Monthly Archives: December 2012



The end of the world came and went on December 21, 2012.  The end of the world also did not happen on December 31, 1999.  I am not up on my apocalypse dates, but I am sure there are many other end-of-the-world scenarios that we have lived through and many more prophesized.  One man, Joe Oakland, decided to turn the most recent apocalypse on its head and create a “Givepocalypse” instead.  I asked Joe a few questions just before the “Givepocalypse”.


Why are you doing the Givepocalypse?

About a year ago, while watching T.V., I had noticed the ridiculous amount of End of the World/Apocalypse programming on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Science Channel, etc. I thought, “With all of these organizations trying to capitalize on the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse, why is nobody trying to actually do some good around it?”  Somebody should do something good around this idea- why not me?

Then something occurred to me that I had seen in an episode of the NBC show, Parks and Recreation.  In this show, one of the greatest characters of all-time, Ron Swanson, explained how he made a killing selling hand-carved wooden flutes to a group of Pawnee residents that predicted the apocalypse a few times every year. They would spend the night preparing for the apocalypse by playing these flutes in a park.

Predictably, the apocalypse never came, but Ron still was able to grift his ill-gotten flute money. Then I had a thought that made me laugh; if I could bring the two ideas together and organize people to donate to charity on the day before the apocalypse (instead of buying flutes) I could really do some good – and maybe give people a chuckle, too. The Givepocalypse was born.

After shelving the idea for a few months, revisiting it, and finding it basically unworkable, with too many moving parts in the concept of the organization I thought I would need to pull it off, I re-shelved the idea (maybe permanently this time).  But on November 26th, 2012, while feeling a little guilty about letting my Givepocalypse idea die on the vine, I thought “maybe I am completely overthinking this idea,” so I scrapped all of my previous ideas, and looked at the Givepocalypse anew.  I had the answer almost immediately – become an advocacy group for giving, plain and simple.

Here is the concept we have stuck to: On December 20th, 2012, the Givepocalypse, donate at least $5 to ANY charity that you support.  This was clean, simple, and doable – except that there were only 25 days until December 20th and nothing had been done besides registering email accounts and the Givepocalypse URL.

This difficulty turned into opportunity when I realized what an amazing achievement it would be to pull of any level of success in such a short period of time.  I created the concept of a “sprint-charity,” which, if I was writing the Dictionary definition, I would describe as: a charitable endeavor with a life-cycle that spans less than three months from concept development, to completion of the charitable goals or charter. Further, I would create my own blog on Tumblr called “Behind the Curtain: Making a Sprint-charity,” where I would chronicle my experiences with this new concept daily, and hopefully inspire others to chase their crazy ideas to create good as well.

Our mission was simple: Create the Givepocalypse sprint-charity drive, work extremely hard, and see how far we can get!

Finally, one of the cleverest parts of the Givepocalypse (if I do say so myself!) is the idea of giving to ANY charity that you support.  By giving to the charity that you already support, you are already motivated to follow through and actually make sure you donate on the Givepocalypse.  All we are asking you to do is make an extra donation of at least $5 on the Givepocalypse

So, how did it go?

In just 25 days from creation to the Givepocalypse and only $39 invested in its creation the co-founders Joe and Candice Oakland made a significant impact.

The following statistics are just those that were confirmed through the pledge forms and Facebook event.  The actual numbers may be higher since people may have been inspired to donate without making an official pledge.

  • 302 Pledges from Awesome People
  • At least $1510 in Donations Pledged to Organizations (though the estimate of actual donations is $6000 or higher)
  • 82 Organizations Supported – See these organizations listed the Pledge & Donate Page and keep supporting them!
  • 21 States reached including Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Arizona, Maryland, Oklahoma, Oregon, Missouri, New Hampshire, Kansas, and Hawaii
  • 6 Countries reached including the United States, Morocco, Costa Rica, Iraq, Sweden, and El Salvador

Do you see another Givepocalypse in the future?

For now, this was a one time event, but if we feel that there is more room from growth, and the idea of a day dedicated to giving, pure and simple, is an idea that people would like to get behind, we may look to do something like this again.  Rest assured though, if there is another apocalypse predicted, we will be there to do some REAL good before the “end.”

