Our FAQ Responses
Frequently Asked Questions
When was the Mattie J.T. Stepanek founded?
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation (sometimes called Mattie’s Foundation) was founded as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization during Spring 2005, close to a year after Mattie died. (Learn more “About Mattie” here…)
Who started Mattie’s Foundation?
Mattie’s Foundation was initiated by three citizens who resided in the same community where Mattie lived during his last few years (King Farm in Rockville, Maryland). These three individuals were Robert Balkam (a former member of the military and retired salesman), W. Thomas Curtis (an accountant and CPA), and Terrance Sheehan (a medical doctor and director of a rehabilitation facility). Though only two of these founders met Mattie on one or two occasions, all three of them were deeply inspired by his message of hope and peace.
Why was Mattie’s Foundation created?
Mattie’s Foundation was created to continue the work and mission of Mattie J.T. Stepanek, the late teen poet and peace activist. During Mattie’s almost 14 years of life, he was passionate about sharing a message of hope and peace through poetry, essays, speeches, service activities, and media opportunities. Mattie not only inspired millions of people around the world with his words, he also offered specific actions and choices that each person can make that will further personal and world peace. Mattie’s Foundation was created to continue spreading Mattie’s message through programs, projects, materials, and activities that reflect and further his work.
What is the mission and vision of Mattie’s Foundation?
The mission of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is to further Mattie’s message of hope and peace by providing access to the message, promoting understanding of the message, and motivating people to action in sharing the message. Our vision is to offer educational and recreational programs, projects, activities, and resources that encourage peacemaking as a deliberate choice for individuals and for our world. We celebrate Mattie’s belief that “We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts, to nurture, to offer, to accept.” Like Mattie, we believe that “Peace is for all people!” and that “Peace is possible!”
Who manages Mattie’s Foundation?
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is managed by a volunteer Board of Directors which meets quarterly (more often if needed). The Board of Directors is led by four Executive Officers (President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary) who work with the other Directors, as well as with Foundation volunteers and members of the community who participate in Foundation-related programs and activities. The Board also works directly with the Executive Director to fulfill the mission and vision of Mattie’s Foundation. Each Director brings “time, talent, and/or treasure” to the Board in some way, the supports the program, outreach, and development goals of the Foundation.
How many people are on the Board of Directors and how are they selected?
During the early years, Mattie’s Foundation had a Board of five to seven volunteer Directors. Due to growth and expansion of programs and activities, in 2012 the Board voted to increase the numbers of Directors to “up to 12 members” who volunteer for four years of service. Directors may choose to renew their service at the end of each term. Some of the volunteers who are elected to the Board are invited to consider service due to a particular aspect of “time, talent, or treasure” they may bring to fulfill the Foundation mission. Other members of the Board request to serve for one or more terms because they are excited about our mission and programs. All members — whether invited to serve or self-nominated for service — are voted in during elections, which are held during the Fall Board meeting. Most of the Directors commit to serving a four year term (though some have served for one to three years), and may be re-elected when their terms expires if they choose to serve again. The Directors elect the Executive officers from within the Board membership to lead the Foundation.
When did Mattie’s mom become involved with the Foundation?
After it was first decided that a not-for-profit organization would be established with the purpose of continuing Mattie’s mission of sharing a message of hope and peace, Jeni Stepanek (Mattie’s mom) was invited to join the effort. As the person who raised Mattie and who knew his message and mission most intimately, she was appointed a permanent Director with the right to appoint a successor to fill her role as a permanent Director in her absence. At the same time Jeni was invited to serve on the Board of Directors, a fifth Founding member was also invited to serve — Sandra Newcomb, a member of what Mattie called his kin-family, and who was like another mother to him.
When did Mattie’s mom become Executive Director of Mattie’s Foundation?
During the early years of Mattie’s Foundation, Jeni Stepanek primarily served the Foundation in a guidance role, providing clarity on Mattie’s message and mission. She also worked with the City of Rockville on defining the vision for the Peace Garden in the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park. In 2010, Jeni was appointed to serve in the position of Executive Director, which had previously been filled by J. Stanley Schmidt since 2006 when the position was created. Stan resigned for health and personal reasons late in 2009, and died during in 2010. Jeni was selected to serve in the position because the Foundation was at a turning point, shifting after several years of focusing primarily on the creation of the park to a focus on the creation of programs and materials that support peace through educational and recreational goals and activities. By profession, Jeni is a teacher, writer, researcher, and motivational speaker, and holds a doctoral degree in special education. The Board of Directors decided that her skills, passion, and in-depth understanding of Mattie’s message were a match for what was needed to continue moving the Foundation forward.
What does Mattie’s mom do as the Executive Director of Mattie’s Foundation?
