Sunday, April 26, 2020

ONE Campaign

ONE is a global campaign that is both nonpartisan and non-profit. The focus is to end extreme poverty and preventable disease so that human beings everywhere may experience a life of dignity and opportunity. It's a shift in thinking beyond charity, it's about creating justice and equality. Whether it's lobbying political leaders or running grassroots campaigns, ONE steps up to have conversations with governments in different parts of the world to empower millions of lives.

Members of ONE include writers, artists, faith and business leaders, healthcare professionals and scientists. It was co-founded by Bono and includes people of every culture and generation. 

If there ever was a time when world leaders needed to come together to come up with a unified plan for solving something, it is now. Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic will take every one of us. There is currently a petition on the website that you can sign to urge world leaders to come up with a global pandemic response plan:  one world petition

(c) 2020  image credit: ONE Campaign 

Friday, February 28, 2020

Food and Water (and setting up a system for giving)

While Generation X is the generation that gives the most to charities and is very big on volunteer work, as I talk to busy Gen Xers, I often hear them say they wish they could do more to help our communities and beyond. Many of us want to be more charitable with time and resources, but in the rush of daily life, work, kids, and responsibilities, it can get moved to the back-burner. My solution for this is sorting out a couple of quick logistics. 

Here are two key ideas: having a place, and having a system.

Let's say you want to give to a food bank, and you set food aside to do this, but by the time you finally have time to drop it off, the food is already expired so you have to throw it away. Coming up with a system in your home can solve this. You can usually do this in 30 minutes or less. Maybe you have a retired neighbor who sees a friend once a month who volunteers at a food bank. Knowing you are not usually going to have time to drive 20 minutes to do a food bank delivery, you could put it on your calendar to drop off food to that neighbor's porch every month on a certain day. Having a specific place in your house to set the food aside you want to give means it doesn't just get mixed back in with the other food in your pantry.

My family and I wanted to help villages in third world countries get accessible wells. Westgate Church in San Jose, CA takes plastic recyclable plastic bottles and aluminum cans, uses the volunteer work of its members to process everything, and donates the money. Since this began in 2013, there are 37,000 people in 16 countries who now have access to clean water who previously did not.

Here's what we did on our end:
We put a separate recycle bin just for cans right next to our regular recycle bin. We put a big label on it so that down the road it doesn't accidentally get moved or used for something else. We set up a system where we crush the cans about once a week or so. We have a larger bin in the garage that holds the crushed cans. Both of these bins created a specific place in our house so that this could work, and by thinking it through, we now have a system - the bin in the garage is right next to the car and even right next to where we store bags, so we can easily pull it all together and drop it off when it is convenient.

If you want to give but you don't know what charity would most help people, here are two simple, practical ideas for you: just think of food and water.

Water: by helping villages in third world countries get wells, this solves all kinds of problems. Other than having water to drink, and for health, it also means they can water crops and grow food. This can mean that less people have to leave a village to go to a faraway city to be breadwinners so families can stay together, and the list goes on. Having clean water helps protect human rights; it creates a way for a community to thrive. World Vision has brought clean water to thousands of villages:

Food:  One out of six Americans go hungry. If you've ever experienced any amount of time going hungry, it is unbelievably hard to make it through the day. Life is hard enough, and being hungry makes it hard to concentrate in school or at work. When fresh garden food goes in the trash, it's because people, who would actually like to give it away, don't have a way (a system) to do this. Ample Harvest helps connect gardeners to food pantries:

(c) 2020 writing and photo by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ryan's Reach

One evening, when I was in my mid-20's, I turned on CNN right at the moment my extended family had asked America to pray for my cousin, Ryan Corbin. He had fallen three stories through a skylight at the top of his apartment in Brentwood, CA on June 19, 2001. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center in critical condition with multiple internal injuries, severe internal bleeding, broken bones, and a serious brain injury. He was not expected to live through the night. But he did, and was moved to ICU while in a coma for weeks. After existing in the space between life and death, multiple surgeries, being treated in six different medical facilities, and with specialized treatments, he has has continued to progress over the years physically, with speech, memory, and in many other ways.

A team of care givers and therapists help him day to day, and he still requires around-the-clock care. He has fought for his life, and is a strong person who gets stronger by the day. He has a divine warmth and kindness that radiates until your heart feels whole just by being in his presence. My faith is stronger because I've been allowed to witness the miracle of his life. This Thanksgiving weekend, I was fortunate to meet my cousin Ryan for the first time. Ryan and I are 5th cousins, both of us are the 6x great-grandchildren of Daniel Boone, and we are both Generation X.

That evening, back in 2001, when the family asked for prayers on CNN, I prayed along with millions all over the world. That day almost 20 years ago led me to this day, when I had the honor of getting to visit Ryan at his home where he lives with his amazing mom, Lindy, and his lovable stepfather, Mike, in Orange County, CA.

