This year, I am very happy to be giving to an organization that provides a valuable service to its community: The Family Tree Clinic. Family Tree, located in St. Paul is a community sexual and reproductive health clinic that offers its services to patients regardless of their insurance status at sliding-scale rates. In addition to offering their clinic services, the Family Tree is also devoted to outreach and education. They provide education services to schools, community groups and corrections facilities, and have a department dedicated to education for the deaf, blind, and hard of hearing populations as well as an LGBTQ health initiative. I feel so fortunate to have the Family Tree Clinic in my community, and am happy to do my part to help them do such important work.
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Teaching youth to succeed in ALL of life's races
Each year I try to figure out where I can donate that will make real change in someone's life. This year I am donating to Bolder Options, an activity and healthy lifestyle based mentoring program serving at risk youth. I became involved with Bolder Options in 2008 when I became a mentor to Dontay, who had been struggling in school and had a less than stable home environment. We went running, went to community and cultural events, worked on homework, and attended workshops together. It was an eye opening experience to me, seeing a completely different socio-economic environment, and I think it brought understanding to us both. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has some extra time to donate. (Dontay now gets As and Bs, and is on the Football and Track Team).
This is my first year participating in the Community Fund Drive, and I decided to give the American Red Cross. The Red Cross provides aid during national and international emergencies, helps victims of war and natural disasters, supports education programs like CPR and first aid classes, and supplies nearly half the nation's blood and blood products.
When I was in college, I didn't do much charitable giving, but I regularly gave whole blood through the Red Cross. They say that one blood donation can affect up to three people, and that sort of impact really appealed to me. I was afraid of needles, but I would often go with a friend (read: drag them along saying "Please hold my hand!"), and inform the friendly phlebotomists that I was nervous. They are always great. I still give blood when I can because of the human impact it has and frankly, because I expect blood transfusions to be there for my friends and family if they ever need it. I'm glad I now get the opportunity to support the Red Cross's other activities, as well. I feel really connected to this organization and appreciate the chance to share it with you.
Community Shares of Minnesota has the CAN DO CANINES -- Reframing the Issue of Accessibility for People With Disabilities. I have attended the heartfelt lecture given by the woman with Diabetes. She made the organization and its impact come alive to me. I also know personally other individuals who have been helped by this organization. One of the persons who works for this organization formally worked in our Veterinary College.
Another charity that has a connection to the Veterinary Library is the ALS Association, Minnesota Chapter which can be found under Community Health Charities. Mrs. Raynolds one of the first librarians of the Veterinary Medical Library had ALS. I was a student worker with Mrs. Raynolds and knew her until her retirement.
Carl Osborne and Chloe featured in Tails from Minnesota
Dr. Carl Osborne and his mobility-assist dog, Chloe, were featured in the Fall issue of Tails from Minnesota, a magazine for friends and supporters of Can Do Canines. "Just What the Doctor Ordered" is online at http://can-do-canines.org/tails-from-minnesota-fall-2012/.
Bridging and the Nature Conservancy are two of my favorite groups to designate in the Community Fund Drive. Bridging (http://www.bridging.org/) provides furniture and household items to people who are transitioning out of poverty and homelessness. I have volunteer there a few times, and I donated the contents of my mom's apartment after she passed away. The Nature Conservancy (http://www.nature.org/) not only buys up and preserves land in a wide variety of habitats, but they also work with landowners to build a culture of stewardship. I give because I want to help create paths out of poverty, and to save forests and prairies that produce the wildflowers that I love.
I sign up for workplace giving every year. And I always target my giving, usually to a variety of LGBT organizations. This year, I added a few dollars a check for an organization I have never considered supporting - Penumbra Theatre. I have rarely been to Penumbra. In fact, to be honest, I am not much of a theatre person. But I want to live in a community that has strong diverse institutions like Penumbra Theatre. Even if I never attend, hearing about the latest Penumbra production on the radio broadens my world and makes me feel good living here. I know Penumbra is in a financial crisis and has cancelled their performances. I know they are asking supporters to give small amounts and ask their friends to do the same. I can't fix the problem, but I feel really good about stepping out of my zone and helping.
I support the Land Stewardship Project as a result of my community garden experience, because they promote stewardship for farmland, sustainable agriculture, and healthy communities. When a few neighbors wanted to start a community garden we didn't know where to start. Land Stewardship Project provided us with an intern who worked with us throughout the planning process to identify the land, get the necessary permits, secure water, build a toolshed, fundraise to get initial supplies, and develop leadership. Our Southside Star Community Garden (near 32nd Ave and 42nd St) is now harvesting our 3rd growing season! LSP's potluck and annual meeting is one of the highlights of my summer and there are other opportunities for farm visits, classes and advocacy. "Farm Beginnings" classes and CSA directories are other initiatives.
We undoubtedly all have community interests and social concerns that tug at us emotionally and, hopefully, move us to action. The Community Fund Drive organizers this year are encouraging us to share those interests. Hopefully, through these personal stories, we learn more about the needs of our community and the ways in which we can make a difference.
My donation to the Community Fund Drive each year is designated for Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless¸ a St. Paul-based organization with a 25 year history in our area. My concerns about hunger and homelessness have become more informed over time, particularly as our daughter worked in a homeless shelter for mentally ill women in the Los Angeles area - an area with one of the largest homeless populations in the U.S. Her first-hand stories and data about this acute problem have heightened my awareness of these significant issues of hunger and homelessness.
The warm climate of California is a far cry from Minnesota's more brutal weather. The Minneapolis-St Paul area ranks 23rd in homeless populations in a recent report on the 100 highest populated metropolitan areas. According to Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless: One in 10 Minnesotans relied on a food shelf in 2010 and over 13,000 people are homeless in Minnesota on any given night. Children are hit the hardest: half of food shelf visitors and more than a third of people who are homeless in our state are under 18.
My 2012 pledge will again support Open Your Heart. On a personal note, I'm so very proud that our daughter continues to work with homeless populations, but now as a medical school student here in Minnesota.
I began donating money to the Trans* Youth Support Network (TYSN, http://www.transyouthsupportnetwork.org/) on a monthly basis this year. TYSN provides support as well as advocacy, education, and organizing for social change. In addition to finding a safe space and community, the youth of TYSN learn leadership and group facilitation skills and play a key role in determining the work of the group.
I was drawn to TYSN for several reasons. Young trans people in general can be very isolated and not necessarily safe in their own homes, let alone outside of them. The Cece McDonald case heightened my awareness of how young trans women of color are particularly vulnerable due to the combination of their race, gender, and transgender status (and often class). I also came to identify more with trans women as women after reading Julia Serano's book Whipping Girl where she described her own path and the concept of transmisogyny, the special hatred reserved for those who are both trans and women. I choose to support TYSN because I want my money to support empowering people who are among some of the most marginalized in our society.
* By trans, I mean "any person who challenges or crosses over their society's perceived gender roles and/or expectations." (TYSN website)
I have given to the Epilepsy Foundation Minnesota (EFMN) for the last few years during the Community Fund Drive. Having epilepsy myself since I was 12, I am thankful for the support that the Epilepsy Foundation Minnesota has given me over the years. EFMN has a day at the capital to help raise awareness and they have been able to get a few rules changed and bills passed because of this. There are also support groups and family events to help connect those with seizures to others. The goal of EFMN is to educate, empower, and connect. I am glad to support a charity that I feel strongly about. EFMN was also there to support me in January when I had brain surgery to end my seizures. Giving back feels good.