Community Issue: Autism and the Search for Avonte

In light of the 21st day of search for Avonte Oquendo, I thought it was important to highlight his story, as well as raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Avonte, a Queens native, is a 14-year-old autistic boy who went missing October 4 from Center Boulevard School in Long Island. Avonte is non-verbal and is considered to be severely autistic. There have been major search efforts by the New York Police Department and thousands of concerned volunteers. However, New York City is now planning to cut back their efforts. There is currently a reward of $90,000 for information leading to Avonte.  


For more information on Avonte and the rescue efforts, visit the following link:

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.  Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).  Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group.

 Autism Facts:

  • Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 88 births
  • Prevalence in boys is estimated at 1 in 54 births
  • Autism is the fastest growing serious- developmentally disabled disability in the U.S.
  • Autism can cost a family $60,000 per year
  • Autism appears early in childhood – usually before the age of 3

The causes of Autism are still unknown, but as awareness and diagnosis has increased, so has research.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for Autism. However, through early diagnosis and treatment, children with Autism are more likely to be able to handle the daily challenges that come with being autistic.

 While I hope this information was available, there is much more to be known about Autism. I charge you to take action and learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder and ways you can help advance awareness or research in your community.

 These organizations below support Autism research and awareness, and can also provide you with more information on the disorder:

 Autism Speaks:

 Autism Society: 

HollyRod Foundation:

 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NIH):


Nonprofit Spotlight: Hosea Feed the Hungry


Nonprofit Spotlight: Hosea Feed the Hungry

Location: Atlanta, GA


Chief Executive Officer: Elisabeth Omilami

Mission:To examine and then raise public awareness about the many problems facing families and individuals that are living in poverty or are at-risk of slipping into poverty, and then to mobilize products, volunteers and financial resources to solve those problems, or to ease the burden that those problems cause.

Why is Hosea Feed the Hungry being profiled?

I first learned of Hosea Feed the Hungry through my mother. She loves the organization and annually volunteers at their Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, two of their largest outreach efforts to serve those individuals living in poverty.

On these two holidays, including the addition of Easter and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the organization and over 1,500 volunteers provide a seven course meal, hot showers, barbers and beauticians, children activities and services, clothing distribution, medical services, legal aid counseling, free cell phones and much more. With so many opportunities and services, there are multiple opportunities for volunteers to assist in making these events a success. While these are important, Hosea Feed the Hungry provides services on a daily.


Since 2012, Hosea Feed the Hungry has served:

  • · Grocery Distribution: 3,274
  • · Financial Assistance: 152
  • · Homeless Outreach: 7,200
  • · Disaster Relief: 46
  • · Furniture Distribution: 206
  • · Book Bags: 1,800
  • · Volunteer Hours: 10,000

Programs and areas of service:

  • · Homeless Prevention
  • · The Day Center
  • · Families Care and Crisis Center
  • · Seniors
  • · Back to School
  • · International Outreach
  • · Children’s Christmas Party
  • · The Labor of Love

Hosea Feed the Hungry makes a great match for Millennials looking to volunteer or donate to a local nonprofit.

Millennials can volunteer at one of the many annual events hosted by the organization, utilizing their professional skills or providing general assistance. Looking to do something with your friends instead? Hosea will provide you with the information necessary to host your clothing or food drive.

Hosea also makes it easy for the Millennial to be a donor. With monthly giving, a Millennial wishing to make a large gift can do so gradually over the course of a period of time. Looking to donate $100 but can’t do it all at the same time? No problem! With small monthly donations of $10, those monthly donations could add up to $120 over the course of a year. Through this method, the Millennial can make a small donation each month without putting a dent in the weekend fund and even increase the amount they had planned to donate.

The organization also accepts in-kind donations, making it easy for the Millennial who may not be able to give a monetary gift, but has some gently used clothing items that may be of use to someone else.

Still not able to give right now? No worry. Hosea Feed the Hungry is currently competing for funding from the 2013 Aetna Voices of Health funding – an initiative celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. First place wins $30,000 and second place wins $20,000. Hosea is in third place. Voting ends October 20, so vote now!

Be sure to check Hosea Feed the Hungry and let me know what you think. Have you volunteered with them before and want to share your experience? Do you know of another outstanding nonprofit in your community that should be profiled on Jerome’ Blogs? If so, please share your experience or comments below.

*Hosea Feed the Hungry logo and picture are not my own. Source, Yahoo Image.

Millennial Profile: Tashara J. Childs


Name: Tashara J. Childs, 26

Residence: Raleigh, NC

Employment: North Carolina Dept State Treasurer – Local Government Commission

Education: Jacksonville State University – B.A. English (Minor: Communication)

Honors/Awards: Phi Eta Sigma

Contact Information:
Email –
Website –
Facebook –
Twitter –

Favorite nonprofits:

LGBT Center of Raleigh, Big Brothers Big Sisters , With Love from Jesus, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

Why was she profiled?

Having become friends with Tashara over the past three years, I am extremely proud to feature her in the first Millennial Profile on Jerome’ Blogs. These profiles serve to highlight Millennials for a variety of reasons, including spotlighting those who have overcome all obstacles to accomplish their dreams and aspirations. Accomplishing her dream, Tashara is now a published author.

After its release on Sepetember 25, Knocking on the Devil’s Door sold 100 copies within the first week and has received positive reviews from readers of all generations; however, Tashara is confident that readers of the Millennial generation will find similar themes in their own lives. “Rayna and Warren have experienced the post graduation struggle to find their place like many Millennials today,” says Tashara. “Also like many Millennials, they both followed their ambitions and worked diligently to achieve their personal and career goals.” Through her own story, one can see how these are the true attributes of the Millennial generation.

