Volunteer Resource List

Like a lot of couples, my husband and I get in date ruts. We always seem to watch the same movies, eat at the same restaurants, and either go bowling or shoot pool when we want to go out and do something. There is a whole big world out there, but at the end of the day it’s hard to think of something original to do. So this year for Valentines, I made my husband a list of all the ideas we’ve talked about but never think of spur of the moment, complete with websites and phone numbers. Now when one of us starts the “what should we do tonight” conversation, we’ve got all the ideas and info right at our fingertips. This week I’m going to do the same for you – a list of non-profits you can volunteer with, including web links. Click on any blue link to go right to the volunteer signup page for that organization. “I didn’t know where to start” is history!
Amazon Smile: Set up your Amazon account so a portion of your spending goes to the non-profit of your choice.

Compassion: Sponsor a child  or volunteer with Compassion at an event near you .

County agencies: Your county probably has many volunteer needs. Check their website for listings. Here is the listing of volunteer needs in Anoka County, Minnesota, where I live.

Dress for Success: Find out how to donate clothing or funds, or consider a hands-on volunteer job. Dress for Success needs people to sort donations and help clients with clothing as well as mentors who can work with clients on job and interview skills.

Feeding America’s Food Bank Finder is intended to help the hungry find a food shelf, but it can also lead you to local donation and/or volunteer opportunities.

Feed My Starving Children: FMSC has permanent packing sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Illinois, as well as mobile packing events around the country.

Homeless Shelter Directory: Find a homeless shelter near you. Volunteers are always needed!

International Justice Mission: IJM needs interns and lawyers, as well as everyday volunteers.

Meals on Wheels: Drivers and volunteers are always needed!

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits: Job listings including paid work, executive boards, and volunteer jobs at nonprofits in Minnesota.

RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program): Connecting people ages 55+ to local volunteer needs – I work with RSVP at my museum job. They are a huge blessing and make my job much easier!

Second Harvest Heartland: Second Harvest is a network of food banks in Minnesota. They have two locations in the Twin Cities metro area, and they support many other community food shelves.

Venture: Run or bicycle while raising money to fight hunger and human trafficking.

Volunteer Match: Helps volunteers find opportunities in their neighborhoods.

 

That should be enough to keep us all busy for a while! Don’t forget your church is a great resource for volunteer opportunities as well, and feel free to leave more volunteer opportunities in the comments!

 

Food Drive Kit: Tips, printables, and everything you need to host a successful food drive

Hosting a non-perishable food drive to benefit a local food pantry is fun and easy, and this post will help make your food drive MORE SUCCESSFUL and even EASIER!

So, you want to host a food drive…

  1. Who: Decide which sphere(s) of your life you will concentrate on for collecting the food.. Make sure that leadership and group policies (if there are any) are ok with your event before you begin.
    -Workplace
    -Neighborhood
    – Church
    -Civic Group/Club
  2. What: Choose a local food bank or shelter as the beneficiary of your food drive. Donors like to know where their contribution is going; it gives them confidence in their donation. It also helps spread the word about a great local organization. You never know, but the information on your flyer might come in handy some time if a friend/coworker finds themself in need.

    Call up the organization you’ll be collecting for, and ask them what their biggest needs are. The free printables I’ve attached to this post list the food shelf basics, but asking will give you the real picture of your food shelf’s situation and what you and your donors can best contribute. The printables can easily be altered with a Sharpie when you’re filling out the other information.

  3. When/Where: Decide if you’ll be doing your food drive collection-style or pickup-style.
    – If you’re setting up a collection box, like at a workplace, give people a week or so to contribute.
    – If you’re doing pickup on a specific day, give people at least a week’s notice and remind them every few days as the day approaches.

    – Avoid hosting your food drive on a holiday week; people’s minds are busy with their vacation plans, arranging childcare, etc.
    – If you’re hosting your food drive in your workplace, pick a week after you get paid, not the week before.

  4. How: Spread the word!
    – Use social media groups/pages to reach people – posts with more pictures, reactions, and shares are seen by more people on Facebook. The printables in this post include a .jpeg you can use on social media.
    -Send out an email blast – give everyone a last-minute reminder on pickup day or the day before the collection drive ends so they don’t miss out.
    – Hand up posters – The printables at the bottom of the page include an 8 1/2 x 11 printable poster advertising your food drive. All you have to do is print it off, Sharpie in your details, and hang it where it will be seen. There is also a flyer printable that prints 2 flyers/sheet. You can put those in work mailboxes (not postal service mailboxes, that’s illegal unless you actually address, stamp, and mail them), neighborhood newspaper boxes or doors, hand them out cubicle to cubicle or at a meeting, insert them in the church bulletins, etc. There is a box label printable also. If you’re doing your drive collection box-style, make sure the box is sturdy (canned goods get heavy fast!), clearly labeled, and put in an obvious, visible place. It’s good to have all your flyers, posters, social media images, and box label match, so people can easily connect things in their memory.

