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Category — Marc Joseph

How to Survive the Peak Seasons as a Retailer

Marc Josephby Marc Joseph, President and CEO of DollarDays

Running a retail business is like getting your report card every single day. It is a business of “thanks for what you did for me yesterday, but what can you do for me today?” It has to be one of the most stressful occupations in this country, yet if you do well, it can be the most exhilarating and fun businesses to live and breathe every day. What causes this stress versus reward cycle in retailing?

Good retailers balance looking into the future and planning for the next season with what is happening in my business today. The future plays to the heart of retailers because you analyze what went well last year and where there are opportunities to improve. Optimism abounds about the future because retailers are a confident and hopeful bunch…otherwise they would be in a profession that looks to the past rather than looking ahead. So planning ahead is the enjoyable part of retailing, because no mistakes have been made, yet.

Living in your business today is a different story. Most businesses measure themselves against what happened last year in sales. Sure there are mitigating circumstances that could alter the numbers you are up against, like more or less competition, change in customers’ taste preferences or suppliers of your key products going in or out of business. But every retailer has last year’s numbers recorded by day and look at these numbers three or four times a day during their peak seasons to see if they are going to beat them. Take my business as an example. Our two peak seasons are Back to School and Christmas. Currently we are in our Back to School season. Our staff meets quickly throughout the day to gauge where we are against last year each day. When we had the biggest day in our company’s history last week, it was the greatest feeling I have had since the day my son was born. When we only did half of what we did last year three days later, I felt like an old man who was on his way to retirement… so living each day in business to its fullest during peak seasons is like riding a roller coaster all day long. You are exhausted at the end of the day on bad days and exhilarated and can’t wait to wake up and start again on the good days.

We will get through the Back to School season, so now I am worried about the Christmas season. Do we have enough products to offer our customers and as important, are they the right products? Have we been watching the trends of the last few months to help give us an indication of what will be successful this fall? Do we have the most sophisticated methods to market to our customers efficiently and effectively during the holiday season? Do I have the right sales staff in place that will be able to relate to our customers? All of these are questions that will keep my staff and me up at night, because they are the unknowns…and then November hits and we are right back into the cycle of living day to day with our numbers much like we are in today for Back to School.

But I would not have it any other way. The ebb and flow of providing customers what they need when they need it at the right price is part of a true retailer’s heart and soul. The highs and lows that go with it are just part of the game of life.

July 18, 2014   No Comments

Winners receive 100 stuffed backpacks for kids

free backpacksWE HAVE WINNERS!!

Congratulations to:
Mary Jane Coward of Dillion, SC
Teresa Riddle of Clayton, NC
Ann Welch of Ludington, MI
Mary Shariat of Mobile, AL

Each of the above nominees won 25 backpacks stuffed with school supplies in our June Facebook Giveaway.

Thank you to the THOUSANDS of people who took the time to nominate teachers to help their students.

DollarDays is absolutely committed to helping teachers. We are a strong advocate of education and helping our teachers (who we call heroes) have the tools they need to teach and grow our future leaders. Marc Joseph, our CEO, wrote a thoughtful article on education in the Huffington Post that we hope you’ll read. We truly ARE champions of education.

This month, we are giving ten teachers each $500 to spend at DollarDays to help stock their classrooms! Please nominate a teacher on our Facebook page contest.

July 2, 2014   No Comments

Kids lose their future to poverty

Reposted from The Huffington Post 

marc huff poNow that one school year is over and we are preparing for the next, June is a month of reflection for educators and parents on how to do better next school year. It is hard enough for students to learn at school in today’s world. You throw in overcrowding, teacher to student ratios, poverty affecting too many students and lack of funding for supplies, and it becomes almost impossible for the average student to get ahead.

The New York Daily News reported that in New York City, 6,313 classes ( 200 more than last year) were overcrowded, based on the teacher’s union contract which sets 34 kids as the limit in high schools and 25 in kindergarten. In these classrooms, kids were sitting on the floors or standing, the whole period. It is tough to imagine how children can function in these overcrowded situations, let alone how can teachers concentrate and keep the kids interested? How can these kids learn when they are sitting on top of each other?

