Philanthropy Friday: Finding Love Through Volunteering

This following article is a guest post from my friend and owner of LinkoutureBev Feldman. This is Bev’s second guest post for Philanthropy Friday. Read her post on jewelry for a cause here.

photo credit: Bev Feldman

photo credit: Bev Feldman

Since college, finding time to volunteer and give back to the community has been very important to me. For many years after graduating, I barely made enough money to cover my living expenses, let alone donate. I knew, though, that what I couldn’t offer in financial support I could with my time.

As soon as I could, I become a Big Sister through Jewish Big Brother Big Sister. Shortly after that, a friend told me about a new organization for young adults. The premise was you could sign up for one-time volunteer opportunities with a group of other young professionals and then afterwards you go out for a meal or a drink.

Volunteer and meet new people? As someone who was still new to Boston and had not much in the way of an established social network, this sounded perfect for me.

I signed up and started volunteering at many different places, from homeless shelters to a local food bank to park cleanups, and began meeting new people along the way. I enjoyed the flexibility of trying out different volunteer opportunities, but quickly found my favorite one helping at a soup kitchen in downtown Boston. I loved being able to cook and serve a hot and (hopefully) delicious meal to the patrons of the soup kitchen, and making friends with my fellow volunteers while doing it was an added bonus. I volunteered at that particular event so much I was soon asked to become an event leader by the founder of the volunteer organization.

Being a volunteer also gave me access to some pretty amazing opportunities, like the time I volunteered at a black tie Oscar party that was raising money for breast cancer research. Others were not quite as entertaining. There was the time I helped at another cancer-related nonprofit stuffing envelopes for a mailing. The work might have been less interesting, but my fellow volunteers and I knew we were helping a great cause. We made jokes and laughed during our time there and the time flew by, and afterwards we treated ourselves to a delicious meal at a nearby restaurant.

There were many things I had hoped to gain from volunteering. I volunteered as a way to give back, having grown up so fortunate myself. I volunteered as a way to make connections, both with my fellow volunteers and the people who I was hopefully helping. I volunteered to learn: about the world, my community and even new skills.

What I had not expected to gain from volunteering was to find love. You see, on that fateful day stuffing envelopes, I met a guy. We didn’t talk much that afternoon; in fact, the only thing we may have said to each other was to pass a stack of papers. But as he was quickly becoming more involved in the organization also and I was already in a leadership role, soon after that event he reached out to me to see about getting together to learn more about my involvement. We already knew that we had volunteering as a common interest, and we quickly learned that we had so much more, from an appreciation to the same quirky music to striped sweaters from H&M (which we were coincidentally wearing the first time we hung out).

The first beer together grew into communicating regularly online and hanging out in person, to dating to eventually moving in together. It has been nine years since that fateful day. We are now married and have a beautiful daughter together.

Bev and her beautiful family. (photo credit: Bev Feldman)

Bev and her beautiful family. (photo credit: Bev Feldman)

I know that we live in a busy world with overscheduled lives, but I encourage you to find the time to volunteer. Maybe even this Valentine’s Day instead of going on a traditional date, you can try a volunteer date with your partner or a group of friends. I can promise that whatever your intentions are for doing it, you will get so much more out of it than you ever expect. And hey, maybe you’ll even find love while volunteering.

bfeldman-headshotBev Feldman is a jewelry artist and blogger in the Boston area. She has a passion for travel, creativity, all things handmade, and giving back to her community, all of which she hope to instill in her daughter. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram.

I’m Sorry, So Sorry

This following article is a guest post from a friend and kick ass woman, Mara PennellI also highly encourage you to read this post from Mara that I shared on Facebook yesterday. It’s well worth the read.

sorrybitstrip

photo credit: Bitstrips

It seems that there is something ingrained in female DNA that causes them to be highly apologetic about, well, everything. All. The. Time. I am pretty sure the lack of the “Y” chromosome does not, alone, cause us to be useless screw-ups. So why the incessant apologizing? Lack of confidence? Most likely.

Those who work in an office environment have a first row seat to this apology epidemic. People are apologizing for everything. They are sorry that they didn’t remember to hold the door. They are sorry that they are waiting behind you at the coffee pot. They are sorry the copier is out of paper. The words “I’m sorry” have become as commonplace as saying “good morning” or “hello.”

I answered my phone the other day and the conversation went like this:

“Good morning, Barbara.”

“Good morning, Mara. I am so sorry to bother you. I just had a quick question.”

Really? You are sorry that you are calling me? You know I am at work, right? I am physically sitting at my desk? You have called to ask me a question about said work? What are you sorry about again?

Consult with Webster’s and you will see an apology defined as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.” Can it be that we are that regretful about seemingly insignificant things? If someone happens to be blocking the aisle in the grocery store with their gigantic cart full of groceries and they are completely oblivious to their surroundings, I may choose to gently push their cart aside so I can get by. Does this require an apology? Is this so offensive that I must mutter a harried “I am sorry,” as I scoot past to grab my canned peas?

No. We are not that regretful. It is more likely that we lack confidence in ourselves and we simply do not know what else to say. We then fill that void with a meaningless “I am sorry.” It would be simply too uncomfortable to say, “please don’t be irritated with me that I dared to touch your grocery cart, since you were too absorbed in selecting a salad dressing to notice what was going on around you.” Yeah, awkward. Agreed.

Although all this over apologizing may seem harmless or even a nicety that we have come to accept, it is actually highly degrading. It is degrading to ourselves. It erodes others confidence in us. It erodes our confidence in ourselves.

Maybe equally important is that it is degrading to apologies in general. A real, true authentic apology is really the only acceptable kind. If we have committed an offense or failed one another in some way, by all means, a genuine apology is in order.

Next time you are tempted to mutter a meaningless, useless “I’m sorry” stop and think about what it is you are sorry for. Then think about what it is you really wanted to say. Think about maybe saying that instead. You might be surprised how empowering it is.

maraheadshotMara K. Pennell spends her days raising little humans and in her spare time she provides leadership and innovative solutions for the growing membership at Midcoast Federal Credit Union as the Senior Vice President of Retail Services. Mara is not currently an active blogger but is fond of using fragments. You can follow her on twitter  for occasional strikes of inspiration in 140 characters or less.

Philanthropy Friday: A Polar Dip for Morgan

This following article is a guest post from a friend and owner of Bad Dog Deli, Ben Grant.mccppolarddipbenIn 1990, a cute little blond girl named Morgan was born.

My name is Ben, and that cute little blond girl is my pain in the ass little sister. As children, we played, sometimes too rough. I can remember a time when Morgan needed stitches because I had accidentally struck her with a stick. We were 5 and 9. There were a number of instances over an 8 year stretch that we fought, hugged, snuggled and acted as what we were, a younger sister and older brother.

In 1997 things changed quickly for our duo, after a number of trips to the doctor and failed diagnoses, we were disheartened to discover Morgan had a tumor growing at the base of her brain stem. Everything changed in our household. I was 10 or 11 and continued with life as usual: school, sports, friends and sleepovers. Morgan was taken out of school for surgeries and treatments, her friends asking where she had gone. The fighting between us changed, the level of energy changed, the times we would sit and play Monopoly together, all changed.

After a battle with cancer and remission, we lost Morgan in January of 1998. She had just turned 8 years old. After a number of years, jobs, relationships, and living arrangements, I found myself back in the state of Maine closer to my friends and family. It was then that I was offered to participate in a crazy event called the Maine Children’s Cancer Program Polar Dip.

The Polar Dip is held each year in February at Sebago Lake. Teams of participants plunge into the icy waters all in support of Maine Children’s Cancer Program. Funds are raised months leading up to the event and go directly to the program, a community that had helped my family years before. Not only does this event support a program that has directly impacted my and my family’s life, the timing is very close to Morgan’s birthday and anniversary of passing. Without hesitation, as a way to give back to such an important cause, my brother Joe and I signed up to plunge!

Since our initial jump in 2011, Joe and I have raised almost $18k with the help of a few special friends willing to jump with us. This year the event takes place on February 14th and we welcome all those willing to participate! If you want to jump, join our team. If you want to help, make a donation. If you’d like to support, come on down to the ice! There is so much that people can do to aid the Maine Children’s Cancer Program and their research.

MCCP was there for my family when we needed it most, I hope that through this event, I can give back to them and aid in their support of families who need it today.

You can visit Ben’s Polar Dip fundraising page HERE. (I donated. Will you join me?)

bengrantBenjamin Grant is a Pownal, Maine native and the owner of Bad Dog Deli in Scarborough, where he puts his Johnson and Wales degree to use each day. He prides himself in running a friendly, down-to-earth and delicious eatery. When not at the Deli, Ben spends time with his wife Katie, son Abel and 3 beagles, Johnnie, Molly and Newcastle in their Lisbon Falls home.

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

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