Sunday, November 27, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #7, HOPE, HOrses Helping PEople, Inc.

       One of the many great non-profit organizations around the Gainesville area is HOPE, HOrses Helping PEople, Inc.. HOPE was started in July of 2000 as a backyard program and has grown tremendously over the years and now is located on 40 acres right outside of Gainesville on Archer. A local physical therapist started HOPE with the goal of being able to enrich the lives and experiences of those living with disabilities.
HOPE gives the opportunity to patients, “riders” as they call them, to step out of their daily routine of multiple doctor office visits and clinical settings. When they are at HOPE, riders do not even realize they are having therapy, they just think they are learning to ride a horse. As of now, HOPE offers occupational therapy instead of physical therapy but their future goal is to offer physical and speech therapy in addition to occupational therapy. There are about 25 riders who come to HOPE each week for therapy.
On top of the services they offer at the farm, they have Pony Pals program, which helps them serve people who aren’t able to come to the farm. They take their miniature horse, Rocky, to residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
While interviewing Kristen Shimeall, the executive director at HOPE, she said that if she could describe HOPE in one word that it would be inspiring. Shimeall elaborated saying “to watch the strength that our families have facing the obstacles they have had put in front of them by having a family member with a disability is just amazing and that always inspires me.”
As HOPE has grown into such a big and amazing facility, so has their staff. They have four different directors, two occupational therapists, several riding instructors, and two farm managers. In addition to their staff, they have about 100 volunteers a semester. Since horses require attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week their volunteers are completely necessary and utilized. Shimeall explains that their fundraisers could not be put on without the help of their volunteers and HOPE can not thank their volunteers enough for their hardwork and dedication to making HOPE a better place in every aspect at the farm.
HOPE has blessed the lives of many riders and we can only hope that it's success continues as while as it's inspiring therapy in the future. Kristen Shimeall, executive director at HOPE, will be receiving a complementary $20 gift certificate at LAE for her hard work and dedication at HOPE for the past 3 years. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #6: Donna Land

      Being a mother is one of the most difficult jobs a woman can have. Even more challenging is being the mother of 130 college kids. Donna Land, House Director and House “Mom” of Alpha Tau Omega has done exactly that.

      Donna has been a significant part of the ATO experience. This experience shapes theses young men’s college careers and will have a lasting effect on their entire life. Donna understands this and makes a significant effort to ensure every brother leaves college with a positive experience. Her effort begins with the pledge process and continues up until graduation.

      During the pledge process, Donna attends the weekly meetings to offer advice such as etiquette. Although some of these manners are obscure, they are incredibly useful in living the gentlemanly principles upon which the fraternity was founded. In addition to her advice during pledging, Donna continues to be a valuable source of advice once initiated. Her array of life experiences make her a unique source for advisement.

      A small example of her thoughtfulness and kindness is her approach to Gator game days. Game Days are a joyous occasion at Alpha Tau Omega where they enjoy entertaining all active brothers, recent alumni, older alumni, and sorority girls. To make this day special Donna spends her time setting up the dining room for the quests with orange and blue tablecloths, napkins, and even breath mints! She also pays special attention to each of the guests by engaging in conversations.

      Overall, Donna is a dedicated house director. Additionally, and more importantly, she’s a delightful individual. “When thinking back on all of our interactions, there was not once when she wasn’t smiling,” Stewart Sedgewick said.

      Even though she deals with irrational and wild college kids everyday, she genuinely views each of the brothers as one of her sons, providing each with the same motherly attention. Her inner beauty is contagious. You can see it in her smile, in her words and her actions.
      LAE Beauty will be rewarding Donna with a $20 gift certificate under her name to go towards a service of her choice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #5: Hello Perfect

            The media has forced unrealistic pressure of perfection onto society. Because of this, many people struggle with confidence issues throughout their lives, including Hello Perfect’s founder and PR Director. “Hello Perfect was founded to help others realize their own perfection and use their self love to accomplish their dreams."

            The company has gotten tons of positive feedback since their foundation. Their target audience relates to females between the ages of 13 to 17, but their message is seen as universal.Hello Perfect uses a variety of mediums such as: Facebook, Twitter, their website, YouTube, and merchandise to reach their audience. Their main message is that “The challenge in life is not to become perfect, it’s accepting that you already are.” The founders of Hello Perfect believe that everyone has the potential to accomplish their dreams.
            One definition of perfect that Angela Ribbler, Director of Public Relations for Hello Perfect, found most inspiring is from Michael Kors. As a high status celebrity and fashion icon, his definition read, “…Perfect is imperfect.”

