December 25, 2009

"Unlikely" Santa Grants Wishes To Children In Community

Merry Christmas from all of us at Go Inspire Go!!!

Whether you celebrate the holidays or not -- we hope you're spending some quality time connecting with your loved ones this season.

We also wanted you to think about something you and your family can do to help others as you're enjoying your family, food and having fun.

Thanks to Volunteer GIGster Ashley Lopez for being inspired to pick up a camera and document this heart warming holiday act of kindness -- Richard Valdez of San Jose, California, known as the "unlikely" Santa
made this Christmas a merrier one after seeing that a lot of families in need this holiday season. Check out what one truck driver did that has many families floored!



As Richard shows us, giving doesn't entail a lot of money, just a lot of love...
Our Christmas wish: That you be inspired to use your resources and talents to help others!

December 23, 2009

Giving a little, gaining A LOT! Feeding Your Spirit this Holiday Season.

This holiday, I feel like a little kid again (I haven't felt like this for a looong time). You know the feeling of excitement that overwhelms you when you get that amazing holiday surprise. But this time it's not about a gift. It's not even about the thoughtfulness that someone bestowed upon me that counts. Instead, it's about this amazing experience -- this intangible thing that happens when you help others help others. It all started as I opened my e-mail in box:

A WOW update to share with everyone right off the bat: As I write, I am grinning from ear to ear! Just got an email from Gayle Keck, the media spokesperson from the San Francisco Food Bank regarding a story my organization www.GoInspireGo.com produced this year about Phoebe, the 5-year-old girl who raised enough money to feed thousands of people in her community. Phenomenal Phoebe's goal was to raise $1,000, in the end, she raised 18 times that amount! According to the SF Food Bank, that's enough to cook a whopping 81,074 meals! Yes, that's right, 81,074 meals! All thanks to a five-year-old girl who wanted to do what she could to help feed the hungry in her community.

Here's an excerpt of the exciting e-mail:

Hi Toan:

Happy Holidays!
First off, I've got to tell you we just totaled up the donations we've gotten from people supporting Phoebe and her cause. It's up to $18,647!
So thanks again for everything you did to share Phoebe's story.

And many thanks to GIG for sharing Phoebe's story with the world!

Wishing you, your family and everyone on your team a very joyous holiday season - and a blockbuster 2010!!!

Big hugs,
Gayle


Here's the video in case you missed it -- Please share!



On another note I just got a call from a Go Inspire Go (GIG) viewer from San Jose. "Lee" told me that during every holiday season she sends a $300 check to City Team Ministries, a local charity that collects food and monetary donations to feed the hungry.

After sharing many of our GIG videos throughout the year, Lee would think about what she could do to help others. After months of thinking, she took action: she informed me that this year, GIG's vision -- Every person will be inspired to use their talents and resources to better someone's life or better their community -- moved her to do something. So, she and her co-workers went to the Costco and bought food and organized a free lunch. They asked for a suggested donation of five dollars. At the end of the lunch, they raised $313. So this year, Lee can add this to her original donation, which totals $613!

The goodness keeps on spreading. Lee tells me everyone was so excited about the idea, while mingling over the meal, everyone brainstormed more "lunches" in the coming months to raise money for local charities. Lee and her co-workers originally set out to feed dozens of hungry families in her community -- they didn't realize how this good deed would impact and connect them on so many levels. Now, this small act of kindness will continue to have a bigger impact for those in need as they continue these so-called "service-lunches."

Here's an excerpt from her e-mail:

Hi Everyone,
I would like to take this time to thank everyone for all your help and contributions, we were able to collect a total of $313 in donation to CitiTeam Ministries from the salad lunch buffet. I sent the letter and check this morning to CitiTeam.
This effort was inspired my friend who started the GoInspireGo website to help inspire people to go out and donate your time and/or money to others, especially in this stressful economic time and season. If you need inspiration this season please check out this website www.goinspirego.com.
Here's the CitiTeam website for you information. http://www.cityteam.org/sanjose/
Thank you,

Lee


Amazing stuff! This year has been especially rewarding for Go Inspire Go. One year ago, I was laid off from my TV reporting GIG in San Francisco. I asked myself a simple question that has had an immeasurable impact on my life (through the stories, lifelong friends I've created through this project) and on this journey of service. My gratitude list exceeded everything I could've dreamed for this project in the short nine months of its existence: Being featured on AOL, ABC's Good Morning America and Yahoo! and being asked by Arianna Huffington to blog about my passion -- to inspire people to take action.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, wrapping gifts and preparing dinners, please stop for a minute -- just one minute -- and take a deep breath and ask yourself: What can I do?

I promise you, if you seriously sit down and ask yourself this question and put your thoughts into action, your life -- your lens -- will change in ways you could have never dreamed. When you give a little, you gain a lot more than you'll ever imagine. No matter how little you have -- you'll realize how much you really have, especially the power to inspire, empower and uplift humanity. Happy holidays!

Simple steps to give this holiday season:

What can you do to make an impact on your community? Like Phoebe and Lee showed us, it doesn't have to be a BIG project and it doesn't entail donating a lot of money.

Here are some ideas:
•Before your holiday dinner, can you round up the family to cook and serve meals to the needy at a local homeless shelter? I bet your children will remember this experience more than any gift you'll give them.
•Gather your friends and sign up as a volunteer group at the Food Bank or your favorite charity and give your time to help someone who is in need.
•Ditch the Christmas gifts, instead, donate to a charity in your friends' and family's name.
•Ask around: Is there anyone who needs help in your neighborhood? Is there a kid who needs an old laptop you have lying around? Can you visit an elderly person just to say "Happy Holidays" and offer to mow the lawn.
•Check out our stories on our YouTube page and reach out to donate a few bucks or volunteer your time to their cause.
•Send stories or a donation to Go Inspire Go.

November 9, 2009

From the BIG C to little c... We all know someone with CANCER - Let's talk about it!



Many of us have lost a loved one from the big C. I lost my father, aunt and friends to Cancer.

And while it's not a fun topic to talk about and in many cases and cultures – taboo -- talking about it could save your life or the life of someone you care about. I've experienced that the hard way.

I come from a typical Asian family that isn't encouraged to be inquisitive, outspoken or to make a big fuss about anything for that matter. At home, it wasn't ok to speak up about what was on my mind – a "don't ask, don't tell" environment. (So it's liberating that I've found a passion/career path through www.GoInspireGo.com to share inspirational stories and essentially be the voice for the voiceless.) I vividly remember the moment as clear as the bright fall colors. One crisp autumn day, I nervously asked my Aunt Hong if she got checked for cancer, specifically if she's ever had a mammogram. I don't recollect what actually compelled me to (gulp) ask that question, but what I do recall was being very embarrassed to even bring up a question of that nature. (Or any other questions for that matter, especially to my elders). I wasn't raised to question my "authorities," not to mention, talking about breasts. Viscerally, I just felt like urging her to go to the doctor. She looked at me, stunned. She answered with a gesture. (Just a nod of the head) I don't think she ever followed through and got a checkup.

Unfortunately, the conversation ended there. So did her life just a few years after I posed that question. My mother's sister died of breast cancer at age 48. I don't know if she ever got checked. I do, however, know that that year alone in 2000, I lost my father to stomach cancer and Auntie, in just a few short months—and no one really talked about cancer itself or how we were affected by it. Our feelings were shoved underneath the imaginary rug. Losing Auntie Hong was harder on me and my family than losing others family members, including my own father. Not that you can tangibly, philosophically and emotionally categorize which death was more difficult to deal with. I think the sorrow or raw sense of sadness lingered not only because she was too young to die, her job wasn't done on this earth.

Auntie Hong left behind a fourteen-year-old son, Thomas, whom my siblings and I treat like a younger brother. "Are you afraid?" I remember asking him. A blank stare ensued. I tried comforting him as he blinked back tears. "It's ok to be scared and to cry." I assured him. "You are like a brother to us. We are here for you. Your mom asked us to watch after you after she passed and to make sure you grow up all right." I took the first step in breaking the silence by talking to Thomas – the lack of communication and being quiet was what caused more confusion and fear about cancer and other topics like sex.

Though my experiences with losing people to cancer, I've realized that this disease does not discriminate, age, sex, creed or class. I also learned that many people are totally in the dark when it comes to cancer facts and myths. Being hush hush about cancer can be deadly.

George Lin, my friend who was the San Diego Asian Film Foundation's Program Director died at age 37 of Pheochromocytoma, a rare tumor of the adrenal gland. I remember meeting George, at the festival. One year he was a young, healthy and funny. I remember George cracking jokes as we ate Korean food at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The next year, when I came to volunteer at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, I saw a totally different George. He looked gaunt, feeble and ill. He didn't explain the change. He didn't crack jokes like he usually did with me. And I didn't ask. I just knew that something was wrong.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the San Diego Asian Film Foundation/Festival. While many people were excited to converge in San Diego to celebrate film, there was a somber feeling – as though something was missing from the festival. Many volunteers and festival goers say they could feel that George was there in spirit, I certainly did. George inspired this year's festival theme: Cancer Awareness. Lee Ann Kim, the festival's Executive Director recently told me that after George's death, she became obsessed with researching cancer and cancer awareness. "After talking with so many people, I realized that so many people didn't want to talk about cancer," Kim said. "Like many people who have cancer, George didn't tell many people about his illness. But I knew, I was his boss." It seems many people are still very afraid to talk about cancer, especially the Asian American and Asian community. As we all know too well, that could be a tragic mistake.

In the spirit of those we've all lost to cancer, I am urging you, begging you, to please talk about it. Awareness and Early Detection could save lives.

I'm inviting you to break the silence -- talk about it.

Rest in peace Dad, Aunt Hong and George. I hope his story inspires everyone to be aware and share. PLEASE SHARE THIS STORY (and video) WITH AT LEAST ONE PERSON. Be inspired to do something so that talking about the BIG C won't be that big of a deal to talk about anymore. Let's get it out in the open, and talk about cancer – so it will no longer be taboo, I hope and believe that one day, that the CAPITAL C – will be replaced with a little c. So please, talk about cancer. Be aware. And share. It may save the life of a loved one. It may save your life.

September 24, 2009

Illinois Family Sells Company, Gives 6.6 Million Dollars In Bonuses (VIDEO)

Many presuppositions come to mind when you hear the headline, "Illinois Family Sells Company, Gives 6.6 Million Dollars in Bonuses to Employees." But I ask you -- no I challenge you -- not to jump the gun, judge or fill your head with preconceived notions about the Spungens or why they decided to be so generous.

Laurence and Florence Spungen and their four children sold their PEER Bearing Company last fall and gave the money to employees as bonuses (some bonuses were six figures) based on years of service. Sure, many of the 230 employees needed the cash. Who wouldn't during this time of economic turmoil (OK, maybe former financier "Bernie" Madoff, but I won't go there), but that wasn't the impetus for the generosity.


In a time when we are inundated with bad news about our economic landscape, corporate greed and bank bailouts, it was refreshing to meet such an authentically kind family with solid values -- a shining example of corporate responsibility (listen up corporate America). A family who cares as much about their employees as they do their own family and treats them with dignity and respect -- traits not often heard of in big corporations. When a GoInspireGo.com viewer sent me an e-mail about the Spungen family from Waukegan, Ill., and told us about their generous deed, we were intrigued and wanted to know more about them. Who are they? Why would they give millions of dollars away during the economic downturn?

But it didn't take me long before we found out why the Spungen family was so caring and sharing. What I didn't expect (before even making any contact with the family) was that they'd be so down-to-earth, genuine and extremely compassionate. While taking a tour of the Spungens' other business, PEER Chain, unlike owners of many other big companies, the Spungen family knew the names of every employee, how many children they have... and their stories.

When I asked the family my favorite question of all time -- "WHY?" -- the Spungens explained it was "just the right thing to do." When the family decided to sell their ball bearing company, the family knew they wanted to give some money to the employees to thank them for their dedication and hard work. They just didn't know how much.

After figuring out an equation based on years of service, the family got right to work on the big surprise. The family hand-signed every "Thank You" card. Printed on them were their names and years of service and a heart-felt message of gratitude. When the Spungens called a company-wide meeting to tell the workers about the sale, Eddie S., an accountant for more than 30 years with PEER, said "I thought we were going to get laid off... But I was excited to see the large sum of money and I was happy to see that I was being compensated for my loyalty."

The family said, "Many people cried, other employees say the money helped save their home from foreclosure." "Sure we all wanted to do it, but there we just didn't know how much."

Laurence Spungen, former PEER Bearing CEO, joked, "After we gave the bonuses, they had to check to see if I was still standing."

Glenn Spungen, Vice President of Sales and Operations, said the workers were an integral part of their success, so they wanted to compensate their employees for their loyalty and "blood, sweat and tears the workers put into the company."

Just have a conversation with the Spungens and you'll realize that kindness and generosity is a huge part of the Spungen legacy. The family also created the Laurence and Florence Spungen Family Foundation, dedicated to cancer research and Jewish causes. Every year, the children and grandchildren are required to research and donate to a charity of their choice. Wow. If we could all plant the seed early, what a difference it would make in our community and our world.

"How much money do we really need?" said Debbi Spungen. "I want others (big businesses) to do the same, if they can."

In such turbulent economic times, when all we hear about are corporate crooks and Wall Street woes, it was refreshing to meet a family who humbly built their empire (through lots of hard work, determination and passion) from the ground up and used their success, resources and talents to help their employees; the very people responsible for putting in the elbow grease, talents and time in the well-oiled multi-million dollar empire.

You may remember the Spungens from my last blog and video. When they heard about Jorge Munoz (NYC school bus driver responsible for more than 70,000 meals) they wanted to help him. "We want to buy him a new refrigerator and stove," the family said. They stuck to their word.

I recently hopped a flight to meet them in New York to deliver the stove to Jorge. It was amazing to see how this experience, though www.GoInspireGo.com unfolded. Here you have two families, the Spungens and the Munozes. Both come from opposite ends of the financial spectrum, yet their values and characteristics so aligned; compassion, good will and philanthropy. So to the Spungen and the Munoz families -- we salute you. Thank you for helping elevate humanity.

What YOU can do:

You don't need a million dollars to make a positive impact on your community or on someone else's life:

1.) Volunteer, it's free, fun and a great way to meet people. Partner up with a friend or sign up a group of friends. I've volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank and packed food with some friends -- we had a fabulous food packin' time. Try it!

2.) Got a special skill? Lend it to someone in need! When I was laid off from my TV reporting job in San Francisco, I thought, "What can I do, using my talents and resources to improve someone else's life?" Little did I know, that in five short months, this question would turn into the vision of my inspirational website www.GoInspireGo.com

Check out my recent video of one school bus driver in Queens, NY, who makes $700 a week and has fed more than 70,000 people in his community! (He spends more than half of his paycheck weekly to do this.)


3.) Ask, ask, ask! It's the little things that count most -- especially during these tough economic times. Use family, friends and neighbors as a sounding board to see what they think you can do to help others. So many people I connect with say, "I wish I could do more, but I don't have time or I don't have anything to offer." Get of the humility boat and ask folks in your circle, they may give you insight on how you can help. That's how I got my website started!

4.) Let us know what you're up to -- and maybe we'll feature you on our site. And if you still don't think you can do anything, volunteer for www.GoInspireGo.com

***

You can find out more about Toan Lam at www.goinspirego.com. Click on the YouTube link and check out the stories his team created, and videos created by viewers.

September 23, 2009

Congratulations, You Got Laid Off; Now Go Round Up the Elephant

Recently, I relived the shocking moment through a phone call from my oldest sister, Lynn, a nurse practitioner and Yoga Instructor. I couldn't help but shutter, as she uttered the words that hundreds of thousands of Americans have also had to admit and say to their loved ones. "Toner (my nickname), I got laid off." Lynn said, in a stoic, monotone voice. I remember the moment vividly. I was getting ready for my morning run along the beach, it was a brisk, morning here in San Francisco, as the Sun tried burning through the fog. My first reaction was like many others on the other end of the phone line. I was stunned. Sucker punched. Pimp slapped. (Ok, that's a bit dramatic but you get the point.) The numbness, coupled with the adrenaline rush that comes with being hit while off guard, disoriented me for a bit, but I took a deep breath and one word came out of my mouth without thinking... "Congratulations."

I welcomed my Sis, eight years my senior, to the "new economy, that I have been living in for the past seven months." Ahh unemployment–that uncomfortable place of limbo, where you feel distressed, disconnected, discombobulated from the world–where most of us are all linked to a common thread... WORK. A transitional place of the unknown, where you dread going out and seeing people who ask you, "What do you do for a living? Where do you work now? Inquiring minds want to know, right? (The best answer to this, by the way, is "I'm in a transition." It will keep people who you aren't comfortable with sharing, baffled and out of your business.)

When you first get laid off, you feel so helpless and directionless. As you feel the light, floaty, numbness that ensues, the weight of the world and responsibilities brings you back down. Reality check. Lynn has two adorable children, 4-year-old Drew and 1-year old Serena. She's also the sole income in the family. She and her husband agreed that it was important for one of them would stay home and raise their children.

The conversation lasted about three minutes. Lynn laughed abruptly whispered, "I'll be ok, gotta go see my next patient."

