[GUEST POST] Much Ado About Giving

Nobel Prize Winning Liberian Leaders: Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. (source)

Sometimes it’s not about just starting a non-profit- it’s about laying the foundation. Here’s a story of a beauty queen who did more than ‘sit pretty’, she laid the foundation for her cause.

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Much Ado About Giving by Lawdia Gilda Kennedy

I’m guilty of watching too many episodes of “Housewives of Wherever” and seeing those women write $10,000 charity checks while wearing name brand clothes and eating fancy food. The truth is, that is just not the reality many of us are experiencing. It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35) True. However, there is no shame in admitting that sometimes we don’t have the resources to give like we want to. Lack of resources, contacts, and basic information has some of us wondering where to begin and what to do. What if you have a desire to birth your own organization? Where do you start?

This is the story of my journey to create and lead the platform for my reign as Miss Liberia in the U.S.: Liberia’s W.O.M.B.B.(Women: Organized, Mobilized, and Breaking Boundaries)

Out of my love for seeing women living confident and successful lives, I knew there was much work to do in my homeland of Liberia. Liberia is currently experiencing peace after more than a decade of war and bloodshed. Like any war-torn country, the work to be done is tremendous and will take an all-hands-on-deck effort from those who want to see the nation restored. While competing for the title of Miss Liberia in the US. in 2011, I realized that it would be critical to choose a platform that could have a part in this work. My goal was to reach young Liberian women and help them discover the queen and champion within. I wanted to see the lives of Liberian women fulfilled through education, planning, and strategic creative ideas.

While I had a strong platform, I was not prepared for the next part of this journey that included the word, ‘no’. I did everything right- or so I thought. I designed a logo, created brochures, business cards, and even crafted sponsorship letters. However, I got the word ‘no’ from local businesses, companies and firms. The “Housewives” never said anything about getting ‘no’ for an answer. Just as I was about to quit, I remembered how blessed I am to have a wonderful family that is committed to seeing me succeed.

My family and I decided to put me to work and have benefit concerts highlighting my singing talent. I had the opportunity to offer individuals a wonderful night of music while also giving to a worthy cause. Four states and four concerts later, my trip to Liberia was set! I reached my goal: The opportunity to bring hope to and provide boxes of living supplies for the women of Liberia!

As I reflect on seeing Liberia’s W.O.M.B.B come to life, here are a few reminders I have for you as you strive to make your giving project or non-profit dream a reality:

1. The sacrifice you make for your cause is always worth it. Always

2. Your gifts and talents can and should be used as avenues for resources! If it wasn’t for my gift of singing I might still be trying to get to Liberia! Through my gift I was able to build awareness about my platform and fundraise at the same time. Everyone may not have $100+ to donate but they can pay $10.00 for a concert ticket or the product you’re selling.

3. It’s okay and important to make changes. My attempt to build a non-profit out of a pageant platform did not begin as I envisioned. However, a few changes helped me get the initial job done.

4. There will always be a need. Don’t stop now. There is no expiration date for charity in this world until hunger, disease, and other tragedies come to an end. Set a realistic time table for yourself. Make contacts and create relationships that will educate and empower you to make the difference you desire. Take the time to research and learn all that you can. Understand the importance of building the right foundation for your organization.

In the meantime, do what you can and stay true to the call within your heart. I recently gave up my crown, but this surely does not mean I have to give up the cause I love.

Lawdia Gilda Kennedy is the former Miss Liberia in the U.S. 2011. Lawdia is the secretary at her church, Bethel World Outreach Ministries as well as substitute teacher. She has been blessing others with her gift of singing since the age of 7.  At the end of the day, Lawdia wants to be of service to her nation and to her people. She is a 2010 graduate of Georgia State University and resides in Norcross, GA.

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