Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Do Good Gifts

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, low key, lots of food, but Christmas kinda stresses me out. Every year I tell myself that I won't buy into the hype. I won't feel like I have to prove how much I love my family and friends with something I give them on December 25th.

I went to an acupuncturist a long time ago who told me that Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve fall at the wrong time of year. When it is dark and cold out, we're supposed to be hibernating and resting, not running around like crazy people exerting our last ounce of energy standing in a long checkout line, sweating through our wool sweaters and feeling the skinny handles of our shopping bags cut into our hands.

Every year my family says we are going to do the one gift rule, but it never happens so . . . I am trying to think of alternative ways to share the gift love that are fun for me and fun for them.

Here is a list to start and I hope readers will add more through the comments portion of the post, or email me directly with ideas and I'll post them:

Heifer International This is a favorite in my family. The organization uses individual's donations to provide families all over the world with livestock.

I've blogged about their improved gift line before. Their tag line is, "For Every Child, Health, Education, Equality, Protection. Advance Humanity". Hard to not support that.

Global Exchange
Even though I had only one trick-or-treater eat my fair trade chocolate this year, I was glad that I bought it from Global Exchange. There is an article on their main site entitled, "Buy Fair Trade, Buy Local or Buy Nothing!", with a link to the Fair Trade Federation. You can look up fair trade stores in your area on the FTF site.

Ideal Bite
is sending out green gift ideas via email each day this month. Just go to their site and sign up for their green lifestyle daily tip.

Green Home Environmental Store is a place to shop for more practical green gifts.

My former co-worker, Sherry Richert Belul, runs a fun company called Mad Moon Creations. She creates Celebration Books and Guest Books custom-designed with stories and photographs from friends and family.

Along that line, when I was about 6 or 7, we learned how to make books in school and I gave one to my parents. The story goes that I decided we were going to write down what we did each Christmas in the book. Anyway, my Dad, who was the Manager of the Mystic Seaport Store at the time, decided it would be a great product and they created The Christmas Memories Book, a 20 year diary that has places to record parties and visitors, how you celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, what you ate for Christmas dinner (my favorite entry), special gifts and what you want to remember, plus there is space for a couple photos and your favorite Christmas card.

One of my oldest friends from growing up, Jill Komorowski, gave my husband and I a Christmas Memories Book last year so that we could record our first married Christmas together. It was one of my favorite gifts.

Even if you don't buy the Mystic Seaport version of this book (it is kind of Olde Time New England style), I recommend starting one for yourself. I just read through last year's entry while writing this post.

The last sentence is, "We have a lot to be thankful for." A good thing to remember.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Give it up for the kids y'all

Last weekend I went to a great house party/fundraiser for Art in Action camp, a 10-day cultural boot camp for budding teen activists. The 10-day summer camp in Ben Lomond, CA offers dance, poetry, hip-hop, spoken word, singing, drumming and giant puppetry workshops mixed in with education about social and political issues. Most of the participants are between the ages of 17-25, working class and youth of color.

Julia Butterfly Hill told a story about how at the end of her recent 3-month We the Planet Bus Tour, she was in Flagstaff, AZ at an event to "Save San Francisco Peaks", a mountain that is sacred to 13 tribes and is being considered for ski resort development. While at the event she met a young woman who was the lead organizer of a youth coalition to save the peaks and low and behold, even though Art in Action camp is only 5-years-old, and takes place in California, this woman had gone to Art in Action camp.

Van Jones did the ask for the event. I guess because my work has been with and for young people for so long, I found it particularly moving when he said, "Every single person in this room used to be like these young people. You wouldn't be here on a Sunday night if when you were growing up you weren't scared, lonely, odd, left out, something to say but can't quite say it. And if you think about that and you add to it what they are going through. . . . What if somebody could have thrown you a life line?"

I wish that when education budgets were made for public school systems, someone would read that quote to the decision-makers to remind them what it is like to be a young person today. I've blogged about the San Francisco school gardening program, Urban Sprouts before. Here is a disturbing entry from their recent e-newsletter (Burbank and Jordan are schools the program serves):

Yesterday afternoon there was a murder in the neighborhood that Burbank and Jordan belong to. At school we were told that the shooters abandoned their car in McLaren Park, the park that touches our garden. All afternoon the students remained in lockdown inside the school. I went outside to the garden, and helicopters hovered just overhead, searching, beating the air so close to the garden. I never before felt unsafe in the garden. The panic, not knowing what could happen next, was physical. And this is the second shooting near school just since September. Our city’s 88th homicide of the year.

Urban Sprouts, Art in Action and Streetside Stories (where I worked for 6 years) are great programs, but they can only serve so many young people. Who is going to throw the young people who aren't in these programs a life line?

Finally, someone recently told me about a web site for teachers called DonorsChoose. Teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn and individuals (like you and me) fund the proposals. Pretty groovy, huh?

So, when you're thinking about who to make your end of the year donations to, or what issues are worth picking up the phone and calling your Congressperson about, give it up for the kids y'all. Throw 'em a life line.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Purpose Prize

SFGate had a story yesterday about the Purpose Prize. Civic Ventures, a San Francisco nonprofit group, will award 5 Americans over 60, whose work has fostered significant social innovation, $100,000 to further their work. The awards will be given out in June at a national summit that will recognize the leaders and 60 semi-finalists.

Nominations (including self-nomination) will be accepted Dec. 1-Feb. 28 by mail and online. Their site goes live Dec. 1 at

Maybe I'll nominate my dad, Tom Aageson. He's 65 and doing, and has done, all kinds of groovy stuff. Right now he is the Executive Director of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation in Santa Fe. Although he's only been there a few years he's helped to create all kinds of cool things like the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market--the largest international folk art market in the United States. Not only does the Market give folk art collector folks an opportunity to see and buy work from all over the world, the coolest thing is what it means for the artists. As this article from The New Mexican reported:

The market's original planners envisioned not just a commercial venture to benefit the folk-art museum, but a platform with socially redeeming, trickle-down qualities . . . Each attending cooperative might represent, for example, 600 artists back home in Bangladesh.

As education-committee chairwoman Nancy Benkof explained: "In struggling regions such as Africa, rural India and the Middle East, the sale of locally produced folk art can provide income to feed families, educate children and stabilize lives disrupted by war and dislocation."

Before coming to the Foundation, he was the Executive Director for another have fun * do good organization, Aid to Artisans, a nonprofit that works with artisans from all over the world to help them develop products to sell, while maintaining their artistic and cultural integrity, and improving their business skills, so that the artisans are ultimately not dependent on Aid to Artisans.

While I was growing up, he was the Vice-President of Marketing and Merchandising for Mystic Seaport Museum for almost 20 years. Although that was more than a full-time job, during that time he helped found Martin House, a residential program that provides housing, three meals a day, and supportive services for 54 low-income adults, many who are mentally ill.

Oh yeah, and he used to organize a CROP walk almost every year in our town to raise money for local hunger agencies.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have a lot to be thankful for: my family, my friends, my work, my home and my health. I want to send a special thanks out to my Dad for being a great role model and a great dad.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

501c3 Cast

Thanks to Beth Kanter's blog for turning me onto the 501c2 Cast "a podcast for nonprofit professionals, volunteers, and do-gooders to share information and resources to help them do their jobs better." I"ve only listened to a few posts, but I love all the great "lookie lookie links" (that is what podcaster Corey Pudhorodsky calls them). I've already explored (and posted in my blogroll) some cool sites he suggested:

Nonprofit Blog Exchange: A site for people interested in nonprofit blogs.
Global Fundraising Innovation: The best new ideas, tools and trends from the world of nonprofit fundraising
Grassroots Innovations: A non-profit organization whose mission is to spread valuable social information throughout the world, and to provide free services to charities to help them save money and further their own missions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quotes of the Week: Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Franti, Toni Cade Bambara

Welcome to Have Fun • Do Good's Quotes of the Week Audioblog. To listen to the quotes of the week, just press, "play this audio post."

this is an audio post - click to play

A Midwife in Pakistan

My friend, Zoe Krylova, has posted a letter on her blog, Vale of Evening Fog, from a friend of a friend of a friend who is a nursing/midwifery student at Yale and spent two weeks doing relief work in Pakistan.

Although, this is not a have•fun kind of post, it feels important to include since it is so easy to forget yesterday's disaster as we react to the disasters of today and tomorrow.

Here is a link to UNHCR's "Pakistan Earthquake" page for more information about what is going on there right now and how to help.

"Freelines" for political prisoners

I guess the theme of the day for me is candy.

One November 4th, NPR's Story of the Day podcast was about Robert 'King' Wilkerson who was in the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana for 31 years. 29 of those years he was in solitary confinement, basically as a political prisoner, because he was a Black Panther. He started a chapter of the Black Panther movement with two of his other friends. They became known as the Angola Three.

While in solitary confinement, he created a kitchen from a stove made of coke cans and he burnt toilet paper rolls to get heat. And in this kitchen he made pralines.

Eventually, it was decided that a mistake had been made, and King was released. Now he sells his candies, which he calls "Freelines" to help raise consciousness about political prisoners.

You can go to:

to order Freelines and to get more information about the Angola 3 and how to help the two men who remain in prison.

Art Bars

I was just reading in Utne Reader about Art Bars, a chocolate bar created by Ithaca Fine Chocolates (I am always trying to find a way to have fun and do good with chocolate!). Ithaca Fine Chocolates is the first Fair Trade Certified chocolate company in the United States, the bars are 100% organic and 10% of the profits support art education. The ten percent goes to a local organization, The Community School for Music & Arts in Ithaca, NY and an international organization, The International Child Art Foundation. I also like that they encourage schools that are doing fundraisers to use them so that they have a double do•good impact.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Off the Mat, Into the World

I saw these great T-shirts at the Green Festival this weekend that say, "Off the Mat, Into the World". They were created by a yoga instructor, Seanne Corn (pictured far left), to raise money for YouthAids, an AIDS prevention and education program.

Having been a yoga instructor and lived in yoga-rich, belly button gazing California for 14 years, I like the sentiment, and the logo.

You can order them through GAIAM

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Net2: Using Emerging Technology for Social Change

I recently got an exciting new position as the Community Builder for a project of Tech Soup, Net2. The goal of the project is to document how emerging technology is creating social change in nonprofits, and to assess what emerging technological needs nonprofits have, and how to meet those needs. I will be assembling a corps of volunteers to create case studies of these successes and needs, and to tag them in their blogs and through FlickR, and Furl. You can get more information about how to participate by going to: and you can check out the Net2 news aggregator here:

The first SF Bay Area Net2 gathering, "Net Tuesday", will be held on November 8th at the Varnish Art Gallery (77 Natoma St.) from 6-8 PM. The founder of Flock, Chris Messina, will be speaking, so come check it out!

For more event info and to RSVP go to: