Thanks(4)giving

It's all about the little things…

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Week 5-New Year’s Resolutions, Day 3-Volunteer

The very last day of 2010 is finally here and I am thankful to be spending it with some of my very favorite people.  We are going to eat, drink, and be merry until the wee hours of the morning.  That got me to thinking.  People are important.  Relationships are important.  How can I build more meaningful relationships with people?  Volunteer! Get out of my comfort zone and meet some new people and change the world.  Yes that sounds extremely corny a spade’s a spade.

15 minutes is nothing!

I can hear your minds going into overdrive right now as you’re reading this.  I don’t have time to volunteer.  There isn’t anywhere close to me to volunteer.  I already volunteer once a month. Lucky for you Charity Guide has this great program called Volunteer on Demand™.  You know how you can watch movies on demand on your television, this is kinda like that except you get to feel good about yourself when you’re done.  You only have 15 minutes?  They can match you with a project that fits your needs.  You can volunteer from wherever you want, whenever you want!  It really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Simple but effective

Volunteer Match is another great nonprofit with the same principle. Their vision is to bring good people together with good causes.  All you need to know to get started is your zip code and a keyword that describes the type of opportunity you’re looking for.  Bada bing, bada boom, you’re volunteering.  Still need some motivation to get started?  Get out this awesome live map of all the volunteer referrals happening right now!  And remember, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  -Aesop

Charity Guide Donation

Volunteer Match Donation

So here’s to you volunteering!  You help bring people together for a good cause and a good time.  You are everywhere all around us and we just have to get off our lazy butts and get involved.  As we ring in 2011 tonight let’s all dedicate this new year to being thankful and doing something about it.  The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.  ~Oscar Wilde

Week 5-New Year’s Resolutions, Day 2-Saving Money

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Most of us spend money every single day.  Even if it’s just for a loaf of bread or putting gas into our car so we can get to work.  When the new year comes around lots of us resolve to save more moola than we did last year.  Save for that new car, new house, or just to build up the ole nest egg. I’m thankful that I am blessed enough to donate money to those who need it more than me.   What if we all tried to save a little more for our favorite cause?

I know that some of you are reading this and thinking isn’t that the whole point of this blog?  And yes this blog is about donating to causes that we’re thankful for but I am certainly not the authority on what you should do with your hard earned paychecks.  Let’s say you’re a die hard baseball fan.  You might want to donate to Pitch In For Baseball. I’m not talking about donating that old baseball bat you’ve had since you were in t-ball either.  There is something so rewarding about giving your own money to a cause you really believe in.  You are helping support that cause and change lives with every dollar you donate.  Maybe you are more of a chess player than a sports fan.  Chess-in-the-schools is a nonprofit that helps New York city school kids flex their mental muscles.  Your donation will help teach kids how to play chess, but more importantly it will shape their entire future.  100% of the teenagers enrolled in the College Bound program of CITS graduated high school and were headed to further education.  That money you are saving isn’t buying chess sets or baseball gloves.  It is sending kids to college and helping an only child make life long friends.

So here’s to you saving money!  It doesn’t matter if you get saved in a money market account or a piggy bank.  You are still green and great organizations will still take you.  Money may not grow on trees like we all wish it did but then what fun would that be?  You might just find out who you really are when you start giving all you can.

Week 5-New Year’s Resolutions, Day 1-Travel

New year, same blog

As 2011 is getting closer by the day most of us are starting to think about what our new year’s resolution will be this year.  This week is all about being thankful for a new year of opportunities.  I have always loved to travel and see new places and lucky for me this year is starting off with a bang.  I’m thankful for all the traveling I was able to do because of my grandmother.  She loved to travel and even though she wasn’t here to see it, she made sure I was able to travel to my heart’s content.  I’m thankful for our move to West Virginia and for the all the new places, near and far, we will travel to in the upcoming year.

Scott and I love to go camping so I was SO excited when I found these Volunteer Vacations through the American Hiking Society.  Get out.  Give back.  That’s their motto, and I like it.  AHS has vacation locations from Alaska to the US Virgin Islands where volunteers spend a week building and maintaining hiking trails.  You can pick the date, difficulty level, location, and type of accommodations that you would like to experience and sign up!  Forget those trips to Disney World, this is where the real magic happens.  Okay so I realize that some people really do like to kick back and relax on vacation and not build hiking trails.  Well guess what?  You can bid on a vacation at BiddingForGood and help support a charity.  They have helped raise over 100 million dollars for charity by running over 10,000 auctions.  So now you can take that luxury African Safari you’ve always dreamed of and the proceeds will go to support Washington State University’s viticulture and enology programs.  Now you can feel even better about taking that vacation that you’ve worked so hard for.

