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How to Throw a Baby Shower for Charity

About a year ago, I was doing a Random Acts of Kindness day with my family. I mentioned to my friend, a former NICU nurse, that part of my day involved delivering flowers to the hospital. I asked her for ideas for future service projects, and her answer surprised me. “New baby clothes. A lot of mamas come in to give birth … and then they fail the drug tests. They don’t get to take their baby home. A foster parent is called, but often they don’t have much warning, and these babies don’t even have an outfit to wear home from the hospital.”

So here’s the thing: no baby is going to care if they have a new outfit to wear home from the hospital, or a soft cuddly blanket, or a lovey toy.

But I care.

So I got my creative wheels spinning. And since I don’t have that many creative wheels to spin, I began talking to my friend Tiffany, who is delightfully creative. We have thrown several baby shower in the past, and they’ve always been darling (thanks, Tiffany) and fun (thanks, friends). So we did what we do best: we threw a baby shower.

For a hospital.

How to throw a baby shower for charity

We invited our friends from church to come over. We played games, we ate delicious food, we did a few fun activities. It was the perfect girls’ night. It was just like a baby shower. The only difference: there was no pregnant woman to bring gifts for. Instead, we brought gifts for a local hospital.

Party food

I reached out to the hospital in our area that serves the most underprivileged communities and I asked them what their greatest needs were. They were thrilled to answer my questions, and they e-mailed me a list of the things the new moms at their hospital could use the most. We included that list with the invitation for the baby shower.

If you’d like to host a baby shower for charity, here are a few tips for you:

* Raffle prizes. If you’d like to give people incentive to RSVP, you can offer a raffle prize for that. And you can also give raffle tickets to those who bring a donation! I love bringing prizes, but I wanted to stick to a budget, so I got creative. I hit up Bath and Body Work’s semiannual sale. I received “$10 off of any $10 or more” coupons from both Kohls and JCPenney, so I visited both stores and got prizes for almost nothing. And I used my Shopkick points to get a Target gift card to buy several more prizes. If you want to get creative, you can stick to themes: those who bring baby body wash are entered to win a basket of body products, etc.

Prizes

* Think of the new moms, not just the babies. Motherhood is precious. Motherhood is sacred. Motherhood is … terrifying. 🙂 Particularly for moms who don’t have a strong support system, bringing a baby home from the hospital can be absolutely overwhelming. We made little gifts to give the new mamas. They all varied, based on the donations given, but we included toiletry items (basically blessing bags) and a few little pampering products (like fun lip gloss and lotion). You could even make cards if you wanted to. We chose instead to make gift tags and left them blank for the nurses to fill out.

New mom care package

* Get crafty. Besides making gift tags, we also (at the suggestion of a friend whose baby spent time in the NICU) made simple pictures that can be taped to the top of isolettes. Those poor babies have very little to look at, and having simple images to focus on is great for their development. You could also make cards for the moms (or the hard-working nurses), make blankets (for babies or for moms), put together little scrapbooks … be creative!

Blue fingernails

 

(Recognize my blue fingernails?) 🙂

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, there are lots of places that would love to receive your donations! Here are a few ideas:

* A hospital

* A women’s shelter

* Any homeless shelter or center that helps disadvantaged people in your community (even a local food pantry would probably be grateful to make sure these donations get to someone in need)

* Operation Shower (an organization that plans baby showers for military families who are experiencing, or have recently experienced, deployment)

* A pregnancy center

Serving as friends

Make sure to contact your organization before you plan the shower. They will likely be happy to provide you with a list of items that they need/want. They might also have things they can’t accept. When we began planning this baby shower, I found several large stuffed animals on the 90% off clearance rack. I was ecstatic! But after purchasing them, I found out that my hospital doesn’t accept donations of stuffed animals for allergy reasons. Learn from my mistake, friends. 🙂

Baby shower drinks

So there it is in a nutshell! I had SO much fun with this shower, and I’m so grateful for amazing friends who pitched in and made it a delightful evening. Do you have any ideas to add to my list? Have you done something similar? Are you going to give this a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Give Away your Birthday – or Un-Birthday – to Charity

Hey, guys. Not to brag or anything. Buuuut … today’s my un-birthday.

(Yours too? What a coincidence!)

Several years ago, when I came across this awesome post, I was intrigued. A woman decided to celebrate her 38th birthday by performing 38 random acts of kindness for strangers. She did all kinds of awesome things, but my favorite: “Bought a gift card for groceries and turned around  and handed it to woman in line behind me.  I wasn’t prepared for the look on her face. I immediately left before I started to cry.” Her acts of kindness idea began to spread, and now there’s a whole group of amazing people who have joined the Birthday Project movement.

Once I read this inspiring story, I knew I couldn’t wait the nearly 7 months until my birthday to do it. (Plus, my birthday is pretty busy – that’s shoebox packing party day.) So I decided to celebrate my half birthday doing random acts of kindness.

And that was it. I was hooked.

