Wishlists for shelters, missions, food banks

Winter is particularly hard on the homeless and those in need. In Detroit, cold temperatures send many to shelters and missions. Agency resources get depleted more quickly during the holidays. Here are wish lists of needed items at Metro Detroit nonprofit organizations.  Read more

Holiday Wish Lists for Detroit Nonprofits

Winter is particularly hard on the homeless and those in need. In Detroit, cold temperatures send many to shelters and missions. Agency resources get depleted more quickly during the holidays. Here are wish lists of needed items at Metro Detroit nonprofit organizations. If you're looking to donate in your area, use these guidelines for giving. Each charity will have its own list of needs, but these are good basic recommendations.  Read more

Advent Almsgiving, Service Project for all Ideologies

If we're not careful Christmas ends up being more about receiving than giving, with adults as much as kids. It's not that kids are so selfish, it's that marketing campaigns target children and bombard them with images of thousands of 'must-have' toys, gadgets and goodies. Who can blame kids for wanting all that cool stuff? To say a child is selfish is to state an obvious, but not necessarily negative, fact of childhood. Being self-centered is how they learn to care for and protect themselves. But excessive selfishness is taught, not inherent. So do how do we teach empathy? By telling kids not to want things? Nope--shaming is unhealthy. It's also counterproductive. Better to teach positive, proactive sharing and caring.  Here's a printable advent almsgiving activity. And you don't have to be Catholic or Christian to observe advent virtues. I have friends in every faith group and ideology--Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, Wiccan, Bahai, Sikh, Hindu, animist--all practice similar acts of mercy and charity. This can activity can be used with children, no matter what their family creed. Advent Giving

Suggested Donations for Thanksgiving Food Drives

It's time to start putting together Thanksgiving food baskets for those in need. With the sluggish economy the need will likely be even greater this years. Here's a list of the canned goods and food donations to give this holiday season. It might seem unnecessary to list suggested items for a food basket. But I've worked at food banks and missions. There are certain foodstuffs and personal items that are donated in abundance and rarely needed. There are also items it seems we always run out of. Note: send foods that can be eaten unheated. Choose cans with pull-off lids. Needy folks don't always have access to appliances or can openers. Best Foods Items to Donate to Thanksgiving Food Drives

Free Stone Soup Lesson Plans to Teach Sharing

When I was in kindergarten we did a classroom Thanksgiving activity that has stuck with me all my life. We made Friendship Soup, also called 'Stone Soup' (taken from the old legend retold by Marcia Brown). Perfect for schools, scout troops, church groups, day care and homeschool, making Friendship Soup or Stone Soup shows what wonderful things can happen when people share. Here are Stone Soup lesson plans to build community, develop awareness and teach social responsiveness. Friendship Soup and 'Stone Soup' Classroom Lesson Plan Activities for Thanksgiving 

Student volunteer service credit opportunities: Tips for parents

Volunteering is a buzzword in educational circles. To raise student awareness, groups like United Way coordinate student volunteer programs. Many schools require kids to perform a set number of community service credits to graduate. Elementary and middle schools are getting in on the act, too. If your student needs earn community service credits here are some suggestions.  Student volunteer service credit opportunities: Tips for parents

Kids and social justice: How parents should teach awareness, develop empathy

Sensitivity training isn't just for adults. It has to begin in childhood. It's essential that parents teach awareness--especially of social justice issues like poverty--early and often. When teaching compassion and empathy, here are things to keep in mind.  Kids and social justice: How parents should teach awareness, develop empathy 

National Grandparents Day: Happy Grandparents Day to Gaga (and Mama) with love

Possibly the greatest gift we give is our gift of self. Here's a piece about how my mom (and grandma to my kids) has given of herself through 24 years of having grandkids. It's written in honor of Grandparents Day. Why not write your own grandparents tribute? If you don't have any, write it to a senior friend.

