Tuesday, December 6, 2016

12 Ways to Pay It Forward During the Holiday Season

Donate toys. Donate a new, unopened toy to organizations such as Toys for Tots at KWWL TV. You can also take them to a local hospital or women’s shelter. Last year I brought a trunk full of toys to the Salvation Army for their Toy Shop!

Donate food. Give the gift of helping a family to have a hearty meal or two this holiday season by donating to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Also keep in mind that food banks still have a need in the new year when supplies are more likely to be depleted.

Pay off someone’s layaway. This can be done at the store or many times even over the phone. Simply call a retailer who does layaway and ask the customer service department how you can help pay off someone’s layaway to make their post-holiday season a lot less stressful.

Donate your time. Do not underestimate the value of your time. Serve meals at a soup kitchen. Help veterans and others get to their destination for the holidays. Help people with disabilities wrap gifts for their loved ones. Help your neighbors put up their lights. You can also start by calling a local organization or two to find out their needs during the holiday season.

Sponsor A Needy Family. Contact EMBARC to help a refugee family become self-reliant. Project Connect connects adult refugee newcomers with native Iowan mentors with a focus on English tutoring and developing and achieving newcomer goals in the US.

Make a year-end charitable donation. Especially if you work for an organization that has a matching program. Let whatever amount that you can give get stretched further by your employer for an extra generous donation.

Purchase a gift that gives back. Think conscious consumerism and making purchases from brands that give back in some way, especially during the holiday season. You can choose from our gifts that give back holiday gift guide or select a gift of your choice. If you are not sure which companies are giving back, here is a list of Social Responsibility reports from well-known brands and retailers, so you can decide for yourself where to put your dollars.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Remembering to keep it environmentally-friendly during the holidays benefits the earth, your bills, and future generations. Though the holiday season seems to be a time of wild abundance, there is a definite place for simplicity amidst the chaos. It can still be festive too! One easy example is using your kids’ drawings and artwork to make adorable wrapping paper for gifts. Here are 100 more ideas.

Donate a tree. If you need a gift idea for the person who has everything, or if you want to honor someone special in your life now or someone who has passed, consider this one. Each dollar donated plants a tree in one of America’s national forests. For more information, go to: http://arborday.org

Give what you can. Even if it is just paying for someone’s coffee at the drive-thru, one little act of kindness can make a huge difference to someone else. That person whose coffee you just paid for might be having a terrible day. Or perhaps that person might just spread the kindness on to others. Before you know it, that one cup of coffee could start an ongoing chain. Isn’t it worth paying for that one cup of coffee to remind someone else that there is kindness in the world?

Remember those who are working on the holidays. Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical responders and the like are working shifts while you are enjoying Christmas dinner or watching your children open their presents. Perhaps you and your family can bring over some baked goods, books or even just a card to show your appreciation.

Spread cheer! Even if you cannot give monetarily. Even if you cannot give with your time. Give what you can. Give a smile. Give a ‘thank you’. Give with your patience. Give with your heart.

Happy holidays!

Thanks to jessica@eatsleepbe.com!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

4 Steps to Show Appreciation Over the Holidays

It’s the perfect time of year to be thankful…
Even in the midst of the greatest difficulties you will experience in life, you can find things for which you are truly grateful.
In fact, if you take a piece of paper and begin to write down the parts of your life you are grateful for…
You may be amazed at how many items appear on your list.
With the holiday season upon us, it’s a great time to show appreciation to coworkers, employees, and loved ones. By developing an attitude of gratitude, you will become warmer, friendlier, and increase your own self-esteem.
An attitude of gratitude causes you to be more sensitive and aware of people around you. The more gratitude you have, the more gratitude you express, the better and more positive your personality is, the higher your self-esteem becomes, the more popular and liked you are by all the people around you.
Different Ways to Show Gratitude
Over the holidays, develop the habit practicing the four A’s:
  1. Appreciation
  2. Approval
  3. Admiration
  4. Attention
I’m going to show you how to show appreciation in every part of your life by practicing these four A’s…
The habit of feeling and expressing gratitude to people, for all of the things in your life that you should be grateful for, has a wonderful effect on your personality.
How to Make Others Feel Important
One of the deepest needs in human nature is to feel valuable and important.
By developing an attitude of gratitude, you begin doing everything possible to raise the person’s self-esteem and help them to like themselves even more.
You should imagine this holiday season that every person is wearing a sign around his or her neck, all day long, that says, ‘‘Make me feel important.’’

In every interaction with every single person, you should respond to this basic human request. You should always be looking for ways to make people feel important and valuable as parts of your life.
Since the holidays are beginning, it is also a good time to take a moment for yourself and decide right now what you want to learn and take action.

How To Show Appreciation Using The Four A’s

There are four key behaviors that you can practice over the holidays, and every day after to make people feel important.
They all begin with the letter A:

1) Appreciation

Have an attitude of gratitude and take every opportunity over the holiday season to thank each person for everything that he or she does, small or large, in the process of carrying out their duties.
Every time you develop an attitude of gratitude and say, ‘‘Thank you,’’ to a person, 3 major things happen:
  1. Their self-esteem goes up.
  2. They feel better and more valuable.
  3. They’re even more motivated to do more of the things for which they received appreciation in the first place.

2) Approval

The second way to make people feel valuable over the holiday season is to express approval.
Give praise and approval on every occasion, for every accomplishment of whatever size. Give praise for every good effort. Give praise for every good suggestion or idea. Especially, praise people when they do something that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
  • Praise immediately
  • Praise specifically
  • Praise regularly
Whenever you praise people, they experience it physically and emotionally. Their self-esteem rises and they feel happy inside. And whatever you praise gets repeated. In fact, the definition of self-esteem is, ‘‘The degree to which a person feels himself or herself to be praiseworthy.’’

3) Admiration

The third self-esteem building behavior you can practice is admiration.
As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘‘Everybody likes a compliment.’’
Continually compliment people on their traits, such as punctuality and persistence.
This holiday season, compliment people on their accomplishments, both at work and in their private lives. Every time you admire something about another person, you raise that person’s self-esteem and make them feel happier. 

4) Attention

The fourth behavior, perhaps the most important of all over the holiday season, is the behavior of attention.
This simply means that you:
  • Listen patiently
  • Listen quietly
  • Listen calmly
  • Listen thoughtfully
  • Listen without interrupting
True listeners hear what’s being said to them.

Be Thankful Over The Holidays

Over the holiday season, think of the wonderful experiences you’ve had in the past, the lessons you’ve learned, the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve seen, the songs you’ve heard, and the foods you have eaten.
Think of the places that you have visited and the experiences that you have had in your travels and work.
Look back over the years that have passed and look at the years ahead.
Think about the opportunities you have lying ahead of you, and you will be amazed at how many things you have in your life for which you can be truly grateful.

Things You Can Always Be Grateful For…

No matter what your condition, you can be grateful for all of your senses, for the miracles of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and feeling. You can be thankful for the functioning of your body and for the health of your limbs. You can be grateful for the incredible gift of the life that you have lived up until now, and the great life that lies ahead of you.

Take the Time to Reflect

During the holidays while sitting alone in your room, think about your current blessings and of reasons to be truly grateful.
Develop an attitude of gratitude and practice the four A’s to show your gratitude towards your loved ones, coworkers, and employees.

Our thanks to Brian Tracy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Holidays! Spread The Joy!

The holidays are a terrific time of year to share your many talents while helping others. The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley has listed a number of great ways to get involved through service below. 

Volunteers are needed to purchase new clothing to support Riverview Center's November Clothing Drive as they provide survivors of sexual violence with new, clean, discreet, and dignified clothing when they leave the hospital.

The Salvation Army serves lunch Monday - Friday. Volunteers participate from 11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. by keeping food stocked, serving food, and assisting with clean-up. 

Waypoint Services will be celebrating the season by collecting gift items for the Waypoint Wonderland. Donations will be collected from November 1 through December 9. Volunteers will assist by unloading, sorting, and stocking.
The Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission is instituting is first-ever “Adopt a Veteran” Christmas event, designed to help veterans and veteran families with economic or personal difficulties, or veterans spending the holidays alone. 
Volunteers are needed by Greens to Go to set up the indoor fresh produce winter market every Saturday from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m. from November 5 - December 17. This includes moving tables, setting out produce and items for sale, and helping customers.   
Manor Care is looking for a group of volunteers to assist in decorating for the holidays. 

Various volunteer opportunities at the Northeast Iowa Food Bankare available through the holiday season including assisting with the backpack program, Cedar Valley Food Pantry, and as an agency shopping worker.

The red kettle bell ringing is the biggest fundraising opportunity for the Salvation Army. Volunteers are needed November 11 - December 24 (Excluding Thanksgiving and Sundays) at 20 retail locations throughout the Cedar Valley.

Kettle Sorters for the Salvation Army are needed November 11 - December 24 to help sort kettles at the end of each bell ringing shift and count and organize the funds raised in the kettle. Shifts available in the afternoon (3:30 - 5:00 p.m.) and evening (8:00 - 9:30 p.m.). 

Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging is seeking volunteers to deliver meals to home-bound seniors throughout the Cedar Valley from 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can decide how often you are available to assist!

Assistance is needed to collect and count the free will donations the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley performs at Cedar Valley Christmas on November 28 at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center from 6:45 p.m. - 9 p.m. 

Celebrate the season and wrap gifts for patrons at Crossroads Mall while supporting the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Volunteers will wrap patrons' gifts in exchange for free will donations. Gift wrap, tape, and bows will be provided. Shifts are available December 9 and 10.

