How this Couple Found Each Other Twice and the Challenges They Now Face

In Philly on their 7th anniversary

The Bama’s. That’s what Belinda and Jimmy are known as in these parts by a mutual friend who introduced me to them not very long ago. I heard all about them; how nice they were, what their situation was, and of course that they were from Alabama. It was about two months ago when I first met the Powell’s (their actual last name) and it was clear why they were such a beloved couple. I had some knowledge of what was happening in their lives, but there was so much more. So, on this day of love, I thought it appropriate to bring you their love story and hope you’re inspired not only to spread some love, but to also help a very worthy cause and a great couple.
Thank you, Belinda Powell, for sharing your story and welcoming, with open arms, a second family and home in the city of brotherly love.


When did you and Jimmy first meet and where?
“We met at the boat harbor on the Tennessee river in Decatur, Alabama.”l

How old were you?
“I was 16, Jimmy was 20.”

Did you start dating at that time?

Have you been together since?

What separated the two of you?
“My Mother was a widow at age 23 with 3 children. When we got older, she decided to go to nursing school to make a better life for our family. When I was 15 we moved from Selma, AL to Decatur, AL when she received a grant to help with her nursing school tuition. I went to work and helped with my younger brothers and whatever she needed me to do. I met Jimmy when I was 16, we dated for 2 years…totally in love!! When my Mom graduated nursing school, there were nursing recruiters that came from all over Alabama to recruit nurses. My mother chose to go all the way to the opposite end of the state because that’s where she was offered the most money. I was 18 at this point in time and devastated…very upset with my Mom! Jimmy begged me to stay and marry him. He kept telling me ‘I was 18, I could do what I wanted’ but I didn’t feel like I could do what I wanted. I knew my Mom depended on me a LOT!! I couldn’t make myself do it no matter how bad I wanted to and no matter how heartbreaking it was for me and him; I just couldn’t make myself. He tried to get me to stay all the way up until the last night we were in Decatur before we drove off in the car and u-haul truck. So, we went our separate ways-married other people. He married someone that had 2 little boys that he adopted and loves just like he would have if they had been his own biological children. I also had 2 sons with my first husband. Many years went by and I found myself divorced after 22 years of marriage. When we reconnected, 27 years had gone by. It was crazy the way it even happened. I was going through my email account one night and ran across something called Initially, I was looking to see who all from my school was listed on the website. I looked for a few friends and especially was looking for a very close friend named Tammy. I spent my last night in Decatur before we moved away at her house and Jimmy and I sat in front of her house in his car for hours talking and crying.
I noticed on “Classmates” that you could go to other schools and look people up. So, of course I thought about Jimmy and sure enough he was registered on the website! I couldn’t tell you how many times I started an email and deleted it but I finally hit the send button. The email was just a “How are you. How’s life treated you? Did you have kids?” And told him about mine. We emailed back and forth for a while, catching up on life. Then he asked in an email if he could call me and so we started talking on the phone some. Once we communicated through emails and phone calls we decided to meet each other for coffee. After we saw each other again it was like we picked up where we left off 27 years earlier. Almost one year after that we got married!”

So what year did you get back together?
“2003…married June 24, 2004.”

Things took a turn shortly after you were back together. Can you share what happened?
“Once Jimmy and I were reunited, I noticed that he wheezed a LOT. A whole LOT. I asked him what was up with all the wheezing and he replied “that’s just how I am”, to which I replied, “That’s not normal. What does your doctor say?” Jimmy then tells me his doctor said he had chronic bronchitis. So, the next doctors appointment he had, I went with him and he got his first inhaler which helped with his wheezing and he couldn’t believe how much better he could breathe. Time rocked on, Jimmy was asked to be in a study by his doctor which was a study on familial heart disease of men in the south. Jimmy’s doctor was also his Dad’s doctor who suffered from heart disease so his doctor thought Jimmy would be a good candidate for the study. Jimmy would just go by his doctors office periodically and get labs drawn for the study which was all he had to do. The screening process started for the study; first labs were drawn and came back: Jimmy’s liver enzymes were 4 times normal which eliminated him from the study but his doctor started trying to figure out why his liver enzymes were four times the normal level. While all this was going on, Jimmy and I were planning our wedding (we ended up getting married before we even found out why his liver enzymes were so high). Then, 4 months into our marriage and lots of labs and testing later, we found out why Jimmy’s liver enzymes were so abnormally high. We found ourselves sitting in the doctors office one September morning in 2004 being told that he had this rare genetic disease called Alpha-1 Anti Trypsin Deficiency…that there was no cure for and very little was known about the disease. The doctor went on to say that there was a treatment but it wouldn’t make Jimmy better and if he chose to take the infusions he could contract AIDS or HEP-C because it was a blood plasma product. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency is a genetic disease that causes non-smoking emphysema and non-alcoholic Cirrohsis of the liver. We sat in that office and looked at each other, just like we did 27 years earlier, crying because we were going our separate ways only this time as newlyweds crying because of the unknown

