Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Donation Day! Charity Piggy Bank 2008

I was going to wait until I returned from an early January trip but I remembered that, on the off chance I itemize my tax deductions this year, it might be nice to do my Charity Piggy Bank donations today on New Year’s Eve. I ended the contribution year with a little over $471. I threw in a bit extra to get us to an even $500. Taking advice from kind reader comments, including Emily at The Lost Albatross, I decided to focus primarily on local groups: two literally local, and one across the Big Lake but local to my heart.

Where did the money go, in this happiest of New Year’s Eve activities? I knew I wanted to contribute a big part of the Piggy Bank to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, which supplies all the food pantries and feeding programs here in town. SHFB responded immediately with a very nice auto reply telling me how the money would be used. I was especially pleased to read about an expansion of their Mobile Pantry Program; maintenance for their kids’ BackPack program (easy to prepare food for long weekends and breaks when kids miss in-school meals); and of course their ongoing work distributing food to 400 partner programs in 16 southern Wisconsin counties.

I also made a smaller contribution to Keep Wisconsin Warm, the program that helps families pay their heating bills in these cold Wisconsin winters.

I had initially intended to use all of the piggy bank for local social welfare programs like the above. But I also wanted to make a contribution that nurtures the spirit, especially for children. My favorite summers growing up included five weeks at Camp Miniwanca, an amazing world of women and girls set on 360 acres along Lake Michigan. The camp has
been in place since 1925, it’s one of the most beautiful places I know, and it provides leadership training (kid-style) and really life changing changing summers for young girls.

Honestly, I had considered forgoing these contributions — the economy is worrisome and it would perhaps have been more practical to put this money in a rainy day savings account. But, happily, I had already made a promise the more than 3200 readers who’ve clicked on Daily Mitzvah this year — so that was motivation! I also made these gifts in honor or “the readers of the Daily Mitzvah blog,” in thanks for the comments and the clicks!

I have to say that making these donations today was such an happy and fulfilling way to spend the last day of the year.

My very best wishes to one and all for a happy, healthy, and reassuring New Year.

Today’s mitzvah: It’s not too late to make a year-end donation to a worthy local group (most will reply immediately with an email confirmation for your taxes) — or to resolve to begin your Charity Piggy Bank for 2009!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dec. 10: World Day for Human Rights

I’m running out the door to go teach, so I’m letting Amnesty International do the talking. (Roll over the image to light the candle.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Proposition 8: The Musical

Election night was so exciting for me, but such a depressing night in California where the passage of proposition 8 ended legal gay marriage in the state. The web site Funny or Die assembled an all-star cast for a sweet and funny video to bring attention to the issue and encourage people to visit Unfortunately there’s no way to embed the video without the gratuitous Jack Black promo link (sigh), but I like the video enough to ignore this.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Today’s mitzvah: Visit Join The Impact: 1 Million Plus for Equality, and read about upcoming activities, including December 10th’s “Day without a Gay” and December 20th’s “Light Up the Night for Equality.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stumped for Xmas Gifts? Adopt a Wild Koala

How cute is this fella? I have a post in the works about some great “give back” Christmas gifts. But when I saw this story in a Reuters article, I had to post about it. The Koala Preservation Hospital of New South Wales, Australia, takes in injured and sick wild koalas, treats them, and then reintroduces them back into their native environment. This is the basis of the program name, Adopt a Wild Koala, since the goal is to return the little guys to the wild as quickly as practicable.

“Adoption” proceeds with the forms and photos typical of these kinds of programs, costs only about US$26, and helps to support the hospital’s ongoing in-patient — er, “in-bear” — programs.

Today’s mitzvah: Consider holiday gifts that give back.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bloggers Unite: World AIDS Day

December 1 is a Bloggers Unite Day, this one focusing on AIDS awareness.
Bloggers Unite
I’m not the first person to note that AIDS has fallen off many people’s radar. Some of this is a result of encouraging news. People are living longer, drugs are now available to make this a disease people can live with, and an HIV+ diagnosis is just not the immediate death sentence it was in the 1980s, when several of my dear friends lost their battle in harrowing illnesses within months of being diagnosed. AIDS also affects minority communities disproportionately, at least at present, which can also distract attention from those whose friends and families do not include HIV+ individuals.

But AIDS is still a problem not only worldwide, but also in the United States. Since today is also Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year, I thought I’d combine a pitch for the shopping portal iGive with our AIDS awareness post. I have an iGive badge in the right sidebar. Basically you can access almost any online merchant through the iGive portal. These merchants then rebate a small percentage of your purchase, to the nonprofit you designate. It takes a few minutes to set up an account, but after that it’s an easy peasey way to ensure your chosen nonprofit gets a kickback for a purchase you were going to make anyway.

iGive.comI have my own iGive account set to rebate to the South Central Wisconsin AIDS Network, which serves Madison and vicinity. Given the bad economy, I’ve been trying to help local groups whenever I can, and this is a solid and hard-working organization.

iGive includes two nice features: it will track your donations in a form you can use at year-end if you itemize your tax deductions (the only shopping portal I know of that does this). And they also partner with LOTS of local and community nonprofits, so it’s very likely that your favorite community organization is already there.

If you want a quick portal that doesn’t require registration, Nonprofit Shipping Mall also includes many AIDS-related national and international charities.

Today’s mitzvah: Remember to use a rebate portal when you shop online. You’re making the purchase anyway, why not have the merchant rebate for you!