Name: Every Monday Matters
Location: Burbank, CA
Organization: Every Monday Matters creates and delivers programs that inspire people to understand how much they matter and empower them to get involved and make a difference…one Monday, one action at a time.
1) Project Hope Alliance: When and how did you first hear about Project Hope Alliance?
Matthew Emerzian, Every Monday Matters CEO/Founder: I first heard about Project Hope Alliance many years ago. I had just finished giving a graduation speech at the Financial Literacy Camp at University of California, Irvine (UCI), and a group of people said they were heading over to Second Harvest for a really cool event. They invited me to join them, which I did.
The event was a showcase of the "214 Sq. Ft." art installation, an interactive replica of the motel room that Project Hope Alliance CEO Jennifer Friend grew up in, as well as many other "motel" youth and families throughout Orange County. I was immediately intrigued, and then I met Jennifer—which took it to the next level.
Jennifer and I became fast friends. At the time, she was still working full-time as an attorney, but I believe she was questioning what was next for her. I encouraged her to share her story, to really own it and to put it out there for people to hear. I believed that her story could not only take Project Hope Alliance to the next level, but it truly had the ability to change lives. Given that "sharing my story" is what became the inspiration for my book and our non-profit, Every Monday Matters, I tried to show her that if she took the leap, she would soar. I guess I was onto something.
2) Why did you choose to get involved and take action?
Homeless people matter, too. It is not right that many in our society just disregard them and just walk on by. People think they know what our homeless population is, but they are quite wrong. Homeless people don't want to be homeless. And, contrary to most people's beliefs, only roughly 1 in 5 homeless people actually have some sort of disorder. In other words, they are no different than the general public. And, once we start to see them as peers and truly get to know them, we see that we can help.
3) In what ways do you help fuel our mission?
Project Hope Alliance makes it easy for people to get involved and for people to get the help they need. As an organization, we have partnered with Project Hope Alliance on several initiatives, particularly the Bright Start Pilot Program. We have modified our YOU MATTER Youth Program so that the Project Hope Alliance mentors can use the program with the youth they serve. And, we lead a monthly dinner for all of the homeless adults that Project Hope Alliance serves. It is truly awesome.
We also often create and donate paper grocery bags that are decorated by students and adults to Project Hope Alliance. The idea is that the food in the bags feeds their bellies, and the words on the back feed their soul. We have given Project Hope Alliance hundreds, if not thousands, of bags like these.
4) Who are you when you're not changing the lives of the kids and families we serve?
We are a non-profit called Every Monday Matters. Our mission is to create a world where everyone understands how much and why they matter. We believe that world change starts with personal transformation. We create programs for schools, companies, the general public, and for organizations, like Project Hope Alliance, to better serve their constituents.
5) What gives you hope, and why?
Stories give me hope. Stories like Jennifer's. I truly believe that we all have our "stuff." And, instead of hiding it and trying to project some sort of "perfect" shell, we should present our truths to the world. Because in those truths, as difficult and challenging as they may be, we get to create an authentic world, and a real world, and that's what matters most. No more highlight reels, please. No more quest for perfection. We are all perfect, just the way we are, even when we are homeless. We just need to do a better job at serving one another. One world that serves one another gives me deep hope. Project Hope Alliance gives me hope.
Thank you, Every Monday Matters, for giving the gift of hope.