I knew exactly how Sis felt, sans the huge responsibility of having children to clothe, feed and provide shelter for. But I knew this was the best thing that could ever happen to her. She had been wanting to shift gears, teach more Yoga and create wellness workshops to educate, inspire and empower women to make healthy decisions in life. She, like many of us who either hate our jobs or are just ready for something new, was afraid to muster up the courage to say, bon voyage, farewell, see ya later job. It's so funny how what you ask for in life, you get. Lynn said I always told myself, she only wanted to work for the County of Sacramento for about a decade, then it's time for change. This year marks her ten year anniversary.
I knew what Sis was going through because, I too was laid off from my TV gig at a local station in San Francisco. I had been reporting the news for about ten years and always thought I wanted to follow the traditional TV reporter route; small market, medium market, then the top ten cities in America, and then perhaps the network. I did work my way up the rungs, but God had a different plan for me. A plan, far greater than I could ever have imagined for myself. Being laid off was in the master plan.

When I was escorted out of the TV station in San Francisco, a shift happened in me.

That was when I turned over a new leaf and decided to dedicate my life to service. Slowly, one conversation, one prayer at a time, I started trekking a path where no one had gone before–the journey led me to my non-profit and inspirational website, www.GoInspireGo.com. And with every experience and every conversation, my mission started to become clearer:
My dream was to set up a global platform for people to see and share stories of inspiration.
My Vision, or what I wanted people do, was simple:
To use their resources and talents to help someone else. What I didn't expect was a flurry of inspiration from all corners of the world, from Africa, Asia to America. Wow. I invite you to check out the website to see how tens of thousands of people have responded to help the people we've featured in our stories. And when you give to the world, you certainly get back–and then some! I have been offered jobs in and out of TV–and the personal connections I've made with people–priceless.

Through it all, I've realized that all along, I knew my power. (I love to read, write and connect with people). And I used it in a big way to help people. I was not only invited to blog for the Huffington Post....

AOL, Yahoo!, and countless other blogs around the globe have been sharing our inspirational stories.
My inspirational Sister shared a story about an elephant that I want to pass along to you, in hopes that you'll find your strength, your power.

Once upon a time, there was a baby elephant who was tied to a stake by its master. Through its whole life, the elephant was verbally and physically abused by the master. "You are stupid, powerless, nothing and you will go nowhere in life." The master would scold. And the elephant believed it. Through the years, as the elephant grew physically stronger, but the elephant never knew how physically strong he was. One swing of the tusk, would've snapped the stake that tied him down. But he never knew it's strength. So the elephant died never reaching its full potential. He never know his power.

Are you that baby elephant just waiting to escape?! What is holding you down in life? What is your power? We all have strength and power...now USE it. Say it with me everyone, "KNOW YOUR POWER. USE IT."

Oh, by the way, within a week, my sister, Lynn received about a dozen job offers. Whoever she decides to share her knowledge of wellness with will be so lucky to have her, congrats Sis!

Change is not always comfortable, but change is good. Fall is here! As the Autumn leaves change colors–from lush green to different hues of red, orange and yellow– I invite you think about your life, what's good, what's bad and what's ugly and change what you don't like about what's going on in your life. Know your power!

Here are some tips to get out of the layoff rut:

1.) Keep/create a routine, otherwise, you'll feel out of the loop and will have too much time to let your mind wander and get the best of you. Start by getting some exercise in the morning. Meet up friends for lunch, or make yourself a nice lunch. Then devote a few hours to your job search. Then connect with people with like interests and explore your hobbies–maybe it'll turn into a bustling business.

2.) Connect with people personally and professionally. I've received so many jobs and helped get folks jobs thought networking. People innately want to help, but they don't know how to help if you don't ask!

3.) Volunteer. Time is the BIGGEST gift you can ever give to anyone, and you'll discover a shift that will happen in your perspective in life. It's the best gift you can give to yourself. Just try it, you'll see.

4.) Be Grateful. Look around you, for the simple things in life that you're thankful for. Simple and small is the new BIG. After being laid off, I started eating out less. Instead, I rounded up a small circle of friends. We take turns cooking. It's a great way to connect and learn more about each other in an intimate setting. I'm grateful for the yummy greens and juicy nectarines in the salad. That was a good start. As we broke bread, we learned so much about our cultures, food and how they're connected to family. It's smarter for our wallets and our waists!

5.) Know your power and use it! What are you good at? What have you been dying to do, but the previous job tied you down like the elephant in the aforementioned story? Do it.

September 11, 2009

'Surprise!' An Angel In Queens, NY Follow-Up--The Gift That Keeps On Giving (VIDEO)

I hopped on a flight to New York this weekend to shoot a follow-up on Jorge Munoz's story on GoInspireGo.com. Journalism got really personal and emotional. Munoz, a.k.a. Angel in Queens is a bus driver responsible for preparing and delivering more than 70,000 hot meals to hungry people in his neighborhood over the last four and a half years. He admits he was surprised when the Go Inspire Go crew, along with the Spungen family, a generous family from Waukegan, Illinois -- that I'll talk more about in a later blog-- knocked on this angel's door to surprise him with new kitchen appliances. "For a long time, I didn't cry because when I see those guys in the street, I want to cry every night. But I have to control myself, I have to be strong." Munoz said. "But this guy, (he slaps me on the chest) He made me cry!"

This was one of the most logistically challenging, bust your butt weekends: blogging, shooting, editing, meet ups with the Go Inspire Go.com (GIG) crew -- and juggling phone calls with Good Morning America. GMA anchor Chris Cuomo saw our Tweet about Munoz's selfless service and collaborated with us to feature the story on Good Morning America. It was a juggling act, calling the GMA distribution and rights lawyer, coordinating the purchase of a new stove and refrigerator for Munoz with a family who saw the Angel in Queens video, e-mailing and calling his sister, Luz, to make sure Munoz was home ) -- all the while trying to make travel plans and coordinate with 20 volunteer crew members for the big surprise we had in store for Jorge! Shew... Deep breath. Be present, I reminded my self. Albeit hectic, this experience also proved to be one of the most exciting, rewarding, inspiring, warm and fuzzy weekends I've experienced since launching our inspirational website just five short months ago.

After the Angel in Queens story went viral, many viewers from around the world contacted GIG and Jorge's family. Our e-mail inboxes flooded with inspiring stories of how you the viewers were moved by the video... and how you could help.

One of the first to reach out was the Spungens, an amazing philanthropic family out of Waukegan Illinois (they're the topic of our next blog on corporate responsibility). They insisted on buying a new stove and refrigerator for Jorge and his family after learning about Jorge's amazing project through GIG. On Saturday, I met Debbi Spungen and her brother Glenn Spungen (I promise you that you'll be even more inspired after our next blog and video on this family) in New York for the big surprise.

Mission Accomplished.

In the sweltering humid summer New York heat, my volunteer crew and I surreptitiously met at the end of Munoz's street...
Knock knock... (Jorge answers the door) "Hi Jorge, it's Toan from GoInspireGo, on behalf of GoInspireGo, my team, and our viewers world wide, we wanted to thank you for your selfless act - through your Angels in Queens project. Thank you for feeding more than 70,000 hungry people the past four years...
We have a surprise for you."

"Ahhh WOW," says Jorge, as he wipes tears away from his eyes, "I called you last night to thank you for getting my story out there, we've gotten so many calls and donations and now you're here!" "As I walked him down his driveway," I said, "I want you to meet our viewers and friends of Go Inspire Go, Debbi and Glenn. They came all the way from Chicago... to meet you. Glenn says, "We heard about this story, this amazing thing that you do. How charitable you are, you are an inspiration to everybody, around the country, around the world. We flew in from Chicago, to give you a special, special gift from our hearts."

As I open the van door to present the new washer and dryer, Jorge wipes away even more tears and says, "WOW! I was just thinking right now... what I was going to do because the (stove) handle isn't working. I didn't know what to do. But now, check it out!" He explained that he had been using his sister Luz's stove upstairs. The wear wear and tear on her stove, from cooking for hours at a time everyday, was taking a toll, too.

The excitement kept on building. Len Harris' team not only threw in free delivery and set up of the appliances. They surprised all of us! Len Harris had his team deliver a microwave as a gift to Jorge, after we got in contact with him about purchasing appliances for Jorge and he saw the GIG video.

The whole GIG crew decided to give Jorge a break, so we rolled up our sleeves and started cooking. On the menu: ham, beans and rice. With Jorge's guidance, we got to work. I've never had such a good time cooking, about a dozen of us bumping into each other in the tiny kitchen. The sweet smell of pinto beans and savory, juicy ham cooking over the stove reminded me of good old home cooking -- comfort food. I was in awe by how much love and time went into cooking food in bulk. It was even more humbling to witness this angel in action. As we were cooking, a woman who looked really tired, stressed and aged, knocks on the door. Jorge runs to answer it. I said, who is it? He said, "Shhh, I'll take care of it." Munoz fills the woman's two-wheel cart with groceries and produce. He face lit up as walked down the driveway with a mini-two wheeled cart in tow.

