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Bears Across Africa

Bears Across Africa

Each month 1000 bears are shipped to Africa, but these are not your wild beasts with sharp claws. No, we are talking about cuddly teddy bears distributed to young children in search of a lovable companion. As reported by Kevyn Burger in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (1-1-17), this outreach comes about thanks to Amy Berman, who started a non-profit 14 years ago replicating what her mother had done during WW II for English children evacuated due to bombing. Berman, as it turns out, is using the same pattern that her mother had used to make those bears.

Altogether, a total of more than 128,000 children in 14 countries have received these bears over the many years that the Mother Bear Project has been operating. As Berman states, “Children need something to play with or sing to, to cuddle at the end of the day.” Many of them are orphans of Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Since Berman started the project, volunteers in all 50 states as well as 30 countries have stepped up to make the bears. They also contribute three dollars per bear to cover shipping costs. A 90-year-old former art teacher, Sister Lauren Spence, holds the record for number of bears fabricated at 2,230.

Brennan adds a couple of nice touches to finish off each donation. She has volunteers sew a red heart on each bear and tags each one with a note from the knitter. She also sends a thank-you note back to the knitter. Finally, she coordinates getting a picture of the child holding the bear—a most gratifying gift to the knitter in exchange for all of the unconditional love sent the child’s way with each bear. Thank you, Amy Berman, for the Mother Bear Project that expands your mother’s work many fold, certainly a fine example of Love Lived Large. If you’d like to donate to her cause, check out her website: motherbearproject.org.

 

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Auto Repair on the Cheap

Auto Repair on the Cheap

If a smudge of auto grease got on her note pad, Cathy Heying wouldn’t have been surprised. Living two lives as a social worker and auto repair student could explain that. But if she hadn’t been so entwined in the lives of her social work clients, the urge to learn auto repair would never have happened. She recognized that if there was one thing that put a wrench into the lives of her clients, it was a broken down car that they couldn’t afford to repair, making it difficult to get to work.

With that in mind, Cathy hatched a plan to start up a non-profit auto repair business in Minneapolis. She studied the craft part-time at a local trade school, raised money, and in 2013 was able to sublet a single repair bay. As reported by Kim Palmer in the Minneapolis StarTribune (8-28-16), the Lift Garage charged only $15/hr. for labor to customers who met certain low income guidelines. As we all know, that compares with rates well over $100/hr. at most repair garages. Parts were sold at cost.

The need was great, and the Lift Garage has now grown to four repair bays with six full time employees. Over the last four years, about 700 customers have jointly saved an estimated half million dollars! Unfortunately, demand far exceeds capacity, and wait times can be up to three months. Expansion, however, is in the works.

Cathy reports that one of the hardest things about her job is having to tell customers that their car, often very old, is not worth the investment to repair it, even at bargain rates. Repairs that often lead to other needed fixes are also difficult to deal with.

Overall, costs to operate the Lift Garage exceed the incoming fees, so Cathy has found that she spends most of her time now soliciting donations and managing the place. Her days of grease on the note pad are few and far between.

A salute to Cathy Heying is in order for taking the initiative to help low income car owners—just another example of Love Lived Large.  If you would like to donate, check out:

https://www.theliftgarage.org/

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Love from a Few Strangers

Love from a Few Strangers

hands-together2

 

They came bearing a care package. Not that the cards and stuffed animals would make any immediate difference to the 22-month-old girl who suffered life-threatening injuries at the hands of her father. The members of the Black Student Council of Edison High School in Minneapolis wanted to meet with the mother, Rae’Chelle, to say “we care” and to let her know she was not alone. It seemed to be appropriate activity for Martin Luther King Day. A teacher had facilitated the meeting.

Rae’Chelle was very happy to meet with them. The tears flowed freely, mixed in with a few smiles. The mother had no explanation for the father’s out-of-control behavior. He had provided a number of excuses. More importantly, he had seemed to have real regrets as he brought his daughter, Rae’Ana to the hospital. He was now in jail, charged with first degree assault. But none of that seemed important now. Whether Rae’Ana would survive was the critical question.

The toddler had incurred multiple injuries, including brain trauma, hemorrhaging, a lacerated spleen and kidney, and numerous broken bones. But today, as they met outside the hospital (sixteen was too many to go inside as visitors), there was better news. Rae’Chelle’s prayers had been answered. Her daughter’s eyes were now open and she was breathing on her own, even saying, “Mama.” Physical therapy was to follow. The mother also revealed the father had been praying for her as well. A good turn of events for the young couple also expecting a second child.

The teens’ visit, topped off by a group hug, was very meaningful to Rae’Chelle. “This touches me,” she said. No doubt about it—certainly they were an example of Love Lived Large!

(This story is based on one originally written by David Chanen that appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune dated January 19, 2016.)

 

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A Different Kind of Debt Collector

A Different Kind of Debt Collector

man on phone

 

Chances are more than a few of us have been on the wrong end of the phone line at some point in our lives. The end where we’re hearing all kinds of demands. Yes, there are many sorts of these types of calls, and generally they are not pleasant. Let’s focus for a moment on the aspect of being a debtor. Debts can take many forms, but for simplicity, we can start by discussing the debt of money.  Let’s take a look at a different kind of debt collector.

Bill from Tulsa, Oklahoma decided to take a unique new approach to debt collecting. I heard about him on Steve Hartman’s On the Road (CBS, 10/04/13). He figured that yelling loud would not necessarily produce better results. He knew that from experience. There was a reason many of these folks were not paying. Many just needed a chance to get back on their feet, and that’s where Bill decided to change his role. He began offering additional services. He called it his “Customer Care” experience. He helped with such things as resumes and job searches. Getting paid now was not the goal, but rather getting paid eventually was.

The results for Bill were encouraging. He found that the success rate for getting paid by people he had helped was about double that of the old style of collecting from his debtors. Thanks, Bill, for your efforts at Love Lived Large! I think a number of debt collectors could learn a thing or two from your approach.

Of course, the greatest debt collector of all time could be our Father God, but then He decided not to collect. No need to tell you He forgave the grand debt of his Son, Jesus, given over 2,000 years ago in exchange for all of our sins, no matter how many, no matter how grievous. How can we repay that? Fortunately, we have a gracious God!

 

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More than a Few Push-ups

More than a Few Push-ups

Exercise groupSometimes it feels like a great deal of courage is needed to just greet another person, especially a complete stranger. Can you imagine the courage required to do an intervention with a stranger?

As reported by CBS’ Steve Hartman on On the Road (5-2-14), seven members of the YMCA in Nashville, TN, did just that. A motley group of women and men of various ages, their own bodies may not have been the picture of fitness. But they did recognize when another young woman’s body was growing too thin—dangerously too thin. They each could have decided to stick to their own business, to not get involved. But they talked together and decided collectively that something must be done.

They were first able to secretly contact the woman’s parents. They learned that Lauryn Lax had a history of anorexia, having been treated for it on several occasions since age ten. That was all the information they needed to hatch their plan.

The exercise group watched for her arrival one day, and as she got out of her car in the parking lot, surrounded her and shared their intent to intervene.  Despite her vehement protests, they insisted on bringing her to the hospital to get her vitals checked.

Doctors confirmed certain organs, including her heart, were perilously close to failing, and put her in a treatment program. The gym group’s hearts were nowhere near failing, and by exercising their determination to get involved, had probably saved Lauryn Lax’s life. That’s what she believes.

Now, three years later and thirty-six pounds heavier, a thankful Lauran has completed her doctorate program in occupational therapy. Her goal is to treat people with eating disorders. No doubt, the small group of concerned gym compatriots had exhibited Love Lived Large, and many future anorexia sufferers will benefit.

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