 meals to families who needed help more than ever.

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2021-12-27T21:27:37-05:00September 27th, 2021|

Being Kind, Even in Trying Times

By: Randi Cairns

These have been isolating times as a global pandemic has required that we put boundaries between ourselves and others. Our homes have become our offices and our children’s schools, and our computers have been the only real connection to the outside world for many of us. And while that’s slowly changing, KindWorks has been there all along, providing tangible assistance and reminding us that even when we’re on our own, we’re not alone.

KindWorks is an award-winning Maryland nonprofit organization that for 13 years has been inspiring action for a kinder world. They do this by making it easy and fun for people to volunteer in a range of projects. Some of their difference-making opportunities have included making soup to share with those in need; refurbishing and donating computers to promote digital inclusion; setting up apartments for refugee families; cooking and serving dinners at area shelters; preparing meals with recovered foods for homeless men and women; and mentoring at the jail. (more…)

2021-07-01T14:35:19-04:00July 1st, 2021|

Ensuring No Child Goes Hungry

By: Meghan Traynor

Ten years ago, Bob Barnes, founder of The Children’s Hunger Project saw an unimaginable need in his Florida community. There were many Brevard County children who relied on their school lunches during the week, but when they went home for the weekend, they didn’t have food to eat. After seeing this food gap and hearing from teachers that students were coming into school hungry on Mondays, Bob Barnes decided to start The Children’s Hunger Project (TCHP).

In 2000, TCHP started feeding 27 kids at one school. Over the years the need has increased. TCHP reports, “In Brevard County, the number of children in the free and reduced-price meal program exceeds 50%. Some elementary schools have 80% or more of their kids on the free and reduced-price meal program with many of them at risk of childhood hunger and malnutrition.” To help achieve their mission, TCHP started spreading the word and creating awareness in their community while also building relationships with the schools and learning the specific need each school had. Through their efforts and community support, The Children’s Hunger Project is now supplying over 2,000 children with weekend food packages at 45 schools.

We recently caught up with TCHP Executive Director Cheryl Cominsky to see how things are going and if the COVID-19 pandemic had any impact on their organization. Thankfully, because TCHP supplies food, they were considered essential and never had to close their doors, though they did have to make some big changes to their business model. Before the pandemic, TCHP would hold weekly food packaging events every Thursday night with 30-50 volunteers packing anywhere from 1,000-2,000 food packages. But when COVID hit, they quickly had to switch gears and break up their food packing events into smaller groups scattered throughout the week, ensuring they were following the most up-to-date guidelines, including performing extra cleaning, wearing masks as well as gloves, and sanitizing between each packing event.    (more…)

2021-03-29T21:07:48-04:00March 29th, 2021|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Q & A with Terri Lynn Crutchfield of TLC Therapy Hooves

By: Julie Kirchner

As a part of our Powerhouse mission to Share the Goodness, we love to shine a light on nonprofits out in our communities who are contributing to the greater good. This month, we are highlighting the work of Terri Lynn and Scott Crutchfield and their amazing team of volunteers who help spread joy through their nonprofit organization, TLC Therapy Hooves, in rural Highlands County, Florida. We were grateful to sit down with Terri for a lighthearted virtual Q&A.

What is the inspiration behind TLC, and how did your adventure begin?

“It all started with a little orphan piglet,” Terri says with a playful smile in her voice. That little piglet, a surprise gift for her husband Scott, was later named Precious Piglet. Today, Terri and Scott Crutchfield’s pictorial old-Florida property is home to over 100 animals. TLC Therapy Hooves is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that Terri and Scott created in 2011, with a mission to spread joy by bringing extraordinary (and very well-dressed) therapy animals like pigs and miniature horses to the 17 nursing homes and rehabilitation centers throughout their local area. In addition to carrying out the mission of TLC Therapy Hooves with the help of dozens of dedicated volunteers, Scott and Terri live on and maintain their working farm called La La Land, which is named after their camel—La La, of course!

