Selfishly Selfless

By: Stacy Thompson

volunteer hands

Volunteering your time, expertise and efforts benefits not only the person, animal or cause you choose, but YOU as well! I stay pretty busy with work, family time and football (see my prior blog post as I welcomed in the football season!) and sometimes it seems there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, I’ve found that my work outside of work provides so much joy and satisfaction, not to mention value beyond a paycheck, that missing it would be missing out.

  • Volunteer to meet other people – As a volunteer member of the Junior League of Columbia, I regularly have opportunities to meet other volunteers while giving back to our communities – some work outside of the home, some inside, some are Gen-X, Gen-Y and Millennials – but we all have one common focus on improving the health and well-being of children and families in the Midlands. The work we do also brings us closer to other non-profits with shared missions and opportunities to learn more about these amazing organizations that have broadened my outlook as well.
  • Volunteer to expand your skills – I volunteer monthly (and sometimes more than monthly) through the South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program. At times I may counsel individuals at Transitions or assist callers in the Ask-A-Lawyer program. In the past year I’ve volunteered with the Wills Clinic, drafting wills for senior citizens – not within my area of practice, but a good way to learn a new skill while helping someone in the process.
  • Volunteer to gain purpose and perspective – Too often I get bogged down on how my day went or the stress I have in work. Volunteering takes my mind off my relatively minor troubles and gives me renewed energy to continue helping where I can and when I can. In addition, the health benefits of volunteering are widespread (not my conclusion, but certainly can be found in a number of articles, including a few on the Corporation for National and Community Service website.)
  • Volunteer to gain pride in your community – It’s easy to complain, and even easier to sit and do nothing about it. Instead, become involved in change for the better, even if it simply means taking a meal to a friend or supporting a fundraiser at a local school. Find the cause or the organization that you feel may improve our community, city, state or nation and pledge to donate your time and efforts, even if it is simply talking about their mission to a friend (or ten) or helping to organize a fundraising event. Every little bit helps and every little bit matters.

Volunteering is the ultimate selfishly selfless act – you give a lot, gain a lot and learn a lot about yourself and others.

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Happy Pre-Thanksgiving

By: Chaunte McClure

In less than a week, airports will be packed, grocery stores will be super busy, and families will be preparing a heaping helping of turkey, dressing, ham, green beans, pumpkin pies, velvety mashed potatoes and other traditional delicacies to enjoy together at the dining room table on Thanksgiving Day. Well, that’ll be the routine for most families…

There are those who are less fortunate and won’t have the privilege to prepare a meal, have dinner at someone’s home or perhaps even have a meal. The kind people of Keepin’ It Real Ministries recognized this sad reality and did something about it. Last Sunday, the organization, with the help of volunteers, served a pre-Thanksgiving dinner to more than 400 homeless men and women, and a few children, at Columbia’s Finlay Park.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Seeing the homeless kids really tugged at my heart and I couldn’t help myself but to get down to their level to strike a conversation. Although they had little say, it was obvious that what they had just received meant a lot to them. Their faces lit up like a child’s does on Christmas morning when he or she opens gifts, and all it took was a plate of warm food, a backpack and people willing to make it happen. That’s ministry. God wants us to be among those who are suffering so we can be ministers for Jesus Christ.

The more than two hours spent in the cold organizing, plating food and distributing backpacks were worth the smiles I saw and the expressions of gratitude I heard.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Whenever I participate in this type of mission, I always have to thank God. Lord, thank You for the roof I have over my head. Thank You for the food I can eat daily. To be in the presence of so many people who don’t have a place to stay really helps me appreciate the state I’m in, even if I think it’s not the best.

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

Keepin’ It Real Ministries

As we enter the holiday season, I hope you will find opportunities in your community to serve. Keepin’ It Real Ministries will serve dinner to the homeless again on Christmas Day and the ministry is in need of volunteers. Will you help? The Christmas meal will be served at the Sumter Street Transit Station on the corner of Sumter and Laurel Streets at 4 p.m. If you’re interested, give Oscar Gadsden a call at (803) 406-0724 and let him know you want to help.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Be A Couch Volunteer!

By: Sydney Yarbrough

Sydney YarbroughVolunteering is very important to me. The act of selflessly doing something to help an organization in need reaps so many rewards!  Many think that volunteering takes up a lot of time and energy, or that they’re too busy to fit it into their schedule, but there are so many ways to volunteer and help people in need, even from your own home! Here are some easy ways that you can use your time to make a difference for a non-profit or cause that you support:

  1. Share their posts on Facebook. I don’t mean just “like” the post. I mean click SHARE, write a message to your followers, and encourage them to support your cause, too! Of course, not all of them will catch on immediately, but at least you’re helping to get the word out!
  2. Find Small Organizations to Support. There are plenty of non-profits that you see regularly in the media and on the news. Many hold events, galas, fundraisers, etc… The truth is, not every non-profit can afford to do these things. Many fund their causes from their own pockets, making an event nearly impossible for their budgets. I encourage you to find a lesser-known non-profit and follow their page on Facebook. Retweet them. Interact with them on your computer at least once every few days.
  3. Donate Your “Clutter.” When you’re doing spring cleaning, instead of putting everything in the trash, separate usable items into a bin and take it directly to a non-profit. Many animal rescues need items like blankets (or old clothes that could be used for blankets), detergent, cleaning supplies, etc. Coupons are a great thing to donate, too! Many assume that donating automatically means writing a check, but not always. Gift cards are also a big help.
  4. Reach Out. Wondering what the best way is for you to help? Pick a cause you’re curious about and send them an email or a Facebook message to see what they are currently most in need of. Ask if they have an Amazon wishlist that you could view and send them a gift, or if they need help hosting an information booth in the future. 

I like to encourage everyone to support smaller non-profits and rescues. Even if that just means “Like”ing their Facebook page. Every little act makes a difference and sometimes you don’t even have to leave your couch!

SC Mission 2013

 By: Katie Austin

This August, at the State Fairgrounds, there will be a great opportunity to give back to the community. No, the fair isn’t back in town. This is something even better. Yes, even better than fair food and rides. The SC Mission 2013 is back and you won’t want to miss this volunteering opportunity!

SC Mission

The SC Mission first came to Columbia back in the summer of 2011. The event, which is sponsored by the United Way, brings together doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and many non-clinical volunteers for two days to provide medical, dental, eye and mammogram services to the public for FREE. Yes, you read correctly – FREE!  If you are reading this and need these services for yourself or family, you need to plan to be there!

Why do I keep coming back each year to volunteer?  Because the easiest thing we can donate is our time and to do so while making a difference is priceless.  This event needs volunteers (clinical and non-clinical) to bring these needed services to the public. When I volunteered back in 2011, I had no idea that my life would be forever changed. You can read about my experience here.

I hope that after reading my blog post that you want to get involved, too!  Okay, so who’s with me to volunteer for SC Mission 2013?!  (Insert loud cheering and many voices saying “I am!”)  There is still time to volunteer. I have provided registration links below, as well as a link to the SC Mission page to learn more about this event. If you go to register and there are no spots available, keep checking back as plans change and volunteers have to give their spot back.

Remember – it’s not what we have in life that makes a difference. It’s how we make a difference in life 🙂

If you have questions or want to share your past SC Mission experience, post it here.  After you participate, come back and share your story with us. We would love to hear all about it!

God bless each of you and wishing you a wonderful day!

Links:

Clinical volunteer registration: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/6427477759/zvents

Non-clinical volunteer registration: http://scmission2013-es2.eventbrite.com/?rank=2#

SC Mission page: http://uway.org/our-work/health/sc-mission-2013

The Latest Craze: Rockin’ It For Great Causes

By: Shannon Shull

I think we can all agree that we love the opportunity to support a good cause. Bake sales, raffles, dinners and auctions are all great money-raising activities that folks can utilize to support a charity, person in need, or specific cause.  Not many things beat the feeling of knowing you contributed to helping others and helped to make a difference!

Zumbathon logo

The latest money-raising craze is the rockin’ fitness dance party known as the Zumbathon. Whether or not you even know what Zumba is, chances are you’ve heard of or seen the word “Zumbathon.”  They are all over the place these days!  Practically everywhere you go, you see or hear of another Zumbathon.  So what exactly is a Zumbathon?

A Zumbathon charity event is a Zumba Fitness-Party that is open to the public and raises funds and awareness for a selected charity (an organization, individual or community in need). These events can only be hosted by licensed Zumba Instructors who have been granted approval by Zumba Fitness, LLC.

So why are Zumbathons so popular? Well, who doesn’t like the combination of contributing to their health and supporting a good cause? And who doesn’t love a rockin’ dance party?! There’s a reason why Zumba Fitness has become such an international fitness hit… because IT’S FUN! So the idea of having a dance party to raise money is a genius move, if you ask me. Every element of a Zumbathon is doing good for the people involved – raising money, promoting awareness, increasing heart rates for good health, decreasing pounds and inches, and creating smiles by bringing people together. What’s not to love!?

MDA Zumbathon

As a licensed Zumba Instructor, it is a great honor to be a part of something so all-around positive. I recently enjoyed hosting my first Zumbathon and it was a truly amazing experience. After getting approval from Zumba Fitness, LLC, I teamed up with our fabulous sponsor, Gold’s Gym, and we raised money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 100% of the proceeds went to the MDA. With support and planning help from Tammy Wallace with the MDA, David Spence with Gold’s Gym and my wonderful aunt, Susan McPherson, with the Greater Columbia Chamber, we were able to host the Midlands’ first Zumbathon to offer both Aqua and Land Zumba! That’s right, not only did we dance in the studio, we danced in the pool! Our Zumba dance party created smiles, worked muscles, and, best of all, raised money for an awesome charity.

