Its free and its a good thing. Click here to read more about why hugs matter.
"So, bottom line, if you want the world to be a more harmonious place, find someone you're fond of, and who's fond of you. Then put sternum to sternum and squeeze. You'll brighten the world, and this is one supply of renewable energy that only increases with use!" ~Bill Miller
Guest post by Lydia Walshin, founder/director, Drop In & Decorate: Cookies for Donation
As the founder of Drop In & Decorate: Cookies for Donation, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to play with squeeze bottles of icing and sprinkles, and even permits taste-testing and finger-licking afterwards, I’ve learned a few things about having fun while doing good:
Volunteering should be fun.
Volunteering at work makes work more fun.
Employees who have more fun work harder, and are happier at their jobs.
Employees who volunteer as a team, and have fun doing it, work better as a team.
Everyone loves cookies.
Drop In & Decorate® events bring people together to decorate and donate cookies to nonprofit agencies in their own community that address the basic human needs of food or shelter.
BAKE, DECORATE, DONATE.
Co-workers bake cookies (at home or at work, depending on the facilities available), and get together to decorate the cookies with bright colored icing. The decorated cookies go to food pantries, emergency and domestic violence shelters, Ronald McDonald Houses, and agencies providing food and shelter to families and children. Smiles for everyone!
Lucia Watson organizes an annual event at her workplace. “Every December,” she explains, “my co-workers and I decorate dozens of cookies for donation with our clients at a neuro-rehab facility. Six or eight colleagues volunteer to bake a batch or two of cookies. In fact, they start asking in the early Fall, ‘Are we going to decorate cookies again?’ Each year it gets easier to organize, as staff are eager to be a part of this valued tradition.”
It’s a great workplace community service activity (see #5, above): you can stop by and decorate a few cookies on your lunch hour, and you get to eat any broken cookies for dessert.
HOW TO GET STARTED
To get started planning your own workplace event, download the free how-to guide on our site. Then, look in Tips and Techniques for three short articles about how to organize an event at work: what you’ll need, how to connect with an agency for donation, wrapping and packing, and more.
Ted Chaloner owns a recruiting firm in Boston’s South End. Last year his employees joined members of the Boston Ballet (also South End based) in an event that decorated cookies for a neighborhood domestic violence shelter. “More and more, he says, “companies are realizing that the opportunities we all have to connect, collaborate, and make a difference in our world have never been greater. However, it can't be only on Facebook and Twitter. Drop In & Decorate – and the simple gift of handmade cookies – connects people with people. It can open the door to greater understanding of the community’s needs and a beneficial relationship between companies and their nonprofit neighbors.”
For an example of the long-term bonds that can form, please read this 2008 interview with a volunteer who hosts workplace events in Champaign, Illinois. Jenna has now organized half a dozen events, all benefiting the same local men’s shelter.
For questions, advice, or help finding a recipient agency near your workplace, please email to me (lydia AT dropinanddecorate DOT org), or contact us through our web site .
Now, really, could workplace community service be any sweeter? (See #5, above.)
“One Frog Can Make a Difference” spelled out Kermit’s philosophy of life, and though the book parodied the self-help books of the 1990s, it also spoke more than a few truths about doing good.
When I speak to groups about Drop In & Decorate, the nationwide nonprofit cookies-for-donation program that grew from an aha! moment in my Rhode Island kitchen, I tell them I’m not green, not skinny, and not a TV star, but I try to channel a bit of Kermit every day.
And, maybe, a little bit of Cookie Monster, too.
BAKE, DECORATE, DONATE.
In an increasingly complicated world, Drop In & Decorate remains a simple community service idea:
bake, decorate, and donate cookies to nonprofit agencies addressing the basic human needs of food or shelter, right in your own neighborhood.
There’s no fundraising, and no bake sale – just people in their home kitchens, community centers, faith groups, schools, and in the workplace, donating their time and creativity for others in need in their community.
Drop In & Decorate works year-round to bring small moments of joy to neighbors in circumstances most of us cannot imagine: living four to a bedroom in an emergency shelter; staying in a Ronald McDonald House to be near a child in the hospital; lining up at a soup kitchen for your only meal of the day. Cookies make people smile, and those smiles can help someone get through a tough day.
Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, explains:
"The cookies donated through Drop in & Decorate are so much more than delicious desserts. They represent a sense of community, of people who care for one another, and who are willing to reach out to families in need to let them know that they are not alone. When I have seen the women and children in our network of shelters receive these beautiful hand-made and packaged treats, their faces light up, even before they taste them, to see the care and love that went into each individual gift of hope."
If you’d told me ten years ago that Drop In & Decorate® events in 36 states and Canada would donate more than 32,000 cookies to more than 150 nonprofit agencies serving thousands of families and children, I wouldn’t have believed you.
You can help us do more. Throughout the year, we distribute coupons and gift cards for baking supplies, and we also send supplies to hosts. Our web site offers lots of how-to information, a host-your-own guide, as well as reports on events around the country. We lend a small supply of materials (cookie cutters, squeeze bottles) to hosts who agree to pay the return shipping costs.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Most Drop In & Decorate® events donate 80-150 cookies. A tax-deductible gift of $52 – just $1 a week, as Dollar Philanthropy suggests – can bring many smiles to the children and families served.
This year, we’d like to increase our direct support to events in two ways.
1. Donate more gift cards from stores that sell cookie decoration supplies. (Last year we purchased a limited number of Michael’s gift cards, so hosts could buy squeeze bottles, cookie cutters and food coloring for icing; it was a very popular incentive and a real help to first-time hosts.) A donation of $52 will buy 5 gift cards.
2. We’ve found a source for eco-friendly, compostable, food-safe cellophane bags, and we want to encourage our hosts to use them. As with many “green” products, they cost more than regular bags. A donation of $52 will buy 400 eco-friendly cookie bags.
There is a documentary film in the works called Altruistic Arcs which will follow three social entreprenuers and tell their stories. I can't wait to see it as it is completely in my wheelhouse.
From their site:
"In the film we will reveal the lives of these social entrepreneurs who through their own dedication and sheer will changed forever the lives of those they reached out to. Some were trained in one discipline, but when the opportunity arose to help others, reinvented themselves and built an altruistic foundation where before none had existed. Some recognized their abilities and calling very early on and got to work immediately. They watched but never waited until support finally caught up to them. The film will follow the arc of their lives before, during and after their important work in order to fully show the development of each character. We will also highlight the target groups they seek to assist, and learn of the hardships they have overcome, and what challenges lay ahead of them."
Altruistic Arc is currently using Kickstarter to raise funds for the production of the film. Or you can use the paypal link on their site. If you'd like to contribute a buck or two, I know it would be greatly appreciated.
Over the last couple of days, I've had four people ask me the same question. "I don't want to drive all the way down to the food bank. How do I find a local place where I can donate food?" I guess if four people ask me, there may be others who want to know the answer as well.
Food Pantries and Food Banks: What's the Difference?
Food Banks are large, regionalized centers that collect and store food. Generally, food banks to not provide direct services to people who need food. Instead, they distribute food to their "partner agencies" or food pantries.
Food pantries are the local, neighborhood organizations that distribute food directly to people. They really are the boots on the ground in the war against hunger. Food pantries get their food supply from direct donations to them and by purchasing food by the pound from the food bank. The going food bank rate at this time is 15 to 20 cents per pound.
Each food pantry determines its own criteria for who is eligible to recieve food. Some work through referrals from pre-qualified sources. Some will serve walk-ins. Others screen applicants for assistance and others do not. Some are manned by one or two volunteers and open only one day a week while others are well staffed and open daily. Some have storage for fresh food and others can only handle non-perishable items. There is great variety out there and pantries can be quite different. However, they all share the need for donations to do their work.
How to Find A Food Pantry in your Neighborhood
In general, food pantries do not spend money on advertising and many do not have websites. Finding them is kinda like finding a needle in a haystack. In all reality, you could have a food pantry in a local church just a few miles from your house or office and never know it.
Sadly, right now, the easiest way to find local food pantries is to visit your local food bank's website and then find the page that tells you who their "Partner Agencies" are. If you need help finding your local food bank, the Feeding America website has a locator tool. Some food banks don't have websites, so you may have to call them.
