Make An Impact: Giving Back, Changing Lives

What better time to celebrate some of the influencers, companies, and brands that are making a positive impact on people’s lives than the holiday season?

Dr. James Mercer |  Lonestar Social Services

After his father banished him from their Texas home, James Mercer turned to drugs, alcohol, and partying, but soon realized he was on the same path as his father. Now a Ph.D.—his doctorate is in counseling psychology—Dr. Mercer shares how hitting rock bottom led to a Jewish spiritual awakening filled with love and an abiding faith in humanity in his book “Secrets and Shame.”

Having been through the system himself, he founded Lonestar Social Services, a foster care and adoption agency that focuses on the hundreds of children throughout Texas who have suffered abuse. He lives in Austin with his partner and three daughters and finds joy in his Jewish faith and community. LonestarSocialServices.com

Lulu Cerone |  LemonAID Warriors

Commercial Photography by Renee Bowen

At just 17 years old, Lulu Cerone has combined philanthropy and business with her charitable organization, LemonAID Warriors, and has raised over $100,000. Her book, “PhilanthroParties! A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back,” highlights dozens of worthy causes and inspires youngsters to add social activism to their social lives. By demonstrating easy, inexpensive party planning ideas, DIY recipes, crafts, and activities that spread kindness and create positive social impact, Cerone provides the foundation for engaging young readers.

As a young girl, Cerone was frustrated by the lack of volunteer opportunities available for children. She began hosting her own social good get-togethers. In 2010, one of these gatherings raised $4,000 in two weeks to help earthquake victims in Haiti. From then on, her friends begged her to host more events, and she began creating many more PhilanthroParty action plans. As a result, LemonAID Warriors was born and has provided scholarships to 86 vulnerable children at their partner schools in Zimbabwe. LAW also helped fund completion of a dormitory at an orphanage in Tijuana and organized youth volunteers to aid in construction. Lulu’s personal PhilanthroParties have also assisted in building sustainable clean water solutions for over 2,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa; hosted annual holiday PhilanthroParties at a domestic violence transitional housing shelter in Hollywood, CA; and regularly present PhilanthroParty workshops with youth across the country. LemondAIDWarriors.com

Michael and Starla Wahl | DriButts

While on a mission trip to Haiti, Michael Wahl noticed the babies didn’t wear diapers. He found it troubling because he knew that the leading cause of sickness, disease, and death in Third World countries is food and water sources contaminated by fecal matter. His idea? To bring diapers to Haiti. Of course, disposable diapers would be too expensive. And he soon learned that traditional cloth diapers wouldn’t work well in such a warm climate because they’re made of heavy materials that can cause diaper rash and chaffing.

So, together with his wife Starla, they decided to try a wicking, breathable material for the diapers. A friend with a sewing business developed a pattern for their solution: DriButts. Starla recruited volunteers, and they sewed more than 700 diapers. Thankfully, they’ve found a manufacturer since then. Today, Wahl travels to Haiti to deliver these diapers himself, and to educate the community on their use and care, as well as on the importance of hygiene for their overall health and well-being. DriButts.com

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