Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 14: Creating Something Good, Part 3

FB-CoverPic(1)

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read the first two parts of this series.

Creating Something Good, Part 1

Creating Something Good, Part 2

Before I go any further with my story, I’d like to give a shout-out to those who helped create Something Good:

Less Than Three Press: Megan Derr, Samantha Derr, and Sasha Miller donated money for Kindles, sponsored my travel to Atlanta, and donated their entire catalog (minus erotic books). Less Than Three has been part of Something Good from the beginning, and they have been huge supporters.

Harmony Ink (Dreamspinner Press): Unbeknownst to me, Elizabeth North had already sent six Kindles filled with books to the residents at LNF last year. Because of that, she jumped at the chance to support a second year’s incarnation. Nessa Warin, the head of Harmony Ink, donated their entire catalog of YA LGBT stories. Plus, Elizabeth sent an additional financial contribution to buy more Kindles.

Ylva Publishing: Ylva was the only lesbian publisher to respond to Something Good’s invitation to participate. Astrid Ohletz and Nikki Busch donated eight of their lesbian books to the project and expressed excitement to support LGBT homeless youth.

We can always use more lesfic! If you are an author of lesbian fiction, please contact Something Good and/or your publisher to make inquiries.

Decadent Bono: The mainstream/YA imprint of Decadent Publishing donated eight of their books toward the project.

Witty Bard Press: Anna Victoria Jones donated all of her anthologies.

Dark Hollows Press: Michelle Williams provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Damnation Press: Kim Richards provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Vagabondia Creations: Jay Odon provided eighteen sets of earphones for the first shipment of Kindles.

Carina Press donated copies of Cathy Pegau’s book.

Countless authors donated copies of their books from small and independent publishers. I was particularly excited to receive the When Women Were Warriors trilogy from Catherine M. Wilson.

We also had donations from individuals and other groups:

  • Sarah Bennett
  • In honor of Lambda Legal (donor wishes to remain anonymous)
  • Joanna Jasmin Darrell
  • Jeff Adams (JMS Books)
  • Renee Meyer
  • Patricia Denke
  • Maggie Worth
  • Kelly Adams
  • Ruth Shulman
  • Pao
  • Kelly Jensen
  • Laurel Lasky
  • Sheri Spell
  • S.J. Maylee
  • Kate Richards
  • Prism Book Alliance
  • Tina Clark Simas
  • V.s. Morgan
  • Anonymous, not specified

In addition, I received administration help from Myra Swintz, Sarah Bennett, Cat Hopkins, and Anne Ferrer Odom. I also received countless hours of support from Amazon as well as our sales representative. When a person buys 26 Kindles, she receives outstanding customer service. πŸ™‚ Thank you to Ashley of Best Buy who matched Amazon’s charitable discount pricing and the countless other people who cheered, supported, and gave much-needed advice. Thank you to Renee M. for her suggestions on forming a non-profit organization (our hope is to do so next summer, assuming that the project is still sustainable). We are in need of legal advice/expertise in doing so. If you either have the expertise or know someone who does, please get in touch with me.

If you have contributed to Something Good, please find me on Facebook. You will be added to the business group so you can receive all of the updates in real time. I do ask that you keep the updates, especially financial information, confidential.

FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS

Do you remember my original goals for this project? I hoped to raise $69 to buy one basic Kindle and have each author donate a book or two. Instead, I went to LNF equipped with 18 Kindles, 18 screen protectors, 18 cases, 18 sets of earphones, and approximately 7560 books. (Not to mention the mountain of baked goods and the sackful of gifts for Heidi, the girl in rehab.) All told, the donations added up nearly $40,000.

One idea.

Six weeks.

30-45 supporters.

$4,000 in cash.

$40,000 total donation to LNF.

Did I mention that this took six weeks? As I checked and re-checked every detail of the Kindles (I had the supreme pleasure of installing software updates. Eighteen times.) and prepared for the staff training, shock reverberated through my sleep-deprived body. We’d done it. After six weeks of worry, preparation, organization, and mind-numbing tedious work, the Kindles were ready.

GLITTER AND BE GAY

At the Friday evening holiday party, I met “Sister Glitter and Be Gay,” a novice in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It is an organization founded in California that has worked for HIV and AIDS awareness and activism. When a runaway teenage boy found refuge with the sisters only for his homophobic parents to legally compel his return, he committed suicide. The sisters sainted him as Saint Lost and Found, and LNF carries his name.

IMG_20141205_203913(1)

The sisters continue supporting LGBT homeless youth. (“They are our future,” said one gentleman.) I also met Mark, a guard who is part of the organization but serves as backup. He provides physical protection (“We attract attention,” said Sister Glitter and Be Gay. “We attract all kinds of attention.”), assists with photos, and helps with crowd control.

IMG_20141205_173411

Rick Westbrook, the director of LNF, also is a sister. We had a few minutes to chat, in which he emphasized the need for people to care about the kids.

10565045_10205253710892623_4481428979847658790_n

I also met Angelica D’Paige, one of the nicest employees I’ve ever met. I bought a few items at the LNF thrift shop, and she showed me the hilarious sides of the sign. “One is for regular,” she said. “The other is for when the drama queens come in.”

1908208_10205253711372635_1557884194901804742_n

“Tell us about your books,” said people throughout the day.

“Well, my newest book, Taliasman, is about a queen,” I began.

“Do you mean a drag queen or a real queen?” came the answer.

MEETING HEIDI

“Just to give you a heads up,” Sue told me the next day as we prepared to enter the rehab center. “This is where people in poverty go. It’s a sad place.”

“Do you think she would like some soda?” I asked. “Kleenex, apples, vegetables..?”

“I think she’d love it,” Sue said. She’d already packed a few treats that I’d brought to the center the day before.

As we walked in and met Heidi, Sue expressed surprise at seeing her in a wheelchair. “You made it!” she exclaimed.

“I’m going to get out of this,” Heidi promised. “I’m working hard in physical therapy.”

Sue bent down and rested a hand on Heidi’s shoulder. “Do you know why we’re here?”

“To give me a Kindle.”

Sue’s shoulders lowered ever so slightly. “How did you know that?”

“Kim snitched,” Heidi admitted. “She blew the secret.”

“I thought it would be nice to be a surprise,” Sue said, disappointed. “This is Ana. She’s an author, and…”

“There are as many lesbian books as I could get,” I said, holding out the purple tote bag.

“Purple!” exclaimed Heidi. “My favorite color. People keep giving me pink, and I don’t like pink…”

Sue and I exchanged rueful glances. So much for the pink Kindle, pen, scarf, earphones, and other gifts.

“Er. Everything’s pink,” I said.

“No, no, what I meant is that everyone keeps giving me pink, so it grows on me.” Heidi grinned, taking out her gifts. “Smarties. My favorite candy!” She popped one into her mouth.

“I didn’t know that,” Sue said.

“A scarf!”

“Ana made it,” Sue explained, drawing up a chair for me and sitting on Heidi’s bed.

“Here’s the Kindle,” I said, too excited to wait. “If some jerk tries to steal your Kindle again, we can deactivate it.”

Sue, Heidi, and I visited for over three hours. Afterward, Sue and I chatted for an hour in the parking lot. “Do you see why everyone loves her?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered. To have been through so much and to remain so positive…it’s a lesson we should all learn.

“Sue has told me so much about you,” I’d told Heidi. “She speaks of you as if you were her own daughter.”

I’d glanced at Sue. Her eyes brimmed with tears, and she couldn’t say a word.

ONWARD AND UPWARD

As I prepared for my trip to Atlanta, something unexpected happened.

Amazon dropped the price of Kindles by 20% for Black Friday. In a mad scramble, I contacted all of the donors who had wanted to contribute after we reached the goal of 18 Kindles plus accessories. I had told everyone to wait, but the price reduction changed everything.

Overnight, I received enough money to buy 8 more Kindles. Plus the promise of additional funds at a later point.

I contacted a few other LGBT homeless shelters/youth centers to see if they were interested. Here are the preliminary results:

Lucie’s Place in Arkansas offers counseling and help, and they are raising money to build a residential shelter in the next year or two. While they couldn’t use a Kindle now, they were interested in one for the future.

Trinity Place Shelter in New York City offers shelter and support for LGBT youth who are predominantly ethnic minorities. They will receive two Kindles (for now) and will also appear on Governing Ana next year for an interview. To make Trinity even more special, I was able to meet a former member of their board who has now relocated to Atlanta.

Ali Forney Center in New York City is the oldest and most well-known organization that supports LGBT homeless. They will receive at least two Kindles within the next few weeks, possibly more. They will use the Kindles in their career and educational program which includes instruction in reading and reading comprehension. Also, they will make the Kindles available for pleasure reading during drop-in hours.

Outside In in Portland, Oregon serves all homeless youth but has a special Queerzone for LGBT youth. They have a number of different programs and are debating where best to make use of donated Kindles.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center provides help for all LGBT. We are in conversation whether the Kindles would be an appropriate fit for their programs.

If you would like to nominate your local/favorite LGBT homeless youth organization, please let me know! At the moment (due to Amazon restrictions), we need to stay within the US. We would like to include international sites, but country-specific technical support along with exorbitant shipping costs are a steep impediment for now.

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM

Jared, whom you met in Part 2, touched me so much that I spoke with the staff afterward. “I’d like him to have a Kindle, if you don’t think it will cause problems for others in the center,” I said. “Use it as positive reinforcement for achieving a goal he sets for himself, so it feels like an earned reward rather than charity.”

I heard later that Jared liked the blue Kindles, and he and the staff will work out the details on their own. I also went home to find 57 books that contained plays and essays by and about Shakespeare, as well as Sophocles and a few other classics. I’m not sure if I’ll see Jared or hear from him again, but he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Not everything about my trip went as planned. There were unexpected hiccups along the way, and communication did not always flow as it should have. However, as we move forward, I will remember Jared.

Supporting an individual organization is nice, but human beings don’t support businesses (even if the Supreme Court has decreed their personhood). We support individual people, and for me it will be Jared. All of the rest is noise; getting to meet Jared made everything worthwhile.

For you, Jared. May your life be a string of better tomorrows. Dream your dreams. We’re dreaming them right with you.

And for us, may we continue to create Something Good.

 

 

For more information, visit the following:

Something Good blog

Something Good Facebook page

For donations of books, cash, or in-kind support, please read the FAQ before emailing Ana at ana_stasia2007@yahoo.com. Subject line “Something Good” plus your specific donation (books, money, etc.).

 

Advertisements

78 thoughts on “Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 14: Creating Something Good, Part 3

  1. Julie says:

    Giving of yourself, and your time, is the best gift of all.

    You’ve done something special, Ana. Thanks for helping make the world a better place!

    Like

  2. JC says:

    Something Good has done something great! I have enjoyed hearing shoot everything that went into making this possible. Ana, I can’t believe the dedication you put into this project! I pray that it continues to grow and influence others in a positive light.

    Like

  3. ruthshulman says:

    I have no words of my own for how I feel about this project. There are too many and none feel exactly right. So I am offering this quote by Robert Heinlein, which comes close:

    “By cultivating the beautiful we scatter the seeds of heavenly flowers, as by doing good we cultivate those that belong to humanity.”

    Thank you for sharing the story of Something Good. I too hope that news of Jared finds us… classicists are a rare lot. πŸ™‚

    Like

  4. Shannon Love says:

    What an ending to this story!! Or is this just the beginning? There were so many people involved. I couldn’t help but smile through this whole thing. It’ll be hard not knowing what will happen with Heidi and Jared. I hope you get some sort of update someday. You definitely started something good. I think just knowing that there are people out there that care so much speaks just as loudly as the gifts themselves.

    Like

  5. ameliahfaith says:

    This whole project is just so amazing and awe inspiring. I am touched at the outpouring of love and support that has been shown. Maybe, just maybe, all the perceived faked niceness and sense of giving and good will at this time of year isn’t all together so fake after all.

    Like

  6. SH says:

    Amazing!! I look forward to updates and I will make sure I have a box of Kleenex handy next time πŸ™‚ So exciting and so wonderful!! I just love that sign btw πŸ™‚

    Like

  7. Joelle Casteel says:

    Wonderful story πŸ™‚ Loved the pictures, Ana πŸ™‚ Here’s the link to the Ruth Ellis center in Highland Park, MI. It’s the only LGBT homeless shelter that I know of in Michigan. http://www.ruthelliscenter.org/ Great to hear you were able to set up something for Jared πŸ™‚

    Like

  8. lara estes says:

    Ahh, a the selfless.gift of self. Will you ever cease to amaze me. I think I may have said this before , you are an Angel sent from above. ❀❀❀

    Like

  9. catrouble says:

    Thank you so much Ana for all your hard work and sacrifice to make this dream come true. And thank you for putting faces to the project…think I’ve fallen a bit in love with Heidi and Jared. πŸ˜‰ Still have no clue as to how a parent can turn their back on their child…I have been angry with mine and not agreed with some of their choices but dang…they will always be my babies and I will always love them!

    Lots of hugs and huge blessings to all who donated and supported!
    Cat

    Like

  10. Amy says:

    What an incredible story, and $40k…wow! I wish we had a lgbt youth shelter here. The closest we have is one that’s open to all but is lgbt-friendly. We’re too small a city for anything else. But I’m glad to have so many options for places all over the country who could benefit from this!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Yes, when I started to add it up, I was floored. It’s easy to say 300 donated books per Kindle, but then I forget how many books that really is…and it will increase with each Kindle shipment.

      I’m glad your shelter is LGBT friendly. A lot of them say they aren’t but aren’t in reality. I so hope yours is different. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Amy says:

        Our center was started by youth, for youth. They have a ton of programs for all youth, including emergency housing off-property and a shelter on-property. I kind of have a feeling the shelter may cater more to the L and G of lgbt, but at least their other resources are more broad.

        Like

  11. pieclown says:

    Hi Ana, That was great You never know how something will take off. This sounds like it could keep going. I do wish you the best and thanks for letting us know. I glad you shared about Heidi and Jared. May He whose birthday we celebrate, bless you in many ways.

    Like

  12. Katie says:

    Beautiful!! That is the first word that comes to mind here! Nice work and how wonderful for all the people whose lives you all have touched! Something Good is really something amazing! Many hugs,

    ❀ Katie

    Like

  13. minellesbreath says:

    I read your post earlier this morning but wasn’t sure how to put into words what your amazing act of kindness creates for others. You always go above and beyond.
    I also looked for a quote that embodies what you did.

    “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.”
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    This is always what you do, but you do it with “heart!”

    Like

  14. Renee says:

    Ana, the most beautiful things grow from the tiniest seeds. Something Good is a beautiful expression of a tiny idea. Loved the pictures and the beginning of your story… it sounds like there is much more to come. Thank you for sharing your light with so many others. May your light continue to reach into the dark corners of our world. Many blessings. R

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It stunned me just a day or two ago when I worked things out. That’s not including all of the classic books I got free, either. That would easily have added another few thousand dollars otherwise. And thank you. πŸ™‚

      Like

  15. Kyra says:

    This story made me cry Ana. What a brave girl Heidi is!. Also so happy that you went far above your mark of $69..what generous people. I hope that this will continue to grow. God Bless You!!

    Like

  16. thelongbean says:

    It is great that so many people have been generoyus and you have been able to far exceed your targets and expectations.
    I am sure that your effort will be much appreciated by all who use the kindles.

    Like

  17. JoanneBest says:

    Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love and admire you more than I already do, you go and make me a teary-eyed liar who now realizes that there’s always more love for Ana because Ana always ups the awesome ante.

    This was the Advent Calendar Event I missed, my first Christmas without Mom and all, I wish someone had grabbed me by the hair, pushed me into a chair and said “Here”, then “Read Ana’s words *right* now! Do not pass go and collect anything until you read this entire Advent Calendar now!”

    Dearest Anastasia, Mistress Of All Wooden Objects As Long As They Are Spoons, if/when I travel(led) into a perfect future, and someone, no, everyone, speaks the tale of Anastasia, The Heart Of Humanity, and how she saved the entire world, one person at a time, I would say to them, “I knew if anyone could save us it would be Ana! She is, after all, a Super-Hero.”

    You never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing yourself with the world in so many different ways. Feeling weepy after a day with Dad at the old homestead going through some of Mom’s stuff so excuse my mush, just, thank you. You make a difference. ❀

    Like

Thank you so much for joining the discussion! Please play nicely or you may be asked to stand in the corner. ;)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s