simple ideas about how to give back to your community and to others, based on a book by Nicole Bouchard Boles "How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist

Gift Cards and Points

So I was thinking about all those points that we collect on our various cards, and about what happened to all those gift cards given at Christmas.
In this case you can donate any card with a residue balance and specify what charity the equivalent dollars will go to. Sounds interesting right? But an administrative nightmare!
There’s also a site I happened on in Canada called CardSwap, where you can sell your cards for about 85% of the value in cash. Then you could donate this money to your favourite charity. Or you could use the card to buy something your favourite charity needs (pet food, warm socks, groceries) or donate the card and let the charity decide what is most urgent. Cards can also be used for prizing or auctions if the charity holds an event.
Did you know you can also donate most of your air, fuel and loyalty points to various charities. Airmiles, Petro Points, and many more.
So dig out those cards you forgot about and do something useful before they expire!

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Do your part to reduce paper use

So many workplaces encounter huge paper waste, and the home office is not much different. In the chapter on ”Use your Trash” we learn about reducing our paper use.
Encourage a paper audit at work. Keep track for a few days and change habits and policies accordingly. Print double-sided, on thinner paper and recycle.
At home, pack your lunch and coffee in reusable containers. Opt for online billing and computer banking.
The recommended American site won’t let me in, so more ideas here:

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Knit for Good

So today’s post goes out to all of you who like to hibernate with a few needles and a ball of yarn. Sometimes it’s not what you knit, but the act of knitting that is therapeutic – at least it can be for me with crocheting.

Did you know there are so many folks out there who could benefit from your knitted creations – perfect or not?  At the hospital where i work i can tell you there is an army of ladies who keep our newborns warm with their knitted hats and booties.  Also I know that local shelters can always use scarves and socks to distribute.

Our book has several suggestions in the “use your talents” section, and they vary in scope from cancer patients to military personnel.

Baby Caps – www.warmupamerica.com  Also has an active Facebook page.  A good Canadian equivalent is www.blankets4canada.ca

Afghans – www.afghansforafghans.org  Has a current project for youth ending Feb 2012.

Hats and Scarves – http://www.hats4thehomeless.org/  Centred in NYC but there are likely hundreds of similar projects.

Chemo Caps http://www.headhuggers.org/  or use these patterns to donate to your local hospice or cancer care centre

Helmet Liners for Marines – No longer required “Knitting for Marines has been a very important program for our soldiers and many volunteers have lent their skills, time, money and energy to insuring that the helmet liners protect our troops. Citizen Support for America’s Military (Citizen SAM), Knitting for Marines partner organization, has recently been informed by its military contacts for the helmet liners that the military has begun issuing its own helmet liners made of a special wicking material as its standard. They will no longer be allowed to accept the liners you have so lovingly made. Thank you all for making it possible for us to have shipped over 4,000 liners out to our men and women in uniform in the three years of the program.” http://www.usmcmuseum.com/SupportMarines.asp

Blankets for Deployed Daddies –  http://blanketsfordeployeddaddies.com/ The immediate need here is questionable, no recent posts.  Seems that the financial burden of shipping the blankets is an issue, though the bonding idea is remarkable.

Hurricane Blankets –  http://www.blanketsforthegulf.com/ No recent updates visible here, but partnering site Close Knit Hugs where you can send knit squares for piecing http://www.facebook.com/pages/CLOSE-KNIT-HUGS/117541534946379?ref=sgm is very active.

Project Linus – https://sites.google.com/site/projectlinuscanada/ American based but now in Canada, even local chapters like Stratford and Kitchener…. “There are over 400 chapters of Project Linus and more than 300,000 blankets donated! Project Linus has a non-profit status and is unique by being run 100% by caring volunteers. Communities coming together to provide security through blankets to local children undergoing difficult situations, especially aiming toward pediatric cancer patients.”

So before you dive into the yarn cupboard and get creative, it pays to do a little research on where you want to direct your energy. Most items have specific materials (ie. No Acrylics) or patterns required, so know what you should be aware of before you start.  Nonetheless, its winter (sort of) and what better way to use your talent for good, and enjoy a sense of quiet accomplishment when casting off!

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Helping Furry pals

There are a lot of creative ways to help out a local animal shelter. Of course you can donate items like pet food or litter, but the very best way would be to volunteer some time to spend loving an animal. A very practical offering if you love pets but your schedule or lodging doesn’t allow you to own one.
In the book, our author suggests we can donate used carpet, old linens, stuffed toys, or baking trays to assist with animal care. Unfortunately I inquired at the KW Humane Society and the don’t accept any of these items. Here is a list of new items they do accept: http://www.kwhumane.com/index.php/get-involved/donate/53-our-wish-list

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Old shoes for new Sport

So this one is a little disappointing – so far there doesnt seem to a great way for Ontarians to contribute – even though we throw away millions of athletic shoes.

Basically, Nike runs facilities in the US and Belgium that grind old athletic shoes into new sports surfaces. http://www.nikereuseashoe.com

Currently the only Nike stores in Canada offering this “shoe dropoff” are in Vancouver.  You can visit the site and download a mailing label to ship your shoes, but this seems counterproductive if you consider the energy to transport those shoes over the border!!

So for now, take your shoes to Goodwill or Value Village or leave them curbside on specific days for the Diabetes Assoc.

ps. I did email a local university athletics association to see if they would look into opening a drop off location – see if anyone bites.worn out shoes


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A new twist on a Kid’s Birthday Party

A photographer said to me today that January is ‘birthday party month’ so i thought it appropriate to talk about ECHOage.com.  Most kids these days have far too many toys,so why not turn the birthday party gifting into something meaningful AND fun?  This site allows you and your child to select a charity to recieve funds, and send out invitations.  Guests RSVP and select a gift amount at the same time, and ECHOage splits the donation, sending the birthday parents half to buy the child one special gift, and the other half goes to the chosen charity (many Canadian ones to choose from).

Now the concept isn’t bad, especially for the budding young philanthropist, but i would suggest that many kids, when given the choice, are willing to donate their entire gifts to the cause. I would also encourage you to check out your local hospital, animal shelter or charity – they will offer you a similar experience, complete with invitations and a tour if you like, and they won’t charge you a 15% admin fee (like ECHOage) – i found that steep.  Even canadahelps.org keeps it under 5% and your child could start a GIVING PAGE for the occasion.  A local charity can either accept a cash donation, or provide you a list of items (toys or supplies) that would be greatly appreciated.

Whatever you choose, this can be a rewarding experience for your child and their friends, as well as those who the donations will benefit.

If you do try out ECHOage, give me a shout back and share your experience!Image

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This year, consider the gifts you have to share

bookLast year i happened upon a book titled ” How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist” and it was an interesting read.  This book highlights 330 ways to ‘use what you have, not what you earn’ to contribute to a better community.  This idea resonated with me. With a husband in school and some outstanding debts, i don’t have the financial ability to contribute in the way that I would like to, and i expect there are many others out there for whom this is the reality.

I work as a healthcare fundraiser and i see the benefit of generosity each day. So this book was a great wealth of ideas on how to give in other ways.  One of the ways i do give, is of my time, as a volunteer.  But sometimes we are looking for small, less structured ways of contributing.

I found that many people did exactly that during the holiday season – stuffing a stocking, dropping clothes off at a shelter or shoveling a neighbour’s drive.  But what about the rest of the year??  Sometimes life gets busy and we forget that this kind of random acts would be appreciated even more, at other times of the year.

So back to the book – a wealth of information.  But i found some of the information was very ‘American’ with no real Canadian alternative.  And of course, a few ideas were not really for just anyone, and many things were aimed at families.

So the book has 330 ideas, and i figure since it is the 7th of January, this is a good time to begin my commentary.  Feel free to respond with your own ideas!

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I decided to tackle the book in more of a random fashion, rather than in order. Especially since the first item was about guerrilla gardening and it is January!

So freecycle.org is todays way of giving back. Join others who have items to give away and post yours. Kind of an online Value Village, or Kijiji without an exchange of funds. keep more goods out of landfill and help others find what they need.
Wow, 2354 active users in Kitchener group. Let me know about your experience!

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