I can't even begin to explain the excitement, the thrill, that came from the delivery of the Spungen's wonderful gift. But as all of the volunteers agreed, we were the ones who received the biggest gift -- the lesson of gratitude and perspective.

In the spirit of service, we thank Jorge, Luz and the entire Munoz family.
What can you do?!

*Special thanks to the volunteers on this story: Sarah Mirza, Julian Cohen, Gilles Cohen, Shephali Patel, Takeshi Inamura, Birju Pandya and the Spungen family.

***
You can find out more about Toan Lam at http://www.goinspirego.com. Click on the YouTube link and check out the stories his team created, and videos created by viewers.
Contact Toan at: toanlam@goinspirego.com

September 7, 2009

It's All About the Babies


Lisa Klein neatly packs baby booties, bibs and books in boutique style boxes labeled "Baby Boy" and "Baby Girl" every month with her two kids. But the cardboard boxes aren't for her children.

For the past two years, Lisa has packed more than 20,000 pounds of kids clothes for underprivileged newborns, through her non-profit LovedTwice.org, kids that would otherwise leave the hospital without the baby basics. There's enough clothing in the 10 pound boxes for the baby's first year. There are gently used onesies, socks and every box has 'something extra's such as diapers or a baby Bjorn.

"It's all about the babies," says the Oakland mother of two, "It's to keep them warm, clean and cozy no matter what's going on in their mothers' lives."

The boxes are delivered monthly to 11 county hospitals, shelters and prenatal clinics in her community. Lisa says she heard of a story from a nurse that brought her to tears,
"This 15-year-old girl was getting ready to leave the hospital and she asked the nurse if she could bring home the blanket, she didn't have anything to keep her baby warm."

The idea was born during one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

Lisa was moved after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans. "We saw that people lost everything and were camping out in front of a church. My daughter and I wanted to help. We didn't know how. We went on the internet and on Craigslist. What struck me, was that they needed baby clothes, I had baby clothes."

That's when Lisa put two and two together and came up with LovedTwice.org.

Starting in her attic, where she pulled dusty boxes and bags full of baby items Loved Twice emerged. She then asked friends, family, neighbors and strangers to drop off their baby goods on her porch. What she wasn't prepared for was the outpouring of support from her community.

Thousands donated items, crowding her porch. The one-time clothing drive turned into this amazing non-profit. More than two years and two thousand boxes later, the busy mother of two says it was hard to keep her head above the mounds of baby items and wanted to close up shop.

Lisa knows how important the baby's first developing year is also how overwhelming caring for children can be. Adding to this was the massive responsibility of orchestrating a non-profit.

Lisa admits, "Last month, I had to take a step back. I came back from an extended vacation and there was 800 pounds of clothes waiting for me. I was like, I can't do this anymore. I've never thought that before... and within an hour of thinking that, I received a call from you."

"THANK YOU!"
She says with a smile.

That kept me going, and you in turn will help thousands of kids that will continue to get the baby boxes.

She explains, "then within that hour, a woman called me and said she and her coworkers wanted to volunteer and help pack."

Chills tingled through my body, because lately, I've been feeling over-whelmed too. I run a non-profit GoInspireGo.com and I teach full time at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and also one class at my alma mater, the University of San Francisco. Oh did I mention, I also produce online videos for local stores and companies and am in the process of writing a childrens book? And of course, I blog for The Huffington Post and believe it or not, I also try to have a life too.

I recently wanted to take a hiatus from my busy life. I was ready for a "Calgon take me away"–ok, not that dramatic (but you get the point.) I wanted to take a break and didn't know if I could continue my erratic to-bed-at-3am-and-up-at-5am schedule and still get all my work done. I began spending more time with my MacBook than with my family and friends.

It's amazing how timing and the world works–
–I inspired Lisa and she inadvertently returned the favor by uplifting my spirits. Now, underprivileged infants will continue receiving help through Loved Twice. It's almost miraculous in scope of how much goodness is coming out of this experience!

I guess it's true...
What you give to the world, you get back ten-fold.

So what I ask you is, what have you done to improve the life of someone else? If the answer is "I don't know," then GET CRACKIN'!

August 10, 2009

An Angel in New York (a continued series brought to you by Toan Lam)

Brought to you by Toan Lam, live on assignment in New York
To see the video of this story, please visit our YouTube channel!


photo courtesy of Angel in Queens website

I hopped on a flight to New York this weekend to shoot a follow-up on Jorge Munoz's story on GoInspireGo.com. Journalism got really personal and emotional. Munoz, a.k.a. Angel in Queens (bus driver responsible for more than 70,000 hot meals to hungry people in his neighborhood) admits, he was surprised when the Go Inspire Go crew, along with a the Spungen family, a generous family from Waukegan, Illinois knocked on this angel's door to surprise him with new appliances.
Munoz admits, "I want to cry every night when I go out there to deliver the food. But this guy,' (he slaps me on the chest) 'He made me cry!"

This was one of the most logistically challenging, "bust-your-butt" weekends for me; blogging, shooting, editing, meet ups with my Go Inspire Go.com (GIG) crew, juggling phone calls with Good Morning America, (GMA anchor Chris Cuomo saw our Tweet about Munoz's selfless service and collaborated with us to feature the story on Good Morning America). It was a juggling act for me, calling the GMA distribution and rights lawyer, coordinating the purchase of a new stove and refrigerator for Munoz with a family who saw the Angel in Queens video, e-mailing and calling his sister, Luz, to make sure Munoz was home, etc.) -- all while trying to make travel plans and coordinate with 20 volunteer crew members for the big surprise we had in store for Jorge! Phew... Deep breath.

Be present, I remind myself. Albeit hectic, this experience also proved to be one of the most exciting, rewarding, inspiring, warm and fuzzy weekends I've experienced since launching our inspirational website just five short months ago.



After the Angel in Queens story went viral, many viewers from around the world contacted GIG and Jorge's family. Our e-mail inboxes flooded with inspiring stories of how you the viewers were moved by the video... and how you could help.

One of the first to reach out was the Spungens, an amazing philanthropic family out of Waukegan, Illinois (they're the topic of our next blog on corporate responsibility). They insisted on buying a new stove and refrigerator for Jorge and his family after learning about Jorge's amazing project through GIG. On Saturday, I met Debbi Spungen and her brother Glen Spungen (I promise you that you'll be even more inspired after our next blog and video on this family) in New York for the big surprise.

Mission Accomplished.
In the sweltering, humid summer New York heat, my volunteer crew and I surreptitiously met at the end of Munoz's street...

Knock knock... (Jorge answers the door)
"Hi Jorge, it's Toan from GoInspireGo, on behalf of GoInspireGo, my team and our viewers world wide, we wanted to thank you for your selfless act–through your Angels in Queens project. Thank you for feeding more than 70,000 hungry people the past four years...

We have a surprise for you
."

"Ahhh WOW," says Jorge, as he wipes tears away from his eyes, "I called you last night to thank you for getting my story out there, we've gotten so many calls and donations and now you're here!"

"We have a surprise for you," I said, as I walked him down his driveway. "I want you to meet our viewers and friends of Go Inspire Go, Debbi and Glenn. They came all the way from Chicago... to meet you."

In a warm, sincere tone, Glenn says, "We heard about this story, this amazing thing that you do. How charitable you are, you are an inspiration to everybody, around the country, around the world. We flew in from Chicago, to give you a special, special gift from our hearts."

As I opened the van door to present the new refrigerator and stove, Jorge wipes away tears and says, "WOW! I was just thinking right now," he explained "What I was going to do because the (stove) handle isn't working. I didn't know what to do. But now, check it out!" He explained that he had been using his sister, Luz's stove upstairs and that the wear and tear on her stove, from cooking for hours at a time everyday, was taking a toll on Luz's stove too.

And the excitement kept on building.

Len Harris' gracious team not only threw in free delivery and set up of the appliances, they surprised all of us! Len Harris had his team deliver a microwave as a gift to Jorge, after we got in contact with him about purchasing appliances for Jorge and seeing the GIG video.


(photo courtesy of Sarah Mirza)

The whole GIG crew decided to give Jorge a break, so we rolled up our sleeves and started cooking. On the menu; ham, beans and rice. And with Jorge's guidance, we got to work. I've never had such a good time cooking. So much fun. I was even more humbled when I witnessed this angel in action.

While cooking, a woman who looked really stressed and tired knocks on the door. Jorge runs to answer it. I said, "who is it?" He said, "Shhh, I'll take care of it." Munoz filled the woman's two-wheel cart with groceries and produce. Munoz embodies the meaning of service and selflessness.

I can't even begin to explain the excitement and thrill that came from this surprise delivery from the Spungen’s wonderful gift; the kind gesture of a gift that keeps on giving. But as all of the volunteers agreed, we were the ones who received the biggest gift – The lesson of gratitude and perspective. I was surprised that this amazing experience came together with such finesse. (Thanks to Birju Pandya, with Karmatube.org, whom I met from a friend via FaceBook just days before the shoot–Thanks for volunteering Birju and all of my GIG'sters!)

