Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making a Difference

More Than Words,  Volume 6
An Anthology by Joan Johnston, Robyn Carr, Christina Skye,
Rochelle Alers and Maureen Child
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: April 1, 2010





More Than Words, Volume 6 is an anthology by five well-known romance authors that honors women who have made a difference in their communities. Part of Harlequin’s philanthropic More Than Words program, the stories in this sixth annual collection have been inspired by the five dedicated women who have been selected by Harlequin as the winners of the 2009 More Than Words award. All proceeds from the sales of this book will be reinvested in the More Than Words program which, according to the Harlequin website, aims to enhance the well-being of women through the following goals:

• Raise awareness about worthy causes that are of concern to women
• Provide financial assistance to these important charities
• Engage employees, authors and readers and the general public in worthy causes and provide opportunities for them to make a difference

To learn more about this program and how you can make a difference in your own communities, visit Harlequin’s More Than Words website.

These stories are not true accounts of the lives of this year’s award winners but, rather, are heartwarming and deeply emotional fictional romances which have been inspired by the selfless actions of these five dedicated women. Each story includes a tribute to the woman who is its inspiration and information about her particular charity. I’m not going to talk about the individual stories in the anthology except to say that some parts will make you laugh, others will make you cry, but all of them will touch your heart. Instead, I’d like to tell you a bit about each of the five women who provided the inspiration for this year’s anthology.  The information about each of the individuals has been taken from More Than Words, Volume 6. 

“Almost Lost” by Joan Johnston: Shortly after 9/11, and while still a student at Brown University, Katherine Chon was at a dinner party where the conversation turned to the abolitionist movement and courageous people who battled to end slavery. Katherine was stunned to discover during the conversation that slavery is far from dead and that human trafficking is the third largest criminal activity in the world today. She wanted to do something but when research failed to turn up organizations where she could volunteer or intern, she and a friend decided to start their own. They named it the Polaris Project, after the North Star which was used to guide slaves to freedom more than 100 years ago. Today, the Polaris Project has a staff of 40, many volunteers and interns and more than 8,000 members. They provide resources and support for the victims of human trafficking and have assisted hundreds of women and children in escaping slavery. They also oversee the National Human Trafficking Resource Center which runs the United States’ central 24-hour hotline. To learn more about the Polaris Project, visit their website at http://www.polarisproject.org.

“Sheltering Hearts” by Robyn Carr: Rhonda Clemons was a well-educated, financially stable woman with a good career, a loving husband and three children. Life was good, but in 1997 that all changed. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer and a few months later she miraculously became pregnant. When her husband died eleven months later, she was left with four children, including a newborn baby. It was overwhelming, even with all of the family, friend and church resources available to her. She began to wonder how women without those resources were able to manage. Those wonderings led her to form the Zoë Institute, a “faith-based, long-term support agency” for single women and their children. Rhonda’s goal was to help 100 single-mother families during the institute’s first month but it wasn’t long before 200 to 300 women per month were contacting them for assistance. Today, that number has jumped to 300 to 400 per month. The institute offers educational programs through support groups in areas such as parenting, boundary setting and life skills. They also offer mentoring and operate the “Hands of Grace” warehouse, distributing clothing, furniture and other items to struggling families. To learn more about the Zoë Institute, visit http://www.zoeinstitute.com.

“Safely Home” by Christina Skye: The number of elderly people in my country is increasing and, with that increase, comes a number of challenges – one of which is how to get people where they need to go. Family members don’t always have time, or can’t take time from their jobs, and taxis, if they’re even available, are expensive. Barbara Huston realized this was a problem in her community and figured out a way to help by founding Partners in Care Maryland, a service-exchange organization designed around the concept that everyone has something to contribute to their community. Each member of the exchange can log time by making a contribution and can then “withdraw” from their time account when they have a need. Says Barbara; “For example, a seventy-five-year-old woman with 20/20 vision could read letters to a sight-impaired member and then ask yet another member for a ride to the doctor’s office or help repairing a leaky faucet. This network of care helps older adults feel as if they’re part of the solution rather than the problem, or, worse, a charity case.” For more information about Partners in Care Maryland, please visit http://www.partnersincare.org.

