Making a Difference through Gratitude

Amid the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping specials on our minds, the Thanksgiving holiday is also a time to stop, pause, and sit down to more-than-we-can-eat with family and friends.

It is a time to reconnect with our loved ones, to recognize all the good in our lives, to cherish memories at hand, and well, to feel gratitude.

More so, we can show our thankfulness through our generosity and giving heart.

Here in America, income and the standard of living for most Americans is relatively high when compared to other industrialized nations.

Hence, we can revel in the commercialization by buying that thousand-dollar TV for only a few hundred dollars when on sale the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, having money to spend freely is a blanketed statement. It overlooks countless people in our American communities.

Many people barely scratch the surface to afford the traditional family gathering with turkey and trimmings. Some don’t even have family. ​

This stark realization is our call to action to make our community a better place for everyone. While we can’t buy TVs for everyone, we can do what matters most. We can share our giving spirit with others.

In the downtown area of the big city I live close to, we have a hot spot of homeless shelters, transitional housing places, and homeless encampments. Tender Mercies is one such place.

What is Tender Mercies:

Tender Mercies is a supportive and transitional housing environment, located in Over-the-Rhine on West 12th Street (Cincinnati).

Their stated mission is: ”Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.”

This season, on Thanksgiving Day, several friends and I visited Tender Mercies and served a homemade dinner to these folks. Residents of Tender Mercies gave me a heart-felt connection and while they thanked us for their dinner,

  • I thank them for inviting us into their home,
  • I thank them for letting me meet them and
  • to get to know them a little better (some I’ve seen in passing when on my job at the public library),
  • I thank them for letting me give back to my community.

 

Making a Difference in our Communities helps others:

  • As you ponder what difference you can make in your community, consider volunteering at a feeding program, soup kitchen, or the like.
  • Explore where there is a need in your neighborhood or a city near you.
  • Start one with a group of friends or a group or organization that you are a member in.

In a nation as rich and plentiful as ours, no individual or family should go hungry or be malnourished. And no one should go without the human connection of kindheartedness. Feed the hungry and feed your soul.

Making a Difference in our Communities enriches our own lives:

  • An act of unconditional love lifts the spirit, giving a boost to overall health and well-being. In turn, happier, healthier people become better members of society creating a win-win for all.
  • Volunteer work is a wonderful vehicle by which members of a community can lend a helping hand to individuals in need. It provides vital services that local city and governmental agencies cannot always render to the number of people in need.
  • Humanitarian efforts to help others, and increasing our awareness are our calls to action today— and going forward.

”Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie, author.

What are your experiences with being thankful?

Of giving to the community?

Resources:

Tender Mercies (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Homeless Shelter Directory of Helping the Needy:
If you are in other parts of America and need a resource to point you where help is needed, this website is user friendly. It opens with a map of the United States—click on your state and from there, find out where to go and who to contact.

Blog Post from Thanksgiving 2017: Gratitude

If you like what I post, please join my reading community by subscribing to get blog post updates and my newsletter, sent monthly.  Link here.

-Elle-

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Volunteering to Help Schoolchildren

More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

Schoolchildren who qualify for free or reduced lunches get those lunches only on school days. On Friday afternoons, these kids are each given a Power Pack—a sack which looks like a lunch sack yet is filled to the rim with power food. These Power Packs are provided by Freestore Foodbank and dependent on volunteers to bag the power food for them.

Yesterday, Saturday, I joined other volunteers at the Freestore warehouse and together we bagged nearly 1,500 Power Packs! Fifteen hundred may sound like a lot, but in reality, it barely scratches the surface to keep Cincinnati area kids from going hungry over the weekend.

According to the Freestore Foodbank, these are the stats and how our volunteer work impacts the community:

  1. More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

 

  1. Donated food items are provided by area grocery stores, local partnerships, and community members and stored at the warehouse for distribution.

 

  1. Volunteers—there were about forty of us in the ware house yesterday—we unloaded pallets of donated food and packed sacks—“Power Packs.”

 

  1. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, distributing these Power Packs to schools.

 

  1. These Power Packs are given to school children on Fridays so they can go home with power food to carry them over until the next school day, Monday.

 

Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks, which includes Freestore Foodbank. It is also the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state of America.

Feeding America and Freestore Foodbank are dependent on volunteers. Another way to reach out with your volunteering support is to contact any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help.

Resources

Feeding America
Find your local food bank and who to contact for volunteering, based on your zip code.

The direct link to sign up for volunteering through Feeding America is at  feedingamerica.org.

I hope you will join in the efforts to make our communities a better place for our children. Please share in the comments about your volunteer experience. Together, we can ensure a better tomorrow—Children are our future.

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do! Link here.

-Elle-

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Dinner at a Soup Kitchen

Community means joy, laughter, and rejuvenation.
Community enables a reconnection to the world and  human spirits.

(Quote as narrated in video,
Security Dignity Community in
a Place Called Home at Tender Mercies
.)

Schools, churches, and community groups volunteer hundreds of meals and thousands of hours to the residents of Tender Mercies. It is a supportive and transitional housing environment, located in Over-the-Rhine on 12th Street, here in inner city Cincinnati.

Last Thursday, I joined friends to share dinner with these folks. A few of my friends got together ahead of time, cooking lasagna and preparing other dinner items. I left work early that day (using “vacation time”) to meet my friends in the kitchen at Tender Mercies.

We served dinner to about sixty folks. I recognized some folks who came through our dinner line, as folks who hang out at the public library where I work.

One gentleman resident, Cleo, was already a familiar and friendly face for me. On Wednesdays, I pass through “his” street corner, where he sells the Street Vibes, a bi-monthly informative newspaper about the homelessness plight in our community.

Each Wednesday, I buy a paper from him and in return he tells me a joke.

And each Wednesday, Cleo and I exchange a big friendly hug. Thursday evening, I got another hug out of him (smile).

 

 

x

 ”Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.” (Tender Mercies mission statement.)

Resources

Tender Mercies: If you are in our Cincinnati community and would like to know more; perhaps volunteer, visit Tender Mercies’ website.

Volunteer Needy: If you are in other parts of America and need a resource to point you where help is needed, this website is user friendly. It opens with a map of the United States—click on your state and from there, find out where to go and who to contact.
Link here for their directory. 

Please share in the comments your community experience. What is it like for you to share a meal with those in need?

If you like what I post, and haven’t yet subscribed to my newsletter, please do. Link here.

-Elle-

 

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Rubber Ducks Help the Community

Rubber duck races are used in family-fun fundraising events by organizations worldwide.

HOW IT WORKS:  People donate money to the organization by sponsoring a rubber duck. Behind the scenes, before the event, volunteers put a bar code sticker on the bottom of each rubber duck. These bar codes tell who paid for the duck to race.

ON EVENT DAY:  These rubber ducks are then dumped into a waterway. The first rubber duck to float past the finish line wins a prize. These prizes are paid for and sponsored by area businesses.

Proceeds benefit a charity in need.

AFTER THE EVENT:   Rubber ducks are pulled out of the waterway or river with fishing nets. Each rubber duck has a buoy to keep it afloat.

Of interest, the same rubber ducks are used worldwide. When one community is done racing the ducks, the ducks are shipped or trucked to the next location for their next race. (Wow! These rubber ducks sure swim a lot, working hard in their fundraising efforts.)

 

Here, in the Cincinnati area, the 24th annual Rubber Duck Regatta will happen on Sunday, September 2 on the Ohio River off the Purple People Bridge. People will watch the race from both Kentucky and Ohio. Those on the Kentucky side of the river will gather at Newport on the Levee; and those on the Ohio side of the river, at Sawyer Point Park. Rubber ducks will race toward the Serpentine Wall.

Each year, twenty-four years strong, The Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati has sponsored this event. It is their largest fundraiser, raising money for children at risk of hunger. Every duck purchased (at $5) provides 15 meals for a child or family in need. (Wow! $5 goes a long way.) Partnering with area grocery stores, farmers, and others, The Freestore Foodbank has resources to stretch their budget.

PREPARING FOR EVENT DAY:  Yesterday, Saturday, I was behind the scenes in this effort. Me and many other volunteers showed up at their warehouse, putting those bar code stickers on the bottom of the ducks. Sadly, we’d sometimes come across a duck that just can’t make another race—their head is torn or the buoy in their bottom is no longer any good. These went into a box labeled, “Dead Ducks” (how sad).

In the morning shift, volunteers got 2,500 rubber ducks ready to race. In my afternoon shift, we did another 3,900. More volunteer shifts are available. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 rubber ducks will race next weekend!

Yesterday, I learned that this fundraiser is a huge help to the Freestore Foodbank when it comes to providing Power Pack Lunches for school kids throughout the year. 

 

These power packs are given to those children who are on the Free Lunch Program.  I’ve had my hands in these Power Packs, having volunteered to help put these together. Link here for that post.

 

 

Cincinnati’s Rubber Duck Regatta is the largest race in America, yet by far, not the only race which is impactful in the community. With hundreds of races held internationally, here are a few recent past rubber duck races:

The Incredible Duck Race in Tampa, Florida was on August 16, raising funds for their Kiwanis Club.

Reno, Nevada had their Duck Race and Festival on August 9 at Wingfield Park to benefit the Humane Society.

Chicago Ducky Derby was August 8, in support of Special Olympics.

In Columbus, Ohio, there was the Zoom Duck Derby on August 3, which benefited the Alpha Group in financial support for services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

And yesterday, August 25 was the Duck Race in East Peoria, Illinois. Proceeds from their event benefited The Center for Prevention of Abuse.

Szentendre, Hungary also had their charity event yesterday, August 25. (Pictured at right.)

 

 

 

 

Of the many-many upcoming races, these here are but a few:

The Southern Illinois Ducky Derby Dash to help Special Olympics is September 2. It will be at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

On October 13 at the Bridgeport Park in Santa Clarita, California, their Rubber Ducky Festival will raise funding for under insured persons needing healthcare.

And the Incredible Duck Splash happens November 3 in Glendale, California, in support of their Kiwanis Club.

We can be a real part of our community.  I hope you will consider supporting the Rubber Duck Race in your area. It is a family-fun way to think of others and to help those in need, ultimately helping the whole community.

Please share about the Rubber Duck event in your community. You can drop your comments below, in reply to this post.

RESOURCES:

Cincinnati area: http://rubberduckregatta.org/

To find out more about Rubber Duck events in other communities– in your local area, visit the website for Game Fundraising or call 1-800-779-RACE.

-Elle-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Helping out in the Community

The Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati gave an urgent shout-out last Friday for volunteer help, come Saturday morning. They were low in their count of registered volunteers. While I could have felt my Saturday was already filled up, I figured where there’s a will, there’s a way. I split a shift with someone else.

Following an early morning visit with a friend, I then joined my local writers group. Before doing my weekly shopping on my drive home, I stopped by to offer a helping hand with this food bank.

Helping is my way of showing gratitude. As my recently published memoir shows, I was once on the receiving end—and I’ve also been on the taking end, not proud of my choices when a young woman. Today, my living amends for yesteryear are found in my volunteerism.

I’m so glad I showed up to help—it gave me connection to those in need; a heart-felt connection. My job was to be with folks as they left the food bank. Often I helped load their food into their car. Sometimes it was to help them gather their sacks to carry in their walk home.

Chatting, it was easy for me to relate to what they were going through. One woman— (paraphrasing, here)—tried apologizing to me for her neediness and forgetfulness—“Diapers, oh I need diapers, too.” I let her know there was no need to explain her forgetfulness—I’ve been there before, on the edge, wondering if I’d survive—our mental and emotional cognition is so broken down when leaning on others. “I understand.”

Picture retrieved from Freestore Foodbank website.

According to the Freestore’s website, this food bank serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.

The Freestore Foodbank operates under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.

While my reasons for being a part of my community is my way of giving back for what I have received, other reasons are abundant when it comes to volunteering. Some people volunteer to fill their free hours, some for something worthy to do during retirement, and for some, it is to show their concern for those less well-off. No matter our reasons, it is our opportunity to come together to make our community a better place for everyone.   

To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.

We can make a difference!

RESOURCES

Link to Freestore Foodbank.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer by linking here.

-Elle-

 

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Shopping With those in Need: Volunteering at the Foodbank

Saturday, I helped volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati. I’ve volunteered many times with Freestore Foodbank at their distribution warehouse. Yesterday’s experience put me face to face with those in need.

Early in  my volunteer shift, I worked alongside other volunteers to stock pantry shelves. This foodbank is a choice pantry, which allows people to choose items from the selection available, much like a regular grocery store. From canned goods, hundreds of peanut butter jars, fresh cabbage, onions and other vegetables, as well as frozen meats, we filled the food room up.

As soon as the doors opened, one of the first ladies to come in was using a walker to get around. She couldn’t push a shopping cart, too. I went shopping with her.

This lady with a walker latched on to me and right away, I felt like her friend. We walked together down each aisle together. I helped her gather her choice items and pushed her cart for her.

Each customer to the food room is given anywhere from one to four large paper sacks to fill up with as much food as they can, provided it doesn’t go over a certain weight limit. Produce are freebies, not needing to take up room in their sacks. Family size determines how many sacks of food they can take home with them.

As the volunteering day continued to unfold, I helped keep shelves stocked, helped customers as needed, and did a few maintenance tasks like unfolding paper sacks to hand out.

Chatting with other volunteers, I heard several reasons they showed up to help. “I’m retired, this gives me something worthy to do” and “My son and I came together. I want him to learn the value of helping others.” Me, my reason: “I was once on the receiving end, much like these folks we’re helping. Today, I’m on the giving end.”

This shopping experience is a helping hand to those in need in our community. Giving them food to stock their kitchen gives them one less thing to worry about when it comes to day-to-day financial struggles.

According to the Freestore’s website, this Food Room serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw in the few hours I helped, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.

The Freestore Foodbank is operated under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.

To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.

We can make a difference!

Resources:

Link to Freestore Foodbank. Image retrieved from this site.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer through feedingamerica.org.

 

-Elle-

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Helping Senior Citizens, Volunteering

Recently, I helped put together Senior Boxes, working at the warehouse for the Freestore Foodbank, here in Cincinnati. We filled several hundred boxes with essential food items. These boxes will be given to the elderly in our community.

Retirement, loss of a spouse, and increasing health care expenses can make a senior citizen vulnerable to financial struggles. These Senior Boxes help ease their difficulties by ensuring they have food to make their meals.

There is an abundance of ways we can help the older folks in our communities. Here are a few ways:

Visit someone who resides in an assisted living facility or a retirement home.

Bring along a board game or cards, a book to share, a home-baked treat, or a care package.

Or, if someone you know is elderly and lives in their own home, give them a call to see if you can stop by for a visit. Offer to fix little things around the home. If it’s winter time, shovel snow from their driveway.

In our busy schedules, even a quick hello can brighten their day.

Help those who can no longer drive. Take them to their appointments and help them run errands. You can even bring your briefcase or laptop and then wait for them in the lobby while they see their doctor. You can also bring them along as you run your own errands, so they can get out of the house and visit with you at the same time.

Rich life experiences determine our character, values, and sense of peace. Imagine the many cherished stories, lessons and experiences our elders can give us.

We can make a difference in their lives.                                                                   Sharing is quality time together.

xxx

 

If you’re like me, without a parent or grandparent of your own who needs some extra caring for, there are plenty of seniors out there who could use some company!

xxx

Several organizations help match volunteers to senior citizens. If in the greater Cincinnati area, you can volunteer as I did, by reaching out to the Freestore Food Bank. Another great place to get involved is through the AARP Foundation, found in many cities.

How about you? Has your life been touched by helping a senior citizen in your community? Share your experience with us by using the comment box. -Elle-

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Gratitude

Turkey dinners, cranberries, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and family gatherings—these are all commonly associated with most Americans in a celebration of giving thanks—Thanksgiving Day!

xxx

xxx

The pilgrims could never have imagined that America would become the global superpower it is today. Our country is on the forefront of economic prosperity, medical science, technology, food production, sanitation, architecture and space exploration. We have freedoms unheard of in some other countries and we fight to keep and strengthen our freedoms.
xxx
The income and standard of living for most Americans is relatively high when compared to other industrialized nations. But, this is a blanketed statement which overlooks countless people in our American communities. Many people barely scratch the surface to afford the traditional family gathering with turkey and trimmings. Some don’t even have family.​​​
xxx
Gratitude
For me, Thanksgiving is a time to not only be thankful for the life I’ve been given to build upon, but also to think of others who are less fortunate. I joined friends to serve dinner to the residents at Tender Mercies in Cincinnati. These folks lent me a heart-felt connection and while they thanked us for their dinner,
xxx
  •  I thank them for inviting us into their home,

