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MySocialGoodNews is dedicated to sharing news about
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Crowdfunding for Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: May 2017

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New CEO of Feeding Children Everywhere Has Audacious Plans to Create a Hunger-Free America

Press Release – Since becoming CEO of Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) a little over a year ago, Dave Green has helped feed millions of hungry children and families around the globe and here in the U.S.

Stepping back, he’s in awe of all the Central Florida-based organization and its partners have accomplished. But ultimately, he says: “It isn’t enough.”

Green isn’t ungrateful, but he is unsatisfied that most hunger-relief organizations — including his own — aren’t doing more to create a hunger-free world.

“As we look at where we are today, we realize there’s so much more we can do. We aren’t doing enough to solve a problem that’s been plaguing humanity since day one: hunger.”

An astounding 42 million Americans are food insecure, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. Green is launching several innovative initiatives both to meet immediate needs and to address the root causes of hunger in the U.S.

Dave Green demonstrates Fed 40, an app to end hunger in America.

Fed 40: A Mobile App to End Hunger in America

Fed 40 is FCE’s mobile app designed with one audacious goal in mind: End hunger in America. Using the app, families who need food can get 40 nutritious meals delivered directly to their doors in about one business day. There’s never a charge to receive the meals or to reorder.

“It’s a more efficient, dignified and environmentally responsible way to end hunger in the U.S.,” Green says.

The program is expanding quickly and is now available in many states — most recently, North and South Carolina, where nearly 2.5 million people face food insecurity. The app is available at the App Store and Google Play or by visiting


Imagine for a moment living your entire life without being able to shop at a grocery store. You’re forced to go without fresh fruits or vegetables, and even have no access to the basic ingredients required for a healthy home-cooked meal. All of your meals would be resorting to fast food or processed junk food that you purchased at the corner store with SNAP (food stamp benefits). That dismal scenario is a reality for millions of impoverished Americans living in food deserts.

“Food deserts are the frontlines of the war on hunger in America,” Green explains. Fed 40 is just the first step to address an immediate need. The long-term plan is to bring urban farming to these areas, transforming food deserts into food producers:

“We’ve got to come up with more efficient, more sustainable ways to produce food. Because if we have more efficient food systems, we produce more nutrition. The more we can do that at a local level, the closer we get to creating a hunger-free world.”


Global climate disruption is impacting the planet in ways never experienced in human history. Warmer temperatures are contributing to changing weather patterns that cause more intense storms and heavier rainfall in some places and drought in others.

These changes are having a direct effect on worldwide hunger. In response, FCE has made a pledge to environmental sustainability — taking steps aimed at reducing its carbon footprint and promoting food production in the communities it serves. This includes packaging its Red Lentil Jambalaya meals in biodegradable bags; and planting trees in the countries where its meals are distributed internationally.

Additionally, FCE is taking steps as an organization to manage its overall carbon emissions by reducing company travel by 40 percent and opening a satellite office and warehouse in Dallas to serve as a central distribution point.

“These moves are the biggest steps towards a hunger-free America we have ever taken,” Green concludes. “We believe this is a watershed moment — for Feeding Children Everywhere, for our partners and for the millions of children and families who need our help.

“There’s a hunger hero in all of us. And working together, we can create a hunger-free world.”


Feeding Children Everywhere is activating people for a hunger-free world. Since 2010, FCE has mobilized 475,953 volunteers at corporations, businesses, universities, faith-based organizations and more to package 71,806,329 meals for hungry children and families. Activate your team at

First Impact Investing Fund Listed On Italian Exchange

Mainstreaming impact investing through a liquid, scalable impact driven investment strategy

Press Release – On May 31, 2017, the “Investimenti Sostenibili” fund, managed by Sella Gestioni (Banca Sella Group) working exclusively with MainStreet Partners as sole investment advisor, marks nearly the half year point as a listed fund on the Italian Stock Exchange. Investimenti Sostenibili was the first listed fund that enabled Italian retail investors to directly access impact investments. The fund is managed according to MainStreet Partner’s Sustainable Growth strategy, which targets capital appreciation via a flexible and broadly diversified portfolio of highly liquid thematic bonds and equity investments, which intentionally create positive social and environmental impact.

