Monthly Archives: March 2012

Little Free Library

One of my passions is literacy.  I love reading and I also make sure that my kids always have plenty of books available to read.  We frequent the library and own quite a collection of books as well.  So, when I came across today’s organization, I knew right away that I wanted to write about them.  Since I first heard about them, I have started seeing their name everywhere, including my local newspaper, National Public Radio, and NBC Nightly News!

The Little Free Library organization has a three part mission:

  1. To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide,
  2. To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations, and
  3. To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world.

Some organizations begin with a grand idea and others start as something smaller.  Little Free Library began as just one library.  Todd Bol built a little library in honor of his mother who had passed away and placed it in front of his home.  It looked like a schoolhouse because his mother was a teacher.

While having a garage sale one day, he noticed that everyone was fascinated by the library.  He shared their reactions with his friend Rick Brooks and they hatched a plan for expansion.  The libraries serve as more than just a place to exchange books.  It connects people with their community and promotes connection with their neighbors.  If people meet at a Little Free Library, they talk about books and more.  It makes for a pleasant conversation that wouldn’t always happen on the street.

When I spoke with Todd, he mentioned that many people hug their libraries when they are first installed.  Adults and children love the libraries and are proud of them.  Most of the registered libraries are homemade – many are hand painted or built by creatively reusing materials.  Many of the libraries that Todd builds are made using items he has found around his farm including old cutting boards, quilt racks, and horseshoes.

When someone registers their library, they receive an official “Little Free Library” sign.  Recently Todd created his 1000th sign and placed it on a library made in memory of his father.  This library is right next to the first library in Todd’s yard.

As of today, there are registered libraries in over 20 counties – and they are spreading quickly!  These libraries serve as an augmentation to traditional libraries, not a competition.  They serve as an expression of how wonderful books are.

How can you help?

  • Build a Little Free Library for your community.  There are plans on the organization’s website.  Don’t forget to register your library on their website to ensure people can find it.
  • You can purchase a Little Free Library on their website.
  • Make a donation to help offer free libraries through various gift programs.
  • The organization also has a classified section on their website where they post things that they need donated or done.
  • Find a nearby library using the map on the website, then stop by and donate a book.
  • Spread the word about the Little Free Library movement – share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or wherever else you can to spread this movement across the world.

You can learn more about Little Free Library on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook or follow their blog.  They also have a Neighborhood Builder’s Guild Facebook page to share stories, plans and advice about building their libraries.


Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , ,

Storytellers for Good

There is a lot of bad news out there…school shootings, wars, financial woes, unemployment and more.  There is some good out there, but it doesn’t always make the headlines.  For example, a fellow blogger who is working to celebrate the little good things in our everyday lives or the Random Acts of Kindness post that I did last month.  Today’s post is also about someone trying to bring those good stories into the headlines.

Storytellers for Good was founded in 2009 by Cara Jones because she had a passion for inspiring stories that developed after years in the television news business.  On the Storytellers for Good website, Cara chronicles her last days in the traditional news business.  A slow news day sent her to the scene of a fatal car accident and then on to the home of the accident victim.  As she approached the home, she found a teenager who didn’t yet know that her mother was the accident victim but was putting things together in her mind as the news crew approached.  Cara took a year off and set off on what evolved into a yearlong adventure through South America, Europe and India where she hiked, learned yoga, and rediscovered parts of herself that she had shut down to handle her work.

She returned to Boston and did a series of stories about people who changed her life: a blind and autistic musical savant; a 6 year old girl paralyzed by a bullet who forgave her shooter; a disabled Iraq Veteran turned artist and gallery owner; and a couple in their mid-40’s who, after grieving the loss of their teenage daughter in a drunk driving accident, decided to start all over again…with triplets.  These stories gave meaning to her work and inspired her to create more of these stories.

The mission of Storytellers for Good is to tell and promote stories of people and organizations making a positive difference.  The team at Storytellers for Good works to tell compelling, memorable stories that “feel” with an aim is to help attract funders, motivate volunteers and demonstrate the good work done by area non-profits and organizations.