I learned that perhaps when you dedicate your life to service, as Jorge has led by example, there is this energy, this intangible, indescribable thing called joy, that happens. You'd have to meet this real life angel to know what I'm talking about. So Jorge Munoz, we salute you!

In the spirit of service, I thank Jorge, his family and the people he is reaching out to. As they have taught, me, my GIG'sters, all the volunteers on this story (Sarah Mirza, Julian Cohen, Gilles Cohen, Shephali Patel, Takeshi Inamura and other volunteers, Birju Pandya and Shephali Patel (from CharityFocus.org and Karmatube.org)–most of us were strangers brought together by GIG and this surprise donation.

Glenn Spungen
poignantly pulled me aside and explained, "Toan, this was an amazing process, GoInspireGo has brought everyone together, and no matter what direction the website and project goes, you've made beautiful life long friends here today."

Once again I realized that you don't need much to make a big impact on the world. Look at Jorge, who makes $700 a week and spends half of it feeding the hungry people in his community. Amen to that! What can you do?

*Special thanks to the volunteers on this story: Sarah Mirza, Julian Cohen, Gilles Cohen, Shephali Patel, Takeshi Inamura, Birju Pandya and the Spungen family.

-------> Want to learn more about what you can do? Please visit our website's volunteer section or subscribe to our mailing list to find out about more of the efforts we are making to such causes. If you would like to donate money to help us cover and promote more stories of inspiration and good in this world, visit us here.

Thanks Toan! And thank you GIG supporters!

August 9, 2009

Toan Lam Heads To New York

While Toan Lam is out of town for the next week or so, I shall be receiving the inspirational words from his many wonderful events that are taking place. I will be posting his thoughts and feelings, as well as his reports on some unbelievable and truly phenomenal moments. Please check here every day. ESPECIALLY THE NEXT FEW DAYS!!!!!
cheers! -LG

********************************************************************

Surreal. Exciting. Inspiration.
Just a few words to describe this tingly feeling inside -- after working relentlessly with my Go Inspire Go (GIG) Team -- to bring GIG to the worldwide multimedia platform and bring you inspirational stories to your computer. I take several deep breaths a day to stay grounded, taking it all in. Our Vision is taking shape;

That you and others think about what resources and talents you have to better someone elses' life. Many notable venues of information, from TV to the world wide web are taking notice of Go Inspire Go and now the world is watching.

I am sitting here at the San Francisco International Airport in awe, as I await for a plane headed to New York to do a follow up on the Jorge Munoz story. Our goal is to become fully sustainable, so I can travel the world with my GIG team, shoot inspiring stories and finally roll out that multiplatform show we've been brainstorming about. We promise you, it'll be a ground breaking exciting event. Our audience? The world. That's the wonder of the world wide web and the super social networking explosion. I'm putting it out to the universe now: My dream is to use Social Networking to INSPIRE social change! My eyes water and sting with passion as I think about the two mega-entities that are surfacing! A Go Inspire Go non-profit dedicated to doing the aforementioned, while creating an interactive TV/Web talk show that encompasses and encourages viewer involvement. We here at Go Inspire Go are at the verge of a breakthrough, non-static show format that is revolutionary. It will happen. I can feel it in every cell of my body. So many signposts are leading our vehicle of inspiration to collide with destiny.

Wow, what an amazing few weeks it's been.
Not only have my two blogs and videos on the Huffington Post made it to the top 5 most read catergory, Yahoo! Aol and inspirational blogs and other multi-media outlets; TV, internet, chat rooms, YouTube, etc., around the world are participating! People from all corners of the world have contacted us, with inspiring stories, video and text comments, emails, and even phone calls. I was pleased to find out yesterday that USA Today also embedded our latest blog, on Jorge Munoz, a school bus driver, who is responsible for tirelessly and selflessly cooking more than 70,000 hot meals for the needy in his neighborhood, in Queens, NY. He is a true Angel and the epitome of giving. Speaking of Angels, the cosmos and the energy or stars must be aligned. I couldn't have written the numerous blessings and things that have fallen into place that has led me to sitting here in this cushy -- ok it's not that cushy-- black faux leather seat at SFO. Not only has every story we've created stirred such a buzz with the world, so many people are stepping up to help the folks featured in our videos. (There's a link at the end of most GIG stories that gives you more information on where to go to help out and make a difference.) A shift is happening. The world is ready.

Thanks to Chris Cuomo, Good Morning America's anchor, who saw our 'Tweet' -- sweet! I've been in a whlrlwind of e-mail correspondences, telephone calls with a team of their producers and lawyer, because they contacted us last week (through our YouTube page) to ask us for permission to do the Jorge Munoz story. Cuomo gave such big kudos to Go Inspire GO as he plugged GIG three times as GMA ran our video and told the story we featured on www.GoInspireGo.com.

I want everyone to definitely stay tuned and check out our website often, for the latest updates on what's GIG'n with Go Inspire Go (GIG). And to get the latest inside scoop please enter the site, designed by the wonderfully talented Lorelle Graffeo, who has gone cross eyed and her fingers pink from plugging (and sometimes pounding) away on her Imac that is about to crack and go dim. (One day, we'll be able to replace it with money and proceeds raised from GIG-- I promised her). It seemed to have paid off so far (a virtual clap for Lorelle, aka plastique gal plastiquedesign.com.

As I end this installment of my GIG Blog, I want to leave you with this:

I realized that Jorge's story taught me that you don't have to have a lot of money and resources to make a difference. Look at Jorge's video, for example, he's responsible for more than 70,000 meals (and counting) but his story is more far reaching. And let me tell you, GIG is a fully volunteer driven non-profit, and I can assure you, we're not making ends meet yet, but we have struck gold, in many ways because of you the viewers that connect with us and take part in this journey. (Thank you so much GIG'sters for your talent and hard work.) So many people are e-mailing us telling us they're sharing our blogs and videoswith others, their children, churches and schools. Go Inspire Go! I am truly humbled. Our little engine that could, Go Inspire Go is gaining a lot of steam-- so I invite you to hop on and join us on this journey. GO GO GO...

Ok, gotta jam and board the plane. Onward!

July 30, 2009

An Angel In Queens, New York: School Bus Driver Responsible For 70,000 Hot Meals And Counting...(Video)

I am humbled.

I met a real life Angel recently. His name is Jorge Munoz and he lives in Queens, New York.

This is not just a story about a man who has spent the last few years tirelessly cooking, packing and giving free, hot meals to hungry people every day under a subway stop -- some 70,000 in total.

It's a lesson about compassion for people and humanity. It's also about how one 46-year-old school bus driver, was moved to take action in a selfless and big way. Munoz says he found his passion and path in service after choosing to stop turning his cheek to a growing problem, so prevalent in his neighborhood, and so many other communities across America.

Munoz says he spends more than half of his salary, of roughly $700 per week, buying food from local grocery stores. Every night, for the past four years, Munoz comes home from work, takes a quick coffee break, then heads out to diligently collect food donations from the community and then shops for more groceries. He heads home to meet a team, consisting of his mother, sister, 5-year-old nephew and a friend. Together, they are a well-oiled machine, as they multiply whatever they're having for dinner into, by 120 to 140 home cooked meals, carefully packed with love and care in his tiny kitchen, in his shoe-box size flat.

His living room looks more like a pantry, filled with fresh food, parceled out, and ready to be cooked. There are even bags of clothes and blankets, cleaned and ready to be given out. His stove, isn't fully operating anymore because it's been overused to cook food in bulk. Because the stove is broken, he carries huge restaurant sized vats of food up to his sister's apartment to cook-- just so he can make his daily deadline. "They depend on me," says Munoz. Even with an injured back, he never once complains about the love and labor he puts into his daily routine of service.

9 p.m. It's time to pack his white Toyota pickup truck with coolers full of hot drinks and food and hit the road.

Every single night at 9:30 p.m., for the past four years, Munoz and his family have been repeating this routine, which he calls his "second job" every day, except one. With furrowed brows and a disappointed frown on his face, Munoz regretfully admits, he did miss one day -- The food and drinks were packed, but a snowstorm shut down all lines of transportation. " He says with disappointment. "The subway and buses all closed, we couldn't get to them."

Why would anyone spend most their free time and energy putting so much love in home cooked meals for strangers on the street? Arguably, some people wouldn't don't even do this for their significant others -- But that's another blog topic altogether.

Words can't really describe why Munoz so unselfishly does what he does. He just does. You just have to be there to experience it. But when you're there, watching him do his work, at the gritty Roosevelt Avenue subway stop, you begin to understand why.

