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Posted on Mon. Jan. 27, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Fort Wayne family making an 'Impact' through volunteer work

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About two and half years ago, Aaron Brown felt called to do “something more.”

Little did he know that something would result in a multiyear volunteer project and the penning of a children's book.

Brown, now an executive with a local nonprofit, remembers the day several months ago, when it all began. A successful sales professional, he aspired to become the consummate leader. But something was missing. Put simply, he didn't like the man looking back at him in the mirror – literally.

One morning, when getting ready for work, he had an epiphany of sorts.

“It was like I was looking through myself,” he said. “It was almost like I was called to do something (more.)”

It was then he shared with his wife, Erica, his vision for what would become Impact 52. The concept was simple: help as many people as they could each week by fulfilling unmet needs in the community through partnerships with nonprofits.

The couple also wanted to expose their teenage girls to causes, in hopes that they could “find a niche” someday.

The project has morphed over the years, but one thing remains constant: the Browns' desire to help. His hope was that by providing an example of service, others would be inspired to pay it forward, too.

“We wanted to experience as much as we could especially to make a difference in a life,” he said. “We wanted people to understand they could give.”

Speaking of giving, the scope of the projects vary. It could require one hour or a whole day, depending on the needs of the organization.

For example, he wanted to help the local sexual assault treatment center. In this case, it turned out that touring the facility was the best way to help advance its cause.

Rather than creating projects “for the sake of it,” Brown prefers to address the gaps and tackle them, one project at a time. “'How can I best help?'” he asks.

“We want to help, not check off the box so to speak,” he said.

In terms of helping, Brown's visions extend far beyond Impact 52 as it currently looks. He has received requests for help from groups in states as far away as Utah.

He said he would love to be able to serve groups outside the Fort Wayne area, perhaps through the formation of a foundation or a nonprofit organization.

“I would love to commit our lives to that, bringing in family and friends to help people make a living out of passion,” he said.

In the meantime, Brown has invested his passion and energy into the promotion of his illustrated children's book “Linnie Mae's New Friends.”

The book, which is loosely based on his family's experience working with a homeless outreach organization, is intended to teach a lesson. In his words, it's “All people are people, and we shouldn't pass judgment.”

In the book, the main character, Linnie Mae, is a 9-year-old girl from a middle-class family. Her world is shaken up one day when her parents take her to work with the homeless.

At first she's apprehensive and espouses commonly held stereotypes about the homeless. But over the course of the story, she discovers she has made some “new friends” and forms connections.

Speaking of connections, Brown's involvement in the community has caught the attention of a notable community organization, the United Way of Allen County. Mentors with the Real Men Read project read “Linnie Mae's New Friends” to fourth-grade classes in January.

By getting his book into the classroom, he hopes to foster awareness and discussion about important social issues. In fact, he has no intentions of stopping here.

He envisions a library of a dozen or more books that address various social issues. A curriculum with discussion questions and other activities is also a possibility “to drive it home.”

It's all about educating and empowering children and parents, he said.

“My hope is that kids and parents will pull out the lessons,” he said.

“Linnie Mae's New Friends” is available in iBooks in a digital version and in soft cover print at The Bookmark and via http://impact52.org.


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