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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project

It is prom season!  It is the time to shop for a fancy dress to wear for one night and then hang in your closet until it doesn’t fit anymore.  At least that is for the girls from families that can afford it.  Other girls turn down requests to go to prom because they know their family cannot afford it.  There are organizations around the county holding prom dress drives to help those girls who can’t afford a new dress.  One of those organizations is the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project. 

The Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project is an event sponsored by the Community Council of St. Charles County.  This project began in 2009 when the Community Council put together a prom dress drive and was able to collect over 1000 dresses.  They made the dresses available to area high school girls who are referred to the project by their high school councilors.  The event was such a success that it became an annual event in 2010. 

In 2010, the event joined the DonateMyDress.org network of local dress drives across the United States. That year the Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project along with 13 other dress projects around the nation earned the Purple Dress Award from DonateMyDress.org.  

The project promotes confidence and self esteem in junior and senior high school women by providing the gift of a prom dress to young women in the metropolitan area who are unable to acquire one on their own.  The project continues to expand.  In 2011 over 40 high schools in the St Louis metro area were invited to refer girls to receive a dress.

You can read moving stories from girls around the country who have received dresses from various collections at DonateMyDress.org

If you live in the St Louis metro area, there are many ways you can help!

  • The collection for 2011 has ended, but watch for details on a 2012 collection on their website.
  • The project is always looking for personal shoppers to help each girl find the perfect dress! 
  • Alterations are also needed for some girls, so if you have seamstress skills and are able to assist with fittings and alterations, please volunteer.
  • The project is also in need of donations of sewing machines and notions to help make each dress special.
  • Hairdressers and makeup artists are also needed to donate their time on prom day to assist with makeovers!
  • The project also partners with other local groups and organizations to host dress drives and fundraisers.

If you live outside of the St Louis metro area, visit DonateMyDress.org to find a collection site for a project in your area.  If you can’t find one close to you, make a huge difference for girls by hosting a drive!  DonateMyDress.org provides you with a free guidebook to walk you through the process!

You can learn more about the St Louis Cinderella Project on their website, CinderellaSTL.org.  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.  You can learn more about DonateMyDress.org on their website or following them on Twitter.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Kaboom

This week is Screen Free Week.  Formerly known as TV Turnoff week, this is a week to encourage kids to have less time in front of a television, computer screen, video game, or handheld device.  Studies have found that kids aged 8 to 12 spend 7 ½ hours a day, on average, in front of a screen.  Today’s organization isn’t directly involved in Screen Free Week, but it does have a mission to encourage active play! 

Kaboom was founded in 1996 by Darell Hammond.  He was inspired after two young children suffocated in a car in Washington, D.C. in 1995.  A Washington Post article about the incident indicated that the children had no playground nearby, so they climbed into an abandoned car.  Darell was inspired and he became a man with a vision: “Play is the best natural resource in a creative economy. Kids need more of it—it is not a luxury but a necessity for their lives.” 

Kaboom’s mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities.  Kaboom ultimately envisions a place to play within walking distance of every child in America.  Depending on where you live, you may think they are close, but throughout the United States, only 1 in 5 children live within walking distance of a playground.  You can watch an inspiring video about their mission and program on their website.  

Recently, Kaboom has moved from just focusing on building playgrounds themselves to advocacy for play and providing online tools to assist communities in planning their own play spaces.  You can find their “do it yourself” playground planner on their website.   This planner offers everything from free websites to bring your team together to a vendor directory with reviews.  There are also side projects included, such as adding shaded areas and benches to help make an existing playground more inviting.

This year Kaboom is celebrating their 15th birthday!  In June they will be building their 2000th playground!  They estimate that since their founding, they have saved play for about 3.5 million kids just with the playgrounds they have directly built. 

Kaboom offers many ways to become involved.

  • Your community can apply to be a community partner to help plan and build a playground.  New playgrounds are funded through community fundraising and corporate sponsorships.  Playgrounds are planned in advance and then built by 200 to 600 volunteers in one day.
  • Communities or organizations can also hold a play day in your local community.  This is a day of community games and activities meant to encourage play.  Click here to learn more about Play Days.
  • Use the online tools provided on Kaboom.org to build or improve a local playground.
  • Help develop the Map of Play.  This interactive map allows you to search for playgrounds near you, review them, and add additional playgrounds that aren’t listed.  Soon an iPhone app will be available to allow to do this right from the park.
  • Visit Kaboom.org and find even more ways to take action for play in your community.
  • As with any organization, Kaboom also accepts donations.  Monetary donations help Kaboom spread the word and offer additional online resources to advocate for play in America.

You can learn more about Kaboom on their website, www.kaboom.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.  You can also read more about founder Darell Hammond in his book about Kaboom.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Do Good Bus

Imagine this…get on a bus only knowing that when you reach your undisclosed location, you will be someplace making a difference.  Oh, and on the way you will be wined and dined and have fun too! 

This is the mission behind the Do Good Bus.  The founders, Stephen Snedden, Rebecca Pontius and Hannah Halliwell have always tried to find the good in things and strived to show others that it is easy to help.  After being asked how to get involved by friends over the years, the group came up with the idea to put all their friends on a bus and show them exactly how to do just that.  Stephen states, “We have met so many people who want to volunteer, but are afraid to or don’t know where to start.”  With the Do Good Bus, “all you have to do is sign up and we do the rest.” 

The Do Good Bus hosts a public ride every other month in Los Angeles, California and surrounding areas.  Their activities have included working with kids, building new homes, creating guerrilla gardens, rolling burritos and more!  You can photos and videos of previous projects here.  Every ride includes breakfast, dinner or lunch and lasts between 4 and 6 hours depending on where they are going. 

Stephen continues, “The trip and the destination are a secret.  Every trip is different and only the three of us know the details.”  This helps remove any preconceived notions that individuals have about a service project. 

The Do Good Bus has three goals.  Their first goal is awareness of the hundreds of causes that help their community and how individuals and groups can support these causes.   Their second goal is to create community by making new friends during the bus ride together.  Their third goal is to encourage people to continue to support the causes.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can join along on an upcoming ride.  Simply sign up for their mailing list or following them on Facebook or Twitter to learn about their upcoming rides.  There is a fee to participate in the ride.  These fees cover the cost of transportation, meals, etc. 

Even if you can’t ride the bus, you can help their causes.  If you are feeling generous, they could use a bus so they could own the bus rather than chartering buses for each trip.  Individuals, groups or companies could also sponsor a trip or a portion of a trip.  The group also hopes Los Angeles area restaurants could donate meals in exchange for spreading the word about your business.  In addition, the Do Good Bus could also use monetary donations.  You can make a donation or learn about other ways to help on their website.  You can also explore the causes they support and consider supporting them yourself.

You can learn more about the Do Good Bus on their website, dogoodbus.com.  You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Majestic Hills Ranch

I was one of those little girls who always wanted a pony. I told my dad that we could fit one in the garage. Now history repeats itself – my daughter wants a horse too! Horses seem to have the power to make people smile. Today’s organization uses the magic of horses to help put smiles on the faces of children and veterans.

Majestic Hills Ranch (MHR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides reputable, safe, and enjoyable therapeutic riding to children and young adults with special needs, and rehabilitative services to injured Veterans.

Jackie, the granddaughter of the Foundation’s Chair Kim Howard, was born with Recurrent Respiratory Papillomas – a disease of the airway. Her feisty spirit kept her going even though her life expectancy was expected to be short. When Jackie was 6 years old, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and had an operation to remove the lower right lobe of her lung. She then underwent various chemotherapy treatments which disabled her greatly. Jackie ached all over and could no longer walk or lift her legs. This was when Kim Howard thought of therapeutic horse riding to loosen Jackie’s muscles. Once she was placed on the horse, she was again smiling, and even seemed to forget the pain and her disability while riding. In just about four weeks Jackie was not only walking, giggling, dancing, and roller skating down the street, she was riding every day and gaining more confidence and strength than ever! Jackie lived to 19 years of age before lung cancer took her life, but the animals helped her keep her strength and spirits up.

After her experience seeing all the physical, emotional and social benefits of riding therapy, Kim Howard decided to create the same advantage for other children who face difficult challenges. In 1997, Majestic Hills Ranch, 106 acres of beautiful rolling hills located in scenic Dakota County, Minnesota was purchased. In 1998, a Board was formed, and in 1999, MHR gained was granted a 501(c)(3) status.

Their mission of the children’s program at MHR is to provide children and young adults with special needs the opportunity to achieve a sense of freedom, accomplishment, and self-esteem while giving their families hope. They help children and young adults with physical and emotional challenges, chronic illness, or symptoms of abuse or neglect, enjoy their lives to the greatest degree possible.

Throughout the years, the ranch has been able to expand from the original, single 12-stall stable to what it is now with the generous support of various foundations, companies, and individuals. It has become a fenced-in, outdoor riding arena with a wheelchair ramp and seating for parents and siblings, all adjacent to the parking lot. There is also a picnic area, bonfire pit, a hay wagon that accommodates wheelchairs, and a small petting zoo.

The stories of the children who have been through the program at MHR are amazing! Children with Cerebral Palsy who came to the ranch with bodies so twisted that they need to be tied into their wheelchairs. At the end on one 25 week long season, their bodies become so straight and strong that many are able to learn how to walk. Autistic children who are mute have started talking and learned social skills.

In 2010, MHR established a “Heroes on Horseback” program. They have made the commitment to bring the benefits of equine therapy to our Veterans who have sacrificed so much. It is a small way of helping repay them for all they have given and all they have lost. The goal of the Heroes on Horseback program is to engage Armed Forces Veterans and their families in a variety of recreational and therapeutic equestrian activities designed to achieve measureable behavioral, cognitive, physical, psychological, and communication goals.

In the future, Majestic Hills Ranch wishes to have an indoor arena that would enable them to provide service year-round and not be controlled by Minnesota’s inclement weather.

Volunteers are important to MHR. They use approximately 200 volunteers each year to work with the children and Veteran’s. These volunteers commit approximately four hours per week. There are opportunities for individuals with and without horse handling experience. There are also opportunities for groups to come out and do ranch chores, paint, and work in the gardens. MHR also needs volunteers to help with events that are held at the ranch.

As with any organization, monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. You can make donations via GiveMN.org or PayPal at MHR’s website

Learn more about Majestic Hills Ranch at their website, majestichillsranch.org. You can also become their fan on Facebook.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Community Celebration of Place

Music is such important parts of culture.  From Bach to the Beatles, folk music to rock n’ roll, even from Madonna and Lady Gaga – music can reflect who we are as a culture and capture more than just the words and notes.  Music can bring generations together.  Today’s organization uses music to bring generations together by turning stories into music through their Elder’s Wisdom, Children’s Song program. 

Community Celebration of Place (CCP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that works to strengthen community spirit and pride by using music and art to honor the dignity, hard work and resiliency of people from  communities across the United States and beyond.  They do this through many different programs including Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song (EWCS) and Teaching Tolerance.  CCP is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but works around Minnesota, the United States, and even around the world with their programs.

CCP was founded in 1999 by Larry Long and a national group of education leaders.  The organization was created in order to formalize the multicultural and multigenerational model of learning and community building that Long, CCP Executive Director, had developed over 20 years of work in communities across the world as a troubadour, activist, and educator.

The EWCS program began in the 1980s in Oklahoma when Long was asked to bring the tradition of Woody Guthrie into the schools of Woody’s home state.  That experience led to a project in Alabama, where Long worked with children and elders in 27 rural Alabama communities.  Long went on to work with other communities in the Dakotas, California, Georgia, Tennessee, Minnesota, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, and Scotland.  After operating in hundreds of schools, EWCS has now evolved into a transferable process that can be incorporated into the daily curriculum of schools to meet the educational standards required of schools today, while restoring community and building connections with community elders through multigenerational, multicultural learning.  

In the EWCS program, community elders are brought into a school to share their stories.  The children listen, ask questions, and learn about the stories of these elders.  Then the children put together songs that tell those stories.  In the videos on the Community Celebration of Place website, you can see portions of previous programs.  In one program, the elders were a holocaust survivor, a woman raised in the segregated south, a war veteran, and an African storyteller together.  You could tell from the remarks of those involved that the program was a moving experience.  CCP has honored hundreds of elders in recitation and song from across the United States, and worked directly with thousands of young people, hundreds of teachers, and performed before over one hundred thousand community members.  You can learn more about the EWCS program and watch videos of previous performances at the CCP website

Another program CCP offers is Teaching Tolerance.  This recording and songbook is a musical journey through Native American chant, African American poetry, songs of friendship and belonging from immigrant communities across the United States, and classics from our nation’s proud tradition of singing for social change.  This program is being sent for free to over 200,000 elementary schools, community centers, and organizations serving young children.  For more information on this program, please visit the CCP website

Volunteers help make the CCP programs successful.  Some opportunities include:

  • CCP is seeking individuals with archival and organization background to assist with an archive project. 
  • They are in need of individuals to help setup and take down equipment (microphones, speakers, etc) at their EWCS Celebrations.
  • They are also are always looking for individuals who can help with marketing and promotions.
  • CCP also supports the Minneapolis Monarch Festival that occurs each September.  There is a great need for volunteers to assist with setup, take down, manning booths, helping with the arts areas, and more. 

Please contact CCP if you are interested in their volunteer opportunities.  You can also support CCP through a financial donation through the organization’s website

You can learn more about Community Celebration of Place and their programs at their website, www.communitycelebration.org.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Tree Trust

It is Spring!  In Minnesota this year Spring has taken a long time to arrive.  Spring is one of my favorite seasons – green appears out of the grey, flowers bloom and baby animals start to appear.  Today’s organization is dedicated to greening our local community while making a difference in people’s lives.

Tree Trust is an organization serving the state of Minnesota.  Their mission is to merge lives and landscapes to improve the community environment by investing in people.  Their programs provide meaningful opportunities for greening the local community; give youth the chance to experience success, boost their self-confidence, and find direction; teach practical job skills to help adults re-shape their lives; and help neighbors understand and connect with each other and the natural world.

By the 1970’s, Dutch elm disease had devastated the elm tree population in Minnesota.  Elm trees had been popular in neighborhoods prior then, so this disease devastated the urban tree canopy.  Tree Trust was created in 1976 to address not only the loss of trees but also the high unemployment and poverty rates for youth and adults at the time.  They began combating these issues by providing out-of-work individuals with training and paid jobs reforesting the community.  Since their founding, they have expanded to also offer integrated employment training, community forestry and environmental education programs.

They are located in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  They serve the entire state, but primarily focus on the seven county metro area.  This year Tree Trust celebrates 35 years of bringing people together to create positive, lasting changes in their lives and in their communities.  They believe that amazing things happen when people connect with one another and the natural world.

Tree Trust does not just plant trees.  Their projects have included staircases and retaining walls to control erosion, removing buckthorn to give native plants a chance to thrive, creating trails and boardwalks make parks more accessible and enjoyable, building LEED-certified houses that conserve energy and natural resources, and planting thousands of new trees each year, and removing dead and diseased trees to preserve and protect community forests.

Since 1976 Tree Trust has provided job training and employment for 32,000 young people and 10,000 adults; completed hundreds of park maintenance, landscaping and construction projects; planted 72,000 trees and shrubs in schools, parks and community areas; and increased awareness and educated 115,000 students, teachers and community members about the importance of trees and green spaces to the health and vitality of a community.

Volunteers play important roles at Tree Trust.  Here are some of the ways they utilize volunteers:

  • Hundreds of people volunteer every spring and fall to plant trees with Tree Trust.  They provide hands-on training at each event, so no experience is necessary. Individuals, friends, families and groups are invited to volunteer. Children and dogs are also welcome, as long as they’re supervised.
  • Volunteers hand out hundreds of trees to residents who participate in municipal tree distributions.  These events are great for families, friends and other small groups, however, you must be able to do some heavy lifting.
  • Volunteers come help preserve Tree Trust’s past by helping to preserve photos taken over their 35 year history.  The archive volunteer position is great for individuals who have a good understanding of computers.
  • Volunteers can help by folding letters and stuffing, sealing and stamping envelopes.
  • Tree Care Advisors, Master Gardeners or volunteers with a strong interest in trees, can help teach and train the volunteers at their planting events.  Volunteers also teach students at “Learning with Trees” school plantings.
  • Tree Trust is also open to other volunteer opportunities based on your own interest.  Please contact Tracie Huhn to discuss your interests.

In addition, as with other organizations, monetary donations are also welcome.  Donations are accepted via their website or via GiveMN.org

Tree Trust is recognized nationally as one of the leading nonprofit organizations that involves diverse urban populations in employment, community forestry and environmental programs.  Tree Trust is leaving lasting improvements in Minnesota’s parks, nature areas, schools, neighborhood spaces, community agencies and backyards.  Learn more about them at their website, www.treetrust.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube.  You can also follow their blog.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Wildcat Sanctuary

I have always been a cat person.  I have had pet cats since I was a baby.  My cats have all been little house cats…and I have never longed to own a big cat, but I do enjoy visiting a zoo to see the big cats.  I am amazed at how similar a lion or tiger looks and acts like a house cat.  Sleeping in the same way, cleaning themselves and even walking around like they own the place.  Unfortunately, some people do decide to have a big cat for a pet – only to realize later that it wasn’t the best idea.  Or others even breed baby big cats to use for photo shoots and then get rid of them after they have served their purpose or someone intervenes in cases where the animals are not properly cared for.  Today’s organization makes a difference for these animals. 

The Wildcat Sanctuary (TWS) was founded in 1999 by Tammy Theis.  Tammy was a marketing executive who started to ask questions about the infant wildcat cubs that showed up for photo shoots.  She wondered where they lived, where they came from and what happened to them after they were no longer valuable for photo shoots.  As Tammy continued to ask questions, she began to realize the scope of the captive wildlife crisis and the need for a reputable sanctuary in the Midwestern United States.  She could stand by silently no longer and set out to speak for the captive cats that she felt deserved to be as wild as possible.

TWS is a 501(c)3 organization that is a no-kill rescue facility located in Sandstone, Minnesota.   TWS is the only accredited big cat sanctuary in the Upper Midwest.  Their accreditation is from the American Sanctuary Association.   The Wildcat Sanctuary has garnered endorsements from the Minnesota Zoo and the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Care Program.  TWS provides for the humane rescue and sheltering of unwanted, mistreated, and neglected privately owned wildcats that pose a risk to public safety.  

TWS currently cares for over 120 wildcats.  The cats come to the sanctuary in a variety of ways – from private owners, lab test subjects, canned hunting facilities, wild born orphans, closed/defunct sanctuaries, and retired exhibitors to name a few.  You can see images and read stories about the cats on their website

In addition to housing cats, TWS is also instrumental in placing wildcats in other sanctuaries across the country when their facility is filled to capacity.  You can read about some of these rescues on their website…however, I will warn you not to read these stories if you cannot handle stories of animal abuse. 

The Wildcat Sanctuary does not buy, breed, trade or sell animals.  They are also not open to the public.  TWS is committed to being a sanctuary for the cats, not a zoo for animals.  You can get a glimpse of the cats at TWS on their You Tube channel.  You can also learn about all the species of cats in their online “Cat-A-Log”.

The other mission of TWS is education.  In 2011, they are focusing on a public education campaign about the captive wildlife crisis.  The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are 3,000 wild tigers in the world.  That is a sad comparison to the estimate of 12,000 tigers being kept as “pets” in the United States by Association of Zoos & Aquariums.  TWS plans to be at two community events each month to tell the public about the problem and their efforts to find solutions.  TWS also offers veterinarian training opportunities and supports legislative solutions to the public safety issues created by private ownership of wild animals.

How can you help?

  • Monetary donations are welcomed and can be designated in various ways, including sponsoring a wildcat, donation to build the wild woodlands, or general donations.  Learn more and make a donation on their website.  Donations are also currently being sought for a new memorial garden.  Learn more here
  • Volunteers play an important role in The Wildcat Sanctuary’s mission.  On-site volunteers help build cages, pools, caves, perches and hammocks for the cats.  They also maintain grounds and equipment, clean public areas, and help with other projects as needed.
  • Domestic Animal Care Volunteers are specially trained volunteers provide daily care for TWS’ domestic Bengal and hybrid cats and dogs.  This includes feeding, cleaning and enrichment. These volunteers commit to a minimum of two days a month.
  • Off-Site Volunteers work shifts at TWS’ educational booths at expos, civic events and festivals.  They also call restaurants, stores, and other businesses for silent auction donations, and call other companies such as lumber yards and cat litter companies to solicit in-kind contributions.
  • The Wildcat Sanctuary is also perfect for clubs, schools, civic groups and team building opportunities for corporations.  You can review and submit the Crew volunteer form to receive further information.

Please consider making a donation to The Wildcat Sanctuary prior to April 30, 2011 via Razoo.com to have your donation matched dollar for dollar. 

Learn more about The Wildcat Sanctuary on their website, www.WildcatSanctuary.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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