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A Simple Sack Lunch: Homeless Youth Shelter in SLC

homeless-lunches-3Home. For most of us that conjures up emotions and thoughts that are filled with comfort, warmth and a sense of belonging. But every day in the United States there are thousands of homeless youth (age 12 and older) who sleep in shelters, in cars or vacant buildings, with friends for one night at a time, even on the streets. Officially known as “unaccompanied youth,” these young people find themselves without a home for various reasons. Some have aged out of the foster care system, are escaping abuse or neglect, or have been kicked out by their families.

While it is difficult to get exact numbers, the estimates from 2015 indicate that 7% of the total homeless population in the United States is unaccompanied youth. That represents about 37,000 young people on a single night. 87% are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. 13% (over 4,800) are teens under the age of eighteen. As a parent of two teenagers, the thought of even one teenager or young adult sleeping on the streets is hard to bear.

Volunteers of America: Youth Resource Center

In Salt Lake City homeless youth are finding hope and a place to belong. In May 2016, Volunteers of America opened a new 20,000 square foot Youth Resource Center. Able to house up to 30 homeless youth each night, the center is also able to feed up to 60 who are either homeless or at risk. With additional counseling and assistance programs available during the day, Volunteers of America is trying to break the cycle of youth homelessness in the Salt Lake Valley. They expect to serve about 800 teens this year.

But they can’t do it alone. With the task of feeding up to 60 youth three meals each day plus snacks, the Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City is in need of volunteers. In fact, almost all meals at the shelter are provided and prepared by volunteers. homeless-lunches-1Once a month, my small group in Park City packs sack lunches. A piece of fruit, a sandwich, some snacks and a small note of encouragement fill the brown bag and are then delivered to the shelter. Youth who have jobs or school use the lunches since they aren’t able to be at the shelter when lunch is served.

We can’t end homelessness in Utah or in the USA in a day, but we can take a day to volunteer at shelters that serve those in need. Whether it is donating food to a shelter or food bank, buying warm clothing, sorting donations or preparing and serving a meal, there are many ways that we can get involved. Search online for the name of the shelter closest to you and see what you can do to help. No gift is too small, and something as simple as a sack lunch can make a difference.

Thirst Project Works to Provide Access to Clean, Safe Water

Water FaucetFor most of us reading this now, when we need water, we simply walk to a sink and turn on the tap. But for almost 663 million people across the globe, obtaining clean, safe water is not such a simple task. In these countries which lack access to clean water, women and children have to travel an average of six to eight hours a day just to collect water that is often unsanitary. Water also has major effects on the treatment and management of HIV/AIDS. In many cases, the water that infected people are drinking will kill them faster than AIDS itself. It is almost hard to believe this is the reality for so many around the globe.
In 2008, a group of 19-year-old friends in Southern California learned about the global water crisis. Rather than deciding that they were too young to help or that the task was too large, these college-age friends took action. They bought 1,000 bottles of water and gave them away to over 1,000 people in one day just to begin a conversation with those individuals about the global water crisis. Through their water give-away, they not only raised awareness, they raised $1,700 towards building a freshwater well.

Photo courtesy of Thirst Project

Photo courtesy of Thirst Project

Then the friends started receiving calls to come speak to other schools about the need for clean water around the world. And that is how The Thirst Project was born. Focusing entirely on educating middle school, high school and college students, Thirst Project ambassadors visit schools across the U.S. every year. In their first seven years, the Thirst Project has funded projects to provide over 280,000 people with clean water.
Photo courtesy of Thirst Project

Photo courtesy of Thirst Project

One of the schools the Thirst Project has visited is Park City High School, in Park City, Utah. Under the leadership of teacher Ashley Mott, Park City High School (PCHS) started a Thirst Club this year. Currently the Thirst Club is working to raise $7,500 to fund a well in Uganda. The life expectancy of Ugandans is only 59 and more than half of the 36 million people in Uganda are under the age of 15. The need for clean water in Uganda is great.
In a community that is noted as being one of the most affluent in the United States, it is exciting to see these PCHS students take action to give back and to help those who otherwise would never have access to clean water. Says one student, “Through Thirst Club, I get to be a part of something bigger than myself and make a real difference in hundreds of lives.” To learn more about the Thirst Project and Park City’s involvement, visit the Thirst Club’s page at ThirstProject.com. Clean, fresh water can truly change the world.

