Browsing Tag


Brunching at the Ronald McDonald House

KB's Journey

My sister and I are still rocking and rolling on our Holiday Service Challenge and one of the things that we wanted to do was prepare a meal for families at the Ronald McDonald House near us. Our Ronald McDonald House program provides a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost. I have the biggest soft spot in my heart for children in hospitals and their families so I’m always down to do what I can to make things feel a little easier for them. In fact, a couple of years ago, my sister and I made Valentine’s Day cards for the families at the same RMH location. It is still one of the “funnest” things that I’ve ever done!

(Okay. Back to brunch.)

Eager to form a group, I sent an email to some of my favorite folks to see who would be down. And much to my delight, five folks signed up! Hoorah. That was the easy part. The hardest part? Figuring out the menu. I have probably only hosted three meal-based events in my adult lifetime. A large-meal guru that does not make. I took some advice from Karen, a Chicago Cares Project Leader who I met during a cooking service project for the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project. She simply told me, “Make sure that you choose something simple, in case people don’t show up.” BRILLIANT words.

Grocery Shopping…

So, with that in mind, I chose the easy, yet filling menu of French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey bacon, breakfast potatoes and yogurt parfaits. I also suggested to my group that if anyone wanted to make shrimp ‘n grits, it would be welcomed. Thankfully, my homeslice George stepped up to the plate and whipped up a delicious batch of the homestyle dish. He received so many compliments from the families… No one would’ve guessed that it was his first time making them!

Voila! (Not pictured: Yogurt parfaits and shrimp ‘n grits)

All in all, it was a fabulous Sunday morning spent cooking in one of the most beautiful kitchens that I’ve ever been in. I’m already looking forward to our next trip there. We’re thinking about doing this once a quarter.

Have any of you ever cooked a meal at the RMH? I would love to hear some tips and tricks from you. Oh, and additional recipe options would be greatly appreciated!

Interested in learning more about the Ronald McDonald House Charities or finding one near you, click here.


This Weekend: Three Times the Holiday Cheer

KB's Journey

In case you missed it, I’m knee-deep in my (now annual) Holiday Service Challenge. You can read more about it here, but the gist of it is that my sister and I commit to volunteering a certain number of hours to honor our Mom’s birthday.

We kicked off the challenge on December 1st and have been going hard since then. Over the past 13 days, I have made lunch at the Chicago Women’s AIDS Project, volunteered at church, created Christmas cards with my sister’s group of girls, and served dinner at a residence for women in transition. And, this weekend, I have THREE service projects lined up. I can’t wait!

Chicago Cares Carolers last year

You know why? Because all three of these are directly related to the holidays and spreading Christmas cheer. Something that I L-O-V-E. Want to know my plans?

I will be sure to snap a few pics along the way, so follow me on Instagram to check them out. Have you made any volunteer plans this holiday season? What’s on your agenda?


What Do Bingo and Cereal Have in Common?

KB's Journey, Volunteer Opps

Happy Monday, folks! Did you all have a great weekend? I had a great Saturday with a not-so-great Sunday thanks to a nagging cold and an agonizing Bears loss. But, it’s all good today. It’s a sunny 40 degrees in Chicago, which we will definitely take considering that it’s the middle of December!

On Saturday, I participated in two service projects which I discovered on the Chicago Cares website. The first was Birthday Bingo at a senior apartment building down the street from me, and the other was repackaging bulk food at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Can I tell you guys how much fun I had at with the seniors? Some people think that it’s weird but I actually enjoy hanging with seniors. They actually remind me of my mom. Does that sound weird? My sister knows what I mean. But, yes…Before we got underway with the bingo, the Chicago Cares Carolers stopped by and sang some of my favorite holiday songs. I didn’t even know that they had carolers! I’m definitely going to do that next year.

"Deck the halls..."

Moving on to bingo, I have to tell you guys that calling numbers is not as easy as I thought. There is so much pressure to be loud, don’t read them too fast, to be entertaining, and most importantly, to call the right number! The residents went easy on me though. After about eight games of bingo and a couple of slices of red velvet cake, it was time to leave but I promised to return next month. It’s right down the street…I have no excuse. And, I had FUN!

At the Food Depository, our group was one of many who had signed up to help that day, including a large team from J.P. Morgan Chase. They worked on the massive warehouse floor, while the smaller groups were charged with repacking 3000 lbs of cereal into 8oz bags for Chicago families. Our goal was to make 2000 bags, so with our hair nets, aprons, and gloves we got busy. I was a “weigher,” meaning that it was my job to weigh each bag and adjust the amount as necessary before handing to my “taper.” We worked like a well-oiled machine to accomplish the task. In 2.5 hours (give or take), our group actually packaged over 2,800 bags of cereal! I believe that the exact total was 2,866. Whoo hoo!

How do I look?

When I got in my car, I took a moment and smiled. It’s amazing what a couple of hours can mean to an individual, a group of seniors, or a community of needy families. This service challenge is totally restoring my soul and putting me in the right mindset as I get ready for 2012. This past week, I logged 6 hours of service, and I have 22 hours scheduled this week. I took today off of work and am heading to the MS Society to volunteer for the day, then off to a school this evening to help with their library restoration project.

As always, please continue to send volunteer opportunities my way! And, keep checking the blog and my Facebook page for recaps, updates, and photos.


P.S. I promise to take more pictures…Don’t you guys worry! 🙂

CHALLENGE: 53 Hours of Holiday Service

KB's Journey, Volunteer Opps

Image: TimeOut New York

Last week, I announced that I am challenging myself to clock 53 hours of community service between now and Wednesday, January 4th. Everyone was incredibly supportive, but many wondered why. Well, it’s no secret that I lost my mother in 2008 after a long bout with multiple sclerosis. On January 4, 2012, she would’ve turned 53 so there’s the reasoning behind that. My mother loved to help others. She tutored foster kids when we were younger and even won a national award from Volunteers for America in recognition of her service. She taught Sunday School, worked in the sign language ministry at church, and always seemed to have a supportive word for those around her. Simply put…she is the original Fabulous Giver and at this moment in my life, I can’t think of a better tribute.

I’m also so happy that my sister has joined the challenge as well. On a daily basis, we have phone meetings discussing what projects we have signed up for and how well we’re tracking. It’s fun and a little nerve-wracking! But, we’re getting there…and come hell or high water, we will reach our goal. Some of the projects that we’ve signed up for already include:

-Packing food boxes at the Greater Chicago Food Depository

-Teaching adult computer skills to women recently released from prison

-Passing out food and toys to those in the community

-Assisting with a mailing project at the MS Society

-Hanging with seniors at a local community center

-Gift-wrapping gifts for kids in need

-Serving at a Salvation Army location on Christmas

There are other service projects that we are participating in, but we need more! If you or your organization can use a couple of hands (especially on nights and weekends), let me know! Thanks again to everyone for their support…’Tis the season to be a great servant!


20 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer ($5 or Less)

Living & Giving

During the holidays, it seems like there is an abundance of good cheer almost everywhere you look. With the exception of a few crazies who get into fights at shopping malls and refinance their homes for Christmas presents, I believe that most of us really look to this season as a demonstration of goodwill. This holiday season, I’m committing myself to do 30 acts of kindness so I sat down and brainstormed a list of holiday-themed charitable acts that cost $5 or less. And, looking back on the items below, most of them actually don’t cost anything but time! I may not be able to personally do all 20, but I promise to complete at least 12 of the items listed below!

Ready for the list? Here we go…

  1. Head to Macy’s and write a letter to Santa. For every letter received, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, up to $1 million dollars. Bonus: Purchase 10 stamps and grab ten cards for family/co-workers to mail in.
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa or coffee for someone who you know or don’t know.
  3. Purchase a few cans of non-perishables the next time that you’re grocery shopping and donate to a local food drive.
  4. Buy a couple of pairs of magic stretch gloves and donate to a warm accessories drive.
  5. Dress up as Santa and visit a shelter or nursing home.
  6. Break out the construction paper and create homemade cards for family and friends.
  7. Bake cookies or cupcakes for a special someone.
  8. Volunteer at a local pantry or soup kitchen.
  9. Can you carry a tune? Join local carolers as they bring Christmas cheer to others.
  10. Participate in Hanes Virtual Sock Drive. Log on to and help them donate 250,000 socks to the Salvation Army.
  11. On a weekly basis, gather all of your loose change and drop it in the red Salvation Army kettles.
  12. Offer to watch your friend’s children for a couple of hours so they can run some holiday errands.
  13. Did your office Secret Santa give you another body wash or lotion? Donate it to a local women’s shelter.
  14. Download beautiful holiday stationery and write a heartfelt note to five people in your life who would least expect it.
  15. Sign up with your local senior center to do wellness check and to deliver warm meals to those most vulnerable during this cold weather season.
  16. Donate $5 to Feeding America. All donations are being matched until December 31st. So, it’s really like you’re giving $10!
  17. The next time that you spot someone doing good, tweet about it and tag the tweet with #goodspotting. The Case Foundation is giving you do-gooders a chance to win up to $500 for you and $5,000 for your favorite charity! You can also upload a photo to the Foundation’s Facebook page.
  18. Host a potluck at your house and ask everyone to bring $5 to pool together and collectively donate to the organization of your choice.
  19. Buy some candy canes, tie little note tags around them, and give to neighbors, co-workers, students, etc.
  20. Offer to put up your grandparents’ holiday decorations. I’m sure that they deserve the break.

What simple acts would you add to this list? Have any of you done any of these things already? As I complete the tasks, I will share photos on my Facebook page. Feel free to do the same!


P.S. How do you guys like my favorite ugly holiday sweater?

Ugly Holiday Sweater = Win

Four Fun Volunteer Projects for the Summer

Living & Giving, Volunteer Opps

Summertime always turns me into one happy camper, especially after surviving the long Chicago winter. With the warmer weather comes plenty of opportunities to have fun outdoors, but it’s also a good time to look into volunteer opportunities off the beaten path. Here are four fun summer volunteer projects to help you have a “Summer of Service.”

1. Tend to a community garden. Even if you can’t keep a houseplant alive, you can redeem yourself tending to a garden in your neighborhood. Plant trees, water the flowers, or pluck weeds. They are all ways to keep the grounds looking great and even work up a little sweat!

Millennium Park – Chicago

2. Become a tour guide at a local museum or attraction. During the summer, tourists and visitors flood top city attractions. Look into volunteering at your local aquarium or cultural center on the weekend. As a plus, you get to see the sights yourself and learn some pretty cool information that you can break out at your next trivia night.

3. Teach an outdoor sports clinic. If you’re a tennis or golf pro, your services might be useful at a park district or community center. Plenty of people (myself included) tend to take up outdoor activities during the warmer months, so this is the perfect way to keep your skills sharp while helping the athletically-challenged work on their swing.

4. Help beautify a school. If you ask around, I’m sure there is a school in your local district in need of freshly-painted classrooms or books for the library. Reach out to teachers in your area and see if there’s a way to help out. Last summer, I, along with thousands of other volunteers, helped spruce up schools here in Chicago. It was a great way to spend a Saturday and I met a few new people.

Do you have any other summer volunteer projects to add?


A Tale of Two Causes

HIV/AIDS, KB's Journey, Multiple Sclerosis

All of my life, my #1 cause has been multiple sclerosis. I watched my mother fight the disease for almost 30 years, and learned to hate every single thing that this disease is capable of doing to an individual and their families. I volunteered for the MS Society, learned about the disease and took every opportunity to educate others about MS.

When I started The Red Pump Project in 2009, I picked up another flag to carry. This time, my fight centered around educating my peers and others about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. Being in this position has been a blessing and an eye-opening experience but I have a confession to make…

*whispers* I feel guilty about spending less time championing the fight against multiple sclerosis.

I hope that doesn’t sound crazy to you because I almost felt crazy typing it. After all, we can all stand for more than one cause and support more than one organization. But, for me…with my personal story, I feel like I’ve turned my back on something that was once all I could think about. When I promote the MS Society or encourage people to support the organization, I feel this tug like, “Should I be using my connections and networks to promote Red Pump instead?”

So, for now, I continue to be torn…Torn between a disease that strikes at random and a disease that can be prevented. One disease that affects all Americans and one that is disproportionately affecting LGBT and minority communities. I shouldn’t feel this way but I do.

I used to feel that my decreased involvement in the fight against MS meant that I was forgetting about my mother and her life. But, then I remember that she’s probably very proud of my work with Red Pump. I don’t know…I’m sure that I will get over this hump soon. The anniversary of her passing is this month so maybe that’s a factor in this little guilt-fest. Yeah, I’m going to chalk it up to that…but I’m still going to re-up my involvement with the Society in the meantime.

I think that should do it.


What Kind of Volunteer Are You?

KB's Journey, Volunteer Opps

This morning while researching new 2011 volunteer opps for me, I came across this quiz on asking “What Kind of Volunteer Are You?” The goal is to tell you which types of volunteer opportunities you would be most suited for. Intrigued, I went through the questions eager to find out where I would end up.

After five brief questions, I found myself tied between two categories: New-Breed Volunteer and Untapped Volunteer. Loved the titles…But, were the descriptions accurate? Let’s see…

New Breed Volunteer

You’re a radically different breed with just as much desire to give back. You’re a busy professional, student or parent with a full life, but you believe that doing good feels good and giving back is part of living your best life. Volunteering regularly adds meaning to your life.

Untapped Volunteer

You work full time or go to school full time, and you probably have children at home. Your life is hectic and your time is already overcommitted. It’s likely that you haven’t volunteered much in the past year, not because you haven’t wanted to, but because many volunteer opportunities require more time than you have to give. You believe that doing good feels good and that giving back is part of living your best life. Volunteering when you can adds meaning to your life.

The descriptions were very accurate…VERY. As much as I love spreading the word about causes and raising awareness, nothing compares to actually serving at a food pantry, helping to clean a school, or reading to kids. It’s just a matter of finding the time. Based on my assessment, it’s best that I look for volunteer opportunities like special events, shifts at a hospital, and anything that’s easy to sign up for.

I think tools like this quiz are great for many people who are looking to volunteer but can’t figure out the best activity for them or how to get started. Here’s the link again…So, what kind of volunteer are you?


Four Ways to Start Volunteering Today

Living & Giving

Many people want to volunteer more in their communities. However, they also admit that they don’t know how to get started. With so many things going on in our lives, it’s easy for volunteering to get pushed to the bottom of the list. I get it, and I wish that people would be more honest about that.  After all, I am NOT the volunteer police!

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Can’t Tell a Story Without a Voice

KB's Journey

finding my voice

Confession time.

While I am a stellar volunteer who will give all of her time, I’ve never been comfortable fundraising for those causes. I’m talking about making the ask of people to separate with their hard-earned money and giving it to an organization that they may or may not know about.

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