We stopped by the Fairbanks Foodbank to see how the organization and volunteers were serving the community in one of our farthest flung stops so far. Like the other foodbanks we’ve visited along the way, we found an energetic and compassionate group dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of others and it inspired us to join in and help. Thanks to everybody in Fairbanks for being so warm and inviting.

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We visited the Oregon Foodbank in Portland, Oregon where we met a dedicated group of volunteers that not only work hard together, but also spend time together outside of the warehouse. They were a truly welcoming and loving community and it was hard not to immediately share in their spirit.

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We’re about halfway through the year and about halfway through the States.

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St. Paul’s House is an NYC institution (you might remember their sign from the opening credits of SNL) and on the last Tuesday of every month (September – May) they have pizza and movie night. My friend Aegina and I were able to help out (and I might have snagged a slice of pizza along the way) and make new friends.

Here is an interview with Shandra Velez discussing what St. Paul’s House does and how the community can help.

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One of the things I resolved to do this year in conjunction with the Be Local Everywhere project was to give blood, when able, wherever I am. Back in March I donated in Clark County, Washington. By the time I got to Connecticut, the requisite 58 day waiting period between donations had passed.

And that’s how I found myself (along with my good friend, Aegina) at the Red Cross of Fairfield County in Norwalk, Connecticut. I’ve given blood plenty of times (though not as much as I should have, especially in the last few years), but I have never had a more skilled Red Cross worker than my new friend, Troy, in Norwalk. Everybody should go visit her!

For more information (and to set up your appointment!), please visit http://www.redcross.org/nj/fairfield

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I was fortunate to hang out with the folks from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in Rockville, MD over the Memorial Day Weekend. The volunteer request asked for people to hang out with a shelter dog for the afternoon, become friends with the dog, and answer any questions prospective adopters might have (breed, age, philosophies towards children and cats).

This is me and Cream.

withcream

As you can imagine, it’s a nice way to spend an afternoon going on walks, lying in the grass, feeling the sun, and just generally being outdoors in the company of a loving dog. It was also a bit tough to say goodbye at the end of the day. But it was also nice to know that a lot of families were interested in Cream and I am confident she’ll end up in a nice home.

Thank you to Sue for giving me an overview of Lucky Dog and all of the good things they’ve done in the MD/VA/DC area.

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Delaware was one of the states that I could technically say “I’ve been there,” but only because I’d driven through it on the way to somewhere else. Now I’ve got a real Delaware experience. My friend Kiri drove down from Pennsylvania to join me.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to visit The Little Sisters of the Poor in Newark. The mission there is:

“As Little Sisters of the Poor we care for the elderly poor in the spirit of humble service we have received from our foundress, Saint Jeanne Jugan. We welcome the elderly as we would Jesus Christ himself and serve them with love and respect until God calls them home.”

I was fortunate enough to speak with many of the residents, help with serving lunch, and even made some great new friends. For more information please visit their website, here.

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I love nature. It’s something relatively new in my life to go out on long hikes to appreciate wildlife and the quiet. It has become essential to me. And that’s why it was such a natural opportunity and a blessing to do trash pick up along the banks of the Little Neshaminy Creek at Kemper Park in Warminster, Pennyslvania. My friend Kiri and I walked between four and five miles and were treated to birds, squirrels, the easy current of the creek as we went. We worked with the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania (part of the larger Great American Cleanup). Anybody can go out and pick up garbage, but if you want trash bags, gloves, vests, and a group of others to go with you, be sure to check out your local chapter.

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My friends Bill Gordon and Thomas Pluck joined me at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus where we played Bingo with the residents. The experience was real and joyful and heartbreaking at the same time. It was great to hear some fantastic stories of lives lived, and it hurt to hear the stories of lives lost. It shifted my perspective in a meaningful way and I am sure I won’t forget it anytime soon.

We worked with Jersey Cares to find the opportunity–an excellent resource for narrowing down volunteer opportunities by interest and availability.

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Big thanks to KBOI TV for coming out to the Idaho Foodbank on Idaho Gives Day. I’m still so grateful to have spent time with everybody at the Foodbank.

 

 

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One of the things I wanted to explore when I started this project was the differences between “online friendships” and those people we know in the “real” world. I’ve known Ben Bailey and Chels Meacham through Twitter for more than a year, but I’d never met either of them in person.

Until now.

Ben, in his professional capacity, manages a Smashburger restaurant in Draper, UT. He was able to secure permission (and food!) from corporate headquarters for the three of us to distribute to the homeless in Salt Lake City. It’s great to see companies acting responsibly in their communities. Big thank you to Smashburger, Ben, and Chels.

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I had an opportunity to visit the Idaho Foodbank in Boise to see their operations, learn how folks can help out with donations and volunteer work, and to help sort food. This was a magical experience for me and I can’t say enough about the team at the Foodbank. Such a loving and dedicated group of people.

http://idahofoodbank.org/

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I had an opportunity to visit the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama in Mobile with my friend Michelle. Public Relations Director Katie Emer gave us a tour of the facilities and explained the philosophy behind the organization. We then joined some of the kitchen staff to help prepare and serve dinner to those in need.

More about the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama (from their website):

The Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama provides spiritual, social and emotional assistance for men, women and children who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves.
Our centers offer emergency shelter, job training and placement, social services and seasonal assistance for families in need.

We also provide work, group and individual therapy for men who are recovering from addictions. The physical and spiritual care that program participants receive prepares them to re-enter society and return to gainful employment. Many of those who have been rehabilitated are reunited with family and resume a normal life.

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I joined my friend Delilah S. Dawson at the TLC Humane Shelter in Dahlonega, Georgia. We spent time with cats and dogs who needed a little human interaction. To be honest, it was nice, having been on the road for a bit, to run around outside with the dogs and to quasi-nap in the sun with the kittens. Here’s an interview with Doreen Sanders, the head caretaker at the shelter.

 

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I was joined by my friend Jamie Mason in Asheville, North Carolina to distribute backpacks to those in need in Asheville. Backpacks contained water, food, socks, and some toiletries.

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I was lucky to have two opportunities to volunteer in Nashville. My friend Sara J. Henry joined me for both. We were joined by Zack Barnes for the second of the two.

Sara and I began the day at the Nashville Rescue Mission where we worked in the kitchen helping to prepare lunch for the Friday afternoon guests. Though I am not exactly “skilled” in the culinary department, I managed to peel cucumbers, chop cucumbers and tomatoes, and take part in the orderly assembly line of putting together meals (big thanks to my new friend Jill K. who showed me the ropes).

It’s really an impressive operation to see everybody moving so fast and in unison and with a palpable sense of compassion. The Mission serves up to 2,000 meals per day. It also provides a whole host of opportunities and programs to help people get back on their feet. Here is an interview with Samuel Bolton, Director of Volunteer Services at the Mission.

Sara and I then joined Zack at the YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter of Nashville and Middle Tennessee where we were greeted by our YWCA representative Mary (picture above is (l-r) Mary, me, Zack, Sara). We sorted and folded donated clothes that would be made available to the women and kids staying at the shelter as they begin their journeys to new lives.

If you’d like to donate to or volunteer with either organization, here’s more information.

Nashville Rescue Mission

YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

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Many years ago I was a fairly regular blood donor. For whatever reason I stopped going. Occasionally, I’d tell myself to go, but didn’t.

But I also know that donating blood is a pretty important and simple thing most of us can do. It takes less than an hour, the pain isn’t really significant, and someday it might be somebody close to us who desperately needs blood.

I scheduled an appointment with the Clark County (Washington) Red Cross, made the brief drive from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA, and donated. It was as smooth and easy as I remember (and I got free cookies!).

Here are some statistics from the Red Cross.

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • A total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • Sickle cell disease affects more than 70,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

 

For more statistics and to find your local blood bank, click here.

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Was lucky enough to hang out with the Hoffmeister family in Eugene, OR. My friend Peter Hoffmeister has been involved in direct action projects for years, including delivering food to the hungry in his hometown.

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This is Ben. Below, find a note from my friend Neliza Drew for a fundraising effort she’s undertaking.

- – - – - -

bmaOne of the thing I love about my dojo is how the Sensei cares about his students, their families, and the community. He’s a great teacher, but he’s also a great guy. Some of the other local schools, if they found out a student wouldn’t be able to attend class for a while because of a personal problem, might just take the kid off the books and move on.

We’re doing a Kick-a-Thon.

One of our former students (and purple belt!), GK, was adopted by a local family. GK grew up in an abusive home and was recently diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder, which is more rare but is caused in most cases by abusive or neglectful environments during early childhood). GK’s adoptive parents found a school that specializes in treating children with PTSD, and especially RAD. The cost of Changing Hearts Boarding School isn’t covered by medical insurance, and as you can imagine, it’s costing her new family quite a lot of money.

One-hundred percent (all, for all those people who claim to hate math) of the proceeds of the Kick-A-Thon go toward paying the expenses.

If you’re interested in donating, checks can be made payable to CHBSM and sent to:

Barnard’s Martial Arts
6336 N. Powerline Rd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309

Or, if you’d rather pay electronically, I can forward donations to my PayPal (neptuneandnutmeg@gmail.com — just put in the notes section it’s for the Kick-A-Thon).

All donations are tax deductible as Changing Hearts is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

Thanks for your help and attention. I’ve spent a lot of years working with kids in varying degrees of trouble and distress. I hope this treatment helps GK and her family and sincerely wish them all the best.

Neliza Drew

 

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