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

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spare Change with a Huge Impact

I've noticed that even though we decided on supporting only 12 charities this year, we've been donating to quite a few more with barely a second thought.

For instance, at the McDonald's, we gave our spare change to the Ronald McDonald House Charities at the drive-thru window. At the Food Lion, while shopping for groceries, we gave $1.00 to their Shop & Care program benefitting Easter Seals UCP (United Cerebal Palsy) in North Carolina. We stopped in at AC Moore and donated a buck towards their Easter Seals Act for Autism project. My daughter's school had a fundraiser for the Childood Leukemia Foundation. We also saved our boxtops for Boxtops for Education PTA fundraiser.

In 2009, Ronald McDonald House Charities raised over $18 million from the spare change boxes on their countertops. Last year, Food Lion raised over 3 million dollars in four short weeks through the Shop & Care program. Boxtops for Education has raised over 320 million dollars for schools - nine million in our state of North Carolina alone.

Small change CAN really make a difference! Literally, the coins in your car, together with the millions of other coins in millions of other cars, can help change the world and make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many. So, don't pass up the opportunity to give a little spare change to those boxes on store countertops and know that you have a hand in something great!

Friday, May 14, 2010

April Charity Selected (finally.)

Life can sometimes get in the way, even when making an important decision like selecting a deserving charitable organization! About a week into May, we realized that we still had not chosen our April charity. But it just so happened that a local networking organization that regularly supports philanthropy held an event. The charity they selected was such an inspiration that we could not resist.

TweetDivas is a group of women in the Triangle Region of North Carolina who use the successful social media service, Twitter. The group meets every month while giving back to the community at the same time. Some of the organzations that have been supported by TweetDivas include Horne United Methodist, a local church that supported efforts in Haiti, the Women's Center of Wake County, helping homeless women with children, and the Kramden Institute, providing computers to students in need.

At the most recent meeting, the TweetDivas chose to support The Helene Foundation. This invaluable organization provides support and comfort to mothers and their families as the women undergo cancer treatment. They assist with purchasing food, provide transportation and offer childcare so that the mother can focus on her treatment and recovery. Of course, family support of this kind is dear to our hearts and we are happy to provide a little additional help to such a mission.

We are proud to have selected The Helene Foundation as our April Charity of the Month!
Also, check out this TweetDivas video to which I contributed on behalf of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

March Charity Selected!

Ignite Raleigh is a series of interesting, unusual and inspiring 5-minute presentations made by local professionals, techies and folks from all walks of life crammed together in one 3 hour event. We attended the most recent gathering that was free but they asked that everyone make a contribution to, an online charity that connects donors to classrooms in need.

When our family sat down to discuss our charitable options for this month, of course, was one of them. We considered health organizations like Operation Smile, humanitarian agencies like the Salvation Army, groups like the SPCA of Wake County and other global poverty organizations like The Hunger Project.

We decided to take a closer look at DonorsChoose and found one high poverty classroom in particular that was looking for science kits. The teacher shared that "We are a rural Title I school in North Carolina. 97% of our students receive free or reduced lunch on a daily basis. Many of them do not have televisions, take vacations or even have a chance to leave this town. I want to bring the world to their fingertips through these experiments and realistic pictures." That bit of information sealed the deal.

Our charity for the month of March is We've selected Ms. B's Classroom in North Carolina and chose her project "Bringing Science Vocabulary to Life" for the purchase of science kits.

Talk about designating your gift! That is one very specific contribution and we are so happy to help!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Donate Without Spending a Dime

Stick to your budget and still support great organizations all over the world. In fact, these suggestions don't require a dime... just a little time and coordination!

"Click to Give" websites use advertising money to fund charities. Through, you can choose your favorite: hunger, breast cancer, child health, animal rescue, rainforest or literacy! Just a click a day will support some very worthy causes!

If you want something a little more challenging, try Simply answer trivia or vocabulary questions. For every answer you get right, sponsors donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme. Learn art, history, math or a foreign language!

How about donating to your favorite cause while surfing the web? and will donate every time you use their search engine. Select your charity and browse away!

Have furniture or clothing to donate, but no time to drive to the nearest thrift store or church? Call for a pickup from Vietnam Veterans of America. Log on, schedule time and leave your items by the street. Now that's convenient!

New Eyes for the Needy will take your old eyeglasses and redistribute them to poor children and adults in the US and in developing nations worldwide.

What to do with all those old cell phones? Donate them to a good cause, of course, and there are plenty out there. Two national organizations make it easy: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Tired of making hair appointments? Take a hiatus for a good cause. Grow your hair and give to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs to kids with cancer and other medical long-term hair loss.

If you're not squeamish about needles, donate blood through the American Red Cross. Only 3 out of 100 Americans donate blood and the need is tremendous.

Hop on board and help make a difference!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

February Charity Selected

Several weeks ago, we had a pretty good selection of organizations for our charity project: animal shelters, wildlife protection, childrens agencies, all sorts of noble and worthy entities. We had a fairly good idea of who we were going to support.

