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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Scott Kolbrenner of Encino, California, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, donated his $145,000 in winnings to be split between two charities.  Kolbrenner won approximately $45,000 in cash and prizes during the regular rounds of play, before correctly guessing the bonus puzzle and collecting the $100,000 Grand Prize.  He pledged $72,500 each to Uplift Family Services at Hollygrove and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Kolbrenner has worked with Uplift Family Services, one of the most comprehensive behavioral health treatment providers in California, for the last 20 years.  He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and volunteers his time.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank sources and acquires food and other essential products to distribute to those experiencing food insecurity.

Kolbrenner has been watching Wheel of Fortune “his whole life” and watches religiously with his wife and kids. He was selected to be a contestant after applying with a video at WheelOfFortune.com and participating in a virtual audition.  When asked he said the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic downturn is why he knew he wanted to help the community if he won.  “It’s been a dark time,” Kolbrenner said. “When I went on the show, I was doing it for the fun of it, and I said to my wife … ‘If I do OK here, anything that I get, let’s give it to charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”

He added “I got lucky that day and knew right away that I wanted to share my good fortune. So, I decided to contribute all of my winnings to Uplift Family Services and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, whose services support thousands of families. The fun and memories from the day will stay with me forever, but the urgent need in our community cannot wait.  My wife was the only person that knew what happened that night of the taping. It was complete and utter shock for everybody in our lives, and they were elated about it.”

Both organizations thanked Kobrenner for his generosity on Facebook.  Uplift Family Services, which helps children and their families manage and recover from trauma and related challenges wrote “We are so honored and grateful that Scott chose to play for us while advocating for our agency’s Los Angeles-based Hollygrove programs!”

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank said in a Facebook post said “It takes the whole community to fight food insecurity and the critical work that we do is possible with the help of people like Scott Kolbrenner.”

Kolbrenner said that Hollywood, despite being known for its “glitz and glamor,” also has struggling communities that are underrepresented. “What I was hoping with the ‘Wheel’ is to shine a light on them,” Kolbrenner said.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank serves more than 300,000 people every month.  They estimate one-quarter of the food they distribute goes to children, and roughly one-fifth to senior citizens in LA County. 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on 60 Year Old Miami Woman Has Been Feeding Thousands Since Start of Pandemic

60 Year Old Miami Woman Has Been Feeding Thousands Since Start of Pandemic

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left millions with food insecurity but good Samaritans like Doramise Moreau ensure that people in her community don’t go to bed hungry.  The part-time janitor who lives in Miami has cooked over 1,000 meals a week for the hungry since the start of the pandemic.  Moreau doesn’t have a vehicle so she walks or takes the bus to work and prepares the meals at the end of the week to feed between 1,000 – 1,500 people every Saturday. 

Every Thursday and Friday, the 60 year old widow borrows her church’s truck to buy groceries. Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church pays for the food, relying on donations.  Moreau then cooks all day long preparing the meals singlehandedly, while church volunteers serve or deliver them to people in need.  Sometimes cooking until past midnight, people ask if she’s exhausted but she says she is fueled by her faith and her passion for helping others encourages her to wake up early to start cooking. 

Moreau said her desire to feed the hungry goes back to when she was a little girl in Haiti. She’d sneak food from her parents’ kitchen to give to those in need. Despite her mother’s fury, Moreau persisted because it bothered her so much seeing people in need.

Reginald Jean-Mary, a pastor at the church, said this isn’t Moreau’s first time lending a helping hand. She also sends pallets of food back monthly for her family and friends in Haiti. Since the start of the pandemic, every morning before work, Moreau lays out a table with hot teas and other homeopathic remedies for church staff, police, and community leaders to inhale and drink to help strengthen their immune system.  “She takes care of everybody from A to Z. She’s a true servant. She goes beyond the scope of work to be a presence of hope and compassion for others,” Jean-Mary said.

Though she didn’t expect it, Moreau’s selfless deeds were rewarded by community leaders who nominated her to receive a brand new car. As part of a Miami, Florida anti-poverty initiative, community leaders nominate residents known for community service.  The Toyota Corolla was purchased by the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation through a grant, and Moreau will only have to pay $125 monthly for three years before she can own it. It was just a small token of appreciation for a woman who does so much.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

In February, the Virginia-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid group, Mercy Chefs, reached the milestone of serving its 10 millionth meal. Founded after Hurricane Katrina, the nonprofit organization has served professionally prepared restaurant-quality meals to victims and first responders in 27 states and 10 countries, responding to more than 134 disasters.


Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in March 2020, they have distributed 7 million meals with the help of 10,000 community volunteers. The group uses coronavirus response distribution locations it has established across the US, where Mercy Chefs works with food distributors and volunteers to supplement the USDA Family Farmers Food Box Program with more meals.


Mercy Chefs has also deployed to locations in 2020 following natural disasters, including Hurricanes Hanna and Laura; and the recent tornado in Alabama. They have repeatedly returned to Panama City to serve those still affected by Hurricane Michael. Just after reaching their milestone, they headed to Dallas Texas when the call for help came as severe cold weather left millions without electricity, water or food.


They served thousands of hot meals to Texans during the unprecedented storms from a large mobile kitchen at Gateway Church North Fort Worth Campus. The team served both lunch and dinner to the community, distributing food from multiple locations. Mercy Chefs utilized several kitchens in order to prepare meals to distribute to citizens and also. They also have been working to provide clean drinking water to those who need it throughout Texas.


Founder Gary LeBlanc said he was driven to help with disaster relief on a broader scale when he volunteered in his hometown of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “The devastation was so intense and widespread. I saw firsthand the incredible difference a hot meal could make. I was inspired to the point of distraction by the idea of serving high-quality food in a disaster area. Little did I know how far that distraction would lead and Mercy Chefs now has three mobile kitchens and two refrigerated trailers. “


LeBlanc founded the non-profit in 2006 to help with disaster relief and they are often one of the first organizations to arrive following a major weather event. His teams are capable of providing 15,000 meals daily to meet the needs of devastated communities. When the pandemic started Mercy Chefs delivered millions of meals through grocery box distribution in places like Texas, Florida, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma and others. They are also working toward ways to support people in food insecure communities with job skills training, single mothers cooking classes, and budget recipe creation.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on California Mom Delivers Food to the Hungry During Pandemic

California Mom Delivers Food to the Hungry During Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic was in its early stages but Heather Ochoa already had noticed the need for food was growing.  She began laying out food from her pantry and extra groceries on a table in her driveway in Oakley, California to help feed those in need.  Social media posts and word-of-mouth helped spread the word that Ochoa, a mother of four, who had been laid off from her job at a local school, almost always had food to spare.

When her homeowners association cited her for having food on the porch, almost 1,850 community members signed a petition supporting her work. Ochoa now has a shorter, less visible table and at an HOA hearing set for later this month she intends to request a humanitarian exception so she can keep her pantry during the pandemic.

“Heather Ochoa has selflessly volunteered to organize a food pantry at her home for those in need during these unprecedented times of this pandemic,” Jeanne Reeves wrote in the petition she launched three months ago. “We support Heather in this act of selfless kindness 100% and we do not want her cited or asked to change her set up for providing this food to our community.”

Realizing many of the city’s older residents did not drive or have the means to get to the church, and others could not make it during giveaway hours, the young mom began a delivery service to distribute the food.  Ochoa’s pantry and her food deliveries to those who couldn’t come to her has been so successful, that she now has her own Facebook group, “The pantry … Where God guides, He provides,” to share news about her daily food giveaways. A nonprofit by the same name is also in the works and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help with legal expenses.

Every day Ochoa picks up donations of food that is about to expire from stores and bakeries, which she either delivers to those who need it or adds to her porch pantry, open daily from 1 to 8 p.m. She has regular stops on different days, bringing food to elderly families in Brentwood and Bethel Island and to families with children.  In addition to delivering to individuals, Ochoa often visits area homeless encampments to give out leftover food and, sometimes, can openers.

Ochoa said she and others, including churches and nonprofits, “work in unity with each other.” So when the others have leftovers, she often picks them up to add to her pantry, and when they’re out of food they may send clients to her.

“Driving around to Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg, Antioch and Concord — that’s what I do,” she said. “I love going to their houses and meeting them and giving them food. Not everyone can afford a car…. I help a lot of families that are cancer-stricken or have an illness, are disabled or elderly. Some can’t afford groceries for a week or they can’t apply for food stamps or government help.  There are so many outlets out there,” Ochoa said. “There is no reason for anyone to be hungry anymore.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Canada Father Accepts Lowest Offer On Condo Amid Market Boom As A Way Of Paying It Forward

Canada Father Accepts Lowest Offer On Condo Amid Market Boom As A Way Of Paying It Forward

Sometimes paths cross in life for the sole purpose of changing the lives of those involved.  It’s no secret the housing market has changed during the pandemic.  Sellers used to hope to get close to their asking price but today are receiving multiple offers well above their asking price.  One Ontario father of three decided to sell his condo to the lowest bidder as a way of paying it forward.  When he listed his condo in London, Ontario for $20,000 less than others in the area, he, of course, received multiple offers above the asking price. 

