by KELLEY GUSICH

When Nancie Hochberg moved to San Diego from Philadelphia 14 years ago, she was distressed at the lack of ethnic and cultural diversity she found in North County. Her experience and background was in establishing new start-ups, so she combined this with a desire to “start something up” that would help her new town and her children. She wanted to develop a program that would build values in kids – thus, Deeds From The Heart was born.

“Values are what guide people, families, corporations and nations,” remarked Nancie. “Values are inextricably linked to how we behave.” Deeds From The Heart Social Action (geared for ages 4-18) is a non-profit organization that implements several programs that aid in building skills like tolerance, empathy DEEDS_LOGOand understanding in kids. They do this by exposing children to people and organizations they wouldn’t necessarily meet on their own. From there, the kids learn about the organization and perform good deeds to benefit the specific needs of the group. Examples include filling Christmas bags for foster children, distributing meals to over 150 underprivileged and mentally challenged elders, and even singing holiday songs to residents in assisted living facilities. Engaging in activities like these, allow the kids to learn about how to deal with difficult topics such as aging, homelessness and mental illness.

A monthly program that grew out of Deeds From The Heart is “Straight Talk 4 Teens.” The goal of the program is to build character and self-esteem in teens. Participants are able to engage in introspection about themselves and gain support from other teens in a forum that does not include lecturing or judging. Some issues Straight Talk 4 Teens have dealt with include topics like “Bullying at its Core” and “Challenges of Fitting in and Pretending to be Someone you are Not.”

Deeds From The Heart is funded through program fees and donations from individuals and corporations, and they are in real need of funds to expand their programs and touch the lives of more kids and teens. A dynamic teenager named Kelly Gavson heard the call and created a fundraising website called Thoughtful Threads. Visit www.thoughtfulthreads.tictail.com to learn more about this site that sells gently used and new clothing for teenagers.

These hands-on, experiential programs, created by Nancie Hochberg, are shining examples of what some of the local youth are doing to build self-esteem, confidence and communication for other children in and around the communities.