Donating to Food Pantries
The best advice I can give you is to call your local pantry. Find out what they need and how they handle donations.
If you really want your dollars to stay in your corner of the world, then monetary donations to your local food pantry are an efficient and cost-effective way to do that. Money you donate can be designated to be used to purchase food from the food bank. At the current rate, $10 will buy 50 to 60 pounds of food which equates to 60 to 75 regular-sized cans of food.
There are many good reasons why some food pantries prefer to receive donated food. Some pantries have difficulty coordinating regular deliveries food banks. Additionally, some do not have enough room to purchase the volume to have them placed on the docket for regular delivery from the food bank. Furthermore, fluctuating demand caused by the loss of an area employer, a local crisis, breaks from school (see a previous post on hungry children), or some sort of disaster also complicates food planning.
Finally, another good reason to donate locally is that keeps resources in your community. You help out your local grocery store by purchasing there and help to keep jobs in the area. The tax you pay on the food you buy locally, much of it goes to local government. You also burn less fuel by keeping it local, which saves money and the environment.
Giving Food Feels Good
Last night, some friends and I staffed a local food pantry. Our volunteer hours enable the food pantry to stay open one night per month so that working families and working single parents having a hard time making ends meet can access some help. I see moms and dads come in stressed, worried and embarrassed. It amazing how a little kindness, compassion, and food can lift a burden just for a little bit. These moms and dads, while still worried, can walk out proud that they have done what they needed do for their kids. It really feels good to have helped and to have offered some respite.
When one thinks of summer, images of water balloon fights, swimming, and carefree times come to mind. For many children, summer is a time when their bellies are never full and the cupboards are bare. Lets face it--- growing children (especially pre-teen and teen) eat. Activities and summertime fun make children hungry. Yet in these hard economic times, there are many children who do not have enough to eat during the summer. Not to mention, those that do may have limited access to healthy food options.
In my community, each year I work with an organization that distributes lunches to children who ordinarily get for their lunch (sometimes the main meal of the day that they will get) from the school they attend. In my community alone, there are over 2000 children signed up for this program. This week I recently saw a notice that the shelves of our local food pantry are empty. Additionally, after 2 years working once a month at our local food pantry in the evenings, I know that there is an increase in moms and dads coming in just to get a few items specifically to feed their children.
So summers are rough if you are a hungry child and there are lots of hungry children out there. Furthermore, hungry children have very little access to healthy foods that are ordinarily abundant during the summer - so they are left with cheap unhealthy foods to fill their bellies.
How to Help
One thing that you need to know is that Food Banks can buy food much cheaper than you can. So donations to food banks are not only easy, but they also give you the most bang for your buck.
Super Quick Method of Helping:Feeding America is an organization that supports local food banks. You can donate through them and they will use the money to purchase (at an awesome price) foods to help families in need.
Donating is good, but I also understand the need for givers to have a personal connection with giving. Hey look, I have a child that I am constantly trying to teach about the importance of thinking of others and the lesson is kinda lost when I say you can do it online.
There are a variety of small, local food pantrys, many are run by churches or other civic organizations that are always in need of donations. These pantrys often have limited hours, so be sure to call ahead and see what kind of items they can take. In many cases, fresh items are welcome, but they must be timed with distribution days because small pantrys do not have a lot of storage.
So here are a few suggestions for 'getting your hands dirty" ways to help:
Purchase healthy kid friendly foods and donate them to your local food pantry (you can locate these by calling your regional food bank). Items that they rarely get and would love to be able to hand out are:
baby carrots (buy a big bag and break it up into smaller portions for children)
fresh fruit and vegetables
Work with your local food pantry to provide a lunch for children on the day their family comes in. You can make a lunch for around $1 to $1.25 each.
A standard loaf of bread will make 9 -12(half pound loaf) sandwiches. (Consider 10 for $10 days at the local grocery)
A bag of pretzels will make 15-20 individual servings.
Juice boxes run about 25 cents each.
Do you have other ideas? Please post them. I'd love to hear them. Also if you know of a great food pantry in your area, please share!
