Archive | December, 2009

Christmas Party with ICSF

18 Dec

Last Saturday I was able to help out at the Inner City Scholarship Fund’s Christmas Party, put together every year by the Junior Committee. From the outside, Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School in East Harlem didn’t look too festive, but once I went inside and down to the basement, I immediately found the Christmas cheer. The basement had been transformed into a child’s wonderland, with tables covered in red and green, each one a different arts and crafts station. Towards the back of the room, I saw a big comfy chair surrounded by presents and decorations, clearly for Santa, which got me (and the kids) pretty excited.

Before the party got started, volunteers and members of the ICSF Junior Committee set up each table with a different activity: cookie and cupcake decorating, ornament making, decorations, and jewelry making. We also had to put together goodie bags for the kids (1st and 2nd graders) to take home after the party, which included coloring books, crayons, Radio City key chains, necklaces and pencils (all of which were generously donated).

As soon as the kids came in, it was every man and woman for themselves. The only thing us volunteers really had to do was have fun with the kids and help them if they had problems with any of the projects. Luckily, the projects were easy to explain and age-appropriate, so we mostly just got to have fun. The jewelry-making tables were a big hit with the girls, who made tons of cute bracelets for themselves and to give as presents. I started off at one of the ornament-making tables, where I helped some of the boys put together and paint miniature wooden sleds. I kept getting distracted by the giggles at the adjacent table, which was covered in candy. I hadn’t realized how much stuff was on the cookie decorating table: gum drops, swedish fish, sprinkles, icing, cookies, cupcakes. What kid wouldn’t want to sit at a table and do whatever they want with that stuff? I could hardly control myself and I’m 26.

After about two hours of crafts and sugar rushes, it was time to entice Santa with some carols. The Junior Committee made caroling books and everyone sang together until we heard the jingle bells: Santa and two elves made their way towards the kids, who were screaming and jumping and hugging each other. As an adult, somehow, I’ve never been in a room full of children when Santa arrives; it gave me chills (the good kind) to see how happy they were. Pure joy. Just by seeing a guy in a red suit. Ahh, to be young again.

After everyone calmed down, Santa sat in his chair and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which is amazing considering how many cookies those kids ate. After the story everyone lined up to take their picture with Santa and make their Christmas wishes. However, I feel I should mention that one girl chose not to take her picture with this particular Santa, because she knew he was a fake; no, she declared, she would be going to Sears to see the REAL Santa later that week. Kids…they say the darndest things…

Throughout the morning I heard more than one child say “this is the best day of my life”. I must admit-I may have had more fun than some of the kids. I love crafting. And cookies. The ICSF Junior Committee did a great job putting this together, sparing no details, and I can safely assume that everyone who showed up -young or old- left with a lot more holiday cheer than they came with. They were nice enough to share their photos from the day, taken by photographer Chris La Putt:

Photos courtesy of Chris La Putt

The Junior Committee supports ICSF students by organizing a variety of programs, including monthly trips to NYC cultural institutions, tutoring and athletics programs, annual parties and community-service initiatives. For more information about the programs and how to get involved, click here.


Cynthia Nixon Pledges 24 in 2010

18 Dec

Yesterday I braved the cold (along with a lot of other people) to watch the unveiling of WE Volunteer’s mobile resolution trailer, the latest addition to the WE Empowers Women campaign. Standing on Military Island in Times Square, Cynthia Nixon -along with WE tv’s Kim Martin- pledged 24 hours of volunteer service to the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE) in 2010. As their spokeswoman and veteran volunteer, I’m sure Mrs. Nixon will be giving way more than the minimum 24.

Cynthia Nixon: actress, mother, and volunteer

Also on hand to help unveil the WE Volunteer mobile unit were a group of NYC public school students, three of whom spoke about the success of AQE and their excitement for the future of the organization and WE Volunteer. The eldest of the student speakers, Jeremy Gonzalez (18), a recent graduate of Franklin K. Lane HS in Brooklyn and current student at LaGuardia Community College, currently works with the Urban Youth Collaborative. He noted that UYC encourages kids and teens to succeed, and that “college is possible” for everyone. Jeremy was the most animated 18-year-old public speaker I’ve ever listened to, and added a very sincere, honest element to the event.

You can join Cynthia and pledge your own 24 in 2010 by visiting the WE Volunteer website. You just have to enter some contact information and choose an organization you’ll be dedicating your time to. As the year progresses, you can log and track your volunteer hours on the website, as well as share your experiences with fellow pledges. Added bonus: when you pledge, you’ll be entered into WE tv’s “Chic in the City Sweepstakes” to win a trip for two to NYC, attend a highly anticipated red-carpet premiere and afterparty, two nights in a boutique hotel, dinner at an NYC hotspot and $500 shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue. It doesn’t say on the website, but if you add up the clues (Cynthia Nixon is filming a new movie, sweepstakes named ‘Chic in the City’, Saks has a huge shoe department, Carrie Bradshaw loves shoes), I’d guess that the movie premiere will be Sex in the City 2…

For more information about WE Volunteer, you can read my previous post about the event or visit their website. I’ve posted some photos of the event below but if you want more, visit Women on the Web for photos and coverage.