Juliana Aguero was having a tough time buying a house after she separated from her husband.  “Every time, I lost the offer for $100,000 or something like that. It was crazy,” said Aguero, who made about 10 offers on homes within a span of three months.  When Aguero found a three-bedroom condo listed for $330,000, far less than other units in the same building, she offered $375,000.  Unbeknownst to her, Aguero’s realtor had included a letter with her offer, detailing her client’s backstory.  Aguero, who moved to Canada from Colombia 11 years ago, has two children with her ex-husband. The couple decided they wanted to live in the same neighborhood and raise their children together.

“When my realtor came, she actually started with Juliana’s offer,” said Damian Devonish, a London-based therapist with three children. “She said, ‘This is a really touching story. I know your heart and I know that you will want to give it to her.”  Devonish, also an immigrant, arrived in Canada eight years ago from Barbados and believes strongly in paying it forward.

“We don’t know how life will treat us 10, 15, 20 years from now. So the best thing to do is to live it well today.”  “I really didn’t have a lot of money when I came to Canada,” He said. “I was having difficulty getting a job because I needed a vehicle.” Devonish finally found a car and remembers how the seller agreed to take $500 less for it, and he also threw in a set of winter tires.  And that’s why when Devonish reviewed all of the offers on his condo, and Aguero’s was the lowest by about $50,000, he still accepted it.

Aguero takes possession of the home in May in a market where homes are now listing at $600,000.  “I just feel so blessed, I’ve cried. I cannot believe there are people like Damian.”  During an interview with news outlets, Aguero spoke directly to Devonish: “I’m absolutely sure you will receive many, many blessings in different ways. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on NJ Plumber Drove to TX to Help During Crisis

NJ Plumber Drove to TX to Help During Crisis

As freezing temperatures gripped the US, Texas was left in crisis with thousands left without electricity and heat from an overwhelmed power grid and running water due to burst pipes. Plumbers in Houston have been overwhelmed since the storm wreaked havoc in many parts of the state. A New Jersey plumber saw “a call for help” from Texan plumbers on Facebook, who said they were being overwhelmed by 150 to 200 calls each day. He decided to help so he drove to Houston with a truck full of tools and got to work.


Andrew Mitchell, his wife Kisha Pinnock, and their 2-year-old son, and his apprentice, drove 22 hours from their home in Morristown, N.J., to fix burst pipes for residents of Houston. Before leaving the northeast, the couple bought $2,000 worth of plumbing supplies since they were scarce in Texas. The group arrived in Houston and their first repair was for Pinnock’s sister, who lives in Humble, Texas. She connected them with several neighbors who had been looking to hire plumbers. They quickly enlisted the services of Mitchell’s Plumbing & Heating.


“By the time we got here there were already about four or five jobs lined up from my sister, and we just hit those first and then everything after that has really just referrals from the initial customers, like their friends and family.” Kish Pinnock said once they arrived her husband has been working nonstop locating the damage in collapsed ceilings, frozen walls and – in one harrowing episode – working beside snake eggshells in a crawl space.


Among those relieved to find help was Dedrick Dock of Spring, Texas. He said he’d tried to get at least 15 plumbers out to his house before he heard about Mitchell’s Plumbing & Heating on social media from a friend’s neighbor. Dock and his family had been staying with relatives for more than a week because of a broken pipe in the garage. “We had to relocate for over a week because we needed to get someone out there,” he said. “And of course, with the plumbers here they were already overwhelmed with the work that was going on.”


The group had planned to return home after a week, but Mitchell decided to work until he ran out of material and is considering a return trip to the area if plumbers are still overwhelmed. “Last night, Andrew did not get back home until two in the morning and he was out of here by 07:30 this morning. He’s always been dedicated to his craft” Pinnock says. “A lot of the people we’ve helped were telling us they either can’t get a plumber on the phone or – if they do get one on the phone – the wait to be serviced is three to four weeks out, so they can’t have water during that entire time,” said Pinnock.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Americorps Youths Deployed During Pandemic

Americorps Youths Deployed During Pandemic

National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), or AmeriCorps NCCC is an AmeriCorps program that engages 18- to 24-year-olds in team-based national and community service in the United States.  They recently they deployed 230 energetic young adults from across the nation in 24 teams across the country, assisting community groups that are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or implementing wildfire management in the West.

The youths piled into vans to begin a new adventure serving others through the NCCC.  The training for AmeriCorps began in October and emphasized Covid-19 safety, teamwork, leadership development, and communication.  From tackling food insecurity to providing affordable housing, these youth are bridging the gap by providing much-needed volunteers to areas in need.

