Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sue Grady – Small things can make a big difference

Today we will profile volunteer Sue Grady, who has turned a hobby into a way to help others.

Sue currently knits for several organizations including the PROP Shop, afghans for Afghans, and the Ships Project. Her first experience with charity knitting was for an organization based in California that provided clothing for newborns from disadvantaged families and toddlers in shelters. She was then recruited by Amy Nylander to start knitting for the PROP Shop to keep babies warm in the winter and small household items and baby booties for clients with new homes or new babies.

Sue knits for afghans for Afghans (a4A) because “it is an incredible organization that touches many women and children in the poorest areas of Afghanistan.” A4A is a grassroots effort inspired by Red Cross volunteers who made afghans, socks, slippers, and other items for soldiers and refugees during World Wars I and II and other times of crisis and need. The organization makes gifts of handmade blankets and garments to bring comfort and warmth to Afghan women, men, and children who continue to suffer from oppression, war, hunger, poverty, and sickness. “It is a way to let them know that Americans care about their well-being. This will hopefully also make the military’s job easier.”

The Ships Project was started in October 2001, when a female sailor responded to an “any sailor” letter written by the Ships Project founder. The sailor responded to the founder’s love of knitting with a joke that she could use some slippers to keep her feet warm. Since then, the project has grown far beyond that small beginning to send handmade hats, slippers, and Cool-Ties to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines deployed around the world. Sue says, “I chose Ships Project because my father was career Navy and I have a son who is in the Army National Guard. Those men and women are near and dear to my heart and knitting some small thing that will improve their situation is the least I can do.” Sue is a great example of turning a hobby into a way to help others. “I believe one should do what they can to improve someone else’s lot in life. I am not of the temperament to do big things but I can do little things that are added to others little things to make a bigger statement.”

When asked what others can do, Sue states, “There are so many opportunities out there that it is easy to find one that can use your talents whatever they may be. Pick one that speaks to your heart; that you will truly enjoy participating in.”

I couldn’t say it better. The purpose of this blog is to inspire volunteering and Sue is a great example of doing things that may seem small but they mean so much to those who receive those handmade items. While I was learning more about these organizations to write this profile, I found a section of the Ships Project website that includes thank you letters from the troops. This one really sums it up… “It’s obvious someone, somewhere took the time to hand make these hats and I just wanted to let you know that your works are very much appreciated here. It is amazing that what may seem like a small thing to some, really is a huge morale booster for us. I wouldn’t trade this hat for anything that is “store bought” because it is my constant reminder that great Americans such as you know we are here and support us. Thank you once again from my heart and most importantly… from my warm head!”

You can find out about the organizations that Sue volunteer’s with using these links:
The PROP Shop:
afghans for Afghans:
Ships Project:


Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Volunteer Profile


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Beyond the Yellow Ribbon

Our next organization profile is the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon South of the River Group.  Many of us know someone who is in the military or someone who has a family member in the military.  Organizations exist to help those who are deployed by sending gifts, phone cards, socks, etc to soldiers…but what about the rest of the family who is left behind when a soldier is deployed?

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a comprehensive program that creates awareness for the purpose of connecting Service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources.  The mission is to serve, honor, and support our local service men and women as well as their families in our local community.

The South of the River Group is located in Prior Lake.  This group began when local families and service members recognized a need in Scott County.  Yellow Ribbon Communities unite all areas within a community to create a network that connects agencies, organizations, resources, and employers for the purpose of proactively supporting service members and their families.

The Beyond the Yellow Ribbon organization has a wide variety of opportunities to help!  Some examples include babysitting, running an errand or two for a family, fixing a lawnmower, helping around the house, or even just a phone call to the family letting them know you are thinking of them.  Basically any kind of support you are able to give!

You can connect with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon South of the River Group via e-mail at  You can find more information about the statewide campaign and find other Yellow Ribbon Communities at

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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Doing Good Together

For many of us, as we rush through our busy lives, all too often good quality family time is a premium.  Family time is the backbone of our culture, and regretfully, for good Samaritans across the nation, sometimes there is little time left in the week for volunteering.  With such limited time available and so many taxes on our free time, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were an organization available in which families can spend time together and volunteer to make the world a better place?  Wouldn’t it be great for busy parents and grandparents to have an opportunity to teach their kids how to volunteer their time and energy to give something back to the community? Building strong families, caring kids, and a better world, Doing Good Together (DGT) has been promoting that since 2004.  

DGT’s mission is simple, to inspire and help families to volunteer.  This mission is built on three core ideals: inspire kids to care, strengthen families, and build communities. 

Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, DGT was started by current DGT Executive Director, Jenny Friedman.   She believes that when parents and grandparents engage in community service with their children and grandchildren, they pass on the spirit of giving, strengthen their families, and create a new generation of humanitarians that will positively impact their communities now and in the future.

“We believe that by getting involved in service, and having thoughtful discussions around those experiences, we raise children who are compassionate, aware of social issues, and [are] instilled with the lifelong habit of giving,” says Friedman who has worked with children and families as both a clinician, and a teacher. 

Additionally, she has spent over 20 years with her own three children volunteering.  In her professional and personal experiences, she noticed that few resources existed for altruistic families to engage in community service.  So, she established DGT to fill that need.

But this isn’t just one-way communication in which DGT reaches out to families to promote volunteer efforts.  While DGT certainly encourages families to volunteer by communicating with them directly, DGT also teaches organizations how to better engage families in service opportunities. 

 In 2009 alone, DGT was able to accomplish many of its goals, including:

  • Initiating sustainable family service programs at more than a dozen Twin Cities schools and faith groups.
  • Partnering with Head Start programs across Minnesota to help low-income families give back to their communities.
  • Initiating a collaborative effort with the Minnesota Children’s Museum to integrate service-learning projects into museum programming for Martin Luther King Day of Service. 
  • Working in conjunction with Global Citizens Network, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Metro Meals on Wheels to attract family volunteers.

DGT’s good deeds aren’t merely limited to the Twin Cities Metro Area.  Odds are, if you volunteer frequently, you’ve probably seen DGT just about anywhere in Minnesota.  DGT presents at state and national conferences, exhibits at volunteer fairs and facilitates workshops across the state, and interacts with volunteer parents across the country through phone calls and e-mails.  

With 85% total payroll devoted to program development, and 5% to fundraising, DGT should continue to provide and maximize effective programs for family volunteers.  DGT exists thanks to the support of individuals and corporate grants — 90% of DGT’s 2009 Public Support Revenue was from Foundation and Corporate Grants (52%), and Individual Contributors (38%). 

 In this fast-paced age, of business meetings, soccer games, conference calls, agendas, e-mails, travel, school, events, and constantly being on the go, it is refreshing to slow down the pace a bit in the evenings and spend some quality time with family and friends.  Now, thanks to DGT, you don’t have to choose between volunteering to help your community and spending a night with your kids.  You can do both and instill a life-long habit in your kids of Doing Good Together. 

 For a list of family-friendly volunteer opportunities, check out the “Give and Serve” section of DGT’s website (

Contact info:
Phone: (612) 822-6502
Follow them on their blog or  
Find them on Facebook


Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Nonprofit Organization


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Amy Nylander

The Blogunteer is a new blog to profile volunteers, volunteer organizations, and volunteer events.  Our goal is to inspire volunteering and to help promote volunteer organizations you may not have heard of yet. 

Our first profile is Amy Nylander, a volunteer with many organizations. 

Amy is currently involved with the Relay for Life of Eden Prairie as the co-teams coordinator and team captain co-organizer of a vendor boutique fundraiser; The PROP Shop of Eden Prairie as the Director of Community Relations; and with the State Services for the Blind as a textbook recorder for the visually impaired.  In the past, she has been involved with Eden Prairie Destination Imagination, the ABC House selection committee, the PROP Holiday and School Supplies programs and almost every Parent Teacher Organization in Eden Prairie.

Attracted to causes that build community, Amy states, “When I’m at the Relay or the PROP Shop and see volunteers of all ages, genders, and walks of life, I feel positive about the future.”

But, building community isn’t the only thing that attracts Amy to volunteering.  “Volunteering is the best way to get things to change for the better. It isn’t about legislation. It isn’t about cash (although that helps – a lot). It’s about grass roots movements and people with their boots on the ground getting the job done. It’s also the best way to meet the best people. And it’s the best way to avoid doing laundry.”

Amy’s most memorable volunteer experiences focus on lasting change.  “It’s pretty neat to start a program and see it still in place years later. I can’t possibly pick just one moment. In the running would be harassing my book club (12 of the most patient woman in the world) into bringing kids socks and underwear to book club one month to be donated to clients at the PROP Shop. From there I asked a couple of other friends with book clubs and now the PROP Shop has 36 local book clubs in the Book Club Action Network. These folks have never met, but we’re all working together toward a common goal helping other people we’ve never met. There is something pretty special about anonymous acts of kindness.”

What would Amy recommend for first time volunteers?  “Anywhere you feel comfortable or that speaks to you. I like to start off in small way until I learn more about the organization. Being a team captain for a Relay team is a great start, but if that’s too scary just coming to a Relay and walking a few laps will familiarize you with the way Relay works.”

Other ideas from Amy include signing up for a shift at the PROP Shop or other local thrift store, offering to help local teachers with behind the scenes tasks, volunteering with animal organizations, and helping at your library.  According to Amy, a great idea is to talk to your friends about where they volunteer. “There’s a reason they keep returning to a place to help out.”

So, what other tips does Amy have to offer?  “Get your kids volunteering while they still do what you say.  If you wait until they’re in high school, it’s a lot harder to work volunteering into their busy lives and a lot harder to convince them it’s a good idea. Start early and it will become a way of life for them.”

To learn more about the organizations that Amy volunteers with, visit their websites here:
Eden Prairie Relay for Life:
PROP Shop:
MN State Services for the Blind:


Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Volunteer Profile


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