I went to Staples yesterday to buy some refills for my planner when I noticed, finally, that everything is going on sale for Back to School season! That means folders for 10 cents, dollar packs of paper and tons of other super low sale costs.
This is not only the ideal time for you to buy your materials for school (and arts and craft materials for CKI), but also the perfect opportunity to collect donations for schools! Now, there are several ways to do it, which is why I split it into two main “parts.” The first part (this post) will be talking about putting backpacks together and donating them. The second part (my next post) will be talking about stuff-a-bus programs and other ways to collect school supplies.
Part 1 - Backpack Kits
With costs so dirt cheap during Back 2 School season, this is the ideal time to collect and donate school supplies. When we organized this project in the past, we would collect materials in bulk (ex: 100 folders, 100 stacks of paper, 30 binders, etc). This collection would include backpacks. Similar to other projects (Hygiene Kits), this requires a bit of preemptive planning.
There are a lot of locations that accept backpacks and school supplies. If you’re looking for a local area, schools (especially inner-city schools), halfway houses and orphanages often look for these materials. Some after school programs also need these materials, so it’s important to keep an eye out for kid-friendly locations.
Another option is to “set up shop” near a library (with permission) or a kid-friendly area and sell these backpacks (subsequently donating the money to a school or library). You could leave table near the selling site with dimensional paint so that kids could decorate their own backpacks and bring it home, and it would be an effective way for parents to make a “one stop shop” for school materials. (I’m a particular fan of this because I like showing kids how to put binders together). If you plan on using this option, make sure you are allowed to do so.
If you’re still looking for organizations to donate materials, Operation Backpack and Develop Africa are solid locations to donate your materials. However, in all honesty, it is easiest if you find a local donation center (it’s zero cost on shipping and you are directly contributing to your community)!
Secondly, and this is important for backpack/material collecting, make sure you know what grade(s) you are donating towards. Kindergarteners and middle school students will not need the same things. Most office supplies stores (Office Max, Staples, Walmart) supply lists that different grades will need. If you’re still looking for a list though, this is a good resource: http://www.greatschools.org/back-to-school/supplies/109-supply-list-to-get-you-started.gs?page=all.
You’ll notice very similar things, such as:
- Pens / Pencils
- Calculators (for older kids)
- Arts & Craft Supplies (for younger kids)
- Lined paper (make sure you double check if it needs to be wide or college ruled)
- Binders / Notebooks
- Folders (lots of folders)
Some things (folders and paper) will be significantly cheaper than others (crayons), so make sure you budget out how many backpacks you plan to “put together.”
After that, it’s a matter of putting the backpacks together. Have members of your club put each backpack together (as individuals or as a group). One nice way to leave a “positive” mark on the kids you donate these to is to add a positive card or message in the backpack. Messages like “good luck in school!” or “study hard, we’re cheering for you!” are examples of positive notes you can send along.
No Sew Blankets, for anyone who has never seen them, are blankets that are made without any sewing (thus avoiding the use of needles and other prickly things). They’re relatively simple to make and a lot of organizations take them, so this post will include some ways to “spruce up” your no sew blankets :)
As you can see here, no sew blankets are traditionally made out of fleece (because if you cut fleece, the edges won’t fray). Fleece is incredibly warm and, if found on sale, can be surprisingly cheap. I would strongly suggest going to a Joanne’s or similar store to find your fabric. Joanne’s has a tendency to have a lot of coupons and sales, so definitely look out for that!
The unique feature about no sew blankets is that they are double-sided, with usually a different color on each side. This adds variety to your blanket and allows you to use both a solid and printed pattern. For example, one side can be yellow and while polka dots, and the other side can be a solid green color. Combined, it would look really great!
Each side of a no sew blanket must be cut evenly (they both must be the same size). I always suggest adding about 6 to 9 inches to however big you actually want the blanket to be.
Then, you cut squares off each corner. An example can be found below:
As you can see, the sides have also been cut about 6 inches into the blanket. This creates many little… “fingers” or strips. The strips are going to be what you use to tie the blanket.
