Feature Story

A Small NPO Helping in a BIG Way

The most common non-profits you have heard of are NPO’s that operate on huge scales. Everyone has heard of the Salvation Army and the Make a Wish Foundation, but the majority of NPO’s are all on a smaller scale. These smaller non-profits just wish to see change in their communities. This can be providing shelter, food or clothing.

Otis Vernon, the owner and operator of the Vernon Ranch, is a name you may have never heard but he is doing big things in his small community of Ashland, Alabama. On his 60-acher farm his has goats, cows, chickens, pigs, donkeys and a handful of dogs. Vernon is working with the local schools in his county to help provide a health start to each student’s morning.

Vernon is making it possible for each child in his community to have breakfast at their school if they would like it. Vernon said, “Growing up my family sometimes didn’t have the money to feed me and my siblings, so I wanted to help those who may be in the same situation”. While Vernon would love to help on a larger scale he does what he can. “I know one day I will be able to help large quantities of people but I do what I can right now”.

Vernon provides the poultry, beef, eggs and large varieties of fruits and vegetables to the schools. He also has a team that handles preparing the food. Vernon referred to himself as a “down home farm boy”. “I didn’t know what a non-profit was but I knew that there were people in need and I knew I could help”, said Vernon.

Not only is he giving these kids a free breakfast but it is also very healthy. Vernon’s farm is entirely organic. “All of the animals are free range and are not harmed in anyway, other than the butchering”, laughed Vernon. Vernon stated, the food is a different taste when animals are free range and the garden has no pesticides. He also said that goat meat was some of the best meat you could ever have.

Raised in western Alabama, Vernon moved to Ashland around the age of twenty-five. He was married and had children and did a little farming for his family and really enjoyed it. He knew he could help more people. Around his fortieth birthday he decided to try something knew. He was getting older and no longer had children at home and he began looking into what exactly it would take to start a NPO. He had always given food to personal friends but never thought feeding schools would be possible. He says today his farm is ten times larger than when he farmed just for his family.

Right now while the NPO is still in the beginning stages he has a sign up process for people to receive the free breakfast. Families must make under a certain bracket of money to become eligible.  Vernon hopes one-day people will see the importance of his NPO and people will donate to his cause. He hopes that one day every child will have the chance to have the free meal with no sign up process necessary, also he would like to expand and move to the other counties around him. He also couldn’t stop talking about the people who help run his organization. He said without his teams help it wouldn’t be possible. He started with his wife and his team has grown to over fifty people, from those helping on the farm and in the schools.


Camp Springville-Helping Kids

There are many camps in this world but none compare to camp Springville, well in my opinion. Some see it as just another camp but camp Springville does so much for the hundreds of kids that come to visit. It’s a place for children ages 6-12 to get away from their homes and have fun and grow in a relationship with God.

The camp is only three days long to be able to turn over the large number that come through the camp all three weeks it is open. The first batch of kids arrive on a Sunday afternoon at 1PM. After going into lice check and housing, kids go to their cabin or lodge and begin to unpack and make their beds. Soon after they can choose to go swimming or hang out in the recreation hall that has arcade games, ping pong tables, pool tables and foosball. 4PM we begin orientation where all the campers and counselors attend, which could be from 300-600 people depending on the week. Dinner and the first service are held after orientation.

The service is a Pentecostal type service but the camp is open for whomever to come. Each night the camp holds a 2-hour service for the kids that is very fun and upbeat. The kids play games, sing songs and have a serious time of worship. A lot of children that come to camp Springville have never even heard about Jesus. While some children that attend come from nice homes, so children are not as fortunate. One of the camp staffers, Hannah Salsman, talked with a young boy named Mario. When she asked what his favorite thing about camp had been Mario responded with saying, “having my own bed, at home I don’t have one”. Salsman said that it was so hard to hear that but it helped remind her why she volunteers at the camp and loves being apart of the children’s lives.

After the first of arriving to camp the kids get to pick out activities that they want to do, from swimming in the pool, going to the lake, doing arts and crafts, and more. The lake has many different activities like a 60-foot slide, a zip line into the lake, the blob, an iceberg that you can climb and boats. The kids have a one-hour shift in the mornings and a three-hour shift in the afternoon to choose what activity that want to do.

Mike Sharp, the camp director and coordinator says that he loves to see the children play and have fun but the services and gaining a relationship with God is what is most important. He picks out the best of the best when it comes to the guest speakers. Lindy McDaniel, a camp staff member says she loves to see the children interact with the speakers and loves to see the children’s faith grow as they pray for their families and friends and develop a stronger belief in God. “Camp Springville was the camp I came to growing up. It’s amazing to see how I began to learn about God here and see where my relationship with Him has developed. I just imagine what these kids will continue to do with their lives”, said McDaniel.

“This years theme was Make Your Mark, we taught the kids to make their mark on this world and show their family and friends who God is. This camp will continue on for years to come so kids will have somewhere to escape the world, focus on God, enjoy life and equip them to share the Gospel. I will do all I can to unsure kids enjoy their time here at Camp Springville”, said Sharp.

How Does Technology Help NOP’s?

While technology seems to change every other month with different social media website to what the hottest craze is on the internet, it is amazing to see how social media and technology can influence a NPO. With social media websites like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and even local radio stations have allowed people to connect with, communicate, and support NPO’s. Technology has opened a whole new dynamic when it comes to getting NPO’s out there and in to people’s homes.

One example of a social media application that has really put NPO’s out there is Foursquare. This is a simple geotagging application that can be accessed from any smart phone or Internet browser. The purpose of this application when it comes to NPO’s is to alert your followers that you are at a home location or participating in an outreach activity associated with a that NPO. The person who frequents a location the most using Foursquare becomes the ‘Mayor’ of that location. This encourages others to explore and compete for the title of ‘Mayor’.  Many NPO’s have utilized the utilities that Foursquare has to offer like their ‘tips’ and ‘shout out’ feature, which allows the NPO to supply information about them that will pop up when a person checks in to that particular location. NPO’s also use the propaganda of checking in a certain amount of times to receive complimentary items associated with their organization.

A NPO that has benefitted from the advertisement of social and radio broadcast is Sophia’s Heart Foundation based out of Nashville, TN. Danny Gokey started this NPO in honor of his late wife, Sophia, to continue her legacy. SHF focuses on rehabilitating families into the community.  Part of their facility is specifically dedicated to transitional homing for families. This is a unique NPO because many do not cater to the needs of families and SHF does. “Sophia’s Heart has so many loving people who care about the well-being of others. I have made so many precious connections here and I am so thankful for their care” said Nic Piner. He has been a resident of SHF transitional homing after becoming unemployed and searching for a job in Nashville. Because of Twitter and Facebook, SHF has had the opportunity to compete in local contest to win cash prizes for their organization. These social media outlets allowed for followers to vote and help SHF towards the goal of winning. Nic Piner helped SHF by pushing his followers on Twitter to vote for them. After being re-tweeted and shared through other outlets including the radio they were able to make it in to the top 5 NPO’s of this contest.

Also a vital key to the publicity of a NPO is a website. If NPOs can create a site that allows people to learn about their vision, find ways to get involved, and how they can donate to the cause will greatly profit their organization. It is a key aspect that many NPOs are starting to take advantage of. Technology today is the best and quickest way for people to spread the word about their cause verses the methods of years past.  Our generation is able to aid the efforts of NPOs because they have connected to what the youth of today relate with the most. They are able to spread the word through the help of others!

It is interesting to see how something that is as simple of social media and websites can change the way a business interacts with the people who support them. It has allowed companies and organizations to expand their horizon of communication.

What is an NPO?

After completing my first post on about my dear friend, Hannah Truscott. I realized I didn’t do to well of a job introducing exactly what my blog will consist of. I have decided to focus primarily on non-profit organizations. I will talk about how they are ran and established and spotlight a few of my favorite companies.A non-profit organization (NPO) is an organization that does not distribute its surplus goods to owners or shareholders but rather distributes it to the cause of their existence and the goals that they have. In order for a NPO to be created it must file with its local or national government. Since NPO’s taxes and bookkeeping are done differently than normal businesses, there laws and tax regulations are also different. There is a broad spectrum of NPO’s, each having versatile intents. These organizations help with the needy, education programs, and good causes. NPO’s could be government, religious, or charitable. In a world driven by money, it is vital to our society’s existence that we have non-profit organizations. They are the good in our competitive and sometimes heartless business world.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits it is very simple to create your own NPO. There are five very simple steps to help you when getting started. The first step is Research. Before your NPO is started you need to know if there is a critical need for the NPO you are beginning. In the US alone there are already over one million NPO. But many of these organizations have to close their doors due to limited funding. Experienced people who teach others about NPO’s devote very little time and don’t show the negative side of what can happen to a new NPO. Step 2 is very simple. Ask Questions! There are six basic questions that you should always asked after you have determined the specific need for a new NPO. 1. Who will be involved? 2. What do you need to do it? 3. When should you file paper work? 4. Where can you get quality assistance? 5. How do you create and sustain a nonprofit organization? 6. Why shouldn’t you create a nonprofit? I know #6 might seem like a stretch after the work you have already put in but you always need to make sure you are making the right decision.  Steps 3 and 4 deal with the painful logistics of paperwork, Step 3 says, fill out all state forms so your accredited a charitable official. Step 4 deals with your federal filings. You need to be careful and research all federal paperwork that deals with starting your NPO. The last step, step number 5, is the “heavy lifting”. In addition to federal filings, paperwork will need to be done with your state. You will also need to establish plans, policies, and procedures for your NPO.