More Than Just a Long Weekend

abraham-36440_640More than just a long weekend, the third Monday of February is the official celebration of President George Washington’s birthday in the United States. While it began in 1885 as a day to recognize Washington’s birthday, this February holiday has been transformed in the late 20th century to a celebration of all U.S. presidents from the past and the present.

To celebrate President’s Day 2016, we want to share ten facts about a variety of U.S. presidents and about the holiday itself:

The White House, Washington, D.C.

The White House, Washington, D.C.

  • Four presidents were born in February: George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
  • While the holiday to celebrate Washington’s birthday was unofficially observed for most of the 1800s, President Hayes signed it into law in 1879. That first law applied only to the District of Columbia.
  • In 1885 when President’s Day became a national holiday, there were only four other federal bank holidays (recognized nationwide): Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
  • Washington’s birthday is actually February 22. This would be his 284th birthday.
  • Two future U.S. presidents signed the Declaration of Independence (and Washington wasn’t one of them): Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
  • President Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House phone; he was also the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.
  • Mount Rushmore

    Mount Rushmore

  • The shift from celebrating the holiday on Washington’s actual birthday (February 22) to the third Monday in February took effect in 1971.
  • Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Black Hills was completed in 1941 to honor four presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
  • John F. Kennedy was the first president to have served in the U.S. Navy.
  • Ronald Reagan was the oldest elected president (he was 69 when he was inaugurated on January 20, 1981).

  • No matter which of the forty-four presidents you consider to be the greatest, it is undeniable that their varied lives and experiences have helped to profoundly shape the United States of America. And that is something to celebrate!

    Carry the Future Provides Hope & Help

    Have you ever seen something on the news and thought “How terrible, I wish I could do something to help?” That is exactly what happened to Californian mom, Cristal Logothetis, who saw the tragic image on the news of the young Syrian boy who drowned before his family could reach safety in Greece. Cristal was Crisis Signcompelled to act and decided that she could do something to help refugee families with babies and young children.
    Cristal began collecting baby carriers, starting an organization called “Carry the Future.” Once they had collected over 2,000 carriers, Cristal and nine other women travelled to Greece to gift them to Syrian and other middle-eastern refugee families as they arrived in Greece.

    Photo Courtesy of "Carry the Future's" Facebook Page.

    Photo Courtesy of “Carry the Future’s” Facebook Page.

    It was such a successful trip that they have recently sent a Phase 2 team back to Greece with over 2,500 carriers. On each trip, the volunteers fit the carrier to the adult and show them how to use it, often accomplishing that in two minutes or less so that they can move on to help another family. Carry the Future volunteers speak about the relief and hope they bring instantly to these families through the simple gift of a baby carrier.
    Premier Timeshare Resale’s owner, Kelly Marshall who is also mom to a 16-month-old, learned about Carry the Future and knew she wanted to help. Kelly is currently collecting baby carriers locally in Park City and the surrounding area to ship to Carry the Future. If you are interested in getting involved as Carry the Future provides hope and help to refugees, please visit Carry the Future’s Facebook page or contact us for more information.

    Summer of Service: New Orleans

    This August 29 marked ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans and many other communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Estimates place the damage in excess of $100 million. More devastating than the storm itself perhaps, is the long-term impact that it has had on the communities that were flooded, including New Orleans.

    Flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina

    Flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina

    Much of New Orleans sits below sea level, so is protected from flooding on a daily basis by levees. When those levees failed during the storm, more than 80 percent of the city was flooded. Many residents lost everything they owned because of the storm’s aftermath: the flooding. And while many were able to return and rebuild within months, thousands of families still have not returned and homes stand vacant in some of New Orleans neighborhoods.
    To say that New Orleans still needs assistance might be an understatement. With that in mind, a group of over 20 teenagers and adults traveled from my church in Park City, Utah to New Orleans to assist home owners in the rebuilding process which continues in several neighborhoods throughout the city. They were participating in a study at church called “Summer of Service” and this trip was an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone and serve those in real need.
    10 Years Later - A Work in Progress

    10 Years Later – A Work in Progress

    My daughter, Nicole, was one of the teens on that trip. The group worked with an organization called ReachGlobal, the crisis response ministry of the EFCA, which has been working in New Orleans since 2005. Nicole’s group was split into teams to assist with work projects at various homes in New Orleans including in the Ninth Ward. The first two days, Nicole’s team worked on Mr. Joe’s house. Mr. Joe is a 66 year old Vietnam veteran. He has been slowly repairing his home over the past ten years. The two days they worked on his home they completed a new roof. After that, Mr. Joe could not afford additional supplies, so they were unable to continue any projects for him. ReachGlobal’s model is that while they provide free labor, the homeowners must purchase the supplies for every project.
    Morning Huddle For their final three work days, Nicole’s group moved on to a home that had been purchased by a ReachGlobal team member. Much of this home needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt. The team worked on cleaning the areas that were salvageable and painting areas with new drywall and trim.
    It was hard work, but the group completed many projects during their five work days. And they all came home with a fresh appreciation for the blessings they have and believing in a hopeful future for New Orleans.

    Featured Charity: Fahodie for Friends

    1510455_897943930264080_3413381486468893010_nA few weeks ago I attended a music video premier. I was invited by a close friend, an aspiring filmmaker who had been working on this music video project for quite a while.

    I had heard a lot about the making of the film, but entered the premier with few expectations. When I walked into the small, pop-up gallery in downtown Salt Lake City, I was surprised to see the walls adorned with unique, colorful pieces of art.

    After only a few minutes at the event, I quickly learned that we were all there for more than a video premier, we were there to support a cause. Proceeds and exposure created by the art and music being presented were partially going to a charity, a charity whose mission is to end human trafficking and modern day slavery.

    10460255_10152809290886811_6097378082521477805_nBefore the music video premiered, a slender 19-year-old girl flowed on stage. She told us about her fortune being adopted from her home country of Ghana at the age of three and coming to the United States to be raised by a loving family.

    She told us, through a moving spoken-word poem, about the others in her country who were not as fortunate. Others, just like her, who found themselves sold into modern day slavery and treated as commodities of little worth.

    This young woman is named Lillian Nana Adjoa Martino, and she began a charity called Fahodie for Friends when she was just 16-years-old. “Fahodie” means “freedom” in Ghanaian, and that’s what Lillian and her charity work for each day.

    11351351_10152809291976811_933818416424575231_nOn Fahodie for Friend’s website, they state their mission: “By working together we can be the generation to end human trafficking and slavery. We can change the lives of children and provide them with a new future…a future full of hope and freedom through the power of education.”

    I was moved at how art, community and charity had come together at this event to support a cause that truly deserves more recognition. I was motivated to share this group’s efforts and their #IAmYourFriend campaign to anyone willing to listen and perhaps get involved with this noble cause.

    i-am-your-friendFahodie and Friends is raising awareness about their cause using social media and active community voices like you and me. They are also accepting volunteers that want to be a part of the cause and donations to help start rescue and education programs for children, teenagers and adults who have been subjected to slavery.

    You can learn more about ways you can help here.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

    Mother’s Day Musings: The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

    mother-child-beachThis weekend my mom and I loaded up the car and headed north for Idaho Falls. Besides the joys of taking a mother-daughter road trip, we were going to visit a handful of grandparents and my brother, who recently moved there.