That was, until the Haitian Disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people are helping in any way they can - either by funding, clothing and medical collections, or volunteering. It occured to us that millions of dollars are providing food, water, and medicine. But, who is passing out the food, who is driving to remote areas to supply water, who is administering the medicines?

That's why this month, we chose to support International Relief Teams. IRT is "an international relief organization dedicated to organizing volunteer teams to provide medical and non-medical assistance to victims of disaster and profound poverty worldwide." Within days of the earthquake, they sent a team of ER physicians to work at the general hospital, they shipped over 1,200 family tents, they airlifted 100,000 meals of shelf-stable food and sent $160,000 in medicines & medical supplies. They are a 23 year old organization and a 4-star Charity Navigator agency. They also have some inspiring stories and photos on the IRT Facebook Page.

We're very happy to know that our small donation will help such incredible and necessary efforts. Congratulations to International Relief Teams: our February Charity of the Month!

Want to learn more about IRT and their efforts in Haiti? Watch this incredible video of IRT volunteer Colleen Buono of MD providing medical attention to a boy pulled from the rubble of a collapsed home after 4 days - inspiring!

To learn more about making your own donation to IRT, visit the donation page of their website. To learn more about other organizations providing relief in Haiti, view this article on CNN with a list of worthy causes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Small Gifts from Many Make a Huge Difference

In a world filled with dire need and tens of thousands of charitable organizations out there to help, making a decision of which one to support can be overwhelming. Even though I work for a local charity, deciding who to help and when is a daunting task. So daunting, in fact, that most of the time, our family just didn't give at all.

I recently picked up a book called "Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World" by Wendy Smith. I was relieved to discover that I wasn 't the only one who had the heart to help but didn't feel that my small contributions would make a real difference.

Wendy has a wonderful way of breaking down the numbers of us so called "small donors." Remember the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004? Of the $6.2 billion in world-wide aid, individual US citizens contributed a shocking $2.78 billion... and the median donation was $50.00.

Ever heard of the March of Dimes? In 1938, President Roosevelt, a polio victim, called for the public to send just one dime to the White House to help fight polio, which affected tens of thousands of children at the time. In the first year, $238,000 in dimes were sent by ordinary citizens. The dimes continued to arrive over the years as cases of polio decreased until the disease was eradicated in 1979. The March of Dimes now focuses on the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality.

Wendy gives more examples of collective giving - inspirational stories that will bring tears to your eyes. It was this book that gave me the idea for our 12 Charities of Christmas Project. Setting up a structured giving program where we choose only one or two charities each month eases the overwhelming feeling of who to support and when. It also keeps the conversation going throughout the year of new organizations that come to our attention and which ones we feel strongly about.

In addition, supporting a charity does not always have to be monetary. As we were packing up some of my daughters outgrown clothes today, she said "We can give these to Goodwill - that's supporting a charity, too!" There are volunteer opportunities at lots of worthwhile organizations and other non-traditional ways of giving such as using (you search, they give), (you shop, they give), eBay Giving Works (shop or sell to benefit charity), donating Lowe's Foods Greenpoints or Food Lion's Shop and Share Program (register your MVP card and they donate a portion of your grocery bill to your favorite charity.)

We don't all have to be the next Bill and Melinda Gates - in fact, it's us little guys in major numbers that make the real difference!

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

(Thanks again to Wendy Smith for all her amazing reasearch in for the book "Give A Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World". I highly recommend it to everyone with an interest in charitable giving!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

January Charities Selected!

In December of 2009, we received lots of charitable solicitations by mail. This was great because we pulled them all out and fanned them on the floor. We discussed supporting valuable national organizations like the Cleft Palate Foundation or Smile Train, the Salvation Army, the Hemophilia Foundation and our favorite local organizations like the SPCA or Carolina Tiger Rescue. We also discussed international organizations like Heifer International, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria and buildOn.

We ended up deciding to focus on national wildlife and conservation this month. There were two charities that we loved and couldn't pick just one - so we selected two!

The first is the National Parks Conservation Association. We love visiting national parks. In North Carolina, we've been to some breathtaking ones: The Blue Ridge Parkway, Cape Hatteras National Seasore, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. When we moved cross-country, we were lucky to have the chance to visit the Grand Canyon National Park and Arches National Park. The National Parks Conservation Association works to protect the wildlife in national parks as well as focusing on clean air initiatives, protection from commercial development and park safety.

The second is the National Wildlife Federation. My daughter is an animal lover, so when we discussed the habitat and safety of bears, wolves and eagles, she was all for it. I loved their Backyard Wildlife and conservation programs, Climate Crisis efforts and outreach methods to kids. Have you seen the NWF Expedition Ecotourism Trips? What a dream!

We felt great about our decisions and mailed the checks this morning!

By the way, you can follow both organizations on Twitter:
The National Parks Conservation Association account is
The National Wildlife Federation account is