Posts filed under ‘citizenship’

Honor MLK Jr. with Family Service Activities in NYC

If you are in town this weekend, take the opportunity to participate in a community service project. It is a worthwhile way to spend some of your free time and since these activities geared toward families, you’ll still have time to take your little volunteers out to lunch for a skate in the park to celebrate their good works. If you know of other events, please add a comment. And if you attend an event, let us know how it went. Thanks everyone!

  • Sunday, January 16 from 1pm-3pm: Family Community Service Day  in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. The event, co-sponsored by Ansche Chesed and the Advent Lutheran Church, will take place at Ansche Chesed (entrance on W.100th St between Broadway and West End). Activities will include making birthday cards for nursing home residents, assembling craft kits for children in hospitals, cooking for the Ansche Chesed homeless shelter, and mural-making. The event is free. Families are asked to bring a canned food item for the Advent Lutheran Food Pantry.  Plus, the Discovery Programs Gym will be available for open play with a donation to the Ansche Chesed homeless shelter and the Advent Lutheran Food Pantry ($10 per family). If you have any questions, contact event chair, Lynne Bermont at
  • Monday,January 17, from 10am-2pm. Organized Community Service via the JCC.  Join neighbors by participating in organized community service activities in and outside of the JCC building as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action. Choose your project on the morning of the event. Breakfast will be served. To register contact Judy Gross at 646-505-4450 or  A blood drive and coat drive (newborn to child size 14) will also be taking place at the JCC on January 17.
  • Monday, January 17: generationOn presents a Day of Service. This event has been run for years by the NYC non-profit ChildrenForChildren which is now a part of generationOn, a division of Points of Light.  This year the event will be held at PS 57 James Weldon Johnson School in East Harlem.  All youth volunteers under the age of 13 must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone; teen volunteers (ages 13-18) may attend with signed parental permission.  To register your family, class, or youth group, please click here to submit your volunteer information. For more information, email Josh Collins or call 212-850-4170.
  • Monday, January 17, 10am: Raising Citizens: In our Neighborhood Collage. The youngest set (4 and under) an help create a mural honoring the city’s diversity at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan at 212 West 83rd Street, New York, NY 10024. Additional activities including some for kids 5 and over, can be found on the CMOM calendar.

January 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm Leave a comment

Cyber Monday? Meet Fair Trade Tuesday!

I hope you scored some deals shopping Cyber Monday yesterday.  Some of your purchases may supported a cause too. Well, I am now declaring today Fair Trade Tuesday.  With Fair Trade your shopping dollars have great impact not just for you but also for somone in need.  Why? Because Fair Trade is dedicated to developing sustainable economic opportunities for people in impoverished areas around the world. Fair Trade facilitators work to preserve native skills, teach new skills, and provide access to the infrastructure and capital needed to help local tradespeople and farmers thrive and grow.  Fair Trade efforts are committed to the environment and fair labor practices. 

Contrast this approach with cause marketing, in which a percentage of sales (usually of specific items over a specific time period) are donated to a non-profit.  Dollars raised through cause marketing are no doubt welcomed and well-used by the recipient organizations.  Nothing wrong with that. Still, cause marketing is analogous to buying someone a meal while Fair Trade is more like teaching someone to fish (and providing a market to sell the fish at a fair price). In addition to providing sustainable income, Fair Trade delivers the emotional benefits of empowerment and self-reliance.  Here is what Alicia in Bolivia had to say about her experience with a Fair Trade organization:

 “I left my home with my three children because of violence.  But I was lucky because the Sisters of the Good Shepherd  – Las Hermanas del Buen Pastor – took us in.  My children were able to attend a nursery school and I went to work. I already knew how to weave and do some silver work because my mother taught me.  With the sisters I could do higher quality work because they have better knitting needles and looms than I could afford. So my work improved and they paid me for the products I make – so much better than waiting for the tourists all day in the dusty street.   I now have a little money of my own and can buy things that my children need. I feel like a real person. The sisters call our place ‘Levántate’, which means to stand up and be a person. I am doing that.” 

I feel so strongly about the power of women using economic opportunity to improve their circumstances for themselves and their children I  recently joined the Board of HandCrafting Justice to help. So, this holiday season, I ask you to shop Fair Trade vendors such as HandCrafting Justice. Simply by purchasing this really cute purse made of recycled chip bags for the teen, babysitter or friend on your list, you are directly empowering someone who needs help in standing up for herself. So stop by and shop any of the authentic handmade items at HandCrafting Justice and other Fair Trade retailers today. Happy Fair Trade Tuesday!

November 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

New Super Heroes ready to do some good

This Thursday Mindy and I will kick-off of the new session of Real-World Super Heroes. We’ll take to the streets with a whole new group of kids. Many of our previous sessions included repeat Heroes but as they start to age out of the program, some eager kindergarteners are taking their places. We hope our past Heroes continue to use their powers for good around the neighborhood and we welcome our rookies!

This week, our new recruits will be briefed on the super powers everyone has to make the world a better place: time, talent and treasure. Our philanthropy framework follows the one established by We are again working with to provide the kids with a $100 gift certificate to show just how big (and concrete) of an impact “treasure” can have. 

We look forward to sharing some of our favorite projects with a whole new group of kids this spring, and sharing with all of you how it all goes.  Know any Upper West Side NYC non-profits that can put our kids to work on a project? We love off-sites!Have ideas for a hands-on project that can be done in the classroom?  We do those too! Share your ideas with a comment here or email me at

PS – To buy an adorable cape like the one in the picture, visit Cutie Pa Tutus.  Feeling crafty? Check out these DIY directions.

April 6, 2010 at 3:39 pm Leave a comment

MLK Day of Service provides worthwhile family fun

I love that our pre-school Claremont sent out a note reminding everyone that Monday, January 18, 2010, will be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service.  The note included information about events you can participate in with your children here on the West Side of Manhattan. (Details included below.)  No matter where you live the in US, you can find local events by visiting

Three NYC events are listed below. My kids and I have participated in the Children for Children and JCC events in the past. Both are popular so I recommend getting there early. Last year, the JCC was mobbed but it looks like they are requesting registration this time around which will probably help them plan for all those motivated volunteer families living on the Upper West Side. I am not familiar with the third event listed but it may have a smaller scale (harder to be larger than the other events) and lists some really nice hands-on arts project.  Feel free to comment with additional event suggestions or let me know how your experience was after the fact.  Enjoy!

Children for Children  “Grow Involved”

When: Monday 1/18, 10am-2pm

Where: Martin Luther King High School, at 122 Amsterdam Ave @ 65th St. and, PS 57, at 176 E. 115th St between Lex & 3rd Ave. 

This event is free and open to the public and engages youth volunteers in hands-on service projects to benefit the community and those in need.  The Dream World features age-appropriate activities for the 5 and under group. For more information, go to

JCC Manhattan

Please join JCC staff, members, and neighbors by participating in organized community service activities in and outside of our building as we celebrate Dr. King’s legacy by turning community concerns into citizen action.  Breakfast will be served.  To register, please contact Judy Gross at 646.505.4450 or

 Congregation Ansche Chesed Day of Social Action in honor of the MLK Jr. National Day of Service

When: Sunday 1/17, 10am-12pm

Where: Ansche Chesed on 100th St. between Broadway and West End

Please join our community as people of all ages engage in projects that address hunger, homelessness, poverty, the crisis in Darfur, the environment, human rights and other issues. Children’s programs include visit with JNF’s Blue Box Bob, making get well cards for pediatric patients, library bookmark-making, placemats for a senior center, cards for homeless shelter guests. For more information, contact Claremont mom Lynne Bermont at

January 14, 2010 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

Embark on your own Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt

compass-map_~15295-22PSEvery semester we begin our grade-school Real-World Super Heroes program with an introduction to philanthropy.  We explain that everyone has three super powers they can use to help others: Time, Talent and Treasure.   We cite examples of kind acts and our new Heroes identify which of the three powers are used in each case. Here, you can give it a try (more than one answer allowed):

  • Clean up trash at the beach or park (Time)
  • Make a cool art project out of clean recyclables, to give to your grandma (Time, Talent, Treasure)
  • Sing in a concert for people in the hospital (Time, Talent)
  • Invite someone who looks lonely at the playground to play tag (Time)

It doesn’t take long for the kids to realize that Time and Talent are every bit, or even more, important as Treasure. Or, that giving someone attention or expressing “love is a treasure” as one of our young heroes summarized.

After everyone understands what the three Super Powers are, we set out on a Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt to discover ways to use these powers in our neighborhood.  You can replicate this activity in your own neighborhood.  Here’s how we did it:

Each hero was given a map of the neighborhood and clues to four locations. Upon arriving at each location, we discussed as a group how we could use Time, Talent and/or Treasure to help others given the site. As usual, the children came up with things we hadn’t even thought of. Check out some of their Super ideas:

Location: Post Office. Super Hero Ideas:

  • mail a letter to your grandma or grandpa or a get well card to someone who is sick
  • buy stamps for someone who is not able to get to the post office
  • send thank you cards to people
  • bring flowers for the post office workers (can you imagine how happy they’d be??)

Location: Preschool/Daycare. Super Hero Ideas:

  • donate books or toys we’ve outgrown
  • make a bookshelf to donate
  • make toys to give to the kids
  • be reading buddies for them or read to them

Location: Garden. Super Hero Ideas:

  • plant flowers
  • grow vegetables
  • give someone flowers (if it is OK to take some)

 Location: Grocery Store.  Super Hero Ideas:

  • buy food to donate to charity
  • buy ingredients to make lemonade and cookies and have a lemonade stand to raise money to donate
  • do shopping for someone who is sick or unable to get to the store

 Our Time-Talent-Treasure Hunt proved there are plenty of opportunities for us to be Super Heroes all around us.  It doesn’t have to be big and complicated. Our young Heroes received a star on their maps for each location visited. Back in our classroom, they turned in their completed maps for a little goody bag. Treasure well deserved!

October 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

All Hallow’s Eve Epilogue

It seems like Halloween was ages ago, but I want to recount a little episode that has stuck in my mind. On October 30, the kids in our “Real-World Super Heroes” class (see About for more info) hosted a party for some tots at the West End Intergenerational temporary residence.  The residence is a housing facility used mainly by moms and their kids getting out of abusive situations; the kids attend on-site daycare while their moms go to school or job training so they can land a job that pays for their own housing, usually a 6-12 month process. Our young heroes, including my son Jeff, had spent the previous week’s class getting ready for the party, which included discussion about what a shelter is and why people may need to use it.  On the night of the party, after Jeff was in bed, he called me into his room and reported, “You know the reason I didn’t get any candy at party was there was none left because the grown-ups who live there were taking a lot.”  He seemed confused or upset that adults would take Halloween candy, so I led him through a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Well, where do these women live?

Jeff: In the shelter.

Me: Why do they live there? 

Jeff: Because they don’t have enough money to live in their own houses. They are living there until they can.

Me: What might it be like for them?

Jeff: Maybe they don’t a lot of stuff.

Me: So why do you think they took all the candy we offered?

Jeff: Because they probably don’t have any.

Me: Yes probably. And maybe they will save it up so they can give it to their kids long after Halloween is over.  They might not be able to go out and get more whenever they want.

This small conversation reinforced for me that “Real-World Super Heroes” is on the right track: not every moment of our classes is a grand “aha” one and not every day will the kids be acting as ideal altruistic ambassadors.  The hope is simply that by providing regular opportunities for our kids to see the world through someone else’s eyes and to have a positive impact on those people — be they family and friends, or community members (or animals or the world around us) — they will develop a richer annd more compassionate view of our world.  It is fascinating to see which experiences are starting to help my son broaden his perspective. And, if I’m really lucky, he’ll suggest donating all our surplus trick-or-treat supplies to West End very, very soon!

November 10, 2008 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

President-Elect Calls for Service

On Tuesday, we participated in a historic election. No matter how we cast our vote, we did so because we hope for better times in the days ahead. We also know that hoping is not enough to make it so.

In Barak Obama’s speech late last night, the following words really resonated with me: “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.”

Now most Americans have been working harder for less pay for quite a while, so the “harder” comment is rather painful. But the community sentiment is right on and I am a big believer that much can be done if many take small steps. Of course, if you want to take a giant leap, go for it!

So, here are 3 things you can do today – pick the one that’s right for you:

1. Get inspired. Be Bold is an enjoyable call to action, published by the global social venture fund Echoing Green. This easy-on-the-eyes book is full of personal stories that show the many paths that lead people – sometimes unsuspecting or reluctantly – to creating a career with impact.

2. Do more good. I’ve checked out a variety of volunteer matching engines over the years, and while I’m sure they work for someone, they never seemed to get me to take the next step. But now I know about This site is super easy to navigate and includes a wealth of specific volunteer and paid positions. You can subscribe to your defined search to be alerted to opportunities that meet your criteria. If you are a parent in the NYC area, is also worth bookmarking for its uber-local opps sorted by age.

3. Pay It Forward. In other words, do something nice for someone – and ask them to pass it on. Ugh. I mean how first grade can it get? Well, viral marketing is powerful. For inspiration and a review of the math, watch Pay It Forward (for teens and adults) this weekend, or read Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Day (for all ages and my kids love it). I’ll be sharing more about the Pay It Forward foundation soon, so stay tuned!

November 5, 2008 at 3:30 pm 1 comment

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