Sarah Mirza, (who at the time was an unemployed TV producer who I invited to come along on the shoot) and I hopped on the subway to meet Munoz and his small team at the subway stop, where a line quickly multiplied... from 7, 14, 20... then a crowd of over a hundred neatly and politely lined up. Meanwhile, many passersby clutched their purses when walking by this group of people waiting for food. When Munoz first started this project approximately four years ago, he says there were only eight people. Then there were 24, and today, the crowd has grown to nearly 150 people because of the down economy.

When Munoz's truck pulls up, the melancholy, stoic, troubled looks on their faces brightened. (I'm tearing up as I write this and recall the moment.)

And wow, the smiles. The expressions on their faces reminded me of when family and old friends have just been reunited at the airport, after not seeing each other for a long period of time. "The smiles on their faces, when see they got something to eat....aaaaah, [We're] feeding [more than] a hundred people," Munoz says passionately. "If you change the life of one guy, that's enough..."

Munoz says the idea came to him one day, when waiting to pick up his students at a routine school bus stop. "I saw people throwing away food at a food factory," he says adamantly, "I thought, why are they throwing that away? I can give those to the hungry people I see on the street everyday." He asked if he could pick up the perfectly fresh food and take it to the hungry strangers, he's seen everyday. Strangers whose faces became so familiar.

Munoz says, the inspiration came from, "God and my Mom. Since I was little, my mom teach me to share, and that's what we're doing here." Although Munoz isn't getting paid for this second job (remember, he actually has to use own money to do this), he seems so happy in service -- Just by the tone in his voice, you can feel his passion for compassion. His eagerness to serve brings him joy. He says he's happy to have a paying job, so he can continue doing this. "You have to see their smiles, on their faces. When they smile, I always say that's how I get paid."

I was moved so much by this story that I teared up as I wrote the preceding paragraphs --And let's be real-- I cried many times during this assignment. After the interview, I fought back tears and told Munoz, I was humbled (goosebumps and all) to be interviewing him, to be sitting in the same room with him, a true angel. I wept while editing the video and I'm wiping away tears now, as I write this blog.

You see, I once utterly disliked homeless and hungry people. I was angry and didn't understand their trials and tribulations. I didn't understand or care to fathom their stories. I was jaded by several experiences where I would give food to a hungry person some food, just to be turned away by the good gesture and instead being asked for money. I would think, I come from an immigrant background, my family and I worked hard and pulled ourselves up from the bootstraps. They're able bodied, why don't they work?

But it wasn't until I've interviewed some homeless people on the street and spent the day with folks in the Tent city encampments, that I started seeing a shift in my perception. What a great payoff and life lesson I learned. I realized that they too, had -- and have-- hopes, fears and dreams just like we do. Some fall on bad times, I realized, just alike I have. The difference? I have an amazing support system; Thanks to my family and friends. A social worker also told me one of her homeless clients was a doctor, his wife a lawyer. He became homeless and lost everything, when his wife was killed in a car accident on the way home from work, he lost it," my friend explained.

Some cynics say they believe the old Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Although I agree with this old adage, I also believe in this comment, from one of my blogger readers, "Yeah, but the fisherman [or fisherwoman] has to eat while fishing, don't they?" This blog is about compassion. If you can teach someone how to cast that net and catch fish, great. If you can't, think about what you can do. Think about what resources and talents you may have and what you can do to help someone else in need and improve his/her life. I urge you to do something to better your community.

Remember, as my last blog, about phenomenal 5-year-old Phoebe proves, it doesn't have to be BIG. She saw a problem and wanted to help hungry people in her community. So she held a can recycling campaign and to everyone's amazement, she raised enough money to feed nearly 18,000 people.

A quick story and kudos to my 4-year-old nephew Drew, better known as cutiepatootie, for his compassion. Last week, my brother, Phat, took Drew out for ice cream at Gunthers (one of my local favorite mom-and-pops ice-cream shops in Sacramento.) Being the spoiling uncle that he is (OK, I spoil him too, but that's my job right?), my brother bought Drew two mini ice cream cones. Drew ate happily, ice cream dripping down the mouth and all. But his smiling face turn sad when he looked outside the window and saw a little girl crying.

"Oh no!" Drew said, "Why is she crying?"

Phat said, "I don't know, maybe she's sad or doesn't have a cone?"

"With an a-ha, split second moment, Drew quickly said, "I know what! I have another ice cream, can I give it to her?"

Phat said, "Do you want to give it to her?"

With no hesitation, "Drew said, "Yes."

He walked outside, patting the weeping girl on the shoulder, "Don't cry little girl," he said, "I have an ice cream for you." The girl smiled and so did Drew! I was so proud of Drew for sharing and caring.

Again, this is not about hand outs, giving people food, but rather a passion for compassion. Wouldn't the world be better place if we all planted the seed early and had more people who are aware? When Drew was a baby, I remember asking my sister Lynn, what she wanted Drew to be when he grows up. Lynn replied, "I don't really care what he chooses to be, as long as he is a compassionate human being." And compassionate he is.

Perhaps Mother Teresa's quote sums it up best, "If you judge people, you don't have time to love them."

When I created my inspirational website: www.GoInspireGo.com I knew I wanted to help people. What I didn't realize was how much this project would help me understand people and humanity while connecting with them. As I embark on this new journey of my career-- or should I say, my life's work?! -- I have met so many amazing people from; the subjects of my stories to volunteers to those of you reading this right now. I saw a shift in myself and have witnessed the amazing changes in others joining me on this journey of service and inspiration.

Take Sarah Mirza, the amazingly talented producer who collaborated with me on this video shoot, Sarah says after getting laid off of her TV gig, like the millions of other jobless Americans, it was hard to be inspired to even get out of bed in the morning, much less, garnering the strength to send out resumes. When I invited her to join me on producing this video, she was stoked! After the shoot, she texted and then called me to tell me, with caps lock and smiley icon ;) "THANK YOU," for the opportunity to collaborate with you on this story. I couldn't sleep the last few nights, in anticipation of meeting Jorge and doing this shoot."

This experience was cathartic -- Sarah's perspective changed. And it was obvious, she was inspired. You could hear it in her voice. She told me that it was one of the most rewarding experiences and that this was one of the most moving stories she has ever covered in her career. Sarah also said she then, took "laycation." (What I like to call laid-off vacation or lay-off me time) Then she and came back inspired to get out of bed and look for jobs. Well, she recently called me and told me she got a Network TV producing job! Woo hoo... congrats Sarah!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Speaking about service, I connected with Arianna Huffington, during the last Craigslist Bootcamp workshop in Berkeley, California. She was the guest speaker - and I was volunteering for the event -- I was fortunate enough to listen to Arianna speak about the spirit of service, and I was moved by her stories of volunteerism and goodwill. I emailed her. She then invited me to blog for her based on my website, which uses Social Networking to Inspire Social Change: www.GoInspireGo.com. And voila... here I am, sharing inspiring stories with you. So I want you to stop for a second, take a deep breaths (or a couple) and be aware of the present moment. Be grateful. Then, I want you to think about what you can do to improve someone else's life. It doesn't have to start off big. If you read my last blog about 5-year-old Phoebe's mission, you'll see that it really doesn't have to be a something big -- it can start off small. And like Phoebe, you may be surprised of the outcome. (If you didn't read it from my last blog. Please do.)

If you can't think of what you can do, then please make a small donation to www.AnAngelInQueens.org - someone saw Munoz's good deed and helped him file for papers to start a non-profit. Still he has to use his own money to feed people in his community. You can also make a donation to www.GoInspireGo.com. For now, Be good to each other... and think what can you do?!

We love to hear your quirky and not-so-quirky comments, so please make a comment below. Thanks for reading and watching! Stay tuned...

GO INSPIRE GO'S Goals:

The Mission: To set up a global platform for people to see and share inspirational stories. (There's a link at the end of every story where people could go to help the person/people featured in the video)

The Vision: My hope is that everybody will be inspired to use their resources and talents to see what they can do to better someone's life or better their community.

I launched this website in March of 2009, with the thought that if I could just help one or two people through my expertise and skill set, then my mission would be accomplished. I didn't expect such a huge show of support around the world. I surely wasn't ready for the influx of e-mails, messages, comments and calls to come in: Viewers continue to connect with us from around the world (including: North and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa) to tell us they're doing to better someone else's life or improve their community.

Onward and upward,
Toan

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Join our movement & Go Inspire Go

Go Inspire Go Goes Global, Rolling out weekly GIG blogs for Huffington Post & Thank You!

Wow, this week has been full of surprises.

After being invited to be a regular blogger by the Huffington Post (Living Section) people around the world started linking to the blog and video; India, Hong Kong, Sweden...

