Category Archives: BTS Communications

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: NONPROFITS & CREATIVE MATTERS


By Ryan Naghi
workingtogether Since I started working here at Creative Matters, I’ve heard many people tell me that despite our cutting-edge work, we are at an inherent disadvantage as a nonprofit ad agency. There’s a reason why no place like us exists—nonprofit and ad agency just don’t go together. Yet, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only are we surviving; we’re thriving. While bigger for profit companies like Fatburger and Wells Fargo are starting to put their brands in our hands, our work remains centered around other nonprofits. But why?

To understand this, I’ll put myself in the shoes of people who fund nonprofits, because they ultimately decide which missions to power. What do they want? They want to do as much good as efficiently as possible. And what does one nonprofit working with another such as ourselves do; more good per dollar spent. If a need is present, why not purchase it through another nonprofit’s earned income service? They will get the service they want, while allowing another organization to do what they specialize in, and the payments will go towards helping another cause. Working together gets better results, and makes both more worthy of support. As long as people know the extra good they are doing, funding will likely increase. But how you inform a support base is an art in itself, and smart non-profits hire outside support to maximize their impact.

That’s why Creative Matters makes the perfect fit. We are a nonprofit who provides marketing services to raise money for our mission. Since we are both the noteworthy partner and the marketers, our clients fully capitalize on the benefits of collaboration. Letting us manage their brand boosts their nonprofit’s credibility and appeal, because hiring us proves their commitment to bettering society. The beauty of this relationship is elegantly simple. They are more marketable by the very act of purchasing our marketing services, part of which goes towards promoting this new aspect of their brand to the public; it’s a perfect match!

And who exactly are they helping by hiring us? The same people designing the product, because our creative work not only funds our mission, it is our mission. Participating in the creative work itself helps people like me get the job skills, mentorship, and experience that make life exciting again, while making drugs now seem unappealing. Our innovative way of fighting addiction is proven to be 15 times more effective in maintaining sobriety than the dominant form of treatment. Our cause therefore, is one that spells out efficiency and societal impact as well as any, one that donors are more than happy to know they are supporting through our clients’ marketing needs.

Being a nonprofit gives us another advantage. It allows us to better understand their needs, goals, and values, giving the quality of our work a unique boost. For profit companies may still hold some advantages, but they can’t offer the symbiotic relationship that creates this kind of virtuous cycle we share with our clients.

So, here lies my answer to the people with doubts. We fill a tough niche, no doubt about that. It takes a lot for a place like this to exist. It takes persistence and outside support to start up, creativity and ingenuity to grow, and an intrinsic drive for meaning and purpose to manage. Above all else, it takes an understanding of the system at large and how we fit into it. That’s the reason we’re one of a kind. Since these things have all come together, our previous handicaps have transformed into competitive advantages that only we possess. The next step is to continue pointing this out to other nonprofits. It will take some great marketing on our part, but then again, great marketing is what we do.

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, art, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Charity Design Project, Community, Current Events, Dating, Education, Internet, Uncategorized

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body


By Eliot Godwin

philippides-300x253

The modern marathon as a sporting event was inspired by the fabled story of Philipedes, who ran from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians. After uttering his last words, “joy to you,” he promptly collapsed and died. When I ran the L.A. Marathon earlier this month, I wasn’t bringing any news to anyone in particular, but I certainly felt like collapsing and death was probably in play at some point.

You see, I took the marathon lightly. I went to the weekly training sessions because my counselor suggested I get involved in any and all physical activities offered at Beit T’Shuvah. Running a few miles on Sunday mornings seemed like a logical extension of that. I’d train for the half-marathon and just run the full on race day like no big deal. I rarely considered the marathon as an actual task; in my mind it felt more like just the end of my Sunday running appointments.

eliotmatters

Even on race day I complained about having to get up so early (4:30 A.M.) and tried to sleep as everyone else stretched and got excited for the race. When the race finally started, I felt great and decided I’d have no problem keeping pace with my friend who had been training seriously for months. This went against everything our coaches had repeated week after week, but I was a lifelong athlete, I’d played a Division I sport in college (12 years ago, mind you) and how long is 26.2 miles, really?

It’s long. By mile eight, I’d given up on keeping pace with my friend but I still thought I’d be able to finish no problem. At mile ten the five-hour pace runner had come and gone and I started feeling…a little less confident. At the halfway point I was supposed to stop and take a van to the block party at mile 19 but something about that just felt wrong. Get in a van while my fellow runners continued to suffer? Quit halfway and go party? It seemed like a metaphor for how I had lived my life thus far. I’d take a passion project lightly so when I inevitably quit halfway through, my lack of follow through wouldn’t carry much sting.

