April 27, 2012

Help fund local charities with a click

Second Harvest
The following write-up originally appeared on my Examiner page. 
Today's article is about a different, but no less important kind of green, the kind that comes in the form of donations. A Facebook voting contest sponsored by retailing giant, WalMart, has pledged to bring $1 million to the winning city's charities and $50,000 to the next 20 runners-up in a unique Fighting Hunger Together campaign. 
As of 7:30 a.m. this morning, Youngstown-Warren, Ohio area had taken the lead to receive $1 million donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and Catholic Charities Diocsese of Youngstown
According to a report released by The Brookings Institution last November, the Youngstown metropolitan statistical area has some of the most densely concentrated poverty in the nation. 
The nominated cities were selected based on regional unemployment rates as a criteria because according to WalMart
 Unemployment plays a role in an individual or family’s ability to put food on the table. In places where unemployment rates are highest, the food banks, soup kitchens and other hunger fighting organizations are being accessed more than ever to help Americans make ends meet.
Votes can be cast once every 24 hours and the winning community and the 20 runner-up communities will be announced on April 30, 2012. Organizations selected to receive grant dollars to fight hunger in the winning communities will be announced May 15, 2012. Anyone with a Facebook account can cast a vote the community of their choosing. 
As a personal aside, regardless of your opinions about the contest sponsor, I urge you to consider the good the money can do for an area that has been struggling for years. Our area's charities could really use the boost. 

April 24, 2012


It took me a while to decide if I wanted to post this on my public blog. I don't want to seem ungrateful. However, it's a funny story and I'm still giggling about the whole process. I hope you get a chuckle, too! 

I am helping with a fundraiser for one of the charities I volunteer for. About a month ago, I sent off a number of donation requests to several high profile organizations, including sports teams. The response has been amazingly positive. I was mailed a signed football from a pro sports team (GO BROWNS!), two box tickets to a ballgame (GO INDIANS!), 4 tickets to Walt Disney World (yeah, really!) and then an unnamed pro hockey team, not only approved my request, but contacted me via phone to inform me of as much. The same city's football team doesn't respond to unsolicited donation requests. I understood, they are a very successful business that can pick and choose who they donate to.

The community relations person for the team asked me to make an appointment to pick up their donation and had me spell my name twice for security purposes and reminded me to make sure I had a photo ID. It was explained that I would be on a list at the main reception area, to check in there, then they would send me on the elevator to the donation/community relations department. My anticipation was high, with such an incredible amount of filters, I could hardly wait to see what they were donated. Would it be club seats? Signed merchandise from one of their very famous players? What sort of donation must they be making to require such high security measures?

I couldn't drive to pick up the items for nearly a week after I received the phone call. The suspense was killing me. But I had my appointment and even received a confirmation call about the pick up date and time.

This morning, filled with excitement, I drove 75 miles each way to pick up the item. I paid to park and walked into their palatial offices, thrilled they were donating to our event. I was handed a bag with their logo and not wanting to seem too immature, I simply thanked them and walked out of the office. I didn't risk opening whatever valuable merchandise may be contained within while walking to my car, but I just tried to be patient until I was back in my car and could check what was in the bag.


(I know the anticipation is killing you, too, isn't it?)

I opened up the plastic drawstring bag to discover a pile of giveaway junk. Yes. Really.

There was a folding cardboard zamboni filled with corporate logos. A t-shirt and baseball cap. A cardboard 11x14 sign welcoming back a prodigal player. A video about the arena where they play. And a picture of some players complete with corporate logo across the bottom. A stretchy bookcover with the sponsor's logo.

I realize beggars cannot be choosers. I realize a donation is exactly that, it's what the organization wants to giveaway. But would a donation of a marginal value been too much to ask? According to Forbes magazine, while profits are down, the average NHL hockey team is worth $240 million, with an annual aveage revenue of about $103 million. I think they could have done better. Instead of breeding good will, I have sour grapes. I really wish they had just said, "we don't make donations". I feel like I got an entirely new understanding of the term, "cheapskate".

World Book Night 2012

A few months ago, I signed up as an ambassador for World Book Night 2012. It just was such a cool sounding program with so many amazing books, I was compelled to participate.

For those of you who don't know, World Book Night is a very unique literacy initiative. From their site:

What is World Book Night? 
World Book Night is an annual celebration designed to spread a love of reading and books. To be held in the U.S. as well as the U.K. and Ireland on April 23, 2012. It will see tens of thousands of people go out into their communities to spread the joy and love of reading by giving out free World Book Night paperbacks. 
World Book Night, through social media and traditional publicity, will also promote the value of reading, of printed books, and of bookstores and libraries to everyone year-round.  
Additionally, April 23 is UNESCO’s World Book Day, chosen due to the anniversary of Cervantes’ death, as well as Shakespeare’s birth and death.
The selection process was fairly simple. We filled out applications with our top three books we could share passionately with non-readers. We had to explain how we would share the book and where we would go to do so. We were encouraged to find a non-traditional venue and folks who wouldn't normally read.