“No Limits” by Rochelle Alers: Imagine being a student and not having access to a computer in today’s world. It’s unthinkable, yet many high school students are left behind for want of a piece of equipment that most of us take for granted. Lara Tavares is the founder and CEO of Sky’s the Limit Youth Organization in Toronto, Ontario. Lara’s organization raises money to purchase refurbished computers which they then distribute to students from under-resourced communities. They also provide tutoring and mentoring programs to teach the students how to use the computers to their full potential. Says Lara; “This final step is important. You don’t want to just give them a computer and say, “Have a nice day.” You want to be sure they know how to use it and know how to surf the Internet in a safe, responsible way.” For more information about Sky’s the Limit, visit http://www.stlonline.org.

“The Princess Shoes” by Maureen Child: Roni Lomeli is the executive director of Shoes That Fit, an organization that operates with no government funding, that provides shoes for children in need. It’s been shown that shoes are critical in creating the self-esteem that children need to succeed in school. Shoes That Fit has been helping children into new footwear and clothing so they can attend school in comfort and dignity since it began in 1992. The organization’s story started with another little boy at a school in Pomona, California, found crying on the playground and saying his feet hurt. When the school nurse examined him, she pulled off his shoes and discovered that his parents had curled his toes under and stuffed his little feet into shoes at least three sizes too small. The nurse rubbed his feet, stuffed them back into the shoes and sent him on his way. When she was asked why she didn’t do more, she responded, “We have so many kids like this, I don’t know where to start.” Today, Shoes That Fit provides shoes to more than 1,200 schools in 35 states. For more information about Shoes That Fit, please visit http://www.shoesthatfit.org/.

I commend these five women for seeing a need in their communities and finding solutions and Harlequin for recognizing them with their 2009 More Than Words award.  The stories they inspired in this anthology touched my heart and inspired me to make a difference in my own community. 

How do you make a difference in your community?

~PJ

14 comments:

  1. Wow, PJ, what a fabulous concept!! I love the idea and these women have really made quite a difference in the world.

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  2. Great review PJ, and what a great concept.
    Do you know down in the States, you guys (Americans) have the highest percentage of volunteerism than anywhere else in the world? You put us (the rest of the planet) all to shame.

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  3. They're amazing, aren't they, Buffie?

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  4. Drew, I had no idea that, as a country, the U.S. has the highest percentage of volunteerism. I do know that the area in which I live has an extremely high percentage. In fact, it's fitting that this blog should post today as Wednesday is my day to work at the hospital. I've been volunteering there for eight years, at the lobby information desk and in the Critical Care Unit.

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  5. I will definitely be picking this one up. It's a wonderful concept by a fantastic group of authors!

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  6. Wow, I haven't even heard of this before now. And they're on Volume 6? What a great concept and review! Thanks, PJ, for spotlighting it. :)

    I volunteer at my kids' school a couple times every week, and I love it!

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  7. I bought the last volume of MORE THAN WORDS and will be looking for this one also. I support lots of groups and have been a "professional volunteer" since I was very young - a long time ago. At the moment, I am helping out at the library, Red Cross, and a few other projects. In the past, I've volunteered in the schools, family services and a variety of other organizations for military families, Boy and Girl Scouts, church, and many other worthy causes. There is so much that needs to be done, anyone can find a place to help out.

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  8. Wow. Those are some very special women. After reading their stories I changed my answer to your question, PJ. Instead of listing my accomplishments , my answer to How do you make a difference in your community? is
    “Obviously … I’m not doing enough.”

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  9. “Obviously … I’m not doing enough.” Because even though the U.S. has the highest percentage of volunteerism, there are still so many people in need who aren‘t getting help.

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  10. An interesting side note: I just got back from a school function. Several students, my daughter included, were admitted into the National Honor Society. Students cannot apply to join the NHS. They must be nominated through their NHS high school chapter.
    Selection is based on four criteria: scholarship, leadership, character, and service. The NHS requires some sort of service to the community, school, or other organizations. Listening to the speaker read off the achievements and the service records of those 16 & 17 year olds was … a humbling experience.

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  11. Librarypat - Bless you for all you do. That's a lot of volunteering. You're right, there are many way of helping. It doesn't have to be grand gestures either. Small, everyday ways of helping are needed too. In fact, in many cases, they are the most important ways you can give back.

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  12. Julie, you're correct that there are many people who are not getting the help they need. However, I commend every volunteer, no matter how much or how little they do. One hour, one day a week adds up to a whole lot of help over time.

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  13. Julie, I'm so glad to hear that the National Honor Society of today requires community service. I was a member in High School but community service wasn't a requirement back then. I wish it had been. It's a wonderful initiative to instill in our young people that I hope they carry with them through their lives.

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  14. Julie, congratulations to your daughter on being inducted into the NHS. It's a wonderful accomplishment!

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