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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Boom Boom Cards

A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed to either help or cheer up someone else. According to Wikipedia, the phrase may have been coined by Anne Herbert, who claims to have written “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat at a Sausalito, California restaurant in 1982.

Today’s profile is a product that encourages “Intentional Random Acts of Kindness” by passing along specific ideas and giving you the ability to track them online.

“Boom Boom” is the boomerang concept…whatever thoughts, actions, or words you put out into the world eventually find their way back to you.  Or as some would say, do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  Boom Boom cards are a way to encourage intentional random acts of kindness by giving you ideas, a way to pass it on, and a way to track the spread of your act.  The premise of the Boom Boom Revolution is that change can be made one simple action at a time.

There are four editions of Boom Boom card decks: Original, Family, Teen, and Green.  Each deck comes with 26 cards, a Boom Boom sticky notepad and a handy carrying sack.  The family kit also includes a command central kit to help you track as a family.

You start by picking a card from your deck and performing that act of kindness.  It may be buying a cup of coffee for a stranger, planting a seed, donating used books, or some other act.  Then, you pass the card along to a friend or stranger.  You can register your act of kindness online using the code on the card and track the card as it passes from one person to another.

My family has the family deck and has already Boom Boomed a couple of times.  One card encourages you to have a family game night and another has you building a family fort in your living room.  My daughter said she liked the cards because the activities we fun.  She is also excited to send one of the cards to her pen pal.  I enjoyed the cards because they provided a way to come together as a family, do something fun, and for some cards make a difference.  I am also excited to track the progress of the cards as they move on to other families.

You can purchase your own Boom Boom cards for $10 to $15 on their website.  Once you receive your cards, you can register your deck and a portion of your purchase price will be donated to the charity that you select.

You can also head to their website, click their interactive map, and see Boom Booms happening around the world!  You can even log your own Everyday Boom Booms – these could be any act of kindness that you do.  Some recent Boom Booms logged were walking the neighbor’s dog, raking a neighbor’s leaves, or washing the dishes.

You can learn more about Boom Boom Cards on their website, boomboomcards.com.  You can also visit their blog and follow them on a variety of social media sites linked below.

Twitter
Facebook
YouTube
Flickr
Vimeo

Please note: I did receive a set of Boom Boom cards for the purpose of writing this post.  This post contains my honest opinion of these cards. 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Other, Philanthropy

 

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Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma

Like me, many people who are reading this blog have never been through torture or war trauma.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Today’s organization is here to help those individuals.

The Center for Survivors or Torture and War Trauma (CSTWT) is a St Louis, Missouri based organization with a mission to facilitate the healing process for refugee and immigrant individuals and families who have survived torture and war, and to help them transcend the suffering and move toward healing and self-empowerment.  They work toward this mission by providing culturally appropriate, holistic mental health services in an atmosphere of professional, therapeutic support.

The Center began in the early 1990s when therapists were seeing an increase in refugees who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In response, Jean Abbott, CSJ, LCSW coordinated an informal coalition of service providers to address the special needs of these new Americans.  An early partnership with Provident, Inc (a St Louis area family service non-profit agency) made it possible for Abbot to provide on-site therapy to refugees and immigrants.  In the summer of 2001, CSTWT was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit corporation in Missouri to continue this work with an emphasis on providing mental health services.

St Louis has become one of the largest new resettlement homes for immigrants and refugees and is the largest resettlement city for Bosnians. The Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma serves immigrants and refugees who have fled countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Liberia, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they have experienced persecution, war, or other forms of trauma.

Common after effects of trauma for refugees and immigrants include fear, isolation, flashbacks, nightmares, dissociations from the present, difficulty regulating emotions and distrust of others.  Common mental health issues reported by refugees who have experienced torture include post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.  Such complex mental health issues make it especially difficult for individuals to maintain employment, sustain housing, and take care of themselves their families.

How can you help?

There are many ways to give your time to the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma. Opportunities include office support, pro-bono therapeutic services for professionals, teaching different types of performing arts to high school youth, mentoring with their after-school program, and administrative projects like grant-writing, advocacy campaigns, or fund raising events.  You can also make a donation on their website

You can learn more about the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma by visiting their website, http://www.stlcenterforsurvivors.org/.  You can also contact them via e-mail at info@stlcenterforsurvivors.org or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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How will you give back?

The holidays are upon us!  For some families it is a holiday tradition to give back in some way.  Maybe they participate in a local sharing tree or give to Toys for Tots.  Others take the opportunity to clear out old toys or clothes to donate or take a day to volunteer.

If you have a tradition of volunteering or giving back during the holiday season, what do you do?  If you don’t already have a tradition, The Blogunteer encourages you to find an organization to support.  Your support could be as simple as a monetary donation or more involved by taking time to volunteer.

Use either the search option or the tags on the right side of the blog to search for opportunities that interest you on The Blogunteer or use Google to search for an opportunity that meets your interests.  Post in the comments about your volunteering or giving back!

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Other

 

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Project Noah

Typically I write about organizations…but in honor of Geography Awareness Week(November 13-19, 2001) and the third annual Blog-A-Thon hosted by the National Geographic Society, I am posting something a little different today.  The theme for this year’s Geography Awareness Week is “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community” – the connections between people and their surrounding environments, local action, and, of course, geography education.  Today’s post is about something that helps people around the globe connect with nature and the environment.

Project Noah (which stands for networked organisms and habitats) is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.  The project began in early 2010 as an experiment to see if the team could build a fun, location-based mobile application to encourage people to reconnect with nature and document local wildlife.  They wanted to take advantage of the power and popularity of smart phones to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity.

In February 2010, the team’s first iPhone app was launched.  After winning some awards, the team attracted National Geographic as an investor.  By encouraging everyone to document their encounters with nature, the Project Noah team hopes to build a powerful force for data collection and an important educational tool for wildlife awareness and preservation.  According to National Geographic, “Project Noah harnesses the power of citizen scientists everywhere to discover the world’s organisms.”

You can sign up on their website, projectnoah.org for a free account.  If you have an iPhone or Android phone, you can also download their mobile app for free.  Using the app you can manage your spottings and participate in missions.  For example, one current mission is “Birds of the World” where you can document your bird encounters by taking photographs and adding descriptive notes.  You add as much information as you can about your spotting and upload it to the Project Noah website.  Then many dedicated community members help identify your spotting.  Other missions include spotting urban biodiversity, bats, spiders, and ladybugs.  One interesting mission I found was a local mission to monitor sightings of the Emerald Ash Borer – an invasive beetle from Asia that is killing trees around my local area. 

Even if you don’t have a smart phone, you can still participate by uploading photos directly to the Project Noah website.

So, how can you get involved?  It’s easy – just sign up for free and start connecting with nature in your own backyard.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Other

 

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Trips for Kids

 

November 13-19, 2011 is Geography Awareness Week and the National Geographic Society is hosting its third annual Blog-A-Thon.  This year’s theme is “Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.”  It is about connections between people and their surrounding environments, local action, and, of course, geography education.

Today I will profile an organization that gives kids an opportunity to explore their local geography on a bike.  The Trips for Kids™ youth biking program is a non-profit, volunteer organization that provides mountain biking outings and environmental education for kids who would not otherwise be exposed to these types of activities.  Their goal is to combine lessons in personal responsibility, achievement, and environmental awareness through the development of practical skills and simply having fun.   

The vision for the organization was conceived in 1986 while Marilyn Price was pedaling up Mount Tamalpais outside of San Francisco, California.  During her ride, Marilyn was remembering the kids she saw during her frequent volunteering at St. Anthony’s Dining Room in the heart of the inner city.    Most of those kids had never seen their city from the high up perspective of Mount Tamalpais, instead spending their days surrounded by cement and exposure to drugs, violence and gang involvement.  She thought it would be great if these kids had a chance to challenge themselves physically.  The idea for Trips for Kids combined her lifelong love of bicycling, an earlier desire to be a social worker, and her interest in environmental issues. 

The program functioned as a pilot program for two years until becoming incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1988.  The program continued to grow in the San Francisco area to provide a bicycle thrift shop called The Re-Cyclery and an Earn-A-Bike program that provides a safe environment for kids to learn skills and work toward earning their own bike and accessories.  In 1999, the program started supporting the creation of additional chapters.  The Trips for Kids national headquarters remains in San Rafael, California. They have also grown to have 76 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, in addition to one chapter in Israel.   Each chapter is financially independent, but the national organization provides startup support and information sharing opportunities.  The program is flexible which has resulted in a diverse set of chapters.  Some have started earn-a-bike or bike mechanic programs for the youth they serve and a few have started a bike thrift shop to help pay for their expenses.

To date, more that 79,500 vulnerable, at-risk children have experienced a life-changing day mountain biking; an experience they would not have had without Trips for Kids.

So, how can you help?

Most of the Trips for Kids chapters would love to have volunteers to help them on the mountain bike rides with the kids they serve.  Other volunteer opportunities would include office help, volunteering at events, serving on a chapter board, helping run earn-a-bike programs, and more.  You can contact the chapter nearest you to find an opportunity for them.

You can also make a monetary donation to the national program to assist with program costs. 

You can learn more about Trips for Kids on their website, www.tripsforkids.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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501 Connect

Have you ever seen something and thought, “somebody should do something about that”, but then just moved on with your day?  The founder of today’s organization saw a need and did something about it. 

501 Connect was co-founded in 2010 by Kathleen Rose and Maureen Shryock.  Kathleen was assisting her son as he searched for a community service project that would be meaningful to him in the St Louis, Missouri area.  She watched him search multiple websites to research organizations and found herself wishing that there was one place that contained all the information he needed.  So, she founded 501 Connect along with Maureen Shryock with a vision to create a central location where community members can learn about the mission and needs of St Louis organizations and quickly locate opportunities that are meaningful to them. 

The organization’s mission is to enhance the presence of nonprofit organizations and promote social responsibility throughout the St Louis region.  They would work toward this mission by educating, sharing knowledge, facilitating relationships, and inspiring others through their programs and services. 

To work toward their mission, the 501 Connect website serves as an online community and resource for non-profit organizations and their donors, volunteers, board members and communities that they serve.  They provide a venue for St Louis nonprofit organizations to broadly share their call to action messages and provide a forum to motivate community members to take action and make a difference.  In addition, it allows nonprofits to share knowledge and ideas. 

501Connect.com is the only online resource of its kind dedicated exclusively to the St. Louis area nonprofit community.  Thousands of people visit the website monthly to search for volunteer opportunities, job opportunities in the nonprofit sector, charity events, and the latest Buzz from St. Louis nonprofits.  In addition, site visitors can find industry related articles, nonprofit professional/career development resources and information and advice from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders in the St. Louis Community.

In just over a year, over 200 greater St Louis Area non-profit organizations have utilized 501Connect’s online services.  One of these organizations is the The People’s Resource Site, whose founder and president, Ly SyinLobster, states, “501Connect.com has done an excellent job of helping Dress for Success Midwest
Professional Women’s Group get more exposure online for their Community Action Project.”  Stephanie Rea Perry, a writer and producer for the St Patrick Center, another organization utilizing 501 Connect, states, “We are so grateful to be included in such a comprehensive and enlightening publication and hope that the word continues to spread about its benefits in the local nonprofit scene.”

How can you help?

While 501Connect.com doesn’t have any volunteer opportunities directly, visitors can find volunteer opportunities for groups and individuals of all ages, interests and skill levels with local organizations.  There are ongoing and one-time opportunities available for a variety of organizations so everyone can find something meaningful for them. 

You can learn more about 501 Connect on their website, www.501connect.com or via e-mail at info@501connect.com.  You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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AccountAbility Minnesota

I don’t know about you…but I am not thinking about tax season quite yet.  I usually file my taxes in February or March – except for that one year I had to take a vacation day from work to get them filed on April 15!  Today’s organization is already ramping up for the 2012 tax season here in Minnesota.

AccountAbility Minnesota is an organization dedicated to providing high quality tax preparation and related financial services to individuals and families of limited means by leveraging volunteers.  They also advise and assist others to provide similar services in their communities.  They are based in St Paul, Minnesota, but during tax season they prepare taxes around the Twin Cities metro area at 12 different locations in St Paul, Minneapolis, Hopkins, Brooklyn Park, and Bloomington.

In 1971 a group of tax professionals came together with the same belief, an individual’s access to quality tax assistance and financial refunds should not depend solely on one’s ability to pay for such services.  Shortly, AccountAbility Minnesota was formed and began providing free tax prep to low and moderate income individuals. 

Just over five years ago, AccountAbility Minnesota expanded their scope to include additional financial services at their tax clinics.  They aim to help taxpayers use the “money moment” that tax time provides to help them build assets.  They maximize taxpayer refunds and then encourage the taxpayer to use their tax return to build assets and improve their long term financial security.  In addition, the organization also provides training and technical assistance to other organizations around the state to run free tax preparation programs.

As of August 31, 2011, AccountAbility Minnesota has provided free assistance to more than 11,460 taxpayers enabling them to keep 100% of their refunds.  A record number of 569 volunteers have collectively prepared 24,153 returns totaling $21.7 million in refunds to low and moderate income families.  They have also assisted individuals in opening nearly 3,000 savings accounts. 

 

How can you help?

First – you don’t need to be a tax professional or even know anything about taxes to volunteer with AccountAbility Minnesota!  There are several volunteer opportunities including:

  • Tax preparer volunteers complete federal and state returns using tax software.  Training is provided, but some tax experience is needed.  One hour of volunteer tax preparation can mean $2,000 directly into the pockets of families struggling to make ends meet.
  • Self-employment tax preparers complete federal and state returns using tax software for customers who are independent contractors or sole proprietors. These volunteers should have two to three years tax experience or experience working with Schedule C.  Again, training is provided.
  • Tax reviewers assist in the reviewing of tax returns completed by AccountAbility Minnesota volunteers.  All tax returns done by volunteers go through a quality review process which makes this makes the organization top notch in the field of free tax preparation.  Reviewers ensure every customer receives top quality service and that the returns are accurate.
  • Tax site screeners help manage the flow of activities at the tax clinic. They greet and register customers as well as screening for eligibility.
  • Interpreters provide interpretation for conversation between the preparer and customer.  Languages needed include Spanish, Oromo, Somali, Hmong, Vietnamese, Russian and American Sign Language.
  • Financial advocates provide information on credit reports, work support programs and strategies for savings.
  • Financial planners offer pro bono financial planning advice to help taxpayers maximize their refunds.  These volunteers must be a certified financial planner.

If you would like to volunteer, you can find additional information and sign up for a volunteer orientation on their website.  You can also learn more about financial in in-kind donations online.

You can learn more about AccountAbility Minnesota on their website, accountabilitymn.org.  You can also connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.  If you are interested in volunteering,

 

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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