I initially coordinated the giveaway at a friend's ice cream store, mostly because the pace is slow and relaxed and people are already doing something they enjoy (eating ice cream). But just as I was setting up, I received a phone call about a meeting I needed to attend and had completely forgotten about in my excitement for World Book Night. So I took my books and went to the meeting, where I graciously explained why I was late and then shared some of the books with the folks at the meeting. By the time the meeting was finished, the ice cream store was very quiet. I looked around the corner and saw a bustling laundromat, which was filled with a captive audience of folks waiting for their clothes to dry.

I walked in there and started talking to folks sitting at tables and chairs about the book I was giving away and why they would enjoy Stephen King's The Stand. While it is a daunting looking book (over 1400 pages!), the story is so compelling and the characters well developed that it's a perfect book to have as an ongoing read. I re-read it just last month in preparation for World Book Night and still found myself riveted. It's a timeless story of good vs. evil in an apocalyptic world.

World Book NightThe Stand wasn't the only book to choose from. Thirty books were available, including a selection by Maya Angelou, The (very very popular) Hunger Games, A Prayer for Owen Meany (which a fellow book lover friend of mine was chosen to give away), Lovely Bones, My Sister's Keeper, Friday Night Lights. Many of the books were also made into movies. There is something magical about sharing the "real" story with someone who has only seen a movie. For example, some of the television adaptation of The Stand was incredibly well done, but other parts, not so much. A book is like having a treasure map to all the hidden secrets of a tale.

The other books I had applied to giveaway were The Glass Castle, a memoir of a young woman who will astound you with her resiliency or The Lovely Bones, which I found to be an amazing story of healing in the face of something completely unforgivable.

I've also shared a photo of one of my happy recipients. I would love to hear how well she liked the book!

April 23, 2012

Practice reduces imperfection

I don't expect to be perfect, hence the title of this post.

A few weeks ago I announced my full presence. I've shared my attempt to live aloud and it was met with a meager amount of praise. I've tried to speak my mind both vocally and written(ly?).

The results are in. It's working.

I wrote a story about my childhood that I'd always been nervous to share.
Today I reviewed a product and was brutally honest that it wasn't the greatest thing I ever received.

Sometimes, it's not always about deception. Silence is not deception, per se. Neither is it honesty. It's that place of imperfection that exists wherever we dare not.

But today, I dared. The other day, I dared. I dare myself to speak up with my face, my name, and my soul attached. I dared to live authentically.

I'm breathing in the oxygen of truth.
My lungs are full.

April 18, 2012

Fresh. Daily.

Based on my blog title if the next word is not Bread, then something else of sustenance.

I've been thinking about hunger/nutrition/food a lot lately. I've heard a lot of noise about cutting the SNAP program. SNAP is an acronym for Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program. Most of us know SNAP as Food Stamps.

It really bothers me when folks are indignant about feeding each other. A friend of mine once said "food should be like air, it should just be something that is there".

I couldn't agree more with that sentiment. As a nation, we have crossed the place of everyone for themselves. That ship sailed. It's not a world of foraging, hunting or gathering. From an anthropological standpoint, we simply are no longer there. Society has changed the way we organize our days.

Our world is a place of localized gathering. We go to stores in an orderly fashion with a list and agenda. We are no longer the wild creatures seeking food, but rather the food is brought to us in exchange not for brawn or strength, but for paper symbols of currency. For most of us, that is.

While Darwin may have suggested survival of the fittest, often times, our less fit are children. Writing experts tell us frequently to write what we know. I cannot purport to know hunger. I can purport to know and have lived with charity.

When I was 12, my parents separated. For the next several years, while they tried to untangle two lives tangled, and figure out finances of two households, not one... I was the recipient of free school lunches. I never thought that would be my life, and looking back it seems almost surreal. I grew up in a comfortable home, with all the amenities.  My life was so comfortable, that at one point, as I handed in my lunch ticket, the classmate who helped in the lunchroom looked at me and with the zero tact of a junior high aged kid said, "you get free lunches? I thought you were rich." I didn't know what to say. What I mostly remember is skipping lunches as often as I could. Trying to make it from the time I left for school, until I got home so I didn't have to endure the humiliation of that free lunch ticket.

For three years, I carried that card. I can remember family members buying us new clothes for the holidays, having no idea that we were on "government aid". I can only imagine the thoughts of those around me, as I hear it echoed so often today. "The kids have brand new [cell phones/video games] and yet they suck off the government." Those words sting. I travel back to my time of getting free lunches in my own new clothes. I didn't know then what folks must have been thinking, but I hear it today and it breaks my 12 year old heart. I felt so stupid as it was, getting free lunches. To think I was reviled and hated because it was a way to make sure I had something to eat in the middle of the day... I still shake my head.

I was a lucky one. My time was temporary. It ended. I wonder about those who see no end. Those whose parents work two or three jobs wondering why they never get ahead. I wonder what it must be like.

And in a tiny slice of my brain, I remember. I know what it was like.

That is why food should be like air. It just should "be there".


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