GPJ Team Members Share Why, and WHO They Give For

On Giving Tuesday, Project Worldwide double matched employee donations through our Project Pledge program, and before the day was over, we’d reached our goal of $500,000 in matching funds for a total of $1 million donated by Project and its employees for the year. As a matter of fact, this is the second year we’ve made this goal.

GPJers shared some of the organizations to which they gave, along with their connections and relationships to those organizations. We thought we’d share a few, as we recognize that personal stories and connections are what this season – and GPJ – is all about. You can also learn more about each cause via the links below.

Stephanie Craig: My boyfriend, Tim and I have been involved with Soldier’s Best Friend for over a year now.  SBF rescues dogs from local shelters, and pairs them with combat vets who have traumatic brain injuries or PTSD. Together, the vet/dog team spend the next 6-9 months training together until the dog is ready to be certified as a therapy service dog. These dogs learn all the basics of being a companion animal, plus a specialized skill to help their vet with their particular trauma. For instance, some dogs will enter the vet’s home to “clear” it before the person enters, so he/she can feel safe entering their own home. Others are trained to keep a clear space around their veteran so he/she isn’t overwhelmed by people getting too close.

After the team completes their 6-9 months of training, they graduate together, and the dog receives his official service vest. SBF covers all training and medical expenses for the life of the dog, and as long as the vet remains in the program.  Tim has spent countless hours volunteering for them, and together we have fostered three dogs to help them get used to living in a home after being in a shelter – sort of a halfway house between shelter and the vet’s home. https://soldiersbestfriend.org 

Kristen Waghorne: My family took a leap of faith this year and decided to be a licensed foster home for teens. In our foster journey, I discovered Austin Angels and they are our Giving Tuesday donation recipients. The Austin Angels mission is to walk alongside children in the foster care system, as well as their caretakers, by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship. Youth who are aged out of the foster care system are often expected to be as self-sufficient as their peers not in foster care who still have parental support and guidance. As a result of having to overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect, removal from their caregivers, unstable living arrangements as well as multiple homes, and weak support systems, youth who age out of care are expected to enter young adulthood with no solid foundation upon which they can build their futures.

The statistics are staggering:

  • Only about 50% of those who age out of care will obtain a high school diploma.
  • 97% of children in foster care will not graduate from college, despite the fact that as wards of the state, they receive a full-ride to any state school of their choice.
  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become homeless.

The “Dare to Dream” program involves accompanying youth as they navigate through life’s challenges. The youth in our “Dare to Dream” program need the wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that mentors can provide. Mentors meet practical and emotional needs as well as provide guidance through developmental milestones. https://www.austinangels.com/

Emily Beckman:  Each year, in lieu of any birthday gifts, I ask my friends and family to donate to a cause that is close to me. Because of GPJ’s Project Pledge, I was able to donate over $1k to Creative Action. Creative Action’s mission is to spark and support the academic, social, and emotional development of young people and it’s truly amazing to see the work that has been done by Creative Action in the Austin Community. The socially and culturally relevant arts education programs used by their professional Teaching Artists to help young people develop skills for long-term academic, personal, and career success is truly remarkable and something that I wish I had growing up. Creative Action’s core values are to Dream Big, Create Community, Stand Up, Strive for Excellence, and Have Fun and I think they tie in perfectly with what GPJ stands for as a company. https://creativeaction.org/

Carissa Federico: Stephen Siller was a firefighter in NYC. On 9/11 he had just finished his shift, but when he heard about the plane hitting the towers he turned around, went back to his station to get his gear and make his way back into the city. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was already closed, so he ran by foot with 60 lbs. of gear on his back to the Twin Towers. He lost his life that day saving others. His family created this organization to honor his memory and to give back to military and first responders. They are most well-known for the Tunnel to Towers 5k Run and Walk NYC, where each year attendees follow the last steps of Stephen from the entrance of the tunnel to the Twin Towers site. All proceeds from the event support the Foundation’s programs, which include giving back to first responders and catastrophically injured service members. https://tunnel2towers.org/

Nicole Hensley: Beyond Fences’ mission is to fill the gap of the many underserved neighborhoods that lack access to basic pet care resources. They honor people’s love for their pets and proactively reach out to the community to build trusting relationships with families and make connections to keep people and pets happy, healthy, and together. In volunteering with them over the last 10 years, I have learned that a lack of financial means does not equate to a lack of love for a pet, and they seek to spread this principle through a philosophy of understanding and non-judgement. Something we can all use more of. https://beyondfences.org/

Kesha Kingswell: During the year our family supports several charities in memory of loved ones.  I look forward to this day every year when I can enter our donation receipts and see the contribution matched (x2 this year!)  I am so thankful to work for such a kind and generous company that takes the time to give.  One example from today: Our dear friends lost their daughter to SIDS when she was 3 months old.  She would have been 16 this year so we celebrated her sweet sixteen with a birthday party and contribution to First Candle.  Today, I was able to watch our donation turn in to triple the amount.  First Candle is an organization that trains daycare providers, nurses and families on Safe Sleep Guidelines that can eliminate sleep-related infant deaths as well as provide support to grieving parents during such a horrific time.  They aim to get every baby to their first birthday.  https://firstcandle.org/

Karin Simpson: I am passionate about donating today to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) because I have a personal connection. One of my best friends has a wonderful grandson age 10 who has T1D. Thank you so much for GPJ’s generous match today. I told the parents of this precious boy and they are extremely grateful to GPJ. Meason was diagnosed at age 6 and the life of this family changed so much.  The family’s response: “Thank you to the whole GPJ family for your kindness, your efforts and donations to helping others! We will celebrate today, his bravery, his humor and his strength We celebrate the people in our lives who have helped us to do this, THANK YOU!” https://www.jdrf.org/impact/research/ 

Thanks to everyone who shared their stories, and thanks for your dedication, passion, and heart throughout the year. Happy Holidays!