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Friday, April 29, 2011

Lighting the Way


This month, our family and friends hosted two showers for us- a kitchen shower and a couple’s shower. Both the events were lovely –filled with good food, great company and perfect weather. We had a fantastic time and received some wonderful gifts.    

I am clearly very excited about the Ice Cream/Yogurt maker.
As thanks to our wonderful hosts and hostesses, we gave them small gifts – wine, candles and such- to show our appreciation.  Admittedly, our gifts, while bought from a local boutique and were not “all-benefit” or charitable products. The candles were such a big hit among our fabulous hostesses that it made me wonder if there were "candles with a cause." So, I decided to do some research and I found lots of great companies- more than I can include in one post in fact, but here are a few of my favorites.

The Maine based Castine Candle Company dedicates 30% of its online sales to its Candles for a Cause project. Each quarter, they choose a different non-profit to receive the proceeds from their sales. This quarter Castine Candle Company has partnered with the Patrick Dempsey Center for Hope & Healing, which provides support, education and health promotion for those affected by cancer. For every candle purchased from the Hope Collection, a donation will be made to the Center. The Hope Collection features a large variety of New England inspired candle scents, ranging from Spiced Pumpkin to Frosted Cranberry. To see the full line of candles, check out the shop.
 
Castine Candle has also joined forces with The New England Society, which funds a scholarship program for underprivileged students from New York City to give them access to higher education.  Every Lighthouse line candle purchased, benefits the New England Society's scholarship program.


The second fantastic organization, Archipelago, has a line of products called Candles for a Cause as well. Their version of Candles for a Cause donates 50% of its proceeds from its Ribbons of Love, Angels at Risk and Erase MS (Orange) soy candles to three wonderful causes. 

Conceived and created by the women of Archipelago to raise awareness and funds for research and treatment of breast cancer, the pink Ribbons of Love soy candle has a fragrant blend of Grapefruit, Clementine and Pomelo and contains nearly 70% natural soy wax and burns for about 90 hours.  

The Angels at Risk soy candle is a limited edition product and it was especially created to raise monies for Angels at Risk, which provides much needed outreach and support to families that have been affected by the devastating effects of teenage drug and alcohol abuse. The candle is Pomegranate Citrus scented and features the artwork of the famed artist Mr. Cartoon.

Throughout the month of May 50% of the proceeds from the purchase of The Orange Small Soy Candle’s sales will be donated to the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis, which supports efforts to find better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for MS. The orange candle has a crisp, citrusy blend of Orange, Tangerine and Grapefruit, and it burns longer and cleaner than regular candles - approximately 50 hours. 

The final organization in today’s post is the cleverly titled, A Scent of Scandal candle company. Far from being scandalous, the Los Angeles-based candle line is a family affair, created by a brother and sister team. With naughty names like "Sleep Around" and "Down Under" these candles make a suitable gift idea for the hostesses of your lingerie shower or bachelorette party.  

All their candles come in 8 oz. tins and are hand-poured from 100% soy wax with metal-free, all-cotton wicks. Their burn time is 30-35 hours. They're not only long-lasting, but they are also good for the environment. The products are all vegan and cruelty-free and 15% of their "candles for a cause" benefits one of three featured causes. 

 The saucy "A Roll in the Hay" grass scented candle benefits Farm Sanctuary, whose mission is to end cruelty to farm animals and promote compassionate living through rescue, education advocacy efforts. The "Green Queen Candle" benefits Kind Green Planet, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about healthy, humane and eco-friendly living. Finally, sales from the ocean scented "Rock the Boat Candle" benefit Sea Sheperd Conservation Society (SSCS), an international non-profit for marine wildlife conservation organization whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Clearly there are other gift options besides candles that can be given as hostess gifts. I'd love to feature more of them here at Engaged With A Cause. Send me your favorite ideas for charitable or green hostess and bridesmaid gifts at engagedwithacause@gmail.com or leave a comment here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Living the Sweet Life: A Festival with A Cause

Since I missed my Earth Day post-I thought I’d today’s post to feature an upcoming event that is environmentally, socially and nutritionally conscious. DC folks might have already guessed - its the Sweetlife Festival, which is sponsored by DC based Sweetgreen.   
  
