Charity Blog

Good News New England | February 28th, 2021

Okay first of all..how has it already been one year of this Covid chaos? Somehow, it’s happened, and today I’m giving a HUGE shout out to YOU for powering through. No matter what you’ve gone through, no matter has changed (or not changed that you really wanted to), YOU are strong and brave just for surviving this year. That had to be said before anything else – but now, let’s move on to a few things that will make you smile today!

BOSTON CANNONS, LOCAL RESTAURANT GROUP OWNER SUPPORT QUINCY YOUTH SPORTS

This week in Quincy, Boston Cannons Lacrosse Executive Chris Rucker teamed up with restaurant group owner Donato Frattaroli to make a generous donation to Quincy & North Quincy High Schools coordinated thanks to some help from the Pigskin Gala Fund. The $4,000 check, presented at Frattaroli’s Boardwalk Pizza, will send funds directly to the joint Quincy-North Quincy boys’ lacrosse program, the Quincy High School girls’ soccer program, the Chris “Chief” McCallum Scholarship Fund & Stuart Slicis Memorial City of Presidents Scholarship Fund. “We’re hoping these donations will help Quincy’s student athletes and college-bound young adults achieve their goals on and off the sports field,” says Frattaroli.

TWO GRATEFUL FRIENDS SUPPORT OTHERS BATTLING CANCER

We’ve all heard of paying it forward, but two grateful friends took that mantra to the next level. When close friends Lee & Gwen learned they were each battling a different type of cancer in 2014, the pair says they felt grateful to have each other during an incredibly challenging time. As they recovered, they realized a new mission: to help others who may not be so lucky to have such support. That’s when their foundation, Two Grateful Friends, was born to donate baskets for anyone going through cancer treatment (at no cost regardless of financial need) that cater to each individual’s diagnosis. The organization also offers grants to those who are struggling financially as the staggering costs of cancer begin to add up.

The charity’s Executive Director Kim Paratore knows firsthand the devastating impact cancer can have on a family. Her own family’s heartbreaking experience and the loss of her beloved husband is what she says opened her eyes to just how costly cancer can be. “My husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 48. He was healthy, a non-smoker, went to the doctor every year and wasn’t feeling well for a couple of weeks. He died 10 weeks later after treatment at Mass General. But during that time- we had great insurance, we had friends and support -I saw firsthand the amount of bills.” Paratore recalled standing at the pharmacy counter filling prescriptions and being shocked at the cost of treatment. “There would be times when I would go to CVS and fill three prescriptions. Even with the co-pay, because of the advanced cancer drugs -they weren’t generic, you couldn’t get a $6 prescription-sometimes it would be $75 copays times three. Then they would change the medicine and say, ‘Oh next week don’t take that because that gave you a fever, take this’. Now it’s another $150.”

This experience changed her entire perspective on families battling cancer. “I used to think, ‘Why do people have fundraisers at the VFW or Gofundme pages when someone is diagnosed with cancer? Don’t they have health insurance?’ But people that have cancer have extraordinary bills, extraordinary circumstances where they don’t feel well enough to work; they don’t feel strong enough to go into an office and put in an 8 hour day. They need to take a nap, their treatment makes them sick, or they have these bills and that’s really where we come in,” she explains. “It’s not (that) people that have done anything wrong or not saved money, this can be financially devastating for someone to have a cancer diagnosis. Now to be stressed that your lights will be shut off? I can’t even imagine layering that on top of a breast cancer diagnosis.”

To make a donation or request a basket for someone you know who is battling cancer, visit www.gratefulfriends.org.

AMESBURY WOMAN REFLECTS ON HONORING LATE DAUGHTER THROUGH TAMMI’S CLOSET AS FOUNDATION CLOSES ITS DOORS

After losing her daughter Tammi in a tragic accident, Betty Vitale was determined to find a way to honor her late daughter by helping other young women. One afternoon, after donating her daughter’s prom dress that she’d struggled to part with, the grieving mother found her answer on how to do just that. “10 years after my Tammi had died, I finally decided I could let her dress go. So I brought it up to the East Boston high school, and by the time I got home which was like 10 minutes-somebody had taken the dress. It had fit somebody perfectly.”

