Monday, April 29, 2013

Crawl for a Cause!

Big Announcement: For my Birthday Party, I'm going to host a fundraiser Pub Crawl. And you are all invited.

Crawl for a Cause!
July 20
Seattle Bars (TBA, depending on attendance)
Cost $20*

The growing body of knowledge related to this even will be found here, on the tumblr. Here are the key features.  My friends, family, or total strangers should decided to participate.  The cost is $20 (we'll get back to this). You will decide to participate, and for a team of 3-5 people, and fundraise for the charity of your choice.  We'll try to post get some motivating shenanigans as we approach the date (which is what the tumblr is for).

On the day of the Main Event (July 20), we'll all get together for scavenger hunt type activities in a couple of pubs (once we figure out how many people are coming, we can decide on the locations).  There, we'll compete for the money everyone pitched in for entry fees to be donated to thier charities.  Basically, have fun for charity, right?

Here is how you can get invovled:

You think this is a great idea, and have time for hanging out in pubs on July 20.  Grab a few friends, pick a charity and start fund raising.  My friend Adam (who has been the real brains behind this operation) has some fantastically fun ideas for raising money, and I think it might be prize worthy. **.

You think this is a cool idea, minus the part where people go to bars, or are social.  You mostly just support the charity part.  Donate money to the event (ie, send it to me), and I can use it to donate to teams to motivate them during the fundraising period, and to be part of the Grand Prizes we give to charities on the day.

You think this is a cool idea, but can't come and don't have money to donate. We are also looking for non-monetary donations (ie, art, toys, terribly bad gag gifts) to give to teams themselves as souvenirs of my favorite birthday party and prizes for things like **Most creative Fundraising efforts, Most spirited team, Best Costumes (I'm pro-costume) etc. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Makes Volunteer Work Easier?

After than initial excitement about launching this project, I've been faced with the multitude of ways that this si going to be a formidable challenge.  I don't have infinite time or money, and you can't just insist that people you know support your crazy efforts, especially if it requires time or money.

That being said, I've also started to crack the secrets of making this work.  Well, they aren't so much secrets as they will be key to my plan.

1) Do things you like.  It's hard to commit your limited free time to anything, but finding something that is fun, and you might have done anyway, is a pretty great way to get in some volunteer work.  That's part of the reason I'm enjoying cooking for Friend's of Youth, I like cooking, and it happens to really help some people in need. Awesome.  It's a similar deal with running a 5K- you might have gone for a run anyway, why not pitch in a few bucks to support a good cause while going for a run somewhere new?

2) Time is valuable.  Part of this reflects how I set up the project, but it will be much easier for me to find 900 hours to volunteer than $30,000 to give away.  My time is valuable, and there are a number of people looking for someone to show up at some event and help out. If you have the time to spare, it means a lot, both to the organization you are helping, and I think actually participating feels more worthy.

3) Use the multiplier.  Volunteering can be a little intimidating if you go alone- meeting strangers, doing new things. I'm much happier doing that sort of thing if I've brought a friend.  And it's a lot easier to rack up hours when you've got friend matching you hour for hour.  How do you think the Science Fair turned into such a huge event? (Thanks Karen!)

Consider yourselves warned, I'm going to be egging on my family and friends to come and do fun things with me in the name of charity.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

10% to Goal!

Great news, we are 10% of the way to goal!  Hooray for charities!

I'm including a graph of progress so far, because, who doesn't love metrics?

Figure 1. The first $3,000 have been raised.  The graph shows progress towards goal over time, with combined hours and dollars being presented as Normalized $.

A couple explanatory notes.  You may notice small jumps or packed data points at the beginning of the month.  For cool people like my brother who report to me a monthly total, I just assign those the first of the month for data tracking reasons.  It does make it look at if there are some days that are more popular for volunteering.

Also, You'll notice the last month or so has been much more productive than the first 3 months of the project.  This gives me some confidence that with momentum (and support!), we can make this ambitious goal.  I'll include another update of lessons I've learned in the last month or so that will really help.

What pushed us over the edge?  My mother-in-law taught a 6 hour class to 4H kids on how to make sock monkeys.  Cheers to her for supporting kids learning important life skills!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cement City 5K

When I started this project, I has some ambitious idea that I would start running charity 5Ks.  This is a cool idea, it combines recreation and philanthropy.  The problem is that I am simply not one of nature's runners.  As I've been figuring out how I might really pull this thing off, I realized I should probably stick to things that aren't any harder then they have to be.  There are plenty of ways to do good that aren't miserably hard.

I also had this idea that I might use my volunteer time to support the projects and efforts of my friends and family, especially those who already give a lot of thier time.  My mother-in-law is a perfect example.  She is retired, and basically spends her time being a pillar of the community.  She volunteers with a lot of organizations.  She was able to talk me out of using people's existing volunteer efforts in my totals because she volunteers WAY more than 900 hours a year. 

When she mentioned that she was going to walk a 5K to support the Concrete Lions Booster Club , I figured, what the heck, I could walk a 5K.  My husband and I got to make a weekend of it, and it was one of those cool events where everyone was cheering everyone before and after the race.  Yay!  Go participants!  I have no doubt that the Boston Marathon Bombing galvanized the sense of community here, and I was grateful to be a part of it.  Especially since my (personal best) 5K time was not that much faster than the walkers- including the 83 year old who did the route with two walking sticks.

