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AmpleHarvest.org

AmpleHarvest.org

In Minnesota, this is the time of year where home gardeners are harvesting their bounty and cooking or preserving their harvest in canning jars.  Today’s organization is working to encourage growers not to allow their harvest to go to waste.

Shortly after Gary Oppenheimer became the director of the Sustainable West Milford Community Garden in late 2008, he learned that some of their garden plot holders left large amounts of their garden unharvested when their crops produced more than they could possibly use.  Gary was aware that hunger was a problem in his community so he suggested that they create a committee to help gather the extra harvest and deliver it to local food pantries.  The program was named Ample Harvest West Milford.

Food pantries are hard to find because many operate without an Internet site or yellow pages listing.  Even Google doesn’t provide an answer since it can only list those pantries it knows of.  This challenge is shared by backyard gardeners throughout the United States who wish to share their excess bounty.

To address this dilemma, Gary created the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign, new supply side channel in our national food network that educates, encourages and enables gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry.  AmpleHarvest.org gives food pantries the opportunity to register themselves in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners and other donors can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.

The organization’s mission is to move information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America by educating, encouraging, and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community rather than letting it rot in their garden.  Their “No Food Left Behind” goal is being spread via a virtual solution to hunger.  Today nearly 6,400 food pantries from 50 states are registered in the AmpleHarvest.org database.  This allows the 40+ million Americans with home gardens to easily donate what they cannot use.

In August 2010 when AmpleHarvest.org was only 15 months old, a survey of registered food pantries indicated that more than 3 million pounds of freshly harvested locally grown produce had been donated to food pantries. At the end of 2011, it had increased to more than 20 million pounds.  There are other benefits as well.  Families who utilize the food pantries are introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to and gardeners across America can enjoy the satisfaction of helping their neighbors in need by reaching into their backyard instead of their back pocket.  With one out of six Americans (including one quarter of all children under age six) without access to healthy fresh food at their local food pantry, AmpleHarvest.org can make a significant difference!

Below you can view a TEDx talk from AmpleHarvest.org founder, Gary Oppenheimer.

How can you help?

Learn more about Ample Harvest on their website, AmpleHarvest.org or contact them directly via e-mail.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or their blog.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Bake Me Home

Bake Me Home

Baking is a hobby of mine.  I love to find and try recipes for cakes, cookies and other desserts.  Today’s organization turned baking into a way to give back and help others.

Alison Bushman, a stay-at-home mom, and her 7 year old twin daughters, Amy and Emma had a desire to do something more for the homeless family shelter where they had volunteered together for three years.  They had begun volunteering with the shelter by collecting items at the twins’ birthday party each year.  Instead of gifts, the girls asked for items such as books, infant toys, and snacks for those staying at the local homeless family shelter.  When they delivered the donations, they also prepared a homemade pancake breakfast for the families.  The girls’ favorite part was always staying to play with the other kids at the shelter after breakfast.

After watching Teen Kids News coverage of the Young Entrepreneurs Convention, Emma asked if kids could really start their own business.  Amy’s love of cooking took the girls to “Camp Cuisine” where they learned about food as gifts and brought home their own mason jar of cookie mix.  Meanwhile, their mom was inspired by stories of wonderful philanthropic projects at a YA Connect Conference, but was not sure who would watch her kids if she was building houses in Mexico.  That is when the idea hit.  A simple jar of cookie mix for families leaving the shelter was a great way to give other mothers and children the experience of baking together that they loved so much.  After a lot of hard work and taste testing, Alison, Amy and Emma perfected their original Bake Me Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, applied for tax-exempt status with the IRS, and established the Bake Me Home organization in 2008.

Bake Me Home

Photo by Neysa Ruhl Photography

Bake Me Home is dedicated to promoting volunteerism and providing disadvantaged moms and kids with direct services that encourage shared family experiences.  They are based in Cincinnati, Ohio and depend on over 200 volunteers to help run their organization.  In February they moved into their own building after working out of a storage unit and their family home for almost five years.

