Sunday, November 30, 2008


I don't usually blog on a Sunday night, but I'm feeling anxious and decided that blogging would help me relax. I don't even know what is making me feel so anxious- I'm concerned about a lot of little things and right now they are all adding up and making me feel stressed. There is a personal issue that's bothering me, so some of the stress from that transfers over to work. It's funny- work is stressful, particularly fundraising, but it is always the place that I go when there are personal issues that bother- family things, relationship issues- whatever it is, work can be such a source of comfort. I focus on a constant series of tasks and other problems start to melt away. Sometimes, feeling hurt and angry has even been a good motivator- I've thrown myself into work in order to feel better and that has lead to some significant accomplishments. It's kind of the same reaction that I have when people tell me that I can't do something or doubt my ability to have Project Smile grow- it makes me dig deeper and work harder. It's not about my being stuboorn or bullish behavior- I always listen to advice and the good advice that I've received over the years has been very valuable. I would be the first to say that there are a lot of things that I don't know, but if there is one thing that I know, it is that there is a way for Project Smile to become a national charity and I will find that way.

Someone was talking to me recently about compromise and putting personal dreams on hold- now, I compromise all the time- I negotiate, I find ways around obstacles and I do things that I don't necessarily want to do in order to help others, but as far as putting my personal dream on hold- there is no compromise on that one and there never will be. If I put my dream on hold, a part of me would die and I owe it to myself to never let that happen. I've been doing Project Smile since I was 23 years old, it is one of the very few jobs that I've ever cared about and it is the only job that I've loved, Project Smile has given me moments in my life that I never thought would be possible and I know there will be even more to come. I have taken PS from nothing but a name in a crummy school notebook with a purple cover to working with 142 police/fire departments in New England and having events that can bring over 700 kids/parents to- in just 4 years of full time work. PS is deeply personal- I have had the biggest highs with this job and I have been through very dark times. I am very proud of what we've done and I am even prouder of where we are going to go. Unless I am dead or seriously disabled, the sun will never rise on a day where my dream is put on hold.

Anyways, enough on that subject. It was on my mind last night and today, it feels better to write about it. I also feel that I need to do more outside activities- I love hanging out with my friends and spending time with my family, but I do have other interests as well and I want to spend more time developing them. It is hard though to find the extra time as well as the money that is usually associated with other pursuits.

Well, I need to go and write my list- I can't believe it is December 1. I also need to figure out what I'm cooking for New Food Monday tomorrow- I think soup needs to be involved somewhere and no chicken or turkey- I need a break. I was watching a show tonight- a wedding show actually- and it gave me some ideas that we could incorporate in the Valentine's event, so I want to discuss them with the event planner tomorrow. She got an awesome venue on board to donate their space as well as food, so I want to make sure that we utilize the venue to their fullest potential. I like to watch different shows and read lots of magazines, papers, online articles because it gives me ideas for events and fundraising and marketing.

OK- heading to bed, it is 12:37 and I'm trying to stay on that bed before 1am thing- so hard though! I also wanted to write about my trapeze adventure, but I'll do that tomorrow. Good night friends...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grant Angst

I have grant angst right now- doesn't that sound like a medical condition? It's the same grant that I've been working on the last few days. It's due on Friday and I need to finish it tonight- I don't want to work tomorrow or Friday- besides that, I don't like having things unfinished. The grant isn't event that difficult, I don't know why it is becoming such a big deal- it is simply for maintaining funding for our program. This bank has funded us for the past two years and I need them to continue. I don't want to submit the exact same grant as last year, but then again our program hasn't really changed- we've expanded to work with DCF, but our core program is still the same, so there isn't that much new info to add beyond this year's updates. Maybe I'm overthinking things- I have that habit sometimes.

I finally signed up for Facebook tonight- most of my friends have been telling me to sign up for ages and other people have recommended for networking as well, so I finally did it. My profile only has a little info on it and I've added a few friends and links to this blog and the PS website. I need to spend more time filling out the profile and connecting with other people. I also want to add some new photos on my blog- we have lots of great photos from the '09 calendar, I'd like to put some up. It's so hard to choose the photos, there are always a lot of great ones that don't make it in there. We did photos of a local FF who had a huge family- he had 6 or 7 kids and they were all there for calendar photos. The photos came out awesome, they were a great family- the kids were so cute- we only used two photos, but there were at least 3 others that I really wanted to use. That was the largest family that I've ever photographed.

Anyways, that's about it for tonight- I'm excited for Thanksgiving- which will be here in 4 minutes! This grant just needs to get done- I don't know what else to do with it. So I'm going to go back and work on it, then I can print the baby out, write a fabulous cover letter, put the package together and seal the envelope- all ready to be delivered on Friday- then I can relax, go to bed and dream of turkey and other wickedly wonderful things.... Doesn't that sound like a plan? Thanksgiving is here! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grant Work

Just over 1 day to Thanksgiving! So what's new? Not a heck of a lot today. I was focusing on the grant that I need to finish tomorrow. I finished the evaluation section from last year's grant that was awarded and I'm working on the new grant application. It's not that difficult, but I'm struggling with it- there comes a point in grant writing (and a lot of other things too) when one struggles in the beginning- trying to get the idea across in the best possible way, and then there is a breakthrough moment and things fall into place. The breakthrough moment hasn't happened with this grant yet, but I'll get there tomorrow. I don't want to work on Friday, so it needs to be finished tomorrow. After that, I have another grant to work on and then many calendar sales. I don't expect to reach many people tomorrow, maybe with the police/fire associations, but generally speaking it isn't much of a day to get in touch with anyone. Calendar sales are dreadful and I'm running out of ideas- even worse is that not only do I have about 680 of them in the house, but another 40 floating that I will need to get money for.

I managed to send out the GoodSearch email by myself today on Constant Contact, I used one of their templates and took the sample letter that GoodSearch had on their site. It is scheduled to be sent at 9am tomorrow. It was one of those things that I wish I could have delegated to someone- it didn't take a lot of time, but it was time that I could have better spent on other things.

I'm tired. I went to bed at 2:30 last night- I was going to bed early, but then I got caught up with deleting old emails- I have thousands of emails in archive. Reading some of the old emails got me thinking about next year's fundraising and goals- I need to find new grants to apply for and I need to work on more events. Ideally, we should have a fundraising event every month, that isn't realistic, but if things go well with this event planner, we could be doing an event every 3 months as well as the date auction and anniv. event. I get overwhelmed- there is so much that I want to accomplish next year- I try to break things down into manageable tasks, but the bottom line is that I need to start raising some serious money if we are going to expand the way we need to. I desperately need staff and that doesn't come without money in the bank and steady money rolling in so that we can maintain payroll. I'm doing the job of too many people and because my time is so stretched, I'm not achieving enough at any job. I get frustrated when I think of what we could be doing as opposed to what we're doing now. I know the economy is dreadful and we've come a long way, but that's not the point. With the money and right resources, we could be better, so much better.

I was thinking last night that if I died suddenly, then Project Smile would most likely die with me- not most likely- would definitely. It's not that I'm so gifted no one could do my job, it's that there is no one that I know who has the time that it requires, the ability to live on the tiny salary that comes with this job or the interest to take it over. It is heartbreaking to think of that happening- we've done good work these last 5 years and I don't want that to end just because I'm not there. I want the day to come when Project Smile doesn't need me anymore, when it can flourish under the strong leadership of someone else. I was reading about how to live to be 100 today and one of the ways is to never retire and always have plenty of exercise- however, I don't want to be a 99 year old great grandma running around carrying boxes of stuffed animals to police and fire departments!

Well, it's 12:18 and I'm going to bed- since I really am trying to work on the earlier bedtime. Tomorrow's goal is to finish the grant and work on calendar sales. It is now officially 1 day to Thanksgiving! I love the holidays! Since there is always so much food on Thanksgiving, I'm trying to spread it out a little- I made a cheesecake for the very first time and tried it when I came home tonight- it was good! I'm holding off the urge to go and eat some more- it is calling my name...very loudly!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Week!

It's Thanksgiving week- I love Thanksgiving! I know that statement has nothing to do with work, but the holidays always make me happy. I was driving home today from food shopping and was thinking about all the things I was grateful for- my family, my great friends and of course, Project Smile. I never take any of it for granted and I'm so grateful for all the good things that I have in my life.

So what's new? Good news- we are getting a grant from the foundation that I interviewed with earlier this month. I don't know the amount yet, I'll find that out at their dinner next week. Last year, we received $2,000. Of course, I'm hoping for an increase this year, but I'll be happy if they match. I'm happy with any grant, but it would be even better with a match or increase. One of the board members from the foundation called me this morning and he took a little time to actually say whether they were giving us a grant- so I was feeling very nervous. Usually, people only call with good news, but from the way he was talking it sounded like it could go either way and for a few seconds it sounded like it wasn't going my way. But heck-isn't this supposed to be a week of happiness?? So of course it was good news!