Volunteers are needed to prepare the Salvation Army Holiday Toy Shop by unloading, sorting, and stocking shelves on December 13 - 14 with morning and afternoon shifts available. Volunteers age 16 and over are welcome.
The Grout Museum District needs volunteers to assist staff with activities in regard to the  world of clocks, watches and jewelry on November 25 and 26 with shifts between 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. Volunteers age 14 and over are welcome.

The Cedar Valley Jaycees are looking for volunteers who to help with the annual Gift of Giving event on Saturday, December 3 from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Volunteers age 18 and over will help children shop for family members.

Many of the Cedar Valley's nursing and retirement communities have various holiday events and activities planned. If you want to assist with arts and crafts, games, or even just friendly conversation consider volunteering! Visit the VCCV's database of opportunities to view them all!
Grout Museum District needs volunteers to assist with Minecraft Explorer Club at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium December 10 at 9:15 a.m. with children 3rd through 5th grade. Volunteers age 16 and over are welcome.
Assist clients as they pick up items from the Salvation Army Toy Shop by acting as a co-shopper and hauling out items during shifts available throughout the day December 13 - 14 with various shifts. Volunteers age 16 and over are welcome.

Celebrate the season and wrap gifts for patrons on Main Street in Cedar Falls while supporting the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Volunteers will wrap patrons' gifts in exchange for free will donations. Gift wrap, tape, and bows will be provided. Shifts are available December 16 - 24. 
On December 20 the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley is holding the annual Fun with Frosty event from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. Volunteers are needed for set up,various event stations, and tear down. Volunteers age 18 and over are welcome.

The Grout Museum District needs assistants for Discovery Days – Star Wars Science from December 26 - 30 with numerous shifts available between 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Volunteers age 14 and over are welcome.

Click on the opportunity links or contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley via email or 319-272-2087 to get involved!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ways for families to get involved together

Are you looking for a new way to spend quality time with your family? Is there a cause one of your relatives cares about that you'd like to support? Would your family enjoy meeting new people in your community? Does it feel like your family's priorities are getting out of whack? If so, volunteering together as a family might be perfect for you.

What are the benefits of family volunteering?
When families volunteer together, communities and families benefit. Communities get more hands put on important projects, and family involvement often translates to dedicated, reliable attendance. Also, when one family volunteers, it can be a tremendous example to other families, fostering a sense of community responsibility and perhaps even mobilizing others to contribute their time and skills toward improving the community.

Meanwhile, families themselves get a whole slew of benefits from community service. Volunteering can draw family members closer together, forging new bonds through shared experiences that are outside the normal daily routines. Parents, children, and other relatives who volunteer together also learn more about each other while experiencing new activities. New friendships can be made and new interests may be awoken that can stay with the family for the long haul. At a basic level, volunteering as a family is a concrete way to apply and demonstrate shared values and beliefs while making a positive impact in the world around you.

Some common family volunteering opportunities
There are a number of common volunteer opportunities that lend themselves quite readily to family involvement. It's a good idea to convene a family meeting and discuss what areas you are all most interested in working with each other on. Day-long environmental clean-ups give you and your family a chance to enjoy the outdoors together while also doing something positive for the planet. Volunteering at a homeless shelter, a food bank, or a soup kitchen can not only help the needy in your community, but can also remind your family members how fortunate they are to have each other. If a member of your family is planning to participate in a walk-a-thon or another charity fundraising event, there may be openings to get the rest of the family involved (handing out water to racers or programs to attendees at a dinner ball, for instance).

Many schools, nonprofits, churches, and community groups offer countless opportunities for the whole family to volunteer together in a range of activities, from coaching sports or playing music to visiting the residents at a retirement home or assisting a toy drive. These local resources may also be able to assist you in coordinating an "adopt-a-family" relationship, in which your family helps a recently arrived immigrant, refugee, or less fortunate family to adjust to the ins and outs of life in your community.

Your family can also take the initiative and create your own volunteer activities: perhaps you can rake leaves from an elderly neighbor's lawn, or help a low-income family paint their house. While some volunteer positions may involve a longer commitment, many opportunities suitable for families are short-term or one-time events.

Define family as you see fit
One important thing to remember about family volunteering is that you and your loved ones should decide what you call your family. Volunteering with an organization that doesn't accept your definition of family will likely create a situation that's unacceptable for your family as well. And although there's nothing wrong with your whole nuclear or extended family coordinating a volunteer outing, other combinations are also possible and may be easier to manage — especially if your family wants to take on a recurring role in the community. For instance, a grandmother and grandson might join each other on a project that's all their own, or a group of cousins might team up once a month. Members of divorced families may find a renewed sense of continuity in their relationships by regularly volunteering together in some capacity.

There are volunteer opportunities out there to fit families of all shapes and sizes. And why limit it to one family? See about getting your neighbors and friends involved, too.

For more information on this event or to learn more about family-friendly volunteering contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, email or visit www.vccv.org.

Thanks to the ‘idealist’ for this information.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gratitude for Our Veterans

President Kennedy asked, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Our brave and selfless men and women in uniform who serve our country embody this great and noble thought with courage and strength that deserve our highest gratitude — not just on Veterans Day but each and every day of our lives.

We can never thank this elite group of Americans enough for their service to our great nation and to each and every American who enjoys the freedoms and liberties which define us as a person. It has been said that freedom is never free; how can we not be grateful and thankful to the men and women who pay the price of spending precious time away from their families, who endure the endless dangers of warfare?

It is also important to remember that for most of us these are men and women who we have never met or will ever know, and yet they fight for us to give us the rights and privileges that not everyone around the world can claim they have in their lives. And the irony of it all is that if these brave souls return alive, it isn’t as if they are asking anyone for anything in return! Their love for this country and fellow Americans transcends wanting such accolades; how can we not be eternally grateful for such unselfishness?

Each and every man and woman who serves is an inspiration of dedication and bravery which commands our unwavering respect, gratitude and complete appreciation. Let us also remember the proud patriots who did not return home. That dedication of a lifetime defines true patriotism.

These brave souls have given not only their time, effort, and commitment, and — most importantly — their very lives for the protection and preservation of the ideals and values of this great country.

When trying to put into words our gratitude for all that these brave souls encounter risk and face, we come up short. It is imperative that we acknowledge such service in protecting and defending our freedoms and our democratic values which define our way of life. America would not be considered the greatest country in the world if we did not have these great people defending it.

Every veteran makes the ultimate commitment to the pinnacle of patriotism and courage.

Thank you, each and every one of you, for your years of service. The sacrifices you have made for our country, on and off the battlefield, all of which are immeasurable. America is forever blessed for the presence of our veterans, who believe liberty is always worth fighting for. Men and women who believe in duty, honor and country will always be an inspiration. Your service makes the world a better place, keeps our nation a strong beacon of hope in freedom and democracy.

Thanks to all of you, who put on the uniform expecting nothing in return. The selfless act of serving our country deserves the highest level of respect and gratitude we have to offer. What is there to say other than that we are truly grateful! It is men and women like you that make all of us proud to be Americans.

Credit: The Huffington Post

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Family Volunteer Day – November 19, You’re Invited!

Start the holiday season by taking time to volunteer as a family.

Celebrate the Power of Families by joining the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley for the 26th Family Volunteer Day of Service on Saturday, November 19 from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, 225 Commercial Street, Waterloo.

Family Volunteer Day is a day of service that celebrates the power of families who work together to support their communities and neighborhoods. Volunteering is a great way for kids and adults to make new friends, develop compassion for those in need, and even pick up a new skill or two! It’s an amazing day to bring your family together and make your mark on the world. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity!

Teach your children the importance of service and nurture the desire to give back to the community. Families will have an opportunity to participate in and produce a variety of projects that will benefit others in our community.   

For more information regarding Family Volunteer Day opportunities visit www.vccv.org, call 319-272-2087 or email.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The importance of youth engagement

What does youth engagement mean?

Youth engagement is the result when young people are involved in responsible, challenging actions to create positive social change. This means involving youth in planning and in making decisions that affect themselves and others. Youth engagement happens in youth-adult partnerships that are structured so that both groups contribute, teach, and learn from each other. 

Why is youth engagement important?

Youth engagement is a central principle of youth development. According to the ecological perspective of human development, young people are agents of their own development. Youth are more than passive recipients of external influences; instead they are actively involved in shaping their development by interacting with the people and opportunities made available within their environments. Through youth engagement, communities can do a better job of creating the services, opportunities, and supports that young people need to develop in healthy ways. Youth engagement offers community leaders the expertise and partnership of young people, helping adults fully understand what it is like to grow up in a rapidly changing world. From a political point of view, youth engagement is important because young people deserve the right to represent their own interests. Youth civic engagement is also critically important to prepare young people to be active citizens in a democracy.
What are the benefits of youth engagement?

Youth engagement is a win-win proposition.
  • Young people benefit by gaining skills, knowledge, self-esteem, and connectedness.
  • Adults benefit by enhancing their own competencies, learning to better understand and value youth, and increasing their commitment and energy to their organizations.
  • Organizations benefit by improving their programs, gaining community recognition, and attracting funders.
  • Communities benefit by improving quality of life, coordinating youth services, and authentically embracing diversity by representing young people.

To learn more about youth engagement, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley for more information at (319) 272-2087, email, or visit www.vccv.org.

Thanks to Youth Center of Excellence, Cornell University.