Add, on top of this, 16 million children in the USA (22% of all children) live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level of $23,550 a year (which is $65 a day) for a family of four, according to the National Center of Children in Poverty. These children are far more likely to have limited access to sufficient food (known as food insecurity). And with Congress cutting out $8.6 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP) earlier this year, these kids just got a little bit hungrier. The states where the most kids go hungry include New Mexico at 29.2%, Mississippi at 28.7%, Arizona at 28.2% and Georgia and Nevada both at 28.1%. How can these kids learn when they go to school hungry?

Now look at the 1.2 million children in the USA who are homeless. Forty-one states saw a rise in homelessness among school-aged children. According to the  American Institutes for Research, homeless children have four times as many respiratory infections, twice as many ear infections, five times more gastrointestinal problems and four times more likely to have asthma. And when at school, they have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children. How can these kids learn when they have so many personal problems?

Poverty and poor performance go hand in hand in school. DoSomething.org reports that children living in poverty have a higher number of absenteeism or leave school all together because they are more likely to have to work or care for family members. Dropout rates of 16-24 year old students from low income families are seven times more likely than those from families with higher income. By the end of the fourth grade, low income students are already two years behind, and by the twelfth grade, they are four years behind. How can these kids perform when they are adults, when they fall so far behind in school?

The USA educational system is ranked as the fourteenth best in the world. South Korea is number one, followed by Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, UK, Canada, The Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Denmark, Germany and Russia. Why is the most powerful nation in the world ranked in the middle of the pack in educating its children? Last year $1.15 trillion was spent on education in the US, of which 10.8% came from federal funds and the rest from state and local contributions. You would think that is enough to educate every student, rich or poor, but obviously it was not sufficient.

The US sure has a lot of things to fix to break into the top ten countries in educating its kids. Since the vast majority of funding for education falls back to the states and local communities, local help is where it has got to begin. It has to fix the children who go hungry and the children of the poor. There are great organizations to contribute to for this—like Save the Children and the Children’s Defense League to help these less fortunate kids. We have to fix the homeless children situation where organizations like Stand Up for Kids and NationalHomeless.org focus on these suffering children. And somehow we have to get the right equipment into the hands of these poor kids, like the right books, pencils, paper and calculators so they can keep up with everyone else in their classrooms. At DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away backpacks stuffed with school supplies to four different classrooms (25 of the stuffed backpacks to each classroom), so make sure you nominate your favorite teacher or school or town to win these backpacks.

I wish we could just flip a switch and poverty and hunger and homelessness would disappear for our kids, but we all know that won’t happen. Who chooses what kids are born into wealth and those who are born to live on the streets? Who chooses the kids who suffer in overcrowded schools or those who go to schools with sophisticated arts, music and computer programs? Back in 1918, the US House of Representatives passed the American Creed, which states “The United States of America is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, established on the principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for all.” It is up to all of us to bring these poor, hungry and homeless children up to the standards our forefathers envisioned for all of us, and we need to start today.

May 31, 2014   No Comments

Do You Really Save Money By Buying Online?

Trying to save money shopping online can be exhausting. Entire industries have grown up online to help you save money, but you can spend so much time trying to figure out what to do that in the long run, it’s not even worth it to save a couple of dollars.


(Photo credit: StormKatt via photopin cc)

So Many Options!

For instance, there are several coupon sites you can go to that aggregate coupon codes from online merchants so you have one place to look. Sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and BradsDeals.com pull together this information so you can take the codes to sites to help save money.

There are rebate sites like Ebates.com and FatWallet.com that give you cash back on all the purchases you make on their deal sites. There are daily deal sites like Groupon.com, LivingSocial.com, NoMoreRack.com and 1SaleDay.com that will inundate your email box with great deals every single day.

You start to add all this up with coupons, rebates, deal of the day sites, etc., and a serious shopper could be spending their entire morning bouncing back and forth trying to figure out where to save that extra dollar.

Now comparison shopping sites like PriceGrabber.com, Google Shopping, Shopping.com and Shopzilla.com have begun to streamline the exercise of shopping by letting you compare the same item on one page with prices from several different selling sites. This is progress for the hurried shopper.

