Giving Back and 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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2021-10-08T13:34:33+00:00September 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+00:00July 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+00:00March 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+00:00December 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+00:00September 24th, 2020|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Bunker Labs: Empowering Military-Connected Entrepreneurs

By: Julie Kirchner

Giving back and making our communities better are fundamental elements of our Powerhouse culture. Through our “Share the Goodness” program, Powerhouse gives 10% back each year to causes that are important to our freelance team members and their communities. To inspire even greater impact, we love, love, love to highlight the goodness offered by a nonprofit organization so you can learn more, volunteer, and/or donate.

This month, I was truly excited to have the opportunity to share what Bunker Labs is doing for our military community of entrepreneurs. I first attended a “Bunker Brews” local networking event a year ago, and it was then that I witnessed the true spirit of community among entrepreneurial changemakers. I can still remember the host warmly welcoming us and quelling our nerves about the anticipation of networking: “You’re at a ‘networking’ event—literally EVERYONE here is excited to meet you!” Thus, an evening filled with uplifting conversation and motivational (and sometimes hilarious) stories from successful local entrepreneurs ensued. Everyone left the brewery that night with an expanded LinkedIn network of like-minded friends and a few new great insights to power the workweek.

Bunker Labs is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to serve veterans and military spouses on their entrepreneurial journey. According to the Bunker Labs website, 25% of transitioning service members want to start a business and desire the support to help them successfully launch one. With a coast-to-coast network of local chapters throughout the United States, Bunker Labs provides the military-connected community the networking support, tools, and resources needed to successfully start their own businesses—and these services are free of charge.

We recently caught up with Kirby Atwell, CFO of Bunker Labs, who was a member of the very first cohort to go through Bunker Labs in 2014 when it had just started. Back then, Bunker Labs was a mastermind group of 30-40 Chicago-area entrepreneurs who met weekly to support each other’s work on building their businesses. Atwell shares, “This was a tremendous help for my business, so I knew I wanted to be a part of this mission in the future. I stayed involved and volunteered in different capacities for a few years and then joined the staff as the COO (and eventually the CFO) in 2017.” (more…)

2020-07-06T20:42:38+00:00July 6th, 2020|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Butterfly Circle of Friends: From Great Grief to Infinite Beauty

By: Randi Cairns

Giving back to one’s community is ingrained in so much of what Powerhouse Planning does. We give at least 10% of all profits to those in need through our Share the Goodness program. We support the causes and efforts our team is passionate about. And we highlight the great people and places making a difference in our communities. This commitment to giving back is one of many reasons I love being part of the Powerhouse team. And when I was given the opportunity to write about a superhero doing work for causes I care about—well, that was just icing on the cake.

I met Ida Gonzalez years ago. We were both involved in military family support efforts and open to collaborating to better meet the needs of those we served. I fell in love with Ida from the start. She was so down to earth and genuine (and the giver of hugs that make you feel warm and safe). And she had a fire in her belly to make the world better.

While we worked together on several projects, what Ida likely doesn’t know is she kind of saved my life. I was a mama of four trying to hold down the fort while my soldier was Afghanistan-bound when police knocked at my door to tell me my baby sister was dead. She had been my person for my whole life and she was gone, and I really didn’t think I was going to survive that.

But Ida told me I could and I would. And she knew this because three years earlier, her son SPC Michael L. Gonzalez was KIA in Baghdad. And from grief and loss and pain, she not only survived, but she also created a remarkable legacy in memory of her son: the Butterfly Circle of Friends. (more…)

2020-03-25T19:47:59+00:00March 25th, 2020|

Island Pet Movers – Helping Our Four-Legged Friends Travel Safely

By: Lindsey Stone

With new pet travel regulations being implemented with no broad standard across airlines, Kari Mendoza—owner of Island Pet Movers—not only recognizes the need for education within the military and local communities of Hawaii where her business operates, but also has set a goal for 2020 to increase the public’s knowledge and perception of pet travel. This vision includes a promoting greater understanding of how pet travel works and why it is important for pets to travel safely and at reasonable cost as well as diminishing negative perceptions. Mendoza says, “I would say many of our clients are scared to fly their pets, thinking their beloved pets will die in the cargo of an airplane. This is a huge misconception of how pets are flown. Pet transportation is very safe. Unfortunately, with social media and ‘fake news,’ people spread fear, which has led airlines to change their policies.” (more…)

2020-01-14T18:29:04+00:00January 14th, 2020|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Operation: Job Ready Veterans—Helping Veterans Navigate the Civilian World

By: Heatherlynn Akins

Back in 2007 in southwest Indiana, a dream was born. Specifically, a dream to help disabled veterans find employment at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. It didn’t take long before that dream expanded to focus on helping all veterans and their families transition from a life of military service to one of civilian success. In 2013, Operation: Job Ready Veterans (OJRV) opened its doors at its headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, where the nonprofit currently assists veterans with navigating the sometimes overwhelming transition to civilian life.

Recently, Adena Vaughn, OJRV’s director of human resources, took a little bit of time out of her busy schedule to speak with us about the incredible dream that has become OJRV’s core mission as well as some exciting news about expansion. OJRV’s heart and soul is ensuring that those who have “dedicated their lives to our safety have that dedication reciprocated—even if not on the same scale,” according to Vaughn. To that end, OJRV offers services and workshops designed to help veterans and their families navigate the critical time between transitioning out of the military and into civilian life. “We’re broaching a topic that is still mostly taboo in our society,” says Vaughn, “but it’s one that needs to be addressed in order to help our veterans succeed.”

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2019-09-30T19:04:15+00:00September 30th, 2019|

GIVING BACK & GETTING INVOLVED

Find Your Passion: Danielle Jackson

By: Julie Kirchner

When Danielle Jackson started her photography business five years ago, she could never have predicted where her passion for photography—and people—would be taking her one day. This summer, Danielle is going on her first-ever mission trip to Uganda with Show Mercy International. We caught up with this busy entrepreneur, wife, mother of two teenage daughters, and soon-to-be missionary to find out what inspires her.

“People have always been my thing. I just love people. I majored in sociology, which is ridiculous…don’t ever let your child get a degree in people. That is not a ‘job,’” Danielle shares straightforwardly, with a kind of knowing chuckle in her voice. “BUT, truly, what is behind all of it—the photography, the fundraisers, all the things I do—it’s the people. It’s my love for people that gets me there.” This is evident in the way that Danielle goes about her business as well as her philanthropy.

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2019-06-30T21:11:06+00:00June 30th, 2019|
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