This listing is the end result of MainStreet Partners’ long term effort to deliver investment strategies to its banking partners that provide end investors with daily liquidity, positive returns and clear, measurable impact. The Sustainable Growth strategy has been implemented in various accounts during the past 5 years and was originally conceived in 2010 when MainStreet began researching the first thematic bonds being issued by the Development Finance Institutions. Equities screened for impact were later added to the strategy to provide a global, balanced approach. The listing of this fund is an important step forward in mainstreaming of impact investing by reaching the retail investor market with suitable and sustainable investment products. As of the end of April 2017, the fund has reached €77.1 million.

Rodolfo Fracassi from MainStreet Partners said: “Historically, impact investing has been open predominantly to wealthy individuals and institutional investors. We are delivering an impact strategy that is accessible to retail investors. This strategy provides easy access, transparency and traceability of impact with liquidity and diversification in terms of geographies, asset classes and sectors. Most importantly, it allows retail investors, who care about people and our planet, to materially contribute to social development and environmental protection.”

Achieving tangible impact

Regarding the fund’s social and environmental results, in 2016 its investments contributed to providing 40,000 loans to low-income individuals, the reduction of Co2 emissions equivalent to those produced by 760 cars in 1 year, the reduction of waste production by 6 tons and the saving 18 million litres of waters, which is equivalent to the consumption of 1,400 families in a year. Banca Sella Group and MainStreet Partners have partnered with Lifegate, a one-million member network focused on promoting sustainability, to help raise public awareness of the fund’s availability on the stock market.

About the Investimenti Sostenibili fund:

Sella Gestioni began working with MainStreet Partners in January 2015, when MainStreet Partners became the sole investment advisor to a fund named Nordfondo Obbligazionario Etico. After a review of the investment strategy and portfolio by MainStreet Partners, the fund’s portfolio was completely rebuilt based on MainStreet’s investment strategy. This globally diversified and flexible balanced strategy, which mixes thematic fixed income investments and impact listed equities, generates financial returns alongside positive and measurable results on society and the environment. The fund was subsequently renamed Investimenti Sostenibili.

About Banca Sella:

Banca Sella Holding S.p.A., whose origins date back to 1886, is one of the oldest Italian private banks. The bank engages in banking and other financial service businesses primarily in Italy. Sella Gestioni SGR S.p.A, the asset management company fully owned by Banca Sella Holding S.p.A., is the fund manager of Investimenti Sostenibili.

About MainStreet Partners:

MainStreet Partners, a London based investment advisor, was created to provide any investor with a transparent and easy access to companies and funds that achieve consistent financial returns while improving people’s lives and protecting our planet. Where and how capital is deployed has a strong influence in shaping our future world. For this reason, we want our clients to know exactly where their capital is invested and what financial, social and environmental results they are achieving.

About Lifegate:

The mission of the Lifegate network is to create the largest international network of information and services for persons, companies, NGOs and institutions working for a sustainable future. LifeGate wants to be sustainable innovation hub, incubate ideas based on new paradigms, connecting minds, projects and companies. Overseeing all of the most promising growth areas in the world with targeted investments in tools, media and technology, with an approach aimed at identifying the different needs of people and businesses that share a commitment to a better world.

Marriage Equality Champion Edie Windsor To Be Honored By The Trevor Project With Icon Award At TrevorLIVE New York Gala

Imagine Dragons Set to Perform at the June 19 Fundraiser; Lead Singer Dan Reynolds to be Named Trevor Hero Honoree

Press Release – NEW YORK (May 30, 2017) – Former technology manager at IBM, and marriage equality champion Edie Windsor will be honored with The Trevor Project’s Icon Award at the 2017 TrevorLIVE New York fundraising gala on June 19. The Trevor Project is the nation’s only nonprofit crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization focused on ending suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.

“Edie has proven herself to be a true pioneer in the fight for LGBTQ rights for decades,” said The Trevor Project’s Interim Executive Director Steve Mendelsohn. “She has fought relentlessly for marriage equality, and remains a trailblazer and inspiration to the LGBTQ community across the world. We’re honored and delighted to present The Trevor Project’s Icon Award to Ms. Windsor for exemplifying leadership with strength, poise, courage and fearlessness.”