What is happening now with Jimmy’s health?
“With the diagnosis of Alpha-1, Jimmy had to medically retire from GE Appliance in Decatur, AL and begin getting weekly infusions and regular appointments to see his doctors at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. For 7 years he was under the care of a hepatologist and pulmonologist that had experience with his disease. Even with the weekly infusions, Jimmy still continued to lose lung capacity. April of 2010 Jimmy’s doctors at Vanderbilt put him through liver transplant evaluation which they thought would cure him and stabilize his lungs. The end result was that he was told by the liver transplant surgeon he would never be able to get him off of the ventilator because his lungs were to far gone. This meant we would have to find a transplant center that did the combination double lung-liver transplant- a rare transplant that has only been performed less than 100 times in the world! So, our journey then led us to Penn Transplant Institute which began with our first appointment in October of 2010.
Jimmy went through the liver and lung transplant evaluation in December of 2010 and for the next 3 years we drove back and forth from Alabama to Philadelphia to see lung and liver transplant doctors every 6 months and between that, we went to Nashville to Vanderbilt to see doctors there. May of 2013 we were told to come back to stay (in Philly) to be listed. He couldn’t get the transplant at Vanderbilt because his lungs were too far gone, so had to find a place that did the combination lung and liver transplant.”

The Gift of Life House

So, you’ve been in Philly since 2013? Where have you been staying and what is the status of Jimmy’s transplant?
“No, we lived at the ‘Gift of Life Family House’ from the summer of 2013 until Fall of 2014. Then the transplant doctors allowed us to go home and stay on the list if I could get air transportation in a 4 hour window to get him to Philly if organs became available. We would still come back and forth to see transplant doctors and get his tests done here in order to stay listed.

Jimmy’s Mother died while we were living at Gift of Life Family House and we had to Skype the funeral. His dad started going down hill [as well]. That was one major reason we wanted to go home-spend time with him which we did. He died April 2015.

We came back September 13th (of this year), thinking for a week of appointments and that’s when they found the Melanoma and we’ve been here since then.”

So now he’s battling melanoma! What does that do to his chances of getting the transplants?
“He is off the list for 2 years but will still continue to be under the care of both teams until he can be listed again. He’s high risk for liver cancer because of his disease so he is screened every 6 months with MRI for that.”

This has to be a tremendous strain….between him losing his mother while he was here and then losing his father, all the appointments and setbacks! Have you ever felt robbed, having all this happening after you finally found each other again?
“I would be lying if I said no but at the same time I’m thankful he’s still with me. I mean he is the LOVE OF MY LIFE!! I do what I have to do … A lot of things…between taking care of him, taking care of my Mother as well. She battled liver cancer for 2 years and I was her primary care giver (that was before we started the transplant journey. She was diagnosed in 2006 and passed away in 2008. And I had breast cancer in 2007).”

That is way more than one person should have to bear! You certainly have been put through the ringer. Yet, having met you a couple of times, you don’t strike me as someone that has let this all beat you down. What gets you and Jimmy through? What positives have you taken from all of this?
“Live each day as if it were your last!!! Learned that as a child… losing my Dad at age 6. It’s the way I’ve always looked at life. Know what is important in life, which to me are all the people you love. Relationships.”

That’s definitely a good outlook.
In the meantime, while Jimmy is being treated for the melanoma and awaiting to be put back on the transplant list, living at the Hope Lodge and not being able to work, there must be struggles, financially. What can people do to help?

“We are staying at Hope Lodge for Cancer patients. We will hopefully get to go home for a while soon but will have to still travel back and forth to see docs at Penn.
(Expenses include) Medical expenses, co-pays, traveling back and forth to doctors, medicine. One co-pay for his infusion medicine, that he gets weekly, is $200.

Jimmy cooking for the Gift of Life House

Traveling back and forth from Alabama to Philadelphia, almost a thousand miles one way, for 3 years-sometimes staying in hotels for 2 weeks at a time depending on test, procedures and appointments is expensive. The medical/prescription costs are just part of it. Moving away from our home, lodging, food, transportation to ongoing medical appointments, etc, has created a financial burden that is impossible to imagine. Even at a reduced rate of $40 a night at the Gift of Life Family House -that’s $1200 a month for 15 months.

Jimmy will continue to be under the care of the lung and liver transplant teams and dermatology teams. Now, we will have to start traveling to Birmingham, AL to UAB to see lung transplant doctors there, in the event that Jimmy gets in trouble with his lungs and we have to get somewhere fast.”

Being Valentine’s Day, and having gone through all of this, what message would you want to give to people on this nationally recognized holiday about love?

“The message about love I would like to give people is simple……

If you’d like to help the Powell’s, please click the link to make a donation. We thank you in advance. and (to learn more about Alpha-1 Anti Trypsin Deficiency)

Previous stories about Jimmy and his journey:

A Season of Peace, Love and Giving


The holiday season is filled with many things; family, parties, food, friends, gifts and cheer. Sometimes it’s also filled with things that aren’t as fun as those listed. Holidays can also bring on anxiety and depression due to missing loved ones, financial struggles or family turmoil. Whether your holiday season is joy filled or a time that you eagerly await to be over, there’s a great way to spend your holidays….giving.

We all go through tough times, and one of my mottos when I’m going through a tough time, something that keeps things in perspective, is that someone almost always has it worse. Doing something for someone else is a great way to fill your soul, to make someone else happier, if even for a day. But where to give, what to give?

To start, giving of yourself can be as simple as smiling at a stranger…saying hello. It’s amazing what a difference it makes in someone’s day. It certainly does for me. Remembering that everybody has a struggle that we know nothing about keeps me in check. That’s not always easy, I know. Throughout my career in Mary Kay, there’s a saying that I’ve heard time and time again, something that Mary Kay Ash herself taught, and that is to pretend everyone has a sign around them that says “make me feel important”. Isn’t that something we all want? To feel significant. To know we matter in this world…to someone?

So what are some ways we can make a difference? Personally it started with some fun. Every year, for the last 26 Christmases, my husband and I have a Christmas party. All of our friends and some of our families join us to celebrate the year that is coming to an end and the joy of the season. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some really fantastic people. Every year, we have some type of “drive”. Most years, it’s toys for kids less fortunate. Some years, when the food banks were depleted to dangerous levels, we’ve done food drives. We’ve done coat drives. And this year, we’re having a gift card drive for a friend that is honoring the spirit of her recently departed 16 year old son, who even in sickness, had a most giving spirit. Those gift cards will go to ill children and their families, who spend much of their time traveling back and forth to hospitals and sometimes have to leave jobs to care for their sick children. It’s our way of celebrating what we believe to be the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t share this to seek applause or praise. It’s merely an example of ways to give back.

Of course, that’s not the only way to give. There are countless organizations to donate to, whether it be toys, food, clothes or money. And let’s not forget that time is a commodity that many organizations don’t have enough of. Donating your time to a food shelter, a hospital, a veterans home is invaluable. If you don’t have the funds to donate for the aforementioned ideas, your time is just as valuable.

All of these ideas are a great way to spend the holiday season, but not just the holiday season. This is something you could do year round. I’ve found, and this isn’t an original epiphany, that I get as much (if not more) out of the experience as the recipients do.

Some ideas to get the ball rolling (these are just a few…certainly there are others and some perhaps more local to your particular neighborhood, with a little research):

Give your time or food donations to organizations like Philabundance (, Manna (, and Aid for Friends ( and read our interview with them at

Donate new, unwrapped toys to Toys for Tots (, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children (, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (

Donate time, money or items to Salvation Army (

Donate needed items and time to our veterans at the Delaware Valley Veterans Home ( and read our interview at to read our interview with some of the vets that live there…fourth story), Philadelphia VA hospital (

There are many more that are not included here, but Google is a great tool for you to do a little homework. It could even be a neighbor that you decide to help by bringing them dinner, a gift or even sharing a beer with because they don’t have any family left. Whatever and whoever you decide to donate to, I hope it makes your holiday (and the holiday of someone else) that much happier. We’re all in this together!

On behalf of the One Unified Project, we wish you the happiest of holidays.
Peace and love,
Noelle and Michelle

Thankful to be Giving.

Thanksgiving is a time for thinking about all of the things that you have in your life, all of the things that you feel grateful for. That’s the ‘thanks’ part. The ‘giving’ part is when you speak about these things, share them and appreciate them. The giving part can also be taken in a more literal sense. You see for some people, Thanksgiving is less about the thanks, and more about the giving. And for one person, the opportunity to give is something to be very thankful for.

How do you typically spend your Thanksgiving
I usually spend the morning in the kitchen, but I’m not cooking. My family and I make up bags that have things people need for surviving outside when it’s cold. Every bag has a hat and gloves, hand warmers, and a few other things. Then we head out to either a shelter, or sometimes a church- we’ve picked different places the last few years. Then when we’re done helping out there and delivering our bags, we come home and have dinner.

How else do you help out?
Well, it depends on where we are, but we help serve food sometimes, sometimes we help cook, clean up, or just give out bags, blankets, coats, things like that.

And how do you decide where to go?
Usually it’s somewhere that we’ve heard about during the year or someone asks if we have ever been to a certain place. Sometimes people from our church will tell us where they may need us.

Where do you get the things that go into your bags?
Some of the things we buy ourselves. The hand warmers and hats and gloves you can buy at Walmart or the dollar Store and they really don’t cost a lot. We usually start asking our friends and family to make donations. We have a box outside of our garage and people can drop off donations that we will use on Thanksgiving.

charity2How did you decide that this way how you wanted to spend Thanksgiving?
I really just felt bad knowing that there were so many people who weren’t even thinking about celebrating Thanksgiving with their families, instead they were just thinking about whether they were even going to have food that day. It just made me feel bad almost, having so much when some people had nothing.

And how did you get started from there?
I talked to my family and we tried to think of ways to help out. We asked at our church if they knew of any places that served meals to the homeless or to people in shelters. We got a list of places and we started calling them and asking them if they needed volunteers to help serve meals. I found out that a lot of the places didn’t have a lot of food donations, and so there were some days they couldn’t feed everyone who came to eat. After Hurricane Sandy they had a lot of donations but since then people haven’t been as generous. So we started to collect our own donations and taking them with us, so we could feed and serve. We met so many nice people and it was so sad to see them go back out into the cold with ripped coats and no hats or gloves or anything. So, that’s how we came up with the idea to bring the cold weather bags with us.

Do you only do this on Thanksgiving?
No, we do the cold weather bags and donated coats and blankets plus we serve food on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. But we collect donations all the time and we all volunteer once a month to serve food or write letters to kids in the hospital or send postcards and care packages to people serving in the military.

How does all of this philanthropy make you feel?
I guess it just seems normal. I mean it makes me feel good to help people, but I feel like it’s just what we’re supposed to do, like it’s what people should be doing. So, it makes me happy and I feel blessed to be able to do it, but at the same time, I feel like it’s just not a big deal, I think it’s something everyone should do. Maybe not the exact same way, but I think everyone in the world should be making it a point to help anyone they can, anyone that has less then them, anyone they can lift up or give a hand up to.

That is a wonderful outlook. And I have on last question for you. How old are you?
I’m 12 years old.



Sunday Spotlight…A Volunteer for The Roxborough Home for Women

Wrapping up our week dedicated to charity work, we’re spotlighting someone who is no stranger to charity work, and one of the organizations she regularly volunteers for. Thank you to Karen for the information and the example you set.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

We’re talking about charities. You do a lot of volunteer work. What is the name of the organization you volunteer for?
“The organization is the Roxborough Home for Women. ”

What does your volunteering work include?
“My volunteer work includes being on the Board of Directors, helping at various functions for the ladies that include picnics, family days, flea markets etc. I’m basically the gopher. I help out with getting the ladies situated, making sure they are warm and comfortable, running food and needed items back and forth, setting up and breaking down for the events etc.”

