Monday, December 24, 2012

Feeding the Hungry? Splendid

Holiday Charitable Giving Donation #4
For quite some time now, one of my favorite parts of Christmas with my dad's side of the family has been the opportunity we take to give back.  When I was a kid, I remember Dad's family members (of which there are MANY; he's one of 9 kids) taking up a collection to donate to the roof renovation project at the church where they were raised.  Since the completion of the renovation project, we've changed our focus a bit.  In recent years, we have held a Wii bowling tournament.  Each player buys their spot for $5 and plays one game.  The top 4 bowlers advance to playoffs where they compete to win half the amount of money collected.  The other half the the money is donated to charity.  The first year of the tournament, we donated to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.  The tournament has evolved over the years, and now the winner gets to choose the charity that receives the funds.  Though the prize money has gone to other worthy causes over the years, I always push for the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank is the primary food source for more than 220 food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other local programs working to feed the hungry in the area.  They support agencies in 14 Eastern Illinois counties.  In the course of the year, they will distribute more than 6 million pounds of food to those in need.  SIX MILLION pounds!

In addition to distributing food to local food pantries and soup kitchens, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank also has a backpack program called Healthy Futures.  This program provides a backpack of food to children likely to otherwise go hungry over the weekend.  Each backpack contains nonperishable food, as well as fruits and vegetables.  According to the EIF website, nearly 17% of children in America struggle with hunger, and Healthy Futures is one way to help alleviate that need.  They also have a Foodmobile program that distributes food in the more rural areas they serve. 

The EIF gladly accept donations of food, both on smaller personal scales and larger food drives put on by organizations.  However, for every $1 donated to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, they can purchase $10 of food from their sources!  It is incredible to think how many people the Foodbank can feed for such a small amount of my money.

The Eastern Illinois Foodbank website is a great resource full of ideas on how you can contribute.  Check out their page about food donation or make a monetary donation directly through their website.  They also need volunteers to help process and package bulk foods, help at soup kitchens, do office work, and other miscellaneous tasks.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Giving Shoes and Sight to Those Who Need Them? Splendid!

Gifts that Give Back Suggestion #3: Toms

I know that I am late to the Toms party, but seriously, what a great company.  For those of you, who like me, live under a rock and don't already own a pair (or three) of Toms shoes, they've become a bit of a cultural phenomenon.

In addition to be comfortable, casual, and coming in some delightful colors, patterns, and GLITTER, Toms has a One for One program.  That means for every pair of shoes they sell, they give a pair of shoes to a child in need.

Toms also has a One for One program for sight!  For every pair of sunglasses they sell, they help one person receive proper eye care.  That could mean medical treatment, a pair of eyeglasses, or even sight-saving surgery.

Toms shoes are available for the kiddos as well as adults, so you can start teaching your kids early about giving back.  Most of the shoes on the website cost $54 for both adult men and women, with boots costing more, naturally.  They also sell some apparel and accessories as well.

If you’re interested in what Toms does and how they do it, check out their Giving Report.

As for me, Christmas is around the corner, but I know what is going on my birthday wish list

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Housing and Supportive Services for Women and Families? Splendid!

Holiday Charitable Giving Donation #3

The Center for Women in Transition provides housing and supportive services for families experiencing homelessness or who are victims of domestic violence.  This is an incredibly important service, especially this time of year.  Though we have been experiencing a very mild beginning this winter, everyone knows Illinois weather can turn in a snap.  Getting these women and their children in a safe, warm environment for the night is so important.  While providing these completely necessary services in the community, it’s important to note these challenges the Center for Women in Transition faces:
  • There is no year-round emergency homeless shelter in Champaign-Urbana for women and children.  From January through April, The Center works with a local church to operate an Emergency Women’s Shelter, but arrangements have to be made to house the children elsewhere for the evening.  Mothers and their children are separated every evening.
  • There are no programs in Champaign-Urbana to house women with a male child over the age of 14.  None of the programs have enough space to provide privacy for families with an “adult” male.  Again, women are forced to separate from their children for overnight shelter and services.
  • There are no facilities in Champaign-Urbana to house homeless intact families.  Families are forced to split up between multiple facilities in order to be able to utilize temporary housing services.
Currently The Center provides services through four programs: Domestic Violence Services, Homeless Services, Permanent Housing, and the Retail Store.  The store, Transitions in Lincoln Square Mall, provides a unique plan to help the women participating in the program.  Transitions offers a program for participants to receive customer service training, experience in retail sales, merchandising, and inventory control.  Staff also offers help with resume writing and interviewing techniques.  Additionally, residents of The Center for Women in Transition also receive vouchers to procure clothing from the store in order to look professional for interviews. 

