Farming Family with Fire in Northern California

The fastest NFL player can return a punt 100 yards – end zone to end zone – in about ten seconds.  When the Northern California wild fires began raging uncontrollably throughout the wine country, it was traveling that same distance in just three.

IMG_8775

One of nearly 10,000 structures burned

 

The fires started at night.  Late at night and without warning.  The Santa Ana winds nearing hurricane force strength.  Flaming embers, some the size of softballs, traveled up to a mile through the night sky.  Leaping across entire roadways…turning homes, cars, and buildings into piles of ash.  A lifetime collection of memories becoming charred remains in seconds.

Two days after the fires began, we were on our way to San Francisco for a writing assignment with the World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  WWOOF for short, is a hospitality service that organizes homestays on sustainable organic farms.  Those who work on the land are called, WWOOFERS.  And in exchange for their labor they get food, lodging and first-hand experience in organic growing methods.   Founded nearly 50 years ago, the organization is now in more than 130 countries with over 2,000 farms spread across the United States.

IMG_9111

Maple the Calf in the fields of Duckworth Farm

I scoured the WWOOF web site for a suitable farm, and settled on Duckworth.  An 82-acre family-run farm outside Santa Rosa, in a tiny valley a few miles south of Sebastopol.  They grow mostly blueberries, but also pears, apples, and plums.  There are horses and sheep, cows and chickens, plenty of ducks and a few tractors.  And we were excited to see it all.

Flying into San Francisco, on final approach around 10,000 feet, I noticed a faint fiery glow across the bay, just north of the city.  We picked up the rental car and started towards our B&B in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, a few miles away from one of many evacuation lines.  Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge I rolled up the windows to keep the smoke from filling the inside. We were still 60 miles from the flames.

In the morning, the sun, trying its best to peek through the smoke, spilled through the curtains and landed on my face. I thought I’d slept through my alarm, until I reached for my phone and realized I’d never set it.  But I had slept through a few calls.  Blinking my eyes awake, I hit “play” and listened to the first voice recording.  It was Duckworth.  All was fine at the farm.  The fires were still several miles to the north…and we were invited to come by first thing Monday.  So, we had three days.  Three days to explore.  Half a week to spend in a town that was on edge…and becoming edgier by the second.

Walking down for breakfast I took a seat against the parlor window and poured some orange juice into a thick bottomed glass.  Across from me sat Judy and Felix, both retired doctors.  They’d fled their condo and taken up residence in the room below me on the first night of the fire.  I stood to introduce myself as Judy told me her story.

“We smelled smoke.  Looked outside.  Saw flames.  And just got in the car.” She said.  Never taking her eyes off her scrambled eggs.  “We left so fast we had to leave Burt behind inside.”  Hoping Burt was more than capable of driving himself to safety, I was somewhat relieved to find out Burt was a feral cat she’d been fostering.

At the head of the table was David, who worked in a fancy financial office.  He explained  his job, but I’m four years short of a Harvard degree.  So, I just nodded as if it all made perfect sense.

For the next three days, our Breakfast Club started the day together.  Sharing food, coffee and stories.  Always trying to steer the conversation towards something more pleasant.  But we always came back to Burt, the latest containment reports, and the people we’d been meeting as we traveled through Napa, Sonoma, and other neighboring towns.

One after another, we found people making a difference.  People from all walks of life who gathered in parking lots and strip malls, forging for items their neighbors desperately needed.  Neighbors, who’s names they didn’t even know.

From the famous – Guy Fieri cooking for firefighters – to the not-so well-known; a local restauranteur serving food, water, and apparel to nearly 2,000 people.  We found the spirit of community everywhere.

Clara, a boutique clothing shop employee whose house burned to the ground, told us how her employer had moved her and her son into their home.  And Foster, an artist who escaped the flames with his son, Max.  Passing three people he didn’t know, who’d planted themselves in his front yard, digging trenches and scooping buckets of water from his neighbor’s pool to save his house.  The very next day, Max cashed his entire paycheck and bought blankets, chargers, gift cards, waters, and batteries.  Not for him and his dad, but for other evacuees.

There was an elderly man who grabbed a hose and kept the flames away from his neighbor’s house, while his home burned down behind him.  A Santa Rosa man who turned his camper into a food shelter for first responders.  Cooking meals and taking donations.  We met a group of teenagers who volunteered at a pet shelter for misplaced animals.  And two sisters who looked to be well into their 70’s, held hands and smiled, telling us they’d successfully alerted their neighbors before their condo caught flames.

When it came to the fires, six degrees of separation had been whittled to one.  But not a single person we met, listened to, or learned of, ever spoke about their loss without mentioning their gains.  How they’d each gained a newfound appreciation for being alive.  And in the process, gained new friends who were now helping them overcome unimaginable loss.

