Day Five: Greater Good

What’s the best way to donate money to numerous organizations at the same time?  Browsing and shopping online of course!  At the Greater Good website, with the simple single click of a button you can donate bowls of food, help sponsor a mammogram, pay for a meal for a veteran, help provide books to children, support Autism research, and help women rise out of poverty by becoming financially independent business entrepeneurs.  And you don’t have to donate a penny out of your own pocket.  Sponsors will donate a certain amount for each click on one of the 7 buttons on the sub-pages of the Great Good website individualized for each charity function.  See below for the different sub-pages: greater good

But what is the Greater Good?  CharityUSA owns and operates the Greater Good Network of stores and their mission is to heal the world (idealistic I know, but we all have to have a goal).  To date, they have given more than $26 million to charities worldwide.  Information on their organization in particular on the websites is scarce so I did some digging of my own.  Information on their organization can be found at the Washington Secretary of State Charities Program listing here but probably the best explanation of the way their organization works can be found here.  They do not sell products made by children or produced in unsafe or coercive work environments.  You can read more about them in their own words on the About Us page here.

My favorite part of the website is the shopping.  Each sub-page has a different store.  In each store are products that you quite often cannot find anywhere else and many are handcrafted.  In fact, many people that I know are receiving Christmas presents from The Hunger Site.  With a single order totalling $100 to myself, they told me that I support 650 bowls of food to the hungry.  Needless to say, I felt guilty for my $150 grocery bill that month.

Chilean Good Luck Pig

Chilean Good Luck Pig

The products that you receive are top quality and exactly as they are described on the site.  Their shipping is way over estimated.  I received my large box of goodies far before they told me I would.   So far, I have two favorite things I have purchased from the website.  They are small, but adorable.  The first is the Chilean Good Luck Pig: “This adorable handmade clay pig is a meaningful symbol in Chile’s vibrant culture, where tradition holds that three-legged pigs bring good luck to their owners. Makes a great gift for yourself or someone special… after all, who couldn’t use a bit of good fortune?”  It’s only $6.95 (and quite often goes on sale for around $5) and it really is adorable.  Everyone in my family is getting one in their stocking this year.

Sacred Mark Soaps

Sacred Mark Soaps

The second thing I love are these Sacred Mark soaps from the Global Girlfriend page: “Made by survivors, these 100% natural soaps are handcrafted by women in the red-light district of Bangladesh. These women have made a clean break from their previous lifestyle and have chosen soap making as an alternative source of income. Sacred Mark Enterprise allows these women to provide for themselves in a way which brings pride and respect to their community as well as themselves.  Packaged with love and marked with a thumb print by the courageous and inspirational women that make them.”  These soaps are only $6.  I do question whether or not the thumb print is actually of the woman who made them, but I did buy the Chai and the Lavender ones and they do have different thumb prints, but that’s not the major point of the soap.  They smell amazing and have made great presents as well.

Browse around the websites, read about their missions and fall in love with each website as I have.  They truly have unique items and an interesting way of business that, to me, is innovative.  I would love to see a followup to see what organizations have benefitted the most from the donations from this website but alas, I know some things are just not that easy.

The Greater Good: http://www.greatergood.com

Check them out!

Day 4: Disaster Animal Response Teams (DART)

Quite often animals are the last things people think about when they must evacuate for a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, leaving them completely unprepared and struggling to find housing, food, or a shelter that will take them and their pet.  I still struggle with the news story I heard regarding a rescue worker telling a couple that they could not bring their two dogs into a boat after Katrina in New Orleans.  The couple said that they would not leave their dogs so they would just wait for another boat.  The rescue worker told them there was not going to be another boat, shot the dogs, and then told them that they had nothing else to wait for and to just get in the boat.  Can you imagine if those were your pets?  I would be absolutely heartbroken.

I have always grown up with animals and have been fortunate to never have to evacuate for an emergency where I could not take them with me DARTor care for them in an hour of need.  One of my best friends volunteers with the Big Bend Disaster Animal Response Team and they work tirelessly to train and prepare in the event of a hurricane, tornado, or any other type of disaster in our area or surrounding areas for the care of our pets.  DART teams are departments of the Humane Society of the United States.  “The mission of the Disaster Animal Response Team (DART) is to promote the safety and well-being of all animals who are or may be adversely affected during a disaster and to respond to the needs of those who provide emergency and supportive care to animals during all phases of a disaster” (Florida DART).  Each state has a main DART group with chapters throughout the state which can be found here.  However, the funding is scarce and the materials they need are quite often expensive.  I know that members of DART teams were on the ground during the tornados in Joplin and hurricane Katrina (unfortunately they didn’t get to the couple mentioned above).   They run shelters for people and their pets, provide basic vet exams to ensure the animals’ health after a disaster, transport and care for abandoned or lost animals, and many other services for our beloved animals.

Even more important than money is your time.  If you can spend a few hours helping the team with a fundraiser, spending a day working with them on a project, or just giving a few hours of time a week, a month, or even a year, to help prepare your community and their pets for a potential disaster.  You can donate directly to the DART team of your choice- chapter, state level, or national.  The best way to donate time or money is to contact the team directly.  Many can be found on Facebook through the search engire but the official websites can be found through the Humane Society state webpages found here or Googling (State) Disaster Animal Response Team.

Day Three: Feeding America

Child Hunger in AmericaFood is a basic necessity that many people often take for granted.  How many times have we only eaten half of a sandwich and thrown it away?  How much money do we spend on Starbucks every year?  So many commercials on television talk about the hunger in Africa and India, but there are significantly fewer commercials highlighting the charities fighting hunger right here in the United States.  Below are data from the World Hunger Education Service (taken directly from their website found here):

“Three years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States. This high level of hunger continues in 2010, according to the latest government report (with the most recent statistics) released in September 2011 (Coleman-Jensen 2011).

  • In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States 1   (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. v.)
  • In 2010, about one-third of food-insecure households (6.7 million households, or 5.4 percent of all U.S. households) had very low food security (compared with 4.7 million households (4.1 percent) in 2007. > In households with very low food security, the food intake of some household members was reduced, and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because of the household’s food insecurity (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. v., Nord  2009, p. iii.) .
  • In 2010, children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.8 percent of households with children (3.9 million households.) In one percent of households with children,one or more of the children experienced the most severe food-insecure condition measured by USDA, very low food security, in which meals were irregular and food intake was below levels considered adequate by caregivers (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. vi).
  • The median [a type of average] food-secure household spent 27 percent more on food than the median food-insecure household of the same size and household composition (Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. vi).”

Thus, the highlighted organization for this post is Feeding America, the leading domestic hungeFeeding Americar-relief charity in the United States.  Through their network of food banks and public services, they feed 37 million Americans each year. They provide nutritious, fresh food, a safe and nurturing place for children to eat, emergency assistance for disaster victims (think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the numerous tornadoes every year), and a chance at self-sufficiency to try to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.  For more information on their programs and services, you can visit their website here.

To help distribute the food and make the most impact, Feeding America has a network of more than 200 food banks and partner agencies.  You can view how their network and the process works here.  It really is a fascinating look at how people across a nation come together in a complicated system for th esame cause- to help a fellow citizen, feed a child, support a struggling family, and senior citizen.  To view these leadership partners, click here.

You don’t necessarily have to donate here.  Post offices, banks, and grocery stores often collect dry and canned goods for families in need.  You can also Google a food collection agency in your area (we have the Second Harvest as one example).  Pick up another 50 cent can of corn or green beans next time you’re at the grocery store and ask the store manager if they collect for food banks.  Chances are that they do.  If everyone donated one food good, we might be able to eliminate hunger in our country.  Worth a shot, wouldn’t you say?

Visit their website and browse around: http://feedingamerica.org/

Day Two: One Simple Wish

I have a friend who spent a large part of her childhood homeless.  She says it was not so much the fact that they were homeless, because they lived in their car so they could stay out of the weather and had help from local shelters and organizations for food, but it was that she never was able to believe in Santa Claus because there she didn’t have a Christmas.  Thousands of kids every year go without a single present- either at Christmas, Hannukah, birthdays, or any other “holiday.”  Its not necessarily the giving of the present that matters, its the idea of someone cares enough to think about you on a special day.

One Simple WishThus, for this post, I’m highlighting One Simple Wish.  The organization has several programs that benefit foster children and families fallen on rough times, including Wish Granting, The Ohana Project, Wish to Work, and Project Prom.  These programs give free prom dresses to teens in need, help in gaining job skills for kids who age out of foster care, provide basic supplies like baby care items to foster kids and families, and grant the needs of kids and families.  To read more about these programs, see their website here.

The best part about this organization is that you don’t necessarily One Simple Wishhave to give money.  You can simply grant a wish that has been posted on their website, which include music lessons, basic school supplies, a tutor, or a simple experience (like a ride along with a police officer), donate a prom dress because who wears that more than once, really?  There are simple things you can offer for just a few minutes and a couple bucks to mail something or an hour or two worth of time to make someone’s day or even life.  Who knows how much of an impact you could make on someone’s like, especially a child who lacks in even the basics that we take for granted every day?

Their work extends throughout the United States, to date touching over 5,000 kids in 30 states.  In my own experience with foster kids, their families, the system, and knowing the statistics (see numbers here and more info here, the stories are heartbreaking.  From the outside it seems like there is no way their lives could be real, but sadly, they lived through it and re-live through it every day in memory day and night.