"Dear Mama, With National Grandparents Day approaching, I'm taking a walk down memory lane. I'm celebrating the joy you've brought to our lives, especially to your four grandchildren. You've been "Gaga" for 22 years, since Molly Cate (the eldest and ringleader) dubbed you that at age 2. She had other grandmas, but only one Gaga (or Gagi when she was feeling silly). To this day, you sign the kids' cards "love, Gaga." Read more. National Grandparents Day: Happy Grandparents Day to Gaga (and Mama) with love

Back-to-School Activities at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum

Detroit rocks black culture like no other city. It's about Motown and more -- soul food, jazz music, roots dance, triumphs and struggles, and, of course, people. If Detroit is the mother of black culture, then the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is her repository. The museum offers films, workshops, exhibits, artifacts, art treasures, and educational opportunities galore. Check out the September line-up for great back-to-school family outings.  Back-to-School Activities at Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum

Ways parents can develop awareness of poverty, teach generosity

If I had a buck for every time I heard someone say "kids today are so insensitive and selfish," I'd be rich. If kids lack sensitivity, it's because we parents have failed to teach empathy. We've taught them materialism and self-absorption. And kids need to learn empathy, especially with those in need. Here are ways to develop awareness of world poverty and teach generosity.  Ways parents can develop awareness of poverty, teach generosity

2012 Back to School Giveaway Events, School Festivals in Detroit

Charity begins in our own neighborhoods. Several organizations in Detroit understand this. They're hosting back-to-school events that give back to the community. According to the Detroit News, shoppers will spend an average $688 per child on back-to-school purchases. Several organizations in Detroit are hosting back-to-school giveaway events to help defray expenses for parents. Here's a list of school supplies giveaways and back-to-school festivals in downtown Detroit. 2012 Back-to-School Giveaway Events, School Festivals in Detroit 

Knit, Crochet or Loom? Lend Your Talent Here

My friend Sandie at "Bridge and Beyond" runs a yarn-wear collection site for homeless folks and those in need. If you knit, crochet or loom, why not consider donating a handmade article of clothing? With good-paying jobs trickling away and unemployment (or underemployment) rising, the number of needy is escalating. It's warm now in most of the U.S., but the chill days of winter are coming. Being a Michigan girl myself, I know how hurtful cold weather can be if you're not bundled up. And that's coming from the perspective of one who has a home. Besides worst-case-scenario frostbite, cold, influenza, arthritis, tendinitis--so many health conditions flare up in winter. And that's from an under-50 perspective. It's exponentially worse for older folks and seniors. Please, remember those in cold and get those needles busy. Let's show solidarity with the suffering. August's focus is slippers, but check back often for other needs. Here's that link again: http://homelessbridge.blogspot.com/

Ad majorem Dei Gloriam--
mar


Michigan's Upgraded Migrant Housing Inspections are Limited

The goal of this blog is to boost awareness on social justice issues (or the lack thereof). One area that I'm very concerned about is migrant labor. Bottom line--living conditions in migrant camps are abominable. Across this "land of opportunity" itinerants are being relegated to these unsafe, unhealthy camps.

It's easy to turn a blind eye or, worse yet, to pontificate on how migrant laborers are stealing our jobs. If they are, whose fault is that? Not the laborers. They're only looking to care for their families like every other worker.

The problem lies with corporate growers who keep them in deplorable conditions. Some actually condone and lobby for racial profiling and deportation while at the same time bringing in migrant workers illegally to run their farms. Worst of all, many growers, at least in my pocket of the world, proclaim to be Christians and tout their businesses as being run on Christian principles. I don't know what Bible they read but the mine commands followers to regard and care for each other, not abuse each other for financial gain.

Think this is a conspiracy theory? It's exactly that. Corporate farms are conspiring to the most work for the least investment. The fact that camp conditions are so bad shows that owners lack scruples, accountability and respect for human rights. I'm not talking about lack of health insurance or fringe benefits, either. I'm talking basic problems--inadequate sanitation, little or no clean water, damaged facilities and worker abuse.
I'm talking about companies who don't supply water for pickers and force them to buy water (from the company) at inflated prices.

Reminds me of mining company-run stores where workers had to pay with company-issued scrip. No wonder there was so much poverty in those communities. It was a vicious cycle of work, pay, owe and work. History has provided us with countless examples--Harlan County, Matewan, Dust Bowl work camps. And these things didn't just happen years ago.

Right now, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is asking for one penny more per pound on the price of tomatoes they pick. One cent--on tomatoes that are sold for $2-$3 a pound. Look at company-owned vending machines and company cafeterias. In some shops, employees can't bring in their own food or if they can, it has to be eaten in tiny, dirty break rooms far from the work floor. Companies set ridiculous policies and then rakes in revenue from the low-quality junk served in their facilities.

I wrote an article recently on some changes being made in Michigan. Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder would like to set aside $400,000 in his 2013 budget to hire more inspectors for migrant farm worker housing. The state employs many migrant laborers for its agricultural industries. More than 90,000 itinerant workers come Michigan each year. Here's the link-- Michigan Considers Funding More Migrant Housing Inspections.

As is the case with so many government-run social initiatives, this may be too little, too  late. It's based on findings in a report from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission which looked at migrant camp conditions. That report is over two years old. There's the too late part.

As for the doing too little part, the initiative would only hire a few more inspectors. If the government allowed conditions to get so bad, how will hiring government-level employees this help? I suspect these jobs may be more sinecure.

In the MCRC report, some abuses (sexual harassment, health and child labor violations) were only worker-reported. I'm sure the corporate farmers have their own version. If 1/10th of the worker-reported abuse actually happened, it would still be unconscionable. Study authors, (an unbiased group) also observed many abuses first-hand.

I've witnessed sanitation issues myself taking the kids blueberry picking. And whose version are we going to trust--those living in the migrant camps or the wealthy farmers living in their lavish, $400K homes? Why has so little been done about this situation? Because we turned that blind eye. It wasn't happening to "one of us." Migrant laborers fall through the cracks. We who call ourselves "residents,""citizens" and "taxpayers" also blame migrants for unemployment and economic hardships. We scapegoat them for our self-caused problems.

What we need to be looking at is who owns (and should fix) the problem. It's the same people who own the farms, the businesses and the wealth. The same ones who won't be paying the Michigan Business Tax this year thanks to a generous tax cut from Gov. Snyder. I don't need to point out the obvious (but I will underscore it)--we taxpayers won't see any of those tax savings. Michigan's unemployed won't see any jobs created (unless you count unsustainable low-paying jobs that have to be patchworked together to make enough to survive).

These abuses aren't just happening to "outsiders." They're at our doorsteps and in our work places.  Just because we're U.S citizens doesn't mean our rights are protected. Egregious violations of health, safety, pay and working conditions occur every day in every sector.Working in a union helps, but it's no guarantee especially when workers don't stick together.This is class warfare. The corporate mindset is to divide and conquer workers over superficial non-essentials like skin color, gender, country of origin, residency status and lifestyle choices. We have to stop buying into this. We have to realize that an injury to one, will, at some point, be an injury to all.

 ~mar

Best Spiritual, Religious Confirmation, Baptism Gifts for Teens

Several Christian denominations, Catholic, Episcopalian and Lutheran most notably, celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. In confirmation, the 'confirmand' (confirmation candidate) is anointed with oil and 'sealed with the Holy Spirit'. The confirmand is confirmed by the Holy Spirit and becomes a full, adult member of the parish. Most parishes prepare teenagers to receive the sacrament of Confirmation sometime between eighth and tenth grade. Another confirmed adult, other than a parent, acts as sponsor to the confirmand.

