Archive | August, 2012

Happy Trails

30 Aug

Last week we said goodbye to the wonderful Molly Ganley who just completed her three-month Community Internship helping to make sure Catchafire Pro Bono Professionals are well cared for.

We’re sad to see her go but we’re excited to hear about Molly’s next great adventure. She bid us farewell with the thoughtful note posted below. Happy Trails, Molly!

The last 3 months flew by; I have learned and grown by leaps and bounds during my time here. Working with the Catchafire team has been amazing: it’s been great to work with people who are excited about what they do, and who challenge me to be as awesome as they are. #rolemodels

Much of my time at Catchafire has been devoted to our pro bono professionals, and the opportunity to work with them has been inspiring. With every phone call and email exchange, I’m more impressed. Catchafire professionals are sharp, experienced, and good-hearted. They’re passionate about the social good organizations they’re helping, and their completed projects are impressive. Really, if you meet a Catchafire pro bono professional, buy them a drink. Or at least give them a pat on the back, because they are wonderful.

Okay, I’ll stop gushing now, and leave you with something special. Here’s a song that will forever remind me of this summer in the Catchafire office because it was so often blasted from the speakers at the beginning and end of each day:

Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen:


Iron Dude

20 Aug

When a colleague tells you he just completed an Ironman and still finds time to volunteer, you know you need to get the details

Jason Everitt, a Service Officer here at Catchafire, appeared at work last Monday looking a little worse for wear. I wondered if he might have tied one on the night before. But it turned out the reasons were more interesting than an ill advised Sunday night bender. He had just completed New York’s Inaugural Ironman U.S. Championship, swimming 2.4 miles in the Hudson River, biking 112 miles and then topping it off with a full marathon (26.2 miles) for good measure. All while the rest of us were eating Ben and Jerry’s and watching the Olympics. Jason moved here from San Diego so maybe that partially accounts for his vim and vigor, but perhaps equally impressive, and frankly a little intimidating, was the rumor that in addition to his full time work bringing nonprofits into the Catchafire community, he also takes on Pro Bono Projects on the side! Here’s what he has to say for himself:

An Ironman! Why on earth would you do such a thing?
Until last year, I never thought about doing a triathlon. I was (am?) a terrible swimmer. My only experience on a bike was riding my beach cruiser to class and I hadn’t run more than three miles since graduate school. I registered for a sprint triathlon just to force myself to get healthy again. I trained hard and accomplished something I had never dreamed possible. I’ve been playing athletic chicken with myself ever since, signing up for bigger and bigger races and pushing my limits.

As a relatively recent New Yorker, did you learn anything about the city during your training?  
I probably learned less about geography than I did about what it means to be a New Yorker. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like a part of New York’s incredibly warm and welcoming athletic community. We struggled up Harlem Hill together, exchanging words of encouragement, strangers offered to help me fix flat tires. New Yorkers are a lot different than the way they’re portrayed in the popular imagination.

You mentioned you had some “dark moments” during the race. Other than immersing yourself in the Hudson River, which must have accounted for at least one, what did you mean by that?
Your body just can’t keep it together over fifteen hours of racing. Eventually, it’s going to fail you. At around mile 17 of the marathon we had to climb the stairs that lead up to the George Washington Bridge. It was the last big push before the sweet, sweet downhills and straightaways in Manhattan and I knew my wife, Carly, was waiting to cheer me on just on the other side. But I had been cramping up pretty bad for the last hour and my foot was bleeding. On the very first stair, my legs completely seized up. I couldn’t lift them, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do anything but prop myself up against a handrail. Fear and self doubt had been with me off and on all day, but then pain showed up and suggested they form a super group to bring me down. In the end it wasn’t my body that got me to pull myself up those 70 stairs, it was my mind and my heart. I learned a lot about myself on those stairs.

That’s very cool, Jason. I hear you’re also working on a Pro Bono Project when you’re not at work or training?
I’m working on a Public Relations Plan with an amazing non-profit called Bottomless Closet. It’s the only New York-based organization helping women get back into the workforce by providing interview preparation, business attire, professional development and financial skills. Their mission really speaks to me because it’s so simple. It’s about helping these women with concrete tools to achieve the professional and economic success that we all want and deserve. But, not unlike many other non-profit organizations, Bottomless Closet is so busy doing great work they don’t have time to get their story to the media. I am helping them build a plan that will help them strategically communicate with the press, while staying clear about the staff and time limitations of the organization.

How do you fit it all in?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say religious time management and a very patient wife. Also, Catchafire encourages us to take “service days” which is paid time off for staff to take on meaningful volunteer projects. It’s very much a part of the culture here at Catchafire — to invest in service as a transformative experience. So that helps too.

Advice for prospective Ironman athletes and potential Pro Bono Professionals?
Set lofty goals. Attack them with gusto. You’ll be rewarded for it in the end.

Brooke Rothman is Selfish

13 Aug

At least that’s what she’d like us to think…

Brooke Rothman is a glamorous woman. A New Yorker by birth, she has lived all over including Miami, LA and London. By day a brand planner with the boutique ad agency Avrett Free Ginsberg, she makes her living helping large companies figure out who they are and how to tell their stories.

She’s an actress too. In fact, she even appeared in an international soap opera with a pre-fame Megan Fox. While she’s careful to point out that she “essentially played a computer nerd” and it “only showed in Sweden and South Africa”, we think she’s just being modest.

But after spending a few minutes with Brooke, you realize there’s much more to her than globetrotting, high level corporate strategizing. Even a cursory glance at the quotes on her Facebook page, “You will feel fulfilled when you do the impossible for someone else” hints that fabulous waters do, in fact, run deep. This is not your typical soap star turned ad exec.

When Brooke first heard about Catchafire at a networking lunch, she was hooked. Through the website she quickly found a cause that spoke to her: Sahasra Deepika, a non-profit foundation that houses and educates underprivileged children in Bangalore, India. Students are shown how to develop their intellectual, social, and academic potential and to bring this empowerment along into adulthood. Brooke donated 50 hours of brand messaging expertise to Sahasra Deepika and, as she recalls, it was a reciprocated gift:

Sahasra Deepika means “a thousand lights” and it actually changes children’s futures. I love that. My contact there, Sarva Rajendra, was open to new ideas, collaborative and appreciative.

In one conversation she said she felt when she met me she had “found gold.” That was a special moment. It continues to remind me that giving what I’m truly passionate about and what I’m good at can make a powerful difference. 

Brooke has decided to team up with Catchafire’s Founder/CEO Rachael Chong to pitch a panel for the 2013 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. Geared for SxSW Interactive, the panel is provocatively titled Be Selfish and it aims to inspire attendees to revolutionize their ideas on volunteerism. Brooke and Rachael want to turn selflessness and altruism inside out and get at the deeper motivations for service. Brooke wonders if being motivated by selflessness is even sustainable. She says, “When you have clear intentions and you set goals for your Pro Bono experience, you can always refer when things get a bit rough, or you feel insecure, or you forget why you’re spending your free time helping someone else when you’d rather be out drinking or watching reality TV.”

Read more about the panel, Brooke and Rachael here!

Help us Get to Austin
The SxSW Programmers and Advisory Board rely on crowdsourcing to help them pick final panelists. You can help us get to Austin by voting for our Panel at the SxSW Panel Picker. Keep in mind you’ll need to sign up (they promise not to bug you), you can only vote once and sharing is golden.

Next Stop: Chapel Hill -Carrboro

10 Aug

Catchafire Continues to take North Carolina by Storm:

Now in Chapel Hill-Carboro!

We just launched in Durham in May and yet we’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm for Catchafire and the numbers of social good organizations and professionals getting involved. Inspired by this momentum, we are setting our sights on Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Stay tuned: on August 27 we will announce our 15 Founding Members – Carrboro-Chapel Hill. These local leaders have been nominated by the community for their outstanding leadership, strategic vision and dedication to building capacity. Watch your Twitter feed and our blog for profiles of these organizations throughout September.

We spent last week in Chapel Hill-Carrboro meeting with community leaders, organizations and professionals, and we felt embraced by this tight-knit community every step of the way. Everyone was gearing up for the flood of UNC Chapel Hill students to arrive in a few weeks and there was the electrifying feeling that you get just before a thunderstorm in the air! We look forward to getting to know both the Chapel Hill – Carrboro and university community this fall.

Celebrating Durham’s Pro Bono Leaders!

On August 2nd Catchafire hosted an event at Labour Love Gallery in Durham to extoll the commitment of 43 local professionals who have committed to giving pro bono through Catchafire in the coming months. We had 50+ folks in attendance and we all enjoyed great food, drinks & company in addition to music from the Al Strong Trio via The Art of Cool Project and a presentation by Catchafire’s CEO & Founder, Rachael Chong.

Share this post with friends and colleagues looking to give what they’re good at in the Triangle.

Photos by Cathy Foreman

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