12 Days of Giving – Day 12 – Lifestream

I believe the truest, most honest and most intimate gift is a gift of yourself.
Rather than go into commentary of handmade gifts or volunteering, instead I will remind you of a gift that is truly a gift of self- the gift of life by donating blood.

Lifestream is the blood bank for San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Lifestream says that every few seconds someone needs a blood transfusion, equaling 500 donations needed through its 5 donation centers in La Quinta, San Bernardino, Riverside, Hesperia and Ontario.

I’m sure now everyone reading this is thinking of someone who needed a transfusion through accident, surgery or childbirth. The national average for Americans who donate blood is five percent, with Southern California’s average three percent.

So this year, after the hubbub of the holidays is over, consider going to a donation center and donating, or looking for a nearby blood drive. All you need is to be a healthy adult weighing over 110 pounds, and as young as 15 can donate with parental consent.

The new year is only three weeks away- make a resolution to donate twice in the new year. Or more! Blood can be donated every eight weeks, and plasma and platelets even more often.

And enjoy that juice and cookie!

Megan blogs at Sunshine Wonderland. She is planning to have a snack at the blood bank a couple times next year.

12 Days of Giving – Day 9 – The Gentle Barn

Living in Santa Clarita, I know all about The Gentle Barn.  Considering it’s only about 15 minutes away from my house, we’ve been there several times.  The Gentle Barn was founded in 1999 and currently makes it’s home on 1/2 acre in Santa Clarita, California.  It is home to 130 animals who were rescued from abuse, neglect or slaughter.  The animals are taken care of, rehabilitated and then they live out the remainder of their lives on the property. If that was all this charitable organization did, it would be more than enough.  But that isn’t all they do.

The Gentle Barn has opened it’s doors to help troubled kids, foster kids, kids from the inner city and has become a favorite place for locals to host birthday parties and school field trips.  This place is truly a wonder and I highly recommend planning a visit.  They are open to the public on Sundays from 10am – 2pm and they ask for a $5 per person donation to help with the upkeep of the animals.

The Gentle Barn has a mission to open other Barns in other areas as well.  But they can’t do it alone.  They rely solely on donations and they have many ways to get involved.  You can donate monetarily, of course, but you can also sponsor an animal or volunteer at the Barn itself.  Please check the website to see all the ways you can help.

Carolyn writes at This Talk Ain’t Cheap.  Follow her on Twitter.

12 Days of Giving – Day 8 – Battered Women’s Shelters

Not fun to discuss.

But after Monday Night Football, I went to a favorite hangout of mine.  And my friend, S,  who is a hairdresser, bartender, mother, and grandmother, and a former victim of domestic abuse, vented to me and one other patron.

She relayed, healthily, the story of how her son-in-law recently, and in the past, had abused her, her daughter, and her grandchildren by the transitive property.

My friend, S,  had been through this before, on her own with her own former a-hole spouse, so she understands her daughter’s predicament, and how much she must protect her daughter, her five grandchildren, and even herself from the abuse (physical, verbal, emotional, and property damage) that her son-in-law is inflicting.

I instantly grabbed my phone and Googled “Battered Women’s Shelters.”

There are so MANY resources out there, both locally and nationally; however, women are often socialized to fly under the radar and make things better without outside  help.

That is simply an injustice. To everyone.

So here is what I stumbled across with fewer than 7.42 minutes of effort.

1.) Valley Trauma Center – “Interpersonal violence can affect anyone. No one should suffer alone. If you have been assaulted, you have the right to information and support. We are here to help.”

2.)  Safe Passage Live – “Safe Passage clients have a 95% success rate in breaking the cycle of domestic violence and creating a new life for themselves. They are our Role Models sharing their life stories to inspire other women and children to a New Life!”

3.) LAPD Online Communities  – “Domestic violence is more than just a ‘family problem’; it is a crime. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) recognizes that domestic violence is a major problem in Los Angeles County and throughout the United States. Each year, more than two million women are victims of domestic violence, and one million children are physically abused.”

4.)  AARDVARC.ORG  –  “This site is for victims of violence, their families and friends, and the agencies and programs which serve them, both public and private. The goal of this website is to assist efforts to aid and support those trying to remove themselves from abusive situations and build healthier, stronger lives. ”

5.) Violence Unsilenced – (National) – “Survivors submit their personal stories of abuse in their own words, and two are posted live on the site each week. Readers take an annual pledge to listen, and the intention for the comment section is a space, supportive safe.”

This is a large and unspoken about problem; we need to end that.

To be just: do not strike your spouse either.  Abuse is not one-way nor gender-specific.

PLEASE speak up. What can YOU do to assist a battered woman?

Know it or not: we all know one…

 Sidney Patrick writes at My Mother in Law is Still Sitting Between Us… Find her on Twitter

12 Days of Giving – Day 7 – Hillsides

Anyone who has a close relationship with someone who had been in the foster care system for an extended period of time knows how much can slip through the cracks.

There are so many children in the system, sometimes it is hard to find special care for those who need it.

Hillsides is a private non-profit located in Pasadena, and is considered an official institution of the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church, that works with abused children.

It works to counsel both children and families, offer support, therapy and advocates children’s rights.

What I think is one of the most important programs at Hillsides is its Youth Moving On Transitional Housing program, which gives young adults age 18-24 affordable housing and support after emancipating from the foster care system. I really believe now, more than ever, those kind of programs are needed for those struggling for jobs as they grow independent.

Hillsides has a long wish listwish list full of items for the
children in their care.

Hillsides offers a family adoption program at the holidays, and they are still in need of families to be adopted for the holidays!

Megan writes at Sunshine Wonderland

12 Days of Giving – Day 6 – The Los Angeles Food Bank

Carolyn West writes at This Talk Ain’t Cheap.

We are very fortunate to be able to live in Southern California.  The weather is beautiful, the people are beautiful, it’s the entertainment capital of the world.  But… even in a city full of million dollar homes and Bentleys, there are people who are living in their mini-vans and waiting in line at the unemployment agency.  Southern California definitely has a reputation of opulence and while it IS in some areas, we also have our share of low-income housing and poverty and one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

People are hungry.  Hunger in this country is a crime.  There is no reason for it.  Yes, our country is in a dire financial situation, but how much food do we throw away every single day?  Farmers, markets, restaurants… these organizations constantly have extra food that gets disposed of on a daily basis.  Hopefully, they will all consider the families that are barely making ends meet and could really use a little extra help.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank is an amazing organization.  They supply food to charities all over the county.  In business for 38 years, the Food Bank is partnered with Feeding America, the nations’ largest non-government, domestic hunger relief agency.  Their mission: that no one goes hungry in Los Angeles County.  There are so many different ways to get involved.  They have volunteer opportunities for anyone over 14 years of age and hold regular information and training sessions.  You can also donate money if you don’t have the time to volunteer.

Keep in mind as well that most local cities have their own “Food Pantry” where you can donate non-perishable food.  It’s as simple as a Google search.

As you are preparing your holiday meals this year, think about those families who can’t put food on the table for their children.  Maybe the next time you go grocery shopping, you can pick up a few extra cans of food and drop them off at a local hunger organization.  There is no reason anyone should be hungry in this amazing country we live in.

12 Days of Giving – Day 5 – Break the Cycle

Jamie Gall, of Minnesota Girl transplanted into LA, shares her favorite charity.

I was first introduced to Break the Cycle by an event I was invited to called, “Cooking for Love.”  This event was phenomenal in that it brought some of the top chefs from the Los Angeles area together.  As people donated to the cause they were able to try a variety of samples of food and wine.  It made for a wonderful evening learning about Break the Cycle while also being surrounded by friends.

But what is Break the Cycle?  It is an organization that promotes healthy relationships for teens.  Their motto of, “Everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship.”  It specifically focuses upon ending dating violence within teens.

Did you know that 1 in 3 teens will experience some kind of abuse in their dating relationships and two thirds of those teens will never report it to anyone?  Break the Cycle empowers teens to recognize dating violence, and gives them the tools needed to end it before it even begins. They have a variety of programs that they do including going into schools and talking about dating violence.  The also do a variety of trainings working with college campuses and even law enforcement officials.  And of course, they have an entire program designated towards Public Policy in which they work to bring laws into effect that will help keep teens and young adults safe and healthy.

For more information on Break the Cycle, you can check out their website here: http://www.breakthecycle.org/

They are open to donations and also volunteers!  It is a great organization looking to improve the lives of teens and young adults everywhere.

For me, I just love that there is an organization out there educating the world on dating violence especially in teens.  It is something that happens more often than we like to admit.  The more education we can give teens and young adults, the better.  Low self-esteem starts young, and if we can continue to support the young ones into becoming more confident human beings, and show them what a healthy relationship looks like, they can continue to keep that spark going.

12 Days of Giving – Day 4 – Recreational Music School

Today Jessica Giles of Giles Smiles shares something that is important both to her and her children. Welcome Jessica!

I wanted to share my love for a non-profit music school that my child attends.  Recreational Music School is an amazing organization of teachers who are passionate about sharing the arts with everyone, no matter the age or ability to pay.

The owners, David and Leslie, maintain high quality classes and try their best to help anyone, who is committed to the music, continue lessons even through financial hardships.

When times are tough in the public school system the arts are often the first classes cut, but did you know that kids who study music actually do better in school?(Science Daily Feb. 10, 2009)

RMC’s understanding of the deeper benefits of having music in one on one instruction and group lessons is certainly apparent in their practices. Lessons are tailored to student’s needs, and one’s budget.

The school is located in the heart of cultural arts schools in NTC at Liberty Station, Point Loma alongside ballet schools, museum galleries and theater companies.

To continue to reach out to the community they need help gathering monetary donations and supplies ranging from instruments to office supplies. A list of items they need can be found here. Donations can be made directly on the website or in person to David Gereghty.

Our family feels music is a basic piece to the puzzle of our lives, and Recreational Music Center fits perfectly.

12 Days of Giving – Day 3 – Mama’s Kitchen

As a younger woman, I was living in San Diego. My job wasn’t challenging, and I wasn’t challenging myself. Let’s just say that after work every day I found myself watching two episodes of Martin before going out to party with friends. Fun? Yes. Rewarding? Not so much. I don’t recall the catalyst, but I began to look for ways to contribute to the community. How I found Mama’s Kitchen? I don’t know, but I sure am I glad I did. I volunteered for 7 years until I moved from San Diego to Burbank.

Mama’s Kitchen was established in 1990 as a San Diego nonprofit organization to offer nutritional support to people with AIDS who were too poor, depressed, or ill to prepare meals for themselves. Highly organized, Mama’s Kitchen has hundreds of volunteers who come to the Kitchen to pick up for their clients three hot meals a day, seven days a week; my route was Wednesday and varied from 8-14 clients. The service to their clients is at no charge whatsoever, sustaining 1200 people a year in San Diego County.

2004 brought a new service for those who were ill, but not home bound: Mama’s Pantry. They offer bags of healthy groceries once a month to people affected by AIDS. Clients come to the Pantry and “shop” for non-perishables of a wide variety.

The Critical Illness Nutrition Program began in 2006, providing home-delivered meals to those with cancer, under 60, who were too ill to prepare their own healthy meals.

In 2009, they extended their services to children with parents who were suffering from AIDS, and were unable to feed their children healthy meals. That year, they served 43,000 meals to 75 children who were also nutritionally in need; the majority of those children were aged 13 or younger.

My experience with Mama’s Kitchen was fun, warm, and rewarding. Even though getting to know our clients wasn’t under the sunniest of circumstances, they shared warm smiles, hugs, and gratitude.

“Since our first day of operations we have never turned away anyone qualified for our services and we are determined that we never will.”

Contact Mama’s Kitchen to find out how to volunteer or donate to their nutritious cause.  You can  help with deliveries, food prep, pack grocery bags, food drives, or even answer phones. And they can always use a monetary donation.

Sidney Patrick writes at My Mother in Law is Still Sitting Between Us… Find her on Twitter

12 Days of Giving – Day 2 – The Unforgettables Foundation

During my time as a reporter for my local paper, I learned about one organization that worked to aid families in some of the darkest hours I could imagine.

Those following the death of a child.

I covered several stories- a young mother who lost her premature baby after it lived months past what the doctors told her- a family who died in a fiery auto crash, young patients who lost their battles with illnesses.

Sometimes when I was spending time in the office I would take a call from a local resident looking for coverage of a story so people would donate to the unexpected funeral expenses of a child, or just for advice who to turn to when the car washes weren’t enough to pay for a casket.

There was one group that was always there in the stories, on my lips.

The Unforgettables Foundation.

The Unforgettables Foundation was created in 1999 to assist low-income families give their children a respectful burial.

It serves Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties and have helped over 3500 families since 2000.

The requests for aid for families who have lost one so young comes from hospitals, social service agencies and the families themselves.

The Unforgettables also holds a New Year’s Eve event to honor the passing of children who died each year with a candlelight walk “Lights for Little Lives”.

The group offers CPR group training sessions with its free program CPR2U and has taught 9,000 people in the Inland area in schools, community centers and synagogues.

Contact The Unforgettables Foundations at its main office in Redlands or one of its other locations to find out more about the CPR4Uprogram or how to donate to an amazing organization that helps families pay for burials no one was expecting would come so soon for some so young.

Megan writes at Sunshine Wonderland. Find her on Twitter

12 Days of Giving – Day 1 – The SCV Youth Project

I wanted to kick off our 12 Days of Giving with an amazing charity located in my home town.

The SCV Youth Project was founded in 2000 to serve the needs of local at-risk Santa Clarita Valley Youth.

 “Our mission is to provide a safe, nurturing environment where at-risk teens and their families are strengthened, empowered and equipped with the tools they need to live successful and healthy lives.  We intervene early, offering unconditional acceptance and cost-free programming in order to mitigate the impacts on health and academic success associated with high-risk behavior.” – SCV Youth Project Website

Counselors are available to handle any teen issue that comes up: drugs and alcohol addiction, abuse, divorce, depression.  The  SCV Youth Project provides that safe environment to really help kids and their families.  Led by Executive Director, Kim Goldman, the Youth Project is active on in all of the high schools in the Santa Clarita Valley.  They provide group support as well as individual support.  Services are provided free of charge and the Youth Project relies on grants and donors for all of their funding.

But wait… there’s more.  The SCV Youth Project website is an amazing resource for helping teens (and parents) with issues from choosing the right college to helpful birth control information.  They are available to answer your questions

I think there is definitely a serious lack of help and intervention for teens these days so I love that we have a local source to call on.  What really sets The SCV Youth Project apart for me is that not only are they helping teens, they are also helping the parents.

For more information about The SCV Youth Project, take a look at their extensive website.

To keep updated on The SCV Youth Project, follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Carolyn West writes at This Talk Ain’t Cheap.  Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.