Monday morning was the last call of our Breakfast Club.  We were leaving the next day.  Firefighters were getting the upper hand on a majority of the fires, and many of the mandatory evacuations were being lifted.  Judy and Felix were heading back to their condo, where only minor smoke damage remained.  Burt, was safe, too.  A neighbor had spotted him through the window and alerted Judy an hour earlier.

David gobbled down his breakfast faster than usual.  He was in a hurry to catch a flight for a business meeting in Palm Springs.  Life was getting back to normal, it seemed.  Whatever this new normal was going to look like.

As our club dissolved, we exchanged numbers and emails, shook hands and hugged one another…promising to keep in touch.  It reminded me of my last day of High School.  All of us rushing to sign each other’s yearbook before walking out of school one last time.  Driving through the tiny town of Sebastopol, careening through its winding roads towards Duckworth Farm, I wondered if I’d hear from any of them again.

At the bottom of the valley, I turned into the farm and parked our dusty red rental alongside an old tractor. Trying to look cool in the rustic, rural setting.  The tractor did.  I looked…well, not.

IMG_8923

Flowers in the Kitchen Garden at Duckworth Farm

 

Lorri, who runs the farm, and her daughter, Snazzy (who was about to run us all over the farm) greeted us in the driveway with a welcome reserved for long lost cousins who finally found their way back home.  “Let’s go into the cookhouse.”  Lorri said, leading the way.  “We can talk in there.”  Making my way into the building, sidestepping a handful of border collies, I felt that familiar sense of community we’d found in Sonoma, Napa, and elsewhere.

The cookhouse, a small 20X20 rectangular building, is the nucleus of the farm.  A warm and inspiring feeling overwhelms you the moment you cross the threshold.  Windows, from top to bottom, occupy the entire back wall.  Looking out into the kitchen garden with its flowers and vegetables, the barn with its looms and cupolas, and the hills in the distance that form the valley.

Inside, in the left-hand corner, sat an antique stove with burners from a bygone era.  Big clunky knobs stared up at a set of large pots and pans on top of the warmer oven.  Dozens of cookbooks with worn out pages of recipes from pastries to pastas were stacked along the floor.  And an ice cream maker lived just off to the right, opposite a large fully stacked freezer with enough food to feed an army.  And it did.  All the time.  Dozens of glass jars, each with its contents half filled, lined up neatly along a wooden table in the middle of the room.

We remove all the cooking items from their packaging, so our students can see the ingredients, as opposed to having processed foods in cans or boxes.”  Lorri told us.  “A box of product typically has one use. Ingredients are unlimited.  So, I like them to see opportunities not products.  That, and I really dislike advertisers in my kitchen.”  She added.

The cookhouse is the place WOOFERS gather to make their meals.  Succeeding or…not. But with little harm done, either way.  “We’ve had spectacular success and horrific failures, and they both make great stories.”  Lorri said.   It’s also a place where one can feel truly safe.  Free to talk about anything and everything.  Confident their conversations will never pervade the four walls that surround them.

Lorri and her family eat off the farm the entire year.  And the bread they share with others is never sliced.  “There’s something about the ripping and tearing.  It’s visceral.  It’s…a moment.  This is how we learn to trust each other.”  Lorri told us.  The food at Duckworth is their heritage, history, tradition, religion, and identity, all rolled into one.  “If we don’t farm, harvest, prepare, cook and eat together, then we’ve lost a good part of what it means to be human in a community.  When you share a meal with strangers, everyone becomes equal.”

And there are, of course, opportunities to learn and grow in the field, as well.  While some WWOOFNG farms are more hands off, focusing only on agricultural technique, Duckworth teaches what vocational schooling leaves out; fixing engines and changing tires, welding, cooking, sewing and planting.  If you’re not collecting eggs, you’re repairing fences.  There’s sheering sheep (which I knew you could do) and milking them (which I didn’t).  At Duckworth, if you’re not getting your hands dirty, you’re not living up to your full potential.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the spring, there’s weeding and planting and prepping the blueberry fields.  June is plum month.  Blueberries are picked in July.  Pear season starts in August and apples are readied in September.  Winter months involve more weeding and more repairing.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Lorri shared with us an email from a recent WWOOFER who had no experience in farm life until she spent a summer at Duckworth.  “I am now fully prepared for any oncoming zombie apocalypse.” The post read.

IMG_9145

Where the WWOOFERS live

The work here may be never ending.  But it is never boring, and always rewarding.  There are classes about plants and soil and taking care of animals.  But WWOOFERS here also learn about taking care of each other.  And as we wandered the property I realized we were walking the grounds of a communal boot camp for the important things in life.

At days end, we had played with – and learned about – cows, horses, goats and ducks. Snazzy taught us how to harvest, but not before we tried (unsuccessfully) to wrangle sheep.  And gave up – perhaps a little too quickly – at getting anywhere close to catching a chicken.  With nearly 100 acres there’s room for everyone.  Animals and birds, bees and blueberries, WWOOFERS, and those seeking refuge from the wild fires.  Duckworth Farm was accustomed to fighting with a fire for what they do.  This time, they had to fight a fire that threatened who they serve.

