Oh ... Really?

Category: Strengthen the Good

Monday, May 23, 2005

Strengthen The Good - One Year Later

A revisit to the post that started it all ...

A little over a year ago, Alan Nelson posted at The Command Post about a very special family, Susan Tom and her family of 13 special children, 11 were adopted and many have a variety of extra challenges. Alan was moved by Susan's strength, courage and never-ending optimism. Shortly after watching the documentary about Susan and her family, My Flesh and Blood on HBO, Alan then contemplated the images of Nick Berg being beheaded by Islamist terrorists. He was struck by the complete antithesis of Susan Berg in the evil madness of terrorism. He was motivated to do something. To fight evil, one must strengthen the good.

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He first donated $50 to the Tom Family Foundation, and then committed the donations from The Command Post for three days, with the goal of raising $10,000.

Those who remember that post also likely remember what happened next: The initial response was good enough that I set the bold goal of raising $10,000. It turns out I was off base in that goal: In three days we did not raise $10,000--we raised $15,000 for the education of Susan's kids.

In the year since, some things have changed: Susan's son, Anthony, finally lost his battle to cancer just days before Christmas, 2004. And some things have not: Susan continues to raise her family, giving these kids who would otherwise have no shot at all, all the shot in the world.

It was the experience of raising those $15,000, and the good they created for Susan, her kids, and the bloggers and readers who participated, that ultimately led to my creating Strengthen The Good. So, in a sense, Susan's not just responsible for the good she's done for her children--she's also responsible for the creation of this nonprofit, and for the good it's done for others ... for the victims of Hurricane Charley, for Debi Faris, for the Brent Woodall Foundation, and for the students of Petrzalka.

So today, Strengthen The Good is pleased to profile Susan Tom and the Tom Family Education Trust, as I hope to do every May until all her kids have graduated college. She's my hero.


Don't just fight evil, Strengthen the Good

Posted by LissaKay on 05/23/05 at 01:00 AM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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Monday, November 22, 2004

STG: Helping Build An English Library For Teenagers

Strengthen the Good was born out of the ashes of despair in evil. But rather than fight back directly against the evil in the world, this mission seeks to weaken evil by Strengthening the Good.

Every three weeks or so, a call goes out to the blogosphere to bring attention to a micro-charity or cause. Through this network, the word is passed, the charity is helped, and good is empowered a little more in our world.

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Today I want to highlight something a bit different, and in the interest of full disclosure I want everyone to know that the main party involved, Douglas Dart, has been a friend of mine for decades. Douglas, his wife, and his three young daughters are currently spending a year living in Bratislava, Slovakia. Doug's (unpaid) mission: teach English and American Studies to Slovakian high school students at a school called The C.S. Lewis Bilingual Gymnaziumin in Bratislava's Petrzalka district.


What is needed most is not necessarily money. They need books. There is a huge list posted at STG. If one would rather donate to purchase the books, that's fine too. And very much appreciated. Go read about Douglas Dart and his work to bring the "language of freedom" (as the students call it) to the children of this former-communist state.

Don't just fight evil ... Strengthen the Good.


Posted by LissaKay on 11/22/04 at 04:53 AM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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Monday, October 04, 2004

Strengthen The Good: Debi Faris And The Garden Of Angels

Every three weeks I receive an email from Strengthen the Good announcing the latest "do gooder" to be recognized, supported and lauded. It's motto is: Don't just fight evil: Strengthen the Good. I have gladly joined in this network of bloggers, not only to pass along the information about the micro-charities that STG sponsors, but also to remind myself that there is good in this world. Some days, the overwhelming feeling that evil is winning ... not only in the world at large in lands thousands of miles from here, but in my own personal sphere ... leaves me wanting to do nothing but crawl into bed, pull the covers up over my head and lie there whimpering until all the bad goes far, far away and leaves me and my loved ones alone. But I have to fight the evil, I have to with all my might. I battle for the hearts and souls of my children against an evil they don't even recognize, as he wears the face of their father. Some days I just want to give up, give in to his evil ways and let him continue to destroy his own children ... I am tired, I am weary, I am disheartened. His hatred is winning out over my love in a battle I have been fighting for years. I have been taught that good always triumphs over evil ... but there are many days that I have my doubts.

All I can do now is Strengthen the Good ......

As you know, the intent of Strengthen The Good is to raise awareness of "micro charities"--charitable opportunities that are simple, personal, non-bureaucratic, and inspiring. Charitable opportunities where someone can feel great about giving $1, or even just from reading the story of the charity, it's sponsors, and it's beneficiaries.

Garden Of Angels is just such a charity, and we're pleased to profile Debi Faris' Garden of Angels as an example of strengthening the good.


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I have wondered, when I hear of babies and children left for dead, how anyone could do something like this. How desperate, how scared ... how cold, how heartless ... could one be to do such a thing?

Here is Debi's story:

In 1996, while I had one eye on dinner and the other on the evening news, I heard a story that would change my life. I stood frozen as I listened to the reporter's account of the tragedy ... a newborn baby boy had been stuffed into a duffel bag and tossed from a speeding car along a freeway. I couldn't move, I just kept thinking about this child and wondering how we could have become a society that just throws their babies away as if they were a piece of trash.

I contacted the authorities and with the blessing of my family, I asked the Coroner's office to release the baby to us for burial. While waiting for the investigation to end on this child, I learned that there was another newborn baby boy that had been found in a dumpster, and a little girl about two years of age, who was found washed up on a beach.
On August 26, 1996, we had our first burial service for the three children. They were given the names of Matthew, Nathan and Dora.


That is the beginning of the remarkable story of Debi Faris, who took that event as inspiration to form Garden of Angels, a charity that works to provide names and legal, honorable burials for abandoned newborns. Since Debi started her work with the burials of Matthew, Nathan and Dora, she and her charity have worked to provide the dignity of a proper burial to 68 abandoned infants.

Debi decided this was not enough. As noble an endeavor this is, it would be so much better if it was unnecessary. So she lobbied for passage of California's Safe Arms for Newborns Law:

The 'Safe Arms for Newborns' law allows a parent to give up an unwanted infant with no fear of arrest or prosecution for abandonment as long as the baby has not been abused or neglected. The law does not require that names be given when the baby is surrendered. Parents are permitted to bring a newborn baby within 3 days of birth to any hospital emergency room or other designated safe haven in California.

The baby will be given medical treatment and placed in a foster or pre-adoptive home.

The law allows for a 14-day cooling off period, in case the parent may change their mind and work to reclaim their baby.
Since January 1, 2001 when the 'Safe Arms for Newborns' law went into effect, 59 newborn babies (as of July 2004) have been "safely surrendered" at hospitals within the state of California. This is a lifesaving law, but only if people know that it exists.



Don't just fight evil: Strengthen the Good ... visit the Garden of Angels web site, make a donation if you can. Check to see if your state has such a law as the Safe Arms for Newborns, and if not, write your legistlators to urge them to pass one.

And join the STG network! Together we can do better than fight the evil in the world, we can Strengthen the Good!


Posted by LissaKay on 10/04/04 at 04:59 AM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

STG: The Brent Woodall Foundation

Strengthen the Good is a network of bloggers dedicated to getting the word out about "micro-charities" ... small foundations and organizations that do charitable works. Members of STG help out by blogging about the STG Charities which are chosen every third Sunday. These days, with so much evil and ugliness around us, we have chosen to work to together to not just fight evil, but Strengthen the Good.

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The morning of September 11, 2001 began as one of those days with such gorgeous weather I wished I could bottle it up so I could take it out and enjoy it anytime I wanted, to experience that rush of good feeling when I close my eyes and turn my face up into the warm sun as the breeze ruffles my hair. I remember noting on the weather forecast that all of America was enjoying a similar sunny, breezy perfect weather day. Those good feelings were to quickly come to a screaming, horrifying, gory end only a few hours later. Here, hundreds of miles from New York and Washington, I watched the unfolding events as a witness. Too many others were participants.

