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R2W’s 26th Annual Awards Ceremony

Thanks!

We celebrated in two locations this year to accommodate medal winners and engage broader community support.  Thank you, Ronald Aylward, Executive Director, Heritage Oaks of Englewood, Florida for hosting our event in Florida.  Thank you, Chris Lites for hosting our event at your clubhouse in Colorado.  And thank you, General Thomas Mills for presenting the medals in Colorado.

This all wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, especially Gayleen Pratt, President, StaffCV .

Congratulations!

The following received gold medals from President Biden in Englewood, Florida via the President’s Volunteer Services Awards:

  • Fern Ballou
  • Debbie Henderson

The following received gold medals from President Biden in Boulder, Colorado:

  • Rob Brazell
  • Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr.
  • Larry Gustafson
  • Jay VanderWerff
  • Chuck Wright

Rob Brazell also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Biden.  And R2W won a company gold medal from President Biden.

Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., Chaplain Denver Sheriff’s Department, gave opening and closing prayers in Colorado.  Chaplain Jim Mosely, American Legion Post 113, gave opening and closing prayers in Florida.  Rob Brazell also read a prayer from Fern and Debbie’s church, Committee On Publications, 1st Church of Christ Scientists, Englewood, Florida.

The events were attended by neighbors, church members, first responders, and notable dignitaries including Elisabeth Patierno, President, and Robert Patierno, Commander, American Legion Post 113, Rotando West, Florida.

Fern Ballou, Debbie Henderson, and Ron Aylward gave moving testimonials in Florida.  General Thomas Mills, Chuck Wright, Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., Larry Gustafson, and Rob Brazell gave inspirational speeches in Colorado.

 

When I was well past retirement age and still working, the company I was working for moved out of the area.  I didn’t want to have to drive further from Englewood, so I thought that was the end of my working years.

But one night I attended The Christian Science Church, now Society, in Englewood, FL of which both Rob Brazell, the Founder of the non-profit organization, Project:  Return To Work Inc. (R2W) and his mother, Fran Nixon, were attending.  Both Fran and I are members of the church.  Rob was visiting from Colorado.  When I told him I had just stopped working, he said, “Give me your resume,” then hired me.

Little did I think it would lead to this award!  I was only doing my job.  It was very gratifying to be able to help so many veterans back to work, back to life.  And later it included other people with disabilities who were having a hard time returning to the working world.

I’m deeply grateful to Rob.  And still volunteering!

Due to the changing economy, donations aren’t as easy to come by as in the past.  The foundations who give grants now require non-profits to show they are receiving more in individual and company donations.  All donations are very much appreciated.

When Heritage Oaks of Englewood, FL says, “This isn’t like home, it is home,” they prove it by the things they do for us, such as, sponsoring this celebration.  Thank you, Ron, Kimberly, Chris, and all the staff and volunteers here at home.     Fern Ballou, R2W Chaplain and Directors

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FLORIDA

Ron Alyward, Executive Director at Heritage Oaks of Englewood, Florida presents a gold medal from President Biden to Fern Ballou, Chaplain, Project: Return To Work Inc. (R2W) at R2W’s 26th Annual Awards Ceremony (part 2). Photo by Mary Meier.

 

Ron Aylward, Executive Director at Heritage Oaks of Englewood, Florida presents a gold medal from President Biden to Debbie Henderson, R2W CPA.  Photo by Mary Meier.

 

American Legion Post 113’s Chaplain, Jim Mosely provided the opening and closing prayers at R2W’s 26th Annual Awards Ceremony in Englewood, Florida. Robert Patierno, Commander, and Elisabeth Patierno, President American Legion Post 113 also represented veterans.  Fern Ballou and Debbie Henderson received gold medals from President Biden.  Rob Brazell also read a prayer from Fern and Debbie’s church, Committee On Publications, First Church of Christ Scientists, Englewood, Florida. Photo by Mary Meier.

 

Ron Aylward, Executive Director, Heritage Oaks, Englewood Florida; Chris Snyder, Marketing and Sales, Heritage Oaks, Englewood Florida; Fern Ballou, R2W Chaplain and Director; Debbie Henderson, R2W CPA; and Rob Brazell, R2W President.  Photo by Mary Meier. 


COLORADO

 

R2W’s 26th Annual Awards Ceremony in Boulder, Colorado (part 1). General Thomas Mills (retired), Assistant Adjutant General of the Colorado National Guard and former Chairman of R2W, presented gold medals from President Biden to Chuck Wright, R2W Director, Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., R2W Director, Larry Gustafson, R2W Director, and Rob Brazell, R2W Director and Founder. Rob Brazell also won the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Biden. Photo by Gabi Pratz, Work Options for Women.