Jeni’s service as Executive Director largely involves creating and managing many of the programs, materials, and outreach endeavors that the Board of Directors decide will support and further the mission of the Foundation. She also works collaboratively with other peace-related organizations. Some of her routine activities include the following:
- Manage the Foundation website, including the development of content, updates, and management of all pages;
- Create materials, programs, projects, and outreach endeavors that further the Foundation mission;
- Create and manage the Foundation’s e-Peace Updates, Press and News Releases, Messages from Mama Peace, and other outreach activities;
- Encourage participation of Foundation Members (Peace Club Kids, Teens, Adults, VIPs, and Messengers);
- Support Peace Journey Teens as they create and carry-out their peace plans or community service activities;
- Support educators, business leaders, youth leaders, parents, and others who choose to become Peace Certified by Mattie’s Foundation as they create and carry-out their Peace Plans;
- Respond to mail and communications about Mattie, his message, his legacy, or the Foundation;
- Maintain a secure database for Peace Club Members, Champions, Peace Network, and other Foundation related documentation;
- Process, fulfill, and maintain database on Peace Shop orders and transactions;
- Plan and share presentations and speeches (for Peace Certification or for Peace & Book Chats) about Mattie’s life, message, and the Foundation that support youth and adults in better understanding personal and world peace;
- Work with volunteer members of the Foundation Committees (Program, Outreach, Development, and Community Involvement committees), sharing ideas they offer with the Board of Directors, and providing volunteer training for specific activities and events;
- Collaborate and network with other peace-related organizations, institutions, and individuals working towards peace for our world;
- Support the Board in the development of the Foundation, including securing financial resources that allow the Foundation to continue operations that fulfill the mission; and,
- Other tasks or activities that support the mission and vision of Mattie’s Foundation.
What role did Mattie’s Foundation have in building the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park?
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park was built by and is managed by the City of Rockville, Maryland. Mattie’s Foundation was invited to support City in the development and vision for certain aspects of the park, including the Peace Garden (where Mattie’s statue is located), the Bank Shot area (an inter-ability sport activity), and ensuring the Mattie’s message was reflected throughout the park. The Foundation contributed funds for the life-size bronze of Mattie and his service dog, Micah, for the plaques on benches throughout the park that are inscribed with quotes from Mattie’s books and speeches, and helped with decision-making and the design of other elements such as the contents of the information and sound post. The Foundation also worked directly with the City of Rockville to plan the Dedication and Opening Ceremony for Mattie’s Park — an event that was attended by more a thousand people, including politicians, celebrities, fire fighters, Harley Davidson bikers, media representatives, school children, disability organizations, neighbors (and a surprise visit by Oprah Winfrey!). The Foundation continues to manage all orders, inscriptions, and the installation of the personalized gift bricks that are placed in the Peace Garden each year.
What are the goals and activities of Mattie’s Foundation?
- Early goals and activities: The early goals and activities of Mattie’s Foundation included supporting the design and development of the Peace Garden in the 26-acre Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, and drafting plans for programs and activities that would support the mission of spreading Mattie’s message and furthering his work as a peace advocate. The Foundation also coordinated a large scale ‘archival’ process that resulted in the organization and careful storage of thousands of media clippings and communications to or about Mattie across the years. After the Peace Garden and Park were completed, the Foundation moved forward on creating programs that reflect Mattie’s message and mission of peace, and in collaborative efforts with other organizations and institutions fostering peace efforts.
- Ongoing goals and activities: The Foundation goals continue to be the development of programs, materials, and activities that help youth and adults reflect on Mattie’s message and in a meaningful way, respond to the message in a way that supports personal peace, and reach out with the message in a way to promotes world peace. Our For Our World Campaign and What Next? Projects are free international peace initiatives, and sour Pathways to Peace Program makes available many materials and activities that support people in exploring Mattie’s message in a reflective and responsive way. We have created Mattie’s Peace Network (a free international information registry) and Mattie’s Peace Club (Foundation Membership Program), and we have created pages on the Foundation website that reflect the feedback and contributions submitted by children, teens, and adults all over the world. In 2011, we held our first Peace Celebration. In 2012, we launched a Peace Certification Program. We are developing plans to initiate Peace & Book Chats (live online video meetings with Jeni Stepanek), poetry slams and contests, future Peace Celebrations, and other new projects and events.
How is Mattie’s Foundation funded?
- The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is a volunteer-based not-for-profit organization that relies on the support and involvement of people who believe in our mission and work, and who are willing to share their time and resources so that we can continue and further our mission and work. At this time, our funding comes through our Membership (Peace Club) program, our Peace Certification Program, sales in our Peace Shop, and generous donations of either money or in-kind services, materials, or support from people around the world. In 2006, 2007, and 2008, an annual “Mattie’s Heartsong Swim” event was planned and led by the King Farm Screaming Geese Swim Team in Rockville, Maryland. This event brought in much-needed funds for the Foundation. In 2008, Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Foundation gave a one-time $50,000 gift to the Foundation to begin creating our peace education materials and programs. The 2011 Peace Celebration in Mattie’s Park was a wonderful “party for peace” (sponsored by the Foundation but not as a fundraiser) that introduced attendees to our new Pathways to Peace Program.
- Two ongoing activities are also being considered by the Board. One is an annual summertime Peace Celebration, in conjunction with a declared Mattie Stepanek Peace Day around his July birthday. The other is an annual wintertime International Peace Tree activity, building on the success of the 2012 and 2013 Peace Tree events. The goals of these events and activities would be to combine program, outreach, and funding activities while celebrating peace in fun, inspirational, and informational ways that are appealing to people of diverse ages, abilities, and cultures. The vision is for communities around the world to create local events (with the support of and promotion by Mattie’s Foundation) that celebrate these activities. While raising awareness of Mattie’s message of peace through a combination of recreation and education, the Foundation would also benefit from fundraising events (such as a Membership drive, donations, or Peace Shop sales) that support operating expenses. The Foundation is also currently seeking an individual who is willing and able to support us in creating and carrying out a Development Plan. We are also looking to partner with universities through an internship program, and are seeking individuals willing and able to support us in grant writing and resource securing activities.
Is Mattie’s Foundation a political or religious organization?
The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation is not a political or religious organization. We promote peace for all people in all spaces of the world. We believe that peace is possible, even is we disagree with our neighbor. While the message we share is about non-violence and personal sacrifices of time and resources, it is not an anti-military statement nor is it about self-sacrifice. We endeavor to raise awareness of what peace is and what peace is not, and how peace begins and how peace grows. We accomplish this by creating programs, activities, materials, and events that offer information, inspiration, and tools to support people in reflecting on peace, responding to peace, and reaching out with peace. We believe that education about peace — exploring strategies for both personal peace and world peace — matters. We also believe that conversation about peace — both with our neighbors around the block and with our neighbors around the world — is essential. Our goal is to support people in moving from attitude to action, and from peace within to peace with others and peace with our world. We encourage the realization of peace as a deliberate choice in thought, word, and deed. This means that peace becomes more than a task to be accomplished in a one time project and checked off of a list of things we want To Do. Instead, people develop peaceful habits so that peace becomes an embraced essence and an ongoing part of who we want To Be.
Is Mattie’s Foundation part of Mattie’s Guild (Cause for Canonization)?
Mattie’s Foundation and Mattie’s Guild are two distinct organizations.While the members of Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation fully support the efforts of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Guild (i.e., the Committee of people gathering information for Mattie’s possible Cause for Canonization, or sainthood, in the Catholic Church), we are not a part the Guild. The Board of Directors for Mattie’s Foundation is diverse in faith, and our members represent diverse religious affiliations, yet, we collectively believe that the message of hope and peace that Mattie shaped and shared is for all people — all ages and abilities, all races and religions, all cultures and classes, and more, and therefore, we support and encourage the work of Mattie’s Guild. We make available to the members of Mattie’s Guild any information that will support an understanding of the message Mattie shared in his writings and speeches. We also make available to members of Mattie’s Guild any media articles about Mattie that come to our attention. And, we share the beautiful communications — letters and e-mails and Facebook comments — we receive from people of so many faiths and cultures around the world about how Mattie’s life and legacy inspires them. We even receive and share letters of hope and peace and spirituality from people who are of no particular religious affiliation, but who have thoughts to share about becoming a better person because of Mattie’s writings. (For more information on Mattie’s Guild, please e-mail MattiesCause@gmail.com).
Who created the logo for Mattie’s Foundation?
The logo we use for Mattie’s Foundation originated as artwork by Christopher Dobbins, who created it for the cover of Mattie’s final book, “Just Peace: A Message of Hope.” Chris was like a kin-brother to Mattie, and knew Mattie his entire life. As Mattie’s writing and speaking skills emerged, so did Chris’ skills as an artist. Before Mattie died, he and Chris were working on ideas for several books in which Chris would illustrate the poetry and materials Mattie was creating. The “Just Peace” logo combined Mattie’s concept of “Heartsongs” (our purpose, or reason for being) with his message that “we have, we are, a mosaic of gifts.” When the Foundation was created, Chris allowed us to use his artwork to develop our logo.
How can people get involved with Mattie’s Foundation?
There are many ways to be involved with Mattie’s Foundation, from serving on the Board of Directors or a Foundation Committee, to volunteering for an event (planning, securing sponsorships, staffing), to becoming a Member or choosing to become Peace Certified, to making a financial or in-kind donation, to supporting our work through the Peace Shop or Gift Brick purchase. We show our gratitude by listing you on our website pages as Members or Champions and by posting your comments and feedback and more. Just send us a message through our Contact Us page (click here), or send us an e-mail at MattieOnline.firstname.lastname@example.org (click here) expressing how you would like to be involved.
How do I learn more about Mattie’s life, message, or Foundation?
To learn more about Mattie’s life, message, or Foundation, please explore our website (www.MattieOnlne.com). Our navigation buttons across the top of each take you our Homepage, our News pages, our Events pages, our Foundation pages, our About Mattie and About Jeni pages, our Peace Shop, and our Galleries (Photo, Video, and Print). At the bottom of each page you will see our monthly Spotlight Features, celebrating individuals or organizations which are demonstrating Mattie’s vision for “peace seekers, peace makers, peace bringers, and peace sponsors.” On the left side of each page you will find our current video feed box (which can be enlarged to full screen), links to our Membership (Peace Club) and Network (Peace Registry) programs, and links to our social network connections (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). To learn more about the Foundation’s financial history, you can see our 990 Forms online.
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