If you live in the DC area, you are probably familiar with Sweetgreen and their delicious salads. You might also know that Sweetgreen’s salad bar items, which range from Chevre goat cheese to sweet potatoes, are sourced from organic and local food farmers. All Sweetgreen's proteins are hormone free, antibiotic free. The company uses 100% plant-based compostable packing for their bowls, cutlery and cups and sells re-usable salad bowls and bags. Sweeetgreen even offsets 100% of their energy with wind energy credits and a few stores have installed solar panels on their roofs.


Hmmmm….Sweetgreen's Chic P salad.
Now, sweetgreen is taking its eco-conscious philosophy to the masses via the Sweetlife Festival on Sunday, May 1 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion.  Sweetgreen calls its Sweetlife Festival “an annual celebration of flavorful music, wholesome food and thoughtful living.”  The day’s line-up is headlined by The Strokes, but also includes Girl Talk, Lupe Fiasco and more. For a complete line-up, or to buy tickets, click here.  In addition to hosting top-notch talent, the carbon neutral festival will of course be serving top-quality food, with grub from local farmers.
If my bachelorette party wasn't set for July, I would have pushed to have it at the festival- what could be better than live music, salads and FROZEN YOGURT?!

Could it get any better?

It can actually.  Not only will the event help the environment, it will also be helping others. A percentage of the proceeds from the Sweetlife Festival will go to support the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, which was established to fight childhood obesity and promote better dietary health through food education and cooking skills.

Several years ago, using his television show as a vehicle, Jamie Oliver launched the School Dinners Project to reform food options at schools in the UK. It was a great success and it led the British government to commit more than one billion dollars to the school food system, as well as placing a ban on processed junk food in all UK schools.

Mr. Oliver
In recent years, hoping to bring similar change to America, Jaime Oliver has brought his fight (and his show) across the pond.  The ABC show, Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution, follows Jaime's struggle to introduce healthy eating choices to our country’s children through their school lunches. The first season of the show followed Jaime’s work in rural West Virginia and the current season shows him dealing with the Los Angeles school system. You can catch the show tonight (on Tuesday's) on ABC at 8pm/7pm Central.

When you visit the Sweetgreen blog, you can sign the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution petition, which seeks to educate people about food and cooking, address the quality of the food served in school lunch halls and inspire food retailers to provide good quality, fresh, local food to their customers.
Sweetgreen not only embodies Jaime's food philosophy, it has also adopted his hands on outreach tactics as well. Like Jaime, the company is doing its part to give back to kids who might not ordinarily have access to healthy options. The program, Sweetgreen in Schools, is a series of interactive, educational nutrition education classes that teach elementary school students key messages about nutrition, health and “where food comes from” through hands-on activities. To find out more, visit Sweetgreen's blog.


I'm going to the festival this weekend with my fiancé and some friends to enjoy a day without wedding planning. It's nice to take a break sometimes. And it helps to know that even while we are relaxing, we will be giving back too. When I do have my bachelorette party here in DC this summer, I know I will be making a stop with my ladies at Sweetgreen to cool off and enjoy something green, something sweet and something our waistlines and hearts can feel good about. 





Friday, April 22, 2011

Giving Charities the Royal Treatment


For the 10 people who might not already know, Prince William and Catherine Middleton are getting married a week from today on April 29.  The “Royal Wedding” has been all over the news. Commentators are speculating and asking one another questions like: Where will the couple honeymoon?  Were the Obamas snubbed? What kind of hat will the Queen wear?
Jordan seems to be the latest rumored honeymoon destination.   

Royal wedding guest?

Perhaps a red hat?
To be honest, despite the entire hubbub and these “need to know questions,” only one question has really stood out in my mind: Are they giving back?

The answer is a resounding YES as William and his bride-to-be created a charitable gift fund to celebrate their wedding. Anticipating an influx of gifts from well meaning and often well-to-do Royalphiles, the couple have asked that those wishing to send them wedding gifts instead consider making a donation.

The couple with a cause- errr... five causes and 26 charities.
The fund, which focuses on assisting charities that support five causes chosen by the couple, has even captured the interest of Perez Hilton, who reported that the fund has generated a six figure sum that is still growing. The causes and charities selected by the royal couple were not chosen because of their size, but rather for the opposite reason. In hopes of bringing awareness to lesser known issues and causes, the couple chose organizations that might not be on the public's radar yet.

The Official Royal Wedding website states that the causes chosen "are close to their hearts and reflect the experiences, passions and values of their lives so far.” The five causes include: 
  
1)    Help and Care at Home aims to help those who are “faced with illness, anxiety or the need to care for others.” Examples of these charities include, Youth Access and the Berkshire Community Foundation which both provide much needed care, advice and support when and where people need it most.  

2)   Changing Lives through Art and Sport is a cause that I also see as vitally important. Research shows that sports and the arts have the power to enrich and transform lives. As the website explains, these charities, such as Dance United and Oily Cart, “teach new skills, build self-confidence and inspire change.”

3)    Conservation for Future Generations focuses on preserving and helping wildlife avoid extinction in the face of substantial threats, as presently a quarter of the planet's mammals are endangered. Charities such as Earthwatch are working on the ground, providing programs and education to conserve and save species and the environments that they dwell in.

4)    Children Fulfilling Their Potential seeks to help children who are affected by circumstances beyond their control to overcome adversity and fulfill their potential. Some of the charities selected include, Beatbullying, which provides therapeutic intervention to young people being bullied, as well as those who bully to help change their behavior and Venture Trust, which supports young people who are struggling with drugs, abusive relationships and other complex life circumstances.

5)    Support Services for Services Personnel and their Families benefits organizations like the Army Widows’ Association and Combat Stress that aid and assist those who along with their families, make huge sacrifices. This cause category also supports a small number of voluntary and charitable organizations that are saving lives and rebuilding different parts of the world, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and the New Zealand Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

All funds that are donated to the Fund will go through Prince William's Foundation, the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, and be held in a specifically designated account, which will then be disbursed to charities that support the five causes chosen by the couple. People who send a gift via the website can indicate which of the five areas they would like to make their donation to, as well as whether they have a particular charity in this area.  

This blog would not be complete without mentioning that the Royal Wedding Fund has inspired thousands to give, Australia alone is donating $25,000 to the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia in honor of the couple. New Zealand and other countries have made similar sizeable donations as well.


One of the most interesting and unique gifts comes from singer George Michael. In what he is calling “a gift to everyone” in celebration of the royal couple he has released a version of Stevie Wonder's "You and I." He asks that people download it for free and then make a donation to the charitable wedding fund.  While some have dismissed this as a publicity stunt, George Michael, who was a friend of Princess Diana, is assuring everyone that it is meant to be a purely charitable gift to the couple. I guess we gotta have faith. Here’s the song:


 To contribute to the Royal Wedding Fund you can:

  • Visit the dedicated website 
  • If you are in the UK call 0300 123 2904
  • Send a check to the Prince William and Miss Catherine Middleton Charitable Gift Fund, c/o St. James's Palace, London SW1A 1BS
  • If you have a UK based cell phone service, you can donate £5 by sending a Goodwill Message of your choice by text to 70294.  A £5 donation will be added to your bill or deducted from your credit balance.
  • If you have any questions about how to donate, visit the FAQ page or send an email to help@royalweddingcharityfund.org.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Giving Back - Just Because!


Rachel Smith is the creator of the fabulous blog just b. CAUSE and she is also a pro bono and all-benefit web designer. While I knew going into my interview with her that she was charitably minded, I had no idea how much of an impact the 22 year old was already making.  In addition to her work with just b. CAUSE, Rachel also writes and does the design for her the very appropriately titled wedding blog Classic Puppy Love. Yep, you heard that right- two blogs and she does pro bono and all-benefit web design work. Also, did I forget to mention that her wedding is in less than two months?!


When asked what led her to web design, specifically charitable design, she says quite simply, “I started planning a wedding.” 

Like me and many other brides, Rachel experienced a case of sticker shock when she started tallying her wedding budget. “The sheer cost of everything made me sick to my stomach. How could one day cost so much when so many people in the world go without access to basic necessities?” 

So, Rachel began looking for ways to give back using her extensive background in technical editing, web development and design. Instead of making a buck off of these talents, Rachel used her highly demanded skills for good – by doing pro bono work for not-for-profits and by asking her for-profit customers to make a charitable donation in lieu of paying her. 

As Rachel proudly explains, all the designs have been done at absolutely no profit to me and there is no transaction whatsoever between me and the client. I simply ask the client to make a donation to his/her preferred charity.”  Rachel hopes this system will encourage individuals to research nonprofits themselves and make a decision to donate on their terms. Plus, by having the client donate directly to the charity, more money ends up actually going to the cause.


In addition to her philanthropic blogs and design work, Rachel will be giving back with her wedding through causes that she and her fiancé feel reflect their values as a couple.  One such value is Rachel’s love for animals. In her lifetime she had adopted and owned over 50 dogs. (She assured me she is “not the crazy dog lady,” but that somehow her house has just been a magnet for strays, which she feeds and cares for.)   

She and her fiancé sought vendors who shared their love for animal companions - their engagement photo shoot costs went to benefit the Southwest Humane Society and they opted to use postage stamps that support shelter pets. One of my favorite ideas that Rachel had is to feature adoptable shelter dogs on her table numbers at the wedding reception. 


Rachel’s philanthropic scope is not limited to the animal kingdom alone; part of the wedding photography fee will go to support The Pujol's Family Foundation, which helps those living with Down syndrome in the United States and in the Dominican Republic.  She plans to donate her wedding dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer after the big day. Also, in honor of their wedding she and her fiancé have decided to make their first gift to each other as a married couple a gift to others as well, by making a donation right after the wedding. As Rachel explains, “It's a vow we're making to each other – that we promise to not only love each other, but to also give what we can to others too.”

Rachel and her fiancé.
Rachel will enter law school in the fall and she hopes to work in the public interest law sector, either advocating for the causes she believes in or offering advice on a consulting basis. I wish Rachel well in her future endeavors and I know she will do well! To see more of her designs like the ones above, check out the just b. CAUSE site, facebook page or the  feature on Rachel by The Charity Wedding

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Picture That's Worth More Than A Thousand Words


So, I’m in the process of packing my bags to head out of town for my first shower this weekend. The shower will be hosted by my future-in-laws.  I’m really excited to see all my friends and family and enjoy the beautiful spring weather there.  

Since I am short on time, I thought this would be the perfect time to finally share my fabulous engagement photos with my readers. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?  The pictures were done at the National Arboretum . You might remember that the pictures were taken by photographer and philanthropist extraordinaire Walter Grio of Shoot for Change.  Instead of charging a fee for profit, Walter asks his clients to donate 100% of his fee to charity.

The original Capitol Columns, National Arboretum, Washington, DC.  


Since the engagement photo session was a gift from my mom, I let her choose a cause that is near and dear to her heart: public television. She made a donation to New Orleans’ local public TV station WYES.  

More at the Columns- such a cool spot!
I also want to let my DC readers know about A Thousand Words – a breast cancer focused photography exhibit that Shoot for Change is putting on next Tuesday, April 19 at 6:30pm with Pink Jams. The event will be here in DC at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. In lieu of tickets, guests need to only provide a receipt of their $25 donation to the Capital Breast Care Center. Donations can made by clicking here

 "A Thousand Words" features 100 images (taken by Walter Grio) of members of the DC community who have come together to discuss how breast cancer has touched their lives. This special photo exhibit is designed to celebrate the courage and hope of women who have and are battling breast cancer, as well as to illustrate the love and loss their families feel. The photo series shows that the disease affects people of all ages and walks of life and aims to “capture the real people and the real emotions that come with breast cancer.”



All proceeds from "A Thousand Words" will go to support the Capital Breast Care Center (CBCC), which provides women in the DC metro area with screenings and mammograms regardless of their ability to pay. With a 65% higher incidence of breast cancer than the national average, Washington DC tops the nation in breast cancer related deaths, making the CBCC’s mission even more vital to the DC community. For more information about CBCC visit their website

To get more details on the delicious desserts that will be available at the event and for other details, please visit the listing on eventbrite

Now, for a few more of our engagement pictures!

In the Arboretum's National Bonsai Garden
  
Goofing around :)


 
Sporting my Falling Whistle necklace- thanks Christin!
The Arboretum is open every day of the year (except Christmas) from 8:00 am. to 5:00 pm. Admission is free to all. Over 500,000 people visit the Arboretum's 446 acres of groves and gardens each year. The grounds are located in the northeast section (NE) of Washington, DC, approximately ten minutes from the Capitol Building. To plan your visit or to find out how you can support the National Arboretum check out their website.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Saving Money to Save Others?


They're everywhere- the modern coupon. Groupon. Living Social. We've all seen deals like "$25 for $50 Toward Men's Formal Wear" or "$30 for Four Kickboxing Classes($105 value)." For the bride on a budget deals for getting in shape, teeth whitening and even laser hair removal can mean big savings. But what if you could save money and save others too?

You might remember the Groupon ads during Super Bowl XLV that ignited a great deal of controversy because they appeared to mock social causes.   These now infamous Groupon spots made fun of everything from the conflict in Tibet to saving the whales to the deforestation of the Rainforest in Brazil.


Noticeably, this Super Bowl ad fails to mention a critical point: that on its website, Groupon asked its users to donate to the very causes that this ad and the others lampooned: the Tibet Fund, Greenpeace and RAN (the Rainforest Action Network). Not only did Groupon promote these causes on its site, each time a user donated to one of the three causes, Groupon partially matched that donation.

Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon, was shocked that audiences were offended by the ads, which were meant to "spoof" the proliferation of celebrity-endorsed public service announcements. What most people might not know is that Groupon’s early beginnings were in the social cause field. Groupon began as The Point, a website that was created to help activists and organizers to and raise money for worthy causes.

Like Groupon and Living Social and other online deal providers, The Point relies on the same critical mass principle. For example, in order for a deal to go through on Groupon, a certain number of people must agree to buy the deal. On The Point, all social cause campaigns have a “tipping point” as well, in other words people just have to pledge to give money or do something, but no one has to actually give until enough people have agreed to do the same.  The Point then helps its users gather momentum for their cause with online petitions, mass letter-writing tools and other fundraising efforts.

So, is Groupon making a move back toward its charitable roots? If yesterday’s New York City deal for One Hope Wine, (featured on Engaged With A Cause in last week’s Cheers for Charity guest post) is any indicator, then perhaps we will see even more giving in Groupon's future.  In Sunday’s deal, for $45, you got $100 worth of wine and merchandise from OneHope Wine online. Hopefully this charitable feature is just a sign of things to come for the company, which is now worth several billion dollars.

If Groupon doesn’t make charitable deals a mainstay on its site, there are other organizations already  peddling deals for a cause. One example is CauseON, which has taken off in Portland and has plans to expand to other major cities this year. CauseON's process is simple: You get a great deal; share it with friends and 20% goes back to charity.

Need to get in shape and relax before your wedding? Buy a yoga CauseON and give back to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Is Laser hair removal a must before the big day? What if 20% went to Susan G. Komen for the Cure? Well, it can and does via CauseON - you just have to make sure you get there fast enough because like other deal sites, the deals on CauseON do expire. To see a few of the charities and recent deals featured on CauseON, check out their website. 

CauseON also features direct donations to charities, where no deal is purchased, like today's charity spotlight, of The Dougy Center, which provides support for children during times of family crisis.
I recently had the chance to chat with Josh Hoffman, one of the co-founders of DC’s own philanthropic deal site, Deals for Deeds. Like CauseON, Deals for Deeds delivers exclusive offers and deals for products and services from businesses and all featured deals help to benefit charity. A percentage of every purchase you make from the Deals for Deeds site goes to a DC based non-profit.  

Like Donors Choose.org (in last week's post), Deals for Deeds raises money in small increments for defined goals. Whether it’s helping fund scholarships for the DC Youth Orchestra or providing housing for victim's of human trafficing for the Polaris Project, a percent of the purchases made goes to reaching tangible outcomes. 


Even though Deals for Deeds is a very new company, they have already made a big impact. locally and globally.  Despite their focus on reinvesting in the local community in the wake of the crisis in Japan, Deals for Deeds  also promoted deals to benefit Japan that raised a thousand dollars for the Global Impact Japan Relief Fund 

So fellow Washingtonians- check em' out- you never know what you might come across! Today's featured Salsa lessons, which benefit Access Youth, could be a great crash course for any couple looking to spice up their first dance at their wedding reception. To find out more visit http://www.dealsfordeeds.com.






Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Showers Bring Doctors and Teachers Power

With our first shower in less than two weeks, we have started receiving presents from our wedding registry.  As the presents arrive, I am reminded that these gifts have made an impact.  The lovely olive green planter- is helping to provide medical care overseas. And the serving platter? It's helping public school children get a better education.   

We set up our wedding website and registry through the I Do Foundation and after much research (and some debate), we chose Target, Macy’s and Crate and Barrel from a list of participating stores. By registering via the I Do Foundation, 3-5% of each gift purchase goes to the charity of our choice when a guest uses the link on our wedding website.

Serving others and Yummy food- the Murano Platter by Crate and Barrel
Like most engineers, my fiancé is thorough. He carefully selected our registry items- comparing prices and consumer reports- even watching demos of different cheese graters on America’s Test Kitchen.  All things I would have no patience for. But while he was our expert on all things involving slow cookers and non-stick pans, I relished the chance to choose a charity to support.  I dove in and found a multitude of very worthy causes. At the end of the process though we decided to select Doctors Without Borders and Donors Choose.org as our registry charities.

We were impressed with these two organizations in particular because they provide effective, hands-on services with very few overhead costs.  While Doctors Without Borders  provides on the ground relief  in areas that have been ravaged by famine and natural disasters, Donors Choose.org serves the most needy, at risk students in our country by giving back directly to them and their teachers through direct donations of supplies. Even though they have very different missions, I was impressed by how both organizations make very real, direct impacts. Here's a little bit more on both organizations.

Doctors Without Borders
Founded in 1971, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, natural or man-made disasters and epidemics in more than 70 countries. MSF is often one of the first humanitarian organizations to arrive at an emergency site.
In the aftermath of these emergencies and disasters, MSF provides basic health care and runs hospitals and clinics. The MSF doctors and nurses are met with a battery of challenges for which they must perform a variety of services, which include surgery, battling epidemics, administering vaccinations, operating feeding centers for malnourished children and even offers counseling and mental health services to victims of traumatic events. When needed MSF even builds wells and dispenses clean drinking water, while also providing shelter materials like blankets and plastic sheeting. Through its longer-term programs, MSF treats patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

MSF gives aid to children in Côte d'Ivoire during the ongoing Civil War.
Each year, MSF doctors, nurses, water-and-sanitation experts, administrators, and other medical and non-medical professionals take part in more than 4,700 aid assignments, working alongside more than 25,000 locally hired staff who assist them in providing medical care.

MSF is often the most prepared organization when a disaster strikes- when the earthquake hit Haiti last year or in the wake of the disaster in Japan, they were mobilized immediately and ready to take action.
Donor’s Choose.org
DonorsChoose.org is a not-for-profit that benefits public school children here in the US. It was founded by a group of Bronx high school teachers who experienced first-hand the scarcity of learning materials in public schools. One of these teachers, Charles Best, who was then a social studies teacher, believed that many people would like to help public schools, but that they were frustrated by the bureaucracy and the inability to control how their donations were used. In 2000, Best created Donors Choose.org so that individuals could connect with classrooms in need and actually see how their contributions made a difference.

Donors Choose’s mission “to improve the public education system by empowering every teacher to be a change-maker and by making it possible for any citizen to be a philanthropist" is seen here in action.
So, how does it work? Well, public school teachers from all across America post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. The requests range from art supplies to graphing calculators for a math class in a high poverty area. The donor is able to browse through a multitude of classroom requests by subject, grade, and even poverty level and then and give any amount to the project that inspires them.

Once a project reaches its funding goal, which are typically a couple hundred dollars, the materials are actually delivered to the classroom by Donorschoose.org.  The donor then gets photos of the project taking place, a thank-you letter from the teacher, and a cost report showing how each dollar was spent. If you give over $100, you'll also receive hand-written thank-you letters from the students. 

The I Do Foundation supports a variety of amazing charities and I have to admit that it was extremely hard to narrow it down to just these two. While it might be easy to compare mixers and blenders, measuring impact is much more difficult.  But having a charitable registry has been very rewarding- when a package arrives at the door I am not only excited to see what it is- I am also happy to know that these gifts are helping others. 

So, in the years to come, when I'm using my engineer approved appliances and kitchen tools, I will also have the satisfaction of knowing that these same gadgets helped give doctors and teachers the tools to help others survive and thrive.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cheers for Charity!


Before I introduce today's fabulous guest post on charitable wine, I'd like to give a special thanks to Diana Trotter at All Women Stalk for her great post on Engaged With A Cause in her new series on brides that are giving back. 

Today's guest post is written by my dear friend, the lovely Manda Schweitzer. Manda and her fiancé, Brady, currently live in Atlanta, but they will be getting married in their home state of Iowa next year and I am thrilled to be one of  Manda's bridesmaids. When Manda and I met in graduate school at American University we instantly bonded over our shared passion for Nick Hornby books, Volkswagen commercials, all things fitness and of course, wine....

 My father and brother are wine connoisseurs of the utmost degree, comparing the principles of the grapes and what makes for the best pairings. They go to wine tastings and read books on the art of being a good sommelier. I drink what tastes good. For me, that generally means Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and every once in a blue moon on a warm summer day, a Pinot Gris.

Newly engaged! Manda and Brady before a night out- one that I'm sure included wine.
When commencing on my wedding venue hunt, wineries quickly became options: an outdoor space to have the ceremony (officiated by my brother), a hall for the reception and, of course, WINE. Having some tasty wine at our reception is a priority. When thinking of extravagancies within a wedding, wine can be a major culprit. Some venues that we’ve looked at set the price of bottles of average wine that would sell off-the-shelf for no more than $10 at $35 and upwards - yikes! 

While my fiancé, Brady, and I want our day to be special, we want to be mindful of the money that we spend and where those finances go. Thankfully, wine drinkers and makers alike can be quite a generous lot and in my research I quickly came across numerous wineries that donate portions of their sales to charity. 

 One large contributor of charitable wines is ONEHOPE Wine. For example, their 2009 ONEHOPE California Cabernet Sauvignon is priced at $18.99 with $3.00 going to the Fight Against Autism. ONEHOPE supports many causes, from Supporting Our Troops, to Fight Against AIDs, to Supporting Our Planet, among others. Started in 2005 by Jake Kloberdanz to raise funds to support a friend who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to date, ONEHOPE Wine has donated over $400,000 to their partner charities.  If you still feel like you want to give an extra boost to a good cause, ONEHOPE can also serve as a conduit for your charitable donations, with 100% of your additional donation going straight to your preferred charity. 


Want to focus on a more local impact? Check out Humanitas. Serving 11 states, Humanitas doesn’t pull the funds collected through sales to give to a central-nationwide charitable office, but rather they give to local chapters of charities, including Habitat for Humanity. According to Humanita’s website, their charitable efforts focus on “hunger, affordable housing and education,” but they strive to fit the needs of each community served. Depending upon your state, the portion donated to your selected charity is around 15 percent. That way, you can see the impact of your purchase right in your backyard.


 Charity Case is another great option for charitably-driven wine lovers. As part of a consortium of Napa Valley based wineries, Charity Case relies upon the donation of fruit and wine from its member wineries to produce great wine. Organized like a not-for-profit, there are no salaries and net proceeds go to benefit children in Napa Valley area.

 
Now, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, beer-drinkers. Brewers have a mind for charity as well. One such brewery, from our lovely writer Julie’s native-land - Louisiana-based Abita Beer launched their SOS (Save Our Shore)- Charity Pilsner following the BP Oil Spill of 2010. Abita is donating $.75 cents of each bottle sold to the SOS – A Charitable Fund. According to Abita’s website the SOS – A Charitable Fund, “will assist with the rescue and restoration of the environment, industry and individuals fighting to survive this disastrous oil spill.” Abita is also selling merchandise, such as hats and shirts, with 100% of those profits going to the Fund. 


 It is a good idea to provide a non-alcoholic option for your guests as well. The IZZE Beverage Company is an excellent example of corporate social responsibility. IZZE offices are powered by wind energy and they serve as a partner to the Global Education Fund. With great sparkling juice flavors like Sparkling Clementine, Sparkling Pomegranate and more, this can provide a good alternative for your guests that don’t wish to imbibe, or maybe have had too much already! 

 Do note that some states have restrictions against the shipment of alcohol to private homes (my home state of Iowa included), but don’t let that discourage you. Many local wineries offer varieties of which a portion of sales are donated charity. Wine country isn’t just in California anymore, so check out local wineries around you. A great resource is http://www.finelocalwine.com/  

One more pic of the cute couple!
 Weddings are a time for love and celebration and small indulgences with those most important to you. So feel free to indulge in a few librations at your celebration- just not too many. Cheers to good health and happiness, and the helping of others!