Check back for more!

  • American Legion Post 113 Chaplain’s Prayers
  • Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr.’s Prayers
  • Rob Brazell’s Prayer (from Fern’s church)
  • Debbie Henderson’s and Fern Ballou’s testimonial
  • General Thomas Mills, Chuck Wright, Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., and Rob Brazell’s testimonials

Project:  Return To Work Inc.’s (R2W’s)

26th Annual Awards Ceremony (part 2)

May 7, 2024
2:00 – 4:00 PM

Hosted by

Heritage Oaks Assisted Living Center
7374 San Casa Drive
Englewood, FL 34224

720-359-1541

 

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Gold Medal Winners

Click here for more information about the President’s Volunteer Service Awards

We have within our reach the promise of a renewed America. We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light. And it is expressed by all who know the irresistible force of a child’s hand, of a friend who stands by you and stays there, a volunteer’s generous gesture, an idea that is simply right.  President George HW Bush

 

 

Fern Ballou
R2W Chaplain & Director

Fern Ballou was a close friend of Fran Nixon, R2W Founder and has served both as a paid Chaplain and as a volunteer Director for several years.  Fern and Fran’s church has also hosted several R2W Workshops over the years:  First Church of Christ Scientists, Englewood, Florida.  Fern currently serves as the Secretary of R2W’s Board of Directors and is a member of the Executive Committee and the Mentors Committee.  At 94, she blasts through the age barrier effortlessly and is the cohesion for our charity.  Her tirelessly commitment makes a meaningful difference.  A lasting impact.

Shine on, Fern!

Return to Work Day of Caring Recruiting Event | FOX31 Denver (kdvr.com)

Englewood Resident Receives President’s Volunteer Service Award – You’re Never Too Old to Volunteer! 

The Englewood Review

Woman, 94, lauded by president for helping others

The Daily Sun Englewood

 

Deborah Henderson, CPA
R2W Volunteer CPA

Debbie Henderson was a close friend of Fran Nixon, R2W Founder, and has volunteered as R2W’s accountant for years.  Thanks to Debbie, R2W has never missed a payroll, and the Board of Directors has always had timely and accurate financial documents for their management decisions.  Debbie and Fern’s church has also hosted several R2W workshops over the years:  First Church of Christ Scientists, Englewood, Florida.  Debbie is a model volunteer whose leadership shines bright in our charitable cause, and we are deeply grateful.

 

Employee of the Decade

Nikki D ‘Agostino,
R2W Program Manager and Career Counselor

Volunteer of the Year

 

Robert Bloxam

Sponsor Awards

Gayleen Pratt, Owner, StaffCV

“Gayleen Pratt donated the underlying technologies that have given R2W a competitive advantage for many years.  She is from New Zealand and not eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Awards but deserves all the respect we can muster.  She is a brilliant light illuminating a loving spirit around the world, and I am deeply grateful.”  Rob Brazell, Founder, Project:  Return To Work Inc.  (R2W)

 

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Project:  Return To Work Inc.’s (R2W’s)

26th Annual Awards Ceremony (part 1)

February 24, 2024
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM Mountain
Boulder, CO  80301
720-359-1541

A small celebration for neighbors and friends

Presenter:
Brigadier General Thomas Mills (retired),
Assistant Adjutant General, US Army National Guard

Special Thanks To
Chris Lites & Debby Wilson

Medals via President’s Volunteer Services Awards

 

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Gold Medals from President Biden

Gold Medals 

  • Rob Brazell
  • Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr.
  • Larry Gustafson
  • Jay VanderWerff
  • Chuck Wright

Lifetime Achievement Award 

  • Rob Brazell

Company Award – Gold Medal

  • Project:  Return To Work Inc.  (R2W)

Chuck Wright, R2W Director, Chair Mentors Committee

Chuck Wright has volunteered for multiple positions over the years including key roles for R2W’s large scale Military & Veterans Employment Expos (MVEEs) with the Department of Defense ESGR, Veterans Affairs, Department of Labor, Colorado Department of Labor & Employment, Colorado National Guard, and others.  We typically provided training and placement services over a 3-day period to about 1,000 to 2,000 active-duty military service members and veterans, and 100 to 200 employers.  Chuck currently serves as the Chair of the Mentors Committee on R2W’s Board of Directors.  He leads weekly meetings to coordinate 4 tiers of mentorships ranging from an hour at occasional events to 5-year commitments.  Chuck is a true Point Of Light adding brilliance to our path forward.