Starting from one corner, start tying (a basic knot will do) the top piece of fleece to the bottom piece of fleece. I double knot to keep it strong (which is the easiest way to do it), but I have seen plenty of other popular knots.
As you can see in the picture above, the individual is double knotting his knots to make sure each one is strong. Go across a side of the blanket. When you are done, make your way to the next side and keep going until the entire blanket is tied around.
Voila! You’ve made yourself a no-sew fleece blanket.
As you can see, fleece blankets have this cute little fray (created by the knots that you’ve tied over and over). Plus, these blankets are very comfortable.
But here’s the most important part: Where do these blankets go? Where can I send them?
Never fear, there are plenty of ideas for you to donate your blankets. First, approach your local libraries and hospitals. Even things such as after school centers and day care centers are looking for no sew blankets to take care of their kids and such. Personally, I would look into your local options first because you don’t need to ship anything, and you’re helping your immediate location!
But if you’re looking for something a little more “national,” here are some ideas:
http://soldiersangels.org/blankets-of-hope.html - Soldier’s Angels
This organization sends blankets to wounded soldiers or soldiers overseas to remind them that we at home are thinking of them.
http://www.projectlinus.org/links.html - Project Linus
Project Linus provides security blankets to local children or hospitalized kids. Inspired by Linus of the Peanut Gang (who was known for his signature security blanket), Project Linus takes blankets of all kinds, including no sew blankets, to donate to kids (particularly in the Illinois area).
http://www.ywca.org/site/pp.asp?c=8nKFITNvEoG&b=2280423 - YMCA
This is a YMCA that donates no sew blankets. :) You can also look into your local YMCA to see if they’d take your donation!
Happy knotting! :D
Hygiene kits are always needed in Battered Women’s Shelters and Homeless Shelters. Therefore, a great way to help these local shelters out is to create hygine kits for individuals who live there!
Like any other collection-based service project, you are going to first want to see if there are places that will take them. Some battered women’s shelters and homeless shelters only take full, large bottles of hygine products. However if, for example, a battered women’s shelter is organizing a spa night for the women that live there, they may be interested in hygine kits as “gift baskets” for the women who participate.
After that it’s a matter of figuring out what to put in each basket (and how to put it all together). Personally, I like cheap packets of colored paper bags (or plastic gift bags) because they’re cheap and easy to buy in bulk. To spruce them up, I add a bit of tissue paper (don’t worry about listing the materials needed, they’re all on the bottom of this post).
To figure out what to put in each basket, I like to see what people or hotels can donate first. If you ask nearby hotels, they may be willing to give you bags and bags of their small hygine bottles.
At the very least, I like to put in a bottle of shampoo, one of conditioner and a bar of soap to get things going. Some nicer hygine kit that I’ve seen have also put in small bottles of body mist (which certain hotels also give away), toothbrush/tooth paste and whatever else they can get donated. Which brings me to my next point…
Collecting these materials (the hygine materials) is really important! Whether you decide to buy the little trial bottles in bulk, or you get them donated, you need to make sure you HAVE those materials. Need some ideas as to where to collect them? As I mentioned before, many hotels are willing to give a bag or two of these materials away. If not, wholesale stores have been known to sell boxes and boxes of soap or toothbrushes, so that might be somewhere else to consider. And, many people in general steal travel sized shampoos/conditioner without ever actually using it, so you might want to just ask around to see if anyone hoards these little gifts.
And finally, once you have all the necessary materials, you need to PACK them! Get your club to pack these hygine kits during a club meeting and you’ll be good to go!
I like to add an index card with a positive message (or a card) to attach to the hygine kits, so that the person receiving it knows the hygiene kit is filled with love :)
As promised, here are some of the materials needed:
Paper Bags / Plastic Bags
Tissue Paper (decorational)
Toothbrush/Toothpaste (usually for homeless shelters)
A hand made card :)
As I found this weekend, playgrounds are always places that are in need of help and upkeeping. Because many playgrounds are used day in and day out by families, baby sitters and schools, playgrounds must be built sturdy and kept well so that kids can play in them safely and for years to come.
