December 31, 2013

Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: L.A. Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year

Happy New Year! What an amazing whirlwind it has been for us here at Go Inspire Go this year. How exciting is it that we've been getting more story ideas, producing more and creating more inspiring stories that spark action!

Every year, instead of making resolutions, I prefer to do two simple things.

First, count my blessings. It may be easier to write them down so you can physically see them. When you do this, you then realize how abundant your life is, no matter the circumstances.

Here's my list:

1. Most importantly my breath: We all have this to be thankful for
2. Connections to people new and old - this is what we all need to be happy
3. Health, started Crossfit and feeling fit inside and out
4. Community, all of my 90+ volunteers who spend countless hours to bring you this content, my heart is full! Thank you.
5. Simple everyday things: food, shelter, my comfy bed, warm laundry fresh out of the dryer, the faith that I am experiencing exactly what I'm supposed to be going through and am in the perfect place in my life (even though there are challenges, pain and growth) and loved ones who care for me, cry with me and laugh with me. (OK, that's more than five -- but there are so many things to be grateful for!)

I dare you to make a list and check it twice mid-year to see what has blossomed.

Second, time to take action and do one kind thing for someone else!

We all can do one thing TODAY to make someone else's life better. Yes, YOU have the power to make a difference both big and small.

Last year, my Go Inspire Go team and I had a crazy idea that has manifested ten-fold. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We're so excited to unveil our second hero to you.

This New Year, please count your blessings and do one kind act. Here's a story that will motivate and inspire you!

Man Loans Homeless Family House for a Year 

Who: Tony Tolbert, UCLA Lecturer & Attorney
What: Offered Homeless Woman and her four children home for one year
Where: Los Angeles
Why: Inspired by Tony's Father and Family in Atlanta

The Catalyst

Many people we know do not believe or know how they can make a difference. "I don't have time" or "I don't have money” are common statements.

It’s refreshing to meet people who seek ways to make a difference. People like Tony Tolbert, a UCLA lecturer and attorney in Los Angeles. Tony read an article that inspired him to think, "What can I do?" and decided to loan his house to a homeless family for one year.

Tony says the seed of generosity was planted early on by his late father, James Tolbert, who always welcomed people (who weren't friends) to stay in their home. "I don't remember a time when there wasn't someone in need, staying in our home."  Tony says the story of Kevin and Hannah Salwen of Atlanta sparked action. The Salwens sold their 6,500 square foot house, downsized to a house half its size, and donated more than $800,000 from the proceeds. They wrote a book and named their project "The Power of Half."

“It struck a chord, a visceral emotion," Tony explained. He posed the same challenge to himself that we ask at the end of all of our Go Inspire Go videos and blogs: "What can YOU do?"

Tony's response will inspire you to ask yourself this question and take action.

 The Act

Tony decided to give his home - no strings attached, to someone in need for a dollar a month. At age 51, Tony moved back with his mom and gave up his home to a homeless woman and her four children for a full year. "I thought he was out of his right mind," Tony's mom Marie said emphatically.

The lucky recipient, Felicia Dukes, a single mother of four, couldn't believe that a stranger could be so generous. Her youngest daughter was one when they were living on the streets. Dukes explained that she fell behind on her bills when she gave birth to her daughter. She turned to Alexandria House, a transitional shelter, but her eldest son, Kima, was unable to live with them because of an age limit. Tony felt Felicia and her family were a great fit because they could live together in his home.

He offered the fully furnished three-bedroom, two-bath home in southwest Los Angeles. “Let this be home for a year," Tony said. "It’s yours do what you want, decorate it, enjoy your space.”

Tony says this experiment in generosity taught him many life lessons. See how Tony’s gesture taught him and Felicia the real meaning of "home."

The Ripples

Stories of giving are infectious and so are the ripple effects. Both Tony and Felicia grew personally and spiritually from this experience. We are excited that Felicia is ready mentally and fiscally to move forward. When people heard about Tony's kind act, they also asked themselves, “What can I do?”

Here are just a few ripples that continue to billow out:
- Felicia and her family have moved out of Tony's home are now living in an apartment on their own.
- Personal performance coach Orlando Bishop with Align Performance voluntarily meets with Felicia to help her identify and achieve her personal and professional goals.
- A dentist learned about this story and donates dental services to Felicia and her family.
- Charysse Tia Harper, with Xplore the World, was inspired to create a documentary on Tony's story. Her crew followed Dukes and her family around for a year.

 Tony says he will give his home to another homeless family in 2014. He hopes his story will inspire you too. “Most of us want to contribute to something beyond ourselves. Sometimes it requires a reminder that the way we treat people and what we do in the world actually matters,” Tony said.

He hopes even more people will be inspired to give what they can this new year.

"You don't have to be a billionaire to make a difference." Tony explained. "We all have something to give to make a contribution to someone else's life. What we do does matter."

Yes, YOU matter. YOU can make a difference. The first step is doing something. All big ripples start from a single action. What can YOU do in 2014 to better the world? We hope this story hit home in your heart. We want to hear about it in the comments section.

Meanwhile, we leave you with this quote from the late Nelson Mandela: "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

What can YOU do?!

Take Action
1. Learn more about Alexandria House and support its great work in helping women and children move from a transitional shelter into permanent housing.
2. Consider what you can contribute (time, skills, resources) that might make a difference in someone else's life.
3. Give or share something (little or big) with someone today.

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For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.
Join us & Go Inspire Go…

December 20, 2013

Community Heroes Adopt a Family Holiday Initiative

By Kala Shah

As a mother of three, I try my best to maintain perspective around the holidays and not lose track of what they’re really all about. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the year-end hustle and bustle — last-minute gift buying, parties, parking hassles, travel logistics and yes, inevitably STRESS.

I feel so fortunate to have the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes club to remind me to be present and keep focused on the important stuff — gratitude for family, friends and taking care of those who need a hand. I started the club at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, Calif., back in the fall of 2012 along with Toan Lam of Go Inspire Go to provide a platform for kids in my community to foster compassion and act to give back locally. Oh my, what a wonderful ride it’s been ever since!

For our holiday initiative, we teamed up with Adopt a Family of Marin, a great local organization that helps stabilize struggling families in Marin County, Calif., going through difficult circumstances. AAF provides essential safety-net services to these families — short-term financial assistance for housing, food vouchers, counseling. Around the holidays, they match families with those in the community who want to help ease their burden.

Santa's minivan ready to deliver to Adopt a Family. (Photo by Kala Shah)
The Community Heroes kids were so excited to adopt two families: the Abundants and the Angelics (names changed). Dulce Abundant wears many hats. As a hard-working mom of a 3-year-old daughter, Bella Danielle, she holds down a full-time job AND is a full-time student. Needless to say, the Abundants live on a very tight budget. Dulce is making her way toward a brighter future, waiting for the day she graduates and is able to provide a better life for her daughter.

Abrenna Angelic, mom to energetic twin 2-year old boys (bless her heart, I remember those days!), recently lost her job and is waiting for unemployment benefits to kick in. She had no idea how she was going to pay her rent, much less get winter coats for herself or her sons. Being accepted into AAF’s holiday program has given Abrenna hope that she’ll make it through this rough period in her life and even have a merry Christmas with her boys.

The Community Heroes kids really want to know these families’ stories and understand what they’re experiencing. They care so much! We’ve talked about how these are real people, living in our very own town, and how we can all go through tough times and need a hand. My heart swelled when one of the kids said with conviction, “That could be ME. It could be any of us.” Yes, this forum is working! It’s not about us and them. We’re ALL human beings who need to look out for each other — especially when times are tough.

Coach Chad and the Community Hero elves hard at work. (Photo by Kala Shah)
I shared the Abundants’ and Angelics’ wish lists with the school community and WOW!!! What an overwhelming response! Every time I checked the collection bin, it was filled to the brim with everything from household essentials like detergent, lotion and pots and pans to warm and fuzzy coats, hats and mittens, new clothes for the moms and some great toys for the three little toddlers. Way to open your hearts and your wallets, Sun Valley families! You have shown once again what an amazingly generous and kind-hearted community in which I am blessed to live.

The day of our end-of-semester party, the kids burst into the multi-purpose room, so ready to wrap presents and make cards for these families!. Many didn’t even want to eat lunch (I made them do so, anyway). The Ho-Ho-Ho paper and bows were soon flying — such a happy buzz in the air! Our awesome principal Julie Harris walked in, took a deep breath and summed it up. “WOW, this is amazing!” she said.

More kids than ever before showed up — at least 70 kids gave up their lunchtime to be a part of this happy celebration. We talked again about these families and how lucky we are to be able to help and how we will continue to help others throughout the year. Thanks to the great parents who showed up to pitch in as well as our beloved physical education coach Chad, we had all these presents wrapped and ready to deliver in our Santa minivan!

Happily, the Abundant and Angelic families will have gifts under their Christmas trees! (Photo by Kala Shah)
The Community Heroes club has been going gangbusters for a year and a half now. We’re getting bigger and gaining traction as more kids participate and more parents help out. I’m thrilled and honored to report that we’ve just received a LinkedIn for Good Social Innovation grant to replicate and scale the Community Heroes program! Watch out world, very soon our Community Heroes are gonna be making the world a much better place near YOU!

This stuff is contagious, I tell ya! It’s clear there’s a hunger these young kids have to give back. Just imagine the impact these kids will be making by the time they’re in high school. I’m so proud to be able to shepherd these wonderful students and to grow along with them. I can’t wait for all the great things to come in the new year. Happy Holidays and many blessings to you and yours!

Interested in starting your own Community Heroes club? --Stay tuned for a curriculum and tool kit to get one started in your school! Thanks again, LinkedIn for Social Good! --Check out these videos for inspiration about the power kids have to start movements in their communities: Matthew Kaplan and the Be O.N.E Anti-Bullying Project and 5-year-old Phoebe Russell’s super-sized canned food drive.