Select writing samples for nonprofit organizations
us for additional samples of our work for nonprofits,
including those more aligned with your project needs,
or for more information on our writing and grant writing
routinely collaborate with graphic designers to create
full-service brochures, feature articles and other materials
with graphics and images. Here we present only the text,
versus bulky PDFs, for ease of viewing.
Feature Article: The Isaiah House
Feature Article: The International Rett Syndrome Foundation
Brochure: Hospital Auxiliary Blood Drive
Direct Mail: Safe Haven Animal Rescue
Feature Article: Roofs Over Guatemala
Article: The Breast Cancer Survivors' Network
1. Feature Article, The Isaiah House, A Nonprofit
"Hired Gun’s feature article landed us a key publication.
Afterwards, we saw our level of new support rise significantly.
It will be an invaluable tool for our fundraising and
outreach efforts for a long time." Carl Adcock, Director,
The Isaiah House
the client wanted: A full-length feature article to
educate, generate support, and promote their public
image—for print (magazine) publication and to be used
throughout their fundraising and marketing materials.
shelter: The Isaiah House opens its doors, and opens
the minds of recovering drug, alcohol addicts
a damp Tuesday, about 100 strangers walked across the
windy darkness of an Aburdeen parking lot toward the
glow of a meeting hall and a Cocaine Anonymous meeting.
teenagers, not yet old enough to buy beer, shoved their
hands in their pockets and sat next to snowy-haired
grandparents with decades of sobriety under their belts,
their faces crisscrossed with the lines of hard living.
were locals, some from farther away. Some stood and
shared: Old friends can be an addict’s worst enemy;
temptations lurk in every dollar bill; a single bad
day can wipe out miles of progress on the slow slog
silently picked up a white keychain — the color of relapse
— or orange, pink, or green ones, representing various
intervals of sobriety.
and psychiatrists sat beside construction workers and
ex-prostitutes — all of them the same in those chairs,
all of them recovering addicts.
how bad is the drug and alcohol problem here?
just one drug, meth-amphetamine, a speed-like derivative
that’s been sweeping the country. Officials estimated
that one in ten here are habitual users.
Nan has been working with local addicts for decades.
With 18 years as the pastor of Harvest Missionary, 15
years as a prison chaplain, 14 years as an addict and
26 years of sobriety, he’s seen, and ministered to,
what must be thousands of people struggling with addiction.
His congregation alone, he said, is about 90 percent
addicts in recovery.
not a family in the county that doesn’t know somebody
who has some problems with [addiction],” Nan said. “It
affects every class of people,” — including his own.
Nan was an alcoholic by age 12, he said. “In my family,
that’s just what we did.”
say it’s hard for an addict to get off drugs or alcohol
is like saying summitting Everest is good exercise —
a profound underestimate, and an insult to those who
on one’s drug of choice, the detox process is a wrenching,
sweaty, sickly ordeal. Cells seize in the absence of
the substance they’ve been bathed in for months, maybe
decades. It’s a series of agonizing minutes that stretch
into hours, days if you’re lucky, in which the foggy
minutia of life is lifted only by periods of painful
withdrawal, punctuated by stabbing cravings.
as hard as it is to get off the stuff, it pales in comparison
to how hard it is to stay off it.
an addict, you’re always just one step away from being
it again — for the rest of your life,” said Nan, who
still struggles to stay sober.
recidivism runs rampant regardless of drug of choice.
biggest contributing factor to relapse? Returning to
a toxic environment, local experts say. Even if addicts
have gone through rehab, they often lack the necessary
resources to survive in the real world. Desperation,
feeling adrift in their own lives, drives addicts back
to drugs as much as the siren song of the substance.
for example, you’ve just finished a six to nine month
stint in rehab — not the Malibu spa-treatment sort,
but the real, full-time, highly-restrictive kind, in
which almost all access to the outside world is cut
off and the closest thing to a controlled substance
is a cup of coffee, maybe a smoke.
collect your personal effects, shake hands with your
doctors, and step through the doors that release you
to the real world. You’re clean. But probably also unemployed,
close to broke, and cut off from family members — with
perhaps a criminal record, and a collection of friends
who are users. What do you do? Where do you go in the
wide, unwelcoming world?
ability [for an addict] to pull out of that on their
own is basically zero,” said Mike Arnold.
is a substance abuse counselor with the Appalachian
Circuit Drug Court Treatment Program. He also leads
a support group called Lifeline. He’s been working with
addicts for over 23 years. And he’s seen this scenario
play out hundreds of times.
that point,” Arnold said, “the only people who would
even let you in their house are people living that lifestyle.
