Another Amazing New Board Member

Piper Spencer, Humanity Project Board Vice President

Today we welcome Piper Spencer to our Board of Directors. It was a short journey, in truth, as Ms. Spencer already was a valued member of our Leadership Council along with her fine son, Christian. Now she moves up to our Board, assuming more official responsibility for the progress of the Humanity Project. And another member of her family will take over Piper's spot on the Leadership Council with Christian: Rev. Dr. Keith Spencer, Piper's husband. Sons Luke and Thomas round out this wonderful family. 

Piper Spencer is an amazing person. We first met her during a rehearsal last year by the New River Orchestra, which will hold a July 29 benefit concert for the Humanity Project in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Piper was playing the double bass as the ensemble ran through a piece from the ballet "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev. We were immediately impressed with her musicianship -- and even more impressed with her intelligence and warmth during a conversation later that evening. 

Let us tell you a bit about Piper's background. She's a graduate with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and served seven years as a Naval Meteorological and Oceanographic Officer. These days Piper is a veteran teacher at Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School where she teaches space and earth science, coordinates the Science and Engineering Fair, coaches the Science Olympiad Team and advises the Builders Club. In addition to playing with the New River Orchestra and Broward Symphony Orchestra, she is active in several musical groups as leader and performer on ukulele, percussion, handchimes and as a vocalist. Her many other accomplishments include being a Team Member of BOLD Justice, an interfaith justice organization that works to solve critical community problems. 

Impressive indeed. So is her husband, Keith, who also is an Annapolis grad and now is pastor of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Pembroke Pines. Among his talents, Keith is a gifted photographer. We'll tell you more about Pastor Keith at another time. For now, we welcome him to our Leadership Council ... and welcome Piper Spencer to our distinguished Board of Directors.  We had a great Board already. Piper just makes it that much better. 

Classics & Kids

We have something very special to announce, a first-ever event of this type by the Humanity Project. And we're calling it, "Classics & Kids: A Musical Performance for the Humanity Project." If you're in South Florida during late July this year, you won't want to miss it. 

Classics & Kids will feature a Haitian children's choir and a full symphony orchestra in a delightful summery pops concert to benefit the Humanity Project. Proceeds will go to our programs for kids including our Anti-bullying Through The Arts, Humanity Club and I Care teen driver safety programs. The New River Orchestra will be joined by the St. Clements Children's Choir for works by Holst, Moussorgsky, Strauss, Rossini and others as well as pieces by Henry Mancini and selections from Pirates of the Caribbean. What fun on a warm afternoon. 

Tickets are only $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Mark your calendar for July 29 from 4-6 p.m. at the United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale, our friends who are hosting the event for us. You can buy tickets safely online through Eventbrite, the respected Internet ticket agency. Here's the link to find out more about our concert: Visit the Humanity Project ticket site for more info and to buy tickets!

We're very excited by this fundraiser ... and we hope that many of you will want to join us. Classics & Kids on a languid South Florida weekend afternoon -- who could ask for anything more? 

 

Welcoming Our New Board Member

Today we officially welcome Todd DeJesus to the Humanity Project as our newest Board of Directors vice president. Todd brings a scientific background to our organization, with a bachelor's degree in geological engineering from Princeton University and a master's degree in geochemistry from the University of Virginia. This experience will be useful to the Humanity Project in a variety of ways -- we are an empirical, research-based nonprofit group, of course, grounding all our programs on solid evidence. 

Todd DeJesus, Vice President

Todd DeJesus, Vice President

But Todd brings more than his scientific knowledge to our work. Living with his husband, Kevin, in Wilton Manors, Florida, Todd DeJesus also works for that vibrant city as Capital Projects and Grants Manager. In this job, he manages many city-funded projects and seeks alternative funding sources for Wilton Manors and its partners. He has devoted most of his career to environmental planning and engineering. And Todd is active in a variety of local environmental efforts, including working with schools to help them create gardens. In addition to all this, he's an ACT and SAT prep tutor and avidly enjoys playing tennis and volleyball. 

Aside from his diverse background, though, Todd is a remarkably bright man with an interest in helping his community. We believe that he and the Humanity Project are a very good match. And we all welcome him to our expanding team. 

 

Our Fund: Making A Difference

By Bob Knotts, Humanity Project Founder

I wanted to offer a more personal blog to our readers today. It's about bullying, about disrespect as a social issue ... and about an important partner that helps the Humanity Project to diminish these problems. 

Our Fund is an LGBT community foundation based in Wilton Manors, Florida, one of the nation's premier LGBT-friendly cities. This extraordinary organization has just partnered with the Humanity Project for a second consecutive year in our continuing efforts to stem school bullying and to encourage greater respect among both students and adults, whether in school or out in the world. Toward that end, Our Fund has awarded the Humanity Project $10,000 for 2017, part of $106,000 handed out to many fine nonprofits at a special presentation this week. We can't thank Our Fund enough for this assistance. 

At the Our Fund 2017 Spring check presentation, New River Fine Art Gallery

At the Our Fund 2017 Spring check presentation, New River Fine Art Gallery

Because we take this sponsorship money, and this cause, very seriously. At a time when bullying is on the rise again, in a period of history when disrespect is rampant in our society and right-wing ideas are regaining traction among a broad swath of people around the world, effective and innovative anti-bullying programs are more necessary than ever. Bullying, disrespectful behavior of all kinds -- they leave scars on children's psyches that never go away. The LGBT community is disproportionately affected by this problem. So Humanity Project programs do more than simply fight bullying. They also teach respect for all, the importance of diversity and the value of self-worth to young students, helping them to appreciate the humanity of every person.

And this is where a more personal story comes in. As a child, I was bullied in ways that I feel to this day. I was harassed, hit, humiliated ... and harmed emotionally. I felt alone. I felt something was wrong with me. I liked the other kids, so why didn't they all like me? I couldn't understand and, not understanding, I blamed myself. Remember, this was long before cyberbullying, decades before weapons in school became sadly common. It is much worse today. As a result of my childhood trauma, I carry personal experience with the pain of bullying and disrespect by my peers. These memories help to motivate me to fight ever harder, with even more innovative and effective methods, as the Humanity Project works with Our Fund to help build a more respectful society. I know the entire Humanity Project Board of Directors, Leadership Council and our volunteers feel the same way. We are committed to doing all we can to make sure every child feels he or she is valuable. In that work, we couldn't ask for a better partner than our remarkable friends at Our Fund. 

Welcoming GLLN (Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Network)

Today we officially welcome an important new sponsor to the Humanity Project family of supporters. The Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Network, based in Wilton Manors, Florida, just this week presented the Humanity Project with a check for nearly $5,700 to benefit our anti-bullying programs. At the same time, GLLN gave a check in the same amount to SunServe, a fine nonprofit that also works to end bullying. 

 

Fun at the GLLN Gala 

Fun at the GLLN Gala 

The money was raised through the utterly delightful GLLN Gala, where generous GLLN members and their friends last month bought every auction item to help fight bullying. Everyone at the Humanity Project is very grateful. As you may recall, all our funds go toward our programs -- and all our programs and other materials are free. The Humanity Project is an unusual nonprofit in these ways and we're proud of our focus on helping the community. 

Our founder, Bob Knotts, speaking at the GLLN Gala 

Our founder, Bob Knotts, speaking at the GLLN Gala 

We're also proud of our strong connections with the LGBT community, including the amazing Our Fund LGBT community foundation and now GLLN. The Humanity Project's core values of respect, diversity and self-worth align perfectly with the interests of the LGBT community in their struggle for full equality. Our anti-bullying work, our school programs that help kids to help other kids understand and live out those three core values ... these are important for all children but especially LGBT kids who are disproportionately bullied and ostracized. The LGBT community's support for our work allows us to do more -- and inspires us too. Thank you, Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Network. And welcome to the Humanity Project! We look forward to a long and meaningful partnership with you in the months and years ahead. 

Thank You, Thank You So Much!

We have just received wonderful news from our major sponsor, State Farm. This loyal and publicly spirited company has funded our I Care driver safety program for another year. Their $15,000 grant to us allows the Humanity Project to hold a series of live workshops to show parents how they can help their teen drivers to come home safely. This is a major expansion of our existing driver safety offerings: for teens, I Care: Just Let Me Drive ... and for parents, I Care: Just Help Them Drive. The workshops are called, appropriately enough, I Care Live!

 

We wrote a blog that gives a bit more info about I Care Live and you can find it at this link: http://www.thehumanityproject.com/new-blog/2017/4/22/first-workshop-was-a-hit 

The workshops for parents are fun, funny and memorable. 

But we'd like to focus here on our gratitude for State Farm -- and for Jose Soto, their great Community Public Affairs Specialist for Florida. State Farm's support has allowed the Humanity Project to create, improve and expand our I Care program since 2012. Jose Soto has been there each step to oversee and encourage our progress. Through experience, we've learned State Farm really is what it claims to be: a good neighbor to the community. A very good neighbor. We are grateful to this wonderful corporation for all they do, for the Humanity Project and for many other organizations and individuals around the United States. Thank you, State Farm and Jose ... Thank you so much! 

First Workshop Was A Hit

Our first I Care Live workshop attracted a full crowd of engaged parents on April 19 -- and the program was a hit. These intimate sessions have a simple message, delivered with humor and interactive exercises. That message: Parents must practice what they preach to their teenagers about safe driving.

 

Research clearly shows that parents are the key in reaching teen drivers. If the parents are distracted and careless drivers, their kids are more likely to behave the same way behind the wheel. If the parents are focused and careful, though, their teenage motorists stand a much better chance of driving safely too. The I Care Live workshops are free, sponsored by State Farm.

We were joined by State Farm agent, Jane Freilich, and her colleague, adding their experience to the comments and questions. The half-hour workshops feature all original videos, interactive games and demos along with information intended to inspire good driving, not to frighten parents. They're fun, funny and memorable evenings for mothers and fathers who care about the safety of their motoring children. To schedule your workshop, contact the Humanity Project at 954-205-2722. We look forward to hearing from you.

I Care Live Workshops ... Free!

After nearly a year of planning and preparation, of development and creation, our I Care Live workshops are about to begin. These free workshops are sponsored by our very good neighbors at State Farm. They're the live version of our I Care driver safety program, which we began in 2012 for teens only ... then expanded to become a program for parents too. Research shows parents are the main influence on the driving habits of their teenage motorists: If the parents are distracted poor drivers, their kids are more likely to drive the same way.

So our live workshops are for the parents only. We will work with small groups of parents in intimate settings to show them why they need to practice what they preach. Like all the other elements of I Care, we avoid scare tactics. These 25-minute workshops are fun, funny and memorable. And we believe parents will leave with a fresh understanding about their responsibilities as parents of teen drivers. To schedule your I Care Live workshop, just go to our Contact page and get in touch. The sessions are free. If you're not in South Florida, let us know that you're interested anyway -- we'll work with you to get your parent group the materials you need to make a difference.

Take The #RespectRocksChallenge

Are you tired of the rampant disrespect in our society? It feels like it's everywhere, doesn't it? In our politics, in our social media, on our roads. In the grocery store and in the office and in the restaurant. People too often treat others without the respect everyone deserves. At the Humanity Project, respect is one of our three core values: respect, diversity, self-worth. Those values are at the heart of every program we have, including our I Care driver safety program.

So what can we do? We can band together to ask each other for a more respectful attitude. That's why we've created the Respect Rocks campaign ... and now the online portion: the #RespectRocksChallenge. It's simple, it's fun and it won't cost you a cent. If you're willing to spend about 2 1/2 minutes to watch a step by step video, then about another 2 minutes to create and post your own #RespectRocksChallenge video on social media, you can be part of our effort to make a more respectful society. We hope you'll join us! Here's that video for you to start:

Gala To Benefit The Humanity Project

We are honored that the Gay & Lesbian Lawyers Network has selected the Humanity Project along with our friends at SunServe to benefit from their 6th annual gala. GLLN is active in the community, with members who work to improve life for the LGBT population. This year their theme is anti-bullying. Both the Humanity Project and SunServe offer programs that effectively curtail bullying in a variety of ways, programs that include the Humanity Project's nationally known Anti-bullying Through The Arts.

The gala will be held in Wilton Manors on Sunday, April 2 from 4 - 7 p.m. To buy tickets, offer items for silent auction or make a donation, go to the GLLN website: www.glln.org

The Humanity Project is a staunch ally of the LGBT community, working to stop bullying and create a better understanding of the importance of our core values: respect, diversity, self-worth. These values align perfectly with efforts by GLLN and the LGBT community in general, helping to achieve equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. If you're in South Florida, please join us for the GLLN gala event. It will be a party to remember -- and an event that will help us to help many more kids live without bullying.

Humanity Club Teaches Respect To Hundreds

Our one-year-old Humanity Club now has reached more than 600 middle school students at Gulfstream Academy in Hallandale Beach, Florida, teaching a peer-to-peer message of respect, diversity and self-worth. Handpicked student leaders have worked hard for the past 12 months to understand these core Humanity Project values at a deep level. Together with our adult creative team, they have assembled an original and powerful program called "Respect Rocks." (And yes, we've taken that same name for our new street campaign, with kids asking adults to treat each other with respect. The Respect Rocks street campaign is a real world extension of the school program.)

Look at those kids listening to one of our Humanity Club leaders -- all girl leaders, by the way. We believe this strengthens their message by promoting gender equality, showing young people that females can make powerful leaders. As a result of these sessions with the 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Gulfstream Academy, 346 students signed pledges to treat every Gulfstream student with respect, in and out of school. By doing this, they joined the Humanity Club at Gulfstream ... and earned a cool "Respect Rocks!" bracelet of their own.

In future weeks, we'll reinforce this message of respect, diversity and self-worth through classroom projects, contests and more. We also plan to bring the program to new schools starting in the fall. Meanwhile, our Respect Rocks street campaign is gathering steam too. It's part of the Humanity Project's work to build a society of greater respect for everyone, a place that celebrates diversity and encourages self-worth. We think our Humanity Club kids have taken an important step in that direction.

Your Help Really Helps

When you have a moment, stop to think about this, please: If you knew for certain something you said or did actually helped another person, would you do it? Probably the answer is yes -- especially since you're reading this on a website created by an organization called the Humanity Project. You're already interested in making the world better. If not, you probably wouldn't be looking at this post. But here's my point. I've slowly realized over the years that I sometimes don't say or do things that could be helpful to others ... only because I don't truly believe those things will help. It's lack of confidence in my ability to be useful. This feeling has prevented me on many occasions from offering a compliment, grabbing something off a tall grocery shelf, even just smiling when I didn't feel the other person would respond.

And I think this same misunderstanding holds back lots of us from showing more respect and kindness in daily life. And from doing more to help other people. From our perspective, the words or actions seem so small. At the giving end, we don't believe we'll make anything better. But from the other person's perspective, it all looks different. At the receiving end, that compliment, that helping hand, that smile may mean a lot. And may be remembered for a long while.

In your own life, how many times has a sincere and unexpected compliment really touched you? Have there been moments when someone's unsolicited help gave your attitude a lift? When another person smiled in a way that made your day? I'll bet you know what I mean. To them, maybe, it seemed no big deal. To you it was a very big deal. We need to find faith in our own powers to help others, I believe -- in these small ways, but in larger ways too. For instance, many folks don't volunteer because, well, they probably won't really accomplish anything. Who would want their assistance, guidance, advice? I am convinced that our genuine efforts to help others really do make a meaningful difference in their lives. If we're doing it for the applause, then perhaps this self-centered attitude will dilute our words or actions. But if we honestly want to contribute something positive to the world, the world will take notice.