This past weekend, I had the joy of working in a playground in NYC to help paint a wall and a few parts of a swing. This got me going, as I was talking with the coordinator, because she mentioned that playgrounds were always in need of help.
Here are some of the things that parks always need help with:
Painting is obviously one of those things that playgrounds always need help with. Paint chip, kids play rough, and it seems like volunteers are always needed to paint handball courts, fences, and, yes, playground equipment.
Planting is another one of those things. Like parks, playgrounds tends to need help annually with nearby flowers, perhaps planting new trees, and making sure they are kept up well.
I was surprised when I heard about this, but it makes a lot of sense, particularly in an area where perhaps there are a lot of falling leaves, or perhaps if it’s the summer and it’s constantly busy.
Some parks like to hold various activities throughout the weekend for kids or parents who come by. For example, the playground I volunteered at liked to practice yoga in the summer. Some parks hold a craft fair, while others play movies by projecting it on a wall.
Whatever the case may be, you may be able to work with your local playground to organize a kid-friendly activity that will keep kids occupied (perhaps helping the parents out). This may involve teaching kids safety, perhaps organizing some sort of spirit relay, or simply doing activities like face painting and crafts.
And, if your playground is conveniently placed within a park, read back to my earlier post about park clean ups (Project #5 - Highway / Park Clean Up).
This is a relatively new project I learned about from the Queens College Circle K (President: Daniel, LtG: Kelly) from the New York District. Since couponing has become recently very popular, service project volunteers have looked into ways that couponing could be turned into great in house service project ideas.
For those who do not understand what “extreme couponing” is, couponing is a term used to describe when individuals use coupons to save money in a rather extreme form. This means buying obscene amounts of goods at supremely low prices, even when buying those goods were not necessary (ex: buying dog food when you don’t have dogs).
Couponing has become relatively popular recently, and so what better way to celebrate this new fad than by using it to do some good works!
The easiest way to use your couponing tricks is to, obviously, buy goods and then donate it to a local charity. There are several sites online (http://www.livingrichwithcoupons.com/couponing-for-a-cause) that will help you find a place to donate it, but local shelters and food pantries are almost always looking for donations from your clubs and members.
There are also some shelters that are looking for actual coupons, so you may want to look into those! Call your local food pantry or shelter to see if they are interested in taking your excess coupons… perhaps they need something you don’t!
And, to make sure your excess newspapers don’t go to waste, look into donating your cut up newspapers to a local animal shelter.
And, if you have expired coupons, there are still places to donate them! “Bitches with Binders” (a site for extreme couponing) has a fantastic list of places to donate your expired coupons so that military families can use them:
:) Since this is a relatively new idea, definitely let me know if you find other locations or sites that take coupons! Apparently in NYC, there are plenty, but I’m sure that local charities in your area would find uses for them!
Hospitals are always in need of toys, particularly hospitals with a large pediatric center. This is especially true in big cities (I live in NYC and, during the summer, I notice this is an issue when I volunteer at hospitals and such). When they do have toys, these toys are often so overused that it’s difficult to keep up with these toys.
Because of this, donating toys and bears are a great way to support your local pediatric center. Bears can be donated in troves to hospitals to give to kids who are ill. Teddy bears are relatively inexpensive and can be even found in local 99 cent stores.
If your local hospital won’t take them, here are some other areas that are interested in your donated toys:
http://www.stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org/ - they take stuffed animals (including bears)
There are, however, definitely things to keep in mind:
1)Always try to donate new toys. While older toys are not necessarily impossible, there are sanitation issues, and new toys will have a longer lasting time (particularly in a hospital where multiple kids will likely play with that toy over a very long time).
2)Ask your hospital first if they are interested in receiving your toys at all. Some hospitals do not have large pediatric centers and many not need your donations.
3)Be aware of thing like sanitation and cleanliness. Toys have to be particularly clean in order to be used in hospitals. Even though we are giving toys so that kids are able to have a relatively normal time in the hospital, keep in mind that hospitals are there to take care of the children, not just to make sure they have a good time :)
Need ideas on how to collect toys and teddy bears?
Do a teddy bear toss. Work with your local campus to organize a teddy bear toss where attendees of a game can bring a teddy bear to “toss” onto the field or area. Then, athletes can collect them and you can donate them!
Toy Drive. Like a book drive, look into organizing a toy drive with your club :)
No Sew Blankets are a somewhat expensive but very cute service project that encourages members to work with each other to make blankets for hospitals, kids or shelters.
Here’s a quick online guide to making No Sew Blankets: http://www.instructables.com/id/No-Sew-Fleece-Blanket/
As you can see, the point is to take 2 seperate fleece pieces, cut vertical lines into the sides and then tie them together to connect the two cloths. This allows for a little variation, since you can use two different types of fleece.
For an added twist, you can also consider making no sew pillows. This uses a little less fleece, but fills the inside of the fleece with cotton to make a blanket. In order to make one, these knots need to be double knotted to keep the cotton in.However, they make great additions or pairings if you decide to do no sew blankets as well :)
Need some ideas as to where to donate them?
Also, many local hospitals and shelters are interested in these donations, so definitely reach out to local areas!
This was a very popular project back in the day and, while it doesn’t receive the same amount of attention from clubs today, this project can actually be surprisingly fun. Plus, it really doesn’t take that much work!
Advocacy letters or petitions were popular “way back when,” as a means to bring awareness to a specific cause or to encourage congressmen to vote a specific way. The concept is this: if enough people raise a big stink about something, the “big wigs” would likely do something because so much awareness has been brought around it.
However, with the recent development of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media networks, advocacy letters and petitions have kind of gone to the wayside in efforts to promote social media networking viral tricks (such as videos and groups that gain a lot of popularity and, in some cases, notoriety). However, advocacy letters (in print) are still a good way to bring awareness. Because, let’s be honest, a stack of 50 pages with 20 signatures each will still be more striking than a spreadsheet of names and emails.
(Note: I am not one to go green in the “print less stuff” aspect. It’s not that I like killing trees, but there are many things I feel that are simply more effective in print).
Even if you decide to use a social media network or online petition, you can still promote advocacy letters and campaigns. Here are some easy steps to starting up an advocacy campaign:
1) Find an issue you can advocate for (trust me, this is not very difficult).
2) Write a “draft letter” you can print out, explaining your cause and urging action.
3) Promote your advocacy, either in real life or online (or both). Encourage members to gather signatures (electronic or otherwise) throughout the course of the week.
4) Reconvene the week after to see how many signatures you have collected!
5) Send it in! If you’re sending it by snail mail, it’s a good idea to send them all in bulk. While this doesn’t have the same effect as, say, 100 letters, it will save you a significant amount in postage.
Need more suggestions? Here are some tips and tricks to having a successful advocacy campaign in the “modern era.”
1) Promote both online and offline! Promoting on facebook through the use of FB Events or statuses is not illegal. Bring awareness by taking advantage of people’s news feeds and flooding them with information!
2) Table at your Student Union or in a populated area. This is great for offline promotion, especially since there will be a lot of people passing by.
3) Sell stuff also to raise awareness. For example, if you are raising awareness about keeping arts programs in schools, sell wristbands or cookies to raise money for a non-profit organization that focuses on education through the arts. That way, your table can have more than just paper, paper, paper.
4) Promote this during club meetings and encourage each member to take a petition sheet home (or a few advocacy letters home) so that they can fill it up in their residence hall or community. Plus, by bringing advocacy letters to your club meetings, you are already ensuring that your club will, at the very least, sign these letters.
Walks are becoming very popular as fundraisers to bring money in for large organizations, such as the American Cancer Society and Autism Speaks. During the months of April to September, these walks are especially popular because the weather is nice, people are itching to go outside, and interest in exercising is in full swing (you know, before bikini weather).
However, walks do not run themselves (pun intended); they need the work of many coordinators and even more volunteers. Often times, organizing a walk means finding volunteers to set up the area, take down the area, register walkers, collect donations, pass out water, cheer and much more. Therefore, always be on the lookout for awesome walks that may need volunteers.
If you are itching for some ideas, here are some things to keep in mind: