Monday, February 28, 2011

Another press release from the desk of KC

HOUSTON -- When Jenny Mikyong Paek was referred by Hope Clinic for a breast cancer screening in July 2006, she took her first step in a life-saving journey. Fortunately for the Korean-born businesswoman and mother of two adult daughters, the journey came with a guide – The Rose.

The Rose is Houston’s leading non-profit breast cancer organization, offering a full range of breast cancer screening and diagnostic services including mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, breast specific gamma imaging and access to treatment. Annual gifts from customers and associates of Randalls totaling more than $1.5 million have made possible the continuing availability of Mobile Mammography Units. In fact, Randalls support provided for the purchase of the mobile unit on which Paek had her initial screening.

Paek’s introduction to the need for screenings translated into annual appointments – first at The Rose Southeast location and then last year closer to her home at The Rose Galleria. In late 2009, breast cancer was detected. Navigators from The Rose then helped her find the care she needed for her mastectomy in January 2010.

A 37-year resident of Houston, Paek speaks fluent English but is reticent to use her language skills until the subject turns to cancer. When asked to be on hand as a representative of the many individuals who have benefitted from the mobile mammography unit, she readily accepted. And she is bold when it comes to sharing her experience with friends and family.

“I talk to them and tell them they need regular checkups,” Paek explained. “I tell my friends who are over 40 years old to get a mammogram because it makes sense. It’s prevention!”

When Paul McTavish, President of Randalls Food Markets, made the 2011 check presentation for $225,000 to Dorothy Gibbons, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of The Rose, Paek was present. The mobile mammography unit was also in operation providing screenings for employees of Randalls.

“Randalls is honored to be a partner with The Rose and to sponsor the mobile mammography unit which takes this vital screening service out into the community,” said McTavish.

The gift comes from contributions made by customers and associates of Randalls during the annual October in-store Breast Cancer Campaign. Thirty-six Houston area Randalls locations participated.

“In difficult economic times, the large amount of monies raised -- which provide access to screenings for women who usually do not have such ease of access -- is especially noteworthy,” said Gibbons. “We are grateful to Randalls for continuing to remember that ease of access can save lives.”

Randalls’ previous gifts made possible the purchase of 1 of the 2 mobile units currently deployed to corporations, organizations, churches and clinics in Houston and 11 surrounding counties.

In fiscal year 2010, the Mobile Program traveled to 202 different sites for a total of 410 site visits, serving 5,679 women – more than 66% of whom were uninsured – across 11 counties.

Randalls is a division of Safeway Inc., a Fortune 100 company and one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America based on sales.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Been Writing ... Just Not Here

In case you're wondering why I haven't been writing lately, I have! The writing I'm doing at the moment is for clients. I have six groups with whom I work -- ranging from nutritional supplements for people with AIDS, to social enterprise working with human trafficking, to an association of churches and my biggie which is all about breast health!

UBA is where I worked once upon a time when I was a bit more traditional. Here are a couple of links to stories I just finished for them: and I also have one in the wings about a man who has proven to be about faith and ministry rather than fame and millions. It's the next blog entry.

I meet lots of great people when I write features and the blog entry after the one on Pastor J is the feature I did on a 12-year-old who could teach us all a thing or two!

"Consistency” – A Watchword in Urban Ministry*

Pastor Jesse Shelton, or Pastor J, as he is known in a neighborhood rife with drug dealers and prostitutes, planned on planting a church in Clear Lake. But prayers for an evangelistic outreach led him to one of the lowest income areas of the state -- zip code 77078 -- what some refer to as “The Hole,” off of Mesa and Sterlingshire. Five minutes from North Forest High School, this mixed neighborhood of houses and apartments reveals an exceedingly high number of dropouts and teen pregnancy.

Faithful to his understanding of the biblical mandate to “make disciples,” Pastor J heeded the call and began to make his presence known. Every day.

Since 2007, he and usually 2-3 from that initial prayer group, make the drive of more than 30 minutes. They walk the neighborhood, greeting people whose usual menacing presence is somehow softened at the sight of these faithful believers who have proven they simply want to make Christ known.

“The people love us,” the pastor explained. “The people protect us. We’ve developed relationships with some of the most hard core. Even the people who don’t come respect us. I can leave my car doors open.
“Consistency is the main thing. It wouldn’t be safe if we were only going once a month or once a week. They know we’re committed.”
Ministry looks the same here as in many other areas of the city. Time spent throwing a ball around with youth. Prayer. Small group gatherings in homes to search the Scripture and equip new believers to stand strong and reach their sphere of influence. Baptisms.

But the faces of those attending The Walk Church reflect a deep knowledge of transformation from the inside out. From a life of drugs, they have found freedom.

Calvin, known to the group and the neighborhood as Spider, was the first person of peace God used to open doors. Initially, the group used another church’s facility but soon discovered an apartment’s community center and resident’s house were more conducive to their desire to have a consistent presence among the people.

That consistency is key to helping Pastor J deal with the realities ministering in such a drug ravaged area. Though Spider returned to drugs, Linda soon took his place. Delivered from her own dependency, she now reaches out to her family, neighbors, and her former dealers.

