Print Posted on 08/14/2017 in Doing Good

A Better Way To Do Good

A Better Way To Do Good

What if, just when you really needed help, someone gave it to you? And all you had to do in return was to help someone else? That’s the idea behind Shine and Inspire, a unique non-profit that does good while encouraging others to do good.  In this article, Shine and Inspire’s founder, Carol Feldman, explains how it works and why it’s such a powerful concept.

Awaken: How does Shine and Inspire work?

Carol: Our main mission is to enhance the life of people in Mercer County thru gifts and donations from local businesses and fundraisers. We help people who need help while inspiring them to pay it forward. If we help you to Shine, what will that Inspire you to do?

Awaken: How many people have you helped so far?

Carol: We’ve worked with more than 20 individuals. We’ve bought beds for people who were sleeping on the floor; furniture for others; a washing machine for a family whose old machine broke and couldn’t be repaired. For other people, we’ve helped with other necessities. I put money on the books at a mission store so people can buy what they need.

Awaken: What kinds of things can you help people with?

Carol: We can’t buy very expensive things. But we can often pay for smaller but very important things like moving expenses.

Awaken: And in return, you ask that they “pay it forward” to help someone else?

Carol: Yes. For example, we helped someone with his tuition so he helped others by tutoring at his high school. A woman who we helped buy a used car now provides transportation for two co-workers who don’t have cars, as well as for church members to weekly Bible study. The mom who received the washing machine gives extra hours to her patients; she is a home health aide. 

One woman set up a seven week long summer crafts program for the children in her apartment building. Shine and Inspire provided her with a motorized scooter after Medicare denied her application. She was unable to walk following a knee surgery.

Awaken: Why do you ask recipients for something in return?

Carol: I believe you shouldn’t just give someone something and never hear from them again. Keeping the cycle going is more important than the gift, because that multiplies the benefit you can provide. The only way people will receive a gift from Shine and Inspire is if they have a plan to pay it forward.

Awaken: And you interview recipients before approving them for a gift, to help ensure they will pay it forward?

Carol: Yes. People apply online for something they need. If we feel we can help, we will meet with them to get a sense if they’re serious about doing their part. We want to see them do something new – something they’re not already doing – in return for the gift. Then someone at our organization will oversee that it gets done.

Awaken: Have you ever turned anyone down?

Carol: Yes. We felt that some people who applied weren’t really appreciative. They had an attitude of entitlement. But that hasn’t been the norm. Most of the people who come to us are the kind of people who don’t have a lot of money, but help others. They’re amazing people and many don’t want to ask for things for themselves.

Awaken: You also have larger programs for children?

Carol: We do two children’s parties each year. Last week, for example, we did an event with Shop Hamilton (a local networking group that encourages people to shop local) and Doctors Express Urgent Care Center where we gave away 55 bikes, complete with bells and helmets, to children at the CYO Summer Camp at the Hamilton Township Bromley Neighborhood Center. They were donated by friends, colleagues and a local bicycle store. It was even better than I could have imagined! Many of the kids didn’t have a bike so they were ecstatic. They didn’t know about it beforehand – it was a big surprise. It was amazing to see their expressions!

We also do other kinds of events for children. At one, we brought 50 kids to the Nottingham Ballroom in Hamilton. They all got brand new backpacks filled with school supplies as well as some fun things like jump ropes and bubble liquid. There were lots of activities – the kids painted and colored, made birdfeeders and edible flowerpots. There was even a pony. Most were kids who had fallen thru the cracks, so this was an afternoon like they never imagined.

Awaken: After four years of helping people with Shine and Inspire, what would you like to do next?

Carol: I would like to see chapters of Shine and Inspire all over! People love this concept and no else is doing it like this. It’s a very powerful way to do good, while encouraging others to do good.

*** Carol Feldman is the founder of Shine and Inspire, a non-profit (501c3) organization based in Mercer County, New Jersey. She is also a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in addictions such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, overeating and overspending.

For more details, to request help, or to donate, visit Shine and Inspire’s website or their Facebook page. To learn more about Carol, visit her counseling and coaching website.

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