They have four programs:

  • The Tote Bag Program helps families leaving shelters celebrate the beginning of a new life in a new home.  Each sturdy tote bag contains a jar of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie mix, a mixing bowl, spoon, cookie sheet, pot holder, spatula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a $20 gift card to a grocery store for the essential butter, eggs, and a few other groceries.  This program helps over 350 families per year from 14 agencies.
  • The Family Portrait Program provides 5×7 framed portraits to shelter families.  This program started when photographer Annette Bryant wanted to do something for those who could not afford photos of their kids.  Over 400 families have received portraits with this program!
  • The Bake Me BACK Home Program sends two dozen homemade cookies to members of the military for a donation of $30.  Approximately half of each donation supports their Tote Bag and Family Portrait Programs.  Over 6,000 cookies have been sent to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Bake It Forward Program allows children entering grades 2 through 9 an opportunity to apply for a grant of $100 for the charity of their choice serving children in Ohio.  Each applicant must perform a summer service project for the charity which helps further the Bake Me Home organization’s mission of promoting volunteerism.

Alison shared a couple quotes about their impact on the families they have helped.  One mother of four, after receiving a family portrait from Bake Me Home at a battered women’s shelter cried and said, “Thank you for this.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I will always look at this and remember our turning point.  I am free.”  Another mother, after baking her cookies, said, “We made our cookies!  It was wonderful!  It made me feel like I accomplished something.  We had everything we needed.  I’ve used the pan lots of times for other things too.”

BMH Food Pantry

How can you help?

Bake Me Home has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.

  • Help fill jars of their homemade cookie mix and tote bags.  Assembly events are posted on Facebook and sent out via e-mail.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing cookiegirls@bakemehome.com.
  • You can volunteer to deliver Tote Bags to agencies.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing cookiegirls@bakemehome.com.
  • Knit, crochet, or quilt pot holders to include in their tote bags.  You can find a free pattern here.
  • Donate new or gently used 5×7 photo frames for the Family Portrait Program.
  • Volunteers are also needed to assist with the Family Portrait photo shoots.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing cookiegirls@bakemehome.com.
  • Bake Me Home also holds an annual silent auction and accepts donated items.
  • They also need volunteers to assist with various administrative, fundraising, and graphic design projects.  Please contact them with your specific expertise.
  • They also accept monetary donations on their website.

To learn more about the Bake Me Home organization, visit their website, bakemehome.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Bake Me Home

Related Posts:Family-To-Family and Cookie Cart 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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The Cancer Survivors Club

The Cancer Survivors Club

“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you just have to be willing to take it.”  ~ Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor

Each person’s journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment is unique, but there are threads that tie their stories together.  Today’s post is about a book that hopes to help share those common threads to support others going through treatment.

Chris Geiger was a healthy and athletic twenty-four year old man when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and told he only had three months to live.  Over the next two years he endured operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before he was finally in remission.  After his treatment, he started writing light-hearted columns for local and national newspapers about cancer issues.  He admits, “I am not a writer, I come from a computer software background,” but his writing has earned him awards including the 2011 “Columnist of the Year” award sponsored by EDF Energy and a Guinness World Record for the “Most Published Newspaper Article”.

Since his remission, Chris has met and spoken with many newly diagnosed cancer patients.  During one of these conversations in 2009, Chris remembered back to his diagnosis and his desire to read stories of other “normal” cancer survivors for encouragement and guidance.  He began his personal campaign to help patients and their families and “The Cancer Survivor Club” book was a result.

The book is filled with stories submitted from readers of Chris’s columns and a radio tour he did.  The stories come from men and women of a variety of ages who have survived a variety of cancers.  The main focus of the book is to help, encourage and inspire anyone touched by cancer.  In addition it provides current sufferers with a distraction from the worries of daily treatment, by encouraging them to think about life once they have become a survivor themselves.  Chris says, “I want to encourage cancer survivors to act almost like ambassadors, by using their experience to support and inspire other people who are currently receiving treatment; until they too become survivors.”

The book includes a letter named “Dear Tumour”, in which Chris writes “I now can’t do things by halves, can’t sit around doing nothing, can’t waste a moment of tis life I managed to save. You taught me how precious every day is and how fragile we all are.”  He is taking that manta to heart by not only helping those with cancer, but also working to support cancer charities.  Chris gives free talks to cancer groups and centers across the United Kingdom and donating the book profits as well.  You can find a list of these events here.  Chris hopes to publish this book bi-annually so he encourages those going through treatment to keep a journal and make a goal to submit their story.

One story was from Shelly Ostrouhoff.  In “Cancer is a Word, not a Sentence”, she writes, “I never once thought anyone else could be going through what I was experiencing.  It felt like I was the only one in the world with cancer.”

You can learn more about the Cancer Survivors Club and purchase the book at www.thecancersurvivorsclub.com.  You can connect with the book on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also follow Chris Geiger on Twitter.

Related post: The Cancer Poetry Project

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Other

 

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Tips for Supporting a Legitimate Charity

Note: These tips are for non-profit organizations based in the United States.

It may sound horrible, but there are fake organizations that are out there trying to get donations but aren’t doing the good deeds they claim.  Here are a few tips and resources to help you find an appropriate non-profit to support with your money or time:

  • Don’t donate through telemarketers or other third-party fundraisers.  These fundraisers typically keep some portion of each donation, so more of your donation will go to the cause if you donate directly.  It is recommended to never provide your credit card or bank account number over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Research before making a donation.  Don’t just donate to everyone seeking funds.  Instead find causes you have a passion for, research the organizations supporting those causes and then donate.  I have provided some resources for this research below.
  • Keep records of your donations.  If you wish to receive a tax deduction for your donation, ensure that your donation fits within IRS rules and you have keep appropriate records of your donation.  Here is some information from the IRS website: Donation Tips and Donation Rules.
  • Trust your gut when making a donation.  If they seem too good to be true or anything seems fishy, trust your gut and find a similar organization to receive your donation.  If an organization is pressuring you, not disclosing their finances, or not willing to provide you details of their programs, they are likely not a valid charity.
  • An Internet search for the charity will also typically give you a good idea about an organization.

Resources:

  • Great Nonprofits is a website that allows people to post reviews and ratings of websites that have impacted them.  People who rate nonprofits on this site have donated their time or money or benefited from their services.
  • Charity Navigator rates nonprofit organizations based on their financial health, accountability and transparency.  You will only find larger nonprofits on this site since they only review organizations who receive public support over $500,000 and total revenue over $1,000,000.  They also require four years of IRS records before they will review an organization.
  • GuideStar pulls together IRS records with other financial data and information provided by nonprofits.
  • Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance is a division of the Better Business Bureau which provides information in national charities.
  • If you have been scammed or suspect a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Do you have additional tips to share or other resources that should be included above?  Please share them in the comments.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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I Do Foundation

The summer months are wedding season in Minnesota.  Just yesterday I was enjoying some time with friends at a local restaurant when a wedding party caught our eye across the street.  Fun pink dresses and pink vests for the wedding party paired nicely with the bride’s pink high heels.  When I got married, I remember all the gifts we received, and then all the returns of duplicates!  Today’s organization is for those couples who would rather give back on their big day. 

The I Do Foundation is a national pioneer in wedding occasion giving.  The organization was launched on Valentines’ Day in 2002 by a group of nonprofit leaders to link engaged couples with charitable wedding choices.  The organization works closely with corporate and nonprofit partners to provide a variety of ways for couples to give back and Celebrate Generously™.  In 2009, I Do joined forces with JustGive

I Do Foundation allows couples to give back on their big day.

I Do Foundation’s mission is to help engaged couples bring a charitable focus to their wedding.  The goal is to share the joy and wealth of these wedding celebrations with nonprofit organizations by providing couples with unique and easy-to-use I Do services. The foundation believes that giving brings meaning to life and they have a passion for connecting soon-to-be-wed couples with the charities and causes they care about most.

More than 10% of all engaged couples visit I Do each year to learn how they can give back through their celebration.  Over 100,000 couples have sent more than $5.7 million to charity through the I Do Foundation and its partners.  The average donation for charity through an I Do wedding is about $420.  The top five charities include: Doctors Without Borders, Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross.

If you (or someone you know) is getting married in the near future, consider one of these no-cost ways to give back:

  • Through I Do’s Charity Registry, couples can share the generosity of their guests with a favorite charitable cause. Guests make secure online donations through I Do and support the chosen organization as their wedding gift to the couple.
  • A Gift Registry through the Wedding Channel allows the couple to register for gifts online with their partner stores and have up to 3% of guests’ gift purchases donated to their selected charity.
  • Favors for Charity allows couples to honor their guests and share their values by making a donation to a favorite charity for their wedding favors. They’re a great way to get guests involved in causes that are close to the couple’s heart.
  • Charity Gift Cards can be given to thank attendants.  These GiveNow charity gift card is a green gift for good that shows a couple’s appreciation by giving back by allowing the recipient to redeem it to the charity of their choice!
  • You can also shop for good for your honeymoon, invitations, and more to donate a portion to charity. 
  • The I Do website also offers several tips and suggestions on giving to your local community on your big day.  Some tips include recycling your wedding dress, donating your leftover food and donating your flowers.

Weddings aren’t the only way to give back.  JustGive also offers memorial registries to allow you to honor a loved one or gift registries to give back on your birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion. 

Just Give Allows you to Give Back in more ways

You can learn more about the I Do Foundation on their website, www.idofoundation.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You can learn more about JustGive on their website, www.justgive.org, and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Wish Upon a Wedding and Donors Choose.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Friend of EduSport

Volunteers change their local environment by improving quality of life for their neighborhoods, communities, and local charitable organizations.  Regional recipients of their altruism are made better by their presence.  Quality of life is enhanced and personal satisfaction soars.  Knowing that they make a difference in their home towns, local church groups, or community action programs creates a net worth within these enclaves that cannot be measured by dollars dropped into donation jars.  For many volunteers, it is the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing that he or she has helped in some meaningful way.   But while volunteers often illicit change close to home, many seek out charity that inspires them, correlates with a set of personal values, or as a means to pay forward a generous act.  When we think of the volunteer, though, it can sometimes be easy to forget that this microcosm in which we live isn’t confined to our neighborhood blocks.  It is not zoned along districts or dissected across city, county, or state lines.   People don’t give in silos or receive in shackles.  We don’t inhabit only our place on a map, we inhabit the map.  No, giving is not a local phenomenon, it’s happening in places all over the world.   When we can begin to think in such grand terms as nations, the world, or the human race then we are reminded that ultimately, we are a community of one.  Then our actions take on grander scale and we begin to improve not just the lives of those closest to us, but the lives of humans as a global society.  Perhaps then we can be one step closer to achieving global unity and peace.  With that in mind, the Blogunteer has stepped to the periphery of community action blogging, looked out on the vast expanses of the global volunteering community and has decided to once again profile an organization beyond the borders of the United States — an organization with a global “playing field”.

Friend of EduSport, based in the United Kingdom, is an International fundraising and advocacy support organization with global influence.   It originated in Falkirk, Scotland in 2007 and now has regional development committees operating in Scotland, Bath, Southampton, and London with International links to dedicated supports all across the globe – America, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Norway, and Zambia (to name a few).  Their mission is to, “unlock the potential of young people through education and sport”.   Using sport as the platform, they have three basic outcomes to achieve this mission: to educate, to empower, and to inspire.

Friend of EduSport was founded by natives of Scotland; Fiona Campbell and Derek Keir; after a visit to Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia.   Now, I must interject here with a bit of history for you, my loyal reader.  This is not, of course, to suggest that you need any help in expanding your world view, but when speaking in such broad terms as global altruism provides, there must necessarily be an educational component.  Only by knowing where a place is, can we truly understand the vastness of goodwill and the physical boundaries it supersedes.   And has, in all recorded history, there ever been a better way to share information than the “World Wide Web”?   Lusaka is not only the capital of Zambia, a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa; it is the largest city within that country.  With 1.7-million people, four major highways pumping life-blood into its core, and the seats of three branches of national government, Lusaka (a primarily English speaking community) is the cultural hub of the nation.

Consequently, Lusaka is also fueled by its passion for sport and community action.  As evident, Campbell and Keir were attending a series of workshops set in Lusaka when they became enamored with the achievements of the local NGO EduSport’s peer leadership program.   At every turn, they noticed that boys and girls were playing key roles in their local communities through organized and coordinated volunteer programs centered on sports.   When they returned to Scotland, they began seeking sponsors to fund the schooling for the peer leaders they had worked with.   Once it registered as an official charity, Friend of EduSport began receiving global support that has allowed it to work even closer with partnership organizations in Zambia.

