Category: Weekly Service Challenge

It’s Egging Time!

Easter is less than three weeks away … which means it’s time for one of my favorite kindness challenges! This one is so easy for kids to help with, and it’s a simple, inexpensive way to spread smiles around your neighborhood.

Check out this post … it’s time to go egging! (And be sure to read the comments that people left last time – there are some great ideas!

 

You've Been Egged!

 

The Teal Pumpkin Project

So … Halloween candy. I love it.

One of my favorite childhood memories is coming home from Trick-or-Treating, eagerly spreading my candy out on the floor, and beginning The Great Candy Exchange with my siblings. And now, as a mom, I love to watch as my kids do the same. (And I might or might not – but definitely do – issue a Mommy Tax, to be paid in the form of chocolate.)

But for kids with food allergies (and according to FoodAllergy.org, that’s one in every 13 kids in America), it’s a little tougher. To look through your Halloween candy and realize that you can’t eat most of it … well, that’s a bummer. And while there’s not much I can do long-term to make life easier for kids with food allergies, I was thrilled to find a way to make Halloween a bit more magical for these kids.

teal-pumpkin-project

The Teal Pumpkin Project began three years ago. The idea is simple: put a teal pumpkin on your porch, or tape a sign onto your front door. This tells parents that you have non-food prizes to hand out. And kids with food allergies (or diabetes, or other dietary restrictions) get a small prize instead. Fun. Easy. Cheap. What’s not to love?

If you’d like to participate this year, there are several ways you can do so!

– Spread information in your community. Share this post with your neighbors. Print off a sign explaining what the Teal Pumpkin Project is and place it somewhere prominent. Start chatting with people and spread the news! Since this is project is new, most people (including parents of kids with allergies) haven’t heart of it.

Print off, or paint, a teal pumpkin. I went to Michaels to buy some spray paint and was able to find my cute already-teal pumpkin for under $5.

– Hand out prizes! This can be easy and cheap. Glow sticks, small party favors (mini Slinkies, whistles, etc.), bubbles, stickers, or (if you’d like to spend a bit more) small cars or dollar store dolls. There are tons more ideas on the Teal Pumpkin Project’s website.

That’s it! Such an easy way to make Halloween safer and more fun for the kids in your neighborhood who have food allergies. Are you in?

Thank a Bus Driver – Ideas, and a Free Printable!

For the majority of my life, I have worked with children. I was babysitting by the time I was in middle school. By high school, I was tutoring. I majored in Special Education and have taught children at school, at Church, and in my own home. I have been around kids a lot. It can be fun. It can be rewarding.

And it can be absolutely exhausting.

So I try very hard to support teachers whenever I have the opportunity. But recently, it hit me. I thank teachers, aides, specialists, principals, and secretaries.

But what about the bus drivers??

a-simple-act-of-kindness-getting-to-know-the-bus-driver

My kids are new school bus riders. And oh, am I grateful for that privilege! My town has had a lot of construction recently, and the bus saves me more than an hour each day of sitting in my car. For someone who doesn’t enjoy sitting in a car, this is a BIG deal. But I hadn’t given any thought to the drivers when I thought of holiday gifts, appreciation gifts, or really anything extra. These are wonderful people that get up every morning and patiently sit through traffic with a bus full of children. (I am cringing just thinking about it.) Time to thank them!

So I did what I do when I need ideas – I took to the internet. I found this fun “getting to know the teacher” printable that I sent with my kids at the beginning of the school year, but I didn’t find anything that really worked for bus drivers. So I designed my own! Please note that if you have any kind of design skills at all, you might laugh at my simple little printable. I have no skills in this area, y’all. But since I made it for my own kids, I thought I’d share it with you.

free-printable-getting-to-know-your-bus-driver

Kinda cute, huh? If you’d like to download it, just click here! (It is saved as a Word document – if you have any trouble opening it, please leave a comment and let me know and I’ll see what I can do.)