Money-Saving Secret

But the hidden secret of the Internet is the emergence of warehouse club sites that take away all the fluff, and if you are willing to buy in a little bit larger quantities, they truly save you money.


Sure, it may look intimidating, but warehouse clubs can save you some serious money. (Photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc)

Go to Costco.com; they have thousands of items on their site that can not only be found in the warehouse club stores and bought online, but many new additional items can be bought just online from them. Look at their brand Kirkland baby wipes and baby diapers. What new family does not need a case of those to survive the week? Their pricing on this high-demand commodity item beats all the coupon sites, rebate sites and even the deal sites.

Go to BJ’s Wholesale Club Site and find supplies for your home office from recognized brand names like Hammermill Paper, which verifies the better pricing of this newer group of sites that actually do save you money.

DollarDays.com supplies over 300,000 general merchandise products at wholesale and closeout pricing that falls right in line with these wholesale club sites. Here, the consumer can find all the back-to-school products, health and beauty products and all the snacks they need to fill their pantries or the clothing needed to fill their closets.

Internet entrepreneurs try to figure out the most efficient way to get you the best deal. That is why lots of ideas are thrown against the wall and over time, with a few developing into winners. And this will be how Internet shopping sorts itself out to become the most efficient way save money on the products that you really need and want. Will the coupon sites be the winners, will the rebate sites prevail, or is it the deal sites that rise above the rest? Maybe all three will win; it just depends on what you are looking to buy.

Marc Joseph is the founder of DollarDays.com, the premier online wholesaler that helps small businesses compete against larger enterprises and nonprofit organizations find the products they need to support their causes.

Reprinted from Mint.com.

May 15, 2014   No Comments

THIS is How To Pay for College

pickuoguitarclubBy Guest Blogger Jack Ross
Co-Founder, PickupGuitarClub.com
Like many, Jack Ross, a high school student from Washington D.C., falls in financial aid no man’s land. With most colleges topping $45,000 a year, his chance of leaving school in four years without a crippling amount of debt is bleak. Despite his near perfect test scores and GPA, scholarships are few and far between. So, he decided to fund his own schooling by teaching others.

Jack and his best friend, Brian Abod, recently launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding effort for their music education website PickupGuitarClub.com.

Jack is a self-taught software developer who built his first tablet computer at age 12, and Brian is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist. Together they developed a learning environment that is the first of its kind.

Centered on gamification and popular songs, their website turns learning guitar into an enjoyable experience. Jack developed polyphonic note-recognition software that listens to the guitar as it is played, rewarding players’ improvement and demonstrating how to improve where needed. The intuitive user interface breaks down every part of guitar from notes and rhythm to technique and chord shapes, making it easier than ever to follow along.

Brian taught himself guitar through songs and designed the curriculum in the same way. Songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Wagon Wheel, and Hey There Delilah teach all the skills needed to play guitar – picking, fretting, scales, chords, and more.

It is like Guitar Hero for real guitar.

With the funding from Kickstarter, they will finish the development and launch their company. Profits from the company will go towards funding their college education.

Here is their video describing their project:
Embed: <iframe width=”480″ height=”360″ src=”https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pickupguitarclub/pickup-guitar-club-finally-a-fun-way-to-learn-guit/widget/video.html” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”> </iframe>
If you want to support these young men and their endeavors, visit their Kickstarter campaign page – bit.ly/PickupGuitarClub

A few words from DollarDays:
Jack Ross contacted Marc Joseph, CEO of DollarDays.com about an article Marc wrote last October for the Huffington Post, titled “It’s Too Expensive to go to College Anymore.” Jack asked us to take a look at his story to see if we would publish it, since Marc and Jack are basically coming from the same place about getting an education today: it’s hard to get money to pay for college.

DollarDays hopes you’ll take a look at their project and possibly donate a buck or two. We think these two young men are rising stars to watch!