Your options are so limited that turning over a new
leaf is almost impossible. If they don’t get support
after coming out of recovery or jail, they go right
back to a life of crime and drugs.”
Jeffrey Glass of a local Baptist Church, who’s been
working with local addicts for several years, agrees.
“If they go back to the same place they were living,
and fall back into the same group, they start using
all over again,” he said. “What we need is something
local for local people.”
the Isaiah House.
in a renovated assisted living facility in Ellijay,
The Isaiah House is a new, nonprofit transitional housing
facility (also known as a “halfway” house), founded
to fill in the gap between rehab and the real world.
It is the first of its kind in Cholkam County. And it
is a dream realized for founders Carl and Julie Adcock—a
couple on a mission to help local men stop the caustic
cycle of addiction and relapse.
Adcocks will hold an open house January 17 for anyone
who wants to visit.
it officially opens later in the month, Isaiah will
house men from Cholkam, Fannin, and Pickens counties
who have just finished a drug or alcohol recovery program.
It will provide a safe, healthy environment, where men
in recovery are held accountable for their actions while
being gradually introduced to the outside world. Men
can stay until they’re ready to live on their own, usually
about a year. It will ultimately hold up to 13 men.
13 men who won’t be committing crimes or doing drugs,”
said Van Cash with conviction.
— “like money” — now 46, first met the Adcocks at Promise
Land Ministries, a 9-month “regeneration program” (they
don’t participate in the 12-step system) at the Church
of the Narrow Way in Cholkam. He was there to get help;
they were there to give it. After Cash completed the
program and had nowhere to go but back to his old life,
the Jeffreys took him in (in fact, during one six-week
period, they housed 24 men from the ministry) and helped
carry him through recovery.
matter what you’ve done in life, when somebody takes
you in and believes in you, it changes your whole outlook
on the world and yourself,” said Cash. “I just can’t
express how much they’ve (the Adcocks) done for me,
and a lot of other guys.”
reason transitional housing programs like the Isaiah
House are so critical for turning addicts into productive
citizens is that, while rehab teaches men how to live
without drugs and alcohol, they may still not know how
to live as adults.
Isaiah House has one of the most comprehensive programs
around. Men will learn social skills, strategies for
sober living, stress and money management, physical
and spiritual fitness, how to find a job and conduct
themselves at interviews — plus how to load a washing
machine, cook meals, and clean up after themselves.
how to be a man,” said Carl Adcock, who’ll serve as
director. He and Julie will both live at the Isaiah
House full-time, leading classes, providing guidance,
and making sure the men stay on track.
are, perhaps, the ideal couple to take on the task.
Julie is recovering from a previous marriage to an addict.
Carl’s insights are even more intimate. He’s been working
with men in recovery for 18 years. Before that, he was
one. Twenty-five years of drug and alcohol abuse have
given regrets, sure — but also a direct
line into the minds of the men he aims to heal.
“Addicts aren’t stupid,” he said of their frequent mistakes
and false starts. “They’re sick.”
he finished rehab at age 43, Carl, like so many others,
had used up his last chance with his family. He turned
to his sponsor, who took him in, kept tabs on him, and
supported him until he regained his footing in society.
back in a chair in the Isaiah House kitchen on a cloudy
December day, Carl recalled the career, the fortunes,
and the family members he’d traded in for all those
packets of white powder. He explained some aspects of
the addict’s thought process — patterns that are perhaps
still more comprehensible to him than those of the nonaddict.
people, like Julie here, will have one drink and that’s
turned to his wife, who explained: “If I have a glass
of wine with dinner, I stop if I start to feel it.”
smiled and shook his head. “You’re a weird person,”
he said, still bemused by the concept. “Addicts will
have another, and another, and another. It doesn’t make
any sense to have just one.”
been through it all himself will give Carl a leg up
on what the men are thinking. Anyone who shows they’re
not serious about changing — “And some of them won’t
be,” Carl said — will be dismissed to make room for
someone who is.
also knows the criticality of getting men back in the
work force — not an easy task. After years of living
fix to fix, resumes are often thin, and recommendations
from former employers may be less than complimentary.
As a solution, Carl created his own nonprofit painting
business. It will employ Isaiah House residents — thus
teaching them on-the-job conduct, and providing a chance
to prove they’re responsible, while also giving them
a lifelong, marketable skill to help secure work in
the real world.
business will also help fund the Isaiah House. Although
residents must each pay $130 per week, as a nonprofit
organization the Isaiah House is reliant on donations
for continued success. The Adcocks are also hoping area
churches and other organizations will band together
to sponsor men who can’t afford the fees.
will be a tremendous positive thing to make our efforts
more meaningful,” said Pastor Glass, an Isaiah House
a lot of people like I was,” said Cash. “Nobody cared,
and didn’t have any place to go. But this thing can
be beat. You just have to have a place where people
believe in you, and can help you. [Places like the Isaiah
House] is one of the most important things the community
can have to help recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.
There’s just so many lives that need guidance and direction.”
doubt, the Adcocks have their work cut out for them
— finding the financial support to stay afloat, and
the spiritual stamina to guide the minds of battered
men to the shores of sobriety — while knowing some will
still be swallowed by the sea of addiction, the waves
of temptation rising too strong to survive.
really a cancer that’s eating us and a lot of people
just want to turn their head,” said Pastor Nan. “But
I have hope for anybody I come across. You’re not going
to be able to save them all, but it’s worth giving them
Isaiah: I’ve come to bind up the brokenhearted and set
the captives free.
Carl Adcock, “I don’t have any doubt about what we’re
Back to top.
2. Feature Article, The International Rett
"This is without a doubt one of the best
Rett Syndrome articles I have ever read. It’s not easy
to cover all the science and symptoms of Rett in a single
article, but you did a fantastic job, and it is very
easy to read and understand. It has already generated
a lot of support from our donors and I’m sure it will
continue to help our cause and raise awareness. Thanks
for a super job." Chuck Curley, Executive Director, International
Rett Syndrome Foundation
the client wanted: A full-length feature article for
newspaper/magazine publication to inform and help raise
the Odds: Rare neurological disorder changes lives near
Heaton’s room says a lot about her. The walls surrounding
her inviting pink bed are plastered with posters of
shiny teen pop stars. Zac and Joe and Nick grin beneath
swept-up hair. Miley Cyrus has the place surrounded,
flashing her dimples and posing in various miniskirts
on just about every wall.
for the cart in the corner piled with medical supplies,
it is the room of a typical 14-year-old girl. And but
for a tiny, genetic mutation, Jessalyn would have been
that girl. The glossy photos of Miley would be idolized
because she can sing and act and dance—not because she
the daughter of John and Cindy Heaton, was born with
you’re a fan of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice,
you may have heard Clint Black mention it (he’s playing
for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.) But
most people know little or nothing about Rett.
Syndrome is a rare, debilitating neurodevelopmental
disorder. It affects areas of the brain responsible
for cognitive, sensory, emotional, motor and autonomic
functions. This can lead to a number of mental and physical
abnormalities, in things like learning ability, speech,
sensation, mood, movement and gait, breathing, heart
function, and digestion.
babies born with Rett appear normal for their first
6-18 months, and may even progress through early developmental
by age 2 parents will almost certainly see a delay in
development—particularly in talking, purposeful hand
use, and other motor milestones. Often, as babies become
toddlers and the syndrome sets in, affected children
will regress. They may start to lose the social and
motor skills they’d previously mastered, leaving parents
to watch their children inexplicably slip away, receding
into themselves, never to re-emerge.
of the most characteristic symptoms of Rett in children
is repetitive wringing and clasping of hands as they
lose the ability to control them. Apraxia--the inability
to perform motor functions—eventually interferes with
all body movements, including eye gaze and speech. Communication
and social interaction are therefore extremely hampered.
general, individuals with Rett have no speech ability,
no purposeful hand use and poor motor coordination overall.
Many are wheelchair-bound from a young age.
to some similarity of symptoms, Rett is most commonly
misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism. Indeed, Rett
is one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. But Rett stands
out on the spectrum for a few key reasons.
it falls at the far end as the most severe of the autism
disorders. It is the most physically debilitating. And
it’s the only one with a known genetic cause.
science of Rett
Rett could be called a disorder of chance.