I was drawn to gambling because there was little effort and/or preparation required but lucrative, tangible results were attainable. No effort, cash reward? Sign me up! But I soon found out the principles of life don’t change just because you’re in a casino. Add compulsive addiction to the mix and I was licked. Preparation and discipline are key to any type of success, they just manifest in different, sometimes more subtle ways. I thought I could get by on my wits and guile, like a college student who shows up to a sociology midterm half-drunk expecting to ace it. But college and casinos aren’t real life until you leave.

At Beit T’Shuvah I’ve learned that pain and hardship are inevitable. Our impulses can often be damaging and will always be there, but preparing accordingly to deal with them will afford us a healthy, balanced life. Sitting with discomfort is possibly the most important part of overcoming addiction. My sojourns to the casino were attempts to not only completely escape the difficulty of life but to live life on my own terms, without the pain. And what did I eventually find in the casino? Pain, destruction and misery on a whole new level.

At mile 15 the pain was so great that I convinced myself I wouldn’t be able to finish. After all, I had only trained for the half-marathon, was it so bad if I stopped at mile 19? 19 miles was a lot, a terrific accomplishment. But when I scoffed my way through the halfway point I had committed to finishing. They say running a marathon is more mental than anything. At that point my body was telling me to stop and my mind was agreeing wholeheartedly. I was convinced I would need a wheelchair for months and that my knees would be irreparably injured. But something inside of me kept whispering, “finish.” At the 19th mile block party, stopping was never a real option as my friends cheered me on with hugs and high fives. The surge of confidence and adrenaline I got from this brief interlude carried me until my mind again intervened with the realization that “you’re almost there!” really meant, “you have more than seven more miles left.”

blockparty

Through miles 20-23 I saw multiple people carried away on stretchers, heard people talking about a 28-year old male who had a heart attack (I’m 34), and was passed by the older brother of Rip Van Winkle on one crutch. Still I persisted. The pain was unbearable but I bore it proudly like the medal of supreme achievement that would soon hang on my neck. After a few more miles, I could see the finish line! When I finally finished and obtained one of the few remaining medals, a race volunteer promptly removed it from my neck and replaced it with the half-marathon medal that matched my special yellow bib. The look of confusion and exasperation on my face must have been enough to persuade one of the blithe, less-experienced volunteers to give it back.

medal

I’ve always thought my shortcomings were the result of my refusal to finish what I’d started, not a lack of confidence. I thought I had confidence in spades and I just didn’t care enough to follow though on anything meaningful. But really I didn’t believe in myself enough to allow myself to fail. I was scared of what would happen if I finished something I cared about and it wasn’t all that good. I finished the marathon in six hours and 45 minutes. Over that span, the winner of the race could have run three marathons and still have time left over for a shower, a shave, and a leisurely cab ride to the airport. Instead of being upset with myself for taking so long, I am filled with confidence because I finally committed to something and I followed through to the end. It may not have been the Greeks defeating the Persians, but it was definitely a joyous occasion for me.

2 Comments

Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Community, Current Events, Gratitude, Judaism, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Sobriety, Spirituality, T'Shuvah

Does Facebook Reflect Your True Self?


shutterstock_168145139

Special Thanks to Susan B Krevoy Eating Disorder Program Blog for providing us with this material.

By Eliot Godwin

The Internet is not real. In real life, much less choice is involved in how we present ourselves. We are who we are, and even if we try to hide our secrets, they have a way of surfacing in subtle ways. Online, we can pick and choose exactly what we present to our ‘friends’ and how we present it. Our online selves are mostly trim and tidy, we allow sloppiness if it’s tasteful and mildly self-deprecating. Even the most blithe Facebook user has removed an unflattering tag or two.

But for young people who’ve never known a world without Facebook, the Internet is very real. A recent study conducted by Florida State University found a correlation between time spent on Facebook and eating disorders. Facebook combines peer influence with popular media, both of which are tied to self-worth. Instead of seeing only models in magazines and on television, now women can see their skinnier peers in swimsuits on their Facebook pages.

“Your friends are posting carefully curated photos of themselves on their Facebook page that you’re being exposed to constantly. It represents a very unique merging of two things that we already knew could increase risk for eating disorders,” Dr. Pamela K. Keel explains. Dr. Keel and other psychologists at Florida State studied 960 college women in their study and outlined their findings in a paper, “Do You ‘Like’ My Photo? Facebook Use Maintains Eating Disorder Risk”.

