Thanks(4)giving

It's all about the little things…

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Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 2-Thanksgiving

Gobble, gobble people!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I can’t believe it’s basically been a year since I had the idea for this blog.  Thanksgiving gives us all the excuse to really think about what we’re thankful for in our lives.  On the last Thursday of November we seem to love our family a little more, appreciate our friends, and really be grateful for the huge meal that piles up on our plates.  Here’s my question.  Why can’t we keep that feeling around all year-long?  What is so special about that one day in November?  This year I’m thankful for more blessings that I can count.  You out there reading this are on the top of my list.

Even though Turkey Day is about being thankful, it’s even more so about the food.  Hey, the truth hurts.  That doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful for all that glorious food we shove down our gullets.  This time last year I was thankful for food for an entire week!  So it only seems right that tonight I am thankful for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.  Since they opened their doors in 1982 Second Harvest has distributed more than 100 million pounds to 18 different counties in the western end of NC.  The simple mission of sharing the abundance so no one goes hungry is as powerful as it is short.  Something else that I feel like I’ve said a billion times over the past year is that an idea doesn’t have to be complicated in order to change lives.  There is so much food that goes to waste on a daily basis that could be given to those who truly need it.  That’s the whole idea that food banks were founded on.  The other great thing about Second Harvest?  A little bit of money goes a long way.  A single dollar donated by you or me will buy $12 worth of food that will make 7 meals!  That’s way better than the dollar menu at McDonalds.  Golden Harvest Food Bank shares both the mission and the year they were established with Second Harvest.  The work they do is a little further South than Second Harvest, but it’s needed because hunger knows no boundaries.  GHFB has a Back Pack program similar to other charities, where they work to bridge the weekend meal gap that many students experience.  It only costs $14 a month to sponsor a child for the 32 week school year.  I bet all of us have spent $14 on ourselves for a single meal out.  I can spare a meal out a month.  It boggles my mind how simple it is to fix some of the world’s biggest problems if we were all just a little more giving.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina Donation

Golden Harvest Food Bank Donation

So here’s to you Thanksgiving!  You provided the inspiration I needed to start Thanks-4-Giving.  You’re also the reason that countless people return home every year.  You are the glue that keeps us together when all else fails.  You can’t say no to someone you love on Thanksgiving.  You’re also the start to the holiday season, no matter how badly the department stores try to brainwash us.  Thank you for making me thankful.  Year after year, and day after day.

I think I will!

Week 20-Social Networks, Day 7-Kiva

Social networks are all about connecting people through the power of this great invention of the Internet, that Al Gore created for us.  To me, Kiva connects all of us in a way that no other social network can.  They join the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, and the givers and the receivers.  Kiva allows you help people who you relate to on a personal level without ever meeting them in person.  You become passionate about their causes, their past, their present, and their future which you are investing in.  Kiva makes you Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates all at the same time.  They work with 450 volunteers around the world in 59 different countries lending $207 million in loans since 2005.  Two awesome parts; you invest in something meaningful to you and your passions; and you get repaid!  See you’re already thankful and you haven’t even invested in any projects yet.

The bottom line of Kiva is that you can basically use the same money over and over to finance people and projects who are really in need.  You invest $25 dollars towards a loan of $2522 to help a farmer with 3 young children in Azerbaijan buy, feed, raise, and sell 5 cows to make a living.  He reaches his goal, buys his cattle, sells them back, and then repays your loan over a period of 14 months.  Yes you read that right, you invest your hard-earned money and get it all back in a matter of months.  Kiva has over 900,000 users and over half have donated more than $207 million dollars to Kiva borrowers.  You can also rest assured that 100% of your donation goes directly to the entrepreneurs that are featured on their site.  Kiva doesn’t skim off the top or take a cut before they deliver your funds to the specific cause and person you chose to support.  Kiva has also recently announced that you can now donate right through your iPhone through a new application.  I really believe that it doesn’t matter where you give from, your house, your work, your vacation, your gym, or your library.  What matters is that you give.  Social networks and technology have given us the opportunity and responsibility to do our part in making a difference in the world.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  I could go on and on about which projects you should give to and why you should give, but that’s something you have to figure out on your own.  Your loan will change lives, but you are the only one who can decide whose life it changes.

