This nonprofit honors compassionate risk-takers, people who are largely unknown, people who have the courage to stick their necks out for the common good, in the US and around the world.

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EXPECTING THE BEST~IN A PRISON #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut The Mendokers of Jamesburg, New Jersey, live in an interesting home. Anne and Richard head the family; she's a former social worker, and he's a former teacher. Then there are their two daughters, one three years old and the other several months old. And oh, yes, let's not forget the eight convicted juvenile offenders. In 1980, the New Jersey Department of Corrections started to offer special training to incarcerated boys. They hired the Mendokers to move into a house on the grounds of the training school. "We knew right off the best thing to do was to give (the inmates) a home-type of environment. . . . We hoped to stabilize their behavior and work on their problems from there," Anne said. The boys get a sense of responsibility. They respect the Mendokers in large part because the Mendokers respect them. They have group sessions, they have crises, they have good times and bad times—just like most families. "Our best approach," says Anne, "is we'll start with love, with trust, with rapport. And then try to put the therapeutic end of it together." The Mendokers have had their share of disappointments, of course, but for the most part the program has been a brilliant success. The boys—all inner-city youth, many convicted of violent crimes—stay with the Mendokers for the better part of a year; since they started, there have been no assaults, no thefts, and only three escapes. Despite what others might assume, there has been no trouble between the boys and the Mendokers' daughters, either. In fact, each group has had a positive effect on the other. The Jamesburg facility soon comprised three more houses. Richard Mendoker sums up why it all works: "We use groups to have the guys make the rules, decide the punishments, influence each other," he says. "In the typical jail, they're expected to be bad. Here, they're expected to be good." Update: We have no current information on the Mendokers, who were commended in 1988. If you have news of them, please contact us. Like these heroes? LIKE this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

The LAD Bible

The best video you'll see today... Credit: Partly Animal

Sometimes there's a giraffe thing online that's so delightful we just can't resist sharing it here on the Giraffe page. Thanks, Mary Petrina Boyd!

BECAUSE EVERY KID NEEDS A CHANCE #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut In the 8th grade, Joe Kellman left school to help in his dad's glass shop in the mostly Polish/Jewish Chicago neighorhood of Lawndale. When he inherited the business, he transformed the Globe Glass & Mirror Company into a multi-million-dollar company. As a successful businessman, Kellman had a passion for mentorship and for giving back. He turned his attention to his old neighborhood of Lawndale, which had become one of the roughest in Chicago. First, Kellman launched an after-school boxing gym for boys, but soon realized that, while boxing helped with discipline and physical skills, it was far from enough to change the boys' futures. So, Kellman turned the gym into the Better Boys Foundation (BBF). The BBF provides after-school programs, scholarships, and welfare services. But he wasn't finished yet. Kellman was also a long-time advocate for public-school reform, and wanted to connect the innovative world of business with philanthropy and education. After 15 years of developing the idea of business reforming education, Kellman founded the Corporate Community School in Lawndale, applying common business techniques to public education. The only school in the US run entirely by business, CCS is tuition-free. Open 12 hours a day, 11 months of the year, CCS functions as a community center as well as a school, providing social and health services to kids and their families. Kellman's ethos is clearly present in the day-to-day operations of the school; teachers at CCS, who don't have tenure, take responsibility for the well being of their students outside the classroom as well as inside. Parents are encouraged and involved. And the kids love it. One parent said, "The thing I notice is that they don't want to go home." The school's principal says that CCS proves that all kids can be "powerful learners" in the right environment. Kellman is determined to find "corporate heroes" in other major cities to fund and run similar schools. He says, "American business will have to force the school reform agenda." Kellman also points out, "Each year's class of dropouts costs the nation $240 billion in lost earnings and foregone taxes over their lifetimes." Despite never finishing school himself, Joe Kellman knew the power of mentorship and education. He says, "Without my father's training I don't know what I would have become." Update: In 2010, Joe Kellman died--on his 90th birthday. CCS, the school he founded, is now one of Chicago Public Schools' top performing elementary schools. Like this Giraffe? Please Like this whole Page so we can keep posting great stories for you.

HELPING PEOPLE FIND NEW COUSINS #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut As Diane Bock watched riots in South Central Los Angeles from her suburban San Diego home, she felt devastated, horrified, and helpless. “What,” she asked herself over and over, “can one person possibly do about racial ignorance and hatred?” She dwelled on the question for months, until she realized the answer: “These walls were put up one brick at a time, and they have to be taken down that way too,” says Bock. “One person at a time.” Seeing that people tend to stereotype races because they don’t understand each other's worlds, she got to her next question: “If you have people whose universes never touch, how do you get them to connect?” Her answer was “Community Cousins,” a non-profit organization she founded to give families of different races opportunities to get to know each other. Its plan, which Bock based on her relationship with her own cousins, is simple: two families are matched as “cousins” on the basis of shared interests, locale, and ages of their children. Once matched, the cousins are encouraged to do things together, but nothing is forced. Friendships develop as the families get together on their own terms—to share children's outgrown clothes and toys, to attend picnics, baseball games, holiday gatherings or the Community Cousins family events Bock hosts regularly. Bock spends most of her time and a good deal of her own financial resources to keep Community Cousins going. She’s been harassed and threatened for her efforts. But more disturbing to Bock—and more common—is people’s lack of participation. Though many people agree Cousins is a good idea, few of them actually make the effort to get involved. And getting involved is the point. It’s “nothing heroic in terms of time or commitment,” says Bock, it’s just a matter of “small doses spread over time.” But Community Cousins is growing, slowly and steadily. Beginning with a pilot group of 39 families, there came to be 101 families participating in the L.A. area. Bock’s next goal is creating a Community Cousins handbook, so the idea can spread to other communities. Already two seedling efforts have been transplanted—one in Texas, another in Minnesota. Bock’s dream is to provide, one by one, family by family, “The opportunity for one human to discover that another is not that different, that the ‘they’ is just us.” Decades later, Bock's still going. You can keep up with her work at Like this story? LIKE this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

