Ten things you can do for others for free that will help you Network better

1)    Be A Matchmaker: Introduce people in your network who need to know each other. I do this on Twitter and Linkedin quite extensively! Cost to me: Zip.

2)    Be A Matchmaker Part Dos: Host a conference call for 5-6 people in your network. Introduce them to each other and have a topic so you get the benefit of everyone’s thinking. Use a free conference call service like http://freeconferencecall.com to keep this bad boy free!

3)    Create A Free E-Book for your network: You can easily create these in word and convert to PDF.  There are even free templates you can download so you can avoid expensive software. Note: You don’t have to be a literary genius to do this. It can be as simple as a 10 Things To Think About When Buying (fill in your product) or some other helpful hints that help you demonstrate your expertise to your network . . . while providing value!

4)    Create A Spot For Your Free Stuff On Your Website: That’s what I did and you can see for yourself by clicking here dude!

5)    Connect With And Get To Know Some Recruiters: Introduce folks who are in transition and you create a win/win/win. Oh and it costs you nothing to be cool like that!

6)    Send A Brand Agnostic Resource: Every 4-6 weeks send a link to a helpful article, a website, the name of a helpful book and yes, its perfectly cool to offer some of your free stuff too . . . just make sure you don’t make it all “ME, ME, ME!”

7)    Use Your Brand Agnostic Resource To Introduce Someone In Your Network: I’ve promoted other Linkedin groups, friend’s training events, etc. Didn’t cost me a dime and made me feel pretty darn cool when I found out people supported the people I was supporting. Did I mention, that cost me nothing? One caveat: Be careful who you recommend or it will cost you your reputation. Not bueno!

8)    Pay Attention To Status Updates And . . . Encourage, validate, give a damn. These things cost you nothing and here’s the thing . . . people gravitate towards people who make them feel good. Don’t ever forget that!

9)    Pay Attention To Status Updates And . . . offer to jump on a call with someone who might need some advice or even the benefit of some mutual brainstorming.

10)  Provide Rock Star Opportunities: If you see a group discussion or a question where someone in your network can look like a rock star . . . First talk them up publicly and then tell them about it in your best “Get in there dude (or dudette)” fashion!

So there you have it, 10 ways for you to give to your network without having to sell all your worldly possessions to do it.

Now it’s your turn . . . What can we add to this list or What are your thoughts in general about this whole business of giving to our network?

next e-waste event in Burbank…send it to your Los Angeles, CA contacts…it’s free!



Lodi’s Judi Harrison and Emily Paige help deaf children communicate using dolls

Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel

Evelyn Nelsona, a Larson Elementary School student who had trouble communicated with students and her teacher,  makes her first sign to an I Can Sign Doll.

As Judi Harrison thinks back to the young girl who introduced her to sign language, tears flood her eyes. Harrison, a Lodi resident, recalls the girl and her mother visiting the salon where Harrison worked. The girl would touch her own chin and then waver her hand downward as Harrison did the woman’s hair.

Finally, Harrison asked the mother what the girl was doing.

“She is telling you ‘thank you’ in sign language,” the mother said.

Never had Harrison thought that the girl was deaf. Nor did she expect that one interaction would lead her to a new love and passion for helping deaf children.

Touched, Harrison signed up for a sign language class at San Joaquin Delta College in the 1980s. She was hooked. She learned all she could from Denise Reich, the former instructor.

Since then, Harrison’s family has housed a deaf person for five years. They volunteer wherever they can, serving as interpreters and trying to match deaf people with volunteers. Her daughter, Emily Paige, volunteered in Elk Grove at Merryhill teaching the children sign language.

Yet no one in their family is deaf. The little girl who inspired Harrison all those years ago ignited a fire in Harrison’s heart that has fanned out to her daughter, who has in turn taught sign language to her four children.

But that love and knowledge was not enough. Twenty years ago, the duo began a project to create a doll that deaf children could relate to, a doll with malleable hands and fingers so that a child can manipulate the fingers to sign.

“The only dolls out there are closed fisted dolls,” Harrison said.

The I Can Sign dolls, made with parts from the United States, went through many phases, patterns and designs. Materials were tested at Harrison’s home.

“I thought it was going to be easy,” Paige said, laughing. “We tried muslin, cotton, different hair. We wanted it to be sturdy, so the kids can play with it, but also easy to clean.”

They found some fabrics were too stretchy or the leg size was too big or the hair just wasn’t right.

“They are Julia-tested,” she said, refering to her very active 3-year-old daughter.

The dolls, who can wear newborn clothes or clothes in the American Girl doll collection, are customizable to which ear the hearing aid is placed. Children can pick the eye color, the hair color, the sex, baby or bunny.

Emily picked up the boy doll, Preston, with its Justin Beiber-inspired hair-do.

The idea behind the I Can Sign dolls is to “fill a gap for every deaf persons needs, starting at home. It is to remind them that society hasn’t forgotten them — you’re not alone in the house surrounded with the hearing,” Harrison said.

The students can trust the dolls.

“The dolls are good for keeping secrets,”  Harrison said. “The dolls fit in with deaf kids and are not intimidating.”

The deaf do not have a word for everything like the hearing do. Instead they use synonyms and read how a person is “talking” with them, whether they are happy or angry, in order to get the meaning.

“I remember signing to a group of students, ‘It’s raining,’ and they asked how I knew. They didn’t realize you can hear the rain fall,” she said.

Harrison became emotional remembering instances like this one.

“I admire them so much,” Harrison said.

Denise Reich: The educator

She hunkered down in her chair at the kidney shaped table. The pre-k and kindergarten classroom looks like any other classroom you may find at Larson Elementary.

“Today we are going to make a red chicken!” Denise Reich said, excitedly. She stressed “red” and “chicken,” repeating the sign in American Sign Language for her pre-schoolers and one kindergartner.

They were excited. They laughed and jumped in their blue chairs. They are just like other young children, except they cannot hear.

The eight students in her class are deaf or hard of hearing. After lunch, Reich put on her microphone transmitted through a FM station. She then calls up each student to put on their hearing aids.

“Aaa. Eee. Ooo. Ccc. Shhhh. Mmmm,” she whispereed into their ears. They repeated each sound and earned a big hug as a sign of a job well done.

Reich is amazed with science and improvements in hearing aids and cochlear implants.

“They used to have to hang big boxes around their necks. Now the devices are so much smaller,” she said.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.

In 1987, when Reich came to Lodi to teach the deaf there was not a school for the deaf. Now, she is glad Lodi Unified School District realized the need. When a position was posted for Lawrence Elementary School, she immediately applied. She had been living in Lodi, but  commuted to her Modesto teaching job for seven years.

Today, there is a 3-year-old to kindergarten class at Larson. Victor School teaches the first-through fourth-grade students. Houston Elementary School teaches fifth through eighth grades. High school students are taught at Tokay High.

“Now (the deaf) are being cared for throughout instruction,” Reich said.

Reich graduated from the University of the Pacific and then received her master’s in deaf communication at Lewis & Clark University in Portland, Ore. She had hearing loss due to numerous ear infections when she was a child.

As an educator, her goal is for her students  to move into mainstream classes.

“There was a time when deaf students thought that at the age of 18, they died or just disappeared. The children didn’t see deaf adults,” she said.

Once, when one of her classes met a deaf adult, she says the students were in shock. Now, she has a deaf Santa come to class during the holidays.

Captioning on television, Blackberries and texting devices have helped parents and students become more involved.

Facebook also helps Reich keep track of her former students.

“It’s so nice to see what they have done in their lives,” she said, adding that some of her students are now in schools such as  University of Houston and California State University, Stanislaus.

However, the communication methods differ from family to family.

Of all the families that Reich has worked with, about 20  communicate through signing. Others find the language difficult, which leads to some parents or caregivers giving up.

“Parents quit once they think deafness is a barrier. It holds (the child) back. It’s disappointing,” Reich said. “On the other hand, there are families where even the aunts and uncles sign. Those kids will go far.”

The students have taught Reich to be flexible. Everyone — even deaf students —  learn at different speeds, but eventually, they succeed.

“Their only limits are what we put on them,” she said.

For Reich, teaching deaf students is her passion.

“Every day I enjoy coming to school. I am tired when I go home, but I love it,” she said. “This is my 31st year … I just know that this is my calling.”

Meeting the dolls

Monday morning was like ever other morning in Reich’s classroom. She was finished placing hearing aids in students’ ears when visitors arrived.

Harrison, Paige, and Paige’s daughter, Julia, entered with three dolls in their arms. The children turned in excitement.

Hugs were exchanged between teacher and former student. The class moved to their story-time rug and sat down.

One by one, the children were introduced to the dolls.

Immediately, Zahra Franklin-Villanueva picked up the baby doll. She inspected the hearing aid and pointed to her own. She cradled the baby doll. The two were inseparable.

“See Zahra, just like you,” Reich told her.

Noah Camello played with the boy doll, making him skate along the carpet on black rollerblades. Leysli Villegas-Perez also played with the boy doll, examining his hearing aid. The children touched the fingers, moving them up and down, bending them into signs.

“These are perfect. They love them,” Reich told Harrison. “They don’t have anything like this.”

But perhaps the most successful moment of the morning was when Evelyn Nelson, a new student in the class signed for the first time to the doll. Coming into the class last week, she only knew thumbs up and “no.” Reich had been working with her earlier in the day on signing horse, cat and dog. She would not sign to the teacher or her classmates.

But on Monday, Nelson signed “I love you” to the doll.

For Reich it was overwhelming.

“For her to see the doll and sign ‘I love you’ — she knew exactly that she was supposed to form her hand like the doll. Tonight I will go home and cry,” she said.

For Harrison, it was also an emotional morning.

“Oh my gosh, to have them see and be able to relate … To see them talking to (the dolls) — that’s what we wanted. The only difference is communication,” she said.

The doll makers gave the children hugs and said goodbye, but left the dolls in the classroom. Tears of happiness filled Harrison’s eyes as she left.

The students returned to the work table, where everyone  sang “The wheels on the bus go round and round …” The doll signed along on Reich’s lap. One by one, each student was called up to help the doll.

The mother-and-daughter duo believe every deaf class should have their dolls nationwide.

Harrison’s goal now is to translate popular reading books into sign books. Parents can learn the language, as well as bond with their child while reading beloved stories.

“Every child deserve to communicate in their own language,” she said.

To contact Jen Howell, email Jenh@lodinews.com.

How can you help and land a Hand during these hard times…and during the holidays

1-Help a needy family meet their mortgage: Donations will help families handle their mortgages at aa discounted rate, for more info about qualifications go to http://www.gradientgivesback.com

2 Help low income families http://www.familypromise.org/

3 Act Now to stop a new HIV/AIDS crisis, Aids is the third leading cause of death among African-American Women in the 30s and 40’s , to learn more on how to help go to http://www.southernaidscoalition.org

4 Provide comfort for an injured warrior https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/Default.aspx?tsid=474&campaignSource=CDRO&source=B100137&gclid=CPCy0N2q_qwCFasaQgodBFV8UQ

5 Reforest sacred lands in New Mexico http://nmcf.org

6 Help two flooded Communities in Kentucky, http://www.Chirsianapp.org

7 Keep a home warm this winter; http://www.nationalfuelfunds.org

8 Build safe rooms in Joplin Schools; http://www.joplinschools.org

9 Change kids life and a city image; http://www.stocktongov.com/peacekeepers

10 Adopt a team for the Olympic Games http://www.teamusa.org/adoptateam