How to Support the Troops This Veterans Day

So Veterans Day is just around the corner and you’re wondering what you can do to celebrate the troops and show your appreciation. After you call up any current or past service members in your family, do something to honor the rest of the brave troops for their hard work and dedication.

How You Can Support the Troops This Veterans Day

Here are some practical ways to support the troops this Veterans Day.

Donations

An easy way to support the troops is by donating items service members may need, such as books and snacks, or making monetary donations to organizations that send care packages. Here are a few ways to get you started with donating:

  • Cell Phones: Support the troops by donating a used cell phone to an organization like Cell Phones for Soldiers. This organization uses the money received from recycling used phones to obtain calling cards, which allow soldiers to make international phone calls to their loved ones.
  • Care Packages: Soldiers are often in need of things that help them pass the time and stay in contact with family members and friends. For example, Books for Soldiers accepts care packages containing books, movies, CDs, batteries, postage, personal hygiene products and factory-packaged, nonperishable food items, such as soup, jerky and granola bars. Any Soldier accepts care packages for soldiers on duty in Iraq, and Operation Homefront Hugs accepts care package donations and organizes an adopt-a-service-member program.
  • Money: The organizations that support members of the military by sending care packages and organizing volunteer efforts need money for rent, utilities, supplies, shipping and a range of operational costs. Monetary donations to these organizations make it possible for them to continue providing support.

Volunteer Opportunities

Organizations that support the troops rely on volunteers for a number of tasks. Volunteers can help raise money, collect donations, process mailed-in packages, answer questions from the public and service members, and handle paperwork.

In particular, the USO seeks volunteers to help with its many programs, including preparing packages with special items for service members who are away from their families during the holidays. Volunteers may also help facilitate the collection, packaging and shipping of everything from sports equipment and art supplies to comfortable chairs and gaming systems meant to provide entertainment and comfort to deployed troops.

Operation Gratitude seeks help with such things as collecting and organizing cell phones and making paracord bracelets for service members. Paracord bracelets are made from nylon rope and can be used in emergency situations for everything from constructing a shelter to starting a fire.

Military Family Support

Sometimes supporting service members means helping the families they leave behind during deployments. Often, military families struggle with meeting expenses and dealing with the absence of a parent. Donations of gift cards or gift certificates for use at a grocery store or military commissary can help a military family in need.

Likewise, monetary donations can help a military family pay outstanding bills. Many organizations also collect donations of toys and books for children of deployed service members. Operation Homefront, for instance, helps provide soldiers’ families with everything from financial help and transportation to home repairs and baby items.

Expressing Your Appreciation

Some forms of support don’t cost anything. You can send military personnel letters filled with thanks and encouraging words. However, service members also need help getting their own letters and cards back in the hands of their loved ones.

Operation Write Home combines letters of support from United States citizens with packages of blank greeting cards service members can send to their family and friends. You can even express your appreciation by posting general messages of gratitude via social media or giving the troops shout outs on the radio.

Veteran Support

You can support the troops not only by aiding those who are actively deployed, but also by supporting those who have served in the past. Here are a few organizations that provide support to United States Veterans:

  • Hire Heroes USA:This organization helps unemployed veterans find jobs. By volunteering or donating to Hire Heroes USA, you can help a veteran maintain his or her independence and self-sufficiency.
  • Home for Our Troops: By volunteering to help this organization or providing financial support, you can ensure that disabled veterans have safe, comfortable homes.
  • Disabled American Veterans: If you donate to this organization, you’re funding a range of benefits to disabled veterans. The benefits can include discounts on vehicle purchases, discounts on prescription medications, legal services, employment resources and assistance filing veterans’ benefit claims with the federal government. As a volunteer with Disabled American Veterans, you can help by providing transportation to veterans hospitals or even by volunteering in medical facilities that treat veterans.

How will you celebrate this Veterans Day? What steps will you take to support the troops? We’d love to hear your plans! Share with us below or tag @AptGuide on Twitter.

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How You Can Support the Troops This Veterans Day

Photo Credit: matt northam

How to Help the Homeless This Holiday Season

Want to lend a hand to help this holiday season? Consider how you might add to the effort to fight homelessness in America.

Want to lend a hand this holiday season? Consider how you might add to the efforts to fight homelessness in America.

On any given night in America, more than 600,000 people experience homelessness, according to USA Today.

A recent 5-part New York Times feature places a face on the horrors of homelessness.

With the holidays approaching, you may feel moved to help the homeless in your own community. If you’re looking for community service opportunities that help provide others with affordable housing, here’s a guide to help you get started.

Homelessness in America
Homelessness is defined as living on the street for more than one year or experiencing four or more short bouts of homelessness over a recent period of time. Of the 600,000 homeless people in America, roughly a third are families. 13 percent are military veterans. 16 percent are considered “chronically homeless,” those who have been homeless over a long period and typically have a disability.

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Plan an MLK Day Project in Your Community

Gather volunteers together in your community to celebrate a day of service in honor of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gather volunteers together in your community to celebrate a day of service in honor of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year, make your Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday a day on, instead of a day off!

Step up to plan an MLK Day project in your community, and gather fellow volunteers together for a day of service.

Here’s how to do it.

Start your apartment search today!

Approach an agency
MLK Day is a popular volunteer holiday, and many charitable agencies have community projects planned. As you rally your community to pitch in, do a little research and find a local agency in the area that could use a few extra hands.

Your local United Way chapter is a good place to start. This organization will likely have several pre-planned projects for the holiday weekend that you and your fellow participants can join in for service to your community. It’s easy to sign up a group to participate.

You may also want to reach out to your neighborhood food bank, homeless shelter or children’s shelter to see if they need help. Churches are yet another great resource to find out about local MLK project plans. Finally, there are fantastic online resources like Points of Light and their affiliate organizations, as well as the National MLK Day of Service site which lets you search for local volunteer projects or register an MLK project that you’ve created from scratch.

Connect with your community
Once you’ve selected a project (or a few!) to participate in, it’s time to drum up some fellow volunteers in your community. Why not use your apartment community bulletin board to post the details of your service idea? You can share the information in status updates on your community’s Facebook page or broadcast your plans via Twitter. You might also create a simple flyer with the date, time, project information and your contact information. (A flyer is especially handy because you can leave it on your neighbors’ doorsteps and ask them to email you to register. Don’t forget to post extra flyers by mailboxes and in the clubhouse community area.) Your apartment manager might also help you post signs about the event and find other ways to get the word out in your community.

Dream big
Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraged people to dream, so honor him by taking your day of service to the next level. Invite neighboring communities to participate alongside your apartment community’s team so that you can have an even bigger impact with your project. Once you get the ball rolling, you may even want to plan monthly volunteer days to observe the spirit of service all year long. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t afraid to make his mark in history, and neither should you be!

To learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr., and his legacy, check out online resources like The King Center. You might plan a visit to the MLK National Historic Site, one of many educational attractions in Atlanta, GA. The National Civil Rights Museum is also a great source for information and inspiration.

Photo Credit: L. Kragt Bakker / Shutterstock

Give Back This Holiday Season in Kansas City, Mo.

This holiday season, give back in Kansas City through these volunteer opportunities.

This holiday season, give back in Kansas City through these volunteer opportunities.

Are you a new arrival in Kansas City, Mo.? Want to use your talents, skills and expertise to make a difference this holiday season? You’re in luck! There are plenty of organizations in the Kansas City area who are looking for caring volunteers just like you. Here’s how to find them.

Voolla.org
Do you have a specific skill that you want to put to use to help make the world a better place? This website matches you with people needing those skills, and the money they pay goes to charity. Register your skills for free today and get started.

Volunteermatch.org
Find tons of volunteer opportunities in your area. Many organizations in your own backyard need help with everything from party planning to data entry.

Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City (www.yvckc.org/)
This is a great resource if you have kids who want to volunteer. The YVCKC offers youth between the ages of 11 and 18 the opportunity to improve their community by volunteering. They offer plenty of after school, holiday, weekend and summer volunteering projects that are sure to fit you and your child’s schedule.

Volunteer Opportunities in Kansas City (www.americantowns.com/mo/kansascity-make-a-difference)
Part of Americantowns.com, this site links you up with local volunteer organizations in more than 27 categories. This is the one-stop shop for volunteering.

The Kansas City Zoo (www.kansascityzoo.org/Volunteer) has plenty of volunteer opportunities for you animal lovers out there. If you love working outdoors in all kinds of weather, you just might be a good fit for this great organization.

Church or School Organizations
Check with your child’s school or your church for places you can help out. If they don’t have any openings, they will almost surely know of someone who does. So get out and ask around!

Finding volunteer opportunities in a new city can be scary, but with a little patience and diligence, you’ll quickly find something that fulfills you while giving something of value to your new community of Kansas City, Mo.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/PinkTag

Volunteer Opportunities in Lafayette

With the holidays coming up, it’s the perfect time to give back to your community at these places in Lafayette.

With the holiday season coming up, it’s time to start thinking about giving back to others. Volunteering is a great way to have a positive affect on your local community and do something good for others. But what if you’ve just moved to a new place? It’s hard to find out about new venues where you can give to others. Fortunately, discovering new volunteer opportunities is just a click away! Below are some great places to start looking for volunteer opportunities near apartments in Lafayette, Ind.

United Way of Greater Lafayette’s Volunteer Center

Using this site (www.uwlafayettevolunteer.org/), you can search for volunteer opportunities in your area by city, ZIP code and interest. And new opportunities are being posted all the time!

Lafayette Online

The city of Lafayette maintains a website (www.lafayette-online.com/resources/volunteering) just for connecting volunteers with several local agencies in need of help.

Help the Homeless

Looking to aid a specific cause, such as the plight of our nation’s homeless? The Homeless Shelter Directory can help. Here is the link to search results for Lafayette:

www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/cgi-bin/id/city.cgi?city=Lafayette&state=IN

Be a Big Brother or Big Sister

If you have always wanted to make a difference in the life of a child, now’s your chance. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lafayette, Inc. is always in need of child mentors. Their website (www.bbbslaf.org/) lists details about their programs and how to get involved.

Church-Based Support

If you are a person of faith eager to lend a helping hand to your new community, the Lafayette Urban Ministry (www.lafayetteurbanministry.org/) can help. Their website lists volunteer opportunities, details about their programs and ways you can donate.

These are just a few quick links to get you started. Once you get out there in your new Lafayette community, you’ll no doubt find other ways you can volunteer.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/asiseeit 

Initiate Conversation and Join Your New Neighborhood

Moving to a new neighborhood means meeting new people and finding new ways to join the community. But with our heads in our phones, it might get tricky. A quick hello, shopping locally and volunteering are quick and easy ways to get involved in the neighborhood and meet your new neighbors.

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Where to Donate Clothing and Furniture in Dallas

If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there are many places you can donate old furniture and clothing to help you with either moving or your cleaning efforts.

You know the feeling: one minute you look around your apartment, and you wonder how you’ve accumulated so much, well, stuff? Clothes you’ve kept from high school, old clawed up furniture covered in pet hair, books you read once for a school project and never opened again…sooner or later it has to go. Whether you’re about to move to a different place, or you’re just embarking on some much-needed cleaning, you might want to put your old stuff to good use rather than just tossing it out. If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, here are a few places you can donate old furniture and clothing to help you with either moving or your cleaning efforts.

ReStore

Part of the Dallas area habitat for Humanity, ReStore accepts new and gently used home decorating and improvement products, selling them to the public at discounts of 50 to 75 percent off retail prices. You can donate old light fixtures, appliances, carpets, dining room sets and other pieces of furniture. The store also sells flooring, paint and accessories and plumbing fixtures. Make sure to call the store ahead of time to discuss your donation and make sure they are prepared to accept it.

Where: Three locations in the Dallas area

Dallas Furniture Bank

The Dallas Furniture Bank takes all types of furniture, particularly mattresses, sofas, dressers, chairs, tables and lamps, as long as the pieces are in good condition, stain free and pet-odor or smoke-odor free. They will pick up your donation as long as it includes at least one of their most-needed items. You can also drop off donations, but you must call in advance to schedule a drop off.

Where: 1417 Upfield Drive #104, Carrollton, TX 75006

Goodwill

Goodwill prefers to accept small furniture items like end tables, lamps or chairs that one person can move easily. The good thing about Goodwill is that you can also donate other items, like clothes, books, shoes, toys and accessories, making it essentially a one-stop-shop.

Where: 20 locations in the Dallas area

AMVETS

AMVETS is a leadership, advocacy and service organization serving American Veterans. The organization also runs several thrift stores across the nation, and there are two in the Dallas area that accept furniture, lamps and old televisions to help out military veterans.

Where: Two locations in the Dallas area

Dress for Success

Dress for Success is an organization that provides professional attire, career development tools and a network of support to disadvantaged women in an effort to promote economic independence. The Dallas-area location accepts suits, jackets, blouses, skirts, slacks, dresses and accessories such as shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves.

Where: Valley View Center, 13331 Preston Road, Suite 1094, Dallas, TX 75240

Photo credit: iStockphoto/delectus

Black History 2012 Month Events in Chicago

Chicago is playing host to many great Black History Month events.

February is the month dedicated to learning more about black history around the country, including Chicago. Various activities are happening throughout the city in the month of February, including film viewings, an ongoing exhibit and other events. It’s a great time to gain a hands-on education about the rich history, and it’s an interesting journey to take your kids on. Here are a few of the local activities taking place in Chicago.

Malcolm X College
City Colleges of Chicago’s Malcolm X College is hosting three nights of moving screenings with discussions relating to Black History Month. The events are free and are open to students and the public. The three events are on:

  • Feb. 8, 2-4 p.m. – Led by instructor Rufai Fumilayo.
  • Feb. 15, 2-4 p.m. – Led by instructor Rong Lin.
  • Feb. 22, 2-4 p.m. – Led by instructor Abra Johnsononce.

Address: 1900 W. Van Buren St., Chicago, IL 60612

DuSable Museum of African American History
The DuSable Museum celebrates black history year-round. The current exhibit, Journey of Hope in America, features quilts inspired by President Barack Obama. The exhibit showcases the election of an African American man as commander in chief of the United States. Each piece of the 90-piece display in the exhibit serves to educate the viewing public about the importance and significance of the 2008 presidential election.
When: Open until May 9.
Address: 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, IL 60637

Chicago Park District
Various parks throughout Chicago are commemorating Black History Month with a variety of interdisciplinary events. Most of these events are free, and they encourage parents to take the entire family. For more information, contact individual parks. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Austin Town Hall Cultural Center – Feb. 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m. This celebration features performances by community members. 5610 W. Lake St., Chicago, IL 60644
  • Garfield Park – Feb. 16-17, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Feb. 18, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is free to the vendor market; $5 for music, dance and spoken word performances. This event showcases how the rich legacies of the African and Caribbean experience have enhanced the lives of local, national and global communities. 100 N. Central Park, Chicago, IL 60624
  • Washington Park – Feb. 24, 6-9 p.m. The park’s field house will be transformed into the countries of Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt and Somalia. Visitors will enjoy live musical performances, and vendors with African artifacts and displays will be on site. Admission is $3. 5531 S. King Drive, Chicago, IL 60637
  • Homan Square Park – Feb. 25, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is free and features African dance performances and poetry readings. In between performances, take a stroll around the marketplace, which will feature food, jewelry and clothing. 3559 W. Arthington St., Chicago, IL 60624
  • Loyola Park – Feb. 26, Noon – 4 p.m. Come out to Loyola Park and celebrate the diversity of Black history and culture. The event features music, readings and refreshments. 1230 W. Greenleaf Ave., Chicago, IL 60626

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/nazdravie

How to Help Relieve Hunger in Boston

Help give back to your community by volunteering or participating in various events, including the Boston Marathon.

In the spirit of community service, February is Canned Food Month, which is a great reminder to give back to your community. With organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank and the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, it’s easy to get out of your apartment and get involved and help your neighbors put food on the table for their families. Whether you’re looking to purge your pantry or to get out into the community and volunteer, here are a few ways to support the cause.

The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB)
The mission of the Greater Boston Food Bank is “to end hunger in eastern Massachusetts.” Their objective is to distribute enough food to provide at least one meal a day to those in need by 2013. The GBFB is the largest hunger-relief organization in New England, and it is one of the largest food banks in the nation. In order to be as successful as they are, they acquire food through food industry product donations, food drives and financial contributions.

  • Music for Food – Feb. 20, 8 p.m. Join local, young talent and internationally celebrated musicians as they take the stage and share the gift of music. Non-perishable food donations and monetary gifts are accepted at the door, and all proceeds benefit the Greater Boston Food Bank. Brown Hall and New England Conservatory. 290 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115
  • Host your own event – If you have an event coming up, host a canned food drive to go along with it. Rather than charging a cover, have your guests donate a canned good or make a monetary contribution to enter. Monetary contributions are recommended as every dollar donated to GBFB means the GBFB can distribute $5.25 worth of food to those in need in eastern Massachusetts. For questions, contact the Food Drive Coordinator at 617-427-5200 or food_drive@gbfb.org.
  • Boston Marathon April 16. This marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and it combines competition with challenge and charity. Racers in the Boston Marathon run for charity. This year, there are five runners representing the GBFB. Their purpose is to increase awareness of hunger, as well as to raise much-needed funds to help end hunger in eastern Massachusetts. To find runners to support, visit http://www.gbfb.org/events/boston-marathon.php.

Project Bread
Project Bread is “dedicated to alleviating, preventing, and ultimately ending hunger in Massachusetts.” Get involved and help their cause.

