Service Made Easy

Simple Ways to Make a Difference

Drive Thru

Everyone has probably seen this scenario at some point in his or her life: you’re driving down the road, and you come to a stop light. There’s a person on the side of the road holding a sign that says ‘homeless.’ Typically, they look down on their luck—maybe even a little disheveled and unclean.

So what do you do?

a) Lock your doors and pretend you don’t see them

b) Give them whatever food you happen to have in the car

c) Give them some spare change or even a couple of bucks

Now, I know what you thinking … “If I give them money, they’re just going to buy booze with it!” At least that’s what you tell yourself to make you feel better about the situation. But what if there was a simple solution to this problem? What if you didn’t have to ignore them, even if you don’t have spare change or food?

The next time you’re at your favorite fast-food restaurant, buy a few $5 gift cards. To make your money go farther, choose a restaurant that has a dollar menu. Stash the gift cards somewhere in your car where you won’t be tempted to use them for yourself!

Now you’re prepared for the awkward red light; instead of pretending like the person holding the ‘homeless’ sign doesn’t exist—and counting down the seconds until the light turns green—you have the perfect opportunity to help someone in need. Simply roll down your window, and give them one of the gift cards. It only cost you $5 and virtually no time (since you’re stopped at a red light anyway).

You can even write something inspirational on the gift card. That gift card might be the only meal they have all day, and that simple act of kindness might be just what they needed at just the right time.

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May I Have This Dance?

Prom can be a very exciting time is a young girl’s life—a rite of passage during those seemingly awkward high school years. After being asked to the prom, the next step is finding the perfect dress. I still remember shopping with my mom for all of my prom dresses. These are truly great memories.

However, when it’s all said and done and prom is over, it can be a costly experience. Dresses can range from anywhere from $100 to $300, maybe more. This expense alone can cause some girls to miss their prom because they don’t feel like the can afford a fitting prom dress.

No girl should be made to miss her special prom night because of this. You probably have one or two retired prom dresses hanging in your closet. You may even think “one day I’ll wear it again.” But let’s be honest; will you really ever wear it? Or maybe you’re like me and have a special attachment to a particular dress because of all the memories you have from wearing it. But, is that really a good reason to hold onto a dress when someone else could use it?

Go through your closet and find any dresses—prom or even bridesmaid—and consider donating them to an organization that collects dresses for girls who can’t afford to buy their own. If you can’t seem to let the dress go, take a picture of it; on the back of the picture, write down your favorite memories of the dress. This way, you’ll have something tangible to help you remember.

Here are a couple of resources to help you decide where to take your old dresses. One organization that I’ve donated several dresses to is East Carolina University’s Fairytale Boutique. This is an awesome group who helps girls in Pitt County. Another resource is donatemydress.org. Simply click “GO!” on the “Where to Donate & Receive” box. Next, you can search by State to find a location near you.

This is such an easy way to serve others—not to mention jump start your spring cleaning. March and April are typically “prom season,” so don’t delay! Your simple donation could make one girl’s prom night extra special.

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A Triad of Hope

Located in High Point, North Carolina, Patriot Rovers is making huge strides in saving dogs, helping heroes and honoring fallen soldiers. This non-profit organization is a triad of hope. Patriot Rovers specializes in helping veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by giving them a trained service dog, free of charge, to meet their respective needs—which may include tasks such as to brace, get help, retrieve, stabilize, wake, create personal space, interaction, dress and pull.

While these soldiers’ wounds may not be a physical hindrance, their memories from battle can be just as debilitating. PTSD is a disorder overlooked in our society because there is no outward effect, but for these veterans, it is very real and can take the form of depression and flashbacks. These service dogs, while providing fundamental needs, also offer something more—companionship. One veteran notes that his dog, “keeps me in touch with who I am as a person.”

Patriot Rovers partners with community organizations and rescue groups to find golden retrievers to train. These former shelter dogs—society’s most forgotten creatures—are put through extensive training to meet the respective needs of the veteran they will be paired with. Golden retrievers are the dog of choice due to their calm temperament and presence.

These dogs are a living legacy of their namesake—fallen soldiers who died honoring their country and protecting our freedom. The dogs receive their names from a family of a fallen soldier. Each respective family (called Gold Star Families) receives updates on the dog and is invited to ceremonies and events, such as the dog being permanently placed with its assigned veteran. With one quick look at the Patriot Rovers’ website, it’s easy to note that most of the fallen soldiers who are honored by the organization were very young—most in their 20s. For their families, does a dog named after their child or spouse make up for their loss? Absolutely not. But the family can have some peace that their soldier will not be forgotten, and their name can be beacon of hope for someone whose life has been forever altered by the repercussions of battle.

To date, Patriot Rovers has placed 40 dogs. Currently there are 10 in training, with a goal of 20 for the year. Market America is sponsoring Amy Renee who is currently in training. Amy is named after Amy Renee Bullock-Sinkler, who died in Afghanistan at age 23. If you would like to help sponsor Amy, donations can be made through ma Cares by contacting Brandi Quinn at brandiq@marketamerica.com. Your donation is three-fold—impacting shelter dogs, veterans and fallen soldiers.

