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'Today' lends a hand

Al Roker visits cities across the country for a week-long series on making a difference.

Now, more than ever, with all that’s happening in our world, so many Americans need a helping hand. Because of this, “Today’s” Al Roker is once again hitting the pavement and traveling across the country to lend a hand to Americans.

For the third year in a row, Al is scheduled to travel the country with a large truck filled with goods that meet the needs of five different charities across the U.S. Learn more about the organizations he visits and how you can help:

DAY 1: RICHMOND, CALIFORNIA:
Recipient organization:Rubicon Bakery/ Rubicon Programs
2500 Bissell Avenue Richmond, CA 94804www.rubiconpgms.org

Contact:Rick Aubry, executive director Rubicon Programs 510/231-3927 fax 510/235-2025 ricka@rubiconpgms.org

Rubicon works with people who are homeless or living in poverty and people with disabilities to develop their assets and build their self-worth so they succeed in achieving greater independence. Their programs include a bakery that specializes in premium hand-crafted desserts, a landscaping business, and transitional housing.To learn more you can visit their Web site at: www.rubiconpgms.org

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DAY 2: DENVER, COLORADO:
Recipient organization:
YouthBiz, Inc.
1617 E. 35th Ave. Denver, CO 80205 303-297-0212www.youthbiz.org

Contact:
Brain Barhaugh, executive director303/297-0212, ext. 102brian@youthbiz.orgThea Washington, development director702/974-5111

YouthBiz is mostly an after school based program that reaches out to children in the poorer Denver neighborhoods and gives them the basic training they need to succeed in the business world. It also keeps these kids off the streets. YouthBiz gives them actual work-based learning opportunities while providing wages tied to work performance and academic achievement. The kids run a T-shirt business designing T-shirts and selling them for a profit. They  also run a computer business where they refurbish donated computers and then re-sell them to grade schoolers from $30 to $250 for a custom model which includes a DVD. They're in the process of starting a healthy snack food business as well.

The organization works really hard to stop expulsion since Denver has one of the highest rates of hispanic dropouts. The organization actually goes to the schools to find these children and then brings them into this program. They've had fantastic results.To learn more you can visit their Web site at: www.youthbiz.org

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DAY 4: MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN
Recipient organization: Family House, Inc.
3269 N. 11th Street Milwaukee, WI  53206

Contact:
Cordelia Taylor 414/374-5212

Family House is a grouping of six residential care facilities for seniors on Milwaukee's north side. The organization accepts residents regardless of their ability to pay. Founder Cordelia Taylor said the cost of providing care averages $2,400 a month per client; 30 percent of the facility's 56 residents pay less than half that. Some pay nothing. Family House also runs an after-school program for neighborhood children who interact with the seniors. A medical clinic associated with Family House is open to the entire community.

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DAY 4: JOHNS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA
Recipient organization:Sea Island Habitat for Humanity
3487 McGill Court Johns Island, SC 29455www.seaislandhabitat.org

Contact:
Kimberly M. Farfone Development and Communications Manager (843) 768-0998, ext. 111

Sea Island Habitat for Humanity's Sea Island Place is our fifth neighborhood since 1978. It currently has 31 occupied homes and roughly 20 homes in various stages of construction all to be occupied by the end of 2004. In addition to Sea Island Place, our third neighborhood of Island Estates is adjacent to it. This neighborhood has roughly 30 additional occupied homes. Sea Island Habitat for Humanity's partner in service, Our Lady of Mercy Outreach Center, borders Island Estates and offers many critical services to low-income families of the islands. To learn more you can visit their Web site at: www.seaislandhabitat.org

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DAY 5: WASHINGTON, D.C.
Recipient organization:LIFEPIECES TO MASTERPIECES
www.lifepieces.org

Contact:
Mary Brown 202-399-7703  Lifepieces to Masterpieces' mission/purpose is to provide African American males, living in Washington, D.C.'s low-income and public housing, with opportunities to discover their ability to change challenges into possibilities. They mainly do this through artistic expression, which includes drawing, painting and poetry.

Masterpieces' population is African American males; between the ages of 3-21; living in low-income and public housing, East of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. Well over half of LPTM's participants are disengaged from school. Most of LPTM apprentices are found in special education classes; in detention; being suspended, expelled and often truant. Many of the participants have experienced the legal system as victims of abuse and/or neglect. Over half of LPTM's participants face many challenges within their households and neighborhoods such as domestic violence, substance abuse, illiteracy and unemployment of their parent/guardian. Over 90 percent of LPTM participants do not have a father or positive male role model present in the home. Lifepieces to Masterpieces boys and young men are often referred to as boys on the edge.

The organization has just expanded to allow the mothers of these boys to participate, which has helped to bridge the communication gap often existing between mother and son. They are called the Ladies of Lifepieces to Masterpieces. To learn more you can visit their Web site: www.lifepieces.org

To learn more about the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture and their exhibition of Lifepieces to Masterpieces' art, you can visit their Web site at: www.anacostia.si.edu