Its signature event is the Go Sisters World Series – a series of sporting events aimed at promoting girls in sport.  An event that started as a football match, is now an International event geared towards personal empowerment and advocacy for girls in all countries.   So global is this competition that the Friends of EduSport website (see link below) encourages its followers to register and organize their own events!

But organizing sporting events and breaking down gender barriers are not the only outcomes of Friends of EduSport.   Of its many accomplishments, it has recently secured a site to build Chawama SEE at the Chawama compound of Zambia.   This will be a specialist sports college that will extend the educational and sports influence of Zambian culture to Zambians and students world-wide.  They have had two fundraisers, and 13 volunteers have successfully biked a route from London to Paris to raise funds for this college.   If you would like to donate to this worthwhile cause, please see contact information below.

As Friends of EduSport will tell you, an old Zambian proverb states that, “If you run alone, you run fast; if you run together, you run far.”   Similarly, if we give regionally, we give a LOT.  In fact, we should aspire to improve the quality of life in our local communities.  That is a very admirable goal, one in which The Blogunteer obviously supports unconditionally.  But, we should also always keep in mind the global stage.  Ultimately, we are all a community of one – the human race.   Don’t forget that and together, we can run far!

Friends of EduSport contact Information:

e-mail: info@friendofedusport.org

Website: www.friendofedusport.org

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/friendofedusport

Twitter: FoEdusport

 
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Posted by on December 14, 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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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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Volunteering in America

I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Robert Velasco, the acting CEO of Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This isn’t an organization or volunteer profile, but it does give you a glimpse at a recent study on volunteerism in America.  I hope you enjoy!

The Blogunteer: What trends are you seeing in volunteerism?

Robert Velasco: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to share with your readers why service and volunteering are so important to our country. The biggest takeaway from this year’s Volunteering in America research was Americans’ enduring commitment to use service to solve critical problems in their communities. From education to disaster relief to helping our veterans and military families, Americans are making a real difference. Last year, 62.8 million adults volunteered, contributing a total of more than 8 billion hours of service valued at nearly $173 billion to communities and the nation last year, using Independent Sector’s estimate of the dollar value of volunteer time.

The Blogunteer: What types of organizations are the most popular – for example an organization that serves one cause or an organization that benefits many different causes?

Robert Velasco: Across all regions, age groups, and genders, we’re seeing that people tend to volunteer – and stick with volunteering – when they’re focused on an issue that they care about and when they can see first-hand the impact they are making.  Most volunteers (35.0%) serve through religious institutions, which engage on a broad range of issues. Volunteers also frequently serve in education (26.7%), social services (14.0%) and hospitals (8.4%).

The Blogunteer: Are there certain age groups that volunteer at higher percentages than others?

Robert Velasco: One of the interesting findings from this year’s report was that Generation X – that is, Americans born from 1965 to 1981 – were among the most likely to volunteer. The data shows that in their younger years of 1989, Generation X members had an unusually low volunteering rate; however, they have increased their engagement dramatically. According to this year’s findings, 20.1 million members of Generation X served in 2010, providing 2.3 billion hours of service, an increase of almost 110 million hours over 2009. Moreover, Generation X members more than doubled their volunteer rate between 1989 and the present day, from 12.3 percent in 1989 to 29.2 percent in 2010.

This ties back into what researchers are seeing across the “volunteer lifecycle”—the arc of civic involvement that tends to increase as citizens feel a deeper connection to their communities through personal networks, their workplace, and their children’s schools.

The Blogunteer: In what ways do people tend to give back the most (money, in kind donations, or giving their time)?

Robert Velasco: The top four service activities we saw nationally were fundraising (26.5%); food collection, preparation, and distribution (23.5%); general labor or transportation (20.3%); and tutoring or teaching (18.5%). The full report is available online at VolunteeringInAmerica.gov so you can learn more about volunteering trends for your city, state, region, age group, and gender.

 

The Blogunteer: Did the study dig into what motivates individuals to volunteer?

Robert Velasco: Although this particular report doesn’t ask what motivates individuals to volunteer, other research has found that a big part of the answer is incredibly simple: People want their service to have an impact, to be meaningful, to make a difference.  We have also learned that volunteering is less a matter of how much time you have, but how you choose to spend your time.  Working mothers, for example, have the highest volunteer rates.   Finally, people volunteer when they are asked – by their friends, family, or coworkers – so social networks are an important driver of volunteer rates.

The Blogunteer: What is the most surprising finding from the study?

Robert Velasco: In addition to the finding about the increase in volunteer rates by Generation X, the research also found interesting patterns about volunteering by older adults.  The peak years for volunteering generally tend to occur between the mid-thirties to early forties. The volunteer rate then declines as volunteers grow older, but the decline in volunteer rates in older adulthood has become less severe over time. Some researchers believe this reflects the fact that more Americans are staying healthier longer and that volunteering has become a more recognized strategy for staying healthy in older adulthood. This reflects a larger idea about service – that service give back as much to the volunteer as it does to the direct beneficiary. Volunteers hone their skills, connect to their communities, make friends, and experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from serving others.

The Blogunteer: Any other information you would like to share with The Blogunteer?

Robert Velasco: There is no set profile of a volunteer. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, whether you like computers or art or the outdoors or cooking, whether you are 12 or 80, whether you have an hour per month or hours per day to volunteer, there is a service opportunity that is right for you. I ask everyone to go to Serve.gov, type in your zip code, and see how you can volunteer in your community. Thank you.

Robert Velasco, II, was designated Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)by President Obama on May 27, 2011. CNCS is the federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in results-driven service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Other

 

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Sweet Dreams for Kids

I have only spent the night in a hospital twice – one time for the birth of each of my children.  The pajamas that they provided were not comfortable – I prefer a stretchy pajama that moves with me as I toss and turn in the night.  Today’s organization understands that hospital pajamas are not just uncomfortable, but they are also a sign of sickness.

Sweet Dreams for Kids is a non-profit organization started in 2008 by the Berezovsky family.  They are based in Minneapolis, Minnesota with a mission collect and donate new, cute, cozy, and comfortable sleepwear to children in the hospital.  According to Wendy Berezovsky, “I started Sweet Dreams for Kids, after my youngest, who is now eight years old, was born with cancer.  I knew I wanted to do something to help bring a little bit of comfort to other families going through difficult medical situations.”

So, why pajamas?  When Wendy was in the hospital’s oncology floor with her youngest child, she had time to think.  She felt a need to do something good, something to put a smile on the faces of the kids there.  When I asked about the founding of the organization Wendy told me, “Every time I looked at my little girl in those hospital pajamas, it was that constant reminder that she was sick.  It is an unbelievable change when you put cute, cozy, and comfortable pajamas on kids in the hospital; the difference is amazing.  Unfortunately, it does not make their tough medical situation go away, but my hope is it makes them feel a little bit more like every other kid.  Kids at home are tucked in bed with pajamas that they pick out, and I believe kids in the hospital should be able to do that as well.”

Sweet Dreams for Kids

The Berezovsky family held their first pajama party in December 2008 at their children’s school.  Wendy stated, “It is so amazing to see your own kids and their friends so excited about helping other kids.”  Since that first party, they have donated over 10,000 pairs of pajamas to hospitals locally and around the United States as of August 2013.    The family wants kids to feel the comfort of home, even when they are in the hospital.  They hope to bring a little extra smile to the children and hope it makes a difference in their recovery.

During one visit to a hospital to drop off a donation, Wendy heard a little girl screaming.  In the room, she saw the girl’s mom and a nurse right by her bed.  When they explained that Wendy was bringing her a new pair of pajamas, the girl stopped crying and calmed immediately.  Wendy says she gets so happy when she walks into her basement and sees it filled with pajamas ready to deliver.  She smiles knowing that each pair of pajamas means one child in the hospital will hopefully be smiling a little more.

Sweet Dreams for Kids collects new pajamas for kids from birth to teenagers.  They have a vision to fill every children’s hospital with pajamas for kids to choose from.  Volunteer opportunities include hosting a pajama party, assisting with pajama sorting, calling businesses and schools and fundraising.

You can learn more about Sweet Dreams for Kids on their website, sweetdreamsforkids.org or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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