Love Drop 2011: January

Love Drop #1: – Jill

January 2011 – Jill

For our very first Love Drop we’re working with Jill and her kids in Chicago, who’ve lost everything in a fire and are now homeless for a second time. They’ve been through a lot, but you’ll be amazed at how much they continue to give back.

Join us and Kona Grill this month as we bring a community together to pitch in and help out however we can for this family. It’s gonna be something special, folks. You can follow the story as it unfolds below. Thanks for being a part of it!

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Love Drop Starts Now!

Here we go, guys – our first Love Drop starts . . . now!

And I’m gonna start by setting the bar low on my personal videos, okay? That’s me right there (Nate). In front of the map in my room. Yep, what you see is what you get. But don’t let that put you off – stick around for a while and be a part of something amazing with us.

This month is gonna be incredible. Special shout-out and much love to Kona Grill for taking a chance on us and being our first official partner. We love the people there, and we’re happy to be working with them.

Let’s do this!

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Episode #1: Jill on Homelessness

Jill begins to tell her story . . .
(Episode #1 of 4)

In this clip Jill gives you the introduction to what her family has been going through for the past couple of years.

You’ll catch a glimpse of her three kids, and we want to let you know that we’re cooking up something special for them too!

In the forum we have a list of some of the things we want to do for them, so if you want to help make them happy this month, jump on in and let’s make it happen. :)

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Meet this month’s partner: Kona Grill

Kona Grill Logo

Hey guys! We hope you’re enjoying the community so far :) We’ve got a lot of GREAT responses from many of you, and our pile of love is building up for Jill and her family!

Before we get to the next video episode though, we wanted to take a few minutes and give a proper shout out to our friends over at Kona Grill. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes here, and they have been incredibly helpful with getting this project out the door and moving forward.

They have been by our sides from the beginning, and we can’t thank them enough for all their financial support! It is companies like Kona that allow us to concentrate on the people we’re helping, and we couldn’t be more proud of our partnership :)

Be sure to stop by and say Hi to them!

– Twitter: @KonaGrill
– Facebook:

About Kona Grill

Kona Grill features American favorites with an international influence and award-winning sushi in a casually elegant atmosphere. They provide a great escape from everyday dining. Indulge in sensational flavors by sampling any of their modern American cuisine- prepared in our scratch kitchen. Or, enjoy stunningly fresh sushi, prepared at their full sushi bar. Kona is not about compromise. They pride themselves on offering their guests:

  • Fresh ingredients and entrees made from scratch with passion by their executive chefs and their teams
  • Fresh fish flown in daily to deliver outstanding sushi quality
  • Genuine hospitality, with personality
  • Designer cocktails, served in an energetic bar and lounge
  • A casually-sophisticated environment that provides the perfect backdrop for a date, a party and anything in between

Kona Grill owns and operates 25 restaurants currently located in 16 states: Arizona (Chandler, Gilbert, Phoenix, Scottsdale); Colorado (Denver); Connecticut (Stamford); Florida (Tampa, West Palm Beach); Illinois (Lincolnshire, Oak Brook); Indiana (Carmel); Louisiana (Baton Rouge); Michigan (Troy); Minnesota (Eden Prairie); Missouri (Kansas City); Nebraska (Omaha); New Jersey (Woodbridge); Nevada (Las Vegas); Texas (Austin, Dallas, Houston, Sugar Land, San Antonio); Virginia (Richmond); Maryland (Baltimore).

Check them out at:

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Episode #2: Building Back

Jill begins to rebuild her life
(Episode #2 of 4)

This episode is all about Jill getting back on her feet and really doing things. She takes on school all over again to finally get that degree (yeah, Jill!!) and she absolutely soars.

She also gets involved with the good people at Bridge Communities who “connect homeless families to a better future.” They play a large role in Jill’s life, and we get to meet some of those friends behind the scenes.

We love you Jill! Next episode dropping later this week…

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Jill and her family found a home! No longer homeless!


