At age 21, Michelle Landin is making her life count. She’s part of a team at Project Cuddle, an organization that provides pregnant women in crisis help, advice, encouragement, and a friend. The goal of the organization is stop baby abandonment, and it does this through its various awareness programs. Michelle started at Project Cuddle as part of a volunteer assignment for school. She fell in love with the group and even after she completed her assignment she wanted to continue to do more. Michelle’s desire to be a part of such an organization comes from her upbringing and specifically some wise words from her mother “leave things better than how you found them.” To read more about Michelle and Project Cuddle read on in this week’s Non-Profit spotlight .
Name of Organization
Costa Mesa, California
Project Cuddle Inc.
Pleasanton Unified School District
Sunset Community School Aged Program
Tell us how Project Cuddle and how it affects the Latino community
Project Cuddle began in 1996 when a suburban house wife got fed up with reading the many articles of baby abandonment. She started by opening a 24 hour crisis hotline in which pregnant women can call for help, advice, encouragement, and a friend. Project Cuddle provides women in crisis with resources and legal alternatives to the abandonment of their babies. We have within our system, birth mothers of every class, race, age and ethnicity. We try to inform our community in regards to both the Safe Surrender Laws and the Project Cuddle services. In order to reach the Latin community, we have a completely Spanish hotline, as well as bilingual posters and informational brochures.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
I assign volunteers and interns to their daily tasks. I manage emails and phone messages. Since we are a national organization we get responses from volunteers and Rescue Families all across the United States as well as in Canada. I attend to Crisis Cases by organizing, updating, and inputting them into our files. I assign volunteers to Crisis Cases, as well as coordinate with volunteers their needed supplies to inform their local community.
Most notable milestones
August 1996- Project Cuddle hotline opened Apprx. 2005- John Stamos is announced as Project Cuddle’s spokesperson August 2006- 10 year anniversary of Project Cuddle May 2007- baby 600 saved
What’s the niche?
We have rescue families on file as a resource for the birth mothers if they decide to put their baby up for adoption. We are not a facilitator or an adoption agency; we are a charity and therefore do not charge anything for our services. We are run solely on private and corporate donations and grants. We also run a completely confidential hotline.
What’s the biggest challenge for your organization?
Our biggest challenge is informing the nation that there are alternatives to the abandonment of babies and we are here to be a resource for them.
What’s in store for the future?
As Project Cuddle grows we hope to assign one volunteer in each state to be coordinator of our program in their area. We also hope to expand in such a way that we can have enough office staff to manage the the growing number of incoming cases. As for the near future, we have several upcoming events: Feburary 23rd we will host our annual Dinner by the Bay. This event is one of our most popular, as guests are encouraged to dress in a festive, Hawaiian theme. There is live music, silent auctions, and a good time for all. Tickets sell fast so I would suggest keeping an eye out on our web site for more information. May 24th will hold our second annual Flip Flop Formal. This event has a dress code in which guests are asked to wear formals with flip flops. This event is one of my personal favorites because I can enjoy the fun of getting dressed up and stepping out of my everyday clothes without the pain of wearing the corresponding shoes. Again, I would suggest checking our website for future information on this one!
We notice your organization has celebrity endorsement. How much support does Project Cuddle get through those individuals?
As many know, John Stamos is our spokesperson. He is a wonderful man with a big heart and has helped our organization tremendously through his support. Through his efforts we have received national recognition and many new cases. John has been involved since the very beginning and continues to take a great interest in Project Cuddle’s endeavors.
Whats the best way to keep a competitive edge in your field?
We are not competing if others can establish a better way of saving these infant’s lives please continue.
Do you have a guiding principle in life?
No baby deserves to die before having a chance to live.
How do you define success in your field?
We take each day one at a time; each case as though it were the first and therefore, each saved baby, each birth mother who was given hope, each hour the hotline is open is a success.
Any goal yet to be achieved?
To stop baby abandonment all-together. The only way to stop society’s issue of infanticide is to see the problem individually. If we stop seeing the problem tacitly and start viewing it focally, we may experience a sense of empathy and obligation. If we discard ignorance and begin educating people of the consequences of idealistic ideologies, we can start changing. I’m sad to say that this is not a problem that can, nor will, be resolved through a series of laws; it will have to change through the thought process of society’s citizens and our sense of obligation to each other.
Best practical advice you can offer our readers
There is hope. There are alternatives to the abandonment of babies. There are people and resources willing to help mothers in need.
What are some of the supportive words that you have received from a family member or friend on your venture?
I grew up on my mother’s words: Leave things better than how you found it. Whether this meant cleaning the kitchen after I cooked a meal or leaving this world better than when I entered it, I will hold dear her words for as long as I live. My favorite professor once told me, “no matter what you do, or how often you fail, I will never lose the faith that I have in you.” These words hit me when I had almost lost faith in myself and so I held onto them as tightly as I could because I figured, if this man of great theological intelligence can faith in me, I should be fine.
I believe I have had many mentors through out my life. I have learned such life lessons as: “do things right the first time and you won’t have to do it again” and “when you start something, complete it” from my mother. My father taught me to sustain integrity. “Once you lose your integrity in someone’s eyes, you can never fully attain it again.” My grandfather taught me to be independent but not afraid of interdependence because we were not put on this earth isolated and alone but given a purpose of community and relationship.
What motivated you to get started? Did your background/upbringing contribute to this?
I suppose you can say my upbringing got me started in this field but I first became a volunteer for Project Cuddle through a requirement for my major. I fell in love with what I was doing and couldn’t stop even after I had achieved the required hours for the assignment. Life shouldn’t be about wealth, power, prestige. It should exceed the expectations of society and embrace the needs of its people.
What do you like best about what you do?
I love that everyday I make a difference; I am directly affecting the world that I live in for the better. Now I’m not saying that I personally save each baby but I am saying that it feels great to be a part of a program that gives hope. What else can I ask for? In a sense, we are leaving a legacy for those involved, whether for the birth mother who had decided to keep their baby because of Project Cuddle’s assistance or the rescue family that will forever be changed by the inclusion of a child.
What do you like least about what you do?
At times, it can be draining especially because we receive these cases when people have no hope, when times are at their worst, and the life of a child seems to lack value. We have to face those cases in which mothers hate their children, the babies are products of rape, and fourteen year old soon-to-be-mothers are hiding their pregnancy from those they love. But that is what we are here for.
In your opinion, why is Project Cuddle’s form of outreach so important?
Project Cuddle’s form of outreach is important because life is important. A few months ago I met a girl who was saved through Project Cuddle’s program. She now has hopes and dreams that did not stop at the bottom of a trash can in a park.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t think I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to make a difference in the world or I wanted to study law but because I thought I would look cool walking into a court room.
What was your first job?
Technically, my first job was as a cashier in my father’s golf retail shop. I also helped him make custom clubs.
What is your biggest pastime outside of work? Favorite hobby?
I love to read. I also enjoy watching movies but I think my favorite activity is hanging out with the Frambly, a close group of friends.
Name a person you are most interested in meeting and why?
I feel as though this questions holds a bit of finality as though when I answer this question, I can’t meet anyone else, ever. I like meeting people who are real; who are not afraid to wear their faults on their sleeve and don’t try to hide it with the most up and coming technology.
Name a Leader in business you are most interested in meeting and why?
To me, people are people. But to society, power, wealth, and prestige is a major factor of what gets done and what starts change. If I can meet the a man of wealth, such as Donald Trump, and get him to donate even $10 to our organization, I can’t help but deem that a success.
Please share three interesting facts about yourself
1. I have an identical twin sister.
2. When stressed, I have to either clean or walk around bare foot.
3. I love the elderly and hope to one day become a gerontologist.
Please share three characteristics that describe you
1. A Lady
What are three of your greatest passions and how do they drive you?
1. I love to learn because I hate the feeling of being ignorant on important issues.
2. I love people and even though they let you down at times, being with them is the most rewarding.
3. Success, and not in the way society deems success but by achieving and accomplishing the goals that I have set for my own life.
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie would have to be Princess Bride because it has made me smile since I was a little girl.
Besides the work you do with Project Cuddle; what is your favorite cause?
I don’t think I have a favorite cause including Project Cuddle. I feel that by choosing one cause over another would suggest that it is more important but in truth, they are each important, necessary, and essential.
If you had one wish for the world, what would it be?
My wish would to end inequality, within gender, ethnicity, age, and class. Imagine the difference that would create. Although the fundamentalists view the “lower class” as essential for the stability of our economy, I believe that if we synergize, we can find an alternative to the oppression of our own people. Why must there be hierarchy? If the ancient biblical traditions can participate in a seventh year Jubilee in which everyone was forgiven of their debts and all land was given back so no one possessed it entirely forever, why can’t we adopt a mutation of the sort?
If you could be contacted by anyone, who would you like to be contacted by?
I suppose I would like to be contacted by anyone with an interest in helping to expand the mission of Project Cuddle.