Habitat for Humanity is one of the groups that is benefitting from the ten week deployments. Two of the teams are wielding hammers and power tools assisting with affordable home construction in Sacramento.  Another team traveled to Stockton, California to help with food distribution and another group is in California assisting with fire management.

One team arrived in Oregon to work on similar projects and upkeep the environment while another is serving Salt Lake City, Utah.  Bode Anderson-Brown discovered the most impactful aspect was getting out of his comfort zone.   “It was so rewarding to talk to homeowners and know that because of the work I was doing, they are going to be safer and more protected from wildfires. I know that this is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life.  Talking to people on the phone and getting them the assistance they need… I previously considered this to be out of my wheelhouse, but have now discovered that I have a talent for it!”

Other groups are assisting the Health Department by supporting coronavirus testing sites and delivering hygiene supplies to residents.  They each will graduate from NCCC on July 14th, after completing 3-5 long-term service projects investing over 1,700 hours. In exchange, members receive $6,395 to help pay for college or pay back existing student loans.  The 10-month residential program funded by the U.S. government engages around 2,100 young people every year between the ages of 18 and 24. It was originally envisioned by a bipartisan group of Senators and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The NCCC program was loosely based on the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  In some respects, NCCC teams resemble their CCC predecessors, who were also required to function under rugged conditions for prolonged periods and engage in strenuous conservation and wildfire-fighting projects, flood control, and disaster relief.  The main difference between the two is unlike the original CCC, the NCCC was not created to be a public work relief program, but rather was designed to help communities meet self-identified needs through service projects and develop leadership skills in its participants.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on San Antonio Community Rallies To Repair WWII Veteran’s Home

San Antonio Community Rallies To Repair WWII Veteran’s Home

A San Antonio TX community has rallied behind a 94 year old veteran, Alfred Guerra, after his home fell into disrepair.  Guerra’s son and daughter had been able to keep up with home repairs but it became uninhabitable after his son, who had torn out much of the interior during the remodel, suddenly passed away from cancer last summer.  Hoping to harness the power of social media, his daughter, Maria, reached out via Facebook to ask for help. It wasn’t long before a variety of veterans groups heard about the man who had earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for acts of bravery in World War II. 

First to answer the call was the Military Order of the Purple Heart, followed soon after by Broken Warriors’ Angels, a local nonprofit serving San Antonio veterans and their families, along with the VFW Post 76, and the city’s Department of Human Services and Department of Military Affairs.  “As combat warriors, we leave nobody behind. And as veterans, we leave no veteran behind,” Tony Roman, of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Mr. Guerra had moved in with Maria and was thrilled that the repairs were underway once again—but then the COVID-19 lockdown put the project on hold.  Thankfully, this month, work on the house has resumed.  Veteran volunteers who had served in three foreign conflicts—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam—arrived on the scene and worked as a team to gut the home’s interior and prep it for the next phase of the home makeover.

A new roof had been donated by the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation, and the electrical and plumbing systems are on their way to being updated.  They are still in need of an HVAC system and the family is hoping for another guardian angel to come through there as well.  They’ve set up a GoFundMe page with a modest $5,000 goal to help finance the much-needed repairs.

It may take another month or so to complete the project but more than anything else, Guerra yearns to move back into his home. He longs to tend the roses he named in honor of his late wife, Emma, in their garden.  “It’s a wonderful thing,” said Maria Guerra, his daughter. “It’s a mission of mercy.”  She said her father, who has been living with her for the past several months, has missed his home so much that at times, he cries.

Tony Roman said what’s been done has taken the generosity of all those who donated their time and skills to the effort, and he hopes that a company will do the same by donating heating and air conditioning for the small home. 

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on NYC Restauranteur’s Initiative Keeping Business’s Open by Feeding Frontline Workers

NYC Restauranteur’s Initiative Keeping Business’s Open by Feeding Frontline Workers

When the pandemic ground life to a halt in New York City, restaurateur Luca Di Pietro had to close four of his five restaurants on March 15. After a friend offered to pay for meals offered to pay for meals prepared by Di Pietro’s restaurant to be delivered to a New York City hospital. He immediately wanted to do the same for the hospital that treated his son years earlier.


After that first delivery Di Pietro thought, “if there is such a need from the emergency room workers, maybe this could help save my restaurant while we do something good for the emergency room workers,” he said. Di Pietro reached out to other hospitals in New York City to continue deliveries and shared his plans with friends. From that point forward, orders for hospital workers began to flood in to his restaurant.