Good luck with your food drive! Come back and leave a comment if you have more tips or suggestions from your experience!

social-media-image

.jpeg for social media posts (to use: copy/paste or right click and save to your computer)

 

 

 

 

flyerEvent poster (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Adjust size and print)

handout
Handouts (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Adjust size and print)

donation-box
Donation Box Label (to use: copy/paste into Microsoft Word or Publisher. Resize and print)

Why Bother with the Old Testament?

When we look at the Old Testament, we love to pick out the classic Bible stories, find solace in the Psalms, and run far away from Levitical law. Most of it is outdated anyway, right? When Jesus came and died, he paid the penalty for our sins and ended the old covenant (covenant means “contract,” or “agreement”). So Levitical law no longer binds us; the stipulations of that contract were fulfilled by Jesus and he formed a “new covenant” with us (John 19:30, Hebrews 9:15). So why should we care about Leviticus? I believe that knowing what God wanted from the Israelites tells us about who God is and what He values. And God never changes (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8 to name a few…).

What do we learn about God’s character from the Old Testament law? He is a jealous God. First and foremost, he wants, even demands, to be #1 in our lives (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 6:15). Jesus affirms this as well, in Matthew 22, when he says “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” is the “greatest commandment” and that all the law and prophets hang on this and the second great commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself.” All of human history, the very foundation of the Jewish faith and the Christian faith, the air we breathe and the beating of our hearts is founded on loving God with everything we are and loving others with the same automatic, instinctual protectiveness with which we love ourselves (and don’t get confused here about self-esteem, loving yourself is not ego or warm fuzzies. It’s fighting for air, water, and nourishment. [Ephesians 5:29] Faith is not the icing on the cake of your life, it’s not warm feelings or Santa Claus, faith is daily bread and living water.) God’s requirement that you put Him first in your life did not expire with the new covenant.

Nor did God’s requirement that you “love your neighbor as yourself.” The New and Old Testaments are both overflowing with commands that we provide for widows, orphans, and the poor (Leviticus 19:9-10, Leviticus 23:22, Proverbs 28:27, James 1:27, James 2 – this list could get long. I literally have a notebook page FULL of just the references for verses about helping the poor). Loving others starts with the very basic ideas of meeting people’s physical needs and treating others with respect. We are told to share food, clothing, and money, and also to speak up for those who are mistreated and need to be defended. Loving others really and truly starts with opening your eyes and taking responsibility for what you see.

Right here I want to throw something in that is semi-related but important. God is not a Republican. He is not a Democrat. He is not an American. His primary concern is not securing American borders. God cares about the physical and spiritual needs of Syrian refugees as much as he does about our own. Obviously we need to be careful, I’m not suggesting we just throw open the doors. But people need to stop tying God to their politics and national security concerns. God is not the God of nations and places. He is the God of people. All people.

But I digress… Much of the Levitical law is the plan for worship and sacrifice – a hands-on manual for the practice of the Jewish faith. I’m not going to say a lot about this, but note two things: First, the payment for sin requires blood. Literal blood. The Israelites used animals. We have Jesus. He made the ultimate sacrifice and shed the ultimate, perfect, sinless blood of God’s own son. So the animal sacrifice portion of our worship has passed. The blood has already been shed for you and me. (Thank God, because Jesus is amazing and I appreciate what he did for us, but also because I’m a spoiled, modern American and having to go through that ritual sounds yucky to me…)

Second (and this is something we like to ignore), God is very exacting. He gave very specific directions about the materials and dimensions of the tabernacle and how things were to be handled and managed. And He wasn’t messing around. There is a story in 2 Samuel 6 about King David and his people moving the Ark of the Covenant. At one point the oxen pulling the cart stumbled, and one of David’s men, Uzzah, reflexively reached out to steady the ark. And God struck him dead on the spot. This kind of flies in the face of our ideas about God being merciful! Touching the ark was a big no-no and everyone knew it. What if God had let him off? It was an accident, an instinct, right? But it reveals Uzzah’s heart, that he didn’t have the proper reverence toward the ark. In verse 7, God calls it an “irreverent act.” If He didn’t follow through with the promised punishment, how many other Israelites would have wavered in their faith, wondered if God was real, etc.? I think these days we want God to be a God of mercy, and we forget that He is also a God of wrath, and that he has exacting standards. He’s not a God of checklists, but He is the God of “heart issues,” Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” Reaching out to grab the ark was not a reflex, it was a reflection of a heart that wasn’t paying attention. Likewise, failing to notice a problem or opportunity is not an excuse, it is a reflection of a heart that isn’t looking out for others. This is the “commission” vs. “omission” setup. There are sins we commit, like lying, cheating, stealing, etc. and there are sins of omission, things we are called to do but neglect. Both are sin, and God doesn’t differentiate between little sins and big sins like the justice system does (James 2:10, Matthew 5:27-28). All sins – little or big, committed or omitted, separate us from God.

