June 30, 2010 by Julia Wasson
Filed under Blog, Books, Community, Construction, Donations, Earthquake, Florida, Front Page, Fundraising, Haiti, Homes, Humanitarian, Nonprofits, Poverty, Slideshow, Social Action, Sustainability
There’s no doubt that Frank McKinney stands out in a crowd. His long, flowing, blond hair sets him apart from most business types he deals with. His daredevil actions put others in awe of his tolerance for risk-taking — and his successes. And his creative ways of approaching both his business and his charity work draw others to his door. Frank McKinney also knows how to market himself, his business interests, his books, and the Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF).
But everything that McKinney does these days is centered around a concept he paraphrases from the Bible: “From those to whom much is given, much will be expected.” In Part 3 of our interview, I talk with McKinney about how he puts that into action through CHPF and the homes he builds in Haiti, and about the messages he shares in his book, The Tap. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
On his Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF) web page, author Frank McKinney writes, “In The Tap, I share the most important spiritual principle of my success in the business we are all in, the business of life. I explain how God has tapped me (and taps everyone) many times in life, answering prayers and presenting life-changing opportunities.
“The Tap shows how to sensitize yourself to feel then act on your life’s great ‘Tap Moments,’ embracing the rewards and responsibilities of a blessed life.”
Caring House Project Foundation (CHPF), McKinney’s charitable creation, is the embodiment of his acting on the Tap Moments he writes about. CHPF builds homes for the poorest of the poor. And McKinney himself is responsible for raising most of the funds that sustain it.
One of his fund-raising activities includes running the Badwater Ultramarathon. Badwater is a race that he describes in The Tap as traversing “135 miles nonstop through the Death Valley desert and over three mountain ranges, all on black-top pavement.” It’s beyond grueling, and of the 90 elite athletes invited to participate from 16 countries, only 65% typically complete the two-day (or longer) race. McKinney describes one purpose for his participation (and I’m paraphrasing here) as “suffering a little for those who suffer a lot.”
The CHPF website also offers potential donors several options for supporting parts of a village, including monthly payments. Providing half the cost of a community center, for example, requires a donation of $2,292 per month for 12 months.
Or, McKinney suggests, “Let’s say you want to build a house for $2,500. A lot of people can’t afford that. So you make 12 donations of $208 per month. That was at the request of a lot of donors who said to our executive director, ‘We can’t afford a whole house. Can you cut it up into payments for us? We’ll be glad to make it a part of our monthly tithing.’”
Want to purchase an entire village? $125,000 will build 50 homes for 400 residents. Or, break it into payments of $10,417 per month for a year.
While that’s far out of reach for most of us, there are much smaller donation opportunities available. For only $11 per month for a year, you can save a single life by contributing toward a water management project. The full project (“Pumps | Wells | Storage tanks and sanitation units | thousands of lives touched”), for those with greater resources, can be funded for $36,750.
CHPF is also raising funds for earthquake relief. As the foundation’s executive director, Kimberley Trombly-Burmeister said to me, “You can’t be sustainable if you aren’t alive. The need for food, water, and sanitation is continuing long after the earthquake.”
If you’d like to support CHPF’s earthquake relief efforts, you can do so with as little as a $10 donation per month or a one-time contribution of $250, $500, or $1,000.
You can also provide shelter for an orphan for $35 a month, or build an entire orphanage for $80,000. The choices are limited only by your budget and your imagination, as CHPF offers flexible payment plans and a wide range of funding opportunities.
Survival to Thrival
There’s another, far more unusual, fundraising project that is unique to Frank McKinney. As he says, “Let me put on my other hat for a minute, my for-profit hat, my real estate hat. We came up with a very novel way to raise money for our charity. That is, we don’t do black tie events. We don’t do golf outings. We don’t do cocktail parties.
“I either sell a lot of books, and the proceeds from my book sales go to fund the charity, and it’s a wonderful source of income, or we provide experiences. We’ve had various events with names such as “Frank McKinney’s Palm Beach Experience: From Survival to Thrival.” There’s a photo at the bottom of the CHPF website that shows a group of people who were part of one of those experiences in Haiti.