Another key component to NPO’s are the different types and who they deal with specifically.  There are five different categories NPO’s fall into, charitable, educational, scientific, religious, and literary/artistic. Charitable is probably the most obvious. Many assume that every NPO is a charity, while each of them help someone they are all not considered charitable. This section deals with homeless shelters, disability organizations, youth programs, hospitals, health care clinics, animal rights groups, military groups and human relief groups like the Red Cross. The second, educational, primarily focuses on schools, colleges and universities, biology groups, child care centers, zoos, and health organizations such as the American Heart Association. The scientific category deals with cancer research groups, biology groups, environmental groups and medical professional groups like the American Nurses Foundation. The religious category helps with mosques, churches, synagogues, church relief groups and charitable groups with religious principles like the Salvation Army. The final category, literary/artistic, includes symphonies, orchestras, theater groups and other youth music groups like the Drum Corps International. Each category is equally affective and helps thousands of people each year.

After interviewing Lindy McDaniel, and discussing how NPO’s have influenced her community she believes that they are the most effective type of outreach outside of the church. “I have seen my community come together to help one another through local food pantries, Habitat for Humanity, and Engage Atlanta. I’ve seen my surroundings completely reshaped through selfless acts of service”.

Chasing Your Dreams: A Feature on Hannah Truscott

Photo Credit: Hannah Truscott

Have you ever thought that you were to young to start a dream you had growing up? For some people their dream can include riding a rollercoaster that they were once scared of going on. Your dream could have been to start your very own company. Hannah Truscott decided to not let fear stop her. Truscott is a 21-year old, Australia native. She created and developed her very own non-profit magazine. LIOL, which stands for Love In Other Languages is a magazine that incorporates other non-profits around the world and how everyone can make a difference.

Truscott truly believes she can change the community around her one step at a time. She encourages people around her and the readers of her magazine to become more aware of what’s going on around them and that there is something that can be done about it.  While LIOL is in its developmental stage it has already made a big impact. LIOL has also had the chance to interview with many big named bands and artist due to Truscott’s job working with Easterfest. Easterfest is a yearly event that tours around Australia and by getting in with the event coordinators she gets personal interviews with the bands. Every interview is recorded and posted on LIOL’s YouTube channel.

Truscott also firmly believes you should chase after every dream and never let any obstacle stand in your way. She has always heard that she was to young to start her own magazine and she was always told that she needed more education but that also never held her back. After high school, Truscott moved to New Zealand and worked as an intern for a record company who also has a big festival each year called Parachute Music. A few years later she returned to Australia and ran promotions for Easterfest. Soon after Easterfest she moved to Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville she worked for many different companies dealing with promoting events and marketing. Returning to Australia once again she was offered a scholarship to study Marketing & Events management at APM school in Brisbane. Truscott firmly believes that you don’t always have to pursue an education but you always need connections. She said just with interning she made tons of connections.

While the magazine is still in developmental stage she is doing everything to build up her business. She is currently working two jobs and works on the magazine whenever she can. She also has begun doing photography on the side. Mostly for fun but also for the money, it’s a job she can enjoy.  She says no week looks the same with an ever-shifting schedule. She says she would get bored if she had the same routine day in and day out. She is still learning many new techniques that will benefit her in the long run also. She wants to learn how to learn more about printing and she has people around her that she trust to advice her in how to be better in every work aspect. She also loves making trips to the US to connect with others and see how she can benefit her future business.

Concluding, Truscott has three pieces of advice she would give everyone: 1) Be willing to take from ANYONE! And don’t take as criticism. 2) Always be open to new ways of doing things. 3) Try networking in a way that isn’t forceful. Be passionate about your organization and people will want to know everything about your company. Interviewing Hannah I can see her passion coming out in her work. I can clearly tell how much she loves her life and how much she loves doing what she is doing.