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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shop Small Business for Sandy Relief

As a lot of you know, I am no stranger to hurricanes. In fact I’m no stranger to planning an event in a hurricane. ( Which you might have learned from my  post on for Dance USA’s From the Green Room.)  Growing up in the New Orleans area meant that hurricane evacuations were as common for us as snow days are for our friends in the north. Brides along the Gulf Coast often avoid summer dates in hopes of their big day being spared from the deluge hurricanes bring. While I had my wedding at the tail-end of hurricane season, I was still lucky to be spared a major storm during the season. Had a hurricane hit, even months before my wedding day, my plans might have been sunk.

Recently, I had lunch with my friend Lauren who is from coastal New Jersey, which was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Both Lauren's sister and mother were deeply affected by the storm. Lauren's sister Julie, who lives in lower Manhattan, was just days a way from her wedding when Sandy barreled into New York.  With her apartment completely flooded, Julie still managed to make the walk down the aisle, despite last minute venue changes and hotel block cancellations. To learn more about Julie's ordeal you can check out her story in The New York Times. 

Still even harder hit, was Lauren's mother, Janie Feldman. Janie owns Paper Chase, a small wedding/gift shop located just two blocks from the Jersey shore.  Janie works personally with couples on their wedding paper needs, including shower and wedding invitations, save-the-dates, thank you cards, place cards, etc. While she doesn't make the invitations, (she retails products from a number of stationery/invitation companies), she does do in-house printing of programs and place cards. The store even includes a“cozy” invitation studio” where couples can select and personalize invites.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, the shop was completely flooded. Janie lost tens of thousands of dollars in inventory, as well as all fixtures and furniture in her store. She had very little flood insurance; so, the damage was not covered. Following the storm, the structure of the building itself had to be restored (the walls had to be cut so that moisture and mold could be removed, and then repaired and the carpet ripped up). 

During the clean-up process, there was an amazing outpouring of help and support from the community. Some were customers, some were just caring strangers. People came in off the streets to lend a hand and volunteer their time. Her employees, many of whom worked for her for over a decade, worked tirelessly on a volunteer basis to clean up the store and get it ready to reopen. Her manager made house calls so that they could continue to serve the needs of their wedding and other invitation customers.

Because of the extent of the damage, Janie was unsure as to whether she would be able to reopen the store. However, after seeing the outpouring of support and a true desire from the community for her store to continue and flourish, she decided she couldn't walk away. After being closed for more than six weeks, she re-opened a little over a week ago. 

So, if you are looking for the perfect invitations or maybe another wedding related item, you can visit Paper Chase online. The store also offers a bridal gift registry and has great options for bridesmaid/groomsmen gifts. Still have some last minute Christmas shopping to do? Well, the store is not limited to wedding items, as it sells a little bit of everything, including greeting cards children's toys, art, jewelry, handbags, housewares, etc. There's even a large selection of eco-friendly gift options.

What better way to shop for a cause than to help a local business get back on its feet! You still have time to make a big difference - after all there are still six shopping days til Christmas!

Here are a few of my favorite gift (or registry) ideas from Paper Chase online:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Books for A Better World

Some of you are probably all done with your holiday shopping.  I wish I was that organized. When we visited Louisiana in mid-November, my my mother-in-law already has all her presents bought, wrapped and awaiting their spot under the Christmas tree. Meanwhile, I had not begun my shopping. While I wish I was as on-top of the shopping as Ms. Donna and some of my more organized friends, my endless browsing has led me to find some exciting charitable ways to give this holiday season.

My nieces love books. Instead of toys, they are asking for - in no particular order - bubble wrap, pistachios, light bulbs and books. Yup, I wish everyone was as easy to please. While the first three items would surely make the girls squeal with delight, I'm opting to get them books. Andrew and I are avid readers ands books have played a big role in our lives, so I'm excited to share some of my old favorites and some new ones with the girls.

You might remember my nieces from this post.
 Photo Credit Fine Arts Exposure
During a recent chat with my friend Manda, I mentioned the items that I was looking for some Angelina Ballerina books for my niece Anna. Manda recommended that I check out Better World Books. Better World Book's concept is as simple as this - if you buy a book, they donate a book. The project, called Book for Book has led to the donation of over 6.4 million books! This number astounded me. 

 So, how can you support Better World Books? Every time you purchase a book from
, they donate a book to someone in need. The books they donate go through non-profit partners, including Books for Africa and Feed the Children

In addition to the Book for Book program, Books for a Better World has raised over $13 million for literacy including over $6 million for 80+ literacy and education nonprofits and $6.3 million for libraries nationwide. The site has contributed more than $2.7 million to college service clubs who have run book drives. A few of their other beneficiaries include Room to Read, the National Center for Family Literacy, Worldfund, the Robinson Community Learning Center and the New Orleans Public Library Foundation.
Students in Africa who received books through Books for Africa. 
Not only is the company charitably minded, but they are eco-conscious as well. As part of Better World Book's commitment to environmental sustainability, they never throw away a book. Any book they are not able to sell or donate is recycled. They have re-used or recycled over 93 million books. And yes- they have ebooks for sale too!

Better World Books has also reclaimed more than 900,000 pounds of metal shelving from libraries across the United States and as further proof of their eco-friendly practices, for just a few extra cents buyers have the option to be shipped carbon balanced. To date they have reached 33,000 tons of carbon offsets.

The organization also partners with 3Degrees, a leading green power and carbon balancing firm in order to ensure the carbon offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind farms. The carbon offsets support the Tatanka Wind Farm, a renewable-energy project in the Dakotas, which could potentially generate enough clean energy to power more than 60,000 homes according to

You can also donate your own used books to Book for A Better World. They will even reimburse you for the shipping you incur when sending them the books!

I couldn't be happier with my Books for a Better World experience. I know Anna will love her Angelina Ballerina books and that because of my purchase, three more children will have new books too. 

So, what does all this have to do with weddings? Well, it just so happens that as my attendant's gift for the last wedding I was involved in, I received a book. (You might remember Leah, the DIY bride, from my previous post.) Leah bought all of us Grace Bonney of Design Sponge's Design Sponge at Home - a DIY bible of sorts (available at here). It's full of fun and helpful DIY tips and every time I look through it not only will I be inspired, but I will think of Leah and her wedding day.

Books make great gifts and can be very personal ways to say thank you. In fact, we used Edward Monkton's A Lovely Love Story as our guest book. I've seen couples use a host of books as guest books - from books about art to books about French culture. One of my favorite shower gifts was the Bride & Groom; First & Forever Cookbook. My shower hostesses used the gorgeous hardcover cookbook as a Guest Book at my bridal shower. Instead of being a Guest Book that was stowed away after the wedding, the cookbook is a living part of our household, one that we use to cook together regularly.  You could buy this lovely book as a gift - and help others! There are a whole host of wedding books available on Better World Books for anyone planning a wedding or looking for a gift for someone who is.  There are still 15 days til Christmas, so happy shopping!