Category Archives: Volunteerism

M is for Maskey

A friend gave me a set of coasters for Christmas, beautiful beige ceramic ones with an elegant gold M etched into the top. I set them out on the coffee table this weekend, and Kevin jokingly asked if the M was for Miller. I assured him that the M was indeed, very much for the name Maskey

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It’s easy to see why he asked the question; he knew that I was still on a Miller buzz after an amazing grand opening weekend. Staff and volunteers for the Symphony Orchestra Augusta had just successfully introduced the revived theater to the community, following a 10-year, $23 million-dollar journey, and I had been blessed with a front row seat on the ride.

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The years leading up to this moment were filled with donated time and money unlike any endeavor I had ever undertaken. I served on the SOA board during the feasibility studies (2008-2011), a time I used to hound project chair Levi Hill IV to let me do anything in order to be involved. “I’ll sweep floors, hang posters, anything you need,” I vowed with awestruck enthusiasm for the impending renovation. Eventually my tenacity and vocal outbursts during board meetings must have convinced him of my passion for the building, because in 2011 he asked me to lead a team of like-minded marketing people to advocate for the campaign in the community. I recruited a group of impressive community leaders and creative minds to serve on the “MMT”,  the Miller Marketing Team. For the next 6 years, the MMT coordinated an ongoing stream of events to create awareness for the fundraising campaign and future construction. As a result of my role in these activities, I would ultimately be asked to serve on the board of the newly created Miller, LLC, and thus began my education in everything from capital campaigns to easement rights.

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Kevin always supported this often crazy journey of mine. I devoted entire weekends to representing the Miller at public events like the Downtown Loft Tour, Arts in the Heart and the Junior League Holiday Market, as well as coordinating our own events, including street festivals, birthday parties, music videos and private tours. Kevin has seen me selling shirts, answering questions, recruiting volunteers, building websites, attending meetings and even gift wrapping to raise money for the cause. He has watched me pour our personal money into marketing materials, event supplies, team lunches and souvenir sales. No matter how thin I stretched my time or money for Miller-related activities, Kevin remained steadfast in his encouragement. Never once did he challenge my level of giving, not even when I passed out broke and exhausted at the end of my many Miller adventures. I imagine most people would have at least had one conversation starting with “Um, honey, are you sure about all this?” Not my Kevin. He even allowed me to plaster Miller art and photographs all over the house, including a 9-foot painting we bought at a fundraiser back in 2010.

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He knew that the Miller journey was not always easy, for me or for the others who were involved. Volunteers and staff came and went. There were doubters, obstacles, learning curves and political battles. My portion of those challenges was minuscule compared to what Levi endured, always with grace and confidence. I tell anyone who will listen that the Miller stands proudly today because of Levi, and I have crazy respect for this charming gentleman and intelligent leader. Somehow the right people always came to us at the right time in the project, and I tend to think they were drawn to Levi’s unwavering faith and charisma. There were too many heroes in this battle to mention, but two individuals in particular felt like gifts from heaven when we needed their strengths the most. Anne Catherine Murray came in as Director of SOA at a time when the boat was flailing a bit, and she was able to maneuver us back on course with her experience and ability to make tough decisions. She was gracious and savvy; she seemed to intuitively know how to focus the talent on deck. Then, as we neared the finish line with much left to accomplish, in flies Marty Elliott, the Mary Poppins of General Managers, with her knowledge and firecracker energy.  What a blessing these three leaders have been, and I credit them and the major investors for the phenomenal structure which now connects the past of downtown Augusta with her future.

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During the opening gala, despite the incredible symphonic presentation and vocal performance by Sutton Foster, I was restless and wanted to walk the space by myself. While the sold-out crowd enjoyed the music, I meandered the glossy arcade and strolled past the shiny displays. It was a surreal moment, remembering what it used to look like and feeling a tiny bit out-of-place. I focused on being fully present in the moment, still emotional after the presentation to Levi which had taken place onstage a few moments earlier. I knew I would remember this night as long as I lived, the culmination of years of efforts by hundreds of people, humbled by the fact that I was a small part of it all, and honored to know that the name Maskey would grace the plaques in this space for generations to come. And for that, the final thanks has to go to Kevin Maskey. I want him to know that no matter what challenge I tackle, that M will always be for Maskey.

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Kev-Ang at the opening gala

 

 

Volunteer Augusta

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I hold a clear memory of walking to school in the fourth grade in our small town of LaJunta, Colorado, entertaining a wide array of big thoughts. It was the mid-70s, and for some reason I kept pondering about what life would be like when the year 2000 rolled around. I calculated how old I would be, and had difficulty picturing myself at the age of 33, a number that borders on senior citizen when you are still in single digits. I couldn’t have imagined then, that when December 31st of 1999 finally rolled around, I would be volunteering my time for a city-sponsored New Year’s Eve party in Augusta, Georgia.

Fast-forward to 1999. I had recently graduated from Leadership Augusta, a program to promote civic involvement, and one of my fellow graduates had thrown my name in the hat to be the volunteer coordinator of a street festival celebrating the new millennium. In one of the most difficult volunteer-recruitment gigs ever, I had the overwhelming task of convincing people to not only give up their free time on such a significant occasion, but to do so out in the cold, working such jobs as selling cokes, serving beers and working ticket gates.

Going into the big night, I had many open slots I had been unable to fill, and I worried that there would be unmanned posts all over the festival grounds when the time came for the big countdown. As it turns out, the volunteers from the prior shift came to my rescue, and pulled double shifts to make sure that all went well for the historic moment at midnight. It is a powerful thing when people surprise you with their generosity, and that is exactly what happened. Many of them visited my check-in table at the end of the event to tell me about their experience.

Cheeks rosy from the cold, and eyes gleaming with excitement, they proclaimed that they had an amazing experience. “Angela, we had the best time!” They gushed their enthusiasm to me as we stood around Broad Street at 1am. “We loved our volunteer time and want to do more of it! How do we go about it? How do we sign up for the next community event that needs help?”

In what Oprah would call an “aha” moment, it occurred to me that there might be a need for someone to serve as the liaison between the people who want to serve but do not know how to go about it, with the agencies who need the help but do not know how to find it. The next day, I went back to my dealership and convinced them to sponsor a website called Volunteer-Augusta.com, a resource for volunteers and non-profit groups to connect. What I didn’t know then, but realize today, is that the creation of this website and the cause of volunteerism would become my life’s passion.

In the 15 years since the site was built, I have observed first-hand the impact that donating your time can have. Volunteering allows you to have unique experiences you would not have had otherwise. You learn new skills, meet new people, feel the intrinsic reward of doing something positive and get a sense of connection with your community. You often are pushed outside of your comfort zone, which for an introvert like myself, translates into powerful personal growth.

The most impactful benefit of volunteering, however, is perspective. No matter how difficult your life may seem at times, it all comes into focus when you serve others. Whether dishing up a hot meal for a homeless person, taking donated soaps and toothbrushes to a women’s shelter, accepting tickets at a local arts event, walking shelter dogs around the park or standing outside of Kroger, ringing a bell for the Salvation Army-in these moments, you realize you are a small but vital part of a larger whole. By becoming engaged in a new endeavor, you help our community to become more robust. Your own life experience becomes richer, filled with more gratitude, kindness, and generosity. Your circle of influence expands, as you create alliances to affect positive change for all citizens. Your kids witness the importance of service, and the seed for their future volunteerism is planted.

No matter how much or how little time you have to give, I encourage you to participate in a variety of charitable activities. Build a diversified portfolio of experiences. Your first step is to think about what causes are important to you. Then visit the volunteer-augusta.com website, and find the contact information for those agencies to learn more. If you are on social media, you will want to join our Facebook group, where over 1,000 people have signed up to stay in the loop on upcoming volunteer needs. Follow us on Twitter, where there is a constant stream of 140-character posts about getting involved. If for any reason you encounter difficulty finding volunteer jobs that are a good fit for your schedule and interests, call me directly, and I will do all I can to get you as hooked on volunteering as I am. I’m confident that we will take our collective small gifts of time, and together make a tremendous impact on the area we call home. I think my 9-year old self would be proud at how it all turned out.

Wish List

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The girl from the Rape Crisis Center called me back today. I had left a message that I was interested in hearing her “wish list”, supplies that her agency uses on a daily basis. As she read off her needs, I could picture each of the items not just being used, but being extremely significant in a moment of crisis.

