People

Meet The People You’ll Help When You Donate For The Holidays

December 21, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

Gifting donations in someone’s name is a beautiful gesture—and a last-minute gift idea that we whole-heartedly support.

Often, though, we don’t often get to see where exactly our donations go.

That’s why we’re bringing you the stories of the people who have been impacted by the nonprofits and organizations who been given a chance at a brighter future and a happier, healthier present.

Below you’ll find a name and a face you can put to each of these seven extraordinary organizations.

National Dance Institute

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Kemuel was a fourth-grader from Canarsie, Brooklyn, when he first found out about the National Dance Institute (NDI) that came into his school to provide free dance classes. Living in an underserved area of the city where access to the arts and opportunity is slim, he jumped at the chance to participate and thrived so completely that he was offered a scholarship to join NDI’s Advanced Program. He travels two hours each way every day.

“Dancing has revealed the expressions I never thought I had,” he says. “Performing brings me excitement, puts me in a zone where I am able to express myself through dance.”

Now in eighth grade, he travels two hours each way every Saturday to attend classes and rehearsals at the NDI Center in Harlem, and the organization lit such a fire inside of him that his passion has brought him to places like the stage right in front of Oprah at the recent Action Against Hunger Gala and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He sees a bright future for himself as a choreographer, a dream that he feels is well within reach, whether it’s with NDI or running his very own company.

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The program’s free arts education program serves thousands of children in schools across the country. The organization teaches important life skills such as teamwork and inclusion, while also instilling confidence, passion and discipline through dance. Founded 41 years ago by the legendary New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d’Amboise, its core belief is that all children can be motivated toward excellence when exposed to the arts despite their background, gender, age or ability.

All donations made to NDI until the end of the year will be matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous donor.

Answer the Call 

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Daniella Giammona was only two years old when her father, Fire Department of New York Captain Vincent Giammona, died on September 11, 2001. In addition to the emotional grief the family felt, they were in need of financial assistance and other support as well. Giammona says that the fund helped pay for her education and school supplies, and takes them on much-needed vacations. They are also invited to holiday parties, which bring all of the families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty together.

“Being with other kids who have lost a parent in the line of duty helped me not feel alone and constantly provides me with a support system,” said Giammona, who has just been granted acceptance to her dream college (Quinnipiac) through Answer the Call’s network of support.

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“Answer the Call lets me know that my dad’s sacrifice will never be forgotten, that my dad will never be forgotten, and that my family will never be alone,” said Giammona. “We cannot change the tragedy that happened. We can be grateful for the good things that have come from it, and Answer the Call has been one of those good things.”

Over 600 families are currently supported by Answer the Call, which is kept afloat by the collective effort of donors, volunteers, and staff. The organization was created as a New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund that provides financial assistance and a network of support to the families of New York City Police Officers, Firefighters, Port Authority Police, and EMS Personnel killed in the line of duty.

After School All Stars 

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Ti’Andre Bellinger grew up in a rough part of Miami, living in a neighborhood where gunfire and drug deals were everyday occurrences. He felt that his teachers didn’t care what happened to him, and support from family was scarce. Now, he’s on his was to graduating from the police academy that keeps those streets safe, and it’s all thanks to the help of an after-school program that offered the sixth-grader educational assistance, mentorship, a community of people he could count on, and a place where he knew people were counting on him. He credits the program as being a consistent source of structure and the tutors and athletic directors with giving him a sense of direction and purpose.

He credits the program as being a consistent source of structure and the tutors and athletic directors with giving him a sense of direction and purpose.

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“I found out how to channel anger through poetry, and felt the need and desire to give that what was given to me back,” Bellinger says. “This program has not only helped me off of a ledge but it makes me do the same for others every single day.”

By teaming up with local public schools, After-School All-Stars provides comprehensive after-school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life. They are able to provide creative and entrepreneurial experiences after class, and the program staff helps identify each child’s individual needs and tailors programming especially for them. The program also offers structured physical and nutrition activities that teach children the importance of healthy living.

Hope Project International 

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For two years, little Justo and his brothers walked right past the headquarters Hope Project International’s feeding program in order to go and dig in a local trash dump, looking for food or anything of value that could help their family.