    The weekend was spent among family, flowers and wine, each generation (four in one room!) performing duties of gratitude for their mother, sister, and other lovely ladies in each of our lives.

    Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday. I comes from a long international history of celebrating mothers and has prevailed through times of turmoil, even the creator of America’s national day denouncing the holiday all together. Here are a few thoughts to hopefully keep you remembering the essence of Mother’s Day year-round.

    grandma-grandaughters-benchMother’s Day History

    Celebrating mothers extends back to ancient times, when Greeks and Romans held festivals to honor their mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The tradition continued throughout Europe through a Christian festival held during Lent. But the Mother’s Day that we recognize today started in the early 20th century with Anna Jarvis.

    Anna’s mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, began Mother’s Day Work Clubs in the late 1800s to teach women how to raise their children. The clubs later became a way unite families during and after the Civil War. After Ann’s death in 1905, Anna got the idea for a day that celebrated mothers and their sacrifices. Anna came to recognize that there was an unequal amount of national holidays that celebrate men, and began petitioning for Mother’s Day to become a nationally recognized holiday, which was granted by Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

    Even before its presidential endorsement, Mother’s Day quickly became a popular holiday around the country. Of course, it didn’t take long for florists and card companies to take advantage of the need for Mother’s Day gifts and began avidly marketing Mother’s Day products. Outraged by the commercialization of Mother’s Day, Anna eventually denounced the holiday and spent her personal wealth on lawyers to get the holiday removed from the national calendar, but she never succeeded.

    mother-pregnant-girlMother’s Day Traditions

    Anna Jarvis’s original intent for Mother’s Day was for people to wear a single white carnation as a badge while taking the day to attend church and visit one’s mother. The idea of flowers as the perfect Mother’s Day gift has blossomed and today the industry makes over $2 billion from Mother’s Day alone and over 140 million cards get sent to mothers (interestingly there are only about 83 million mothers in the U.S.).

    With such extreme numbers, it’s easy to see what Anna Jarvis was upset about. I certainly was guilty of spending money on multiple bouquets, cards and Mother’s Day knick knacks, but I think there’s more to this holiday than cold consumer habits.

    In Ethiopia, families gather each fall to sing songs and indulge in a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood. Even in the U.S., Mother’s Day has been used to do more than spend money. Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., used Mother’s Day in 1968 to host a march in support of underprivileged women and children. In the 1970s, women’s groups used the holiday to promote the need for equal rights and access to childcare.

    Around the world and even throughout our own culture, Mother’s Day is clearly about more than a card and obligatory phone call (although, more phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year). I find myself passionately agreeing with Anna Jarvis’s initial motivations behind Mother’s Day: to give women a day in the national calendar, and to have a day to celebrate mothers and their sacrifices. Although Anna eventually felt that the holiday lost its original heart, I have a hard time agreeing.

    flower-gift-childCelebrating Family

    This weekend, I not only celebrated my mother, but my whole family. I dined with grandmas and grandpas, I talked with my great grandmother, I joked with my brother, I spoke with aunts and uncles, I learned about my cousins, I congratulated newly-mothering friends, I caught up with my dad and cuddled with my mom. It was a weekend devoted to appreciating family and celebrating the women that hold it together. Because, of course, mother’s don’t want it to just be about them, they want the day to be about the people they love and care for, a demonstration of the truly generous spirit of motherhood.

    Although Mother’s Day has passed this year, we still have another chance to honor our parents and grandparents…for Father’s Day! If you’re looking for a way to truly honor your parents, think about buying them a timeshare resale. The gift of a vacation home says more than thank you for life, but thank you for the memories we have yet to create together. Bring the family together every year with a Park City timeshare in the idyllic Wasatch Mountains or relax on the beach with your family in a Florida timeshare. Our licensed timeshare agents can help you find the perfect gift that keeps on giving!