In addition to accepting monetary donations directly on their website, they also have a wish list of items they can use at the shelter, and the resale store is always accepting donations of gently used clothes, shoes, purses, and other accessories.  Clothing donations can be made during store hours, Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm.  Local ladies, when you’re clearing out your closet this January to make room for all the boss threads you received at Christmas, please consider donating to Transitions.

Friday, December 21, 2012

LUSH Gives Back? Splendid!

Gifts that Give Back Suggestion #2: LUSH

Have you ever used products from LUSH?  They are not joking with that name.  The company makes amazing beauty and bath products.  The products themselves don't just smell great, but the company believes in using natural organic ingredients and refuses to use anything tested on animals.  Seriously, the company is all about ethics and making a positive impact on the world.  Definitely take the time to read about the company here on their website.

One of the ways they make a positive impact is through the sales of the LUSH Charity Pot.  
I had to steal this photo from the LUSH Facebook page because they wouldn't let me steal it from their actual website.
LUSH Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion
After subtracting the amount needed for taxes, 100% of the money goes to charity!  The website spotlights different charities the company currently supports.  They are typically grassroots organizations that help people and animals in a more ecological way.  You can check out the charity page here.

I have not actually used this LUSH Charity Pot product, but I can only assume it's spectacular.  A mixture of cocoa butter and fragrant essential oils, the description mentions smelling chocolately, so you know it must be fantastic.

Shoutout to Elizabeth B. for turning me on to LUSH products through her stunningly thoughtful care packages over the years.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Island of Safety? Splendid!

 Holiday Charitable Giving Donation #2

Crisis Nursery creates an "Island of Safety" dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing 24-hour emergency care for children and support to strengthen families in crisis.  It is the only emergency-based child care facility open 24 hours, 365 days a year for the entire community to access with no fees, income eligibility or waiting list.  

One of the things about Crisis Nursery that really struck me was the line on their website, “Asking for help is a sign of strength.”  So often asking for help is perceived as a weakness.  If you were strong, you wouldn’t need help, right?  This is a sentiment that I have struggled with for a long time.  It’s often hard for me to ask for help on the big stuff until I’m in way over my head.  Killing bugs? I’ll ask for your help immediately.  Reaching something on a top shelf?  I’ll call you into a different room on a different floor before trying to stand on a rolling desk chair or rickety ladder.  Completely overwhelmed by professional workload, personal responsibilities, family obligations, and self-imposed ridiculously high standards?  You probably won’t even know this is an issue for me unless you’re part of the very select few who has had front row seats to one of my spectacular meltdowns.

Parenting can be tough (so I’ve been told), and when it becomes too overwhelming, Crisis Nursery is there to help by taking care of the children.  In addition to being 24-hour emergency child care, they also have programs to strengthen families and contacts with other community resources to help families get back on their feet.  How fortunate the parents in Champaign-Urbana are that they have this incredible resource available.

They accept donations of goods from a wish list as well as monetary donations which can be made securely on their website.  Donations of goods and supplies can be made in person Monday-Friday 8am-5pm at the facility.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gifts that Give Back? Splendid!

Gifts that Give Back Suggestion #1: Sevenly

Making outright donations to charities is great, to be sure, but there are still times when giving someone you love a gift is not only appropriate but expected.  In keeping with the theme of giving to those less fortunate, I also want to spotlight some companies that offer products you can gift to someone while also giving back to society.

First on my list is Sevenly.  Sevenly is a company that chooses one charity each week, designs shirts based around that charity, sells them online, and donates $7 from each shirt sold to that particular charity.  Each Monday a new charity is announced, and new shirt designs are unveiled.  They claim that previous designs are taken away forever (they even go so far as to use the "Sandlot" FOR-EV-ER on their website), but this holiday season, they brought back 7 fan favorites for an extra day of support.

Sevenly supports all kinds of charities that help people, whether it’s autism research, helping disabled kids get service dogs, helping women escape abusive relationships, or even as simple as giving hats to kids with cancer to keep their sweet heads warm while they go through chemo.  This week Sevenly is supporting Reece’s Rainbow.  The website notes, “The mission of Reece's Rainbow is to rescue orphans with Down Syndrome through the gift of adoption and to raise funds to help adoptive families afford the high cost of adopting these beautiful children.”

The designers at Sevenly come up with some seriously cute shirt designs, and it's so exciting to see what new charity and designs will show up each week.

Feed My Starving Children Design

Props to Keren C. for introducing me to Sevenly!