Kiva Donation  *Bonus* Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar by Omidyar Network

Browse Kiva borrowers you can/should give to…

So here’s to you Kiva!  You have people like Bill Clinton and Oprah in your corner promoting how awesome you are.  You make sure we know that if we can’t afford to give a loan right now, we can still share your incredibly unique and effective process with our friends and family.  You make us realize that even though we give so much of ourselves all day, giving as little as $25 dollars is an investment in our happiness and future.  Thank you for giving us a place to connect and change as many lives as we can.

This is my exit, how about you?

Week 18-Potpourri, Day 4-Eyeglasses

Usually people hate going to any type of doctor, but I was pumped to go to the optometrist today.  I haven’t been in about five years and I was itching to have some new glasses to replace my outdated pair.  I was also one of those kids that wanted braces even though I didn’t need them.  I know, shut up, but it’s true.  I wanted to have the whole nine yards, glasses, braces, retainers, neon colored rubber bands, all the typical teenage stuff.  Now 10 years later my wish has come true, sorta.  All kidding aside, I am really thankful that someone invented glasses so I can see the signs when I’m driving and all the little green leaves on the trees this spring.  I’m also thankful big nerdy glasses are back in style.

Photo credit: Ace Kvale

Lucky for me, all I need is a pair of glasses to fix my little vision problem.  There are other people out there who aren’t so lucky, but there are certain types of blindness that are preventable or curable.  The Himalayan Cataract Project is on a mission to wipe out preventable/curable blindness through high quality care at a low-cost.  HCP also educates those in the developing worlds and works to build a world-class eye care infrastructure that can be sustained over the years.  HCP was founded by Dr. Sanduk Ruit and Dr. Geoff Tabin in 1994 in order to help them achieve their personal goal of eradicating as much unnecessary blindness in their lifetime as possible.  In the past 17 years HCP has trained over 100 doctors in cataract surgery and over 100 ophthalmic assistants and nurses who perform anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 surgeries every year.  HCP is bringing people out of the darkness and showing them the light.  OneSight is making primary vision care and the gift of sight a reality all over the world.  You know those donation bins you see in any Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, or Sunglasses Hut?  All of those glasses are collected for OS.  OS will take your old pair of glasses and have them cleaned, repaired, inspected, and logged into a database so someone else with your prescription can see for years to come.  You can see the process your glasses go through step-by-step here.  So even though you may be over those transition lens that seem to take forever to change back once you come inside, a farmer in India would love to have them.  I mean you can only wear one pair of glasses at a time right?

Himalayan Cataract Project Donation

OneSight Donation (or find a place to donate your old glasses!)

So here’s to you eyeglasses!  You help me see things far away, and look stylish at the same time.  You come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, prescriptions, and brands, but you all get the job done.  You are worn by millions if not billions of people all around the world on a daily basis.  You made people like Martin Scorsese, Elton John, John Lennon, and Woody Allen stand out in a crowd.  We would be lost without you.  No seriously, we couldn’t find our way out of a paper bag sans glasses.

Studmuffin

Week 18-Potpourri, Day 1-Ruby

My girl!

Yesterday we added a new member to our family.  No we didn’t get another dog, and no I did not pop out a kid, but we did buy a beautiful Ford Escape named Ruby.  She’s three years old, she has automatic windows and locks, warm tan interior, a sleek maroon paint job, and six cylinders under her hood.  She’s roomy, quick, and she’s plays a mean version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”.  I am truly thankful for all of the different subjects that I write about everyday, but after being a one car family for a year and a half, I am really, really, really thankful for Ruby.  I feel like I’m sixteen again in my very first car.  You know that saying good things come to those who wait?  I’m gonna have to agree.

