Happy Sunday everyone!
In case you missed it, I had an exciting announcement a couple weeks ago. The Smile Project is reinstating #ServiceSunday in a big way. Each week I am picking an organization or an individual who is making a difference in the world and telling you why you should care about them.
Last week was my first #ServiceSunday featuring my dear friend Steve of Steve Barr Cartoons. If you didn’t read it then, read it now. He’s incredible. We were catching up on the phone prior to his post going live when he mentioned a girl named Nicole.
I knew Nicole.
Well not really. But I knew who he was talking about. We talked about her organization and I mentioned that I had followed her work since I discovered her about this time last year. Then Steve told me that she was also based in New York City. I got off the phone and sent her an email.
A few days later, I was meeting this inspirational do-gooder at the Hungarian Pastry Shop. (I’m in no way affiliated with them nor are they giving me cookies to share their link, (I wish) but I think they’re a great NYC find that everyone should be aware of). Anyway, the important thing here isn’t the hot apple cider: it’s Nicole and her story. So allow me to introduce you to both.
Organization: Cubs for Coping
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion: give me a “Happiness is!”
Nicole: Happiness is.. seeing people excited about creativity and helping others.
Liz: Tell me a little bit about your organization
Nicole: Cubs for Coping provides handmade teddy bears for hospitals, homeless shelters, and eating disorder programs.
Cubs for Coping actually began as an off-shoot of a club I started in high school called the Mirror Mission. The Mirror Mission was designed to raise awareness for eating disorders and fundraise for eating disorder organizations. We officially were recognized as a club my senior year of high school and in our weekly meetings we started making teddy bears. And it grew from there…
Now, we partner with college students and run events at their schools so they are creating the teddy bears that we donate. They’re our volunteers.
We start with this little shape of a teddy bear that is cut out and partially sewn by us. Then the volunteers stuff them, sew up the arm, and decorate the entire bear. Not only are the people who receive teddy bears getting comfort, but the volunteers are involved in helping others while also expressing their creativity. That’s something that is really nice...giving young people a chance to sit and do a craft project. Some people make super heroes. Some people make bears holding shopping bags. One person even made a bear with a parachute.
Christie Delligatti and Myra Greenberg, act as the Co-President and Vice President of the organization respectively. The rest of the team is comprised of college ambassadors who are bringing the manpower to their college campuses.
One thing that was really important for us was receiving an Impact Grant from The Pollination Project. This allowed us to purchase sewing machines for our ambassadors who are now able to run events and produce bears on their own.
We’ve had hundreds of volunteers come together to make these bears and with their help have been able to donate over 400 bears to the following places: Bowery Mission Homeless Shelter, Cohen Children's Medical Center, Winthrop University Hospital, Women In Need Inc. Homeless Shelter, The Renfrew Center, and the AIDS Service Center NYC (ASCNYC).
As of March 2016, we’ve donated over 400 bears. (Note: this number has seen a drastic increase. In fact, this past winter Cubs for Coping donated 100 bears at once. A huge reason for this is because of the amazing volunteers. So many people are joining in the mission and that makes all of this possible).
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Nicole: When I was 14, I was in the hospital for anorexia. I had been diagnosed and hospitalized and it was a huge shock for me because I didn’t know. I was in denial of my eating disorder and my parents just brought me there. I didn’t know what was going on and then they hospitalized me. I was there for a while and it was hard. My friends brought me stuffed animals. Those stuffed animals were an important reminder that I was loved and cared for.
Later on in high school I was comfortable sharing my story and I wanted to do something about making people feel more comfortable about being in a really difficult situation.
I guess the driving force was that I want people to know that someone cares about you. There is a reason why you’re here. There is a reason why you deserve support...why you deserve love. I’m not going to say that we provide that service of doing it, but I think there is something special about getting a personalized gift that someone specifically made for you.
We do this creativity with college students which is great, but ultimately, it’s the comfort you’re providing someone that matters most.
It’s a little thing saying: “People care about you. You are valued. You are special enough that you get your own bear.”
One thing we always say is each teddy bear is unique just like the people we give them to. And it does take time to make bears and taking that time to make every bear personalized is providing a special type of bear and a special type of comfort.
Liz: What does “service” mean to you?
Nicole: To me service means that you are constantly trying to understand the people you are helping. With Cubs for Coping, we can’t provide teddy bears unless we understand what kind of teddy bears people want. When I think of service I think of being able to match your efforts to what’s needed and what’s wanted. I think the most effective service projects are the ones that really strive to understand their community and strive to be as accountable as possible.
When you do a service project you are affecting people—affecting a certain community. The best service you do acknowledges that accountability to not only do something, but to do something that is helpful.
Even beyond the logistics of it, like I said, it involves having a passion for caring about people and understanding that we’re all human and should have a certain degree of comfort and accountability to each other.
Service is recognizing that someone doesn’t have what they deserve…and then providing whatever they need. Making people happy...making a positive difference in what your community.
It’s not just about knowing….also doing.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Nicole: To get involved, people should definitely go on all of our social media so they can get updates and learn more about what we’re doing. (I agree. Check them out here: Facebook… Twitter… Instagram… Website). There’s also a donate button under the “Take Action” page...that’s always nice.
I think anyone who is even remotely interested in should contact me and let me know about what people have to say. I am totally open to people contacting me about eating disorders or the organization or anything, really. Also, if anyone else wants to write a story about the project, email in. (contact Nicole at email@example.com)
This concludes my second #ServiceSunday. Thanks for allowing me to share Nicole’s story with you. Whether you can show support through a $5 donation or a shared Facebook status, take a moment today to get in touch with your creative side or show someone some love, comfort, and support.
As for me, I’ll see you next Sunday as I highlight another phenomenal example of humankind.
Looking to nominate an individual or organization that you know? Reach out to The Smile Project on social media or by filling out the contact form here.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote?
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
It really relates to Cubs for Coping… There are a lot of storms out there. I don’t feel like I’m the most eligible person to solve those problems right now, and I have a lot to learn. But I can dance in the rain; I can dance in the problems. There are a lot of difficult situations that people are in but we’re going to add a little bit of positivity to all those problems out there. I have a lot of fun doing Cubs for Coping. There may be mental health issues or stress in my life but I can still make a difference and I can still have fun making a difference. So I can still dance in the rain.