The award will be officially bestowed upon Windsor during the organization’s annual New York signature fundraiser, TrevorLIVE, held at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square.

“Being honored by The Trevor Project is a very big deal for me,” said Windsor. “I’m thrilled and humbled to be recognized by an organization that does so much for our LGBTQ young people. The fact that The Trevor Project continues year after year to be there 24/7 helping prevent suicide and averting crisis gives us all a future we can believe in.”

The event will also feature performances by Shoshana Bean, Dana Goldberg, Jeremy Jordan, and a special extended performance by Grammy Award-winning rock band, Imagine Dragons. The event will feature a first-peek performance from the upcoming musical, Trevor. It was previously announced that lead singer of Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, will be honored with the Trevor Project Hero Award, one of the nonprofit’s top accolades. More attendees to be announced soon.

Edie Windsor’s scope of work has touched many causes and foundations, including East End Gay Organizations, the LGBT Community Center, and Team New York at the Gay Games in NYC in 1994. She was also one of the first Marriage Ambassadors for the Empire State Pride Agenda. The Edie Windsor Fund for Old Lesbians, which provides meaningful grants to projects by and for lesbian older adults, was gifted to Windsor on her 70th birthday and is maintained and administered by Open Meadows Foundation.

The case of United States v Windsor is arguably the most influential legal precedent in the struggle for LGBT marriage equality. In its landmark 2013 ruling in Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which by its terms had excluded gay couples from all the benefits and protections of marriage under federal law. At the heart of Windsor is the principle that gay people have dignity, and that the Constitution mandates that this dignity be respected equally under the law. Since Windsor, more than forty federal district court opinions and four circuit courts have held that the U.S. Constitution requires that gay people be allowed to marry.

TrevorLIVE presenting sponsors are Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Deloitte, and Goldman Sachs.

Fans and advocates will be able to experience the TrevorLIVE red carpet arrivals and show via Facebook livestream on the Trevor Project’s Facebook page. For more information on TrevorLIVE New York, please visit:

To apply for media credentials, please click here.

Former Malawi President Joyce Banda Joins the Akilah Institute as Honorary Chancellor

Joyce Banda, Africa’s second female president and long-time champion of women and girl’s education, will bring her wide-ranging experience in government, business, and advocacy to the Akilah Institute, Rwanda’s only college for women.

Press Release – Kigali, Rwanda — May 31, 2017 — The Akilah Institute today announced that former Malawi President Joyce Banda will join the college as Honorary Chancellor. Banda brings extensive experience in leadership and women’s empowerment to the Akilah Institute at an important time, as Akilah scales its proven model across sub-Saharan Africa via a network of new campuses.

“Akilah is thrilled to welcome Dr. Banda as our Honorary Chancellor,” said Akilah President Karen Sherman. “Given her staunch commitment to education and her extensive track record in women’s advocacy, the partnership was a very natural one. Dr. Banda’s personal mission to empower women aligns with Akilah’s own vision to educate the next generation of women leaders in Africa. She will be a key thought partner as we execute our plans for scale, including opening seven new campuses to serve a collective 53,000 women across Africa.”

Banda and Sherman formalized the partnership today with a meeting in Virginia. “As a former president, businesswoman, and philanthropist, Dr. Banda exemplifies the values we seek to instill in our students,” Ms. Sherman said following the meeting. “Leadership, community service, professionalism, and career growth are pillars of the Akilah curriculum. Dr. Banda embodies all of them. Dr. Banda is a role model not only for our students and women in sub-Saharan Africa but also for women around the world.”

For Banda, the appointment offers an opportunity to build on her extensive track record in advocacy for women. “I am tirelessly researching, documenting, and raising my voice for the education of the African girl-child and the empowerment of women,” Banda wrote in her acceptance of the appointment. “You can therefore count on my commitment in the task before me.”

“Governments, academic institutions, and the private sector must actively work together to remove barriers facing women so that they can attain positions of leadership,” Banda said. “Akilah offers an important success story in this regard. By selecting promising young women, providing them with intensive leadership training, and partnering with the private sector to prepare them for careers in Africa’s fastest-growing industries, Akilah has pioneered a new and effective method for women’s education,” she said.

Banda will bring her decades of experience in government, advocacy, business, and philanthropy to Akilah’s executive team. She will play a strategic role in the Akilah Institute’s growth plans and will provide advisory support as the institute identifies new campus locations, diploma programs, and education products to better serve women across Africa.

About the Akilah Institute: As the only women’s college in Rwanda, the Akilah Institute provides market-relevant education programs using a competency-based learning model. Opened in 2010, Akilah offers diplomas in Hospitality Management, Entrepreneurship & Business Management, Information Systems, and more and prepares graduates for meaningful careers and leadership roles. Akilah’s unique focus on ethical leadership skills, public speaking, and community service equips students with the lifelong knowledge required for personal and professional growth. By 2031, Akilah will serve 53,000 woman across an international network of eight campuses.

About Former President Joyce Banda: Joyce Banda was the president of the Republic of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. She was Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second. She is also an entrepreneur, activist, politician, and philanthropist. In 1997, she received the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, alongside the President of Mozambique, and used the prize money to launch the Joyce Banda Foundation International, which has started three schools and provided an education to more than 3,500 girls. Banda was instrumental in the formation of the African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs, the Council for the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa, and the American & African Business Women’s Alliance. Forbes Magazine recognized her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Banda holds an M.A. in leadership from the Royal Rhodes University of Canada, a B.S. in gender studies from Atlantic International University (U.S.), and a diploma in NGO management from the International Labor Organization Center in Turin, Italy. Jeonju University of South Korea conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Economics on Banda in January 2013, and Wheelock College conferred an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Education on her in May 2015.

Reef Life Foundation Founder, Melody Saunders Brenna, Featured At United Nations Event

Press Release – Salt Lake City, Utah – May 30, 2017 – Taking on the challenge of restoring the ocean’s reefs is the greatest endeavor ever attempted by mankind and Reef Life Foundation is taking the challenge head-on presenting its Global solutions for restoring dead and dying reefs as well as introducing reef-friendly products which aid in decreasing the destruction of existing reefs, creating new reefs, and establishing a protocol to help reverse the trends in oceanic aquaculture declination. This will be the topic of discussion on Tuesday, June 6th from 12 pm – 1 pm ET. “ The New Bone Structure of the Oceans, Reef Life Nano Science”

The United Nations Foundation Ocean Conference will be attended by every coastal nation and global Ocean Agencies to formulate the intent and planning for Ocean Restoration to 2050 and beyond. “Our livestreamed Solutions Hour programming will bring ocean solutions and innovations around the world to the mainstage of the SDG Media Zone to highlight global solutions being taken today to protect our precious oceans. This event will take place at the United Nations, in the SDG Media Zone, which will be located in the UNCA Lounge at the UN headquarters in New York.Adrian Greiner, Film Actor and Director, Ocean advocate opens the show and Reef Life Foundation Founder Melody Brenna will be the next interview elucidating the Reef Life ocean habitat restoration structures: Reef Life Foundation Ocean Commitment” Justine Sullivan Digital Media and Communications Manager Climate, Energy, and Environment Initiatives United Nations Foundation

Nano-technology advances in cement formulas have been discovered over the last decade by Dr. Konstantin Sobolev, a prominent research scientist in the field of nano-structures, and a member of the Reef Life Foundation as well. “For over 10 years, new nano-science technologies have been developed which can not only aid in the development of new reef growth, but it can also help reduce the man-made destruction of existing reefs by providing cement structures which are able to attract and grow new corals while filtering out toxic materials which kill corals and fish,” Dr. Sobolev has stated.

“No one else … and I mean no one … has been able to develop a material than can be used in so many applications and situations where reef stability, growth, and expansion is the concern. Reef Life Foundation is proud to announce the first placements of this new oceanic nano material matrix in projects around the world,” according to Melody Saunders Brenna. “With this revolutionary technology, man can now make amends for the unrelenting destruction he has caused to our planet’s most important ecosystem … our oceans.”

“In a few months, this technology will be reversing and growing new corals and new aquaculture so that fishing, underwater exploration and even underwater mining can be minimalized or even completely countered,” Ms. Brenna states. ”Our goal is to provide this world-changing technology to public, private, and other organizations to assist them in countering the destruction of one of the earth’s most precious resources.” Ms. Brenna goes on to state that there is expected to be over $1 Trillion dollars spent in the next decade to improve aquaculture around the world.

“We can generate life where there is currently only death in corals. Fishing populations which are so important to coastal dwellers can be revitalized. Old oil rigs can become aquaculture centers breeding new life and new opportunities to create sustainable farming opportunities. It is time for the world to learn the answer to this endemic, global destruction and Reef Life Restoration working hand-in-hand with Reef Life Foundation can bring this reality to any point on the globe.”

Melody Saunders Brenna and Dr. Konstantin Sobolev have been pioneers in producing new types of cement for commercial applications for over three decades. Dr. Sobolev is an internationally recognized expert in nano-technology as it applies to cement mixtures and applications. For more information go to

Organizations Around The World Failing To Safeguard LGBTI* Children From Abuse

Press Release – (London, 30th May 2017) More than half of organisations surveyed worldwide either do not have adequate measures in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI*) children from harm, or their staff are unaware if such measures exist, according to new research by international child safeguarding network Keeping Children Safe (KCS).

One-hundred and fifty organisations were surveyed on their institutional readiness to safeguard LGBTI* children in line with their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Child Safeguarding Standards, which apply to all children under the age of 18, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Safeguarding these children is especially critical because despite progress on LGBTI* rights over the last 25 years, LGBTI* children around the world still suffer significant levels of discrimination and abuse. LGBTI* children report higher levels of sexual abuse than their heterosexual counterparts, they are disproportionally represented in the foster care system and 9 out of 10 LGBTI* students experience some form of mistreatment or bullying in school. Too often, these children are put at risk by inadequate or non-existent safeguarding measures in the organisations that are supposed to serve them.

The results of the research were published today by KCS, in a joint working paper for international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) with Dreilinden gGmbH and SOS Children’s Villages International:“Let me be me!” Better care for LGBTI children. The paper highlighted the legal human rights context for LGBTI* children and includes good practice from organisations and interviews with LGBTI* care leavers.

Ise Bosch, CEO of Dreilinden, stressed the need “to identify promising practice, reflect bad practice, to consider the theory and the legal contexts, but most of all to find ways how live up to human rights requirements and professional care standards in this laggard field of work.”

According to the survey responses, 60% of child safeguarding policies do not explicitly refer to the commitment to preventing harm to LGBTI* children, and 63% of recruitment procedures do not assess prospective employees’ attitudes towards safeguarding them. Thirty-eight per cent stated that lack of capacity played a part in preventing LGBTI* children from being adequately safeguarded, and 53% of respondents feel that their system for monitoring and reviewing safeguarding measures does not take into account the needs of LGBTI* children.

“All organisations have the responsibility to protect children and that includes LGBTI* children,” said Sarah Blakemore, KCS’s director. “But these statistics paint a picture of millions of children across the world who may be put at risk by inadequate or non-existent safeguarding measures in the organisations that are supposed to serve them.”

One statistic that stands out is that 43% of organisations believe that a lack of training or guidance is a significant barrier to safeguarding LGBTI* children. With more widespread awareness and pressure on organisations from donors, this is something that can be changed.

When organisations were asked if they would be interested in support and guidance on safeguarding LGBTI* children, almost all respondents (91%) indicated that they would.

Mosque Wins Equal Treatment, $3.25 Million Settlement

New Jersey town agrees to treat all houses of worship equally

Press Release – WASHINGTON, D.C. – A New Jersey town agreed to treat all houses of worship equally and pay $3.25 million in damages and attorneys’ fees, after a federal court ruled that the town had illegally discriminated against a local mosque. The settlement agreement, signed today, ends lawsuits brought by the United States Department of Justice and the mosque and ensures that all houses of worship in the town will be treated equally.

The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge has been trying to build a permanent house of worship for almost a decade. In 2012, it purchased a four-acre lot zoned for houses of worship and designed a small, unassuming mosque that met every requirement of the local zoning code. But four years and 39 public hearings later, the town denied a permit—after making up new zoning requirements that had never been applied to any other house of worship. The mosque and the U.S. Department of Justice sued, and a federal court ruled on December 31, 2016, that the town had illegally discriminated against the mosque.

“Our constitution guarantees every religious congregation equal treatment under the law,” said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, which filed an amicus brief in support of the Islamic Society. “Every religion is a minority in some part of the country. If one religious group can be denied equal treatment because of hostility to their faith, then all religious groups are at risk.”

Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a diverse coalition of religious, legal, and civil liberties groups—including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and others—to defend the mosque’s right to equal treatment. Becket has defended houses of worship against discriminatory zoning practices across the country – from Jewish synagogues in Florida to Christian churches in California, and almost everything in between.

The mosque was joined in its lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). To settle DOJ’s lawsuit, the town agreed to amend its zoning ordinance to treat all houses of worship equally.

Becket was joined in its friend-of-the-court brief by Christopher J. Paolella of the New York law firm Reich & Paolella. The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and Mr. Chaudry are represented by the New York law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP.

Additional Information:


$1.1 Million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity Awarded to Dr. Tom Catena

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative honors esteemed Catholic Missionary surgeon operating in war-torn Sudan for rekindling faith in humanity

Dr. Tom Catena

Press Release – MAY 28, 2017 – YEREVAN, ARMENIA – The $1.1 Million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded tonight to Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York who has saved thousands of lives as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains. The Aurora Prize, granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, was announced at a ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia. He was selected as the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate from more than 550 nominations submitted from 66 countries.

George Clooney, Academy Award-winning actor, Co-Founder of both The Sentry and Not On Our Watch, and Co-Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, commended Dr. Catena by stating, “As violence and war continue to threaten people’s spirits and perseverance, it is important to recognize, empower and celebrate people like Dr. Catena who are selflessly helping others to not only survive, but thrive. Dr. Catena is a role model to us all, and yet another example of people on the ground truly making a difference.”

Dr. Catena will receive a $100,000 grant and the opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by donating the accompanying $1,000,000 award to organizations of his choice. Dr. Catena will donate the award to three organizations:

  • African Mission Healthcare Foundation (AMHF), USA
  • Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), USA
  • Aktion Canchanabury, Germany

For the last nine years, Dr. Catena – known by locals as “Dr. Tom” – has been on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Mother of Mercy Catholic Hospital to care for the more than 750,000 citizens of Nuba amidst ongoing civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement. Patients have been known to walk for up to seven days to receive treatment for injuries from bombing attacks, and ailments ranging from leprosy and tuberculosis, to bone fractures to malnourishment and malaria. It is estimated that Dr. Catena treats 500 patients per day and performs more than one thousand operations each year.

On being named the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate, Dr. Catena said, “We all have an obligation to look after our brothers and sisters. It is possible that every single person can make a contribution, and to recognize that shared humanity can lead to a brighter future. I draw my inspiration from the Nuba people. And with my faith as my guide, I am honored to continue to serve the world and make it a better place.”

“Dr. Catena is an inspiration to anyone who has ever doubted humanity. Despite tremendous injustice and sacrifice, he has dedicated his life to ensuring that the next generation has a brighter future,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative (AHI), and Aurora Prize Selection Committee member. “His service to others is an inspiration, and it is our hope that the individuals he has saved will continue the cycle of gratitude by becoming saviors themselves.”

Leading international humanitarian figures and Aurora Prize Selection Committee members, including Shirin Ebadi, Gareth Evans, Leymah Gbowee, Vartan Gregorian, Hina Jilani, and Ernesto Zedillo, were in attendance to celebrate the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate.

Dr. Catena was congratulated by Marguerite Barankitse, who was awarded the inaugural Aurora Prize in 2016 for her tireless commitment to restoring children’s dignity and hope as the founder of Maison Shalom and the REMA Hospital in Burundi. She said, “The Aurora Prize is so important to keeping hope alive for people around the world, and I am proud to be joined by such a humble and true role model as Dr. Catena. I applaud his selfless efforts in delivering love to all and congratulate him on this esteemed award.”

Guests of the Aurora Prize Ceremony also honored the exceptional contributions of the other four 2017 Aurora Prize finalists: Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, the Founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia; Ms. Jamila Afghani, the Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization in Afghanistan; Mr. Muhammad Darwish, a medical doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital in Syria; and Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecological surgeon and Founder of the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Dr. Catena embodies the spirit of the Aurora Prize, and we extend our deepest gratitude to him and the people and organizations around the world that support and inspire him to continue his noble work despite immensely challenging conditions,” said Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of AHI and United World College at Dilijan. “We are honored to share his story with the world to shed light on the goodwill that exists in the world so that helping others becomes part of our global culture.”

The naming of the 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate follows the release of the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the second annual global public opinion survey that gauges attitudes towards humanitarian responsibility, the effectiveness of humanitarian intervention and individuals’ motivations to intervene on behalf of others. The Index found that support for humanitarian action is on a steep decline, and that a rise in populism around the world is affecting the public’s perception of efforts made to aid refugees around the world.

“We hope the findings from this year’s Aurora Humanitarian Index serve as motivation for individuals around the world to not only understand their capacity for meaningful impact, but be inspired to act upon it,” said Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. “Through the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, we encourage those touched by Dr. Catena’s selfless work to make their own mark on the world by expanding the circle of saviors, and most importantly survivors. It is possible for us all to play a role in renewing hope in humanity.”

Northern NJ Community Foundation Honored With Trustee Award for Work in the Community

Press Release – (Englewood, New Jersey; May 25, 2017) — The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) and its President, Michael Shannon, were honored with the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association’s Trustee Award at the nature preserve’s 2017 Recognition Dinner on May 16 at the Rockleigh Country Club. The NNJCF, the only community foundation focusing on this region, and Shannon were recognized for their contributions and vital support of the nature center’s work.

“Flat Rock Brook Nature Association was pleased to present our Trustee Award to Michael Shannon and the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation at our Recognition Dinner. Michael is a force in the community working through the foundation he leads to solve complicated regional problems. Additionally, he is an effective Trustee for Flat Rock Brook, bringing a unique perspective regarding the environmental concerns we share an interest in protecting,” said Stephen Wiessner, Executive Director, Flat Rock Brook.

Shannon received a New Jersey joint legislative resolution from the Senate and General Assembly in recognition of his contributions to the community and the NNJCF’s work in the region. “We were extremely pleased to have the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation and its work recognized by the New Jersey legislature and Flat Rock Brook Nature Association, a nonprofit pillar in our region and one with which we share two major interests, education and the environment. This event strengthens our relationship and paves the way to improve life in the region through additional collaborative projects with a growing number of other nonprofits and for profit organizations in the area,” said Michael Shannon, President, NNJCF.

Making a Difference

Founded in 1998, the NNJCF improves community life through its work in education, public health, civic engagement, the arts, philanthropy, and the environment. Central to the organization’s success is fostering collaboration among all community sectors and joining with civic partners to answer, “What can we do together that we can’t alone?”

Key to its work is creative placemaking, the practice of integrating arts and culture into the fabric of a region, town, or city block. Since 2013, the NNJCF’s ArtsBergen initiative has been an ongoing partner with the City of Hackensack and the Hackensack Main Street Alliance, assisting to develop and implement a creative placemaking plan that is using arts and culture to help the city enhance its quality of life, grow civic and business revenues, and make the community a more exciting, attractive place to visit, live, and work.

ArtsBergen worked with the Hackensack Main Street Business Alliance to establish Creative Hackensack to use arts and culture for revitalizing downtown business. Some of its joint projects include the Main Gateway Mural, a 160 foot mural celebrating the city’s creative history and future, outdoor art exhibitions, and the public art installation, “Art on a Stick: Raccoons”, a series of anthropomorphic raccoons, animating and transforming spaces along Main Street, at the Johnson Public Library.


The NNJCF offers a comprehensive menu of philanthropic opportunities in the areas of donor-advised funds, tax-saving annuities, and trust options that provide donors with flexible, efficient, and tax-effective ways to ensure their charitable giving has maximum impact. NNJCF’s donor services program offers easy ways for people to contribute to the community on an ongoing basis. The Foundation perpetuates the important causes individuals and their loved ones care about in several areas, including education, health, the arts, social services, and other areas.