How can you help?

The biggest way to help is to help Storytellers for good spread the good word – share their videos and blog posts, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.  Also, if you are in the San Francisco, California Bay Area, you can attend their annual film festival.

You can learn more about Storytellers for Good on their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Other


Tags: , , ,

Mookie’s Teeth

Student loans seem to be commonplace these days.  Tuition costs are rising and most jobs require a college degree to even be considered.  Many families struggle with funding a college education, but minority students may have a more difficult time due to language barriers and other factors.  Today’s profile is about someone trying to make a difference.

Cristina Oxtra is an Asian American who immigrated to the United States with her family when she was in high school.  She didn’t receive guidance from her school counselors or others who were supposed to teach and assist her in applying and obtaining financial help for college.  She attended community college for two years before transferring to a four-year university.  She lived at home and commuted to college in addition to working to pay her tuition.

Years later, Cristina now works for a school district in Shakopee, Minnesota and is involved with the local Leaders in Education And Diversity (LEAD) student group.  Through her work, she has seen a need in helping local minority students who wish to pursue a post-secondary education connect with financial assistance.  Cristina was inspired to create the Kaleidoscope Scholarship for students graduating from Shakopee High School.

She named it Kaleidoscope because the world is made up of people of all colors, races, cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic backgrounds.  Together these people all make an ever changing, beautiful image, like a kaleidoscope.  This scholarship is the first to be specifically offered for minority students in the Shakopee community.  In 2011, the scholarship was divided to help three deserving students.

To fund the scholarship, Cristina has held bake sales and solicited donations from local businesses.  In addition, Cristina has published a children’s book named “Mookie’s Teeth” that will also help fund the scholarship.  Mookie’s Teeth is a children’s story about a little monster with a big problem – he doesn’t have his monster teeth.  He must do good deeds to earn his teeth.

How can you help? 

  • You can purchase Mookie’s Teeth or any of the upcoming books from Christina’s Fairytale Hallow line.  “Teddy’s Travels” Will be available in fall 2012 and other upcoming titles include “A Knight’s Tail” and “Ace Fairy”.
  • You can also contact Cristina directly at to offer assistance with fundraising work that she currently does on her own or to make a donation.

You can learn more about Cristina and her Fairytale Hollow series on her website.  In addition, you can become a fan on Facebook.


Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Philanthropy


Tags: , , , ,

4Girls GLocal Leadership

In some places, women are viewed as second class citizens – unable to vote, own property, or seek out an education.  I have written about organizations who are working to make a difference for women such as BeadforLife, She’s the First, and the White Ribbon Alliance.  Today’s organization is also working to empower girls to change the world.

“To be born a girl is a gift we are given.  To become a real woman of wisdom and courage is a gift we give the world.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Jin In was born in Seoul, Korea to a wealthy family, but her fortunes changed when her father passed away when she was only seven months old.  In Korea at that time, wives were not seen as blood relatives so Jin’s mother did not receive any portion of the estate.  Her mother moved to the United States to try to start a new life and was able to bring Jin and her sister to the United States about five years later.  Through the years Jin learned that she could do anything.  She also learned through her mentor that service and helping the vulnerable were important aspects of life.  Jin describes her life experiences in detail in this essay.

Jin’s passion has grown to become an organization named 4Girls GLocal Leadership (4GGL).  The mission of 4GGL is to ignite, cultivate, and promote girls’ leadership development locally, to advance gender equity globally – hence GLocal.  They empower the world’s poorest girls as a powerful lever to accelerate change the world needs.  Many girls in poor countries do not have opportunities for leadership development, so 4GGL has developed a cost effective and innovative delivery method to make it possible.  They partner with community schools and local organizations to deliver socially and culturally appropriate training and mentoring to local trainers who then develop leadership skills in the girls they serve.   4GGL also partners with colleges and universities to train and mentor young women.  Investing in these young girls and women provides each of them the opportunity to empower herself and change her world.

A Huffington Post article describes one example of the 4GGL local action in Nepal.  Their project is working with a local organization (Empowering Women of Nepal) to help train young women as trekking guides.  Through this training they are building leadership skills and confidence in girls from Nepal.

