Some days, weeks, months, and years are harder than others. This week it has been difficult to keep my cynicism, feelings of nothing will make much of a difference, and general pessimism at bay. There's no real cause, just the doldrums I suppose.
In an effort to adjust my attitude this week, I've looked for some motivating thoughts and found the following sage advice:
“Consciously or unconsciously, everyone of us does render some service or another. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and it will make not only for our own happiness, but that of the world at large.” - Mahatma Ghandi
"Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" - The Rev. Martin Luther King
"Goodness is the only investment that never fails." - Henry David Thoreau
“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
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've said it before. I'm a believer in Girl Power. It may sound naive, but I really do believe that if the female half of our race got the education she needed, wasn't chronically disregarded and undervalued, and was able to make the living that she needed that the world would be entirely different place. That is not to say that violence, poverty, injustice, illness, and fear would disappear. However, I think it would be a good first step toward bringing those things to a manageable level.
I'm not one to go plugging corporate philanthropy arms, but I just gotta send out a big HIGH FIVE to the Nike Foundation. In 2008, they helped to launch the "Girl Effect" website which addresses the possibility of societal change by having girls help girls. Take a look at this video:
On their website, The Nike Foundation clearly articulates how helping a girl makes a difference. So in case you didn't know...
"Evidence shows that bolstering girls’ health, education and prosperity will build prospects for her family and her country’s economic prosperity. Tap her potential and the world benefits:
• Ensure she has seven or more years of education and she will marry four years later and have 2.2 fewer children.
• When 10 percent more girls go to secondary school, the country’s economy grows by 3 percent.
• When an educated girl earns income she reinvests 90 percent in her family, compared to 35 percent for a boy.
• When women have the skills to participate in public life, government corruption declines."
The site goes on to say:
"Yet, despite her proven potential, in today’s developing countries she is more likely to be uneducated, a child bride, exposed to HIV/AIDS. And about half a cent of every international development dollar is directed to her; 99.4 percent of funding goes elsewhere. The world is missing out on a tremendous opportunity for change."
The Nike Foundation focuses on the developing world. And yes, that is important. However, I wonder if, here at home, we are giving our girls a chance too? I see commercial sexual exploitation of girls, the shunning of teens who get pregnant, and a subset of women who are kept in poverty and powerlessness because people assume that it is a path they have chosen versus a circumstance where they have made the best choices they could make and are still left holding the short end of the stick.
Life certainly isn't fair and no one promises fairness. However, what happens if those of us who are blessed, get off our high horse and show a little compassion to our sisters who have never had a good break. What if those of us who have the luxury of a relatively healthy upbringing and who are pretty decent moms help those moms who have never known that? What could we change? How do we start?
You Tube is now giving aspiring world changers a chance to present their issue at the World Economic Forum.
Olivia Ma says, "This is the third annual "Davos" program YouTube has done with the
World Economic Forum, and this year we're sending a citizen to this
year's annual meeting in Davos to advocate for his/her pet cause on a
world leaders at the World Economic Forum. This is the
first time a regular citizen will be on stage in a meaningful capacity
at Davos and we want to make sure there's a great person up there."
Having a softspot in my heart for homeless people, I liked the idea:
I want to take a $100 and using a paper clip, attatch $1 to a smile
card with one of my own RAK cards. I want to stand on the street next
to the panhandlers, and every person who stops to smile, give or just
say hello to us, will get my small Gift. Just because. And hopefully it
will inspire them to pay it forward.
There are many reasons that people want to avoid panhandlers. The sight of someone begging on the streets conjures many uncomfortable emotions. Being brave enough to offer a smile Edit HTMLcan be a huge thing. Imagine how emboldened and awakened people would be by the kindness of this person offering dollars. Just an AWESOME idea.
Well, this should not be news to readers of DP and others who participate in social media fundraising. USA Today has an article on how participating in Giving Circles (definition here)can be fun. Who Knew?!?!?! The Circle discussed in the article get together to share food and wine--- and have raised over $16,000 dollars for a variety of causes that are meaningful for their group.
This gave me an idea... dinner/supper clubs (for you foodies), bunco nights and annual events among friends (Superbowl parties, 4th of July Celebrations, etc) are an excellent time to do some fundraising or supply/needed item drive. The great thing is that all the recruiting has been done for the group. All that is left is picking a cause that resonates with your group and provides a meaningful giving opportunity. Don't forget--- you can also do a supply or needed item drive for a nonprofit if budgets are tight.
In fact, I think I will encourage our small "Square Gang" dinner group to bring a gently used clothing suitable for work so that it can be given to someone who does not have money for interview/work clothes.
Why don't you try it too....If you need suggestions for great causes to give to---- check out my Good Causes category
While CECP focues on encouraging large corporation to develop philanthropic intiatives, endeavors and huge strategic giving programs, I want to emphasize that philanthropic efforts of smaller companies can make a difference too (especially to small and mid-sized nonprofit organizations).
Workplace Philanthropy Does Not Have To Come Out Of Corporate Profits
With that said, I want to announce a new category here at DP--- Workplace philanthropy. Here the focus will be how ANY company and ANY employee can collaborate with the goal of giving back to the community around them. In this category, I will post information and ideas to help DP readers employed by smaller companies dip their foot in doing good for the community around them. I encourage people to leave their own idea, experiences, triumphs, bumps in the road and successes to this series via comments--- in hope of it becoming a resource and encouragement for those investigating how to start these types of endeavors.
To start, here are a few "first steps" that can be an entry into a workplace "do good" program.
Identify employees that are actively involved and engaged in nonprofit organization or community improvement efforts (volunteers, donors, and advisors). Invite several of these individuals to develop a committee to investigate how the company can use it's strengths and talents to help the community.
Develop a list nonprofits in your community (Network for Good is a good resource for this) where your organization is uniquely positioned to help. Brainstorm on how the company can help 2-3 of these organizations.
Buy some cookies and cupcakes and invite representatives from local nonprofits in for a volunteer drive during lunch. Focus on education and refrain from fundraising during this event. Don't forget to take time to network with the nonprofit representatives.
OK--- I admit it. Valentine's Day is holiday completely centered around women. The flowers, the candy, the pampering, the professions of love--- yeah... I'm a sucker too. Why not? Every one likes to be recognized, cherished, and appreciated.
This year I want Valentine's day to be a little different. The Hubby and I have agreed that we will exchange gifts that 'do good' this year. We both are to try to pick something that the other person cares about. I'd tell you what I'm thinking about getting him... but he reads from time to time and it wouldn't be a surprise.
Remember Those Who Serve You.
In the spirit of service, think of all those people who make your life
easier and more convenient -- every single day. Give a thank-you card
to the bus driver or the barista who serves you your latte. Personally
thank the janitor who keeps your office or campus clean, or the people
who pick up your trash. Leave your waiter an extra tip, and smile --
big -- at the gas station attendant.
Send Love Letters. Not just to
your sweetheart, but to people and organizations that are doing good
things for the world. Tell them why you respect and appreciate their
work, and that they really do make a difference. If you're feeling
extra romantic, include a donation in the envelope.
One I would like to add is to consider purchasing items where you know a portion is going to charity. One of my recent favorite gifts is Chef Hilly's Gourmet Chocolate Blend (Superb for hot chocolate or coffee). A portion of your purchase goes to pay for mammograms for women who otherwise would never be able to afford them--- and thus would not get them.
OK-- Chime in folks! Leave a comment to add more ideas and good products that support worthy charities.
Previously I've written about the importance of teaching our kids to share what they have with others who are not as fortunate. It was a big lesson in our household and we did a lot of different things to exercise our "giving" muscles.
Today, Katya Andresen writes about her idea to celebrate the holidays by giving your child or another child money to give away. As she says,
"In explaining to a child what your charity and other charities do,
something strange and transformative may happen. The way I described
various charities and projects to an 8-year-old, I realized, was far
more compelling than anything I had said in weeks."
I thought my holiday shopping was done. I suppose it is. Now, I've got to go to the bank and get some cash for the kids on my list to give away. This should be fun!