Just as Facebook and other forms of social media have contributed to increased and more tortuous bullying of adolescents, this study shows that it clearly contributes to what the National Eating Disorder Association calls “unprecedented growth of eating disorders in the past two decades.”

The problem is that we see our Facebook pages as parts of ourselves instead of what they are: pictures. Facebook is a brilliant concept, executed with precision and clean simplicity. But it’s not an accurate representation of who we are. For young people whose identities are often inextricably tied to Facebook, it’s hard to take a step back and see the chasm that exists between who they really are and their Facebook page. Dr. Keel reminds us to “consider what you are pursuing when you post on Facebook. You are a whole person and not an object, so don’t display yourself as a commodity that then can be approved or not approved.”

How we’re perceived, especially as it pertains to images of ourselves posted on the Internet, is not who we are. Feeling secure has to do with actions, deeds and life. Not pictures. It’s shallow and destructive to tie our self-worth to photographs. My Facebook page shows some pictures of me and that I ‘like’ broccoli, The Wire and Daft Punk. Is that who I am? Broccoli and Daft Punk? More revealing than my ‘likes’ is that I chose to post them on Facebook. I am the choices I make, not what I choose to reveal on a website. Are the choices you’ve made lately posted on your Facebook page? Is it a detailed representation of who you are, or an e-scrapbook with comments?

Leave a comment

Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, Eating Disorder, Internet, Sobriety, Spirituality

Judaism and The Blues


By Matthew Greenwald and Stephanie Lager

“It’s a natural. Black people suffer externally in this country, Jewish people suffer internally. The suffering’s the fulcrum of the blues…”

This quote is from the late blues legend, Michael Bloomfield, who was a musical expeditionary, and a pioneer in the electric blues rock that was such an important part of the zeitgeist that was going on in the 1960’s. Bloomfield’s slant on Judaism and The Blues was thought-provoking to us; so much so that we decided to sit down with Rabbi Mark Borovitz and pick his brain the subject. The Rabbi had his own unique insight on all of this, both as a member of the clergy as well as a fan of  blues  music (he had even seen Bloomfield perform in the mid-60’s) and as a keen sociological observer.

 

bloomfield_candid

A: This quote by Bloomfield is an interesting thought to me…I’m not sure that Blues is just about suffering. I think that blues is just another expression of life. I would say that the blues is the Yetzer Hara, the negative inclination, coming out in a way that’s healthy and holy. So here again, we’re having what’s happening in life help us, rather than have it beat us down…we’re using it to raise ourselves up. Because, if you listen to the blues – really listen – it’s about people sayin’, ‘Man, it’s really fucked up, and I’m singin’ about it, because I know there’s a way out.’ And one of the ways out is just the music. But I think that it’s not suffering as much as its just pain.  And if you don’t have pain, you don’t have any gain. And that’s when real transformation happens. When everything’s fine, they don’t give a flying’ fuck, and they don’t take care of anything…

Q: Nobody’s calling when everything’s wonderful…

A: Right! This is really saying, ‘You know what? It’s all what it is…we gotta stop lying to ourselves. So the blues to me is a statement that the lies we’ve told ourselves just don’t work anymore, and the blues is the breakout of the truth.

Q: I think the fact that you used the word ‘truth’ in there hits home, because that’s what this music has always said to people…it draws this out from anyone who listens to it…and people hear it and intrinsically feel it as music that is truth.

Rabbi Mark ShadesA: Yes, and I would also add the word experience, because that what you have to have with this music, and all great music pushes us to have an experience, and I think that blues is great music, and pushes us to have an experience. We forget that; it’s not just about us havin’ a good time with it. It’s really about ‘what’s the experience? What’s the experience that the blues is the answer for?’ To me, it’s the experience of living life fully, knowing that there’s pain, and that pain is ultimately good, because it’s going to save my ass, and without it, when everything’s good it’s all good, and when everything’s bad, it’s terrible and I want to kill myself. It’s all bullshit; all the things I’ve told myself that are lies. So, the blues says, ‘Stop lying to yourself, man…and stop lying to everyone else. There it is: I see myself, and I see the pain, and now I’m going to get rid of it, and I can move forward, into the light, into the solution, and the rest of the story, because you see, the negativity of the blues is only half the story – or 49% of the story. You’ve got to be able to see the whole story, because that’s the way you’re going to learn how to live. That’s what Torah is, and that’s why blues is such Jewish music. If you notice how here at Beit T’Shuvah how many prayers we can put into that genre, and they just fit. That’s because the prayer is a pleading of what’s wrong. So the pleading is just saying, ‘God, let me know what’s wrong…I’m in the shit.’ As soon as I say it, God or the spirit of the universe, and my community and my guides and the people around me bring me back to the light, so that I can see the rest of the solution and tell the story; that’s what I believe.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Judaism, Spirituality

