Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Bite Sized Pieces"

I am not the most patient person in the world. Age is helping me to get better at this virtue, but the word NOW is only second best to the word YESTERDAY to me. I have come to believe that part of the reason that my recovery has been slow is because I get depressed that this process is taking so long. I have to remind myself every day that even baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

I have created a paradox of sorts for myself. I get depressed because beyond my Community Voice Mail account, I really don't have the resources or the energy physically or mentally to speed up my recovery process (never mind that fact that I have clinical depression anyway). My depression causes me to further become depleted, and then I fall behind on my goals. It's quite the merry-go-round that I can find myself on. So, how can I get off the merry-go-round?

I can resign myself to the fact that my financial and life recovery process is what it is. It's going to take time. There are lessons to be learned. There are life skills that need dusting off, or that need to be implemented. There are decisions to be made and sacrifices to be considered. I get scared and overwhelmed by my choices, because when there is so little money and resources, there are very few palatable choices available. However, I've also come to accept and spur myself on with the fact that I do have choices. They might not be the choices that I would want to be faced with forever, but I do have choices.

So, facing the fact that I have choices, one thing that I am choosing to do is plan my recovery goals into bite sized pieces, or baby steps. I'm also choosing not to feel like a failure, but instead I can feel empowered for taking baby steps. Here's a practical example from my life:

A few days ago, I got sick and tired of being too sick and tired to perform heavy duty housekeeping around my room. I was totally overwhelmed by my need to scrub the shower, clean the baseboards, etc. I didn't want to borrow a vacuum from the hotel front office, but I couldn't seem to get things together to buy a vacuum. On top of all of these considerations, I had to try to bang out some work that day. I thought my head was going to explode with the considerations of housekeeping, possibly getting sore and tired from housekeeping, not having enough tools or time to get everything done, and oh yeah, having the mental space to be creative enough to write internet content for my employer.

What I decided to do was to break the task down into bite sized pieces. I decided that I could clean my kitchenette area. I could borrow the vacuum up front. The floor would be able to stay clean enough for a week or two until I could buy my own vacuum. I could scrub the shower. There are other parts of the room that need a good doing-over, but those could wait. I decided that any cleaning that I engaged in would be progress. I would feel better, and my living space would be healthier. Sure enough, I did feel better and more accomplished with the little that I performed. While I didn't hit my financial goal that day, I reasoned that I needed to take care of home so that my mind would be clear enough for me to accomplish my higher priority, which is work.

If you are reading this, and if you are in transition or homeless, then know that some issues that you will have to overcome are simply going to take time to resolve. If you have kids, then you know that sometimes you have to feed them bite sized pieces of food. Sometimes, even the bite sized pieces are too big, and you'll have to split those up into smaller, more manageable pieces. The important thing is not the size of the food; the important thing is that it's being digested. Life is the same way in many cases. 

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"The thing from which it has freed us"

353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, in France, wait for the end of hostilities. 
10:58 a.m Nov 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War
Today is Veterans Day, and by my calculation, this is the 92nd year this day has been recognized in our country.  Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the day that the actual fighting ended between the Allied nations and Germany during World War I.  The thinking was that this “war to end all wars” would be the last of its kind, and the armistice would be remembered as the last instance of large-scale warfare between countries.  With the wars that followed, the decision was made to honor the people who had served our country, and Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.  

To commemorate the first Armistice Day in 1919, President Wilson said the following: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

“…The thing from which it has freed us” Wilson was talking about, was the fighting, and unfortunately, there will always be wars from which young men and women in uniform will need to free us.  When I read these words, however, I am reminded of another “thing” from which we need to be free:  homelessness among veterans. 

This is a battle that happens after the fighting but is one that continues for far too many veterans from all wars.   It is a fight that is being waged by veterans against the economy, the lack of affordable housing, health issues, their own difficult past, and yes, sometimes against the VA and other agencies that are tasked with supporting them.  We’re not winning this war right now, but we’re still in the fight.

Here at Community Voice Mail, we’re doing our small part for veterans who are homeless (or as Donna Beegle rightly says, “Veterans who don’t have homes”).  About two years ago, we realized that while veterans are over-represented in the general population of homeless people, and 11% of our clients are veterans, we weren’t providing phone numbers through the Veterans Administration (VA), where many veterans are seeking help.   If we aren’t where the veterans are, our service can’t effectively help end veteran homelessness.  We decided where we might be able to have the biggest impact within the VA, and worked with U.S. Senator Patty Murray and her staff to gain approval for a federal appropriation that would let us conduct a one-year pilot project in Washington State to provide voice mail and information services to nearly 3,000 homeless or at-risk veterans.  Things were going great, and we were ready to go…

But then things came to a stop.  The federal funding to do the project fell through when Congress failed to pass the 2011 Federal budget.  We had a good plan and the support of the VA in our state, but no available funds to conduct the pilot project.  The weeks and months ticked by, and we were no closer to getting CVM numbers into the hands of veterans who need them. 

Finally, we decided to just do it.  Instead of waiting for funding, we told our VA contacts that CVM was going to fund a scaled-down version of the plan, and seek financial assistance from corporate and private foundations. 

It turns out, people care about veterans.  A lot of people.  And fortunately, our simple plan to provide veterans with a reliable way to be contacted and a stream of useful, actionable information resonated with the foundations we approached.   Soon, we had funding commitments from The Boeing Company, Medina Foundation, Tulalip Charitable Fund, and Suquamish Tribe, and these welcomed grants have enabled us to launch our project this month!  Within a year, at least 750 veterans who don’t have a reliable way to be contacted will be using a CVM number and receiving messages about jobs, housing, benefits, healthcare and other important resources.  We’ll keep you posted about this project in the coming months.

On Veterans Day this year, consider this:  there’s a good chance that the homeless person you encounter on the street once wore a uniform for your country.  Between then and now, you won’t know what has happened in a veteran’s life unless you take the time to ask, or at least have a friendly chat with them.  And while you’re talking with the veteran, you might want to say “thanks” for all they’ve given and all they’ve sacrificed while they served our country.  And share your hope for a day when no veterans are without a home to call their own.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recovered and Reclaimed

Last week I saw a clip of a documentary that featured pelicans from the Gulf of Mexico that were rescued from the BP oil spill. The clip I saw showed the releasing of the pelicans back into their natural habitat, after the area was deemed safe. When one particular pelican was released from its cage, it stood still in place for a good five minutes. Although it was back where it belonged, the pelican felt lost.

I realized that I was like that pelican when I first left the shelter, and moved into the hotel where I stay now. I was back on my own and back into independent living, but I didn't know what to do intuitively anymore. That is, I knew what to do in order to live on my own mentally, but it honestly took me a good month or so to get used to living in a space alone. I had to get re-acquainted with preparing my own meals, washing dishes, having to schedule laundry around a work schedule, and having to catch the bus to buy groceries. Even now, when I hear certain noises, I have to remind myself that a security guard isn't going to put keys into my door and come into my room anytime they felt like it, invading my privacy.

I share this because I am in the midst of beginning another step of my personal recovery back "home". Through some very heartbreaking yet serendipitous circumstances, I find myself with a one-way plane ticket that is good for another eight months. That plane ticket is my literal ticket out of the city that I live in now, and it is my ticket to a brand new life. It will lead me to a life of my choice, and hopefully that life will include new friends, and new love. It will certainly lead me to a much needed change of scenery. And yet, although all of these aspects will be new to me, part of the completion of my homecoming is moving towards this new life that will reflect my deepest hopes and dreams.

My next series of blog posts will discuss how a formerly homeless single woman dares to muster the strength and the courage to move from surviving, to living and thriving. Thinking about life in general, I've come to realize that people (myself included) can become so stuck in the process of recovery that we forget that the end goal isn't simply being in recovery, but the end goal is to come to a place of being recovered and re-claimed. I'm still on my journey. I've been in this hotel for a year and some change. I wish I could have left sooner, but part of me understands that it took a year and some change to get to this place that I'm at now mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Now, I have to give myself permission stop dragging my feet in the past with all of its horrible memories and trauma, and run towards my future with arms wide open.

The documentary ended with the pelican eventually figuring out what to do. It decided to join the other pelicans that were released back into the marshes of the Gulf. The pelicans then reclaimed their innate lifestyles. They formed a pattern in the sky, and they flew off into the sunset. It all turned out well for them at the end of the day, even after all the trauma that they were exposed to from the oil spill. They lost their home for a time, but they were able to literally and figuratively reclaim their home. I'm hoping for the same outcome.

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Join us Oct 12th

From Isolation to Access: Communication that Expands Our Community’s Capacity to Care

“The isolation of poverty perpetuates it.” - Dr. Donna Beegle, Ed.D

An evening with award-winning anti-poverty scholar, teacher and organizer, Dr. Donna Beegle, Ed.D.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
5:30-7:30 pm    Presentation begins at 6pm.

RSVP appreciated - Email by October 7, 2011

Seattle Public Library (Downtown) - Suggested reading
Light refreshments provided.
On September 13, the US Census reported that poverty in the United States has risen to the highest levels since 1993. How can we respond? How can we adjust the way we think about and communicate with people in poverty to help – really help?

Community Voice Mail National and Dr. Donna Beegle to learn how we can translate effective communication with people in poverty into our helping organizations and systems to expand our community’s capacity to care.

Donna is the only member of her family who has not been incarcerated. After growing up in generational migrant labor poverty, leaving school for marriage at 15, having two children and continuing to cope with poverty, she found herself, at 25, with no husband, little education, and no job skills. What followed in 10 short years were: self-confidence, a G.E.D., an A.A. in Journalism, a B.A. (with honors) in Communications, a Master’s Degree in Communication with a minor in Gender Studies (with honors), and completion of a Doctorate Degree.

Since rising out of poverty, Donna Beegle has studied and worked with educators, social service professionals, faith and community-based organizations, and health professionals to help large helping systems truly help by shifting ways of thinking and communicating with people in poverty. In 2006, Donna founded Poverty Bridge, a nonprofit which strives to reduce the isolation of poverty by connecting people in poverty to people who are not. Her publications, “See Poverty, Be the Difference,” and "An Action Approach to Educating Students in Poverty", offer groundbreaking strategies for breaking poverty barriers.

This event is FREE and open to the public. Donations to Community Voice Mail National are gladly accepted. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Property Value?

"One day, I was taking the bus home from the grocery store. At one particular bus stop, a middle aged homeless man got on the bus. I recognized him from another bus stop. He was one of the street people that you might have seen around, or that you might know of, that doesn't want to come inside. He doesn't want to live in a shelter, because on some level, he thinks that living out of his shopping cart on the streets works for him.

I studied him for a bit. He had always perplexed me, and that day was no different. For example, although he was a street person, he had a pot belly. Then again, he always made his hang out post in front of restaurants on the better part of town. But one of the most interesting things about him is that he always kept a decent haircut. His clothes were never super dirty either. And, he never smelled bad, at least from a distance. And these things confused me; obviously he cared enough about himself to groom himself a bit at local places that groom the street people. He cared about washing his clothes every now and then. Yet, he chose to hang out with his bags and other rags, living out of a shopping cart.

I saw that he made his new hang-out post in front of a small Thai restaurant. I wondered to myself if his hanging out there was bringing down the property value a bit. I wondered how his hanging out there was affecting business. Then, I thought to myself that it was good that some of the local businesses were offering this man respite, or a place to rest himself, and his shopping cart. No matter what the reasons were that he chooses to stay outside to live, he had value as well. At one point, he had his health, and a normal lifestyle. He might have lost his valuable things, but there was a part of him inwardly that he was still holding on to.

Seemingly, he might have had very little worth to others, and to some, he might have been bringing down the value of the businesses in the area. But on the other hand, he seemed to be making a statement that worth is what you determine it to be.

I don't know why he doesn't go inside. Maybe he doesn't think that navigating the system is an option, for all the problems he would go through at a shelter. There are others that might feel this way too. Community Voice Mail can help these people. They can assist with resources that can further add to one's worth."

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Caught in a Catch-22

“When I was in transition, and even now, I was caught in a Catch-22. I couldn't afford a cell phone without a good job. But, I couldn't get a job without a reliable phone number. If you've been in transition then you already know that sometimes getting your messages can be a challenge. I know for myself it was impossible to get my messages while I am was living in a shelter and there was no privacy.