At 2:00 am, the first morning of the fire, Lorri’s phone rang.  It was a friend of hers, a local veterinarian:

“I said, “hello”, and she said, “Lorri, is your farm on fire?”  I said, “No”, and she said, “I’m on my way, trailer behind me with the horses.”   I told her I would have the barn ready and be outside waiting for her. We got her horses settled in the barn fairly quickly.”

Her family trailed behind her, bringing along their dog and two cats.  Having lost everything – including their neighbor, who died in his home – they ended up staying on the farm for two weeks, until securing a rental property in nearby Petaluma.  Also staying on the farm was a single mother from Coffee Park in Santa Rosa.  Her and her 7-year-old daughter stayed in the barn until the evacuation order was lifted for their neighborhood.

Left in the fires’ wake was more than a billion dollars in damage.  At least two dozen wineries destroyed.  200,000 acres scorched.  Close to 10,000 homes and businesses gone.  And over 40 people dead.

Too often, we conceive our world to be measured in square feet – the size of our homes.  But when we realize that homesteads are actually measured in miles, new communities are formed.  And community is the foundation of WWOOFING.   The ground of its farms is sacred.  Value is tied to it.  It breathes life and breeds lasting bonds.  On the flight home, we thought about the lessons we’d learned on the farm and in Northern California.  How the dirt beneath us can be devastated, and we can still help change the world.  They grow a lot of things on Duckworth Farm.  But crops of compassion are what they raise best of all.

Cancer Diagnosis Helps Family Grow

The Zrelak family shares their story of how a cancer diagnosis brought them into another family…BASE Camp. A Central Florida Children’s Cancer Foundation, which provides a series of year-round programs for children and families facing the challenge of living with cancer, and other life-threatening related illnesses.

To find out more about BASE Camp click here:

 

Cuba – Part I

 

Taking advantage of the Obama administration’s easing of Cuban/American restrictions, we accepted a project with a group of writers and photographers.  Our directives were simple; assigned to various places throughout the country, we were asked to document our experiences.

Our knowledge of Cuba was limited.  We knew the country was roughly the size of Tennessee and we were aware of its complicated history with the United States.  The disaster at the Bay of Pigs, and a missile crisis which took the world to the brink of nuclear war.  We also recognized that reading about something is entirely different than experiencing it.  And while a week in any country does not an expert make, what was packed into that time gave fresh insight into what had been an otherwise stale perspective.

Here is Part I of our two part series.

“Revolution is a Bitch”

Havana Airport security, we were told, could be a bit complicated to navigate.  I’ve always had success while visiting new places by appearing to know what I’m doing and where I’m going.  “Act like I’ve been here before” is my mantra.  Nonetheless, this was Cuba.  So, our small group of journalists prepared ourselves for the peppering of suspicious questions.  But not one came our way.  Cuba’s security officials decided, instead, to interrogate the large group of American tourists that had entered Passport Control just ahead of us, looking a bit dazed and thoroughly confused.  The tourists were asked all sorts of questions; where they were from, why they were there, and if they knew anyone on the island.  While they stumbled through the inquiry, we seized the opportunity.  Moving quickly and unnoticed to the counter, where our passports were stamped without incident.

Stepping out of the airport and squinting through the mugginess I noticed a long line of taxis waiting with their engines running.  A few were “modern” New York Yellow taxis, but most were vintage cars that looked as if they’d driven straight off the set of a Happy Days episode.  “If the engines were still working, then maybe the air conditioning is too.” I thought, as I pulled my damp shirt away from the back of my neck.

IMG_4152

I slid a stack of Euros under the glass partition at the currency window and waited.  Cuba has an exchange tax on U.S. currency, so to save money I’d traded out the bills the day before.  The officer on the other side of the window divvied up two piles of Cuba’s two currencies.  The CUC which is used for tourists and set at a 1:1 fixed rate against the Dollar.  And the CUP, or Cuban Peso, which is worth far less, and used at ration stores and street stalls selling juices and assorted fruits.

We piled into the back of a faded blue 1961 blue Chevy, and made our way towards Havana, roughly half an hour away.   It was a time traveling trip where everyone shared the road.  Antique cars rumbled over potholes, while improvised horse drawn buggies trotted alongside, trying to keep up.  Mopeds, which appeared to be held together with duct tape and pieces of erector sets, sped through the traffic.  Backfiring as they shifted gears and raced around the ancient automobiles.  Not to be outdone, bicyclists with boxes of fruit and other household goods strapped and stacked higher than the riders themselves, peddled along the sidewalks, leaving beads of sweat in the dirt behind them.

