As the ball dropped in Times Square and the world welcomed in the New Year, Mark and Ismini Svensson were already working towards their New Year’s resolution – a 50-state initiative. Under the banner “50 Acts of Giving Back,” the couple have established a goal of traveling and performing charitable services in every state in America. “Giving back and helping others is a true passion of ours, something that gives greater meaning and purpose to our lives,” says Ismini. “Our New Year’s resolution is an opportunity for us to connect with people from all different backgrounds, learn about the issues their facing in their communities, and help make a difference,” adds Mark, an Orangeburg native.

Just two days into the New Year, Mark and Ismini are making headway, having stopped in their first state – Maryland. There, the couple donated boxes full of warm clothing and goods to the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Prince George’s County. “After work each evening for the past month, Ismini and I would organize and package all the items we collected,” says Mark. The Svenssons were inspired by the work and impact of this program in Prince George’s County, which utilizes social and emotional assistance as well as individual therapy to help men and women in need regain confidence and control. They said that listening to the stories of people who have experienced struggles puts life into greater perspective for them.

In each state they travel, Mark and Ismini plan to support organizations and private citizens that help address issues affecting local communities. Looking ahead, the two will travel to California next, where they will support Catholic Charities of Los Angeles in their efforts to address the issue of homelessness. The Los Angeles region is thought to have the largest concentration of homeless persons in the country and is considered the homelessness capital of the U.S. “We made each other the promise of making a positive difference in the New Year. We inspire each other and are fortunate to work together as a team on projects we love, offer assistance to those of greatest need, and enjoy the journey,” says Ismini.

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