“We like to call her house Solomon’s Porch,” said Pastor J. “We use her house to store our speakers, a freezer of food and our baptism pool. She has become a person of peace on a level I can’t even begin to explain.”

Acknowledging that it is discouraging to see someone like Spider fall, Pastor J, a husband and father of four ages 2-7, returns to that consistency that is a mark of his ministry.

“They are just like family. So, yes, it’s painful for him to get to the point where he didn’t recognize us anymore. But the good thing is that his family still comes – children, mother, brother, and one of his best friends, Skyler, a drug dealer, who has given up all of that and is with us every single day and is in the word. It hurts but we understand that it does happen. Even though he looks at us as the enemy, we still show our face to him.”

Recently, the Baptist Standard highlighted a particular September day when a planned baptism of three believers spontaneously grew to an immersion of more than 40 individuals. <>

“Some of them are still with us,” said Pastor J of those who were led to act on faith that day. “And some came a couple of times and didn’t continue.”

For those who remain, the discipleship continues. With a core group of about 15 meeting weekly, the daily bible studies with two to three can last hours.

With a background in video production, Pastor J is currently working on a documentary of stories told by the people he encounters every day. By sharing their words on the Internet as well as on a DVD accompanying a book he’s completed on urban ministry – he wants to send the message to others that “there’s hope, deliverance. Lot of the testimonies are crying out for the churches to come. They are afraid to go to church. They think they will be judged by their appearance.”
When asked what the church outside The Hole can do to respond, Pastor J returned to what led him to the ministry that captured his heart in the beginning. Prayer.

“We always include in our prayers that God would send workers for the harvest. We need leaders out of the community. Please pray.” Pastor J said.

*Feature written for UBA, an association of more than 600 churches in Houston area

Bram Lowenstein, 12, Launches Mimi's Wigs to Benefit Breast Cancer Survivors*

BELLAIRE, TX -- For most of Bram Lowenstein’s life, his grandmother Carole Betty Bercutt, or “Mimi” as he knew her, greeted him wearing a wig. When she died in November 2010 after a decade of living with breast cancer, the 12-year-old Bellaire resident wanted to remember her in a special way.

Mimi’s Wigs was birthed as a service project for Bram’s bar mitzvah. The wigs she had left behind and ones he gathered through donations and purchases became the start of a program to benefit others going through treatment. In February, Bram donated 23 wigs to The Rose, Houston’s leading nonprofit breast cancer organization. According to Bram, that’s just the beginning.

“I know that I want to keep expanding on this project. I will keep collecting wigs and donating them because there are a lot of people who are in need of them, who want to wear a hair piece when they go outside, play with their kids, or be with their families. I like this project,” the seventh grader said during the wig presentation to members of The Rose staff. The presentation included a check from his family to cover the cost of even more wigs.

The Rose offers a full range of breast cancer screening and diagnostic services to both insured and uninsured women. The donated wigs will be offered at no cost to uninsured women going through treatment.

Receiving the donation, Chief Operating Officer Bernice Joseph expressed The Rose’s gratitude, “We want to thank you for your generosity and for your ingenuity. Every time someone as young as you starts thinking about giving back, it’s the beginning of a consciousness that grows and leads us all to a better place. There are so many women we treat who cannot afford a wig. Their lives will be changed,” she said.

Attending the presentation were Bram’s mother, Pam Bercutt; father, Glenn Lowenstein; grandfather, Henry Bercutt; and brother, Coby, whose baseball teammate is the son of Dr. Daniel Roubein, the radiologist at The Rose Galleria and a resident of Bellaire.

Dr. Roubein reflected on his personal connection to the family as he addressed Bram on the day of the donation, “You’re doing something with a project that’s original. The fact you want to continue doing the project is meaningful, because you’re not going to know the people these wigs go to. That’s a high form of charity.”

Bram, a student at The Emery/Weiner School, has plans to start a website to encourage others to contribute to Mimi’s Wigs. For more information or to make a donation, contact The Rose at 281.484.4708.

The Rose provides screening, diagnostics, and access to treatment for all women regardless of their ability to pay. The Rose Galleria is located at 5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300. The Rose Southwest is located at 12700 N. Featherwood. For more information, visit

*Feature story sent to several local media outlets and on Notes of Facebook page for The Rose, a non-profit breast cancer organization.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Two Forward One Back

The visionary life takes you from "Start" to "Can't-wait-to-finish" at record speed. You see. You want. You make it happen.

Reality ... not so much.

The visionary life has me thinking "Why can't I support nonprofits with my communication skills, allowing those who can pay to fund my life needs while those who can't teach me new lessons? Why can't I do massage and fill in the financial gaps left by the nonprofits? Of course, I can ... and in fact I will!"

Reality ... shows me that people are people and nonprofits have their fair share of cynics and those quick to assumptions and judgement, as well as the sacrificial almost-martyrs who are mostly living on passion. Reality also includes ice storms that cancel last classes, full schedules for state testing sites, and only so many hours in the day to accomplish the endless needs of entities desperate for comfort and/or funding.

Much like the other day when I wanted to simply make a home cooked meal. But first I had to deal with the smoking oven. Then I had to clean the smoking oven. Then I had to prep the vegs. And, finally, I got to roast them.

Two steps forward, one step back. I'm moving ahead but patience must be a companion on this journey.