The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF), a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Englewood, New Jersey, focuses primarily on civic engagement, education, public health, the arts, and the environment. NNJCF works with local governments, school districts, businesses, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups in Northern New Jersey to improve community life. The Foundation’s partners identify and resolve regional problems and opportunities by talking and learning from each other, by sharing ideas, best practices, services, and resources.

For more information, visit, send an email to, or call (201) 568-5608. Follow the NNJCF on Facebook at Northern NJ Community Foundation/ArtsBergen and Twitter @NNJCF.

Local Guinness World Record Set by 5,622 Ice Luminaries

February’s Light Up State College Received Official Notice of World Record, Surpasses Sweden

Press Release – State College, PA – A Guinness World Record has been officially set by the hundreds of community members who participated in the February 4th “Light Up State College” event that featured a record-setting 5,622 ice luminaries filling Allen Street in downtown State College.

“We wanted to transform Downtown State College into a winter wonderland and achieve a world record, but we knew we needed the community to make it happen” John Stitzinger, event organizer and a founder of The Make Space, said.

Stitzinger received a grant to fund his idea via the the Knight Cities Challenge (KCC), which funds ideas to make communities more vibrant places to live and work. Ideas like Stitzinger’s are eligible for KCC and other granting programs sponsored by the Knight Foundation through the greater State College area’s designation as a Knight Community. Centre Foundation has a long-standing relationship and is proud to partner with Knight Foundation on these types of innovative projects.

“Making and freezing luminaries became the focus of attention of our town citizens and surrounding community for about two weeks in the dead of winter last year,” State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham remembered. “On that evening early in February a crowd began to gather at dusk. People ignored the cold as they watched the luminaries fill the street and then ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ as they were lit, forming a transfixing blanket of what one little girl called ‘stars’…Everyone stayed until the final tally was announced, then stayed afterwards to enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I saw people I hadn’t seen for years, as well as neighbors and friends who were crowded together along the main street of State College, Pennsylvania.”

The previous world record was set in 2013 by the residents Vuollerim, Sweden, who made 2,651 separate lanterns.

“As the lanterns were counted and we realized that the previous record was more than doubled, a real sense of pride and accomplishment flowed through the crowd,” recounted Commissioner Steven Dershem. “Our community owes a debt of gratitude to Make Space, Centre Foundation, and the volunteers throughout Centre County for a fantastic event!”

A team of several dozen volunteers began setting up on Allen Street in the morning and worked for several hours until the drop-off time arrived. By 2:00 pm, a line had formed at the drop-off table as community members, kids, and families began bringing their frozen luminaries from home. Many had frozen multiple luminaries, with 21 being the most from a single household.

“This world record was made possible by the thousands of Centre County residents and many volunteers who came together to showcase the amazing and connected community we are a part of,” said Commissioner Michael Pipe.

According to Guinness, ice luminaries are cup-shaped structures made purely out of ice that hold a light inside. Instructions on how to make one can be viewed at

“The world record attempt was a lot of fun,” Commissioner Mark Higgins noted. “It brought everyone from the community together to work toward a common goal. And boy did it look marvelous when we were done.”

Shortly after 6:00 pm, the sun had set, all 5,622 luminaries were set-up and lit, and the official count and required five minute waiting period had passed. It was time for the crowd to enjoy what they had accomplished together. Hundreds of people patiently awaited their turn to stroll through the meandering path of glowing luminaries, pausing for the obligatory picture and enjoying the record-setting evening.

“Light Up State College was such a unique event,” said Molly Kunkel, Executive Director at Centre Foundation. “We were happy to help John and the Make Space bring this idea to life, excited to see the community embrace the idea in such a big way, and thrilled with the way the night ended – thousands of lights and just as many smiles!”

The Make Space is a nonprofit, community makerspace and workshop tailored to anyone who enjoys creating new things, sharing knowledge and working across boundaries in the arts and technology. The volunteer-run organization holds an open house at the space every Wednesday at 6:00 pm at 141 South Fraser Street in downtown State College.

For more information about this record-setting event, please visit To print your own certificate, please click here. And, to view a video of the event, please click here.

Centre Foundation’s mission is to inspire and facilitate a culture of giving to create a vibrant community.

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