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Happy Giving Tuesday!

SX-70 hands

This is just one pair of the hundreds of hands I photographed for a Polaroid project a ways back…

I’m not much for these manufactured “Days of Spending” that are thrust upon us while we’re still recovering from Thanksgiving, but I do stand behind the concept of Giving Tuesday, because I think it is always important to support the folks who are doing good work and trying to make our world a better place. And the more conscious you are about giving back, the further your gifts will go. Building this muscle is crucial if we want to actually keep this planet going.

This year, my family is sitting down together (yep, all 3 of us) to decide where our year end donations will go in 2017. Transparency and agency are both so important in any relationship, and when your kids reach a certain age, it’s important to actively help them understand the role that money plays in this complicated world, as well as to instill in them a sense of generosity. (More on this to come!) Each one of us will come to the table with a list of places we’d like to support, and then we’ll decide how to divide our resources so that our donations can be most effective.

Here are three organizations that I have come across recently that I’ll be adding to my list this year. Check them out, be inspired, donate, make your own lists and lets get this holiday season started with the spirit of giving!

The Alliance for Quality Education

The People's March for Education back in March 2017 organized by The Alliance for Quality Education. Photo courtesy Garn Press.

The People’s March for Education back in March 2017 organized by The Alliance for Quality Education. Photo courtesy Garn Press.

The AQE works to mobilize communities across New York State to advocate for a universally high quality public education for every single student in all schools. Advocating for great teachers, strong early childhood education programs, equity of funding, positive school environments, less testing and more engaged learning as well as more parent and family involvement, AQE uses its policy and organizing expertise to uplift strategies leading to student success and, in their words, “to create a powerful public demand for a high quality education.”

I first heard about AQE through their extraordinary Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari, while singing with the Resistance Revival Chorus, and she constantly inspires me not only with her singing voice, but with her words. I asked this mother of 8 (!!) why she does what she does and her answer was profound: “Over the last 17 years of educational justice work I’ve learned that it is not enough to show that our children are in need of resources if the people that can make the change don’t think they are worthy of those very resources. We have to organize the parents, community, and young people to demand that our elected officials do right by our children– and that includes equitable funding for a high quality public school education.”

If we are truly a nation that is Of the People, By the People and For the People, we need to Empower the People. And our kids most of all, because they are the key to our future. Check out the great work that the Alliance for Quality Education is doing, spread the word, and donate* to help build a better future for our kids.

Zappos For Good

soles 4 souls to haiti

This year alone, Zappos for Good helped Souls 4 Soles deliver thousands of pairs of shoes to people in need in Haiti. Photo courtesy Zappos.com.

If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about donating clothes is actually getting them to the charity or organization of your choice. Enter Zappos for Good, the philanthropic arm of the massive online retailer. They take their superpower- shipping and distribution- and use it to help make this step as easy as possible.

Here’s how it works:

1) Gather up to 50 lbs of lightly used shoes and clothes and put them into a box.

2) Download a free shipping label from Zappos

3) Tape up the box, put on the label and take the postage pre-paid box to any UPS store.

4) Walk away, happy in the knowledge that Zappos is delivering your stuff to people in need via Soles 4 Souls, a great organization dedicated to getting clothes and shoes to kids and grownups in need. They will also make repairs, so if you’re missing a button or need a new heel, no worries!

5) If you happen to be shopping for clothes in Williamsburg, you can just drop off your shoes in the Zappos For Good box at Bird (203 Grand Street) through the holidays.

6) Oh and Zappos has also partnered with several orgs that give school supplies and books to kids, so if you want to buy notebooks and backpacks for kids instead, they’ll take care of that delivery as well!

The Edible Schoolyard Project

Last but far from least, there is nothing in this world that should be more important to us all than the food we choose to put into our bodies. Learning how to cultivate it, how it links all aspects of our lives via community, politics, science, math… these are the building blocks of an edible education. The Edible Schoolyard Project is dedicated to spreading the gospel of Whole Food and getting edible curricula into every K – 12 school program in this country.

Just watch the video, get really excited about what they’re doing, and then head directly to their website and click on the donate button. Also, if there is an Edible Schoolyard project near you, it is well worth checking out. I have visited the mothership in Berkeley, CA and it blew my mind.

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