Monday, November 25, 2013

Stop Threatening Me With Santa

                Tis the season to use Santa to get our kids to listen and behave.  You know the drill.  “You had better stop hitting your brother or Santa won’t bring you anything for Christmas.”  We’re all guilty of it or at least we have most likely had it used on us at some point in our lives.  But, I propose this.  Let’s use Santa to encourage our kids to do good.
                Maybe your child worked on a mission type project this year such as collecting canned goods for the food pantry or volunteering somewhere.  Wouldn’t it be cool if Santa wrote him/her a thank you card, letting him/her know that his/her good deed was noticed, that he is very proud of him/her for doing it and maybe suggesting something else that he/she might do? 
For example, my daughter and I are still trying to collect 5000 books for Bernie’s Book Bank.  We started this summer and are at about 1600 books right now.  Santa might tell her the importance of having books, thanking her for what she has collected so far and encouraging her to continue the collections to try to complete her goal by the end of next year.

                It will only take a minute to draft a letter from Santa and your child will be encouraged to go out there and continue being the good kid you know he/she is.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Host A Dinner Party

                A dinner party?  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?  There’s most likely not enough time to set this up by Giving Tuesday, but you can make the plans that night.  Now, for the details.
                Stop Hunger Now is an organization similar to Feed My Starving Children.  They package food that contains rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring mix including 21 essential vitamins and minerals.  They support school feeding programs and crisis relief around the world.  
                At you can order a Dinner Party in a Box for a twenty-five dollar donation.  This box includes a Stop Hunger Now meal bag (feeds 6), invitations, instructions which include hunger facts and discussion questions, recipes from some of the countries they serve and six place cards with photos and stories of some of the children that receive meals.   

                So think about five friends that you could invite.  If you have more than five friends, invite eleven and order two boxes.  It’s a great way to start a conversation about hunger in your community and around the world, while experiencing for one night a meal that others survive on.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside

                Well, we had our first snowfall of the season last night.  My hands about froze while I was scraping my windshields.  I thought I had a pair of gloves in my coat pockets, but I was mistaken.  Luckily, I have a Chevy and the heat was in full force when I finished the task.  I haven’t owned a Chevy yet that didn’t have good heat. 

                This gives some food for thought for this year’s “Giving Tuesday.”  Do you have leftover skeins of yarn from projects finished long ago?  You can put it to good use by crocheting or knitting scarves and hats for the homeless.  Or you can make squares to take to Michael’s for “Warm up America” and they’ll put them into an afghan.  Either way, you will help someone else while reducing your clutter.    

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feed'Em Soup

                Dignity.  That’s a word that came to mind when I browsed the “Feed’Em Soup” site.  Feed ‘em Soup is a non-profit organization in DeKalb that serves a community meal every Wednesday from 5 to 7.  Everyone is welcome.  It is a pay what you can meal, even if that is nothing.  To me the dignity part comes with the restaurant type atmosphere.  It’s not just a soup kitchen.  It’s a place to sit down and have a good meal.  A choice of soup or salad is offered along with a main course.  Again, the meal is open to everyone.  The entire community, old, young, economically advantaged and disadvantaged can come and share a meal. 

                On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 pm to 3 am, Feed’em Soup offers Tapas for a price.  All proceeds go to the Wednesday night meal.  The eats are just $2 for sliders and about a dollar for sides. So, if you have a college student at Northern Illinois University, pass this information along.  It’s inexpensive food to satisfy their late night cravings and their money will go to a good cause.  Who knows, they might decide to volunteer there and have an additional great experience.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pajama Party

                The temperature is dropping.  It’s time to pull out the comfy jammies.  I love the fleece pants!
When my daughter was a toddler the “Good Night Show” on Nickelodeon used to have Pajama drives.  I imagine they still do.  Recently I received an email from Scholastic Book Clubs which offered, “You Donate Pajamas, We’ll Match with Books.”  They have easy instructions on their website to get your child’s classroom involved.  Donations ultimately go to the “Pajama Program.”   The “Pajama Program” website also has easy instructions on how to hold a pajama and/or book drive to support their program which gets new pajamas and books into the hands of children in need.

                So, in the spirit of Giving Tuesday, why not have a Pajama Party?  Invite your friends and family over for a video and ask them to bring a new set of pajamas.  Or the weekend before, allow your kids to have a pajama party on the condition that their friends bring pajamas.  Then when you lose sleep, you will know it’s for a good cause!  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Do You Want to Play a Game?

                My first idea to bring to the table for “Giving Tuesday” actually came to me as I was browsing their site.  A gaming company in England is holding “Gaming Tuesday” where you sign up to play video games and you sponsor one of the charities that they partner with.  I tried to get more information, but my surfing skills are limited and I wiped out when looking for how to sign up and choose your charity.  But, it sparked a thought. 
                Hold a game night through your organization, or just family and friends.  Pick a charity and have an “entrance fee” that would go to that charity.  Then have a great night with friends and family while knowing that you helped others.  To get the brain in gear, here are some suggestions for charities to benefit from your game night.
                If you wish to keep the game night theme, you could ask people to bring a game or toy with them to donate to “Toys for Tots.” 

Entrance fee can be food items to go to the food pantry.  Scarves, hats mittens and gloves would be a fee that would help others keep warm this winter.  A box of diapers or formula could help out a struggling mom.  Or you could choose something from Heifer International by either asking people to buy a share (most things go for around $10/share) or you could collect $5 per person and ten people could give a gift of a healthy home.  The possibilities are endless.   

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weddings and Funerals

                I was browsing Facebook this morning and a friend had posted a photo that said, “You don’t need a reason to help people.”  It was from a liberal posting.  Full disclosure…I’m a registered Republican that believes in helping people.  I just like to do it on my terms.  Anyway, I agree with the photo.  You don’t need a reason.  You should help people because you have that undeniable urge to.  When someone drops something, you automatically stop and pick it up for them.  It’s what we humans do.  So, why are there movements to help people?  Why do I write this post?  Two words.  “Weddings” and “Funerals.”  What?
                If you’re from a family like mine, life gets in the way and the only time you really see those in your extended family, is at weddings and funerals.  You mean to call them, but you just haven’t gotten around to it.  Sound familiar? 
                We all want to do good, but life gets so busy, we forget about our fellow man until the bell ringers stand at the door in front of the store as we hurriedly run in looking for the latest gizmo to buy our nephews and/or nieces.  I’m not judging.  It is what it is.  I get busy too.  I’ve been “too busy” to write in this blog. 