When I finally received my Community Voice Mail number that all changed. So, here is a list of how my voicemail has helped me out:

Jobs: Not only did I get messages from potential employers, but I got voicemail broadcast messages from my community case manager, letting me know about job fairs in the area.

Personal Calls: Some of you may know how alone you can feel when you are in transition, or when you are struggling to get by. When I was feeling lonely or stressed out, it felt so good to check my messages, and to hear someone saying that they were thinking of me, or that they would like to meet up. I remember those calls, and calls telling me to hang in there. Those gave me hope when it seemed like the world was rooting against me.

Doctor's appointments: I felt good to have my own phone number to give to the doctor's office. This way, the doctor's receptionist could reach me directly, confidentially, and I didn't have to worry about them having to leave a message with the shelter receptionist.

Believe me, when I was lacking so much and had already lost so much, it felt good to have a piece of something to call my own, and to make me feel like a whole human being again. Although I am more stable now and working to climb up from being in transition I still use my Community Voice Mail number for all of these reasons as my permanent, reliable phone number. ”

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fear and Loathing of all things good

Sometimes people can be so insecure, that they are paranoid. Sometimes people are so damaged by things such as abuse of all sorts, they are damaged spiritually. A person can become damaged by bad luck, uncertainty, poverty, etc. Then, they won't trust when something good comes their way. Or, people don't trust when someone good comes into their lives. Sometimes people get so hardened by life, that when the blessings come along, they either miss the blessings, or they flat out sabotage their blessings.

Maybe this has been you, or maybe this is you right now. You find that for whatever reasons, you just can't, or you just won't trust. If you are very honest with yourself, you'll find that you play a series of games with yourself, or with others, designed to expose whatever good thing that you have going on in your life as being unreal. But, have you ever had the sick feeling of finding out that you've ruined a good thing? Whether is was a good relationship, a good friendship, or even something like a great job interview, or a great resource, have you ignored it or sabotaged it, just because you didn't believe that it would lead to anything good? Do you feel that good things and great people are for other people, but not for you?

I have, and I suspect that we all have at one point in our lives. That might be part of being human, but what I want to challenge you guys with, is to learn to accept good things. Open up your heart and your mind to things, people, resources, and possibilities that could either work to your advantage, or that prove to be a real blessing in your lives. If you are in transition, then open up your mind to the possibility that you can have a better lifestyle, or at least that you deserve better.

If you have a home, but you are poor, then start thinking about ways to increase your station in life. It might seem like nobody wants to see you win and get ahead, and sadly, a lot of people won't. Life can be unfair in that way. But every now and then, we are sent people who do want to see us win; we are sent people who might be able to see us through, even if only for a little while on our journey in life.

My next post will further expand on this thought, because while some people become hopeful and move towards positive things, some people are stuck in negativity, and they'll never see the good things or people in their lives. Some people just don't get it, but maybe you can be a person who does get it.

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just Ask

"The questions that we ask ourselves determines the quality of our lives" - unknown.

Hey, it's Terrah again. I just wanted to share a really cool quote that I came across that I learned during my personal inspiration time. You see, in order to survive the time that I was in transition, and in order to keep my head up as I survive to elevate myself above poverty, I have to use a lot of tools to keep my spirits up, and my mind focused. One of the things that I do, is find free resources that either teach me things, or that help me to learn about myself.

So, I came across this quote, and it made so much sense to me. When I lost my place and became homeless, believe me, I asked myself a lot of questions. I really had to ask myself along the way questions, such as how I wanted my life to look like when I regained my private life back. I had to ask myself if I was willing to fight for my life, instead of allowing life to knock me down. I had to ask myself if there was anything that I could have done differently, or that I could have done better, in retrospect.

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that it was my fault (in my case) that I became homeless. In my case, circumstances of health issues and being laid off, was my downfall. However, I came to realize that I didn't care for myself or my health as well as I could have. I didn't use the best coping skills and therefore, I wasn't prepared for the worst. I was so angry about things, like past trauma, that I didn't focus on the present, or on the future. I didn't dream big to propel myself forward. It took for me to lose everything to start dreaming big, and to think about the future. Then again, it's easy to think about the future when you lose everything, and all you have to think about is the future.

