One of my friends – we’ll call him Jonathan (because that’s his name) – is not having a good year. His most recent trial and tribulation involves his aged mother who lives with him. A few days ago, she had a massive stroke and is currently in the hospital with Jonathan at her side.

Earlier today, I was meandering my way around the internet, as you do, when I ran across an interesting design for a plate that can hold food steady while it’s being chopped by someone with only one arm (or the use of only one arm).

I immediately thought this might come in useful for Jonathan’s mother at some stage in the future (I know my dear old granddad would have loved something like this following his stroke). I should have ordered one for Jonathan’s mom then and there, but something else came up, and by the time I remembered I’d lost that link. Due to the wraithlike nature of the web, the page for this particular plate seems to have evaporated into the ether. I had a quick Google while no one was looking and was presented with many similar items, but none as good as the one I saw first (sad face).


Coat That Transmogrifies into a Sleeping Bag

You know how one thing leads to another when you are bouncing around the web. In this case, I ran across a video of a CNN report from 2012.


This video featured Veronika Scott, who was 23 years old at that time. The previous year, Veronica had graduated from the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, where she studied industrial design.

Like many cities around the world, Detroit has a lot of homeless people. In her junior year at the college, Veronica came up with an idea for a waterproof antimicrobial coat that could turn into a heat-trapping sleeping bag for nighttime use and into a cross-body bag for carrying around during the day.

We have a fair number of homeless people here in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where I currently hang my hat. Whenever I travel to a big city like Atlanta, New York, or San Francisco, I’m amazed by the number of homeless folks I run across, and I’m sure I’m only seeing the tip of the homeless iceberg.

I don’t know about you, but I often think to myself, “There but for the grace of whoever is running the multi-universe go I.” As I pen these words, I’m working on the kitchen table at home (waiting for a plumber to visit to inform me what fixing the latest water leak is going to cost). I bask in the glow of electric lights, I’m warmed by a super-duper heating system, there’s hot and cold running water whenever I need it (and even when I don’t in the case of the aforementioned leak), and – even though I’m not hungry at the moment – there’s a tremendous comfort in knowing that the fridge and pantry are packed with consumables.

Having said this, I’m constantly aware that it really wouldn’t take much for everything to go pear-shaped and for almost any of us to find ourselves living on the streets.

In the original video, Veronica had only recently started a non-profit organization called Empowerment Plan that employs people from shelters to make her EMPWR coats and then donates the coats to the homeless.

Furthermore, John Bradburn, the Manager of Waste Reduction at General Motors (GM) (I’m tremendously impressed that GM have such a position), had become aware of the Empowerment Plan and realized that the sound absorbent insulating material GM uses in its door cavities etc. would make a perfect lining for Veronica’s EMPWR coats. GM now donates any scraps of this material to the Empowerment Plan.

In 2015, just three years after the original video, Empowerment Plan was growing in leaps and bounds, as we see in this video by the guys and gals at The Grommet.


Now, in 2019, if you visit the “About Us” page of the Empowerment Plan website, you can see that the team has continued to grow substantially. If only all of us could be so lucky as Veronica as to make such a positive difference to the world!

I am very, very enthused by this project. Helping homeless people is close to my heart, not the least that I have a nagging fear I might join their number one day. The coats cost $125 each. The folks at the Empowerment Plan recently setup a GoFundMe Page with the goal of raising $125,000 to enable them to distribute 1,000 more coats while keep the team employed.

They are happy to accept donations in any amount. Who amongst our number couldn’t afford to pledge $10? For myself, money is a tad tight at the moment, but I just bit the bullet and pledged $125 (plus the $6.80 GoFundMe fee, resulting in a total of $131.80). “Thank goodness for credit cards,” is all I can say.

Over to you. What do you think about Veronica, her Empowerment Plan organization, and her EMPWR coats? Anything you can do to spread the good word via your social media channels (ideally referencing this column) would be very much appreciated. Hey – maybe the company you work for would be interested in contributing to the cause (it wouldn’t hurt to ask).