Helping St. Louis

A Blog About Helping Each Other

Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

Building Relationships

Posted by Schevus on March 10, 2009

My family and I have a friend who is currently deployed to Afghanistan for the Air Force. Of course we send him care packages to remind him of home and to make his experience a little better, but with the next package we plan to take it a little farther. I asked him if there were any particular items that the locals needed and he discussed it with the humanitarian officer and determined that currently school supplies are in demand.

Fortunately we had a cache of school supplies from our last stockpiling when they were on sale for the back to school season. We will be sending pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, and paper. The weight of the paper will likely make the shipping cost a bit high, but such is life.

The soldiers in Afghanistan distribute these kinds of humanitarian items on their patrols as a way to build relationships and trust with the local Afghanis, as well as to make life a little easier and better for them. As I think most people have come to understand now, Afghanistan will not be won militarily, but rather with more productive nation-building techniques (and better government). I like to think that these small humanitarian donations assist that process in a very small way.

I am pleased to be sending school supplies because as I have mentioned many times in my blog, I think education plays a crucial role in the development of any country. If I can help a few Afghani children make it through their schooling, perhaps they will decide to become engineers,  government officials, or teachers rather than falling prey to fundamentalist ideology.

I realize that children need help here at home too, but I think that devoting some resources toward ending the conflict in Afghanistan is also a worthy endeavor. It will be a benefit for our youth not to have an ever lingering conflict to deal with when they grow up.

If you are interested in donating items – either to troops or Afghani locals – but do not know how, leave a comment and let me know.

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Feeling Idle

Posted by Schevus on January 14, 2009

I have been feeling idle lately as far as my charitable efforts are concerned. I really feel like I need to DO something. This presents something of a problem because my wife returns from her deployment on Friday and I am sure I will want to spend plenty of time with her. On top of that my commitments for Shalom Outreach Society will be increasing dramatically soon as we ramp up for Tri-Ball-Athon 2009.

I feel this way periodically and I am not really sure why. I suppose I read scores of stories of people struggling and suffering and it just continues to build until I feel like I have to do something about it. Normally I can find a way to channel my energies positively, but with my unique constraints currently, nothing is coming to me.

I have been considering gathering and distributing sandwiches / snacks and possibly throw blankets to the homeless downtown, but I think that will take more time to organize and accomplish than a day and a half – though I will probably do this sometime in the near future. I really feel like I want more personal time actually on the ground.

So, any ideas?

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Youth Investment

Posted by Schevus on January 12, 2009

When I was in school (not all that long ago, despite how long it feels to me), there was not a big push from faculty to get kids involved in the community. All we had was a senior project that was supposed to be – but not required to be – civic in nature. I was not really active in my community until I joined the Air Force and was exposed to its “whole person” concept.

I realize that many schools were probably better than mine at promoting community involvement, but I think it is important that all schools plant the seed in the minds of students. Many colleges currently require community activity, and even more strongly recommend it. With Obama’s ideas about furthering civic investment in return for educational incentives, volunteerism among college students is likely to increase substantially.

As I have mentioned before, America’s youth offers a deep well of potential for community building. Additionally, those who learn the value of charity as kids are more likely to continue with it into adulthood. Volunteering is also a good way for youth to build valuable skills such as leadership, teamwork, innovation, etc.

Do Something is a site targeted toward teens to get them involved in their communities. This is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, or teens themselves who are looking for ideas. The site offer easy ideas and guides for many areas of interest including  animal welfare, disaster relief,  discrimination, education, the environment, poverty, and more.

Do you know of any other good resources for teens or kids interested in community involvement?

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Ongoing Charity

Posted by Schevus on December 30, 2008

With the holidays winding to a close many people will pack away their goodwill efforts with their Christmas decorations, not to be seen again until next winter. This is very unfortunate because charities need support year round – needs do not magically disappear with the end of the year.

One of the best ways to continue contributing throughout the year is to actually become involved with an organization. It is easy to write a check around the holidays and forget about it all again until next year, but if you are on the ground helping an organization it is much harder to simply break away from that.

One of the biggest complaints when it comes to volunteering is “I don’t have the time.” Much like the case with exercising, this is almost never true. It may take some organizing of your schedule and a sacrifice of some free time, but almost everyone can make time to do something.

I say sacrifice, but that is not necessarily true. I have a lot of fun with the groups I volunteer with and that keeps me coming back. No one wants to do something they do not enjoy, so be sure to look into groups and organizations that interest you. Aside from the fun, it also feels incredibly rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life. If you have never experienced the satisfaction that comes with volunteering, I strongly encourage you to try it.

Volunteering can also offer avenues for career building or advancement (though I discourage this as a primary motivator). I am a web developer and I have been able to put those skills to use in a volunteer capacity. It is very likely that you can find an organization that is in need of someone with your skill set.

So as this year comes to a close I ask you to keep your charity out of the closet and to continue sharing it with the world. Many people need it!

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First Response Team Of America

Posted by Schevus on December 28, 2008

The First Response Team is a remarkable group of people who specialize in disaster recovery. They selflessly travel across the country to disaster sites to provide their specialized services. The team responds to hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, ice storms, floods, etc.

disaster

The First Response Team has unique equipment that allows them to tackle disasters. They have specially made grapple trucks that can clear debris and carry up to 155,000 pounds. Caterpillar loaders are also used to help in clearing debris. Support trucks provide extra tools and parts for on site equipment repair.

Grapple

The team also provides generators and water pumps – equipment that is often in short supply in severe emergencies. Each response cell also provides advanced satellite communication technology – phones, laptops, radios – to allow disaster sites to remain in contact with the outside world.

Hovercraft

In order to navigate through difficult terrain, the team has off road scout vehicles and hovercraft that allow them to get to hard to reach areas.

First Response Team Founder and President, Tad Agoglia was nominated as one of CNN’s Heroes of the Year. Here is a little about Tad from the FRT website:

Tad has worked with government officials and community leaders at Incident Command centers all across the country. Tad is able to expedite the stabilization of communities under states of emergency due to his expert ability to quickly assess widespread damage in order to construct logistical responses that put community resources to their best and most efficient use. He is often invited to lead disaster-zone response initiatives and is able to bridge communication between departments and independent entities that have no established protocol to effective collaboration.

The First Response Team is a shining example of dedication to helping others. Take a look at their website and consider supporting this worthy cause.

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How do you really know who to help?

Posted by Schevus on December 11, 2008

As I was writing my last post on this topic, I realized something that is critical when helping others is concerned. You have to care enough to find out what help people need. Our society seems to frown upon “prying” or “meddling” in other people’s affairs. It is not polite to “impose” yourself on people’s troubles. If we all follow this mentality, the only people that will get help are those who are so desperate that they have no choice but to ask for it.

Certainly you should use some tact when approaching the situation, but it is usually pretty easy to tell if someone is having a hard time. I think that another trait of society is to look the other way when a minor sign of hardship is witnessed. Surely it is not as bad as it seems, and if it is someone else must be helping them right? Surely no one suffers unnoticed and unassisted in this day and age. If no questions are asked, no responsibility is taken.

Wrong! We must take responsibility for each other. The breakdown of compassion for our fellow man is what is leading us down the path of destruction. If we all cared enough to not only ask how someone is doing, but to be willing to help if things are not going well, imagine how much better the world would be. No one wants to ask for help, and most people are even reluctant to accept it when offered, so as I said some tact must obviously be used. It is inexcusable to allow someone’s pride to prevent you from helping them when you know they really need it.

So how do you really know who to help? You ask. But, not only do you ask, you have to care what the answer is.

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Innocent Bystanders

Posted by Schevus on December 8, 2008

The harsh economic times affect everyone, even those who have no concept of money. I am talking about our furry and feathered friends. Pets are suffering as a result of the economic downturn, and especially because of the housing crisis. As people lose their homes to foreclosure, there is often no place left for pets. As a result, animal shelters are bursting at maximum capacity across the country.

My wife and I have adopted all three of our cats from the Belleville Area Humane Society. In order to exploit everyone’s inescapable love of cute pet pictures, here are our rascals:

Merle

Merle – We think he is a little “special”

Nick

Nick – Always a ham for the camera

Christy

Christy – Famous for her crabby look

Best Buddies

Best buddies

Shelter pets make wonderful companions. They are incredibly loving and happy to have a good home. I suspect that Nick spent a fair bit of time on the street because he was extremely skittish at first. Over time (a year plus), he is becoming more and more lovable and wants more and more attention.

In addition to adopting, we also donate toys and such to the shelter occasionally, as well as a recurring monetary donation. Most shelters have wish lists, and most things on them are very inexpensive, but immensely appreciated.

If you have room for an addition to your household, I encourage you to consider adopting a pet. With the shelters taxed, many animals are being put down that could otherwise lead long happy lives in a good home. With Christmas around the corner, a pet would also make an excellent gift. Please think seriously about adopting first though, because shelters see an influx of drop offs after the holidays. By adopting you will gain a friend for life!

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How do you know who to help?

Posted by Schevus on December 7, 2008

This question was recently posed here, and is one I hear fairly often. To me the answer should be quite clear – help those you know first. Whether they be family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employees, church members, club members, class mates, etc., all of us know someone who needs some kind of help. At the very least you almost definitely know of someone who is having a hard time.

It seems clear to me that the world would be a much better place if we all helped those in our part of it. Why would you do otherwise? You don’t necessarily have to force money on people – most will be unwilling to take it – but there are tons of little things you can do to help people out:

Host Dinner:

If a family is struggling financially, something as simple as having them over for dinner can help. This eliminates one meal that they need to account for. Hosting dinner is an inconspicuous way of helping, because it’s such a common event.

Babysit:

Many families’ budgets are tight because of babysitting costs. For some it is even preventative for both parents being able to work, which is sadly often necessary nowadays. If you are home a lot, or happen to be home when you know someone needs babysitting, consider offering to help. Even if it’s not everyday, you could cut down costs for them by quite a bit.

Gift Often:

As I mentioned, people are normally reluctant to take cash assistance, but if you are clever it’s possible to mask your aid as a gift for whatever occasion. If you go this route, it is probably useful to do some scouting to see what people might need – that would still make a good gift – and maybe even pick up a gift card along those lines.

Skill Work:

There are some unfortunate surprises that can come as a huge financial shock to those living on a tight budget. This might come in the form of car trouble, pipes & plumbing issues, furnace trouble, electrical problems, etc. If you are a skill worker (or maybe just a jack-of-all-trades) and know someone who has a problem you can help with, give them a hand if you are able. This will likely reduce a large financial burden.

Invite A Friend:

This is mostly for those of you with kids. If you are planning an event, consider having your kids invite along a friend who might not get out so much because his or her family is struggling. They will no doubt appreciate the opportunity to do something they wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.

These are just a few examples – there are countless ways to help those around you. Some are so small that you might not even realize you are helping, and more importantly, neither will they.

On the off chance that you do not know anyone that needs help, or are in a capacity to do more help than those around you need, then I encourage you to reach out to the countless awesome organizations that exist. If you need help deciding here, just go with something that is close to you. If someone important to you had a serious medical issue, was homeless, had a rough childhood, etc., then an organization that addresses that issue might be a good fit. Alternatively if you are just interested in a particular area, you can probably find some good you can do there.

Look out for those around you!

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Help Needed

Posted by Schevus on December 4, 2008

The eventual goal of my charity endeavors is to create an organization which I hope to dub Help Needed. There is currently a website called Help Needed, but it appears to be defunct, and I don’t get the impression that they have legal claim to the name (I hope at least).

Anyhow, aside from the name, the purpose of this organization would be to link those in need with available services and organizations that can assist them. Many people have needs that are handled by existing entities, but the problem is that they have no idea this is the case, or how to contact these entities if they are aware. Help Needed would essentially be a directory service that makes a connection between those in need and those that can help. Some research may need to be done on a per case basis to determine what services are available.

In addition to the basic service of making this connection, I would also like Help Needed to have a framework in place to provide direct assistance, either in the form of monetary aid or volunteer time. This would be for situations where no existing assistance is available, or where an entity exists to service a need, but is unable to at the time. This would obviously involve a layer of protection to identify and validate legitimate needs.

Help Needed will undoubtedly start small and scale up as possible. It will require many, many volunteers who are willing to do the research and actually assist those with needs. I eventually see the service assistants being paid positions, but until the organization has a solid cash flow, they will need to be volunteers.

I don’t expect to be able to formally set up this organization for several years, but in the meantime I hope to be able to do what good I can. If someone comes to me and would like help finding assistance, or if I can identify someone who needs help, I will do my best to help them find available services. I would welcome help from those who might be interested. Ideally we could build an informal aid network that could grow and transition into a formal organization.

So, with all that said I make two calls:

I call all of you who are interested in this idea and willing to help to leave a comment and let me know.

I also call all of you who need help finding help to let me know. If you aren’t comfortable outlining your situation publicly here on my blog, just leave a note that you need help and I will provide you a way to contact me privately.

I will undoubtedly be talking more on this subject in the future, so check back for more information!

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