Jin met a woman named Saraswati while she was in Nepal.  Saraswati was born into the lowest caste and her destiny was decided when she was born.  She left school early to help support her family.  When Jin asked her if she had completed school, Saraswati stated that it was better for her to send her money home to help send her brothers to school.  Jin told Saraswati that she was valuable enough to serve as one of the program’s lead trainers and Saraswati decided that she would return to school.

4GGL is unique because it targets the mindsets and cultural norms about the value of girls and through changing those norms, helps girls realize their full potential.  4GGL works to create sustainable communities where the locals seek change in themselves, moving girls from being victims of poverty to becoming a powerful force for change.

How can you help?

Donations can be made to 4GGL directly on their website or through their Razoo donation page.  You can also spread the word about the 4GGL organization or contact them at to find specific ways to help!

You can learn more about 4GGL at their website,  You can also follow them on Facebook or YouTube.


Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , ,

Art Buddies

Today is my husband’s birthday.  While Brent has many talents, one that stands out is his talent to draw.  He frequently entertains our children at a restaurant by drawing with them.  So, today, in honor of his birthday, I am writing about a program that pairs artistic adults with kids to use the power of creativity to change their lives.

Art Buddies was founded by Sue Crolick, a former Art Director.  In 1993, Sue organized an event for the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists to help kids at St. Joseph’s Home for Children in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In 1994, Sue took a leap; she closed her design business and started Creatives for Causes.  She was driven by her passion to help children and started a program called Art Buddies that paired creative mentors from advertising and design industries one-on-one with kids from low-income families.  The program is based on the belief in the power of creativity and one-on-one attention can change the life of a child.  The Art Buddies program helps kids discover their creative gifts, believe in themselves, and dream big.  The children feel joy and pride in their success, and the mentors love watching them grow and help them succeed.  Over the past 17 years, the Art Buddies program has served over 1,800 kids.

The program lasts several weeks.  In the first week, the students are paired with their buddy to discuss their career aspirations.  They have the ability to try on several career outfits such as police officers, architects, dancers, firefighters, and photographers, just to name a few.  Then the buddies help the children sketch out their own career outfit.  The next several weeks of the program the buddy and child work together to design and build their career outfit using cardboard, fabric, paper, and other art supplies.  The program ends with a professional photographer taking pictures of each child in their own career outfit and a parade through the school.

There are many testimonial stories on their website, one that the organization shared with me about I thought really demonstrated the power of the program.  Andy is an eight year old child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  At school, Andy avoided other kids and didn’t want to engage with other people.  In the fall of 2011, he enrolled in Art Buddies at his school and was paired with an Art Buddy named Eric, a creative director at a local web design firm.  At the start of the program, Andy was out of control and unable to focus.  Even though Eric wasn’t familiar with ASD, he came back the next week and patiently kept trying to engage with Andy.  Gradually the two worked together and Andy slowly started to change.  He became so interested in his costume that he was able to focus more and he loved putting on his costume and showing it off.  Andy also started engaging with other kids who were in the program.  By the end of the program, Andy had a new confidence in himself; he now walks to classes on his own, talks to other students, and even developed a few friendships.

After 17 years in operation, Art Buddies is now expanding to serve even more kids and involve even more creative mentors in the community. They now need twice as many volunteers, twice as many donations, and twice as many supplies to keep the program going and growing!

How can you help?

  • Be an Art Buddy to work one-on-one with a child for 7 to 10 weeks during after school time.  You can watch their video to see what it’s like!
  • Make a cash donation on their website.
  • You can also join their mailing list to learn about fundraising events.
  • Donations of supplies are also always welcome.  You can view photos of the costumes kids have made for ideas on supplies, but they love all sort of wild and exciting materials!  Some suggestions include feathers, fabrics, cardboard, glue, pipe cleaners, fake flowers, tape, colored foil, and more!

You can learn more about Art Buddies on their website,  You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  In addition, you can stay connected with Art Buddies by signing up for their e-mail list.


Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: