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Trevor Dickerson

What A Homeless Woman Taught Me About Life This Thanksgiving Season

By life 58 Comments

Waiting in line to be matched up with a homeless/at risk client with the other volunteers at Operation Homeless Connect 2011 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

I had the opportunity to take part in a great event put on by Homeward on Thursday. Project Homeless connect is an annual event put on by the organization where those who are homeless or at risk of being so are invited to the Greater Richmond Convention Center to get assistance, support and services.

I arrived early in the morning with several hundred other volunteers and received training on the process. Here’s how it worked: We all lined up inside the exhibition hall as the recipients we were about to meet lined up in the hallway. They were then let in and we were matched with a client at the entranceway.

We then sat down with them at a table, got to know a little about them and their background, and went through a checklist-style worksheet that allowed us to identify the services they most needed during their visit.

Clients could visit a doctor, optometrist, dentist (not to mention get on-site dental work), learn more about housing opportunities, apply for Social Security benefits, get information on employment and educational programs, receive clothing, enjoy a hot meal and much more at different stations set up around the exhibition hall.

We were told that some clients would come in briefly and do as little as just eat lunch, while others would make a day of it taking advantage of all services offered. I got a variety of both over the course of the day as I worked with three different clients.

This was more than just a run-of-the-mill volunteer opportunity where we were there to perform a task. We spent as little or as long as was necessary with each person, guiding them through the stations they wished to visit and staying with them the entire time.

I enjoyed getting to know all three people and learning more about what life was like from their perspectives. But my second client was the one that left the biggest impact on me that day. We’ll call her Jane.

Jane was a woman who was small in stature but big in personality. She made a several mile trek from the Church Hill area to the Convention Center on that cold November day to get help with several things. Jane had a kind smile and gentle demeanor, but was at the same time feisty and no-nonsense. In one word, she was strong. You see, Jane has five kids and is undergoing chemo for breast cancer. And living on under just $200 a month.

We spent a considerable amount of time together as she got the help she needed. And as we chatted over the course of three hours, I got a true sense of just what it was like to live in her day-to-day world. I’m often running short on money for this or that, when an unexpected bill comes in or what have you. But to hear how she stretches a couple hundred bucks and food stamps to make ends meet, endures the cancer treatments and tries to be the best mom she can to her five kids, I felt I could never say I was broke again. I counted my blessings.

We continued talking and she told me a story about how her youngest son, about 10 years old, got upset last year when he found out he wouldn’t be having Christmas, at least in the sense that we think of it with presents and other things we often take for granted. He was too young to understand why. As tears began to stream down her face, she told me how she wouldn’t be able to afford to give them a Christmas again this year, and how deeply it upset her. The tears welled up in my own eyes as she described the little things she’s doing to save a dollar here and there to be able to hopefully get her kids something this Christmas.

Now granted, the issues surrounding homelessness aren’t all black and white. Rather, they’re multiple shades of gray and are  comprised of both preventable and non-preventable factors, depending on the situation. I don’t fully know how Jane (or the other two people I worked with that day) wound up in her current situation. Whether it was her own fault or out of her hands completely, I’ll never know. Nor is it any of my business.

What I do know is however she got to where she is, she’s doing all she can to make a better life for her kids and she’s not looking for a handout (she was employed part-time until her cancer became too debilitating). She gave me the reminder that I think we all need from time to time, that even if we’re short on money or facing tough times, we have it pretty good and need to count and recount our blessings daily.

As we go into the Thanksgiving week, I’m thankful not only for what I have, but to have met Jane and the two others that gave me a glimpse into seemingly another world, right here in the same city as me.

As you get together with your family and friends to share a bountiful meal this Thursday, give thanks for what you have and take a little time to not only think about those less fortunate, but to offer an outstretched hand and do something actionable to make an impact, no matter how small, in the life of someone else.

How Steve Jobs Changed the World & Made Me Who I Am

By technology One Comment

I remember my first Apple computer. Back in 2001, in 7th grade at Short Pump Middle School, we were first issued iBooks. The predecessors to today’s MacBooks, they took some getting used to, having been brought up on a Compaq PC running Windows 95.

But something was decidedly cool about this new device. The school system purchased iBooks for every middle and high school student in the county and allowed us to not only use them in the classroom, but take them home as well.