 

Larry Gustafson, R2W Treasurer and Legal Advisor

Larry Gustafson was a close friend of Fran Nixon, Founder.  He has served as Director and Legal Advisor at R2W for decades and is the principal signature for the company.   He has held multiple offices over the years and currently serves on the Executive Committee as Treasurer.  He has tirelessly volunteered thousands of hours and his shining light has guided us to safe waters again and again. He is an inspiration for our whole community.  Larry is a partner at Baum and Gustafson, PC and provides responsive, creative, and knowledgeable representation on business, tax, and estate matters.  Trusted Business Law Firm Dedicated to Companies and Individuals in Denver, Colorado Since 1979.

 

Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., R2W Director and Chaplain

A HAND UP, NOT A HANDOUT

Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr. was a close friend of Fran Nixon, R2W Founder, and has served in a variety of positions over several years.  He currently serves as R2W’s Chaplain, and Director on the Volunteer Committee.  He also hosts frequent R2W workshops for volunteers and for job seekers at The Greater Faith Worship Center where he is the spiritual leader.  For decades, Pastor Cannon Jr. has also been the Chaplain for the Denver Sheriff Department.  His motto is to give people a hand up, not a handout — a true inspiration for all.

Rob Brazell, R2W Founder

Rob Brazell founded Project:  Return To Work Inc.  (R2W) with his father, mother, sister, and lifetime mentor out of his victories over AIDS.  Rather than returning to his career in aerospace, he dedicated the remainder of his life to helping other disabled Americans back to work, back to life.  Like his mother, Fran Nixon, he selflessly volunteered thousands of hours over the decades.  Prior to his Lifetime Achievement Award from President Biden, Rob was given a gold medal from President Obama for his service to the Colorado National Guard and the Department of Defense Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve at their collaborative Military and Veterans Employment Expos (MVEE),

 


Previous Medals from Presidents Trump & Obama

 

Fran Nixon Award 2018

2018:  Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr presents Fran Nixon with a gold medal, coin, and lifetime achievement award from President Trump in Englewood, Florida.  From left:  Pastor Hosea Cannon Jr., [], Fern Ballou, Fran Nixon, and Rob Brazell (Gold Medal from President Obama).  Photo by The Daily Sun, YourSun.com, Florida.

Octogenarian Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

Fran Nixon remembered, helped 18,000 find work

By NANCY J. SEMON STAFF WRITER Sun News Apr 18, 2020

Check back for more uplifting stories!

 

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ABOUT PROJECT:  RETURN TO WORK INC.  (R2W)

Back To Work, Back To Life

We All Serve

 

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About The President’s Volunteer Services Awards

Wikipedia:

The President’s Volunteer Service Award is a civil award bestowed by the President of the United States. Established by executive order by George W. Bush, the award was established to honor volunteers that give hundreds of hours per year helping others through the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. The award can be granted to individuals, families and organizations located throughout the United States. Depending on the amount of service hours completed, individuals can receive the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and/or the President’s Call to Service Award (also referred to the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award).[1] The Call to Service Award is the most prestigious, and it has been awarded to few Americans to recognize over 4,000 hours of extraordinary service including notable honorees such as S. Truett CathyMark Carman, and Zach Bonner. Awardees may receive a personalized certificate, an official pin, medallion, and/or a congratulatory letter from the President depending on the award earned.

The President’s Volunteer Service Award is now an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Points of Light Institute.[2]

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About Points Of Light 

 

Wikipedia:

Points of Light is an international nonprofitnonpartisan organization headquartered in GeorgiaUnited States dedicated to engaging more people and resources in solving serious social problems through voluntary service.

Each year, Points of Light mobilizes millions of people through affiliates in approximately 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and companies.[1]

History

Points of Light was formed in 2007 by the merger of the Points of Light Foundation and Hands On Network. Encouraged by major donors and affiliates, the two organizations merged with the goal of strengthening volunteerism, streamlining costs and services and deepening impact.[2]

The Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990 as a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. to promote the spirit of volunteerism described by U.S. President George H. W. Bush in his 1989 inaugural address,[3] “I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.”[4]

President Bush used the “thousand points of light” theme frequently,[3] including in his 1991 State of the Union address in which he said:

We have within our reach the promise of a renewed America. We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light. And it is expressed by all who know the irresistible force of a child’s hand, of a friend who stands by you and stays there, a volunteer’s generous gesture, an idea that is simply right.[5]

In 1991 the National Volunteer Center, which had begun in 1970 as the National Center for Voluntary Action, was merged into it. The merged organization also became known during the 2000s as the Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network.