That year and half without a car of my own might have seemed like a long time, but it was the best decision for our family.  The non-profit Yellow Ribbon Fund is helping out the families of disabled veterans by providing lots of great services including free car rental and cab vouchers.  Even though YRF has only been around for six years they have already provided 1,400 car rental and 18,000 taxi cab rides free of charge.  YRF doesn’t stop there, they help veterans and their families with job mentoring and internship programs, free lodging, and free tickets to different sporting and cultural events.  I that think taking care of our veterans when they come home is so important, because they have taken care of us by serving while we were able to stay in our homes.  You might expect that Ruby with her nice V6 engine would entice me to speed a little, but I think I’ll leave the fast turns to the pros like Kasey Kahne.  Kahne may have a serious need for speed but he channels that energy into cool fundraisers for his charity the Kasey Kahne Foundation.  The money that KKF raises through sprint car races, concerts and drifting challenges (think 2 Fast 2 Furious) helps chronically ill children and their families, as well as disadvantaged youth.  The KKF has raised and given money to The Ronald McDonald House, Make A Wish Foundation, Victory Junction, and the Red Cross to name just a few.  In 2006, Kahne was even appointed by President Bush to serve on the President’s Council on Service & Civic Participation, which was only one year after he started the foundation.  You can also bid on some pretty sweet schwag on eBay to help support KKF.  Keep up the good work Kasey!

Yellow Ribbon Fund Donation

Kasey Kahne Foundation Donation

So here’s to you Ruby!  I haven’t known you very long but I have a feeling you are going to be there for me through thick and thin.  You are pretty, you tell me what songs are on the radio, you automatically lock the doors to keep me safe, and you’ve got some get up and go.  I see furniture, road trips, jam-out sessions, dog hair, airport shuttle missions, traveling games, and car seats in your future.  Welcome to your new home and thank you for making our family complete…for now 🙂

Week 16-March Madness, Day 4-Sweet 16

Bling bling!

There are big games being played during the third round today and tomorrow.  All of the winners will advance to the fourth round, or better known as, the Sweet 16.  I love the fact that little girls think of beautiful dress and lavish presents when they hear sweet 16, and boys think of basketball games and national championships.  Teams dream all year long about making it into the big dance, going to the sweet 16, elite 8, final 4, and of course the national championship game.  The Sweet 16 is really the gateway into securing the national title and having your name known all over the country.  Luckily all a charity needs to do is give back to have their name known.

It's Miley!

Nobody has better Sweet 16 parties than celebrities, and Miley Cyrus provided that once again a few years back.  Luckily, Youth Service America, also received a great present for Miley’s special day.  The admission that 5,000 fans paid to celebrate with the Hannah Montanan star went to support YSA’s mission to increase the number and diversity of young people (5-25) volunteering.  YSA believes that service should be a common expectation and experience for all young people.  Miley also helped launch the Get Ur Good On program which is an online community of youth supporting each other in their mission to do “good” in their own communities.  It’s purty cool.  A girl always needs a gorgeous dress to wear to her Sweet 16.  DonateMyDress.org strives hard to make sure all girls have a dress for their special occasion even if they don’t have Miley’s millions to buy one.  During March a couple of years ago DMD had an online auction where the dresses of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lavato, and Ashley Greene were sold and over $2,000 dollars was raised for the charity.  DMD is the first national campaign designed to encourage young girls to donate their prom and other special occasion dresses to those in need.  DMD has a directory that makes it easy for girls to find a location in their community where they can donate or receive a dress.  One girl’s trash is another girl’s treasure.

Ashley Greene at the DMD event

Youth Service American Donation

DonateMyDress.org Donation (You know you need that extra space in your closet!)