Upon her graduation from Jacksonville State University, Tashara set sails on life and began the typical Millennial journey that begins after college graduation. She first worked at the University of Alabama – Birmingham Medical Genomics Laboratory before moving to North Carolina and later working with the Local Government Commission. A lover of words and the English language, Tashara began writing her first book, Knocking on the Devil’s Door.

“This novel is a compilation of the relationships that I have experienced and observed in my lifetime. I hope that my book will spark honest dialogue between couples, singles, and anyone who has ever muttered the words ‘I love you.’”

Knocking on the Devil’s Door explores the tumultuous marriage of Warren and Rayna Jamison. It is now available on Amazon (Kindle and hard copy), Createspace (hard copy), and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

Please be sure to share your questions for Tashara in the space below and check her book out on Amazon.

To order the book, visit Amazon at the link below. You can also preview the first chapter for FREE!

Celebrate Museum Day Live! on September 28

On Saturday, September 28, select museums across the country will participate in Museum Day Live! 2013. In honor of this annual event, sponsored by Smithsonian Magazine, patrons can print a ticket for two (one per household) and attend any participating museum for free.

As school districts across the country continue to develop curricula based on standardized testing, it is imperative that our youth have the opportunity to explore museums. Our schools are failing our students in the areas of art, literature, history, and culture. As Millennials, it will be our role to inspire youth and ensure they have the resources to be intelligent, engaged and culturally aware of the changing society happening around them. Museums play a vital role in this process and deserve our support.

Museum Day Live! also makes a perfect date. It’s free, remember. Visit the link below for more information and to find a museum near you.

Notable museums participating include:

Birmingham Museum of Art (Alabama)
2000 Reverend Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd.
Birmingham, AL 35203

The Birmingham Museum of Art, one of the finest regional museums in the United States, houses a diverse collection of more than 25,000 paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and decorative arts dating from ancient to modern times. The collection presents a rich panorama of cultures, featuring the Museum’s extensive holdings of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art. Some of the exhibits currently on display include Collecting the African Diaspora, Dawoud Bey, and Horizons.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (Illinois)
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL 60077

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center tells the story of the Holocaust through richly designed, interactive exhibitions that will both move and inspire you. World-class special exhibitions explore broad themes which foster the promotion of human rights and the elimination of genocide. Some of the exhibits currently on display include Karkomi Permanent Exhibition, Keep Calm and Carry on: Textiles on the Home Front in WWII Britain, and Make a Difference!: The Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition.

Find out which museum near you is participating in Museum Day Live! at the link below.

Food Insecurity: What does it mean?

I recently had the opportunity to view the documentary A Plate at the Table. It is a thought-provoking documentary exploring food insecurity in the United States. The documentary did a great job at portraying real families and their difficulties in this area. I decided to further explore the topic and share my findings. You can follow the link in the Call to Action section for more information on the documentary.

As American families continue to climb out of the economic recession, many households are still faced with the challenge of having a consistent or nutritious meal on the dinner table. On a daily, more than one-third of households are faced with the dilemma of choose between paying for food, rent, utilities, insurance, childcare, or transportation. It is estimated that in 2011, 50.1 million people lived in food insecure households – with 16.7 million being children under the age of 18. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecure or insecurity is when “households are uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.”

Let’s review some more statistics to bring this closer to home*

  • 17.9 million – the number households suffered from food insecurity
  • 4.8 million – the number of seniors suffering from food insecurity
  • 36.8% – the percent of households headed by single women suffering from food insecurity
  • 24.9% – the percent of households headed by single men suffering from food insecurity
  • 25.1% – the percent of African-American households suffering from food insecurity
  • 26.2% – the percent of Hispanic households suffering from food insecurity

*Source: Feeding America, 2011.

Despite these alarming statistics, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would reduce benefits and increase requirements to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. If passed, the legislation is likely to impact nearly 4 million households, including children, active and retired military personnel, senior citizens, and full-time workers needing assistance to buy food. The legislation also makes it more difficult for adults to eligibility requirement to receive assistance. For more information on the bill, visit

Still not intrigued about food insecurity and what it means for the future of our country? With proper nutrition being important for the physical and mental well-being of all people, its role in child development is crucial. Improper nutrition impacts three major problems for communities and youth: heath, education, and job readiness.

Hungry children are more likely to be sick, often having to be hospitalized; thus, increasing insurance and healthcare costs. These children are also more likely to suffer developmental impairments that limit their physical, intellectual and emotional development.

Hungry children face more challenges in the classroom. They are more likely to perform poorly in school and have lower academic achievement and attendance. These students also have problems developing social and behavioral skills.

Hungry children will also impact our workforce. These children are not as well prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally creating a noncompetitive workforce with lower levels of educational and technical skills. Without intervention, these children will likely be greeted by the workforce with minimum-wage jobs and little opportunity.

Call to action

A Plate at the Table is a great documentary. Learn more about it at the link below.

Feeding America is standing at the frontline to combat food insecurity and child hunger. Their website provides a list of ways to take action or donate their cause. You can visit their website at the link below.

While it unlikely that this legislation will past, it is still imperative that your representative hear your voice. Contact your representative and tell them to continue funding SNAP benefits for hungry families and that you do not want cuts to the program. You can find out your representative by following the link below.