The Foundation and its expanded network acted as community hubs to connect volunteers to opportunities, work with local nonprofits and businesses to establish and improve volunteer programs, and, overall, bolster the local infrastructure for the volunteering community.[3]

The Points of Light Foundation received an annual allocation from the Corporation for National and Community Service to manage some of that agency’s programs, and administered the President’s Volunteer Service Award program, which was created by President George W. Bush in 2003. The group also sponsored conferences, offered training and other assistance to its network of volunteer centers, and recognized volunteers through a Daily Point of Light award.[3]

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Connecting With Injured Soldiers @ Army Yellow Ribbon Event

by Wilma Meep

May 25, 2023

Project:  Return To Work Inc.  (R2W) is a trusted community leader providing employment and rehabilitation services to injured soldiers.  And their families.

Robin Ray Brazell, R2W’s Founder, plans to speak with 24 injured soldiers and their families at the US Army’s Yellow Ribbon event in Vail, Colorado June 2 – 4, 2023.  Mr. Brazell will bring R2W’s mascots, Yin and Yang, to help him breakthrough the barriers. He says, “They are a huge help.  They enable me to instantly connect with people who have sacrificed so much.  Trust!”

Yin and Yang
R2W’s Mascots

 

See Yin and Yang on Fox 31 News!

Mr. Brazell will talk about ESGR’s programs to award outstanding employers, and to mediate when employers fail to comply with the USERRA law.  He will also inform injured soldiers and their families about education, employment, and rehabilitation programs at R2W.

Event Details | DoD Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program – Official Site

 

Please volunteer as a mentor at https://www.return2work.org/volunteer .

And please donate at https://www.return2work.org/donate .

 

Sleep well at night knowing you’re making a difference.  Even a small contribution will go a long way.

 

 


 

 

Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a DoD-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and Reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through Yellow Ribbon events, Service members and loved ones connect with local resources before, during, and after deployments. Reintegration during post-deployment is a critical time for members of the National Guard and Reserve, as they often live far from military installations and other members of their units. Commanders and leaders play a critical role in assuring that Reserve Service members and their families attend Yellow Ribbon events where they can access information on health care, education and training opportunities, financial, and legal benefits. We work in government and non-government partners, including the Small Business Administration and Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs, to provide up-to-date and relevant information to the members of the All-Volunteer force and their families.

 

About Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program (army.mil)

About Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve > About ESGR > Contact > Local/State Pages > Colorado  (R2W’s Founder is an Area Chair).

About USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov).

 

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Barriers to Employment and How to Overcome Them

By

Nikki DAgostino, CESP, R2W Career Counselor

 

The United States Department of Labor defines barriers to employment as ‘any conditions that may make employment difficult.’ Barriers can especially affect individuals with disabilities, who already may have a lack of resources available.

Some of the most common employment barriers include transportation barriers and criminal record barriers. These barriers can inhibit a person’s ability to keep and maintain employment.

When seeking employment, either by oneself or with the assistance of an employment program, it is important to assess potential barriers and come up with a game plan on how to overcome them. While not all barriers can fully be overcome, many can, and there are many techniques, resources, and methods that can be implemented to mitigate the overall impact of the barrier.

For example, when someone lacks transportation resources when searching for employment, they can utilize several methods to overcome the barrier. First, they can utilize Google Maps to determine what local employers may be within walking or biking distance of their residence. They can research state and county public transportation options, including disability door to door services for qualified individuals with disabilities. Networking, including utilizing resources through friends, family members, local non-profits, and carpooling groups can also be an excellent option. Lastly, rideshare services can also be utilized, when necessary, but proper budgeting and planning should be implemented.

Having a criminal background can also be a difficult barrier to overcome, particularly for individuals with prior felony convictions or convictions that include violence or theft. Employers do reserve the right to make hiring decisions based on prior convictions and can legally decline employment based on background check information. It is important when an individual has a criminal record to be upfront and truthful about the record – particularly if the employer indicates their intention to run a background check. By being forthcoming and truthful about what will come up on the background check, it can help open up a dialogue with management, where exceptions and accommodations can be made.

It is also extremely important to review the background check authorization paperwork as well. Some employers will only run a 7-year background check, or a 10-year background check. If the paperwork specifically indicates “have you had any convictions within the last 7 years” and your conviction was eight years ago, then it is perfectly acceptable to indicate ‘no’ on that paperwork.

