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Img29.gifBefore we get started explaining what Smiles, Inc. is, we'd like to explain what it isn't...

It's not a 501(c)(3)... we don't accept cash donations and no one will get any kind of tax benefit out of participating -- the rewards here are much more eternal (and internal 'cuz they truly warm the heart).  Second, it's not really incorporated -- we just like the name!  In fact, the only thing Smiles, Inc. really is ... is an idea!

If you haven't seen the movie, Monsters, Inc., get it!  It's great!  If you have seen it, then you know that an awesome lesson was taught when they demonstrated how laughter was much more effective than screams.

Smiles, Inc. is an opportunity for you to bless a child wherever you go, including and especially right in your own neighborhood.  Smiles, Inc. is an opportunity for you to bring a smile to the face of a hurting child whenever it is humanly possible to do so.

We travel to distant lands and see hungry and neglected children everywhere we turn.  What we don't see, however, are the hungry and neglected children right here in our own country.  Why?  'Cuz we "don't go into those neighborhoods"!

Our nation's cities are filled with children who are born the blameless, guiltless victims of poverty, hopelessness, and despair.  It's those children Smiles, Inc. wants to touch.

Chances are, there's probably a poor kid right in your child's own classroom.  If not poor, we're willing to bet there's a single mom or even a two-parent family busting their rears to earn a living, making too much to qualify for public assistance, but not enough to make ends meet.

There's a family you can help...  And a kid whose family truly deserves a blessing.  Not that anyone is more deserving than anyone else 'cuz God is no respecter of persons, but some of us burned out on helping the poor when we discovered that a lot of poor folk like living off of others and have really made an art of it.  It's called an "attitude of entitlement" and it can wear on the hearts of even the most generous and compassionate.

And, yes, there's lots and lots of children's charities throughout the US, but many, many folks have learned how to manipulate the welfare system and milk it for all it's worth.  There's people who sign up for every charity giveaway around and parents who will go to the Salvation Army, Toy for Tots, Angel Tree, and every other Christmas giveaway program in town and their kids end up getting more than kids in wealthy families.  The folks we want to help are the folks who slip through the cracks.

We don't want to be judgmental or throw the baby out with the bath water -- just many, many years in outreach to the poor has made us wise rather than cynical.  In short, we've figured out that no one is in a better position to know the status and needs of America's children than our nation's school teachers!  Those are the folks we need to get behind!

Smiles, Inc. wants to help you move past the never ending trap of putting your donations into funds where you can't be sure how much will really help the poor (and how many out of those helped really had need) to be able to really bless a family that really, truly could use (and would appreciate) a blessing!  For that purpose, let's just forever forget about what the parents do or don't do and remember that the kids are the innocent victims and it's them we aim to help out, okay?

Teachers are victims, too -- often making up, out of their own pockets, the school supplies and other needed items that some parents are just too crunched financially to be able to contribute...

Here's how we think we can work together to help:
Every time Cheap Family Fun organizes a group trip, we'll make you aware of an opportunity to bless some deserving kids while we're there.  It could be anything from bringing a pack of new kid's underwear along to packing some vegetable seeds and a garden hoe.  We'll keep you posted.

This one you can do any day, any time...

Every one of you live near a school.  Every one of those schools have kids in need in their classrooms.  It may be a kid who never has snack at snack time.  It could be a child who is coming to school in the cold and doesn't have a coat.  It could be a child whose sneakers are so worn out it doesn't really make sense to even put them on.  If you don't have a child or grandchild in school, talk to the principal about who you can help.  But, if you have children or grandchildren ... think about what a difference we could make if every parent/grandparent in the USA would reach out to just one child.  Talk to your child's teacher, find out if they have a child in need in their class -- ask the teacher if she'll keep your gifts anonymous and help you get sizes.  The great thing about going through teachers rather than local charities is that teachers can see, firsthand, which kids really don't have coats and other things they need.  Charities often get fooled by folks who already have something for their kids, but want another one to sell or return so they can have the money -- too often for selfish purposes!  Following are some important steps, though:

Despite best intentions, and no matter how real the need is, humans is humans and there are, unfortunately, parents who will sell the gifts you give their child for selfish purposes.  Write the child's name, neatly and in a place where it won't bring embarrassment, in or on whatever you purchase for them, completely black out (with indelible marker) all UPC codes, remove all price tags and do not furnish a receipt.  This takes some work on your part in making sure you get the right size the first time around.  Any teacher is usually willing to help you accomplish this.  Putting the child's name in clothing articles prevents sale of the item to clothing resellers (that are growing in popularity).

You'd be surprised how many kids go hungry in the summer because they no longer are in the free breakfast and lunch program at school during those vacation months.  You'd be surprised how many kids only have breakfast and lunch in school and get no dinner at night during the school year.

You can make a difference!  If a parent is struggling financially and a child is poorly nourished, that child won't do well in school.  If a child lives in a home where one or more utilities have been turned off for financial reasons and that child is unable to bathe or wash clothes -- they go to school stinky and smelly through no fault of their own.  Kids can be cruel, though -- they make fun of these children and the poor child withdraws -- their grades suffer and too often they end up as dropouts, themselves dependent on the system.  The cycle goes on and on.  If a child doesn't have a comfortable place to sleep or a peaceful place to do homework, trouble is on the horizon.

Educate your children.  Help them understand that a child's smell, intelligence level, choice of clothes, attitude, and so forth are too often out of the control of the child.  Kids are dealt a deck of cards they must learn to live with and they get through life by the grace of God and the good will and compassion of His people.  Help your children to see every child in their school through the eyes of Jesus.

We can make a difference -- it may not be large, but we can do little things -- we can make sure kids have coats and food and other basic necessities -- we can make a difference in a child's life and help to build productive and contributing members of society.  More, we can be the living, breathing, walking, talking representatives of the awesome, unconditional, never-failing love of Christ!  The kids we are blessing never have to (and in most cases shouldn't) know where the gifts are coming from -- only that God has seen their need and chosen to smile on them...

We cherish the quote credited to St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel and if you must use words."

Send us your thoughts, ideas, and feedback, okay?

If you'd like some hard, cold stats on child poverty in the US, check out the KIDS COUNT data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

If you want to see what the government is doing to help US kids, what's in your community, or how you can help, check this out:

Does it bug you like it bugs us that kids go hungry in the US every day?  Check out these sites to get involved:
Kids Cafes
USDA/FNS Summer Food Service Program

(Check out Jasmine's Story here at the Second Harvest Web Site.)

Wanna' get the skinny on schools in your area?  This site will help you find out everything you wanna' know about schools in your community -- including how many kids in each school are on the free breakfast/lunch program.  However, what it doesn't show is how many kids can't make it to that free breakfast because busses don't get them to school in time :-(  What it will tell you, though, if you are fortunate enough to live in an upscale community and don't know who to reach out to, it'll help you figure out which schools in your area do have the greatest needs.  You can pretty well rest assured that the schools with the highest percentage of kids on free breakfast/lunch are also the schools where few kids have the school supplies they need (and teachers end up making up the difference with personal funds they don't have to spare) and where many don't have adequate
underwear, socks, coats, shoes, or snacks for snack time (forget buying a bunch of hats and gloves to give away just because they are 98 cents at Wal-Mart -- it's a nice thought, but most kids in poverty wear them one day and then lose them)!  Check out your area schools now at:

FOOTNOTE:  If schools supplies are what you want to help with ... Let us encourage you to, again, do it through the teachers.  There are loads of backpack distribution programs out there, but kids end up with a lot of what they don't need and some kids end up with several backpacks while others get none.  Talk to a teacher, find out what the shortages are in the classrooms.  That's where a difference can really be made :-)

Thanks for taking the time to read our hearts here.  Blessings to you today and always <{{{><


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