Woooooooooo! What a great start to the new year :) Bridge Communities helped find them a townhouse and they literally just moved in. Wow. Talk about people really coming together and making things happen. We can’t wait to check it out and do our Drop there in a couple of weeks! It’s coming up so fast, man.

For those asking what kind of goods Jill and her family still needs, the list has now been updated. Here’s a few of the things we’re now working on (if you’d like to  help, shoot us an email: team (at)

For Jill & the home: Sheets (queen), towels, dresser. Any gift cards to places like Bed Bath & Beyond would be killer.
For the boys: Dressers, sheets (twin), Spring/Summer clothes, anything sports related (posters, jerseys, etc)
For her daughter: Dresser, sheets (full), Spring/Summer clothes, photo albums, anything to do with painting or drawing (paints, brushes, canvases, an easel?)

Thanks for all your prayers and emails everyone, we’re rockin’ this out!!
Lots of joy going around right now :)


Jill and kids

Jill and her beautiful kids!

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Episode #3: Becoming an Advocate

Jill becomes an advocate for the homeless
(Episode #3 of 4)

This showcases one of the main reasons we were so inspired by Jill. Throughout all her hardship, she still finds ways to give back to her community. For example, by putting on “The New Face of Homelessness” symposium to educate others about how homelessness doesn’t always look the way you expect it to, and it affects single moms more often than you might think.

And then, as if by some cruel twist of fate, her new home burns down, making her homeless for the 2nd time in two years. But as you know by now, Jill continually remains as strong and hopeful as ever! And in this episode you get to see how her kids feel about it too :)


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A Little More Love

Hey Jill, a few members of the ItStartsWith.Us/Love Bomb/Love Drop community wanted to say hello and send you some well wishes, so I made this blog post just for them. Click on the title (A Little More Love) and read the comments. Can’t wait to see you on Saturday!

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Episode #4: Inspiration

Jill and her family reflect . . .
(Episode #4 of 4)

We love this episode because we get to see the strength and resiliency of Jill and her family during everything they’ve been through, and along the way we also witness the power of hope and love in a close-knit family.

Keep an eye out for our first interview with the kids, too – so cool to see the entire family sitting on the couch talking about everything. We get to go do the Love Drop tomorrow morning! We’ll air footage of it within the next week.

Stay tuned…

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Jill’s Love Drop!

It was a success!

We did it guys! Jill’s family was beyond excited, and it was all because of YOU! Every last dollar and gift and everything else y’all sent over helped make a positive impact on her family this month.

It was such an incredible experience in every way, and we want to thank you all not only for giving so generously of your time and gifts, but also for allowing us to be a part of telling the story. We can’t wait for next month!

– Nate & J$

PS: For the extended “behind the scenes” video, click here.

(Check out the whole story here)

Here is everything our community brought them:

  • $2,244.78 Check! Love Drop’s very first one!!! (The number’s a bit off from the check you see above due to bad guestimation on our behalf. We did our first Drop a week before the month ended, and were a bit new at how it all would work ;) We came close though!)
  • $100 worth of restaurant gift cards!
  • $50 gift card to Bath and Body Works (Thx Sara!)
  • Target gift card
  • Amex gift card
  • Family 4-pack of tickets to watch the Bulls! Really really good seats too ;) Courtesy of our friends at who wants everyone to “get out more.” (Indeed!)
  • Two Bears jerseys for the boys – Which was timely because the HUGE Bears vs. Packers NFC Championship game was literally the next day :)
  • iPod Shuffle – Courtesy of USAA (Thx guys!)
  • Box of scrapbooking supplies – Sent in from Love Drop member, Diane, who is a Creative Memories consultant who sells scrapbooking supplies. She mailed a box full of everything Jasmine needed to get started – albums, pages, adhesives, papers, pens, stickers, trimmers, etc. Amazing!! (And heavy!)
  • Box full of girl stuff for Jasmine – Full of all kinds of makeup, perfume, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Mailed by our good friend Bria! You rock, girl.
  • Hand-made earrings and pendants! – From designer, Christine, who also sent along a signed copy of her book, “Making Mixed Media Art Charms & Jewelry” – Thx Christine!
  • Hand-made scarves AND a backpack! – Scarves for Jill and the two boys, and the backpack for Jasmin :) Crafted by Ducky Bumpkins of Happy Knits.
  • Jewelry box & earrings – More gifts for Jasmine
  • Hand-made Hat & scarf (red) – Thanks Karen & Jeannine!
  • More hand-made wintery stuff – Thanks Jacqueline
  • Hand-picked toys for each child from