Something I’ve realized in the last few years: it’s awesome to choose a meaningful day (like a birthday or an anniversary) to serve and to spread kindness. But really, we don’t need a special day.

Today – right now – there is someone who needs you. Someone needs your kindness, someone needs your compassion, someone needs the empathy that you can provide.

So our service challenge this week: celebrate your un-birthday. And go do something kind.

The Un-Birthday Challenge

The first step: choose what cause you want to support. We have lots of ideas from past challenges – or, as always, follow your heart and come up with something unique.

* Serve animals in need
* Support a local shelter
* Do something nice for a teacher
* Get baking and serve like my grandma
* Do a random at of kindness from this list that we came up with as a Let’s Do Some Good Today community

So once you have your cause chosen, what should you do?

Well, it’s your unbirthday! Grab some snacks and throw a party!

Party food

(I’m serious.)

(Except your food doesn’t have to be that fancy. I am just lucky enough to have Pinterest-y friends.)

Serving as friends

An easy way to maximize how much good you do this week is to unite with friends. You can keep it very simple.Just reach out on social media, make some calls, send some e-mails, send some texts, chat at work or at playgroup or wherever you see your people. Let your friends know what you’re doing and ask them if they’d like to join you. Whether you provide all of the supplies or ask everyone to bring something is up to you. I have done this numerous times, and it has always been a blast! I have had blessing bag parties. I have had a baby shower for charity. I have had shoebox packing parties. And recently, I saw this fantastic idea from I Can Teach My Child: pack Birthday Boxes for children in need. So I let my friends know, and we had a little Birthday Box packing party. I bought some supplies, one of my fantastic friends went shopping and bought more, and we all got together to make the boxes. Each box included birthday cake mix and frosting, decorations, a few small toys (crayons, bubbles, etc.), and a handmade card that we left blank for Mom or Dad to fill out. Each box was simply labeled “Birthday Boy”, “Birthday Girl”, or “Birthday Kid”.

Birthday kid

I took these boxes to a local charity organization that provides food and other necessities to those in need, and they put them in the food pantry. When a child they serve has a birthday coming up, the workers will sneak a box to a parent. 🙂

Pile of birthday boxes

If you don’t have time or the ability to throw a little party, you can keep it simple and celebrate like Robyn in the original Birthday Acts of Kindness Challenge. Just go around and do good things. Put a quarter in a coin-operated candy machine for a little kid to find. Buy a gift card for groceries or gasoline and give it to a stranger (or just leave it behind with a note). If you feel a little bit weird about approaching a stranger (or if you want to be sure that the person who receives your act of kindness understands that it is, in fact, for them, no strings attached), that’s why I made these Butterfly effect printable tags for us to use. Just print, cut, and attach. Because if my kid found $1 in the store, we would be sure to return it to management in case someone came back looking for it. But if my kid found $1 with a little note attached, letting me know that this random act of kindness was meant to brighten my day – why, that would just be remarkable. It would brighten my whole week! And I would be sure to pay it forward.

Butterfly Effect

Note: If you’d like to participate in this challenge and are on a tight budget, there are still lots of ways you can participate! Just looking at the Birthday Boxes … I found crayons on sale, and stickers and bubbles on clearance. We made the cards ourselves. I used Shopkick to cash out for a free Target gift card to pay for the bins and the candles (you can read the article I wrote about Shopkick for Today’s The Best Day if you click here). You can ask friends for extra travel supplies leftover from hotels, and ask a dentist for a few toothbrushes, to put together blessing bags. There really are SO many ways you can make a difference, even if your budget is tight.

So this week, let’s celebrate our un-birthdays. Let’s celebrate life. And let’s join together and spread kindness.

(P.S. If you’d like to save these ideas for your actual birthday – awesome! You can pin this to help you remember.)

What are you going to do this week to participate in our kindness challenge? I’d love to hear your ideas and your stories!

The Baby Blanket Challenge

Well, y’all, time for another Service Thursday challenge. This week’s challenge was inspired by my wonderful cousin Danielle, who writes at Today’s The Best Day. She has organized a fantastic cause: Boogie On For Babies. The idea is simple: Dance. And donate a blanket. Cute idea, right?

Danielle has partnered with The Lullaby Connection, a non-profit organization with an inspiring mission: “We are dedicated to making sure that every at-risk baby born in the Las Vegas Valley begins their life with something new, warm, and filled with love.” Darla, the founder of TLC, shares her story on Danielle’s blog. It began when she, as a volunteer at a local hospital, found out that many local mothers in difficult financial positions did not have clothing or even a blanket to bring their babies home from the hospital in. When she saw one mother wrap her baby up in her own sweater, her heart broke. And she decided to help. I’d encourage you to read her sweet story here.

The Baby Blanket Challenge

So what are we going to do this week? Here are some ideas for you!

* Participate in Danielle’s Boogie On For Babies challenge! Buy a blanket to send into The Lullaby Connection. Video yourself (your kids, your dog, whoever) dancing, post it on Facebook, and challenge three other friends to take the challenge!

* Help a friend or a neighbor. Do you know of someone who could use a little bit of support (financially, or even just emotionally) who has a new baby? Show up with a baby blanket, and then stick around for a few minutes and see if you can help! Offer to hold the baby while mom and dad take a nap, bring over dinner, drop off muffins for breakfast … just do something to show that you care!

* Donate a baby blanket locally. There are likely many places around you who would be thrilled to receive your donation. You can try a hospital, a pregnancy resource center, a homeless center, or even a food pantry. If they don’t need your donation, they will likely be very happy to tell you who could use it.

* Involve your friends. Try planning a baby shower for charity! This was one of the most fun girls’ nights that I have ever organized. It is SO fun to serve with your friends!

Serving as friends

That’s our service challenge this week! How are you going to participate? Are you going to boogie for a baby? Are you going to challenge your friends to join you? Are you going to pull out your sewing machine? Are you going to head to the store? I’d love to hear how you’re going to participate this week!

The Shelter Challenge (Updated)

I’m back, y’all!   

(Only I’m in Colorado now, not Texas. Am I still allowed to say y’all? I hope so!)

These past few months have been busy. They’ve been chaotic. They’ve been a little bit rough. And I am so, SO excited to be back to writing and sharing with you! Life still isn’t 100% settled, but I’m hoping to be able to share weekly service challenges with you once again. And frankly, I’m ready to stop thinking about myself and start looking for ways to make a difference in my new community.

So this week, we repeat a previous challenge. And since we’ve done this before, I’m going to give you a few options: Easy, intermediate, and difficult. Are you in??

This week, we’re going to reach out to a local shelter and see what we can do to help! And for me, being new in my community, I’m starting from scratch again. I am so excited!

Simple Ways to Serve Your Local Shelter

To begin, everyone has the same assignment. Are you ready?

Find an empty box.

(Seriously. That’s it.)

Just get an empty box and leave it in a closet somewhere. As you find out what your local shelter needs, this will be where you’ll put your stash. When the box is full, time to donate! So simple.

And now, our three other ways to help a local shelter. Easy, intermediate, or difficult – what are you up for this week?

So first, the easy plan. If this is your first time participating, you just have two things to do. First of all, do an internet search: simply type in your zipcode and the word “shelter”. Then find something that touches your heart. Homeless shelter? Shelter for families? Temporary housing for teens? An animal shelter? Just pick one. And then step two: find out what they need! Often, you can find a wishlist online that you can simply print. If not, make a quick phone call and ask what the items are that they need the most. Write them down and stick the list somewhere that you’ll see.

That’s it!

I am a firm believer that the first step to making a difference in our community is simply knowing what our community needs. From there, helping will be much easier!Serving as friends

Okay, ready for the intermediate plan?

If you’ve participated in our shelter challenge previously, you already know what your local shelter’s needs are. So this week … time to do something about it! Here are my ideas for you:

* Set aside a cash budget. Then start bargain shopping! Does your shelter need new bedding? Check your local department stores (with coupons, of course) for sales and clearance deals. Do they need canned food? Scour your weekly ads and see how far you can stretch that budget.

* See what you already have in your home that you might be able to donate. Have a surplus of canned food that you probably won’t use before it expires? Share it with someone who is hungry! Have clothing that no longer fits? Let it go, and let it bless someone who does not have the means to buy new clothing. But please, please be mindful that you are not donating junk. Secondhand clothing? Totally fine. Terribly ripped and stained clothing? That will likely end up thrown away. I read this powerful article (and the buzz it stirred up on Facebook) almost two years ago, and it stuck with me. Donating things that our families would use if we still have the need for them – awesome. Donating garbage that we just can’t stand to throw away though – that just causes more work for the volunteers who sort through donations. When in doubt, give the organization a call and ask! Some organizations will accept tattered clothing to cut into rags, and some will have to take time to sort and throw it away. Just be mindful of what you are giving and take a moment to be sure it will be a blessing, not a burden.

* Get your friends to help you. I can’t think of a better way to make a difference than to reach beyond your own influence and let others help! As I’ve shared with you before, my friends and I have done everything from throwing a baby shower for charity to making blessing bags, and it has been so awesome. Tell your friends what you are gathering together, and see if anyone has anything else to donate.

* Advocate. Even if you have no money and almost no time, you can do that! Just let people know what the needs are in your neighborhood. Chatting with a coworker or a neighbor? Mention your local shelter and their needs. Are you on Facebook? Share a link to your local shelter’s Facebook page or wish list and encourage people to check it out.

Even if you are not in a financial position to help right now, you might be able to share the information with someone who can help.

The Quarter Challenge 005

Okay. There are our easy and intermediate challenges. Are you ready for the advanced challenge??

Volunteer.

I know that time is precious. I know that you might not think you can commit to helping a local organization on a regular basis. But often, their most desperate need is for volunteers. Women’s shelters need babysitters so the moms can attend work and training classes. Homeless shelters (and youth shelters) need mentors. Animal shelters need people to play with and walk the pets. Food pantries need volunteers to stock shelves and fill orders. Many organizations need people to do simple tasks like answer phones and help with paperwork.

They need your time.

If you are in a season of life with a few extra hours a week, make a phone call and see who you can help!

New mom care package

So there is your challenge for this week! Here is my personal plan:

* Find a local women’s shelter, homeless shelter, and animal shelter
* Start a “donation box” to collect needed items
* Donate at least one bag of items

What about you? Have you done our challenge before? How are you going to participate this week?

To Our Newest Community Members – Welcome!

If you’re dropping by from Scary Mommy … Welcome! I’m so thrilled to have you here. I hope you stick around for a while!

Welcome!

Here’s a little bit about me. My name is Kimber. I’m a wife and a mom to two awesome kids. When I’m not busy having adventures with my family, I love to read, write, laugh with my friends, eat delicious desserts, pack shoeboxes, and do nice things for strangers.

Because here’s what it all comes down to: I really believe that no matter who you are … no matter what your situation is in life … there is always, always someone that you can help. I also believe that people generally want to be kind and thoughtful and generous, but sometimes we need little reminders. So almost a year ago, I started this website. Every Thursday, I share a service/kindness challenge. Every Monday, I share a story reminding us that kindness matters. On my Facebook page, I pass along stories that inspire me. And on Pinterest, I share ideas of ways that we can make this world a better place.

The Quarter Challenge

If you’d like to join our little community, there is a place for you! Sometimes we do little things (like tidying up our neighborhoods, or – my kids’ favorite – scattering a few quarters around town). Sometimes we tackle really big issues together (like homelessness or slavery). But no matter what the weekly challenge is, I try to give you simple, practical, do-able ideas of ways that you can make a difference today. It really doesn’t matter how much time or money you have. You can make a difference.

So if you, just like me, believe in kindness …

If you love hearing and sharing stories about awesome people doing amazing things …

If you would like ideas of ways that you can make the world a little bit better and brighter, one act of kindness at a time …

Jump right in.

You belong here.

Serving as friends

P.S. If you’d like to look around for a few minutes, can I recommend a few of my favorite posts for you?
* This is my very first post. It all started on the streets of Argentina …
* My friends and I planned  a baby shower for charity – and we had SO much fun!
* This story reminds me why I serve … and why I to teach my children to serve.
* Sometimes, when it takes me a little bit of courage to do something kind for someone … I remember this. I remember that I. Am. Enough.
* And finally, my husband had the amazing opportunity to visit the boys we sponsor in Colombia. Here is his beautiful story.

Meeting the boys

Thanks again for dropping by! If you have any questions, ideas, or thoughts, please leave a comment – I’d LOVE to hear from you!

4 Simple Ways to Help the Homeless

Sometimes for our weekly service challenges, I post things that I love doing and that are in my comfort zone. Thanking firemen … hiding quarters around town … these are things that come very naturally to me.

Other things are a bit more of a stretch. And sometimes, it’s good to stretch.

So this week, I’m reaching outside my comfort zone. I’m facing a problem that sometimes seems too big to face, and I’m inviting you to join me.

This week, we’re helping the homeless.

4 Simple Ways to Help the Homeless

Does this seem a little intimidating to you? Like this is a problem that’s so big, you don’t even know where to start? I understand! But it really doesn’t need to be. Luckily for us, we don’t necessarily need to go out on the streets to find those who need our help. (Although if that’s your thing, awesome!!) Helping the homeless can begin with a simple phone call.

1. Start with your local shelter. If you’re not sure what the needs are in your area, this is a great time to learn! First, locate your closest homeless shelter. (Just do an internet search for “homeless shelter” and your zipcode.) Then give them a call! They’ll be more than happy to give you ideas. Perhaps they need donations, maybe they need volunteers for one of their programs. They’ll definitely be able to give you suggestions to help meet the most pressing needs in your community.
2. Choose a specific need. Homelessness can be an overwhelming issue, so if this is new to you, start by choosing one specific goal that you’d like to help meet. This might mean making blessing bags. It might mean handing out cold water bottles on a hot day. It might mean passing out snacks or gift cards to fast food restaurants. What tugs at your heart? Start there!
3. Advocate. Even if you don’t feel like you have enough resources to be able to make a difference, reach out! This can be as simple as sharing the wish list of your local shelter on Facebook, or as involved as hosting a service party. I LOVED my baby shower for charity, and I’ve had several fun blessing bag parties. Many people are willing to help – you just need to give them the opportunity!

Serving with love
4. Donate. If you have limited time, but you have a few dollars to donate, you can absolutely make a difference today! Again, I’d recommend starting locally and donating to a shelter near your home. But if you’d like a suggestion, I love this cause that I just learned about yesterday. This is a company founded by a veteran. They employ veterans. And they make a high-quality soap that will be donated to those in need in San Francisco. (Remember Lava Mae? I love, love, LOVE what they do. That’s where their soaps are going!) Your donation provides jobs, and it provides dignity. You can check out Maxwell’s Soaps’ fundraising effort here.

Those are my ideas. How are you going to participate in this week’s challenge? As for me, I’ll be making a blessing bag (I’ve given all of mine out – woohoo!), and I’ll make a small donation to Maxwell’s Soaps. I love their vision!

The Serve a Shelter Challenge

For several years, I have had a silly idea bouncing around in the back of my head. See, I don’t have all that many talents. I’m not a great piano player or dancer. I don’t draw, I don’t paint, I don’t sculpt. My coordination is … well, infamous. You don’t even want to know what happened the first time I went roller skating.

(Okay. I’ll tell you. I got a concussion.)

(You just can’t make this stuff up.)

But y’all, I do have one gift. I know how to coupon.

No worries – I’m not one of those crazy coupon ladies on TV that buys 147 bottles of mustard at 3 cents each, just because I can. But I do love saving money on products that my family uses and loves, and I’ve learned how to buy many name brand items for much less than their generic counterparts. And I find that really exciting.

(I know. I need to get out more.)

So for years, I’ve had this idea: I wanted to go volunteer at the local women’s shelter. And I wanted to teach them “how to coupon”.

A few months ago, I lucked out and met one of the women who runs this shelter. And imagine my delight when I found out that they had been actually looking around for someone to come teach the ladies how to coupon!!

Friends … it was magical. Honestly. Sitting in a room with women who have been lived unimaginable lives … talking to them, answering their questions, encouraging them, showing them that they CAN afford nice things if they learn a few little skills … sending them on their way with toothpaste and shampoo and nail polish and baby lotion … seeing their gratitude for even these simple items … it snapped my life into perspective. It showed me that the problems I deal with really aren’t so bad. And as I returned home, I felt so, so blessed.

So this week, we’re going to do a challenge we’ve done before. We’re going to do the shelter challenge again.

Simple Ways to Serve Your Local Shelter

For those of you newer to Let’s Do Some Good Today (or for those who would like a refresher), you can check out the original challenge here.

This week, I’d like you to do something for a local shelter. You can take this challenge in a lot of different directions, but first of all, you need to choose a shelter. What speaks to your heart? Within 20 miles of my home, we have women’s shelters, animal shelters, a shelter for homeless teens, shelters for homeless families, shelters for homeless men … and those are just the ones I know of! If you don’t know where to start, try asking around, or even do an online search for “shelter” and your zipcode.

Once you’ve picked a shelter, time to serve!

1. Wish list. If this is your first time participating in this challenge, you can just do what we did for our last challenge: print off their wish list. Many shelters have this right on their website. If they don’t, you can call and ask what their greatest needs are. They’ll be thrilled to tell you! I think that many of us like the idea of helping those in need, but we don’t know where to start. Well, this is your start! When you find out what is needed, it will be easy to keep your eyes open. When I see socks and underwear on clearance, I grab them – I know every shelter needs them. When I see a fantastic deal on pet food, I pick some up to donate to the animal shelter. When I find an awesome sale on make-up, I grab a little extra to donate to the women’s shelter, just for fun. By knowing what the needs are in my community, it is much easier for me to serve.

If you’ve already done that, here are a few more ideas for you to consider:

2. Shop. Set a budget for yourself and go buy a few items that your local shelter urgently needs. Shop smart! I’m all about shopping frugally so you can maximize your ‘giving budget’. (I don’t usually talk much about that over here since this isn’t a money saving blog, but I have guest posted on my cousin’s awesome website. If you’d like to read the articles I’ve written on saving money, and on earning a little extra cash, you can check this post out.) One more tip: I always, always check my “junk mail” for coupons. I will occasionally get coupons from local stores that say things like “$10 off any purchase of $10 or more”. That’s the perfect way to pick up a small item for a shelter!

3. Volunteer. Do you think you can commit to helping your local shelter once a week, or even once a month? See what help they need! If you can’t sign up for a long-term commitment, ask and see if there’s a one-day project that they need help with. Do they need a room painted? Show up with a group of friends and get it done! Do you have some random but useful skill (like, I don’t know, couponing)? Call them up and ask if they’d be willing to let you come teach a class!

4. Gather. If your friends knew what your local shelters needed, they might be willing to help.  Raise your voice on social media and advocate!  One of my local hospitals is always in need of items for new babies, so I hosted a baby shower for charity. My cousin’s local hospital was specifically in need of baby blankets, so she hosted a baby blanket drive and picked them up all around town. Once you find out what the needs are, let others know, too.

That’s our challenge for this week, friends! Personally, my goal is to bring a few donations to the local animal shelter. I might do a few other things from this awesome list of ideas, too. What about you? What shelter do you want to support, and how are you planning on doing it?

The 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge

* Update: if you are participating in this challenge, please pop over to this page to let us know what you did! *

Friends, I’m reaching out of my comfort zone a little bit with this week’s service challenge. But I am really, really excited …

There are two things you need to know. First of all, when I began this website last year, I was hoping to be able to use it to find an online community of people who, like me, truly want to make a difference in the world. And in less than a year … I’ve FOUND you! And I truly do feel like we have a little community here on the website, and on our Facebook page.

The second thing important fact … a few years ago, I began a family tradition. May 20th is our family’s Random Acts of Kindness Day. We go around the community and do nice things for strangers. It is SO fun!

In case you haven’t guessed …

May 20th is coming up. It’s time to party. And you’re invited.

RAKs

Yes, friends. I’d like for our little community to join together and have a Random Acts of Kindness Day. And I’d like us to do it “together”. Since we are all over the U.S. (and some of us are in other countries), we obviously can’t get together for a service party (although that would be SO AMAZING). But next Wednesday, we’re going to reach out in our own communities. We’re going to serve “together”. And it’s going to be remarkable.

Now here’s where it gets a little bit “out of my comfort zone”. I’m actually not a very number-oriented person. When I prepare our weekly service challenges, I never really know how many people are actually doing them, and that’s okay. But this time, I’d like to set a goal for us.

A big goal.

I want us, the Let’s Do Some Good Today community, to perform 100 acts of kindness on May 20th.

(That’s a lot of kindness. Which is why I need you.)

There’s really only one “rule” for our Acts of Kindness Challenge: do something you wouldn’t normally do. If you normally pick up trash in your local park every Wednesday, that is FANTASTIC. But this Wednesday, I’d like to encourage you to do something above and beyond what you’d normally do. I want us to start a flood of kindness this week! Can you imagine if we did 100 acts of kindness … and if some of the recipients of kindness decided to pay it forward?

I can imagine. And it gives me chills.

Maybe you already have something in mind to do. But if not (or if you’d like to do a few different things – THANK YOU), here are some ideas for you:

* Clean up garbage at a local park

* Anonymously leave flowers or a treat on a neighbor’s doorstep

* Pay someone’s toll

* Invite someone over to your home who might be lonely

* Buy a meal for the person behind you in line

* Leave quarters where kids can find them

* Bring flowers to a hospital or nursing home

* Write a soldier or a missionary

* Babysit for free for a friend with young children

* Bring dinner to someone who is having health challenges

* Call someone who might need a listening ear

* Leave quarters in the Laundromat

* Reach out to someone who has cancer

* Do a chore for a family member that you know he or she dreads

* Post a kind note on someone’s Facebook page

* Make a donation to your local animal shelter (they often need simple things, like newspapers)

* Go through your closets and donate clothes that you don’t wear anymore to a homeless shelter

* Leave a generous tip and an encouraging note (or leave money in a tip jar)

* Get together with friends and do a service project (like a baby shower for charity or a blessing bag party)

* Give a blessing bag, a water bottle, or a gift card to a homeless person

* Hide dollars in the aisles of a dollar store

* Share coupons you don’t need (give them to someone who can use them, or leave them on store shelves)

For more ideas, feel free to check out Pennies of Time, The Birthday Project, and The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

100 Acts of Kindness Day

I made this 100 Acts of Kindness Printable for you (6 per page) if you’d like to have little notes to explain what you’re doing. You can hand them out on May 20th as you perform your acts of kindness … or if you can think of a way to share them before that day, that would be GREAT! Stick them up on a bulletin board, pass them out at church, give them to your friends … let’s spread the word!

This morning, as I was brainstorming this challenge, I was trying to decide why I am so passionate about random acts of kindness. And this is what it boils down to: you never, ever know what challenges someone is facing. Most people, in fact, are walking around with at least one trial weighing heavily on them. Your small act of kindness can be what that person desperately needs. It can be enough.

And if together we do 100 acts of kindness, and 99 of them are brushed off … but just one was desperately needed, and was the answer to someone’s prayers …

Well then, friends, May 20th will be a success.

So please, join me. Leave a comment here letting me know what you’ll be doing – your idea might inspire others! And on May 20th, I’ll have a new post up, and I’ll update it as the day goes by. Every act of kindness counts – if you’d like to do several to help push us to our goal of 100, that would be fantastic!

And may I ask one more favor? If you have a friend who might be interested in participating, would you please share this post? I would appreciate it SO much! I would love your help in reaching this big goal of 100 acts of kindness!

It’s time to start planning, friends. I can’t WAIT to hear your ideas!

Serving In Our Own Communities

Today, I saw a heartbreaking story online. Have you heard of Humans of New York? It’s a website that is made up of pictures and snippets of stories. A photographer goes around the streets of NYC and asks people questions. And in the few sentences he gives us, we see people’s hopes and dreams, best and worst memories, insecurities, fears, triumphs … it’s fascinating. It’s a fantastic reminder to always be kind to strangers, because we never, ever know what lies beneath the surface.

Right now, Brandon (the photographer) is touring Pakistan, and on my Facebook feed this morning, I saw a sobering picture of a crying woman holding a small child, and this chilling quote: “I left an abusive relationship and I have nowhere to go. I have Hepatitis C, so no one is willing to take me in. I don’t know how long I will live. I tried to give her up for adoption so that she’d have a good home. The wife of a minister told me about a place where I could drop her off. But when I got there, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Within minutes, there were thousands of people speaking up. “How can I help?” “Is there a GoFundMe page set up for this woman?” “I wish I could do something!!” On and on and on the comments went. And I was right there. I anxiously watched HONY’s Facebook page, hoping that they would post a link that gave me an opportunity to help this woman.

As I waited, I had a thought.

How many people in my own area are faced with problems just like this?

Now one point I’d like to make clear: I have no problem AT ALL with helping people in distant countries. I am passionate about several international aid programs. My family sponsors two young boys in Colombia, and I sponsor a sweet young mother in Kenya. I love these young people I’ve never met. I pray for them. I believe that we should help wherever our heart pulls us, and my heart pulls me to Compassion International and The Mercy House.

But still, the question remained in my mind: how many people in my own area need my help today?

As I’m waiting to see how I might be able to help this woman on the other side of the world, how many people within a few miles of me need help right now?

There’s a women’s shelter in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve taught those wonderful ladies. They need support.

There’s a hospital for low-income families in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the homeless camped nearby. They need support.

New mom care package

There’s a shelter for homeless teens in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve brought donations and toured the facilities and talked to the director. They need support.

There are problems right in my neighborhood. There are people who need me.

There are problems right in your neighborhood. There are people who need you.

So for this week’s service challenge, I want you to choose an area in your community that needs your help. If you’ve been around this site for a while and participated in our service challenges, you know what to do. 🙂 But if you’ve never done anything like this before, don’t be nervous – it’s really simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

* If you don’t know where to start, ask around, open the phone book, or just do an internet search for “homeless shelter” or “women’s shelter” or “food pantry” or “animal shelter” and your zipcode. I just did that (I searched “shelter” and my zipcode), and discovered a family shelter that’s only 10 minutes away from my house. (I recently moved – just to the city next door – and I’m discovering new things all the time. I love participating in these service challenges with you – they help me learn so much!)

* When you’ve found a program in your area, call them or see if they have a website. And find out what their greatest needs are! You can do that in a variety of ways … “I have $10 to donate. What do you need today?” “What items do you run out of quickly?” “Are there any items that my friends and I might be able to share with you?” “Do you need volunteers?”

* And then … get to work. 🙂 Bargain shop (for a few budget-stretching tips, check out this post). Show up and volunteer. Gather your friends and have a blessing bag party. Even if you only have 5 minutes right now, that’s enough time to find a local shelter, learn their greatest needs, and share on social media. You can check out this post if you need a little more inspiration.Blessing bag

As I was writing this service challenge, I stopped to re-read our shelter challenge from nearly a year ago. I wanted to share these thoughts with you again.

Once you know what the needs are in your community … well, you won’t need me to tell you what to do after that.

You might realize you have an extra $5 you can donate.

You might pass by a clearance rack at Target and notice an item that’s on your shelter’s “urgent needs” list.

You might realize that you have a few hours you can use to volunteer.

You might grab an extra box of granola bars the next time you’re at the store. Or maybe an extra pack of socks, or a bottle of laundry detergent.

You might decide to take some donations to a shelter for homeless teens, and while you’re there, you might realize for the first time that right in your city, there are teenage girls who are selling their body for food. You might realize that you had absolutely no idea that there were people in your very city who are so absolutely desperate. You might get angry – FURIOUS – that this is the reality for so many. And when your fury subsides a bit, you might realize that you might not be able to fix all of the problems in your community, but you are able to donate a bit of food. And with that bit of food, someone will be able to eat tonight without resorting to desperate measures.

A broken, defeated woman might be able to take a shower tomorrow morning and start to feel a little bit more feminine because you donated a bottle of nice shampoo to the shelter she has fled to.

A man might be able to button up his new-to-him dress shirt (that, as of yesterday, was hanging in your closet) and go off to a job interview, confident that he looks professional and competent.

Tomorrow someone might read your Facebook post … “Hey, local friends – did you realize that we have a women’s shelter that’s at risk of closing because they need more donations? Come on – let’s help!” Or “Did you know that our local animal shelter is going to have to put down three dogs this weekend unless they find homes? Anyone need a new pet?” And your friend might realize, thanks to you, that there is a need that he or she can meet.

Will you join me?

You can give. You can advocate. You can learn and share. And you can make a HUGE difference in the lives of the most vulnerable in your community.

I don’t know what you’re going to do with this week’s challenge.

But I can’t wait to hear.

