Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Please Support our March for Babies!

At the 2013 March for Babies
Coming up soon, we will be taking part of our second March for Babies as part of team Belt Kids. After the fun we had last year, I'm really excited to participate and I'm especially excited that Emily will be able to "march" with me!

Belt Kids was founded by my friend Julie, who is a superstar mom, but completely relatable and down to earth. She has three kids and two were born very early, but all are happy and healthy now. Hearing her talk about not being able to hold her first two babies right away,  the emotional aspects of watching her babies struggle, and the challenges her babies faced is heart-breaking. While Julie and her family are lucky to have grown and thrived together, not all preemies are so lucky. On our shirts last year, we had angel wings for another baby who did not make it. I met his mom at a picnic in Chicago last summer and she was so sweet. She had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for helping raise money and walk in support of babies like hers. It was a truly humbling experience.

I'm proud to contribute to such a worthwhile cause and am thankful for my friends and family who have supported me in this endeavor. If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, here is a link to our page: http://marchforbabies.org/tiffemily.

If you cannot contribute, but would like to get involved, you can sign up for a walk in your area. A list of walks across the country is on their website.

After the walk, I'll post an update and a couple photos. Thank you all for your support!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Random Acts of Kindness

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to make a difference, performing random acts of kindness is a great start. The nice thing about random acts is that you do not have to plan ahead! It can be as easy as asking someone who is carrying a bag of heavy groceries if you can help or holding the door open for someone with a baby stroller.

To get ideas and inspiration, visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation online. Some of my favorite ideas are:

* Write a letter to an individual or organization that has made a      difference in your life
* Give directions to someone who is lost or help them figure out their  Metro stop
* Pick up trash
* Say “hello” and smile!
* Be generous with compliments

Another reason to perform a random act of kindness is that the benefit may not stop at the person you are helping. The Foundation shared a great article about the positive impact your kindness might have on someone who witnesses your good deed. Read more about it here.

If you have any favorite random acts of kindness, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

For Moms: New Ways to Approach Volunteering

At a volunteer fair with my friend Garry
By popular request (ok, maybe two or three people), I'm going to write about volunteering once you have a child. It seems simple enough to continue giving a few hours of your time to an important cause, but once you have a cute little human who needs you 24/7, inconsistent sleep schedules, and environments where children may not be welcome, you may need to reevaluate your approach to volunteering. I will write about how you can stay involved in the community once you have kids in this post and write another one about volunteering with your children when they are a little older. Hope you find them helpful!

So you have a child and you want to volunteer, but where do you start? First off, come up with your game plan by answering these questions:
  • How often do you want to volunteer? Weekly? Monthly? Special events only? 
  • How many hours are you able to commit to in that time frame? 
  • How long of a commitment can you make? A few months? Indefinitely?
  • When do you want to volunteer? Weekdays? Weekends? Mornings? Evenings?
  • Do you have someone to watch your child if needed?
  • Do you have a preferred location? Do you have the resources to help from home?
  • What do you really really really want to help with?
Out of all of these questions, the most important is the last one. When you have a child or any other obligation that gives you limited free time (a part-time job in the evenings, going back to school, etc.), it's so important to make sure that you are spending your time in ways that are meaningful and rewarding in some way.

Once you have an idea of how you'd like to volunteer and your availability, you can start searching for opportunities. For me, the easiest ways to stay involved include administrative work that I can do from home, increasing my participation in events and activities coordinated by my MOMS Club, and serving on the Board of Directors for a few organizations. Each of these has offered me the opportunity to do work from home on my own schedule and to give back in ways that are fun and meaningful. I'll focus on finding those types of opportunities and a few others below.

At-home administrative work:

You're probably thinking that this doesn't sound very exciting and wondering how rewarding it can be to type pages and pages of random information. However, I've had a lot of luck finding this type of volunteer work and it's much more varied than it sounds. One particularly memorable experience was typing up Christmas wish-lists for a non-profit organization so that they could be distributed anonymously to community members. You can also help an organization keep up with it's website, Amazon wish-list, or social media pages. Some organizations also need help with online research projects or planning special events. All of these tasks can easily be done from home, but are invaluable to the organization.

There are a few ways to find opportunities that match your interests. If you already know the organization you'd like to help, a visit to their website is the best place to start. They will likely have a list of their volunteer needs and information on the application process (forms, background check, etc.). If you aren't sure where you'd like to volunteer, there are several online clearinghouses available including:
Each of these sites and many others allow you to search by keyword, location, and more. If you are having trouble finding opportunities within your search parameters, try searching more broadly or tweaking your keywords. Once you find an opportunity you are interested in pursuing, the site will provide contact information so that you can follow up and express interest. Be open from the start about your availability, especially if you have strong preferences about volunteering from home or need a unique schedule. 

MOMS Clubs or other parenting groups:

Helping out a parents group that you are involved in is an awesome way to volunteer because you are likely to be helping out with other people who have kids your age. It's a great way to build your bond with other parents and meet new people. I oversee the playgroups for my MOMS Club, which involves a lot of emails, coordinating with our County's facilities department for room reservations, creating and managing forms, and other tasks that can be done from the comfort of my couch. It's a position I enjoy because it involves connecting moms and babies with each other and gives me a little extra push to take Emily to playgroups. You can also help plan special events like holiday parties or welcome events for newcomers. Finally, your club is likely to have its own volunteer events, which are bound to be kid-friendly! Activities that have been popular with our MOMS Club include making holiday cards for troops, diaper drives, and caroling at a nursing home.

Serving on a Board of Directors:

If you are looking to keep up your skills and build resume-worthy experience, serving on an organization's Board of Directors is a good option. The time commitment varies and you will likely have to attend monthly meetings, but much of the committee work can be done on your own time. Last November, I finished up a three year term as Chairperson of the Arlington County Fair, Inc., the all-volunteer non-profit organization that plans and implements the annual Arlington County Fair, and I'm now serving as Treasurer. The experience has been so multi-faceted (contracts, sponsors, work orders, volunteer management, public relations, etc.) that it is probably my single biggest learning experience outside of school. I'm also Treasurer for my condo association board and enjoy this role because you get a better feel for the day-to-day operations of the community and how everything adds up over time. I've also been able to work with our investment manager on the strategy and long-term plan for investing literally millions of dollars -- something I don't have the opportunity to do with my personal finances!

To find more information about joining a board, a good starting point is the organization's website. The information might be listed in the get involved, about us, or contact section. If you cannot find information already on the website, try reaching out to a current board member (the chairperson or recruitment committee chairperson are likely to be able to help). Some board openings are also listed in online databases, such as Volunteer Arlington's Board Match.

Modifying your existing volunteer role:

If you are already helping an organization, continuing your involvement with different parameters may require a simple conversation with the organization's volunteer coordinator about your new availability and how you can continue to contribute. For example, if you were serving meals at a homeless shelter in the evenings, you might be able to serve breakfast in the morning before your spouse leaves for work. Or, if you were helping with an after-school program for children in the arts, you could help plan a special community event or the organization's annual fundraiser instead. Even better, if you have a history with the organization and the environment is appropriate for young children, they might be more open to the idea of you bringing your baby with you. You never know until you ask!

Creating your own opportunities:

This is the easiest one because you have complete control! You can organize a park cleaning, a toiletry drive (or a coat drive, a bra drive, a diaper drive...you get the point), or any other event you're interested in hosting. Come up with an idea, find ways to share the idea to others and get people involved, gather any necessary supplies, and go for it!


No matter what you decide to do, remember that it should be an experience that you enjoy and it should be mutually beneficial to you and the organization you are helping. Good luck and happy volunteering!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Our Cups Runneth Over

A colorful variety of donations

The slogan, Over Cups Runneth Over, was shared by Free the Girls along with their 2013 year in review. Among the highlights they shared was shipping 150,000 bras to Mozambique, Uganda, and El Salvador. After reaching out to my friends and neighbors (read more here), I'm happy to report that 54 more bras will be ready for shipment soon. While it's minimal in comparison to the mass quantities they ship in their program, every little bit counts. Thanks to everyone who donated to my bra drive!

If you would like to help out, here are some ideas shared by the organization:
  1. Share our Facebook page with your friends 
  2. Send us a gently used bra or two 
  3. Ask friends, family, or coworkers to donate bras 
  4. Host a bra drive or fundraiser in your community 
  5. Become a financial supporter
  6. Ask a local retailer to become a bra drop-off location
  7. Help connect us with corporations, foundations, churches and service organizations who believe in the cause and can help fund our growth 
  8. Host a Free The Girls information table at a local anti-trafficking event 
Update: I'm still collecting bras! Looks like a lot of my friends are spring cleaning and have many more to give. If you are interested in donating, let me know.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Collecting Donations for Free the Girls

It's been a busy winter with lots of ice and snow, but warmer days are on the way and that means it's time for spring cleaning! For the last few weeks, I've been going through our house looking for things to donate, pass along to other moms, and throw away. It's actually been pretty fun to pack things up and have more room in our cabinets. It also shows that one person's trash is another person's treasure!

One thing I seem to have accumulated a lot of over time is bras! Sports bras, regular bras, nursing bras...you name it, I have it in a large quantity. However, these items aren't as easy to get rid of, even when they are in good shape. As if reading my mind, another mom in a babywearing group posted information about Free the Girls, a non-profit organization that donates gently used bras to women who have escaped slavery but need to earn a living to survive outside of the slave industry. As soon as I got in touch with her and visited the organization's website, I knew it was time for me to host my own bra drive.

Free the Girls has been around since 2010 and has created a really admirable program. You mail your donation to them, they send the bras to women in their program with the initial inventory being a donation, the women sell the bras, and the women can then purchase additional inventory at a reduced rate. There's a lot of information about how the program works and its success record on the website. The press kit is also great.

If you are local to me and would like to make a donation, let me know and I'd be happy to send it along with the donations I am collecting now. Or, if you are far away, consider hosting a bra drive of your own. Either way, I encourage you to check out the organization and see the inspiring work they are doing!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Voluntary Happiness (?)

It's been a while (again) but I'm going to write more often...starting now! Thanks to my mommy blogger friends for setting good examples. I'm probably going to write more about being a mom and less about volunteering because that's what makes me happy!


A few times recently, I've complained that I don't have any "me" time and that I really need a break. This led to a pretty interesting conversation with Mike about how I actually do have "me" time, but I'm using it all up doing other things -- for example, organizing the fair, coordinating playgroups for the MOMS Club, and serving on my condo board. After all of those things are done, I'm left with very little time that I can call my own. But, as Mike pointed out, I'm choosing to spend my time doing those volunteer activities so can I really complain? To be completely honest, I hadn't thought of it that way before. I treat the fair like it's a job. I do everything else because I want to be involved in my local community. But is doing those things making me happy? Should I be spending my time doing other things if happiness is my ultimate goal? The honest answers (no and yes, respectively) weren't really what I was expecting, but have given me a lot to think about. Since our conversation, I've deleted all email accounts associated with volunteering from my phone and stopped doing administrative-type volunteer stuff on the weekends. Now I have a few more minutes to flip through the newspaper or cook a real lunch while Emily is sleeping. I can be a better mom because I'm slowly making more time for myself. And I'm adding to the list of things that really do make me happy:

- big baby (toddler!) smiles right after a good nap
- the sound of little hands and feet on the wood floor
- finger nails that are painted a pretty color (for me and Emily, thanks to Piggy Paint!)
- clean hair that isn't pulled back in a messy bun 
- keeping the house clean, having time to mess it up, and then getting it all organized again
- cuddles with my sweet girl, even if they are short-lived!

While my current volunteer obligations are here to stay for now, I'm working on finding a better balance so that I can find some level of happiness in everything I do. That's something to be very happy about!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Please Support our March for Babies

A few of our team members
Emily and I are excited to be joining some of our mom and baby friends for the March for Babies next month. This event benefits research and programs by the March of Dimes that help moms have full-term pregnancies and babies begin healthy lives. By raising funds and walking with our friends, we want to help the mommies, daddies, and babies who need our love and support. 

Our goal is to raise $727 and we have one month left to meet that goal. July 27th is Emily's birthday in case you're wondering about that number :) We hope you'll consider donating and share this with any of your friends who are looking for a great cause to support!

Here are the top 5 reasons to donate to our March for Babies:
  1. All the cool kids are doing it. See below for the current list of cool kids.
  2. Your donation is fully tax-deductible and for a very cute and worthy cause.
  3. You'll become one of Emily's favorite people ever. She knows lots of people so this is pretty big.
  4. Everyone who donates to our walk will get your name on our super cool t-shirts.
  5. If we exceed our goal, I will see to it that Emily "walks" at least 7.27 feet and will send photo or video proof to all of our supporters.
A big shout out to all of our friends who have donated so far. We appreciate all of you and thank you for contributing to our walk!

Anthony D.
Laura B.
Lisa D.
Tara Y.
Tim H.
Garry K.
Katie P.
Stephanie B.
Sally L.
Meghan W.
Mike K.

If you'd like to help, donating is very easy. Just visit our March for Babies page (www.marchforbabies.org/tiffemily) and click on the pink “Donate Now” button. You'll receive an email confirmation and a receipt for your tax records. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support of this great cause!

Tiff & Emily