While I was in transition dreaming about the future, I thought about taking care of myself. I needed a way for people to contact me for appointments. I thought about jobs. I needed a way for people to contact me about jobs, and about opportunities. Thank goodness that I had my Community Voice Mail to count on, so that I could make my future plans. For example, doctors were able to contact me about my health appointments. When I applied for jobs in the community, I had a contact number besides that one at the shelter. I didn't have to worry about missing my messages, because employers were able to reach my professional sounding voicemail (More on that later!) directly. And, in questioning myself about the future, I decided that I wanted to start a side business for myself. And I did!

While I was still in transition, I was able to turn a job inquiry into a self-employment opportunity. I questioned myself about my previous work experience, and about how I could sell those skills. I used to be a telemarketer, and I spent many years working in call centers. I also had some college credits, where I had picked up formal communication skills. I used these to make career opportunity recruitment calls to potential financial planners. So, while the job market was crappy, and when I couldn't get hired, I was still able to put some legal money in my pocket. The best part is that I had a phone number to put on my business cards, and on my resume. And, the legal money that I earned helped to propel me towards independent living!

So, as you can see, if I just sat back and accepted what life handed my way, I'd be in a bad place, and I'd probably still be in the shelter. But because I asked questions of myself, and of life, I was able to create more for myself. Heck, even this blog post that I share with you guys now, is the result of asking if I could share my stories with you! The lesson is that if you want things to get better for yourself, don't wait for the opportunities to come to you; just ask! Use the resources that you have, and you never know how they can help propel you to your future.

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Road To The Beginning

I looked around the apartment to make sure that I got all of the last belongings out. I needed to make sure that everything was cleared out, because once I turned in the keys, that was it. There would be no turning back. There would be no way to retrieve any of my stuff. I had a heck of a journey on the bus to get back to the Salvation Army downtown. I had already been there a day or two, and the last thing that I was looking forward to, was walking down the block to get to my bunk bed. I didn't want to go back to the cramped feeling of laying on top of all of the other women, and their kids. I especially didn't want to get back to that filthy bathroom. I wanted to feel and smell a clean environment one more time. I laid down on my clean carpet in the apartment.

All of a sudden, the weight of my situation hit me like a ton of bricks. The sound of my crying came up from the pit of my stomach. I let out a huge wail, and the tears burst forth from a crack in my spiritual dam. I lay on my stomach, wailing, flailing, and beating the floor. Why was this happening to me? And, how in the world could I possibly manage what I knew I had no choice but to live through? After about 20 minutes, I picked myself up, and then I locked the front door. I walked across the street to the manager's office. I took my house keys off of my keyring, and turned them into the night drop box. For the first time that I could remember, I had no house keys on my keyring. It was finished. I was officially homeless. - November 2008

This is a recollection of the beginning of my 18 month journey in which I was displaced on a hard-core level. I had always had people to let me stay with them, and to otherwise help me out. But this time, I was on my own. You know, it's amazing the things that you take for granted as being part of your everyday life, until you lose them. Your house keys really become precious metal. You realize that you don't have a phone number to call your own. You find yourself in a Catch-22 situation: You have no way to be reached to obtain services to better yourself, and you can't better yourself without a method of contact. But more than this, you have no idea what it feels like to not even have the dignity of having something so basic as a phone number, but you do know the shame of feeling utterly helpless. This is why it was so meaningful to me to obtain a phone number from a local charitable organization that worked with Community Voice Mail. I first received my Community Voice Mail number two years ago. I still have it, and it has been the one constant in my journey back to independent living.

My name is Terrah, and I will be sharing with you ways that my Community Voice Mail phone number has helped me, and I will be sharing tips on how it could help you as well. It might seem like a small thing, but having a phone number gives hope, and that hope can be the seed for so much growth in your life recovery. I hope you continue to read my post, and I wish you well in your journey. These lilies represent the fact that within the seeds of one form of life, rises the beauty of a new form of life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

3 Good days in NYC

Recently two of my board members and I traveled to New York City to celebrate being one of eight finalists for the Lodestar Foundation’s elite Collaboration Prize. The Prize was created by the Lodestar Foundation to expose and reward successful collaborative model in the nonprofit and public sector, ultimately creating an extensive database of models and lessons learned. See the database at the Foundation Center .