I love this! A young man turns his hobby into something to help others. He hopes to get orders for 1000 cranes because there is a story that you get to make a wish and it will come true after you make 1000 cranes. His wish: "for Japan to be ok."
I'm one with that emotion!
If you would like to purchase a paper crane from William and Kanna, or to donate to their cause, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much has been said about the benefits of reading to a child. Increased vocabulary, imagination development, increased critical thinking skills, and reading readiness are just a few. What they don't tell you is that once you start reading to your child at bedtime, they will not let you alter your routine. Our Doodle Bug simply refuses to settle down until some sort of story is read to her. I bet if she were older she would petition to have a bedtime story added to the US Bill of Rights. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if her father and I will be phoning in stories to her in her college dorm room.
As habituated as the bedtime story routine has become in our household, it really is a time when we have some one-on-one time with our little girl. Even on those nights when I think I cannot read Dooby Dooby Moo one more time, I find that at the end of the story, I really have had a good time. So I may drag my feet into it, but at the end I am thankful for the opportunity. In my thankfulness, I realize that not every parent has the luxury of easily providing books and cozy pajamas that really do make this nighttime routine a treat.
Send Your Dollar or $5
The Pajama Program has been providing books and pajamas for kids for 10 years. In 2011, their goal is to provide a new set of pajamas and a book to 440,000 kids. Based out of New York, the organization has both state and international chapters that enable them to help kids all across the globe.
The Pajama Program has a great list of all the ways you can help them. Ways include:
In 2005, the Department of State conducted a world-wide survey and found child marriage to be a concern in 64 out of 182 countries surveyed, with child marriage most common in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia.
In Ethiopia’s Amhara region, about half of all girls are married by age 14 with 95 percent not knowing their husbands before marriage, 85 percent unaware they were to be married, and 70 percent reporting their first sexual initiation within marriage taking place before their first menstrual period, according to a 2004 Population Council survey.
n some areas of northern Nigeria, 45 percent of girls are married by age 15 and 73 percent by age 18, with age gaps between girls and the husbands averaging between 12 and 18 years.
Between half and three-quarters of all girls are married before the age of 18 in the following countries: Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, and Nepal, according to Demographic Health Survey data.
Child marriage can result in bonded labor or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation, and violence against the victims, according to UNICEF.
Most countries with high rates of child marriage have a legally established minimum age of marriage, yet child marriage persists due to strong traditional norms and the failure to enforce existing laws.
In Afghanistan, where the legal age of marriage for girls is 16 years, 57 percent of marriages involve girls below the age of 16, including girls younger than 10 years, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Investments in girls’ schooling, creating safe community spaces for girls, and programs for skills building for out-of-school girls are all effective and demonstrated strategies for preventing child marriage and creating a pathway to empower girls by addressing conditions of poverty, low status, and norms that contribute to child marriage.
"Child marriage is a massive human rights issue throughout the world, and it's completely indefensible. Do you have a daughter? A sister? A niece? Where should she be in her early teens--in labor or in a classroom? In the last 8 years, 60 million girls in developing countries were married before they turned 18. Each day 25,000 additional young girls become brides. Though the United States spends over $450 million on international development annually, child marriage prevents 50% of girls in developing countries from accessing the programs it supports."
enable the US government to provide assistance, including through multilateral, nongovernmental, and faith-based organizations, to prevent the incidence of child marriage in developing countries and to promote the educational, health, economic, social, and legal empowerment of girls and women
integrate protection & prevention initiative for underage girls into current programs that receive assistance from the US government
modify the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to make countries who have a child marriage rates above 40% in any regognized geographical area ineligible for assistance from the US.
All summer I have had my Doodle Bug coloring and putting stickers on lunch bags for kids in our area who rely on someone to bring them what is likely their only meal for the day. Poor girl... she's just 2 1/2 and I've already got her doing her part.
Older kids can do stuff too... click here to read about the Lemonade Kid. It is important for kids to learn early that the little things they do make a difference. And it is never to late to learn the important lessons that helping another person can give you.
Since my Doodle Bug knows the Auburn Fight Song and her lovie is orange and blue, perhaps a new goal for her is to make it into the Auburn Villager news for doing something for someone else.