I was in the process of giving birth to HEAR US Inc., the incorporation took place on July 1, 2005, overseen by our attorney-friend Judd Lofchie.
Now I can admit: I had no clue what I was getting into. I had decided to sell my townhome, my SUV, most of my stuff to buy a small RV that would become my home-office-wheels. I had never been in an RV before. I had to buy a pro video camera, with mics and paraphernalia. I had never filmed video before. I figured I’d travel to non-urban places where families and youth experiencing homelessness would hopefully speak with me on camera for a documentary which I had no clue about how to produce.
Amazing things happened! Help came in all sorts of ways. My friends Betsy and Francois held a massive fundraiser dinner (over $7,000 raised, enough to give me courage to proceed). A generous $5,000 grant from the Aurora Foundation allowed me to buy video equipment. Immeasurable donations large and modest bolstered my courage. Prayers and well-wishes continue to pave my route.
My friends agreed to serve on the board of directors for this venture which I could only vaguely explain. They kept their doubts to themselves. Incredibly, most of them are with me still!
July 1, 2005 was the birth of this unimaginable journey called HEAR US Inc.
I’ve met courageous kids and parents who’ve compellingly articulated their plight and promise. School personnel, including selfless McKinney-Vento liaisons doing the impossible, trusted me enough to connect me with their students and families. Donors generously filled the coffers as I nervously checked the bank balance, calculating how few months remained if money didn’t come in. Friendly strangers became friends, eventually strengthened by the unimaginable social media Facebook. Media folks poked into this weird story and managed to report honestly which gave me cred. Willing homeowners let me park in their driveways and plug into their outlets.
The hundreds of interviews I’ve done are real life films thanks to my video guru and friend Laura Vazquez, professor at Northern Illinois University who taught me all things I now know about documentary making.
Daniel Riefstahl, PixelPoint Creative, stepped up when a friend asked, becoming my web guy, designing the HEAR US website and providing much-needed tech assistance over the years.
Jim Robbs, Sassetti Inc., agreed to provide the financial management and reporting tasks to keep HEAR US in good standing with the IRS.
Oh yeah, they do this stuff free. Good, because HEAR US never had the kind of money that would have been needed to do what they’ve done. (And so many more people did so much more...I'll never be able to list everyone!)
Flipping through my journal (yes, I’d love to write a book about this adventure), I laughed out loud about tech issues (getting cellphone signal, much less connecting to the internet). My naiveté about all things RV made life interesting, and a few times scary, especially as I encountered storms or had mechanical issues.
I won’t bore you with the details. I get nostalgic on these milestone occasions. Besides the nostalgia, I have a deep sense of gratitude that I am inadequately expressing.
The focus of my efforts has been, and continues to be, giving voice and visibility to families and youth experiencing homelessness. My purpose is to raise awareness of and sensitivity to these kids and parents without homes who try gallantly to get an education and to have a life beyond homelessness. My commitment to them is to get their stories in front of as many eyes as possible.
You, dear reader, friend or stranger, are the one who can make this possible. I’m not asking for your money (although that’s always welcomed and needed in this frugal operation). I need your time, your networks, your energy to get the word out about this problem we’ve yet to address as a nation.
I’m on RV #2, a smaller rig that gets double gas mileage. I’ve got at least 300,000 miles of mostly backroads travel through 48 states under my belt. I have no idea how long I’ll continue this unique mission. My health and determination are solid. Family and youth homelessness soars. More states are asking me to film families and youth experiencing homelessness.
This adventure is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you.