Well, it’s a new year, but there’s no reason to stop volunteering. I went to the Maui Food Bank, joined by my co-worker Ashley and her husband, Jeff (who coincidentally were on Maui for their honeymoon).

We sorted and shelved food for a few hours. If you’re planning to visit Maui and want to give back, you can sign up on their website – http://www.mauifoodbank.org/

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Maui is a wonderful place. Not just for its abundant natural beauty of blue water, greenery, and mountains. The Aloha culture, the people, the history, and the traditions make Maui unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.

I spent the last hours of 2014 with my better half (a Maui local) doing direct action in Kihei. Robyn and I passed out cards to folks we didn’t know to wish them a wonderful 2015 and included gift certificates for local businesses in the envelopes. We passed out some cards on December 31st and will continue to do so into the new year. I’m going to address plans for 2015 in a later post.

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to join up with the South Maui Volunteers at venerable Kam II Beach in Kihei where I did some light gardening. If you’re in Maui on vacation and you want to give back in appreciation for the splendor you have enjoyed, you can volunteer with them even if it’s only one time. No reason not to!

From their website:

Hoaloha ‘Aina (aka South Maui Volunteers), under the guidance of Parks, State DLNR, and UH SEA Grant personnel, has been able to help in several instances of natural and man-made events and disasters which have affected the south Maui coastal dunes. Storms have ravaged dunes and beach areas, water leaks have washed out trails, sea birds have been killed by dogs, vandalism has damaged dune areas, and on several occasions there have been huge mounds of dumped rubbish. Our volunteer group has been able to step in and repair most of the areas with the help of grants from Hawaii Tourism Authority, donations from supporters, and hours of service from a host of wonderful volunteers.

 
 

We woke up early and made the six hour drive to volunteer at the San Diego Food Bank. We are immeasurably grateful to Xavier Hernandez, Volunteer Coordinator at the San Diego Food Bank for making room for two more volunteers even though he had a full volunteer team in place (yay San Diego community!). The food bank is a huge operation with a huge mission. My better half, Robyn, and I helped box food that will ultimately be distributed to nearly 800 elderly citizens in the San Diego area.

For more information about the San Diego Food Bank, visit their website.

 

I was lucky enough to stop by the studios of Fox News to be a guest on “Fox & Friends.” It was an awesome experience and I’m thankful to everybody there.

 

 

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I wrote a piece for Affect Magazine about the past year.

Like many people, I’ve long been a proponent for charity and volunteer work, but alas, most of my efforts had been online. In late 2013, after the death of a friend, I made an early New Year’s resolution—volunteer in all fifty United States throughout 2014. It’s now November, and I’ve only got two states left to go. Here are some things I’ve learned this year–use them well…more.

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My friend Cedric and I volunteered at New to You in Broadview, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). Parents from his son’s school were there to help set up a holiday display. And so were we.

 

 
 

After volunteering in northwest Indiana, my friend Cedric and I drove the short distance to the Indiana/Michigan border, where we stopped in the town of New Buffalo to do beach clean up along the shore of Lake Michigan.

 
 

Gary, Indiana is a town I’ve driven by for years on my way to somewhere else. In the upper Midwest it’s a well known place, perhaps most known for its troubles after the decline of industry in the Rust Belt. I stopped by Chicago to pick up my lifelong friend, Cedric, to head the short distance to Gary, so the two of us could meet with the awesome volunteer team at the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.

I look forward to visiting Gary, again, in the near future.

 
 

austinI was lucky to work with the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas (sneaking in with a group of people from VMware) where we helped sort and build food boxes for people who will soon be moving into Habitat for Humanity homes.

From their website:

The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, a 501c(3) non-profit, is the largest hunger-relief charity in Central Texas providing food and grocery products, nutrition education and social services outreach to 300,000 clients each year through a network of 300 Partner Agencies.

More Capital Area Food Bank of Texas on the web:
Twitter
Facebook
Pinterest

 
 

There aren’t many things better than walking around a lake at sunset. When the opportunity arose to do exactly that at Milford Wampold Memorial Park right outside the campus of LSU, who could decline? Joined by old friend, Lisa, we picked up garbage along the water and in the general park area. It’s easy to see the change you can make picking up garbage. Immediate change for the better.

 
 

ingauthierChances are, if you’re not from the area, you’re wondering is that that Gau-thee-aye or Gau-theor, but it’s neither. It’s Go-Shay. Who knew?

Anyway, stopped by the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Gauthier and helped clean kitty cages. So many adorable and hugely adoptable kittens and dogs are waiting for you. If you’re looking to get an animal, please consider adopting from a shelter. Also, if you’re already a pet owner, please, please, please get your animal spayed/neutered.

Thanks to volunteer friend Michelle and the team at the shelter, including: Lynn, Diane, and Austin.

 
 

Had an opportunity to stop by a park my father used to play in when he was younger. It’s pretty incredible what ends up in the weeds and, in this case, a small lake at Antioch Park in Mission Kansas. Here are things retrieved from the water:

Styrofoam cups (4)
Sprite can
Softball
4 Pokemon cards

Also got to see ducks and fish and lots of people enjoying nature, so it was more than worth filling a garbage bag to enjoy part of a Saturday afternoon.

 
 

miamifeatureOne of my favorite places in America is Picher, Oklahoma, a highly toxic ghost town in Oklahoma near the Kansas border. There weren’t any opportunities to volunteer there (at least none that would be safe for me to do). I stopped in Miami, Oklahoma–the next closest town–at the Stonehill Grill where I spoke with Madison who pointed me in the direction of a local park. Another day outside, picking up trash, enjoying nature, and feeling good about the world.

 
 

springdalefeatureWhile hanging out in the Fayetteville, Arkansas area I saw a call for blood donations in neighboring Springdale. To tie together separate trips, the Community Blood Center in Springdale was instrumental in supplying blood to the residents of nearby Joplin, Missouri after they were hit by the tornado of 2011.

You might not ever know who is going to need your blood, but it’s safe to say somebody will, and it’s better to have it ready to go when disaster hits.

 
 

Back in 2011, Joplin, Missouri was the scene of a horrific tornado that leveled massive sections of the town. Many volunteers from all over the country rushed to the area to help with the rebuilding. Three years later we stopped by to do some clean up in Ewert Park. As luck would have it, there was also a local farmers market happening.

 
 

Was supposed to volunteer at the Salvation Army in Iowa City, but my contact there was out sick today unfortunately. Without her being in the office, I wasn’t able to volunteer there. So, I headed to Goodwill, bought backpacks, filled them with socks, hats, toiletries, food, and water. I passed out one of the bags to somebody in need, and, after talking to the gentleman, I also picked up a phone card for him. Still have bags in the car, something I encourage others to always have on hand if they’re so inclined. You never know when you’ll be able to make a difference, so it’s best to be prepared.

 
 

Amazing time volunteering with Girls Rock NC 10 Year Rally. So much music, art, design, and an astounding sense of community. It was an absolute joy to help document the day.

From the Girls Rock NC website –

GIRLS ROCK NORTH CAROLINA is a non-profit organization in central North Carolina that empowers girls and women — through creative expression — to become confident and engaged members of our communities. We accomplish this by focusing on the “three Cs”: creativity, confidence and collaboration.

In our ten years of programming, GRNC NC has held over forty music programs for girls in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Our campers have gone on to perform in successful bands and even take on leadership positions at camp. GRNC has roughly 80 active volunteers and a growing number of partners, sponsors, musicians, parents, activists, and mentors working together to build a strong community.

GRNC is committed to social justice and seeks to amplify the voices of those traditionally marginalized. GRNC is a LGBTQI inclusive and affirming organization, and strives to provide a safe, visible atmosphere for all.

 
 

When we started this project, one of the goals was to make sure to work with our existing framework of friends scattered across the country. Today we rolled into the Charlottesville, Virginia area and met up with Raven Mack. Together, we collected supplies for The Haven, a homeless shelter and services provider in Charlottesville.

From The Haven’s website —

The Haven works to end homelessness. We do this by incubating collaborative efforts across the system of care and operating a multi-resource day shelter for the homeless in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. We facilitate transformation for the ready and provide respite for the weary. We exist because everyone needs a place to start.
The Haven is a dynamic, multi-purpose community space. It enhances our city by providing a centralized location for resource providers, a commercial kitchen, a day haven, a community garden, and a cultural and arts space in downtown Charlottesville. The Haven is in a beautifully renovated church and annex building, across from Lee Park and one block from the public library.

 
 

We stopped by Manna Meal to help serve lunch with the absolutely awesome team there. Huge thank you to Leslie, Camellia, and Jean for all of their graciousness and love and for all of the work they’re doing in their community. We’re so blessed to have spent time with them.

From their website –

Manna Meal soup kitchen serves meals to anyone that is hungry, no questions asked, at no cost, 7 days a week. Founded in 1976, Manna Meal Inc. is an independent nonprofit organization located at Saint John’s Episcopal Church on Quarrier Street in downtown Charleston. For the past 37 years we have fed over 1.30 million people serving approximately 380 people 2 meals every day. Countless in-kind food donations from local proprietors and individuals, as well as produce from the Manna Meal Garden, 4 full-time employees, 6 hourly workers, and 130 loyal volunteers keep Manna Meal Inc. operating daily. Our doors are never closed.

 
 

We stopped by Northern Kentucky University to discuss books, publishing, and current events. Thanks to all three classes for their participation and great conversation.

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