Help the Hungry in 5 Ways

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It’s the season when get-togethers and festivities revolve around food. Many of us worry about eating too much at our Thanksgiving or holiday meals, or indulging in extra treats. But there are so many children and families who can’t even relate to that thought. Sadly, the latest hunger stats tell us:

  • 1 in 7 Americans go hungry every day
  • 1 in 5 children in the United States don’t have enough to eat

Not having enough food most affects:

  • 3 million households with seniors age 65 and older
  • 3 million rural households
  • 1 in 4 African American households
  • 1 in 5 Latino households

So while you and I may worry about weight gain, and even waste more than 20 pounds of food every month, the demand for food is growing.UNEP_photo-_needs_to_be_resized

This year, food pantries across the country are reporting shortages and long lines. Researchers think that’s happening because the employment gains we’ve seen as the economy recovers are from part-time and low-paying jobs which still leave people struggling to pay bills and put food on the table.

How can we make it better?

5 Ways to Make a Difference for Hunger

Good FoodDonate Food. Find a local food bank, grocery or bank that’s collecting food and donate canned goods. Or start a food drive yourself.

Fundraise. Create an online fundraiser and get others involved in raising money for charities solving hunger issues. You can set one up in minutes on JustGive and find charities to support, add your special message and compelling video/photos—then email friends and family, and post your appeal on social media. When someone asks what’s on your holiday gift list, tell them gifts of charity for the hungry would mean the most to you.

Volunteer. The holiday season brings out a lot of volunteers for food banks, soup kitchens and rescue missions serving meals and collecting food.  While always happy for volunteers, these charities could really use help more throughout the year. Their need is ongoing; offer to help as often as you can. (If you don’t know local charities, you can find them here.)

Give.  There are a lot of nonprofits doing great work to fight hunger, and your donation gives them the ability to do more. It doesn’t take much to make a big impact. We have a short list of recommended hunger charities on the JustGive site, and here are a few examples of what your gift can do:

$35 to No Kid Hungry helps children get 350 meals.
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$55 provides 550 meals through Feeding America’s nationwide network.
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With $70, Meals on Wheels can send home-delivered meals to 10 seniors.
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Raise Awareness.  Start a conversation with your friends and family about hunger. Share posts on social media—this blog and other videos and stories you see—and get more people talking. Raising the volume about the issue.

Let’s take action today and do something for the more than 49 million Americans who don’t have enough food to eat . . . so no one goes hungry.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Three Ways You Can Save Animals

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The Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion on a hunting trip in July sparked a media flurry and got people clamoring about protection for animals.

Americans are animal lovers. In a recent Gallup poll, 32% of us said we believe animals should have the same rights as humans, and 62% believe they deserve some protection.

I’m one of those people. The story and images of the skeletal 2-year old dog found tied up outside a Georgia church this past weekend made me more than cringe. How can anyone be so cruel and heartless?

cc_rileyWhen you share your life with animals and they’ve captured a special place in your heart, you care about what happens to them.  I know my soft spot for animals has grown exponentially since we got our goldendoodle Riley three years ago. And I can’t imagine what kind of person could neglect, harm, abandon or mistreat any animal.

Animals give us unconditional love and bring joy. They bond with us. They watch over and protect us.  We know animals feel pain and fear, and miss us. Their eyes, expressions and behaviors tell us what they don’t have the voices to say.

Dogs, in particular, give many humans a “new leash” on life. They guide the blind and visually impaired, provide comfort for seniors as well as children who are sick or have to appear in court, improve the lives of people with disabilities and autism, can save diabetics, give independence to veterans, and help parolees turn their lives around.

Yet, sadly, according to the ASPCA, every 60 seconds an animal is abused.

THREE WAYS TO HELP

To save animals, we can be their voice, channeling our passion into action.

1) Watch for signs of abuse.

When you’re out and about, do you see animals left in hot cars or dogs chained up for hours? Have you ever walked by a house and seen so many animals you worry about their care? Pay attention for:

  • Neglect: When an animal is denied adequate food, water, shelter, medical care (injuries left untreated), clean area, socialization (is it aggressive or timid when approached by owner?), or chained up in a yard.
  • Violence: When an animal is deliberately tortured, beaten, or mutilated.

2) Speak up: report animal cruelty.

sb_finnAlmost all acts of animal violence or neglect are punishable by law. Animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, but 49 states have laws that contain felony provisions. (South Dakota is the only one that doesn’t.)

If you suspect abuse or neglect of any animal, report it to your local police department or area animal control agency. If you’re traveling, call the local police department (911).