Even AFTER the Drop, people STILL continued (and continue!) to send gifts over to the family! Check out their most recent stuff:

  • U-Haul full of stuff!! – Charity and her family DROVE down a U-Haul full of stuff for the Markussens which included bikes, kitchenware, and even a TV I think? How wonderful is that? All the way down from Grand Rapids, Michigan. WOW.
  • A box of stuff from Hawaii! – A few bake ware dishes, , blender, slow cooker, and a handful of other things from a faraway Kara! That is awesome.
  • A DVD player — Courtesy of Aldo who joined Love Drop a month or two after the Drop :)
  • And another box of scrapbooking supplies! Thanks to long-time member Jacque.

Big thanks also goes out to Kona Grill for believing in us, and providing the after-party location. Truly amazing the amount of support and community this team brought for Jill & her family. Just incredible. THANK YOU to all who participated!

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UPDATE: Jill Wins the “Life Transformed Award”

Jill Markussen headshotRemember our first Love Drop recipient, Jill Markussen? She’s winning Bridge Community’s Life Transformed Award! And will be honored at their Spring Luncheon, as they celebrate the remarkable fortitude and spirit of the women in their community.

She really is an amazing woman, and we love her to death. In fact, you may not know this, but she’s also a *member* of Love Drop now! Talk about paying it forward :)

Here’s a reminder of how far she’s come:
(As posted by Bridge Communities)

Jill Markussen lost her job in April 2007 and by December, she and her children had lost their home. Jill and her children represent the “new face of homelessness.”

Jill entered the Bridge Communities Program and quickly enrolled in College of DuPage. She knew she wanted to relaunch her career as a care-giver. Through educational testing, she decided to pursue a human services degree with special emphasis in working with senior citizens and domestic violence.

While at College of DuPage Jill bravely shared her story of homelessness with her classmates and instructors. Soon she found herself collaborating with her fellow students and faculty to organize a very successful symposium, “The New Face of Homeless.” The symposium caught the attention of many on the College campus and is now planned as an annual event.

Shortly after graduation from Bridge Communities’ Jill’s apartment burned, leaving her homeless for a second time. Never down for long, Jill worked with College of DuPage to organize a Sleep Out Saturday event and continued her work and school studies. “Jill Markussen is the kind of person who counts her blessings rather than cursing the darkness,” says Joyce Hothan, executive director of Bridge Communities. “I have personally been in awe of the courage, resilience and faith that Jill has displayed in her incredible journey out of homelessness.”

Jill openly shares her story with community and school groups and truly believes her experience has changed her for the better. We are privileged to honor Jill Markussen, a woman whose transformation deserves celebrating.

CONGRATS JILL! Team Love Drop is proud of you!

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Our 1st Drop Recipient starts her OWN Love Drops! :)

project flipmodeTalk about paying it forward! Jill Markussen & family have created Project FlipMode which serves to help individuals and families facing homelessness and other crisis with prayer and support. (And also by providing help and resources that will empower them to change their lives.) This is an INCREDIBLE way to give back and really spread the word that anyone can do this!! We are so proud of Jill, and just blown away by how she continues to live her life.  Way to go, girl!!

If you’d like to learn more about what Jill and her new project is about, check it out over at You can also watch the Love Drop we did for her here.

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Sheer Determination

(Update by Dennis & Mary)

The title simply and effectively describes the daily efforts of Jill Markussen’s life. Her story continues to inspire and motivate. For those of you not familiar with Jill, she was Love Drop’s first ever family selected in December of 2010 to be the initial family for the launch of Love Drop 01-01-2011. Mary and I had the opportunity, working early on with Nate and J$, to nominate and sponsor Jill. Then we had the amazing honor and charge of telling Jill and her family’s story through film.