American Hiking Society Donation

Bidding For Good Donation

So here’s to you traveling!  You take us to exotic places and help us make memories that last a lifetime.  You push us to get out of our comfort zones and try something new.  Here’s to traveling to new places in 2011 and helping others as we do it.  “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 7-Christmas lights

It has always been a tradition since I was little that we would ride around and look at all the Christmas lights.  Tonight as we rode down the streets of my old stomping grounds I was thankful for all the colorful lights.  I am of the opinion that lights should not go up until after Thanksgiving and come down the first week of January.  Obviously there are lots of people out there who disagree with me and keep their lights on from Halloween to Valentine’s Day but hey, that’s their prerogative.

Can you say overkill?

No matter what your light philosophy is I think you’ll like the Tacky Lights Tour.  Matt Burgess was planning out his annual tour of insanely decorated houses in Richmond, Virginia in 2005 and dreamed of an online mapping system that would simplify his life.  Voilá TackyLightTour.com was born.  Five years later there are thousands of people who have added their “tacky” lights to the website and some houses encourage their visitors to donate to a charity of their choice.  The Cook Family Christmas house in Charlotte, NC has some “in tune” lights that help promote A Child’s Place charity that works to erase the effects of homelessness on children.  Most of us are lucky enough to heat our homes and decorate them for the holidays so let’s Share the Warmth.  The Duke Energy program helps those less fortune in the Carolinas pay their electricity bills during the cold winter months.  Since 1985 over 28 million dollars have been given to support this great program.  The Duke Energy Foundation will match up to $500,000 dollars in customer contributions during the heating season.  Who says energy companies don’t have a heart?

Tacky Lights Tour Donation (click on any of the houses to see the charity they support)

Share the Warmth Donation

So here’s to you Christmas lights!  Sometimes you are beautiful and sometimes you are a little tacky but you always seem to brighten my spirits.  You come in all different shapes and sizes all across the globe, and you aren’t scared to add a little color to an otherwise drab winter scene.  Let’s all take a lesson from our holiday lights and let our spirits twinkle all year round.

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 6-Movies

It always seems like at someone, or multiple people,  in my family gets one of the best movies of the year as a Christmas present.  This year Clay, my brother, got Inception.  Last year it was The Hangover.  Naturally when you get something new for Christmas you want to break it out and use it, and that’s exactly what happens with all these movies floating around the house.  That’s how we get to the holiday tradition of watching a ton of movies.

It was a little challenging for me to find charities that I thought really reflected my thankfulness of family movie nights over the holidays.  Charity Films is one of those great organizations.  You are able to go to their website and watch inspirational and entertaining short films for FREE!  Who doesn’t love free?  Let’s say you like the movie and want to buy it.  You can buy the DVD and CF will donate 30% of the profits to the charity sponsoring the film, or donate to the charity directly.  It also dawned on me while searching for charities that a hit film isn’t a hit without the actors.  The SPIRAL (Spinning Potential Into Resources and Love) Foundation is a celebrity favorite.  Everyone from the Jonas Brothers to Steven Speilberg are behind this humanitarian charity whose work is focused in Nepal and and Vietnam.  Oh did I mention Oprah is a fan too.  Is anyone noticing a pattern with the charities I seem to pick and the big O?  Yea, me too.  Since 1999 SPIRAL has worked diligently to promote “aid from within the country” by employing over 1000 Vietnamese and Nepalese locals with fair salaries and a multitude of other projects.  These projects are funded by the profits of the SPIRAL store which sells a wide variety of hand crafted goods.  All of the products are also very environmentally conscious and usually made with recycled materials.  Celebrity approved?  Check!  Green?  Check!  Totally worth checking out and donating too?  Check!

Charity Films Donation

The SPIRAL Foundation Donation (donations made by purchasing hand made goods)

So here’s to you family movie night!  You always seems to bring us together around the television during the holidays.  We get to see some of the best films of the year from the comfort of our very own living rooms.  The popcorn is cheaper, the seats are more comfortable, and we never miss a scene due to a potty break.  This is one family holiday tradition that I will definitely be participating in for years to come.

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 5-Sleep

After a day of ripping up wrapping paper, playing with all my new toys, and eating and drinking to my merry heart’s content, I was exhausted.  I have literally done nothing but nap and watch the first season of Sons of Anarchy with my Mom and Scott.  There is about 5 inches of beautiful, cold, wet snow outside but I’m thankful for my warm bed and comfy couch.

Sleep seemed like a funny thing to be thankful for at first, but after a long day there is no feeling like laying your head down on your very own pillow.  Sweet Sleep helps provide beds to orphans and abandoned children around the world.  Sweet Sleep was founded in 2003 after Jen Gash returned home from a trip where she was helping orphans in Moldova.  It broke her heart to see the terrible conditions of the mattress, and know that the children were sleeping two to a bed.  Sweet Sleep also works to provide mosquito nets for children in Africa and Haiti to protect them from malaria and other diseases.  It only takes $8 to keep a child safe at night while they sleep.  Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a very unique organization that helps families who have lost a child through remembrance photography.  There are over 7,000 volunteer photographers around the US and in 25 other countries that will come to the family’s hospital or hospice room and have a free private photo session.  Having photographs made may not be the first thing that comes to the minds of parents who have a terminally ill infant but NILMDTS believes that it is an integral part of the family’s healing process.  It is literally the gift that keeps giving to the parents for years and years.

Sweet Sleep Donation

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Donation

So here’s to you sweet slumber!  You are there at the end of the day to hold us still for a few hours and wipe the slate clean for a new day.  You are there on a Sunday afternoon as NASCAR or re-runs of The Sopranos plays on the television.  Sometimes you aren’t there quite as much as we would like but we’re always happy when you come around.  Sweet dreams world!

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 4-Feast

FEAST!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I realize that this post is a day late but I was so thankful for all the good food we had to eat I lapsed into a small food coma.  Now a day later and a couple of pounds heavier, I am ready to type my heart out.  Typing burns calories right?  Green bean casserole, ham, cream corn, stuffed cabbage, lamb, roasted vegetables, prime rib, yams, rolls, pumpkin roll, and a good ‘ole southern pecan pie.  Yes it was completely out of control, but I was extremely thankful for every bit.

I realize that I’ve already dedicated an entire week to being thankful to food alone but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a feast.  We have a tradition in our family or having vegetable tray with dip, pickle assortment, and sausage balls on Christmas Eve day.  So besides spending time with family, food is a pretty major focus on Christmas.  And what do you need to eat food?  Your two front teeth!  My Two Front Teeth helps make the dreams of hundreds of underprivileged kids come true every year.  What sets them apart from other organizations is their mission to let each child pick out their very own toy!  They are given a catalog of toys $25 dollars and under and pick out the one they want to be their holiday wish.  Before you sponsor a child you can see their name, age, favorite food, a picture they have drawn, and the toy of choice.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that all kids wish Christmas would stick around all year long.  The great non-profit organization Christmas Charities Year Round makes that dream a reality for Madison County Alabama residents.  Operation Believe makes sure that every family has their very own feast on Christmas day.  In 2009 over 1,200 people had their bellies full and their hearts warmed by CCYR.  It’s great to know that CCYR makes every day a holiday for those in need.

My Two Front Teeth Donation

Christmas Charities Year Round Donation

So here’s to you Christmas feast!  You provide us with food to fuel our bodies and a reason to gather around the dinner table.  We look forward to you all year long and regret how your always make our eyes bigger than our stomachs.  Until we meet again next year my friend, stay classy.

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 3-Pajamas

Each year on Christmas Eve my brother and I were allowed to open one single present.  After a couple of years of this tradition I started to realize a couple of things.  1-We never got to pick the present we opened.  2-The present was pretty much always a new set of pajamas that we would then go put on before bedtime.  As a seven year old this isn’t so exciting, but over the years I have really become thankful for my Christmas pajamas.  So thankful in fact, that it is still a tradition to this day (well for me at least) even though I am 26, have moved out, and gotten hitched.

Pajama Program is a great non-profit that gives new pj’s and books to children who are hoping or waiting to be adopted.  Cause everybody knows that pajamas and bedtime stories are like peas and carrots.  Co-founder Genevieve Piturro came up with the idea of PP when she noticed that a lot of children in shelters wore their street clothes to bed.  She was shocked when she found out that some of them didn’t own a single pair of pjs or even know what pjs were.  She also is a firm believer that the pajamas she helps distribute give the kids so much more than warmth for their little bodies.  “It’s like giving the children a hug at bedtime.”  Even Oprah loves Pajama Program!  If you want to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes and look stylish at bedtime get your pajamas from PJs For the Cure.  When Charlie Komar’s wife Liz was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (also called type 1) nineteen years ago knew his family’s company could help.  Komar is the leading sleepwear producer in the US and they design, produce, and sell these charitable pajamas for both kids and adults.  Every single penny that is spent to purchase pajamas from PJFTC is donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Talk about bang for your buck!

PJ's for everyone!

Pajama Project Donation

PJs For The Cure Donation (or donate directly to JDRF)

So here’s to you Christmas Eve pajamas!  You may have evolved from Rudolph the red nosed reindeer nightgown into Victoria Secret flannels, but you were always there for me.  You keep me warm in the dead of winter and help me look especially stylish in the Christmas morning pictures where the drool was dried to my cheeks.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 2-Christmas socks

Socks, socks, socks, socks, socks, socks!

As I was packing my clothes to go home for Christmas this morning it occurred to me how many Christmas inspired socks I own.  Seven.  That’s right I have seven different pairs of socks that have some sort of Christmas/winter/holiday theme to them.  My next logical question was how in the world did this happen?  But then I realized that there are a few repeat gifts I can count on (and sometimes even ask for) every year for Christmas, and socks happen to be one of those.  So instead of focusing on the fact that I have the sock collection of a 70 year old I am thankful for warm feet.

I was absolutely blown away when I found this first charity through another great website, Appreciate Life, with a similar spin on life.  Hannah’s Socks was founded in 2004 when 4-year-old Hannah Turner noticed a homeless man not wearing any socks with his shoes.  “Won’t his feet be cold Mommy?” Hannah asked.  Her mother tried to reassure her that his shoes would keep his feet warm but Hannah persisted that he could have her socks.  The next day Doris Turner took Hannah out to purchase new socks and donate over 100 pairs to local shelters in Toledo, OH.  Since Hannah’s Socks began six years ago they have donated over 145,000 pairs of socks to those in need of warm feet and warm hearts.  Comfort Socks is a NC based charity that provides new socks to homeless shelters all over the country.  A big part of their mission is right there in their name, comfort.  They believe the comfort the comes with putting on a nice, clean, new pair of socks is just as important as obvious hygiene benefits.  I know putting on a new pair of socks has made my day before.  Remember for both of these charities you can either donate socks or instantly through their websites.

Hannah’s Charity Donation

Comfort Socks Donation

So here’s to you Christmas socks!  You keep my little piggies warm and put me in the holiday spirit all at the same time.  I usually get a new pair every year but it wasn’t until today that I was truly thankful for you.  Really today is about the tremendous impact a small gesture and a big heart can make. 

Week 4-Holiday traditions, Day 1-Christmas tree

In honor of the Christmas holiday that is fast approaching this week is focused around holiday traditions I love.  Some people buy real Christmas trees every year, and some people invest in a really nice faux tree to last for years and years.  Growing up we always bought a real tree that filled the house with the smell of pine, and I loved it.  I still do to this day.  Even though I totally get the convenience of a fake tree I prefer the trouble of a real tree.  There is no feeling in the world like finding the perfect tree to take home and call yours for a month….or longer.

I am a big fan of those who serve in our armed forces particularly because I could never do what they do on a daily basis.  So I am a big fan of anything that supports them considering how much they support all of us.  Trees for Troops Program is part of the Christmas Spirit Foundation that works to provide free Christmas trees for those in the military around the U.S.  You can also send a holiday message to the troops from your comfy couch.  A little bit of Christmas spirit goes a long way.

Send 'em so green love

Angel Tree may only have tree in their name but their mission is no less amazing.  There are over 1.7 million children who have a parent in jail this Christmas, and Angel Tree believes they should have a cheerful Christmas as well.  For over three decades AT has worked to bridge the gap between prison parents and their children through Christmas presents and love.  No child should have to spend Christmas without their parents and the joy of a gift as simple as a new book.

Trees for Troops Donation

Angel Tree Donation

So here’s to you Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!  You light up the lives of children of all ages during the holiday season.  You make the house smell like a pine forest and huddle the presents underneath your full bows.  So as we rock around the Christmas tree this year stop and smell the branches.  Even if your tree is fake you can still smell the thankfulness.