Philosophy Tuesday

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Make a difference

We see it every day at CRC Nashville. People with generous hearts and a compassionate love for those who need a hand up, not a hand out. Some of them have advanced degrees; others barely made it out of high school. We’ve even had a nonprofit partner who was illiterate. He spent a lot of his time preaching to children about the importance of getting an education. He used himself as an example of the struggles and barriers set before you if you don’t.

Make an impact. You’d be surprised how a small gesture can turn another person’s day around.


The Chicks are back

The Chicks in warmer weather
The Chicks in warmer weather

We apologize. We’ve been away. But we’re back now.

See, here’s how it works in the nonprofit world. Everyone goes all out for about 50 weeks a year. And then around the middle of December we’ve just done all we can do. So, barring an emergency, we just take the rest of the year off. Of course, we had an emergency Christmas week when Miss Brenda of United Neighbors of Edgehill needed some scarves for 27 little old ladies that had somehow been unaccounted for in the Christmas Giveaway. So naturally I went down to the warehouse, which was about as cold as Antarctica, and found some very beautiful new scarves for the ladies.

We were all ready to gear back up in early January when that dang Polar Vortex came swooping out of Canada.


polar-vortex-winterThe Chicks are not Polar Vortex kind of people, especially in an unheated warehouse (well, there is the capability of heat if Chick One wasn’t too cheap to turn it on).  There weren’t enough layers of long underwear to get us to go to the warehouse. And when we got back, wouldn’t you know it. The Polar Vortex ate our Backflow Preventer, which keeps icky water from coming into the building (we had quite enough of that in 2010, thank you very much).

IMG_3244See that giant crack? We though we might just be able to put some duct tape over it, but our friendly plumber said that would not be advisable. And while he installed a new one (why do Backflow Preventers cost $800?), we had no water so that pushed us back a little more.

IMG_3245But now we have a brand spankin’ new Backflow Preventer and we’re pretty darn proud of that. Sometimes we just stand in the parking lot admiring it.

We’ve got lots in store for early 2014. We’re ecstatic that we’re getting a new website that will be as cool as the Chicks are and will work on mobile devices.  More on that as we get closer to the launch, but the picture at the top of this post is involved. And we’re relaunching our Partner Visit Days, when we venture out from the warehouse and see first-hand what our wonderful nonprofit partners do when they’re not picking up stuff at the warehouse. We’ll take you along.

And after a hiatus due to Chick One’s lack of imagination, we are revving up Bacon Wednesdays again. I know you won’t visit us on the blog to read about us putting together emergency hygiene kits (we’re doing that, too) or to marvel at the efficiency of our Backflow Preventer. But I think a little bacon love will lure you back.

The Chicks’ measure of success

Every year in early December the warehouse at CRC World Headquarters is packed to the gills with stuff – new clothing, socks and underwear, gift items, personal hygiene products – all for our nonprofit partners to give their clients in need at a time when many are not remembered any other way.

So here’s our measure of success. Full warehouse:

Betsy Full WarehouseEmpty warehouse:

King Daddy cleaning upMerry Christmas. The Chicks have already celebrated their happiest moment during this blessed holiday season.

Bring a big truck

Christmas Giveaway 2013 2Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. The Christmas Giveaway at CRC World Headquarters.

We’ve had a blessed year. It is better to give than receive, but for the Chicks it’s better to receive first. And receive we have. The warehouse was jam packed with what we consider really good stuff – all new, all useful. Well, mostly all useful. We have a couple pallets of paperweights. Does anyone use those anymore? If so, give the Chicks a call. We will hook you up.

Christmas Giveaway 2013So here’s Betsy in fast motion wheeling around pallets of the good stuff for our nonprofit partners to pick up. You know, in the nonprofit world we’re all about measurable results, inputs, outcomes and whatchamacallits. But the only way we can measure the success of the Christmas Giveaway is by an empty warehouse. Who knows how many tentacles reach out from this warehouse to people in need all over Middle Tennessee. If we measured that by the number of items in the giveaway, it would be closing in on 50,000 people whose holidays were a little brighter. Not bad for a couple days work.

Sun Kissing Dolphins

Tim and Ronald unload the loot
Tim and Ronald unload the loot

It occurred to me today that we are in an odd business. Tim and Ronald from Progressive Directions made a pick-up for the Chicks at a major distributor of the types of  items you see in gift shops in Gatlinburg or Branson.

We split the truckload so it’s a win-win. But this is the moment today when I realized that most people don’t carry on business conversations like this:

“Frogs?” Tim yelled. “You want the frogs?

“No, you can have them,” I yell back.

“Sun Kissing Dolphins? You want those?”

“You can have those, too.”

“Color Your Own Cups?”

“Yes, we want those.”

Seriously, we are thankful for every box full of resin hillbilly figurines and mood rings. And such like that. During our Christmas Giveaway we serve literally tens of thousands of people in need. Most of them would not be remembered during the holidays were it not for our nonprofit partners who take the items donated to CRC and spread them among the lonely, the home-bound, the troubled and those living in abject poverty. When you have nothing in your house or apartment that is even remotely decorative sometimes a Sun Kissing Dolphin looks pretty good.

It’s cold

Snow Nov. 25, 2013It is snowing on Nov. 25. Of course, it is. It’s a giveaway day and the dock doors are wide open from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are many advantages to the wonderful jobs Betsy and I have. But conducting giveaways in 30-degree weather is not one of them.

The Chicks are prepared for this kind of hardship. We wear long underwear and Chick 1 wears heavy wool socks. Chick II is still young and beautiful so she has not reached the stage yet where she’s willing to look like a lumberjack, even at work in a warehouse. There is hot coffee that may or may not contain just a wee bit of a liquid warming agent. There is a space heater that in no way keeps anyone warm, but if we pretend it does maybe it will be so.

Betsy and Kim, back in the dead of winter post-flood in a 90,000-square-foot warehouse with no space heater
Betsy and Kim, back in the dead of winter post-flood in a 90,000-square-foot warehouse with no space heater

So this is a photo from a couple of years ago when the Chicks were doing flood recovery from a 90,000-square-foot warehouse near the airport. Talk about cold. I called them weather weenies when they asked to get a space heater. They got one and I refused to even come within 100 yards of it. So a couple of years later, I admit I was wrong. Even if the space heater emits a mere promise of warmth, it makes me feel better.

Tomorrow when we get to the warehouse for the second giveaway day it will be a balmy 25 degrees. Oh, joy.

Our happy place

New home stuffThe Chicks love almost every part of our job, but the thing we love the most is “shopping” in the warehouse for others. We actually fight each other to go shopping. That’s a lie. We don’t actually come to fisticuffs. We just kind of elbow each other out of the way.

Like today, for example. I started shopping for a lady who has just moved into housing but has nothing to bring with her. Nothing. Think about that. Yea, I have a roof over my head. Oh, oh. I don’t have any bedding or even a bar of soap.

So I started making the pile you see in the photo – everything brand new and everything that I’d be proud to have in my own home. Nice bedding set with matching bathmat. Beautiful Memory Foam pillows. New pots and pans. I’m humming along and then I start seeing things I didn’t pick out. A stray area rug. A wall hanging with hooks. A potted plant. Betsy?

She couldn’t help herself. And that’s fine. We both love to make other people’s houses into homes. I’m particularly proud, with this shopping trip, of the purse and matching scarf. Betsy doesn’t think I know how to do that kind of stuff.

Mr. Bailey

Betsy and I were honored to receive the Citizen of the Year Award from the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Saturday night. The chapter here in Nashville is a philanthropic powerhouse. If there’s someone in need they will track them down and help them – young or old, no matter the circumstance. During the May 2010 floods they were instrumental in providing relief to hundreds of people. It wasn’t their mission and nobody asked them to spend weeks of their own personal time assisting survivors. They just did it because these gentlemen have the biggest hearts in Nashville.

PrestonWhich brings me to Preston Bailey, or “Mr. Bailey” as his wife, Jan, refers to him. Preston is an officer in this fraternity I have come to admire and respect so much. He’s also one of our nonprofit partners at CRC because of his job at Welcome Home Ministries. Preston has become like family to the Chicks. The other day I was cleaning out some flood-related papers in my home office and I came across something I would have used in a thank-you speech if I had been called upon to deliver one.

Thankfully the fraternity runs a tight awards ship and I was not called upon to ramble on and on as the rest of the guests started staring at the ceiling. But here’s what I would have said:

“I feel kind of like I’ve won an Oscar and I have just prepared a few brief notes. Only the notes I have are from 3 1/2 years ago.

Preston note 1“Among the notes scribbled on an envelope as CRC was collecting tools to help homeowners whose houses were damaged in the flood was an emphatic outlined note to ‘Call Preston.’ I’m sure the next sentence, if there were one, would have been: Need help from his fraternity.

“And this:

Preston note 2“Confirm appointments with homeowners…Preston…propane hot water heaters. More flood stuff that required Preston’s attention (at least according to me).”

Omega Psi Phi recognized CRC with an award because of the flood, I’m sure, and a few other things we’ve helped them with, the latest being new shoes for children at John Early Magnet Middle School.

Here’s Preston again, getting ready to take the shoes to those beautiful children who had come to school without any. We would not have known about this need had it not been for Omega Psi Phi, which mentors students at the school.

Preston Bailey of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity with donated shoes from Genesco
Preston Bailey of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity with donated shoes from Genesco

The principles Omega Psi Phi lives by are Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance and Uplift. Preston is as humble a man as I have ever known and he will cringe when he sees the attention I’m paying to him right now.

But he embodies all those qualities his fraternity holds so dear. And we’re so honored to be a part of his and all of his fraternity brothers’ lives.

Let’s live outside ourselves

Volunteers help homeless men stay warm through a frigid night
Volunteers help homeless men stay warm through a frigid night

Where were you Wednesday  night when temperatures plummeted to 24 degrees? Most of us were at home – in  a house with a solid roof, a nice heating system and maybe a roaring fire in the fireplace.

Gabe Pizzillo, the owner of Gabe’s Electronics, was looking out for those who have no home Wednesday night. He was at the Upper Room, handing out socks, blankets and warm clothing to the homeless who faced a frigid night without adequate protection. There are more homeless people than shelter space. There are also some homeless people who will not leave their pets during dangerously cold weather or are afraid to leave the small space under a bridge or in a wooded area they’ve staked their claim to as “home.”

Let’s live outside ourselves – that’s Gabe’s phrase for putting yourself second and others first.

Here’s what he wrote about the event on Facebook:

“Lots of warmth was given out last night to warm hearts that really needed it. Yes, we really need thermal underwear and socks now. One thing that really warmed my heart was when the last pair of thermal socks was taken. A few minutes later an older man who everyone knew really needed some socks more looked for some. Well, there were none to be found so one of the homeless who had one of the nice new socks said, “Here, sir, you can have my pair.” May giving be in the hearts of everyone because Happiness is giving from your heart.”

Homeless man

We were there in spirit. CRC donated 300 pairs of gloves to Gabe for people who have temporarily lost their way, their hope or the roof over their heads.

That man in the photo could be your co-worker, your neighbor or the guy who fixes your car. Or he could be you. Let’s live outside ourselves.

Blessing Boxes

Saika Sometimes – actually, most of the time – Betsy and I get way more from our nonprofit partners than we give. Funny how it works that way in the nonprofit world. Nice, that. At any rate, one of our nonprofit partners is Heart of Worship, which maintains a school in Haiti by paying for the children’s lunches, raising money for repairs and additions, and shipping needed supplies. I am told that the average Haitian child only attends school through the sixth grade because they are then expected to work to help support their families. Ninety percent of the schools in Haiti are run by private or church-based groups. So we love Heart of Worship. And once a year, they ask for Blessing Boxes for each child at their school. Once again, more a blessing to those who provide the boxes. My little girl, left in the photo, is Saika Antoine. She’s four years old, the same age as my granddaughter, Sydney. Sydney has everything a little girl could want and she deserves it. In fact, she just got back from Disney World. Saika will most probably never leave her country or even her village. Unless. Unless, she gets a good start on an education and breaks that sixth-grade ceiling. The Blessing Boxes contain a new outfit, socks and underwear, hygiene supplies, a toy or something else fun and a note from the donor to make it personal. I had fun making mine. I don’t get to shop for Sydney very often so it was nice to have another little girl to fuss over. It’s not too late to send your blessings to a child whose obstacles are many and options few.  If you’d like to spread holiday cheer in a different way this year, click here to get more information.