Archive of ‘Living & Giving’ category

Ritz-y Community Service

Old San Juan, PR

Old San Juan, PR (I took this!)

For all of you who want to add some meaningful service to your vacation, the Ritz-Carlton is going to give you a (swanky) hand with that. The Ritz-Carlton Give Back Getaways volunteer program allows guests to serve alongside R-C employees as they support local programs and initiatives. Not only will guests get to lend their time, but the Ritz will donate the profits of each excursion to the sponsoring organization.

Here are some of the many opportunities listed on the Ritz-Carlton’s website:

Rainforest Rescue: Saving El Yunque (San Juan, PR)

Children’s Home Society (South Beach)

Preserving our Monuments, Memorials, and Parks (Washington, DC)

The Greening of Beijing (Beijing, China)

Restoring the Rainforest (Kapalua, Maui)

This is such a great idea! Kudos to the Ritz-Carlton for not only encouraging their employees to give back but also extending the opportunity to their guests.

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Young Americans: Volunteer Enthusiasts

Dreamers. Delusional. Idealists. Spoiled.

These are all words that some people use to describe the generation of young Americans. Well, it seems like the talkers can add “giving” and “volunteers” to the descriptions as well. In an article posted yesterday on The Nonprofit Times, the rate of volunteerism has increased in America, even as the economy worsens. And, these figures are being boosted by people between the ages of 16-24 years old!

The Corporation for National and Community Service’s (CNCS) Volunteering in America estimates that 61.8 million Americans volunteered last year, about a million more than the previous year, and more than a quarter of the U.S. population. Of the one million additional volunteers in 2008, about 441,000 were between the ages of 16 and 24, up from 7.8 million to 8.24 million and boosting their volunteering rate from 20.88 percent to 21.9 percent.

Am I surprised? Absolutely not. My generation has grown up during 3 of the most life-altering moments in history (at least, in my mind).

1. The 9/11 attacks

2. Hurricane Katrina

3. Barack Obama’s election

With each one of these events, I watched as many people united as one to rescue victims, gather needed supplies, make phone calls, and stand side by side to make a difference. In the article, Alan Solomont, chairman of the board of CNCS, said that young people started “on a path of community service much earlier than before. Young people serving is reflective of their earlier service learning experience.” I couldn’t agree more. In high school, we were responsible for completing 40 hours of community service before graduation. You could choose whatever you wanted to do. Some people tutored, others taught basketball to local youth, I volunteered at the MS Society.

Volunteering while young sets a stage for a very fulfilling and rewarding existence. When I hear about children donating birthday gifts to hospitals or raising money for needy classmates, I can’t help but smile! And, while smiling is good, there are some very tangible figures on the value of volunteering. It’s estimated that last year’s nearly 62 million volunteers contributed about 8 billion hours of service worth $162 billion. Volunteers are also more likely to donate to a charity, with 78 percent donating $25 or more, compared to 39 percent of non-volunteers.

That is INSANE!!! In the best way, of course! Kudos to everyone who takes time out to volunteer, especially to all of the young people out there. We really are the future, and our service will help lead the way.

Say It Loud!

Say It Loud!

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VIDEO: Giving Back To Yourself

In today’s “Fab Gab,” I’m talking to you guys about the importance of giving back to yourselves! It’s honestly just as important as givng to others. You need to make sure that you’re taking the time to enrich and enhance your life. We only have one life… Make the best of it! The idea of today’s topic came to me while reading “Fabulousity” by Kimora Lee Simmons.

Check out my thoughts by watching the video below! Oh, and I think I coined the term “circle of giving.” Unless someone is already using it…

Have a great weekend, everyone! Talk to you all on Monday 🙂

3 Tips When Donating Items To Charity

You know the routine. You look up one day and decide that you have too much stuff in your home and something must go! Maybe you’ll try and give the items away to family and friends. OR you may decide just to donate it.

While you may think that thrift stores and consignment shops should just take whatever you give them, I’m here to warn you that is NOT the case.

Here are three super simple tips for donating to charity thrift stores:

Check the store’s website to see what they can and cannot accept.

You’d be surprised at some of the things that can’t be donated. I once tried to give away plastic hangers and college textbooks and was denied! I couldn’t believe it. So, the hangers are still clogging the closet and the books are in a box until I find a good home for them.

Check to make sure that clothes aren’t dirty, ripped, or soiled.

When the staff is sorting through the clothes, any damaged (or smelly) clothes are thrown out because they don’t have the resources to wash or repair each item. Remember, the goal is to get the goods immediately on the sales floor and make some moolah!

Make sure that you get a receipt for the value of the items.

Yes, of course, most of us donate out of the kindness of our hearts, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of the tax benefits. When you donate items to a thrift store run by a charitable 501(c)3 organization, you can deduct the “fair market value” of the items when you prepare your taxes. “Fair market value” essentially means that you estimate the value of that item today. So, don’t list your 2000 Gap blouse with the missing button at the price you paid, especially since we all know it’s not worth that anymore! For more guidance, ask your accountant or visit irs.gov!

Okay, so you’ve given your stuff away and are probably wondering what to do with the unacceptables. Well, my suggestion is to look around for nonprofits or shelters that take items in and give them away, not sell them. And, if that doesn’t work, then just take them to the trash. I ended up giving my chipped table to the junk man. Hey, sometimes it happens…As long as you tried to donate, that’s all that counts in my opinion!


Goodwill (Dress) Hunting

This weekend, my sister and I drove down to Alton, IL to watch our aunt and uncle renew their vows in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary. The ceremony was beautiful and we had a great time getting reacquainted with our mother’s hometown. Yesterday, we decided to do some exploring and check out some of the shops.

Across the street from our hotel was a Goodwill store. While we went in there just to look around and possibly shop, we ended up falling in love with one particular section of the store…The wedding gowns! Did you know that you could find wedding dresses at Goodwill? We didn’t!

wedding dresses at goodwillI don’t know if it was the nuptial theme of the weekend, but we spent more time fawning and feigning over those gowns than anything else in the store! When many women dream of walking down the aisle, they never think of walking down the aisle in a stranger’s dress! But, with times the way that they are, and the growing recycle/reuse movement, there is a growing number of women who have no issue purchasing a second-hand gown.

The first thing we noticed in the section was that some of the gowns in the store were very dated. There were definitely some poofy sleeves and crazy necklines. The second thing we noticed, and the most important thing, were the amazing trains and beading on a few of those gowns. So intricately designed…and at such GREAT bargains! Of course, any one who purchased a gown would need to have it worked on (i.e., altering, cleaning, etc). That is with the exception of one gown…

There was a gorgeous Cinderella dress that was my size and absolutely beautiful. I tried it on and was borderline obsessed with it. My sister almost bought it for me! It would have definitely been my reception gown.

wedding dresses at goodwill

Here are some more pics from our excursion:

CIMG0817             Another Gown

We didn’t buy any wedding gowns, but at the end of the day, my sister snagged four dresses (including the silk Banana Republic dress below), two wrap sweaters, and a pair of sunglasses for about $34.

All purchases at Goodwill stores benefit the job training and other programs supported by Goodwill Industries. You can find your nearest Goodwill store by visiting http://www.goodwill.org!

I’ll Never Forget Why I Give Back

Within the past 72 hours, I’ve been blessed to say that to two individuals that I’ve helped and it’s been the most AMAZING experience. On Saturday, I joined my girlfriend Ashley, her mom, aunt, and another family friend at The Glass Slipper Project. The Glass Slipper Project provides prom gowns to high school girls who might not be able to afford them due to financial circumstances. Actually, let me correct myself. The Glass Slipper Project provides a gown, shoes, a handbag, accessories, and even makeup for the girls.

volunteering glass slipper project

I had the pleasure of being the personal shopper for Miss T. After 3 trips to the dressing room and 10 gowns later, we found a gown that she loved and felt amazing in…Score! Moving on to shoes, she found a pair of heels that wouldn’t cramp her style and (of course) matched her dress. After we conquered accessories and makeup, our time together was up. I’m not going to lie…I kind of wished that the day would continue on forever. Or at least the feeling. We spent over an hour together, and for that hour, NOTHING else mattered. It was all about helping her get dressed for a night that she would hopefully remember forever.