You can watch for updates on the Givepocalypse website,, and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.


Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Philanthropy


Tags: , , , ,



There is a saying the 50 is the new 40.  Advances in health care, nutrition, and lifestyle allows us to live longer.  Today’s organization is promoting successful aging for those over the age of 50.

In 1982, Marylen Mann took a tour of St Louis senior centers with Father Lucious Cervantes, the St Louis Commissioner of Aging at the time.  The centers were meeting the important basic needs but Mann saw a world of potential.  She mentioned to Father Cervantes, “we can do better for older adults” and with that OASIS (Older Adult Service and Information System) was born.  The first OASIS centers were opened in 1982 with a two year grant from the US Administration on Aging.  Over 300 people attended the launch and to register for their first programs.  In the beginning, there was misunderstanding of what the older people could do.  Today there is a great respect for what 50+ adults can offer and more ways for them to get involved in their communities.

OASIS is headquartered in St Louis, Missouri, but provides programs across the Unites States.  They promote successful aging through a three-fold approach: lifelong learning, healthy living, and social engagement.  OASIS is currently active in 40 cities in 24 states and serves more than 56,000 individuals each year.

Karen Larkin has taken the mission of OASIS to heart.  After retiring from her job as superintendent with the Tucson Parks & Recreation Department, Karen took advantage of the courses that OASIS offered on history, beading, and exercise.  She has met new people and learned things in the process.

OASIS is not just about classes for retired adults.  They connect generations through intergenerational tutoring and their CATCH Healthy Habits program.  The tutoring program connects 50+ adults who have time during the day with children in kindergarten through fourth grade to work one-on-one each week as their tutors, mentors, and friends.  The tutoring program is currently in 105 school districts.  The CATCH Healthy Habits program brings children and adults age 50+ together to learn good eating and physical activity habits for a lifetime.  Over 1,000 children and 200 adults have participated in the CATCH program to combat obesity.  The program has helped children participants eat more fruits and vegetables, increase their knowledge of nutrition, increase their physical activity, and decrease their screen time.  At the same time, the adults in the program reported a 71% increase in their physical activity.

How can you become involved?

  • If you are over 50, you can find a class near you on their website and sign up.  You could also sign up for the tutoring or healthy habits program.
  • Volunteers are also needed to teach classes since 49% of their classes are taught by volunteer instructors.  You can learn more on their website.
  • You can also make a donation to the OASIS organization on their website.

To learn more about OASIS, visit their website at  You can also connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , , ,

Maddie’s Blankets

Maddie’s Blankets

Anyone can make a difference.  However, it is sometimes hard to find an organization that has volunteer opportunities for young kids.  Today’s organization was founded by someone who struggled to find a way to give back, so she made a way.

When Maddie Pelgrim was 10 years old, she was looking for somewhere to volunteer but could not find opportunities for kids her age except for fundraising.  She had “no allowance, no job, and hadn’t won the lottery, so clearly fundraising was not [her] thing.”  She was very persistent and found a job cleaning animal cages once a week with her mom for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.  This was not her ideal way of giving back, so she kept her eyes open for other opportunities.  One night she noticed that the cats had just a thin towel or pillowcase to sleep on.  She was curious if this was comfortable so she climbed into a cage and curled up.  It only took her about five seconds to know that she was going to make a difference for these animals by making blankets for them.  Since its founding, Maddie’s Blankets has expanded to also make blankets for children in foster care and transitional housing situations.

Maddie’s Blankets is based in Oakton, Virginia and has a mission to provide kids, senior citizens, and disabled individuals an opportunity to perform community service.  In 2009, the organization became a 501c3 nonprofit as a gift to Maddie from her grandfather.

As of March of 2011, Maddie’s Blankets has donated 8000 blankets in Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, California, and Kansas by working with Girl Scout troops, church youth groups, and other community groups.  She expects to reach 10,000 blankets in December of 2012.

Maddie has received numerous stories from those who have adopted animals from a shelter that received a blanket along with their pet as well as thank you letters from the rescue organizations.  One such note posted on their Facebook page said “Thank you again for the beautiful blankets that our rescue puppies just love! It’s a little piece of home that goes with them when they get adopted.”  One young girl dragged her mother to the location that received the blanket she made until she found it in a cage.  Then she called Maddie and said, “I found my blankets – this is totally awesome.”  In addition, the police officers, foster care organizations, and low-income daycare providers who have given Maddie’s Blankets to children all rave about them and request more.

How can you help?

  • Monetary donations are accepted on the organization’s website.  One hundred percent of the donations go toward purchasing fleece for the blankets.
  • If you live in the Oakton, Virginia area, you can contact Maddie to offer your help preparing the blankets.
  • Groups can also volunteer to assemble blankets.  Maddie will travel to make blankets with your group.  She has gone to senior citizen homes, churches, Girl Scout meetings, and other places where people want to volunteer.
  • The organization also accepts donations of fleece.  If you have fleece to donate, you can mail it to PO Box 447, Oakton, VA 22124.

You can learn more about Maddie’s Blankets on her website,  You can also follow them on Facebook and contact Maddie via e-mail.

Related Posts: Doing Good Together, Habits of Kindness, and Volunteen Nation


On December, 19, 2012, Maddie’s Blankets received their 10,000th blanket!  Below is a photo of Susannah Bianco, the maker of the 10,000th blanket with Maddie Pelgrim, the founder of Maddie’s Blankets.

10000th blanket

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Feed My Starving Children

Feed My Starving Children

According to the World Food Programme, hunger is the world’s number one health risk.  It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.  Malnutrition and hunger related diseases cause 60% of deaths of children under five in developing countries.  Today’s organization is making a difference for children around the world.

In 1987, Richard Proudfit, a businessman from Minnesota, incorporated Feed My Starving Children to develop an original meal formula to feed starving children.  He had seen the needs of children in Honduras during his mission trips and felt a calling from God to make a difference.   Dr. Richard Fulmer, a food scientist at Cargill, teamed up with colleagues from Pillsbury and General Mills to develop a nutritious “Fortified Rice Soy Casserole” for malnourished children.  The formula for this rice mix was finalized in 1993 and the next year volunteer production started.  Their food is shipped via mission partners to the counties that need it.  They have distributed food to nearly 70 counties and have had more than 99.96% of their meals arrive safely.  In 2008 they worked with nutritionist Cade Fields-Gardner to develop the world’s first and only food to treat diarrhea.

I have personally volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and it is always a moving experience.  They start your experience with a video about their program.

Then after a short lesson on packing the meals, you spend time packing their formula of chicken flavored powder, dried vegetables, dried soy protein, and rice into bags and then into boxes.  Even kids can volunteer.  My daughter loves to put the ingredients into the bags and weigh the bags.  At the end of a volunteer session, you also get a sample of the meal (it tastes a bit like Rice-a-Roni).  Their locations are filled with pictures of the children who have received their food.  I have included a couple of these before and after images below.

Feed My Starving Children now has seven permanent locations in Chanhassen, Coon Rapids, and Eagan Minnesota; Aurora, Libertyville, and Schaumburg Illinois; and Tempe Arizona.  They also have an option for MobilePack events where they bring their operation to you.  You can find the already scheduled MobilePack events and learn how to host your own on their website.

How can you help?

  • If you live near one of their permanent locations, you can volunteer individually or with a group on their website.
  • You can also find already scheduled MobilePack events or learn more about hosting your own on their website.
  • You can also make a monetary donation or purchase merchandise to support their mission.

You can learn more on their website, and their blog.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Google+, and LinkedIn.

After 7 months of eating MannaPack meals twice a day, Marilyn was restored to normal development. Click the photo to read her story.

Jonise was in the Love A Child orphanage since she was 4 years old receiving Feed My Starving Children food. She is now going to school to be a bank teller. Click the photo to see her story.


Related Posts: Sow Much Good and 363 Days



Leave a comment

Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Erik’s Ranch & Retreats

Erik’s Ranch & Retreats

Most mothers would do anything for their kids.  Today’s organization was founded by a mother who wanted to ensure her son was cared for even after she was gone.

