Inspiring Hope This February

Inspiring Hope!
February 2023

♩ Director’s Corner

You may well remember Nancy Bo Flood’s book I Will Dance. For an early Piano Pals session, the kids were restless while waiting for their lessons. I read that book, and you could have heard a pin drop as the story progressed about a child, confined to a wheelchair, who wanted to dance. A beautiful message.

Nancy’s new book, Walking Grandma Home, tackles an extremely difficult subject: how a child can deal with a close family member passing away. (See the box below.) Nancy has donated all her rights for our kids to read her children's books on The Reading Express video playlist. A colleague and friend of the originator of Reading Express, Claudia Scott, Dr. Nancy Bo Flood has provided impoverished children with stories of warmth and imagination. 

Watch a short video about her book here

Watch a video on I Will Dance here 

I think that you will agree that this is a nice issue of our newsletter, with varied, interesting, and even moving articles.

A Note from Nancy Bo Flood

Walking Grandma Home, a letter to my reader:

Thank you for taking a look at my newest book, Walking Grandma Home, and offering to share your thoughts with others.

Why did I write a book for children about death?

I wrote this book for the child I once was when my sister died.

She was five.
I was seven.

Five-year olds are not supposed to die.
Now all the rules are broken.

I wish my mom or dad had this book to read to me. We could have talked about what happened to “someone else’s sister, brother, parent or friend,” not what happened to my sister … from a safe distance. We could have talked about the questions and feelings locked up inside me, the sadness, guilt, anger, and also the fears about “who is going to die next?” 

When death happens in a family, especially a sudden, unexpected, “out of order” death, everything changes for a child. The security of a predictable universe is gone. The world is no longer safe. The important people who provide love and protection are often lost in their own grieving.

Reading a book together is a safe connection. At any time, after any page, a child can close the book. Stop the words, the images, the talking. Stop.  

Or a child might read a story over and over again and then ask about “that person in the book, why did that person die?”

The right book shared with a loving adult can help a child heal. I hope Walking Grandma Home will offer families and children a place of connection, a safe place for listening, asking, and healing. Again, and sincerely, thank you.
Piano Pals at Tanglewood (and beyond)
Charlotte Holliday
Tanglewood Apartments in Silver Spring has welcomed the resumption of Piano Pals in 2023 for children living in Montgomery County Housing Opportunities. Teens are rallying to teach at Tanglewood on Saturdays.

From 2018 until early 2020, Isabelle Poggy and her mother, Vasanthi Poggy, organized and led Piano Pals at Tanglewood. They were joined by Ethan Fang and others to offer weekly classes on Saturdays in the club room. The mentor team traveled from north Silver Spring, Rockville, and Bethesda to Manchester Road to teach the children. Ms. Poggy motivated the children in the training room with games and computers while the teens dedicated their time and talent to young residents for piano lessons in the club room.

Antoinette Walker, Activity Director for Tanglewood, was a great support to the pre-COVID program. HOC Resident Supervisor Gail Gunod-Greene and Manager Stephanie Moore came from headquarters for the year-end recital in 2019. Then came COVID and all classes stopped.

We had another wonderful pre-COVID activity at Tanglewood with Guitar Pals. Gil Gordon volunteered to teach in spring of 2019. Guitar Pals became Gil’s bar mitzvah project. He continued until COVID. For one year he arrived weekly and, with his father’s supervision and Nicholas Fowlkes’ help, gave lessons to Tanglewood children. 

Now in January 2023, the new Activity Director, Saida Workneh, is ready to start Piano Pals again! She is prepared to support this program with her presence, even on Saturday, her day off. Stephanie Moore, Resident Services Supervisor, has given the green light.

