I am very excited to introduce myself to you as the newest representative for LIP! Along with Noelle and Stephanie, I also hail from the east-coast in good ‘ol Jersey. I currently live back in my home town, Ocean City, NJ with my husband of 2 years, Teudy, and our studly little Chihuahua named Chooch.
I came across Love Infinitely through a friend, and former ‘Girls Who Are Changing The World’, Rebecca Morlock. After only about 5 minutes of reading about the goals and visions of LIP, I knew I HAD to be a part of this! Giving has always been my passion and my happiness, and I always strive to give more. If only it could pay the bills!!
So let me give you a little background on me and what I have been involved in through the years…
I come from a small family, and I am the oldest. So needless to say, Christmas time was ALL about me when I was little. When I was 4 years old my parents realized that Christmas needs to be so much more than buying way too many gifts for a child that already had too much. Why weren’t we giving to the people that have so little or nothing at all? That year, the 1st Annual Christmas Dinner was born. A completely free Christmas buffet feast, gifts, and entertainment on Christmas day for ANYONE! We started out small, in a local recreation center with a handful of people, and now 21 years later we are in a large church with a commercial size kitchen, feeding over 600 people every December 25th. Anyone and everyone is welcome, young, old, homeless, lonely, families, singles, shut-ins, as well as all the other giving souls that volunteer and give money every year.
Another one of my passions is traveling. I love seeing new places, learning new languages, and experiencing new cultures! In March of 2008 I was living in Florida with my friend, Elyse, when I was given the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic. I immediately fell deeply in love with the country, and their culture. I was surrounded by poverty and families with SO little, but acted like they have SO much! Such an inspiration!
On my first trip, I participated in a re-forestation project where we planted hundreds of trees on Pico Diego de Ocampo, Santiago. I also was a part in building two houses for poverty-struck families. During my 3 months there I also became involved with the local orphanage/school and taught free English classes. Oh, and did I mention that my husband was the Dominican “boy next door”?
My second trip was supposed to be 2 months long, but we all know life is always full of surprises and Teudy and I became engaged. I extended my stay to 8 months, and I had plenty of work to keep me busy! I had organized a large clothing drive at home and was able to ship 10 refrigerator boxes full of clothes and shoes to my home in the DR. I also started English classes at my home for the community.
After Teudy moved to New Jersey, we were married on the beach in October of 2009. We decided to spend Christmas back in the DR with his family so I put together “Project Cow“. Teudy and I raised funds at home from our friends and family and when we got to the DR we were able to buy a pregnant cow for a deserving family. The cow gave them a source of income for the rest of their lives, and the family also passed on the gift by giving the first calf to another family in need. After purchasing the cow, its medical needs, and adding a cement floor to its shelter, we still had some money left over. The leftover money was spent on food that we divided into 40 bags and delivered them around the community to the most poverty-stricken of the community. Since Christmas was right around the corner, we put enough food in each bag for the families to make a Christmas dinner.
For the past 2 years I have been working at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, a rehabilitation center for seals, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles. Animals have always been a HUGE love in my life, so in the end of October I will be traveling to Thailand to volunteer for 2 weeks at the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for abused and over-worked elephants. I will also be meeting our one and only, Brenda in Chiang Mai, and we will be spending a few days sight-seeing and having some fun together! What’s better than a Love Infinitely meeting in Thailand?!
I can’t wait to see this project grow and meet all the amazing girls involved. This project is so new to me, but has already become so special to me. Thank you so much for reading my story, and thank you for supporting LIP!
Follow Halley on Twitter: @halleyloujah