 

April 14, 2014   No Comments

Helping Small Businesses—Lots of Talk, But No Action

 

blog aprilThe Small Business Act of 1953 established the Small Business Administration (SBA) which came into existence on the grounds that small businesses are essential to a free enterprise system. It was the intent of establishing the SBA to “deter the formation of monopolies and the market failures monopolies cause by eliminating competition in the marketplace,” according to the Congressional Research Service.  Today there are over 5.6 million employer firms who employ 113 million people with a total payroll of $5.16 trillion. Sixty two percent of these employers have four or fewer employees, 89.8% have fewer than 20 and 98.3% have fewer than one-hundred. The SBA has 1,047 different classifications of businesses. The current definition of small business is companies with not more than $15 million in tangible net worth and not more than $5 million in average net income after federal taxes. Overall, the SBA classifies 97% of all employers as small business. These same small firms represent 30% of our receipts in our economy, which means big business is still 70% of our economy. Back in 1953 when the SBA was established, the split was 34% of all dollar value of all sales was small business and 66% was big business. Not much has really changed over the last 60 years despite all the rules,   regulations and the formation of the SBA.

Our country has always been a country of small businesses. In colonial America, 20% of the crops raised and handicraft products made were exported by these small businesses. At the time of our revolution, because of domestic economic growth and exports, Americans had a standard of living higher than most Europeans. Increasing an individual’s standard of living has been the driving factor to open a small business throughout American history. But Gallup just reported that the total number of new business startups and business closures per year, known as “the birth and death rates of American companies,” just crossed for the first time since this measurement began. Annually, 400,000 new businesses are now being born nationwide, while 470,000 are dying each year across the country. This is a trend we must reverse and we need our government’s help to do this.

Sure we can blame it on the recession we have been battling for the last several years, but it is much deeper than that. In addition to new regulations for small businesses in health care reform, an increase in regulatory activity in several industries, and the uncertainty about taxes, several other causes come into play making it hard to open a business today. One reason is there continues to be a shortage of financing alternatives to open a new business. Before the recession entrepreneurs could use the equity in their homes, but in today’s world, how many of us have significant equity in our homes? Another reason is technology, which we think is helping to streamline work and create Internet related businesses, but is also responsible for displacing independent businesses across several verticals. Look at the travel agents who have lost their businesses or the video store, the record store and the bookstore. A third reason is the well-financed big businesses are killing the little guy. Home Depot is pounding the hardware stores, the same thing Best Buy is doing to the electronic stores. Walmart controls close to 50% of some lines of the grocery and general merchandise business, where a generation ago thousands of families made their living selling these goods.

On April 5, 2012 President Obama signed into law the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act. He said at the time “for start-ups and small businesses, this is a potential game changer. For the first time, ordinary Americans can invest in entrepreneurs they believe in.”  This law relaxed regulation for businesses that are emerging growth companies, created a “crowd funding” exemption to allow private companies to raise up to $1M and raised the limit of small offerings from $5M to $50M. It is two years later and nothing in this law is implemented. Anyone close to this new law, such as legislators, practitioners and potential small business owners, have voiced their frustrations with continuing delays in adopting final rules, but to no avail. And we ask ourselves how our government has led us to the tipping point where more businesses close than open.

If the US government, who has good intentions but poor follow through, cannot help small businesses, then who can? The Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation created Startup America Partnership, which helps entrepreneurs get their companies off the ground by delivering free or low cost services and connecting them with larger corporations for mentoring.  Score is a nonprofit association that helps small businesses succeed by using volunteer mentors who share their knowledge in an effort to give back to their community. At DollarDays, on our Facebook page in April, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products to help small businesses launch or expand, so please nominate a small business in your community that deserves our help.

Every big company started small.  Look at Wal-Mart, where even today over 50% of the company is still owned by the Walton family. Or Bill Gates who is still the largest shareholder in Microsoft. We as a country can’t afford more businesses dying than are being born. The government has let us down with sequestration, shutting itself down when we need it the most, battles over healthcare and battles over the debt ceiling and budgets. When they finally pass a law that makes sense like the JOBS Act, they still can’t implement it after two years. All of us need to reach out to our representatives and tell them to get their “act” together. Here is the link to contact Congress. And if they do not react, we need to vote them all out and start again.

 

April 3, 2014   No Comments

Marc Joseph interviewed in Success Magazine!

marc joseph success magazineSome of you know that DollarDays’ CEO, Marc Joseph, authored the book, The Secrets of Retailing or How to Beat Wal-Mart! to help small businesses compete in the world of big box stores. In fact, DollarDays.com has a wealth of Marc Joseph’s business and entrepreneurial articles, focusing on small businesses for you to enjoy.

But this time, Marc didn’t do the writing; he was interviewed by Success Magazine for an article they titled “Want to write a book? Our step by step guide.”  Marc gave his candid advice for wannabe authors including how writing a book can ultimately help your business. You can read the article here.

March 24, 2014   No Comments

The War on Poverty is back; this time, it’s the people’s burden

 

blogmar14In the United States, one in five children live in a household with not enough food to eat. Feeding America reports that 15.9 million kids under the age of 18 live in this condition where they are unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life. Last month Congress passed a sweeping  that cut an additional $8.6 billion from food stamps (SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) over the next 10 years. This is on top of the $5 billion the program lost last November because the 2009 Recovery Act stimulus bill expired. Forty-seven million Americans currently participate in SNAP, up 47 percent since the Great Recession started in 2008. This means that 15 percent of us rely on this program to eat. Last year the US spent $78 billion on the SNAP program.

We don’t have to be math whizzes to know that a 47 percent increase in participation coupled with a reduction in the funding of $13.6 billion spells misery for millions of Americans. This program has been the federal social safety net for low-income Americans and now this safety net is beginning to tear.

The New York Times reports that more and more people are beginning to show up at soup kitchens and food pantries. The first reduction in November cut out 23 meals per month for a family of four. In New York City, the number of people seeking food aid grew by 85 percent after the November cuts while 23 percent of the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens reduced the number of meals they provided. Food stamps were the signature program of President Johnson’s War on Poverty during the 1960s which led to fewer poor children going hungry or having nutrition related developmental delays. Birth weights also grew for children of poor mothers on food stamps. As a nation, we can’t afford to go back to the nutritional standards before the War on Poverty.

Luckily for us, our nonprofit organizations are stepping in and have created food banks to help fill the void continually shaped by Congress. The world’s first food bank started in 1967, right after the War on Poverty began. St. Mary’s Food Bank was started by John Van Hengel who was volunteering at St. Vincent DePaul in Phoenix, Arizona, serving dinners to those in need. A mother told him the soup kitchens and grocery store dumpsters were the only way she could feed her children. John went to the local parish, St. Mary’s Basilica and shared his vision of collecting food and money for food and depositing it where those in need could withdraw it. They gave John $3,000 and an abandoned building to get the food bank up and running. Today food banks touch just about every corner of the USA.

For example, Ozarks Food Harvest, one of the Feeding America food banks in Springfield, MO, distributes food to 320 hunger relief organizations across 29 Missouri counties reaching 41,000 people a month. To help hungry children, they have a weekend backpack program, where they fill 1,500 backpacks with food so these underprivileged kids can have something to eat when they can’t eat at school. How can you not love an organization that takes care of others every day of the week!

The State of Kentucky is setting an example for the rest of government in how to encourage its citizens to help others. Its legislature has made it easier for Kentuckians to donate to the Farms to Food Banks Program by just checking a box on their state tax returns to have part of their tax refunds to automatically go to this program which brings farm food directly into the food banks. This is how the government should behave in inspiring it citizenship to help each other.

Once again, we as individuals must step in to fill the gap recently created by our Congress. If you can’t devote your time, start by helping with cash to donate for food to our food banks. Here is a link to all the Feeding America Food Banks in your area.  Here is a link to helping Meals On Wheels, which brings together 5,000 local nutritional programs for seniors and deliver over 1 million meals a day.  And at DollarDays on our  Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 in food and products to local food banks, so make sure you nominate the one in your town.

General Motors Foundation last month donated $500,000 to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen serving the people of metro Detroit. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Florida recently donated $250,000 to the Florida Association of Food Banks. The Alaska Federal Credit Union donated money to 17 food banks. Businesses with a conscience are beginning to step up to fill this massive void, but so far there is too big a gap to fill.  We have got to make up the billions of dollars lost to support those in the most need in this new order of priorities created by Congress. We as citizens of this fine country need to create a new grass roots effort for this latest War on Poverty. Having 47 million Americans in need of food is not the country our forefathers envisioned. It is also not the country we want to leave to our children.

March 4, 2014   No Comments

Congress Could Use a Lesson from America’s Innovators

marc feb14 huffpo blogby Marc Joseph, CEO of DollarDays; reprinted from The Huffington Post

The compromise spending bill for $1.1 trillion keeps the government open through September, according to CNN. It increases funding to Head Start by $1 billion for early childhood education which makes sense after its recent low point with the forced budget cuts last year. It increases the paychecks of federal workers and military personnel by one percent. It reduces funding to the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency. It launches policies at getting more low-risk passengers through security quicker at airports. So it has a little bit in it for just about everyone. But once again, Congress is kicking the can down the road because we are going to have this same contentious conversation next fall when this extension expires.

The New York Times broke down the cost of this new budget per each US resident: $259 goes to food stamps now known as SNAP, $61 goes to the child school lunch program, $30 goes for crop insurance and $40 to loans and direct payments to farmers, $2,672 covers Social Security and $1,591 for Medicare, $26 goes to the FBI and $22 to the Federal prison system.

These budget impasses remind me of the movie “Groundhog Day,” where we wake up and repeat the same mistake month after month, year after year. There has got to be some innovative thinkers outside and inside of government that can get us out of this rut of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

One big idea is coming from Ron Unz according to USA Today. Mr. Unz is a Silicon Valley multimillionaire and registered Republican, who is pushing a California proposal to boost the minimum pay rate to $12 an hour. Unz believes that taxpayers, for too long, have been subsidizing low wages since the government pays for food stamps and other programs these workers utilize. He feels raising the minimum wage to $12 would lift millions of people out of poverty, driving up income and sales tax revenue; at the same time saving taxpayers billions of dollars, since these workers would no longer qualify for many of the welfare benefits.

Another big idea came out of Chicago under the leadership of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He created the small business center in City Hall last spring to streamline small business services. The city has reduced the number of business licenses from 117 to 49, which has saved small businesses $700,000 in just the last 6 months. Chicago is phasing out the Head Tax which saved small businesses $4.8 million in 2013. This is just an example of how cities can cut through the red tape to not only make its citizens’ lives easier, but to actually save money.

TOMS is a for profit company that whenever it sells a pair of its shoes, another pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child. Additionally, when TOMS sells a pair of eyewear, part of the profit goes to help restoring sight in those who need help, and according to their site, “helping to restore sight restores independence, economic potential and educational opportunity.” They have taken the “giving back” theory a step further and last fall launched TOMS Marketplace , that gives socially conscious suppliers a platform to sell products that help support causes ranging from education and health to nutrition and clean water.

Most organizations don’t have the resources like the city of Chicago or TOMS to help make a major impact in changing our country or making our Federal Budget a non-issue. The largest charity in the US is the United Way which is a network of 1,800 United Way communities and manages $4.26 billion. They “envision a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, income stability and healthy lives.” The second largest is the Salvation Army, that manages $4.08 billion to carry out their mission of “to feed, to clothe, to comfort and to care.” These budgets seem small compared to the $1.1 trillion Federal Budget, yet they do take some pressure off the government in taking care of everything the underprivileged need. I guess it is up to all of us to do our best to relieve some of this pressure. At DollarDays on our Facebookpage, we are giving away hundreds of flip flops (the TOMS model inspired us) to organizations who help kids in need, so make sure you nominate a worthy organization.

Sometimes I think we put too much faith in our government that they will take care of pushing our economy forward as well as taking care of those most in need. Gallup Poll just reported that just 13% of Americans approve the job Congress is doing. If that was the approval rating in any other part of our society, they would all be gone. This is the group we must rely on next fall to permanently fix our day to day operations of our government. Based on their recent history, I am skeptical this will happen. That is why the rest of us have to step up with the “big ideas” to make our civilization work with or without our government’s support.