It's not all peachy though- I'm having to refund the money for a silent auction item at our anniversary event. I sold a golf outing gift cert., but I didn't have the gift certificate- the person who got it donated was supposed to bring it to the event, but he got sick and didn't make it. I was supposed to get it from him later, but wasn't able to and I've left at least 4 messages over the last few weeks trying to arrange a time to pick it up or have him mail it, but haven't received a response. The winner has been patient, but we're now past a reasonable period of time and it isn't right to keep her waiting anymore. So now I'm having to refund $125-it's not a lot of money, so it's not the biggest deal, but I should never be in the position of refunding money no matter what the amount is. I don't understand what happened and why I never heard back from him. It is so annoying when people disappear like that- it is personally annoying and it makes me look unprofessional- that I can't get my own auction items in hand.

Anyways, I'm off to bed- I'm working hard on the earlier to bed thing. Tomorrow will be a busy day- I'm working on the bank grant, writing a PS blurb for the event planner to use on the V-Day event- I have it all written, but it needs tailored and calendar sales- yes, that is still going suckily (I know that's not a word, but it's my word for tonight) and I want to send the GoodSearch info to our web guy so we can send a reminder to our mailing list. GoodSearch is a search engine which donates a penny per search to the charity of the user's choice. We are on it, but have only raised a miniscule amount so far. GoodSearch also donates money when people shop on major retailers websites through GoodSearch- so with holiday shopping coming, I want to share that with our supporters. There is no additional charge for shopping on GoodSearch, so it's not like we're asking for extra money.

There's a bunch of other things that I need to do, but can't remember- I have to get out my list book, once I start with that it seems to jog the memory. Until tomorrow friends...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Economic Worries

Greetings! Today was a fairly quiet day. Quincy had to be rescheduled which was disappointing, but not that big a deal. I was working on calendar sales- without any progress. I was catching up on emails and contacting new departments, but didn't get through to anyone either. I can't remember what else I was working on- I hate it when that happens. My mind is full of what needs to be done, I can't remember things that happened today.

I'm so concerned about the economy- I know everyone else is too and compared to the situations that some other non profits and businesses are in, we are doing great. We are doing fine right now- we pay our bills on time, I can make payroll, our program is running without financial interruptions- although I need office help in a major way. But if that was the only thing I focused on, it would be a pretty short sighted perspective. I'm trying to spend some time working on next year's financial plan and there are major issues surrounding where our money is going to come from. Just because we're OK now is no guarantee we're going to be OK nine months from now. I'm working on doing more events next year in order to increase funds, but are we going to be able to find sponsors? And will we sell tickets? I think that as long as we plan events smartly, we will be OK. Keep the financial goals smaller, ticket price affordable and make it a kick-ass great event and people will show up. Grants are another story, but it means that I have to spend more time researching new grant opportunities and networking to develop contacts. I'm trying to find rational solutions to a potentially critical problem for us. I'm good at keeping costs to a minimum- I've been doing that for four years. It gets scary though- it seems every day the economic news gets worse.

I have a lot to do tomorrow- calendar sales and contacting new departments are the top priorities, but I also need to work on 2 grants, send our web updates to our weh host, update the photos on my blog- they are too old, work on my December calendar for work related events that I want to attend and there a few other things that need attention too. Calendar sales are urgent- however, I'm not going back to door-2-door sales- i did that for 2 years and it was horrendous. The first year wasn't as bad, maybe because I didn't know what to expect. Most people were relatively pleasant, but some people were so rude. I consider myself pretty good at handling rejection, but there were many times when I got in my car and bawled. We had practically no money in the bank, I had 1,000 calendars to sell which were our lifeline for money then, it was cold and I had to deal with people shutting doors in my face before I even finished what I was saying. The worst ones were people who smile- tell me what wonderful work I was doing and then close the door. I almost got attacked by 2 german shepherds once- I knocked at a Hopedale door and the two dogs came to the window and started barking. The window was half open and they were pushing at the screen to get out- the screen started to come off the window to the point where the dogs had their heads out the window and were trying to get the rest of their bodies out too. i was so frightened- I tried to stay calm and backed up down the walk and out the driveway. All I could think was that it would be a pathetic way to die- mauled to death on a front lawn in Hopedale, trying to sell a stupid $10 dollar calendar for charity.

