Friday, March 30, 2012

Keep America Beautiful

Our son is a boy scout and loves to camp.  I like to think he got his love of the outdoors from us since I love hiking and enjoy camping myself. Before boy scouts, he was in the Adventure Guides program through the YMCA. The leader of the group was wonderful and one of the things he always made the boys do before they set up camp and after we broke it down was to pick up 10 pieces of trash.

It’s something I hope my son will always take with him, the idea that taking care of the environment is an important responsibility of stewardship.  If we are to enjoy the great outdoors, we need to take care of them.   

This month began the Keep America Beautiful (KAB) Great American Cleanup. It goes from March 1 through May 31 every year and is America’s largest annual community improvement program. Last year 3.8 million volunteers put in 5.2 million hours at 30,629 events around the country and the world.

Volunteers also planted 166,000 trees and planted 1.5 million flowers and bulbs, along with planting or replanting 728 edible community gardens.  The numbers are wonderful to hear because they are the results of people getting out and caring for their communities.  They represent stories of communities becoming healthier, better, litter-free places to live.

What does that really mean? Communities that have less graffiti and trash and more green spaces, recycled goods and knowledge about how to care for the environment.

KAB has affiliates throughout the United States which you can contact to get involved this year. It also has a place for tips on how to keep communities, clean, safe and healthy.  Since 2005, it’s also provided resources for middle school teachers on litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, composting, landfills and more through its education site Clean Sweep U.S.A.

For the first time this year, KAB has declared a National Day of Action on Saturday, April 28.  It has coordinated activities in nearly all 50 states with special events in California, Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. 

Its goal is to recruit four million volunteers for the Great American Cleanup this year.  If you love your community and the outdoors, this is your chance to show it. My son’s boy scout troop will be joining the cleanup in April so I’ll be with them. I hope you will be making a difference in your community during this year’s Great American Cleanup, too!

Friday, March 23, 2012

My First Sacrifice

I did not grow up going to church and the churches I have attended since I became a Christian in 1992 have not made a big deal of Lent so neither have I. That is, up until this year.
This year I am fasting every Wednesday night to Thursday night as part of Lent. Although I’ve heard for years what my Catholic sister is giving up for Lent, I’ve never really given up anything before.  I fasted once (not during Lent) and found it to be a spiritually satisfying experience so I’m looking forward to doing this on a regular basis.
My church is having everyone who is willing fast one day each week from the beginning of Lent, February 22 (Ash Wednesday) to April 5 (Maundy Thursday).  Then we are breaking our fast with a sedar meal.
I was even more excited about doing this because I know about skip1.  It’s an organization that asks people who have a lot to skip something—a meal, a latte, a round of golf, a dessert—and give what they would spend on it to a project to provide food and water to the needy.
The head pastor’s wife at church suggested several different types of fasts including water plus fruits and vegetables as one option. Since I asked my husband to do it with me and he’s never fasted before, he chose the water/fruit/vegetable option. I’ve found that in the beginning I was providing a lot of fruit and veggies but now after four weeks, I’m providing less and less.
In any case, I’m guessing I’m saving an average of eight bucks a meal, so I gave eight dollars to skip1’s project in a town in Peru called Chilca which is about 45 minutes outside of Lima.  An orphanage there has a kitchen that’s incomplete and the orphanage can’t open without it.
It needs a new roof, pots and pans, a refrigerator, a stove, pantry, flatware and food.  It also needs a dining area with tables and chairs so the kids have somewhere to sit.
Skip1 has donors that take care of all the fees related to processing the money and sending people to set up the kitchen so every cent I sent goes toward the above items. And, as of the time of my donation, skip1 was only $1133 from its fundraising goal of $30,000.
At the rate of eight bucks a meal, I still have about $80 to donate somewhere and with three more weeks that will add up to $152.  I’m looking into several different options.  I’ll keep you updated. Let me know if you have any suggestions or want to share what you have given up for Lent before.  
Where I am anyway, the earth is definitely showing signs of spring. I even had to mow my lawn this week.  The new growth is symbolic of Jesus rising again and reminds us that his love for us is always there, even below the snow drifts and bare roots of winter.  May you feel His love this spring and always.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Disasters Mount and Who Responds?

Natural disasters.  If it seems to you like we’ve heard about more of them in the last year than ever before, you’d be right.  In fact, President Obama issued a record 99 major disaster declarations in 2011, compared to the annual average of just 37 for the past 50 years.
Looking at the recent string of tornadoes that tore through 10 states, killing dozens of people and flattening neighborhoods, 2012 may not be any better.

Who deals with tragedies like natural disasters every day?  The American Red Cross. It reports that it responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year worldwide, providing shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to those affected.
Red Cross Blood Services also collects and distributes more than 40 percent of America’s blood supply. And, more than 9 million people across the United States receive American Red Cross training in first aid, water safety and other skills every year.
Once a year in March the president proclaims it Red Cross month so the Red Cross can fundraise for its efforts throughout the year. So what can you do to help the Red Cross help people going through disasters?
One of the best things is to become a monthly donor.  You can donate to your local chapter, to a particular disaster or to wherever the need is greatest.  You can also give stocks, mutual funds or gifts through your will.  The Red Cross also allows text donations of $10 by texting REDCROSS to 90999 for disaster relief.

If you are a woman who can give at least $10,000 to the Red Cross, you can become part of the Tiffany Circle Society of Women Leaders.  The Women's Relief Corps of the North and the United Daughters of the Confederacy of the South provided Tiffany windows in 1917 for the Board of Governors Hall at the Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C for $10,000.  Since 2006 there has been a Society for women who can provide that much money to the Red Cross.
Another way to help is to volunteer. Volunteers make up 96 percent of the Red Cross’s total work force. You can find volunteer opportunities near you by running a search through Volunteer Match or calling your local chapter. The Red Cross needs volunteers for a number of things, from teaching classes to coordinating with the local government.

The Red Cross was actually founded in Switzer land in 1863 by Henry Dunant and four other men and started out by caring for the wounded in wars. Clara Barton and some of her friends founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. in 1881.

This month, consider giving to the Red Cross or volunteering with them.  They have been needed more than ever in the last year and could use your help. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Get Your T-Shirts Here

Today is the official launch of my new and improved website at or It’s been a busy week for me, with a friend home from the hospital and a brother in law who just went in.  Besides visiting them, I also managed to pass on a kindness card to someone whose lunch I paid for in line behind me at Burger King yesterday.  Helping others feels SO good!     

But I’m really ready to give away a t-shirt.  This month, if you sign up to get my newsletter, then you are entered into the contest to win a smoky blue “Awaken Your Hearts to End Hunger” women’s Sevenly t-shirt. Since I’ll be giving away a Sevenly shirt, I thought I should tell you about what Sevenly does and about a few other places where you can get clothing and support charity at the same time.

What Sevenly does is pretty simple. Each week it designs a shirt for a new cause and then sells them for $22 and gives seven dollars of that to the cause.  As a result, it raises thousands of dollars for a new charity each week while also providing publicity for the cause that week and on an ongoing basis when people wear the t-shirts.  It’s deceivingly simple, yet effective. 

One of the downfalls is that you have to catch the t-shirt during the week it’s offered because it’s not available beyond it.  I have “liked” Sevenly on Facebook so I get a notice of what charity they are supporting each week and a look at the t-shirt.  I wanted to mention that Nice Shirt does the same thing.  They charge $23 and give eight dollars though. So, you have an even greater choice in charities and t-shirts!  I chose the Sevenly t-shirt because it goes along with my theme Helping Hearts for this blog and my website.

Another clothing site that supports charities that’s only been around since 2009 is Meant4More Apparel (M4M).  I love their “I am Meant for More” t-shirt, a reminder that we are all meant for more than just living but instead for loving and helping others.  M4M gives part of its sales to non-profit organizations like American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Freeing American Children from Exploitation and Sexual Slavery, and Girls Education and Mentoring Services.

Another of my favorite sites for clothing (and other gifts) is the Hunger Site.  It has everything from socks and boots to dresses and jackets from all over the world.  It also has links to its partner sites fighting autism, breast cancer, illiteracy and supporting animals, veterans, child health and the rainforest. Each site has gifts and clothing of its own so the variety of one of-a-kind items is amazing. 

Most charities today offer items with their logo on them including t-shirts and ball caps, but I wanted to share a few sites that do a little more than that by supporting various charities and providing more unique items. Happy shopping and please visit my site to sign up to win the Sevenly t-shirt! 

Thanks and God Bless, Anne.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Relaunch and Refocus

Great new things are happening at You probably have noticed that my website Helping Hearts has been changing.  For a month now, I haven’t been able to update the Today’s Ways to Serve feature on a regular basis, because I’ve had a designer working on the page.  I haven’t been sending out my monthly newsletter because I have a new header that I’ve been tweaking.  For those who have checked out what the site looks like so far, you can see that it’s easier to navigate and looks a lot better, too.

The official relaunch of the website is set for next Friday, March 6.  I will be giving away a Sevenly T-shirt that says “Awaken Your Hearts to End Hunger” in honor of the relaunch. The cost of the t-shirt provided 35 meals for people in Darfur.  Anyone who signs up for my newsletter in the month of March gets a chance at the shirt and I’ll announce the winner in early April.

The website has a philosophical change to it as well.  I’ve decided to share my Christian beliefs and faith in God as part of the site.  You see, I never really wanted to be a blogger, have a website, even to make writing my fulltime job.  I feel like God has called me to do these things despite my efforts to be a regular Joe. 

In 2009, I looked for a job for over a year and wasn’t able to find anything.  Then I did find a job and I prayed about whether I should take it.  I felt like God was saying that I should write and not take the job.  So I did what I felt I should. Then more circumstances led me to start writing a book, one who’s main character is a Christian.  The even stranger part is that I’ve always written nonfiction so doing a Christian fiction book was brand new for me.

Being a writer has benefits, such as being able to take time to volunteer two days a week, like I do at the American Cancer Society. But you don’t get paid to blog in the traditional sense.  It’s not like having a regular nine to five paycheck.

I know that I wouldn’t be doing what I am now if it weren’t for God.  He has made it possible and given me the desire to write about philanthropy and volunteering. He has pushed me in this direction even when I wanted to take the safer path.  He has been there for me when I wasn’t sure what to do.

I hope my website and blog can be a testament to His love.  One of the changes I’ve done to the site is change the motto I quote under my logo.  I’ve taken a quotation from Proverb 4:23 about how important the heart is.  “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

As I said in my very first blog for Helping Hearts, it is easy for our hearts to become hard when we hear stories of how charities misuse their funds or people pose as homeless in order to get money. But how we deal with that is very important. 

We should deal with it as we do when we find a Christian who isn’t acting like one.  Look to our ultimate leader Jesus.  As humans, we all mess up, some more than others.  But when you find someone messing up royally, realize that he’s not the model of what Christ wants us to be.   But that shouldn’t stop you from doing what’s right.  Each of us is responsible for our own lives, not for the mistakes of others.  That includes helping others and making a difference, not just for others but also for Christ.