My Mom & Aunt ready for the Zumbathon Dance Party!

So if you love to dance, love a rockin’ party and love to do good for people and your community, a Zumbathon is the way to go!

Shannon & David Making a Muscle for the MDA at our Zumbathon

Making a muscle with the Gold's Gym Team for the MDA Zumbathon

Savannah’s Soldiers

By: Katie Austin

Thanksgiving morning started off with me leafing through the many sale ads in the newspaper while sipping coffee with The Today Show playing in the background.  I would look up once in awhile to watch the segments that caught my ear, but for the most part, I was happily enjoying the peace and quiet while planning which stores to go to on Black Friday. I was planning my attack to get a chunk of our Christmas shopping finished, so it was going to take something special to lure me away from the sales.  Then, it happened.  I watched the story on Savannah’s Soldiers and I knew then that I wanted to tell my Every Woman blog family about it!

Savannah Maddison Ogden is an 11-year old girl with an inspirational story. When her friend’s father was deployed to Afghanistan, she was sad for her friend and wanted to do what she could to help her friend through it. She wrote a song for her friend to show her support, but she felt that wasn’t enough.  Savannah wanted to do more, not just for her friend’s dad but also for others who had been deployed for a long time.

I can’t imagine my parents going away for that long,” the 11-year-old told the Today Show. “That would crush me.”

She and her friend tried to think of ways to support the troops.  They quickly realized that the way they could comfort the soldiers who are so far away from home would be to send them heartfelt letters expressing their appreciation for the soldiers’ sacrifice.  The idea was to get kids of all ages to write letters.  Savannah and her family would gather the letters, then split them into groups to mail overseas.  That’s when “Savannah’s Soldiers” was born. Since then, the campaign has already encouraged kids to send more than 10,000 letters to troops in Afghanistan.

Savannah's Soldiers

What started out as a local effort is growing by the day!  In the beginning, Savannah and her friends collected approximately 30 letters each week.  Now, as reported on the Today Show, Savannah is speaking at schools and events to encourage kids to write to the soldiers who have been deployed overseas.

“Anything from home always makes you feel good,” Capt. Bryan Durham told the Today Show. “When you get a letter from a little kid saying, ‘Good job,’ ‘We’re thinking of you,’ ‘Thank you,’ you can’t explain it.”

Savannah's Soldiers2

One of the reasons why I wanted to pass this along to my Every Woman Blog family was to spread the word to others, get our kids to mail letters in, and support Savannah!  I am so inspired by this 11-year old girl from Florida and she makes me want to be a better person.  This was exactly the story I needed to hear on Thanksgiving, as this is the time of year to count our blessings and to thank those that sacrifice every day to fight for the freedom we take for granted.

Savannah, thank you for reminding us that there are many soldiers spending time away from home this holiday season and that we need to let them know thankful we are for all that they do every day for our country.  You are a true inspiration to so many, and I, for one, am thankful for all that you are doing!

Be sure to visit Savannah’s Soldiers Facebook page or website!

Katie Austin

Mark Your Calendars: Columbia Style Week Coming in June

By: Staci Rutherford

For the first time ever, Columbia, South Carolina will have an official fashion week!

Mayor Steve Benjamin and the Columbia City Council issued an Official Proclamation declaring June 5th-9th, 2012 Columbia Style Week.  This is a major event for the Capital City that will include five days and five nights of fashion, arts and entertainment.  As a style-obsessed blogger, I am beyond excited that we will have an outlet to showcase talented fashion designers, models and local retailers.  I will feature a calendar of runway shows for Columbia Style Week so we can help make it a huge success.

The “Follow Your Heart” Charity Fashion Gala and Auction is the official kick off event for Columbia Style Week’s “Road to Runway Tour.”  It will be held at Tapp’s Center for the Arts (located downtown at 1644 Main Street) on Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm.  Partnering with the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign, the gala will be hosted by Arielle Riposta-McConchie and Alicia Zeigler of Wink Magazine.  Dr. Norma Khoury, of the South Carolina Heart Center, is the keynote speaker on heart disease and its impact on women.  The event will also include a silent auction, refreshments and wine, live entertainment and DJ, a Red Dress fashion showcase and more!

A portion of all ticket sales and 100% of silent auction proceeds will go to the American Heart Association.  Click here to purchase a ticket.

If you are interested in becoming involved with Columbia Style Week, they are looking for volunteers!  Visit the www.columbiastyleweek.com for more details.