Making Christmas Real: Clara White Mission Families

The Clara White Mission is a great charitable organization which does more than just offer solace. They offer vocational training to help people help themselves out of their condition by giving something money cannot buy: Integrity and self-worth. It has been our privilege to be even a small part of their continuing work in Jacksonville, FL.

My wife, who coordinates this every year, sent out her official email detailing the three families that are in need of a Christmas miracle. Is miracle too strong? Maybe, but for those of us for whom life has not been as difficult (regardless of fault) it might be near impossible to fathom a season absent  of hope. A gift from a stranger speaks to something greater than the gift itself and quite possibly could tilt the eyes up. A little known fact: when eyes raise they bring with them the heart, mind and spirit. Crazy how the body works!

So here is her email. Beyond anything that could be bought, gently used books also make a nice addition. Clothing is not an item that has been requested. I know many of you may already be making Christmas special for someone in need but for anyone who can help here is an opportunity. You can respond to this post or contact me via Facebook/Twitter.

I am sending this to you as a Christmas request for help for families who have so much less than most of us do. If you are able to help, please let me know.

Clara White has shared three families that are in great need for Christmas. If you would like to purchase some items we are trying to get at least two toys for each child and a $25-$50 food gift card for each family as well.  We are shopping on Wednesday afternoon at Town Center Target and delivering what we can to Clara White Mission downtown on Thursday at 1:30p.m. I would be happy to wrap any donations, if you can drop them off to my house by Wed. night.

Simpson Family

Ms. Buffy Simpson, 35 years old, single mom, 3 kids

Nicholas, boy, 8 years old

Mariah, girl, 15 years old

Tengen, girl, 12 years old

Bennett Family

Margaret and David Bennett, wife 37, husband 41 (security officer)

struggling to make ends meet, new baby in the house

Victoria, girl, 3 years old

David, boy, 7 weeks old baby

Simmons Family

Andrea Simmons, 38 yr old single mom, 3 teens

Makarri, boy, 17 years old

Alicia, girl, 15 years old

Jasmin, girl, 10 years old

If you would like to pick a particular name/age and buy for that child, that would be great.


Fitness to Purpose

Nitzer Ebb fans will get the title. They may also remind me the meaning of the song is probably not where I am going with this piece. And they would be correct. However the title alone does serve my purpose of pointing out the many ways in which you can satisfy both your need to get fit and to give back.

Years ago my good friend Chuck Schoonmaker asked me to participate in Jacksonville’s Gate River Run. A 15k (with a nice bridge at mile markers seven and  eight) seemed an impossible task but together we made it through. Now our pace was just fast enough to beat a snail but that was not the point. For me it was a watershed moment of proving what I could do physically.

That is not to say I was a lethargic sofa cushion. I played in a flag football league and engaged in a pick-up game of basketball from time to time. But participating in an endurance event requires a different degree of commitment and mental strength.

Once I had the Gate bug, running became part of my life routine. It was not until my friends Brian Thompson and Joe Peters approached me to take a leg of a sprint triathlon that I really began to understand what the draw was to these type of events. The interesting piece was not so much the sense of satisfaction you get from crossing the finish line (especially at a better time than your last) but also the sense of community and the inspiration from the other participants.

For example, after I finished last year’s Gate I fueled up and found a spot about 50 yards from the finish line. I wanted to cheer on my wife and our friends as they came by. What I was also witness to were pairs of obese competitors pushing each other to success along with few who fell along the route. Those injured, while bleeding and limping, had just as much intent on their faces as those who had finished much earlier.

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What is Change-Can

It started like this…

1. Buy a can of soup.

2. Cook the soup.

3. Eat the soup.

4. Clean the can.

5. Start collecting change in the can.

6. Once filled up, donate the money to your favorite charity.

Something so simple, right? Maybe not original but it was new to me when my good friend Chris Gandy pitched it to his Philosophy class. It inspired me so much I decided to run with the idea and expand upon. Seeing the double entendre  to the phrase “Change Can”, I expressed to Chris a plan by which we could generate some type of grass roots charitable organization\group which serves to look for areas that we can change.

Chris was already in the throes of  his own good works efforts and my speaking up was simply a confirmation that he might be on to something. I personally have been wanting to do something with him for years as graduate school and work had pulled him from Jacksonville, FL to other parts of America (he now resides in Silk Hope, NC).

The birthing process is not yet complete but we are not short on targets. Food pantries are a shared love so our initial focus is there. However, since coaching youth football I have always wanted to start a Pop Warner Scholarship fund that would pay registration for at least one child.

Through the feedback of friends we have been able to find simple areas of need such as helping a local Rotary Club or assisting at the USO. It is not a matter of being part of the organization, but simply finding a need and volunteering time. People do it every day but some might be oblivious to how easy it is to take a few hours out of a Saturday or Sunday.

I know I personally am a bit ignorant as to what is out there outside my little tidal pool, along with how to actually manage a charitable group.

Another gem of an idea from Chris is what you will find below. I am copying from the Change-Can site he created ( It exemplifies the idea of using something small to generate change. Or as my friend Greg Stritch stated – Don’t try to cover too many dots. You empty stretching yourself too thin and you end up covering none at all.

I ask anyone who reads, follows or participates for patience. Chris and I are both learning as we go. Our goal is to earn the trust of those who will donate money. Beyond that we hope Change-Can will become a lifestyle that others will drive in their own towns. A penny, nickel, dime, quarter or dollar at a time. A day picking up trash, gathering fruit that might go to waste or simply taking away someone’s sense of being alone.

Change can also be sharing tips on starting a garden, home repair or fitness. Apathy is our enemy. You decide, is it going to change for the worse or for the better?

For our first official initiative, here’s what we’re proposing. I have 142 friends on Facebook, and I’m guessing that each my friends has at least the same number of friends. You do the math, but that’s just over 20,000 people, and they have friends, etc. Let’s see if we can get everyone to donate $1 for a charitable cause. Even if only 10% responded, that’s $2000, which is a significant amount and could do a lot of good.

The second part of this proposal requires an act of faith on everyone’s part, as I would like everyone to send us $1 in the mail by a certain date – let’s say one month from tomorrow (August 13). At that time, we’ll take the money to the bank, have a cashier’s check issued, and mail the donation to our charity – courtesy of the Change Can group. We’ll keep detailed records, provide receipts for the individual donations, notify everyone when the donation has been made and provide copies of all documentation. Of course, everyone could make a $1 donation online to the same charity, saving a stamp and envelope in the process, but we like the tangibility of letters and the impact of one large donation.

Please forward this note to all of your friends (think of it as spam with nothing but the best of intentions). We appreciate your support. Let’s do something good.

c/o Chris Gandy and Brian Fullford

PO Box 303, Pittsboro, NC 27312