                So, for my first bit of advice, in preparation of Giving Tuesday, I say take a deep breath, be still and listen.  Listen to what your friends are saying.  Listen to what the world is saying.  You’d be surprised at what ideas pop into your head.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Tuesday 2013

               Last year at around this time, I wrote about “Giving Tuesday.”  It’s a movement to give back on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  That is a mere 25 days from now, December 3.  I will do my best to help you generate ideas in order to participate.  I will start by giving you information.  The website is  Once you decide what you are doing, you’re encouraged to tell people about it.  Some may consider this bragging…and some people might use it to brag.  But, it is more about spreading the seed of good deeds out there.   The intent is to get the word out.  Together we can make the world a better place.  I understand the hesitance though, but take this story for an example.

                Jennifer writes an article for her church’s newsletter about care packages for the military.  Terry sees Jennifer after church and mentions a group that sends pizza’s to the troops overseas.  The choir director stops Jennifer the next week and excitedly talks about sending batteries and headphones to the troops because batteries are always needed and the head phones/ear buds get dry and cracked in the heat over there.  Two extra ideas generated from one article.  What ideas can be generated by the conversation that you start?  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Versatile Shoebox

Shoeboxes have been used for a variety of reasons.  I remember scrounging for a shoebox to make my diorama project for a grade school history project.  Before the invention of plastic boxes, shoeboxes held records of bills paid.  Old broken crayons, glue and scraps of papers found their way to a home recently vacated by my new high tops.  Picture frames can be made from the lids.  If you Google it, you can find even more uses that I have not mentioned.
This week, I found another use for shoe boxes in my daughter’s backpack.  The “Change the World Club” at her school is participating in the “Operation Christmas Child” project.  The informational flyer sent home requested small objects that fit into a shoe box.  Things like school supplies (pens, papers, crayons, etc…), Toys (small cars, ball, dolls, stuffed animals, musical instruments etc…), Hygiene items, (toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth), and miscellaneous stuff (hairclips, toy jewelry, sunglasses, etc..).  The cost to ship is $7 per box and the boxes go to children in need for Christmas.  It’s a great idea for a Christmas charity project for your youth group.

For more information, you can visit and click on “Operation Christmas Child.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Blessings In a Backpack

                I really like charities that provide opportunities for all people to get involved, no matter what their niche.  One such charity is Blessings in a Backpack which fills the nutritional void on the weekends for children who are on reduced or free lunches by sending the children home on Friday with a backpack filled with easy to prepare non-perishable food.  How can you get involved?
                If you are an organizational whiz, you can get things started by adopting a school in your area.  Then there are fundraising goals to be met in order to feed the children your program will be supporting and a partnership with a local grocer needs to be established.  Volunteers need to be gathered up as well.
                If you prefer to be a hands-on, in the trenches person, you can volunteer to transport food from the grocery store to the school.  You can also volunteer to pack the backpacks.
                If you are one who prefers to be on the sidelines and fund charities, you can write a check.  The cost for the program is approximately $80 per child per school year. 
                  Although, Blessings in a Backpack provides the backpacks used in your program, there is always a need for more backpacks.  This provides a great opportunity for a smaller community that wants to help, but does not have the capability to support a school on its own.

                So, whatever your preference is when you work with a charity, you can most likely find a way to help with Blessings in a Backpack.  For more information, please visit their website at

Monday, June 3, 2013

Arts and Crafts

                One day, I was talking to my daughter’s kindergarten teacher about Bernie’s Book Bank.  She told me that I would be amazed at how many children don’t have books at home.  She also commented on the fact that some of her students have never held a pair of scissors before coming to her class.  I was surprised, as I recalled the many times that my daughter cut paper into little tiny pieces and that one of her favorite workbooks was the scissor skills book that I had purchased for her.  This got me thinking….

                When it comes to choosing between food and craft supplies, it’s a no brainer…food wins hands down.  But arts and crafts are important to feed the imagination.  What if someone made up craft boxes that included scissors (blunt tip of course), glue sticks and the other necessities of crafts, complete with a couple of project directions?  Something to ponder….

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

                “Practice makes perfect.”  Whether it’s piano, soccer, baseball or painting, children have this aversion to practicing on their own.  There are just too many other things to do, especially when summer rolls around.  I have a suggestion that might work and do some good.
                First it will take a little research.  If your child is old enough, he/she can help.  Find charities that are related.  For example, if your child doesn’t want to practice soccer, look for charities that give soccer balls to kids who don’t have any.  Give your child three choices and let him/her pick the charity he/she is interested in. 
                Next, set a goal.  If $25 gets a soccer ball to a child in need, that would be a good goal.  Have them decorate poster board with a way for them to mark their progress (a thermometer which marks things off in increments of $1 or a soccer field with a counter leading to the goal).  Be creative.
Then, pay them every time they practice.  Make it reasonable, but challenging, in other words, they don’t get paid to kick the ball twice.   Together you can make a difference and your child will get the practice he/she needs.  By the end of summer, practice will be a habit and your child will have learned a lesson in charity.  It’s a win-win.  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

St. John's House

This post I will be doing something different and giving the driver seat to a person who can tell the story much better than I.  The story is about an after school program in Huntington West Virginia.  Without further adieu...I give you the story as told by Mr. Jerry Coleman.

St. John’s House has been in operation since fall 1991.  In 1996 we incorporated as a nonprofit corporation and formed a board comprised of individuals from the community.

I’ve heard a couple of explanations as to how the program started but I think the two actually fit together.  First, Bishop Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia challenged the churches to develop viable outreach programs.  Second, one of our church members, who still volunteers to work with the children one day a week, told me the program started when she was serving on the vestry at St. John’s Episcopal Church.  She said that she noticed that at every meeting most of the discussion was about immediate needs of the church, such as how to pay the bills, make payroll, do building maintenance, etc.  Finally, she spoke up noting that while those issues are important she simply asked, “What are we doing for others”?  Sometimes one voice is all that is needed for a wakeup call.  It did not take long to identify a need in the community that we could address.  Marcum Terrace is a government subsidized housing complex with approximately 280 housing units.  It is only a couple of miles from the church. There are many “at risk” children living there.  They are mostly from single parent families with few if any positive male role models.  They are economically disadvantaged and have a greater exposure to crime, drugs, and alcohol.

There was no model to follow.  The program started with a few volunteers from St. John’s Episcopal Church who played with the children and provided them a snack twice a week.  We were allowed to use one of the vacant apartments.  The goal was to provide a safe place for the children to go after school where they could play and interact with others while being exposed to some positive role models.  The response was overwhelming with 80 to well over 100 children participating.  The challenge was then to identify more specific needs and ways to meet those needs.
Having adequate space quickly became an issue.  The Housing Authority solved this by allowing us to use the Community Center, a separate building in the complex.  We now had a much larger kitchen, tables for the children, and office and storage space.  We expanded to provide after school services five days a week throughout the school year.  Greater attention was paid to programing of activities.  The board games and other games helped with learning and cognitive development.  Enrichment programs included bringing in people such as dentists, doctors, firefighters and police officers to talk to the children.  We offered help with homework.  We hope to foster a better attitude on the part of the children toward education and learning.  Most importantly, we hope to booster each child’s self esteem. 

To help us meet the needs of the children, we began to develop a much closer working relationship with Marshall University.  We use a dietetic student to plan menus, shop for food and prepare the meals.  This future dietician models healthy food choices for the children.  The Marshall Department of Communication Disorders has also become very active in our program.  They provide many of the student volunteers who work with the children throughout the year.  A number of our children have some speech issues and this has proven to be a very good fit for us.

Initially the program was open to all the children; however, due to some behavior/disciplinary problems with some of the older children we now serve primarily children 4 to 12 years of age. 

A couple of years ago the board of directors felt that we needed to do something to provide better structure and programming for the children.  As a result, we entered into a collaborative partnership with Marshall University beginning in August 2011.  MU provides two graduate students to coordinate the 30 in-service student volunteers provided by the university.  They function as program directors and are responsible for developing and implementing enrichment activities required for eligibility at the “at-risk” reimbursement rate for the Child and Adult Care Food Program sponsored by the WV Department of Education.  The performance of these graduate students has simply been outstanding.  The same can be said for all the volunteers and paid staff.  They’ve brought new life to the program; our attendance is up and behavior problems down.  All of our volunteers and staff are required to complete a training program entitled, “Safeguarding God’s Children.”  This teaches them the rules they are to follow in working with the children and gives them pertinent information about child abuse.  The safety of the children is always our top priority.

St. John’s House is a “drop-in” center where children attend because they want to be there.  40 to 80 children attend each session with the average attendance in the fifties, which is almost a 100% increase over the previous year.  Over 130 elementary school-aged children participated last year.  There is a balance of Caucasian and African-American boys and girls.  We have expanded the program to operate 8 weeks in the summer.

The expanded hours and addition of the two graduate students has increased our costs.  The stipend for the two students is $4,400 per school year.  We have 3 to 4 part-time employees (average about 10 hours per week).  We have been able to keep our overall costs low.  The Housing Authority provides the Community Center, so overhead expenses are low.  Volunteers perform our bookkeeping and secretarial duties.  Marshall University provides student volunteers participating in MU’s in-service learning program.  We have other volunteers from St. John’s Episcopal Church and the community who work with the children.  We remain financially sound.  Our annual fundraising dinner is well supported by the community.  St. John’s Episcopal Church offers financial support.  We use the NIP tax credit.  We are eligible for reimbursement of food costs through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  The annual expenses for 2012-2013 will exceed $47,000, excluding the stipends paid to the university for the graduate students.

In 1998 St. John’s House was awarded the “Outstanding Community Faith Project” from the West Virginia Welfare Reform Coalition and in 2002 received the “Share the Vision Award” from Above And Beyond.  We receive very positive feedback from the parents, children, and the WV Office of Child Nutrition and the Huntington Housing Authority. 

At the beginning of each school year we provide backpacks and essential school supplies for approximately 110 students from pre-school up to and including seniors in high school.  Throughout the year we provide positive role models, nutritious meals, and supervised activities after school.  People donate age appropriate books, which are given to the children.  They have the option of keeping them or returning them after they have read them. 

Last year our two graduate students spoke to the congregation at St. John’s.  They talked about the things that we were doing for the children, but they also in a very eloquent and moving way spoke of the impact the program has on the Marshall students.  For many it’s a life changing experience and some have even changed their career goals as a result.

Eight people serve on our board and every one of them is totally dedicated to the success of this program.  It has been a delight to work with them.  St. John’s House Learning & Development Center, Inc. is the formal name of the program, but most of us simply call it St. John’s House.  However, most of the children call it their “learning center”, and I think that is the greatest compliment.  They understand what it is; they get it.  And that tells me that we must be doing something right.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Let's Throw a Housewarming Party!

