Bringing Out the Best

Our Impact Factory is in our second year with Cowboy Ethics, a concept developed by Jim Owen in defining the unwritten code of the west with 10 principals such as Talk Less, Say More, or When You Make A Promise, Keep It, or Take Pride in Your Work.  Our kids have really gotten a lot of the principals, as have I and the commitee members.

To keep involved, I get the Cowboy Ethics Newsletters and this morning's post was particularly moving.  Jim Owen has been following a blog by Mike Cassidy, a marathoner who recently posted about his expereince about running the New York Marathon and ultimately discovering that “In striving to be our best, we could bring out the best in others.”  I am not a runner, or a sports fan of any kind, but I do love sports movies in which the team or players overcome great odds or challenges, or experience amazing life changing moments.  This blog post does that, giving me chills as I read about Mike Cassidy's experience running with the great Meb Keflezighi and an outstanding outcome that transcends traditional competition.  Enjoy!


Penny Harvest students in action!

It is that time of year when Penny Harvest students around Colorado are beginning to decide where they will grant their money. We have always been blown-away by the diplomatic and intelligent choices students make, and this year is no exception.

For example, College View Elementary student leaders took the time to engage their entire school with the Penny Harvest mission, posting informative posters in the hallways, presenting to classrooms, and taking votes on what issues the school cared most deeply about. The student council president even created a donation-tracking plan – how sophisticated is that?

Students making posters to display around the school

First grader votes are in - Childhood Illness will be the issue area they help 

Student council president presenting a donation-tracking plan

It is amazing to see the tasks that these self-directed students tackle, and it is even more astounding to see the maturity that they practice while embarking on such tasks. If we have learned one thing over the years, it is that we cannot underestimate the power of our Penny Harvest students.

To see what Penny Harvest students have done in the past, click here.




How much can you fit in a shelter box?

In wake of the Typhoon Haiyan, one organization has stood out in their incredibly successful disaster relief efforts. Since the year 2000, ShelterBox has served over 90 disaster-stricken countries, delivering portable homes to those living without shelter. Last year alone, ShelterBox’s efforts reached 24 countries, while serving over 32 disasters.   

So what exactly is in a shelter box? Well, a whole lot more than you’d think! Although each shelter box can be adapted to fit any disaster situation, most shelter boxes include the following:

  •  Tent (sleeps up to 10)
  •  Portable stove
  •  Cooking utensils
  •  Sleeping bags, thermal blankets, and ground insulation
  •  Hats, gloves, and scarves
  •  Mosquito nets
  •  Water purifier
  •  Essential tools (such as hammers, axes, saws, trenching shovels, and pliers)
  •  Coloring books and crayons
  •  And, most importantly…shelter!

With so many other valuable relief organization focused on food and water, ShelterBox has truly rounded-out disaster relief efforts, providing suffering individuals and families what they are most lacking: a home.

To learn more about this amazing organization, please visit http://www.shelterboxusa.org



It's Never Been About the Penny

Last night at a meeting with Penny Harvest teachers and community members, I was treated to success stories about some of our Penny Harvest kids and their accomplishments. 

A couple of years ago, the Eagle Ambassadors at Lowry Elementary created libraries in two Lowry homeless shelters with the help of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.  A year or two later, the Eagle Ambassadors installed a tether pole at one of the shelter, all as a result of their hard work researching needs and issues, as well as gathering pennies to be able to put these service projects in place.

One Lowry teacher said she and a group of their Eagle Ambassadors were recently at one of the shelters working with another bunch of kids.  When one kid asked what an Eagle Abassador was, another student who wasn't an Eagle Ambassador either piped up and said, "you know the libraries in the shelters? These kids did that! You know our tether ball? These kids did that too!" The teacher said that this particular child wasn't even there during the projects, but the Eagle Ambassadors had contributed so effectively to their community, other kids knew who they were and what they had done.

Recently, I've been thinking about the name of our program, the Penny Harvest, and the message that name portrays.  What's in a name?  In this case, unfortunately, a lot of misconceived notions about what it is participants in the Penny Harvest do.  The name Penny Harvest puts so much unwitting emphasis on the pennies and the total money collected that it has become quite the challenge to explain that this is not a fundraiser.  And this is not about the pennies.

P is for power.  If we simply told the students that they had a certain amount of money with which to do a certain amount of good in the community, we'd get a certain amount of results.  However, when we start with something as small as a penny that we usually step over on the street, something that they can feel and weigh in their hand and see the pennies accumulating in their classroom jar, and then the full canvas sacks, and they can feel the weight of what they've accomplished as they're lugging those sacks down the hall, there are no boundaries to what we'll see them accomplish.  After all, they just collected 125,000 pennies, they have rallied the school and everyone is talking about all the things they could do in their community! All the changes they can make! All the choices they have! And it's all their decision.  This is the first step to proving what they can accomplish, and now that the penny is rolling, there is no stopping them.

Lowry Eagle Ambassadors - elementary school children - came up with the idea to create a library in both of Lowry's shelters, creating a safe and quiet space for kids to do their homework, read, and particpate in a volunteer program with the senior volunteers helping with literacy and tutoring. This was a need in the community that we adults had overlooked, or over-budgeted for, and these kids came up with the idea on how to make it happen with pennies.  They have created community connections, a lasting legacy, as well as a thriving culture of giving at the school.  Every year the Eagle Ambassadors participate in service projects and more and more kids are joining them.  Last night we learned that 50 kids between two classes signed up to rake leaves for the elderly, and they loved it! They were asking when they could do that again!

The Penny Harvest is about so much more than the money.  Every school that participates comes away with students that have learned that they really can accomplish projects that until recently they may have thought only adults could do.  The problem, now, is keeping up with the kids!


November is Colorado Homeless and Runaway Youth Month

Two years ago, our Impact Factory team was surprised to learn that children are homeless too.  This year, I am surprised to see just how many are homeless, just in Boulder!

Facts about Youth Homelessness

  • There has been a 166% increase in the number of unaccompanied homeless youth, ages 13-24, in Boulder County in the past two years.  In the 13-17 age group, there has been a 233% increase.
  • Within 48 hours of running away from home, 30% of Colorado youth will be actively recruited for the purpose of sex and other forms of human trafficking.
  • At least 1,500 youth and young adults ages 12 to 25 are homeless in Colorado right now.
  • Children make up 27% - the fastest growing segment – of the U.S. homeless population.

Urban Peak is one of our Penny Harvester's favorite organizations that serves homeless teens.  Find out what you can do to help this especially vulnerable piece of our society at http://www.urbanpeak.org/.