What made you decide on that organization?
“I chose the Roxborough Home for Women as my Mom is also a volunteer. I wanted to help in the community where I live. I think that all organizations that do for others are wonderful, but doing something locally means a lot to me.
Also, the trust for the home as (it was) started by the Gorgas Family. I live on Gorgas Lane and live around the corner from Gorgas Park, so this just really struck a chord in me.”

What does the Roxborough Home for Women do?
“The RHW was initially the Rox Home for Indigent Women started by the Gorgas family in the late 1800’s. The original purpose was to provide a home for women who were poor and or widowed. Thankfully, they dropped the “indigent” part a long time ago. Today, we are an assisted living facility for women. While the ladies do pay minimal rent, the home provides all meals, laundry, entertainment, field trips, transportation to and from doctors appointments, movie nights, and afternoon tea.”

What’s the most rewarding thing about volunteering?
“The most rewarding thing about volunteering for anything is the sense of community and people you meet. They are always generally good people united for a common cause. It never fails to amaze me what happens when people come together. Everyone gives or does whatever they can. It always adds up to something phenomenal. The power of people coming together is great!”

Are there any specific stories that have resonated with you or stick in your mind in your time of volunteering?
“The stories that have always resonated with me are those of the ladies. Due to their age and experience’ they have so many stories and so much knowledge and history. It’s truly amazing. Earlier this summer, I was in one of the ladies’ rooms. She pulled out her wedding album from the 40’s. It was so touching that she would share that with me.
I think a lot of the time, older people are discounted or overlooked. That’s sad. So it means a lot to hear about their families, experiences and youth.”

What advice would you give to some own that is interested in volunteering or donating to a specific cause or organization?
“My advice would be this: do something you like for an organization that is local. Meet people. Help friends in need. Develop relationships and be a source of help or support for people in need. There is no shortage of need. Be it people, animals, or events. Jam for Jeff ( is a great example. I’ve never met Jeff however, his friends plan an incredible fundraiser every year, have fun while doing it and give back in his memory. That’s a beautiful thing! What an honor to his memory.”

The Kolbe Fund

kolbe2This week we’ve been featuring charitable organizations and foundations that we are proud to support. Today we are featuring The Kolbe Fund. Nothing is more inspirational than when someone takes a personal tragedy or hardship and not only overcomes, but uses their experience to help other people. The Kolbe Fund is a perfect example of that type of philanthropy.

What is the Kolbe Fund?
The Kolbe fund is an organization providing support for families who must travel in order to obtain the best medical care for a child.

Who does the fund provide assistance to
Families who are traveling to the hospital to seek care for a sick child, and can’t afford lodging.

What is the history behind The Kolbe Fund?
Maximilian Kolbe Schnittman was born on the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe – a Polish Franciscan friar that volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz. In February 2011 an MRI revealed that 4-year old Max had a brain tumor. Together with Max and his two younger sisters, Max’s family journeyed to seek the medical team that would deliver health. These travels, long days and nights in the hospital, and the loving support of friends and family delivered the miracle of modern pediatric medicine. Two surgeries and four years later, Max is beating all odds and on the path to a long healthy life.
The Kolbe Fund incorporated in May 2013 as a result of fundraiser held in Max’s honor. With $7,000 in the bank and a commitment to celebrate the miracles that occur at top children’s hospitals, something spectacular was born!
In September 2013, The Kolbe Fund launched its Hopeful Nights program to provide emergency hotel lodging to financially struggling families that must travel to receive pediatric medical care. In this program’s first year, 471 nights of emergency lodging was provided to 194 families from 26 different states. Our families come to the Philadelphia region to obtain pediatric medical treatment for a wide range of illnesses.
For families with sick children, priorities are rearranged and healthcare becomes the most primary concern. There is no distance too far or remedy unfit to ponder if can deliver the hope or promise of a cure. The Kolbe Fund was created to empower all families to seek out the finest care – no matter what their financial situation may be.

What are the services that the fund provide?
Hopeful Nights
Through our partnerships with children’s’ hospitals and hotels around the country.
The Kolbe fund provides lodging and parking accommodations for families traveling to receive medical care for their sick child. Referrals are made through The Ronald McDonald House and hospital social workers. The majority of families served are traveling to receive care at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Often, The Kolbe Fund is able to coordinate accommodations within an hour of receipt of our simple application. Also, as part of this program, based on the recommendations of social workers, The Kolbe Fund frequently provides families with gift cards for food from local vendors.
Kolbe Kitskolbe3
Kolbe Kits are small canvas tote bags containing practical items donated by local individuals and businesses. These bags are distributed to families traveling to the Philadelphia region for pediatric medical care

How can someone apply to your Hopeful Nights program?
All applications for our Hopeful Nights program are based on a social worker referral. To participate, ask your social worker to contact us by email at If you have hospital social worker you are working with or, if you are turned away from a Ronald McDonald House, they can easily refer you as appropriate.

How do people get involved?
We are seeking out more than just donations. We are looking for board members and volunteers. For details, go to the Get Involved portion of our website.

Which hospitals do you serve?
The Kolbe Fund serves families who must travel to CHOP, Wills Eye Institute, Jefferson, UPenn, Christiana, and A. I. duPont. We partner with hotels that are close to each hospital in order to give our families the most comfort and convenience possible.

The Kolbe fund can be reached at:
The Kolbe Fund
701 Old Valley Road
Exton, PA 19341

The Kolbe fun can be found on Facebook and Twitter and keep up with Kolbe Fund founder, Kate Schnittman’s blog.

Do it For The Love: Spreading Love & Hope Through Music.

Earlier this week we talked to you about Jam for Jeff, an annual benefit put on each year by friends trying to honor one of their own, gone much too soon. If you missed it, you can find more about the event here. Each year, the event selects a different charity or charities to donate the proceeds to. This year, one of the beneficiaries was Do it For The Love. And today we bring you a little more about that incredible organization.

What is Do it For The Love?
Do It For The Love is a nonprofit wish-granting foundation that brings people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to live concerts. Through the healing power of music, our goal is to inspire joy, hope, and lasting celebratory memories in the face of severe illness or trauma.

franti2Where did the idea for this organization come from?
In April 2013, Steve and Hope Dezember reached out to Michael and asked that Steve’s wish to attend Michael Franti & Spearhead’s concert be granted. Steve was living with advanced stage ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). During the show, Michael invited the couple to join him and the band onstage. Although Steve was barely able to move his body, he asked Hope to lift him out of his wheelchair. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they danced on stage in front of 20,000 fellow music fans. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Michael (and fiancée Sara Agah) had been looking for a project to work on together. That night, they decided they would continue to give the gift of live music to inspire joy, connectedness and a positive, potentially life-changing experience to as many people in need as possible. Michael came very close to dying when his appendix ruptured on tour. Sara works as an E.R. nurse. Their experiences, and the Dezembers’ story, led to the creation of Do It For The Love. Their hope is to bring thousands of people in need, to experience the healing power of music.

Where does the funding come from and where does the money go?
Our budget for 2015 is $647,690. Of that, 62% directly supports our wish grant programs. The majority of our program costs include: concert tickets, travel and accommodations for wish grant recipients. Additional expenses include staff salaries for wish grant administration; materials and supplies; wish grant marketing expenses; and other expenses related to promoting, managing and providing wish grants.
To learn more about the breakdown of donations you can check out DIFTL’s Your Donations at Work Page

How can people help? How do people touched by this mission contribute?
You can contribute on-line by visiting the DIFTL donation page. Or If you wish to send a check, please make it payable to:
Do It For The Love
Mail To:
Do It For The Love Foundation
PO Box 6281, Napa, CA, 94581

Other ways to contribute include:
Making a tribute gift in honor or in memory of a loved one or to commemorate a special occasion.
Hosting a fundraiser.
Shopping at our Community Partners, generous businesses who donate a portion of sales.
Becoming a Corporate Sponsor and receive an exciting variety of benefits for your company.
Make a gift of stock or other appreciated asset to enjoy significant tax-savings.
Include us in your estate plans to make a meaningful mark on our work that spans beyond your years.
Check with your employer to determine if they will match your gift.
(Contact Interim Executive Director Harmony Plenty to discuss these options and inquire about other giving opportunities:

How does someone nominate a person for a wish?
Visit the wish grant page for information and to nominate someone on-line.

Lastly, how do people stay connected to DIFTL?
PO Box 6281, Napa, CA 94581
On Facebook
On Instagram @doitforthelovefoundation
On Twitter @doit_forthelove

Charity Week….Jam for Jeff

Today we begin Charity week. There’s no shortage of good causes in the world (sadly). We wish we could feature each and every one of them, but of course, we can’t. We selected a couple of charities that you may or may not have heard of. Typically, we think of big name charities when making donations or attending events or walks. But not all charity work comes from a well-known name. We, as individuals, have the power to make a difference. Today, we’re talking to Melanie and Dean about the Jam for Jeff, a fundraising event inspired by the untimely and sudden loss of a friend. This last Saturday marked the fifth annual J4J. Read on to see how it started, why it started, and how we can all make a difference in this world.


The two of you started up an annual fundraiser, Jam for Jeff, five years ago. Can you tell me what it is and why it started?
DEAN: “Jeff and I go back to elementary school and he worked for my family business. He loved music, so when the dust settled after his sudden death of a heart attack at 39, I wanted to honor him with a concert in his memory.”
MELANIE: “Jeff and I were high school friends and before his passing, Facebook acquaintances. When the original venue backed out, I stepped in to help find a new venue. Christian Sweeney was completely accommodating, so Sweeney’s Saloon has hosted us for all 5 events. I was honored to work alongside Dean to honor someone Dean loves so much.”

Where do the funds you collect go?
MELANIE: “We’ve donated to Variety (the children’s charity), Devereux New Jersey, Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy and Do It For The Love. The first 3 work with people with all types of spectrum disorders. DIFTL helps people with life threatening illnesses go to the concert of their dreams and, when possible, meet the artists.”

How did/do you decide on which charities to donate the money to?
DEAN: “He (Jeff) didn’t have kids, but he has a nephew that he loved named Noah with Autism. So, initially it seemed fitting to raise money benefitting folks with challenges related to autism and spectrum disorders.”

Since then, charities have varied. How did you decide on any of the others?
DEAN: “I attended a Michael Franti concert and he was telling the audience about his foundation, “Do it for the love”. His heartfelt description of what they do really impressed, and kind of affected me emotionally at the show.”

How have you raised the money for those charities?
MELANIE: “Raising money has been humbling with the group of friends we have. Dean, his band, and our musician friends perform. Our friends, coworkers, and families donate items for raffle or auction and also their time to help set up, sell tickets, and keep the show moving.”

What has the response been in the years since you began the Jam for Jeff?
MELANIE: “Jam for Jeff is an event people seem to not want to miss! It’s in memory of an honorable man and for tremendously worthy causes. I mean, with phenomenal music by Jah People, Brodi Valos, Red Letter Life, Chowder, and Honeyjuice, how could you NOT want to be there!? Plus, there’s always great prizes!”

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to possibly head up their own fundraiser?
MELANIE: “Fundraising is so special when the cause is close to one’s heart. Pick a charity. Find good talent and a date that works. Find a venue. The rest is putting out the word, begging for donations, and a good amount of time behind the scenes making phone calls, writing emails and letters, surfing the net for info and pictures and lots of shopping and paperwork! My advice is dig in and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a huge task and input from others always gives you perspective.”

I know there’s a lot of work involved in throwing this event. What has it done for each of you?
MELANIE: “First, doing these benefits has strengthened my relationship with Dean. He is one of my best friends. Working with him to raise money and honor Jeff is an honor and a privilege. Dean and I share a bond of selflessness that we feed with our work. I love him and am so proud to be Co-host of Jam for Jeff.
(Also) doing charity work helped me to win a scholarship for my final 2 semesters at Arcadia University in 2013 and 2014. It’s definitely not easy to be a completely single parent, work full-time, run a business on the side, attend college classes and plan an annual charity event. I spread myself quite thin back then, but the rewards are immeasurable. My son is so proud of me. Organizing Jam for Jeff has helped me to teach him how to get involved and give back. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re making a difference in the lives of people who deserve to be recognized, celebrated and admired.”

DEAN: “Mainly, being able to keep Jeff’s memory alive has given me a lot of satisfaction. Also, it feels very satisfying to know that after five years, we have definitely put smiles on the faces of some special, deserving people.
There are plans in the works to morph into something much bigger next year and beyond. Hopefully, we can finalize details fairly soon… With a big announcement to follow.”

Melanie and Dean (in center) with Jeff Hauser's mother and sister.
Melanie and Dean (in center) with Jeff Hauser’s mother and sister.