KNBC TV reporter, Kate Larsen, and her cameraman visited us in our loft today to shoot a segment for the evening news. Kate shares how Nick’s USC scholarship fund at the Price School of Public Policy will provide financial assistance to a transfer student who reflects Nick’s character, perseverance, and the desire to improve a community.
We were honored that Kate chose to do this follow-up story just a little over four months since Nick was killed by the lightning storm on Venice Beach. We hope to see Nick’s scholarship fund continue to grow and allow more students to follow in the footsteps of Nick’s dream to attend USC’s Price School and then give back through being involved in the revitalization of the Downtown Los Angeles community.
There’s a sign along the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica that designates it as the “Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway.” It’s not something I ever noticed, but since returning home from the Dominican Republic, it’s now taken on a special significance.
Less than a week ago, in Santo Domingo, Jay and I stood overlooking the mouth of the Ozama River which brought Christopher Columbus to the land he designated as “The New World.”
Our return trip to Los Angeles a few days later was much more than a flight from one destination to another. We traveled in two days (with an overnight stay in Ft Lauderdale) what took centuries for explorers to accomplish. We were completing the first leg of an exploration of our own, looking for a new world of purpose to honor the life of our son, Nick. We discovered treasure in the Dominican Republic with nine other wonderful fellow voyagers and the dedicated translators and program administrators who were all part of our journey.
Our ultimate discovery centered around how a united effort can affect transformation within an entire community such as the one in Herrera where we want to continue to focus our resources on the Tia Tatiana school that serves 300 kids in one of the most impoverished sections of Santo Domingo .
While on this trip we had the opportunity to learn a little about the history of the Dominican Republic and the culture of its people . Of course there’s baseball; the reason why Nick had a special place in his heart for the Dominican. But more importantly there’s a spirit of the people, woven from long threads of a colorful but slightly frayed history, that continues to hold this country together all the way from its beginning as the first land in the Americas to experience the European way of life to a country that has one of the most racially intermixed populations while being almost 100% Christian.
The Vision Trust team took us to the site of several national monuments, including the mausoleum where the heroes of the country are entombed. Among the other old buildings on this site is the first fortress in the Americas.
Like any other country, the Dominican Republic has had its struggles. Of those who first welcomed Columbus to the land few, if any, native descendants of the indigenous population are left due to disease brought by the early settlers as well as the trials of enslavement the natives endured. Also Spanish settlers brought their African slaves with them and then brought more slaves directly from Africa to build up and, in some cases, defend the island. Slavery was first abolished in the Dominican in 1801, then reinstated. It was finally abolished permanently in 1822. The history of the island includes invasions by the English and the French and then a war against the Spanish rule by those, mostly from Spain, who had settled the island . And in the 20th Century, despite being a declared democracy, Dominican leaders came into power and became dictators. In 1965 there was an uprising and U.S. troops landed on the island much to the disapproval of many Dominicans. Eventually a truce was reached while fear in the U.S. was that the Dominican Republic would go the way of Cuba.
During each of these periods of turmoil, those who were poor suffered the most. Today a president of the Dominican Republic has a term limit of four consecutive years (but can be re-elected four years later) and within that short time, they try to make an impact on the county. The former president focused on infrastructure by building roads and bridges. The current president has committed to raise the country’s GDP budget allocated to education from a mere 2% to 4% which includes mandating all-day classes for grades 1-12. Currently, students only have a half-day of school. The changes have been a long time coming and are supposed to go into effect soon but the country is realizing there currently aren’t enough classrooms to accommodate this shift as previously classrooms doubled for two grades–one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So until enough classrooms are ready, the mandate can’t be fully activated.
Prior to our trip, Vision Trust sent us information explaining that the Dominican is a conservative country in terms of dress. For the most part, men and women don’t wear shorts (which was almost a deal-breaker for Jay..but he found some great lightweight Nike golf pants and got over it) and women cover their shoulders at least with short sleeves–even when the humidity is 85%.
The Dominican flag, established November 6, 1844 when the Dominican Republic declared independence from Haiti, was designed to tell the story of the country.
The coat of arms that appears at the center depicts an open bible and a cross. The bible verse is believed to state “And the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32). The bay laurel branch and the palm branch bracket the flag-draped shield and the words “Dios, Patria, Libertad” (God, Fatherland, Liberty) appear overhead. The colors of the flag stand for the blood shed for freedom, the blue skies, and white for peace, dignity, faith, honor and pride. The cross appears again as it divides the flag into quadrants.
The flag is also connected to the national dish called “La Bandera” (translation: “the flag”) referring to the fact that the colors of the food on the plate are like those of the flag (although I’ve yet to see blue appear on any of the plates I was served). The staples of La Bandera are rice, beans and chicken–usually served with salad, a sweet side dish like caramelized ripe plantains, and a fried side dish such as tostones (fried green plantains) or torrejas de berenjena (fried eggplant). Every main meal we ate came with rice and beans, sometimes with chickenandothertimes with delicious casseroles combining traditional ingredients by mixing the fried, sweet and savory flavors. Only when we ate at Josiah’s house, where they have their own organic garden, were we told it was OK to eat the salad. We were warned never to even sip tap water and the likelihood that salad is washed from the sink kept it off our menu during the trip.
Bottled water is everywhere and you can be fairly sure that ice in all the restaurants is made with purified water. No one in our group had any food or water issues. And speaking of food, breakfast every morning was scrambled eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and–being a big fan of dried cereal–I was very excited to have the option of the Dominican version of “Total.” I looked forward each morning to these big, crunchy, multi-grained flakes that held up nicely in a bowl of milk with sliced bananas on top. Since I tended to be the last one up in the morning, this quick breakfast was just perfect.
We were also treated to the ingredient most critical to starting the day: rich, smooth and toasty Santo Domingo coffee! It gave all of us coffee drinkers the jump-start we needed to accomplish our daily goals. Some on the team couldn’t get enough of it– and there was always a fresh pot available until the last person called it a night.
In terms of the accommodations, we were perfectly comfortable on our bunk bed mattresses and we even had our sheets change half-way through our visit. All eleven of us managed to get fairly decent water pressure and warm temperature when it came to sharing the 3 showers in the house. (there was an additional bath without a shower, too). Most of us packed pretty light for the trip which was never a problem since our “house moms,” would launder anything we needed.
The internet in the house worked great and usually there was an hour or so every evening where everyone silently sat around the table at their computers answering emails or updating friends and family on how the trip was going.
Evenings sometimes involved group excursions walking up the street for ice cream or sweet empeñadas. We also had to visit Bravo, the modern supermarket one block away, that featured a glassed-in exotic bird aviary across the entire front of the store. This store was our source for the coveted bags of ground and whole bean Santo Domingo coffee that us caffeine cravers squeezed into every available space in our suitcases to insure we would have a stash back home.
By the time our trip was coming to an end, the people who facilitated all our activities and needs were like extended family to us. Nelson, who is the Executive Director of Vision Trust Dominicana, was an encouraging presence coming and going from his office in the mission house. He has an amazing staff that supports him in managing the 11 projects they serve including Tia Tatiana School in Herrera and the Remar orphanage, plus an orphanage for deaf children, an orphanage on the Haitian border, and a house for girls who have been rescued from human trafficking . Nelson was with us almost every day either joining us for breakfast, visiting Tia Tatiana School with us as well as taking us to his favorite Dominican rotisserie chicken restaurant (which was right on par with the incredible food his mother and her helper cooked for us every day in the mission house). The last night Nelson shared his fascinating life story with us– which I won’t spoil for you. It’s one of the many reasons that makes it worthwhile to plan a Vision Trust trip to the Dominican to hear it for yourself.
Nacho (real name: Ramón) was our cheerleader, translator, driver, and new best friend. His constant smile and great stories kept us going. Daniel, a Vision Trust Director, was a real trooper in getting us around Santo Domingo shopping for items for the school. And Doris was truly an angelic presence every day, helping with translating and surprising us at the Sunday service where her soulful singing voice and her expressive translation made sharing that morning of thanks for the blessings in each of our lives– without measure or comparison– a deeply emotional experience.
In previous posts I’ve covered our activities day by day so this final recap is just going to focus on what I think our whole team would agree we’re most proud of, namely what we accomplished at Tia Tatiana School.