Anyways, enough on that topic. It is 12:31- I'm working really hard on getting to bed before 1am. I was in bed 20 mins earlier last night and it made a difference this morning. There was other good news that I forgot to mention- our tax exempt status has been extended indefinitely. We were issued an "advanced ruling" in 2004 which was set to expire on 12/31/08, the IRS just sent a letter explaining that our status is continued without us having to file any additional paperwork. Tax exempt status is of course a cherised thing- without it, there would be pretty much no donations coming in and we would lose the discounts we enjoy on certain services as well as other things. When I first started PS, I thought that non profits were automatically tax exempt- they're not- they have to apply to the IRS for tax exempt status. I remember when i first started PS, I got a non profits for dummies book and in the book they said that 75% of all non profits bring in less than $25,000 in annual revenue- of course, my first thought was when are we getting in that special 25%? We came close the second year and by the following year there was no looking back.

OK enough blogging- I get very chatty late at night- partly because I'm a night owl and also because I relax and my mind starts to wander onto all sorts of topics. But my 1am curfew is practically here, so off I go- until tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today Show Mention

It happened- we were mentioned on the Today show this morning! It is a milestone for us- our first mention on a nationally broadcast television show. It was only a brief mention, but it still counts! I received about a dozen phone calls and emails today from people who heard about us on the show and wanted to donate their stuffed animals. It doesn't seem real actually that we were mentioned on the show- I know the segment wasn't about us, but out of all the charities that the author could have mentioned, she included us and that is pretty fantastic.

Today was otherwise a pretty steady day, I was working on calendar sales- I sold 20, I did our November newsletter and sent it to our GD for her to format it. At least the November news was done on time, without the drama that the October newsletter became (aka Fall News Part I) and I was working on the info that needs to go on our new display board for events. Michelle did a nice one for us a couple of years ago, but it is out of date now and showing its age. I have a pretty good rebate coupon from Staples so that will help with getting a new one printed. I'm sending it to Lisa for her deisgn expertise. It will last us a while and its important to have a good looking, high quality display board too.

It has been really frustrating lately with people that don't call when they say they are going to or just don't call back at all. I deal with that all the time and it is incredibly annoying. I always try not to let it show that I'm annoyed and I keep following up with people, trying to walk the fine line between being persistent, but not obnoxious. I know I'm not perfect when it comes to getting back to people, so I don't expect perfection in other people, but it is really frustrating. I spend a ton of time daily making follow up calls- and these are not all fundraising calls, they're even calls to new police and fire departments. I understand that people are busy, but a quick phone call isn't really that big a deal. Dealing with people that don't call me back when they say they will is one of the most frustrating parts of my job. I've found that because I deal with it every day, I've actually become less tolerant of it. I don't expect everyone to help our work, but all the person has to say is that they can't help and then I can move on and not waste anymore time pursuing the matter. I would literally have an extra 1-2 hours per day if I didn't have to follow up with people that I'd already called.

Anyways, enough on that. I'm heading to bed. I'm up in Quincy tomorrow afternoon with the calendars- wish me luck please! I went to bed 45 mins earlier last night and that, coupled with an extra cup of tea in the early afternoon, really helped me today. So, now I'm on a mission to be in bed by 12:30 and since it is 12:21, I'd better get moving. Until tomorrow friends..

Monday, November 17, 2008

On the Road

I got a late start this morning- I went to bed too late- I don't actually remember what time but it was after 2am. I woke up this morning, looked at the clock and decided I could close my eyes for 6 minutes before I needed to get out of bed, except the next time I opened my eyes it had been 50 minutes- leading to a major rush to get ready, load my car, get out the door, get gas and head to Lawrence then Newton. I actually made it to Lawrence ahead of time, but it was a bad way to start the morning. The Lawrence fire donation went well and so did the press conference at Newton- it was great that they invited me to participate. The problem was that by the time I was done with Newton, went to Market Basket to get food for tonight's New Food Monday and came home- the day was pretty much over. I did respond to some emails and made a few phone calls, but I didn't get through to anyone. It was just frustrating because I had a long list of things to do and didn't make it through half the items. I was planning on working on grants tonight, but I sat down in front of the computer earlier and just couldn't get my little brain to focus. Tomorrow, I'm doing our second donation to Lynn Police, then I have an appointment in Boston, so I'm going to be gone most of the day again. It gets frustrating because there is so much to be done in the office- phone calls to reach new departments, letters that need sent, emails, grants to write, updates to send our web host, newsletter to write so it doesn't become the last day of the month and I'm trying to write November news- and nothing will be done because I'm out on the road. I don't want to get into the whole needing help thing again- I must sound like a broken record. I'm just really tired tonight, I'm frustrated with all the things that didn't get done. Last night when I went to bed so late, it wasn't because I was out partying- I was working on Project Smile stuff and it wasn't like I was driving around goofing off today- the donation to the fire department was obviously important and the Newton press conference was helpful for raising awareness- so there is no reason to gripe about not being in the office.