February 6, 2014   No Comments

Did Not Make It Home For The Holidays

jan14contest_160x300Reposted with permission from The Huffington Post
by Marc Joseph

The weather this past December not only played havoc on retail sales, but ruined many holiday celebrations by causing electrical outages, undelivered packages and relatives unable to travel to be with family. CBN news reports that December brought the coldest weather some areas have seen in decades. I don’t think global warming was a factor this December. In fact this year a reading of 135.8 degrees below zero was measured in Antarctica, which is the lowest temperature ever recorded on earth, so even though the cold ruined the holidays for many retailers and families, in comparison to other places on earth, the USA made it through—but wait until January which is set to look much like December’s weather.

With this extreme weather we are having, I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be homeless during this time.  USA Today reported on a financial advisor, Isaac Simon, who on Tuesday evenings for the last six years in Manhattan, packs his white van with soup, bagels, milk and oranges and drives into areas where the homeless gather. He also has clothes to help those less fortunate. When you think that New York City, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, has a census in their homeless shelters of 51,000 which happens to be the entire population of Charleston, the capital of West Virginia,  you know America has a problem that we can’t just sweep under the rug. With that many people in need, we need hundreds of Isaac Simons to help just in Manhattan alone.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the US Conference of Mayors survey of 25 large and midsize cities indicates that homelessness and hunger have increased and are expected to continue to rise in 2014. The poverty rate in the US of 15% is still near the Great Recession’s high of 15.1%. In Los Angeles, 20,000 people sleep on the streets every night and 2,000 of them are families or children living on their own. Homelessness has increased by 26% in LA since last year. Chicago reported an 11.4% increase in the number of homeless families since last year. This survey also reported that 21% of people needing emergency food assistance could not get help.

In my city of Phoenix, nonprofit organizations and government are acutely aware of the issues facing the poor. We have St. Vincent De Paul serving over 3,600 meals a day to the homeless and families in need. We have the city helping homeless vets to find places to live off the streets. Two years ago, the city identified 222 chronically homeless veterans, of which more than half served in Vietnam. Our mayor, Greg Stanton announced right before Christmas that the final 56 veterans were placed in housing. This happened because the city council allocated an additional $100,000 in November to accelerate the efforts to help homeless vets.

President Obama’s administration has pledged to eliminate homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015, but it looks like time is running short unless cities and states get involved like Phoenix has.  The Washington Post talks about the state of Massachusetts and the Department of Veteran Affairs have put aside dollars to hire veterans, some formerly homeless themselves, to help get veterans off the streets in Boston. They spend one day a week roaming the city’s storefronts, alleys and shelters seeking out these homeless veterans. The rest of the week is spent making sure those put into housing stay the course.

Now that the holidays are over, we as a society begin to focus back on our own needs in January. Whether it is finding a gym to get back in shape, or a diet to lose the holiday pounds, our attention naturally shifts away from those who need our help 365 days a year. Homelessness is not just the responsibility of our government; it is all of our communal responsibility whether it is in the dead of winter or the heat of summer. Obviously volunteering is the best way to get involved, but if you don’t have the gumption of Isaac Simon or the political prowess of Mayor Stanton, then helping out with donated money is a high priority. There are several organizations to support. The National Homeless Coalition, The Salvation Army and The Gospel Rescue Mission all make homelessness their priorities. And at  DollarDays  on our Facebook page, we are giving away blankets to help those in need, so make sure you nominate a worthy organization.

Maybe what we should all do is what the Lakewood Congregational Church Youth Foundation in northern Ohio does and has been doing for years. On a night in January, they sleep in cardboard boxes outside in the bitter cold and spend the evening seeking donations from community member passing by to help less fortunate families. If that does not wake up the younger generation to the needs of the homeless, then nothing will. Can you imagine if in every city in every state, we all give up the comforts of our homes for one night to experience the immorality of homelessness, what that would do for the psyche of America? I am sure that if we addressed this issue on a grass roots level and all woke up the next morning freezing cold and hungry, our ineffective congress would hear our collective voices saying enough is enough, and Congress would reverse the recent cuts in food stamps, show compassion with the new congressional budget deal and help those who need unemployment benefits. Wouldn’t that be a way to start off 2014…

December 31, 2013   No Comments