Friday, February 27, 2009

Great new trend: Giving to the Giver

Last month (I think), I posted about the Starbucks "Pledge 5" free coffee for anyone promising to volunteer at least 5 hours in 2009. Well, DebbieLynne over at On The Banks of Stony Creek kindly posted this week about the Perry Ellis "Roll your sleeves up" offer: submit proof of 20 hours of volunteer work performed between Jan 20 and May 20 and get a free white men's office shirt. Wait, that sounded bad - any color man can wear this shirt, it's the shirt that's white.

Of course, I'm not a man and I'm not involved with one at the moment, so what to do about this rather generous offer? Well, donate it of course! Most of the "kids" who sleep at the shelter are 16-19, and a few older ones who've only recently moved into some kind of city housing come for dinner. The shelter manager occasionally mentions the need for decent work clothes whenever one of the kids gets a job, e.g. khakis and a white shirt. So when it comes time to submit my paperwork, I'll just ask her whose sizes I should get. Of course, we're talking about people who probably have no idea what their neck or sleeve length is...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I donate from my coupon capers

Now that I've finally dug out the download cable for my digital camera, I thought you might like to see the "haul" I've got on the go for my first visit to Bottomless Closet and my ~8th visit to the Homeless Youth Services shelter. I got most of this stuff free or nearly free...maybe $15 that I won't get back in rebates/rewards. Heck, that's like buying the cereal and getting all the other stuff for free (which is saying a lot for all that L'Oreal and Almay make-up!).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pulling in my littlest sister

When my littlest sister (both in terms of height and age...she's 29) visited back around Thanksgiving, I played ATM and gave her cash in return for a check made out to one of the charities I donate to. She looked at it longingly and said she wished she had money to give away. Well, she probably won't for a few years yet, but I think I've come up with a solution to get her in the habit without costing her anything.

You know how most rebates are only one per household? Well, what if, when I buy multiple items like that, I submit one of them with her details...and once there's $20 or so accumulated, she can make a donation? I mean, the original money spent will have come from my ThaiForGood sessions, and it's essentially being "recycled" - first I get to buy something for one charity with it, then the cash gets donated to another.

The first thing I want her to try is applying $25 to a Kiva loan because it's interactive, personal, and comes with a lot of feedback. I think she'd really like that. After that, I could get her to think about what kinds of causes she'd like to support, then research a few and make suggestions. Hopefully she'll find it interesting enough to start reading up on such things on her own, but if not, she'll at least have the basics.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Saturday Night at the Shelter

Cooking dinner with Dani and her boyfriend at the Homeless Youth Services shelter for GBLT teens & young adults was a FASCINATING experience on more than a few levels. Here are the highlights...

The Kids
As I'd noted in previous visits, there's a fairly typical assortment of "types" - some are polite and helpful, some are sociable, some are sullen. One kid wanted to tell me all about his CT scan that morning, another kept asking us a question that made no sense, one warned us that we should hide the cereal because it wouldn't survive 5 minutes in the open, and the sweetest were these two big teddy-bear guys who wanted to show off how well they chop vegetables. The age range seems to be 16-20 ... some of them have recently transitioned to public housing but stop by for dinner when they don't have food.

"Hey, it's real shepherd's pie, not that watery sh*t they serve at the church!"
So said one kid to another, when kid #2 showed disappointment at the menu. We chose shepherd's pie because they don't get much meat, and when they do, it's chicken. Plus, Dani found a great price on ground beef.

The inclusion of cheese brought all the kids over for a look. Mental note: recipes with cheese are a big hit.

The Pantry
Dani & I sifted through the contents of the unpadlocked fridge (no idea what was in the locked one) and the rack of shelves to see what kind of things they were being supplied with so we wouldn't double up. Not a chance - 50% of the pantry was canned yams, and they recently got a delivery of about 100 lbs of potatoes. As I put a few containers of oatmeal on the shelf, one of the kids mentioned that grits are equally and maybe more popular...but then, that might have been a self-serving remark, heh.

"You're straight?? So why are you helping us?"
I know most of these kids ran away from home or were thrown out because they're gay. I guess they haven't been in NYC long enough to realize that things like that don't matter that much. We were apparently a demonstration of acceptance, and I'd argue that that will have a more enduring impact than dinner and 6 boxes of Frosted Flakes. Dani's mother wants to join in the cooking at some point, maybe in a couple of weeks - that will completely blow their minds.

The Lump
I'm not the only one who finds the girl who supervises really awkward. I'd say "useless", but she posts wish lists and benefit info to a Yahoo Group, which obviously works or else I wouldn't even be writing this post. In real life, she's a lump. No eye contact, no acknowledgement of your presence, no quick tour of the kitchen before cooking, no interest in seeing what we brought. Heck, the only reason we kept aside a plate of meatless shepherd's pie for her was because one of the kids told us she was vegetarian.

Free Lipstick for Trannies?
I'm not the only one who doesn't think this is the best use for free cosmetics - Dani actually brought it up first, but it echoed my own thoughts from my first visit to the shelter as well. Not that there aren't "real girls" at this shelter, but they are the minority and less likely to be caked in make-up than the transvestites. So I'm collecting such things for Bottomless Closet, an organization that helps disadvantaged and victimized women get back on their feet with workshops (budgeting, interviewing, etc), work-appropriate clothing, and a goody-bag of toiletries. I plan to drop off my first donation in about 2 weeks.