In addition, many companies are taking initiatives to be more inclusive for individuals with backgrounds to help reintegrate previous offenders back into the workforce. There are many online resources available for offenders, including sources that specify different employers’ policies and hiring practices when it comes to individuals with criminal records. In addition, the construction fields, restaurant / culinary fields, and self-employment fields have always been great career fields for individuals to enter who may have more difficult criminal convictions.

Overall, with the proper preparation, acknowledgment, and guidance, one can learn to overcome a variety of barriers and attain successful employment outcomes.

 

DONATE HERE

Jalali Hartman, R2W Trustee, Former R2W Director

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Devastating Effects of Hurricane Ian on Charlotte County and Project: Return to Work Inc. (R2W)

by
Nikki D’Agostino, R2W Career Counselor & DVR Program Director

The American flag stands in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Forty Myers Beach, Florida, Oct. 2, 2022. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Jesse Hanson

Hurricane Ian was a powerful Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on the Southwest coast of Florida on September 28, 2022. The storm brought catastrophic heavy rain and wind to the area, causing widespread damage and destruction. Roads were flooded, buildings were demolished, and the overall area is still in a very slow recovery period.

The immediate impacts of the storm were substantial damage to both residential and commercial properties. Infrastructure and utilities were critically damaged resulting in over a week without running water in the Englewood, FL area. Power was down for 2-3 weeks, and internet and cell phone services were down for over a month.

Due to the hurricane’s impact, many businesses were affected as well. Project: Return to Work Inc (R2W) was substantially impacted by the hurricane, resulting in considerable business and resource losses. As a non-profit relying on donations and government grants, the hurricane caused critical losses. State offices were shut down, customers lost their jobs, and other customers closed out / moved out of state altogether. Without internet and cell services, and the hurricane damage impact to staff, Return to Work’s Florida Ops was essentially dead in the water for over a month.

While R2W’s Florida Ops has resumed close to normal services, the damages are still being felt on a daily basis. The hurricane put us over a month behind in our services, paperwork, and availability. Staff are still recovering from substantial damage to their homes and offices. Customers whom we serve also lost their homes and belongings.

It is critical now in our time of need to recover, and thereby help others recover from the disastrous catastrophic damages caused by Hurricane Ian.

DONOTE HERE

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Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves | Dec 15th

A sincere thank you to KSE for donating tickets to the game on Dec 15th!

 

 

 

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!!  That was awesome – Andrew

Thank you so much R2W for the tickets to see Denver Nuggets live!  It was a great experience to share with my son, and we enjoyed every minute since we don’t get to watch the game on TV anymore.  ~Linda

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myWalgreens – the results are in!

We are excited to share that Project Return To Work, Inc. will be awarded funds in the amount of $100.00 from the myWalgreens Donation Program.

We’re so grateful to our supporters, and of course to Walgreens, for offering the opportunity to be involved in this generous program.

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Final days! Donate your myWalgreens cash rewards to Return2Work thru 05/31/21

Return2Work is participating in the myWalgreens donation program!

At Walgreens, you’ll earn unlimited 1% Walgreens Cash rewards when you shop with your myWalgreens membership and you can contribute $1, $5, or more of your Walgreens Cash rewards to local and national charities making a difference in your community. It’s that easy and the amount you donate is up to you!

Donate your myWalgreens cash rewards to Return2Work thru 05/31/21.

Disclaimer:

*Walgreens Cash rewards can be redeemed as a donation to designated charities as shown in your myWalgreensTM account in app or on Walgreens.com. Once Walgreens Cash rewards are redeemed for a donation, the exchange is not reversible and cannot be canceled once submitted. Donation is not tax deductible, and additional terms and conditions may apply. Walgreens reserves the right to change the charities that are eligible to participate at any time without notice.

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2 weeks left! Donate your myWalgreens cash rewards to Return2Work thru 05/31/21

We’re participating in the myWalgreens donation program!

At Walgreens, you’ll earn unlimited 1% Walgreens Cash rewards when you shop with your myWalgreens membership and you can contribute $1, $5, or more of your Walgreens Cash rewards to local and national charities making a difference in your community. It’s that easy and the amount you donate is up to you!

Donate your myWalgreens cash rewards to Return2Work thru 05/31/21.

Disclaimer:

*Walgreens Cash rewards can be redeemed as a donation to designated charities as shown in your myWalgreensTM account in app or on Walgreens.com. Once Walgreens Cash rewards are redeemed for a donation, the exchange is not reversible and cannot be canceled once submitted. Donation is not tax deductible, and additional terms and conditions may apply. Walgreens reserves the right to change the charities that are eligible to participate at any time without notice.