  • The Walk for Hunger – May 6. Start training now to join more than 40,000 of your friends and neighbors in a 20-mile walk. Though there is no required registration fee and no minimum fundraising amount, all walkers and volunteers are encouraged to raise as much as they can to help out their neighbors in need. The money raised through the Walk for Hunger  will benefit Project Bread and their efforts to fund hunger relief and prevention through more than 450 emergency programs, schools, community health centers, farmers’ markets, community suppers, etc. If you are not able to walk, consider volunteering. For registration information, visit www.projectbread.org.

Haley House
The Haley House Meals Program offers wholesome nourishment to Boston’s oldest soup kitchen, which is situated in the South End neighborhood. The purpose of the Meals Program is building community and relationships by providing six breakfasts and three elder meals per week. The nutritious food is home-cooked, and it is used as a way to create a space of refuge from violence on the streets.

  • Souper Bowl IV – Feb. 12, 2-6 p.m. The Haley House Baker Café is serving up soups made from locally sourced ingredients to benefit the Haley House’s Soup Kitchen. Tickets are $30 and are available online (www.brownpapertickets.com). As a gift, attendees will receive a handcrafted ceramic bowl, made by MassArt students participating in the Clay for Change program. 12 Dade St., Roxbury, MA 02119

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/sharply_done

Canned Food Drives in Chicago

Commemorate Canned Food Month by participating in these food drives in Chicago.

February is Canned Food Month, which means that food banks around the globe will be gearing up for canned food drives in an effort to combat the widespread issue of hunger. If you’re in the Chicago area during this important month, read on to find out about some food drives taking place as well as organizations committed to fighting hunger through food drives.

North Shore United Way Food Drive
The Chicago metropolitan area is coming together for the annual North Shore Food Drive sponsored by the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, Feb. 11-18. In this year’s drive, more than 25 local businesses and organizations are serving as “collection sites” across the region. In addition to canned fruits and vegetables, canned meat, fish and poultry and fruit and vegetable juice, local pantries are requesting toiletries such as laundry detergent, feminine products and toothpaste. Donations from the 2012 North Shore Food Drive will benefit seven North Shore pantries in Glenview, Winnetka, Deerfield, Lake Forest, Highland Park and Evanston.
Details: Feb. 11-18, 847-674-2668

Chicago Auto Show Food Drive
The Chicago Auto Show, the largest annual auto show in North America, is helping drive away hunger with their food drive. Running concurrently with the show, the food drive will benefit A Safe Haven Foundation, an organization providing help to families and individuals affected by homelessness, unemployment, addiction and other crises. Show attendees who donate three canned goods will receive reduced admission to the auto show.
Details: Feb. 15-17, McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, IL 60616

Chiditarod Urban Iditarod
Although not technically occurring in February, the Chiditarod Urban Iditarod is too unique an event to pass up mentioning. Billing itself as “probably the world’s largest mobile food drive,” the Chiditarod is a one-of-a-kind event that combines elements of a food drive with a traditional race, typically bringing in around 800 people, both participants and spectators. Participants don wacky dog costumes and race shipping carts filled with donated canned goods throughout the streets of Chicago. Since its inception in 2006, the Chiditarod has raised more than 46,000 pounds of food and more than $21,000 in monetary donations.
Details: March 3, chiditarod@gmail.com

Lakeview Pantry
Lakeview Pantry is one of the few food pantries in Chicago that offers food distribution to homeless people, providing specially-packaged foods that don’t require refrigeration and can be opened without can openers. The pantry accepts donations of food, clothing, household items and office supplies as well as monetary donations year-round.
Details:

Northern Illinois Food Bank
If you’re located in the Chicago suburbs, a good place to donate is the Northern Illinois Food Bank. NIFB provides food for many area pantries throughout 13 counties and nearly 7000 square miles, serving an estimated 502,400 different people annually. Instead of accepting canned food donations, NIFB accepts monetary donations which are used to purchase food and supplies for its network of more than 600 agencies. In addition to standard, in-person food drives, NIFB can help companies set up Virtual Food Drives for schools, churches or workplaces, which allows participants to “shop” online from a list of items needed most by the NIFB.
Details: 273 Dearborn Court, Geneva, IL 60134, 630-443-6910, hunger@northernilfoodbank.org

PAWS Chicago Pet Food Bank
One of Chicago’s most unique food banks, the PAWS Chicago Pet Food Bank, provides pet food and pet supplies, such as cat litter, leashes, collars and pet carriers, to individuals or families facing unemployment, foreclosure or other financial crises. The food bank accepts donations any day of the week at the Adoption Center.
Details: 1997 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60614, 773-475-9426

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Ydefinitel