Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Breaking Habits on Giving Tuesday

            “Giving Tuesday” is finally here and it brings to mind a sermon from the pastor at my parent’s church.  He said that we are creatures of habit.  Unfortunately, sometimes we get into the habit of ignoring people in need.  As my daughter’s friend’s mom said during a trip to the city, “Don’t make eye contact.” 
As a society we’ve gotten into the habit of looking the other way.  When there are two entrances to a store and one has a Salvation Army bell ringer, we tend to choose the other door.  When charity comes up on the caller I.D. we don’t answer the phone—guilty as charged.
            Today on "Giving Tuesday," let’s break the old habits.  Let’s throw the change in our pockets into the red bucket.  Let’s answer the phone and at least give the person on the other side an answer.  If we can’t afford it this year, there’s no shame.  Be honest.  But always remember, even the smallest act of kindness can go a long way. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Tuesday Made Easy

            About four years ago, my mom told me that for Christmas she wanted me to either volunteer somewhere or give to charity in her name.  She dropped this bomb on me in November.  No problem.  Not really.  The charity could not be one of the big ones.  In other words, “Don’t just throw money at a charity and call it good.” 

            With “Giving Tuesday” less than twenty four hours from now, you might be panicking like I did four years ago.  Take a deep breath and know that the people at “Giving Tuesday” have made it easy.  Just go to their website at http://givingtuesday.org and click on the “Partners” button.  Then scroll down to the “All Partners” area and select your state and click the “sort” button.  Then find a cause that fits you. 

I think you will be surprised to find organizations that you have never heard of.  I know I have.  Take some time out tonight and browse the site.  I’m sure you will find something that you can believe in.  Good Luck and I hope to hear about your stories of doing a good deed on “Giving Tuesday.” 

Your stories are welcome at the “Giving Tuesday” site as well as my email box: sowaseednow@gmail.com.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Getting Thrifty on Giving Tuesday

            Christmas is just around the corner.  Thoughts of new games, clothes and gadgets are on everyone’s mind.  It’s time to make room for all of the new things.  Out with the old and in with the new as it were. 

            With “Giving Tuesday” only a few days away, now would be a great time to go through your house, box up the things you don’t use and take them to the thrift shop of your choice.  It could be the Salvation Army or Goodwill.  Things you don’t have a need for could be useful to someone else.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. 

            On the flipside, for donated goods to earn money for charities they have to move off of the shelf.  There are a myriad of thrift shops for different charities.  The Salvation Army and Goodwill do not have the corner market.  Find one you like and go shopping.  You could find the perfect Christmas decoration for your house at a minimal cost.  If you’re a garage saler and you miss the season, head on over to your nearest thrift store and know that your money is going to help someone. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shop Until You Drop on Giving Tuesday

            One of my fondest memories of Thanksgiving revolves around Black Friday.  My brother and I used to get up early and go to the stores for the entertainment value.  Sure we bought one or two things, but it was much more enjoyable to watch the people.  Of course at the time, people were more inclined to laugh at themselves then they are now. 

            One year, we took our places in the back of the line to get into Best Buy.  The people in front of us asked what we were getting and we asked,  “What do they have?”

            The man looked at us incredulously, “You’re kidding.”

            We shook our heads and my brother said, “We saw the line and thought, ‘Hey there’s got to be something good here.’”  We all chuckled at the insanity of Black Friday.  Then we saw a guy bring a huge T.V. out to his car. 

            “He is not going to get that in there,” my brother commented. 

            We all watched with anticipation as the guy tried to get the T.V. in his little Cavalier.  He tried this way and that.  Finally, he ripped open the box and put it in au natural.  When he successfully closed the trunk everyone in line clapped.  He stopped, took a bow and went on his merry way.  Where else can you get entertainment like that for free?

            The reason I bring up the story is to offer another suggestion for “Giving Tuesday.”  Shop until you drop.  You don’t have to fight the crowds or stand in line hoping that someone will do something to entertain you.  There are websites that give a percentage of their proceeds to charity when you shop with them.  One such site is www.thehungersite.com.  Everything you buy from their store funds food for the hungry. 

            If you have someone in your life that adores jewelry, www.ahalife.com/altruette/  has charms for you.  Each charm is made for a specific charity and half of the net profits go to that charity. 

            These are just a few examples of how you can shop online and help others.  If you type “shopping for charities” in your search engine, you can find much more.  There are six days left until “Giving Tuesday,” so find your site and get ready to shop.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Geting Crafty on Giving Tuesday

Today, in the spirit of “Giving Tuesday” which is only a week away, I thought I would give crafty people some project ideas to accomplish on that day. 

There is a charity called “Knots-of-Love” which makes caps for patients who suffer hair loss.  It is a useful gift that is colorful and brightens the patient’s day.

“Bridge and Beyond” is an organization that collects handmade items such as hats, gloves and scarves to give to those in need. It is a gift of warmth on cold winter days.

There are a myriad of charities that one can crochet or knit an afghan for.  With “Warm Up America” you need only crochet or knit a 7” x 9” square and drop it off at your local Michael’s Craft store. 

If you don’t know how to knit or crochet, don’t fret.  I know of a group that makes fleece baby blankets for the needy.  The only skill needed to make these warm blankets is the ability to tie a knot.  Craft stores sell kits in different sizes, so you can make them for adults, children or babies.

I still have the afghan and cap that a volunteer knitted for my daughter while she was in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).  It is a gift that brought comfort during a stressful time.  

I’ve heard of a group that sews heart pillows to give to breast cancer patients.  It’s a small gift that brings reassurance to those who feel alone in their fight.

Another group that I’ve read about sews Raggedy Ann dolls to give to little girls who through circumstances beyond their control may feel alone and isolated.  We all know that sometimes little girls just need something to hug.

The possibilities are endless.  Start a conversation, brainstorm an idea and put it into action.   Call your friends and have a crafting party on Tuesday, November 27 to work together to bring joy and comfort to someone in need.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Little Giraffe Foundation

            The baby’s breathing keeps in time with the cadence of his mother reading.  The sounds of the outside world melt away as he finds an oasis in the myriad of noises surrounding him.  Just as her voice lulled him to sleep in her womb, so it does out here.  The bond he has to her voice continues as they both wait in anticipation for the day in which she can hold him.  They thought it would happen the day he was born into this cold world, but alas, his early arrival landed him in an incubator isolated from her touch. 

            The life of a preemie is stressful, but his mother’s voice is a reminder that he is not alone.  Parents of preemies can feel isolated and Mike and Amanda Santoro felt that loneliness when their twins were born premature.  Although their daughter Cheyenne did not survive, she is able to live on through the Little Giraffe Foundation created in her honor by her parents. 

Little Giraffe Foundation’s main purpose is to improve the quality of life in preemie’s both during their stay in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and beyond.  They have been able to work toward this goal by raising money to fund neonatal research.  In 2012, they offered $12,000 in grants.  Two grants went directly to research.  Two more grants went to NICUs in need.  Some of these NICUs have patients whose parents live in rural areas and visiting their babies is not a trivial matter.  These grants allowed the NICUs to offer assistance through gas cards and to set up a food pantry for the parents.

            Most importantly, the Little Giraffe Foundation helps the parents of NICU patients know they are not alone and that there are people out there who have been through the same struggles.  Gift bags containing such things as books, toys, and personal notes are donated by the foundation during the holidays to let the parents know that they are not forgotten.  The foundation currently serves six hospitals in the Chicagoland area in this manner with each hospital caring for up to sixty patients.  Since its inception, the Little Giraffe Foundation has distributed over one thousand gift bags. 

The foundation’s ability to complete their mission is dependent on donations from kind people and volunteers with a passion to serve.  If you would like more information about the Little Giraffe Foundation or would like to volunteer, the website address is www.littlegiraffefoundation.org.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Giving Tuesday

            I know that I promised more stories about students doing good works, and they will come, but sometimes inspiration hits you and you have to jump on it.  I was driving my husband to work today and I saw a billboard advertisement for “Giving Tuesday.”

            After I got home, I immediately hopped on the internet and checked out the website www.givingtuesday.org.  This website encourages people to use Tuesday November 27 as a day of giving.  I encourage everyone to visit the site.  It has great ideas of how to give whether it is by giving through donations or volunteering. 

            Here are a few things that I can come up with off the top of my head. 

In a previous post, I’ve already mentioned how you can help out with the food pantry for as little as one dollar a week. 

While I was shopping at the dollar store the other day (Dollar Tree to be exact), the cashier asked if I would like to spend an extra dollar to donate a toy to Operation Home Front.

Another painless way in which you can help is by using the dollars you get as rewards from a chain store such as Kohl’s to buy something for the needy.  Typically, the Kohl’s cash sits in my purse, forgotten among the gum, candy, loose change, aspirin, and McDonald’s toy from my daughters happy meal only to be found after its expiration date.  Why not put it to good use?

A friend of mine has told me that she and her siblings shop for the needy on Black Friday.  That way they spend a day enjoying each other’s company as they do something good and get more bang for their buck. 

So, in the next two weeks, I ask you to think about it.  What can you do?  Can you give your time?  Can you give groceries?  Can you give a toy?  The possibilities are endless.  As always, I would love to hear your stories.  You can either leave a comment here or email your story to sowaseednow@gmail.com.  Either way, let’s plant a seed which can continue to grow beyond November 27!    

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

For the Common Good

            We’ve all heard it before.  People say that they did something for the common good.   But what does that really mean?  Through a class, aptly named, “Common Good,” students at Northbrook Junior High have an opportunity to learn its true meaning.

            In the class, the students are challenged to participate in a community service project of their choice and to come together as a class to choose a project to work on as a group. 

            As the students go through the process of deciding what to accomplish in the class, they quickly realize that there are people just like them out in the world struggling.  Some answer the call by collecting items for the food pantry and homeless shelters.  Others collect used sporting goods to donate to schools that have none.         

            Another realization that hits the students in this class is the reality of Juvenile diabetes.  Most of them know at least one person who has it.  This inspires them to work hard to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). 

            Other students look beyond our borders and become very aware of how lucky they are to be born in the United States.  This understanding motivates them to work on projects such as collecting money to help build wells in Africa. 

            The possibilities are endless and the students find that their passion to help others can bring about great things.  Regardless of the project chosen, the students grow by going beyond their comfort zone for the “common good.”  In the posts that will follow, I will tell more stories of how the students of this class realized that they are somebody and they can make a difference.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hey Sandy, Can You Hear Me Now?

            In my last post, I spoke of how the simple things matter.  It seems that it usually takes a crisis for us to realize the importance of the simple things.  It is human nature to take things that are always there for granted.  I don’t think it’s good or bad; it just is. 

            I was browsing through Facebook today and I came across a picture that a friend posted.  The picture was at a house in New Jersey.  An extension cord was hanging on a fence with a sign that said, “We have power, feel free to charge your phones.” 

            It was a simple gesture that helped others to call loved ones and say, “I’m okay.”  It allowed people who were scared and alone, to be able to reach out through their phones and ask for help.

When my oldest daughter was in high school, I used to joke about whether or not she could survive without her cell phone.  But, when it comes down to it, most of us need our cell phones now.  We need to feel connected.  Sandy isolated millions of people when she took out the power.  But one person stood up to her and said, “We take care of our own.”