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Archive for May, 2011

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

This post was supposed to be put up yesterday – sorry. I was out volunteering and got behind.

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I captured this image of a fallen soldier being delivered to Arlington Cemetery on a recent return flight to DC.

Yesterday was Memorial Day – a day when we remember those who have served our country. I took some time to think about my family members who have served – most recently my cousin Jonathan and his wife Alex. Thankfully they made it home safely. I then was reminded of Jen B. who I met on Day 362 of my Year of Giving. She lost her husband, Army 1st Lt. Todd J. Bryant, when his Humvee came under attack in Fallujah in October of 2003. My thoughts go out to her, Todd’s family and all of those who have lost loved ones serving their country.

My first bike ride of the year is something that I look forward to every spring. The mixture of warm sunlight and cool air on my face as I roll by some of our country’s most iconic monuments keeps me sane.

Washington is full of wonderful trails that provide safe riding throughout our nation’s capital. However there is one day each year that gives riders full access to the city and so many of the breathtaking vistas usually reserved only for snapshots out windows of slow moving cars. That day is Bike DC.

I rode in Bike DC last year and even gave my $10 away to another rider. You can read the blog post and watch some video I shot while riding. This year I too was going to ride and then I got the idea that I would volunteer for them.

I was stationed at the Will Call table which was set up on the corner of 3rd and Jefferson, directly west of the US Capitol. Technically I was supposed to be answering questions that the cyclists had, but there was a much greater need to actually check the nearly 4,000 riders in so I started checking them in too. It was impressive. We managed to process every single rider in about 90 minutes.

Crossing the Potomac River (Photo: Charles Hagman)

The event, which costs riders about $35, supports the Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA). They represent cyclists’ interest here in DC. I overlook their tired emails and letters because I, like many others here in the area, benefit from their work. Click here to find out how you can support WABA.

After I was done working, I tacked on a rider’s bib and headed out on the course. It’s beautiful and there is something indescribable about riding through such a picturesque city with no cars. My favorite part though is crossing the bridge into Virginia and riding down the GW Parkway! That is pretty cool.

Ghost Bike

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

I started this post off remembering those who have served in the military. In the theme of remembrance, I offer a name to you: Alice Swanson. She died just a block from my home while riding her bike to work in July of 2008. For a long time there was a white bicycle placed at the corner of Connecticut and R Streets as a memorial. Although I never knew Alice, there is not a day that goes by when I walk by that corner that I don’t think about her.

Next Monday I will take you along on a volunteering journey with Yachad DC where we will rebuild some lower income housing near Fort Totten.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

DSC_0008.jpgThe Year of Giving transitioned from a blog to a social movement a few months into my year-long journey in 2010 and all of a sudden I was thrust into the space of social media.  Given my background, I figured I would be a good volunteer for the DC Social Media Summit.  I spent four years organizing and producing events and conferences in addition to my experience navigating the ever-changing field of social media.  Sounds like a perfect match right?

The event was produced by the Center for Nonprofit Success, a nonprofit registered under the name Mediate Facilitate Inc.  This is the second time I have volunteered with this organization.  The first time was back in Week 7.  It’s an interesting organization.  Part of me really loves the concept.  They run conferences around theUS with no onsite staff.  That’s right.  Every single person working at the conference is a volunteer.  That’s amazing!

DSC_0084.jpgDespite the fact that I think our small team of volunteers managed to make the best of the situation we were presented with, it was not easy.  We were missing guidance, information, tools, etc.  Attendees seemed frustrated with our lack of information and less than organized demeanor.  It got so bad at one point that some of the volunteers contemplated walking out during the middle of the conference.  Thankfully the content of the sessions was quite good.  The organizer managed to secure some really talented speakers who dazzled the couple hundred attendees.

Although I did say that I was impressed that such an organization exists and puts on conferences all around the country with just volunteers staffing the events, I don’t think this is the best model.  I believe there should be at least one employee at each event from start to finish to manage the conference.  I think that would help in a variety of ways as well as help create the culture of the volunteer staff.

DSC_0082.jpgI did some research on this organization.  The math is just not adding up for me.  For a nonprofit that has such a skeleton staff that onsite management is done completely by volunteers, I have to wonder where all their revenue goes?  There were no handouts to give to attendees – they were asked to print them themselves along with their name badges.  The speakers were also donating their time and not compensated for their appearance or travel expenses.  So I was left with more questions than answers.

I did get to meet some interesting people who were volunteering with me and got to see a few minutes of one of the presentations which I found very interesting.  Having said that, I don’t think I will volunteer with this organization again.

Click here to see more of the photographs that I took during the event.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC.

HandsOn Network is a very impressive organization.  As the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, they claim to be the largest volunteer network in the nation comprised of more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers in 16 countries.  Where these guys really get traction is by digging into their more than 70,000 corporate, faith and nonprofit organizations that have stepped up to the plate to help create meaningful change in their communities.  The latest figure I saw was that last year they racked up some 30 million volunteer hours.  That represents over $600 million worth of services that nonprofits and government entities didn’t need to spend.  That’s pretty awesome.

logoI have a connection with HandsOn Network.  You see I’ve been volunteering for a while with their local Action Center here in DC: Greater DC Cares.  I recently participated in Servathon and on the MLK Service Day.  I’m also building a team for their 9/11 Day of Service.

HandsOn Network mobilizes people who want to do good.  That is the hard part.  All of us want to do good things, however, moving individuals to act is often the barrier.  We have so many other parts of our lives that are pulling at us.  But it can be done.

Log on to HandsOn Network today and find a local Action Center near you.  There’s more than 250 of them so there is a good chance there is one near you!  And for those of you in Oconomowoc, WI, yes, even you have one near you…just down the road in Waukesha!

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Me volunteering at MLK Service Day in January.

By the way, HandsOn Network and the Points of Light Institute (along with the Corporation for National and Community Service) are part of the driving force behind the National Conference on Volunteering and Service that will be held in New Orleans June 6-8.  If you are passionate about volunteering, find a way to make it to the Superbowl of Volunteering and give me a shout…I’d be happy to meet up.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

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Year of Giving volunteer getting dirty!

If you live in DC and are not familiar with Hands on DC, check them out today!  Founded back in 1994 by a small group of friends who wanted to make a difference in DC public schools, this all-volunteer organization leads a variety of improvement projects at more than 30 area schools.  Their largest event is Work-a-Thon, held every spring.

I signed up to lead a team at the 2011 Work-a-Thon that was held April 29th.  I was joined by about a dozen Year of Giving volunteers.  We were part of a larger team that was assigned to Brent Elementary School, a Pre-K – 5th grade school located not even three blocks from the well-groomed lawn of the US Capitol.

When I showed up I was really impressed.  This school looked a lot better than I expected.  I have done two other school based projects this year and their campuses didn’t look anything like Brent.  A variety of gardens surround the brick building that sits across from Folger Park.  On the Southwest corner of the grounds is a really cool playground.  It’s got a special foam-like ground surface that helps reduce injuries upon impact.  So I’ve got to say that when I walked onto the campus I was thinking, “Did I miss the event?  Was it yesterday?  It looks like everything is already done!”

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The entire work group

But I was indeed in the right spot.  This school, which seems to be very progressive with their Museum Magnet Program, benefits from the fact that the staff and parents are very involved with all aspects of the school experience.  To give you an idea, check out something I found on their website: “Students, parents community members and Brent staff will collaboratively share leadership and accountability for empowering the highest quality of teaching and learning, everyday, in every Brent setting, for every student.”  We worked side by side several parents and staff members and I could tell that they really cared for their school.

Team Year of Giving quickly got to work on a variety of projects.  I, like most of us, spent the day weeding and mulching.  My brother and Jody planted a tree.  Kimon and Aster built a tee-pee!  So there were some interesting projects.

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Some of the Team Year of Giving volunteers

Everyone on the team had a great time.  I hope to do more volunteer projects where I have support from you guys!  Thanks to those who came out and helped make Brent Elementary look really fantastic!  Click here for more photos.

For those of you who were not able to participate in Work-a-Thon can make a donation to this great organization.  100% of your donation will be to secure supplies for service projects as well as to provide college scholarships through College Bound, a local mentoring and tutoring organization dedicated to supporting DC public schools students who want to attend college.

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Me and my bro Ryan

We are one month away from the Worldwide Day of Giving – if you haven’t signed up, and everyone can sign up, click here.  How many people do you think we can get to sign up in 30 days?!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Thanks for all of the nice comments I received about yesterday’s post about my mother.  Although she passed away more than four years ago now, Mothers Day continues to be a day where I honor her and remember what a wonderful person she was.

To shift gears a little today, we’re going to get dirty…well, get our hands dirty at least.

April 22nd was Earth Day, a day that has been dedicated to informing and energizing people around the world to take an active role in securing a healthy future for us and our planet.  The building where I work sent out an email that they were observing Earth Day by partnering with the Fairmont Hotel next door to help revitalize an elementary school across the street: Franics-Stevens Education Campus (FSEC).

FSEC is small public school that has about 225 pre-school through 8th graders.  Despite its rather privileged location on the eastern periphery of upscale Georgetown, the school reports that 69% of the students receive free or reduced lunch.

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Me spreading some mulch.

Its worn red brick façade looked a little dated as I arrived at just before 10am.  The misty rain was refreshing even if it was foreshadowing for the downpour that would come later.

Given that I work for a conservation organization and that Earth Day is tied so closely to our mission, I was very surprised, and frankly disappointed to be honest, that so few colleagues came out to volunteer.  I think there were a total of five individuals.  All they asked was for a minimum of 30 minutes of people’s time, which is nothing.  We could all make that time up by taking a shorter lunch that day.  Thankfully the Fairmont Hotel had several volunteers and the maintenance staff of my building sent at least five people.

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Volunteers from the Fairmont Hotel.

The outside of their campus was definitely looking a little tired.  We all pitched in digging up weeds, cleaning up debris, and laying new mulch.  My earth covered hands worked to get all the soil and mulch looking good perfect for the students.  It wasn’t a huge task – from start to finish it took about two hours.

The real rock stars were some folks from Inside Out Landscaping.  I only spoke with Jenna and Damion, but there were a few others there as well.

I understand that their company donated the materials and they came to help guide all of us amateurs in the right direction.

“It’s not a big deal,”

Damion said as we cleaned up, “We enjoy doing this and are happy to stop by a couple of times a year and make sure things are doing ok.”

It was a good thing we finished when we did because the rain started to pick up.  There is something nice about the smell of a freshly mulched garden and the rain makes it more intense.  I took one last look at our work and headed back to the office to get cleaned up and get back to work.

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Mothers Day

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Lenora "Ann" Reed Sandridge 10/17/43-12/15/06

A couple of days ago I sat down to brainstorm about the subject of my blog post for today.  As I have been focusing on volunteering with my posts, I thought I would highlight a national nonprofit that gave opportunities for mothers to volunteer.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find such an organization with the exception of very focused groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Then I thought I would focus on organizations that helped mothers.  I found lots of groups that help pregnant moms, new mothers, single parent mothers, etc.  But somehow I wasn’t finding anything that really grabbed me.

So I decided to dedicate today’s blog to my own mother who was one of my inspirations in creating the Year of Giving.

Born Lenora Ann Reed in 1943, my mother grew up in the sleepy coal-mining town of Richlands, Virginia.  It’s a beautiful part of the country.  I can remember driving down Route 460 as a child, well I wasn’t driving, but I was in the car, and seeing the breathtaking vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

My mother's childhood house and shed. The outhouse she used is long gone, but it still looks more or less the same structurally - except the deck. (Photo: Reed)

The house she grew up in still stands on a steep slope overlooking the town.  Today nearly 6,000 people live in Richlands compared to about 4,800 when my mother was a child.  Not too much has changed in my mind.  The King Kone ice cream and hot dog stand still gets people lined up two or three deep.  Mom used to love their chili dogs.  I went back last year with my dad and got one.  They must have been better back in the day.

Graduation from Richlands High School, 1960

Mom graduated from Richlands High School in 1960.  She followed the footsteps of her older sisters and went to nursing school, however, nursing wasn’t for her and she ended up working for the federal government in Washington, DC.

She was living with my uncle Jack on the fourth floor of a crimson colored brick apartment complex in Arlington,VA. The place is still there today in fact.  In the summer of 1962 my dad was moving in across the hall.  “There were some girls who were whistling and giggling at me as I was carrying things in,” he told me smiling.  “They kept hiding though when I would try to see who it was.”  Well, the rest is history as they say.

Jerry and Lenora were married on January 23, 1964.  They packed up the car and drove to California, sold everything except what they could carry in some suitcases and started out on a trip around the world.  The first stop was Honolulu.  They figured they would work for a while there until they had enough money to move on to the South Pacific.  They never made it any further and five years later left the tropical paradise of Don Ho and moved to California where my brother and I were born.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo: Reed)

The next 20 years were spent raising us kids.  Although we had a baby sitter when we would get home from school, they rarely left us with a sitter to go out to dinner or those kinds of things.  They completely put their social lives on hold in order to spend time with us.  Our house was full of love and laughter and a few screams of my brother and me fighting.

Mom was extremely generous.  We didn’t have much money to give, but she was always thinking of others before herself.  She searched voraciously to find the perfect card to send to her friends and family.  She wrote beautiful kind letters.  She led by example; instilling in my brother and me virtues of kindness, sympathy and honesty.

When I was 16 I was selected to be a Rotary Youth Exchange Student and went to Guasave, Mexico for my 11th grade year of high school.  On the eve of my flight, we sat in a hotel outside of Baltimore, MD fearing the unknown of a year apart.  Tears were flowing and my mother took me for a short walk outside our hotel.  She told me something that I will never forget.

My brother Ryan, Mom, Dad, Me in Ireland

“All my life I have worked to help you become independent.  You’ve grown up so much and are setting out to write a new chapter of your life.  We shouldn’t be crying; we should be celebrating.  This is what your father and I have dreamed of ever since you were born is to see you mature and develop into your own person.”

I think we both knew that I still had a lot of growing up to do but as always she had a way with words to make the pain or the sadness go away.  I must have received at least 100 letters from her during my 11 months in Mexico.

Mom died on the morning of December 15th, 2006 from some complications from a by-pass surgery she underwent a few days earlier.  She had battled heart disease for more than two decades since having her first heart attack days before Christmas in 1984.  It’s somehow ironic that someone with such a big and loving heart would die of heart related illness.

Me and mom in Rio de Janeiro in 2003.

Today I remember her.  I remember her smile, her laughter, her listening, her dancing with my dad in the kitchen, her gentle touch, her love of books, her love for family, her fondness for her work and coworkers and most of all her hugs.  I celebrate her life and the beauty she brought to the lives of so many others.

If you are able to spend the day with your mother, make sure you tell her that you love her and appreciate all that she has done for you.  Hug her and hold her an extra moment while you remember all of those who have lost their mothers.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much. ~Helen Keller

DSC_0199.jpgThe above quote is particularly relevant to today’s post.  As you know every Monday I bring you a blog post of my weekly volunteer activities.  Today’s service project was one that I took part in along with more than 8,000 other volunteers throughout our nation’s capital.

For the past 18 years, Greater DC Cares has organized Servathon – two extraordinary days of service.  The first day corporations and their employees participate in region-wide projects that focus on schools, parks, and other community areas.  On the second day, individual volunteers join in.

I registered a Year of Giving team for the second day where we were tasked with working on several outdoor projects at the Maya Angelou Evans Campus here in DC – a charter school in Northeast.

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Volunteer team at Maya Angelou Evans Campus

As I drove up to the school on Saturday morning colorless skies grew heavy and rain began to fall upon my windshield.  I was hoping the rain would hold off until we finished our outdoor projects.  We were building a garden area; from constructing the wooden frame that would encompass the area to building benches and painting concrete slabs that would be used as a walkway.

I was in charge of building some of the benches which turned out not to be to be too difficult since all the wood came pre-cut.  Thankfully we could do this work indoors, but that wasn’t the case though for several other teams who spent hours in the rain.  Mud was everywhere.  The beautiful thing about working on these projects together is that despite the thick layer of wet earth that was slathered on our clothes and exposed skin, spirits were bright, friendships were forged and cooperation thrived.  Thanks to all of those who came out to support team Year of Giving!  Click here to see more photos from the day.

Check out the Greater DC Cares website for other volunteer opportunities such as Servathon.  Their next region-wide service day will be held on 9/11, but you can find hundreds of other volunteer opportunities throughout the year on their website.

DSC_0168.jpgDC Cares also holds an annual event called IMPACT Summit which focuses on volunteerism, service and philanthropy.  As part of the event, they present a series of awards to outstanding organizations and community leaders who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in volunteering.  If you know of any organization or individual who should be recognized, please click here to nominate them.

Enjoy your week…hopefully we will have a new kindness investor soon!

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