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Color A Smile

Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~Albert Einstein

Color A Smile

One of my favorite things that my daughter has brought home from school is a journal.  It was actually a series of drawings that showed her memories throughout the year.  A child’s drawing can put a smile on your face and warm your heart.  Today’s organization is spreading smiles through art.

In 1986, Jerry Harris was visiting a friend when he noticed how cheerful their refrigerator door looked with all the colorful artwork from their children.  Jerry’s children were not yet old enough to draw, but he realized how a cheerful drawing can make people smile and brighten their day.  A schoolteacher friend agreed to have her class draw the first batch of pictures to distribute to seniors, adults who live alone, shut-ins and anyone else who wanted them and Color A Smile was born.

The mission of Color A Smile is to provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to experience the rewards of volunteering.  Their main program is collecting crayon drawings from school children to distribute to senior citizens and active military personal overseas.  They are based in Morristown New Jersey, but they receive drawings from every one of the United States and even a few other countries.

Color A Smile

Jerry Harris told me in an e-mail that they receive thank you letters every day from people who receive drawings from the program.  “People say how the drawings make them smile and remind them that someone is thinking about them and took the time to send them a cheerful greeting.”  They have boxes of cards and letters full of thanks and encouraging the organization to keep sending more drawings.  In addition, many parents, teachers, and scout leaders thank them for a program that allows young children to participate and learn the joy of volunteering.  Kids who participate in the program learn that they can help someone else by using the skills and resources available to them in their own home and school.

Since starting in 1986, Color A Smile has sent over one million drawings.  They are proud to have sent drawings to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as thousands of seniors in the United States.  Color A Smile provides a unique opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to make a difference.  Jerry Harris states, “Everyone can help us to spread smiles as long as they like to create cheerful colorful drawings.”

How can you help?

  • Anyone can color a cheerful drawing for Color A Smile to distribute.  Simply go to to download pages to color.  Then simply mail your completed drawings to the address listed here.
  • You can also nominate someone to receive drawings or request to receive a group of drawings each month for a nursing home on their website.
  • You can also spread cheer by sharing the monthly masterpieces that Color A Smile posts on their website.
  • You can also send a monetary donation to Color A Smile at PO Box 1516, Morristown NJ 07962-1516.

You can learn more about Color A Smile on their website,  You can also contact the founder, Jerry Harris, directly at or 973-540-9222.



Posted by on February 27, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Cancer Poetry Project

The Cancer Poetry Project

I come across organizations to write about in a variety of ways; random searches, suggestions, my own experiences, and happening upon them, to name a few.  Today’s post falls into that “happening upon them” category.  I actually saw someone mention the Cancer Poetry Project on a chalk board at a local coffee house and after looking into it, I decided that it would make a great story for The Blogunteer.

When Karin Miller was expecting her first child, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  This took Karin on an emotional roller coaster and she turned to writing poetry to help sort out her feelings.  After her husband went into remission and her daughter was born, she kept writing poetry.  One morning she woke up with the idea of creating a poetry book written by a variety of people who have been touched by cancer.  She told me that “it felt like a calling.”  

The Cancer Poetry Project book was published in September 2007.  The profits from the book go toward cancer organizations.  The two of Karin’s favorite organizations that have been supported by the book are Gilda’s Club and Cancer Legal Line.  Karin is currently working on a second volume to be published in early 2013 which will include about 140 poems selected from over 1,000 submitted poems.  The top 12 poems chosen received a cash prize plus each were able select their favorite cancer organization to give a donation in his or her name. 

Every poem in both volumes is followed by a brief bio of the poet including who he or she wrote the poem about and why the situation moved them to the write the poem.  Karin mentioned, “I like to provide context for each poem.”  She also mentioned that readers often tell her how much it means to them to understand the stories behind the poems. 

One poem was written by a woman who met her current husband after her children suggested she meet their friend’s dad.  He had also just lost his spouse to cancer.  They met to talk, eventually fell in love, and now have been married many years.  One poem included in the second volume was written by a five year old boy about his mother’s breast cancer. 

Many poems included have been written by people who have never written poetry until a cancer diagnosis of their own or a loved one.  Karin states, “It’s so exciting to call someone and let them know they’re going to be a published poet.”  A few poets have gone on to get publishing contracts or be featured on Garrison Keillor’s A Writer’s Almanac. 

You can help spread the word about this collection of poems by buying a copy for yourself or in memory of a loved one.  You can also have a copy sent to a favorite clinic, hospital, physician, or nurse.  Poetry offers a great addition to the lobbies and waiting rooms of hospitals.  Reading the poems in this book helps people feel not so alone during their diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.  Readers, even those who have never read poetry, are sometimes surprised to find poems that resonate so well. 

You can learn more and purchase the current book, The Cancer Poetry Project, on their website,  You can also purchase the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  You can also connect with The Cancer Poetry Project on Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Other


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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation

In recent years, there has been a lot of education about breast cancer.  Women have been taught how to perform self exams and guidelines on receiving mammograms.  With this education, we have seen the death rate for breast cancer decrease.  According to the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Facts & Figures published in 2011, breast cancer death rates decreased 2.2% per year from 1990 to 2007.  The percentage decline was larger among younger women where death rates decreased by 3.2% per year among women younger than 50.   The decline in breast cancer mortality has been attributed to both improvements in breast cancer treatment and early detection.  However, not all forms of breast cancer can be detected with traditional self exams or mammograms.  Inflammatory breast cancer tends to grow in nests or sheets, rather than a solid tumor.

In December 1996, an e-mail list was created to provide emotional support and education for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) patients, their friends, and families.  A couple years later, Owen Johnson created the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation along with others from IBC support list to focus on facilitating research of IBC.  Owen lost his wife to IBC and was moved to do more since little was being done at that time and he felt there was a need to be a voice for action.

The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation is dedicated to facilitating research to improve diagnosis, treatment, and survival of inflammatory breast cancer while also raising awareness of the disease in the lay and medical communities.  The foundation is an independent from any specific medical facility or academic organization, so they can truly act as advocates for those who contact them.

In 2005, the foundation began an inflammatory breast cancer bio-repository to aid researchers in the study of IBC.  The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation BioBank is one of just a handful of advocacy owned and operated tissue banks in the country.

In addition to the BioBank program, the foundation provides information via their website and monthly e-newsletter.  In addition, there is a toll-free number and website contact form to allow individuals to access a trained volunteer with questions.  An email discussion list allows individuals to share information, education, and support to those in the IBC community.  In addition, they worked with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) to develop a specific treatment guideline for inflammatory breast cancer and update the Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines to include detailed and thorough steps to rule out inflammatory breast cancer in patients presenting with skin changes.  These were both much needed materials to improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

How can you help?

  • One important way that anyone can help is to spread the word about IBC.  Some simple ways to do this are to share this post on Twitter or Facebook.  You can also print an informational brochure from the IBC Research Foundation’s website to share.
  • Donations to the foundation are also accepted via their website.  You can also run a fundraiser to benefit the foundation.
  • In addition, individuals affected by IBC can be an advocate in their community by sharing their story in the media or with groups. There are opportunities for individuals to represent the organization at various functions. You can contact them via their website if you want to learn more about volunteering.

To learn more about the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, please visit their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook, e-mail, their Cause page, or phone (877-786-7422).  In addition, the original online IBC support group still exists at

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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Random Acts of Kindness

February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Day in the United States. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has designated this week as RAK week!

I encourage each of you to do one thing this week for someone else.  Buy coffee for the next person in line, take cookies to a neighbor, take a meal to someone who lives alone, or scrape the windows of the car next to you in the parking lot (for those in the winter months right now).  If you want even more ideas for kindness, take a look here.

After your random act, stop by to share your story in the comments!

Update: Let’s keep the stories going.  Stop back any day of the year to share your Random Acts of Kindness – either given or received!  I am continuing to add additional stories in the comments.


Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Other


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Great American Backyard Campout

You have probably all heard about the National Wildlife Federation and their mission to inspire American’s to protect wildlife for our children’s future.  For 75 years the National Wildlife Federation has been protecting wildlife, protecting habitats, and educating us all on the great outdoors.  But today’s post is actually on just one program promoted by the National Wildlife Federation…The Great American Backyard Campout.

I grew up camping.  Each summer the family would take the popup camper to some campground – packed full of bikes, food, lawn games and more.  I learned about nature, saw wild animals, bonded with my family, and enjoyed some fresh air.  Some kids never go camping – so the “Great American Backyard Campout” offers an introduction to camping right in your own backyard. 

This event is part of the special series from National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There™ movement.  This year’s official campout event is June 25, 2011, but individuals and camping teams are encouraged to participate on a night that works for them.  Registering at will connect you with free camping resources and tools including packing lists, recipes, campfire songs, stories, and activities.  New this year is the addition of a fundraising tool for your camping team to raise money for the National Wildlife Federation. 

Camping in your backyard is a safe introduction to camping because if anything happens – you are close to the comforts of home.  Even if you aren’t into camping, you could allow the kids to sleep outside and you can sleep in your own bed.  No site is too big or too small to spend a night outside.  It could be in your backyard, in a park, at a campground or even your balcony! 

Watch this video to learn more and see some campers in action.

Even if camping isn’t your thing, the National Wildlife Federation has other great resources to help you and your family get outside and get active! 

  • Take a look at these summer games and activities. 
  • Learn more about the Hike & Seek program and find an event in your area by visiting
  • Learn about the importance of outdoor time and ways to encourage it at the home page of the Be Out There movement,
  • You can also utilize the Nature Find feature to find parks, trails, and other nature sites around the United States.

There are many ways you can help too.

  • To donate to the Great American Backyard Campout, you can visit their website.
  • To donate to a variety of National Wildlife Federation initiatives, you can visit their website to view your donation options.

You can learn more about the Great American Backyard Campout at or connect with the event on Facebook.  The Be Out There campaign is also online at and on Twitter.  You can also learn more about the National Wildlife Federation online at, on Facebook or on Twitter.


Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization


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Changing the World on a Tuesday Night

If I had written a book instead of starting a blog, it would have probably been similar to “Changing the World on a Tuesday Night” by Tammi DeVille.  The premise of this book is that all of us have something we can do – on a Tuesday night, or any night – to make a difference in the world. 

“To the World you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the World.” ~Josephine Billings

DeVille has created an inspiring book about individuals making a difference – a few minutes here and there, one hour a week, one day a month – whatever fits in your busy lives.  The book shows us ways that people are able to make a difference and what a difference is made on them in return.  DeVille writes, “This book is about ordinary people who are making an extraordinary difference.  This book is about you being one of them.” 

The book contains about 50 volunteer profiles.  The profiles talk about why the individual began volunteering, what motivates them, how volunteering has impacted their lives, and more!  Each profile also talks about the cause and points us to more information.  Here are some snippets from a couple profiles in the book.

James volunteers with Common Threads whose mission is to educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well being in addition to an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking.  He spends a few hours each week on his day off in the classroom to help kids chop, stir, and bake.  James states that the time he gives is “really nothing on the scale of the impact it will have on the kids for years to come.”

The Kordenbrock-Rider family profile demonstrates that even a busy family can make time for volunteering.  As a family of 6 (2 working parents and 4 teenagers), they spend two nights each month volunteering as a family.  Once a month they spend a few hours at a nursing home serving food and visiting with the residents.  On another night, they spend time at Welcome House, a local shelter for homeless women and children, sharing dessert and playing games.  The family gets to spend the night together – not common for a busy family.  Mom, Jennifer, states, “you get a good feeling inside knowing that you did something good for someone, and someone appreciated what you did.”

Okay, I can’t stop with just a couple.  Linda’s profile shows us that volunteering doesn’t have to be the traditional go someplace to do something in person.  Linda volunteers as a mentor for an orphaned child in Africa through an organization called Infinite Family.  Linda’s kids also get involved.  Linda enjoys the one-on-one relationship that has built between her family and their mentee.  Linda gives the following message to would-be volunteers, “Don’t hesitate, just jump in and do it.  Don’t be afraid.  The most rewarding feeling is the sense of knowing that you accomplished something and made a difference in somebody else’s life.” 

“One act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted.” ~ Aesop

In addition to all these wonderful profiles, the book is also sprinkled with inspirational quotes and volunteerism statistics.  The back of the book also offers a place for you to add your own profile, additional resources to find volunteer opportunities, and, my favorite, a worksheet to help you discover a cause that moves you! 

The mission of the book doesn’t end on the last page…it continues on the On a Tuesday Night website,  There you can find links to all the organizations mentioned in the book as well as places to find volunteer opportunities

The book can also make a difference every time it is sold!  For those who purchase the book from the website, you can select an organization that will benefit from the sale of the book. 

You can learn more about “Changing the World on a Tuesday Night” on the website,  You can also connect with the book on Facebook and Twitter to continue to be inspired. 

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Ghandi


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1000 Prayers for Japan

In March we profiled Love & Water Designs – a company giving back one t-shirt at a time.  They recently launched a special relief project for Japan called “1000 Prayers for Japan” in response to the earthquake in Japan on March 11th.  Love & Water Designs has joined with the Nagagutsu charity, an on the ground group helping with immediate relief efforts in Japan by bringing rubber boots and cotton gloves to the workers and victims of the earthquake and tsunami.  Their work has helped refugees return to their homes and sift through the rubble to locate personal belongings.

An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane.  To honor this legend, Love & Water Designs is producing 1000 limited edition t-shirts created by artists – 200 each of five different designs – with 100% of the profits going to the Nagagutsu Foundation.  Attached to each shirt will be a postcard prayer to allow you to send a message back to Japan through Love & Water Designs. 

Nagagutsu’s “Delivering Boots Project” is helping earthquake victims who have lost families, property, homes, and belongings by giving them protection they need – boots and gloves – to dig through the debris. 

You can learn more about Love & Water Designs and order a 1000 Prayers for Japan shirt at their website.

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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in Philanthropy


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