Tag Archives: Nonprofits

Two New Reviews: House of Silence, by Sarah Barthel and Nowhere Else I Want to Be, by Carol D. Marsh

Two new books to share with you, via my reviews in the 1/13/2017 issue of Shelf Awareness.

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel is “an engaging, fast-paced blend of historical fiction and suspense.” Before reading this, I didn’t know much about Mary Todd Lincoln’s stay at Bellevue Place, a sanitarium where her son Robert had her committed 10 years after President Lincoln’s assassination. This novel weaves Mary Todd Lincoln’s story with the fictional Isabelle Larkin, a socialite whose fiancé Gregory is a political hopeful and one of Chicago’s most eligible and attractive bachelors. When Isabelle catches Gregory committing a crime, she’s trapped … until being sent to Bellevue where she befriends — you guessed it, Mary Todd Lincoln. You can read more under the Fiction section in the Shelf Awareness issue.

Nowhere Else I Want to Be is Carol D. Marsh’s memoir of her 14 years as executive director of Miriam’s House, a community of women who are addicted to drugs and dying of AIDS. She lived on the premises with her husband Tim and together with their staff, provided the women with a home and cared for those forgotten by their families and society.  Along with the many heartbreaking stories of the women she came to know at Miriam’s House, Marsh shares her own story of growth in this role as she learned to confront her naiveté and false assumptions.

Although I didn’t work in a direct service capacity, a lot of this reminded me of my time working at a domestic violence shelter. More of my review in the Shelf Awareness issue, under the Social Science heading, as well as a review with Carol Marsh by my writing colleague Katie Noah Gibson, who blogs at Cakes, Tea and Dreams



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the dystopian nonprofit (89/99)


I’m reading the new Jay McInerney novel in bed last night when I get to this passage.

Bright Precious Days - quote

Oh, where do I even fucking begin with this?

In Bright, Precious Days, main character Corrine Calloway is the Executive Director of a food bank.  (This would be a job she felt called to after working in a soup kitchen post-9/11 and for which she left her Wall Street stockbroker job.)

Now, then.  As someone with a 25 year career of working in nonprofit fundraising, let me assure you, dear reader, that summer sabbaticals on the beach in the Hamptons is most definitively not “one of the few perks” of the biz.  I mean, unless there’s some other bright, precious nonprofit sector out there. Maybe it exists on that newly-discovered Earth-like planet that The New York Times oddly felt compelled to deem breaking news this week, sending cell phones all over Earth abuzz.

But you’re intelligent life right here on Earth 1.0 and of course you know this is sheer ridiculousness.

I mean, what the fuck, McInerney?  In what universe does this occur?  Certainly not the one I’m working in. I can’t believe I went to work all summer. (h/t to my friend P. for that quip, via Facebook)

All the Executive Directors I know are working their asses off in the summer — in the office, not beachside, unless they happen to be WORKING while on vacation.  Not to mention the staff.

(Can you imagine the morale in that office, as their Executive Director is sunning herself on Long Island?)

I hate when authors do shit like this.  I really do.  And maybe I sound like I’m protesting too much, but I don’t care.  It perpetuates the myth that nonprofits are somehow easier environments than the corporate sector and that’s just entirely untrue.

Maybe I’m making too much of this and it’s just another example of how perfectly over the top this precious this novel is. I mean, there’s so much extravagance with this novel; a few pages earlier, there’s a bacchanalian-like restaurant scene — among many, many restaurant scenes — where the two diners order wine that costs several thousand dollars.

But I wish that McInerney had done his research or that his editor had caught this because it is inaccurate and presents a stereotypical and unfair picture of those working in the nonprofit sector.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #89 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.


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‘a moment of choice’ appears in the times herald

Times Herald - LH article screenshot

It’s rare that something I write is considered worthy enough to be “Breaking News” and gets prime real estate with our Governor, a potential state attorney general candidate, and the ongoing budget stalemate (not to mention the state’s largest scandal).

But there we all are on the front page of The Times Herald, the newspaper serving the Norristown area of Montgomery County, Pa., yours truly represented by a version of my “A Moment of Choice is A Moment of Truth” post about the proposed move of Laurel House’s shelter and offices that you read here on Saturday.

So grateful to The Times Herald for giving voice to the safety of the victims of domestic violence.




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Pittsburgh, Can We Save Christmas? #pghsavesxmas


Earlier this week, The Girl asked me if I could help her find a charitable holiday project she could donate something to – be it time, money, or items. Something like a food drive, she suggested.

Shouldn’t be too hard, I replied. ‘Tis the season, after all.

But I got busy with work and our family’s own Christmas preparations, and The Girl had her Winter Concert at school, and we were ridiculously late for a doctor’s appointment  –  and all of that combined drop-kicked my daughter’s wish to Do Something Nice even lower on the priority list.

Until tonight, when I read a blog post from my friend Sue Kerr of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents about #pghsavesxmas. I’m reposting portions of Sue’s post below, with Sue’s permission, because I think it says exactly what I would have said and because tomorrow is December 20 and we need the word to get out about #pghsavesxmas ASAP.

Toys for Tots has been at the heart of holiday toy drives for decades. The Marines run this project and it is a bear – coordinating the needs of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals with a minimal budget, limited personnel and probably not a ton of training in social services. It can be amazing and it can fall flat. It is a logistics nightmare and I appreciate how hard people work to make it happen.

This year, something went wrong and 11-20 community groups in Pittsburgh did not receive their requested toys. The way it typically works is that the groups submit the names and ages of the kids sometime in October via fax or email, then receive a notification when it is time to pick up their delivery. They request this information to avoid duplication. The toys are repacked in large boxes by age and gender. It is relatively smooth if not necessarily predictable. It is exhausting and time-consuming and very very hard work.

Something went wrong this year and that needs to be sorted out by the powers-that-be. But in the meantime, hundreds of kids are going to not receive  a gift or gifts that their parents were counting upon. And that’s something we can address. Stepping up to the plate are Most Wanted Fine Art, I Heart Pittsburgh and several Pittsburgh bloggers.


The Need – 2,000+ toy and gifts for children ages 2 months to 17 years – NEW, UNWRAPPED toys and gifts please (books, CDs, movies, etc. also fine)

The Organizations – Approximately 11-20 different community groups around the region

The Drop-Off Spots/Times – in addition to the location and times above, toys can also be dropped off to: 

Most Wanted Fine Art
at The Waterfront
210 West Bridge Street next to Panera Bread and Famous Footwear

Drop off times:
Friday-Saturday noon-9pm
Sunday noon-6pm

Financial or Online Donations:  I Heart Pgh has set up a Crowdrise Fundraiser. The money will be used to purchase gift items. This is not going through a 501c3, but it is being coordinated by well-known community advocate Lindsay Patross of I Heart Pgh among others who are well-known in the Pittsburgh blogging community. I completely trust the members of this group and know several of them personally. 

These holiday programs build relationships with community groups, relationships that can help year round. It is also important that we as a community take every opportunity to show that the lives of these children and their adult relatives matter to us. It isn’t what we get out of it or how we are acknowledged that matters. It isn’t up to us to figure out who is naughty or nice. It doesn’t matter if we get to see gifts opened or smiles light up faces.

What matters to us as the community is knowing that we are contributing to the social fabric that binds us together. We gain when we share with others without asking anything in return. Our hearts grow through the giving itself.

As luck would have it, The Girl and I just happen to have some Christmas shopping to finish up tomorrow …

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Score or Fumble? The NFL Tackles Domestic Violence. (Finally.)

Purple Ribbon

It’s wrong to hurt other people. Hurting other people is a very, very bad thing.

Most of us learn this life lesson pretty well sometime during our earliest years. Then there are some people who grow up, become football players, make unfathomable amounts of money, and think there’s no difference between tackling your opponent on the field and tackling your girlfriend until she’s unconscious or dead.

This mindset has been business-as-usual in the NFL for decades. Now, if Commissioner Roger Goodell is to be believed, the new football season has ushered in a new attitude. In a letter sent to all 32 team owners, Goodell wrote:

“My disciplinary decision [in the Ray Rice incident] led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future
properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we

You’ll forgive me for not performing a shaking my ass, pointing to the sky celebratory endzone dance for you.

I should be. But I can’t, and here’s why.

I spent five years working at Laurel House, a domestic violence agency in suburban Philadelphia, and during that time, had the opportunity to coordinate several fundraising events and domestic violence awareness projects with Coach Andy Reid and his wife Tammy during their tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Reids’ commitment and compassion to helping victims of domestic violence – often in private, off-camera ways – was something genuine and that our agency saw often. I’m grateful for having had that experience and for getting to know them in the way I did. The Philadelphia Eagles also lent their support – both financial and by having players involved – to our events. And more.

What we in Philadelphia knew was something the rest of the NFL didn’t. We knew that having the strength of the Eagles brand during 14 mostly pretty damn good seasons (no matter how the Reid era ended) was some of the most powerful advertising, advocacy and awareness for domestic violence that a nonprofit could have dreamed of. It was our personal Gatorade bucket challenge.

Imagine how different the NFL would be today if each one of the 31 teams had been doing this work alongside us for the past 14 years. We always wondered how much more magnified that message of prevention and awareness could have been if it was shouted throughout every stadium.

I’d like to believe Goodell is sincere and truthful about taking a stand against domestic violence. The reality is that attitudes about domestic violence change slowly, and usually not with press releases or letters hung up in locker rooms, especially in cultures that are indoctrinated to think otherwise. The NFL has been in overtime on this issue for entirely too long.

Now there’s a mandate and an opportunity for teams to partner with the experts in their communities to educate everyone from their players to the fans to the front office staff to the guy hawking the beers in the stands on how to recognize the signs of domestic abuse and how to get help for yourself or someone in crisis. It will take staff and funding and time – all of which are in short supply at domestic violence agencies across the country – but the NFL is a well-funded machine and has the dollars to do this right if they choose to do so.

As they kickoff a new season, here are two things the NFL can do within the next 60 days to demonstrate their commitment to helping to educate people about domestic violence.

1. Remove O.J. Simpson From the Hall of Fame. 
It’s been 20 years since the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, and yet O.J Simpson, former running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, still remains a member of the Hall of Fame.

In his letter, Goodell writes: “Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be …violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL.”

If Pete Rose can be banned from baseball for gambling, then O.J. can be removed from the Hall of Fame for practically beheading his ex-wife and companion while his children slept upstairs.

2. Drop the ball on the pink. 
Hey, have you heard about this disease called breast cancer? You have? I think most of us are Very Goddamned Aware of breast cancer. Then why, pray tell, do we really need the NFL to go all Pretty In Pink every October?

Between the fuchsia ties on the NFL Gameday hosts and the shoelaces on the players, October makes me long for the days of black-and-white television. (Yeah, buddy, I’m old enough to remember that.)  I don’t mean any disrespect to any of my friends or family who have been through this battle, but everyone knows someone who either has or has had breast cancer, most people know where to get answers and help (hint: another of my former employers, the American Cancer Society is a great resource).

Did you know that October happens to also be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Oh, you didn’t? I’m betting the NFL didn’t know that, either. What if, in addition to wearing purple, each NFL team distributed purple ribbons at every Sunday game in October along with instructions about what to do if you think someone is in an abusive relationship?

What if they launched a national campaign?

What if a DART (Domestic Abuse Response Team) was stationed on-site at every game, for counseling?

What if the NFL created a foundation that would support direct services in local communities for education and shelter and legal assistance for domestic violence victims, and what if a significant, substantial, meaningful percentage (I’m talking almost 50%) of ticket sales from October went towards domestic violence services in each team’s local community?

I’m encouraged by Roger Goodell’s letter – and heartened that it includes some specific examples of ways that the NFL plans to change. Since January 2000, there have been 77 players involved in 85 domestic violence incidents so forgive me for feeling like this is too little, too late. The League has a history and a reputation of fumbling the ball on this issue.

Only time will tell if the NFL scores a touchdown on this one.  I’ll be watching.

And waiting to do my celebratory dance in the endzone.


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still remembering kristin

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (30)

You are not forgotten today.


Remembering you and thinking of your family with love.

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Raising Some Green @ Verde for the GLCC of Pittsburgh


During a week when Pittsburghers raised our flags to celebrate our Pirates’ much-awaited entre into the playoffs, a group of local social media aficionados met over dinner and drinks to raise funds for The Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) of Pittsburgh.

The event was PghTweetUp, a way to make real-life connections with the folks we talk to online. Our venue was Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina, located at 5491 Penn Avenue. I believe it’s technically in Garfield but walk a few steps in either direction and you’re in East Liberty or Friendship.

Anyway, I am all about trying new (to me) restaurants and hanging with my tweeps, especially when a good cause is involved. Last night, Verde donated 10% of all food sales to the GLCC.

I’m a straight ally volunteering on the GLCC’s Development Committee because they are truly doing some good work for all members of Pittsburgh’s LGBTQA community. That includes youth (including many who are homeless), adults who are seeking social activities that don’t involve the bar scene, and family and friends who need support and resources.

We have some exciting things in the works and I’ll be talking more about them on the blog as they come into fruition.You can also check out the GLCC’s website for the most up-to-date information about programs, services, and events.

In the meantime, last night’s event was all about good conversation and good food. Our table certainly lived up to that! Most of our conversation centered around the upcoming Podcamp Pittsburgh event (October 5!) and – here’s a shocker – social media talk.

Verde - Sunset MargaritaWith a few opinions about Verde’s new drink, the Sunset Margarita, too.

(It’s slightly bigger than that. You can thank my camera phone for the shotglass version.)

I didn’t partake of the margaritas, but those who did pronounced them very good.

And very strong.

Onto the appetizers and dinner.

SAM_6837What I did indulge in (heavily) was Verde’s guacamole, which was excellent. I’m a bit of a guac snob. For me, it needs to be a particular consistency – not too chunky and not too smooth – and more on the milder side of life.

I could have eaten this straight.

As it was, we had a round for our portion of the table and then I ordered another as a side with my dinner. I was tempted to get ANOTHER order as take-out order to serve as my lunch today. (When I came home from a morning appointment famished, I was regretting not doing so, believe you me). 

At $9.00, the guac is pricey. But so good. It reminded me of my days of working in Norristown and walking to a small Mexican restaurant to buy guacamole as an energy-booster during the afternoon. That stuff was good; this was even better.

I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free diet over the past few weeks (I’m pleased with the initial results) and I was happy to see that Verde had several gluten free options on their menu, including their mahi-mahi tacos. I love fish tacos, which happens to be something the rest of my family does not enjoy, so it’s usually my dish of choice when dining out Mexican style.


That’s a citrus salsa on the side, which I didn’t try because I need to limit citrus. (I sound like a freakin’ octogenarian, don’t I?) But these three fish tacos were very good. At Verde, you can choose corn or flour tortillas. (The corn are gluten free.)

All in all, it was a fun night with friends – and hopefully, connecting more people with the work of the GLCC of Pittsburgh. Those attending the TweetUp were encouraged to bring donations of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate for the GLCC. One of the reasons why goes back to the reason why we do the TweetUps in the first place.

Just like the TweetUp was about connecting, so is the GLCC. Whether that happens on the phone line (412-422-0114) from someone looking for support or someone dropping by the center in person who needs a friend to listen. The GLCC provides a safe and welcoming place for everyone. And with the fall and winter months settling in here in the ‘Burgh, it would be nice to do that over a cup of coffee or tea – or to offer someone a cuppa something to warm up from the cold.

It’s even nicer to be able to count on friends in the community to help out – whether they’re a restaurant like Verde hosting a great fundraiser, a group of socially-minded (in every sense of the word) folks coming together to do good things, or a place that keeps its doors open for everyone.

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the GLCC of Pittsburgh.

Click here to learn more about the GLCC of Pittsburgh’s programs and services. 

Thank you to Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina as well as the PghTweetUp folks for a great night!


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