The following is an endorsement of One Simple Wish from their website.  You can read more endorsements here.

Graduation photos. A trip to the movies. A double-dutch jump rope. Many kids could simply ask their parents to buy these items, and they will do so without hesitation. But many families our agency PEI Kids serve cannot afford these purchases as they worry about necessities like food and shelter. The children and the families we serve have faced horrible situations – child sexual abuse, abandonment, trauma and loss. Many of these children have stopped wishing for things they know they cannot have. There are no fairy tales with happy endings in their worlds. Because of One Simple Wish, children in our programs are having happy endings. I have seen firsthand in the eyes of the children we serve the joy and happiness this organization has given them. And it is not just the gift itself. Many of these children have been hurt and disappointed by the people in their lives who are supposed to love and care for them. To have a complete stranger purchase a gift for them helps restore their faith in humankind. -Nicole Cody Communications & Outreach Associate, PEI Kids

So, check out their website (http://www.onesimplewish.org/) and share this post with someone.

Day 1: Donors Choose

I’m a little behind in this!  Argh this holiday season is not as smooth sailing as I want it to be!  In light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, CT, I want to highlight what all our public schools are doing for our children.  Every day teachers around the country walk into amazing classrooms, filled with up to date technology and state of the art, brand new textbooks and every supply they need.  However, some others walk into classrooms that have outdate textbooks, no technology, and crayons, markers, and other supplies that they have spent their own money on just so their children can have the simple items.  As a fifth grade teacher, I went into a classroom that very much resembled one from my own elementary school in the early 80s… and it was 2005.

Donors ChooseThus, the first charity I want to highlight is DonorsChoose.org.   Their mission is to “engage the public in public schools by giving people a simple, accountable and personal way to address educational inequity. We envision a nation where children in every community have the tools and experiences needed for an excellent education.”  This website lets you pick a specific project in individual classrooms to donate money towards.  Teachers from across the nation can post their desires for items for projects or simple things like markers for their classrooms.  The best part is that you can give any amount that you want towards a project, from just a single dollar to funding the whole project.  The money goes to the organization who purchases the products and sends them directly to the teacher.

If the project doesn’t reach the goal, the money gets sent back to the donater as an account credit and you can then choose a different project to fund or send the teacher a Donors Choose gift card.

Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.orgCheck out this fascinating timeline here from their website on the success of their charity.  I admit, there were a few times when I teared up, especially when a tornado struck Joplin, MO in August 2011 and 260 Joplin teachers posted to DonorsChoose.org to rebuild their classrooms and all of the projects were funded.  No country bonds together like the United States when in crisis.  The best part is that it was created by a history teacher, Charles Best (pictured above).

If you want to know more about their financials and legal aspects of the company, they post it on their website here.  So go check out their website and browse around.  Even if you can’t or don’t donate any money, it’s fun to look at the different projects going on around the country in our local schools and just how much our teachers care about our children and the development of their young minds.

Projects website: http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/search.html

I’m sure that you are with me when I say our thoughts and prayers are with those who are suffering across the globe from gun violence, but especially the families in Newtown, CT.  May we find a way to help the people who need it so more tragedies like this do not occur.  In this time, its more important than ever to let our teachers know how much we value them.  Find a project within your local community and help a teacher.

New Years Resolution- Early!

Taken from: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=New+Year%27s+Resolution&start=83&hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1366&bih=587&tbm=isch&tbnid=hnAqQWorqOBv-M:&imgrefurl=http://www.handsonhomebuyer.com/blog/2011/12/29/5-new-years-resolutions-to-help-you-buy-your-first-home/&docid=fcYVf39iPPQqLM&imgurl=http://www.handsonhomebuyer.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/4010915224_eb74e98932.jpg&w=500&h=375&ei=UJbEUOfIJoSc9QTQ2IHQCA&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=328&vpy=118&dur=153&hovh=194&hovw=259&tx=113&ty=91&sig=102585489830717566258&page=4&tbnh=138&tbnw=177&ndsp=30&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:100,i:7I’ve been thinking about my New Years resolution (NYR).  Every year I vow to learn some new skill that will ultimately push me farther and make me a better person.  Last year my NYR was to finish grad school.  I’m almost there!  Now I feel like I want to change it up a little bit and learn more about myself and expand my skills through what I can do for others.  There are lots of countdowns to Christmas or New Years going on out there so I’m going to throw this blog into the countdown ring and starting on December 15th, I’ll have my 15 top “charities” or places that do good in the community that accept donations.  Then, be thinking because on December 31st I will be asking you what your NYR are!  So check back later this month and pick one or more charities to donate to, do something good with, or tell me about one that is special to you!