Random Acts of Kindness Week - A Great Way to Warm Up

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

This post was updated on 1/21/2015

Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter winterneighborhoodisn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.

However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 9 – 15, 2015. Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.

According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide. 

“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.” 

The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practiceRAK kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:

1.)  Inspire others to be kind.

2.)  Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.

3.)  Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.

The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.

“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”

Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.

The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during RAK week last year. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.

At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.

The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” 

RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week.  Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!

  1. Give someone a compliment.
  2. Post a positive comment on social media.
  3. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  4. Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
  5. Eat lunch with someone new.
  6. Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
  7. Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
  8. Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
  9. Walk a neighbor’s dogWalking the dog
  10. Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
  11. Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
  12. Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
  13. Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
  14. Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
  15. Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
  16. Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
  17. Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
  18. Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
  19. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
  20. Smile!

So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!

Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!

 

 Photos: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: engaged learning, kindness, service learning, education, volunteering, community service, service, community, civic engagement, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, opportunities, involvement, social media, active

Choosing a Community Engaged College

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 @ 08:39 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo, a student at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, NC.

College decision deadlines are fast approaching, and there are many factors to weigh when narrowing down the prospects. Academic strength, value, proximity, and student life are some typical considerations to keep in mind. However, many students find success and satisfaction at institutions dedicated to community engagement and service. 

Community engagement and public outreach are priorities at many colleges and universities.In addition to researching service initiatives and community projects, students can find service-oriented schools by referencing The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The President’s Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities with strong community connections that encourage students to pursue civic engagement and solve community problems. Schools that receive this award are encouraging their students to excel both in academics and in committing to meaningful service.  

Here is a list of some acclaimed universities whose programs have gained attention for their commitment to service:
 

Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Fla.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

FAU has been encouraging its students to engage in service since 1996 when Associate professor Daniel Weppner urged the university to encourage its students to pair learning with volunteerism.  In 1996 the Campus Volunteer Center (CVC) was opened to provide resources to students.  Since its inception, the CVC has aided in establishing several service-oriented student organizations. The aim of service-learning at FAU is to create meaningful partnerships between the university and the community in order to connect students’ education with service.  In 2007 the CVC was renamed the Dr. Daniel Weppner Center for Civic Engagement and Service in honor of its founder.  FAU students create a Noble Impact™ by engaging in their community and tracking more than 350,000 hours on NobleHour.


Nazareth College 
Rochester, N.Y.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, Presidential Award for a Special Focus in Early Childhood Education

Nazareth College holds a reputation for its rigorous commitment to service. Fall orientation begins with a day of service, but this is only the beginning. Taking initiative in one’s community is an expectation and a part of everyday life. A new addition to the curriculum requires that students complete one experiential learning opportunity by venturing into the community and being civic-minded. Service is an integral part of campus life, alongside attending lectures and writing papers. Nazareth College officially considers volunteerism and service in admissions.


Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, Pa.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for General Community Service

This small Liberal Arts school located just across from the historic battlefield boasts a history of service among its students and alumni.  Its service-learning program began in 1991 and has played a part in educating students ever since.  Students are engaged in service-learning projects which tackle issues in the local community such as unemployment, housing costs, depression, violence, and education.  Part of receiving an education at Gettysburg College is learning that “Students don’t have to go far to see firsthand this changing world—or be a positive force in it.”

 

Miami University Ohio
Oxford, Ohio
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction

With nearly 13,000 of its approximately 15,000 students involved in service-learning programs, the faculty at Miami University is making constant advances to its curriculum by finding more ways for students to combine learning with service. The university boasts several partnerships with local partners and school districts. For example, early childhood education majors work with local elementary schools; the elementary students benefit from tutoring in school, and the university students gain valuable experience and make valuable community connections that often carry on into career pathways. The school has made an effort to incorporate service-learning in 75 courses and continues to train faculty in teaching service-learning. Miami University uses NobleHour to connect with local community partners.
 
 

The George Washington University
Washington, D.C.
2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll

The George Washington University actively considers and integrates service into its academic options for students. The service-learning opportunities at GW focus on four areas: academic service-learning, community service and engagement, service careers, and social entrepreneurship.  This holistic approach to service means there are opportunities for every student at GW, ranging from just donating a few hours a month to synthesizing entrepreneurship skills with service by starting an entire social enterprise. GW offers more than 45 service-learning courses such as Writing for Social Change and Service-Learning in Advanced Spanish.  GW aims to spur a “culture of service” among its students by providing a bounty of resources to connect students to their community. GW students tracked more than 44,000 hours on NobleHour in 2013.

Topics: education, volunteering, highered, community, civic engagement, community engagement, community service, college admissions

College Students Use MLK Day to Make a Difference*

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

*This article was updated on 1/12/2015

College students across the country are gearing up for MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 19. What used to be just a day off to sleep in and catch up on homework has become an exciting day for young adults to actively engage in their community through volunteering.

MLK Day 2014Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life’s most important and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Dr. King would be proud to see today’s youth answering that question with action. From painting schools and creating gardens, to visiting with the elderly, working in a food pantry or helping out at animal shelters, college students across the country are poised to make a difference this MLK Day of Service.

