Operation Fierce Kindness: Our 2021 projects (regularly updated)

What follows is our evolving project list for calendar year 2021, otherwise known as Operation Fierce Kindness. These projects are centered around our four foundational pillars: literacy, dementia/Alzheimer’s, animal rescue, and crisis relief, as well as our #ChicagoStrong program (of which several of these projects will overlap). This post will update as projects are added, expanded, or removed from the list:

AARP Foundation’s Experience Corps (Goal: $10,000 / $5,000 awarded) – After a successful campaign in 2020, we’ve decided to continue to support the work behind this program, especially in light of the additional challenges to its execution because of the pandemic. Quick reminder: this program combats isolationism by engaging senior citizens in their local community by teaming them up with children who are struggling to read, serving as mentors and tutors. With these changes, we can now address broader inequities, making it possible to serve children in underserved communities, and provide additional training and resources to older volunteers who may be inexperienced with digital tools, as well as bring volunteers who could never participate and tutor in person. Our support will allow them to provide security-enhanced Chromebooks to their volunteers. It will enhance the EC app so tutors can share student progress with program staff, and it will enable them to supply Wi-Fi hotspots to communities where internet access is not readily available. Our campaign goal for 2021 is $10,000, which will support virtual tutoring for 300 students. This will be a part of our dementia and literacy programs. DONATE NOW!

HFC / Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement ($5,000 – Awarded) – Focusing on research, education, and building prevention centers, we went in strong with WAM in 2020, including co-sponsoring one of their WAM Summits. We’ll continue our efforts in honor of my mother Patricia, and Stephanie’s grandmother Georgia, both victims of Alzheimer’s.

In fact, we’re sponsoring an online summit that will educate and empower people to take care of their brains, raise awareness and elevate the conversation around Alzheimer’s and brain health, and provide tools for living a brain healthy life (easy and manageable information that leads to positive intent for behavior change)! We’re thrilled to be a part of this event, and to work with Maria again, as well as Seth and Lauren Miller Rogen!

Here’s the video replay:

To support our Alzheimer’s/dementia work, please DONATE NOW!

Foundation To Be Named Later (Awarded $1,000) – The organization co-founded by Theo and Paul Epstein. You know Theo as the former GM of the World Champion Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. They provide mentoring and scholarships, with Peter Gammons, to kids who need a boost to get into college. We’re thrilled to support their work and look forward to ongoing collaboration with these guys!

Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (Awarded $500) – YOLA provides free instruments, intensive music training, and academic support to more than 1,300 students from disadvantaged neighborhoods!

Our focus on #Hunger ($12,500):

Raising almost $14,000 in 2020 towards various hunger initiatives, Todd is planning a much deeper dive into the problem this year. Included in this is a lot of work to research and learn more about the issue, because we want our work here to be more than just donating to a local food bank. We’ll focus on some advocacy and educational work, but also look to support groups such as those listed below. And we’ll be working to grow our “food network” over the course of the year! Click here to DONATE NOW!

Some of the organizations we are considering include:

Greater Chicago Food Depository – Chicago’s food bank, part of a united community effort working to bring food, dignity and hope to our Cook County neighbors. They act as the hub for a network of more than 700 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs. They have an impressive 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, as well as extensive job training programs (front of house, food prep, and supply chain). (Awarded $2,500 which equates to roughly 7,500 meals for the hungry)

Lakeview Pantry – One of Chicago’s largest and longest-operating food pantries. Their mission is to eliminate hunger and poverty in our communities by providing food to fill the basic need of hungry people, empowering their clients to achieve independence through social service programming, and raising awareness of hunger and poverty. (Awarded $2,500 which equates to roughly 20,000 meals, plus free mental health and social services)

World Central Kitchen – On August 14, 2021, southern Haiti was struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, claiming the lives of over 1,200 people and destroying more than 13,000 homes. Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen teams were on the ground immediately setting up relief efforts to get fresh meals to people in need, cooking and serving fresh meals to families affected in Les Cayes and Jeremie, two prominent cities that were devastatingly impacted. 

