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Monthly Archives: June 2011

MOFAS

There is a lot of mixed information about drinking alcohol during pregnancy.  There are a variety of “studies” out there that give mixed results, there are old wives tales, and then there is the advice you get from anyone and everyone.  I do enjoy a drink here and there – especially a good glass of wine – but when I was pregnant I didn’t take the risk.  My thought was why risk the long term health of my baby for my own short term enjoyment – so I abstained from alcohol consumption during both of my pregnancies.  I did however enjoy some Welch’s White Grape Juice – which is close enough to white wine to satisfy a craving. 

According to the Surgeon General of the United States, “We do not know what, if any, amount of alcohol is safe.  But we do know that the risk of a baby being born with any of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders increases with the amount of alcohol a pregnant woman drinks, as does the likely severity of the condition.  And when a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her baby. Therefore, it’s in the child’s best interest for a pregnant woman to simply not drink alcohol”.

Today’s organization is here for education and support.  The mission of MOFAS (Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is to eliminate disability caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and to improve the quality of life for those living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) throughout Minnesota.  They have a vision of a world in which women do not drink alcohol during pregnancy and people living with FASD are identified, supported and valued.

MOFAS was found in 1998 by Susan Carlson, the former First Lady of Minnesota.  Susan had worked in the juvenile justice system for years and saw many kids cycling through the system not getting the help they needed, or even a recognition of the cause of their problems.  Through Susan’s work with these kids, she noticed that many had possible prenatal alcohol exposure, which created special challenges in helping these kids be successful.  At the time, there was no statewide resource for information and support for individuals and families impacted by FASD.  Susan convened a Governor’s Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in 1997 to study the issue and in 1998 MOFAS was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. 

MOFAS continues serving as the leading voice and resource on FASD in Minnesota.  They stand up for the rights of the FASD community, provide education and training so FASD is better understood, and work to ensure that all women know that there is no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy.

MOFAS offers many services around Minnesota.  To families affected by FASD, they offer:

  • The Virtual Family Center – A safe supportive online gathering place to find helpful information and share the joys and struggles of life with FASD with others who understand. 
  • Family Resource Coordinators – Individuals who offer encouragement and support.  These family resource coordinators have their own FASD story and help serve as a voice for the FASD community around the state.
  • Family Retreats – These are offered several times a year for families to come together in a fun and relaxed environment.
  • Support Groups – These provide emotional support and allow people to share information and discuss common issues.  They also offer the knowledge that families are not alone on this journey.
  • MOFAS also offers a variety of classes, activities and trainings throughout Minnesota.

In addition, MOFAS provides public awareness and encourages women have “049” (zero alcohol for nine months).  This year’s public awareness campaign features photos of young kids with drinks in their hands, such as the poster below. 

There are many ways to become involved with MOFAS, including public policy advocates, mentors, fundraisers, event volunteers, and more.  You can visit their website to sign up to become a volunteer. 

FASD is caused when a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy. FASD is common, costly, and is 100% preventable.  You can learn more about MOFAS at www.mofas.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Great American Backyard Campout

You have probably all heard about the National Wildlife Federation and their mission to inspire American’s to protect wildlife for our children’s future.  For 75 years the National Wildlife Federation has been protecting wildlife, protecting habitats, and educating us all on the great outdoors.  But today’s post is actually on just one program promoted by the National Wildlife Federation…The Great American Backyard Campout.

I grew up camping.  Each summer the family would take the popup camper to some campground – packed full of bikes, food, lawn games and more.  I learned about nature, saw wild animals, bonded with my family, and enjoyed some fresh air.  Some kids never go camping – so the “Great American Backyard Campout” offers an introduction to camping right in your own backyard. 

This event is part of the special series from National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There™ movement.  This year’s official campout event is June 25, 2011, but individuals and camping teams are encouraged to participate on a night that works for them.  Registering at BackyardCampout.org will connect you with free camping resources and tools including packing lists, recipes, campfire songs, stories, and activities.  New this year is the addition of a fundraising tool for your camping team to raise money for the National Wildlife Federation. 

Camping in your backyard is a safe introduction to camping because if anything happens – you are close to the comforts of home.  Even if you aren’t into camping, you could allow the kids to sleep outside and you can sleep in your own bed.  No site is too big or too small to spend a night outside.  It could be in your backyard, in a park, at a campground or even your balcony! 

Watch this video to learn more and see some campers in action.

  

Even if camping isn’t your thing, the National Wildlife Federation has other great resources to help you and your family get outside and get active! 

  • Take a look at these summer games and activities. 
  • Learn more about the Hike & Seek program and find an event in your area by visiting www.hikeandseek.org
  • Learn about the importance of outdoor time and ways to encourage it at the home page of the Be Out There movement, www.beoutthere.org
  • You can also utilize the Nature Find feature to find parks, trails, and other nature sites around the United States.

There are many ways you can help too.

  • To donate to the Great American Backyard Campout, you can visit their website.
  • To donate to a variety of National Wildlife Federation initiatives, you can visit their website to view your donation options.

You can learn more about the Great American Backyard Campout at www.backyardcampout.org or connect with the event on Facebook.  The Be Out There campaign is also online at www.beoutthere.org and on Twitter.  You can also learn more about the National Wildlife Federation online at www.nwf.org, on Facebook or on Twitter.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Catchafire

A few months ago I profiled an org called Sparked that connects volunteers willing to give a bit of time with organizations who could use their expertise.  Today’s profile is another organization that also serves this same purpose as a matchmaker between organization needs and volunteer expertise. 

Catchafire is based in New York City and serves organizations with a presence in the greater New York Area.  Their mission is to improve the quality of the volunteer experience by providing pro bono opportunities for skilled professionals.  They have a vision to make it easy for every professional to offer their skills for good and to make it easy for every nonprofit and social enterprise to access and effectively use pro bono assistance as a way to do more.

According to Rachael Chong, Catchafire’s Founder and CEO, “We’ve found that many professionals are looking for an outlet to do good, but don’t know where to go to make the greatest impact. At the same time, small nonprofits often struggle with limited resources, and professional services are simply unaffordable.  We aim to bridge that gap, so every professional who wants to give pro bono has an opportunity for a meaningful connection to a cause they care about, and every nonprofit has access to skilled professionals.”

Catchafire has plans to make a positive impact worldwide starting with an expandion to several other markets in the United States over the next year or so.

Chong founded Catchafire two years ago because she felt there was a lack of opportunities for professionals who wanted to contribute their professional skills to help a good cause.  “I used to work as a banker, and during that time, I had looked everywhere for ways to give pro bono — I wanted an alternative to the traditional model of volunteering, in which people stuff envelopes, plant trees, paint houses, etc.  While those types of activities are still very important, I believed that I could make the biggest impact using my expertise for an organization that wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford my services — and I knew many of my peers felt the same way.  That’s why I started Catchafire — to facilitate that connection so professionals can spend less time searching and more time doing pro bono work that matters.”

Currently they serve more than 1,000 social good organizations and more than 5,000 skilled professionals have offered their services. 

Catchafire projects are structured to be short-term with clear deadlines and deliverables.  This allows volunteers to maximize their impact while ensuring that projects do not drag on and on.  Projects are between one to three months in length and can be completed in five hours or less per week by one individual.  They also work with companies who want to offer pro bono opportunities for their employees.  Chong continues, “we think pro bono is a great way for employees to give back while strengthening their professional skill.”  Projects have included social media campaigns, board member searches, graphic design and more.  To find volunteer opportunities, search their Open Projects page.  You can even filter by area of expertise. 

Learn more about Catchafire at their website, www.catchafire.org or their blog.  You can also follow them on Twitter or on Facebook.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Changing the World on a Tuesday Night

If I had written a book instead of starting a blog, it would have probably been similar to “Changing the World on a Tuesday Night” by Tammi DeVille.  The premise of this book is that all of us have something we can do – on a Tuesday night, or any night – to make a difference in the world. 

“To the World you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the World.” ~Josephine Billings

DeVille has created an inspiring book about individuals making a difference – a few minutes here and there, one hour a week, one day a month – whatever fits in your busy lives.  The book shows us ways that people are able to make a difference and what a difference is made on them in return.  DeVille writes, “This book is about ordinary people who are making an extraordinary difference.  This book is about you being one of them.” 

The book contains about 50 volunteer profiles.  The profiles talk about why the individual began volunteering, what motivates them, how volunteering has impacted their lives, and more!  Each profile also talks about the cause and points us to more information.  Here are some snippets from a couple profiles in the book.

James volunteers with Common Threads whose mission is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well being in addition to an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking.  He spends a few hours each week on his day off in the classroom to help kids chop, stir, and bake.  James states that the time he gives is “really nothing on the scale of the impact it will have on the kids for years to come.”

The Kordenbrock-Rider family profile demonstrates that even a busy family can make time for volunteering.  As a family of 6 (2 working parents and 4 teenagers), they spend two nights each month volunteering as a family.  Once a month they spend a few hours at a nursing home serving food and visiting with the residents.  On another night, they spend time at Welcome House, a local shelter for homeless women and children, sharing dessert and playing games.  The family gets to spend the night together – not common for a busy family.  Mom, Jennifer, states, “you get a good feeling inside knowing that you did something good for someone, and someone appreciated what you did.”

Okay, I can’t stop with just a couple.  Linda’s profile shows us that volunteering doesn’t have to be the traditional go someplace to do something in person.  Linda volunteers as a mentor for an orphaned child in Africa through an organization called Infinite Family.  Linda’s kids also get involved.  Linda enjoys the one-on-one relationship that has built between her family and their mentee.  Linda gives the following message to would-be volunteers, “Don’t hesitate, just jump in and do it.  Don’t be afraid.  The most rewarding feeling is the sense of knowing that you accomplished something and made a difference in somebody else’s life.” 

“One act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted.” ~ Aesop

In addition to all these wonderful profiles, the book is also sprinkled with inspirational quotes and volunteerism statistics.  The back of the book also offers a place for you to add your own profile, additional resources to find volunteer opportunities, and, my favorite, a worksheet to help you discover a cause that moves you! 

The mission of the book doesn’t end on the last page…it continues on the On a Tuesday Night website, www.onatuesdaynight.com.  There you can find links to all the organizations mentioned in the book as well as places to find volunteer opportunities

The book can also make a difference every time it is sold!  For those who purchase the book from the website, you can select an organization that will benefit from the sale of the book. 

You can learn more about “Changing the World on a Tuesday Night” on the website, www.onatuesdaynight.com.  You can also connect with the book on Facebook and Twitter to continue to be inspired. 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Ghandi

 

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Fishing For Life

When God echoed down from the heavens and spoke to Army Captain Tom Goodrich while on tour in Afghanistan, He issued Tom’s calling. Goodrich was to become a “financial engine” to help raise funds for inner-city youth church programs by casting his line in the water and… fishing. Fishing? The Lord works in mysterious ways.

With a background working in the faith community, and some downtime in Afghanistan, Mr. Goodrich recalled his efforts as an Executive Pastor working with a church in the inner-city of Minneapolis and he knew that many inner-city churches simply do not have the funds for youth ministry programs. He recollected that inner-city pastors spend a great deal of their time raising funds to pursue their work. God’s orders were very clear; Mr. Goodrich was to help motivate 10,000 kids to raise funds for cash-strapped inner city churches to fund their youth programs.

Captain Goodrich, an avid fisherman with a talent for organizing grass-roots community action programs, was steered by the word of the Lord and Fishing for Life was born. Fishing for Life is a nonprofit Christian group committed to raising funds to support urban youth ministries in the Twin Cities.

In order to do this, Fishing for Life coordinates three key operations:

1. Their “Real ‘Em In Kids” program collects fishing supplies (used or unwanted rods, reels, and tackle) to distribute to underserved youth at lake events and community festivals.

2. Fish Fair – an indoor winter fishing event for kids – affords kids an opportunity to create jigs, lures, and tie flies. But there is an educational component as well. They can also learn about the various species of fish and their habitats in Minnesota lakes, fishing techniques, proper and effective use of equipment, and sportsmanship. The event also plays host to clubs, organizations, and camps that offer fishing programs to youth.

3. Fish-A-Thon is Fishing For Life’s main fundraiser. It is an event that allows kids to raise funds for inner-city youth ministry programs and resources for urban communities, and has raised over $110,000 since its inception in 2004. The proceeds are donated to inner-city “Covenant Partners” that provide emergency assistance, summer camps, meals for the homeless, disaster recovery services, and year-round family programs to some of the most economically distressed
neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.

But raising money for these much-needed programs isn’t the only benefits Fishing For Life offers. Aside from helping families and children come together through the art of angling, Fishing For Life brings suburban and inner-city youth together under the net cast by faith. By working together, for the greater good of supporting urban ministries, the entire community is benefitted.

Urban ministries have little or no financial resources, and fundraising efforts like the Fish-A-Thon take time to plan for. Fishing For Life provides the financial mechanism through which a successful fundraising effort can thrive and allows pastors in inner-city ministries the time they need to serve the needs of youth in their communities. In this way, Fishing For Life donates both finances and time to underserved programs that provide youth with positive alternatives to the streets. Take a kid of the streets, put a kid on a lake? Sounds like yet another benefit of this program.

If you’d like to read more about Fishing For Life, please visit their website at www.fishingforlife.org or visit them on Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, LinkedIn, or MySpace.

If you’d like to make a donation, you may do so here and if you’d like to sign up for Fish-A-Thon or any of their programs, you can access sign-up sheets at their website or simply follow this link.

 
 

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