The other thing we see in Leviticus is the practical application of physical life rules. Things like waste disposal, infectious disease control, and dealing with mold are all covered in Leviticus and the Old Testament law. Much of this is not applicable to us because we live in a different climate, we’re not nomadic tent dwellers, and modern science has changed how we deal with these things. But even here there is something for us to learn. God cares about the physical well-being of his people; he wants them safe, clean, and healthy. Second, things that are “unclean” are required to be physically removed from the camp so they don’t hurt others. There is an object lesson there for some of us. We think we can carry around our sin, hide it, minimize it, control it. But what we really need to do is banish it. We become embarrassed that we struggle in certain areas, and we don’t want others to know, so we try to control our sin instead of eradicating it. This is a trick the enemy uses to keep us close to our sin so we can fail again and again. Some people cannot drink at all, because a social drink becomes a bender. Some people cannot watch certain movies because a questionable scene draws them back to porn. When we allow ourselves to be ashamed of our struggles we keep them close at hand, where they can trip us up over and over. Get hardcore. Create a safe margin, a buffer zone, between you and your sin.

As you can see, there is a lot that we can learn about the heart of God by reading the old covenant He made with the Israelites. What other aspects of God’s character do you see there?

Divine Appointments: Avoiding “Should Have”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I can’t even begin to tell you how often I stop and suddenly realize that I had an opportunity to help someone and didn’t even notice it. I hate that feeling, and I hate knowing that there are people struggling and suffering because I didn’t even notice, or I noticed and it didn’t dawn on me to do something about it. Do you ever feel like that? “Should have” is a painful phrase.

Recently a friend told me that she has been praying for opportunities to serve. This friend has a job that brings her in contact with random strangers all day long, and she told me that she prays before and during work for God to bring her opportunities. And He has! All through her shift, people seek her out to ask for help, and to share their burdens. She has started bringing along supplies to hand out to the needy, and snacks to share with anyone who asks. Is God bringing these people to her because she asked, or were they always there and she just started to notice? I think the answer is a bit of both.

First off, we serve a God who answers prayers. And a selfless prayer like “bring me in contact with people that I can bless” is certainly in line with the heart of God. So knowing that He has a willing worker on the streets is a great opportunity for God to bring people together. He loves his children, and wants to see needs met. He also wants to see our character develop, so when we ask Him to put us in opportunities to grow through serving, He’s not likely to say no to that!

Second, a “use me” attitude opens our eyes. If I go to work and all I’m thinking about is me and what I need to accomplish today, I’m like a horse wearing blinders. All I can see is the task immediately in front of me. But asking for these “divine appointments” removes the blinders. If you have a heart to look for needs, you will find them. They’re all around us!

There are many examples of divine appointments in the Bible. The book of Esther, for one, tells the story of a young lady put in just the right place at just the right time to save her people. After the queen disgraced him, king Xerxes held a reality-TV worthy search for her replacement. When he made Esther his queen, he had no idea that her presence in the palace would save the Jews. But Esther spoke up for her people, and they were saved. She didn’t desire to be queen, but she was willing, and God put her there. She was afraid to confront the king about her people, but she obeyed, and they were saved. Esther 4:14 reads, “who knows but you have come to your position for such a time as this?”

I ask you the same question: Who knows but you have come into your position (job, neighborhood, circle of friends, family) for such a time as this?

Open your heart and your eyes, and don’t be afraid to speak up. God can, and will, use you in big ways!

Book Review: The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun

Recently I had the privilege of reading The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. It is a memoir of sorts by Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise, a global non-profit that builds schools and trains teachers in developing areas. Braun founded POP when he was in his 20s, and according to their website, they have built 380 schools since 2009.

But more than just telling the story of POP, The Promise of a Pencil takes an honest, vulnerable look at what Braun and his team did right and wrong as they created this organization from the ground up. It is enthusiastically written; it’s clear that in the six years between founding POP and writing his book, Braun has not lost one ounce of his passion for the organization and the work they do around the world.

Maybe it’s because my word for 2017 is “honor,” but one thing that particularly stood out to me was Braun’s commitment to family and his passion for making others feel valuable. The Millennials take a lot of flak, so it was refreshing to read about someone so young preaching the importance of personal contacts, written thank you notes, and honoring your elders. Braun claims that his passion comes from his Jewish grandparents, the hardships they faced, and their hard work to overcome that and build a new life for their family. He even dedicated his first school to his grandma.

I recommend this book for anyone who is passionate about global education initiatives. As I’ve said over and over again, opportunity is the only way to promote lasting change for the world’s hungry, and education is step one in giving people the opportunity to thrive and be self-sufficient. POP believes that as well, and they are on the ground, working with local education leaders and communities to build not only school buildings, but the infrastructure to see to it that kids in the communities where they build have the resources to gain an education for many years to come.

I would also recommend this book for people who work in the non-profit arena. My day job is at an NPO, I’m the Program Coordinator at a history museum. As I read The Promise of a Pencil, I found great tips and inspiring stories that I can use at our non-profit as well as inspiration for my personal work with the hungry through Food Shelf Friday. Braun gives practical information about things like fundraising, social media, and using the right language to turn donors into partners. If you work for an NPO or are interested in starting one yourself, this is a great resource.

Have you read The Promise of a Pencil? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!