1999, scientists discovered Rett is caused by mutations
on the MECP2 gene, located on the X chromosome. It’s
because of the location that male fetuses with the disorder
rarely survive to term (as they have only a single X
chromosome), and Rett Syndrome is seen almost exclusively
in girls. The discovery also means doctors can now do
a simple blood test to confirm a Rett diagnosis.
99 percent of the time, the genetic abnormality arises
by spontaneous, random mutation—not genetic inheritance—in
as little as a single base pair in a single gene. That’s
one gene out of 25,000 in the human genome.
50 percent of the time the mutation occurs, it does
so in a girl, and she will continue to develop. Rett
is estimated to affect every 1 in 10,000-25,000 girls
For those girls who are unlucky enough to have the spontaneous,
and yet painfully precise, Rett mutation, the severity
of the disorder—the extent to which it will interfere
with their lives—is also a matter of chance.
females have two X chromosomes, one of the Xs is inactivated
in every cell in the body. In girls with Rett—who have
one normal X, and one which carries the faulty MECP2
gene—this means that the severity of their symptoms
will depend on the proportion of cells which retain
the good X, versus the damaged one.
cells that randomly inactivate the faulty X will have
normal, healthy function. Girls who, by chance, have
more healthy brain cells will have less severe symptoms.
brain cells that inactivate the normal X chromosome,
leaving the damaged one, will have impaired function.
Girls who, by chance, have more of these neurons will
be more severely impaired.
by chance, falls in the middle.
The living room of the Heaton’s house is full of photographs.
In one, a dark-haired toddler with enormous eyes sits
in a frilly dress and laughs, revealing the edges of
two erupting front teeth.
was my first baby," said Cindy Heaton, recalling both
the joy and the uncertainty of being a new mother.
points at the picture, at Jessalyn’s small hands. “We
didn’t notice it then, but I can see it now," she says.
this and many of her other childhood photos, Jessalyn
holds her hands at awkward angles or balls them up into
fists, a symptom only apparent in retrospect.
like other girls with Rett, appeared normal at birth
and for her first few months.
as Jessalyn grew she failed to reach several developmental
milestones. By 10 months Jessalyn showed no signs she’d
soon start crawling. She didn’t reach for toys or her
mother. And she didn’t roll over.
appointments were a frustrating affair, when the experts
assured Cindy and John that Jessalyn was just late.
That she’d catch up.
by age 2, their daughter still wouldn’t feed herself.
And though she was walking and looked normal, she didn’t
Cindy and John had their second child, Jared, born two
years after Jessalyn, the differences were too obvious
take him for his check-ups and I’d say—But look at Jessalyn!
He was passing her on all the milestones."
Jessalyn was 3, doctors diagnosed her with autism, a
determination that never seemed right to Cindy. Jessalyn
soon started to have uncontrollable crying spells and
seizures. Then, when she was 5, a neurologist said Jessalyn
might have Rett Syndrome.
said ‘What’s that?" He gave me a list of symptoms to
read and I just knew that was it. That was what she
had. If you think something is wrong with your child,
you have to keep pushing. You have to make them take
diagnosis was bittersweet: A relief to finally have
a name for Jessalyn’s differences, but a name that summoned
the dark nightmare of devastating disability.
pulls a little bit of your heart out--and it’s gone
forever. And you walk around like that, with this piece
missing--but somehow you learn to cope. You just learn
to take it one day at a time."
in 25,000; one in a million.
In a large frame designed to help Jessalyn maintain
good posture and get some exercise, she stands in the
living room and stares at the computer screen, bobbing
her head to Taylor Swift’s latest video on YouTube.
is one of Jessalyn’s greatest passions. Perhaps because
it is moving, in a world outside the physical. In music,
you can transcend the limitations of muscle and bone,
of random mutations and discordant brain waves, and
escape to the perfect rhythms and smooth movements of
her special class at Ellijay Elementary, Jessalyn is
one of the most interactive, affectionate students.
Her morning ritual includes her own version of “hello"
for teachers and students. At home, snuggling is a necessity.
can walk with assistance, unlike many girls with Rett.
And though she has never spoken, she can communicate
with her eyes, making clear choices between different
foods, or pictures that correspond to different activities.
“If she wants a bath," Cindy said, “she’ll walk into
Jessalyn suffers from frequent seizures—not a rare,
but a potentially debilitating, aspect of Rett. Even
as Cindy spoke of her daughter’s seizures, Jessalyn
silently slipped into one. She didn’t shake, but lay
still and rigid, her eyes wide open, her expression
frozen. And then, after less than a minute, she was
powerful drugs pumped into Jessalyn’s 90-pound body
to try to control these sporadic firings have taken
a brutal toll. She has regressed some physically since
starting the regime. Then, last summer, she spent almost
a month in the hospital suffering from severe gastrointestinal
problems, another common complication of Rett.
Jessalyn has refused to relinquish any more independence,
and continues to walk. “She’s a fighter. Everything
she does is harder than for other people," Cindy said.
yet, for all her struggles, making an impact on people
comes natural to Jessalyn.
brings out the best in people," said Cindy. “It’s amazing.
We can’t go to McDonalds, and I can’t watch her run
into school. If I could just hear my child’s voice I’d
get down on my knees and praise God. But Jessalyn is
here for a reason. She makes you see the things that
really matter. She’s only 14, but she’s changed the
The unknown and the immeasurable
after introducing her daughter, Cindy pulled out a packet
of papers and turned to a printout of a 2007 scientific
study on Rett.
just any study. But a groundbreaking one—the results
of which rippled through the scientific community, and
slammed into the Rett community like a welcomed tsunami.
reversed it in mice," Cindy said with restrained excitement.
and the other parents must be careful not to let themselves
be swept away by the siren-swell of hope the study has
set off. And yet it’s almost impossible not to be somewhat
encouraged by the results—if not for your own child
then for future children with Rett.
the study, scientists took genetically engineered mice
who were exhibiting severe Rett-like symptoms—and in
some cases were even days away from death—and restored
the faulty MECP2 gene.
result was a near complete reversal of symptoms. Tremors
disappeared, breathing normalized, mobility and brain
function were restored.
a similar treatment for humans is, if possible, still
far-off, the study holds promise for more disorders
than just Rett. The MECP2 gene has been implicated in
schizophrenia, autism and other learning disabilities.
That means the mouse reversal could open up new alleys
for treatments for an array of debilitating disorders.
Curley is the executive director of the International
Rett Syndrome Foundation, and the father of Caroline,
13, who was diagnosed with Rett when she was 3. Though
Curley is cautious when it comes to talking about treatments
or a cure for Rett in the foreseeable future, he’s a
strong supporter of scientific research and hopes to
see research interest in Rett increase significantly
in the coming years.
in Rett opens doors and sheds light on other disorders,
including autism. We can look at Rett as a window to
other disorders, and a Rett cure as a window to other
cures," Curley said.
for now there are no treatments for Rett. In addition,
since the disorder is so rare and relatively new—it
wasn’t officially named until 1983—little is known about
life expectancy. It’s just one more uncertainty families
must learn to cope with in the Rett game of chance.
good news is that Rett is not a progressive disorder.
Most who have it, though they continue to require maximum
care, live well into middle-age. Adults with Rett continue
to learn, and (like other adults) may become more emotionally
stable and communicative as they exit their teens.
Cindy doesn’t like to look too far into the future,
preferring to “take today as today," she has no reason
to believe Jessalyn won’t continue to develop new skills.
now, “She surprises us all the time," said Cindy. “You
just don’t know what she knows."
if on cue, Jessalyn broke out in a smile, struck by
something amusing, it seemed, in her internal world
in there," Cindy said, looking down at her daughter.
things you just don’t know how to measure."
Back to top.
3. Brochure, Hospital Auxillary Blood Drive
the client wanted: This hospital wanted an educational,
promotional brochure to generate public awareness and
participation in their quarterly blood drives.
Medical Center and The American Red Cross are rolling
up their sleeves and teaming up for local blood drives.
what’s so special about blood?
- Blood is the body’s river of life. It is our communications
network, food supplier, waste removal system, and transportation
- Adults have about 8 pints of blood. Blood circulates
the body in blood vessels called veins, arteries, and
capillaries. If all our blood vessels were lined up
end to end, they would circle the earth almost four
times! Every pint makes this journey about 60 times
- Blood carries oxygen to every cell in the body—over
100 trillion! Without fresh oxygen, our cells would
suffocate and die.
- Blood carries nutrients, like messages in a bottle,
from the tips of our toes to the folds of the brain.
- And blood carries the body’s own brand of Band-Aid.
Sticky little cells that float in our blood seal up
any cuts and keep little nicks from becoming big problems.
amazing stuff, isn’t it?
imagine if you or a loved one needed blood...and there
almost impossible to imagine, thanks to The American
Red Cross and centers like Statewide. They’re working
hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. But they can’t
do it alone.
The need for new donations is rising every
- Every two seconds someone in America will need a
transfusion. These could be trauma victims, surgery
patients, newborn babies, and patients receiving treatments
for cancer and other diseases.
- Victims of car accidents may need up to 100 units.
- Premature babies may need four units.
That’s why it’s so important for hospitals
to have enough on hand.
- Last year, U.S. hospitals used an average of 80,000
units of blood a day.
- The need for blood is increasing at about 6% a year.
- New donations are needed every day.
Be someone’s hero.
Donate today to save a life tomorrow.
Back to top.
4. Direct Mail: Safe Haven Animal Rescue
"We never thought hiring a writer would make so much
difference. But after using Hired Gun’s direct mail
piece the donations just started pouring in. We saw
an unbelievable 600% return on our investment, and we’ll
never go back to writing our own fundraising materials
again." Kristen Branch, Marketing Director, Safe Haven
the bank took the house…
Safe Haven made sure nobody took Sadie’s life.
Sadie’s story is becoming more common. When her owners
lost their home in a foreclosure, they were forced to
move to an apartment. No pets allowed. Sadie might have
gone to the county animal shelter. The last thing she
felt on her soft, sandy fur might have been a cold table
and a stranger’s hands. The last thing she saw with
her big brown eyes might have been a needle.
Safe Haven wouldn’t have it…
the best thing that's ever happened to me. I hate to think
what would have happened to her without Safe Haven."
Sadie and Marie, it was love at first sight. “I
wasn’t even really planning to get a dog,”
said Marie, who found herself with an empty home for
the first time. “But one look in those eyes,
and I knew we were meant for each other.”
Safe Haven is Brevard County’s only No Kill animal shelter.
Since 1993, we’ve saved the lives of thousands of loving
pets, and paired them with new owners, like Marie, who
are looking for a lifelong companion. Even if they don’t
even know it yet.
The question for you is…Is your soul mate waiting?
There’s only one way to find out. Visit Safe
Call 800/555-HOME to schedule a visit.
We promise you’ll get a good welcome.
Back to top.
5. Feature Article, Roofs Over Guatemala, A
"The article Becky wrote for us got picked up for publication
by a local newspaper, and we’ve used it, or sections
of it, in just about every mailing, fundraising campaign
and support letter since—and we’ll continue to use it.
We’ve gotten terrific mileage out of it, and, best of
all, a tremendous amount of support as a result. We
never would have gotten our NGO off the ground this
fast without Hired Gun." Glen Small, Founder, Roofs Over
the client wanted: A full-length feature article to
inform and raise support.
houses, building futures in rural Guatemala
along the rolling hills outside of Antigua, Guatemala,
and you see the tiny, thatched huts of local villagers
and farmers amid the cornfields and steep slopes of
the emerald countryside.
are a single, square room. At one end sits a small stove.
In the rest, parents and perhaps half-a-dozen young
children spread out on the dirt floor to sleep.
are made of mud, cornstalks and gap-toothed boards.
When it rains, the floors turn to a soupy sludge, 6
inches deep. The walls weep wetness into the dark interior.
in those hills, one hut stands out. On a ledge overlooking
lush farmlands, sits a house with metal roof, metal
siding, concrete floor — and, most notably, a covered
porch to come in out of the rain and wipe off the mud
in which parasites thrive.
house, and some others like it in the hills near Jocotenango,
wouldn’t exist without a man whose own house sits empty,
miles away, in the hills of North Carolina.
Small and his wife Karen have made many trips from their
home in Lampland to do humanitarian work in Guatemala.
For the past year, they’ve been making the trek to build
houses for local families living below the poverty line.
And now they’ve started a new nonprofit, nongovernmental
organization called Roofs Over Guatemala.
housing project began from humble beginnings. But in
just a short time the Smalls, in conjunction with Health
Ministries Association, raised enough money for materials
for 10 houses in Guatemala. Five of those are already
finished. When the couple left on another trip to the
country last month, they were hopeful all 10 would be
housing families by May.
every house that goes up, though, dozens more families
make requests. The demand is a little daunting for the
66-year-old retiree who fell into the third-world construction
business a bit by accident, after he watched some native
workers haphazardly trying to erect a house.
(the Guatemalans) didn’t even have tool belts,” Glen
said, still befuddled. “They’d get to the top of a ladder
and have to come right down because they’d forgotten
inefficiencies nagged at him. “I’m pretty methodical,”
he said, eliciting a knowing chuckle from his wife.
That night, he lay awake in bed and mentally “finished
the house” — building it, from the ground up, as the
epitome of efficiency. The next day, Glen put his mental
plan into action. He organized the crew, helped them
finish the house, and before he knew it he was the local
drafted a design for a 12x16 foot house made of metal,
solid wood, and cement that could be efficiently erected
in the rural countryside. He put a divider down the
middle and added a covered porch. He moved the cooking
stove outside to keep homes free from soot and smoke.
(Bathrooms are also an outdoors affair.)
entire house would cost around $2,000. As Glen, the
soft-spoken and methodical man, told of the single donor
who gave the funds for 10 houses up-front, his voice
cracked and his eyes welled, still disbelieving, still
family had eight children,” Glen said, as he scrolled
through a slideshow from a previous trip. “All of them
were sleeping in that one small room.” In the picture,
the ten of them stood in a row in their new, 2-room
another, Glen, a white giant at 6 feet, towers over
tan natives holding tools in the steamy Central America
home building project operates through what’s called
a “sweat equity” program. The family getting a house
must first have their old house torn down, and are responsible
for feeding the workers building the new one — as many
as 4 Americans and 10 Guatemalans.
though food is part of the deal, it’s not always easy
to accept from people with so little, the Smalls said.
Not to mention the fact that it could be “tilapia soup”
— 2 whole fish in a puddle of broth.
addition to the culinary challenges, building houses
in the rural highlands, where roads are sparse and unpaved,
and electricity is an anachronism, comes with its share
of technical challenges.
the most part, locals possess only hoes and machetes
(the latter of which they use on everything from fingernails
to fruit). So Glen takes his own tools to Guatemala
— the saws and drills eliciting scrutiny from baggage
handlers — and trucks the tools and other materials
across two hours of uneven roads, to rural building
mix cement on site by corralling the gritty goo in a
man-made pit (no plastic tubs, etc.) and churning it
about with hoes and hand-drawn water (no faucets or
hoses). Each house takes one to two weeks to finish,
depending on glitches and weather.
learn to be real flexible,” said Glen.
ultimate goal is to train the local people to build
the houses themselves. Glen hopes the ministry will
raise enough to pay local workers, thereby creating
jobs in a country where most men make $3 a day. He’s
currently writing a construction manual, which will
be translated to native dialects.
process is an economical way for nations to build houses,”
we can improve their communities so they know they have
a future if they stay [in Guatemala] they might be less
likely to separate from their families to come here
(the U.S.),” said Karen, who’s also involved with other
outreach programs in the country.
have openly embraced the help, and the demand for new
houses continues to rise. If the interest around Antigua
is any indication, the Smalls could find themselves
doing construction across all of Guatemala, donations
thought is a bit daunting, admits the couple. But sometimes
daunting is a good thing.
his own home in the hills, amid a mountain of bags laid
out in his basement — 50 large suitcases full of stuffed
bears, medical supplies, soap, tennis balls, shoes and
clothes to cart to Guatemala on their next trip (American
Airlines offers a baggage discount) — Glen can’t help
but smile. He shakes his head, still a little disbelieving,
and pictures the possibility that one day all the families
in Guatemala will have cement floors to sleep on.
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6. Feature Article, The Breast Cancer Survivor’s
"Hired Gun’s staff are just such a pleasure to work with.
Becky is attentive and professional—but also genuinely
caring and creative. She does exactly what she says
she’s going to do. That shouldn’t be a rare quality,
but it is these days. And she’s got it." Lynn Garner,
The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Network
the client wanted: An engaging, informative article
with a personal touch to educate and raise support.
Support Group Offers Breast Cancer Patients
What Doctors Often Can't
Back to Nonprofit Organizations main page.
They say the day before, the day of, and the day after
chemotherapy you feel great.
course through the bloodstream, speeding toward tissues
and organs, each molecule like a little shot of espresso
for cells soon to come under attack. The body buzzes
with the boost. The brain bursts with hope, renewed.
Even if only for three days. Even if only as a precursor
to the depletion to follow, like how a light bulb gets
brighter right before it burns out.
on day three, it hits you.
tables turned after that," said Nancy Deal at the monthly
meeting of the Breast Cancer Survivors' Network, a support
group for breast cancer patients and survivors. “All
of a sudden, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the
diagnosed last January, was new to the patient role.
The disease, though, was somewhat of a lifelong foe.
a registered nurse, she’d dressed the wounds of women
whose cancer had gone untreated--women whose tumors
had eaten away at the surrounding tissue and left weeping
sores on their skin.
didn’t wait to seek treatment.
even with her experience, "I didn’t know what to expect
going in," she said.
cancer strikes many, but each attack is personalized.
skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common form
of cancer among American women. One in eight women who
lives to be 85 will be diagnosed with the disease. Doctors
diagnose about 180,000 new cases a year in women, and
about 2,000 in men. Incidence is expected to increase
incidence is one reason the Breast Cancer Survivors'
Network, based in Peachtree City, has been forming new
groups across Georgia. The nonprofit network offers
free breast cancer supplies at six Georgia locations,
assistance with medical referrals including help finding
affordable mammograms, and provides a traveling library
of literature. (The Internet, while potentially useful,
can be a frightening world to navigate.)
Union, and Towns counties currently hold monthly Survivors'
Network meetings. The Gilmer group, led by Lynn Garner,
met for the first time in October.
it’s just getting started, members bring wisdom that
spans three decades of breast cancer research.
a recent meeting, discussions ranged from personal stories,
to new treatments and studies, to what to expect (demand)
during doctor visits.
like MammoSite, molecular detection, globular counts,
and platelets floated around the room and met with nods
down to eight grams," said one woman whose cancer had
returned three times.
I had it to do over, I’d do a double mastectomy," said
another, their words spoken beneath the buzz of florescent
lights, amid the intimacy of strangers who share an
the unknown that scares you," said Deal. “You have to
diagnosed at age 46 (her doctor’s third diagnosis that
morning) and now a survivor, is a strong advocate of
self-empowerment. At a recent meeting, her face constricted
as she told of a patient she once met who knew neither
the type of breast cancer she had, nor her doctor’s
name. Knowledge, Garner believes, must be wielded as
both a weapon and a salve.
a big part of what makes meetings beneficial is the
dynamic mix of members, from long-term survivors to
women still in the thick of the fight. Veterans help
guide newcomers through the tunnel to the light of remission
--offering invaluable insider information that even
the best doctors don’t have access to.
is, some things only come by way of personal experience.
Some things transcend medical technicalities: Like what
it feels like to have your strength sapped, day after
day. Like the thoughts that rob your sleep and try to
sneak off with your hope. Like how to throw a proper
head-shaving party; that wigs are itchy; chemotherapy
is cold-blooded; and sometimes cake and ice cream are
the best medicine.
finally, what it feels like to beat the disease and
reach out to others.
Leter, another group member, is a two-time breast cancer
survivor. Her first diagnosis came 18 years ago, when
she was only 39. Then, last year, doctors found a second
tumor in the opposite breast.
experiences make her something of an expert in treatments
and advancements --an intuitively unwanted title when
it comes from personal experience, but one she’s nonetheless
embraced to help others fight the disease.
besides the emotional toll, it’s the number of treatment
options, individual variables, and endless unknowns
that can make a breast cancer diagnosis so daunting.
mastectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone-blocking
drugs, experimental treatments--maybe a combination
of several. And yet, as daunting as it seems, group
members are living proof that the spirit can conquer
the injustices of the flesh.
Deal sports the fuzzy sprouts of remission on her 66-year-old
head, and tells her story with the ease that acceptance
eventually allows, her cancer fight now folded into
the pages of her history.
got to take ahold of this disease," Garner said.
“You’ve got to wrap your arms around it and be your
however strong the grip, a group effort will be stronger.
should go through this alone."
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