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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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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:
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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.