So here’s to you Sweet 16!  You are the stuff dreams are made of during this time of year.  What happens this weekend will shape the future of the men’s basketball programs for a lot of schools and universities.  Teams are battling it out to advance to the next round, and get one step closer to fame and glory.  Playing college basketball is definitely hard work but the true national champs are the charities that never get a time-out from their game.

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

image

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 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 3-Stuff, Day 7-My shoes

Ahhh Carrie

This may come as a shock to everyone out there but, as a woman I am extremely thankful for my shoes.  Boots, flats, stilettos, wedges, sandals, flip flops, the list goes on and on.  Shoes can make an outfit, they can make your whole day, and they can even make you taller when genetics couldn’t.  As Carrie Bradshaw said, “It’s really hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes — that’s why you sometimes need really special shoes!”

TOMS rocks

I can not imagine growing up barefoot, but there are countless children around the world that never own a pair of shoes during their childhood.  Some of you might have heard of this little company called TOMS shoes.  Founder Blake Mycoskie had the ingenious idea to give a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes the company sold.  The now trademarked One for One movement.  As of September of this year TOMS has donated over A MILLION pairs of shoes to kids in need.  You can even help kids on your wedding day with their adorable (and comfortable!) nuptial styles.  Oh and one more thing, be sure you register for the One Day Without Shoes movement to raise awareness for the importance of shoes.  I just did while writing this.

Soles4Souls charity believes in changing the world one pair at a time.  They have donated over 12 million, yes really, new and gently used shoes to people all across the world.  What I really love about S4S is the multitude of ways you can get involved with their organization.  You can donate a pair or shoes, donate $10, travel with S4S to distribute shoes around the world, organize a shoe drive, or host a fundraiser through your school.

TOMS shoes Donation (well technically you have to buy a pair of shoes, but you get the point)

Souls4Soles Donation

So here’s to you my shoes!  I am thankful for each and every pair of you!  You have walked me through life and supported me on my journey to become who I am today.  I may not be able to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but I have no problem helping them get a new pair!

Week 3-Stuff, Day 5-My comfy t-shirt

I don’t know about you guys but I looovveee wearing my worn-in comfy t-shirt and sweatpants as much as possible during the weekends.  I’m actually wearing my blue Old Crow Medicine Show t-shirt and Old Navy sweatpants right now to type this blog.  To me there is almost no better feeling that coming home after a long hard day of work and changing into your lounge wear of choice.  I know you’re nodding your head right now agreeing with me.

Ahhhdorable!

Luckily for all of us living in the good ‘ole USA there are thousands upon thousands of different t-shirt brands to chose from.  So there were a couple of smart folks out there who said, “Hey,  people have to wear clothes, and most people like t-shirts, so let’s make some t-shirts that benefit charities.”  Common Threadz is one of those organizations full of smart people.  They take the artwork of orphans in South Africa and turn it into incredible t-shirts, sweatshirts, and long sleeve shirts.  And that’s not even the most amazing part.  Every time someone purchases a t-shirt it helps feed an orphan for an entire MONTH.  I guess both parts are pretty amazing actually.  If wearing kid art isn’t your thing you can order a t-shirt from the either the Signature Collection or the collection designed by some of your favorite celebrities.

Who doesn't love to color?

Yellow Bird Project is very “in tune” non-profit that gives indie rock artist creative freedom to design t-shirts to benefit the charity of their choice.  The likes of Bon Iver, Bloc Party, Rilo Kiley, and The Shins have created some really cool shirts for some very worth causes.  Time magazine named The Indie Rock Coloring Book, for adults of course, one of the top four gifts that give back in the $5-$20 category in 2009.

So here’s to you comfy t-shirt!  You make coming home to you at the end of the day a joy!  You are always there to keep me warm, cover my bits so I don’t get arrested in public, and remind me of all the great memories we’ve shared together.  It may not be giving someone the shirt off your back, but it’s pretty darn close.