It was this first Apple computer that not only made me an Apple fan for life, but defined my interests and path thus far in life. The things that seemed so unachievable and out complicated on a PC were suddenly a breeze on a Mac.

This barebones version of the iBook sparked my interest in all things digital and fostered my early love (and self teaching of) web development, video production and graphic design. It was on this little white iBook that I realized what I wanted to do with my life at the ripe old age of 12.

On Tuesday, we lost the man behind the magic, arguably the greatest icon of our time and one of the greatest innovators in history, Steve Jobs.

Steve not only revolutionized the personal computing, mobile phone and music industries. He changed the world as we know it because he was that square peg in a round hole bold (and perhaps crazy) enough to question the status quo and “Think Different.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

It’s encouraging to me as a small business owner, when I get discouraged, to remember Steve’s iconic leadership of Apple. Brought back to the company when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, Steve had transformed Apple into the most valuable company in the world just weeks before his passing. Just how valuable? Apple reportedly has more cash on hand than the entire United States government.

Apple will continue to grow and thrive under Tim Cook’s leadership, but there will never be another Steve Jobs.

Thank you for everything, Steve. It sounds incredible to say, but I don’t think anyone has had as profound an impact on my life and shaped me more than you, besides my parents and my faith in God.

Thank you for continually raising the bar on what to expect from consumer electronics. For telling us what we wanted before we even knew we wanted it (iPad, anyone?). And lastly, for helping me figure out who I am, discover my God-given talents, and realize my purpose in life. For that, I am eternally grateful. Rest in peace, Steve.

Operation Turtlesaurus Removal

By funny, life 5 Comments

This weekend was just total insanity. Went to Alisa’s lake house in Hollywood, Maryland with Chad and Deanna and met up with others. Let me just start by saying you have not been on a road trip until you go with Chad Brown. Nor have you ever been out of town and wished you had your car more. But I digress.

Between the lake house, a sporadic trip to Arlington & DC for the night, and an overdose of hilarity from the things I witnessed that could only be described as scenes from an upcoming Hangover 3 (for example, Scott’s phone ended up in New Jersey without him… so yeah, there’s that).

But out of all that happened, perhaps the highlight of the weekend was Saturday evening. A bunch of us were sitting outside on the screened porch watching a really bad thunderstorm roll through. Suddenly, Scott pokes his head outside and informs us, very nonchalantly, that “a very large live animal” is in the house.

What happened next could only be compared to the scene in Christmas Vacation where the squirrel pops out of the Christmas tree– complete with all of us running up and down the stairs trying to figure out what to do.

What was in the house? A huge, smelly snapping turtle decided to pop in when the storm blew in the French doors downstairs. What happened next can be seen in the below video.


Why I’m All For Facebook Places And What It Means For Location-Based Social Networking

By business, opinion One Comment

About two and a half years ago, when I first signed up for this new thing I had heard about called Twitter, and long before I had ever uttered the word “social media,” I was introduced to what was probably the first location-based social network. It was called Brightkite, and only a handful of people I knew were using it, probably 90% of whom I knew through Twitter.

Needless to say, Brightkite has gone the way of Bebo and Friendster, joining a growing list of startups that ended up in a “failure to launch” kind of situation.

Flash forward to late 2009, and along comes Foursquare. I got an invitation to join when the Richmond network was in some stage of beta, and next thing I know, 50 people I knew were on board. About 10 months later, my list of Foursquare friends sits at around 350, a much smaller number than my Twitter or Facebook lists, but for several reasons.

One of those reasons is privacy. I asked myself, did I really want everyone knowing where I am at all times? Through built-in connection options on the Foursquare iPhone app, I’m able to selectively choose which check-ins I share with my broader social media family and which I keep to the smaller group I’m okay with knowing on Foursquare.

Just this week, Facebook announced what I see to be a complete game-changer for location-based social networking. Facebook Places, as it was dubbed, is the social media giant’s entrance into the market. With such a small number of the total population using services like Foursquare and its smaller competitor Gowalla, it would seem a safe bet that Facebook would take the concept mainstream with their base of over 500 million (and counting) users worldwide.

In my opinion, Facebook is off to a great start with Places. It’s simple and intuitive, and seems to pull places from a database such as Google Maps, much like Brightkite did, as opposed to relying on users to create venues. But, if a place isn’t listed or has incorrect information, you can still add or edit the venue. What’s more is creating a venue makes a Facebook Page for that place.

I’ve noticed that most of the places I’ve checked into so far that have an existing Facebook Page don’t have the venue linked to it, rather Facebook creates a new, bare bones page for the venue, if that makes sense. This is kind of annoying and I would think could become frustrating for end users and business owners alike, but I’m sure it’s something that will be tweaked in the near future.

Another issue is privacy. Facebook allows you to tag friends at the venue you’re at, without their consent. With Foursquare, another person had to check themselves into a venue before they’d show up in anything you posted from Foursquare to Twitter or Facebook. While that information will only be visible to your friends by default, you can choose to share it publicly.

In summary, I’m excited about the possibilities of Facebook Places. As more of my friends have signed up for Foursquare, it’s been cool to walk around The Fan or similar places and see a friend check in and meet up for a drink or other spur of the moment activities. Facebook is no doubt going to make location-based social media a household concept, unfortunately at the expense of the smaller startups. While there are privacy and technical issues to work out, I think this is about to spread like wildfire, and just like the advent and evolution of other social networks, I’m ready for the ride.

My Thoughts On Turning 21 & Perspectives On Life Thus Far

By events, life 5 Comments

When I was a little kid, in first or second grade, I remember thinking how enormous middle schoolers were. I thought they were practically adults at that age. Then a funny thing happened. I got to eigth grade and everyone in my grade made comments about just how little the incoming sixth graders were that year. The thing was, though, they weren’t getting smaller, we were getting bigger. By my senior year of high school, the incoming freshmen looked like a bunch of little shrimp.

Isn’t it funny how our perception of things changes over time? We always think we’re done growing, but don’t realize until later just how much farther we had to go until later on and we see the just how small we were, both figuratively and literally. Today, July 1, 2009, is one of those days. I turned 21. I’m just gonna sit for a second and let that sink in.

I think this day far surpasses both my eighth grade and senior year experiences, because this time, I’m not looking back on grade school. I’m measuring a turning point in my life.

If I thought middle schoolers were big when I was eight or nine, you better believe someone who was 21 seemed like they had been on the earth forever. The older I get though, the more I realize just how quickly time passes. I know I’m still very young, but with this birthday, even though I’ve been 20 for a year, I feel more like a “twenty-something” a less of a teenager. I think my transition from being a teen to being an adult took place over this past year, and I have mixed feelings about that.

I know I spend too much time doing business-related things and doing things like networking that adults much older than myself typically participate in, but the fact is I’m passionate about the business I’ve started and making it succeed. I just don’t know sometimes if I should just focus more on being a college student and having fun and less on the type of business stuff that I’ll no doubt have the rest of my life to do. It’s a delicate balance and I’m still trying to find it.

Working for yourself from home does have its advantages, though. One day a friend called me up when I was in the middle of a website and asked if I wanted to go to the river. Not having any boss to ask but myself, I jumped in my car and headed down to Belle Isle. I guess I just wish I was more spontaneous like this more often. When you’ve already got the snowball effect of several elements of a growing business, though, it’s tough to stop it or even slow it down.

I had an interesting thought the other day while talking with Edna, an 83-year-old that I’ve become good friends with up at Daily Grind. She comes in every day. She’s as spry and sharp as can be and still enjoys life to the fullest. She’s also willing to learn new things. I’m showing her how to use her laptop and check her email in the picture (credit: Bill Bangham).

I thought she would feel as if her life had been a long journey, but was surprised to find out just how quickly she thought it had passed. I think her perspective is what gave me my new outlook on the value of time. In what she thought was a short life of 83 years of her life so far (which still feels like lightyears away to me, being that I’m in my early twenties) she’s done a lot and I can tell she feels like she’s lived a good life thus far.

I only hope that I can be the same way and have a life I can look back on at her age and smile at all I’ve done. I’m still young and have more dreams and plans than I can shake a stick it. It’s time to achieve them while still remembering to live up my youth while I’m still young. This year’s gonna be a year of finding the balance. Right now, though, it’s time to celebrate!

First RVA Social Media Club (SMCRVA) Meeting

By business, events, life, opinion, technology 2 Comments

I went to the first RVA Social Media Club (SMCRVA) last night at Morton’s Steakhouse downtown. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I walked in the door, I knew I had just entered the best business networking event in Richmond. I had the opportunity to put a lot of names with faces from people I follow on Twitter (maybe a more appropriate name for the organization would be “Richmond Twitter Club!”), as well as catch up with some old friends. It was an all-around great night, albeit a bit overwhelming with around 150 people in the room to meet. I think the first night was a great success and is just the beginning of big things to come from this organization. The networking opportunities are awesome. It really makes Richmond feel like one big family of friends.

I’m really amazed at what’s happened to Twitter over the past year or so. Back when I first got my account, well over a year ago, it was a novelty service. No one I knew was really on it, but that was the coolest thing about it. I got to know so many interesting people in Richmond and around the world, and even had “tweetups” (Twitter terminology for “meetups”) with some of the nice folks I met on the service. Now, though, everyone is on Twitter. Businesses are beginning to realize what great benefits social media has and they’re all jumping on the bandwagon. Twitter is just one big social experiment if you ask me, opening the doors to a new way to exchange news, ideas, support and business information in under 140 characters. Richmond is becoming a lot more close-knit because of it, and that’s a really cool thing in this day in age where everyone’s always on the go.

New Home Demolition: Our “Throw-Away” Society

By environmental issues, opinion, rants, sarcasm, videos 13 Comments

This is an absolutely disgusting example of how much of a “throw-away” society America has become. It’s one thing to tear down an old, non-historic house that’s beyond repair, but this is just a blatant waste. According to the video description, the house you’re about to see being demolished was torn down because the new owners didn’t like the house itself, only the lot. It can’t be more than 10-15 years old and it’s a gorgeous house that must be close to, if not more than, a million dollars. Once again, it’s one thing if you’re talking about a multi-million dollar oceanfront lot, but this one just appears to be in the middle of a typical neighborhood.

I hope the owners are ashamed of the wastefulness of their demolition project. It just further solidifies my opinion that we don’t value anything anymore. Just throw it away and get another one. Maybe that’s why we’re in such a mess ecomonically speaking right now, or why we’re in the midst of climate change. We always seem to think there’s endless resources out there. But I digress. It’s ridiculous nothing in this entire house was saved or reused. I’ve seen much older houses that were being demolished have almost everything stripped out of them first to be reused or recycled. Nothing in this house appears to have been salvaged. Shameful. Watch the video below. I’m sure you’ll agree in some way or another.

Sledding At Bryan Park – March 2009 Snowstorm

By life, videos, weather 5 Comments

I can’t remember how long it’s been since we got as much snow as we got this past weekend… and in March at that! The Short Pump area got about 9.5 inches. What better to do on a day like that than go sledding? I drove down to the city to Bryan Park for the first time ever (I know, I’ve only lived in Richmond my whole life) with a group of friends and had a blast. The video’s pretty entertaining, especially my friend Shushaun freaking out about us narrowly avoiding hitting a big tree!

25 (Give Or Take A Few) Random Things About My Life

By life 11 Comments

So I’m sure you’ve seen that massively popular “25 Random Things About Me” thing going around on Facebook. I usually hate things of that nature, but I actually did one of them for once. I’m glad I did. I had the opportunity to do a lot of introspective thinking and withdrew a lot of thoughts I didn’t think I’d ever share publicly. It was fun. I put a lot of time and thought into it, probably more than I should have.

– There are few things I love more than mid-’90s music. It’s some of the best stuff in the world and there will never be music made the same way again. So much of “today’s” pop music is just trash. Either way, I’m a music nut and know every word to way too many songs.

– As a follow-up to the first point, when I meet the girl that makes me feel what mid-’90s music makes me feel like, I’ve found my soul mate.

– I crank up my XM Radio and shamelessly belt my heart out in the car, singing as loudly as possible. People passing me on the road undoubtedly think I’m insane (or that I’m yelling at them), but I couldn’t care less.

– On that note, I’m not ashamed to admit that I really love Alanis Morrissette.

– I run because I have always loved everything about Short Pump since Broad Street was a two lane road and there was nothing here but farms and trees (literally).

– On that note, the one thing I don’t like about Short Pump at times are the people. I can’t stand living in Wyndham. I’ve been here since I was 11 years old and always judged for living here, despite the fact that my whole family has never fit in because we’re not like them and don’t go parade around with material things like some of our neighbors do. Some of the most rude people I’ve ever met go to The Dominion Club (also in Wyndham). I go there, too because I like the club itself. However, the people make the place, so…

– I’ve been a “Christian” since I was 7 or 8, but I’ve just recently started to become a Christ follower. There’s a huge difference. It’s amazing how your life changes when you realize you’re talking the talk but not really walking the walk below the surface. I did that for years, looking back on it. I’m making a genuine effort to live up to what I say I am now.

– Despite owning my own business and theoretically having dozens of dreams to build my future on, some days I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. Either that or I have so much “creative clutter” in my head I can’t think straight about anything.

– I don’t really like to watch or play any sports besides bowling and putt-putt (hey, they’re sports in MY book) and I’m okay with that.

– I have always been slightly OCD… ever since I can remember… but not enough for it to have ever affected me in an overtly-negative way.

– I don’t drink, despite the fact that 95% of everyone my age does. It used to bother me that people actually looked down on me for this, but now I’m completely confident in my decision. That’s not to say I’m opposed to drinking, I just have a problem with the fact that some people look forward to blacking out all week. What a way [not] to live.

– I’ve always secretly wanted to own my own radio station, or at least do voiceovers/be an announcer. I can also do all sorts of voices like Ahhnold, Scooby Doo, etc. and some of you that’ve heard them probably think they’re pretty scary. Wish I could find a use for that stuff…

– I love sushi more than I even care to admit. I wish more of my friends liked it because I’ll go every chance I get to eat it. There’s no food that compares to freshly prepared sushi.

– I’m neither a Republican nor Democrat, and frankly politics drive me crazy. While I have more conservative than liberal viewpoints, I’m pretty much in the middle of the spectrum and vote for the person, NOT the party.

– I’m not into surface level conversation or small talk. I like getting below the surface and having deep discussions about life, and getting to know what’s on people’s hearts, NOT just their minds.

– On that note, I love listening to people and their problems. It becomes a burden sometimes, but I get a lot of joy out of [trying] to help people solve issues. Even if I don’t give the best advice, I’m always willing to lend an ear.

– The Outer Banks is my second home and I’ve always contemplated living there. Although one time I went in the dead of Winter and the place was a cold, windy, bleak, deserted island. It may get old in the Winter if you lived there year-round.

– I’m one of the most laid-back people you’ll ever meet. Most of my friends have mentioned to me now and then that they’ve never seen me mad. It takes a whole lot. The problem with that is sometimes people get mad at ME because they mistake my laid-backness as not caring. It’s not that I don’t care about things, I just try not to get stressed out about them.

– On the contrary, I’m really outgoing and talkative. Especially late at night. When I get sleepy, I start getting kind of crazy sometimes.

– I’m a morning person. I’ve never needed an alarm clock. I don’t own one. I’m really weird- I have a built in clock in my head I guess because no matter what time I go to bed, I always wake up really early. I think the latest I’ve ever slept in was 9:30. I feel like if I’m asleep after 7:30 or 8:00 I’m wasting my day. I physically can’t sleep in. Then again this leads to the aforementioned problem of getting crazy when I’m out at night and sleepy.

– I love hanging out at coffee houses (shout out to Daily Grind), but I hate coffee. I love tea though, go figure.

– I go to other coffee houses because I can’t stand Starbucks (I go RARELY). Or Walmart for that matter. They’re both bad, bad companies that cause more harm than good in this world in more ways than one, in my humble opinion.

– I don’t think I’ve been bored anytime in recent memory. Maybe a few years. I can always entertain myself and am usually busy with something anyway. Even if I’m not, I’m always thinking about stuff, so I really never get bored.

– Problem with the above thing is I tend to over-analyze stuff sometimes.

– My perfect night out is dinner, a movie, and chatting at a coffee house. I don’t really enjoy parties that much, but I’ll go from time to time.

– When I was little, I used to be afraid of the wind and things that were hollow, such as chocolate Easter bunnies. (I think this one gets the random statement award).

– I’m a closet geek, in the sense that you wouldn’t walk up to me and be able to tell I was into tech stuff, but just under the surface, I’m a hardcore Apple/Mac fanatic and can fix most computer problems if you give me enough time.

Denny’s “Nannerpus” Breakfast Commercial

By business, food, funny 61 Comments

This is one of the funniest TV commercials I have ever seen, period. It’s for Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. From what I hear, this was made locally! Seriously though, I would much rather eat this at Denny’s than get the “serious” breakfast they speak of. Wouldn’t it be funny if this got so popular they actually had a Nannerpus pancake platter on the menu? I’d be the first one there.