From speaking with Nelson we learned that the area of Herrera, where we decided to focus our resources at the Tia Tatiana school, came about as people from the country, who had not previously been welcome in the city, built their own community without any planning or government oversight. Herrera is a ramshackle assortment of structures, one on top of the other, with narrow passageways and few streets (see previous Dominican Republic posts). There are no public areas, parks, or playgrounds and it continues to be one of the poorest sections of the Dominican Republic with the lowest per capita income level (average is $200 a month) and only 19% of the students complete a high school education.
We each easily transported through customs the computers that our hero, Mark Haney, was able to secure and distribute to us prior to our trip. With the expertise of Mark, Todd, Sarah, Rosie, Anne, and Judy, the computers were successfully installed, connected to wireless internet service, and received the finishing touch of getting the wires hidden below the tables. These portals to yet another type of new world stood ready to help guide the Herrera children, many of whom have never stepped beyond a 10-mile radius of their neighborhood. Instead of 30 kids peering over each other’s shoulders at only five barely-functioning computers with limited, if any, internet access there are now 30 top quality systems in place. The installation day brought out our sense of accomplishment along with lots of sweat and empty water bottles!
When we found that the computer lab installation task went by so fast, we felt like we needed to take on something else. Knowing we still had the donations from St. Brendan School and some contributions from ROI, we hit on the idea of an extreme classroom makeover. We told Evalise, the principal, what we wanted to do and, with her blessing, we went from classroom to classroom assessing the needs and talking, via a translator, to each teacher to see what they most wanted for their classroom. The number one request was to get rid of the old, dilapidated desks and replace them with communal work stations. Teachers’ desks were also in bad shape and many of the classrooms needed basic supplies, books, and learning aids for math, biology and geography.
Here are examples of what we saw in the various classrooms (and keep in mind that the classrooms for grades 5-8 have to be shared with high school students in the afternoon).
For the extreme classroom makeover we decided to pick the 6th grade classroom with its bare walls, worn-out and desks and lack of storage space and supplies.
Let the shopping begin!
Ikea had exactly the right tables and we were able to find seven where the tabletop color and the table legs would all be the same.
The next challenge was loading …
And the assembly:
The final results blew both the students and the teachers away! Even we were amazed at the complete transformation…
But the best part was when the students came into the classroom the next morning:
When we saw the impact this change made on the students it affirmed that we had discovered a way we could really impact change for these kids. We figured that for $3,500 per classroom/ about $117 per student we could give them another reason to want to learn and reach for goals here at Tia Tatiana school. We could show them that their lives can get better and there is hope for their future. And we saw how these students appreciated this investment we made in their school and we felt certain they would put it to good use.
But if the looks on the students faces weren’t enough to convey their appreciation, the words of the boys who raised their hands to come up to the front on the class and share their feelings with us, left no doubt in our minds that we’ve started something very special at this school.
We knew that if we were going to do one classroom, we’d have to eventually…and in fairly short time…upgrade the other nine. And after that there’s also a library to redo…
Evalise also took us up to the top floor of the school building and shared with us her dream for a vocational training center that could go into an unused space that was formerly Vision Trust’s offices.
The center would teach sewing and other vocational and life skills to those students who may or may not be college-bound.
With the full wish list now compiled, we know we want to stay focused on our first goal of providing every student and teacher the optimal learning environment with new, properly sized work stations, comfortable chairs, modern learning aids, and creative thinking tools.
One generous member of our team who made the trip with us has agreed to match the first $3,000 we raise, which will take us to $6,000. My company, Chain Store Age, has already committed $4,500 and Jay and I are in for $2,000. Another friend of ours said she’ll bake a coffee cake for anyone who donates $50 (and I promise to help her as I make a pretty mean sour cream, bundt coffee cake myself!). So let’s say between the two of us we make 50 coffee cakes (we’re willing to do more though)–that’s another $2,500 which puts us almost half way to our budget of $3,500 per classroom for nine classrooms (total goal is $31,500).
Our next trip is going to be April 16-22. We have four months to raise the money and sign up the volunteers to join us on our return to Santo Domingo. We’re also in the process of setting up the Nick Fagnano Foundation but in the meantime, Wilshire Sports, Nick’s former neighborhood baseball organization is allowing us to use their 501 C3 to provide tax deductible status to all donations made in Nick’s name which will be earmarked for the Tia Tatiana school project.
Like early explorers who sought the riches of the lands they discovered; we, too, made this journey to find a new way to enrich our lives. What we take back with us are treasures in the form of smiles and gratitude from the people and children that we’ve met. We thank Nick for leading us here and filling our hearts with a new sense of purpose where there is still a very large hole that will never completely close. We invite you to join us on this journey whether it be with your well-wishes and prayers or any other way you’d like to come aboard.
Maybe some of us will be sitting here on April 16th, 2015 sharing stories and our first beer in six days (oh, did I forget to tell you that the mission house is dry?). We’ll be waiting for our flight to take us home after a week of impacting positive change throughout an entire community by making a difference at Tia Tatiana school.
There is probably a book I could write about what we’ve experienced as well as accomplished since we arrived in the Dominican Republic. It’s not just a story about these last few days, it’s as much about our hopes to continue to support the dedicated people who have chosen to provide these orphans and children raised in poverty with their own hopes for the future.
The short version (with a longer one to come when I have a full day to write it) is that on Monday, we were able to drive to a place called Josiah’s House in a town called San Pedro de Macoris, about 90 minutes from where we’re staying in Santo Domingo.
Josiah’s House was founded by Sarah & Steve Berger in honor of their son, Josiah, who went to heaven at 19 following a single car accident as he was on his way to start his freshman year in college. The connection we feel to Steve and Sarah was enough to make us want to make the drive but we were also told that Josiah’s house is the gold standard of orphanages so we wanted to see what makes it so special.
Only 10 boys live at Josiah’s house but the plan is to expand. Grace Chapel, a church in Tennessee, owns the property for the Josiah’s House complex. There is a couple from Tennessee as well as a couple from the Dominican Republic who serve as house parents to the boys. And as you can see from the grounds, someone is very good at gardening. The facilities here are like living in a country house added to the fact that a large commercial bakery is just behind the property and it smells like fresh bread all day long.
Driving back from Josiah’s House our minds were racing after seeing this beautiful place . We brainstormed in the car about what we could do on this short visit to to best utilize the funds that we still had after buying all the sports equipment that we delivered on Saturday to the Remar orphanage.
Our main objective on this trip was to set up a computer lab at Tia Tatiana school in Herrera where up to 30 kids at a time now have access to learning through technology. We accomplished this lofty objective on Sunday with just a few loose ends that needed finishing up on Tuesday (since Monday was a holiday –Constitution Day). On the car ride from Josiah’s House we decided that we’d like to approach the principal and the teachers at Tia Tatiana school to see what would best answer their prayers for each of their classrooms from preschool through 12th grade .
We decided to pick one classroom for an “extreme makeover” so we could show the difference that this type of investment could make on the way the class functions. Our goal was also to have a before and after example that will help towards raising the additional funds to make this a reality in every classroom.
All day today was spent with Daniel, our dear, patient driver, navigating through Santo Domingo bumper to bumper traffic to find classroom work station tables and chairs. Our other team, driven by Ramón, was on supplies. Between Ikea for tables and a school supply store for chairs, we found what we needed for furniture. Our other team hit about 4 different stores and came back with lots of things that were on the teachers’ wish lists.
We were able to get the one classroom completely finished and since my camera is still at photo capacity, you’ll have to wait until Saturday to see the full visual results…yes, this post is a cliffhanger!
Tomorrow we’ll get to see the children (6th graders) come into their new classroom. Tomorrow we’ll also be heading home. We’re already planning to come back in April…hopefully with the funds to complete the classrooms AND with 12 volunteers to get the job done. Want to join us?
A few weeks ago, the students at St. Brendan School in Hancock Park invited Jay & me to come to their assembly where they honored our son, Nick, (SBS class of 2008) who passed away on July 27th. The assembly was the kick off for their Crazy Day fundraising effort to assist the children of orphanages and poor schools in the Dominican Republic that we would be visiting in November in Nick’s honor .
Crazy Day was wildly successful. The students each had to pay $1 to get creative with their uniforms and they held a bake sale. All the funds for the Crazy Day entry fee and the bake sale were donated and we were overwhelmed by the students’generosity. Over $2,000 was raised!
Last night Jay & I arrived in the Dominican Republic and one of the first things our group did was go to Jumbo, the store that is most like a Target in the U.S.
We picked out lots of sporting goods equipment for the kids.