Databases don’t ordinarily inspire most of us, but this database is the gateway to an endless supply of national good news stories infused with a heavy dose of candor and a tone of humility. The overarching themes? Set aside egos, replace with a shared vision, and maximize complementary strengths to fill service gaps. Said another way? Mission, mission, mission.

The Grand Prize went to Adoption Coalition, an Austin-based group that set out to reform the failed system of foster-kid adoption. Their post-collaboration results were stunning—not only did they increase the rate of adoption by 70% within two years; they reduced the number of transitions that foster kids experience and created “forever families” for kids who are too often forgotten.

What had started as a competition became a feast of inspiration, ingenuity, and hope, with stories like these:
Graduate! Philadelphia fixed the problem of “brain-drain” by mobilizing the assets of loyal Philadelphians. Now, local talent has a supportive and flexible path to finish their college degrees.
FeedMore, admitted that the community didn’t need two food distribution agencies and kitchens, and then knit together the donors and resources of the former competitors to ensure that no one need go hungry in Richmond Virginia.
• Twenty private colleges in Wisconsin, WAICU, took on the unglamorous but valuable task of consolidating back-office administration so that savings could be re-invested in financial aid.
Network for Good recognized that most technology does not abide by the “build it and they will come” tenet. They merged with the customer-support-focused Groundspring to train nonprofits and recently celebrated reaching the half a billion dollar-mark in brokered donations.

• The WIN Family Network in Southern CA created a first-in-class program of clinical case management for infants and their families, breaking down the old silos of care so that families can achieve stabilization faster and more completely.
• And, the Gulf Coast Consortia coalesced by recognizing that the big and meaningful problems that science sets out to solve are rarely solved by one discipline alone. Their efforts have yielded multi-institutional training, shared access to state-of-the-art facilities and tools, and tradition of interdisciplinary scientists who are encouraged to think big.

Congratulations, Adoption Coalition, and fellow finalists! Thank you for inspiring us and for elevating good news about everyday miracles in the nonprofit sector.

Jenn Brandon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Heart of CVM

Last week, we received nearly fifty poems describing the heart and soul of what we do. The winning poem was submitted from Pinellas, Florida. This wonderful poem has been submitted as our entry to the CTK Foundation Heart and Soul 2011 contest. It was especially powerful to hear poems submitted by voice mail in the voice of the authors. Take a moment and read or listen to a sample of the varied submissions we received. They are posted on our web site.

Thanks to all who participated!

"Onward I’ve walked a thousand miles in these torn and tattered shoes I know I’ve made mistakes but this is not the life I choose I’m the soldier that defected to a life of drugs and drinking I’m the scientist that lost his mind, now, Lord KNOWS what I’m thinking But the truth is that I think the same as all my brethren do I stand today, a broken man, but I was once like you At least, with CVM, I know I stand a fighting chance Today I plan, tonight I sleep, tomorrow I advance" – CVM Manager

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Los Angeles CVM & Groupon

Are you one of the gazillions of people who use Groupon? Once you've signed up for discounts on a local restaurant or maybe a bungee jumping adventure, why not click on a truly great deal: donate $10 to the Los Angeles Community Voice Mail program, right from the safety and comfort of your Groupon account.

LA CVM is Groupon's featured campaign right now on the LA Groupon site, selected through the company's g-Team program. You don't have to be in Los Angeles to participate; just go to this link and sign up for the deal. Your $10 contribution will be sent by Groupon to the Weingart Center, the host of the Los Angeles CVM program. The money will help provide voice mail boxes to homeless and low-income people in Los Angeles County. It's a small amount of money that will help people get jobs, find housing, gain access to health care, and stay in touch with loved ones.

This is a great use of the Groupon platform to support a worthy cause. Get clicking!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wanted: Community Voice Mail Love Poems

Submit a 4-8 line poem for a chance to raise $10,000 for Community Voice Mail.

The CTK Foundation is once again having a nationwide contest asking people to describe the heart of their favorite nonprofit's mission in a poem. Community Voice Mail needs your help to find the perfect poem. How would you describe the heart of Community Voice Mail's mission in 4-8 lines?

