Philanthropy

Annual Tea: ScholarShare helps parents take the first steps

It seems that every time I turn around, there is another story on the news about college tuition prices going up, or on student loans reaching the trillion dollar mark. I, myself, am one of those who have more student debt than I care to admit. That’s why, if and when my daughter decides to go to college, I want to make sure we have a plan.

This year, we were delighted to have ScholarShare’s support as a Tea Stand Sponsor at our Annual Benefit Tea held on April 25th in San Francisco. We are excited to be partnering with ScholarShare – not only are we happy to get the word out to our supporters about the importance of saving for college, but we, too, have been inspired by talking with Garianne Dashiell, a TIAA-CREF consultant. True story – after talking with Garianne, both Lisa and Anna are ready to sign up!

 

I (Anna) was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with Garianne before the Tea. Full disclosure: I was a little intimidated about talking to an investment consultant. I’m no pro when it comes to money management, and I’m certainly out of my element when it comes to investing. But Garianne said this is one of the best parts of her job: helping to break down the misconceptions parents have about investing for college.

“As the mom of a college freshman, I know what it feels like to wonder where the money for college is going to come from,” said Garianne. That’s one of the reasons she does what she does: it feels important to her to get the word out to as many parents as she can that planning is possible and it’s relatively easy.

TIAA-CREF Consultant Garianne Dashiell

How easy, you ask? Color me surprised: To open a 529 account, all you need is $25. *That’s it.* That’s less than a week’s worth of my morning coffee indulgence. That’s less than half a tank of gas. That’s a dinner out with a friend.

That’s pretty easy.

And that’s all you need each month – a minimum of $25 to put towards your child’s college education. I’m not saying I don’t love my morning coffee, but when I weigh it against my daughter’s education? Well, college wins every time.

Another great feature of the ScholarShare plan is that other people can gift into it. Grandparents or aunts and uncles or friends can choose to contribute to your child’s 529 in lieu of gifting your household with tiny plastic toys that you step on in your bare feet. (Legos hurt, AmIRite?) Garianne told me the story of a baby she knew whose young, getting-on-their-feet parents asked for 529 contributions for his first birthday, rather than gifts. When all was said and done, that toddler had over $1000 to invest in his college education. By the time he was one! That’s impressive stuff.

Thanks so much to Garianne and ScholarShare for investing in Help a Mother Out, so that we can continue empowering moms through our life changing diaper program.

If you’re interested in learning more about ScholarShare, you can check out their website at scholarshare.com. And be sure to note that this coming May 29th is 529 Day, and Scholarshare will match your $50 contribution to a new Scholarshare account with $50 of their own. Or, if you want to talk to Garianne, she says “Call me! I’d love to chat. You can reach me 415-882-3626 or gdashiell@tiaa-cref.org.”

Giving Tuesday Challenge Match: EBay Foundation

It’s #GivingTuesday and we are thrilled to announce that EBay Inc. Foundation has generously offered to match your gift today, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500. Click to GIVE.

“Natalie was living in a trailer and did not have enough money for diapers. She was forced to use folded shirts. She was embarrassed to go to her baby’s doctor. After she received diaper assistance, she overcame her fear of going out in public with her child.”

– Beth, Social Worker

Our goal before the end of March 2015 is to distribute over 250,000 diapers to low-income families. Bottom line: even by the truckload, diapers cost money. We do this because our diaper program changes lives. Our friends at EBay, Inc. Foundation recognize the important work that we do and we know that YOU do to. Please consider this matching opportunity your chance to do a little extra good on #GivingTuesday. GIVE NOW.

Thank you for your amazing support of our mission!

Please Read: Leave it to the Big O, aka my Oprah story

A mother whose child did not yet have medical insurance had to use the last of her money to pay for medicine. This left her without money for diapers so we gave her a few days supply. Those diapers made all the difference.

~ Peggy, Social Worker

Dear Friends,

Before I co-founded Help A Mother Out (HAMO) I was a stay at home mom, focused on raising my two young children (then ages 9 months and 3 years old). I remember poring over countless parenting books and blogs, and fretting about whether my kids were getting enough sleep, nutrition, and intellectually stimulating experiences. And while I wasn’t keenly aware of it then, I now know that my husband and I are extremely blessed to be able to provide the most basic needs for our kids.

On a day in February 2009, after viewing the Oprah Winfrey show about how the Great Recession was impacting struggling families, I knew I had to do something to help. My first thought was to host a children’s clothing drive, but after reaching out to a handful of social service agencies, I learned about diaper need. The thought of a young child spending the entire day in the same diaper just broke my heart. I quickly learned that reliable access to diapers is the cornerstone for healthy babies, healthy communities, and a family’s ability to thrive.

Everyday I am grateful that HAMO gets to do something about this problem. Everyday I am in awe that a home grown project with a start up investment of $100, could help so many struggling families, as well as inspire action in many others (including many of you!). Together we have done a lot of good. Nearly 750K diapers have been distributed through our network of partners, including homeless centers, family resource centers, public health departments, and food pantries. Equally important, we have raised awareness and advocated for needy families. And, we’ve accomplished all of this on a tiny budget.

We are proud of our accomplishments, but the truth is our organization has a lot of work ahead of us. Our vision is a day when every baby has an adequate supply of diapers, and for every agency we have been able to help, we have had to turn two away due to lack of resources. Advocating for and getting diapers to families in need takes real financial resources. We are inviting you to “adopt” Help A Mother Out this holiday season.

For us to do our crucial work we need funds to pay for general operating and program expenses. You may think that your gift of $30, $50, $100, or any amount that is meaningful to you, may be just a drop in the bucket, but in reality, your help is actually what makes this whole operation possible. Since we started Help A Mother Out, 85-percent of monetary gifts collected have come from individuals like you.

Thank you for helping us to help more mothers, children, and caregivers in 2012.

Wishing you and your family peace, joy and abundance,

Lisa Truong, co-founder, executive director

On behalf of the entire Help A Mother Out family and network

p.s. We are pleased and very grateful to announce between November and December 31st, our friends at Huggies Every Little Bottom will match your monetary gift for unrestricted funds, with an in kind diaper donation – up to 300K diapers. Your timing doesn’t get any better to help.Thank you for your generosity and believing in our work.

Thank You: Southern Marin Mother’s Club

A few weeks ago HAMO was invited to attend the Southern Marin Mother’s Club annual bbq. It was a lovely, down home, carnival-themed affair. They had a clown, cotton candy, airbrush tattoos, and the requisite jumpy house.

Cool tie-in with their diaper drive?

Dunk tank.

For every diaper or monetary donation to HAMO, attendees (many of them children) got a ticket for a chance to dunk one of the club’s board members in the dunk tank! It was just a fun activity, probably not for the dunkeee, but still. How cool was that?

Special thanks to Molly and Adrienne of SMMC for all of their efforts to include HAMO in this wonderful event. In the end SMMC collected 1,324 diapers + 2000 wipes + diapering funds. We were honored to share the afternoon with you all!

Are we friends yet? We hope you will join us over on Facebook!

SoCal: #BlogHer11 Virtual Diaper Drive #hamo

This coming week some of the team will be at BlogHer ’11.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re hosting a service project to coincide with the conference, in hopes of raising much needed diaper funds we’d like to raise to benefit our Southern California families. Specifically, we have three agencies located in San Diego, Inland Empire, and east Los Angeles, who are currently on the waiting list to receive diapers.

Whether you are attending the conference or not, you can help us make a difference.

Bonus: We’re giving away an iPad, generously donated by our friends at Momversation, to one lucky online donor. And as of this writing, your chances look really good to win!

How you can help:

Spread the word about our virtual diaper drive. Official rules and more good stuff can be found via our event page.

Your online gift of $10 or more enters you to our iPad giveaway contest. Go ahead, click the BLUE button and help a mother out!

SF Bay Area Diaper Program Needs Help With Storage

We are on the hunt for temporary donated storage for our San Francisco Bay Area diaper program.

If you or someone you know is in the commercial real estate business, or owns a storage facility, we’d love your help in procuring donated space for the next six to nine months.

Here are the deets:

  • We’re looking for donated space – rent free/trade (December 2010)
  • Ideal cities: San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Alameda
  • 750 square feet of warehouse-type storage space (shared  is fine!)
  • We need to be able to store pallets of product.
  • Access to loading dock a plus.
  • We need access to the space 1-3 times per month.

We’re low maintenance!

  • We have a virtual office, so we don’t need desk space.
  • We can offer our donor promotional consideration via our website and social media channels.
  • If desired, we can drive traffic to your location by holding community events.

Most importantly, our donor will be doing a tremendous good deed and make a significant impact on the work we do to help struggling families in the greater Bay Area.

Know someone? Please pass it on!

Contact: lisa (at) helpamotherout (dotorg)

Photo credit: Wendy Copley

Giving Back Spotlight: Whitney of RookieMoms.com

During our Give Cheeks a Chance! September campaign, local Bay Area blogger, Whitney of RookieMoms.com pledged to raise 1000 diapers for our partner agency, WDDC. She ended up raising 2500 diapers!  We are eternally grateful to Whitney, for being an early supporter of our campaign, and for turning rhetoric into action!

This is a cross post from RookieMoms.com.

At the beginning of September, I set out to rally my peeps for a diaper drive. I was inspired by Help A Mother Out and figured that between my children’s two schools, my family, neighbors, and friends, I would be able to generate a 1000-diaper donation for my nearby women’s drop-in center. They serve a population of women who don’t always have the money for diapers they need and whose public assistance funds are not always applicable for diapers.

Now for my bragging
Thanks my neighbors and friends, the box I placed outside my side door got filled many times over with diapers. When I first counted and realized I was at 600, I began to worry that 1000 was a lofty goal. I sent a status update email to motivate my network. I cheered myself on publicly via Facebook. As my self-assigned deadline approached, the diapers appeared at a faster pace. I was excited.

I attended a little gathering of bloggers at an E.L.F. make-up party and asked those ladies to donate. Some gave diapers and some gave me cash. (Turns out that women who have never themselves shopped for diapers are overwhelmed by the thought of choosing a size and brand.) The cash was worth even more than the face value as my husband took it to CVS and used some heavy-weight coupons and his clever math strategery to maximize the number of diapers he brought home.

Photo from RookieMoms.com

I was proud. I had about 1500 diapers spread all over the floor in my home office. I took them to the Women’s Drop-In Center and spent the rest of the day feeling like a powerful superhero.

And then. More.

My friend Kimberley, a recipient of my email call to action, passed the word about my drive to her associates at Safeway, our regional grocery chain. The marketing person in charge of their house brand, Mom to Mom, decided she would match my drive with a generous donation of 1000 diapers from Safeway. I picked them up at my local store and headed back to the Women’s Drop-In center. I hope that the Mom to Mom team spent the rest of their day feeling like superheroes.

Photo from RookieMoms.com

Frequently Asked Question: What about cloth?
When I initially posted about this and also asked my neighbors for donations, many asked why these folks do not use cloth diapers. Yes, for those of us who have a predictable place to hang our diaper bags each night, cloth diapers may be a money-saving choice. Imagine you are in transition, however. Different friends and shelters are serving as your bed each night. Or perhaps your apartment does not have a laundry facility on site, and laundromats do not allow diaper washing for sanitary reasons. For those folks and for the truly homeless, carting around soiled diapers until laundry becomes available is simply not practical.

Did anyone else take my challenge and become a diaper superhero? What are you waiting for?

Knitting as Public Service

Photo via Becca

Today’s guest post is from Becca Freed, who was there for the birth of Help a Mother Out, even if she (and we) didn’t know it at the time. As she describes below, this past spring Becca organized a learn-to-knit benefit party for the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, which both Lisa and I attended. With apologies to Becca — who was a thoughtful, extremely patient instructor — for us the most salient lesson of the day was about the crucial work done by the WDDC, and about their urgent needs. That day, everything clicked, and a few days later, Lisa and I started sketching out a plan for a Mother’s Day diapers-and-wipes donation drive, newly dubbed Help a Mother Out. We may not have quite gotten the hang of knitting yet, but only because we’ve been too busy trying to make good on the connections and inspiration we got that day.

***

Some knitters seem to think there is no problem that can’t be solved by knitting something. Whether it’s for servicepeople deployed to combat zones or a neighbor who’s lost everything in a house fire, a certain type of knitter will always leap into the breach and organize a drive to knit socks or a cozy blanket or a prayer shawl.

I’ve been knitting and crocheting since childhood, and don’t get me wrong–I’ve done my fair share of charity needlecraft, starting with granny-square lap robes for my local nursing home when I was in junior high. I just don’t think that knitting is the right response for every problem. For one thing, it’s slow. Do you know how long it takes to knit even a preemie cap? If handknits were really the solution to a problem, there would be a serious imbalance between supply and demand. That’s a bit facetious, but I wonder if all that knitting time wouldn’t be better spent lobbying or protesting for change, and whether knitted donations aren’t more about gratifying the the donor than fulfilling a need.

I had these doubts in mind when I approached the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center and asked if they needed a knitting teacher. I suspected my own motives and wondered whether I was offering something frivolous. But the volunteer coordinator assured me that to teach knitting to homeless and low-income women was to give them something of value –that the center’s clients needed more than just food, clothing, and shelter. I was reminded by this that homeless women and children are whole people; by offering a knitting class I would be honoring their creative impulses.

I’ve been teaching knitting and crochet at the center for about a year and a half now, and I see that the women and older kids do benefit from it. I’ve seen a piece of knitting in someone’s hands that takes their mind off anxieties and drug urges. Knitting can fill time waiting in social service offices, or waiting for the overnight shelter to open in the evening. A handmade hat or bag could be something to sell. But more frequently the clients benefit from knitting or crocheting the same ways that I do: acquiring a new skill is stimulating and satisfying; needlecrafting with a group is a nice way to socialize; and there’s just plain sensual pleasure in having beautifully colored and textured yarn running through your fingers.

Teaching at the Drop-in Center is fairly different from conducting a class at, say, a yarn store. Unstructured is the name of the game. I never know who will be there or what their skill set will be, so having a specific lesson to get through or project to finish is out of the question. Most of the time I teach casting on and the basic knit stitch (the very first steps to learning how to knit) over and over–and that’s OK. The clients at the center don’t know where they will be from week to week, and sometimes their stuff gets stolen because they’re living in a shelter with no secure storage. It’s fine with me if they take their supplies with them, or I can hold onto them from week to week. If I have to give someone a fresh set of needles and yarn every time they come, that’s not a problem. I rely on donated materials (but fellow knitters keep me supplied with yarn), and I’ve found some cheap sources of needles and crochet hooks.

I have to be ready for anything, including women who challenge my skills; I’m not a great crocheter, so I’ve had to brush up in order to help them. Often women have learned from their mothers or grandmothers and just need a refresher, and then it’s very possible that they’ll surpass my know-how.

I also get challenged personally on occasion, maybe by a client who’s in a volatile mood and ready to argue. That’s one of the ways that this volunteer gig has forced me to stretch and step out of my own comfort zone. I’ve learned to stay calm (at least on the outside) and communicate assertively. Even if my first impulse is to get out of the conflict by leaving the situation, I can ride it out and retain a respectful relationship with the client (and still mostly respect myself).

As much as I doubted my motives when I began, I also doubted my abilities. I doubted that I would know how to talk to women with lives so different from mine, and I was afraid of inadvertently saying something insensitive. With the volunteer coordinator’s help, I came to understand that it doesn’t take any special skill to meet someone where they are. You just listen to them, and respond the way you’d like to be talked to yourself.

I’ve also never thought that I had what it takes to be a teacher–I lack patience, and I can have a sharp tongue. But I’ve learned that I do know how to impart this particular skill, step by step, to another person. I can say “No, that’s not it–do it this way” nicely and without frustration, and I can cheer a client on when she gets the tricky part, and makes it to the end of the row. The opportunity for this kind of personal growth has really been a gift from the women to me. And more than anything else, being able to share my enthusiasm for knitting is very rewarding–I get a charge out of watching the clients ooh and ah over yarn or admire what they’ve made.

Of course the center is constantly scrambling for funds–it takes a lot of money to provide services to 150 women and children a month, including lunch every weekday. Last spring I hosted a “learn-to-knit” party with a good friend, to raise funds for the center and raise its profile among my friends and acquaintances. As a moneymaker it was modestly successful, but snagging the support of Rachel and Lisa of Help a Mother Out was a huge win.

I hope my tale shows that sharing your passion with the world is not frivolous, and can reap benefits you never expected.

***

You can help the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center by purchasing supplies off their wishlist here. Enormous thanks to Becca for introducing us to both the WDDC and the world of knitting.