Click to enlarge:

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According to their website, the Alliance for Quality Education has become New York state’s lead community-based organization in the fight for high quality public education since it’s inception in 2000. “Working with all stakeholders, but emphasizing the involvement of parents and youth, AQE combines leadership development, community organizing, electronic activism, extensive media relations, policy work, and lobbying within a cohesive campaign for fundamental education reform.”

WE Volunteer Event in Times Square

15 Dec
This Thursday the 17th at 11:30am, WE tv will be holding an event at Military Island in Times Square (Broadway/7th Ave between 43rd and 44th) that should not be missed. The network is promoting their 3-year campaign, WE Volunteer: What A Difference A Day Makes, which encourages women to volunteer with organizations they are passionate about. They will be unveiling a mobile center in Times Square, which will allow people to sign up on the spot to give the gift of 24 volunteer hours in 2010. Lush will be providing stocking stuffers to those individuals who come aboard and sign the digital pledge. In addition, all those who make the volunteer pledge will be automatically entered to win an awesome sweepstakes prize that includes a trip for two to New York City to attend a fabulous red carpet movie premiere  and it’s after-party, with a two night stay at a boutique hotel.
Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame will be on hand to help with the ‘Resolution Center’ unveiling, and show her support by pledging to volunteer 24 hours of service in 2010 with the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a NY state non-profit organization that seeks to give every child a high-quality public education.
If you’re in the area on Thursday and have some free time, stop by the WE Volunteer event, make an early New Year’s resolution, and pledge your time to volunteer in 2010. You can also visit the WE Volunteer website, which has some great tools for getting started and keeping track of your volunteer hours, as well as providing a place for you to share your experiences with others in the WE Volunteer community. Also check out their Do Good, Feel Good Blog, which has a slew of tips and stories of volunteering online, outdoors, in schools, and more.
See you there!

Happy Holidays from Peter Buffet

11 Dec

I recently came across a really cool digital calendar, brought to you by Peter Buffett, that I wanted to share. Throughout the month of December leading up to Christmas Day, you can go to the website and open a virtual door to reveal one way to give back to your community or contribute to global programs. Since it’s already December 11th, feel free to go back in time to December 1st and start the month a’new, to see past tips from Buffett on how to give back this holiday season. Past days have already included links to organizations like Operation Santa Claus, Women for Women International, and Feeding America.

In addition to holiday giving tips, you can also listen and download music from Peter Buffett’s new CD “Star of Wonder”, a collection of Christmas classics. You can also hear excerpts from his upcoming book Life Is What You Make It, due out in April 2010 (which I really like the cover art for).

Peter Buffett, an American musician, composer, and producer, is the second son of investor Warren Buffett. His music is largely affected by his extensive involvement in social action and philanthropy, both here in America and abroad. In 2008, Buffett teamed up with Grammy-nominated and international recording artist Akon to launch the website, which is dedicated to educating the public about the realities of human trafficking, using social networking to create social action.

Hungry for more festive reads? Check out more holiday tips from other NYC Bloggers, from what to buy, how to wrap it, and where to eat and drink when you’re done… All part of  “NYC Bloggers Do The Holidays”
Brooklyn Based: Home for the Holidays
the improvised life: unwrapping the holidays
Manhattan User’s Guide: The Gift Guide
Patell & Waterman’s History of New York: A little history with your holidays
The Strong Buzz: Holiday Eats Old and New

Too Many Volunteers?

10 Dec

A recent article published by the New York Post, No Room To Serve, sites the difficulties that some people are having trying to volunteer in NYC. It’s unfortunate, but many volunteers are being turned away from organizations, placed on volunteer waiting lists, and in some cases, going through interview processes and paperwork similar to paid job applications. There are a few obvious reasons for the increase in volunteerism: a hurting economy that’s making people more aware that there are people in need, the unemployed who now have the time to volunteer, and Obama’s Call to Action earlier this year.

Those interviewed in the article, one who is on a waiting list at an Upper East Side shelter and another who couldn’t sign in to projects on the New York Cares website before they all filled up, felt rejected. Which is understandable, since all they want to do is donate their time. However, many places just don’t have the funding or enough staff available to make additional volunteer spots available. It’s not personal, however disappointing it may be.

The article does offer some help, acknowledging that “Despite the fact that candidates are duking it out for volunteer spots these days, experts stress opportunities are available — you just have to look in the right places. Animal- and education-related causes tend to be the most popular, [Greg Bagley, executive director of New York Cares] says, but there is always a need for volunteers to help others with job-interview skills and résumé preparation.”

There are many places that may not be as well known as the more popular organizations -New York Cares or the ASPCA, for example- that still need volunteers. Using websites like NYC Service, Idealist, or Volunteer March, people looking for opportunities may be able to find a place to volunteer. You can also do some good ol’ fashioned legwork yourself and try contacting some of the agencies listed on the website I Can Volunteer.

If you are an organization in NYC with volunteer opportunities currently available, please post them below or email me at