“We need gallon ziplock bags to put together emergency care kits,” she explained. It is easy to imagine that soaps, shampoo and new socks would be appreciated, but as she spoke further, my mental image became more detailed. “We need Kleenex for our counseling offices. Also, it is getting colder now, so it would be really helpful to get hooded sweatjackets.” I envisioned a counselor or volunteer offering a tissue to someone in tears, or the hoodie to someone needing comfort. It made me want to corner the hoodie market, and buy all of Walmart’s Kleenex supply, so that every one of their clients would have these small gestures of support.

Buying items of necessity for non-profits does a couple of different things. Most obviously, it saves them money, because they don’t have to spend their dollars to get the needed supplies. Of course, it also saves them time going to the store, so that they can be more available for direct programs.

But the reason I most like getting a charity’s wish list is to help with awareness. The public sometimes doesn’t have a full grasp of what it takes to run a non-profit. I remember when I volunteered at the CSRA Humane Society, I was blown away at how much kitty litter it took to run that no-kill shelter! They would send a couple of strong volunteers to the store in a truck, and when they returned, it was all hands on deck to help unload and put up the supplies: gallons of bleach, huge containers of food, heavy slabs of bagged kitty litter and large boxes of laundry soap. Think of how much we all dread shopping for the two or three pets we have at home, and multiply it times 100! It’s quite an expensive ordeal.

Knowing this, many volunteers started getting in the habit of picking up extra pet supplies while at the store for themselves, and would bring some of these items with them when they came to work at the shelter. It was such a blessing! I thought, let’s get everyone in the habit of doing this for the causes that are important to them. We all go to the store several times a week (Target is my personal mother-ship), so with a little encouragement, perhaps we will think to toss a few extra essentials into the basket.

During the holidays, when non-profits feel the strain of helping families more than ever, it is an ideal time for volunteers like you and me to keep a few charity wish list items on our radar. That is why, for the past couple of years, I have coordinated a drive for my dealership called “15 Gifts of Christmas”, a chance to people to buy presents for the charities. We put a huge Santa sled in the showroom, and put out decorative bins for visitors to drop their donations. Here is a past blog about the project: https://angelamaskey.com/2011/12/16/73/ .

We are finalizing the 15 items we will collect for agencies this year, but in the meantime, here are some thought-starters for your consideration. Some are holiday-based-any charity helping families needs toys- while others are year-round essentials. So the next time you pass by the aisle with kleenex, soaps, or hoodies, consider tossing a couple extra items in for donations. Or consider getting your church or civic club to do a group donation drive. No matter what time of year it is, you can bring the gifts to the dealership and we will make sure they go to a good home.

Ronald McDonald House always needs: paper towels, laundry detergent, 10 oz. insulated cups, twin/queen mattress covers(cloth, washable), laundry baskets, toilet paper, games. Salvation Army needs twin sheet sets, laundry soaps, small toiletry items. SafeHomes needs stuffed animals, diapers and baby care items. Heritage Academy needs hard-backed books, especially for grades 3-8. And finally, ALL non-profits need office supplies!

I look forward to hearing what you think about the non-profit wish list idea, and to seeing the Santa Sled fill to the brim!

A New Leadership Augusta Year

In 1998 I received a life-changing invitation. I was asked to join 31 other local professionals from various industries to participate in a leadership program affiliated with the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce. My employer made a leap of faith, investing in tuition so that I could spend one full day a month learning how to contribute to the growing strength of the Augusta area. A co-worker at the time predicted that my professional life would never be the same. Thirteen years later, it appears that his declaration was an accurate prophesy.

My class of 32 leaders dedicated nine months to the program, each monthly session an immersion into a different part of the community. On Healthcare day, presidents of hospitals spoke to us on topical issues. On Community Service day, we ate alongside homeless men and women at the downtown soup kitchen. On Arts and Culture day, we experienced the world of theatres and museums. Outside of the classroom, we rode with police officers on the job and jumped off of telephone poles in team-building adventures. By the time we were done, we had learned about Augusta, formed new friendships and created unique memories.  But the adventure had really just begun.

In June of 1999 we joined a legacy of other program graduates, sharing a common bond with those who had come before. Leadership Augusta alumni can ask one another, “were you a Green or a Red?” and start a conversation that a non-alumni could never understand. They can compare notes on what happened during their police ride, what kind of graduation party they had or how they scored on the history test. A few can even reminisce about meeting the Governor. If they pay their dues, they can attend holiday parties, business luncheons and wine tastings. For the Class of ’99, an entirely new world of networking was ours for the taking, and the call to service was loud and strong.

After graduating, many alumni choose to give back to the program, volunteering as panelists, speakers, class day coordinators, youth program facilitators or event planners. I was one of them, joining the ranks of many LA Alum who answered the challenge of continued leadership. The Leadership Augusta family is well-known for giving back to the community-at-large, agreeing to serve on non-profit Boards, volunteering for local events or offering counsel to various civic groups. I am one of 1,111 program graduates as of this writing, and the alumni directory reads like a “Who’s Who” in Augusta, boasting an impressive roster of movers and shakers.

In April of 2011, I agreed to serve as Incoming Chair of the Board of Directors, knowing that the time had come for me to put everything I have learned into action. I knew that soon, the next wave of leaders would begin to take over.  Before I move up and out, though,  I want to make a difference. I want to leave a legacy of Kaizen behind me.

Kaizen, the Japanese word for continuous improvement, implies that there is always some new growth that can be made in any individual or organization. In this spirit, I decided to use the 2011-2012 fiscal year to study what enhancements may be needed, so that the upcoming term will be thoughtfully planned. I have been interviewing as many Leadership Augusta alumni as possible, asking questions about their year in the program and their alumni experience. As of March 2012, I have had conversations with 42 different graduates, ranging from the class of 1980 to the class of 2012. I bounce ideas off of them, pick their brains about changes they would like to see, and inquire how other organizations run their meetings. After each 45-minute conversation, the notes are typed and the information is added to a report that will become the foundation of next year’s strategy.

Another benefit to the interviews is that I have a chance to get to know the LA family better.  I speak with individuals who support the program heavily, and others who don’t pay dues. I talk with people I know well, people I know vaguely, and others I have never met.  The interviews touch on succession planning, as I realize that this project is planting the seeds for a process of selecting new leaders, based on their interests, strengths and attitudes.

With 4 months left to go, my goal of 75 interviews is ambitious but do-able. I have 4 or 5 scheduled at any given time, and dozens of requests floating out there. I hope that any LA alum who learn of this plan and want to be a part of the process will reach out and request an appointment. I ask that any alum who has suggestions beyond what they shared in their interview will keep sending the ideas. I know that the more input I collect, the more meaningful the implemented changes will be. While the changes implemented will likely be small – the organization is solid, after all- they will at least set the stage for continued growth, and hopefully encourage other future leaders to stimulate new improvements of their own.

One of my early interviews was with Lee Ann Caldwell, a graduate of the first Leadership Augusta class ever, in 1980. Lee Ann served as Board Chair from 1983-1985, and continues to serve as History Day Chair to this day. Lee Ann said that for some, Leadership Augusta is a resume-builder. For others, it is transformative. For a few, it is life-changing. When an organization has the ability to have that kind of impact, it is an honor to be a participant, a priveledge to serve and a responsibility to uphold the legacy.

For more information on Leadership Augusta, visit www.leadershipaugusta.com

To contact Incoming Chair Angela Maskey (aka PR girl), email info@lexusaugusta.com

The Best Board of Directors Meeting

I have served on various Boards through the years, and it fascinates me how different each one is. Group dynamics vary with the size and personality of the organization, and I am always keen on finding a Board that matches my skills and interests. I tend to like a structured format, and now that I have enjoyed the efficiency of that type of group, I’m sure I would  find it difficult to go back into something less formal.

For the sake of comparison, I will tell you about one of the less formal Boards I have encountered. They had many issues, most notably a lack of fiscal responsibility and an excess of drama. I will not name the organization, because I would hate to cause them any grief. They just weren’t a good fit for me. The meetings never lasted less than 2 hours and often teetered close to the 3 hour mark. I rarely stayed to the bitter end. Even if I didn’t have anything pressing to do, I would get up and leave early as a statement of silent protest for the length of non-productive discussion.

By contrast, the most formal and efficient Board I have experienced is the Symphony Orchestra Augusta (SOA). I assumed a spot on the Board after my boss’s term came to an end; the dealership needed representation with the organization we support the most. When I received the welcome letter with a copy of the organizational guidelines, I was impressed. When I participated in the new Board member orientation, I was pleased. In the 2 years since then, I have found the group to be productive, organized, and appreciative of the people who serve.

At the time I joined, SOA was undergoing an intensive and detailed study to assess the feasibility of renovating the historic Miller Theater downtown. Having fallen into a state of disrepair, the building was purchased and saved by Peter Knox, who generously offered it to SOA as a home for their performances. Mr. Knox wisely knew that if this amazing structure was to ever be resuscitated, it would require a group as solid and well-connected as the Symphony. The building needed a purpose, and SOA needed a home. It was an odd pairing, though: this artsy, run-down architectural wonder with a conservative cultural establishment. I loved the building long before I joined the Symphony Board, so witnessing the amount of work they were putting into the study of saving it made me even more impressed with my new Board family.

Although the building was offered as a gift, the organization did not accept it right away. For 2 ½ years,  as community patience ran thin, SOA took meticulous care to assess if it was a wise move. Assuming responsibility of bringing the theater back to life was a risk, and a costly one-both from a financial standpoint and a PR standpoint. It took a great deal of vision and even more faith to think that we could add “managing a multi-purpose theater” to our already ambitious list of obectives.  We were fortunate that a generous benefactor covered the cost of several consultants who guided us in our decision-making. They helped answer questions about acoustics, sustainability and fundraising. The entire process was incredibly arduous, but fortunately (again) for us, one of our Board members volunteered his time to lead the adventure, and his dedication and tenacity would ultimately determine the Miller’s fate. I’m speaking, of course, of the intelligent and amazing Levi Hill IV.

Levi articulately reported on his progress at each Board meeting throughout that 2 ½ year period. Toward the end of that time, as the consultants reports began to take final form, his team held coffee meetings with Board members to have in-depth dialogue about the pros and cons of the project.  I was blown away at the due diligence that was going behind this one simple question: do we accept Peter Knox’s offer to give us his beautiful and run-down building?

It may have been one question, but the answer held enormous potential. The Miller could save the Symphony by giving us relevance and new connections in a time when symphonic organizations all across the country are struggling with their old business models. The SOA could save the Miller by giving it the strength of a 50+ year heritage of excellence. The Symphony would have a home, and the Miller would have a new lease on life. As an added bonus, a struggling downtown would have a growing theater district, and Augusta would have a new venue to fit perfectly in the spectrum of other performance halls available in our area. The risk was high, but the potential for positive results was even higher.

In the end, the consultant’s report came back with a reassuring message: this can work. There was a caveat to that message, though: it will only work if you commit to it fully, and believe in it completely. Within the SOA organization and board, we cannot afford any dissention or doubt. You are in or you are out. Do not accept this building half-heartedly. It has to be passionately agreed upon, or rejected. After years of study and debate, it was time to stand up and be counted.

The date was set for a Board meeting called especially for the multi-million dollar decision. At 5pm on September 22nd, 2011, we met at the SunTrust Board Room downtown. Any board or staff member who could not physically be there dialed in via teleconference. I never thought I would see the day when I would be excited to attend a Board meeting. There was no way I would have missed it.

Board President Joe Huff called the meeting to order. He welcomed the group with his rare gift of balancing the gravity of the moment with charm and lightness. He meticulously explained the rules of how the meeting would proceed. He gave a clear message to us that if we voted ‘yes’ today with our voices, we would be asked to vote ‘yes’ tomorrow with our wallets. It would take all of us contributing to the project with our time, talents and resources to pull off this miracle.

Attendance was called and everyone was accounted for. Joe instructed us to go around the room and offer a comment regarding the choice at hand. Each person had the chance to voice their spin on the decision, revealing their hopes, doubts and fears.

You would think that having so many individuals offering their opinion on a single topic would be drawn-out, boring drudgery, especially toward the end. The exact opposite happened. As each person spoke, we began to feel the momentum build. To our amazement, each person expressed hopefulness for the project. Despite many who admitted to severe reservations early in the process, they also described how their concerns were addressed, fears were abated, and enthusiasm grew. My mood changed from trepidation that the vote might not pass, to excitement as it began to look like it might even be unanimous. I was going to be a part of history, and it was unfolding before my eyes.

Finally the last person had shared their thoughts, and it was time for the official vote. Each member’s name was called out, and they responded with their final and official answer. Do you want the SOA to accept the gift of the Miller Theatre, make it our home, and assume responsibility for a revitalized theater in downtown Augusta? Name after name was called, and we all felt honored to offer our enthusiastic “Yes”. The power in the moment of knowing the decision was unanimous is not one I will ever forget. Symphony Orchestra Augusta was entering a new phase of collaborations and involvement in the community. We were going to have a home, downtown was getting a theater, and Augusta was saving a piece of her history. That’s the power of an efficient Board.

“Be a Rick” Results

After my year of incredible blessings, I promised I would take the spirit of holiday giving to new heights.   (See blog “Be a Rick” http://volunteeraugusta.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/be-a-rick  )  So now is the moment of truth; it is time to admit if my actions covered the big check my words wrote. The final report for Project Holiday 2011 is simply this: Mission Accomplished. But I gotta tell you, I am utterly exhausted.

My mantra for the season echoed the movie “Yes Man”. I would say yes to each opportunity that was presented, and seek out different ways to help. For example, every retail store cashier asking for a charity donation got my money. One shocked cashier at Publix, after selling me a $5 bag of food for the needy, yelled at his co-worker across the store, “I finally sold one!” In truth, his sales pitch had been so flat and quiet, that I barely understood what he was asking. I believe it went like this (imagine an almost inaudible voice): “Would you like to buy a something-something for something-something?”  I learned that he had tried all day with no success, and his discouragement had contributed to a selling style I now affectionately refer to as, “half-hearted mumbling”. My positive reply to his request is what we in the car business refer to as a “lay-down”, meaning that the sale was going to happen no matter what. You have to really make a major faux-pas to alienate a lay-down buyer, nothing short of cursing or spitting will cause them to say no.

I was a lay-down for volunteering also. Every request for donating my time was answered in the affirmative. Ring the bell for Salvation Army? Sure! Help sort donated toys for needy families? Absolutely! Deliver food to elderly shut-ins? You bet. I also sought out the chance to work at the soup kitchen a couple of times. At the mention of any charity needing help recruiting volunteers, I would start sending email blasts and making facebook posts. My poor friends were probably thinking, “Enough already! We get that you like to volunteer, but do you have to always drag us into your reindeer games?”

My co-workers were recruited into the reindeer games, as well. They joined me in the toy-sorting and bell-ringing volunteer gigs, and were all amazingly generous and helpful. When asked to sponsor needy kids, and they stepped up to the plate. Normally my dealership is good for 3-4 kids, tops. This year we covered 18. There was some last-minute scrambling to get it pulled together, but we did it. One of them even told me why our efforts meant so much to him: 35 years ago, he was on the receiving end. He knew what it was like to have a shoe box of donated toys. When you realize that each toy, each volunteer hour, each donated dollar, makes a difference to a real child on Christmas day, it hits home. Sometimes when I am shopping for an adopted kid and think that I have enough, I visualize that child on Christmas morning. Perhaps just one more small gift will be the item that really makes them happy. Maybe they will be excited to receive some play-dough, or some markers, or a slinky, the way I always was when I was that age.

Finally, I convinced my company to take the typical donation drive to the next level. This was not hard to do, as Jim Hudson Lexus is passionate about community service. But I’m not sure even they imagined what I had in mind. While we had frequently held a toy drive, or food drive, or a collection of travel-size toiletries, we had never coordinated a full-on effort to collect everything at once. That is what we did with our “15 Gifts of Christmas” campaign. We found 15 charities who needed various items, and agreed to help recruit those donations. We promoted the need for the community to donate everything from socks for Rape Crisis, to diapers for SafeHomes, to tshirts for Hale House and crayons for the Art Factory. All totaled, 15 non-profits asking for a combination of 30 different items. We set up a huge Santa Sleigh display right at the front door, and pushed for donations for a solid month. Every time a customer or friend (or my mom!) came in with more items, we were thrilled. These were all items these organizations needed, and by getting them donated, it was one less thing they had to buy.

In the end, I am very pleased with the 2011 Christmas charity campaign. Of course, the downside is that I have not done one thing for my own holiday, so there is some catching-up to be done with my personal shopping and decorating. But overall, despite the exhaustion and the personal delays, I am proud to report that I was able to reach my goal of aggressive giving-back activities. Who knows, when my shopping is done, I may even take a cue from the generous K-Mart shoppers who are anonymously paying off stranger’s Christmas layaways. Seems like lots of people were blessed in 2011 and wanted to give back, too. It is, after all, what Christmas is all about.