Guest Articles Category

9-11 Living Honorarium Speech – Kelly Kelkenberg

It was PPI’s privilege to attend the recent 9-11 Honorarium Unveiling Ceremony in Duluth Town Square.  This ceremony, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, was a tribute to not just those whose lives were lost on 9/11, but for veterans and all those who currently serve us and protect us on a daily basis, from Police, to Firemen, to EMS and to the Military. Below you will read the tribute from keynote speaker Kelly Kelkenberg, Colonel, USAF, Ret .

“It is my privilege to stand before you today to remind you of why we are here and who we are here to honor.  I have served our great country in many ways over my life-time to include service with the United States Air Force where I got to see up close and personal the sacrifices all service members make.  I have also been privileged to work closely with first responders at the local, state and federal level before and after the events of 9-11-01 as a part of both my military as well as in my civilian career.  I feel truly blessed to have worked closely with so many Great Americans.

In a celebrity-obsessed culture where shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” generate large followings, it is important to remember just who the real stars of America are.

Commentator, economist, and part-time actor Ben Stein wrote several years ago:

“The real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to the road north of Baghdad. He approached it and the bomb went off and killed him. A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it – just as it exploded. He left a family in California and left a little girl alive in Baghdad.”

Today’s celebration is a time to honor not just the heroes that Mr. Stein describes, but in fact, all of the outstanding men and women who not only serve in our Nation’s armed forces but also the firefighters, police officers, emergency medical personnel, the 911 Operators, and the many other dedicated public servants who serve us on a daily basis here at home.  I also want to point out that many of these public servants are also military veterans in their own right.


President Calvin Coolidge was known as “Silent Cal” because he didn’t say very much, but he was positively profound when he said,

“The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”

I believe President Coolidge would include our first responders and those who support them in his definition of “defender” if he were alive today.

Not all responders, soldiers or veterans have seen destruction or mass casualties, or war, but a common bond that they share is an oath.  An oath in which they expressed their willingness to die, protecting and defending their community and their country.

Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier or the Army soldier on patrol in a far off country.  Here at home the vigilance and presence of our police officers and the rapid response of our front-line first responders affords us all a similar effect—peace of mind!!

We are here today to show our support not just the families whose loved ones are still deployed and those who return permanently changed by the wounds of war.   We are here to show our appreciation for those who serve us in unsung roles in our community’s each and every day.  While we are happy to be here today to express our appreciation for our living veterans, those currently serving and their families, and our local responders in uniform or not true appreciation is expressed through deeds as well as words.

Do not ever underestimate the power of simply saying “Thank You” to our responders and veterans that you encounter. There are approximately 23 million living Americans that have earned the title “veteran”, including those who continue to serve in uniform.  Millions more serve us in our communities, as proud public servants.  A sincere thank you may not be enough to offset the burden our fellow public servants face but it is enough to bring a renewed faith in their chosen occupation.

The burden of defending and serving our great nation is shared by men and women alike.  I would be remiss to not mention that women are major contributors to our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in our first responder force here at home.   Many have given their lives in the War on Terrorism both at home and abroad.

While Americans owe these heroes a debt that cannot be fully repaid, showing our appreciation is the least that we can do.  There are many ways you can do this.

Whether it’s welcoming veterans home from deployment, volunteering at the local VA hospital, completing a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) class, participating in the Citizens Fire Academy, or completing a Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program to any of the many opportunities available throughout the metro area there is no shortage of opportunities to assist those who give so much for their country.   As you can see there is an abundance of opportunities to show your support for our locally serving public servants, be they in uniform or not.  They continue to serve and proudly defend our cherished way of life.

In spite of the sacrifices that these servants have made and the horrors that some have experienced, they are proud to serve.

I believe nineteenth century British philosopher John Stuart Mill summed up the necessity of this special group of people when he wrote:

“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” 

Mill had it right then and it is still true today. Fortunately, for all of us, America has been blessed though out its history by many such men and women.  Men and women who have not only heard but acted upon the words of President John F. Kennedy who famously said:

“And so, my fellow Americans–ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country!”

Thank you for being here today this tenth anniversary of the first attack on United States of America on its own soil.  I salute you.  God Bless America and God bless our public servants and veterans past and present.” … by Kelvin “Kelly” Kelkenberg, Colonel, USAF, Ret.

Peachtree Road Race…and Running

….. by Al Stacer

It’s 4AM on Independence Day, and why exactly am I waking up?  The truth is, I hydrated so much on Sunday, that I have been waking up every 2 hours to go to the bathroom. I am wide awake now, and I have no trouble silencing the 4:30 AM alarm before it wakes up anyone else.

It’s been 10 years since I ran my last Peachtree, when my knees began to bother me after just a one mile jog, making a 10K race (6.2 miles) out of the question.  So why am I now putting on shorts, running shoes and race number at this wee hour in the morning?  Because my good friends, Bill and Sheri, have convinced me, that with our minimal training, we can walk/jog the Peachtree together.

I pack a cooler and some towels, and drive to Virginia highlands near the end of the race, park my van and call Bill on my cell phone.  We meet up with only a minor snafu, and are soon on our way toward Lenox Square and the start line.

As we walk to Peachtree Street, it has a familiar feel, reminding me of all the other times (16 to be exact) I did this in the past.  Up ahead are people of all shapes and sizes….most of them look younger than I am expecting, except for a few hardy old timers I recognize who are now running what must be their 30 plus Peachtree.

The sun rises as we near the back of the pack, almost to Wieuca Road.  Down the street we can see the huge American flag at Lenox Square waving over the crowd of 60,000 runners who will soon pass under it to start the race.

The helicopters overhead clear out briefly for a flyby of 3 jets, who scream near the tops of the buildings, and the excitement in the crowd increases.  We begin walking down Peachtree, then a short jog to the start line, and then back to a brisk walk.

We stop at almost every water stop to drink and pour water on our heads, and to take pictures of one another.  Sheri and Bill just danced through a water spray and got cheers from the crowd.  Thank God for the track club volunteers and the hundreds of civilians who handed out water to keep us hydrated! It’s amazing to see the thousands of people along the race route cheering us on holding up signs of encouragement.  There are also a half a dozen or more rock bands to add music to the festive atmosphere to keep us going.

In the band of runners, there are all kinds of outfits, from the 2 women wearing skin colored leotards and poufy wigs up ahead, to the soldier in his camouflage fatigues and full pack, trudging along through the crowd.  And flags–there are American flags everywhere!  This is truly an American display of celebrating freedom in many shapes and forms.

As we slowly make our way to the finish line on 10th Street, I can feel the thrill again of people celebrating life and the special freedoms we enjoy.  Although this time, my 17th Peachtree, is slower than the other times, it has been just as exhilarating.  God bless America!

Ten Things Nonprofits Should Know about Social Media

Guest Author, Mike Williams, is founder and principal consultant for Vizualpoint.  With over 23 years experience in the IT industry, Mike has managed large IT teams and multi-billion dollar IT data center operations, both domestically and globally. Mike is currently an IT executive for an Fortune 500 banking and technology solution provider. Mike has established and managed several small businesses and nonprofits in addition to sitting on the boards of the Greater Paterson OIC, YMCA of Paterson, Urban League of Bergen County, and other organizations in his home state of New Jersey.

A self-confessed social media advocate and junkie, technology geek, and process champion, Mike leverages a broad range of business, leadership, management, and technical skills with his commitment to community and nonprofits, thereby ensuring that entrepreneurs and social organizations can explore social media by simplifying the experience and ensuring that it’s cost effective.

 …..  by Mike Williams

Nonprofits are allowed to profit from the experience of Social Media Experts, and create compelling, successful social media campaigns on a variety of different platforms.    

Nonprofits have their work cut out for them creating interest and driving donations to causes and charitable organizations. However, using social media can be a tremendous boon here. There’s quite a range of different social media tools that can help nonprofits get the word out, increase support, drive donations and interact with constituents on a personal basis for better results. However, there are some things that nonprofits need to know before they leap into this realm.


Electronic newsletters have been around for some time. They are also still important tools for your efforts, and can be used to connect different social media efforts in a single location.

Engage Your Audience

No matter what platform you use, it is essential that you engage your audience. This should be done through interesting, compelling content, but also through interaction within comments and in other ways.

Be Transparent

There’s been a lot of talk about transparency in recent years, but it is more important than ever for nonprofits to be transparent in their social media efforts.

Keep It Interesting

In line with engaging your audience, you need to make sure that you keep your content interesting and relevant. You cannot expect to benefit from social media if you do not give your audience something to pique their interest.

Integrate Your Efforts

One of the most important things about using social media successfully is to integrate your efforts. Link to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts from your blog, cross post blog posts to Facebook and share across multiple platforms.

Build a Community

More than anything else, it is important that you build a community, rather than try to force donations for your organization or cause. You need to create a sense of commonality, and the rest will come.


Facebook is the most popular social network in the world. You need to make sure that your organization has a presence on this network.


Twitter is rapidly gaining ground in the world of social media, and is an excellent place to generate interest, traffic and conversation about your cause or organization, as well as to help boost awareness and even drive donations.


LinkedIn is primarily for professionals and business users. As such, it can be a great place to generate corporate support for your efforts, to make more connections and to grow your network.

Give Your Organization a Real Face

Finally, no matter what social media platform you’re using, it is important that your organization have a real face. You need to give your followers, friends and connections something to connect with, something that reflects the core ethics and drives of your organization. You do this with your profile information and profile picture (or avatar).

Using the information above, you should be able to create compelling, successful social media campaigns on a variety of different platforms. Social media can be a powerful tool, but it is important that you use the right applications and go about it the right way, as well.