The Redemption Chronicles


A Moment’s Rest

Welcome back to The Redemption Chronicles with me, Photoblogger E-Pad!  I have returned, and will once again be posting every week.  This week’s entry:  A Moment’s Rest.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Community, Current Events, Education, Family Wellness, Gratitude, International

LA Marathon – The Transition Zone: Part 2/4


By Jaron Zanerhaft

Back in the car, I wrap myself up in a blanket that one of our runners tossed my way before she lined up with the team.  I go over my notes in the back seat as we merge onto the highway, wrap around the city, and end up on the wrong side of the street at our next stop.  Lauren, Erin, and I cross the street, dodging people as if we were playing Frogger with the marathon runners, and land safely at the transition zone—the respite 13.1 miles down the course designated for two-person teams to switch runners.  For them, this is the starting lines and finish lines, but for most runners, this is only the halfway point.

It’s hard to believe that the sparse flow of runners right now came from the focused torrent I just left.  But a crowd still gathers, greeting and sending off runners who are taking advantage of this year’s half-marathon partnership. A single open lane is partitioned off from the main drag by lightweight metal bike-rack barricades.   People wander in and out of this lane, gathering a little every now and then, but break apart when a runner comes, just like kids playing street hockey would make way for oncoming cars.

At first, we don’t see anyone we recognize, and my media team sets up near a tent where some guy with a microphone is shouting out runners’ first names as they pass, creating an eerie sense of familiarity.  Of course, the announcer only knows the runners’ names from what he can read on their bibs, but it makes it seem like today, Los Angeles, normally broken into countless cultural and lifestyle distinctions, is united.

Craig, the first of our team to reach the transition zone, swooshes by at 9:09, one minute earlier than he had predicted. He grabs a bottle filled with some deep green nutrient concoction and jets off.

Our 2nd half runners eagerly await their counterparts’ arrivals.  One runner received word this morning that his counterpart did not show up to the hotel the night before.  Still committed to running his half, he waits with the rest of the BTS team.  I wait with him and watch him as he takes off, not early and alone like he could have, but only when another from our team gets the go-ahead, so that he may run with a friend.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, Judaism, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Spirituality

LA Marathon – The Starting Line: Part 1/4


By Jaron Zanerhaft

Last Sunday, I was tasked with covering the 2012 Honda LA Marathon for Beit T’Shuvah.  My day began with a fresh notebook three hours before dawn and didn’t end until our last runner crossed the finish line. The day was so full that I felt compelled to break my story into four parts, one for each stop along the way.  This is Part 1.

The Starting Linehttps://i0.wp.com/www.storiestoldbythecamera.com/wp-content/gallery/2012-honda-la-marathon/2012-honda-la-marathon-5.jpg

In the cover of a dark morning, thousands of people file in with 5 a.m. mechanized legs, as if on moving sidewalks made invisible by the black asphalt of the Dodger Stadium parking lot. The stagnant cold pricks my half-closed eyelids.  I tap the sharp tip of the pencil in my jacket pocket and make my way from the car with Lauren and Erin towards the gathering.

Tents speckle a large section of the parking lot closest to the stadium.  Only two days before, these tents hosted a myriad of vendors, presenters, solicitors, supporters, and fundraisers in a bustling expo.  Now, the tarps shelter bundles of runners.  The Beit T’Shuvah team leans against a tent across from a table handing out last minute bananas and bagels in the middle of the parking lot.  Some are quiet.  Some are stretching.  All look ready.

As the sun begins to rise, the runners take their places behind a starting line 23,000 people deep.  I take my place on the other side of the line, just around the first curve. I watch the wheelchairs take off, then the competitive women take their 7+minute head start, and finally, as the loud speaker bellows a count, the 2012 Honda LA Marathon begins.

In an instant, the thick crowd takes the first turn like a herd of predators starving for the next meal.  They share a hunger for the road.  Underfoot, powerbar wrappers, energy shot empties, and chapsticks that fell from overstocked utility belts get trampled by the stampede.

Flashes of uniforms speed by my perch— four yellow tank-tops, three forest green headbands with a white stripe, too many spandex-and-short-shorts outfits, and finally, a group of light blue t-shirts with white lettering and a dark blue runner silhouette.  Those who are running to save souls stick together in a tight pack, looking out for each other, making sure every single runner gets off to a strong start.  The race has just started, and I’m already proud of my community.

1 Comment

Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, BTS Communications, Current Events, LA Marathon, Run To Save A Soul, Spirituality