Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman for Homelessness

Name: Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman

What is your job?

Former 3X NFL Pro Bowl and All-Pro; NFL Analyst; CEO of Lights Out Brand

What social causes are most important to you?

As a child, I was the victim of two house fires and was left homeless as a result. Because of this, I’ve dedicated my time and resources to making a difference in the lives of homeless families.

What charity do you support – and how?

I established Lights On Foundation early in my NFL career to helping fight homelessness and host annual events to benefit the cause. One event is my annual coat drive which is going on its 11th year. Lights On Foundation has been able to collect over 20,000 garments through this event, which have been donated to members of the Maryland and Washington D.C. communities where I grew up. Our upcoming coat drive will be held on November 23rd prior to the University of Maryland vs. Boston College game.

Lights On Foundation has also held an annual charity bowling event with friends, celebrities, and members of the community participating in raising money for the Foundation. The event has always been extremely successful and has helped to provide food, clothing, and shelter to children and families in need.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?

Giving back to my community that supported me through tough times is very rewarding. Having spent time in homeless shelters as a kid, I understand how this impacts your life and want to do what I can to ensure children and families never have to go through this.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? Identify what causes mean the most to you personally and research how you can become involved. Giving back doesn’t necessarily mean writing a check; donating your time to help plan charitable events or work with at-risk youth can be just as impactful.

How would you define social responsibility?

I would define social responsibility as recognizing that there is something we can all do to help others less fortunate and taking action. I’ve been able to use my platform as an NFL player to help others but you don’t need to be a professional athlete or celebrity to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your work?

 “Heart of Gold” is tattooed on the left side of my chest. Whether in sports or life in general, it’s not about how fast you are, it’s about having a heart. I believe in doing the right things for people and having a heart of gold.

Check out: Diablo Rose for Little Princess Trust

jme Thomas’ Motley Zoo

Name: jme Thomas

What is your job? 

Full-time volunteer executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue

What social causes are most important to you? 

Animal welfare, primarily finding homes for pets in need.

What charity do you support – and how? 

Motley Zoo primarily, but I also started “Cancer is a Jerk” in honor of my best friend who is losing her battle to aggressive and advanced breast cancer. I have always been a person dedicated to service. I used to design clothing (came VERY close to being on Project Runway three times!) and my goal with the clothing line was to donate the proceeds to charity. Eventually, I decided that instead of trying to get from A to Z by selling the clothes, I could instead just do the work myself instead, directly to the causes I cared about. So I have now funded 2 charities, though Motley Zoo is my full-time priority.

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie? 

I have always loved animals- they used to call my mother Dr. Doolittle, so I certainly got it from her, but actually, I was never allowed a dog or cat growing up-it wasn’t until college and beyond that, I actually had experience with these animals, but it changed my life. Adopting my first rescue dog was the catalyst for fostering, and that was the end of the line for me- I knew that was my calling. Less than 2 years later I founded Motley Zoo with less than $2500 and a handful of people to help. We are now an org of over 100 volunteers and just rescued our 1000th pet (since May 2009).

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? 

I would encourage them to consider volunteering or fostering for a shelter or rescue near them. Adopt, or donate too. Fostering is easier than people think- we always encourage someone to give it a try just once- the experience is the most amazing thing…you think that changing the pet’s life is the basis, but really you find it changes yours the most! Don’t be afraid to ACT TODAY in finding a way to help animals in need.

How would you define social responsibility?

It is everyone’s responsibility to attend to the little corners of their world. Everyone has some kind of a cause that gets them going- rather than talking, criticizing, and worrying ACT. Action is critical, and it starts with ONE person, one day, deciding the solution is in their hands.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your work?  

Yes, I have 2 cats on my lower back — my first 2 kitties. I have a large cat on my bicep, the incarnation of all my black kitties to date (4). I am trying to work out getting a logo of a cat adoption campaign in exchange for a grant…the others are Nike, the goddess of victory. This came initially from my love of the Misfits (my first tat was actually a Misfits fiend but done badly so I covered it up with the cats on my butt), but Nike was a goddess with fiery golden hair (same as mine) and through the many adversities in my life, I have triumphed. It is across my full back- my first anniversary present from my husband, also the artist.

He wouldn’t do it for me when we first met because he thought I’d regret it if we broke up…but I told him that was silly- and after a year, and knowing we were to marry, he agreed! I added lilies to her feet when my mother died(she bred many new kinds of them). I also have a compass, that 2 of my other friends have. My one friend died suddenly as well so it means even more to me now. All of my tats mean something important to me- and I plan to get a sleeve of animals, clearly dedicated to all my charitable efforts too.

Your artist?  

Bryan Thomas, my husband. The most talented artist ever! He only moonlights as an artist now but used to work in a shop.

Check out: Shawne “Lights Out” Merriman for Homelessness

The Slants: “Don’t be a jerk: help make it a better place for us all.”

Name: Simon Young

What is your job? I play bass for The Slants

What social causes are most important to you? I’m passionate about justice. Whether it is racism, bullying, sexism, homophobia, or inequity caused by corruption, I think there’s definitely something that we can do to make this world a better place. For the past few years, our brand has been helping rescue refugees from North Korea and raising money for cancer research.

What charities do you support – and how?

Liberty in North KoreaI donate money and help raise awareness of the human rights crisis in North Korea.
The Trevor Project: I donate 50% of my income from consulting work towards this charity.
Basic Rights Oregon: I volunteer for events, donate financially, and work with them to fight for things like trans rights, marriage equality, and gender/sexual education.

APANOI volunteer quite a bit to fight for Asian American issues in the state; we host events, the lobby at the capitol, and also raise awareness of issues. I also support them financially.

OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting): This is our state’s public radio chapter. I’m a supporting member, contribute to their Insight network, participate in discussions in person and online, and help with other resources.

American Cancer SocietyI was a former manager there and helped raise nearly $700,000 for research and services to cancer survivors. I volunteer at events, donate money, help promote researchers, and lobby for the Cancer Action Network.

Why do you have a passion for these, is there a personal tie? 

As an Asian American, I grew up knowing what it was like to be treated differently, to have a different set of rights than those around me and was subjected to bullying and humiliation simply because of my identity. It can be a cruel world but I want to make it a little better place before I go.

 Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved? 

The most important thing you can do is to show up. Find something that you are passionate about and ask, “How can I help?” You’ll be given more options than you’ll know what to do with, but at least you’ll be making a difference. One of the biggest ways you can help is to contribute financially. Even if you can only give $5 per month, that’s $60 per year!

Have you done a song about any of these topics? 

Our band has many songs talking about social justice and personal experiences with it. We also donate 100% of the profits from our second release, a dance remix of our first album, to cancer research. We’re also starting a non-profit organization aimed at fighting bullying in schools – even better than a song!

How would you define social responsibility?

We’re all a part of the planet and each one of us has an obligation to create sustainable living for our communities: economically, environmentally, and through social justice. In other words, don’t be a jerk: help make it a better place for us all.

Quick list of artists:

Divergent Studios in Poplar Bluff, MS!

Name:  Aron Moxley

What is your job?

Lead singer for The Slants – I play the microphones!

What social causes are most important to you?

Human rights and animal rights. Abuse towards children really po\isses me off. Whether it’s physical or mental harm or not getting them enough to eat. Shit, I know it’s tough and times are bad. I’ve lived out of my car before but if you have children then you have to strive and roll differently. You need to straighten your perspective and get proper. And animal abuse really gets me fired up.

Portland is full of real homeless people. But then there is this fake homeless culture that stands at intersections, on-ramps, and off-ramps of highways begging for change with their dogs. Just really bums me out. I know a lot of them aren’t really homeless and they’re actually taking resources away from people who are. Outside of this bar I frequent, there was this one guy that would stand outside with a sign that said “very hungry” and he lived by my friend. He wasn’t homeless or hungry. Bar customers would buy him food when they would be leaving and as soon as the nice people would turn the corner he’d throw the food away. I’m not saying don’t have compassion for real homeless people but this guy was faking the funk. So the bartender told me he hides his sign in the bushes behind the bar. So I went back there late one night and switched his sign out with one that said “very horny” instead. It’s been 3 months and he hasn’t been back.

What charities do you support – and how?

I volunteer at the only no-kill dog shelter in Portland called Family Dogs New Life 3 days a week (unless we’re on tour). We’re not just walking cute puppies – we’re helping nurse abused dogs, clean their crates, and many baths for dogs who don’t like baths.
You have to watch their “Piteo” videos! They’re pitbull videos set to a song, theme, and acting. They are super funny. Go, go see them now!

Why do you have a passion for this one in particular, is there a personal tie?

The program directors for the dog shelter used to be in a punk band with me over a decade ago called “Evening at the Black House”.  And the fact that I’m there 16 hours a week.

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?

In general, going to your local shelter or humane society to help is awesome. Donate food, bleach, toys, blankets, towels, etc. And people, please spay and neuter your pets!  Never buy a dog from a breeder!  Also, Pitbulls are sweethearts! 

How would you define social responsibility?

A couple of ways. One is kindness with empathy. You need to treat everyone with respect and help your fellow human. The other one is compassion. You need to be compassionate towards others.

Do you have any tattoos that relate to your social work?

I have one that is of an old Chinese man sitting on the river bank flocked by dragonflies and turtles, it represents my love for animals. There’s a waterfall in the background, wind bars filling in the negative space. That piece was done by Lewis Hess of Portland’s own Atlas studios. He used to be my roommate.

Quick list of artists?

My Vietnamese name rattled down my spine (Hour Cong Do) by Kimbra Schlater. The left half of my stomach and chest of a sumo wrestler throwing water like in the traditional Japanese tuxedo style. My head is tattooed with 4 Vietnamese stars. These represent my pride in my cultural heritage.

Check out: jme Thomas’ Motley Zoo