NobleHour is also proud of the amazing community work performed by its members. Coast to coast, our network of universities are engaging their students in a variety of projects to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Just last year, at the University of Pittsburgh, Janard Pendleton, the program coordinator for Pitt Serves said there were quite a few organized service activities for students and staff to help others throughout the Pittsburgh community. In 2014, over 700 students signed up to volunteer at local organizations like the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

The George Washington University has participated in the MLK Day of Service since 2001. Last year, over 600 students, faculty, staff and alumni signed up with the school’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service to work together on a number of direct service projects throughout the D.C. area. The school also offered on-campus CPR training facilitated by EMeRG as part of their MLK Day of Service programming. 

describe the imageMany volunteers will use MLK Day to help elementary schools. Las January, students at University of California at San Diego helped beautify Bayside Elementary School in Imperial Beach, CA. According to Kristin Luciani, social media and communications manager for UC San Diego, the MLK Day of Service is one of their biggest events of the year. “We’re expecting about 150 students, staff and alumni. We maxed out quickly.”

Volunteers last year revitalized a student garden, adding a new herb garden. They also painted stepping-stones to create a pathway, and painted murals on the playground.

Luciani said their goal is to take this one day of service and turn it into something more long term. “We selected that school because one of our student organizations was already partnered with them. It’s an opportunity to expand and get more of the campus community involved."

Luciani added that their partnership is strengthened by having alumni and student groups follow-up with the school with return visits throughout the year. UC San Diego Volunteer on MLK Day

Students at Emerson College Los Angeles also worked to spruce up the Horace Mann Middle School. Volunteers with City Year  painted educational murals, inspirational quotes and college logos throughout the school to help make a more engaging learning environment for the students.

Miami University’s Office of Community Engagement and Service has a number of projects set up for MLK Day. Students will volunteer locally in the community at various organizations. Last year, students played bingo with the elderly, stocked food at the Oxford Community Choice Pantry, and worked with animals for the Animal Adoption Foundation.

Volunteers in Ohio also helped paint and refurbish a property purchased by Sojourner Recovery Services, a non-profit that provides substance abuse treatment for adults, adolescents and their families. Eileen Turain, development director of the organization, said she enjoys working with the students from Miami University’s Hamilton campus and the Connect2Complete program. "We've worked with the students before and they've been very helpful. This facility helps people needing and wanting our services and programming."

The MLK Day of Service is also a day of celebration. Many organizations incorporate festivities along with their service projects. In addition to organizing a number of volunteer opportunities and educational activities, Greenville Technical College in South Carolina had a Giving Station last year for students at their Barton Campus Student Center. Students made donations to Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County, and also rotated through service stations where they made sandwiches for agencies serving the hungry, appreciation cards for veterans and service members, and created toys for groups helping animals in shelters. 

Dr. King said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." 

This MLK Day, find time to address the broader concerns of your community. Join hundreds of thousands of people in making an impact. If you’re still looking for volunteer opportunities, visit the NobleHour website or the MLK Day of Service website for listings. Remember, it’s not just a day off. It's a day for you to be on and active in your community. Don't forget to let us know about your MLK Day of Service projects so we can share the good news!

Photo credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

Topics: #MLKDay, volunteering, community engagement, community service, engagement, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, MLK Day, MLK Day of Service, active

MLK Day of Service - A Starting Point to Serve Year Round

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Jan 08, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

A New Year is upon us. Every January 1, I think about the resolutions I’ve made in the past and resolve to do again– eat better, exercise more, be more patient, get organized, etc., etc. While these are good resolutions, most of them really only affect my family and me. So, I decided, my resolutions should be about something more than just improving myself. It’s time for me to help others – not in some grand way, but in simple ways every month. Therefore, rather than working on my resolutions just one month a year (January) and forgetting them the other 11 months, I’ve decided January is my starting point. 

As we approach the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and reflect on his message of civic engagement, let us embrace the fact that one person can make a difference. Just imagine if we stay true to that and what can happen with millions of individual acts of kindness and service. If one of your resolutions is to volunteer more, then this January 19th, the MLK Day of Service, is the perfect day to begin your transformation.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), volunteers across the country pledged over 1.3 million hours of service in 2013 for the MLK Day of Service. Established in 1993, CNCS is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through programs like Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Volunteer Generation Fund.

The MLK Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President’s national service initiative. In addition, it is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – “a day on, not a day off!”

MLK Day is a chance to start the year off right by making an impact in your community. CNCS works with the King Center, other federal agencies, schools, nonprofit and community groups, faith-based organizations, and corporations throughout the U.S. to encourage everyone to volunteer and be engaged in their community by participating in one of thousands of organized service-oriented projects. From collecting food and clothing, to cleaning and painting schools and youth centers, or supporting veterans and visiting with the elderly, everyone can use the day off to make some kind of difference.