The Boone family is deeply rooted in faith. Ryan's grandfather, Pat Boone, sang gospel and other music, had thirteen gold records, and acted in multiple movies. I remember many weekends in my growing-up years when Pat Boone was in a movie on TV. I also remember many mornings getting ready for school and hearing Ryan's Aunt, Debby Boone, singing on the radio.

In those early weeks after the accident back in 2001, Ryan was surrounded by love and words of life from parents, grandparents, siblings, and others. One of the very first signs of hope he gave his family while he was emerging out of his coma was a kiss on the cheek, a display of his intrinsic love. The road to recovery continues to be long and hard, and yet, the story has been full of redemption and hope.

People often think of LA as the place where movies are made, record deals are signed, and the magic happens. In reality, struggle is present, both seen and unseen. People often associate the freeways of California with the coastline, the crashing waves, and endless sun. Further inland, driving along I-5 through Central CA, it's a whole other world: the rough terrain, the open, empty spaces under the power lines, the farmland. About halfway between where Ryan lives in Southern CA, and where I live in Northern CA, is a town called Lost Hills. I looked out on the way home after the visit while a storm slowed down traffic and thought about all the times in life we feel completely lost.

A traumatic brain injury completely alters a family's life. Sometimes people have to give up a career to take care of a loved one every day.

Sometimes the raindrops on the window make the landscape look blurry. 

Sometimes the clouds are so heavy we have to drive with the headlights on even in the middle of the day.

My copy of Heaven Hears
On the way home, I sent out prayers into the rows of the almond trees, and in the vines of the vineyards, and in the spaces above the golden grasses for Ryan. He led by example throughout his growing-up years, from student body president in middle school, to captain of his basketball team in high school, to president of his fraternity at Pepperdine University. He wrote a screenplay, he traveled, and he was starting a career.

And now, even as he works for each milestone of recovery, it may be that his life is even more full. His light and leadership reach out to others on an even larger scale. He had an abiding love for God before the accident that remained with him all the way through - it is here with him now, maybe even more fully as he transitioned into this new life.

Earlier this year, I came across the book, Heaven Hears, by Ryan's mom, my 5th cousin Lindy. It was amazing to hear her tell the story in person,  and what has happened since they first asked for prayers on Larry King Live in 2001.

Lindy has done an incredible job of seeking out every kind of therapy possible for Ryan, and she coordinates a team of care givers for him even as she runs the nonprofit Ryan's Reach. She believes that there is no limit to the way people with TBI can continue to heal, if they have the resources.

Lindy, Ryan, and his grandparents

Each day of our lives is a miracle.

To speak life, to choose light as we walk into our darkest nights, and to use our struggle as a source of strength for others when they go through the same struggle is to fight the good fight. To do all of this with love is to experience redemption in each new sunrise.  In one hand we hold the fragility of life and the questions, in the other hand we hold eternity, we hold hope.

If you are in the LA area, each September you can participate in the annual fundraiser for Ryan's Reach, the Dove Dash Race.

If you are looking for a non-profit to donate to this holiday season, or are looking for a new one to begin donating to in the new year, Ryan's Reach helps people in profound ways. In short, the money donated goes to:

1) Providing financial assistance for brain injury survivors to participate in the High Hopes Head Injury Program in Tustin, CA

2) Supporting the operation of Ryan's Reach Group Home

To make a secure, easy online donation:


Ryan's Reach Rest & Respite Home in
Tustin, CA 
Ryan's Reach creates scholarships for people with brain injuries to attend High Hopes Head Injury Program in Tustin, CA where Ryan has also benefited from their therapy. As Ryan's Reach has grown, they have set up a residence and respite care home for people with brain injuries and their families, and a second group home is scheduled to open in the coming months. Funds raised assist in providing rehabilitation and home care, as well as respite relief for caregivers. 

Ryan's Reach is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization honoring Ryan Corbin who suffered a severe TBI in 2001. Although Ryan personally is financially secure, his experience into the world of TBI brought attention to the fact that most families are not as fortunate and once the insurance runs out, TBI can use up all of a family's savings which also affects the loved one's ability to recover. 
These are the families Ryan's Reach helps. 

(c) 2019 - I-5 photos by Chloe, other photos and logo via the Ryan's Reach web site, used with permission

Sunday, November 17, 2019

JBJ Soul Kitchen

As the fall air gets chillier and the holidays get closer, this blog will focus on non-profit organizations that are in some way connected to Generation X. The holidays are a time when we are often the most generous. My hope is that some of these stories will spark generosity. I've been inspired by the stories I'll be sharing, I hope to pass on a spark of that inspiration by starting with the JBJ Soul Kitchen.
Picture credit: JBJ Soul Foundation 
Jon Bon Jovi has been a mainstay in the music collections and memories of Gen Xers and is a first wave Gen Xer himself. With the other members of Bon Jovi, he has received a long list of awards over the years for songs, albums, and videos. So much of his music reverberates in the background of many of my Gen X memories, from cassette tapes to school dances, and into my adult life. His albums have continued through the decades, and a lot of social consciousness has emerged in his music. He'll be releasing a new album in the coming year.