And then, on Saturday, August 28, Chef José Andrés left Haiti, where he and his WCK organization had been preparing and distributing food to earthquake victims, and flew to New Orleans to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. He and his team landed ahead of the storm, and had already set up three kitchens with enough supplies to prepare 100,000+ meals to those in need throughout Louisiana.

We are thrilled to support their crisis hunger work. (Awarded $2,500)

Pilot Light – Pilot Light supports students as they learn and advocate for informed choices by bridging the lessons they learn to the foods on their lunch trays, at home, and in their communities. What we love about this project is that they teach our youth about healthier eating, and teach our kids how food strengthens the bond of both our families and communities. (Awarded $2,500 for their eLearning series dealing with food literacy)

At the Greater Chicago Food Depository…

Our #ChicagoStrong Program:

As Chicago begins to rebuild post-pandemic, we intend to invest in a big way. A lot of the projects listed in this post will also fall under our #ChicagoStrong program, including local hunger and literacy programs, and cultural institutions. DONATE to #ChicagoStrong!

Union League Boys & Girls Clubs (Awarded $6,000) – Affiliated with the Union League Club of Chicago at which we belong, we’ve awarded $6,000 this calendar year! Supporting kids who need them most, they provide homework help and tutoring, entrepreneurship, arts programs, sports programs, and leadership development through the Keystone and Torch Clubs.

Art Institute of Chicago ($2,500 – Awarded) – This iconic museum, so embedded into the fabric of Chicago, is my favorite place in town. Naturally, I intend to fully support its mission and purpose to improve our art literacy!

Shedd Aquarium ($3,000 – Awarded) – We’ve had the chance to meet Cruz the sea lion personally (see below), who was shot by California fishermen and then brought to the Shedd for rehabilitation, so we can vouch for their amazing rescue efforts, not to mention the research and conservation work they do. We’re honored to support this cultural icon of Chicago as well as being a part of their Surge Forward initiative. Their centennial is fast approaching too!

Cruz, the sea lion…

Lincoln Park Zoo ($2,500 – Awarded) – This free public zoo is a favorite from childhood, and we intend to back The Pride of Chicago, a $135 million capital campaign committed to advancing Lincoln Park Zoo’s reputation as an immersive home for wildlife; an inspiring and free experience for guests; and a leader in conservation, science, and learning.

Healthy, wealthy, and wise!

With the above programs, you might have picked up on the narrative about how we’re focused on helping people become healthy, wealthy, and wise. As in:

With our work on solving the hunger issues, we’re helping people be healthy, and live a meaningful life, one that enables them to contribute to their community.

Next, with our work with the the Boys & Girls Clubs, plus some scholarship projects we’ll soon be targeting such as with Theo Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later, we’re helping people be wealthy, by focusing on their education, developing leadership skills, teamwork, they’ll become marketable prospects for any employer.

And finally, with our literacy focus, we’ll help people become wise, for when you can read, you can be anything you want to be!

Operation Fierce Kindness financial goal > $50,000

Awarded (as of 09.18.21) > $35,500

As our work continues over the year, we will do our best to report our progress, but as this will be very fluid, it won’t be perfect.

Also, if there are additional ideas, projects, and campaigns you want us to consider, please email Todd here.

And of course, you are welcome to support just a handful of the above components, and not the complete program. Just let us know what particular campaigns are of interest!

Again, click here to DONATE!

Some benefits from Operation Fierce Kindness (so far):

1. Helping 300 kids learn to read!

2. Actively engaging thirty senior citizens into their community by serving as loving mentors and tutors, helping kids learn to read!

3. Providing 27,500 meals to the hungry (so far!)

4. Helping support nineteen boys & girls clubs, serving 15,000 youth each year!

5. Thousands educated on brain health!

6. Helping 1,300 kids learn through music!