You don’t have to be part of a group to participate. There are many opportunities for individuals to take advantage of the day. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips:

Start local and check with your student’s school’s service coordinator. Find out what they are doing and ask to help. Chicago Public Schools has different events planned for the month of January. In 2014, teachers signed up for specific events ranging from working with food pantries to educational seminars aimed at reducing handgun violence. Teachers received curriculum and follow-up materials to connect the activities to MLK Day. Hundreds of students participated in organized community service activities throughout the month.

“All of the events are about building the community through volunteering, the goal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Ryan Evans, who works for AmeriCorps Vista in the CPS Literacy department to coordinate community service learning opportunities for students.

If you prefer to do something outside of school, then consider calling your local faith based, community or non-profit organizations. Many have on-going service projects and are always looking for volunteers. The NobleHour website also lists thousands of community engagement opportunities throughout the U.S. Another option is to check your city or state’s website for information about volunteer programs.

The MGR Foundation, has locations in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, the Twin Cities and Las Vegas. The non-profit provides direct service to communities with a variety of programs.

Chicago Cares

Chicago Cares honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity through community service. Tens of thousands of volunteers participate in service projects each year through the non-profit service organization.

Last January alone, approximately 1,400 people served in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically (either as individuals or through their corporations).

The MLK Day of Service website can also help direct you to local opportunities to perform community service. If you can’t find anything that moves you, create your own project with MLK Day Toolkits. Topics range from disaster services and education, to the environment, health and writing letters to the troops.  

If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t let that deter you. Remember, it’s about helping others. Check in on an elderly neighbor and pick up extra groceries for them. Go through your closets and donate your gently used clothing. Donate food to a local food pantry. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, but just a simple act of kindness. Start small and go from there.

My daughter and I decided to make sandwiches for the homeless the other day. We filled bags with PB&J sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and a few pieces of chocolate. We took the train downtown and then handed out the bags to homeless people we passed along the way. It was a cold day and there were not many people out, but we were able to help at least four individuals. It wasn’t much, but it was a start in our New Year’ resolution to help others. It didn’t require a lot of planning and we had everything on hand. It was a simple act that we will strive to do more often.

January is the start of something new. MLK Day is a reminder to be an active part of our community, not just for a day or month, but every day in some manner. Helping others empowers us and strengthens our communities. What are you going to do this January? Let us know your progress each month!

Topics: service learning, volunteering, community engagement, community service, engagement, service, community, civic engagement, CNCS, opportunities, MLK Day, nonprofit, active

Surviving the Holidays with Your College Student

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Thu, Jan 02, 2014 @ 01:09 PM


They’re BACK!  Our college students are home for winter break and they’ve brought a lot of baggage with them! Enjoy that first great big smile of recognition at the airport, followed by a wonderful hug and kiss. They’ve come home with their bags stuffed, including a few non-tangibles – that new-found sense of independence, an “air” of maturity peppered with attitude, a new curfew time, and of course at least two loads of dirty clothes! The first 24 hours are the best for me, but do they really need four to five weeks off for the holidays? I mean, even my husband only gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s and I think that’s very generous. High school and elementary school students go back right after New Year's. So what am I going to do with two college students till mid-January? Get them up and out of the house before noon to share some of that youthful energy helping others.

Many organizations are looking for extra help during the holidays. Whether it’s collecting food for shelters or helping serve holiday meals to the homeless, have your college or high school student take a break from texting, shopping, hanging out, or playing video games and spread some holiday cheer. Start with your own city’s website. In Chicago, the city’s service initiative is called One Good Deed Chicago. The program lists opportunities to volunteer and support the diverse non-profits in the city. Has your student put on the freshman 15? Sign them up to help shovel snow for the elderly for a great workout!

New York City’s service website has hundreds of listings including tutoring, serving meals at shelters, and teaching seniors about the Internet.

In addition to city and state government websites, you can also check out your local chapters of the United Way, YMCA,  and the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army in Williamsburg, Virginia, needs bell ringers through December 24. To quote Buddy the Elf – “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” According to their website, volunteers can sing carols, play an instrument, and of course ring a bell! In the midst of all the commercialism, your good-hearted son or daughter can remind others to share and care about people in their community. If it's too cold to ring the bell outside, you can also create your own virtual red kettle fundraiser!

The Greater Chicago Area, Northern Illinois and Northwestern Indiana Division of the Salvation Army also offers mobile alerts to let you know about opportunities to help in your area. 

Make sure to also check out some amazing volunteer opportunities listed on the NobleHour website. There are thousands of listings all over the United States, ranging from visiting nursing homes, volunteering at schools, or sorting and packaging food at local food banks. Find the true meaning of the holidays by getting your student excited about serving others.

If your son or daughter just wants to nest and watch every old holiday movie during their college break, then get those idle hands working. Even someone with all thumbs can make a no-sew fleece blanket! Blankets can be donated to local homeless shelters or you can contact your local chapter of Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Their website provides a variety of patterns including quilts and afghans.

Knots of Love

If you and your child like to knit, spend some quiet, quality time together knitting caps for cancer patients. Knots of Love donates caps to men and women who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment, burn accidents, brain surgery and head trauma patients, as well as individuals with alopecia.

At the point where you can’t take your college student acting like a guest in his own home anymore, it’s time to call in the big guns – grandma and grandpa! A little quality time with them will make everyone happier! Boost their ego by asking them to help their grandparents with a few technology lessons. DoSomething.org’s Grandparents Gone Wired campaign encourages young adults to use their online skills to help seniors get connected. Spend some time with gramps setting up a twitter account, or show grandma how to use Facetime and Facebook on her cell phone and laptop! Call your local nursing home to see if you can help residents there too. The campaign runs through January 21, and also offers an opportunity to win a $10,000 scholarship! The time spent together is a priceless gift.

describe the imageIf your student is always on the go and the thought of being home for four to five weeks will drive you both crazy, then consider a service trip to round out the winter break. All Hands Volunteers has a number of opportunities available, including Project Detroit, an effort to help those in the greater Detroit area recover from damaging floods that occurred this past August. Over 200 homes in the Detroit metro area have been mucked, gutted and sanitized. Experience isn't necessary. Trained supervisors are on hand to assist volunteers with a variety of tasks

Last year, volunteers focused on rebuilding the homes and communities affected by Superstorm Sandy and also responded to the devastation left by the earthquake and typhoon in the Philippines

Visit the All Hands Volunteers website to complete an application, as well as determine available dates.Project Bohol The organization provides three simple meals, basic accommodations, and basic logistics to ensure a positive and productive experience. Volunteers must cover their own travel expenses and meals on days off. The organization has a strict minimum age policy and cannot accept volunteers under the age of 15 (14 in the Philippines). All 16 and 17 year olds must be accompanied with a responsible adult. 

There is no minimum or maximum time commitment, and the organization does not charge a participation fee. Volunteers can come for a day or a couple of months. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and make a difference.

So, before you know it, you’ll be sending your son or daughter back to school with a duffel bag filled with clean laundry. While you’ll be happy to get back to your quiet routine, you’ll might also be counting the days until Spring Break! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a few ideas to help you then too! 

Photos courtesy of Knots of Love and All Hands Volunteers.

Topics: Food Banks, abroad, winter break, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, nonprofit, scholarships

Six Ways to Throw Holiday Parties with a Purpose

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Dec 14, 2013 @ 08:49 AM

It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us!

‘Tis the season to be jolly and spread good cheer with friends and family, but how about your community? This year why not have a holiday party with a purpose – one that shares good will to all men, women and children?

Let’s face it. While we may love getting gifts, we really don’t need one more candle, another box of candy, or a tin of popcorn. As the saying goes – it’s better to give than to receive. So in the spirit of the season, here are six simple ideas to truly enhance your holiday parties.

Pajama Program1. Instead of Secret Santa, collect new pajamas and books.

The Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need. Millions of children live in poverty and don’t know the comfort and security of a simple bedtime ritual. Many live in group homes or temporary shelters and have never even owned a pair of pajamas. 

Contact the Pajama Program or a local chapter to determine their needs and where to send your donations. Ask your guests to skip the hostess gift and bring new pj’s and books to your party instead. Want to do more? You can also volunteer to read to children at one of their reading centers or help sort donations.   


2. Collect jeans for homeless teenagers. This is a great project for middle school, high school and college students. In 2008, DoSomething.org® partnered with Aéropostale to create Teens for Jeans. Similar to food drives, teens collect new and gently used jeans to donate to homeless youth. Over a million young people under the age of 18 experience homelessness in the US every year.

“We called homeless shelters across the country and asked them what young people entering homeless shelters often requested and found that jeans were one of the most requested items,” said Nami Mody, Homelessness and Poverty Campaign Specialist for DoSomething.org.Teens for Jeans

Teens can bring their jeans to any Aéropostale store. The jeans will be distributed to local homeless shelters. Mody is not surprised by the success of the program and its impact on local communities. “Young people want to take action in their communities, and homelessness is one of the causes they care about the most. The campaign is so inspiring because it's all about young people helping young people.”

You can collect jeans now during the holidays and drop them off at local Aéropostale (and P.S. from Aéropostale) stores from January 12 to February 15, 2015. Each store is paired with at least one homeless shelter or charity in your community. Jeans of all sizes are needed and should be in good condition.

3. Chances are someone in your family or circle of friends will find a new cell phone under the tree this Christmas. You may even have a few old cell phones in your “junk” drawer. Now you can put them to good use. Instead of exchanging ornaments at your holiday party, tell your friends to bring their old cell phones!

Cell Phones for Survivors encourages people to donate their old phones to be refurbished, sold, and turned into funds to help survivors of domestic violence. Simply collect and mail in old cell phones. Sign up at Do Something.org and print out postage paid shipping labels.

HopeLine® from Verizon is another similar program. Since 1995, Verizon has refurbished phones and equipped them with minutes, texting capabilities, and a variety of services before giving them to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies. Phones can be from any provider. Drop off donated phones at local Verizon stores or ship with their postage paid shipping label.

4. Whether you’re in charge of the office party or planning the end of year club or team celebration, share your joy with others who need your support. Find all those holiday greeting cards you keep buying on sale and never send out or create your own. Ask your guests to send Season’s Greetings to military personnel away from home and family. Or, send cards to your local nursing home, children’s hospital, or shelter, etc.

Every year, Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages filled with treats and letters to deployed U.S. Service members, their family members, and wounded soldiers. See their website for specific details about what to write and where to send your cards.

A MillionThanks.org asks individuals and groups to write cards and letters of appreciation for the military. Review their guidelines, find a location near you, and send your cards and letters to our troops. Contact your location via phone or email to be sure they can accept your cards and letters.

5. If you’re having a cookie exchange, ask your guests to also bring an extra pair of gloves, socks, a hat or some basic toiletries. When dividing the cookies, assemble extra bags for your local homeless shelter. Fill reusable grocery bags or old backpacks with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and hand sanitizer, etc. This is a great way to use all those little hotel shampoo and body wash bottles! You can also find hand warmers in the dollar section of many stores. Don’t forget to add the cookies!

6. This season brings a lot of celebrations filled with our favorite dishes, treats, and traditions. What are yours? If you’re getting together with family and friends to bake or cook your special recipes, have everyone bring duplicate non-perishable items for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day dinners and donate them to a local food bank. Or, check with your local church to sponsor a family in need. Collect items they might need to brighten their holiday. You can also stop by your post office to pick up Letters to Santa. Help bring joy to children around the U.S.

Whether you're celebrating with family, friends or co-workers, give thanks for what is truly important. Remember to share your joy with your community and those in need. How do you celebrate this season of giving? Tell us what you do as a family, with friends and with your community.

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives., Christmas gift ideas, holiday party ideas, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, youth impact, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, parents, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, charity, Parties with a Purpose

How Student-Led Service Organizations Boost Community Engagement

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

In 2010, Pew Research Center’s report Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next found that young people are more likely than older age groups to volunteer.  Many young people are tapping into the resources at their schools to volunteer, serve and better their communities. 

At Iowa State University, students have formed the CyServe Council to promote volunteerism among students.  The need for such an organization was identified because “...community service is something that is often put on the back burner for students because of all the other exciting opportunities that exist in the college atmosphere,” according to the CyServe website. The organization seeks to “bring volunteerism to the forefront of student minds and promote the idea of continuous community service.”  CyServe provides comprehensive resources for students to engage in service, including six service days each year to celebrate the spirit of giving back.  Organizations like CyServe are important because they act as a liaison between students and the community in need. 

Students connect to promote service and community engagement.

The Duke Partnership for Service, or dPS, is a student-lead initiative that works to promote “service culture.” dPS is comprised of more than 70 student-lead service groups at Duke University.  dPS provides resources for its organizations to succeed in changing their community.  dPS works with each service organization to help it find funding and volunteers.  Furthermore, it makes sure that service efforts at Duke remain concise by ensuring the efforts of different organizations do not overlap.  dPS helps the organizations under its roof to work collaboratively and effectively.  Essentially, dPS is a network of student-lead service groups working to optimize the impact of service oriented students.

At UNC Chapel Hill, APPLES Service-Learning is a service organization that has been working to promote service and volunteerism in the classroom since 1990.  The program falls under UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Center for Public Service.  The focus of this student-led initiative is to provide comprehensive resources to students and faculty about service-learning.  The organization does this by forming strong partnerships within the university and with the community.  APPLES’ program includes service-learning internships, initiatives, and courses. APPLES hopes to encourage civic engagement, collaborative efforts, and meaningful partnerships with the community. According to the CCPS website, “As APPLES opportunities have expanded over the years, the primary purpose continues to be to enhance and deepen learning through meaningful collaborations with community organizations among the growing list of programs.” APPLES provides numerous resources and opportunities for students to become more engaged.  This program is unique in its dedication to both education and community building through service.

The goals of student-led service coalitions accurately embody the spirit of teamwork and community.  These organizations are fundamental in impressing service as a basic part of education and also in connecting community organizations and non-profits with the helping hands of empowered students.

To capitalize on their impact, student organizations can use NobleHour to streamline communication, the sharing of resources and opportunities, volunteer hour tracking and impact measurement. Service groups can easily see the cumulative number of hours served by members of their NobleHour Community.  Additionally, service groups and community partners can post opportunities and relevant content to keep their members in the loop about local initiatives.

 “If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” ~Bill Gates

 

 Creative Commons Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjuadmissions/7636918838

Topics: service learning, volunteering, highered, civic engagement, community engagement, opportunities, community service, service learning, community partners

10 Ways to Make an Impact on #GivingTuesday™

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Dec 03, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

You're celebrating Thanksgiving with all of your relatives from near and far. Maybe you'll brave the crowds and lines for Black Friday sales. Then, you plan to squeeze in a few minutes to capture some Cyber Monday deals. But the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the real day to make a difference. I’m not talking about a putting a dent in your gift list with more items on sale. I’m talking about making a real impact in the lives of people and organizations that truly need your help. It’s called #Giving Tuesday. Started by the non-profit community and cultural center, 92nd Street Y (92Y),  along with the United Nations Foundation and a core group of founding partners, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season.

The event builds on the American tradition of giving back by using technology to make a greater impact. The success #Giving Tuesday has prompted thousands of international and local non-profits, as well as civic minded corporations to join the movement. By harnessing the power of social media, the day is dedicated to helping everyone realize that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life - to bring about real change in communities around the world.

More than 10,000 partners in all 50 states and around the world are taking part in the third annual event to refocus on giving thanks and giving back. Partners are large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits. If you don’t have a specific charity in mind, you can go to the #Giving Tuesday website and sort by the type of organization or look for charities by state. There’s every imaginable charity involved.

You can sort by your interests in arts, culture, animals, health, the environment, education, human services, or research and science. You can also choose to support local community groups, religious organizations, schools and universities, large or small companies, government agencies, and various projects sponsored by groups around the world.

With so many charities competing for your donation, you may want to research the organizations on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau. Charity Navigator provides an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 6,000 of America's charities. The non-profit organization also provides a list of giving tips to help you when choosing a charity. 

Still not sure where to begin? Think about how you want to make an impact. Believe it or not, you can make a difference in a family’s life with $20 or less. Many of the organizations participating have catalogs with gifts ranging in price from $10 to thousands of dollars. Many work to end hunger, supply clean water, provide shelter, or assist people with starting their own business. Some provide disaster relief. Others help protect wildlife.

Here are just ten of the thousands of organizations participating in #Giving Tuesday.

 

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and theirHero-GiftCatalog-Christmas14 communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Their catalog offers choices that make a difference starting at just $16. Gifts include clothing and jewelry that fund small business loans for entrepreneurs; goats that can nourish a hungry family, as well as provide income from surplus milk; and food kits to feed families in need.

Feeding America helps provide fresh, healthy food for people facing hunger every day. Your gift of nutritious food like apples, peanut butter, rice, cheese, broccoli, oatmeal, bananas, and chicken can help families in communities across the country struggling with hunger.

Millennium Promise works to  eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease by empowering communities to help themselves. Your donation can provide nutritious meals to children at school, skilled attendants to help mothers giving birth, clean water supplies, and it can help farmers grow more food to eat and sell.

The American Red Cross provides disaster relief around the world. Their catalog includes items like hot meals, blankets, emergency shelter, vaccinations, and first aid workers for those affected by disaster.

Mercy Corps helps people survive crises in some of the world’s toughest places. They help those affected confront and turn their situations into opportunities to thrive. Gifts in the Mercy Corps catalog range in price from under $50 to over $200 and help men and women in villages around the world earn an income. For as little as $18, you can buy a mosquito net or buy seeds for a family. You can give a sewing machine, outfit a classroom, fund a mobile health unit, or help start a fish hatchery. You can even buy a Yak, which can carry loads in mountainous areas, and produce valuable milk, as well as wool for blankets and clothing. 

donate to schoolsSave the Children gives children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. Give joy and lasting change to a child when you choose from over 60 gifts in seven different categories, ranging from health and emergency relief, to animals, sports and education, and water and agriculture.

World Wildlife Fund is an international organization that works in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. Their catalog includes t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, ornaments, etc. For $55, you can symbolically adopt a species. Your gift supports WWF's global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives. You can help by giving blankets, vaccinations, purifying water tablets and gifts that support causes like emergencies, food, school transportation, and winter survival packs. Items as low as $15.00 include The Eat & Run bundle that combines Micronutrient Powder and a Soccer Ball to keep a vulnerable child healthy and happy. Gifts under $25 include vaccine carriers that can keep dozens of vaccine vials at the right temperature for 38 hours, even in scorching hot weather. 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the ground in more than 40 countries, including the U.S., providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster. Their rescue gifts include providing a year of education for a young girl for only $58, clean water for $110, a honeybee harvest kit for $72 and for only $45 you can comfort children caught in crisis by sending them teddy bears.

If you want to volunteer in addition to donating funds, but not sure where to start, visit NobleHour, a small company with a big mission to provide an online platform that enables and facilitates community engagement. Companies can create free profiles for their organization and get the word out about themselves, as well as find help by posting volunteer opportunities for free. NobleHour helps school districts, colleges, universities, non-profits, and businesses throughout the US and Canada track and measure service-learning, volunteering, and community service initiatives. 

The company was started in 2007 by a student looking for a way to find service opportunities in his area. It grew from a simple online database of service opportunities to over 180,000 members, over 6,000 organizations, and over 4,000 opportunity listings. Since their relaunch in 2012, users have tracked over 4.5 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $95,000,000.

So whether you just want to donate in your name, you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who has everything, or you want to volunteer, #Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to be generous with others and embrace the true meaning of the holidays. What are you going to give today? Share your gift list with us!

Topics: Food Banks, Food Pantries, community engagement, outreach, engagement, community, civic engagement, technology, global, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, fundraising, community partners, social media, active

Volunteering at Holiday Food Drives Can Help Many in Need

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 27, 2013 @ 11:20 AM

 

The holidays are upon us. As we approach the days of festive get-togethers, parties, and dinners, we sometimes complain that we overindulge. However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), shockingly there are approximately 49 million people in the United States, including nearly 16 million children, who live at risk of hunger everyday.

According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD), the faces of hunger are changing. Often those in need are employed, are veterans, children, and seniors. In Cook County alone, the numbers are startling. Nearly 800,000 people are unsure of when they will receive their next meal. One in six Chicagoans faces hunger every day. Last year, the Food Depository distributed 67 million pounds food, the equivalent of 154,000 meals every day. 

It is getting harder for families to make ends meet. Some are skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase. In fact, the GCFD reports 47% of households say they have to choose between paying for food and utilities, while another 44% report choosing between paying for food and rent or mortgage.

This time of year, there’s a big push to increase food donations for the holidays. Students in elementary and high schools, as well as universities throughout the country are coming together to collect thousands and thousands of pounds of non-perishable items.

In Chicago, the NBA Bulls, along with sponsors Vienna Beef and Midway Moving and Storage, hosted a number of food drives, including a contest for Chicago Public Schools. Over 35,000 pounds of food was collected to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The winning school, Phillip Murray Elementary Language Academy, collected over 4,000 pounds of food.

Area food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens rely heavily on the GCFD. Their campaign, No One Should Go Hungry is a simple, yet powerful message, highlighting the fact they have just 1 Goal, 1 Mission - To Fight Hunger 1 Dollar, 1 Meal, 1 Person at a Time, until the day that no one goes hungry. The One City, One Food Drive goal is to collect one million pounds of food. 

Food depositories cannot accomplish their goals alone. They need active volunteers of all ages to help in their mission. At the GCFD, volunteers are always needed to load trucks, pick up and deliver produce, check orders, help out with special events, and help pick up and deliver donations from food shows. They can also volunteer at member pantries or soup kitchens.

Food_DriveWhile students are home for break or off for the holidays, a great community service activity is to volunteer at the food depository. School groups, service clubs, and individuals can help repack bulk food products into individual/family sizes. The food depository posts their volunteer schedule four months in advance so groups can plan ahead to sign up. Participants must be at least 14. If you want to get your children involved at an early age, younger kids can participate on special “kids days” with adult supervision.

Feeding America, a leading domestic hunger-relief charity, works to feed the country’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks. In addition, the organization encourages community engagement running a number of partner promotions, and by using social media in a variety of ways. One unique option is to be a virtual volunteer.  Students can "spread the word" and promote social good and awareness through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube.

In keeping with the virtual theme, today’s tech savvy kids and young adults, can also host virtual food drives. Whether your son or daughter needs to complete a community service project or their club wants to highlight their community engagement, the Virtual Food Drive is simple to coordinate and through the use of social media, students create awareness about the issue of hunger, as well as raise funds to support Feeding America. Just set a fundraising goal, create a page by answering a few simple questions and ask others to donate using the online tools provided.

The virtual food drive is a great way for colleges to get their students involved. For the seventh year in a row, California State University and UC San Diego students participated in the "Colleges Rock Hunger" food drive to gather money and food donations for needy families. Both universities used virtual food drives, along with traditional methods of collecting food. Last year, students donated nearly 245,000 pounds of food to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. This year the food bank distributed 22.3 million pounds of food to San Diego County, the equivalent of 18.6 million meals.

The food drive was a great way for students to give back to the community and make a difference. Even college students can afford one can of food or a $1 donation. The California students creatively worked with different groups on campus to encourage everyone to participate. They also maximized their efforts with existing events, like homecoming, and gave students incentives for participating like “cut the line" for free food, giveaways, preferred seating, or immediate access to games and activities. In addition, student organizers reached out to the local business community for support.

If you prefer the traditional hands-on route of volunteering, Feeding America encourages volunteers to check out local community service opportunities. There are food banks in just about every city in America. The Feeding America website offers a nationwide food bank locator. You can search by zip code or state to find the nearest food bank. In addition to helping local food banks repackage donated food for use at food pantries, and transporting food to charitable agencies, you can also help tutor young children at their local Kids Café programs. 

Another great way for students to support Feeding America's efforts this holiday season is to give a donation in someone's name. It's a great gift for that hard to buy for relative, friend or teacher!  The Bank of America Give A Meal program runs through December 31. The online campaign has resulted in more than 100 million meals for families and individuals in need across the country with over 40 million meals coming in just through last year’s program. For every $1 donated through Give A Meal, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will give $2 more, up to $1.5 million - giving donors the opportunity to triple their impact! 

As we’ve witnessed recently, disaster can strike without rhyme or reason. Feeding America also needs volunteers across the country to support survivors of disaster-affected communities. Sort, box, and repackage donated food to be directed where it's needed most.  



Whether it’s a virtual food drive or a traditional one, students have the power to make a difference. This holiday season, get involved and support your local food bank. What do you do as a family to help with the fight against hunger? Check out our recent blog about how  service learning can help you run a successful food drive!

 

 photo: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives., volunteering, community engagement, higher ed, community service, youth impact, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, opportunities, involvement, fundraising, social media

Students Help with Typhoon Haiyan Relief Efforts

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

The images are heartbreaking. Many of us in warm and safe households can’t imagine the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. Yet, there are plenty who know first hand the ravages of natural disasters. Within the U.S., we’ve seen what the forces of nature can do to our neighborhoods – tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods have all taken their toll. And, each time, we come together as a nation to volunteer and help those in need. We come together as a community to gather and distribute food, clothing, medical and housing supplies. After Hurricane Katrina and Super storm Sandy, many students spent holiday breaks volunteering to help rebuild devastated neighborhoods.

Right now in the Philippines though, with communications wiped out, limited security and roads blocked, only experienced disaster relief aid workers are allowed in. How do we help those so far away who are in desperate need of food, water, medical attention, sanitation and shelter? There are plenty of opportunities to help including donating money, organizing fundraisers and giving blood.

For now, Meredith Brandt, communications manager for the American Red Cross in the National Capital Region said financial donations are the most efficient way to help meet the emergency needs of those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Help people affected by the Typhoon in the Philippines.

As of November 16, the American Red Cross has committed $11 million to support their global response to the disaster. Funds will be used to distribute relief items, repair and rebuild shelters, provide healthcare and ensure access to clean water and sanitation systems.

“We don’t send in unaffiliated volunteers,” said Brandt. We have subject matter experts that go to help with disaster relief.”

These specialized emergency response teams are experts in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. They will assist the Philippine Red Cross with rescue efforts and relief operations.

Brandt emphasized that financial aid will go a long way to help rebuild and recover and said that individuals and groups may also consider fundraising for the Red Cross.

In fact, many college student organizations are doing that now. Their desire to help has resulted in a number of creative and tried and true ideas to raise funds for the relief effort.

From using social media to engage their community and collect donations to organizing fundraisers and selling t-shirts , students everywhere are volunteering at home to make a difference.

For the last 15 years, the Philippine Student Association at Texas A&M University has organized a talent show to help promote diversity among the state’s universities. This year they decided to donate 100% of their ticket sales, as well as any other additional donations collected during the event. “We decided to change focus and donate all of the money raised to the typhoon relief effort,” said Trung Mai, vice president of Texas A&M’s Philippine Student Association. “We wanted to make the event more about our mission statement and what we are all about.”

Mai said they accomplished their goal this year to get more schools involved in the program. “We were sold out and packed all 500 seats in the auditorium. We had six or seven other universities support us, including the University of Texas at Arlington, San Antonio, Dallas, North Texas, and the University of Houston. We raised about $2,500.”

The group decided to donate their funds to the Philippine-based humanitarian organization, Gawad Kalinga.

Mai said they looked at different relief organizations. “We decided to work with Gawad Kalinga. It’s an organization that has a lot of credibility within the Philippines. You can go to their website to donate. There are plenty of choices of how to use your donations. You can also help by keeping them in your prayers.”

The Cornell Filipino Association in Ithaca, New York, is utilizing existing events to raise funds. They’ve also planned a bake sale and a cooking competition, So, You Think You Can Adobo on November 22. The competition emphasizes the delicious diversity of the Philippines' national dish. For only $5, attendees can sample and judge the tastiest variation of Chicken Adobo. Their proceeds will go to Oxfam America, an international relief and development organization working to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The Cornell University group used the website Charity Navigator to determine where they would direct their funds. The nonprofit evaluates the financial health, accountability and transparency of nearly 7,000 charities.

The Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a bake sale and fundraiser this past weekend. Funds raised will be directed to the Philippine Red Cross.

In addition to volunteering to raise funds, students can also support relief efforts by donating blood or organizing a blood drive.

Most people don’t think about donating blood until a disaster strikes. It’s important to ensure a sufficient blood supply and it’s also a great opportunity for community engagement.

While you may not be able to travel the globe now to help with disaster relief, Brandt suggests that students check out their local Red Cross chapter for volunteer opportunities within their own community. Individuals 13 years and older can volunteer.

If you want to be ready to help with disaster relief in the future, then consider disaster response training. Most disaster responders must be 18 years or older. Each local chapter can provide additional information about volunteer opportunities.

“We encourage people who want to help with disaster relief to become affiliated with the Red Cross and be trained,” said Brandt. “So, if the next disaster occurs, you are trained and ready to go either nationally or internationally.”

If you are organizing a fundraiser or would like to personally help fund relief efforts, here is a partial listing of organizations, in addition to ones previously listed, working to help those affected by the typhoon. What are you doing to help those affected by disasters? Share your stories.

Catholic Relief Services

ChildFund International

Direct Relief

Habitat for Humanity 

International Medical Corps

International Rescue Committee (IRC) 

Salvation Army (Text TYPHOON to 80888 to donate $10.)

Save the Children

UNICEF 

World Food Programme (WFP) (Text AID to 27722 to donate $10.)

World Vision http://www.worldvision.org

Topics: service, volunteering, volunteering nonprofit, abroad, nonprofit, community, civic engagement, community engagement, outreach, opportunities, social media, global, involvement, engagement, community service

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