3) Support animal organizations.

Put your money where your heart is, and donate—giving for animal protection and care. (You can even make an ongoing commitment with a recurring monthly gift.)

rox_pomoIf you don’t know where to start, here are 5 great charities:

I can’t stop all animal abuse and mistreatment. But I can do my part and support dedicated people who are protecting and caring for amazing animals like my Riley. Won’t you join me?

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

10 Ways to Prevent Crime in Your Community

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We used to keep our porch lights on and open the door when the doorbell rang, even if we didn’t know who was there. We don’t do that in the world we live in now. But there are many ways to take back control and prevent crime in your community. It just takes communication, commitment and time.nno

In honor of National Night Out—an annual community-building campaign held the first Tuesday every August—here are 10 ways to make your neighborhood a safer, better place to live today.

  1. Work with your local public agencies and other organizations (neighborhood-based or community-wide) on solving common problems.
  2. Set up a Neighborhood Watch or a community patrol, working with police. Make sure your streets and homes are well lit.
  3. Report any crime or suspicious activity immediately to the police. There’s even a free app for that: McGruff Mobile, available on iTunes or on the Google Play store. The app is powered by AlertID, a national online and mobile service, and includes a virtual neighborhood watch where you can share photos and info about activity with neighbors, police, and even Homeland Security. (It also shows you an interactive map of crimes and sex offenders in your neighborhood, and you can receive alerts and information via email or mobile device.)
  4. If you own a dog, be a part of your local Dog Walker Watch crime awareness program (sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch), and serve as “extra eyes and ears” for local law enforcement agencies in ongoing crime prevention efforts.nno_FB
  5. Volunteer to help clean up your community. Call your city offices or local waste management company and schedule a dumpster for the event. Then pick up litter together. Show you care about where you live and each other.
  6. Organize to help clean and improve parks in your area. Well-kept play equipment and a clean park can attract enough people to discourage illegal activities. Insist that your local government maintain the parks, immediately repairing vandalism or other damage.
  7. Adopt a school. Help students, faculty, and staff promote a sense of community through your involvement in a wide range of programs and activities. Work with the school to establish drug-free, gun-free zones if they don’t already exist.
  8. Mentor young people who need positive support from adults—through programs like Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
  9. Create a community anti-violence competition. Include speech, dance, painting, drawing, singing, musical instrument acting, and other creative arts. Get young people involved to plan it and suggest prizes. Make it a fun, local celebration. You can hold it in a local park, and even include an old-fashioned potluck.
  10. Support organizations that help make communities safer, like the National Crime Prevention Council.

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Kids & Obesity: Two Things Don’t Belong Together

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Truth be told: I was a fat kid. I was called names and made fun of in elementary school. It’s a painful childhood memory.

I don’t remember my parents or doctor talking to me about my weight (they may have). I do remember earning “clean plate club” honors a lot. As I was starting high school, I’d had it with shopping in the Sears section for heavy kids. I was missing out and unhappy about my weight. I didn’t lose it in the best way (I remember Tab and those old Weight Watchers chocolate squares), but did drop 25 pounds before 9th grade.

via http://www.badanduglyofretrofood.com/
via http://www.badanduglyofretrofood.com/

Yes, those were different times, and salt-laden casseroles and sugary Jell-O were staples at family gatherings and church dinners. At home, Durkee french fried onion rings and shoestring potato sticks in a can were always in the cupboard . . . to top off those casseroles.  They were ready-to-eat bad snacks I grabbed for instant “food.”

As I got older, I learned more about unhealthy habits. Given my experience, I cringed when I read the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: more than one third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, and obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years!

Sadly, a New England Journal of Medicine article says the road to obesity starts before age 5.

Childhood obesity is more upsetting because the extra pounds often start kids on the path to health problems that were once only adult issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And as I know, it can also affect self-esteem.

How can we help our kids?

via KidsHealth.org
via KidsHealth.org

It may come as no surprise that new guidelines published last Monday, June 29, by the American Academy of Pediatrics say we need to focus on prevention.

This starts by understanding when a child is considered obese—when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height, as measured by body mass index (BMI). The standards are:

  • Overweight = BMI-for-age between 85th and 94th percentiles
  • Obese = BMI-for-age 95th percentile or above

(You can use this tool from Kid’s Health to check your children.)

Make better food choices and exercise

vegetablesOne of the best strategies to prevent childhood obesity is to lead by example, improving diet and exercise habits of your whole family.

Most of us know to buy fewer sweetened beverages (sodas, juice and sports drinks) and not stock junk food in the house (or buy it in bulk!). We’ve also heard about First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative stressing physical activity and the recommended 60 minutes of active play time day.

So how do we put good habits into practice? A few practical tips:

  • Don’t ban junk food outright. Instead, limit the number of treats kids are allowed to eat. That way, kids aren’t as tempted to want what they can’t have or overeat when it’s offered by someone else.
  • Keep fresh fruit in reach to grab as a quick snack. Put higher-calorie foods in the back of the frig or pantry. Get good frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (no and no sugar or salt) when fresh isn’t available.
  • via LetsMove.org
    via LetsMove.org

    Make an effort to limit technology time for kids to no more than 2 hours a day, including computers, videos, games, watching TV. Turn off the TV during family meals to prevent distracted eating (and more) – Have you seen Dixie’s Dark for Dinner ads?

  • Plan activities that give everyone exercise, like walking, biking and swimming. Turn a walk after dinner into a family affair.
  • Make sure your kids get enough sleep, since studies suggest there’s a link between obesity and insufficient sleep.

For more: check out these 10 healthy eating tips and take advantage of the thousands of healthy MyPlate recipes on Pinterest.

Physician education

We now know doctors have to get more involved. While weight is an uncomfortable and awkward topic to tackle, physicians need to address it during children’s visits.

kids running 11578647Recent collaborative research between Caroline Shue, associate professor of communication studies at Ball State University and the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency Center found a hesitancy to discuss weight is compounded by a disconnect with the reason for the visit (e.g., an ear infection for a “solid” child) as well as a lack of doctors’ training and consistent clinic practices to calculate BMI and chart discussions with patients.

The research identified several good ways to fix the problems, including:  targeted training programs for doctors; and doctor’s offices documenting patients’ height, weight, and BMI more frequently and regularly.

Support nonprofits making a difference

We can all help charities working to get kids more active and prevent obesity. Here are three with programs designed to do just that, operating across the country:

American Heart Association
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Boys & Girls Clubs of America
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YMCA of the USA
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We’ve come a long way since I was a little girl, and I’m encouraged by all the attention, education and resources that exist now. Let’s step up, so other kids can skip all the bad stuff that comes from carrying too much weight. Here’s to preventing childhood obesity, and raising healthier future generations!

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Women power to Alzheimer’s

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Two out of every three of the 5.2 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease are women. Women are also more likely to be caregivers of those with the disease, affected by it both emotionally and financially.

The sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Every 67 seconds, a brain develops Alzheimer’s disease.

These facts—and being personally touched by Alzheimer’s when her father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed in 2003 (he passed away in 2011) have award-winning journalist Maria Shriver on a mission to wipe out Alzheimer’s.  An Alzheimer’s advocate for the past 10 years, she testified before Congress to help pass the National Alzheimer’s Plan to stop the disease by 2025, and also recently produced the movie, Still Alice.

Wipe out Alzheimer’s

Shriver’s Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge was created in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and her nonprofit organization, A Woman’s Nation. The heart of this grassroots, social action effort is to end the devastating disease by educating, engaging and empowering women.  Our brains are most at risk, and she believes our brains are the ones that can turn the tide.

Saving women’s brains

To mobilize the movement, women are encouraged to take “The Pledge”  to stay educated about what it is, what it is not and make healthy lifestyle decisions about it.  We can also help raise funds to research women’s brains and challenge other organizations to make women’s brain research a priority.

All the money raised through the Wipe Out Alzheimer’s Challenge is going to the Alzheimer’s Association’s first-ever Women’s Alzheimer’s Research Fund to support cutting-edge brain research.

I’m joining the challenge.  I’ve seen Alzheimer’s personally take the mothers of two good friends and turn them into a person who, sadly, doesn’t recognize their own child. And I’m watching as a third friend manages her mother with dementia now. It’s heartbreaking—and I would love to figure out why.

I can think of no better time than Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month to help fund research that can save lives. Join me in the fight today:

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Honor Veterans on Memorial Day

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We look forward to Memorial Day as a three-day weekend that kicks off summer. Most of us enjoy days off work filled with sunshine, barbeques, and outdoor activities.

When we pause, we remember it’s about more. It’s really a holiday about honoring men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

I’m as guilty as the next person in not giving true attention to Memorial Day. But as I get older, I’m determined not to take things so much for granted—so this May 25th, I’m giving it more than lip service and a passing nod to the news stories. That begins with this blog: sharing with you how the holiday came to be, and what we can do to commemorate the day.

graveyard-534616_640_pixabayMemorial Day, started after the Civil War, was first called “Decoration Day.” Originally designed to honor soldiers who died in the war between the North and South, it expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action.

Honoring Veterans

Taking time to attend a Memorial Day parade is one small way to give veterans the recognition they deserve. It offers a chance to talk with any young kids about family members or friends who served in the military, and to connect with what the holiday means. If there’s no parade in your area, you can watch the National Memorial Day Parade on TV.

At 3 p.m. local time on May 25, you can observe the National Moment of Remembrance, for one minute.

Share a family story: Go to the Hometown Heroes website and post a photograph and the basic information about your veteran’s service record (it’s free). They want your stories, and are creating a searchable database of military veterans.

More ways to honor veterans:

  • Upload an image of the American flag on your Twitter and/or Facebook profile
  • Place flowers on the gravestone of a veteran
  • Fly your flag at half-staff until noon and/or fly the POW/MIA flag
  • Write a thank you letter to a veteran or a current member of the armed forces and send it to A Million Thanks
  • Visit a military museum, memorial or historic site

Have you heard of the Education Center they’re building at the Wall? Watch this short video to learn about what they’re doing.

The Center will honor the legacy of military service and make sure future generations do not forget what fallen soldiers of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have done for us. It will share hundreds of thousands of objects left at the Vietnam Wall, and include photos of more than 58,000 people who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. It’s a very tangible way to honor veterans: give to the Education Center.

Donate Now

Helping Veterans

Returning service men and women face many challenges. We know re-connecting, transitioning and rebuilding their lives is not just a step-back-into-it task. They often have physical and mental battle scars—and need housing, employment, health care and mental health services.

Government programs are helping, but it also takes nonprofit organizations to provide all the services they need. So this Memorial Day, consider making a donation to provide the care, support and assistance veterans need as another way to honor their sacrifices.

Give Now

– Candy Culver
Marketing Consultant

Working together for Nepal: JustGive and partners raise more than $230k

A Nepalese woman says morning prayers Saturday at a temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal, that was reduced to rubble in the April 25 earthquake. Bernat Armangue/AP
A Nepalese woman says morning prayers Saturday at a temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal, that was reduced to rubble in the April 25 earthquake. Bernat Armangue/AP

Here at JustGive, we’re in a unique position when something tragic like the recent Nepal earthquake occurs. Not only is our website an easy way to make donations to any charity, but JustGive also works with many corporate partners to power their employee and customer giving programs.

Shortly after the 7.8 quake struck Nepal on Saturday April 25, 2015, we mobilized our own team to prepare the justgive.org website for donations. We identified 12 charities providing direct support in Nepal that included the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, World Vision and Save the Children—and placed banners throughout our site to encourage donations.

We also reached out to our corporate partners to facilitate giving programs for their employees and customers.

Discover, through their year-round Discover Giving Site for cardholders, pledged to waive transaction fees on any donations made to The American Red Cross and World Vision through May 30, 2015. If you have a Discover card, visit discover.justgive.org to make a donation today.

REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Longtime JustGive partner American Express, for whom we power a giving site for cardholders at membersgive.com, also called out to their members to support Nepal. On the Members Give website, Amex cardholders can donate with dollars, or use their Membership Rewards points to make a donation.

Pointworthy, a JustGive partner that enables consumers to use their loyalty rewards for charitable donations, moved quickly to launch a Nepal giving campaign. On the website, members of the Citibank ThankYou Rewards and Hilton HHonors programs can turn their reward points into a donation to support Nepal.

One of our newest partners, The Hollywood Fund, also mobilized their resources to raise money for Nepal. Hollywood Fund, comprised of a group of media companies including FX Networks, TCM, and Rachel Ray, created a fundraising page to support victims of the quake. The fund then works with its media partners to run online campaigns that drive viewers to the donation page.

Thanks to donors coming through JustGive and our partners’ websites, we have currently collected more than $230,000 in donations specifically designated to support Nepal as it recovers from this devastating quake.

It’s never too late to help. Visit any of the links below to contribute to charities aiding Nepal’s recovery efforts:

JustGive Blog: Help Nepal Earthquake Victims

Discover Giving Site
American Express Members Give
Pointworthy: Donate with Citibank ThankYou Rewards and Hilton HHonors
Hollywood Fund

-Sarah Bacon
Director of Product

An injured girl is carried to a helicopter following the earthquake in Sindhupalchowk, not far from Kathmandu (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)
An injured girl is carried to a helicopter following the earthquake in Sindhupalchowk, not far from Kathmandu (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)