Monday, April 26, 2010

CGI U and Letter to President Clinton

Steve Weinberg (Co-Founder and CEO), Natalie Fratto (Director of Marketing), Robbie Dembo (Director of Community Outreach) and Matt Woelfel (Director of Operations) recently returned from the Clinton Global Initiative for Universities (CGI U) conference in Miami, Florida.

The weekend was a huge success for WILL WORK FOR FOOD as the team made all types of connections across the nonprofit world. Check out some photos from CGI U.

Steve had an opportunity to speak with President Clinton about WILL WORK FOR FOOD at CGI U and President Clinton asked that he follow up with more information.
Read Steve's letter below...

Dear President Clinton,

Thank you for yet another energizing and powerful CGI U experience. I have attended CGI U every year and each conference has been tremendously helpful.

At the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust we spoke briefly about my commitment, WILL WORK FOR FOOD, and you asked that I follow up with some more information about our initiative. I think this is a story you will appreciate.

Before delving into WILL WORK FOR FOOD, I have an invitation to extend to you. On behalf of the University of Michigan, I would like to invite you to join us as a keynote speaker for the University of Michigan’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps on October 13, 14 or 15, 2010. University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, a coalition of University departments, the Brookings Institution and the National Peace Corps Association are planning the event to celebrate President John F. Kennedy’s introduction of the concept of the Peace Corps on the steps of the University of Michigan Union on October 14, 1960. President Coleman has sent a formal invitation to you that expands upon this extremely exciting event and its importance to the University Community.

Just as President Kennedy’s speech inspired University of Michigan students to help work towards the founding of the Peace Corps, the inspiration for me to start WILL WORK FOR FOOD came from the speech you gave at the University of Michigan 2007 commencement when you spoke of the need for “21st Century Global Citizens.” I was a sophomore at the time and your call to action moved me to help find a way to connect local community service to international relief efforts. In your list of challenges facing my generation you included malnutrition while also mentioning the continuing need to help our own local communities. The seed had been planted for the WILL WORK FOR FOOD “Volunteering locally to save children globally” initiative.

Students volunteer in their community and ask friends and family members to sponsor this work with a donation. The money raised helps our partners, Doctors Without Borders, deliver Plumpy’nut and similar life-saving Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food to severely malnourished children. This is all orchestrated through www.willworkforfood.org which serves as a social networking and fundraising tool.

When I attended CGI U in New Orleans, WILL WORK FOR FOOD was nothing more than an ambitious but unfocused idea. By the time I attended CGI U in Austin we had fine-tuned our model and held a soft launch at the University of Michigan that raised over $5,000 in approximately two months. A conversation with Blake Mycoskie in Austin helped us figure out how to expand WILL WORK FOR FOOD to other campuses. With the support of a grant from the University of Michigan Office of the President we began introducing our initiative to 20 high schools and colleges around the country. To date, we have raised over $30,000 with an additional $20,000 of donations coming in by the end of May from schools in Toledo, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland.

CGI U in Miami was perhaps the most helpful yet. Patrick O’Heffernan, one of the skill session leaders from Socialedge.org, spent an hour and a half with me between sessions critiquing our website and making suggestions for improvement. I was also able to connect with staff from GlobeMED and STAND and will be talking to them this week to learn more about their student-led models so we can borrow ideas as we refine our efforts on other campuses. During the CGI U Exchange we were able to introduce our initiative to hundreds of students from campuses around the world. Most excitingly, you and I had a chance to connect and you asked that I send along more information about our work.

Every year CGI U catapults WILL WORK FOR FOOD forward with fresh ideas and connections. Thank you for creating these CGI U experiences and continuing to be such an inspiration to my generation of student leaders. It would be an absolute honor if you can join us in our celebration of the Peace Corps or if you have any suggestions or opportunities for WILL WORK FOR FOOD.


Steven Weinberg
Co-Founder and CEO

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email willworkforfoodblog@gmail.com with the subject line "Sign me up."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Article in the Ohio Wesleyan Transcript

Lily Strumwasser, our Campus Rep at Ohio Wesleyan University, recently got WILL WORK FOR FOOD some press in her school's newspaper. We obviously greatly appreciate Lily's hard work and help delivering some very positive PR! Check out the article below.

OWU community seizes an opportunity to help solve a global hunger crisis

Katie Carlin, Transcript Correspondent

Issue date: 4/15/10

"Volunteering locally to save children globally" is the initiative of the student-run, non-profit organization Will Work for Food that has been brought to campus by senior Lily Strumwasser.

Will Work for Food was started by University of Michigan graduate Steven Weinberg in 2007.

Weinberg said he was motivated to start the organization when he heard a speech former president Bill Clinton gave at University of Michigan.

"He talked about how our world is unequal and unstable and how our generation is facing daunting challenges like fighting infectious diseases, malnutrition and poverty," Weinberg said.

Weinberg said Clinton acknowledged that these issues are unsettling, but also provided a spark of inspiration by recognizing that with how connected the world is today, people have a greater potential to solve global problems.

Weinberg said he started Will Work for Food as an attempt to bridge the gap between local community service and malnutrition relief work abroad.

Strumwasser, who met Weinberg in high school, said she decided to be a campus representative and a promoter of community and global awareness because she wanted to help simulate community service.

Strumwasser said as the campus representative she is responsible for holding monthly conference calls, advertising, and organizing local community service.

Ohio Wesleyan student volunteers served a meal provided by Chartwells Food Service at Andrews House, a community center in Delaware, last week

Junior Lucy Warren, who will take over next year when Strumwasser graduates, said she thinks the event will be a great opportunity to do something good while spreading the word about Will Work for Food.

Weinberg said he hopes the organization will help people realize that although their lives may be removed from these malnourished children, volunteers can help their own communities by raising relief funds to "save children globally".

Weinberg said in the long term, he hopes to see Will Work for Food taking action at over 100 schools, with each raising an average of $2,500 every year.

"This will allow us to generate a quarter million dollars annually to fight malnutrition," said Weinberg.

Strumwasser said students can get involved by registering on the web site (www.willworkforfood.org) and doing community service.

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email willworkforfoodblog@gmail.com with the subject line "Sign me up."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Working Together: WILL WORK FOR FOOD and OneMichigan

On Friday, April 9th, members of the WILL WORK FOR FOOD Headquarters Team volunteered with members of OneMichigan, another service group stationed at the University of Michigan. OneMichigan is a great organization that connects different student initiatives with one another. The group headed to Food Gatherers, an Ann Arbor food bank, and helped out at the warehouse where all the collected food is sorted and stored. Volunteers worked together to divide up bulk carrot cake mix into two pound bags so that it can be distributed to and used by local agencies and shelters.

It's not too late to get involved! Register and become a member today!

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email willworkforfoodblog@gmail.com with the subject line "Sign me up."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dr. Hodes Spotlight: HBO Special, Book Launch, & Good Morning America

WILL WORK FOR FOOD board member, Dr. Rick Hodes, is back in the news, this time for a well-deserved trifecta of media glory that further introduces the world to his amazing work. You may remember that Dr. Hodes came to Ann Arbor on February 15th, and gave a speech to a packed auditorium on the U-M campus. His inspiring stories of his medical work in Africa left the crowd in awe and wanting to learn more.

Fortunately, on Wednesday April 14th a documentary about Dr. Hodes will air on HBO2 at 8:00pm ET. This Sue Rockefeller film is entitled “Making the Crooked Straight,” and it is sure to provide a powerful visual account of Dr. Hodes work with Ethiopian children in need.

The HBO special airing coincides with the release of Marilyn Berger’s book “This Is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes,” which went on sale today (4/13/2010). The book has already received a great deal of praise from some very noteworthy sources:

“This is a Soul is a fascinating, richly moving and emotionally powerful book.”
Henry Kissinger – Former U.S. Secretary of State, 1973 Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

“Dr. Rick Hodes’ life story is a reminder that giving is a privilege in which we may take pleasure, not some saintly endeavor. His approach toward medicine should be a model for our current Western system in showing that tending to the soul is at the center of healing. This is a Soul envelops the reader in Dr. Hodes’ indefatigable light and is an inspirational reading experience.”
Natalie Portman – Hollywood Actress, Political/Social Activist

“Dr. Rick’s heroic mission to come from America, not just to cure, but to provide a family for as many orphan children as he possibly can, is inspirational. And in a surprising twist, Berger’s own discovery and developing relationship with one of the little patients is deeply moving. A must read that will melt the heart!”
Christiane Amanpour – Former CNN Chief International Correspondent, Host of ABC’s This Week

Finally, Dr. Hodes appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America earlier today (4/13/10) along with Berger to promote the book and his amazing story.

Again, be sure to watch “Making the Crooked Straight” on HBO2 Wednesday April 14th at 8:00pm ET (or check the HBO site for future showings) and find yourself a copy of Marilyn Berger’s new book, “This Is a Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes,” in bookstores now.

Dr. Hodes is committed to making the world a better place. If you are looking for a way to start making a difference, WILL WORK FOR FOOD is a great place to start. WILL WORK FOR FOOD provides a wonderful opportunity for people to "volunteer locally to save children globally." Get started today!

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email admin@willworkforfood.org with the subject line "Sign me up."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

EVENT HIGHLIGHT: Detroit Partnership Day

Part of the WWFF crew takes a break from cleaning up Eliza Park; Detroit, MI

On April 3, members of the WILL WORK FOR FOOD Headquarters team participated in Detroit Partnership Day (better known as DP Day). Together, six members of the team spent the day “volunteering locally to save children globally” and helped to make a difference in the lives of others.

The volunteer project took place in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit, where the WILL WORK FOR FOOD team geared up in gloves and old clothing to clean up a park. The team, along with many other University of Michigan volunteers, spent the day beautifying the park and making it a better place for the surrounding residents.

DP Day was extremely successful, allowing over 1,000 students from the University of Michigan to volunteer at over 30 different sites in Detroit’s most poverty stricken areas. The mission of the day was clear: to help the overall state of Detroit. The WILL WORK FOR FOOD team most definitely fulfilled their goals as they actively helped the city of Detroit and contributed to the WILL WORK FOR FOOD mission.

If you are interested in more projects regarding the city of Detroit, please visit www.thedp.org

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email willworkforfoodblog@gmail.com with the subject line "Sign me up."

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dance for a Chance: The Sylvania Southview High School Dance Marathon

The WILL WORK FOR FOOD initiative continues to thrive at high schools and colleges across the country. On Saturday March 27th, students at Sylvania Southview High School in Ohio blew us away with their energy, passion and effective fundraising efforts. 316 students participated in the school's fourth annual Dance Marathon, an event in which students give up part of their weekend and come to school to learn about troubles in our world, compete in a variety of activities and "Dance for a Chance." All without sitting down over the 12 hour stretch. Leading up to the event participants asked friends, family, neighbors, local businesses and congregations to sponsor their involvement with donations.

Molly Morse, a Sylvania Southview Alum and WWFF Headquarters team member at the University of Michigan, participated in Southview's "Dance for a Chance" in years past and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to raise funds for WILL WORK FOR FOOD. After explaining the WWFF initiative to Noah Bader, a Junior at Southview, Noah convinced his classmates to dedicate fundraising efforts this year to combat hunger and malnutrition. They decided for half of the funds raised to benefit their local community food bank and half to benefit malnourished kids abroad through WWFF.

Sylvania Southview has a history of raising a large amount of money through their dance marathons. Last year, the high schoolers raised $20,000, and this year they were determined to do even better. The students set the goal of $25,000: an ambitious goal, but by no means unattainable for a driven group of students with a great fundraising model. The students split into four teams (blue, red, green and orange) in order to create a friendly competition. Each team was led by student captains who helped recruit participants and organized fundraising activities during the school year.

After months of planning, March 27th finally rolled around and the 316 participants piled into the school's cafeteria decked out in their team's colors with spirited outfits. In addition to their fundraising efforts, participants also brought canned goods to donate to their local food bank.

The cans were used in a competition between the teams in which they built structures using the canned goods. The students used their creativity to form all different shapes and formations. One of the teams used their cans to form an outline of Africa with the word "HOPE" in the middle to help inspire the dancers and remind everyone what they were there for.

Molly and Steve Weinberg (WWFF CEO) went down to Sylvania during the event to teach the students a little more about malnutrition and how WWFF fights it. To illustrate the gravity of the malnutrition epidemic, Molly put things into perspective for the students. "Every 6 seconds, a child dies because of malnutrition," she told the group.

"Right now, there are 316 people in this room. That means that if you were all severely malnourished, it would only take 31 minutes for everyone in this room to die of malnutrition. In the 12 hours of the dance marathon, a total of 7,200 children will have died of malnutrition." The participants were stunned by the presentation, and although the statistics were difficult to hear, it seemed to help the students understand exactly how important their efforts are on a global scale.

"When I listened to the WILL WORK FOR FOOD presentation, I was really glad that Dance for a Chance was donating money to its cause. Some of the statistics Steve and Molly shared were a huge wake-up call about the type of problem that hunger and malnutrition are in the world," said Andrew Rothschild, a Senior at Sylvania Southview. "The organization really is doing a lot of good towards fighting a serious, yet often ignored problem." Eric Wolff, also a Southview Senior, told us "the presentation helped us realize why we do Dance for a Chance. We definitely picked the right organization to work with."

At 11:30pm (eleven and a half hours into the marathon) the participants gathered together and listened attentively to Steve Swaggerty, the teacher advisor for the event, announce the final amount raised. The students surpassed their initial goal of $25,000 and raised a grand total of over $30,806! Half of which ($15,403) to be donated to WILL WORK FOR FOOD. "To be honest, I got teary-eyed when I heard how much money we raised. It's amazing that only 300 people can make such a difference, " said Amy Horowitz, a Junior at Southview. "It felt great to not only reach a group goal, but to know that we're affecting the lives of so many other people that don't have the same opportunities we do. It's a truly touching experience."

We at WILL WORK FOR FOOD can't express how grateful we are to the students of Sylvania Southview High School for their passion, energy and incredible contribution to the WWFF initiative (their dance moves aren't bad either, check them out in the video below). With the end of the school year approaching, this really builds momentum for the summer and next school year. With the help of two other high schools in Portland and Baltimore, we expect to have a total of $50,000 raised by the end of April!

Are you interested in hosting a similar event at your school? Contact Molly Morse at mollyrm@umich.edu and get it started today!

If you want to know every time WILL WORK FOR FOOD posts something new to our blog, email willworkforfoodblog@gmail.com with the subject line "Sign me up."