                I’ve always been better at destruction than construction.  Have a remodeling project?  Call me to get rid of the old stuff.  So, projects like Habitat for Humanity are best left for others.   When it comes to charity, you have to know what you’re good at. 
                All the times that I’ve heard the people at church ask for volunteers to do a job for Habitat, I’ve wondered about the people moving in to the house.  Is the house empty?  Do they have anything to put in the house?  I began to think about how cool it would be for them to walk in the kitchen, open a cabinet and see dishes, glasses or pots and pans.  A drawer could be holding towels or silverware.  When I inquired about it, nobody knew what happened once the house was built. 
                It sounds to me like a housewarming party is in order.  So, send out some invitations, make some hor d’oeuvres, and ask guests to bring a gift to donate to building a home out of the house that was built.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids Get Active With Generation On

                I was watching television this morning and there was a commercial for kids to raise food for pantries.  They referred the viewer to  So, being in the mind of service, I looked it up.  This website has great ideas for kids to participate in to raise money or collect donations of food for the pantries. 
                If you remember Animal House, you will appreciate the clever play on words for the activity named, “Pantry Raid.”  (I’m easily amused.)  They also encourage kids to make friendship bracelets to raise money.  These are just a couple of ideas that they have.  I encourage you to visit the website and see more.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Building Communities Through Charity

                I recently attended a baby shower that our church put on to support a charity.  It was wonderful to see those who intended enjoying coffee, cake, punch and great conversation.  Everyone enjoyed themselves.  Everyone had a chance to open a gift and “ooh” and “ahh” the gift.  The generosity of our parishioners amazes me, but the boon of the baby shower was how the parishioners came together as a community.  Charity does not have to be writing a check and forgetting about it.  Charity can be so much more.
                Whether it is your family, church, work, or the community you live in, when people get together for an event such as this, there is a bonus.  When you do something good together, you become closer.  You are working together for a goal which you believe in.  It’s hard to put in words, but trust me, if you try it, you will want to find more opportunities to have fun while helping others.  In my posts, I’ve given two examples, Dodge ball for Diapers and the Baby Shower.  What creative things can you come up with?  As always, if you would like to share your ideas, please email me at

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Time to Plan Your Garden

                As spring rolls around, gardeners are planning their crops.  We always plant beans because they have a good return and they put Nitrogen back in the soil.  Of course there are the tomatoes and peppers.  My daughter loves peas and will eat them straight off the vine.  Every year, we try carrots, beets and potatoes, but our root vegetables don’t do very well.  The cabbage family on the other hand does great.  Fall will be spent making stuffed cabbages to freeze.  My husband likes summer squash, but we don’t usually plant them because they are too bountiful and don’t freeze well; at least not that I know of.  
There are a lot of crops that turn out more than the average gardener can handle.  Their coworkers run and hide when they see them come in with a bag full of cucumbers.  You can only eat so many of them.  But instead of not planting certain vegetables out of respect for your friends, here is something to consider.  Plant what you like and give the extras to the food pantry.  Fresh vegetables are always welcome and you will be giving to people who will appreciate the fruits of your labor. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity (PHD)

                “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something.  Then I realized that I am somebody,” is a saying that is decoupaged on a rock on my desk.  Marion Stocker, the founder of the Society for the Preservation of Human Dignity (PHD) put this saying into action when she felt empathetic toward unmarried women who felt that abortion was their only option.  In 1971 she started a hotline in her home.  It was the first pregnancy help center in Illinois.
                Today PHD provides counseling and support services to over 700 clients and their immediate families.  Their counseling services include: pregnancy support, 0-3 parenting skills, crisis intervention, grief and loss of a child/pregnancy, pregnancy decision making, post adoption, post abortion and postpartum depression.  They support their clients through services such as pregnancy planning, pregnancy testing, childbirth preparation, community linkage and referral, baby and maternity closet, mom and tot classes and educational opportunities through their library and classes. 
                PHD also has a prevention arm called, “Motivate.”  It includes a program which focuses on healthy sexuality and relationships for adolescents and learning the power of abstinence, one program which teaches parents how to talk to their children about sex, another program for parents of toddlers and preschoolers and an anti-bullying character education program for grade school students.   
                Finally, PHD offers a Baby Closet which distributes baby food, clothing, formula, diapers, winter coats and layettes.   Each layette provides a baby’s needs throughout their first 9 months of life.  More than 80% of PHD’S clients are at or below the poverty level and receive items from the Baby Closet for free.  But this could not be possible without donors.  PHD is one example of an organization that would benefit from a baby shower.  For more information about this organization please visit their website at

Monday, April 8, 2013

April Showers

                With a forecast for rain all week, I consider it fitting to talk about showers.  Who doesn’t like a baby shower?  It’s a good way to share in the excitement of a bundle of joy coming into this world.  Those who have grown children are always amazed at the new-fangled gadgets that have come out since they were knee deep in diapers.  This leads to the stories of the struggles that they went through before someone invented the backpack that held babies close to their mothers.  One shower that I attended had a diaper raffle.  Those who brought in a package of diapers got a ticket and a chance to win a prize.  It was one of the few times in my life that I won a raffle. 
                But before the shower, there is the excitement of picking out the presents.  Yes, diapers are a necessity, but that outfit with the pink frills is adorable.  And who can’t resist the jammies with the footies?  In some ways the shopping is more fun than the shower.  But alas, babies tend to be spread out over the years and showers are scarce.  You and your friends are finished having kids and your children are busily working on careers.  What is a woman to do?  Throw a shower!  Yes, I said it.  Throw a shower.  The goods bought for the shower can be donated to hospitals or an organization which helps those who are expecting, but hit hard by the economy.  So go out and have some fun.  Play “Name that Baby Animal,” and help someone bring their child into a world full of love.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Walking Season

                April marks the beginning of the “Walk” season as I like to call it.  Walks for charity begin now.  One that I have been known to participate in is the “March for Babies,” mostly because both of my daughters were preemie.  My first daughter was only five weeks early, but by going through that experience I was prepared mentally for my second daughter who was twelve weeks early.  I was blessed that both of my girls were born healthy and strong.  But, I know the pain of waiting and hoping and not feeling completely sure until you get the green light to go home.  I know the roller coaster of emotions that one goes through in that situation. 
                Most people who walk for a cause have in some way been affected by the cause they walk for.  When they attend the walk, they have a chance to be around people who know their pain, who don’t just idly nod their heads and say that they understand.  These people really understand because they were there.  They got the phone call in the middle of the night telling them their infant had to go through a procedure immediately.   They held their relative when they received the news that their body was riddled with cancer.  Those that walk, know. 
                So, when your friend or colleague asks you to donate to their cause, think about this.  Yes, your money is going to a cause, and the majority of it is probably going to overhead, but by donating you are telling your friend/colleague that you support them.  Although you can’t completely understand what they are going through or have gone through, you are there for them.  I believe with my whole heart that this is the main purpose of walking and supporting walkers and I hope this sheds some light on the subject for you.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

