Monday Mornings with Madison


Are you stressed by the economic news of the day? Or perhaps the question should be, how could you not be stressed?

Although a stress-free life is hard to imagine, there are simple, practical ways to avoid getting swamped by stress, even given the current conditions. One of the most effective techniques is to take all the energy you normally spend fretting about things you can’t control and instead focus on doing something constructive for someone in need. After all, no matter what is happening in the economy, there are some who are truly less fortunate. Why not take your eyes off your immediate concerns and take a look around?

One young woman named Jenine Shwekey did just that and founded the Special Children’s Center, based in Lakewood, New Jersey. This center provides after-school and respite help for families of children with special needs. Every parent knows that the after-school hours are challenging, dealing with homework, supper, baths and other family demands. Parents of special needs children experience even more challenges because their children require a tremendous amount of attention and care. Jenine recognized this problem when she was a senior in high school and started a small program where a handful of children were fed dinner, bathed, played with and sent home in pajamas ready for bed.

How simple is that? And yet, what a lifeline for those stressed families!

Appreciating the challenges  The funny thing is, the more you help someone else, the more rewards you find for yourself. As Jenine says, “The center has enriched my own life. When I see what parents of special children have to deal with each day, I appreciate life’s small challenges, and I want to help them even more.”

The Special Children’s Center has now grown to a full-service agency serving hundreds of kids with disabilities (Down’s syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, etc.) and their families. Dozens of teen volunteers dedicate their afternoons to the SCC, learning important life lessons about the value of giving and tolerance. SCC has grown rapidly because of donations of time and resources from within the local community. It’s a model of community participation and volunteerism.

Jenine was recently honored by L’Oreal Paris as one of ten Women of Worth for 2008, selected by a panel of judges from more than 2,700 nominations. In addition, one Woman of Worth honoree and her cause will be selected by the public at large via online voting. She will be recognized as the National Woman of Worth Honoree for 2008 and her charity will receive a donation of $25,000. (To see Jenine’s bio and to vote for her, go to and click on the 2008 Honorees.)

If you look around, you’ll discover plenty of worthwhile organizations that are responding to the needs of your own community — and those needs are likely to grow if the economy stays weak. Donate some money if you can, but more importantly, contribute your time.  You’ll be making a difference, and you’ll also find it to be therapeutic and stress-relieving. You’ll find that relieving someone else’s troubles is the best way to forget your own.

“It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”  Tom Brokaw

© 2008 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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