“At the time, I was training to run the Badwater Ultramarathon. I wanted to show our donors and the media metaphorically that, in training for this very, very grueling race, I choose to suffer a little voluntarily for those who are suffering a lot. What I did was I ran across Haiti from a village we had just started. It was a village that had been washed out by 2008’s hurricane, and so there was the survival element. I ran to a finished village, which was 25 miles away that was representing thrival.
“And our donors got to come. First they started here in South Florida. Many of the people in that picture are business people and real estate people, and they aspire to do what I do for a living. They love coming to see the mansions. But to come to an event like that Frank McKinney Palm Beach Experience, they had to donate to build one house.
“So they’re immersed in what they think is the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They get to come to my own personal house and have dinner. They get to see the beautiful homes I’ve built over the years, even the newest house, the world’s largest and most expensive certified green home on speculation at $22.9 million. They get to see all that, and they’re so intoxicated with the sensory experience that they’re having.
“Then, within 12 hours, they’re on a plane and landing in the poorest suburb of the poorest city of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. And that is part of their experience. I wanted to move them from rich — what they think is rich — to enriched.
“There’s nothing like it out there. And I’ll tell you, to a person, when CHPF’s executive director, Kimberly, sends out a questionnaire asking, ‘How was your experience? What could we do better?’ et cetera, when 99 out of 100 come back, there’s no reference to the mansions that they saw. Everything is about what they saw in Haiti. So that picture on the website was that event, ‘From Survival to Thrival.’ All of those people in that picture were donors who helped build this village.”
A Life on Solid Footing
McKinney describes his own journey from “rich to enriched,” in his book, The Tap, the proceeds from which benefits his Caring House Project Foundation. It’s an inspiring read that encourages reflection on what is most important in life. Recognizing — and acting upon — what McKinney calls Tap Moments is a large part of the message of the book. But there are other messages as well.
As the author describes in detail the monumental effort it took to run his first three Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathons, he uses his failures and successes to remind readers that we all have the power to change the course we’re on. Here’s a paragraph I found particularly meaningful in the last chapter of the book:
Remember that any of life’s meaningful endeavors follows a course not unlike the physical trials I’ve described to you in this chapter. Think about your relationships, your professional pursuits, your beliefs or philosophy of living, your engagement now with The Tap — anything that you consider important. You probably started out with a kind of giddy infatuation, and in time, you started to encounter difficulties. If you had the discipline and endurance to stick with it, you learned the invaluable lessons of how to deal with those difficulties. You now realize that more of the challenges that you face are created in your mind than in reality, and that this is where you have the most power to change things. Your fears can grip you, or you can overcome them. You can let their hold on you grow tighter, or you can face them and break free. You can succumb to self-doubt and perish, or you can find a way out and flourish.
Frank McKinney’s life looks glamorous — and parts of it surely are. He builds homes for some of the world’s wealthiest people. He has the experience most of us will never know of being surrounded by luxury and incredible beauty as he walks through the homes he’s built.
But his daily life belies the image. He lives in a relatively modest home that he shares with his wife, Nilsa. His 20-year marriage, he says, is sound, his relationship with his daughter, enviable. This man who holds up Evel Knievel, Willy Wonka and Robin Hood as heroes, takes risks, both in business and in life; yet his personal life appears to be on a solid footing. He seems to have figured out how to achieve and maintain a balanced life. And he shares that knowledge in The Tap.
“The Tap teaches the reader to try to dovetail the professional and the spiritual highest calling,” McKinney says. “The Tap is my first spiritual, inspirational book. And I think because its message is so simple, it’s doing really well. As it does well, so does our charity benefit.”
The Tap, as well as McKinney’s four other bestselling books are available on his website, at local bookstores, or by ordering from Amazon. I found The Tap to be an interesting and enjoyable read filled with uncommon wisdom. Though I’ve not yet read McKinney’s other books, if they are anything like The Tap, they will be well worth reading. I encourage you to read The Tap, then share it with others; it’s a message worth passing on.
The Small Print
Blue Planet Green Living received a complimentary copy of the book discussed in this post. Other than the review copy, we received no compensation or incentive for reviewing the book. No one influences the content of any of our reviews other than the writer. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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End of Part 3
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Part 3: From Rich to Enriched – Responding to The Tap (Top of Page)
One of every seven people in developing countries around the world does not have access to clean water.* It’s a shocking statistic for those of us who take daily showers and use flush toilets with no thought at all. Women and girls, in particular, may walk miles to carry water back to their families. Try moving up on the economic scale when so much of your time is consumed with providing the basic necessities to your family. Not likely.
But organizations around the world are doing ambitious projects to change that. Global Greengrants Fund oversees many of these projects, with serious funding support from Aveda — a company best known for creating organic hair and beauty care products that are sourced from around the world. For the past three years in April, Aveda has been raising funds for Global Greengrants water-related projects by selling their Light the Way candles.
In addition to Global Greengrants, Aveda is supporting 21 regional partners through their Earth Month activities. According to the Aveda website, the projects this year include: “training 3,500 people in sustainable and organic agriculture methods [which keeps pesticides and herbicides out of waterways]; helping 20 communities implement local water resource management plans; enabling 100 communities to take action against toxic industrial pollution and hundreds of other projects that have helped protect water rights and water access around the world.”
Aveda’s Light the Way candle is 3.5 oz. of soy, scented with certified-organic clary sage, lavender, and lavandin. (The soy wax is not certified organic.) The unburned candle aroma was a bit strong for me before I lit it (in fairness, I tend to avoid all scented products). Surprisingly, once lit, the scent of the burning candle was light and unobtrusive.
If you decide to purchase a Light the Way candle, you’ll pay $12 and every cent of the purchase price will go to support water projects. In other words, neither Aveda nor the salon where you might buy your candle make any profit at all from the sale of the candles. And, as I understand it, Aveda donates the materials to make the candles. That’s a huge win for water projects in developing nations.
The goal for this year’s candle sales is $3.5 million. That’s a whole lot of $12 candles! (291,666,667 candles to be exact.)
If you buy a Light the Way candle from Aveda, you’re essentially getting a free candle for yourself or for a gift while making a $12 donation to support clean water. Talk about a feel-good purchase.
But it gets even better, because the candles and packaging are sustainable in thoughtful ways not every product can claim. The candle glass is repurposed from “100% reclaimed wine cooler bottles.” What a great way to reuse these bottles without having to smash the glass and start all over.
The box the candle comes in is “[p]rinted with soy ink on 55% — 70% post-consumer recycled paper, a portion of which is made from reclaimed carton stock.” Aveda invites you to have some more fun with the Light the Way candleholder and packaging, as they say inside the box:
What will you use them for next? Friend us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/aveda) and tell us about it.
Since 1990, Aveda has been conducting Earth Month activities that have yielded a total of $14 million for projects around the world.
April’s almost over, and that means there’s very little time left to purchase this year’s limited-edition Light the Way candle. Do you have one yet? If not, better hurry!
Blue Planet Green Living purchased this product. No compensation or incentive was provided.
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*”Numbers based on Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: Special Focus on Sanitation. (New York: Unicef and Geneva: World Health Organization, 2008),” according to Aveda.
After posting An Open Letter to My Family – I’m Giving Up My Birthday, my loved ones responded by donating to charities instead of giving me gifts. I was gratified and delighted. Lovely as they are, I don’t need flowers or other presents to know how they feel about me. But now, my son, Jake, who had laughingly told me he wasn’t “that unselfish” to give up his own birthday, has taken the next step.
“So, you’ve inspired me,” he wrote last week, under the heading, “What I want for Christmas.”
He went on to say, “I’m going to be a little more selfish, though, and specify what charity I’d like you to donate to: Child’s Play Charity.” Jake, who holds down a responsible job, loves to play video games in his free time. He picked a charity that provides video games, videos, and other toys to children in hospitals. It can get pretty boring for a kid in a hospital — something Jake knows well enough after a football injury and a motorcycle incident.
It’s a deal. That’s what he’ll get from us for his Christmas present: a video game for kids he’ll never know.
We hadn’t heard of Child’s Play at Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL), so we emailed Kristin Lindsay, Child’s Play project manager, to find out more.
BPGL: Who founded Child’s Play — and most important — why?
LINDSAY: We were founded back in November 2003, by Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins, who are the artist and writer of the most popular internet-based webcomic in the world, Penny Arcade. Penny Arcade
itself is based on video games and video game culture.
They were inspired at the time by a mainstream media news article that painted video gamers in a violent light, something that Mike and Jerry knew was a very unfair stereotype. They decided on the spur-of-the-moment to hold a Christmas toy drive for their local pediatric hospital, Seattle Children’s. In a mere three weeks, they collected an overwhelming $250,000 worth of toys, mailed to them by the video game community. Based on that success, they committed to making the drive an annual event, and expanding to other hospitals.
BPGL: Your website shows more than $400,500 in donations in your “first week,” yet you’ve been around since 2003. What’s that about?
LINDSAY: While Child’s Play now collects cash donations year round, our toy drive component is a seasonal event, running during November and December of each year. We currently have over $450,000 in donations for 2009, which includes cash donations received this year, as well as the toys now being shipped to our partner hospitals.
BPGL: If I donate a video game, am I giving it to a specific child at the hospital I choose, or does it go into a library for kids to check it out?
LINDSAY: The large video games and consoles are kept permanently in each hospital, by our request. Some of our partner facilities put them in communal playrooms, some have consoles in every patient room, and some lend them out as part of their library systems. It varies from place to place, but they do all keep them as part of their entertainment set ups.
Other items donated through us, such as books, toys, crafts, movies, hand-held [games], etc. are donated with no conditions, and the hospitals are free to do as they please with those items. Some hospitals keep them for their waiting rooms, and some are used as reward gifts and/or Christmas presents for the patients.
BPGL: When I decide which hospital I’d like to donate to, do I just pick any game I like?
LINDSAY: We encourage each hospital to send us their requests, and many of them ask their patients directly for input as to what games they would like to play. You can go to the Child’s Play website and click on the hospital of your choice. That will take you to the list of games the hospital has requested. Buy any item or items you like. We’ll make sure the hospital gets them in time for Christmas.
BPGL: Consider it done.
My birthday is next week. I know, you don’t need reminding. You’re thoughtful that way. But that’s not why I’m writing this letter to you.
You see, although I do appreciate it when you acknowledge my birthday by coming over — or calling, if you’re far away — I don’t want you to spend any money on me. No flowers. No presents. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy such things. But I don’t need them to know that you love me.
If you want to do something to mark my presence in your life, please do something for someone else. I realize I’m not being original in my request. In fact, though I’ve thought of this for years, I never actually asked you to help me with my wish. Now, I’m asking.
So, if you feel the need to spend money on something that would make me happy, do this: Find a charity within the pages of this magazine, and donate to it. You don’t even have to do it in my name. Just give what you can to a cause that resonates with you. It will make me happy. Really.
Here’s the video from Charity: Water that inspired me to finally ask you to help me this year. I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from once you see it. They’re a great organization, doing lots of good for the world.
I’d be happy to have you donate to Charity: Water. Or, choose another charity that you like. We’ve written about a variety of causes, many of which I’ve listed below. The list provides websites for a few nonprofits that are doing great work. Pick one of these, or one that’s dear to your own heart:
You don’t have to give a lot. Just do what you can. Every dollar makes a difference. Thank you for honoring me with your gift to another. You make me proud.
PS: I’m giving up my Christmas presents, too.
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I was at the local food bank today, having given a ride to a friend. He’s talented and capable, but temporarily out of work and low on resources in this tough economy. The experience was a painful one for him, and I write this with his reluctant permission. He wishes to be anonymous, he says. He’s embarrassed that he has to avail himself of these life-saving services. He’s not alone.
In the short time we were there — possibly 15 or 20 minutes — three dozen people crossed our paths, arriving, waiting, leaving. Ours is a relatively small city of 60,000 or so. I can only imagine the numbers of hungry residents lining up for help in Dallas, New York, or downtown L.A.
Our local food bank is a compassionate place. The folks who go there for help are treated with dignity and respect by the staff and volunteers. Clients are treated like human beings, not like numbers. And yet, there seemed to this observer to be a pervasive sense of embarrassment among many of them. I saw several people quickly scan the waiting room, then furtively watch the door as they waited for their names to be called for a bag of groceries. Others’ heads were lowered and their shoulders hunched, perhaps in defeat, perhaps in an attempt to draw inside and become as small as they could.
Not all reacted the same way. Two women stood at the entrance, openly snacking on a bit of this pastry and a mouthful of that fruit bar. The elder of the two tossed boxes of generic macaroni and cheese onto a worker’s cart as he passed her. “I don’t want no more of that crap,” she said sharply. “Every week, it’s the same bad stuff.” The worker took her comments in stride, smiling. I got the impression that he’d heard the same story many times before.
In the center of the reception room, people gathered around a large table loaded with cartons of soy yogurt, wilted greens, organic sour cream, French onion dip, cottage cheese, and a few stray cans of fruits and vegetables with unappealing labels. Bread racks on two sides of the room were loaded with loaves of French bread, wheat bread, ciabatta rolls, and dinner rolls. All this is a bonus; clients can help themselves to as many of these items as they can carry. And they do.
When their names are called, each person gets a single bag of groceries assembled from the donations of concerned citizens and businesses. The intake form asks about dietary restrictions, and my friend wrote “Soy Allergy” in big letters. He might not die from eating soy, but he suffers with welts that last for more than a week. He is understandably cautious.
In his bag of groceries, allowed once per week, at least three quarters of the items listed soy in the ingredients on the labels. Coffee cake: soy lecithin and vegetable oil (may contain soy). Canned soup: contains soy protein. Canned chili: contains soy protein. And soy and soybean oil and more soy and soybean oil. “Go back and ask them again,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“I heard you shouldn’t make trouble, because they’ll remember the name on your slip and give you all the bad stuff the next time,” my friend said. But after looking at the slim pile of groceries remaining in his bag, he went to the counter and asked to exchange. A second try, and the volunteer cheerfully brought him a small bag of Doritos (soy ingredients). He also handed my friend a few cans of tuna and some beef jerky — which one might expect to contain just tuna and just beef. “These should be fine,” the man said. My friend checked the labels and said, “Thanks for trying, but all of these list soy in the ingredients.”
“What can you eat?” the volunteer asked. I thought he sounded exasperated, but he surely couldn’t have been as exasperated as my friend, who kept his cool through the whole ordeal. A third try, and he brought out two small, sealed snack packets, one containing tuna and the other shrimp. No soy this time, but not enough food to get through the week, either, after having to forgo the soy-inclusive items (canned beef stew, etc.) that had formerly filled the bag.
The canned fruits and vegetables in his shopping bag were the cheapest quality goods on any grocery store shelf. I get it that the food bank needs to stretch its dollars as far as it can. If green beans are priced at three for a dollar for the generic brand (with lots of sodium and water), and the brand name beans are 79¢ apiece, then it’s no contest. The food bank will opt for the cheaper variety every time. Feeding three people wins out over feeding one. But no one asks about the quality of the ingredients; they can’t afford to raise the question.
What struck me as I waited was that almost all of the clients were overweight, and some were grossly obese. Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm (one of Senator John McCain’s main economics advisers during the presidential campaign) is quoted as saying, “Has anyone ever noticed that we live in the only country in the world where all the poor people are fat?” The implication seemed to be that overweight people couldn’t possibly be that poor, because they’re obviously eating. But what are they eating?
Another friend who had lived with us for a while also took regular trips to the food bank. Most of what he brought back was pastries and breads and pasta. The pastries and breads were the items available daily (rather than weekly) in the waiting area, because stores freely offer those items as their expiration dates pass. Like my friend today, he could take as many of those as he wished. So what does a hungry person do when nutritious food is hard to come by, but starches are plentiful? What would you do, if your belly was aching to be filled and that was your only option?
It’s a vicious cycle, of course, as malnourished people have difficulty mustering the energy to get a job. And people without a job have no money to buy healthy foods — for themselves or their children. Malnutrition also begets despair, and despair often feeds its belly with comfort food. Comfort food — the pastries and breads and pastas — lure the poor onto a treadmill that fattens them. And being fat begets inertia, so that getting a job becomes less of a goal — and less of a possibility — all the time.
So much for my penny psychology.
What I learned today — the takeaway that I would like to share with you — is this: When you have the wherewithal to donate to a food bank (and, unless you’re receiving food there yourself, perhaps you do), please choose selections that will provide first-rate nutrition. Sure, everyone loves a guilt-filled snack now and again, but try to remember how much healthier it is to munch on trail mix or dried fruit. Donate food (or funds) with the sobering thought that one day you, too, could be on the receiving end of the generosity of others.
Oh, and it would also be helpful if you could find some foods without the ubiquitous soy. (Read the ingredients label.) Someone who’s hungry may thank you.
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