Kathryn Nordberg started Erik’s Ranch & Retreats in 2008.  She was inspired after her own experience as a mother contemplating the future for her son Erik.  Every parent of a special needs child wonders “what happens when I am gone…who will care for my child”?  When Kathryn looked around, she did not like the options she found for adults with autism.  Most of the models were structured around a center-based operation where disabled people gather to complete mundane tasks.  This model works for some people, but not for everyone.

Individuals living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can have difficulties with communication and forming relationships.  Erik’s Ranch & Retreats is built on a model that will address those needs by allowing residents to engage with the guests while doing something they enjoy.

Erik’s Ranch & Retreats is located on two properties, one in Edina, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis) and a second in Paradise Valley near Bozeman, Montana.  At the Minnesota location they offer “Erik’s Minnesota Adventures” – tours led by individuals with autism.  Each tour invites six to thirty volunteers to participate in one of many adventures, such as a behind the scenes tour of a local horse track, learning about St. Paul’s architecture, or a visit to an art studio.  These are not your traditional volunteer opportunities; these are chances to help build a person by giving their passion a place in society.  You can learn more about the current tours offered as well as additional information on the program on their website.

Ricky, who works part time as an experience guide of the 1960’s Counter Culture and the History of Aviation During World War II tour said, “Erik’s Minnesota Adventures means a lot to me because I’ve always had the dream of being a history teacher.  With my tours I am finally able to help people and teach them something they might not have known before.”

The Minnesota location also offers a special needs riding program where volunteers assist trainers and staff in giving therapeutic horseback riding lessons for individuals age 5 to 35.  You can read more about the riding program and sign up here.

At the organization’s Montana location, they will start offering a voluntour vacation that allows guests to experience natural surroundings, excellent food, as well as a pool and spa.  Several activities and tours such as cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing will be led by a resident experience guide.  Learn more about this ranch vacation opportunity on their website.

The organization is guided by the principals of lifelong learning, individual community building, and bidirectional integration through voluntourism.  These opportunities offer their residents individualized life plans in exciting and challenging careers, opportunities to build connections and relationships, and a new paradigm for expanding the life and social skills for individuals with autism.  The guests and volunteers at each location will be able to see the world through the eyes of a young adult with autism while the residents and tour guides can share their knowledge, passion, and talents with others.  These are opportunities that may not have occurred otherwise and offer a meaningful way for the residents to engage with guests and fulfill their social needs.

Once the program is fully operational, both the ranch in Montana and the retreat in Minnesota will be fully self-sustaining and serve as a home for 84 permanent residents (49 in Montana and 35 in Minnesota).

How can you help?

  • Since Erik’s Ranch & Retreats is still new, they could use help getting the word out about their program.  Spread the word about their programs on Facebook and Twitter by sharing this blog post.
  • You can let them know you are interested in volunteering by filling out the form on their website.  To volunteer for the riding program, you can contact Chelsea at
  • If you live in Minnesota or are visiting the Twin Cities area, you can volunteer to take a tour.  Learn about all the available tours and sign up here.
  • They also accept financial donations on their website.

You can learn more about Erik’s Ranch & Retreats on their website, or by watching the video below.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.   You can also sign up for their e-newsletter by e-mailing them at




1 Comment

Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Threads for Teens

Threads for Teens

Sometimes an organization evolves slowly from idea to fruition.  Today’s organization went from inspiration to making a difference in a very short time and shows that anything is possible when you put your mind to something.

In January of 2010, Allyson Ahlstron read “Generation Change” by Zach Hunter, a book that detailed different service projects that teenagers had done across the country.  She immediately became inspired to do something within her own community.  Within weeks she had chosen the name Threads for Teens and a logo and started working on her idea to outfit ten deserving girls in two brand-new head-to-toe outfits.  It has since evolved into a clothing boutique that provides clothing to underprivileged girls in foster care, group homes, or extreme situations of poverty.

Threads for Teens is a clothing boutique located in Windsor, California and has a goal to help young, less fortunate girls build their self-esteem and confidence.  They work to accomplish this through gifts of clothing, support, and education.  The boutique is in a retail location and decorated to look like a real store, but it open by appointment only and everything is free.  Since their opening in August 2010, Threads for Teens has served over 250 girls by providing them with two brand new head-to-toe outfits.  Over $125,000 in clothing donations and over $55,000 in monetary contributions have been made to the organization to date.

Founder Allyson told me, “If we can just brighten the days and lives of a few girls, we can change it for all the disadvantaged girls by spreading the word thanks to modern day communications. We are the future leaders of the world; if we can give each other confidence, nothing can stop us. No mountain is too high, no forest is too thick, and no ocean is too vast from giving girls everywhere the opportunity to succeed.”

Allyson also shared the story of a girl named Brittany who was helped by Threads for Teens.  She was quiet but happy throughout her shopping experience in August of 2010.  About a year later, a social worker called to share that after shopping at the Threads for Teens boutique Brittany found the self-esteem to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a mechanic.

How can you help?

  • You can volunteer to organize clothing or facilitate shopping appointments in the boutique.
  • You can donate used formal dresses in excellent condition for prom season as well as new clothing for teens.
  • Threads for Teens also accepts monetary donations on their website.
  • You can also take a look at the website to nominate a teen girl that meets the organization’s criteria.
  • During the summer of 2013, Threads for Teens will be going on a national tour to outfit 1,000 girls in a brand-new outfit.  They are seeking some special help for this tour including clothing, publicity, hotel and flight sponsorships.  You can learn more and see their list of cities here.

You can learn more about Threads for Teens on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Wyman Center, Bridge for Youth, and Cinderella Project

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Cancer Survivors Club

The Cancer Survivors Club

“Cancer is a journey, but you walk the road alone. There are many places to stop along the way and get nourishment – you just have to be willing to take it.”  ~ Emily Hollenberg, cancer survivor

Each person’s journey through cancer diagnosis and treatment is unique, but there are threads that tie their stories together.  Today’s post is about a book that hopes to help share those common threads to support others going through treatment.

Chris Geiger was a healthy and athletic twenty-four year old man when he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and told he only had three months to live.  Over the next two years he endured operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant before he was finally in remission.  After his treatment, he started writing light-hearted columns for local and national newspapers about cancer issues.  He admits, “I am not a writer, I come from a computer software background,” but his writing has earned him awards including the 2011 “Columnist of the Year” award sponsored by EDF Energy and a Guinness World Record for the “Most Published Newspaper Article”.

Since his remission, Chris has met and spoken with many newly diagnosed cancer patients.  During one of these conversations in 2009, Chris remembered back to his diagnosis and his desire to read stories of other “normal” cancer survivors for encouragement and guidance.  He began his personal campaign to help patients and their families and “The Cancer Survivor Club” book was a result.

The book is filled with stories submitted from readers of Chris’s columns and a radio tour he did.  The stories come from men and women of a variety of ages who have survived a variety of cancers.  The main focus of the book is to help, encourage and inspire anyone touched by cancer.  In addition it provides current sufferers with a distraction from the worries of daily treatment, by encouraging them to think about life once they have become a survivor themselves.  Chris says, “I want to encourage cancer survivors to act almost like ambassadors, by using their experience to support and inspire other people who are currently receiving treatment; until they too become survivors.”

The book includes a letter named “Dear Tumour”, in which Chris writes “I now can’t do things by halves, can’t sit around doing nothing, can’t waste a moment of tis life I managed to save. You taught me how precious every day is and how fragile we all are.”  He is taking that manta to heart by not only helping those with cancer, but also working to support cancer charities.  Chris gives free talks to cancer groups and centers across the United Kingdom and donating the book profits as well.  You can find a list of these events here.  Chris hopes to publish this book bi-annually so he encourages those going through treatment to keep a journal and make a goal to submit their story.

One story was from Shelly Ostrouhoff.  In “Cancer is a Word, not a Sentence”, she writes, “I never once thought anyone else could be going through what I was experiencing.  It felt like I was the only one in the world with cancer.”

You can learn more about the Cancer Survivors Club and purchase the book at  You can connect with the book on Facebook and Twitter.  You can also follow Chris Geiger on Twitter.

Related post: The Cancer Poetry Project

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Other


Tags: , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: