Friday, January 27, 2012 - Making A Difference

I love to contribute to causes where I can, whether it's my time, talent, or treasure. That's probably why I'm on the PTO board at the schools for both the wee ones. And I am Little Miss's Girl Scout Cookie mom. And I helped out with the Autism One auction last year. And I still bake cookies and help out with the holiday bazaar for the animal shelter I volunteered for from college until after Mister Man was born. And and and... we all do it. When I donate money, I like to know that the money I'm donating is going to the cause I'm supporting - or at least the very vast majority of it - instead of to help run the charity itself. I'm sort of picky that way.

Even better is knowing - and help select - exactly what my donation will be spent to support. So yes, I do give to the animal shelter I listed above because I know that the funds will help buy the cat and dog food, along with pay the necessary vet bills. I donate to the school PTOs, seeing exactly where the funds are going in the classrooms and to the students. And I love DonorsChoose because not only do I know the funds are going to teachers for specific projects, but I actually get to choose what project to fund. It has become my new favorite spot for donations, and as the wee ones are getting their allowances and putting some away for donations, this is where I'll be directing them once they've saved a chunk.

I was recently given the opportunity to support a project thanks to Lands End. They provided me with a $25 credit to DonorsChoose, and a couple credits for me to share with other bloggers. We were able to go to the DonorsChoose site to choose projects that spoke to us and donate that $25 each towards a project. Let's just say that it was a challenge to decide what project to support, but this is the kind of challenge I love. Each project on the website is posted by a teacher who shares where she's from, the type of classroom, details about the project and why it's needed, and the cost. This information is verified by DonorsChoose, so you feel even more comfortable donating - or at least I do! There is also a ticker for each project showing how much time remains (if a project isn't funded by the deadline, your donation is refunded so you can choose another project) and how much funding the project has received to date.

As you scroll to the bottom of each project, it lists the detailed cost for each component of the project from the individual item cost to the shipping cost to the (optional) support for DonorsChoose as part of processing the request. You know exactly where every penny is going, and I love that transparency.

Personally, I loved seeing that there were many projects where corporations were matching any donations - if you donated $25 towards that project, they would kick in a second $25. While that played into my decision of what project to support, the most critical factor for me was that it was a project supporting special needs children. Mister Man, as most of you know, is autistic, and the supplies needed to effectively support so many of these children are often not funded to the extent they need to be because of budgetary issues - especially since special needs children are often hard on the equipment, and it needs to be replaced regularly.

As I entered the site, I searched for a project near Chicago for special needs students - some of the many criteria you can use to narrow your search. I looked for projects that seemed as though they would be something Mister Man could benefit from were he in that classroom. It was hard to narrow it down because so many of them were so deserving, but I only had $25 from Lands End as part of their Love Giving initiative. In the end, I chose a project for a classroom in Chicago that supported sensory needs for students who need the support to stay organized and focused - something Mister Man is struggling with in school this year.

My students require a lot of sensory devices to help them organize their bodies so they can focus on their educational goals. To help with this, I've asked for oral motor devices (vibrating and chew), vibrating pillow, pea pod, karate ken as well as a classroom swing. These devices will help my students fulfill their sensory needs on a daily basis.

Imagine you can't sit still because your body can't calm down. Would you be able to focus on your daily tasks? My students are unable to focus on the daily routine and classroom tasks without sensory support. Unfortunately we have very few sensory devices because we don't have the funding to purchase the devices my students require. Please help us stock our classroom with the devices our students need to be successful at school!

Mister Man doesn't have this available to him, and I really wish he did. I was thrilled to be able to support this program. I received a confirmation email almost immediately thanking me for my donation. Had I donated $50 or more, I would also have received a thank you note from students - a super thoughtful touch. The teacher sent me a thank you note within days, with a second thank you after her project was successfully funded. I don't need thanks, but it's nice to know that my contribution was received and that it did make a difference.

Thank you for your generous donation. Your support means the world to mean and my students. I can't express how important sensory devices are for some children with Autism. For those individuals who benefit from these devices it can make the greatest impact on their day.
I look forward to utilizing these sensory devices on a daily basis to help support the needs of my students. I know they will be better off for the donations made to our classroom so thank again for supporting my students. Your goodwill has not gone unnoticed!

I wasn't the only person who was able to benefit from Lands End's generosity. Two other friends shared their experience in donating to a project on DonorsChoose.

Two States of Chaos also chose a project for special needs - in fact, one I was considered funding myself!

I chose to donate the $25 to Ms. Ehlenburg's Special education class at Big Hollow Primary School in Ingleside, Il for a couple of reasons. For one, having two children who also attended Early Education for sensory and developmental issues, I can truly identify with the needs of the children at this age and I'm very well aware of the lack of funds there are to give these children the support they desperately need.

I also feel it is important to support the teachers in our state. The state of Illinois does not have the funds to support children with special needs like many other states do. I feel these children deserve the basic needs like these sensory items in order to get through their day in the most productive way possible. These items will help the children attend better to the teacher, therefore they will get much more out of their education.

I hope this class will be able to get the amount of donations they need to purchase these simple, yet effective items for the children in their class.

Busy Mom chose a project that also seems like it should be a no-brainer - providing snacks for children so that aren't hungry when trying to learn. Study after study has shown that children won't learn if they haven't eaten sufficiently, but not all schools are able to provide for their students. As she put it:

I have 3 kids in school, and both my husband and father are teachers, so I know a little about the dedication teachers have to their students.

I consider my family and our schools fortunate, but I know many are not. Teachers themselves are in the best position to tell us how we can help them, so that's why I love the idea of Donor's Choose. They make it easy to help public schools in need with real requests of what teachers need to make learning happen.

I was excited to have the opportunity to choose a project to support, and I was looking at schools local to me for perhaps a science-related request when I saw this one from a school in Nashville.

She is asking for snacks for her students. Not a computer, not books, not furniture, but food. Childhood hunger is real, and it's in my back yard. You can have all the resources in the world, but if the students are hungry there's no way to learn even the most basic information. I can't imagine what it must be like to ask for food for my students, but I hope my donation helps just a little.

It is amazing the scope of projects available - all of which have been verified and costed and are directly benefitting children now. Have you ever visited DonorsChoose? This wasn't my first time supporting them, nor will it be my last, but I'm grateful that Lands End provided me - and others - with the opportunity to make a difference once again.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with $25 credits to DonorsChoose for myself and others as part of Lands End's Love Giving campaign. I received no compensation, nor was I provided with any product. All opinions expressed are my own or that provided to me by the others who participated in the campaign with me.

1 comment:

  1. Please consider at least checking out my Donors Choose project and possibly donating whatever you can to help my students become better readers. They will greatly appreciate it. Thanks!


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