(And if you want to make it even cuter, I found these cute, free printables that say “Thank you for going the extra mile”, but I already had a bunch of tags, so I went with what I had.)

If you or your child ride a bus regularly, have you taken a moment to thank your bus driver for doing an important, but often thankless, job? I personally like giving small gifts, but I want them to be personal and meaningful, which is why I’m sending this printable with my kids. But if you just want a quick ideas – or if you have rotating bus drivers – here are some more thoughts for you!

  • Bring a treat or pack of gum to hand to your bus driver. Last week, we got a dozen donuts. I had one packaged individually and sent it with my kids to give their bus driver. The report back: a very excited and grateful driver!
  • Buy a small gift card for a local fast-food restaurant so the driver can pick up breakfast after hjis or her shift is finished.
  • Check out Pinterest for ideas – I have a few saved on this board to get you started.
  • If you have an awesome driver, find a way to report the great work to his or her manager! Call the bus depot and leave a report. Most calls are NOT compliments, and managers are typically thrilled to receive positive feedback.
  • Just say thank you, and teach your kids to do the same. As I watch children enter and exit the bus, most don’t even look at the bus driver. We all need to be noticed and appreciated, and this is a great and simple way to start.

Those are my ideas for you. If you have any for ME, I’d love to hear them! Thanks for reading!

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

Okay. Maybe it isn’t ACTUALLY the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s one of my favorites? Why?

SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE ON SALE!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This girl is really weird.” Well, yes/ I am. But mostly, I’m thrifty. I love being able to donate items to people in need. School supplies are needed by SO many different people and organizations. And this is the time of year to stock up!

I have already been hitting the sales for Operation Christmas Child. This year I’m packing 32 shoeboxes, so I need to stock up. But as I have been shopping, I’ve been picking up extras. Pens on the clearance rack for less than a penny each? Bought hundreds. (Okay. Over a thousand. Ahem.) “Penny deals” at Office Max? I shopped the sales for my kids’ school supplies, then bought items at a penny apiece for my shoeboxes. And always, I felt the need to grab more. I just wasn’t sure why.

But this week, someone reached out for help on my neighborhood’s Facebook page. Her husband’s work is arranging a school supply drive for an elementary school in an underprivileged area. It immediately caught my eye, so I offered to help a bit. And as I researched the school, it caught my heart.

Y’all, there are over 40 languages spoken at this school. 40!! Can you imagine sitting in a classroom where no one else speaks your language? Can you imagine being a teacher, knowing that you cannot communicate with your students (or their parents)? Can you a school where 95% of the students are receiving government assistance, and likely cannot afford the very basic list of supplies that the school has asked for?

Within 30 minutes of my home, kids know that they are going to be headed back to school empty-handed.

That is not okay with me.

And suddenly, I knew why I’d had the feeling to buy extras.

I bargain shopped a bit more. I price matched. I told managers what I was shopping for and politely asked if I could go over their “item limit”. And this … this is what I was able to do with $35.

Donating School Supplies on a Budget

 

This isn’t extreme couponing. This didn’t even take me that much time. I just shopped smart, I kept my eyes open for clearance deals and great sales. And hopefully, this labor of love will be a blessing to dozens of kids.

As I was pulling together my donations, I thought of the teachers who taught in this tough enviroment. And suddenly, I wanted to do something for them. And although it’s simple, this made me so happy to do. I looked on the school’s website and counted the faculty and staff (because those aides and those specialists and those secretaries – they deserve our thanks, too). Then I bundled up my school supplies into little gifts. Such a small thing, but hopefully enough to let these wonderful people know how much they are appreciated. These little bundles, along with homemade cards that my kids and I put together, will be waiting for them in the teacher’s lounge.

Simple gifts for teachers

Whatever your circumstances, can I encourage you to consider joining in my school supply challenge? Whether that means picking up an extra package of glue sticks on sale, or hopping from store to store to stock up – whatever you have the time and the means to do – there is always, always going to be someone who needs your help.

So get out there and do some good today.

Serving with School Supplies

 

Teacher Appreciation Week

This morning, I volunteered in my daughter’s class. I arrived a few minutes early and had the opportunity to observe the classroom for a few minutes.

When I walked in the door, the teacher asked the helper of the day to welcome me to the class. This second-grade boy pulled out a chair for me, looked me in the eye, and said, “Welcome to our class, Mrs. Daley.”

She taught him that.

I watched as she helped the students analyze a story they had recently read. They discussed the main ideas and important details. They talked about the message that the author wanted to share.

She taught them that.

I looked around the room and saw not just academic ideas, but inspirational messages. I saw positive reward systems. I saw reminders of kindness. I saw the evidence of a classroom full of children who were learning not just to be smart, but to be kind, and to be courageous, and to be compassionate.

She taught them that.

It is Teacher Appreciation Week. And this week, we say thank you.

Teacher Appreciation Challenge

You might have already pulled together a gift for your child’s teachers, but if you haven’t, I pulled some ideas for you earlier this year. Here are some suggestions for you, regardless of your budget:

My budget is $0. If you don’t have any extra money to purchase gifts, don’t worry! You don’t need any money to show appreciation.
* A thank-you card. I taught school for two years, and let me tell you something: a thoughtful card was a treasured gift! I would save them in my drawer and re-read them when things got stressful. Thank a teacher who has blessed you, or thank a teacher who has helped your child. Be specific – it’s always great to hear what you’re doing right! And let your child help; those little notes are priceless.
* Make a small gift. If you happen to have craft supplies lying around already, you might be able to make something that a teacher would really appreciate. For instance, many teachers write thank-you notes after teacher appreciation week. If you have scrapbooking supplies, you can make handmade greeting cards for the teacher to use. Thoughtful and practical.
* Volunteer to help in the classroom. If you do this, make your offer very specific. A generic “Let me know if I can help” is less likely to be taken up on than an offer like, “I know how busy you are, and I’d like to help! For Teacher Appreciation Week, my gift to you is 2 hours of after-school help. I am happy to cut, glue, grade, copy, laminate, or whatever you need help with! I’m free every Tuesday afternoon – please let me know what day works best for you and I’ll be there.”
* If you have young children and want to make their teachers laugh, this free printable has the potential to be funny! I’m planning on doing this with my kids, and I can’t wait to see what they say!

My budget is tight. Here are some gift ideas that are $5 or less.
* If you enjoy cooking, bake a treat. You can even make a healthier snack, like homemade granola or fruit leather. (Note: I’d only do this if the teacher knew me.)
* I love this idea of turning a bottle of soap into a clever gift. As a teacher, there are LOTS of germs floating around. A nice bottle of soap or hand sanitizer is a practical gift that is guaranteed to be used.
* This Redbox gift basket is such a fun idea! You can keep it simple and cheap, or you can add a few small things to it (like popcorn and soda).
* All kinds of things (from nail polish to a candy bar) can be turned into a fun teacher appreciation gift with a clever gift tag. If you’re not very clever, no worries – me either! That’s why I love sites like this one that round up lots of fun ideas.

I have a little more to spend. If you’d like to spoil a teacher a bit, here are a few more ideas. (Keep in mind – you can always ask around and see if any parents want to chip in and buy a group gift.)
* Gift cards. I can’t tell you how touched I was, as a brand-new teacher, to get a $25 Outback Steakhouse gift card and a $25 movie theater gift card during teacher appreciation week. I was floored! As in intern teacher, I was earning $900 a month and helping support my husband (who was in grad school). To be able to go to a restaurant and to a movie … it was such a treat!
* Buy an experience. Teachers work hard all year taking care of others – it’s time to give them the opportunity to do something for themselves! A manicure or pedicure … tickets to a museum or an exhibit … even something like rock climbing or skydiving could be fun. (I’d only do something like that if I knew the teacher fairly well and was pretty sure he or she would enjoy it.) You could even check out a website like Groupon and find something that looks fun and different.
* Put together an end-of-the-year “survival kit”. Anything you already know the teacher likes (soda, candy, etc.) is great. You can also add items that you know teachers go through a lot of (school supplies, hand sanitizer, etc.). A search on Pinterest will give you lots of suggestions! In fact, I made this Pinterest board to get you started! There are lots of cute, creative, cheap ideas on there to get you thinking.

Bouquets of School Supplies

Does anyone else remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail”, where Meg Ryan talks about wanting a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils? I have always loved that line. So we took that idea and ran with it this year! My children and I love giving gifts not just to their main classroom teacher, but to aides, music teachers, art teachers, etc. They all work so hard to teach our children – and as I learned this year as a preschool music teacher, it keeps you on your toes to have a new group of kids coming in and out of your room every half an hour. They deserve a gift too – and this one was very inexpensive! I have been watching clearance racks, and was able to put these bouquets together for under $2 each. But even if you don’t have time to bargain shop, this is something simple you can put together for under $5. It’s nothing fancy. This isn’t going to sweep across Pinterest. But my kids loved assembling them, I loved getting their teachers a gift that they can use – and as my preschooler proudly handed his bouquet to his teacher this morning, she seemed truly touched that we thought of her for Teacher Appreciation Week.

No matter your budget, can I ask you to join me in this week’s challenge? Let’s thank a teacher! What ideas to you have to add to our list?

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?

Christmas Decoration Apprecation

Hi there, friends! I apologize for the two week gap in writing. I have been very busy, as I’m sure you all have. This is a wonderful time of year, but SO busy! I hope your holiday season is a beautiful one.

Lately, my kids and I have found ourselves taking the long way home when we’re driving in the evening. They LOVE looking at all of the Christmas lights and decorations in our neighborhood – and so do I! I am so grateful for those who take the time (and the money) to make the neighborhood look beautiful. So this week, we are going to repeat one of our challenges from last year: we are going to tell our neighbors thank you!

Thank you treat

It’s pretty simple: just print off our free printable tags (or make your own cards and tags). Attach a treat of some kind. And then drive around your neighborhood, looking for beautiful decorations! You can doorbell ditch the thank-you note (that’s what we did last year, and my kids LOVED it). You can leave it in a mailbox. Or you can knock on a door and meet a new neighbor. How you choose to do it us up to you; just take a few minutes to say thank you. I am willing to bet most people do not expect any thanks, but will probably be delighted to get a small token of appreciation. Because we ALL like to be appreciated, don’t we? So go out and make your neighborhood a little bit happier tonight!

Christmas decoration challenge

Giving Gifts that Make a Difference

It’s that time of year again. So many fun things are going on: Christmas lights, holiday parties, baking days, spending time with loved ones, standing in endless lines to check out at the store to buy gifts that you’re not sure if people will even want.

I love it all!

Well … except for maybe that last part.

Changing lives with your holiday gift budget

I really love gifts (I enjoy receiving them, and I LOVE giving them)… but have you ever sat down to make your Christmas shopping list and just been tired of all of the STUFF? I sure have. So this year, as you’re preparing to shop, I’d like to encourage you to think outside the box a little and to look at Christmas shopping a different way. Let’s shop with purpose this year. Let’s let those dollars in our Christmas budget count.

This week, will you join me in my simple service project? Just take a moment to look at your holiday gift budget, then consider this: is there anyone you’re shopping for who really doesn’t need STUFF? Or is there anyone on your list who would love to receive a gift, knowing that the person who made that gift is being given the opportunity for a better life?

If the answer to that is yes … or even just maybe … join me this week in using those holiday dollars to change lives. Come see the work of The Mercy House, Compassion International, and many more, and see if you get any ideas. And then come back and share your thoughts with us!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Normally on Thursdays, we have a service/kindness challenge. But today, I’m not going to spend much time writing. I’m going to be cooking delicious things (I have a dark chocolate sea salt caramel pie in my fridge, y’all), eating wonderful food, and spending time with my people. That’s about as good as life gets, isn’t it? I hope you get to spend today doing the same thing.

But not everyone has that opportunity, do they? So today (and this week), my challenge to you is simple: reach out with kindness to someone who might not be having an ideal holiday. Someone who has recently lost a spouse, a parent, or a child. Someone who is having financial difficulties and might be feeling the stress of the holiday season. Someone who is spending Thanksgiving working, or someone who has to go to bed early tonight so they can be at work at 3 am tomorrow, getting ready for a storm of impatient Black Friday shoppers. Show a bit of extra kindness. Be a little more patient. Be thoughtful and considerate to one extra person.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. It is a privilege to be a part of this community with you.

Happy Thanksgiving

The Birthday Kindness List

Hello, everyone, and thank you SO much for joining me in celebrating my birthday with acts of kindness! I am going to keep updating this list throughout the day. I would LOVE it if we made it to 100! If you are able to go our of your way to do an act of kindness for a stranger, would you please let us know what you did? You can comment here or on our Facebook page, or e-mail me at [email protected] If you want to include your city and/or state, that would be awesome, too! Thank you for celebrating with me – you have no idea how happy this makes me.

Birthday Acts of Kindness

  1. Left a gift for the waitress at breakfast (Grand Prairie, TX)
  2. Making dinner for a friend whose husband recently had surgery
  3. Bought a gift for P.E. teacher (Grand Prairie, TX)
  4. Packed a care package for a friend who will be in basic training over the holidays
  5. Sharpened pencils to make school kits for kids in need (done by a 5-year-old)
  6. Sent flowers to a friend fighting cancer (Ripon, CA)
  7. Donated baby items to a family who lost their home in a fire
  8. Sent a “just-because” card to a friend
  9. Bought extra toiletries to donate
  10. Gave out coupons for free cookies from the cafeteria for 40 students and staff members to find
  11. Sent a card to a friend who is having a tough year
  12. Gave treats to a friend at work
  13. Wheeled in a neighbor’s garbage can (Manteca, CA)
  14. Handed out stickers in a store (done by a 2-year-old)
  15. Donated 8 inches of hair to a program that makes wigs for kids with hair loss
  16. Send a Hanukkah care package to brother and his comrades on an army base
  17. Spent time talking to a woman who was eating alone
  18. Clicked to donate for free at The Hunger Site
  19. Clicked to help homeless animals at The Greater Good
  20. Clicked to donate at The Breast Cancer Site
  21. Clicked to donate at The Animal Rescue Site
  22. Clicked to donate at The Veterans Site
  23. Clicked to support therapy services at The Autism Site
  24. Clicked to donate at The Alzheimers Site
  25. Clicked to support research at The Diabetes Site
  26. Clicked to help give a book at The Literacy Site
  27. Clicked to help protect wildlife at The Rainforest Site
  28. Brought treats to the staff at a care center for adults with disabilities (Duncanville, TX)
  29. Left a note and a gift card for a new mom to find (tucked inside the diaper changing station in Target)
  30. Shopped for Operation Christmas Child
  31. Sent care packages to military personnel
  32. Sent care packages to college students
  33. Anonymously sent a gift card to new parents
  34. Gave a waiter a gift card to give to another diner
  35. Bought toys for kids with cancer
  36. Sharpened pencils for school supply kits for Operation Christmas Child
  37. Donated a pumpkin pie to a family
  38. Had a shoebox packing party
  39. Helped someone with plumbing questions
  40. Chose a child’s wish list from Salvation Army angel tree
  41. Cleaned up trash in the park
  42. Bought candy for the next person in line at the movie theater