On that morning, Tracy Woodall kissed her husband Brent good-bye before he headed off to his job at Bruyette and Woods on the 89th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. A short time later, Brent called her to tell her he was OK ... his was not the tower hit. Yet. Another call after the second plane ended its deadly journey was the last time Tracy was to hear her husband's voice.

Tracy was 5 weeks pregnant on September 11, 2001. She gave birth to a little girl on April 22, 2002 and named her Pierce Ashley. She returned to Texas to be near her family. And she did not allow her world to be overcome by her grief.

Tracy Woodall understood that a sound response to evil is to strengthen that which is good.

Not long before 9/11, Tracy and Brent had started talking about launching a foundation that would provide free care-giving education to families of children with autism. For the less familiar, autism is a neurological disorder that appears during the first three years of life. Estimates are that it occurs in approximately 2 to 6 in 1,000 individuals, and typical characteristics include problems with social relationships and emotional communication.

It is a difficult and emotionally painful disorder, for both the children afflicted ... who live seemingly trapped and detached in their closed world ... and for their parents ... who, often anticipating the warm love and emotional give-and-take of parenthood, instead struggle to understand and care for children with whom emotional reciprocation is, at the best distant, and at the worst, nonexistent.

Since college Tracy Woodall had felt her calling was to make a difference in the lives of autistic children. And in the aftermath of 9/11, rather than consider the idea of an autism-related foundation lost, she instead saw hope.

And with that resolve to create good from evil, the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children was born. The foundation aims to help the youngest children suffering from autism, but with an intelligent twist: in addition to working directly with autistic children, the foundation also trains the parents of foundation children in how to better care for their children once the foundation counselors have left.


Read the rest. Tissue in hand recommended.

Information about autism

Brent Woodall's UC Berkeley Memorial

A Dallas Morning News profile on Tracy

And if you have a blog or a web site, please join the network and Don't just fight evil: Strengthen the Good.

Cross-posted at GlobalAffairs.org Forums


Posted by LissaKay on 09/14/04 at 03:27 AM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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Monday, August 23, 2004

Strengthen The Good: Hurricane Charley Disaster Relief Fund

The first Strengthen the Good charity has been chosen.

Here’s the issue: a burning charitable need at this moment is relief for people affected by Hurricane Charley. And while I very much want to highlight a Charley micro-charity, the fact is that the need right now is macro … incredibly macro. Fundamental needs: housing … water … huge quantities of baby formula … needs that are best met by macro charities such as the Red Cross, the Christian Contractors Association, and Salvation Army, and it’s going to be this way for some time.

But I also think I’ve found something you can get behind and feel good about: The Gulf Coast Community Foundation Of Venice Hurricane Charley Disaster Relief Fund.


The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice has created the Hurricane Charley Disaster Relief Fund. The foundation board of directors has voted to match contributions to this fund up to $100,000. That's right ... your $1 donation is $2. Got a tenspot to spare? They'll make it a twenty! In a situation as disastrous as the aftermath of a devastating hurricane, every dollar counts.

Don't just fight evil ... Strengthen the Good.
Posted by LissaKay on 08/23/04 at 02:13 AM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Strengthen The Good: A Call to Action

A few months ago, in response to the awful brutality of the Nick Berg killing at the hands of terrorists, Alan of The Command Post came up with the idea to counter the awfulness with good ... and Strengthen the Good was born. Michele has posted the call to action for the blogosphere.

The first project raised $15,000 for the Susan Tom family. Now, after the devastation from Hurricane Charley, there is a new opportunity to Strengthen the Good.

We are getting many requests at Command Post for how to help people in Florida. I and others are working as you read this to locate a “micro-charity” in the area that fits with the mission of this site: local charities with a personal face, with very little or no overhead, where the story of the organizers and beneficiaries are inspiring, and where $1 can make a difference.

I’m afraid that with Charley, we’ll have many choices.


Please, head on over and see if you can help out. Bookmark the site as they will be adding information on other ways to assist, as well as get a central group or person set up to collect and distribute the aid to hurricane victims. And if you have a blog, Join the Network so you can keep your readers up to date on the latest efforts to Strengthen the Good.


Posted by LissaKay on 08/15/04 at 04:56 PM in ~ Strengthen the Good
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