Who can submit a poem?

Anyone! To be valid, your poem entry must include your full name, phone number, city, and state. Poems must be 4-8 lines, and emailed to and we invite you to perform your poem via voice mail too – just call 206-441-7872 x150 to record your poem.

Need inspiration?
Find out why Community Voice Mail is worth waxing poetic about. Visit our web site at to read about our mission, and learn more about us. Go off to a quiet beautiful place. Contemplate phonelessness and what it means to get reconnected. Get friends involved. Be deep, be zany, rhyme, don't rhyme. Poetry, like Community Voice Mail, is versatile!

Previous CVM Poem Winner
There was a time I stood tall and proud
Unaware that I soon would be under a cloud

No home, no job, no family, no hope

Until CVM I just couldn’t cope

Now, once again, I stand tall and proud

“You can reach me here!” I cry out loud

The clouds will soon lift and I’ll be okay

Because, you know, I wasn’t always this way

How do I participate?
It's easy. Just email your poem along with your contact information to or record by voicemail at 206-441-7872 x150 by March 23rd, 2011.

What if we win?
We will select our favorite poem and submit it as CVM's official entry. If Community Voice Mail's poem is selected by The CTK Foundation, we will receive a $10,000 grant. If the winning poem is submitted by a CVM user, staff or volunteer of a local Community Voice Mail program, the grant will be split between the CVM local host agency of the winning region and the Community Voice Mail National Office. The winning poem will become the basis of a song, written and produced by Bill Dillon for non-commercial, community education and awareness.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bombshell Letter

Last week, Terry got a bombshell letter from the unemployment office. She learned her unemployment benefits will expire for good before New Year’s Day. Do you know someone like Terry?

For millions of “99ers” losing their unemployment benefits after nearly two years, no new extended benefits are coming their way. Although this issue has received little local media coverage, state officials are wracking their brains, anticipating a coming tidal wave. As public coffers shrink, agencies are looking to community-based nonprofit agencies to help cushion the blow.

Right now, Community Voice Mail is mounting a response. To learn more you can read our project proposal.

Will you help us? If you are able, I hope you will. Please be as generous as you can so we can be there for our friends and neighbors who need us.

Thank you for caring, and for showing you care.


Jennifer Brandon

Executive Director

P.S. Community Voice Mail works. Click to hear how.

Community Voice Mail a Finalist for Collaboration Prize

Great news! The Community Voice Mail National Office has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2011 Collaboration Prize, created by The Lodestar Foundation to recognize successful collaborations between nonprofit organizations.

The 20 semifinalists were chosen from over 800 submissions. The collaboration must involve two or more nonprofit organizations. Each collaboration will be judged on the extent to which it demonstrates improved effectiveness in achieving social good; more effectively uses human and financial resources; represents an innovative response to a specific challenge or opportunity; and exhibits characteristics that would demonstrate that the collaboration is a model for the field, sector, or community.

Out of these 20 semifinalists, the Selection Panel – a group chaired by Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and comprised of philanthropists and leaders of major philanthropic foundations – will choose eight finalists who will receive $12,500 and the grand prize winner, to be chosen from among the eight, will receive an additional $150,000. The finalists will be announced in early February 2011 and the grand prize winner will be announced in April 2011.

In announcing the semi-finalists, here's what the Lodestar chairman had to say:
“The pool of applicants for the 2011 Prize exceeded our expectations and provided an array of impressive and innovative collaborations from which to choose,” said Jerry Hirsch, The Lodestar Foundation Chairman. “The semifinalists, who successfully leveraged human and financial resources to achieve greater impact, will now serve as models of collaboration for others in the nonprofit sector – showcasing how working together can bring about extraordinary results.”
We're really excited about this, and honored to have been chosen as a semi-finalist. It is a tribute to the good work that our 43 program partners and 2,000 agency partners are doing every day around the U.S. (and in Vancouver, Canada). If you'd like to talk with someone here at the CVM National Office about the Collaboration Prize, please email Andrea John-Smith at or call us in Seattle at (206)441-7872. You can read our press release about this here.

Photo: Collaboration Prize (