Since January, Jill has taken the small love we all provided and hasn’t looked back. Sometimes I think she barely needed our help, she was going to make it through with or without Love Drop’s generosity. Let us tell you, it is quite the experience knowing Jill, becoming her friend and sounding board, and then ultimately, in some small way, helping her to pay forward the blessings her family received.

We can still vividly remember the moment the call came in February just three weeks after Jill’s Drop. Mary and I were in Dallas, TX at the time, driving to meet Katie Howard to film her for Love Drop’s March recipient. We pulled over into a strip mall parking lot as Jill eagerly discussed her hopes, dreams and plans to launch her own non-profit to help a homeless family in her home county of DuPage, one family per month. A dream she’d had for well over a year. And she was asking if we could help her.

The Launch of Project Flipmode

The name of the new organization is Project Flipmode, inspired by her oldest daughter Tanya, who passed away from a life-long battle with liver disease at the age of 24 in 2008. “Flipmode” was Tanya’s nickname.

Mary and I had originally gifted a blog site to Jill at her January Drop to help her spread the word on “The New Face of Homelessness” that now has embraced our country. She has become an avid and outspoken proponent for the homeless since she herself was homeless from early 2008 to mid-2010. She built her life back through the assistance of Bridge Communities after losing her home shortly after losing her job in 2007.

Then to lose everything she owned in a fire only weeks after getting back on her own in October of 2010, anyone else would have crumbled under the adversity. Not Jill, she just plowed ahead… with sheer determination.

She needed a place to find her voice and we felt she had the ability to find blogging in the process. It came slowly as she wasn’t comfortable in the backend of WordPress. But just a month later she had the real reason now to dive in head first, Project Flipmode needed to launch, and in true Jill fashion, she set a definitive deadline.

After a series of Skype calls (Jill apologizing through each one), and finding her a quality WordPress template to speed her along, Jill had designed and built her own web environment for Project Flipmode all on her own will. Uploading photos, writing blog entries on the selected family’s life situation, breaking the site and another Skype call : ). Jill had met her launch deadline of June 1st, 2011, had selected her first family to help in June, and she was off.

With her new site in place, that was all Jill needed. Exploding onto Facebook June 1st with promo after promo, connecting every social contact to her new endeavor, making phone call after phone call, Jill had launched Project Flipmode, making it all happen… with sheer determination.

We remember with a big grin June 18th as we tested the new PayPal donate button for her before she pushed it on Facebook, Jill scolding us as we confirmed the setup by donating $10 instead of just a test $1, then her trying to get us to accept a refund.

Jill’s First “Flip”

For this past holiday weekend Mary and I could not think of anything better we could possibly want to do more then attend the first ever “Flip Day” as Jill prepared to change the life of one family on Sunday, July 3rd. So we ventured out, camera always in hand : ) to make our way to meet Jill, her family and her new June “Flip” family.

Jill’s efforts for the June family, you say?

  • A host of much needed household and cleaning items
  • A new vacuum cleaner
  • An iPod for the mother
  • A Flip camera for the high school age son
  • Oh yeah… and a new, used car donated by a local dealership, Wickstrom Chevrolet to help both mother and son get to work and school
  • And just for grins… she has Chicago’s ABC News crew there to record the Flip Day to develop a story for Ron Magers’ “Spirit of Giving” segment to air Thursday, July 7th on the 5:00 pm ABC News cast

Jill made the calls, pushed the promos, cold-called the dealership, visited the dealership personally on multiple occasions, then convinced ABC News… this was her June family and she was going to deliver.

Meeting her back in December, telling her story, getting to know her children… all of it has been a life changing experience for us. Truly inspiring to be a part of Jill’s journey, to help her in any small way, to simply be called a friend of a women with, well… sheer determination.

Follow Project Flipmode at their sparkling new site built by her daughter, Jessica Anderson and her talented web team at Controlled Fate – like, share, post, comment and spread the word…

— Dennis Hildebrand & Mary Montavon

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