Archive | Tips and Thoughts RSS feed for this section

Wedding Ideas for the Do-Good Bride

13 May

As my own wedding rapidly approaches, I’ve been sifting through the internet for the most unique ideas I can find. This ranges from the good (can you say Jimmy Choo bridal?), the bad (no more candied almonds please), and the ugly (WTF?). I’ve also come across some great tips for making my wedding day not only a commitment of myself to another person, but also a commitment to making my community a better place. Below is a curation of some of my favorite ideas for other do-good-loving brides-to-be in NYC:

I Woof!

Animal Lovers

Planning on having your beloved pooch in your wedding party? If so, you may be interested making a donation to the ASPCA in lieu of a traditional wedding favor. They will provide you with custom ASPCA place cards which will let your guests know a donation has been made in their honor. For more information, visit their website or call (212) 876-7700, ext. 4516.

Alternative Favors

Just like the ASPCA, many other organizations allow you to make a donation in honor of your guests. TheKnot.com makes it super easy to pick a charity and order personalized place cards for a nominal fee (about $15-35 depending on the size of your wedding, plus the actual donation). You can pick a specific charity from one of 6 categories: Children & Families, Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, and Social Justice.

Nature Favors on Etsy

I’ve also found some great ideas on Etsy, including many green ideas from Nature Favors. These cute heart-shaped bird seed favors would look great on tables set in a vineyard wedding, or a backyard bridal shower. You can hang them at the party as decorations and/or let your guests take them home; either way, the favor will feed some birds and reduce waste. From the same vendor these lilly grass plants (pictured) are perfect for spring affairs while these plantable leaf confetti garden favors scream fall.

For more green wedding ideas, check out the article “7 Easy Ways to Green Your Wedding

Don’t Trash the Dress-Donate it!

Call me crazy, but I just don’t understand this new trend of “trashing the dress.”. Unless you’re celebrating a recent divorce, it just seems like the opposite of what I’d want to do with something I wore on such a momentous day. It seems almost blasphemous. But I digress. Rather than rip that Vera Wang gown to shreds or place it in your attic shrine for the next 50 years, why not donate it? There are plenty of organizations and websites ready to take your gown (looking at you too, bridesmaids) and put it to good use:

 BRIDES: Brides Against Breast Cancer will take your dress and re-sell it at a significantly discounted price during their nationwide “Tour of Gowns” events across the country, with proceeds going towards granting the wishes of terminal cancer patients.

BRIDESMAIDS: DonateMyDress.org provides a national listing of local dress drive organizations who take donated special occasion dresses and give them to those who cannot afford them for prom, sweet 16, quinceañera or formals. In New York, you’ll find the WGIRLS NYC Chapter in Manhattan and L.A.C.E. in Brooklyn.

BRIDES & BRIDES-TO-BE: The Bridal Garden in Midtown Manhattan is the city’s only not-for-profit bridal boutique showcasing stunning designer and couture wedding gowns at up to 75% off retail prices. You can buy your dress here or donate the one you got elsewhere; either way, all proceeds will benefit education for NYC children.

Reception-To-Go

After the party is over, you may find yourself slipping away into the sunset to a faraway land or sleeping soundly for the -a’hem- ‘first’ time with your new spouse. Meanwhile, all of those super expensive flowers, delicious food leftovers, and other stuff that once seemed like life or death decisions will be heading out to pasture, only to become a distant memory seen on Facebook and your coffee table for years to come. Why not let someone else enjoy the spoils after you’re gone?

Enter: Special E, a business that will re-purpose all that can be salvaged from your wedding day. It was developed in response to the growing demand for environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible alternatives to the common party plan, be it a wedding, fundraiser, corporate shindig or otherwise. According to their website, items they pick up are given to “homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food banks, missions, churches, temples, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, relief agencies, and a wide range of charitable and non-profit organizations. Items not being donated are either recycled or re-purposed by artisans into other useful products.” There is a fee involved which covers the labor, delivery and supplies, but I think it’s worth it. (It can also be written off as a charitable donation)

Giving Back What You Get

There are many opportunities to make your special day special for someone else; all it takes is a little creative thinking and a lot of heart. Here are a few more ideas for how to give back during and after the wedding:

– Call local nursing homes or hospitals near your venue and see if they would like to receive your centerpiece flowers after the wedding. Arrange a drop-off via a friend or family member, and let it be their gift to you.

– Instead of a traditional sign-in book, have guests fill out cards to troops overseas, wishing them well and a speedy and safe return home. Provide a decorative box for them to be placed into.

– Too many leftover favors to count? Depending on the item, they may be useful to a Salvation Army store for resale. Or maybe you know of a local non-profit who is planning a fundraiser; let them use your leftover favors to save on costs of buying their own.

– The I Do Foundation has even more tools that will allow you to give back to charity, including gift registries, green ideas and more. Visit their website for more info!

~

Do you have other ideas? Have you done any of the above successfully (or unsuccessfully)? Sound off below!


Advertisements

Force of Human Nature: Spring Volunteer Activities Outdoors

24 Mar
2011

This post was originally written for offManhattan, an eco travel site featuring destinations out of Manhattan that are accessible sans car.

Whether or not the weather agrees, Spring is officially here. It’s time to put those winter sweaters back into storage and dust off your flip flops. It’s also the perfect time to volunteer in New York City. As the seasons change, so do the opportunities available; there are gardens to be planted, parks to prepped for the onslaught of visitors, and other outdoor projects that are most enjoyable in the cool sunshine of Spring. Below are some ideas for outdoor volunteer projects and activities that you can sign up for right now:

Pick A Day, Any Day

Are you too busy for a big time commitment? Sign up for these one-day volunteer events:

  • ‘It’s My Park Day’ is an bi-annual event taking place this spring on May 21st, 2011. You don’t even have to register: just find a participating park and GO. Partnerships for Parks invites dedicated community groups to organize volunteer projects and free cultural events in their neighborhood parks, in the hopes that people will come out to help and learn more about year-round opportunities. There will be over 150 community organizations and parks participating throughout the 5 boroughs.
  • Hands On New York Day: Join New York Cares and 5,000 other volunteers on April 16th to make our city’s parks and gardens cleaner, greener, and ready for summer. You can join my team or start your own!
  • Million Trees Planting Event: The city’s Million Trees Initiative has an ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. On April 30th, 2011 you can help them reach that goal by joining them in one of five parks in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and volunteer to help plant 20,000 trees in one day!

Runs Don’t Run Themselves

New York City plays host to a slew of fundraising 5K’s and walks, and all of them need volunteers to help ensure the day goes smoothly. You can help by handing out water along the route, checking in participants, cleaning up after the race, or even cheering! Here are some upcoming runs and contact info:

  • New York Road Runners: Find more races and opportunities here by signing up to volunteer at any NYRR race. All opportunities in 2011 will count as a volunteer credit toward the 9+1 Program for those who would like to receive a guaranteed entry to the 2012 ING New York City Marathon.