This morning Jay & I woke up in bunk beds in a house run by an organization called Vision Trust in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo is the site of the first university, cathedral, castle, monastery, and fortress in the New World–that was back in the 1500s.
But today, only about 52% of Dominican Republic kids get an 8th grade education and, in rural schools, education stops at the 5th grade. So here we are in this community far from Los Angeles, to spend time with kids that don’t have anywhere near what most U.S. kids are used to. Our goal is to bring them love, have some fun and encourage them to stay in school.
Today started with breakfast and really good coffee served by the women who take care of the volunteers who stay at the Vision Trust house. There are 10 of us on this trip from all over the U.S. Each of us, prior to the trip, had been shipped three donated laptop computers. One of our jobs was to hand carry the computers on the plane to insure they made it safely here. Tomorrow, we’ll be setting up these computers at a school in Herrera, which is considered one of the poorest sections of Santo Domingo. We’re told that squatters have built makeshift houses so randomly in Herrera that they’ve taken over streets even preventing cars from driving through some areas.
Our time today was spent at an orphanage called Remar which consists of 3 houses–one for girls and younger boys, one for the older boys and one for children that are HIV positive. The orphanage is run by a man they call “Gallito,”and the older kids who live there have responsibility for the younger ones. It’s remarkable how it works. We pretty much spent the day playing with the children. Jay went out to what they designated as the soccer field–a large patch filled with rocks, vines and stumps–and he got a baseball game going.
I did some craft bracelets with the kids until they took turns as my official photographer and used my iPhone to take pictures of the day’s activities. My new friend, Stefana, even mastered the selfie!
We had a big barbecue, which we were told is a rarity. The kids get two meals a day where rice and beans are the staple and if there’s chicken, that’s a big deal. Today we all got rice, beans, chicken, pork chops, AND sausage. We were told this feast was equivalent to a Thanksgiving dinner.
Remar is just on the other side of the road from the ocean about ten miles past the Santo Domingo airport. We heard a story today of a fashion designer who happened to be passing the building on her way from the airport and she asked her driver to pull over so she could see what was there. In discovering the orphanage and seeing that it was in need of quite a few things, she decided to ask the girls from the orphanage if they’d like to be models in her next fashion show which is taking place in a hotel in Santo Domingo next Sunday. She’ll be donating proceeds from the fashion show to the orphanage. The girls are very excited about this and they each practiced their best struts down the catwalk for us.
It was an amazing day to see how content these kids are living in bare minimum accommodations including only 1 bathroom for about 15 boys as the second one isn’t working and no one has time to find someone to fix it. And the kitchen for the boys’ house is moving outside because they say it’s less dangerous there. Some of this is hard to comprehend.
Thanks to the generosity of the St. Brendan Students, and also to members of Notre Dame Knights baseball team who donated mitts, the children at the Remar orphanage had an especially good day today. If Stefana hadn’t taken so many pictures and drained my phone battery, I’d be able to show the basketball hoop that got set up, all the soccer and volley balls, a new volley ball net, jump ropes, tumbling mats, game tables and baseball bats that we were able to deliver to these kids today. And I’d be able to show you a picture of the beautiful rainbow that appeared in the sky just as we were getting ready to leave while some warm sprinkles came down from the clouds. The rainbow that I know means that Nick was with us today.
Jay and I are a bit out of our comfort zone and I think the next few days may push us even further. Jay couldn’t wait to lie down on his bunk after a full day of baseball in the hot Dominican sun! I’m finding my limited Spanish doesn’t get me very far–but I know we’re both looking forward to what tomorrow will bring –maybe even a real professional Dominican baseball game, Rumor has it one of Nick’s former Dodgers favorites, Manny Ramirez, is playing on a Dominican team that’s in town tomorrow night.
It’s not a particularly sexy topic, but like sensible shoes for a long walk, if you’re new in town, knowing where to go when you need a doctor is something that’s good to think about before you’re hurting. Thanks to Nate Nusbaum, President of California Hospital Medical Center (CHMC) Foundation, I had the opportunity to tour the CHMC facility which is the only hospital truly located within the boundaries of Downtown Los Angeles at 1401 South Grand Avenue, just South of Pico Boulevard with Hope Street to the west.