In 2011, the Jon Bon Jovi Foundation, which focuses on the issues of hunger and homelessness in the U.S., opened JBJ Soul Kitchen. This restaurant serves both paying and in-need customers, where there is a focus on volunteering, community, and dignity. All are welcome. They use locally sourced ingredients and even grow some of it in gardens on the grounds of the restaurant. Their fall menu includes all kinds of seasonal comfort food, like ginger squash salmon and green bean cranberry salad. Now there are two Soul Kitchen restaurants, one in Red Bank and one in Toms River, New Jersey. Both have a warm, happy, and cozy setting - it's a great place to have a hearty meal if you are in NJ or passing through, and an awesome foundation to consider if you are looking for a charity to give to this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Retro Halloween Treat Bags

I had a teacher in my elementary school days who would give us candy corn and little candy pumpkins as rewards in class. As she got older and her hearing started to diminish a little, she would give me rewards even when I had the wrong answer! I remember a day just before Halloween when she brought our whole class little treat bags full of popcorn and candy. We were the happiest kids you've ever seen. Sometimes it's the smallest things that bring us joy. 

I love to make these treat bags for Halloween parties, and a basket of these is easy to throw together. When people see these, they instantly smile and light up! Many Gen Xers have memories of these kinds of retro treat bags from when they were kids.

Happy Halloween, and may your day be full of little candy pumpkins and all the good things of the holiday!

(c) 2019 -  popcorn popped and picture taken by Chloe Koffas

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Pet Rocks at the Pine Derby

We invited the pet rocks to our pine derby races....

Everything started out normal - they sat in their seats, watching excitedly. Well, mostly watching. Rocky started getting ideas about how he could start driving one of the cars.

The next thing we knew, Rocky and Chippy were riding the cars. Pet rocks always need to be reminded to wear their seat belts, as you can see below, they "forgot".

Of other things pet rocks enjoy, playing cards is a favorite pastime. They don't actually know how to play, they just act like they are playing. It keeps them happy, so I guess that's all that really matters.

My Godson bought these mini cards during one of his summer visits. This past summer, he made a new pet rock, Chippy. Chippy and Rocky are relaxing and playing a game they "made up". Nobody really knows who wins, or when the game is over. Chippy's smile is even bigger than his other pet rock, Skippy.

As it turns out, pet rocks also enjoy dominoes. This would be yet another situation where they don't follow (or even know) game rules, they just kind of move the dominoes around and put them on their face. Here, Rocky tried to throw his domino off the side of the table, only to realize that the it was magnetic and the table was metal, so it just kind of stuck there.

Another favorite pet rock activity: walkie-talkies.

Pet rocks enjoy secretive conversations with each other. As you can see in the picture above, Chippy is spying on his surroundings from a folding backyard chair. With his walkie-talkie tuned to channel 8, he mentions seeing beach balls, pool noodles, and forgotten badminton rackets. He is reporting his findings to Rocky. As you can see below, Rocky is camouflaging himself in a nearby plant he spotted on a very important backyard pet rock mission. Semi-hidden under the leaves, he thinks he is being really clever.

(c) 2019 photos above and story by my daughter and Godson - Light from a Pixel - all rights reserved 

P.S. While the original pet rocks didn't have eyes, sticking googly eyes on them is pretty fun. Christmas of 1975 is when many first wave Gen Xers got these as gifts. When I was a second wave Gen X tot in the early 1980's, my neighbor had one in its original pet carrier box with "breathing holes." I would look through the holes at the rock in his little nest, wondering if he needed to be taken for a walk!

Pet rocks will always be one of the favorite toys of Generation X. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Pet Rocks at the Pool

Sometimes a pet rock just needs to take it easy....

Here's Rocky, relaxing in what used to be a floating pool beverage holder. Now it is his favorite place to hang out. Pet rocks often like to swim at dusk so they don't have to worry about putting on sunscreen.  They like to spend about an hour at the pool. They call this "swimming".

When Rocky floated to the side and asked for a snack. He wanted crackers and cream cheese with a garnish of fresh dill on top of each one. And a Slurpee from 7-11.

When Rocky's mom got seasick - her pink flamingo kept tipping from all the tiny waves

 When they both got scared after an orange butterfly flew overhead...

Our pet rocks always get distracted by fluffy clouds, especially when they are hanging out at the pool.

Our two pet rocks - just floating under the blue sky, taking in the wonder of it all, and then asking for two tiny towels so they could dry off and go back inside.

(c) 2019 writing and pics by Chloe Koffas (with help from my daughter!) - all rights reserved.