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Paws4Ever, Pals for Life

For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am a huge dog lover—especially the “pit bull” type. Dogs are one of my passions for many reasons; they are great companions, never argue with you, show you unconditional love, and make great snugglers!

One thing that breaks my heart is homeless dogs. Shelters and sanctuaries are packed full of these lonely, down-on-their luck creatures. The sad thing is that these dogs can’t speak for themselves. They have no voice, so we have to be the voice for them.

Andy Jim - available for adoption from Paws4Ever

Since I started this blog, I’ve gotten out in local communities and looked for places to volunteer. One place that I found was Paws4Ever in Mebane, North Carolina.

I’ve gotta say—I was really nervous about volunteering at an animal sanctuary. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the only animal shelter I had been to previous to this experience was a county animal shelter (which was not a good environment).

Paws4Ever is a nonprofit sanctuary. They visit local shelters and, after a temperament test, find adoptable animals (dogs and cats) to bring back to the facility. Staff then get busy at finding these animals a permanent home.

During my two-hour volunteer training, I got to meet the dogs, tour the facility, and learn about the many ways to make a difference in the lives of these animals. The staff was wonderful, the facility was clean, and the dogs were amazing.

Like many of you, I was scared to volunteer at a shelter because it’s heartbreaking to see all the homeless animals. These dogs live in small kennels without the love and affection of a permanent home. I’m not going to lie, it was tough, but then again, anything worth fighting for is tough.

Yes, it may be easier to turn a blind eye because it breaks our hearts to know the truth, but how is that helping the problem? The answer—it doesn’t. And honestly, being oblivious to an issue like homeless animals can make it worse.

So what does this mean for you? How can you help? If you have the time and the heart, you can always volunteer at a local shelter. Click here to find a shelter in your area. If you’re in the Mebane, NC area, be sure to visit the Paws4Ever website for information about volunteering.

However, if you just don’t have the time to physically volunteer, you can still help! Most shelters, and even nonprofits like Paws4Ever, operate on low budgets and relay heavily on donations—many kinds of donations. Aside from your time, you can donate money, treats, toys, leashes, collars, blankets, food, and feeding bowls. ANY donation makes a difference!

Another great way for you to help any shelter or sanctuary from anywhere is to talk about them on your Facebook page. Share pictures of dogs that are available for adoption, talk about events, and encourage others to do the same. This is so easy and takes only minutes!

Stay tuned for more from Paws4Ever. From dog training to bagging treats, I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty and personally show you numerous ways to make a difference in the lives of homeless animals.

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SOUPer Bowl of Caring

This weekend marks one of the biggest events in sports—the Super Bowl. People all over the country will tune in to watch, sports fans and non-sports fans alike. 

Something else that’s taking place on Super Bowl Sunday is the Souper Bowl of Caring. This nationwide event is yet another easy way for you to make a difference in your community.

The Souper Bowl of Caring is committed to helping local communities. With a mission statement and vision like this, it’s easy to see that this is an organization serious about making a difference.

Mission Statement – Using the energy of the Super Bowl to mobilize youth in a united national effort to care for people in their local communities who are hungry and those in need.

Vision Statement – Transform the time around the Super Bowl into the nation’s largest celebration of giving and serving.

So how can you help? Just visit souperbowl.org and enter your zip code. You’ll see a list of places near you. All you have to do is choose the one closest to you, and make a monetary or food donation. Remember, no donation is too small.

The cool thing is that even though this is a nationwide event, the money raised by each local organization is donated to a local charity, so the money stays in your community.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick search of “North Carolina” and found that there are 693 organizations participating, so I’m sure there’s one in your area!

While you’re shopping for your Super Bowl party this weekend, pick up an extra can or two of food or an extra bag of chips to donate to the Souper Bowl of Caring, and start making a difference in your community.

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Original Artwork

Last week, I told you about an easy way to help make a child’s Valentine’s Day a little brighter. Today, you’ll learn how you can help make Valentine’s Day a little brighter for a senior citizen—creatively! This is a simple act of service—that only takes you a few minutes—and can make someone’s day.

Last Valentine’s Day, my youth group girls (more posts to come about these amazing young ladies!) made several dozen cards for senior citizens that were delivered to local nursing homes. This year, ma Cares (service organization of the company I work for), has requested more cards. This time, the cards will be given to seniors whose meals are delivered to their homes.

What an awesome idea! These senior citizens probably don’t receive many visitors—aside from the people delivering their meals. They probably don’t get many phone calls or cards and letters in the mail.

This Valentine’s Day, however, they will receive handmade cards, letting them know that someone was thinking of them. So here’s how you can help make a difference.

If you have children, this is a great project. Buy some construction paper, a glue stick, markers/crayons, and scissors—all of which can be purchased at the Dollar Tree. Have your children make homemade cards. The great thing is that these cards can be any shape, color or artistic ability; that’s what makes them special and unique; its original artwork!

Even if you don’t have children, take a moment to connect with your inner child and get to folding paper and gluing little hearts all over it. (Yep, I know it sounds like fun!)

And, if you’re a part of an organization, make it a group effort and get everyone involved. That’s what my youth group girls will be doing on Sunday night!

If you’re in the Greensboro area and would like for ma Cares to pass out your Valentine’s Day cards, you can drop them off at Market America, 1302 Pleasant Ridge Rd Greensboro, or call the office 336-605-0040 (ask for the ma Cares staff) and someone will come pick up your cards. All cards should be delivered by February 3.

 

Localize It

If you’re not in theGreensboroarea, no worries. There are several ways to modify this service project. Find a local nursing home, assisted-living facility, or a senior citizen center and drop off your homemade cards.

Remember, this is a project that could take less than an hour of your time and be the bright spot in someone’s day or even their week. It may be just what they need to let them know that someone was thinking of them.

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Give and Learn

You’ve all heard the saying “give and take,” but this post is not about that. It’s about giving while you learn.

Be honest … did you vote in Service Made Easy’s Facebook poll? The question was “What do you find most challenging when it comes to volunteering?” Not surprising, the answer was “not enough time.”

Does that sound like your life? Many people have good intentions and want to volunteer but they just don’t feel like they have the time. Between your job, children, social life, commitments and whatever else you’ve got on your plate, it’s probably true that you have very little time left over.

Well here’s a simple, easy solution – Free Rice. No, we’re not giving you free rice; you’re giving free rice. And, the best part about is you get to learn something in the process. (Learning and giving … is there anything better?)

Here is it. Go ahead and give it a click – Free Rice. The goals of this website are to provide education to everyone and to end world hunger. All you have to do is choose a subject (language, geography, math, chemistry, English, or humanities), and then answer multiple choice questions.

For each correct answer, 10 grains of rice are donated to the cause—ending world hunger. Seriously, it’s that easy! There’s even a rice bowl on the right-hand-side of the page that fills with rice after each correct answer.

You can do this anytime—during your lunch break, while you’re on the phone, while you’re browsing online. This game is so quick that even five minutes can make a huge difference. Just to give you an example of how quick it can be, in one minute, I gave 210 grains of rice!

Another cool thing about Free Rice is that anyone can play. There are different levels, so everyone from children to adults can participate.

So, give it a try. When you’re done, comment below or post on our Facebook wall how much rice you gave. You’ll be surprised by how much your few minutes can change someone’s life.

 

 

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Will You be my Valentine?

Today I learned of a great idea! I found it on my employee newsletter from work. My company’s charity, ma Cares, sponsors Pathways Center—a housing program inGreensboro.

They’re asking for blank Valentine’s Day cards so that the kids who live at the Pathways Center can pass them out at school. It doesn’t get much easier than this, folks! I stopped by the Dollar General on my way home from work and purchased two packs for $1 each—a grand total of $2.14!

So what does this mean? Ok, let’s think back to grade school. Do you remember making your Valentine’s Day envelope? You would cut out hearts and decorate your envelop and draw all over it with reds and pinks. Then, you had to write a Valentine to everyone in the class and put it in their envelops. (Oh, that takes me back!)

Now imagine your family has come upon some hard times, and you’re temporarily living in a housing program—somewhere like the Pathways Center. There’s just not enough money to buy anything extra, especially Valentine’s Day cards for your classmates.

As an adult, this might seem reasonable—cut corners everywhere you can. But, if you’re a child, this is a big deal. So, for a grand total of $2.14, I can relieve a slight burden for a parent and give a child Valentine’s Day cards to pass out to his/her classmates.

So if you’re in the Greensboro area and want to get involved, you can drop off your extra pack of Valentine’s Day cards at Market America.

I know what you’re thinking … What if I don’t live in Greensboro? Well I’m so glad you asked. For every post on Service Made Easy, we’ll give tips on how to localize whatever service the post is about.

Localize it 

Ask your child’s teacher if there’s anyone in the class who could use some help with his/her Valentine’s Day cards. If so, purchase an extra pack when you buy a pack for your child.

It doesn’t take any extra time because you have to buy some for your child anyway! Give the extra pack to your child’s teacher, who can discreetly pass it on to the child.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t just celebrate it with your spouse or significant over. Branch out a little and show some love to child and family who needs a little extra.

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Small Act, Big Difference

This is one of my favorite pictures. I took it in Ocracoke, NC after a hurricane in 2010. There were literally hundreds of these beautiful purple and orange starfish that had been washed onto the beach. The coastline was picturesque—something you’d see in a fancy magazine. The image reminded me of a story I’d heard somewhere. It goes something like this:

There was a little boy and his grandfather walking along the beach. Hundreds of starfish scattered the coastline. The little boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. After a few more steps, he would toss a couple more. Finally his grandfather said, “Son what are you doing? You can’t save all these starfish.”

The little boy bent down, scooped up a starfish, and pitched it into the ocean. He looked back at his grandfather and said, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” 

 I love this little story. It’s a great reminder that, while we can’t help everyone, we can make a difference to someone. The story makes me feel a little less overwhelmed about service. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down and do nothing. However, I’ve learned that if I just focus on one project, one need (or like in the story, one starfish), I can commit to helping and making a difference.

Remember, sometimes it’s the smallest actions that make the biggest difference.

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