This experience gave Betty the inspiration she needed to found an organization to help make this dream come true for other young ladies in need of a prom dress that otherwise could not afford it, and Tammi’s Closet was born. “7 weeks later, I’m open. I opened up with like maybe 70 dresses,” she recalled. “When I started it, I just wanted to keep my Tammi’s name going. She was only 19 when she died and had just gotten engaged to be married two days before. I remember the first dress I gave out, the mother was like, ‘It was either pay my rent or get my daughter a prom dress and I had to pick pay the rent.’ She said now, she got both. I can remember the fluttering I got in my heart, and I thought wow, this is going to help some girls.” For the first two years, Betty says things went very well and each night, she’d recap the day over a cup of tea on her porch telling Tammi how many girls she had been able to help.

Yet on April Fool’s Day of their third year, Betty came in to notice something was off. “I noticed some dresses were missing, and I thought the girls that volunteer for me had hid them on me. But they all said ‘No, they didn’t’. Somebody had come in and taken about 15 prom dresses,” she had learned. “I was heartbroken. They were free, why would anyone take them? I would have gave them to them, you know?” Fortunately, the theft left Betty a blessing in disguise. “I reported it to the police, and within 3 hours my phone starts ringing. There were news trucks everywhere, and I started getting dresses sent to me- 900 dresses by the end of the year! I didn’t know what I was going to do with them all!” she recalls, laughing. “I put out there on Facebook that I needed help with storage, and a couple called me up and said, ‘We’ll be there tomorrow, you can put them in our warehouse free of charge’.”

This was a major turning point for the organization, that was finally able to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony last year on her new space. Betty says she had been so excited, she’d poured her own money into furnishing the store to make it look like a real boutique-only to be forced to close weeks later due to the pandemic. “My heart broke for these girls,” says Betty, who held out hope only to be disappointed with the 2021 season. “This year, we didn’t know if there were going to be any proms.”

Sadly, disaster was about to strike again for the Vitale family. The building she has lived in for years was sold, and the new landlord went up in rent by more than she and her husband could afford. Despite her best efforts in searching for something her family could afford, the Vitales were ultimately forced to leave the state altogether and move in with family in Florida. This meant Tammi’s Closet would be no more. “I had to make the decision on closing it, and it was the hardest decision I ever made. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my Tammi all over again. There’s a lot more girls out there I wanted to help,” Betty said tearfully, reflecting on the many young women she and her husband have helped walk out of Tammi’s Closet with sparkles and a smile. Thankfully, one buyer stepped in to take most of her inventory to start a similar program for other women – and Tammi’s Closet, though not by name, will live on in spirit through the dresses given to other young women in need.

To hear more about these stories, watch this week’s episode below!

Charity Blog

Good News For January 10, 2021 | Evenings With Emmalyn: Episode 11

Here’s your weekly roundup of positive news from around New England!

In Norwood, one little girl’s act of kindness brought big smiles to the faces of first responders at Norwood Police & Fire. Jaylynn, daughter of the owners of Keegan’s Jewelers in Norwood, came up with a unique idea to both support local business and say thank you to those working on the front lines during trying times. She decided to make a “give back board” that featured gift cards for each of the officers and firefighters to try out a new restaurant and get a cup of coffee free of charge. Not even going to lie and tell you these are “allergies”, these are COVID times and honestly I’m just tearing up over here at her thoughtfulness and in looking at pictures of the first responders so clearly smiling under their masks!

On Martha’s Vineyard, one man is making some pretty big waves in the non-profit sector by giving back through every sale he makes. The owner of Feiner Real Estate and Chairman of the Chilmark Housing Community, Jim Feiner has had the unique perspective of being able to see both wealth and need on the small island. This experience, he says, is what inspired him to find a way to incentivize buyers to become what he calls “impact investors” by offering each buyer that comes to him the opportunity to donate 10% of his commission to the island charity of their choice.

To learn more about these stories, check out January 10th’s newscast below:

#FreshLookFriday

#FreshLookFriday: Holiday Hot Toddies Recipe

Looking for a recipe to spice up the holidays? We’ve got the perfect festive blend that not only screams New England, but can be made with our without booze to keep that holiday cheer under control (or let it loose-after all, it is 2020!).

While we made this recipe in a small crockpot, it can also be made on the stove as long as you keep the heat on low, keep stirring occasionally, and add an extra cup of cranberry juice.

Here’s the recipe:

2.5 cups cranberry juice

Honey (as desired)

1 inch ginger

peeled 2 cloves (you can sub several dashes of powder)

1/2 an orange, sliced

1/2 cup cranberries

3 cinnamon sticks (save more for decoration!)

Rum (if desired, add as much as you’d like being careful not to overpower other flavors!)

Charity Blog

Evenings With Emmalyn: Episode 6

Latest episode is now up on YouTube featuring JT’s Chronicles and some good news from Food Baskets MV, Boston Bruins Foundation & more!

Charity Blog

Evenings With Emmalyn: Episode 2

Featuring a local Cape Cod woman giving back to those who have been isolating for medical reasons with a fun outdoor activity, a Quincy Police Officer who surprised a local family with a very special pizza delivery, and of course your weekly motivation with JT’s Positive 5!

Charity Blog

#BornToRun GIVEAWAY to Benefit the Social Distance Dash 2.0!

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY WEEK!!! For those of you who don’t know, the Fourth of July is my absolute FAVORITE holiday of the year. Why?

It’s the one day a year where we all truly come together united as a country, take advantage of the warm weather and spend time with our family and friends. While this year may look different due to Coronavirus and we’re not celebrating in a normal fashion, I believe more than any other year this holiday is SO incredibly important as we take time to reflect on how we can be better as a nation. We are lifting up the voices of our fellow Americans as we not only just celebrated pride month, but to do our part to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We as a nation have work to do, and it’s going to take change to truly make us “indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”

That being said, I couldn’t think of a better time to launch my new GIVEAWAY CAMPAIGN to benefit a local U.S. charity every Tuesday (think #GivingTuesday) and I’m kicking it off in support of FMP Production’s Social Distance Dash 2.0. By pledging to the charity of your choice (they have 13 to choose from!), you can not only run to receive a medal, help out a local charity, but also be entered to win this #BornToRun t-shirt! Check out my video below to learn how to win 🙂

Charity Blog

Know A Woman In Your Life That Could Use A Shopping Spree? Fashion Fun Pop Has Your Chance!

Maybe she’s your co-worker that you know has a ton going on at home. Maybe she’s your mother or your sister, who you watch work hard on the front lines all day. Maybe she’s a friend who’s been home trying to raise her children, work from home, and be a school teacher to them all at once (and still manage to get food cooked and on the table!). Whoever she is, that woman in your life that you just keep thinking, ‘She needs a break!’: here’s your chance to give her one in the form of a gift card to Fashion Fun Pop.

Founder Ariel Koonce Fortes says the program, “Nominate Her”, started by chance when an old friend offered a donation to her small fashion boutique of $100 to keep things going after they were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19. “A friend reached out and was like, ‘Ariel, I know it’s not a lot, but I’d like to somehow donate $100 your way towards the business,” Ariel explained. While she was grateful for the donation to keep her boutique running, the pair immediately knew there was something larger they could do with this donation. “I started thinking, you know what, let’s throw it out to the community and have everyone say, I would like to nominate this person for a gift card. We find so many women in (our store) who just boost each other up during the events we have, share their stories and tell about their work, there’s so many connections made – and then COVID-19 hit. So it was a blow to the business, yes, but also to all those women who had been connecting with each other and loving on each other and boosting each other up, that now found themselves not having that space to connect. “

How does it work? The “Nominate Her” program is a no questions asked contest where you simply email a name and story to fashionfunpop@gmail.com . From there names will be put into a basket, and every Saturday evening Ariel and her young children will shuffle them and select a name. “You don’t have to share their personal information, just let us know who you’d like to nominate. The point is, we’d like to put smiles on these women’s faces.”

Outside of nominating a woman for a donation, you can also give a gift card to sponsor the next batch of giveaways, you can do that as well. Ariel’s own children have even stepped up in an adorable way to sponsor the next giveaway with their birthday money, a choice that she says makes her proud as a parent. “They heard what Mommy and Daddy were doing, and know they get to save half and spend half of their birthday money. My son came to me and said, ‘Me and Bella, we talked, and we want to give a $20 gift certificate’.”

Who are donations like these going to? Ariel described one entry she received that she says has been stuck on her mind every week. “A mom nominated daughter, who is a nurse on a COVID 19 unit and also she has 3 kids at home. She also has a part time job where she works at a nursing home,” Ariel explained. “She must go to work every day in anxiety, you know, ‘I don’t want to bring this home, I have to be super careful’, all the thoughts going through her head…then it’s the mental aspect of seeing these patients: Do they make it, do they not?” Stories like these have lead Ariel to, despite not even having met most of the nominees in person due to the pandemic, continue have personal relationships with her clients the same way she would if her doors were open. “I found myself praying for this woman, please let her win. She didn’t get nominated that week, but we keep the names for the random drawing every week and now that I know her name, I’m praying for her.”

To learn more about Fashion Fun Pop or shop online, visit their website at fashionfunpop.com and check out the full video below!

Charity Blog

#StayHomeSeries: Designs For The Front Lines

“How can I say thank you?”

It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves lately as we’ve watched our friends, family members, and so many others step up to save those fighting against the deadly Coronavirus. For each day a healthcare professional walks into their workplace, they do so to care for those who can no longer care for themselves only to leave at the end of their day exhausted mentally and physically, drained from a day of saving lives. For each and every one of them, we are a grateful nation. Yet how do you thank someone for doing a hero’s work? For one local Framingham woman, that answer was to donate her talent to create a special gift to be given by the grateful to those who deserve a reason to smile at the end of their day.

Trisha, the Founder of SDesign Jewelry that is handmade in Framingham, started her journey many years ago after discovering a new passion while running a successful boutique. “I began making jewelry for charities, and that kind of spun itself into something a little bit larger,” she explains. “As that was happening, my daughter was getting bigger and I thought, you know what I think I’m going to for now close the store and I’m going to for now make my jewelry company as big as I can while I was a stay a t home mom taking care of my child.” S Design, named after her daughter, was born.

While her work today has kept her incredibly busy, Trisha couldn’t help but notice as heroes day in and day out left their homes and families to help fight on the front lines of the Coronavirus outbreak-and knew she had to do something to help. So, she did what she does best: she got to work designing the perfect gift to not only give back herself, but encourage others to submit their own heroes to receive a gift. “I released our COVID 19 Strong bracelet program. We have a “Share Your Hero” tab on our website because number one, we want to know who YOU want us to donate to,” Trisha explains. “It’s really a spiritual armor bracelet initiative, and for every bracelet purchase a bracelet is donated to a local hero.”

What does the bracelet look like? A stunning sterling-silver bracelet, hematite was selected as the featured accent detail thanks to its reputation for healing qualities. “Hematite helps to absorb negative energy and be calming in times of stress or anxiety. It is widely coveted as a protective stone known for stabilizing a person’s energy with its grounding force and turning negative energy into positive vibrations to create hope.”

Even the packaging for the bracelet is unique, and has been designed specifically for the hero receiving it with a card thanking them for their service and reminding them that each bead serves as a pillar of strength to support them throughout their day: Community, Resilience, Courage, and Compassion. For those who opt to purchase the piece for themselves, a “COVID-19 STRONG” message is sent thanking the wearer and reminding them that their purchase has supported the donation of another piece to a local hero. From classic black and white boxes with bows to soft drawstring bags and even a glass case, the packaging itself is nearly as impressive as the pieces. Trisha says that’s for a reason: she specifically hand-picks the packaging based on the piece and to whom it is going.

Want to see what her work looks like? Check out my full video below to see an unboxing of S Design’s STUNNING pieces, and visit her website www.sdesignjewelry.com to nominate a local hero (and maybe get one for yourself, too!):

“It’s really a spiritual armor bracelet initiative, and for every bracelet purchase a bracelet is donated to a local hero. When we package it to go to the hero, we package it differently. ecaucse the most important thing tjhey need to know is that their braceltt was given to them by a grateful memeber of their community.

Charity Blog

#StayHomeSeries: Social Distancing Dash!

When I first started this journey of doing a charity blog, I had been overwhelmed with joy to watch my calendar fill up in February with events booked through the month of JUNE! It made my heart so happy to be able to not only tell the stories behind so many charities throughout New England, but to be able to give them something through my work that they could then use to help spread the word of all the good they are doing in our local communities. Yet very quickly, all of that changed as one by one I watched emails pour in with cancellations and postponements of the events that many times serve as an organization’s main source of revenue for the year. I thought to myself, “What are they going to do?”

In these past few weeks, I’ve watched as those responsible for organizing such major events have learned to pivot in this time of crisis. From virtual evenings of giving to online auctions and now, even a social distancing dash, it’s clear that each organization’s dedication to their mission is the driving force behind such innovation. At FMP Productions, the idea for a “Social Distancing Dash” stemmed from a passion for their charities and in an effort to find a way to keep them going when the rest of the world has stopped.

How does the “Dash” work? By signing up on their website, donors were able to contribute any amount they felt comfortable with starting at $25 to pledge to race. Then, from Friday May 1-Sunday, May 3 it was time to mask up or find a remote location in which to run and get out there!

For organizations like the David Ortiz Fund, President Hallie Lorber says this dash is critical to keeping their cause running as their major fundraising events including the Boston Marathon and a golf tournament were cancelled. “For us specifically, we help children who are in need of pediatric cardiac care. A lot of our kids are at high risk during this time-so they can’t get to the hospital to get the services that they need, they can’t have follow up for the surgeries that they have had, so a lot of them don’t have access not only to medical care but to their medication,” Lorber explained as she described the David Ortiz Fund’s mission. “We are very dependent, like other charities on hosting in person events, and we are struggling for a way to raise money to be able to provide the services. The Social Distance Dash is a way for us to supplement some of those events, and gives donors the opportunity to do something good while doing something good for themselves by getting outside, getting some fresh air, exercising, all while adhering to the social distancing policies.”

At the Bourque Family Foundation, this struggle is all too understood. On Wednesday evening, the Foundation was scheduled to have its annual Gala that brings in a large portion of revenue for the year meant to go towards Pete Frates’ mission of supporting ALS care & research. “With what we’re going through right now, we’re just holding tight. Everybody’s in the same boat,” Ray Bourque explains. Yet with this unique opportunity, Ray says he’s been excited to get outside and have the opportunity to bring support back to their foundation- and yes, Ray himself participated! “We’re challenging everybody to get out there and have a bike ride, walk a mile, run a mile-walk 5 miles!” He and his wife, Ray said, had been walking three to five miles a day and are more than ready to get out there of course wearing a custom-made Boston Bruins mask!

Yet while they may have different missions, the overall message that was resonated throughout talks with both Hallie and Ray remained the same in support of all the charities benefitting from the #SocialDistanceDash. “Regardless of who you’re gonna donate to, just be active and get involved. A small donation goes a long way.”

To watch the full video from the #SocialDistanceDash, see below. Don’t forget to Like & Subscribe on Youtube to keep up with my latest content!

Charity Blog

#StayHomeSeries MASK. MATCH. CHALLENGE!

Who’s up for a challenge you can do from your couch?! Everyone? Okay, good.

Let’s start by introducing you to David, the Founder of DocPPE that launched an incredible new startup in response to the need of extra masks not only on our front lines, but in our communities. A software developer for 20 years who has founded his own companies and attended law school, David was inspired by his wife who witnessed the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) herself working as a physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. As she continuously shared her concerns, David being an entrepreneur himself felt compelled to do something.

“From start to finish, we’ve been doing this for four weeks. I had the first design done in 4 days, tested within five.” David’s team, which consists of several family members, friends & manufacturers, also includes his wife: she donated her two weeks’ vacation time to devote it instead to getting the necessary supplies out as quickly as possible. “We’re working night and day to get these things out,” he explains. “My wife is a great woman and donated her vacation time to make masks. I don’t know how you get much better than that, to be honest.”

An American-made product with a facility right at home in Boston, David says he’s been taking calls constantly. “It’s crazy because we have a live chat on the site so it comes to me directly. I’m the one who answers, I’m the one who’s there and people are like: Are you real? Ae you in America? Is this a real thing?” The skepticism, he says, is understood. “Because everybody buys this stuff online and they’re not getting it, they want that assurance that they’re actually going to get what they pay for.” To ease concerns, David has taken to giving out his personal cell phone number. “We’re for the people, by the people.”

So, what’s this challenge we’re talking about? If you are able to donate anything from $5-$500 (of course, more is always welcomed!), David will match that donation of masks to go to either front line workers or Navajo Nation, who do not have access to PPE. “If you donate 500, we’ll match it with another 500. When friends start sharing with friends making this a competition to get it to healthcare workers on the front lines.” The response so far, he says, has been overwhelming as they have partnered with Blue Sky Entertainment to get well-known athletes like Andrew Raycroft & Charlie Coyle to show their support. “Everybody’s starting to come out and they want to help. It’s so nice to see the communities, the personalities and different celebrities come out and want to help people.”

So far, DocPPE has been able to donate supplies to Boston hospitals such as South Shore, Beth Israel, and Mass General Hospital. Want to join in and help? Donate here and challenge a friend to do the same!: https://docppe.com/donations/