A VOICE FOR AIR AND WATER PROTECTION #GiraffeHeroes #StickYourNeckOut Germaine White Face lives in Rapid City, South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore. Also “living” near Mt. Rushmore are 169 abandoned uranium mines—AUMs—and open extraction pits. White Face, a scientist and journalist, is sure that the radioactive pollution from these sites is dangerous, and she’s been doing everything she can to remedy the situation. White Face is the official spokesperson of the Sioux Nation Treaty Council, and not everyone in the US power structure listens to Native Americans with a receptive mind. White Face is used to being threatened for speaking out. She formed Defenders of the Black Hills, an organization committed to educating the Lakota people about their treaty rights; that did not automatically win her friends. As the elected Treasurer of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, she fought to maintain those treaty rights, but other council members—not wanting to disturb the status quo—didn’t see it her way. For years, she was harassed; someone even cut her car brakes. She was also suspended from the Council so that they could sign an illegal agreement with a Nebraska bank; the agreement indebted the tribe for 12 years and compromised its sovereignty. Much of the acrimony stems from White Face’s resistance to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1935, the upshot of which was massive funds going to council members and a dearth of services for the larger community. The evidence of such actions is recounted in her book, Testimony for the Innocent. The book illustrates how she has often stood alone in the face of tribal and federal opposition. What is currently foremost on White Face’s mind is air and water pollution from uranium and thorium (another radioactive metal): “Native American nations of North America,” she says, “are the miners’ canaries for the United States, trying to awaken the people of the world to the dangers of radioactive pollution.” The AUMs, three quarters of which are located on federal and Tribal lands, could affect more than 50 million people who live near these sites. White Face has met with officials from across the country, and some of them are beginning to listen. The key questions are whether those officials can do anything about the situation, and whether they can do it in time. No matter what happens, White Face, now 69 years old, says she’ll keep speaking out: “This is an invisible national crisis. Millions of people in the United States are being exposed as nuclear radiation victims on a daily basis. Exposure to radioactive pollution has been linked to cancer, genetic defects, Navajo neuropathy, and increases in mortality. We . . . believe that as more Americans become aware of this homegrown radioactive pollution, then something can be done to protect all peoples and the environment.” Like this Giraffe? LIKE this whole Page so we can send you more great stories.

More Giraffe Heroes


This is Sister Megan Rice, a nun for most of her 80+ years and a peace activist since the 1980s. She had been arrested more than three dozen times and had done time twice when she and two other peace activists performed what was called the most serious security breach in the history of US...


Andy Hall, a Brit, works for Finnwatch, a world-wide nonprofit that spots human abuses around the world and works to stop them. When Hall called out Thailand's National Fruit Company for the way it treats its workers, he asked to work...


This is Catherine Hamlin MD, who left her home in Australia in 1959 to provide gynecological care to poor women in Ethiopia. At 90, she's still doing that, focusing on one of the most distressing medical/social issues imaginable: obstetric fistulas.

This is an injury that women can...


This is Hanna Hopko. She braved snipers' bullets in Kiev during a citizens' uprising that brought down a corrupt government there. Now she's leading a rapidly growing citizens' movement that's doing more than rising up and demanding...


Imagine you're 11 years old and your body is twisting from scoliosis, causing you constant physical pain and making you look very different from other kids. You're scheduled for surgery to straighten your spine and your mom takes a "before" picture so you'll have a history of how you once...


Bob Bajek, a reporter on a small-town newspaper in Illinois, came up with a Big Story: the town's recreational lake, where residents fished, swam, and boated, was highly toxic--a now defunct military base had dumped Agent Orange in the water....


There were no protections for whistle-blowers in South Africa when businesswoman Wendy Addison reported her own corporate bosses for breaking the law. She was fired, got death threats, and was blacklisted, even in England, where she took her...


This is veteran environmental activist, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez. He's 12. And he's been working to save his beloved Colorado for half of his life. It started when he saw that the forest near his home was changing. Trees were dying, plants...


Allan Adam is Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan nation, whose lands lie within Alberta, Canada. These First Nation people have formal treaty rights that protect their lands from being taken or used by outsiders, but that treaty has been...


Sangduen Chailert, known as "Lek," puts in 18-hour days caring for sick and injured elephants in a protected reserve she co-founded, the Elephant Nature Park in northern Thailand.

The dwindling elephant population is a world-wide...


Nobis Est - It's Up To Us

Meet people who stick their necks out for the common good, all of them commended by the Giraffe Heroes Project, the nonprofit that's "EnCouraging today's heroes - training tomorrow's." Check out for more stories, and for a way to honor your own hero.

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