100 Acts of Kindness Day

It’s here! 100 Acts of Kindness Day is finally here! 🙂

100 Acts of Kindness Day

Today, as you complete your act (or acts) of kindness, please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. I’d love a brief summary of what you did, as well as your location. I’ll keep updating this post throughout the day.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for participating with us!

1. Allowed a young mother to go to the front of the line at a department store – Manteca, CA
2. Donated to Confident Children out of Conflict’s trampoline fundraiser – Grand Prairie, TX (to benefit Juba, South Sudan)
3. Left money inside a Redbox DVD for the next person who rents it (to buy a snack)
4. Surprised 3rd grade daughter with lunch at school – Duncanville, TX
5. Gave out cookies to people eating lunch at Chick Fil A – Grand Prairie, TX
6. Gave a Target gift card to a young mother – Grand Prairie, TX
7. Donated blood. (Did you know that one blood donation can save up to 3 lives? Click here or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to get started!)
8. Shopped for Operation Christmas Child (this challenge was chosen by a 4-year-old) – Grand Prairie, Texas
9. Hid dollars in the aisles of the dollar store (this challenge was chosen by a 6-year-old) – Duncanville, Texas
10. Pre-loaded the carts at Aldi with quarters – Duncanville, Texas
11. Pre-loaded candy machines with quarters – Duncanville, Texas
12. Made a micro-loan to a fruit and vegetable seller through Kiva – Grand Prairie, TX (to benefit Sincelejo, Colombia)
13. Made a giant card for a friend who broke his leg
14. Invited new friends to celebrate the Creek Cleanup with cake and watermelon
15. Helped an elderly woman clean up the dog poop in her backyard
16. Delivered 66 blankets to babies in need – Las Vegas, Nevada
17. Helped a schoolmate study for final exams – Las Vegas, Nevada
18. Took cookies to the fire department – Sterling, VA
19. Taped quarters on a soda machine – Sterling, VA
20. Left a thank-you card and a bag of candy for the mailman – Sterling, VA
21. Sent a care package to daughter in college – Sterling, VA
22. Taped a $5 bill on the sidewalk – Sterling, VA
23. Made treats and dinner for a family in need – Las Vegas, Nevada
24. Organized teacher appreciation gift for daughter’s teacher – Grand Prairie, TX
25. Baked over 70 cupcakes for Boy Scouts Arrow of Light celebration – Grand Prairie, TX
26. Left some cookies at the door of a mother who is having a hard time
27. Kids sent a big box of old markers their school had collected to be recycled at Crayola
28. Visited The Hunger Site and clicked to give a cup of food to people in need
29. Visited The Animal Rescue Site and clicked to give food to a hungry animal
30. Donated to Save The Children’s earthquake relief fund – Grand Prairie, TX (to benefit Nepal)
31. Donated to charity: water (to benefit Nepal)
32. Bought a candy bar for a cashier
33. Gave quarters to kids in the arcade area at Walmart
34. Bought a pizza to give to a homeless couple
35. Asked a cashier what her favorite treat was, then bought it for her – Phoenix, AZ
36. Listened to, and helped, a friend going through a relationship problem – Provo, UT
37. Delivered dinner and snacks to an elderly man who was sitting alone in his car, under a tree
38. Let a rude and angry driver pull ahead into the lane – Dallas, TX
39. Babysat for a parent who is going through a separation – Salt Lake City, Utah
40. Took a surprise birthday gift to a child’s teacher – Salt Lake City, Utah
41. Donated money to Primary Children’s Hospital while checking out at Walmart – Salt Lake City, Utah
42. Wrote thank-you notes to a child’s teachers (including specialists) – Grand Prairie, TX
43. Donated to Fallen Heroes Fund
44. Threw a last-minute baby shower for a soon-to-be mother who doesn’t have any family in the country – Duncanville, TX
45. Took groceries to a family in desperate need – Denver, PA
46. Gave outgrown toys to someone whose grandson needed them, rather than selling them as planned
47. Helped a kindergardener find a tooth that had been (literally) lost on the playground
48. Made teacher appreciation gifts for my son’s preschool
49. Cooked brownies for the piano teacher
50. Gave a gift card to a family that needed to a boost – Manteca, CA
51. Clicked to donate at The Literacy Site
52. Clicked to donate at The Autism Site
53. Clicked to donate at The Breast Cancer Site
54. Clicked to donate at The Rainforest Site
55. Shared a “Go Fund Me” account on Facebook
56. Made a donation to help a child with kidney failure
57. Ran errands for his busy wife
58. Made dinner for his wife
59. Bought a gift card for a teacher
60. Sent a friend an uplifting note
61. Made a donation to help spend special needs kids to surf camp
62. Made a donation to Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
63. Left a sizeable tip for a hotel maid
64. Gave the gas attendant a Million Dollar Bill chocolate bar in honor of “Be A Millionaire Day”
65. Spread information about Autoimmune Arthritis Awareness Day