My Year of Giving


My year of giving all started with a random drawing. I don’t enter these things often, but this one really appealed to me. In addition to receiving a Tiffany’s gift certificate, the winners also got to designate a $100 donation to the charity of their choice. Jewelry and charity — it sounded like a winning combination to me!

And lo and behold I won. I bought a beautiful silver heart necklace, and the Orange Duffel Bag Initiative received a $100 donation on my behalf. I chose that charity because my friend Echo supports it. It’s a great organization — they help kids who are homeless, in foster care, or who are living in high poverty prepare for college.

And then the little wheels in my head began to turn. I reasoned that since I easily waste $100 a month, that money could be put to much better use if I donated it to a worthy cause. But how do I find these causes? And then it hit me — I’ll let my friends choose them. And that’s exactly what I did. Over the course of 2014, I donated $100 every month to an organization or cause that one of my friends supported or benefited from. In the end I think it worked out great.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to toot my own horn. Instead I’m sharing my story in hopes that some of my friends will do the same thing next year. Granted it doesn’t have to be $100 — give whatever you can afford. Or if you can’t afford to give cash, give of your time — everybody needs volunteers. And if you can’t give, then simply share my story, so others will be encouraged to give.

In any case, here’s how my donations played out on a month-by-month basis. I’m going to do the same thing in 2015, and I invite everyone to join me. We can make a difference — one person at a time.


I bought $100 of Girl Scout Cookies from Elizabeth (a friend’s daughter), and designated that they be donated to the military. The GIs getting out of basic training got a tasty treat, and I got a beautiful thank you card from Elizabeth. It ended with “I heart cookies”.


This was a super easy month, as my friend Chelsea always does the Project Bread walk. I usually try and give something (if I remember) but this year I was happy that I was able to increase my donation. Project Bread helps alleviate hunger for families, children and individuals in MA. This is a charity that I can also support on a personal level, as I don’t think anyone should go hungry in this country — but sadly they do. Last year the money raised from this walk was used to provide 65.2 million meals to hungry people!


In March, my donation was inspired by a whole gaggle of my travel and outdoor writer friends who heartily support our California State Parks. As you may have read we have been having a few budget issues out here, and as a result some state parks had to reduce their hours or services. So it’s my hope that with my donation to the California State Parks Foundation this month, this sad situation will begin to turn around.


This donation was a bit of serendipity. I sent my donation to Nicole who is the daughter of my friend Lisa, for her fundraising efforts for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. These good folks work to fund research to cure childhood cancer. Nicole participated in their annual head shaving event, where participants shave their heads and solicit donations for the charity. Nicole is a teen, so I think her efforts should be greatly rewarded. She raised $50 on her own, mostly in $1 donations, and then mom asked her Facebook friends to kick in a dollar if they could. As a result $300 more was raised to go to this very worthy charity.


My friend Miranda was selling plates of food to be delivered at lunch this month, to benefit the Hattiesburg Jaycees. The plates were $10 each, so I bought 10, and designated that they be delivered to some deserving people. So it was a double bonus — I got to help out the Hattiesburg Jaycees, as well as surprise some people at the local halfway house with a tasty mid-day meal.


This was kind of a sad month, as my friend John’s brother passed away, after a long battle with multiple health issues. I knew the family was having a hard time coming up with the funds for funeral expenses, so I figured this was a good way to use this months “giving” allotment. Hey, it’s my project, so I get to make up the rules as I go along.


My friend’s daughter Ashleigh was running in the Relay for Life, so I decided this was a worthy cause for July. Ashleigh is just a youngster — 12 or 13 I believe — and she was supporting this cause because one of her classmates has cancer. And I can’t even begin to count the number of my friends that have been affected by this horrible disease, so it just felt right.


My August donation went out to Lyne, a lady I have never met who runs a bird sanctuary for exotic birds. Sometimes these beautiful creatures outlive their owners, and when this happens Lyne takes them in and keeps them until permanent homes can be found for these lovelies. She also takes in abused and mistreated birds, and has a wonderful track record rehabilitating them. A little birdie told me about Lyne — Ms Maui, a beautiful scarlet macaw. And you know how I just love birds!


In September I chose the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville, as they do some great support work with families who have a child with Down Syndrome. Sometimes it’s a rough road, and I’m glad they are there to help. I found out about their work from my friend Carrie who has a daughter with Down Syndrome. Molly (or Princess Molly as she prefers to be addressed) is thriving, which is in part due to Down System of Jacksonville. And they even have a support group for dads — how cool is that?


October’s gift was a pretty personal one for me. It went to a friend who is having a heck of a battle with inflammatory breast cancer. Unlike normal breast cancer, this disease spreads to just about any and every organ in your body. My friend, who is much younger than me, has been waging the fight for over two years, and has gone through countless surgeries, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and everything else under the sun. The latest news is that it is still spreading, and quite aggressively now. She is starting some new super-chemo treatment this month, so I sent he a gift certificate for The Organic Dish. They deliver meals to your home, and I know she is really going to need them in the coming month. It’s a melancholy gift, but I know it’s much needed.


My November gift was a little bittersweet. It went to the ALS Association of Florida, and it was originally slated for July. I decided to delay it because it was meant to honor my friend Dawn and her dear husband Derrol, and I didn’t want it lumped in with the ice bucket challenge. Silly, I know, but that’s how I think sometimes. Derrol had ALS and Dawn was his faithful caregiver. You notice I said “had”. Sadly Derrol lost his battle with the disease last month, so now instead of a donation in his honor I had to change it to a donation in his memory. Like I said, it’s bittersweet; however I know the ALS Association of Florida helped Dawn a lot, and I know my donation will be put to good use.


My December donation took the form of Christmas presents and clothes to a little girl that I’ve never met. It was done to honor the memory of Eloise who sadly left this Earth way too soon. I chose a child that was about Eloise’s age from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree in Nashville (where Eloise lived). I was able to do this online, and my high school friend Karen (who now lives in Nashville) helped me out with delivering the gifts. My child’s name is Julitssa and she wanted Minnie Mouse things and she needed clothes (especially shoes and socks). And she got all that, and maybe a bit more.

So that wraps up my year of giving. Please share this, in hopes that more people will give throughout the year and not just during the holidays.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015!