March is National Nutrition Month

                March is “National Nutrition Month.”  I didn’t know this fact until I was searching for things to write about this month.  With that in mind, I purchased a magazine from my grocery store that has recipes for Whole-Meal Salads.  I’m trying very hard to eat right, but bad stuff tastes so good.  Anyway, I digress.  I was intrigued with the statement on the front of the magazine that stated, “Proceeds from purchases of this magazine will go to Common Threads.”
                I flipped through the magazine looking for an explanation.  I had never heard of Common Threads before and wondered what the organization did.  I assumed it was a charity if the proceeds were going to them.  After a fruitless search through the magazine, I decided to search the internet.  There I found that Common Threads is an organization that teaches kids how to cook healthy.  Their main outreach is to the under served communities.  I believe it’s a worthwhile effort and if you would like more information, please visit their website at     

Friday, March 15, 2013

Easter Baskets of Joy

                Easter comes early this year.  So, here’s a craft that’s easy to do and is sure to brighten up someone’s day.  Make a bunch and bring them to a nursing home or hospital to spread some joy.
                To start, you will need two 8 ½ x 11 sheets of card stock in complementary colors (i.e. pink and lavender).  Cut one sheet down to make an 8 ½ square sheet.  Cut 2 ¾ inch squares out of each corner.  (see figure below)

With the second color cut strips measuring 1” x 3”.  Use wavy craft scissors to cut along one of the 3” lengths.  Glue the wavy strips onto the ends of the cross created with the first color. 

Fold up ends to create a basket.  Punch two holes in each end and tie up ends together using either ribbon or raffia.  Punch one hole in the middle of two opposite ends.  Attach ribbon or raffia to both holes to create a handle and decorate sides.  Stuff with Easter grass and put either decorated eggs or treats in the basket. (see below for finished product).

Monday, March 11, 2013

Luck of the Irish

                It’s the eleventh of March and I just realized that I have not given a theme for the month.  I guess I’ve already touched on March Madness and an Easter basket as a couple of activities that you could work into your life.  But, as an overall theme, I guess I could speak into the “Luck of the Irish.”  How are we lucky?  Employment in this economy is definitely good fortune.  We can consider ourselves lucky to have our health and a roof over our heads.  This month, let’s think about how we can help others that are not so lucky.
                What can we do for the homeless?  We’ve covered that with some helpful suggestions; cooking meals for the shelters, giving food to the food pantries, etc…  What about the unemployed?  Well, if you find yourself not fitting into that suit anymore, you can donate it to an agency that helps out those who are trying to secure employment.  By typing “donate gently used business attire,” into your search engine, you can find a variety of places looking for interview appropriate clothing.  Choose one that suits you.  Finally, as far as health is concerned, you could donate those crutches that you keep tripping over to a local nurse’s closet.  Someone will get use out of it that wouldn’t be able to buy their own crutches and you would remove a hazard from your home, increasing your luck. 
                These are just a few suggestions.  If something pops up this month, I’ll be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, be thankful for your blessings and don’t be afraid to share them.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

Girl Scouts-They Aren't Just About Cookies

                A Girl Scout troop was formed recently at my daughter’s school.  She was very excited about joining, but disappointed that she had to wait until next year before she would be able to sell cookies (the troop started after the cookie sales were finished).  I found it amusing that the impetus for her to join Girl Scouts was to sell cookies.    
                Their first meeting was last week.  The troop is made up of Kindergarteners, so they are “Daisies.”  At their meeting they found out how they would earn patches.  Each patch is a petal of the daisy and each represents a part of the Girl Scout law.  In the meeting, the troop leader told the girls that they would be earning their light green patch for “be considerate and caring.”  They would earn this patch by putting together an Easter basket for a financially burdened family in our community.   The township registered the troop for a girl their age.  At the next meeting each Daisy is to bring an item or two with them to put into the basket.  I’m looking forward to seeing the final product and I’m excited to know that Girls Scouts aren't just about cookies.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Some March Madness

                This weekend, I was flipping through the channels on the television and landed on a college basketball game.  I prefer college basketball to professional.  My friends would most likely say it’s because I’m from Cleveland and well, we’ve had some moments, but usually fell short.  Regardless, colleges are jockeying for position, hoping to be a part of the NCAA tournament.  This reminded me of a story that I read and would like to relay to you.

                There is a church group that uses the tournament to raise funds for a charity.  Those who fill out their brackets, pay a fee, just like a normal office pool.  But, the money collected does not go to the winner.  It goes to a charity.  The winner receives a donated prize.  I thought this was a cool idea. 
               The story that I read can be found via the following link

                I loved this story because I believe that charity should be fun.  So, go out, have some fun and maybe a little madness…March madness that is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

All You Really Need is Love

                I love to read.  In fact, when I was in high school, I got in trouble for reading too much.  My math teacher told my parents that if I didn’t rush through my quizzes just so I could read, I would do much better in her class.  So, I was banned from reading in school with the exception of study hall and lunch. 

                Since I challenged you to think about things to do that are linked to love and the heart, I thought I would open a discussion about putting our loves to good use.  With reading in mind, there are many children out there without books.  Organizations like Bernie’s Book Bank try to bring books to these children.  Recently, while sending a package via UPS, I learned that Toys for Tots isn’t just about toys anymore.  They also have a literacy program, putting books in the hands of children who wouldn’t normally have them due to their family’s economic status.  While I was buying books for my daughter through Scholastic Books, I found out that a dollar donation allows a child stricken by poverty to enjoy a free book.  That’s just three things off the top of my head that deal with one of my greatest loves.

                What do you love to do?  Can you use that love for the common good?  Can you share that love with others?  When you think about it, to help others all you really need is love.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Giving Up Chocolate for Lent

                When I was a kid, every lent I would try to give up chocolate.  I emphasize the word, “try.”  Usually it only lasted a week or two, but sometimes I made it to Easter and spent the day in chocolate ecstasy.  As an adult, I know that’s not the point of giving something up.  In fact, in an article I read recently, the author stated that we should use the money saved by our self-sacrifice to give to the poor.   Hmmm…  That’s a lot of chocolate to keep track of. 