A confirmation sponsor's role is similar to that of godparent. It is customary for friends, family and sponsors to give a gift to the confirmand. The gift need not be large or costly, but rather a token of remembrance. Here is a list of reasonably priced gift suggestions for Confirmation. These suggestions work well for any spiritual life event or celebration including baptism, first holy communion and bat or bar mitzvah,  Read more at  Gift-Giving Guides: Best Religious Confirmation Gifts for Teens

No, 'Octomom' You Can't Afford a $520 Hairdo on Welfare

 Mom of 14, Nadya Suleman, dubbed "Octomom" for her octuplets, was investigated by Child Protective Services after photos appeared showing unsanitary, dangerous conditions at her home. Suleman lashed out in an ABC Good Morning, America interview, saying that her hairdresser who took the photos "set her up." I'm glad to hear that the door that appeared to be barred keeping a child prisoner was, in fact, just closed being held closed to keep little ones out. But I still have some concerns about Octomom's attitude toward money, particularly her welfare payments. Read on 'Octomom' Nadya Suleman Exemplifies Misconceptions About Welfare 

Fair Trade Website Provides Food, Health, Literacy, Breast Cancer Support, Animal Rescue, Rain Forest Preservation, Veterans' Assistance

We've seen images of suffering: Japan and Haiti earthquake Darfur, Katrina, tsunami, economic oppression, refugees, war, deforestation, demilitarized, zones, oil spills. Children learn geography by war and disaster zones. Want to help? Here's how. Very few of us have the resources to make a huge difference. Nor can we leave our homes and families to provide physical help. Here are ways to help that cost nothing. How? With 7 clicks of your mouse each day. Be sure to check their breast cancer research and veterans' assistance site, too. Read more at  Fair Trade Website Provides Food, Health, Literacy, Animal Rescue, Rain Forest Preservation 

Lenten Rice Bowl Devotional and Lesson Planner

Catholic Relief Services is the single largest non-governmental relief agency in the world. Each year at Lent CRS initiates what is called 'Operation Rice Bowl'. Operation Rice Bowl is a program which focuses our attention on the cardinal aims of the Lenten season: prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
The Rice Bowl project consists of a cardboard box which when assembled, looks very much like the take out boxes that rice comes in. The Rice Bowl is a box which families set up in their homes during Lent to collect loose change and offerings for the poor and hungry of the world. Operation Rice bowl also includes a Lenten prayer calendar with devotional activities, feast days and stations of the cross. Each calendar day has a prayer focus. Specific information about world poverty statistics and needs from around the world are listed also.  Lenten Rice Bowl Devotional and Lesson Planner 

Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' Film Eye-Opening, but Limited

"Invisible Children" refers to kids in northern Uganda who live in hiding to avoid being abducted by warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Jason Russell and a group of college friends traveled to Uganda and met some of the "invisible children," says Forbes.

From their experiences grew a film called "Kony 2012" that is sweeping the nation. Its message is to "stop at nothing" to get Kony out of power and to free the children who live in bondage to a ruthless killing machine. The film is eye-opening, compelling and heart-rending. Read more at Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' Film Eye-Opening, but Limited 

Michigan Homeless Tent Camp Operates Through Winter

A unique kind of homeless shelter exists in Michigan. Camp Take Notice is not housed in a facility. It's a self-sufficiency camp in Ann Arbor, Mich. Camp organizers plan to keep it operational through the winter, says Michigan Radio. I wrote this article last month and only remembered to post it here. If you're looking for a give-back, feel-good kind of mission to support, the residents of Camp Take Notice are more than deserving. Here is information about this community. Read more at Michigan Homeless Tent Camp Operates Through Winter - Yahoo! News

First person: How I Live Simply that Others May Simply Live

A Month of Money Saving Penny-Pinching Tips One of the things I take pleasure in during the holidays is giving. No matter how cash-strapped we are, we still live by the "pay it forward" motto. We tip generously and share. I don't say this to brag. Not at all. I say this in thanks to God for allowing us the joy and privilege of giving. This year, I was able donate about $300 to those in need. It felt good. How do I do it? By living simply that others may simply live. Penny pinching and saving money has been likened to building a dam. The large holes are obvious. The small crevices are less noticeable, but if left to slowly leak, will eat up funds quickly. Saving money means I have more money to share with others. In these times when lawmakers are cutting more social safety networks and taking tax benefits form the working middle class, these tips are even more cogent. Here's a fortnight of budget repairs to prevent financial leaks. Read more...

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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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