Do Good, Feel Better

April 30, 2009

If you’re at all like me, you want to volunteer and give back but you can’t commit to a regular gig. My life changes day to day, and sometimes by the hour, so committing to something, say, once a week would be an added pressure that I don’t think my schedule could take. But there are plenty of opportunities out there for the doing that are very flexible, whether it be a one-time thing or a whenever you can do it. At times like these, when budgets are being slashed to the bone, volunteers are needed more than ever. And for those of you who have ever given your time and your expertise to a worthy organization, what you get back is so positive and powerful, it makes finding the time very, very worth it. Here are a few ideas to dip your toe in the volunteer waters:

Start Local: Are there things in your neighborhood that you could help with? What about your kids’ school? Libraries always need help, whether it be shelving or organizing books or reading books at storytime, a few hours there can make a big difference. Or what about your local playground? If your children play there a lot, your painting or trash pick-up or planting will be enjoyed by your own family and friends for weeks to come. When Ken and I volunteered recently in Central Park, it felt good to finish all of the scraping and painting because we knew so many Upper West Side kids would have a nicer place to play all spring and summer.

Get the Kids Involved: Depending on how old your kids are, volunteering with them teaches the importance of giving back and lets them appreciate their own good fortune. For smaller kids, you can do what Austin and I have done for the last couple of Augusts: buy a backpack and fill it with all kinds of school supplies, and donate it to a local shelter. Many homeless kids can’t afford new things for back to school and I always explain to Austin why we’re doing it, and he gets to pick out the supplies we pack up. Last year he even drew a picture and put it inside for the recipient. Soup kitchens are good for kids who are a little older. I have a friend that goes with her family every Thanksgiving to serve dinner to the people at a shelter, and her kids are so attune to the fact that people are hungry and less fortunate.

Share Your Expertise: Especially in this time when so many people are out of work, many cities are putting together job fairs and job training seminars and would love someone to come and help people with their resumes or teach them a skill on the computer. Veterans organizations in particular are helping to retrain those coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Mentoring is such a rewarding thing — I mentored a woman at work and it was so gratifying when she was promoted and achieved her goals, and she was so appreciative of my sharing my experience.

Money Talks: OK, let’s say you really have no time to give. Giving money to cash-strapped organizations is always appreciated. So if you’re in the position to do it, look where you can make an impact. Obviously museums and universities are great to give to, but sometimes there are smaller places that could use the help. A site like lets you see what school teachers across the country need for their classrooms, and you can pick a “wish” and make it come true for them and their students. Does your local middle school have an excellent chess team? Maybe you can donate to help defray the cost of the team traveling for the state finals.

There are so many worthy places to give, just think about what’s meaningful to you and your family and then do whatever you can. You’ll be very glad you did.


“I mean, I understand it. Sometimes you just want them dead. With my ex-wife, I almost made the call.”

— One guy to another coming off the elevator at work.


Jill from the great state of Pennsylvania (Helloooooo Arlen!) writes in with a deal from Origins online: 25% off everything until May 5th. Free shipping if you spend $75.  Just put in the code ffmaydm.

And if you need anything at, here’s a code for 25% off and free shipping through May 4th: MACYSFF.

Get Real

I can’t stand when magazines do profiles of people and they ask them what book they’re reading and inevitably they choose some incredibly highbrow tome that you know they’re not reading and never will. Tonight on the subway home I was glancing at a piece about a working mom and she said she was reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria. Really? In between taking care of your kid, working long hours and trying to have a good marriage, that’s what you decided to pick up? Let me tell you something: I like Fareed Zakaria. I think he has an interesting perspective on the Middle East. I saw him on The Early Show this morning. But you know what I’m reading? People freakin’ magazine. And I’m ok with that! Ha ha.

Speaking of The Early Show, why was Kathy Ireland on as one of the hosts this morning? I hope she’s not joining that show. She was terrible. Haven’t television executives learned that being a model doesn’t mean you can speak well on camera? She was so forced, it was incredible. She needs a media coach, pronto! Yikes.


Just watched the end of President Obama’s press conference. When you hear the guy list all of the problems facing our country right now, you realize we are really screwed! It’s like, “banking crisis, economic collapse, auto industry bailout, mortgage foreclosures, two wars, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, health care system overhaul — oh yeah, and swine flu pandemic…” It would be funny if it weren’t so…true! May the force be with you, Mr. President.

And may the force be with all of you. Purell is sold out in NYC — hope you all bought stock in that company last week.

Until tomorrow…


One Response to “Do Good, Feel Better”

  1. Great ideas for volunteering.. I volunteer often, and it’s my favorite way to spend free time in the evenings or on weekends when i’m not working. For opportunities in the NY area, you can go to or You can find one-time, as well as kid-friendly activities!

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