            Hello Perfect is running a campaign, which includes a DreamCatcher of the month. These individuals are people who are actively working towards accomplishing their goals. Hello Perfect features one a month to promote their passion and inspire others as well. “We have a variety of DreamCatchers, from future filmmakers, to fashion magazine editors, to photojournalists, and each has had a different journey and different inspirational message to share.”
            The company also sells merchandise. The jewelry is designed by their founder, Alexa Carlin. Her manufactured necklaces and bracelets are called “OmniPeace by Alexa Rose." The profits from this line of jewelry go towards helping the OmniPeace mission of ending poverty in Africa by 2025. The also sell DreamCatcher V-neck T-shirts.
            Those of us behind Beauty Is found Hello Perfect similar and inspiring. Our campaign is about reaching out to people to realize and embrace their inner beauty through selfless acts of kindness. Hello Perfect reaches the same message in a different light. Both of our campaigns are about viewing yourself as already beautiful, and already perfect. Which is why we feel honored featuring their cause and dedication to their work. Both the founder, Alexa, and Director of Public Relations, Angela, will receive a $20 gift certificate at LAE for their work spreading an important message to the community. 


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #4: Haley Sasser & Delta Gamma

Vision is one of our most precious senses: Unexplainable to those without it; irreplaceable to those who have it. Ever since 1936, protecting the gift of sight became one of Delta Gamma Fraternity’s highest priorities. Delta Gamma's work for the visually impaired is unique in that it has answered the needs within the Gainesville community as well as in the international scene. 

Delta Gamma's philanthropic purpose has been to stop blindness before it starts. For men and women for whom blindness is a fact, the mission has been to impact the quality of their lives in a myriad of positive ways. Delta Gammas have funded genetic research, low-vision adaptive devices, tapes, Braille books and hundreds of life-enhancing programs. Just last month, Delta Gamma at the University of Florida volunteered at the Gainesville Public Library to help with an event for the local visually impaired members of the Gainesville Area. This event was to raise awareness of the white cane laws that many people do not know about.

Another event that Delta Gamma holds is an annual Easter Egg hunt at a Gainesville elementary school, where visually impaired children, their friends, and family can all come and play in a bounce house, get their faces painted, do arts and crafts, and even search for eggs that make a chirping sound for the children to be able to find.

Fundraising through their annual Anchor Splash event is just one way that the Gamma Theta Chapter at the University of Florida gives back to Service for Sight and the Delta Gamma Foundation.

Pool day is the main event, and it consists of a themed synchronized swimming competition between all of the fraternities, and some sororities, on campus. With the help and participation of their coaches, each organization forms a team of 6-10 people who create and perform a five minute routine at the O’Connell Center pool, starting with a dance on the pool deck, and ending with a synchronized swim. 

The 34th annual Anchor Splash was held in late September of this year, and the director of this event, Haley Sasser, said it was one of the most successful Anchorsplashes Delta Gamma has put on in a long time, raising more money than in the past. “Watching all of my sisters having a great time while raising awareness and funds for our foundation was amazing, and I can’t wait until Anchorsplash next year.”
LAE would like to offer the women of Delta Gamma Fraternity 15% off their next purchase at LAE when they mention this blog post.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #3: Bianca Lopez-Isa

      When she walks into a room, you notice her. She radiates with a breathtaking smile that simply lights up a room. Her name is Bianca Lopez-Isa, and she is a second year psychology major who is a pre-dental student at the University of Florida. Ever since her sophomore year of high school, she has gone on an annual mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Her all-girls school, Academy of the Holy Names, in Tampa, Florida, started a foundation called Seeds of Hope 11 years ago; Seeds of Hope benefits a mission trip every year for the people of La Victoria, a city that is about 45 minutes from the Dominican Republic’s capital.

       This mission trip Bianca attends is 7 days long, and this will be her fourth time going on it in the spring, despite the fact that she is in college now. The trip consists of fixing houses, distributing clothes and shoes, taking care of babies in the nutrition center, and also distributing clean water and food to the local families.

      The trip is done through a program at the local church where families will come to for help, and in exchange for the help they receive from Seeds of Hope and this mission trip, the families volunteer at the church. All of the women who attend the mission trip stay with sisters in a convent.