To organize the ordering process and manage donations, Di Pietro created Feed the Frontlines NYC, a for-profit initiative, to raise funds for his restaurant, Tarallucci e Vino, as well as other local restaurants and to provide hospital workers in the country’s hardest hit city with free and delicious food. Di Pietro and his team have become known as the “lasagna guys” among New York City’s frontline workers. Di Pietro and his team have helped deliver more than 157,000 meals to healthcare workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Supported by generous donations, Feed the Frontlines NYC works with local restaurants to prepare and deliver meals to fellow New Yorkers and has enabled many restaurants to rehire employees who had been laid off.


While most of his restaurants remain closed, he was able to rehire 135 of his own workers. Di Pietro partnered with other restaurants in New York City and lower Westchester County, New York-enabling them to pay their bills and rehire employees as well. In partnership with Di Pietro, the restaurants receive a portion of the donations to make and deliver meals to local hospitals. Each restaurant is given a different amount of money depending on how many meals it can make and deliver each week, Di Pietro says. The restaurant owners coordinate their deliveries with local hospitals and send meals themselves.
Feed the Frontlines has been feeding local hospital workers fighting the pandemic while helping to keep participating restaurants running and their workers employed.“We have … restaurants helping us and delivering food so they can keep their lights on,” Di Pietro says. “It’s morphed into something that I didn’t expect, but I’m very happy to be able to put together supply and demand.”


So far the Feed the Frontlines NYC initiative has raised over $1.26 million to pay for meals, and its success has even inspired others to create their own Feed the Frontlines initiatives in other cities. One of Pietro’s family friends started Feed the Frontlines Marin, that services an enclave in the San Francisco Bay Area. The operations team at Divieto Ristorante started Feed the Frontlines Miami after learning of Di Pietro’s initiative. Shawn Wilson, co-owner of Shed’s BBQ and Viga Eatery, started Feed the Frontlines Boston.
One man’s idea had inspired and enabled others to keep their businesses open while helping show appreciation for frontline workers. The pandemic has greatly changed not only Di Pietro’s business but the whole restaurant industry, perhaps permanently. Di Pietro said “This is keeping the lights on for us and others. Otherwise, there would be no business. And with rent due and salaries, for all the personnel basically living paycheck to paycheck, they’re so happy to come in and work on this because everyone is impacted, and they’re happy to be receiving a full salary. It’s been very humbling and it’s been good.”

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on IKEA Group Buys 11,000 Acres of Forest in Georgia to Keep It From Being Developed

IKEA Group Buys 11,000 Acres of Forest in Georgia to Keep It From Being Developed

IKEA Group has always been environmentally conscious and their latest move of purchasing of 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia that looked like it would be lost to development, shows their continued commitment. The purchase was made to ensure it remains intact and working to suck up CO2 from the atmosphere, the forest was bought by IKEA as part of a strategy to reduce more carbon than it creates through its value chain.


The working forest in the Altamaha Basin is now owned by the IKEA subsidiary, Ingka Group, which has worked with The Conservation Fund, a non-profit that has protected over 8-million acres of forests in the U.S. from fragmentation and development. A working forest is one in which lumber is harvested and regrown—and it’s these forests which often suffer from being broken up into smaller segments and developed, something the Conservation Fund and Inka are ensuring will not happen by creating permanent easements that legally prevent the forest from ever being split up into smaller pieces.


Ingka Group currently owns 616,000 acres of such forests in the U.S. and Europe, while privately choosing to ensure the highest international standards for good forest management. A spokesperson added that “no significant amount” of wood from the forests is currently used in Ikea products.


“Well-managed forests provide essential benefits, including clean water and important wildlife habitat, as well as mitigating climate change. The transfer of these lands to Ingka Investments completes our Working Forest Fund process, through which we identify and buy important, at-risk private forests; develop sustainable harvest and restoration plans; and secure permanent conservation protections to block fragmentation and development,” said Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund.


Forest stewardship is just one way that the world’s largest furniture outlet is trying to become a carbon-neutral company. They recently announced they would begin buying used IKEA furniture from customers for resale, while electric vans and less carbon-emitting materials are used in both packaging and product. They are also committed to the goal to only use renewable and recycled materials in their products by 2030 and reducing the total IKEA climate footprint by an average of 70% per product, by 2030.


IKEA’s Sustainability Strategy outlines their belief that climate change is no longer a distant threat, but a visible reality and one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces. The IKEA People & Planet Positive strategy describes the sustainability agenda and ambition for everyone in the IKEA franchise system. They say the purpose of the strategy is to inspire, activate and lead others in decision-making and goal setting so that together we can achieve the positive changes we want to see in the world.

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