I was in awe of the Los Angeles Center for Women’s Health at CHMC, with its high-tech lobby and sleek imaging and treatment rooms. The Center describes its services as being for women who are in the prime of life–and whether that’s 35 or 65 by today’s age standards –it’s an inviting concept in women’s health care. Given the ultra modern atmosphere of the facility, I would almost expect to be greeted with a glass of champagne instead of a health care professional with a clipboard. If this is women’s healthcare for the prime of life, bring it on, baby!
The hospital has 318 in-patient beds as well as a variety of out- patient care options. In addition to the Women’s Center there are four other special services provided by CHMC: The J.Thomas McCarthy Center for Emergency Services which handles over 70,000 patient visits a year and, situated in close proximity to Staples Center, the hospital is recognized as a vital link to the Los Angeles County disaster preparedness planning. The other special services are The Keith P. Russell Women’s Birthing Center, The Los Angeles Center for Heart Health with its latest technology for detection of vascular and heart conditions and the Hope Street Margolis Family Center–more to come on that in a minute.
CHMC, a member of the Dignity Health network of not-for-profit hospitals, is experiencing a transformation that reflects the changes happening in so many parts of DTLA with more people moving downtown and an ever-growing diversity of income levels, ages, and health care needs. More singles downtown will likely (eventually) lead to more young families and more empty- nesters drawn to city life will likely lead to a growing senior population. According to Nate, California Hospital Medical Center is adapting to better serve these changing demographics.
During our tour, Nate showed me the renderings for upgrades to the hospital rooms and the family lounge area that has an expansive curved window looking out on the downtown skyline.
One of the highlights, as well as one of the more emotional parts of the tour, was our visit to the neonatal ICU where several of the tiniest babies I’d ever seen were having life and love bestowed upon them by the latest incubator technologies combined with the attentiveness of the pediatric nurses–with a 2:1 baby to nurse ratio.
In a continued commitment to serve children and families, The Hope Street Margolis Family Center, a block away from the hospital, is an exceptional facility that provides licensed childcare, school readiness, family literacy, and recreational as well as educational support for local families.
As we walked towards Hope Street Center, I asked Nate why an adjacent old apartment building had not been torn down to allow for expansion of the Hope Street Center. His reply showed me the deep understanding that Nate and CHMC have for the community: “That apartment provides housing to a number of working poor families…sometime there are six people living in one unit. Through Hope Street,” Nate explained, “We’ve been able to send several children from that apartment building to college.” Once inside Hope Street Center, and after talking with the staff, it’s easy to see why they’ve been so successful.
Along with a recreation room equipped with a pool table and a foosball table, Hope Street offers a full-on outdoor basketball court complete with electronic scoreboard. What kid wouldn’t want to hang out here!
Back at CHMC, Nate shared with me other community outreach programs the hospital offers in Healthy Eating Lifestyles, Type 2 Diabetes Management, Healthy Pregnancy and Healthy Baby programs along with prevention education on chronic diseases. Hospital medical staff are always willing to go out into the community, according to Nate, to speak to groups at offices, churches, schools or other community gathering places.
Serving a diverse community with limited healthcare facilities has its challenges, which Nate fully acknowledges. In seeking to constantly provide better patient experiences, Nate and his staff make their own daily rounds so they know first-hand if there are any concerns that management needs to address. One remarkable innovation that CHMC has implemented is the Emergency Room “InQuicker” wait time clock that operates in real time on the CHMC website. You can actually make an appointment from the website and, instead of having to wait in the emergency room, you can stay home until it’s time to head over to the hospital where every effort will be made to get you in at the time your were given. It’s the “Open Table” solution for non-critical emergency care!
Like all hospitals, CHMC seeks volunteers to support their efforts and there are always funds to be raised, challenges to address and recruiting and training to provide optimal services. At the heart of CHMC’s challenges is Los Angeles’ indigent population whose needs, coupled with upcoming ACA provisions, will require healthcare providers do more with less–putting stress on the hospital’s ability to meet growing demands. The location of CHMC between Hope Street and Grand Avenue really reflects its objectives–to implement grand plans and provide hope for all who come through its doors.
If you’d like to know more about CHMC health care programs, volunteer opportunities, philanthropic investment programs or community outreach , just leave a comment here or reach out to me through my Google + account below. I know Nate will welcome the opportunity to connect with you.