Saturday, March 3, 2012

Historic Preservation - Our Next Charity Selection!

There is nothing more delightful for our family than spending an afternoon outdoors.  We love taking walks in the woods and visiting community parks.  Several years ago, we spotted a historic park just off the highway.  What made this location special was that our first visit was an exploration of preserved buildings, beautiful gardens, lakes, trails and small museums.

This delightful location was none other than Historic Oak View County Park.  A restored 19th century farmstead, Historic Oak View features three museums: one at the main home with temporary exhibits, a cotton museum at the cotton gin house, and a farm history center.  There is a pecan grove, cotton field, gazebo and a water tower.

On our first visit many years ago, our daughter (4 years old at the time) had a fine time pretending to cook in the big stone fireplace at the plank kitchen.  She'd open the door, invite us in, show us her soup and push us out so we could do it all over again.  I swear we "visited" about 15 times in a row.

That day may have started her fascination with all things old - antique typewriters, homemade wax candles, feather pens with ink pots, even the cotton gin we saw at Oak View.  Sometimes the digital age just can't provide the same tactile experience of those simple machines of yore.

Historic preservation is so important to us.  Learning about our history helps provide a thread to our past and tells the story of our ancestors.  We decided to support a local organization that had a personal impace, therefore, our Charity of the Month is the Historic Oak View Park!

Historic Oak View is part of the "Raleigh Heritage Trail" that includes several historic sites, museums and facilities.  Read more at

Donations to Historic Oak View can be mailed to:
Oak View
4028 Carya Drive
Raleigh, NC 27610

Photos of our visits to Oak View Park...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Gifts With An Impact

I love receiving a gift that has an extended reach and makes an impact in our communities. I've noticed this year in particular that more people have been posting gift ideas that benefit charity and was thrilled to see that more folks are looking to extend the impact of their giving.

Many artists and crafters have chosen to partner with charities by allowing a portion of the sale proceeds to benefit the organizations. It's always interesting to me to see which charities they choose. Not only does the charity benefit monetarily, but the additional exposure is tremendously beneficial to them.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of my cherished Christmas gifts benefits a worthy cause. My beautiful little Santa figurine created by folk artist, Jim Shore, supports The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's efforts of preservation, research, and educational programs for the world's largest living history museum in Williamsburg, VA. I'll be delighted to pull out that figurine every year and be reminded of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's fine efforts.

There are thousands of opportunities to purchase a gift that benefits a charitable organization. I follow a wonderful organization on facebook called Made By Survivors that fights human trafficking and slavery. Their beautiful fair trade jewelry items, handbags and gifts are made by survivors of slavery at shelters around the world, offering them sustainable income, dignity and a bright future.

For a fun and unique shopping experience, check out The mission of this clever establishment is to "help make the world suck less by selling you the geeky things you love and giving all the profits to good causes." Carrying t-shirts, books, posters and more, proceeds benefit organizations such as Mercy Corps, SPCA, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Nature Conservancy and smaller literacy, housing and cancer organizations.

Another unique organization is called Baking for Good. They sell "irresistible cookie gifts" that benefit the charity of your choice.

Of course, the World Wildlife Fund has all those cute little stuffed animals that you can adopt and give as gifts. Through Heifer International you can give the gift of chicks, goats, sheep and the like to families in struggling countries. And, St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital has lots of unique gifts for kids.

Selecting an item that benefits a worthy cause shows a heightened level of thoughtfulness and compassion. Your recipient is sure to be pleased with the gift and the charity selected will undoubtedly be grateful for the support.

Happy 2012 giving!

Addendum: Right after I posted this, I received a tip from The Hunger Site about fair trade gifts.  You can also link to stores benefiting breast cancer, animals, veterans, autism, child health, literacy and the rain forest!  Cute stuff, too!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cookies for Troops

As you may have noticed, there are lots of ways to support our troops overseas. Some of my favorite ones include sending a letter through A Million Thanks, sending care packages through Operation Gratitude, event sending guitars through Guitars for Troops! Incredible efforts like Soldiers' Angels allow people to participate in projects to supply handmade blankets, laptops, canes, and homemade treats.

My daughter is a Girl Scout and every year we become deeply involved in "cookie season": the 3 months out of the year when Girl Scout cookies are available and girls everywhere (and their moms) go beserk selling cookies to benefit their troop.

Even though we become engrossed in door-to-door sales and managing cookie tables outside stores, there is one aspect of cookies sales that I just love: Operation Cookie Drop.

Operation Cookie Drop, also known as OCD (which is about how I feel during cookie season...), is a program where folks can purchase boxes of cookies for our troops overseas. In our region, all cookies are shipped out from Fort Bragg.

One of my favorite moments during cookie sale season happened 2 years ago. While selling cookies in our neighborhood, one fellow wasn't keen on buying. My daughter explained Operation Cookie Drop and his eyes lit up. His son in Afganistan had received cookies a few years prior. He said it was such a boost for their troop and lifted their spirits. He was happy to support a program that had direct benefits for the ones he loved.

So, it goes without saying that our March Charity of the Month is Operation Cookie Drop! A great way to support both the Girl Scouts and our troops overseas.

To see photos of cookies being shipped out, visit Girl Scouts of NC Coastal Pines.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pretty In Pink...

My heart nearly broke when my friends voice quavered and her eyes filled with tears: "I have to have surgery next week... a mastectomy. They found 3 pea-sized lumps at my last mammogram. It was very sudden, but they can get me in right away."

I hardly had time to process the news. She'd mentioned some strange tests coming back from her doctor but who could have imagined such shocking results. Strangely enough, only a few weeks earlier, a neighbor of ours had her second mastectomy. Then, my twitter friend announced that she was participating in a 39 Mile Walk for breast cancer (yes, 39 miles!) She posted a touching story of several friends of hers who are also battling the terrible disease.

With the subject of breast cancer swirling around our home, we decided we wanted to make our February gift to a local cancer organization, but we didn't know too much about which ones served this area. To my delightful surprise, my local networking group, the Tweet Divas, announced that our New Year's gathering would support a vital breast cancer organization serving North Carolina: The Pretty In Pink Foundation.

A vibrant and articulate Pretty In Pink Foundation representative, Bernadette, attended our luncheon and talked about their work. The agency provides funding to women who are not able to pay their medical bills when diagnosed with breast cancer. The website told of one woman who was freshly divorced and was no longer on her husbands insurance policy. Some women have insurance but not enough to cover all the additional expenses, including the recovery time that can often last for months.

Bernadette told the story of many women who discover there is no way they can ever pay the bills (that often skyrocket above $100,000), so they don't tell their families about their condition. The cancer spreads, taking their lives. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women in North Carolina are dying from a disease for which they could have received treatment.

We knew immediately that we had to choose the Pretty in Pink Foundation as our charity of the month for February. In addition, we decided to make the gift in honor of our friend and in honor of all the courageous women who, right now, at this second, are battling this ferocious disease.

Bernadette passed out a bag of pink ribbons in delightful patterns for the TweetDivas. I wear mine with pride.

View the Pretty In Pink Facebook Page
Follow them on Twitter @PrettyInPinkNC

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Angels in our Midst

When my daughter was born, I strived to do everything right. It was my mission to be the best mother possible to this precious, new little life. From regular feedings, to scheduled naps, fresh air and playtime, we make sure to give our daughter the best start possible.

It saddens me to think there are mothers in this world that can't give their children the best that life has to offer: living in huts with dirt floors, no fresh water for miles... no protien rich foods, no vegetables, no clean bottles or diapers. I'm sure some of them would be shocked by our sanitation rituals for every little thing that comes into arms reach of our babies.

I didn't start thinking of any of this until we learned about an organization called Vitamin Angels. This agency provides critcal vitamins to babies and young children to help reduce mortality rates, improve young immune systems and boost healthy development.

Amazingly, 25 cents will provide two doses of vitamin A and antiparasitics - enough needed for one year... enough needed to reduce the morality rate in children under five by 23%. As little as 25 cents can make a huge difference in the life of a child!

In 2010 alone, Vitamin Angels has reached over 24 million children! Their website shows the amazing breakdown in countries worldwide: 30,000 in Afghanistan, 45,000 in Ghana, 940,000 in India, and 1.4 million in Haiti, to name just a few. Imagine the millions of mothers that have been saved the tragic sorrow of losing a child to disease and infection because of this inspiring organization.

Their programs are incredible: Operation 20/20 is a worldwide vitamin A campaign and Thrive to Five "gives children under five the vital first step to excel physically and cognitively, rather than simply survive their key developmental years."

As such, we are proud to choose Vitamin Angels as our January Charity of the Month. What a wonderful way to kick off the New Year!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Does this ever happen to you:

You come up with a great idea and spend lots of time working to perfect and maintain it only to have other things begin to take priority. Before you know it, your great idea ends up on the backburner with all the other great ideas: piling up like a mountain of great ideas that go nowhere.

Unfortunately, this happened with our dear 12 Charities of Christmas Project last year. Life took over and our poor project suffered. As such, we only ended up with 6 out of 12 charities for 2010.

Not that the project was forgotten - it ended up more in the back of our minds as a soft voice that kept repreating "hello, what about me? - I need attention..."

Of course, the New Year always brings a period of reflection and reprioritization. It also helped that I read a great article in the September 2010 issue of ODE Magazine called "Giving is Getting" that reminded us that the best way to be happy is to make others happy.

So, in our long list of things to do this year, re-launching the 12 Charities of Christmas project shot to the top. We have rededicated and recommited ourselves to make sure that 2011 is full of fantastic charities that truly make a difference in our world and in our communities.

We're in the process of choosing our charity for January and it will be an exciting selection. Stay tuned! ...and Happy New Year! We truly hope that some of your great ideas will flourish this year.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

May & June Charities - For the Birds...

Several weeks ago, we went on a camping trip with some friends to Falls Lake State Recreation Park. The shaded spot we chose was right on the water, surrounded by tall pines and maples with birds chirping and fish splashing in the lake. The park offered a free migratory bird program and we had the chance to wander along the beach and through the forests spotting ospreys, eagles, hawks, songbirds and gulls. It was fascinating to learn about their migration patterns and seasonal activities.

So, having just been so absorbed in the lives of birds and blissfully entrenched in natural environs, it's been more than disturbing for us to hear about the terrible conditions of wildlife habitats in the Gulf due to the BP Oil Spill. Recently, we caught a story on NPR about the plight of the brown pelicans on the nesting islands near Grand Isle Louisiana. One biologist, who has been helping to catch the birds so that they can be cleaned and released off the coast of Florida, was choking back tears while she was interviewed; which made me choke back tears of course. A few simple Google searches will bring up photos that will break your heart.

As we've been researching the oil spill online, it's heartwarming to see all the public response to helping the wildlife in the Gulf: kids holding lemonade stands fundraisers and teens organizing garage sales. I was especially intrigued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Wildlife Triage Center through which hundreds of birds have been processed.

Of course, there are lots of invaluable charities that are helping these habitats and all of them are worthy organizations doing great work. We decided that we not only wanted to help birds, but also help the other natural resources in the gulf. So, for the months of May & June, we have selected The Audubon Society and The Envronmental Defense Fund.

The Audubon Society responded to the oil spill almost immediately, sending volunteers from the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Mississippi River Initiative. They opened a volunteer response center in Mississippi for the rescue of birds and are working on long-term recovery efforts. Thousands of volunteers are still in the trenches, making nets and cages to help.

The Environmental Defense Fund is not only helping on the ground with recovery efforts, but they are also restoring the coast, establishing clean-energy regulations, and establishing scientific research to track the ongoing impact of oil on the environment. We appreciate and applaud this multi-faceted approach to the disaster.

Learn more about these two tremendous organizations! You can follow the Environmental Defense Fund on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund and the Audubon Society @audubonsociety.

Additional Resources:
BP Oil Gulf Response Home Page
Deepwater Horizon Response Website