Philanthropic Friday

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll: Jill Aschkenasy

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

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Jill Aschkenasy with WHO (Photo credit).

Jill Aschkenasy with her children: Ben, Kate, Charlie and James (Photo credit: Paul Aschkenasy).

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?
I was raised by a philanthropic mom, so I believe it is learned behavior. I watched my own mother care deeply about others less fortunate and act on those feelings. I never really saw it as an option to do otherwise! AS my four children grew up and the last one went off to a full day of school, I had a moment to breathe. I had more time on my hands and I needed to figure out how to fill that time in a productive and meaningful way. It took me some time to figure out the right path, but it was always the idea of helping those who need it most- just took a few years to figure out exactly how! The question in the back of my mind always was, “what will I do to help out? not “will I do something?”

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?
An early memory of personal philanthropy was a high school summer job when I worked at the Norristown Mental Health Clinic caring for the children of patients in a summer program. It was through this initial experience of helping those less fortunate that I really realized the power of rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty to help others. I recall the faces of the children and the personal feeling of gratification I felt by playing with them. I also distinctly recall that summer that all of my other friends were working in jobs where they were paid. My first instinct when my parents encouraged me to volunteer at the Mental Health clinic was a bit of frustration, but I soon learned why I as there and I loved it! And I was lucky enough that my parents helped me make up the difference!

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?
As I mentioned before, watching my mother as a philanthropist had a huge impact on me. Another influence was an article I read about five years ago in a local magazine, about women doing fabulous work in every field, profit and non profit, in the Philadelphia area. As I read the profiles of all these fabulous women, I thought to myself, “I need to be doing something more, I can make a difference.” it was that article, and mostly the pieces about women in the non profit world, that I kept in the back of my mind. That article kept coming up in my thinking…how was I going to do something notable, impressive, impactful?

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?
I find that the message I am sending to my children is powerful. The model of being grateful for what we have and at the same time, sharing as much as possible with others, both through financial means, but more importantly through hard work and giving of my time, is impactful on who they are. They are seeing the value in all people, and the value in helping those less fortunate. I have founded an organization called Our Closet which provides free clothing to deserving Philadelphians by way of hosting pop up shops throughout the city. At these pop up shops, we serve those in need in a dignified way, by providing this service and allowing them to feel proud about their experience shopping at Our Closet. we are fulfilling basic needs, but also helping to boost the confidence of those living in poverty and facing all of the struggles that go along with that. Having created an organization that serves so many has provided me with many proud moments over time. One such anecdote was when Tasha walked into Our Closet just last week. For a year and a half, Tasha came somewhat regularly to Our Closet with her four year old son.

Then one day, she told me she was pregnant. I was excited to hear the news and immediately threw my arms around her. However, her reaction was not what I expected. She was not at all thrilled about this new pregnancy. The baby’s father was not in the picture and she was living in a women’s shelter. This new addition to her life was going to be hard. For the next few months, she came into Our Closet and I provided her with maternity clothes and also clothes for the new baby. All the while, she was worried about her future. Then about a year went by and I did not see Tasha. Last week, Tasha returned to Our Closet, looking beautiful and carrying her new son. She was so happy to tell me that she had worked hard, moved out of the shelter into her own home and gone through job training to become a corrections officer in the prison system. And, Tasha added, Our Closet was a big piece of helping her achieve these goals. Not only did she have the clothes to wear to her interviews, and the clothes for her and her two boys, but the confidence and empowerment she gained from her experience as a shopper with us, helped her to face the other struggles in her life head on! I would say, Tasha’s story tops the list of proud philanthropic moments for me!

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?
The legacy I want to leave my children is to be activists and not to accept the status quo as good enough. Challenge the current state of affairs and continuously question how things can be done better and work towards that goal. if you see a weakness in the system, a crack where people are slipping though, a place where you can make a difference, then get up and make that difference. This can be a very small effort, or a large one. Each piece of the puzzle is crucial, but you must make those moves. Sitting by and watching life go by without participating is wasteful of all of the beautiful gifts that they carry.

What would your child say about all of this?
Who knows? I learned a long time ago to not speak for them…guessing never works!

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll: Jenna von Oy

Friday, February 20th, 2015

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I have only recently connected with Jenna von Oy. She’s part of our ongoing work with Ronald McDonald House Charities, and right away she struck me as a vibrant, compassionate and straight-to-the-point woman. Jenna was ready to roll up her sleeves and help, she wanted her work to be meaningful and to make a difference in her community.

Jenna is full of optimism and care. She has a clear desire to leave the world better than she found it. In Jenna, I immediately recognized just the sort of generous compassion and commitment that sets change in motion. I was drawn to her smile and noticed too how she put others at ease. I heard in her voice authenticity and an earnest desire step up in real ways. She was determined to use her smarts and influence for good — I was impressed.

I was not that familiar with Blossom, the way some fans would be who knew more details about the cast, including Jenna. Basically, Jenna was a blank canvas to me. Needless to say – that changed quickly. Jenna has filled that same canvas with vibrant colors, rich textures and a budding relationship that I look forward to continuing. I am thrilled to introduce to you a remarkable woman, a dedicated mother, blogger, and author of the soon to be released new book, Situation Momedy. Say hello to Philanthropic Mom, Jenna von Oy.

Gray, Jenna, Marlowe, Brad-0492

Jenna Von Oy with husband Brad Bratcher and children Gray and Marlowe. (Photo Credit Mimosa Arts)

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

I’d like to think I’m no different than any other mom out there… I do my best to encourage my children to be kind, generous, and passionate. I teach them the difference between right and wrong, express my pride when they share, and reinforce the importance of simple gestures such as writing thank you notes. It all contributes to the bigger picture! I firmly believe we are all philanthropic moms in our own way. It just happens that my career has offered me a more public platform to voice my convictions.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

When I was about four-years-old, I recall going across the street to sing to a neighbor who was dying of cancer. That I was able to bring a smile to the woman’s face, despite her physical suffering, profoundly affected me. I was taught early on that there’s a tremendous amount of pride that comes from being generous with your heart.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My mom. I grew up on the East Coast, where the winters can be brutal. My mom used to pack brown bag lunches, complete with scarves and mittens, and leave them out for the homeless men and women in Grand Central train station. She would probably be uncomfortable with the fact that I’m talking about this openly, because her efforts have always been anonymous. I think there’s something very beautiful about that. We are big believers that philanthropy is a very private pursuit, and should never be done for recognition. Because of that, I feel a bit odd doing an interview on the subject. With that said, I am proud to be in a position to assist the Medela Recycles campaign by being their Ambassador, and I acknowledge that talking about it is the only way to get the word out there.  If this interview encourages even one mom to donate her old, used Medela breastpump so that a new, multi-use pump can be given to the Ronald McDonald House, and benefit the mother of a NICU baby, it was well worth it

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?

Watching my daughter follow suit. Even at two-years-old, she possesses a stunning amount of compassion and insight. She’s already trying to save the world, one hug at a time. It’s inspiring!

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?

I hope I can do my part to remind other mothers that we are all in this together. When you’re a mom, it’s not about ego, social status, income, career path, or whether or not you used to be on a television show as a kid. It doesn’t matter what age our children are, how quickly they learned to walk and talk, or how long they were breastfed. Motherhood is the great equalizer. That’s why I joined the Medela Recycles campaign. It is one small way we mommies can reach out to one another and connect on a level we all understand and appreciate.

What would your children say about all of this?

I firmly believe my girls will be committed to being caring, selfless, respectful, nurturing women. I hope someday they’ll look back and attribute some of their strength of character to the love my husband and I have shown… not just directly to them, but through helping those in need. If my girls end up being more appreciative of the ways I gave to others, rather than the fact that I wore a floppy, flowered hat and talked really fast on a 90’s sitcom, I’ll be a proud mama.

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.

Maya Angelou

And this is exactly how Sandie Angulo Chen and I got connected – food…

Sandie and I were introduced via a mutual and dear friend, Amy Oztan. When Sandie moved south, Brooklyn’s loss was DC’s gain. And, as the fierce winds of Hurricane Sandy began to blow – I sent out an offer via Twitter, asking who might appreciate some great cheeses and give them a home (as I was vacating my house-taking shelter from the storm)? Sandie said yes, trekked out in the dark pre-storm hours and gathered up my goodies. She was not fazed by the storm, in fact, she was set for the adventure. So off she went, cheeses in hand and ready to take whatever came her way. She and her family enjoyed the cheeses through the storm. A fact that still makes me smile…

Sandie and I were fast friends – she came with an irresistible and bubbly passion for things I hold quite dear: books, food, community and yes, people. One of the first things that struck me about Sandie, she was well versed at the art of people  - she knew how to connect with others and she did so with total grace and much laughter.  Sandie has a big, brave heart that gives and gives. She creates instant comfort and connection — a rare gift.  She sees, she reacts and it is all a matter of fact (yes that rhymes, but she is a literary soul, after all!).

Sandie has an amazing world view coupled with the most incredible tools for sharing her perspective. One of which is her writing. She writes in an approachable, open and honest way. People are drawn to her writing – it, like Sandie,  is at once compellingly realistic and at the same time, highly optimistic. Those who follow her writing (movie reviews on Common Sense Media for example) appreciate that Sandie lives in the real world. And it is from there she sets out to make it better. Be it rolling up her sleeves or encouraging those around her to jump in and make a difference – Sandie is present and certainly accounted for. She is leaving a mark in all the best ways.

And now, meet my friend Sandie Angulo Chen.

Sandie Angulo Chen


TeenLitRocks &  The DC Moms 

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom? I’m a Philanthropic Mom, because I believe in living with a spirit of kindness, of generosity, of loving others. Those beliefs are rooted in my faith and my community, and I believe it’s part of my duty (and joy) as a mother to raise my kids to believe they can make a difference, help others, and be a force of good in the world.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world? I grew up in a multi-generational household incredibly close to my grandmother and great-aunt, and I vividly remember being in sixth grade and horrified to find out that many elderly have no family  to care for them or visit them. I helped my elementary school organize regular visits to a local senior citizens’ home. We were all 11, so at first it was awkward, but eventually the kids relaxed, the residents relaxed, and we started to look forward to our older friends. That was the first time I felt committed to community service.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence? My grandmother, may she rest in peace. She taught me that philanthropy and kindness should be a personal and sometimes quiet endeavor, not something to boast about or put on an application. I was not-quite 13 when she died, but she lived with me and had a profound influence on my life. Her example of a life well lived will stay with me forever.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud? That being a mother only deepened my desire to be philanthropic — to give unconditionally.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind? That there’s an indescribable joy in being part of your community, of being a believer in hope and change.

What would your children say about all of this? My children have a commitment to helping others too, whether it’s through Scouts, our church, or in our own family. They understand that even the youngest of kids can still be kind, selfless, and generous.

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, April 4th, 2014

When I think of Leticia Barr the first world that comes to mind is ease. It is not to say that anything she does is easy, to the contrary. Leticia undertakes highly complex, challenging issues. And when she jumps in, Leticia takes her role quite seriously. All she does, she does with such incredible grace and agility that anyone watching would be moved by how instinctively she accomplishes the most remarkable things. She is a natural! And we are not talking about just a few things either. Leticia’s social responsibility resume reads like a roadmap for a life well lived. Her list of accomplishments brims over with passion and conviction. Her deep connection to what she has done (and will do) shows – Leticia is positively radiant especially when she shares with those around her.  Leticia is a true “doer” – one who enters into any given scenario, quickly assesses, rolls up her sleeves, engages others and changes the course of history.  And this is not simple, yet it is done with ease. And better still, it is done with laughter and levity. Not bad!

It is a thrill to be in her sphere and even better to call her a friend (then there is cheese, chocolate and other treats involved!).  I love following Leticia on social media – she is busy in all the best ways. And frankly, as quickly as you think she has given as much of herself as there is to give, she shares more brilliance (today she inspired me with her volunteer work at her local school’s book fair). Please enjoy getting to know this week’s Philanthropic Mom, the ebullient and extraordinary Leticia Barr.

Leticia Barr

 Tech Savvy Mama

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

I like to consider myself a Philanthropic Mom because enjoy teaching my kids about giving back to promote the welfare of others while inspiring them to champion their own causes through the work that I do. Over the past two years I’ve worked to leverage my background as an educator with technology leadership experience and online influence to create technology professional development opportunities for artists in Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and while there was a lot of news immediately after the devastating quake in January 2010, it has faded from view even though there’s still so much work that needs to be done to help Haitians create sustainable income.

What is an stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world? 

I first traveled to Haiti in 2012 with a group of fellow bloggers organized by Willa ShalitDanica Kombol, and the Everywhere team to meet with artisan communities around the country. Calling ourselves #Bloggers4Haiti, we were struck by the Haitian’s determined spirit to use their knowledge and skills in creating sustainable income through art that could be sold to help put food on the table and send their children to school. They also had incredible stories that needed to be shared through blogging and social media.

Even though I first went to Haiti to learn about the culture and people, the moment that women comprising the paper mache cooperative of Dam Dam asked about computers and the internet, I knew that I had to return to teach Haitians about technology that could help them advance their businesses and aid them in sharing their stories.

Over the next year I worked to secure grant funding from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund scholarships from Everywhere to help defray travel expenses for more bloggers and social influencers, and computer hardware to come to Haiti to lead training sessions. Through my work with Microsoft as an #OfficeChamp and #WindowsChampion, I was also able to secure a donation of six laptops, software, and accessories that were used in the training and given to artists who came from around the country to learn about photography, blogging, and social media.

This past fall I launched the Bloggers4Haiti website in conjunction with an IndieGogo fundraising campaign to raise $5000 for OFEDA, women’s artist cooperative in need of business development training. I’m always looking forward to my next trip to help raise awareness about the continued work that needs to be done in Haiti, figure out how I can use my expertise might assist Haitians towards sustainable income, purchase handcrafted items directly from artists since the income helps support their families, and provide inspiration through the stories I share on my blog and through social media for others to get involved.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The old Chinese Proverb has always resonated with me because teachers exemplify philanthropy through their dedication to teaching a new generation about benevolence, humanity, kindness, compassion, charity, and unselfishness through daily classroom lessons. My mom was a classroom teacher and while I was growing up, I watched her integrate philanthropic lessons into her teaching that were also conveyed at home.

But the act of teaching isn’t just reserved for classrooms. Every single one of us has skills that we can share to make a difference in the lives of others. The act of teaching demonstrates that there doesn’t always have to be a monetary component to philanthropy. Not only can we share our skills but we can also take time to impart philanthropic lessons that inspire others to take action.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud? 

I’m always inspired by what others are doing. Willa Shalit inspires me because she’s dedicated to social entrepreneurship. I secretly want to be her when I grow up- traveling the world with a mission of seeking out unique products that can be brought to market in the United States while creating sustainable wages for the Third World artisans who create them.

My good friend and fellow blogger, Elena Sonnino of, is also a constant source of inspiration and a shining example of a Philanthropic Mom. Besides accompanying me on my first trip to Haiti and co-authoring the grant written to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, she is passionate about fostering self sufficiency in others and teaching children to be global citizens and agents of change. This past fall she organized the first ever Moms+Tweens+SocialGood event in Washington, D.C. where the agenda featured panels with parents and tweens, community leaders and role models who led discussions about topics like what it means to be a change agent, ways to use your voice for good, how to advocate for a cause, and finding causes or campaigns. It was an inspirational half day event full of age appropriate activities designed to Grow Global Citizens as we look towards inspiring a new generation of change agents.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

I want to inspire my own kids to create change about causes they’re passionate about in any way they can whether through teaching, fundraising, grant writing, or just sharing what they’re doing with friends. I’d like to make people realize that there really isn’t such a thing as a small act of kindness. Like Scott Adams said, “Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”

What would your children say about all of this?

I think they would say that I work really hard, but I love my job and the things that it has allowed me to do. It’s important that they see how my work can benefit others outside of our family and to provide them with opportunities to get involved.

My daughter would also ask if she gets to come on our next trip to Haiti! I’d love to take her to meet the wonderful Haitians I’ve gotten to know but at the moment, my parental concerns about safety still win out since the U.S. State Department still considers it a high risk country to visit. 

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, March 14th, 2014

This Philanthropic Friday is all about Nancy Rabinowitz Friedman and with very good reason. Nancy is a person who makes things grow. She does so in a way that not only leaves you in awe of her contribution, but also keeps the laughter alive. She is generous – giving everything’s she has got to the causes she feels so strongly about. Nancy does so simply in the name of supporting what she believes in. Fame, notoriety and legacy are not on her radar – seeing progress and doing the right thing are. There is something so honest and so endless about the way Nancy gives. The list of where she shines her amazing light is quite extensive. She focuses her philanthropic passion on a wide range organizations and issues – ranging from the arts to kids and much more. Still, it seems there is always something more that Nancy is up to – lending her amazing energy and time. And when asked, Nancy says “yes” and then goes on to ask, “What else could we do?”.  And then she does.

Nancy applies her standard of care and energy to all the areas of her life. She sees all she does as an opportunity to help others. Be it her remarkable business success with Kidzvuz, where there is always a philanthropic tie-in or an opportunity to inspire a child – or her children’s school (where she is active and engaged) – she is there in reliable, authentic ways. When I was honored by the R Baby Foundation a few year ago, Nancy jumped right in and helped in remarkable ways. As for Nancy’s friendship – that is a gift too. She brings humor, wit and yes, that same amazing care to the mix. When I see, talk to or even think about Nancy, I leave smiling – it is that simple. So today, meet our philanthropic mom, Nancy Rabinowitz Friedman and let the sunshine in!

Nancy Rabinowitz Friedman

From Hip to Housewife & KidzVuz

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

I think “Philanthropic Mom” is kind of a fancy word for saying “A Mom Who Does Good.”  And I try to be someone who “does good” in all kinds of ways throughout my life, whether it’s  when I’m being Vice Chair of The Transport Group Theatre Company board, or being a tour guide at my kids’ school, taking my kids to visit homebound elderly people in the neighborhood on Jewish Holidays, or even helping a women with a double stroller make it across a slushy NYC street. All of that is doing good work.  It’s not some organized thing I do, or some label. It’s how I try — emphasis on try – to live my life.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world? 

When I first graduated from college I did  a six-week training to become a Rape Crisis Counselor at a downtown hospital. Being a rape counselor was intense work.  I met women at their most vulnerable.  As a total stranger, I had to advocate for them and comfort them.  I never saw or heard from any of them again.  But each of the women I counseled stayed with me — changed me.  That experience – of intense closeness with women from all walks of life – hookers, college coeds, corporate execs, made me more able to see beyond people’s circumstances to who they really are.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

What really inspires me are the small acts of kindness I see every day:  the woman who stops to help someone who has tripped; the teenager who gives up his seat on the bus; the guy who walks out of Zabars with a bag of groceries, and pulls out a sandwich to hand to the homeless man on the sidewalk.

Of course the Malala’s of the world are amazing, and inspiring – but everyday grace…that’s what gets me.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud? 

I’m proud when Transport wins an award.  I’m proud that every major event we have at KidzVuz has a Philanthropic component.  But mostly, I don’t really think of good works as something to be proud of.  Doing Good is what you’re supposed to do.  If you don’t do good, if all you do is for yourself, that’s notable. (in a bad way)  But if you do good, well, that’s just how it’s supposed to be.  Nothing to be proud of there.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

Legacy is way too big!  I just want people to remember me as someone who was good to others.  That’s good enough for me.

What would your children say about all of this?

They always complain when we drag them to the elder visits…but then they always like them. They feel good about going and making someone’s day.  So I think they’d grudgingly admit they’re proud of themselves and of me, for taking the time to not just write a check, but to check in with others, to see that they’re OK.















Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Denise Albert reminds me of one of my favorite French pastries – the mille-feuille. So many layers to enjoy! With Denise, there is a lot to know and you need time to really have the perspective for the whole, beautiful picture of who she is. Denise is candid, honest and built to love. She sees clearly and moves with incredibly clarity and force when her soul sends it’s marching orders. And many follow suit – showing up, lending a hand; making the hard work of caring for the world is just part of the fun. She is a listener who also happens to have a talent for making a lot of noise when needed! She uses her podium for good over and again. Open, eager and in for“really” – when I think of Denise I think of boundless energy and a natural talent for generating excitement and results. Not bad!

But the part that moves me the most is each layer, each conversation, each e-mail exchange, each interview..  shares another sweet bit of something (a plan, a piece of personal history, a POV) that makes me feel so fortunate to call Denise Albert my friend.

Say hello to our latest Philanthropic Mom:

 Denise Albert

The Moms 

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

We try to connect different philanthropies to everything we do.   There’s nothing better than doing our part to help others.  And we can do so in many ways – whether we incorporate a charity into every one of our Mamarazzi events or on our Sirius XM Radio Show by featuring moms and dads doing interesting and extraordinary things.  We also co-created Strut, The Fashionable Mom Show. Strut is a fashion show for women that has been presented three times at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Every mom walks to raise awareness for a cause that’s important to her.  We have worked with Unicef, BOKS, Kangu.Org and I “strutted” for The Peter C. Alderman Foundation.  There are so many ways to get involved and I find that because we have a voice, a media platform and are active in social media we can do so much to spread messages that need to be shared.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

I remember working in a soup kitchen with my mom vividly.  I also remember my mom buying food for homeless people many times, when we would take the train into NYC city.  It was a small gesture but I never forgot the message of how important it is to help people less fortunate.  Being able to help one person by buying them a sandwich goes a long way for a kid.  I also remember being an elementary school student and taking part every year in a jump-a-thon.  We had to jump rope for hours and we each raised money for the American Heart Association. Those are both memories that sort of define my childhood. When I think about being a kid, those experiences stand out.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My mom as a child and my cousin Casey now.  Casey started an organization called Kangu.Org which is a crowd funding website that raises money for pregnant women around the world to enable them to have healthy births.  It’s so hard to start any business.  She could have done anything but she chose to start something to make a change for others.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud? 

I have always felt that it was important to include my kids in almost all aspects of what I do and I’m lucky, having a company called The MOMS, that I’m able to do so.  Including my kids in my philanthropic works is a life lesson that I don’t have to teach because my kids will have it instilled in them by just doing it.  My kids are interested in helping others.  We recently hosted a Mamarazzi event with Laura Posada and the new Broadway show “Bronx Bombers”.  The Posadas are involved with MyFace.Org. My son saw their calendar and was very concerned about the kids. He’s now saving all of this money and figuring out ways to make money so he can help a child have surgery.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

That anything is possible.  If you have a dream, go for it.  If you can help others, do it.

What would your kids say about all of this?

I’m hoping it’s what they do with it, not what they say.  I hope they just continue to be curious and concerned about others and grow up to do their part to help others.  To me, everything is passion.  I hope they find things they are passionate about that makes them be the best versions of themselves…and to me that includes helping others.  So far, they’re off to a great start and they have one proud, passionate mama!


Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Like many of the most remarkable women in my life – Rebecca Levey’s presence in my life seems to have to real beginning and hopefully, no end. And the range of where we go and what we accomplish together is infinite – it feels like the most remarkable version of  “ OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO”  – with the very best of company!

I have never been let down by Rebecca’s boundless energy, keen intellect or her ability to get the job done. She steps up in a way that is genuine – with complete passion and focus.  Rebecca always gets the job done and she does it exceptionally well at that. Her commitment is different from others in that she sees no barriers.  If Rebecca says she is in  – she in – mind, body and soul. There is no such thing as lip service – when Rebecca commits she rolls up her sleeves and makes magic. Her dedication and her accomplishments run deep. I will never really be able to thank her enough for the way in which she stepped up for me and the R Baby Foundation in 2011. That is just one example, of many. The list goes on and on….

And it is not only what she does. It is also how she views the world. Just this week there was yet another day in which NYC city schools were open in the midst of a freezing, messy snowstorm. There was a bitch-fest gong on over on FB. But one voice of clarity, perspective and reason stood out, it was Rebecca Levey:

“There are definitely different considerations for public school. more than 70% of NYC public school students receive free or reduced lunch. there are over 1 million kids in the school system. not having school means not getting a meal for many kids. not to mention parents who don’t have child care or the ability to stay home with a kid out of school.”

And that is Rebecca – smart, caring and determined to bring us all along as she makes good on her commitment to making the world a better place. Meet my dear friend, Rebecca Levey:

Rebecca Levey

Beccarama & KidzVuz

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

Funny, I would not think of myself as “philanthropic.”  The work I’ve done in education and for other causes is more about volunteering time, sweat and sometimes tears, to get things done that need getting done.  Philanthropy seems very lofty and more about money – but the spirit of it – the sense that you can make a difference and see change through giving and doing is very much at the core of my being.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world? 

I think being the New York State Representative to the Mom Congress on Education and Learning in D.C. a few years ago really brought home the power and energy of what can happen when women all over the country stand up in their local area and fight for different education causes.  Having 51 women come together and exchange ideas, formulate plans and really coalesce all of their individual fights into one larger effort for education reform was incredibly inspiring and made me realize that no matter what else I do professionally, my heart and soul are with the education movement.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

I am consistently influenced and inspired by so many women doing amazing work every day.  Jennifer James and the Moms for Social Good network she has built, in addition to her advocacy work, awe me on a daily basis.  Julia Beck has been a major force in my life as an example of a woman who weaves philanthropy and passion into everything she does.  And, Melissa Bilash whose tireless work on behalf of gifted kids, and passage of the TALENT Act,  keeps me hopeful that advocacy can see real results.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud? 

I am most proud of the real changes my co-president and I made at my daughters’ school – as well as the conversations we spurred and continued discussions that needed to had.  It’s great when you can see tangible results from your work.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

I really just want parents to feel empowered and know that they should always have a seat at the table.  And more importantly, I want my kids to know that if they want something to change they have to step up and do the work to make it happen.  It may not come to fruition, or it may look different from what you envisioned, but if you don’t step up nothing will ever change.

What would your girls say about all of this?

They would say it took up too much time!  Honestly, they are very proud, and I think it gives them a sense that you should invest in your community, keep connecting and talking to everyone you can, and not be a passive wallflower.  They learned early on that the best thing you can be is a Do-er!


Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, January 24th, 2014

As I sit to write about Holly Rosen Fink, I feel as though I am perhaps about to expose a secret (a very good secret!!!). This is because this week’s Philanthropic Mom – Holly Rosen Fink is at once incredibly generous and productive and, at the same time, so very low–key about the remarkable and regular contribution she makes  - it just “is”. Still, as I stop and consider the history and the quality of Holly’s commitment, I am humbled. I am also inspired. Holly  is tireless  in her quiet strength and  endlessly creative in her on-going effort to make the world a better place. There is no one size fits all in the way Holly gives – she pays careful attention to where the need exists and meets it head on with just the right solution. She casts her net wide, and makes sure that anyone who can join the effort to help does. From clients to kids and everyone in-between – Holly’s army is a sizable and enthusiastic one — all recruited with grace by Holly herself.

When I consider how lucky I am to share Holly and her incredible optimism with you, I am immediately reminded of a quote that seems to really speak to Holly’s remarkable point of view.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

— Anne Frank

This week, get out of the cold and get warm getting to know the wonderful Holly Rosen Fink.

Holly Rosen Fink

The Culture Mom

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

As an entrepreneur, I try to associate myself with like-minded organizations and businesses. The majority of my clients have been non-profits or companies out to make a difference (Mothers2Mothers, Every Mother Counts, to name a few). When a client is a for-profit business, I often steer their efforts into the advocacy arena (Ruckus Media Group, She Speaks). As a mom, I am doing my best to raise altruistic children who see the world through the eyes of the less fortunate and make sure they know that their old coats are going to those who need them and that it’s important to take out to think of others and volunteer in various capacities. When they were infants, I took them to the old age home in the area to play with me while the elderly watched along with enjoyment. They have worked in the local pantry and distributed meals at the homeless shelter with me. During the holidays, we often deliver meals to the elderly. As a philanthropist, I try to donate as much money to causes that I care about as possible and I am one of those people who puts my hand in my pocket every time I am asked on the street.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

When I was a young girl of about 12, we were shown a film about the Holocaust and I was deeply impacted. Living in Israel years later, I volunteered with an organization for the elderly and went once a week to do crafts and spend time with them. They were all Holocaust survivors and the stories I heard were unlike any I had ever heard. The experience solidified an effort to never let the Holocaust be forgotten, also spending time volunteering at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum that year. Back in New York, I later interviewed survivors for the Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation which was another commitment that I have always been proud of. Just a few months ago, I led a Holocaust film series at my synagogue which attracted and educated hundreds of our members. This is a cause I feel very strongly about and will continue to make sure no one ever forgets the 6 million needlessly killed less than 60 years ago.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My mother is the best role model I could ever ask for. She has always given to other people first and has a heart of gold. If I can leave a legacy with my own children and give them a quarter of the heart she has, I will have done something right.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?

I’m very low key about my philanthropic efforts. I don’t really talk about them as much as I could anywhere, including social media. I’ve driven gently used toys and clothes into the city to donate to Room to Grow; I took a packed van of clothing, medical supplies, toys and more countless times during Hurricane Sandy. The important thing is not to talk about it, but just to do it and include my children in my efforts. I want them to watch and be a part of what I do so that they become philanthropic as they get older.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

My daughter is 10 and is saying that she wants to become a human rights lawyer. I know she’s young and this could change, but the idea profoundly warms my heart. I am part of the Shot at Life campaign and ONE Organization initiatives, and my kids have witnessed my work with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I talk about my work with these organizations and hope that they are listening and they will go into helping professions that will help change the world.

What would your kids say about all of this?

Hopefully, they are proud of their mother, but at their ages, I’m not sure they know exactly what it all means.

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Welcome to the first edition of Philanthropic Moms in 2014. At a time when so many are “resolving” to do better, I thought it would be an ideal time to introduce you to a mother whose resolve to care for those around her is an amazing example of how we all are able to use our amazing power for good!

I met Natalie Goldberg Klein through Ciaran Blumenfeld, one of the great connectors in my life. Ciaran’s amazing habit of getting the right people together was in full effect from the word “go” with Natalie. Natalie impressed me with her remarkable ability get the right things done both well and fast. My head spins just thinking about Natalie in action! She not only knows what needs to be done (and with whom) but also how the to execute the task at hand with speed, agility and accuracy. Natalie is beautifully unassuming and, at the same time – incredibly powerful in her commitment to her values. She steps up again and again for those who need her the most (think Baby Buggy for example) and brings all the right people to the table. Her smile is omnipresent as she continues to leave her mark in all the best ways. She uses her influence for good – always and perfectly. As a professional and as a mother she is forever leading by example. Natalie is one of those remarkable people who you meet and wonder how it was possible you’d not had her in your life forever. Well, the good news is now I will!

Meet my friend and our first Philanthropic Mom of 2014, Natalie Goldberg Klein.

Natalie Goldberg Klein

Hollywood Hot Moms

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

I don’t really see myself as a philanthropic mom. But as someone who has always felt that of I can find a way to give back, I will search hard to make it happen.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

As a child we always were helping out in soup kitchens and buying groceries for those who were in need. As a teen I worked at Mitzvah corps in northern Arizona, which was started by young teens to help out local kids who could go up to a camp for a week and enjoy themselves with sports,swimming, and endless food.  I worked hard to afford to go to camp and all year we fundraised to help get those kids there! As I got older I always helped whenever I could. I ran a program for teens while in my early 20′s to help kids in need who had a family member or members that was lost in the Paris flight crash from NYC. It’s always been a part of what I do! But after I had Jax, my first son, I was working on events for Hot Moms Club. I was very proud when we partnered with Baby Buggy for the Hasbro launch of Let’s Rock Elmo and donated over 25k in product and toys to children in need.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My synagogue was my biggest philanthropic influence — they really encouraged us to always give.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?

Knowing that I am helping others and showing my kids that other peoples needs like this come first. That we should be honored to help.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?  

That all of us recognize that together  we can change the world to make it a better place, one step at a time. There will always be setbacks, but we can do it.

What would your kids say about all of this?

That they are ready to keep the tradition going.

Philanthropic Friday – Philanthropic Moms Honor Roll

Friday, December 20th, 2013

It all started with the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009. Not the most glamorous of introductions, but none-the-less, this is how I came to know Maine based journalist, Kara Matuszewski Sassone. Kara immediately struck me as intelligent, compassionate and smart as a whip. I was her source (I had two girls up at summer camp in Maine that summer and as the epidemic swelled I kept her up to speed on the inside story) and quickly her friend. Through our many interactions over various digital platforms Kara’s compassion and competence never failed to impress me. Our friendship quickly went IRL and flourished. She became a part of my inner-circle and together we battled more than the flu.

What I was always struck by was how Kara could quickly shift the energy of almost any room to one of optimism and collaboration. She was the first to step up and as a natural leader – others followed. She openly shared her voice and her experiences. Even in the face of her own personal challenges, Kara always had clarity and purpose. I watched with marvel as each obstacle was removed and further, how she never forgot to give back in real, tangible ways to ease the journey of others.

As amazing of a participant as Kara is, she is equally gifted at stepping back and reading the landscape. It was through this lens that she shifted her career to align with what she saw as the true power of Social Media. As Kara grew her career from journalism to higher education, so too her family with husband Scott Sassone grew. Their most adorable twins, Campbell and Jackson have made for a busy, full house  - one she shares openly via SM partners such as Isis Parenting, Bravado Designs and more. Still, Kara is never too busy to connect, care and make a real difference in the world around her.

Meet my friend and latest Philanthropic Mom, the remarkable Kara Sassone!

Kara (Matuszewski) Sassone

What makes you a Philanthropic Mom?

Even before being a mother, I liked to be involved in my community, whether it was emceeing an event, being part of a fundraising walk, volunteering, donating blood, or gathering donations. Now that I’m a mother, I feel an even more intense desire to give back in order to help ensure my children will grow up in a thoughtful and helpful environment.

What is an early or stand-out memory of community service, philanthropic commitment or another way in which you felt strongly connected to an issue in the bigger world?

While growing up my family would host a St. Nicholas Day party every year. My friends and I would make decorations that would then be donated to a local soup kitchen. Going with my parents as they delivered our gifts made me realize how lucky I was.

Who was your biggest philanthropic influence?

My mother has always taught me to be kind, to help others, and to give when and where you can. Whether it be with money, with time, or with a hug, she has taught me to be generous with what you can offer.

What about being a Philanthropic Mom makes you most proud?

Literally since the day my twins were born they have been part of our philanthropic family. They were born prematurely smack dab in the middle of Movember – a month in which men grow mustaches to raise money for and awareness of men’s cancers. My husband offered to shave his mustache so we wouldn’t have newborn photos with Dad sporting a ‘stache. I refused telling him I wanted our children to know we don’t just care for ourselves, but for others. On their first birthday, instead of gifts, we asked that friends and family donate to Movember and we had a mustache-themed party.

What is the legacy of change you want to leave behind?

I don’t need to be the biggest donor or have a building named after me, but I do want people to say, “She was a good, kind, helpful woman.” I want people to know that donating blood can be just as meaningful as donating money; that making cookies brings smiles to faces, too.

What would your children say about all of this?  

I hope that when my children are older they will have the same desire to help, and they will look at their pictures from the NICU and say, “I’m glad Daddy didn’t shave his mustache.”