                When I read the article, it reminded me of another article that I read a couple of years ago.  A family started to do something similar.  If they were going to go out to eat, but decided to stay in, they would put the money saved into a charity jar.  Renting a movie instead of going to the movies put a lot of change into the jar.  Making a pizza instead of ordering out was cost efficient and a boon to their chosen charity.  It’s a simple way to help others that shows us how self-sacrifice can be turned into something positive. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

                Happy Valentine’s Day!  I would like to give kudos to the room mom for my daughter’s kindergarten class.  Today of course was the class Valentine’s Day party.  Valentine’s cards were handed out, cupcakes were consumed, and games were played.  It sounds like a typical school Valentine’s Day party, but there was a special craft. 

                Each student made a Valentine.  This Valentine would be delivered to children at the local hospital.  My daughter proudly described how she made her Valentine very pretty with glitter.  I thought it was a great idea and think that her deed should be recognized.  She spread a smile to kids who were stuck in a boring hospital and taught our children how to think of others.  Way to go Mrs. F!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dodging Diapers

                Dodgeball.  It’s a game that is either loved or hated, depending on your skills at evading and aiming.  Personally, I loved the game when I was a youth.  Not only did I have a great arm, but I could catch the ball pretty good too.  I always looked forward to gym class in the hopes that the activity would be dodgeball. 

                My love for the game is probably the reason an article in the newspaper caught my eye while I was visiting my father in law.  The title of the article was "Dodgeball for Diapers."  According to the article, the Catholic schools in the area had a Dodgeball Tournament.  The price of admission was a pack of diapers.  The schools also had internal contests to collect diapers.  All of the diapers raised were donated to a local organization serving underprivileged families. 

                I love this story because I believe that charity should be fun.  These schools found a creative and entertaining way of collecting donations.  And for one day, everyone loved Dodgeball, even the less skilled because it was being played for a good cause. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

All You Have to Do is Ask

                My daughter was thrilled when we told her Saturday morning that she was fever free for twenty four hours, which meant that we could visit her grandpa.  She had a great time handing flowers and valentines out to the residents of his assisted living home.  I don’t know who had more fun, her or the residents. 

While I was sitting with my father-in-law, I noticed one of the residents reaching out to a table.  I wasn’t sure what she was reaching for, but a care giver noticed and asked her if she wanted Max.  The resident nodded and her face lit up as the care giver handed her the stuffed animal that sat on the table.  It was a cute dog and I watched her hug it lovingly.  I was touched by the sight so much that I asked my husband if he thought they would take some of the stuffed animals that were threatening to take over our daughter’s room.  He replied, “All we can do is ask.” Then he promptly walked over to the office to ask the head nurse.  She was thrilled at the prospect as she told my husband that they give out stuffed animals as prizes for the residents.

Many times in life we have great ideas that die because we’re too afraid to ask.  I have to say that I’m not immune to that fear.  If you noticed, my husband was the one that asked the nurse.  Every time I bring baked goods to the day center for the homeless, I fear I will be turned away, but every time, I am welcomed.  The point is, don’t be afraid to ask.  Most people will be delighted that you cared enough to offer help of some kind. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Heart of a Child

                My daughter cried last night when I told her that we couldn’t visit her grandpa this weekend.  In my defense, she has a fever and a sore throat.  She is mostly upset because we spent a week making flowers out of tissue paper to bring with us.  She was looking forward to handing them out to the residents of the assisted living where her grandfather stays.  It was going to be an early Valentines present.  Making these flowers is easy for a child to do and so is making people smile. 

                I like the fact that children can effortlessly make someone smile.   Children know that even the smallest things matter.  Ironically, we are the ones that taught them this lesson.  This month, let’s follow our hearts instead of our brains. Let’s give with the ease of children and remember that no act is too small.  Even a tissue paper flower will brighten someone’s day. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fountain of Youth

                I’m sorry, if my title misleads.  I’m not here to talk about a magical spring which makes you young.  Although, I’ve been told by many that volunteering does keep you young.  Today’s post talks about the “Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program, which awards young volunteers up to ten thousand dollars for college.  Nominations are accepted for students ages 6 to 18 until March 15.  Yes, there will probably be quite a few nominations and the competition will be tough.  But I take this as a good thing.  I’d like the nominations to pour into Kohl’s like a fountain…a fountain of youth. 

                I know there are many young men and women, boys and girls out there who are giving their time and energy to help people in their communities.  If you know of a young volunteer that you would like to be recognized, please google “Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program,” and nominate away! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Have a Heart This Month

                January’s finished and the challenge to think of those who are isolated is over.  This month, I challenge you to think of things that are related to the subject of love, or the heart.  Yes, I know, it’s not very creative of me.  After all, this is the month of Valentine’s Day.  But, next month will be more difficult, so I chose an easy one this month. 

                To get you started, I will make you groan as I suggest that you think, “hearty.”  Get it heart, hearty.  All right, maybe it’s lame.   It’s chilly outside making it a good time to eat things that will stick to your ribs as it were – something hearty.  So, when you go grocery shopping, consider picking up one of the following items for your local food pantry:  Canned Chili, Hamburger Helper, Macaroni and Cheese, Chunky Soup, Dinty Moore Beef Stew.  I’m sure if you think about it; you can come up with even more great ideas. 

Have a heart and think, “hearty.” 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Looking Past the Bars

                Another form of isolation to look at this month is prison.  It’s a necessary thing to punish people when they do wrong.  But, everyone makes mistakes.  What makes the man or woman is what they do once the mistake is made.  Many need support to get through the tough times.  There are some churches or communities who have prison ministries.  These dedicated men and women write letters to people who are in prison to give them hope during their incarceration. 

                Once released, the former prisoners have to make a choice.  They can stay on the path that they chose before prison, or create a new path.  This new path takes hard work and dedication.  Many carry the stigma of having gone to prison.  Many need a leg up.  St. Leonard’s House in Chicago, Illinois offers that leg up, providing housing, life skills programs, substance abuse treatment and counseling, education and employment services and many other opportunities to begin their new life.  Volunteers can help out in a myriad of ways.  One important way is to share a meal with residents.  This breaks through the wall of isolation and lets some light through. 

I’ve said it before; just knowing that someone cares can be enough to turn someone’s life around.  Whether you choose to show that you care in person or through a letter does not matter.   What matters is that you show that you care. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Cup of Hot Cocoa to Warm Your Heart

                If you are in the Midwest, you are hunkering down in the warmth of your home, sometimes bravely stepping out to check the mail.  It is COLD.  But, that’s the hazard of living in this region of the United States.  One particularly cold Saturday morning, there was a young lady; I’m guessing Junior High age, selling hot chocolate in front of her house.  I stopped to buy a cup of the sweet elixir with marshmallows of course, and found out that all of the proceeds were going to the food pantry.   What a great idea!  The hot chocolate was the best I have ever had.  I wonder if it was because the young lady made it with such great intentions. 

                I love stories like this because as adults, we find ourselves thinking that we can’t help.  We don’t feel we have the resources to make a change.  Yet, here is a young lady who has fewer resources than the average working adult finding a way to help.  Every little bit counts.  On our township’s food pantry website, they have a quote from Mother Theresa.   “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”  Today let's think of ways to help those who are alone fighting hunger.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fresh Ears and Fresh Stories

                Two years ago, we were able to visit my father-in-law on the Fourth of July.  The Assisted Living Home where he stays had a picnic in their parking lot.  It was a great time and I remember realizing that most of the men there had served in the military during World War II.  I felt honored to celebrate the Fourth amongst such great company. 

I think too many times, we forget what interesting lives our elderly relatives have lived.  Maybe it’s because we’ve heard the same story over and over again.  Maybe we need fresh ears.  But, if it’s fresh stories you yearn for, there are volumes in the nursing homes. 

Often times, the residents of nursing homes feel isolated and alone.  Most nursing homes have activities such as Bingo or Birthday parties to try and curb those feelings.  These activities are a great volunteer opportunity for those who enjoy working with the elderly.  Meal times give residents an opportunity to socialize, but many of them need to be transported to the dining room by volunteers. 

Taking some time to let a resident “bend your ear” for a while, is a wonderful volunteer opportunity which enriches the lives of the resident as well as the volunteer.  The resident can tell a story that their family has stopped listening to and the volunteer will gain lasting memories.  It’s a win-win situation.  I’ll never forget the story a resident at a nursing home told me about taking the train to Chicago.  At the time, she was a teacher taking her class on a field trip.  One of her students lost their tooth on the train.  The description the teacher gave me of her “back end up in the air” looking under the seats for her student’s tooth was priceless.  We both laughed until our sides hurt.

In the month of January, please think about those who are sitting in the nursing home alone, waiting for someone to talk to.  If you have a story about your experience volunteering at a nursing home that you would like to share please email me at

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sleep Overs at the Shelter?

            Play dates and sleep-overs are things that children look forward to.  They get to hang out at their friend’s house, stay up all night, and eat junk food, play lots of games, and laugh and giggle the night (or afternoon) away.  But what if you don’t have a home to invite your friends to?  When we think of homeless, we think of the guy on the street corner asking for change.  But in reality, there are many children out there who are homeless.  What can we do to help them?

            One option is to help out in places such as Home of the Sparrow, an organization which supports homeless women and children.  There are many volunteer opportunities to find on their website   You can volunteer to work in their thrift shops.  You can volunteer as a childcare volunteer in the shelter-an opportunity to play games, do crafts, and just have fun with the children.  If you like to read, you can volunteer to be a book buddy and read to a child once a week. 

            Another worthwhile website to check out is  The site gives a list of ideas on ways in which you can help these children and their families.    If you join their mailing list, they will send you information on events and opportunities in your area to help.

            Homelessness not only isolates the people that we ignore as we walk down the street, it isolates the children who are affected too.  Let’s try to end it. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Last Word on Domestic Violence

            Not everyone can write a book.  But we all have things that we can do to help.  Continuing with the discussion on loneliness or isolation caused by abuse, there are many avenues that can be explored.  It can be as simple as collecting toys to fill the playroom of Life Span an organization that assists the victims of domestic violence.  This act was accomplished by a junior high student who heard about the organization’s need and was able to help create a safe environment for the children to play in while their mothers are being counseled. 

            Women in Need Growing Stronger (WINGS) is another organization which helps abused women.  There are many volunteer opportunities which include, but are not limited to, cooking, working in their resale shops, and assisting with their kid's group.  You can also help them by donating any of the items they are in need of as listed on their website.  Of course you can always donate your gently used items to one of their resale shops.  Every little bit helps.
            Above all, in any situation where someone feels alone and isolated, the knowledge that someone out there cares is great medicine.  This month continue to try to think of ways in which you can show you care and I will do the same.  Together we can make a difference in someone’s life

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Interview With Pat LaPointe

                I had a chance to interview Pat LaPointe, author and editor of “The Woman I’ve Become,” an anthology of women who have overcome toxic relationships.  The stories in the anthology are an inspiration and I highly recommend the book.


D.  We’ll start with the obvious question:  What inspired you to create this anthology?

P.  There were several significant reasons for creating this anthology.  First, during my years of counseling with women, I found that some form of abuse often created the issues/pathology with which they presented.  Second, and relatedly, for most, meeting with a counselor was the first time in which they could “voice” their abuse.  Third, although society has become increasingly more open to acknowledging and addressing abuse, there was a lack of material available that was presented from the individual victim/survivors perspective.  Fourth, it was my intent to offer stories from women who have been in toxic relationships and survived/thrived as inspiration for those still struggling with the aftermath of these relationships.

D.  The anthology has a story for just about every relationship possible in a woman’s life.  How difficult was the process of finding a story for every woman?