But we didn't get sweaty in the rain to make me feel good about my fitness, we went to support the Concrete Lions Booster Club , who in Concrete supports the (rural, poor) schools and students.  Way to be!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Supporting Teachers through Donor's Choose

Sometimes I still take editing contracts.  I had a prolonged job hunt after finishing graduate school, during which time I filled my time, resume and bank account by taking contracts to edit manuscripts for Chinese scientists.  At first, I kept taking contracts because it gave me some sense of job-security (two jobs are better than one?).  But my career interests have quickly diverged, so I can't pretend that correcting bad grammar is going to help me up the career ladder. However, it's a fairly painless way to make some cash, which ends up in a Paypal account I tend not to think about much.

Today I went to check the balance there, and well- it was time to buy up some joy!  I went to my favorite charity, Donor's Choose, and started looking for cool projects to support. First, I did a search for projects in high poverty school nearby me.  It's pretty easy to forget in my cozy suburb that many of our neighbors are struggling; in fact, the project I found was in Bothell (where my grandmother lives). There, a science teacher is trying to implement a science competition for her 3rd and 4th graders.  I gotta say, it makes me feel like some kind of super hero to just fund the rest of her project.

Donor's Choose encourages you to explain why you chose to support a project as a way to encourage teachers and students.  One of the suggestions I say was from someone who was supporting a project where they went to school, and I realized I should check on whether there were any schools looking for projects in the district where I went to school.  Juneau Schools didn't have any projects, but there was a teacher trying to develop reading and math curriculum that are developed with families in Ketchikan.  I stepped up as their first supporter, and I'm hoping my friends and family who have ties to Southeast Alaska will also support the project.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dinner to the Landing

Matt and I took dinner to The Landing for the Friends of Youth Shelter again tonight. Dinner for 15 homeless young adults (18-24).  Our first time was pretty eye opening, actually.  I'm not sure what I thought to expect, but I wasn't exactly prepared.

The Landing is, during the day, a youth center or something.  It's clearly a space that is used for other things; it's an office in a strip mall.  And at night time, when we showed up at 8:30 to deliver dinner, they start dragging mattresses out to cover the floor. We arrived a few mintures early to get assembled- I'm not sure if I was afraid that the yuppie guests would diss my cooking, or that starving hoards would try to steal my donation, but mostly I wanted to get it right. When we arrived (at the office space in the strip mall not far from the movie theatre we sometimes go to), there was no one there.  I wondered if I had brought too many lasagnas.  We dodged the mattresses being dragged out by the (college aged) volunteers, and assembed dinner in the kitchen.

While we were arranging salads and things, people started to knock at the door.  On the door, there is a schedule: 8:30 Line-up and Registry. 8:45 Lottery and Dinner....  What I like about this shelter/organization is that they make an effort to connect people to other services that they might need.  What wigs me out about this shelter is that they might not have space for everyone who needs it. And that the Vista Volunteer who is barely 24 might have to tell someone his own age that there is no bed and he has to sleep in the street. That thought made the experience all too real.

I had briefly pondered staying for dinner- acknowledging the humanity of my neighbors who just don't have a home tonight, breaking bread and sharing encouragement.  But I couldn't do it.  I was struck by the need, the complete need, that would drive a person to an emergency shelter- you have no home, no family and friends to land on, no money to make your own way, and possibly no clear path to change that.  In the few hours (~12) that people stay at the shelter they are warm, fed, and connected with people who might be able to help them solve the very real problems they are facing.  Making small talk with someone who is self-conscious about her cooking is probably not the best use of anyone's time.

BUT, having a warm meal provided frees up the staff/volunteers to focus on helping the people who show up. And providing a meal as just some private citizen is a gesture to say that I still think of these people as my neighbors (even if my notoriously awkward ability to converse with strangers prevents me from being social in these circumstances).  Bringing dinner feels like the best way for me to help- not that it is all the help that these people need, but it is probably the best thing that I can do.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

State Science Fair!

I just got back from a great weekend of hanging out with friends and SCIENCE!  This weekend was the state science fair WSSEF in Bremerton, WA.  It's two days of all ages science (K-12).  More than a thousand projects were entered from all around the state, and more than a hundred judges were there to critique and appreciate the work of those students.

Two of those judges were my friend Karen and me.  We saw some great projects, we met some great students, and generally had a good time.  I'll hope to get back to why this type of volunteering matters soon, but I wanted to updated the totals today.

Science fair day is a long day for students.  Anxious enthusiastic students wait for friends, family, and most nerve wrackingly, judges to talk about their projects. The state fair is a two day event, with judges ranking students, then comparing rankings and evening assigning special awards.  I think I talked to 9 projects on Friday, and 12 on Saturday.  This is how Karen and I wracked up nearly 24 volunteer hours over the weekend.

The coolest part about science fair is getting to talk to students to encourage their interest in things they are already enjoying.  It's really impressive how much time and effort parents, teachers and mentors are able to put into this type of event.  When Karen and I left, a dedicated group of volunteers was stuffing award packets- a process that would probably take hours as the night wore on.  It's a great feeling of community, and I'm so glad we got to help out!