Saturday, January 21, 2012

Let me tell you about Charlie Brown (a true Joplin hero)


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Last May, my hometown was almost blown to smithereens when an F-5 tornado buzzed through town, taking thousands of homes, dozens of churches and schools and over 150 human lives.

Shortly after, a memorial service attracted national attention and attendance, including, on the positive side, the President of the United States.

On the negative side, however, the bizarre and hateful Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) announced plans to protest the memorial service.  Westboro Baptist Church's web address is The group despises the United States of America and pickets the funerals of US soldiers.

While many Joplinites were concerned about WBC, the organization is a particular anathema to one complex man named Charlie Brown: a Christian, a patriot and a gay man with a heart even bigger than his energetic, 6'3" self.

Using Facebook, Charlie set up a page to recruit people to counter demonstrate and shield the memorial service from the effects of a WBC event. Along with other formal and informal efforts, Charlie's plan was so successful that almost no one from WBC even showed up.

At the time, Charlie Brown knew roughly what any thirty-something man in 2011 knows about social media; no less but not much more, either.  But the WBC effort set in motion a learning process that has turned Charlie into an expert in the use of Internet social media for mobilizing advocacy and charitable action.

Since May of 2011, Charlie has spearheaded or significantly assisted about a half dozen separate on-line undertakings, raising the equivalent of over quarter-of-a-million dollars for restoration of public and private property in Joplin. The efforts and outcomes have now spread well beyond the Internet, but Facebook, Twitter and the Internet continue at the center of much Charlie is accomplishing.

In June, for example, Joplin was named "Tea Town USA 2011" by the Midwest deli chain, MacAlister's. The title, based on on-line votes, came with a $7,500 award. Using the network he'd begun building in response to WBC, Charlie helped bring this one in for Joplin.

As the hot-hot summer of 2011 wore on, Charlie and his colleagues recruited more area residents, Joplin 'Expats' and sympathetic friends everywhere. The next big project was Coca-Cola company's annual park grant. Also based on an Internet voting effort, the project brought in $25,000 to help restore Joplin's Cunningham Park, a key venue destroyed by the tornado.

Working with others, Charlie and his nearly angelic followers have contributed to a Craftman Tool contest, helping win $10,000 for a companion town in North Dakota. They spearheaded a major fundraising success involving the Oscar Mayer company, Homes for Hope Joplin and Christian Associates of Table Rock Lake that raised $100,000 to be applied to building new 'green' homes in Joplin.

Homes for Hope Joplin as opened a thrift store in Joplin, offering great bargains for area shoppers while generating additional revenues to support redevelopment.

Currently Charlie and his ever-growing group of responders are vigorously pursuing positions in two significant on-line contests, one sponsored by and the other organized by Reader's Digest.
Examiner, an on-line magazine with broad U.S. coverage, is conducting a search 
for heroes national-wide in several categories. Charlie is a strong contender in 
the leadership category. If you'd like to join the effort on Charlie's behalf, follow 
this link, register, click the Leadership link and click the block next to Charlie's 
name -- obviously! 
Support Charlie!
Reader's Digest
'We hear you America 2012" by Reader's Digest will provide $10,000 grants 
to numerous communities and a $50,000 grand prize to the top vote getter.   
Repeated and unlimited voting is not only allowed, but encouraged!  If you've 
not voted yet and want to support Joplin, go to 
Reader's Digest, We Hear You
Enter the zip code 64801. Then register and start voting.

You can follow Charlie on Twitter at CharliesCharity