My first blog was about 5-year-old Phoebe, from San Francisco. Her compassion for homeless and hungry people in her community sparked a project. Her goal= to raise 1,000 for the SF Food Bank in 2 months. Her goal was exceeded and she ended up feeding more than 18,000 people!!! Check out our video:



Here's a quick update from the SF Food Bank:
***So far, According to the SF Food Bank, they've received $492 from 14 donors who have either gone in through the Phoebe Fund link on our homepage or made a donation in tribute to Phoebe!
Also, they"ve had donations from LA, MI, MA, SC, MN and other areas outside of CA, since our story went life here on the Huff!

So awesome! Way to go everyone and Phoebe! ***

The blog quickly became one of the top 5 on the whole website, then the media caught on and our video went viral! Thousands of hits and comments/videos/etc., ensued...

We've been getting emails and nods from around the globe! Awesome!

This is the affirmation the GIG team and the media and world needed. When I started this project, last March, I thought, if I could just help one person, or a hand full of people in my community, then the project would've been a success in my eyes. So it brings tears to my eyes that this project went global, thanks everyone for sharing and please continue to:

1.) Share the videos and website www.GoInspireGo.com
2.) Bookmark or link to our site
3.) Make a small donation via PayPal acct. on the front page of our website!

*Meanwhile, I just finished my 2nd Blog, about an amazing real life angel in New York. Stay tuned...

GO Inspire GO Press

TONIC.com
Holisticasia.com

Alyssa Milano tweeted us:
@Alyssa_Milano (aka "Phoebe Halliwell", the SF witch from Charmed - the irony!)
RT'd the story to her followers...all 135,000+
Alyssa Milano (Look for July 27th posts)

Current TV
Yahoo Buzz
AOL (Good News Now (GNN)
The Huffington Post
Growing Edge
Democratic Underground

July 23, 2009

Arianna Huffington's E-mail to www.GoInspireGo.com

It was July 21, 2009, exactly 11:09 a.m. when I got this e-mail from Arianna Huffington:

Hi Toan, this is wonderful. We would love for you to blog about it. I'm Ccing our Living Editor, Alana Kornfeld and our Editor-at-Large, Russell Bishop to coordinate. All the best, Arianna

***

Speechless. Excitement! Deep breaths...Ohmmmm. Oh my gosh. Wow! I am speechless.

Did Arianna Huffington really just e-mail to ask me to be a featured blogger for the "Living" section of her amazingly popular site www.Huffingtonpost.com?! Cell phone, where is it? Ok, let me call... oh wait, there's a message from Russell, her Editor-in-Chief.

Is this for real? Ok, now that I am a little less numb and the shock of madame bloggers-sphere-mania is settling in, I need to gain composure and call Russell back. I think to myself, okay, do I call after I walk home from my meeting in downtown San Francisco? Or do I call him while out of breath, with the screaming sirens, traffic and the pitter-patter of several hundreds of people walking around the busy streets of SF, or should I wait until after I get home, or perhaps, while walking back to my apartment? I chose the latter and between walking up and down the San Francisco hills (and they're craaazy), the humming sound of a busy metropolis that is San Francisco and the excitement, I probably sounded like a baffling buffoon. But an excited, passionate buffoon, nonetheless. Even with about 10 years of experience reporting for the local news, I thought I'd be able to regain composure and "calm myself" before the call -- but that went out the door, didn't it?! I was so exhilarated to get the invite, the nod, whatever, from Arianna, and to get the call from Russell.

Exuberant, not only because 'The' Arianna Huffington invited me to write a blog on her site, but also because I was never acknowledged or rewarded as a child, for being a voracious reader and writer. Growing up in a rough part of Sacramento, I never felt validated for my communication skills; as a reader, writer, or orator, for whatever reason, be it cross-cultural, generational, socio-economical etc., -- that's another blog post all in itself. It wasn't until I went to the University of San Francisco and majored in print journalism that I got the "thumbs up" and compliments for my writing from my former college literature teacher Carolyn Weber and former journalism professor Michael Robertson. The validation was GOLDEN. I finally thought, for once in my life, that I may have a career in journalism! I always followed my instinct. OK, enough of walking nostalgically down memory lane...

Time to get working.

What will I blog about? Yeah, Russell told me the guidelines and I knew it was about a story on my website www.GoInspireGo.com, but... OK focus. If you could see my thoughts painted out onto a canvas, my brainwaves, my thoughts would look much like a fuzzy TV set with "jankity" rabbit ear antennas = no clear picture.

What did I decide to write about and why?

I started banging on my keyboard on my little MacBook Pro laptop, and started writing about the latest story, about a little five-year-old girl, who was moved after seeing a homeless person begging for food on the streets of San Francisco. So, she's setting out to try and solve the hunger problem in her community. One may scoff at such an overwhelming, seemingly insurmountable, lofty goal, but the only one(s) that may look foolish in the end, are the one(s) who doubt the power of a compassionate spirit. Phoebe saw a hungry person on the street, holding a cardboard sign, and asked her mother, about it, was sad, and wanted to help the way she knew best, collecting cans. She knew, through weekend trips with her dad and sister to recycle cans for cash, that she could earn money to give to the food bank to help feed hungry people.

Her goal, was to raise $1,000 in two months. Even her daycare teacher, who helped her draft letters asking for help, admits, "Caaans?" She thought it was too big of a goal, for young Phoebe, or any 5-year-old for that matter, but, like adults sometimes are, she was wrong.

Two months later...

Little Phoebe raised $3,336.30 to be exact. How many people will that feed? She'll tell you, 17,000-something. According to the food bank, that amount will feed 17,800 people! WOW! Go Phoebe!!!

Think that's amazing? I just got a call from the San Francisco Food Bank and more great news...

This five-year-old phenom, known as Phoebe, whose original goal two months ago (let me remind you) was to raise $1,000, just got another $1,000 matching donation! Her NEW total = $4,336.30! Hungry folks fed = 18,000+ WOW, congrats Phoebe!

Now, let me ask you, if a five-year-old can feed more than 18,000 hungry people... What can YOU do?!

GO INSPIRE GO! PLEASE SHARE THIS STORY WITH EVERYONE, MAKE A DONATION VIA OUR PAYPAL LINK ON OUR WEBSITE WWW.GOINSPIREGO.COM... AND BE INSPIRED TO DO SOMETHING TO BETTER SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE!

June 4, 2009

A TRUE Angel In Queens, New York

I hope everybody is having a fantastic summer!

Things are sizzling over here on the Go Inspire Go (GIG) side. These are just a couple bullet points of milestones we've hit:

1.) We filed for the 501(c)(3) status, so we can be a nonprofit organization, that inspires the community and world!

2.) We have a PayPal account widget linked to our main website www.goinspirego.com and this blog (look over to the right) -- please ask all your friends, family, co-workers, etc., to donate so we can continue to do inspiring stories!

3.) We have more than 2 dozen volunteers, so if you would like to help, please contact us at goinspirego@gmail.com

4.) People have come out of the woodwork wanting to help; from making GIG tee shirts, to creating and printing fliers/business cards, a GIG facebook fan page manager, event planner, etc!

** We now have fliers with tabs on them for your distribution, please let us know if you want the PDF, so you can print them and post in coffee shops, at college campuses, etc.

5.) Any ideas, we want to hear them! Please contact us through the site or email listed above!

4.) There are also some amazing stories down the queue, including this one:
Thanks to Terrie Crowley, of Illinois, for sending in this story!

'AN ANGEL IN QUEENS, NEW YORK'

I've interviewed thousands of people in my nearly 10 years of being a TV news reporter and magazine show host, but I can truly say that Jorge Munoz is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met. A school bus driver by day and Angel by night. Please take a moment to visit his website after viewing this story: www.anangelinqueens.org

AND once again!!!

Go Inspire GO (GIG) is proud to announce that we have the wheels in motion to create Go Inspire Go, a non-profit organization.

Please donate $5, $10 or how ever much you can so we can continue to do stories, like this one, that inspire the world to take action! And please forward this video to everyone you know via email, Facebook, etc.

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!!!

May 14, 2009

All Stitched Up -- By Anonymous...

A FORMER TV REPORTER WHO WAS LAID OFF REACHED OUT TO ME, TO TALK ABOUT THE "SHIFT" THAT HAPPENED TO HIM, POST-LAYOFF. HE SAID HE WAS INSPIRED TO CHANGE HIS ATTITUDE AFTER SEEING WWW.GOINSPIREGO.COM ... THANKS SO MUCH "ANONYMOUS."
NOW THE QUESTION I HAVE FOR ALL OF YOU IS, HOW CAN YOU MAKE LEMONADE OUT OF LEMONS - AND HOW CAN YOU HELP OTHERS? WE ALL CAN, NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL OUR PAYCHECKS ARE!
PAY IT FORWARD...

*****************************************************************************


All Stitched Up by Anonymous

In recent weeks, I have come to learn that optimism isn't a personality
trait and it certainly isn't eternal.

For most of my life, I've been the "glass is half full" sort of guy. Then,
the current recession hit and I became a statistic. I joined the growing
ranks of the unemployed.

I used to be a TV News Reporter. I say that in the past tense because I
don't want to allow my job title or lack there of to define who I am. I
must confess it was much easier to see the good in things and myself when I
was able to check off a box in the profession column of a survey.

The other day, I went to a doctor's office. I had to fill out one of those
background sheets. I found myself leaving portions of it blank. After a
college education and spending nearly my entire adulthood in Television
News, I was reduced to a bunch of unchecked boxes. I couldn't even get
myself to fill in the box labeled "other." The truth of the matter was I
didn't know what to put in the blank line next to "other." I figured "couch
potato" might be a bit crass for something like a medical background
questionnaire.

Last Friday, I found out I was one of 8.9 million "fill in the blank"
Americans. But I've decided to not leave the blank spot unfilled.

I may not have a job but I certainly have more than plenty others. I still
have a place to live. I still have food to eat. And I still have good
friends and family who continue to support me.

I know I have a lot in life. Sometimes, too much. That's especially true
with my closet. During recent years, I worked to buy my dream home and I
dumped as much money as I could into my 401K. I also bought a lot of
clothes. The thinking was my wardrobe was an investment in my TV News
career. Like the real estate and the 401K, I've gotten diminishing returns
on my wardrobe.

I hope one day my investments on my condo and my retirement account will
rebound. In the meantime, the shirts and ties and laundry list of things
hang in my closet without a graph to chart ebb or flow of their values.

That's when I realized value is only a measurement of perception. How I
view my unemployment or an article of clothing is really up to me. Like my
clothes, I can choose to allow my life to dangle like slacks on a hangar or
I could do more. I could be selfish and continue to horde everything or I
could do some good with them. In recent days, I've been in a purging mode.
Clothing that I don't need, I've been donating to charity.

I'm not so foolish to think that my donations are going to change anyone's
life. But the act of clearing out my closet has made a difference in my own
disposition. It reminds me that being able to give is something that never
goes out of style.

April 23, 2009

Chicken Ala Carte: World Hunger Epidemic

In my favorites section... I've included a short film on hunger in America. It is to date, one of the most heart-wrenching videos I've seen on hunger- it won a prestigious award. Break out your tissues, this is a sad one, but what I hope it does, is inspires you to reach out and do something! Wow! I am humbled, saddened, grateful. Overall, I am inspired, that someone took time to make this video to share their forgotten stories. I invite you to do the same and link it to my YouTube Channel. We can all learn from this, and be inspired to figure out what we can do to help the ongoing hunger epidemic! www.goinspirego.com, click on YouTube Channel!

April 20, 2009

"Mother Teresa & Susan WHO?"

Susan Boyle from "Britians Got Talent," is amazing. I just added this story to my "Favorites" section, she's the latest underdog hero, (I've always loved rooting for the underdog) whom I'd like to give a shout out to! Judging a book by it's cover before you've stopped to uncover the story is definitely human nature, now that you know, watch this, and always remember-- have compassion, everybody has a Mom or a Dad, has a dream or dreams, has emotions and is valid. People's stories connect us all, you just have to stop, and ask people, what's your story...chances are, you may find out something that could teach you an important lesson about yourself and your life. One of my favorite quotes: "if you judge people, you have no time to love them." - Mother Teresa

The BIG "A" is for Apple & Awareness




April 19, 2009

Spring is in full swing -- and I've got the allergies to prove it! Aside from the sniffles and sinus pressure, I welcome this season, this change, with open arms.

This spring time, I'm lucky enough to be able to travel to NYC and upstate New York to enjoy the myriad of cherry and apple blossoms that line several streets of this concrete jungle, the food, fashion (I love people watching) and the calmness of Upstate. The colorful blossoms scattered everywhere are constant reminders to slow it down... and enjoy them... because they do connect us to something bigger -- the universe and its energy; sun, water, soil, the people -- and their stories.

The Big Apple is always teeming with energy; good, bad and nervous all bundled in one. I've been to New York twice already, but this time it was different. I wasn't here for conventions or business; I'm here for a "laycation." (For everyone who's been laid off, I do recommend you take a laycation, if you can, and make the best of your new time.)

If you asked me a year ago, I wouldn't have even imagined I'd be laid-off and here in NYC people watching, meeting up with new and old friends. It's truly been a serendipitously busy vacation. This trip was truly rewarding both personally and professionally.

I only planned to come, hang out with some friends in NY, then take a train along the Hudson River to Poughkeepsie to visit my friend Shannon. I should've known the Big A isn't the place for just sitting, relaxing and vacationing. The energy is amazing, but at the same time, it could be draining.

A recruiter for the CBS Network, was inspired and contacted me after seeing the Go Inspire Go website and wanted me to meet a few folks under the CBS tent. I did not expect the amazing events to ensue. First off, my agent contacted me and said, you're in NY, I'll send the other networks your reel and website. That's when I got one call after another -- ABC, NBC and then back to CBS -- for more meetings. Wow. I didn't realize that even the recruiters would be inspired by this website.

And another amazing thing happened... I met a true life angel/hero and another life-long friend, Sara. I came here on the lookout for a family who cooks over 120 meals nightly and selflessly gives them out to the homeless people under the subway tracks in Jackson Heights, Queens. I heard of this story, by a viewer, Terrie in Chicago. I looked high and low on the internet, and asked Terrie to research where she saw it, but to no avail. Oh well, I'll surrender to the powers that be and if it's meant to happen, then I'll do it, if not, I can always come back to New York to do this story.

Then, last Wednesday night, I met a new friend, Sara, who was a laid-off producer of one of the networks. (Thanks Ramy for connecting us over dinner.) She told me about the same story, that she had read about in the newspaper. Oh my gosh, I knew it wasn't a coincidence and that I had to try my best to find this family and do this story. Sara and I researched, Googled and asked around, but no luck. Then, a few hours later, we found it through more research on the Internet. It just so happened that the food delivery location, was down the street from my friend, Ramy's apartment in Queens where I was staying -- A BLOCK AWAY!!! I was so excited. So was Sara.

The man we interviewed is named Jorge Munoz. He is a school bus driver by day, and after his shift, his second jobs begins. He and his family start grocery shopping and cooking away. Together, they prepare over 120 hot meals, pack them, and then drive them over to the subway stop every night at 9:30. They've been delivering hot food to the needy for the past four years, only missing one day, due to a snowstorm. After the interview, I felt chills and overcome with emotion. I told Mr. Munoz that I was so honored to meet and spend time getting to know him and his family. My eyes filled with tears as I left his home. Mr. Munoz only makes $700 a week. The donations through his non profit, www.anangelinqueens.org and donations from folks in the community isn't enough to feed the growing army that meets him under the subway -- so he has to spend $250-$300 of his own money EVERY WEEK to make sure everyone is fed. WOW!

It's so funny how, what's meant to be just is. It just works out -- despite all the obstacles in the way. We had no equipment, no idea of who or where Mr. Munoz was, but still, something bigger than us, connected all the dots. . . Sara told me, "When I met you over dinner and you invited me to do this story, I couldn't sleep. I was in a funk, after being laid off for the past three months, and was so excited to participate in a story that I cared about so much. I'm so excited, I have no words to describe it."

Although this laycation was surprisingly busy and filled with so many pleasant surprises, I also realized it was because I'm at a different place in life and in my career. In the BIG Apple, I was also "Aware," on the subway, while walking throughout the city, and while meeting up with faces new and old. I realized that when you are present and on your path to doing good, with the resources and talents you possess, great things come, 20-fold!

My mantra this year is, "KNOW YOUR POWER -- AND USE IT!" AMAZING!

OK, gotta catch my flight to Chicago now to do another story for the site. I'll file my New York Angel story this week, spread the good word, and stay tuned...

April 8, 2009

Inspiring Viewers...Thank you!

I've been inundated with so many inspirational story ideas and comments :) So many, that I can get to all the events/story locations. While all of the events are important, I can't be in more than one place at one time, so I'm asking you to also send in pictures and a blurb of what you're doing as well (if you don't have the shooting & editing equipment) and I'll try to post it on my blog! Thank you so much to everybody, I am so inspired by your inspiration! I am living with the total attitude of gratitude...

I'm off to New York and Chicago (Will shoot a story and upload in the near future...so stay tuned)

More stories to come...

April 4, 2009

New GO Inspire GO website... & Media Coverage!


I'm excited to announce the new website: www.goinspirego.com - Thanks to my webmaster, the very talented, Lorelle Graffeo!

This site is the hub of all the latest and greatest surrounding this movement.
You'll find the links to the YouTube Channel & Blog, as well as everything you need to know about the MISSION & VISION of GO Inspire GO - inspiring stories, people who create them and how you can take part!

NOTE: We were recently featured on some local news outlets, so when you visit www.goinspirego.com, please make sure to click on the "Welcome" tab, then "News & Media"

Several national news organizations may also feature this site and the movement its created!