 

  • I thank them for letting me meet them and

 

  • to get to know them a little better (some I’ve seen in passing when on my job at the public library),

 

  • I thank them for letting me give back to my community.
What is Tender Mercies:
xxx
Tender Mercies is a supportive and transitional housing environment, located in Over-the-Rhine on 12thStreet (Cincinnati).
 xxx
Their stated mission is: “Tender Mercies transforms the lives of homeless adults with mental illness by providing security, dignity, and community in a place they call home.”
 xxx
Ongoing Opportunities to Give:
If you are in our community and would like to know more; perhaps help out, visit Tender Mercies’ website.
If you are in other parts of America and would like to find ways you can give to others, here is but one source to point you in the right direction: the website for Volunteer Match.
 xxx
What are your experiences with being thankful?
 Of community?
xxx
In gratitude, 
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Volunteering to Change Community Hunger

—–Saturday was another day of volunteering. I met with others also concerned with issues of hunger in our community.

I chatted with another volunteer, saying, “I used to be on the receiving end; now I’m on the giving end”

 

Assembly line style, with good spirits, we bellied up to a conveyor belt and boxed up gift packages of food to later be handed out to elderly folks. We filled several pallets.

Then, we switched gears to make Power Packs for school children.
_______________
 I worked alongside a young guy whose mom worked across from me. His name is Eli and a sixth-grader. Helping his mom helped him to see that some kids could go hungry if it wasn’t for his help. He doesn’t have to worry about hunger but understands some kids do.
 ___________
Essentially, these Power Packs are “sack lunches,” each with plenty of stuff to keep a kid eating from when they leave school on Friday until they return on Monday.
—————-
Kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches get these lunches only on school days, so these packs keep them going over the weekend.
 ________________

These Power Packs are distributed to schools. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

To find out who to contact in your local area and how, visit the Feeding America website.
On this page is a search bar for your zip code.
——————–
And you can sign up to Volunteer  in your local area.
The direct link to their Website is:
————-
Contact Feed America or any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help out.
—————
Not affiliated with my Saturday’s volunteerism, a video by Unicef which I found on You Tube especially touched my heart.
——————-
Well-spoken by fourteen-year-old Firdaus Ahmad Farouk from Kuala Lumpur, he is an active volunteer for a soup kitchen to feed the hungry and homeless. He was one of three winners for the inaugural Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Awards 2015.
—————
Thank you Firdaus Ahmad Farouk for your message. Here’s the 2-minute video:

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We can make a difference!
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Volunteering at Freestore Foodbank

Saturday afternoon, I joined others in a big (huge!) warehouse for the Freestore Foodbank, in Cincinnati.
We made “Power Packs” for school children.
Here’s what I learned:
__________

 

1. More than 13 million (million!!) American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.
 __________

 

2. (So,) donations of food items come in – from grocery stores, local partnerships, and community members.
__________
3. Volunteers (like me) unload the pallets of donated food and pack sacks. (“Power Packs”).__
________
4. These Power Packs are distributed to schools. Our warehouse serves 105 sites across the greater metropolitan area of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
__________
5. These Power Packs are given to school children on Fridays so they can go home with power food to carry them over until the next school day, Monday. You see, our kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches get those lunches only on school days, so these packs keep them going over the weekend.
——————-
(excerpted quote) “Those children can come to class and learn instead of focusing on their empty bellies….” (unquote). –Heidi Becker, Coordinator for the Power Pack Program with Freestore Foodbank, as printed in their newsletter.
____________
Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks, which includes Freestore Foodbank. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state of America.
_______________
To find out who to contact in your local area and how, visit the Feeding America website.  On this page is a search bar for your zip code.
———————-
Another option is to sign up to Volunteer in your local area. The direct link to their Website is:  feedingamerica.org.
________________________
Contact Feed America or any soup kitchen, food bank or shelter local to you to find out what they need and how you can help out.
—————–
And found on the Feeding America website and on You Tube, I hit the “share” button to bring you this uplifting video.
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We can make a difference!

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