Whether it's the glare from my neighbors' overdone rooftop spectacle, the simple beauty of the menorah that graces my friend's table or the glow of the Advent candles on mine, it seems to me this season is all about light. Depending on your faith tradition, it could be the bright starlight that guided the way to a manger; the light from a warm fire on the darkest day of the year; light from eight oil candles that were never meant to burn; or the oft spoken blessing, Namaste - the light in me, sees the light in you.
Especially this year, against the tragedy, terror and turmoil that regularly appear on my newsfeed, I've found precious measures of hope and solace in the season's rituals and the promise of light that dispels darkness.
It's no surprise that light and goodness are nearly synonymous for me. I think it's a wonderful hazard of this work - every day, I get to celebrate a Daily Point of Light, continuing the tradition that President George H. W. Bush started from the White House - honoring ordinary citizens who are creating extraordinary change in lives and communities. Theirs are inspiring and instructive examples, and daily doses of hope for this idealist's heart.
But often, the most powerful impact of these changemakers is that they shine a spotlight on an injustice, a societal ill, so deeply felt that it spurred them to action. It's the kind of bright, troubling light that can awaken countless others and create a burning desire to right a wrong. The kind that ignites movements.
Volunteers and advocates do this. History's great changemakers did this. Increasingly, companies are doing this, too. In the spirit of this season, I want to share the stories of three Daily Points of Light who have inspired and awakened me; and the innovative corporate champion, L'Oréal Paris, who named them all "Women of Worth."
Worried about gang violence in her Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, Diane Latiker, Daily Point of Light #5773, opened her home to neighborhood teens in 2003 and Kids Off the Block was born. She promised her house would be open to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a safe place where they could come for food, homework help, or just to talk about their hopes, dreams and fears. Since then, Kids Off the Block has been a positive force in the lives of more 3,000 young people. The organization has outgrown Diane's home and continues to offer a safe space for young people, making this commitment: We will guide you, respect you, care for you, love you, provide a safe place for you, build a relationship with you, listen to you, and help you to succeed.
Troubled by the horror of child exploitation and shocking statistics - 300,000 children are sexually abused in the United States each year - Carly Yoost, Daily Point of Light #5856, uses advanced technology to stop online predators. Her Child Rescue Coalition helps investigators, police officers, digital forensic experts, prosecutors and child welfare agencies identify and apprehend predators and rescue abused children. By compiling and curating millions of records that are indexed and immediately retrievable by law enforcement officials, CRC's global force has helped arrest 8,391 predators and rescue 1,929 children from abuse.
The facts about youth homelessness are shocking: Every year, more than 500,000 unaccompanied, single youth experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week; 57 percent of homeless youth go without food at least one day each month; Unemployment rates of homeless youth 16-24 are as high as 75 percent. In Orange County, California, Daily Point of Light #5855 Kathy Tillotson's program Build Futures gets homeless kids off the streets within 24 hours of a call for help, finds them permanent housing and helps them become self-sufficient. Through individualized assistance, coaching and mentoring, her highly effective and committed all-volunteer army is having significant impact - and today an astonishing 75 percent of the homeless youth they've helped are housed, employed and self-sufficient.
With its Women of Worth program, now in its 10th year, L'Oréal Paris uses the power of its iconic brand to lift-up these extraordinary changemakers and shine a light on the issues and injustices they are tackling. It's one of many great examples of corporate changemaking. Especially this year, I am thankful for the changemakers - the points of light in our world - and the hope they inspire in all of us. Thank you for your service and your support.