Wow – time flies! It has now been six whole months since we started our committment to service, and for the most part, it has far exceeded my expectations! The whole idea for this project came from a blog post a friend posted on Facebook listing 100+ ways your family can make a difference. I was inspired, and here we are today!
Although there have been a handful of times over the past six months where I considered throwing in the towel, for the most part my desire to give has only grown as our project list has grown. I have also seen a lot of positive changes in Abby as the months have gone by. She regularly comes up with ideas for future projects, asks when we are going to do another project, and brings up stories from projects we have done in the past.
Since we are at the halfway point, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to go through the projects and reflect on the successes and failures and to update everyone on anything that is ongoing. In the past six months we have completed (or in some cases, started) 33 projects. My original goal was to average a project per week, which would have been 26 projects to date. I would say we are doing pretty well! Some of the projects were really easy with very minimal planning, time or money. Others were much more involved in all of those areas! So, here it is… our past six months of service in a nutshell…
1. For our first project, we baked and delivered cookies to the local fire station. This is one of my favorite projects, and I recommend it for everyone. The cost is minimal, and the rewards are great! Abby and I really enjoyed some mother/daughter bonding while making the cookies, and to this day she asks when we can take cookies to the fire station again. Every time we drive by (which is almost daily), she points out the fire station and mentions our cookie delivery.
2. Next, I committed to giving up my one (well, biggest) addiction – Diet Dr Pepper – in favor of water. The idea was to donate the proceeds to the Clean Water Project. Although I was mostly successful in giving up Diet Dr Pepper for a couple of weeks and I donated the money, my side goal of giving up soda was a dismal failure. But, at least now I’m using my soda addiction for good (see Project 32 below!).
3. Our third project was our first of several projects benefitting Family Gateway, a local homeless shelter for families with children. Abby and I bought school supplies for a child at Family Gateway, which we donated through our church.
4. Next, the whole family participated in handing out water on a hot day at a local park. We enjoyed having Rob and Jake join in on this project. We had an interesting assortment of reactions to this project. Some people happily accepted the gift and complimented us on what we were doing, while others steered clear and seemed to think we were just plain weird. Here’s Jake toddling around with one of the waters…
5. Project 5 wasn’t anything particularly special. We simply made a committment to do more of the “little things” to be nice and helpful to others.
6. The next project is probably my favorite from our first six months. We hosted a birthday party at the local Boys & Girls’ Club. Although this project took by far the most time and money of any project to date, it was so rewarding and worth every penny and every second! We enlisted some friends to help us decorate a cake, and one friend was able to join us for the party. I don’t think I will ever forget the impact this project had on my life. I highly, highly, highly recommend doing this project with your children! Not only is it a fun way to spend time with your own kids, but the kids at the Boys & Girls’ Club will love you for it! Here are Abby and our friend Becky working on the cake…
7. Some of my favorite projects are the ones Abby came up with on her own. The first such project was when Abby decided to make and send/give cards to her Gram and Grandma for no reason other than to say “I love you.”
8. Project 8 is another one that I highly recommend. We sent a care package to a soldier that we adopted through anysoldier.com. Since we sent the care package, we received a beautiful, hand-written letter from the soldier thanking us and commending Abby for her giving. (You can check out the letter here.) I have since e-mailed with the soldier, and she sent us a picture of her unit. (Our soldier is the female on the bottom right)
9. The next project we did was another one of my favorites. (As I am writing this, I am realizing just how many of our projects were wonderful!) For the National Day of Service (September 11), we went door to door in our neighborhood collecting canned goods for the local food pantry. Another family joined us for this one, and we collected a TON of food! This is a really great project to do with kids – it’s almost like trick-or-treating to them!
10. For Project 10, I donated through North Texas Giving Day.
11. The next project is one of Abby’s all-time favorites. If you ask her what her favorite project has been, this is probably the one she’ll say. We bought a pack of silly bands and Abby spent the afternoon handing them out at the movies and the playground. We didn’t save the world or cure cancer with this project, but we definitely made a lot of people smile. It really is amazing how much little kids love silly bands!
12. Next, I donated blood. If you know me, you know what a major accomplishment this was for me. Abby was completely freaked out by this project, but I am so proud of myself for doing it (and for having it go smoothly with no nausea, passing out, throwing up, etc.)!
13. Project 13 was running for a cause. I posted the project when I signed up to run as part of a team for the White Rock Marathon Relay, benefitting Scottish Rite Hospital. I had just started my training and 5.2 miles seemed like an unachievable goal! I am proud to say that I completed my leg (the last leg) without walking. Accomplishing the relay turned out to be harder than expected. It poured rain for much of the race, with the temperature in the low 40s. Thankfully, the rain stopped just in time for the final leg. I seriously considered calling in sick when I woke up to pouring rain at 6:30 am, though!) I left that race so energized that I am now signed up for a half marathon on March 25! For my half marathon, though, the cause I am really running for is myself. Here I am running my leg of the White Rock Marathon…
14. Next, still high off my successful blood donation, I registered to be a bone marrow donor. Since the post, I have received my donation kit, swabbed my cheeks, and been officially put into the registry. Since posting about this, so many people have told me how someone in their lives has benefitted from a bone marrow donor. Please, please, please take a minute to register to donate. The odds of being chosen are small, but you could save a life!
15. Project 15 was our second project benefitting Family Gateway. We collected previously-loved stuffed animals and donated them to the children of Family Gateway. Abby and I went with one of my friends and her kids to personally deliver the stuffed animals. I loved this project! Check out all the stuffed animals we were able to collect!
16. Next, we went through our old children’s books and donated some of them to the kids’ preschool.
17. For project 17, we donated the kids’ old shoes to Shoes for Kids, an organization started by a child to deliver shoes to children in countries where they don’t have shoes. I love supporting organizations started by children! This was such an easy project and a great way to purge!
18. Project 18 – Reverse Trick-or-Treating – is probably my second favorite project to date. I started this project at our church a few years ago, and this year we gathered a random assortment of friends and did it on our own. We made goodie bags and the kids went in costume to a nearby assisted living center to hand them out to the residents. This is such a great project – you should do it next year with your church group, neighborhood group, whoever!
19. Next, I took the kids to Starbucks, where we treated a random stranger to coffee. Again, not curing cancer or saving the world, but it made me smile and it probably made the random stranger in the drive-thru smile, too!
20. For project 20, Abby and I bought gifts for Operation Christmas Child. I love, love, love this one! This year, OCC sent out over 8 million shoeboxes filled with gifts to children all over the world who otherwise would get nothing on Christmas. One of the coolest things about this was that you could print out a label and track your box. Ours was sent to Haiti!
21. Next, we bought a football jersey (Cowboys, of course), for a foster child we picked off the angel tree at our church.
22. In November, our whole family participated in our church’s second annual Impact Dallas day of service. Around 500 people went out into the community to do 17 different service projects. This is a truly great event and one of the many reasons we love King of Glory!
23. Project 23 was another Abby idea. She really loves making cards for people, so she insisted on making Thanksgiving cards for all of her teachers at school.
24. Project 24 was also 100% Abby’s idea. One of the teachers at Abby’s school was diagnosed with cancer, and to this day Abby is very concerned about her. She made her a card and spent her own money on a gift. She carefully considered what gift would make the teacher feel better, and she came up with the idea of slipper socks. Even months later, Abby reminds me every night that we need to pray for this teacher.
25. Next, the kids donated gloves and hats to the mitten tree at the kids’ preschool.
26. In early December, we continued our annual tradition of adopting angels from the Salvation Army Angel Tree. This is a project we will do forever.
27. For the next project, Abby and I made caramel corn as Christmas gifts for the kids’ preschool teachers. We originally planned to make them cut out cookies, but our first attempt at cut out cookies was a dismal failure (in terms of looks, not taste)! So, we were forced to eat those ourselves and change the gift to caramel corn.
28. Right before Christmas, we completed another project to benefit Family Gateway. My husband and I knew the crazy amount of presents that would be under the tree for Christmas at our house, so we asked Abby to pick out several boxes of toys to donate to the kids at Family Gateway.
29. A couple of days before Christmas, a new family moved in just down the street. So, Abby and I made Christmas cookies and went to welcome them to the neighborhood. Abby also insisted on taking cookies to several other sets of neighbors. I think she would have delivered to the whole street if we’d had enough cookies! I found out later that the new family happened to be friends with some of our very good friends. Such a small world!
30. Next, we started a chore chart and allowance for Abby, and we designated 25% of her allowance to go in her “giving bank.” Abby can choose to give the money in any way she chooses. Right now her giving bank has about $2 in it. She says she wants to save enough money to buy a bear at Build-A-Bear to take to a child at the hospital.
31. For Project 31, I started a virtual food drive. So far I’ve only raised $40 of my $500 goal, if you’re feeling in a generous mood, feel free to check this one out!
32. Project 32 was the first of two projects inspired by an old friend’s tragic loss of her seven-year-old son, Liam, to leukemia. When I saw that Liam’s family spent significant time at the Ronald McDonald House, I immediately went to the RMH website to see if there was a way we could help. One major fundraiser for the RMH is to collect pop tabs, so Abby and I have started collecting them. We have enlisted the help of Abby’s preschool, and a few other friends have offered to help as well!
33. Our last project of the first six months was to donate to the cause close to heart of Liam. At the tender age of six, Liam set out to raise money to build wells and provide clean drinking water for those who did not have it. In honor of Liam, we donated to Liam’s Wells.
Wow – I guess I have gone overboard in my summary this month! If anyone is still reading, thank you 🙂 Going through all of the projects we have done in the past six months has really been exciting for me. I look forward to seeing what the next six months hold! We have several fun projects in the works. (Note, if you want to keep up with our projects, please “subscribe” to the blog above. So far I only have 9 followers – pretty sad!)
To sign off for the first six months of this project, I thought I would end with a recent picture of my two angels – the whole reason I am doing all this. They make my life more wonderful than I ever dreamed, and I pray that I can help them have wonderful, happy, giving lives. (Photograph courtesy of Emily Melson Photography.)