 

 

IMG_3639We drove past dilapidated buildings with chipped paint, cracked windows, and exposed blocks of concrete set behind pro-revolutionary billboards of Fidel Castro coolly smoking cigars.  Clothes, gently swaying in the warm, sticky breeze were pinned along clotheslines attached from one tin roof corner to the other.

The homes gradually turned more pleasing as we neared our hotel; a one-hundred-year-old mansion in a quiet section of south Havana.  The house-turned-hostel was nestled amongst a depressed collection of homes, each one hidden behind beautiful bougainvillea, banana palms, and multi-colored hibiscus bushes.  The outside of our hostel was tattered with years of disregard, but the interior boasted a carefully preserved décor of spotless Italian marbled floors and imported onyx columns that supported frescoed ceilings.

In the communal bathroom, water slowly dripped from the sink faucet regardless of how hard the nozzle turned or which direction it went.  There were half a dozen rooms, each with ten-foot hand crafted wooden doors that even when fully opened, required a sideways entry.

IMG_3674

The streets were caked with broken bits of asphalt, piles of dirt from unfinished roadwork and an assortment of other debris.   Trash cans were overflowing with flies circling above, hoping the garbage trucks would forget to make their runs.

We found our way to The Malecón; an esplanade roadway where the ocean kisses a 5-mile stretch of the Havana coastline.  It’s a popular hangout for those who have very little and are looking for entertainment without a cost.  We stopped there to capture a few images of life along the wall, when we struck up a conversation with two locals who were offering a tour through the city in a 1952 Chrysler.

After negotiating a price, we scooted into the backseat where the carpet on the floor had been removed, displaying a metal that hadn’t seen the light of day since it rolled off the assembly line.  This car was born a few years before seat belts.  So, the head rest on the seat in front of me would have to do.  Lowering the window to allow fresh air, I cranked the handle – delicately – as if I were churning butter.  Everything about the car was original.  From the engine and the paint, to the steering wheel and its radio knobs.  Everything except the Boss Stereo system that lived in the glove box.

Elon, our navigator, fiddled with the stereo, while Carlito, our driver, pointed out landmarks.  So much was happening…and all at the same time.  In-between shout-outs, Carlito struggled to keep the door from falling off its hinges.  Opening and closing it in rapid succession to get the latch to catch properly.  That, while a bassline of reggae-infused Spanish music thumped through crackling speakers, with a decibel level so loud it may have interrupted communications with the International Space Station.

It was our very own Cuban/American Graffiti moment, passing a collection of vintage American cars, while cruising the streets of Havana with music blaring.  We stopped several times to take video and pictures.  And as our tour guides explained the relevance of what we were seeing, we were wondering when the door might fall off completely.

IMG_4316

We pulled into a bar – a juke-joint type of place – where Mojitos were made on the small patio, and live salsa and merengue music was made in the room next door.

“Mr. Obama sat right here and drank a Mojito!”  Carlito told us proudly, while ordering us the same drink.

“You don’t want one?”  I asked.

“No.”  he shot back, disappointingly.

“I can’t afford them…it costs 6 CUC.  Revolution is a bitch.”                                                                       

We ordered drinks for them both, then sat down at a corner table.  In hushed tones, we started talking about things locals weren’t supposed to be talking to tourists about – things they couldn’t do:

  • Travel abroad without permission.
  • Change jobs without permission.
  • Read unapproved books or magazines.
  • Visit or stay in tourist hotels.

Their list went on.

While they were ticking off the “Do-Not’s” of a Cuban citizen, a drunk man staggeringly made an unwelcomed entrance at our table.  Interrupting our conversation with slurred speech, he called our friends prostitutes and chastised them for conversing with “the westerners.”  A bouncer forcibly removed the man, pushing him back onto the street.  I watched him walk away, teetering and talking to himself as he disappeared around the corner.

Finishing our drinks, we climbed back into the car as Elon reached for the stereo before slamming the door.  Cranking Bonnie Tyler’s, Total Eclipse of the Heart, to an uncomfortable level, we sped off.

“You want some cigars?” Elon asked.  “I know just the place.”  We’d said, no.  But Carlito was singing the “Turn Around Bright Eyes” chorus so loudly, neither of them heard us.

IMG_4469Winding through a narrow alley in a neighborhood where the streets truly had no name, our Chrysler careened its way around pedestrians.  It wasn’t the derelict environment that stood out, in so much as it was the idleness of those living in it.   Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen.  Some squatted inside entryways where the doors had long since vanished, and others wandered the street aimlessly.

Carlito pulled the car up alongside a corner and stopped, abruptly, with the left front tire slightly scraping the sidewalk.  Exiting quickly, the four of us headed down a dark, dingy passageway to meet a man we didn’t know so we could buy cigars we would never smoke.

The smell of urine hung in the warm air as Elon reached through wrought iron bars and banged heavy on an even heavier wooden door.  “Julio!” he called out.  Banging a few more times.  No answer.  I got the impression “Julio” hadn’t been around for a while…seeing as how there was a giant padlock on the front of his door.  Satisfied Julio would not be selling us Montecristo’s, we climbed back into the Chrysler and bounced our way down the broken street once more.

The day was getting away from us and it was time for dinner.  We chose, at the behest of our new friends, La Familia. One of Havana’s many paladeras – privately owned small businesses used as restaurants.

La Familia’s food was simple and home cooked; black beans, rice and half a chicken.  There was nothing fancy about it.  But we preferred it that way.  It reminded us that those who prepared it weren’t professionals.  They just simply enjoyed cooking it for us.  The ambiance far outweighed the meal, as family pictures of people long since passed hung crookedly on the wall, and newspaper articles lined every inch of the ceiling.  Two guitar players performed acoustic Spanish renditions of James Taylor songs in the far corner, as the patrons sang along in between bites.

With dinner over we set out in search of a Wi-Fi Hot Spot.  Cuba has the lowest internet density in the Western Hemisphere.  Less than 2% of the population even has access.  And although the government is slowly lifting those restrictions, this a country where not that long ago chewing gum was illegal.

With only half-a-dozen hotspots in Havana, we stumbled into a park where hundreds of people sat shoulder-to-shoulder on benches and sidewalks.  A fluorescent glow bouncing off their faces, signaled to us we’d found one of the six.   We bought a one-hour internet card for 4 CUC from a kid who looked as if he were selling fake Rolex’s.  The cards had a scratch off username and password on the back that when scraped away, revealed a long set of random digits and symbols.  Everything we surfed was being monitored by the government.  And the speed at which we were doing so was the equivalent of two hamsters running in a cage to activate the filament of a lightbulb.  An hour’s worth of internet service was barely enough time to send a few texts and answer an email.  Skype didn’t work, and a simple phone call distorted the voice on the other end, turning their speech patterns into an alien lifeform with an indecipherable language.

It had been a long day and we’d seen quite a bit.  So, as a self-anointed “cork dork” I felt a nice Cabernet would be a good way to say goodnight to Day 1.  We hadn’t seen a wine shop all day.  And if one existed, our guess was that it would be in the center of downtown Havana.  Standing outside El Capitoilo Nacional, we heard a voice from behind.  “I can find you wine!  1 CUC per bottle.” The voice said.

We’d been chauffeured all day successfully.  And while I was skeptical of a taxi driver promising dollar-a-bottle wines, I figured there was no harm in searching.

 

IMG_3539The darkness did little to hide the fractured facades of the homes we drove past.  And as our car came to rest in front of a nondescript door, I took notice of the dozen or so doorbells, each one connected with exposed wires that shot off in all directions.  Careful not to touch anything, I traced my finger along the wires, trying to find the doorbell that matched the wine store.

“Put your CUC in the bucket.”  Our driver said from behind me.  Pointing to a small sign above the door that read simply, “Vino!”

What do you mean, ‘the bucket?’” I asked.

Your money.”  He replied.  “Put it in here and I’ll send it up there.”

‘Up there!” was a fourth-story balcony where the bucket had just been dropped, hand-over-hand with a frayed rope.

There were four bottles to choose from.  And while I knew slightly more about wine than the average person, I was more than confident the listed varietals were made up.

IMG_3585

Figuring we’d been had, we decided to buy all four.  Which, we believed, would raise the chances of at least one bottle tasting better than cough syrup.

I dropped a 5 CUC bill into the bucket and watched as it ascended upward towards a shadowy figure on a balcony just below the roof.  The figure, never saying a word, pulled the bucket over the ledge and disappeared.  Within seconds, four separate sounds of glass against tin echoed through the street as I stood underneath … waiting with outstretched arms.

Retrieving the bottles of God-knows-what from the bucket, we got back into the car and drove towards the hostel over an uneven and bumpy street.  Our bottles clanking together on the seat between us, as we wondered – aloud – what they were going to taste like.  And what in the world the rest of the week had in store for us.

 

 

Spiderman – Everyday Hero

By

You don’t need Spidey sense to be a superhero.

In “Philips Everyday Hero,” part of an Australian campaign for Royal Philips by Ogilvy & Mather London, a disheveled guy leaps out of bed, consumes a hasty breakfast (in the shower!) and wrestles into a Spider-Man suit before struggling to get across town.

The action is set to an acoustic cover of Paul McCartney and John Lennon’s “Revolution.” It follows Spider-Man through sometimes thankless acts of everyday do-gooding, and concludes with “Make a Wish”-level warmth.

“Inspired by a true story, we tell the story of a window cleaner who dresses as Spider-Man to entertain ill children,” explains Eva Barrett, Philips’ global head of brand advertising. “He believes that cheering them up helps them recover faster: Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. It’s a wonderful example of how empathy and insight into people can make a difference. His ethos reflects ours; we wanted to celebrate it.”

The ad ends with the lines, “At Philips we see healthcare differently. There’s always a way to make life better.” As these words appear, a boy in a hospital gown approaches the window and presses his hand to Spider-Man’s. Other children join him.

Aimed at healthcare professionals, the spot hopes to change brand perception by illustrating how Philips puts people at the heart of its healthcare strategy. In spirit, the work echoes a recent ad by Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, which is recruiting elderly care volunteers by demonstrating that loneliness can’t be assuaged with robots. Like that piece, this ad emphasizes the importance of the human touch amid technological disruption.

“We start with people,” Barrett says. “We want to improve people’s lives through meaningful innovation.”

The campaign includes a 30-second TV spot, out-of-home, digital and social media. Editorial partnerships have been inked with the Australian Financial Review and the Guardian Australia. On “Innovation and You,” Philips’ own storytelling platform, the brand is sharing other true stories like this one (it notably leads with an enormous visual of a man dressed like Elvis).

“Many people have grown up with Philips,” Barrett goes on. “We’re over 120 years old, but most people aren’t aware of the groundbreaking work we’re undertaking in healthcare. We believe in delivering products and solutions that truly put people at the heart of healthcare, and improve patient outcomes. Our ‘Everyday Hero’ campaign shows how we find new ways to make healthcare better.”

Culinary Event Raises $38K for Kids at Second Harvest Food Bank

The 4th annual Field to Feast dinner was held on March 25, 2017 at Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood, Fla. Featuring inventive samplings from Disney’s top chefs.  This year’s lineup included: Chef Dennis Thompson, California Grill; Chef Leonard Thomson, Park Event Operations and Premium Events; Chef Gregg Hannon, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival; Chef Daniel Sicilia, Jiko-The Cooking Place; Chef Dom Filoni, Citricos; Chef Michael Gonsalves, Artist Point; Chef David Njoroge, Tiffins; and Chef Chocolatier Amanda Lauder, The Ganachery.

f2f-8Field to Feast celebrates locally sourced ingredients with cuisine enjoyed in an open-air setting. The casual dine around f2f-2combines country charm with culinary excellence. New this year: Master Sommelier George Miliotes, who paired each dish with specially selected wines, beers, and cocktails.  Guests enjoyed live music, farm tours, a raffle and more.

Tickets were $175 with 100% of proceeds benefitting the Kids Cafe Program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, an after-school meal service program that provides food to needy children in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. The event sold out the last three years.

Field To Feast was presented by Edible Orlando magazine with Walt Disney World Resort as a major sponsor.

Signs, Sounds, & Thoughts From My Experience At The Women’s March in Washington D.C.

One Man’s Story: Why I Marched With Women on Trump’s First Day
By: Dan Beckmann/Orlando Sentinel
25 January 2017 

Last week, rather excitedly, I posted, what I thought was a fairly innocuous tweet; “Heading to D.C. for the March!”  I wrote.  So, I was surprised to read the first response.  Not because it arrived so quickly, I have nearly 10,000 followers.  Rather, because it came from a friend with an ambiguous quip. “Last I checked you were a man…is there something you’re not telling me?”  She wrote.  Surely my well-educated friend could not be so confused to think a Y chromosome would be a disqualification for taking part in a Women’s March?  Nonetheless, there it was.  That comment…hanging like a piñata, just waiting for me to crack it with a great big stick.

So, to my friend who wrote, what I’m sure she thought was a comment in jest, I guess there are some things I haven’t thought to tell you.  Allow me to fill you in on a few of them.

For 15-years, as a cameraman, writer, and producer with NBC News, I sat on the front line of many struggles.  This was the first time I would be at the epicenter of something of this magnitude as a participant.  I knew why I was marching because I had the checked boxes all filled out in my head; women’s rights, minority issues, climate change, education.  All the big ones.  But it wasn’t until I was nestled amongst a sea of pink hats and humanity that I realized why I was really there.  By the way, there were quite a few disqualified Y chromosome people marching with me.

Women, and those with minority voices, have always played crucial roles in my success.  They are too often underrepresented, undermined, and undervalued.  So, from what some might call my “privileged” seat in society, I felt it was even more important for me to walk out my allegiance to them.

I marched because Donald Trump promised to serve all people.  And so far, his immediate circle of influence lacks the diversity to make that possible.  Having him hear our voices from his new home on his first day in office was a great start. Not everyone who needed to be heard could be there, so I was marching for them…and for all the people who’ve made a difference in my life.

I marched for my mom, who as a single parent took odd jobs teaching tennis lessons, tending bar, and fixing lawnmowers.  Always making less than the guy next to her who did the exact same job.  My mom never failed to take a college course and never got a failing grade.  Receiving her doctorate 35 years after taking her first class.

I marched for, and alongside, my friends Kent and Caanan.  Showing up with my support to protect their right to stay married.

I marched for my daughter Lauren, and my friend Tiffany.  Each survivors of sexual assault who now must watch a man who’s bragged about assaulting women lead our country for the next four years.

I marched for those so confused that they now believe in “alternative facts.”

I marched for my friends who lost all hope, and got suckered by a manipulative liar who placed a large bet on their fears and won bigly.

I marched as a reminder to those “who won” that they cannot ignore those who didn’t.  And I marched as a reminder to our representatives in Washington that they are bound by an oath to represent all those in their districts.

I marched to promote a global community of diverse members. The outcry of values and priorities aren’t solely “American issues” with isolated consequences.  Millions of others, on all 7 continents, took part in over 670 solidarity events. Our leader may say, “America First”, but we cannot claim to be “America Only”.

And I marched for that friend of mine, the Twitter commenter.  Apparently, there were some things I didn’t tell you.  I’m glad I told you about them now so we can put down our phones and get to the business of building a brighter future for us all.  And that’s something worth tweeting and re-tweeting about.

img_1508

Inspiring Stories To Give You Hope After A Less Than Inspiring Year

 

We thought sharing NPR‘s favorite, most inspiring stories of 2016, would be a nice Christmas present.  Inspiring you to remain hopeful after the (insert catastrophic phrase of your own here) year we just shared together.  These stories certainly helped shape our New Year’s Resolution.  Not gym membership, seeing the doctor more often, or adding more travel commitments (although, we’ll do those things).  But also our determination to raise our voices a little louder…get involved just a little bit more.

So let’s all have ourselves a wonderful holiday season…and get some rest!  We’ve got work to do in 2017.

Merry Christmas and a Happy (Happier) New Year to all of those committed to Just DO Something…Anything! to make a difference.

Sincerely,
JDSA

Clockwise from upper left: Dr. Forster Amponsah; a Malick Sidbe photo taken in Mali; a global garden of radio; Chewa the TB-sniffing rat; another Sidbe photo; Olympic medalist Fu Yuanhui of China; the New Mexico cave where a superhero bacterium lived; poverty fighter Sir Fazle Hasan Abed; calligrapher Sughra Hussainy; activist Loyce Maturu.

Jason Beaubien/NPR, Courtesy of Malick Sidibe and Jack Shainman Gallery, Katherine Streeter for NPR, Maarten Boersema/APOPO, Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images, Courtesy of Max Wisshak, Courtesy of BRAC, Ben de la Cruz and Toya Sarno Jordan/NPR 

There was no shortage of sad news in 2016.

And because we’re a blog that covers global health and development, we covered a lot of those sobering stories: the toll of diseases like Zika, the bombing of hospitals in conflict zones, the suffering caused by poverty and by discrimination against women.

But we published a lot of hopeful stories as well. We asked our team at Goats and Soda to pick some of the stories from this year that inspired them the most. We hope you’re inspired too.

Of Periods And Bugs

My favorite inspiring story from this year was about the Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui who made headlines for telling the world she was on her period. I love that woman — breaking boundaries and taboos effortlessly.

My favorite story that I wrote was the hero bug story. We forget that to fight antibiotic resistance we need the help of the bacteria. —Michaeleen Doucleff

A Rat With A Nose For TB

My favorite piece on Goats and Soda in 2016 was “Chewa The Lab Rat Has A Great Job, Good Retirement Benefits.” African giant-pouched rats like Chewa are trained to detect TB — and they’re faster and cheaper than lab machines. You can tell from the photos that the lab technicians really love their helper rats. —Malaka Gharib

Unstoppable Women

I love watching the video of Sughra Hussainy creating calligraphy. When she was a kid in Afghanistan, girls couldn’t go to school. That didn’t stand in her way. Today she’s a gifted artist with big dreams: “I just want to work hard at this. And of course, become world famous.”

A favorite story I wrote was an interview with Loyce Maturu, a 24-year-old from Zimbabwe who was an orphan, HIV positive and abused by a relative. And she had TB. And tried to kill herself at a low point. As the headline says, “She almost gave up — but didn’t.” —Marc Silver

Dazzling Doctor

Dr. Forster Amponsah has star power. You can see it as he walks the halls of the Koforidua Regional Hospital in Ghana. Interns’ and patients’ eyes track his movement. Amponsah through sheer force of will and against incredible challenges has built up a surgical department in his public hospital. The surgeries he’s performing would be considered routine in a U.S. hospital but some days in Ghana they appear as small miracles. —Jason Beaubien

Irresistible Radio

Our story about Radio Garden, a website that lets you listen to stations around the world, was my favorite story. Just point your cursor at one of the thousands of green dots on a map of the globe. Listen to talk radio in Uganda, jazz in Morocco and punk rock in Hawaii. It’s a fun way to feel a connection to distant cultures. —Ben de la Cruz

A Photographer And A Poverty Fighter

This one is poignant given the extremism and political violence plaguing Mali, but I felt so uplifted reading Ofeibea Quist-Arcton’s tribute to the late Malian portrait photographer Malick Sidibe. His black and white images from the 1960s and ’70s captured dancing couples, pensive matriarchs and youngsters showing off their grooviest outfits — a reminder of a hopeful time when Mali was newly independent and, as Quist-Arcton put it, “relishing its freedom and having fun.”

