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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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Family-to-Family

Family-to-Family

Many families look for ways that they can give as a family.  Giving provides teachable moments for children to learn about generosity and gratefulness.  I wrote about one organization called Doing Good Together that offers many suggestions.  Today’s organization provides direct connections between families who wish to give and families that have a need.

In the fall of 2002, the New York Times ran a series of articles on poverty in the United States.  One article featured stories of poverty from Pembroke, Illinois where “some still live in crumbling shacks with caked-dirt floors and no running water.”  The article went on with other staggering statistics such as 98% of their school children qualify for free lunch and the average per capita income was less than half the national average.

Pam Koner, a mom and entrepreneur living in Westchester, New York, read that article and felt compelled to help.  She contacted an outreach worker in Pembroke to share her idea of linking families she knew with the neediest families in Pembroke.  She was given the names of seventeen families and then convinced sixteen friends and neighbors to help.  They began sending monthly boxes of food and letters – one family linked to another family.  The seventeen families quickly grew to 60 families, then after a flurry of media attention, they grew to 900 families linked across the United States.  The Family-to-Family organization was born.

They currently help approximately 2,000 moms, dads and kids in 22 communities across the United States.  Families sponsored through the program continue to be identified by local outreach partners who have specific knowledge of the needs of families in their communities.

Learn about the founding of Family-to-Family directly from founder Pam Koner in the following video:

The mission of Family-to-Family is to alleviate suffering, one American family at a time.  They started by providing groceries to supply seven dinner type meals for a family of five, but have expanded to help families in need in a variety of ways including sponsoring meals for families, a variety of literacy projects, donating seeds to a family to grow their own garden, and much more.

Learn about a recent addition to their program offerings where children in need are enabled to help other children in need to learn how it feels to give to others in the video below.

 

How can you help?

Family-to-Family offers a variety of opportunities to get involved.

  • You can sponsor a family.  They have multiple options on their website including packing and shipping your own sponsorship or sponsoring a family though an online donation.
  • Give a child in need a birthday party including a gift, decorations, and a cake through the Birthday Giving Project.
  • Give the gift of books through their Books for Life or One Book at a Time program.
  • Help a family build their own garden by donating seeds to one of the Family-to-Family community partners.
  • Help children with less learn how it feels to give by supporting the Giving Works program.
  • Monetary donations can be made on their website.  These donations help purchase food for families who are not currently sponsored, expand to additional communities, or general operating expenses.
  • Explore the Family-to-Family website to find additional opportunities to help.
  • You can also watch this video to see how you can help.
  • You can also help by spreading the word.  You can share this post using the share buttons below to encourage others to make a difference.

You can learn more about Family-to-Family on their website, family-to-family.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Operation Paperback

Operation Paperback

I have always enjoyed reading.  I take advantage of borrowing books from the library and I am a sucker for a used book sale.  Today’s organization is helping provide books to those in the military who are deployed far from libraries and book sales.

In 1999, Chief Master Sergeant Rick Honeywell was deployed to a base in the Middle East without access to much in the way of relaxation or entertainment.  Dan M. Bowers, Rick’s father-in-law, decided to help him out.  He sent over 800 paperback books to Rick, creating the first Operation Paperback library overseas.  Rick’s wife, Chrissy Honeywell, thought this was a one-time occurrence, but her dad had a larger mission in mind.  Dan put stickers in the books to let the troops know how to write and request books.  He also started looking for other locations which needed books.  This was the founding of Operation Paperback.

The mission of Operation Paperback is to provide reading material to any military who requests it.  Their original mission was to support deployed troops who were in locations without access to reading material or other entertainment, but today many overseas locations have libraries of paperback books due to the 14 years of help from volunteers.  So, their mission has been expanded to reach veterans hospitals as well as individual veterans and military families in the United States and abroad.

The Operation Paperback is incorporated in Pennsylvania and their administrative location is in the Boston area, but they have individual and group volunteers spread across the United States.

Each volunteer or group of volunteers collects, labels, packs and sends their books directly to a troops, veterans, or military families.  Many thank you notes are sent directly back from the military directly to the volunteers.  This personal connection is what makes Operation Paperback unique according to current administrator, Chrissy Honeywell.  You can see examples of the thank you notes sent from troops on their website.

In 2012, Operation Paperback had 16,000 volunteers and sent 20,000 books per month.  Since their founding in 1999, volunteers have shipped almost two million books to troops, veterans, and military families.  Occasionally, the organization sends special requests to their volunteers.  For the past several months, they have been supporting a Behavioral Health Unit in a veteran’s hospital with self-help books and other personal care items.  This special project has helped young warriors dealing with post-traumatic stress and other personal issues.

How can you help? 

  • Anyone can participate by becoming a volunteer shipper.  Once you have registered with Operation Paperback, you can use their website to determine who could use the books you have.  Then you label and pack the books, include a letter and ship the box.  You can send a single shipment or several, it is up to you.  Learn more and sign up here.
  • You can also make monetary donations to help support the program including website costs and special requests.  Learn more and make a donation on their website.
  • You can also help by spreading the word.  Simply share this blog post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. using the options at the bottom of the post.

To learn more about Operation Paperback, please visit their website operationpaperback.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Navigating for Non Profits

Navigating for Non Profits

I was recently at an event where someone asked the question “what is on your bucket list” as an icebreaker question.  Most questions around the table were travel related.  The founders of today’s organization found a way to put together travel and giving.

Maggie and Jenna served two terms with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community (NCCC) where they fell in love with giving back to communities and traveling.  In NCCC you travel with a team every two months supporting existing nonprofits.  This experience really made Maggie and Jenna understand how beautiful America is and gave them both a passion for seeing it all.  However, they were not ready to stop volunteering as their NCCC program came to a close, so they began Navigating for Non Profits.

After their NCCC experience, Jenna was planning to move to Tennessee, had a car, and wanted a road trip partner.  Maggie was planning to head to North Carolina and both of them were hoping to get involved with a nonprofit to begin their careers.  Their idea started as offering to volunteer in State and National Parks in exchange for a free campsite, but a light bulb moment turned it into something bigger.  They decided they could work for all kinds of nonprofits, picked the name Navigating for Nonprofits, and applied for and received their 501c3 status.

As they planned their itinerary they considered several factors: they wanted to see unique places, visit friends, have reasonable drive times, and work for a variety of nonprofits.  They took some suggestions from people about nonprofits and cities and then spent some time mapping out their trip.  At this point, their itinerary is locked down and their trip is underway, but they are still planning some of the volunteer events in the cities they are visiting.  Jenna told me that they left San Francisco “with a dream two and a half months ago and we are still living it.  We get excited every time someone comes out and volunteers for the first time…We have seen both coasts and the Great Lakes.  We have met truly inspiring people.  This road trip has been incredible.”

They are keeping a page of their achievements of their road trip.  At this point they have recruited over 140 volunteers and given over 600 hours to 34 nonprofits.

Their journey is scheduled to come to an end in mid-December and then a whole new journey will begin.  After this trip, they have plans to help others plan volunteering road trips.

How can you help?

  • If you see your city on their itinerary, you can volunteer with them or reach out to visit with them as they see the sights.
  • You can also donate to their trip on their website.  Donations help pay for gas and their $9 a day food budget.
  • You can also spread the word about their trip.  The more people that hear about their trip, the more people will come out and get involved in the communities they visit.
  • Maggie and Jenna also encourage everyone to volunteer.  Just search the Internet for volunteer opportunities, grab some friends, and make a difference in your community.

You can learn more and follow their adventure on their website, navigatingfornonprofits.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Do Good Bus

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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World Book Night

World Book Night

Last spring, I joined two other members of my local Women of Today chapter to give books to random strangers.  We didn’t think of this on our own, there is an organization on a mission to celebrate reading by giving away books.

World Book Night United States is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  It was celebrated for the first time in the United States in 2012 and will now be an annual event.  World Book Night was first celebrated in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2011 as a way to encourage more adults to read.

Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go into their communities and hand out half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to adult light and non-readers.  In their first year in the US, 25,000 volunteer book givers handed out books in 5,800 towns and cities around America.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading to those who do not regularly do so.  But I learned firsthand that it is more than that.  It is about people, communities and connections.  It is about reaching out to others and touching lives through the sharing of stories.  Each person that received the books I helped hand out was so appreciative and happy.  We had several conversations about books and reading.

The rules to the program are simple: give away all the books you receive.  Each of the volunteer book givers did things in their own way.  One volunteer, Suzie, said she went back to the community center where they gave out the book to have a potluck dinner and great conversations about the book.  Another volunteer, Colleen, walked back to where she had been handing out books to see people already reading them.  Heather gave her books to a local correctional facility and received a packet of handwritten thank you letters, one of which mentioned that the book he received that night was the first book he had ever read to completion.  Yet another volunteer, Chris Cander, gave her books to youth at a shelter for the homeless and runaway teens and then wrote about it on her blog.

World Book Night US is made up of thousands of passionate book lovers in America: Volunteer book givers who share their time and energy, the participating booksellers and librarians who host events, the authors who waive their royalties, and the publishers who contribute to the production and distribution of the free World Book Night paperbacks across the country.

How can you get involved?

  • The signup for the 2013 event recently opened.  First, review the list of books for 2013, then read the guidelines for the program and apply.  You need to apply by January.  In February you will learn if you will receive books to hand out on April 23.
  • You can also spread the work about the program though social media or sharing it with your community.
  • The organization also appreciates financial donations or information about foundations or groups that might be interested in supporting them.

You can learn more on the World Book Night US website, WorldBookNight.org.  If you have specific questions, you can e-mail them at April23@WorldBookNight.org.  You can also connect with them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads, and Instagram!

Related Post: Little Free Library

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Milk + Bookies

Milk + Bookies

I recently read a report on the Social Impact of Volunteering by the Points of Light Institute.  This report states that “individuals who volunteer at a young age are more likely to sustain their participation in later life.”  The report also outlines several positive effects on volunteers as individuals; they see an increase in their self-esteem, enhancement of various skills and capabilities, expanded career path opportunities, and better physical and mental health.  Today’s organization offers one easy way  to incorporate giving and service into

The mission of Milk + Bookies is to promote service learning and literacy promotion.  They are a nationwide charitable organization based in Los Angeles, California that inspires children to give back, using books as its currency.

In 2004, Meredith Alexander had one small child and wanted her family time to involve something meaningful from time to time.  It was difficult to find community service projects or fundraisers geared toward families.  She decided to invite all her friends with small children to a lovely children’s bookstore on a Sunday afternoon.  The children chose books to purchase and donate to a local low-income preschool.  She setup coloring tables to decorate bookplates for the kids to inscribe their selections.  When the line to checkout was 30 minutes long, she knew that she wasn’t the only parent looking for this kind of day with their children.

Milk + Bookies is now a 501c3 nonprofit.  They promote holding events for kids to donate books to their peers who do not have access to books of their own.  The organization combines the two essential and worthwhile efforts of literacy promotion and service learning.  The events plant a seed of giving into the young guests which spark feelings of importance, self-confidence, and the desire to give again.

In just three years since becoming a 501c3 nonprofit in 2009, they have raised almost 35,000 books and inspired nearly 9,000 kids to participate in giving back.

How can you help?

The program is designed so that anyone can host their own event.

  • For $30 you can buy a Bookies Box.  This toolkit provides you with “I donated” stickers, book plates, bookmarks, and balloons for your event.
  • There are also toolkits for birthday parties, class projects, and other types of events on the Milk + Bookies website.  The organization will help you find a local organization to donate to if you don’t already have a recipient in mind.
  • After you hold an event, fill out a short post-event form to share your experience and help the organization track their impact.
  • You can also donate and shop for other Milk + Bookies merchandise on their website.

You can learn more about Milk + Bookies on their website, www.milkandbookies.org or by watching the short video below.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Related Posts: Read Indeed, Adopt A Book, and Little Free Library

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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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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