Spotlight on ModestNeeds.Org – Small Change. A World of Difference.

What is ModestNeeds.Org?

Founded in 2002, Modest Needs is an award-winning public charity with a simple but critical mission: to stop the cycle of poverty BEFORE it starts for the low-income workers whom conventional philanthropy has forgotten. “Together, we can make sure that no hard-working person is ever forced to choose between taking a child to the doctor and putting food on the table.”

They do this by empowering compassionate members of the general public to safely and securely help hard-working, low-income households to afford the kinds of short-term emergency expenses that we’ve all encountered before: the unexpected car repair, the unanticipated visit to the doctor, or the unusually large heating bill, for example.

Since 2002, by working together in this very ‘modest’ way, Modest Needs’ donors have stopped 9,868 low-income individuals and families from entering the vicious cycle of poverty and a lifetime of dependence on the public welfare system for their survival. And, through their unique Non-Profit Grant program, they simultaneously empower our donors to invest directly in small non-profit organizations struggling to serve their communities, but whose needs are generally too small to be considered a funding priority by larger, more conventional grant-makers.

Modest Needs has earned the highest possible charity ratings from both Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

In keeping with its mission, Modest Needs offers the following four types of grants:

  • Self-Sufficiency Grants

Modest Needs makes Self-Sufficiency Grants by remitting payment to a creditor for an expense on behalf of an otherwise self-sufficient individual or family for a relatively small, emergency expense which the individual or family could not have anticipated or prepared for. In making a Self-Sufficiency Grant, our goal is to prevent an otherwise self-sufficient individual or family from entering the cycle of poverty as a result of the financial burden posed by a relatively small emergency expense. For example, we might make a Self-Sufficiency Grant to cover the cost of an emergency auto repair that must be made if an individual is to continue working.

  • Back-to-Work Grants

Modest Needs makes Back-to-Work grants by remitting payment for a small work-related fee or expense on behalf of a temporarily unemployed individual. In making a Back-to-Work grant, our goal is to provide a willing but temporarily unemployed individual with the means to return to work. For example, we might make a Back to Work grant to cover the cost of a professional license renewal for a temporarily displaced worker.

  • Independent Living Grants

Modest Needs makes Independent Living Grants by remitting payment to a creditor for an expense on behalf of persons who are permanently unable to work but who nevertheless are living independently on the limited income to which they are entitled – their retirement income, or their permanent disability income, for example. In making an Independent Living Grant, our goal is to empower financially responsible persons who cannot work to continue to live independently on their limited incomes, despite an unexpected expense which no conventional agency is prepared to address. For example, we might make an Independent Living Grant to cover the cost of maintenance on a piece of accessibility equipment not covered by Medicaid, to cover an unexpectedly large prescription medication co-pay, or to assist with a large summer cooling bill.

  • Non-Profit Grants

Modest Needs makes Non-Profit Grants by remitting payment to a creditor for an expense incurred by a small non-profit organization that will demonstrably strengthen that organization’s ability to serve its clients and community. In making Non-Profit Grants, our goal is to provide a forum whereby small non-profit organizations can apply directly to members of the public for the assistance they need to complete the small projects that will allow these organizations to more effectively carry out their missions, but which most larger grant makers would not generally consider a funding priority. For example, we might make a Non-Profit Grant to cover the cost of a handful of new beds for a small but expanding women’s shelter or to assist with the creation of a basic website for a small non-profit with no ability to communicate directly with its own constituents.



18-Year-Old Gives His $40,000 Scholarship to Other Teens

Allan Guei makes a free throw during a scholarship contest at Compton High School in March. He won the competition and scored a $40,000 scholarship, but the story didn't end there. (Sean Hiller / The Daily Breeze)

Allan Guei, 18, was a star basketball player at Compton High School in the Los Angeles area before he graduated in June. He also had a GPA above 3.0, and his good grades made him eligible for an unusual competition: A free-throw contest in the Compton High gymnasium. The top prize: $40,000 in scholarship money.

Guei, whose parents immigrated to the United States from the Ivory Coast, knew how much that financial aid could mean for his family. So he was feeling a fair share of pressure as students and teachers crushed into the gym to watch Guei and seven other randomly selected, academically successful students make foul shots.

Guei won the free-throw contest by one basket and netted the $40,000. But it’s what he did next that’s truly astonishing. In the weeks following the March free-throw competition, Guei learned that he’d scored a full-ride basketball scholarship to California State University-Northridge. NCAA rules allowed Guei to accept the athletic scholarship and also keep most of the $40,000 he had won. But Guei couldn’t stop thinking about the seven talented runners-up from the free-throw contest. They, too, had dreams — and very real needs. So, he asked Principal Jesse Jones to make a surprise announcement at Compton High’s graduation ceremony: Guei wanted to donate the $40,000 to the other seven students.

“I’ve already been blessed so much and I know we’re living with a bad economy, so I know this money can really help my classmates,” Guei said in a statement. “It was the right decision.” Guei elaborated on his decision to give the money away in an interview with ESPN: “I was already well taken care of to go to school, to go to university for free. … I felt like they needed it more than I did.”

The beneficiaries of Guei’s generosity were ecstatic. “It was a shock,” said Omar Guzman, 17, a runner-up who plans to use the money to attend San Diego State University. “I’m really grateful there are people like that out there. It was generous.” Another of the seven runners-up, Donald Dotson, also plans to start at Cal State Northridge in the fall. Dotson described Guei as “a very deep, intelligent and warm person.” “He’s going to go really far in life,” he said in a statement. “Because of what he’s done for us, God will bless him. That’s what life is all about — stepping forward to help other people.”

The free-throw competition was the idea of Court Crandall, the Hollywood screenwriter behind the movie “Old School” and a partner at a Southern California advertising firm. Crandall was well aware of Compton’s image problems due to gang-related crime. Many of the city’s residents also deal with extreme financial pressures; according to Census data, more than 25 percent of the city’s families live below the poverty line.

One day Crandall was watching his teenage son play basketball with some bright, ambitious Compton students, and he got to thinking about the lines that divide us. Then inspiration struck: Could a free-throw line bring people together? He decided to create the free-throw scholarship competition and make a stereotype-busting documentary film about the lives of Compton students in the process. Compton’s senior class had about 80 students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher; the eight students who participated in the competition got selected randomly from that group. Crandall’s advertising firm, Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener, raised more than $75,000 for scholarships, making it possible to give $40,000 to the first-place winner and more than $5,000 — enough to cover about a year of college expenses — to each of the seven runners-up. Now, with Guei’s added generosity, each of those seven runners-up has around $11,000 in scholarship money.

“It was the perfect ending,” Crandall told “I was ecstatic about how everything turned out. … Most kids don’t have the sense of composure or leadership that [Allan] does, so after spending time with him and getting to know him, I really wasn’t that surprised by what he did.” Crandall plans to submit his full-length documentary film, “Free Throw,” to the Sundance Film Festival in September.


Study Shows Good Posture Makes You Tougher

Mothers have been telling their children to stop slouching for ages. It turns out that mom was onto something and that poor posture not only makes a bad impression, but can actually make you physically weaker. According to a study by Scott Wiltermuth, assistant professor of management organization at the USC Marshall School of Business, and Vanessa K. Bohns, postdoctoral fellow at the J.L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, adopting dominant versus submissive postures actually decreases your sensitivity to pain.

The study, “It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That)” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more powerful, in control and able to tolerate more distress. Out of the individuals studied, those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.

Fake It Until You Make It – While most people will crawl up into a ball when they are in pain, Bohn’s and Wiltermuth’s research suggests that one should do the opposite. In fact, their research suggests that curling up into a ball may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain. Instead, try sitting or standing up straight, pushing your chest out and expanding your body. These behaviors can help create a sense of power and control that may in turn make the procedure more tolerable. Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body, may also lead to elevated testosterone, which is associated with increased pain tolerance, and decreased cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful.


Man Jumps Nearly 20 Feet to World Record

A man wearing a superhero costume unofficially set a new world record for the longest flip. WTVJ-TV’s Ari Odzer reports.


Recycle Old Cell Phones for Cash, Reduce Waste

You probably already know you should recycle your old mobile phone, for a bunch of environmental reasons. But it’s not just keeping the toxic materials out of our groundwater, or conserving the rare earth metals that are expensive and energy-intensive to mine. It’s also cash money you’re storing in that cell phone graveyard in the back of your closet. Some phones can net you a few hundred bucks. Even older models can fetch $20 or so. Whether it’s an ancient Zack Morris behemoth or the latest iPhone, it’s worth something to someone and a slew of businesses are popping up trying to buy your mobile castoffs.

E-waste is one of the fastest growing forms of garbage in America. It’s become one of our biggest exports. And it’s nasty waste too. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the United States made 3.19 million tons of e-waste in 2009. Only 17.7 percent of that was recycled.

So let’s start to fix it. It’s really a lot easier than you think. Since the average cell user gets a new handset every two years, phones are one of the most frequently tossed gadgets. “We want to change that by making cell phone recycling as quick and easy as possible,” says Jeremy Cohen, founder of ExchangeMyPhone. Phones are some of the easiest electronics to put back in circulation. “You can go on our site, get an instant price quote, request a postage paid envelope, and drop it in any U.S. post box on your way to work.” He even takes broken phones.

Cohen’s company is the latest addition to a growing industry. CellforCash and PaceButler have been doing this for a while now, with slightly different mail-in methods. and YouRenew will take just about any gadget. There are in-store Eco ATMs that accept donations, big box chain store buy-backs, even programs that give the phones to soldiers, or use them to help African gorillas. There are so many options because these things have value! So don’t toss them.

Cohen’s family business is used books, but as paper looks more and more obsolete, he got this idea. “I have been involved in finding new homes for used items for as long as I can remember. I learned the benefits of re-use working at my father’s used book business in Chicago and I wanted to bring those same values to the recycling of used and broken phones.” But he’s not giving up books altogether. ExchangeMyPhone also donates a book for every phone you recycle. “It gives our customers the chance to be green and give back to their communities.”

If you really want to go the extra mile to reduce your e-waste, don’t just sell your old phone, buy a used one.

Want even more options than linked to above?  ReCellular has a longer list of cell phone recycling locations and programs.


Medical Students Create Free Medical Translation App, Conquering Language Barriers to Patient Care

Fourth-year-medical students at UCSF, Brad Cohn and Alex Blau, invented a new medical translation app that helps break the language barriers they encountered while working at San Francisco General Hospital.

Brad Cohn had just finished a long shift at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) during which he had struggled to communicate with a diverse lineup of patients, none of whom spoke English. UCSF’s partner in public health since 1873, SFGH offers assistance in more than 65 languages through a combination of staff medical interpreters, a telephone language line and a video medical interpretation system proving real-time access to providers and patients within four minutes. However, at night and on the weekend, staffing is reduced and the waits can be longer.

Later that night at the coffee shop, Cohn’s friend Alex Blau listened intently to his fellow med student’s frustration. Blau had run into language barriers on his rounds, too. “Ninety percent of diagnoses come from the patient’s self-reported medical history, so the ability to communicate is critical,” Blau said. “Time is not an asset doctors or patients have. You need that information when you need it.”

What was needed, they agreed, was a tool – a software application for a PDA or an iPhone – that would translate medical history questions from English into other languages. The tool didn’t exist.  So they invented it, inspired, they say, by UCSF’s core values – excellence and efficiency in patient care, a global vision and dedication to community service. After nearly three years of late nights, tapping their own bank accounts, and forging new alliances, the duo’s early-morning dream became a reality.

Their free mobile translation application, MediBabble, made its debut on the iTunes Store in April, and with more than 8,000 downloads to date, the software is winning critical praise. It was immediately declared a standard-setting “must-have” application by, the premiere mobile health application review site, and was voted number one by public vote in the 2011 Medical App Awards on Scrubdin – a website for choosing health-related software where Blau is now a contributing editor.

MediBabble uses touch-screen software that allows health care providers to play medical history questions and instructions out loud, so far in five languages. From questions as simple as “Can you tell me your name?” to more specific inquiries like, “Do you get recurring lung infections?” the app translates more than 2,500 exam questions into Russian, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin and Haitian Creole.

The first four languages were chosen to match San Francisco’s demographics; the last was added as an immediate response to the need for disaster medical care in Haiti after its January 2010 earthquake. Once downloaded, MediBabble does not require an Internet connection, so it’s usable anywhere – from commonly shielded hospital settings to resource-strapped urban clinics and disaster zones.

MediBabble relies on a symptom-based approach already commonly used by medical practitioners worldwide. It starts by gathering information about the current complaint – such as cough, fever, or chest pain – then segues into the patient’s history. Designed to draw out medical, social, occupational and family histories, as well as sensitivities to medicines and allergies, the application uses closed-ended questions to elicit yes/no answers or gestures from the patient, who can then point to certain body parts or dates on a calendar, for example, to convey the date a problem began.

To create MediBabble, Blau and Cohn enlisted a team of UCSF faculty, doctors and medical translators, including their own professor, Lawrence M. Tierney, MD, professor of medicine, UCSF School of Medicine and associate chief of San Francisco’s VA Hospital, who co-wrote the book on medical history-taking. With patient safety a primary concern, all of the app’s phrases were written and reviewed by the team for accuracy and cultural appropriateness.

The team grew to include other medical students as well as outside software programmers and interface designers from technical giants in the area – Apple, Google and Twitter – who donated not only time, but funding to the project. “This is really a collection of people that have been dedicated to serving the community,” Blau said. “We’ve been incredibly lucky, specifically here at UCSF, to have access to the resources that we do here. I don’t think it would be possible to put together this kind of project without having the support that we’ve had from our colleagues.”

Cohn and Blau decided to offer the software free of charge in recognition of the pool of collaborators who helped create it and in service to their fellow medical students, doctors, nurses and paramedics worldwide – the people who, in Cohn’s words, “need it most.”


11 of the Greatest Things to Love About America

What makes America great? July 4th, 2011 marked the 235th birthday of the nation’s founding Declaration of Independence. At the heart of it, the United States was founded on a unique set of ideals and principles, which may not always be evident in current government policy, but have always inspired its supporters and nurtured progress.

America is a great country for many reasons, big and small. The website asked their Facebook fans to list the things they love about the USA and received some heartfelt responses, some of which are included below.

1. The Founding Fathers – The first men in the modern world to wrestle with the meaning of freedom and natural-born rights, and how these should be the foundation of any government. Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams and Madison were outstanding for both their convictions and courage — and their compromise, which was necessary to get anything of importance accomplished.

2. The First Amendment to the US Constitution – Freedom of speech — and religion — is guaranteed in the US under amendment I of the United States Constitution, as part of the Bill of Rights.

3. American Music – Rock and Roll greats always attribute their success to the soulful Blues music that grew up in the south and migrated to Chicago. Jazz also was an American original, flourishing in New Orleans and Harlem.

4. Its Natural Beauty – Tourists and Americans alike know the awesome splendor of America. You can drive from the seashore to the Rocky Mountains to the desert in a matter of hours. Along with the Great Lakes, the Appalachian range and the Mississippi River, these natural wonders create an unforgettable tapestry of recreation and industry.

5. Business Innovation like Apple, Inc. – Co-founded by college drop-out Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak 35 years ago, Apple this year became the most valuable technology company in the world and was named by Fortune magazine as the most admired one on the planet. The drive and imagination it took to create one of the world’s first personal computers and to transform the music industry with its iPod and iTunes — and mobile phones, with the beloved iPhone — exemplifies the American spirit of innovation. Also noteworthy is the company’s perseverance in lean times, not giving up when market share and stock prices plummeted in the early 1990’s.

6. The National Parks – One of our greatest treasures. Yellowstone National Park was the first one established, in 1872. The National Park Service, since its inception in 1916, has managed all the parks, now totaling 58 — each inspiring with a different vista, and offering new learning opportunities, from canyons — at the Grand Canyon — to volcanoes, to seashores, to hot springs, to sand dunes, to wetlands, like the great Florida Everglades.

7. Citizenship – One of the things that is unique about America is how you can become an American just because you believe in its ideals. By signifying your assent, you are ‘in.’ Citizenship ceremonies all over the nation show the multi-colored hue of the nation.

8. Great Cities – A great country has great cities, of course, and the US is no exception. From San Francisco, the golden gateway of the Pacific, to the Big Apple on the Atlantic, with Chicago nestled on the Great Lakes and Austin, Texas bringing up the south.

9. Election Day – Parents bring children to the polls to witness the inspiring spectacle of Americans choosing their leaders. Regardless of affiliation, we all get to go the polls and — without fear — cast our ballots.

10. American Entertainment – Hollywood has produced some ‘national treasures’, like Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Steven Spielberg and Sidney Poitier. Frank Sinatra, Barbara Streisand and Bob Dylan have sung their way into history. Television, also born in America, has left its mark – The Lucy Show, The Simpsons — along with stand-up comedians, like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby have kept us laughing.

11. The Diversity and Generosity of its People – The great “Melting Pot.” From great migrations of Irish people fleeing famine, and Italians looking for jobs, America has welcomed, for the most part, people of all cultures to join their ancestry to ours. One of the greatest traits of the American people is their generosity. And that includes the generosity of those who serve in the military.

Happy 235th birthday, USA!


Beauty in Every Grain: For the First Time Remarkable Photographs Reveal Hidden Charms of Ordinary SAND

Viewed at a magnification of over 250 times of what the ordinary eye can see, tiny grains of sand are shown to be delicate, colorful structures as unique as snowflakes.

When seen well beyond the limits of human eyesight, the miniature particles are exposed as fragments of crystals, spiral fragments of shells and crumbs of volcanic rock. Professor Gary Greenberg, PhD in biomedical research from University College London, said, “It is incredible to think when you are walking on the beach you are standing on these tiny treasures… Every time I look through my microscope I am fascinated by the complexity and individuality created by a combination of nature and the repeated tumbling of the surf on a beach.”

Greenberg’s pictures are available on his website and his book A Grain of Sand is available on Amazon.


Monkey Steals Camera to Snap Himself

A macaque monkey in Indonesia took a camera from a wildlife photographer before snapping himself in a variety of poses.

The primate went to investigate the equipment before becoming fascinated with his own reflection in the lens. It wasn’t long before the crested black macaque hijacked the camera and started snapping away, sending award-winning photographer David Slater bananas.

David said, “One of them must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy. At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection. They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button. The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back – it was amazing to watch.”

David, from Coleford, Gloucestershire, was on a trip to a small national park north of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi when he met the incredibly friendly bunch. The crested black macaque is extremely rare and critically endangered. David added, “I teamed up with a local guide because I knew about the apes and wanted to photograph them. I walked with them for about three days in a row. They befriended us and showed absolutely no aggression.”


Can’t Keep a Good Man…or Woman Down

Fireworks, picnics, BBQ’s and lazy days on the beach are all great ways to spend Independence Day. However, let us remember all the generations of men and women that have served and are serving to protect our country so that we may continue to sing “For the land of the free …”

Often times our servicemen come home to a very different place—especially if they are one of the 40,000 who have been injured or one of the other 300,000 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

For the founders of the Wounded Warrior Project, that scenario was all too real. The veterans and their friends were impacted by the stories of wounded service members who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and they wanted to help. What began with providing injured vets and their families with simple comfort items has blossomed into a full nonprofit rehabilitation program. The organization has 13 different programs that provide aid in every part of a wounded veteran’s life—mind, body, finances, and relationships.

Let’s celebrate this Fourth of July and salute those that have fought so bravely to protect our country and welcome them back to USA.  You can Purchase a Pack (backpacks filled with new clothing, toiletries, and playing cards), make a donation in someone’s honor, or take a look at the many other ways you could help WWP.


How to Find the Best (or Worst) Deals for College

Forget the venerated U.S. News & World Report college rankings. The list that cash-strapped prospective students and their parents will really be paying attention to this fall comes from the government. On Thursday the U.S. Department of Education unveiled the College Affordability and Transparency Center, a new website designed to provide clear data about the true cost of college.

The site allows users to generate static lists of which schools have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices. You simply choose what kind of school you want to attend—public, private, four-year, or two-year. Then you decide if you want to sort by highest or lowest price, click “generate report,” and the tool makes a nice, easy-to-understand list of around 50 schools.

The site has a second useful tool that can come in handy – a link to another database, the College Navigator, that allows users to search for specific colleges and get even more detailed information—enrollment, available majors and student loan default rates—about a school. College Navigator also allows users to do side-by-side comparisons of up to four schools they’re interested in. When you once thought a specific school to be more expensive than another, you can now accurately evaluate the information because you can see what financial aid options are available at each school. Thus, the original school you thought to be too expensive might actually be cheaper than others you are comparing based off of other pertinent information. This new resource is arguably clearer, more comprehensive, and more accessible than any other.


Homeless Utah Man Found, Shocked to Hear He’s Rich

A private investigator says he has tracked down a homeless Utah man and delivered some good news: He’s inherited a lot of money.

David Lundberg said he found Max Melitzer pushing a shopping cart filled with personal possessions in a Salt Lake City park Saturday afternoon. Lundberg declined to disclose how much money Melitzer will receive, but said the man’s brother died of cancer last year and left him a “significant” amount in his will.

Melitzer was “in shock” after learning of the inheritance, Lundberg said. Lundberg was hired by the family’s New York law firm to locate Melitzer. Melitzer has been on the streets for years, floating between Salt Lake City and Ogden and becoming somewhat of a fixture among social service providers such as the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake City, The Deseret News reported.

Melitzer’s family wishes to remain private, and lawyers are deferring questions to Lundberg. “He’d have money where he could take care of himself or hire someone to take care of him,” Lundberg said earlier. “Apparently, he does have some emotional issues. The family just wants to make sure he’s set up and he’s taken care of.”