Tag Archives: give back

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday

I love that there is now a Giving Tuesday. When I worked in non-profit, we didn’t have something like this. We appealed daily, weekly, monthly, yearly; whenever we could, to raise funds and awareness for our organization. Giving Tuesday originally seemed like just another new non-profit marketing tool and I never thought much of its true significance until today.

After an amazing Thanksgiving spent with loved ones, our attention has now shifted to the craziness of the holiday shopping season. How did we go from being so thankful to being so material within hours? While I’m not a Black Friday shopper, I did spend a majority of Cyber Monday on a laptop looking for Christmas gifts. I went to what seemed like every website imaginable looking for the perfect gifts for my daughter, my nieces and nephews, my sister-in-law, my mom. I didn’t even get to my husband, my in-laws, or my brother. And while I truly LOVE buying gifts for people, wrapping them up and seeing the excitement on their faces when they receive them, I literally feel like I wasted so much time on my computer looking for presents.

They say you should be thankful for your health, your family, and so forth; that gifts aren’t important. Yet we’re all still making Christmas lists and trying to find the best deals to make the holidays special. After a shitty time last year with my dad’s illness and my mother-in-law recently hospitalized, coupled with all the Facebook posts and news coverage about Giving Tuesday, I literally stopped to think how much all this “stuff” doesn’t really matter. Yet we’re all here, shopping and scurrying, trying to find all the best things.

So this Giving Tuesday, why not take a moment and move on from Target’s website,  ToysRUs, wherever you’re shopping, and make a donation to an organization that really helps those in need. Then head back to your 1-click shopping on Amazon.

#GivingTuesday

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How the Hungry Fed Me

This week I volunteered at a food pantry. My company organized a full week of donating your time to a charity of your choice or one of many they are affiliated with. I thought it was pretty cool that I was getting paid to do something that helped others on my company’s dime. More companies should allow their employees to do that.

So me and a bunch of other people assisted with food distribution and organization at a New York City church downtown. It was sweltering hot, it smelled funny, and some of it was a bit unorganized. Having worked for a non-profit, I accepted it. I was there to help, not complain.

My experience humbled me, as volunteering always does. I listened as our team leader spoke of only being able to help 35 people during each opening; the heartbreak of turning so many others away; how her clients could only come once a month for food and had to turn elsewhere for meals while they waited for the calendar to turn. Suddenly, my bullshit didn’t seem so big and important.

Hearing all of this impacted me, but nothing prepared me for the people who walked through that tiny door. They had waited for hours on a line to be one of the 35 “lucky ones” and stood again to actually receive their groceries. It was over 90 degrees. These people were standing in the hot, beating sun, patiently waiting for us to help them. They were so gracious and appreciative that we could give them some cereal, juice, a few vegetables. And then they had to schlep their food home, some ill, some frail, all poor and hungry.

As I handed out food, engaged with clients, and bonded with co-workers I barely knew, I felt so thankful. I never truly realized how many people didn’t have food. Sure, I’d participated in food drives and made monetary donations to charities in need, but I had never really gotten my hands dirty in this way.

When I got home, I made the most of what I had in my cupboards and refrigerator.  I begged my husband to work with me not to waste food, and to try and curb our impulse purchases that usually end up in the trash by week’s end. Leftovers will now last a little longer in our home.

If you get the opportunity, give back. It’s better than the delicious meal you’ll have tonight, the tasty martini that will wet your lips this weekend, and the new shoes you just got on sale. It’ll make you feel warm and grateful inside, and you might just change your everyday routine in a way that helps others.

When Did We Stop Giving Back?

Recently, the U.S. Postal Service held a food drive soliciting donations from millions of Americans across the country as part of their Stamp Out Hunger campaign: a cute and catchy tagline with the postage stamp, and a great way to get people to donate to a good cause, Feeding America. Plus, being that they’re the post office, free marketing: they were able to put flyers in millions of mailboxes across the U.S. without paying postage! Brilliant!

I participated in the program. It was easy. Pack up food in a bag and place it at your mailbox. It gave me an opportunity to give back to the community AND clean out my cupboards!

I packed up as many goods as I could that were acceptable to donate. I found stuff I didn’t eat anymore, things I shouldn’t eat anymore, and foods that might make people who don’t have the luxury to eat the way I do a little happier.

I arrived shortly before my postman (an awesome guy I have grown to know after months of long-term unemployment!) with my bag full of goodies and was sorely disappointed. There were five bags of groceries for the hungry at our mailboxes.

I live in a luxury building in Hoboken that houses over 200 units. Of all those apartments and rich people who parade around this place, only five bags were left for the hungry!?! Are you friggin’ kidding me?

Unemployed, and saving my own pennies, I found a way to donate a little bit to those less fortunate than myself.  What I don’t understand is how people who live with the luxuries of personal trainers, nannies, dog walkers and Maseratis (yes, I’m serious!) can’t give a box of pasta or can of soup to the needy. Get it together America!

Why Do Calls for Volunteers Go Unanswered?

When I lost my job, I knew I did not want to waste my time on the couch, watching TV and regretting that I didn’t do more with my time off. I had been unemployed before and regretted not taking advantaged of the time that I had when not  looking for a job or taking care of things I otherwise didn’t have time to while I was working.

Immediately, I decided to volunteer. After working at a non-profit, especially one that depended so heavily on volunteers, I knew that there was a great need at so many organizations for people like myself. I could do more than just answer phones and stuff envelopes, I could help develop strategic plans, write press releases, build media lists, create collateral materials; the list was hefty with communications and public relations experience. And I would even stuff envelopes and answer phones. I just knew that I could and wanted to give back.

I began by applying at places that I interested me; places that I would like to work if I had chance, but since I couldn’t, at least could be a part of the team in a voluntary role. My interests varied, so there was a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, no one was answering my calls, emails or applications.

I must have applied to at least 10 non-profits in the last five months. I applied at the YMCA, the Jubliee Center, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the Innocence Project, Hoboken University Medical Center, and others, throughout Hoboken, Manhattan and surrounding northern New Jersey towns, but no one got back to me. My husband even applied to a non-profit or two and no one got back to him either.

I understand that many non-profits are probably bogged down with unemployed people who are interested in giving back while they are looking for their next career move, but what I don’t get is how these organizations advertise and beg for volunteers yet don’t answer when people heed their call.  I know that some volunteers only want to do something related to their field, but at least call them back. Maybe they’d be willing to do something else or contribute in another way that you never thought possible. Non-profits are losing many valuable people by not returning calls and emails of those who are willing to help. It creates a false sense of urgency for your causes and your needs. And by not developing these relationships, non-profits are losing more than just those who can help, but those who can help foster their mission.