That all changed when they were invited to attend the feeding program instead. Soon after, the nonprofit actually built Justo and his family a home, and Justo was so excited that he wanted to help build homes for others in the community. When it came time to sponsor children to go to school for 2017, Justo was at the top of the list.

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At age 13, he will be attending school for the very first time.

Hope Project International helps children in the areas of nutrition, education, shelter and spiritual development. They build homes for families in need, sponsor feeding programs, partner with child development centers and help send children to school. One of their goals as an organization is to end the cycle of poverty in the communities in which they work.

The Foundling

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Twins Timothy and Antonio were 3 years old when they were placed in foster care with Gillian and Orlando McAllister in 2010. Two of six children—three sets of twins, in fact—they’d all entered into the system as toddlers, and the boys struggled with behavioral issues.

They genuinely needed—and craved—love and affection, which the McAllisters gave them when The Foundling brought them together and provided them with the free training they needed to provide a loving and supportive home for the boys. One day, the boys were sent to live with their biological uncle, but he was ultimately unable to adopt them, so The Foundling helped them navigate the paperwork, court dates, and officially become their parents. To this day, they are one big, happy family, working together on the challenges life presents.

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In New York City, there are over 10,000 children in the city’s foster care system, and 10% of these children are in The Foundling’s care at any given time. Founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1869 as a home for abandoned children, the organization offers their services to underserved children, families, and adults with developmental disabilities. Whether it’s an abused child in need of a foster home, a young mother who lacks the skills to care for her child, or a young person lost in the juvenile justice system, The Foundling provides the resources necessary to rebuild lives and rebuild families.

 Caregiver Canines 

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John is a retired Air Force mechanic who constantly begged his daughter, Lisa, for the companionship of a dog—it was what he wanted more than anything in the world. But because he lives with Alzheimer’s, the logistics of owning a dog would be too complicated for John, 82, to handle.

That’s when Caregiver Canines came in, bringing 5-year-old rescue dog Earl in for weekly home visits with John that light up his life. with the elderly and he loves the close bonds that form when he makes weekly home visits. His owner, Frank, worked hard to get Earl certified as a therapy dog, and it’s not just John who looks forward to the visits every week. One of John’s favorite things is when Earl “crosses his paws,” and he loves to give him treats and get bellyrubs.

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“As her father’s caregiver, Lisa isn’t able to get out much, and Frank has become a friend and companion to her, someone she can talk to,” says Caregiver Canines founder Lynette Whiteman. “While therapy dogs are sometimes brought into nursing homes or hospitals, seniors who are independent enough to stay at home but are isolated, lonely, or otherwise immobilized are often left out of the picture.”

Caregiver Canines, brings therapy dogs into the home of the elderly and homebound of New Jersey every week, and have been working to help other organizations implement the program around the country. According to the Journal of  Community Health Nursing, 28% of non-institutionalized older people live alone, and participation in a visiting pet therapy program had an irrefutably positive impacton social health,wellness, and cardiovascular health.

Pajama Program

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Theresa was a little girl in preschool when she first teetered into the welcoming warmth of the Pajama Program’s reading center. Like many of the children who entered the center, she came from somewhere that wasn’t warm and cozy—a homeless shelter, group home, or the foster system. The three-year-old was welcomed into the arms of a volunteer—someone she knew was not paid to be there, but there because she wanted to be—and began happily picking out books that she’d read with her buddy for an hour while enjoying a snack.

It was then that she eagerly accepted her first new pair of pajamas, wrapped in a bow, as everyone applauded. Without her mother around to read to her, she eagerly awaited her future visits to the program.

Ten years later, Founder Genevieve Piturro thought she saw a familiar face in a 14-year old volunteer handing out pajamas to other little kids at the center. It was Theresa.

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The idea for the Pajama Program first came to Piturro, a former television executive, while volunteering once a week reading to children at a homeless shelter before they went to bed. When she finished, they would go to sleep with their clothes on, which were often dirty, sometimes covered in blood from when the police brought them in.

So, she quit her job and founded the national nonprofit that brings new books and new pajamas to children in need across the U.S. She also made it her mission to bring “One Million Good Nights” to children across the country. Sixteen years later, she has provided children in 32 states with over 2 million new pajamas and books.

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