As we search thither and yon for working keyboards, batteries and books to teach (from Faber Piano Adventures, longtime publisher friends and supporters of Piano Pals), join us with your support for those people who want a better world for their children. We thank those who have enough who are willing to share their time, resources, and skill to mentor those who cannot afford music lessons.
Piano Pals Materials
Thank you all for your courage, ingenuity, and generous hearts. Every day is Valentine’s Day thanks to all of you

Enjoy the video music and stories of courage and heart-warming moments of our kids. We are forever lifted and changed through their stories, music, and art.
The Power of Music
Trudi Benford, Site Supervisor

The Tacy Foundation recently resumed performances at the Hebrew Home’s Landow House for the first time since the pandemic. In December, residents enjoyed beautiful music performed by six students – pianists Harrison Benford and Kevin Shen, violinists Alan Whitman and Emma Hahn, clarinetist Jesse Jing, and cellist Ethan Hahn. 
Chief Intern Harrison Benford, a senior at Winston Churchill High School, and Alan Whitman, a Montgomery Blair High School senior, surprised the audience when they concluded the recital with a wonderful duet of Hatikvah, Israel's national anthem. 
The moment they started playing this song, a tangible change could be felt in the room. The audience immediately recognized the melody, sat up a little straighter in their seats, and began singing in Hebrew along with the music. One resident added percussion by rhythmically tapping his cane to the beat. Tears entered the residents' eyes as they sang words dear to their heritage, and I found myself crying, too, feeling the immutable march of time and the true meaning of music in that poignant moment. 
This recital reminded me of the Tacy Foundation’s true purpose – to share hope and joy with senior citizens and others through the power of music. Moved by the impact of their performance, Harrison and Alan said they plan to perform more music selected with the residents in mind. 

Harrison Benford, piano and Alan Whitman, violin, performing Hatikva at Landow House on the first night of Hanukkah
L to R: Ethan Hahn, Jessie Jing, Harrison Benford, Alan Whitman, Kevin Shen and Emma Hahn
A Note from Holy Cross Hospital

Greetings from Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, MD, where everyone entering the hospital at the main entrance every Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. hears live music from Tacy Foundation musicians. The youth travel from south, north, east, and west to lift the hearts of visitors, patients, and staff.  Thank you to each one throughout the year!

Nathan Badmus, Jason Riedel, Ayden Yeung, Max Belyantsev (Chief Intern), Avi Gupta, Jai Gupta,
Charlotte Green, Michelle Nee, Charlotte Holliday (January 7, 2023)
Former IDF Border Policeman Gives Gift of Music
to Teen Ukrainian Refugee

Zoe Bell

Introduction: Hi, my name is Zoe Bell, and I volunteered for The Tacy Foundation from 2008 to 2020. I am a junior at American University in D.C. studying journalism and criminal justice. A lifelong writer, I have known I wanted to pursue journalism since I was 16 years old. I began writing for my university's student newspaper, The Eagle, my freshman year, and my first story was about how American University students are staying grounded with music during the pandemic and their adjustment to online school. I also remotely serve as an intern for The Jewish Observer Nashville, a local newspaper. 

My involvement with the Tacy Foundation for over a decade led me to appreciate the gift of music and its healing powers. As you will read in the story below, I got to speak to an 18-year-old boy who left war-torn Ukraine last year with not much more than the clothes on his back. This young man, who had a passion for music, had to leave his guitar behind when he came to the U.S. But a gift from someone special changed his life, allowing him to continue playing and composing songs. It can't be easy adjusting to a new high school, much less a whole new country, so the gift of music was especially touching. (Thanks to the Jewish Observer Nashville for permission to reprint this story.)

Eddie Yasko, far right, pictured with his mother, Ludmila, and Dov Gelman,
center, at Guitar Center in Tacoma, Washington.

Dov Gelman never pictured himself helping Ukrainian refugees in Poland. He hated “everything” about Ukraine since all but one of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust in 1941. But Gelman pushed personal biases aside after the Russian invasion of Ukraine displaced millions of women and children.

Gelman, a veteran of the Israeli Border Police living in Nashville, got involved with Aerial Recovery, a nonprofit disaster relief organization, to help rescue women and children from eastern Ukraine early on in the invasion. The CEO of a group that develops educational programs for low-income children in Jerusalem, Gelman knew he was qualified for this mission. “I’m really good with kids,” he said. “Language is never an issue. And I’m great in crisis; I just feel really calm.”

Gelman ordered medical supplies in preparation: trauma care kits, insulin, IV starter kits, tourniquets and chest seal kits, and delivered them to the Aerial Recovery team, who brought the supplies to Ukraine. In late March, Gelman took off to a safe house in south Poland, where he met a medical doctor who had flown in from Hawaii and the owner of the Airbnb, a 23-year-old woman identified as “Maria.”

“We’re just sitting there, and I’m like, ‘Maria, what can we do for the next 48 hours?’” Gelman said. Maria suggested he visit the impromptu refugee homes in south Poland, run by local Polish charities — in February, Airbnb announced that their company would offer free, temporary housing to up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Edward’s story

At one Airbnb, the doctor performed basic checkups on each of the mothers and their children. A few school-aged boys started a game of soccer in the backyard, and Gelman passed out candy to the children.

It was then that he met Edward Yasko, a refugee with whom he would form a lasting bond. “He’s a really quiet, tall young man,” Gelman said. “At that time, he was 17 years old.”

Gelman sat down with the teen, who shared his story of fleeing his native eastern Ukraine. Yasko, having taken 11 years of English classes at school, was the only refugee in the house who spoke the language. He said he and his family sold some of their possessions to neighbors before leaving for Kyiv to stay with cousins. “It was really easy to speak with him,” Yasko said of Gelman.

Shortly after, the war began pushing west, prompting Yasko’s mother to find a bus heading toward the Polish border. Yasko, his mother and his 14-year-old brother endured long delays waiting to cross the border with the clothes on their backs and a few suitcases. He and his family arrived in Poland on March 17. As Gelman listened to the teen’s story, he was struck by the enormity of the situation.

“I’m in a house with six families, a horde of children, not a father in sight,” Gelman said, adding that most Ukrainian men were restricted from leaving the country. “I feel the weight of the ruthlessness. The weight of … his trauma, even though he hid it well.”

Yasko told Gelman that he loved playing guitar but had to leave his instrument with a friend back in eastern Ukraine. He showed Gelman video of him playing his guitar. At this point, Gelman said he heard the doctor’s footsteps coming down the stairs with Maria. He knew it was time to move on to the next safe house. “Eddie, let’s stay in touch,” Gelman recalled telling the teen, before hugging him goodbye. “When you get to America, please allow me to buy you a guitar.”

Yasko and his family moved to stay with a cousin near Seattle six months after first meeting Gelman. Gelman said he reminded Yasko about the guitar and asked the teen to keep him updated. Weeks later, Gelman received an Instagram message from Yasko that he and his family had moved into an apartment in Seattle. He had enrolled in high school and tested well, Gelman said.

Having lived in Ukraine all his life, America had been a distant paradise for the teen. “We waited since 2018; a long, long time,” Yasko said. “It was my dream to come here, so I am glad to be here.” He added that he has always appreciated American culture, and that the States are better for him as a musician.

With no musical background, Gelman said he was unsure of what guitar would be the best fit for the teen. He had asked Yasko to send him photos of the guitar he wanted. Gelman showed one such picture to the cantor at his synagogue, an accomplished guitarist, and asked for his opinion. “Dude, that is a basic beginner’s guitar [worth] $150,” the cantor told him. Gelman knew Yasko wanted an acoustic that could plug into an amplifier, so his cantor recommended some higher-end options — Gelman said he had between $500 and $700 left over from funds raised for his first Ukraine trip.

Eddie Yasko plays his new guitar, gifted by Dov Gelman

The gift of music and friendship

Much to Yasko’s surprise, Gelman followed through with his promise. He gave Yasko and his mom, Ludmila, an arrival date and flew out to Seattle with his wife. Gelman drove Yasko and Ludmila to the Guitar Center in Tacoma, arriving around 8pm. After hearing Gelman explain Yasko’s story, an employee, John, was enthusiastic to help.

Yasko tested out different guitars for nearly an hour, plugging each one into the amp and strumming to his heart’s content, a smile on his face. He had taken a guitar class back in Ukrainian school for a year but was mostly self-taught. “I haven’t played a guitar since Putin invaded my country over seven months ago,” he told Gelman.

Listening to him play, Gelman said he was impressed with the teen’s raw talent. “I’m thinking to myself, What if this dude’s a prodigy? Like how cool would that be?” Gelman said. “I got to give a prodigy his first guitar.”

After playing classics by Jimmy Page, Guns N’ Roses and Led Zeppelin, the young rock music fan decided on a Taylor acoustic guitar. The Guitar Center employee, compelled by Yasko’s story, donated a guitar case and gave Gelman a discount on strings, a strap and some other accessories. Ludmila, Yasko’s mother, was overjoyed throughout the process. “She’s just … all smiles and doesn’t speak a lick of English,” Gelman said. “She would just ramble at me in Ukrainian and I just waited for the translation. She was very excited, very grateful, because she knows how well her son loves guitar and loves music.”

Gelman and his wife took Yasko and Ludmila to Applebee’s, where Gelman encouraged the teen to order the most expensive steak on the menu.

A ‘human connection’

Gelman got the sense that the teen was not used to others keeping their promises, given that Yasko’s father had left the family years ago. Gelman, who also grew up without a father, used this shared experience to strengthen their bond. “My dad died when I was two,” Gelman said. “So I think we connected on that piece. I said, ‘Listen, man, I’m glad to hopefully restore a little hope that people still do keep their promises.’ It was small, in some sense, … but it was just a human connection.”

After dinner, Gelman, Yasko and Ludmila shared a hug. Yasko thanked Gelman for keeping his promise from months before; he said receiving the guitar was “unbelievable,” especially from someone he had only met for one day.

Yasko and Gelman still keep in touch over Instagram direct messages. Yasko, now 18, attends school in Seattle — which he said he enjoys more than Ukrainian school — and spends his free time practicing guitar every day and helping translate English to Ukrainian for his mom. He likes taking walks outside, playing volleyball and video games and, of course, music. He said he hopes to be a guitar teacher one day.

“I loved music since I was [a] child,” Yasko said. “I was always dreaming of making music.”  Dec 7, 2022

An Honor to Volunteer with the Tacy Foundation
By Raymond Lim

My name is Raymond Lim, and I am an eighth grader at Robert Frost Middle School. If I had to sum up my experience with the Tacy Foundation in one word, it would be honor. What an honor it is to serve with this great organization that helps senior citizens and military veterans. 

My volunteering journey started during the 2021 pandemic when I first performed with my violin for a Tacy Foundation virtual concert. I was really looking forward to performing live in front of people once places started opening up. I also enjoyed making greeting cards for seniors and military veterans.

We are truly blessed to live in the greatest nation, thanks to the veterans. I frequently wrote on the greeting cards, "we live in the land of the free because of the brave." I also had the opportunity to work with Michael Tacy on many virtual Composer-Circle sessions that were educational and very enjoyable. 

I performed in countless Tacy Foundation concerts at senior nursing homes. Every performance was special to me. During any concert, it felt great to see somebody in the audience smiling because I knew that the music was making them feel good. My volunteer journey continued as I played at hospitals, senior nursing homes, NIH, and at Walter Reed from 2021 to 2022. 

Serving as a chief intern several times allowed me to develop my leadership and organizational skills. I get nervous when I have to speak in public, but this experience helped me get more practice. I still get nervous these days, but the more practice I get, the better I get. I'll be less nervous in the future. 

About a week ago, Ms. Holliday showed up at my home to present to me the Presidential Gold award for volunteer service. Again, we have to return to that word honor. It was beyond words that this was a great honor to receive this award. It was such a surprise to see Ms. Holliday show up at our home to present the award and read the message from the President. Obviously, the volunteering does not stop here. In fact, I'm just getting started! I feel like the journey is just warming up! I'm looking forward to many more volunteering opportunities and contributing to the Tacy Foundation.

The Tacy Foundation
Educational Mission: Foster youth development through music, story and mentoring
Philanthropic Mission Empower youth to discover and use their gifts in service to others
Social Mission: Build community partnerships and create intergenerational connections
      Whom We Serve
          Service members
          Economically disadvantaged
          Individuals who want to serve
     How We Serve (Programs)
          Live music concerts
          Reading Express®
          Piano Pals®
          Guitar Pals®
          Composers’ Circle
          Music USBs
          Musical equipment
          COVID projects: video, email, cards, puzzles for outreach to the community
Charlotte Holliday, Founder and Executive Director
Matthew D. Scott and Michael Tacy, Graphic Editors
Michael Favin, Chief Editor
Evan Yee, Teen Editor
Ethan Schenker, Teen Editor
Donations are appreciated.  All adult and teen staff are volunteers.  No salaries or benefits. Every dollar you donate goes to supplies for all projects offered to the community. 
Thank you!  
Donate online via PayPal at:
Or send your donation to: 
The Tacy Foundation 
Box 2334
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