As 2010 was starting, I decided to submit an article to the “Yummy Mummy Club” website. The editorial calendar called for pieces about giving back (for January) and that topic sparked my writing very quickly. It was the first time I was published somewhere and so I thought I’d continue with it. I’m expanding that original work since they had a word limit, I can elaborate on a few things and thus begin my new blog…
I don’t recall what prompted me to visit the children’s hospital near my college, but I did and I found out that I could volunteer there in the recreation therapy room on a weekly basis. The kids and their families were optimistic and strong in the face of chronic ailments. I continued to do volunteer service as I started my career and I found that it helped me to better balance the stress of a job with the more important challenges of life.
When I relocated to Chicago in 2002, I looked up the Stanford University alumni association. I found out that it had established a partnership with Chicago Public Schools and I ended up judging science fairs and history fairs at Curie Metro high school. We all seem to be strapped for time, especially those of us who juggle motherhood with careers. Finding extra hours (or minutes) in the day might be a tall order, but it is possible to make a difference in small ways. As I met those young students, and interacted with the faculty at the school, I saw that a few hours really helped them and I enjoyed the time spent there, too. It was not an on-going commitment but the one-day experience made an impact.
This past year I had the opportunity to help launch the corporate social responsibility program at our company. I got to do research on non-profits across the U.S. as we sought a partner of national scope. We decided to go with the Ronald McDonald House Charities (www.rmhc.org). It has been very gratifying to see how the relationship has blossomed across the country. On a personal level, I have enjoyed working with them and value my counterpart in the organization. But before we made that decision, I discovered so many worthwhile organizations I want to promote to others. A couple I’d like to share here:
DonorsChoose.org — Here’s how it works: public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. Requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit to violins for a school recital. Then, you browse project requests and give any amount to the one that makes your eye twinkle. Once a project reaches its funding goal, they deliver the materials to the school. You’ll get photos of your project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you’ll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students. You can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives millions. They call it “citizen philanthropy.”
First Book – if you are reading this right now, I’m guessing that you enjoy reading in general. The idea that children can be growing up without books to read made me sad. It shocked me, really. This organization’s mission is simple: First Book provides new books to children in need addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books. Now, nearly 20 years since its start, First Book has delivered more than 65 million books to programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada. Learn more at www.firstbook.org
Closer to home, I like Lamb’s Farm (http://www.lambsfarm.org/). It is an organization that empowers an extraordinary group of more than 250 people with developmental disabilities to lead personally fulfilling lives. As a result of the earthquake in Haiti, I also chose to personally support the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (www.clintonbushhaitifund.org). Back in California, a long-time favorite of mine for the past decade has been Project Open Hand (www.openhand.org). San-Francisco-based Project Open Hand provides home delivered meals, groceries and nutrition counseling to people living with HIV/AIDS.
As I look at the groups I gravitate toward, they typically cluster around helping people be self-sufficient and providing food or shelter. I have less time to devote to volunteering so I tend to give money lately. As my son gets bigger, I intend to have him join me in some activities. More on that later.
What are some of your favorite non-profits? Are there other unique ways you’ve found to give back in your community?