As we hugged goodbye, she said “It was fun hanging with you. Thank you!” My response…”No. Thank You!”

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Fast forward to yesterday… While strolling to Kinko’s, I was approached by a woman, Miss Rose, who told me that she was just laid off and that she needed food to feed her children at home. As her voice cracked while explaining her situation, something in my spirit whispered to me, “Do this.” As we were walked to the neighborhood convenience store, she told me about her oldest daughter, a freshman in high school, who was celebrating her birthday on that day.

“Mom, I know you’re waiting for your unemployment, but do you think that you could bake a cake for me today?” the daughter asked earlier that morning.

“When she told me that this morning, I just broke out in tears,” Miss Rose told me.

As Rose continued to talk, I felt a lump forming in my throat. As the daughter of a mother who often had to choose medication over clothes, or who had to scrounge up dollars for our school field trips, I was familiar with the tears of a mother who wished that she could do just a little more, give just a little more.

When Rose and I arrived at the store, she asked if I could just get her a can of chili for the kids. “Absolutely. And, don’t forget the supplies for the birthday cake,” I replied. After our mini-shopping treat was complete, we walked back outside and I gave her an extra umbrella for her walk back home and two hugs.

She said “Thank you.”

I replied, “No, thank you.”

In both of those experiences, I don’t know who was more grateful. Me or them. Giving is not just a transaction of dollars or products. It is a demonstration of the human spirit. As we continue to hear stories of our neighbors, our friends, or even strangers going through hard times, none of us can afford to act like we’re living in a bubble.

While some would say that the emotion tied to both of my experiences is directly related to my past and how I grew up, I have to say that it’s more than that. These interactions reminded me why I love to give. It’s because I’ve been the recipient of kindness and my donations are the price I pay to be alive. There’s no other way to describe it.

Four Ways to Start Volunteering Today

Often, actually too often, my peers ask me, “How do I start volunteering?” Then, the question is usually followed by all of the reasons why they aren’t actively involved with the community or giving back. I get it, but I wish that people would just say, “It’s not a priority right now.” Guys, the truth is perfectly acceptable for one main reason…

I am NOT the volunteer police!!!! I never ask people about their volunteer committments, nor do I talk about mine in a bragging sense. If you ask me what I’m doing this weekend or tomorrow, there may be a volunteer activity on there because that’s my passion . But, if you’re not a big volunteer, that’s fine! I am the LAST person to judge. Trust.

However, we could all use a little push in the right direction. If you are truly looking for a cause or organization to get involved with, here are some simple tips to get you going.

1. Start with a cause or activity that means the most to you.

My gateway cause was multiple sclerosis because I have a personal connection. Think about what means the most to you. Love to garden? Look into helping out at a local greenhouse. Love to read? Maybe you spend an hour every week or so reading at a nursing home. Love watching sports? Shoot hoops with teenagers. Make sense?

2. Expand your definition of volunteering.

Many volunteer opportunities are outside the box of traditional office-based or event-specific duties. Business professional? You can volunteer on pro-bono marketing and strategy projects with The Taproot Foundation. Former athlete/coach? You can volunteer to be a referee for community youth leagues.

3. Let the Internet be your guide.

With a few key-strokes and a mouse click, you can discover websites looking for helping hands. National sites include Idealist.org, VolunteerMatch.org, or USAService.org.On a local level, many cities have organizations which promote volunteer opportunities on a local level. Some sites to check out are ChicagoCares.org, DC-Cares.org, NYCares.org, or HandsonAtlanta.org.

4. Just ask.

If you got through tips 1-3 and still feel like you don’t know how to get started, then you need to just start asking people. Ask your employer if there is a preferred charity. Ask your pastor/priest if they’ve heard of any community organizations looking for help. Ask your friends where they volunteer and offer to come along.

I want to see more young adults out there volunteering. It’s such a great opportunity to enhance the lives of others and further the purpose of an organization.

If these tips were helpful, let me know! Also, share any tips that you have in the comments below.

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Why Aren't There Donation Boxes At The Airport?

 

I WISH my suitcase was stuffed like this!!!

I WISH my suitcase was stuffed like this!!!

 

 

When I flew to DC on Saturday, I (of course) packed for two weeks. I included suits, dresses, a gown, PJs, pumps, an winter dress coat, and then the regular clothes. As I approached baggage check, I dreaded that I would be over 50 lbs (checked bag fee + an overweight fee = NOOOO!). And, obviously, my giant suitcase was 56.5 lbs. Even after, I switched some shirts and a pair of gymshoes to my carry-on AND put on an extra sweater, I was still at 54.5 lbs. Grrr…At this point, I seriously was prepared to just give away some sweaters or a pair of jeans. I asked the AA representative if there were donation boxes in the airport, and she told me “No.”

Wait, what?

Am I the only person who think that is a good idea? I always overpack for trips and am always wishing that I didn’t bring that extra sweater, Illinois t-shirt, or whatever. And, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been up against the gun (or weight scale) when trying to make it through security and to the gate in 45 mins!

I’m sure there are security reasons or logistical nightmares associated with having donation boxes in airports, but I think it should be worth a try! Does anyone agree??

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Oh, to end my story, the representative suggested that I take my extra coat out of my suitcase, and if I got it to 51 lbs, she’d let me slide. I did it, and voila…It worked!!! 50.5 lbs! But, my body definitely hurt after carrying a 25 lb carry-on, my big black purse (housing my laptop, gymshoes, water, etc…), my black winter coat, and my white winter coat. 🙁

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarships

Last year, when my mother passed away, my sister and I decided that we wanted to make a donation to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s scholarship program, in her honor. The scholarships assist high school students who either have a parent living with MS or who have MS themselves. My mom was a very big believer in all things education, so it was such a natural decision!

Now this year, in addition to planning events to keep my Mom’s scholarship alive, I’ve been asked to assist the Greater Illinois Chapter with their scholarship drive campaign! I’m actually heading over to the Chapter office now to help craft a letter explaining why it’s so important to support these scholarships. The letter will be sent to various donors, so am going to really make sure that my voice/POV are heard in that letter! It definitely won’t be hard for me to think of reasons! I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and really hope the campaign does well!!!

To find out more about the MS Society’s scholarship program, you can click here!

I’ll talk to you all later!

“Will a Man Rob God?” – Giving In Church

Okay, let’s talk about something personal. Every year, I resolve to stay faithful and up-to-date on my tithes and offerings at church…and every year, I stumble and falter along the way. My pastor has been preaching on the topic of finances for the past few months, covering everything from faith-based philanthropy to Sunday’s topic, giving what you owe the Lord.

I’m not going to lie…I should probably definitely give more money in church than I do. Some of you won’t admit it, but I have NO problem being honest about that. So, the sermon was definitely hard for me to swallow. Especially when Reverend brought out the scripture “Will a man rob God?…” The answer? Yes. That makes me sad. I mean, how can you (I) rob God???? 🙁

Anyways, needless to say, this year, I’m going to stick to my guns and sacrifice what is owed and anything additional in church. Period. I give funds and attend special events to raise money for my favorite charities, knowing that I should’ve also put an extra $20 in the offering basket for the scholarship fund!

This year will be the year to get it right! Besides, I’m going to need all the favor that I can get!

Anyone else struggle with this?

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