Going Green for the Season

There are many organizations that are dedicated to community gardening and environmental education all year long. Now that Spring has arrived, they’ll need help for the busy planting season. Check out these groups for on-going volunteer opportunities with varying commitment levels:
  • ioby (which stands for ‘in our backyards’) connects donors and volunteers to environmental projects in their neighborhoods to inspire new environmental knowledge and action in New York City. They have sponsored projects in need of volunteers to plant veggies, building gardens and educating the public; email volunteer@ioby.org for more info or visit the website.
  • TimeBanksNYC Green April is a month-long marathon of eco-friendly, green-inspired projects. Each Saturday in April, TBNYC will be in a different borough for an environmental community service event. To gain access to the Green April events, attend the volunteer kick-off event on March 30th at the Horticultural Society of NY; RSVP at volunteer@timebanksnyc.org.
  • New York Cares is the all-encompassing, citywide mecca for volunteers. Just sign up online and attend a 45-minute orientation and you’ll be able to access their database of 1,000’s of projects that take place all over the city, from Pelham Bay Park to Gregory’s community garden in Brooklyn and almost everything in between. You can volunteer once, weekly, monthly; whatever you schedule, NY Cares has something for everyone.
  • Slow Food NYC is the New York City chapter of Slow Food, a non-profit, member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life. From time to time they need volunteers to staff events or to help with outreach programs. Contact them at volunteering@slowfoodnyc.org to find out what’s available now; for one, they will be preparing their neighborhood farm in Brownsville on April 16th, 30th and June 4th for the upcoming summer program for 100 local kids.

For more environmentally-helpful volunteer projects, visit my spring greening tips from last year, “Volunteerism in Full Bloom.”

What I Did This Week

11 Feb
2011

Usually February is that weird month stuck between the holidays and Easter break, where nothing really happens except Valentines Day and a seemingly endless winter convinces you it will never leave. That’s how I usually feel at least, until this February. This February has been full of productive meetings, planning some big-time events for 2011, and of course, the Pants Party. This past Wednesday night Give & Get collected 37 pairs of jeans; a number which has increased to about 46 after two days of coworkers dropping their pants in my office- but I’m not complaining!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last night I attended the “I Heart NYC” Blogger Meet-Up party hosted by Travelzoo Local Deals. It was awesome to meet the people behind some of my favorite blogs, and I got some great advice on how to improve my own. Everyone who attended the event (at the super-snazzy SD26) received one of two amazing deals from Travelzoo: my envelope had a voucher for dinner for two at Kikakuya Sake Bar in Koreatown, while other guests received credit towards a facial by aesthetician-to-the-stars, Mamie McDonald. While a facial would probably do me some good, I’m really excited to try out a new restaurant which happens to be right near my office.

This Saturday (tomorrow!) is the Global Cocoa Project’s “Explore the World of Chocolate Event”. My mouth is already watering just thinking about all the delicious treats I’ll be having tomorrow. Gourmet bon-bons? Peggy Bundy, eat your heart out. If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, you’re in luck: there are still some left! Click here to purchase now and avoid the extra charge buying at the door.

G&G For the Holidays: Gifts That Give Back

1 Dec
2010

This post is part of the second annual NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays, where a group of New York’s top bloggers join forces to bring you the best that this city has to offer for the holiday season! Check out the list of participating bloggers below. Read them all, and you’ll have no problem navigating this city and taking it for all it’s worth…After the jump, check out my contribution: Gifts that Give Back.

‘the improvised life’: Design (or Hack) Your Own Holiday E-Cards

Manhattan User’s Guide: The Gift Guide: 21 Over $21

Markets of New York: Festive Food at New York’s Holiday Markets

Patell and Waterman’s History of New York: Christmas with Andy Warhol

We Heart Astoria: The Best Places To Shop Local – WHA Holiday Gift Guide

~

Last year I gave you some tips on where to volunteer all month long (I’ve gone back and updated what I could, so be sure to check it out, and volunteer!). This year, Give and Get will be your guide to shopping for a cause-places to buy gifts while also giving back to your favorite NYC charities. Anyone who receives emails from major retailers is aware of the growing trend of incorporating charitable giving into everyday shopping, especially during this time of year. I’ve tried to compile a list of those who are making contributions to local, New York-based charities, in addition to non-profits who are offering online catalogs that benefit their own organization directly. I’ve also thrown in a few alternative gift ideas that are great for that rich relative who has everything…Read on, my friends, and get ready to knock out your gift list and good deed for the day at the same time.


For people who love kids…

– Retailers owned by participating Friends of Baby Buggy will donate 10% of proceeds to Baby Buggy, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing New York City’s families in need with essential equipment, clothing, and products for their infants and young children. You’ll need a special code at checkout to make sure the donation is made-listed below:

  • Gift Hero: Carries gifts for age 0-10. Code: BUGGY2010
  • Kirna Zabete: Soho shop that carries designers such as Lanvin, Givenchy, Celine, Proenza Schouler and more. Code: KZLOVESBABYBUGGY
  • Baby CZ: A luxury line of cashmere, cotton and silk clothes & accessories for babies, children and women. Code: BUGGY
  • Felix Rey: An ultra-feiminine luxury accessories brand. Code: BUGGY10


For food-loving NYC locals…

God’s Love We Deliver, a popular non-profit organization that delivers food daily to home-bound New Yorkers, delivers more than just meals during the holiday season. Clients receive gift baskets full of delicious treats (and meals), all delivered in shopping bags decorated by school children. You can purchase gifts from their holiday catalog, including GLWD aprons and oven mitts, wine glasses and more, with proceeds benefiting the organization. With demand for their services up 21% in just the first three months of the current fiscal year, a purchase from here will be more important than ever before.

 

Going once, going twice…

Bidding For Good is an online auction platform that allows non-profit organizations to set up fundraising auctions for themselves that maximize their reach and potential to raise more money. You can search by cause and/or state, or just by auction items, which range from restaurant gift certificates to all-inclusive vacations, all benefiting a specific charity! This is a great site to use if you’re a fan of Ebay, or want to find a specific cause to give to while you shop..The auctions run for a few weeks, so be sure to check back for new causes and items throughout the month. Currently running is an auction to benefit the West Side YMCA Teen Center; it’s running until December 10th at 9pm- bid now!

 

For your tchotchke-loving friend or coworkers…

Exit 9 has been called a cross between a museum gift shop and a kitschy toy store. After passing by last weekend, I can confirm that it is in fact, just that. You’ll be able to find gag gifts, iPod accessories, children’s craft kits and everything in between. My favorite were the bandaids that look like strips of bacon (which I got for my 6-yr old nephew). More importantly, they’re encouraging people to shop locally while supporting local charities. During their ’12 Days of Charity’ promotion (December 1st-12th) you’ll be able to choose which of the eight local non-profit organizations they’ve listed will receive 10% of profits. Organizations include: BARC Brooklyn Animal Rescue Coalition, GenerationOn, God’s Love We Deliver, LES Girls Club, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Public School 58Public School 261, Transportation Alternatives. You can shop online, or find even more merchandise at one of their two retail locations (in Brooklyn and on the LES)

 

For the person who has everything and enough money to buy it if they don’t…

– Let’s call this person Charlie. Charlie is the hardest person to get gifts for. Unless it’s perishable, you’re likely getting him something he already has, or doesn’t want. In the past few years, I’ve taken a departure from the traditional gifts and began to give donations in other people’s names. It’s a really personal gesture that will (hopefully) make them much more appreciative of your gift than last year’s wine stopper or coaster set. More specific ideas for your Charlie:

  • Does your Charlie love the outdoors? Make a donation to MillionTreesNYC or Fresh Air Fund. An avid gardner? Help fund a project on ioby (‘in our backyards’). Whatever you choose, just be sure to Charlie that you’ve made a donation in his honor. Check out ‘the improvised life‘ blog for more tips on double-duty gifts and cards, and Cards That Give, a great source for charity greeting cards.
  • If you want to get a little more sentimental, you can request/pick up a letter to Santa (depending on your budget-gifts requested are usually under $40-maybe more than one). You can fulfill a child’s wish by sending them their gift from Santa on Charlie’s behalf. Give the child’s letter to Charlie with a note that says something along the lines of “In lieu of a gift, I’ve given this little girl the Barbie she always wanted and couldn’t afford, on your behalf..” You can get these letters from the James A Farley Building in midtown. (New York Cares runs a similar program but registration has closed)
  • If your Charlie is a little more global-minded, you can gift something even bigger, with long-lasting effects. Heifer International allows you to donate sheep, llamas, goats and more, to impoverished children and families around the world, and help them receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. After your donation, you’ll have the opportunity to create a printable gift card or e-card to tell Charlie that you’ve honored him with a Heifer gift. (Update: It’s been brought to my attention that there are differing opinions regarding HI’s practices and their ethical merit. Read here about another point of view. Charity Navigator is one place to check on how donations are distributed by NPOs- know who you’re donating to before you donate, always)

~

So there you have it.. some different places to cross people off your list while giving back to some NYC non-profits. Did I miss something? It’s likely! If you’ve got something to add, please comment below or email to info@giveandgetnyc.com.

Why I Serve

11 Sep

On this day, 9/11, the National Day of Service, I was planning on posting different places that you could go serve our community. However, I decided instead to focus on the reasons behind why I serve. Afterall, 9/11 is above all else, a day of remembrance. Remembering what happened 9 years ago helps us to understand why we now have a national Day of Service.

Two months ago I wrote an essay for an application, which I’m sharing below. The question: “Why are you a part of the service movement?” seemed easy enough to answer but as I began writing, I realized that the reasons were unclear. I wrote from the heart because it’s the only way I could figure out my answer and put it into words, and it still doesn’t seem quite adequate..

Q: Why are you a part of the service movement? What is your vision for it in your community and nationwide?

A: I have always wanted to do more; for society, for friends, for my family. For the past few months, I have begun to really think about how I can become a bigger, more influential part of society. I truly feel that every person has the capacity to serve in some way, and it is our civic duty to do so if we are able. Some people are born into a somewhat easy life, able to eat, live comfortably, and receive a good education, while others are born three steps behind, into hardships like poverty or homelessness.  I feel that those of us who were given opportunities to succeed should pass along whatever we can to those who need our help.

It’s also really easy to serve, and I’m not sure that everyone realizes that. For most if not all people, finding two hours a week of your time that you’re willing to give to someone or something else, is not difficult. It just requires a commitment, and the size of that commitment is completely up to the person making it. I think that the general consensus among service ‘outsiders’ is that you need to pack a suitcase and head to a 3rd world country to make a difference in this world, and that just isn’t the case. I’ve gotten people to volunteer with me, to see what it’s like, and a few of them have gone back to do it on their own elsewhere. The biggest challenge is getting people to take that first step, and my goal in participating in the service movement is to prove how easy it is and encourage others to join me.

The Call to Service from President Obama last year was a huge step in the right direction for our country, and it played a large role in the increasing numbers of volunteers. His words struck a chord in me that still resonates today: “Economic recovery is as much about what you’re doing in your communities as what we’re doing in Washington – and it’s going to take all of us, working together.” This announcement, calling on a nation to help its government, was a turning point for me in how I viewed the service movement. I think a lot of citizens thought that it was the government’s job to fix everything, when in reality, we all need to pull together if change is going to happen. I honestly never thought of service as a means to an end on such a large scale; I saw it as one person helping another. And service is, in it’s most basic form, doing something for someone else.

So when I envision the service movement and the role it would play in New York, I see people helping people. Multiplying this singular action by thousands to create a city of service. This community action would help to fill the gaps where the government is unable to step in with funding or assistance, creating a self-sustaining city that relies less on outside sources and more on each other.

I hope you found this post useful-as a way to see something inside of yourself, or just to get to know me better. Take a moment today to remember September 11, 2001. It was tragic and scary and the saddest day New York has ever seen, in my lifetime and possibly ever. But what came out of the rubble was a city that realized the power of service; the power of one person helping another, to make the next day a little better than the one before it.

Visit some websites celebrating this National Day of Service, and see how you can get involved:

911 Day of Service

Service Nation

Hands On Network

Be The Change

Volunteer Match

National 9/11 Memorial