"At the heart of Linden Ponds is the desire to help those in need," says Molly Lynch St. John, community services manager for the Erickson Senior Living community in Hingham, Mass. "Sometimes, you may not know what you can do, but you know that you can do something."
Earlier this year, the resident-led Environmental Committee decided to do "something" - raise money to support the people of Ukraine as they fight against Russian invasion.
"We felt that we needed to do something - as quickly as possible - that assisted Ukrainians, whose country and power grid were being destroyed," and says committee cochair Damian Curtiss.
As Damian and the committee explored sustainable options, Lynch St. John shared information about Luke's Lights, which was founded by her friend Gisela Voss-Kernan.
As a board member of Unite to Light, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing portable, low-cost solar light and power to those without electricity across the globe, Voss-Kernan created Luke's Lights in honor of her 19-year-old son, who lost his life after an accidental fall.
"Our family had to do something with the love we have for Luke," explains Voss-Kernan. "Luke's ability to see the light inside everyone defined who he was and how he lived in the world. The Luke's Lights Foundation enables us to spread Luke's indomitable spark. We honestly had no idea when we named our firstborn that the name Luke means 'light giving.' So here we are, doing this in his name, in his honor, and in his memory."
All donations to Unite to Light go directly to purchasing Chandler Charger power banks as well as Luke Lights, a best-in-class, solar-powered task light specifically designed for people living without electricity.
"We thought it was a great idea. By donating to Unite to Light, we made a huge, impactful difference," says Hilary Hosmer, a fellow committee cochair. "They don't get a lot of attention, but every one of our dollars went to putting light into the hands of people who need it."
Galvanizing around the cause
"Luke Lights are remarkable," says Lynch St. John. "The light is on a coil, so it can be wrapped around your neck, freeing up your hands. It's perfect for doctors in hospitals that have lost power. The lights are also rechargeable and waterproof. They are truly lifesaving! Many of the lights are distributed after natural disasters worldwide."
To spread this sustainable light source, the committee planned a fundraising luncheon; inviting Voss-Kernan to give a keynote speech, working with dining services to create a menu featuring Ukrainian dishes, and selling tickets.
Those attending the luncheon were moved by Voss-Kernan's presentation. "We happily discovered that she is an inspiring presenter," says Damian. "She shared with us Unite to Light's success in providing solar-powered lights and phone chargers to developing countries."
Following Voss-Kernan's presentation, Hilary recounted her experiences as a member of the Peace Corps, working in areas of the world without power, obtaining light only through kerosene lamps. Her stories further illustrated the impact of Luke Lights and Chandler Chargers.
"I was delighted that so many residents wanted to contribute to Ukraine," says Hilary. "One man offered a $100 bill and thanked me for making it possible to do something."
A sweeping effort
"People came out of the woodwork to support the effort," says Lynch St. John. "The response from our residents was quite remarkable. The cause even exceeded the luncheon - one resident handed me a $500 check."
Soon enough, Lynch St. John was overwhelmed by the amount of donations that were contributed after the luncheon.
"Word spread quickly," says Lynch St. John. "Over the next few days, I printed hundreds of forms with donation and contact information for Unite to Light. Many people began donating directly. Who knows how much money was privately and personally raised! And all of the money went directly to purchasing Luke Lights and chargers for the people of the Ukraine."
She adds, "Even $20 makes a difference. Every $10 provides a Luke Light and every $30 provides a Chandler Charger for people who desperately need them. That feels really good."
Voss-Kernan was gratified by the support demonstrated for this project. "I was amazed and deeply moved by the effort of the Linden Ponds community," she says. "They not only brought light to darkness in Ukraine, but they also brought some salve to a grieving mother's heart."
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