P.  I received nearly one hundred submissions.  I used several factors in deciding which material would be used:  demographics such as age, geographical location, education and writing experience.  This allowed me to include women ages 17 to 80, from the United States, Canada and South Africa, and those that were published writers as well as those who had never submitted their writing for publication.  I also wanted to include essays that showed varying degrees of self empowerment achieved by these women.  That is, some have discovered empowerment some time ago and told of how they were thriving.  Others had just begun their journey to self empowerment.  Also in keeping with my intention for these women to share their “voices,” I did minimal editing to their work.

D.  As I read your anthology, I found myself taking time out for self-examination, wondering what affect my actions may have on others.  When you created this anthology, what did you hope to give your readers?

P.  I would have to say encouragement, hope, acknowledgement and inspiration.  Encouragement for those who may not yet begun their journeys.  Hope for those who worry that they may never be able to let go of the toxic relationships.  Acknowledgement of those who have journeyed this far, and inspiration to all women who find themselves in difficult situations.

D.  The most uplifting stories for me were those that honored the people who helped the women to see themselves as worth something.  Were you surprised to receive submissions of that nature?

P.  Not really.  There are so many ways in which a woman becomes who she was meant to be, being assisted in this process is just one of these ways.  Even when a woman gained self empowerment with the help of another, it was her readiness and willingness to embark on this journey that created an environment in which change could occur.

D.  The stories in your anthology are very inspiring.  What would you tell someone who is hesitant to read the book because they expect it to be full of “poor me” stories?

P.  If I had only included stories of their abuses, I would agree that they would appear to the reader as “poor me.”  But, the purpose was not to be voyeurs into troubled lives.  As a result the stories reflect positive attitudes, behavior and life changes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Isolated by Pain

Pat LaPointe, author of “The Woman I’ve Become,” has brought to my attention yet another group of people who feel isolated and alone.  She writes, “In the 60’s and 70’s women began to fight for others to hear and listen to their voices.  And there were some significant changes for many women. There is one group of women, however, who often continue to remain silent. These are the women who have suffered abuse: incest, sexual abuse, and domestic violence. Not only weren’t their voices heard, but they often felt too embarrassed or responsible for the abuse to talk about it. They not only remained silent, but felt complete isolation, often believing they were the only ones who had these experiences.” 

Pat goes on to say, “In my work counseling women, they would present with other issues: anxiety, lack of self-confidence, negative self-images and loneliness. But in more than half the cases, the basis for the problems was some form of abuse they had suffered or were currently suffering.”

          Once these women found that they were not alone, the healing process could begin.  After years of hearing their stories Pat decided that she wanted to give the women a voice with the hope that their words would inspire other women and also reduce their feelings of loneliness.   So she put a call out to these women asking them to tell their stories.  Some brave women came forward and the book, “The Woman I’ve Become,” was written as a compilation of their inspirational stories.  

          I had a chance to speak with Pat about her book and the interview will be shared in my next post.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Helping the Homeless

           One cold December day I brought Christmas cookies to the day center which provides help to those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.  A client asked if he could help me unload my car.  I come from a family that makes enough cookies to feed a small army, so I graciously accepted the help.  While we walked to my car, the young man mentioned that it was going to be a rough night with the winter storm rolling in.  I nodded as I would if a co-worker or friend had said the same thing to me.  Then I realized that this man would be looking for shelter against the storm that night.  I would be sitting in my warm home with my family, getting ready for the holidays. 

Isolation and loneliness can come from monetary situations, i.e., the homeless.  Many times, especially during the economic challenges of today, it is beyond their control.  But, there are many ways in which we can help.  You can take a hands-on approach and bring something to the day center.  Any kind of food is welcome and with the economy, the day centers are not receiving as many donations from the food service companies.  

Many churches have become involved with agencies such as PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter).  These churches offer shelter to the homeless during the rough Chicago winters.  If your church is involved, you can participate on different levels from preparing and/or serving food to volunteering as a shift monitor. 

Some people are on the verge of homelessness and only need a little help to stay on their feet.  This help comes in the form of a food pantry.  Donating to food pantries is easy and economical.  I’ve posted before that if everyone that could afford to put one item in the food pantry per week, there would be enough to go around.  I truly believe this because I believe in the power of many “ones.” 

We can’t do a lot alone, but a lot of people like you and me working together can.  So, as you go on through the year, hopefully attempting my challenge of doing a good deed per month, please remember you can make a change no matter how small your deed.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Supporting Students Abroad

            Imagine it is your first day of high school and you are competing against students that have had the best education available to this point.  Your early education was minimal at best.  While your fellow students go home at the end of every school day, you must stay in the dorms.  Your parents are far away working as subsistence farmers in a poor community.  You are isolated and the cards seemed stacked against you.

            There are many children in China who are going through this and more.  In China, the students must pay for education beyond the Junior High level.  Many families cannot afford to send their children to school and the poverty cycle continues.  But through the Peach foundation, generous people are able to sponsor these students and support them through their high school career.  A friend of mine W. is able to support a dozen such students and I recently had the opportunity to talk to him about it. 

            When W. first became involved with the foundation he had them choose which child he would sponsor.   As he became more involved and began to teach summer school classes in China, he chose students that he had met. 

            When the summer school begins, the students are immediately given a thorough exam.  Some are given their first pair of glasses and a whole new world opens up to them.  In camp, they learn proper hygiene and the teachers help build their confidence, and self-esteem.  The students are taught about the outside world.  Most of them have not been away from their villages and their world view is very limited.  The students are taught English and Chinese Common Language.  But the most important lesson is motivation. 

            The summer camp gives the students the tools they need to survive the next three years of their lives (China’s school system is split 6,3,3 where Junior High and High School are both three years in duration).  Motivation helps them to stay on task.  Confidence and self-esteem help them to get through the tough times and helps them to realize that they belong in the school as much as the more priveleged students do.

            The personal relationship built between student and sponsor is very important.  Letters from sponsors give the students the support they need to make it through high school and on to college.  W. is very proud of the students that he sponsors.  Some are now in college and have a bright future.  Their struggles are much more than we can imagine, but the victory over the struggle is inspiring. 

            If you would like to learn about the Peach Foundation and how they help, please visit their website at