One of my favorite interviews was with “the most influential poverty fighter you’ve never heard of” — Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and head of BRAC, the anti-poverty group. BRAC helped pioneer a program that gives extremely poor families an asset like a cow or a goat. It’s an approach that has likely improved the lives of millions. —Nurith Aizenman

Meet The Survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Last year, for the 2015 ECCU Conference, we had the privilege of meeting more than 50 cardiac arrest survivors and 2,500 other supporters from over 30 countries.  Working with representatives from the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, we marched through the streets of downtown San Diego to help raise awareness and educate communities on the importance of CPR and AED devices.  Here is the story of the survivors we met.  This video debuted at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine  workshop in Washington D.C.  Where over 100 researchers and other advocates attended; addressing an Institute of Medicine report on improving survival from sudden cardiac arrest.  Thanks to Verocity Communications, StrataVerve Research and Strategic Artifex Market Research, Inc. for all their help in producing this story and gathering the research data for its presentation.

14 Year-Old Decides to Just DO Something…Anything! About First Aid

From: The Huffington Post

When straight-A student Taylor Rosenthal isn’t in school or playing baseball, he’s busy doing something foreign to most 14-year-olds: He’s running his own successful business.

Rosenthal is a freshman at Opelika High School in Alabama. Last year, while in eighth grade, he was assigned the task of coming up with a business idea for an entrepreneurship class. His pitch went on to win first place.

The teen’s idea? A computerized vending machine that would inexpensively and conveniently dispense first-aid kits.

“Have you ever been to an amusement park and your child falls to the ground and scrapes their knee?” Rosenthal said in the original pitch. “Then, you had to walk all the way to the front of the park to get a Band-Aid?”

Rosenthal told ABC News that the idea for the machine was sparked by his experience playing baseball.

No one could find a Band-Aid when someone got hurt,” he said.

Since the birth of his idea, which he developed with the help of his parents, who both work in the medical profession, Rosenthal has been hurtling toward success. By the end of 2015, he’d developed a working prototype and was granted a patent. His company, RecMed, was also accepted into an incubation program at The Round House Startup Space in Opelika.

According to Kyle Sandler, Rosenthal’s mentor at Round House, the teen was the youngest entrepreneur in the program.

“We had to kick him out of here on Christmas Eve to spend time with his family, and you best believe that every minute of fall break he was here at the Round House,” Sandler told the Opelika-Auburn News. “When he’s not in school or playing baseball, he’s here working on anything from customer discovery to lead generation to where he can put his product.”

In January, Rosenthal won second place in the Techstars competition at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He will be featured this week at TechCrunch Disrupt, a startup conference in New York. He’s reportedly the youngest person ever to present at the event.

To date, Rosenthal has earned a total of $100,000 in investments, CNN Money reported. He’s also turned down a $30 million offer from a “large national healthcare company” for his vending machine idea, though he couldn’t discuss the deal due to a nondisclosure agreement.

“[The company] contacted us and said we feel the idea is worth this, would you like to sit down and talk? It’s his company. He declined because he wants to at least get it started and see how it goes,” Rosenthal’s father, Terry, told the Opelika-Auburn News.

RecMed vending machines stock both prepackaged first-aid kits (which cost between $5.99 and $15.95) for ailments like sunburns, blisters, bee stings and cuts, and individual supplies like Band-Aids, rubber gloves and gauze pads, ranging in price from $6 to $20.

The machines, which are slated to be deployed in the fall, are best suited for “high-traffic areas for kids” like amusement parks, beaches and stadiums, Rosenthal told CNN Money. He’s already received an order for 100 machines from Six Flags.

“It has been amazing watching Taylor grow over the past year into this confident and amazing businessman,” Clarinda Jones, one of Rosenthal’s teachers, told CNN Money. “Even with all of his success, he remains humble and ready to help others. He’s just 14. Bill Gates should be worried.”

The Faine House; A Project of Hope for Central Florida Youth

 

This year in Central Florida, an estimated 400 teenagers in foster care will turn 18, while the state ends its assistance. Without help and guidance many of these kids will face a lifetime of dependency; welfare, jail, and homelessness.

The Faine House, in conjunction with Children’s Home Society of Florida, exists to combat these problems.

Our story above explains why they do what they do, how they do it, and how everyone benefits.

To get involved or learn more about The Faine House click here: https://www.thefainehouse.org

%d bloggers like this: