Do you ever feel like in life you strive to take two steps forward and something comes along to move you four steps back? We really want to succeed but sometimes it seems like we are hitting our heads against a brick wall at every turn. In those moments we are forced to make a decision. Do we move ahead and work to persevere, or do we simply give up and move to plan B and C and maybe even D?
When I started the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, I did it with absolutely no resources. I invited my friend Linda to go on the journey with me and I had no idea where that journey was going to take us. I had an MBA, so I wasn’t worried about the business aspect of running a non-profit. However, as anyone who has done it can attest, setting one up and getting your 501 (c)(3) is no easy process. Then of course there is the money required for filing fees, stationary, advertising, logo creation, cards, supplies and the list goes on. The first year of the program I spent a great deal of my own money, in addition to some wonderful contributions from my friends, family and a few unknown people to bring this program to life. I did it because I had a dream.
There were a lot of questions the first year. Where would the cards come from? How would we get them decorated? How would they get delivered? How would we line communities up that would receive the deliveries? We had periods where we had no cards or money and we dug into our personal coffers to keep the program going. At times it seemed that it was just too much. We were spending nights and weekends on the program (some of us have full time jobs) and at one point I considered just throwing in the towel…but I just couldn’t.
What holds us back is fear of the unknown, not believing in ourselves and the unwillingness to take a chance. We often want to go for the things that are guaranteed rather than the things that come with risk. People make fortunes because they were willing to take the risk that most of us can’t stomach. People build empires because they believe in themselves enough to see through the bad times. We built this program because we believe in what we do and the impact that it has on our senior community and children.
Because we believed and refused to be held back, Linda and I soon because six. One by one our team volunteers came on board at just the right time. In my heart I knew the people that I chose were the people that were supposed to be in this program because they had the same drive and stamina that we had. Renee, Diane, Liane, Becky and Linda all had unique abilities that contribute to the program as individuals, to create what is the whole. Then of course there is our amazing card artists, decorators and supporters that join our journey and never leave.
Because we believed and never gave up, over 50,000 cards and smiles have been put in the hands of seniors. We have delivered to all 50 states twice (some more) and have hundreds of regular community deliveries. We deliver thousands of cards to seniors at home. Do we still face adversity? Every day. As we grew we had to move from in person deliveries to mailing to activities directors to distribute to their residents. As a result our postage costs are are now our main expenditure. Most of the time we are lucky to have just enough in the bank at any given time to cover future expenses and mailings. Yet, every time it seems like we may be done, more packages arrive, an unexpected donation shows up and we find a way to keep the lights on so that seniors can smile another day.
So in the end, what holds us back? As far as we are concerned in the Bring Smiles to Seniors program, nothing. Why? Because we won’t let it. We understand our mission, our place in the world, and most of all our purpose for being. Put all that together and that is the recipe for why being held back is not an option.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.