       Bianca Lopez-Isa says that it is the best and most rewarding seven days of her life.  “I feel self-fulfilled knowing that I have helped the poorest people from my own culture.” She says that the Dominican people have taught her so much about life and about the true meaning of happiness, considering they are so poor and yet so happy.

       True beauty shines from the inside out, and Bianca’s compassion for others and selflessness show every time you see her. Whether she is at the library studying or in the Dominican Republic fixing a house, her inner beauty is something that cannot be ignored.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #2: Anu Mathur

      Anu Mathur graduated from the University of Florida in 2008 and moved to New York.  Shortly after settling down she started looking for volunteer opportunities at non-profit organizations.  This is how she came across the Operation HOPE center in Harlem, NY.  

     Operation HOPE is based out of California with branches all over the nation.  It is a program that offers economic education to underserved areas in order for them to be in a better economic standing.

      Anu says, “I absolutely love teaching, but working in financial services, I don't get many opportunities to teach others.”  Her passion for teaching and helping others led her to start teaching computer literacy classes at the center.  Like all of the classes at Operation HOPE, the computer literacy classes are completely free of charge and taught entirely by volunteers.

      Every Saturday volunteers come in for three hours to teach a class on a single computer topic.  These topics include Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel, How to create a Resume, Internet Safety and many others.  Each student is able to be in front of the computer during the class in order to get a more hands on experience.  The volunteers are also available to assist in a one on one setting if they are needed.

      Anu says that they are trying to expand the program by providing more classes and hopefully partner with High Water Women, another non-profit organization.  Last year they tried “Full Circle.”  They had one of their students train in one particular subject so they could help assist in teaching that class and eventually be able to teach it themselves.  In return they were given a computer for completing the process.  They are trying to do it again soon.

      Anu loves what she does at Operation HOPE and truly exemplifies inner beauty in her life.  She says she is inspired by the students that come in and continues to try to make the program better and more beneficial to them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inner Beauty Spotlight #1: Rachel Smalheiser

           Rachel Smalheiser, a University of Florida senior, spends her summers in Comayagua, Honduras, volunteering at a children’s orphanage and day care.  She goes with a church group known as All God’s Children, but anyone can volunteer in this program.

           She has been involved in the program for about 5 years, and plans on returning this summer. She began volunteering because of her passion for children, as well as her passion for helping others in general. Rachel says, “Being able to bring a smile to someone’s face, or assist someone with some task, has enriched my life in ways I cannot express in words." She believes that even though she goes abroad to help others, they have helped her grow and become the person that she is today.

            Rachel describes the area in which she volunteers as very poverty-stricken. Unfortunately, the children in both the daycare and the orphanage are malnourished due to limited food supply. Sadly, some days the children may have nothing to eat at all.
            Her time in Honduras is divided between the children and a service project, which is different every time she goes. The project can range anywhere from building cabinets to classrooms. As for the kids, “we do various activities with the children, but more than anything they just want someone to hold their hand, to play a game, to talk, even just to sit with them in silence."

            The children they volunteer with are between the ages of 6 to 18. At age 18, the children at the orphanage can attend college if they have available funds. Many of the children on the orphanage have sponsors who help provide these funds; Rachel and her group are working on getting more for those at the daycare.
            Even as volunteers, their living accommodations are not ideal, but Rachel doesn’t complain. They stay in a “hotel” 20 minutes from the places they volunteer. Hot water is scarce, and so is uncontaminated water for drinking. They also have to be careful about the food they eat so they don’t get sick. Rachel says these conditions are nothing compared with those the children have to face, which makes it all worth it.

            The word Rachel chose to describe the experience is, “genuine." “The pure, untainted joy emanating from these children and sincere smiles on the faces of these children helped me to see what matters in life. These children helped me to understand that there are certain things that may seem so important to us in life, but when really examined, are such trivial matters."
            The greatest reward she has experienced is the feeling of giving. She describes the gift that the children have given her as “unparalleled” to what she gives to them. The children hold a special place in her heart and she looks forward every summer to seeing them, who are now like family to her. These children weren’t looking for help, but just someone to be there for them. They don’t put emphasis on material things, but rather the relationships they develop with others. 

           When it comes to the future, Honduras will always be a part of her. “You can tell people all the stories in the world but you will never truly know what its like until you go yourself. The feeling you get from making a difference in someone’s life is like nothing you’ve ever felt before. I finally found the true meaning in my life and felt like I was really making a difference."
            We found this story extremely inspirational and a true representation of inner beauty. LAE Beauty would like to offer Rachel a $20 gift certificate for any spa service in honor of her incredible work.