Can you tell us about a proud moment for TLC this past year?

While any business owner may answer this question by describing a new project launch or an exciting award or achievement, Terri is anything but typical. Instead, she began by describing a breakthrough moment for a woman in a nursing home who had lost her husband and, through trauma and shock, had not communicated verbally in a very long time. While petting the braids of one of Terri’s therapy animals, a miniature horse, the woman spoke for the first time and said, “I remember my granddaughter loved horses.” And the woman sitting next to her said, “Oh! I grew up with horses, too. Did you grow up with horses?” The nurse caring for the two women was just in awe because one of these women had been unable to speak for all the time the nurse had been caring for her. This experience opened up an opportunity for the two women to connect and relate. These are the breakthroughs that define Terri’s definition of business success.

How did you come up with the idea to use pigs and mini horses as therapy animals?

“I would take Precious (Piglet) to the school when I would go and pick up my daughter, Taylor, and all the other kids would just be so excited to see Precious Piglet. And I had a friend who had a parent in a nursing home, and she asked if I would swing by and take Precious to walk around outside for her mother to see. She’s potty trained, so I took her inside. Everyone freaked out, ‘Oh my goodness, a piggy!’ Every time she would oink, people would laugh. And I thought, you know what, this is pretty awesome.”

At that time, Terri and her husband were living in a suburban country club neighborhood, but they decided that with their joint family background in nature conservation, wildlife, and land, they would change their lifestyle and buy a farm. The couple decided to adopt mini horses and then brought trainers onto the property to see if the miniatures could be potty trained and brought into the house, just to test out Terri’s idea. She had conversations with her attorney about liability and insurance. “So, that’s how it went from one little orphan piglet (that lived inside our house, remember) to . . . close to a hundred animals now,” Terri says.

The majority of the domestic animals used in the therapy program today are adopted animals. All of the exotic animals on the property have permits and licenses, and Terri and Scott have received the training from zoos to be able to raise and maintain these animals.

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2020-12-31T16:52:12-05:00December 31st, 2020|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Finding Pride and Representation in Literary Outreach

By: Meredith Flory

The stories we tell matter, helping us process the lives we have and dream of the lives we could have. Diverse representation in stories helps us see ourselves more positively and the lives of others with empathy. The Kentucky-based nonprofit organization Read With Pride is working to help stories from the LGBTQIA+ become more visible.

In 2019, graduate students Kadee Whaley and Alyssa Sciortino noticed a need through their work. Whaley has been an educator for a decade and is currently a PhD candidate in English at the University of Kentucky. Sciortino is a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). Sciortino explains that she has often been inspired to “push [her]self and [her] colleagues to recognize the need for diversity and representation” to better serve their clients. She observes firsthand how often toys, literature, and educational tools are lacking “not only images of cultural diversity but also diversity in body image, age, religion, disability, sexuality, and gender” and sees children’s literature as a way to help adults talk to children about topics they may feel uncomfortable discussing. Working with college students, Whaley shares how in her courses she encourages “students to consider the experiences of others” and feels a responsibility to encourage civic engagement as a means to “achieving equity for all.” Forming Read With Pride gave her an opportunity to put this into practice.

Starting in Lexington, Kentucky, Whaley and Sciortino hatched an idea to help put LGBTQIA+ stories into the hands of those who need them the most. The mission of Read With Pride is to raise awareness and readership of LGBTQIA+ authors and stories in Appalachia, and the ladies work to make these books available for purchase at various locations. With an inaugural event at the TriPride in East Tennessee, they began to see their mission take shape. Whaley explains that all of their books are available for under $10, and many are used or donated. She continues that part of their goals include making books financially accessible for their region, as many areas of Appalachia are dealing with “generational poverty and underfunded schools.” While the pandemic has caused a halt to many of the events they had planned in 2020, Whaley and Sciortino continue to find ways to serve their community online and in-person.

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2020-09-24T20:24:17-04:00September 24th, 2020|