I'm also really worried about calendar sales and I need to put a lot more time into moving these calendars. I'm sorry to sound like a Debbie Downer tonight, I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed. I need to sleep- my eyes are hurting. I did speak with the event planner today and the Valentine's event is getting more streamlined with an improved focus. We are still working out contract details, but things look like they are on the right direction. I checked her references on Friday and they were absolutely glowing- obviously, I didn't expect them to be negative, but it was encouraging how positive they were.

Well, it is 12:21, my goal is to be in bed by 12:45 and writing my list- I should just take today's list and cross out the date, but I hate doing that. There is something slightly depressing about looking a list that has yesterday's day crossed off and the new day written next to it- not a good way to start a day. I like to start my morning with my tea in my cheerful Halloween mug (used every day) and looking at my new fresh list in my list book (yes, I have a hard cover list book- it may be dorky, but I love it). It is a relaxing way to start the morning, but that usually only lasts a few minutes before I have to decide what to do first- I never seem to go in order.

Anyways, thats it for tonight. Until tomorrow friends...

Back to Work

It's Sunday night and I'm blogging- that doesn't happen very often. So what's new? I had a great weekend and I'm getting things ready for tomorrow. I have to be in Lawrence tomorrow morning doing a donation to the fire department, so I was getting all the boxes ready to go and printing our donation receipt. I was also working on some donation request letters that need to go out- mostly donations from police/fire associations. Then I decided to do cardio exercising because I probably won't have time tomorrow morning- so now it is 1am and I'm feeling totally industrious- which is actually not a good thing because I'm trying to go to bed at a reasonable hour. This week, I have a few donations scheduled and I also really have to work on calendar sales- we have 720 calendars to sell and sales are at turtle speed right now- actually slower than a turtle, but I don't know what's slower than a turtle.

I was listening to ESPN a short time ago while I was working and they were interviewing a NASCAR driver who had just won a race- the reporter said to him that most high achieving athletes are motivated by a fear of failure and he asked the driver if that was true for him. Now, I am not an athlete- neither my 20 mins of almost daily exercise, my occasional tennis playing or my desire to try the trapeze could ever put me in the athlete category- but it did get me thinking about being motivated by fear. When it comes to work, fear is definitely a motivator. Particularly when I first started working on Project Smile and we had no money- I was afraid that things wouldn't work out and I would have to go and get another job, so I did everything I could to avoid that become true and the same goes for today. I am not afraid of waking up tomorrow and having no job- that won't happen. But I am afraid of the donations drying up, the bank account draining and a job that I absolutely love disappearing right in front of me. So in order to avoid that, I fundraise as hard as I can and I spend as little as possible.

However, the fear runs deeper than money issues. I am afraid of dreams unfulfilled. I have seen people that I have loved who are smarter than me, with more natural talents and gifts that I will ever have- people that could have achieved such great things in their life and left the world a little bit better place because of what they offered- but instead died angry and unhappy with their potential never realized, their dreams unfulfilled and no one to blame but themselves. It is painful to watch. I have my own dreams and I've promised myself that I will never be in that position- that I will work as hard as I can, for as long as I can, so that I can accomplish what I already know is achievable.

Anyways, in order to keep working- I need to go to bed so that I'm not a little slug tomorrow. I'm also heading to Newton for the press conference at the mayor's office. I'm off to write my list and pick out a recipe for New Food Monday- every Monday, I make a new recipe. I've been doing it for almost 2 years now and absolutely love it- such a good way to start the week and a good way to find lots of new ways to cook! Wish me happy driving tomorrow....

Friday, November 14, 2008

Latest News

I must be a blogging addict- I was going to go to bed without blogging because I'm really tired, my eyes hurt and I have a headache (I don't get headaches very often), but it didn't feel right not to blog- so here I am! I don't even have anything of earth shattering importance to share. I technically finished my grant which is due on Saturday, I'm at the sitting stage- where I reread it 50 times and make sure everything is clear, mistake free and the best it can be. I need to read it again in the morning because I'm not sure that it is perfect. Since it needs to be overnighted tomorrow and I'm planning on going to Worcester, I can't spend that much more time with it.

I did our donation to Goodwill Industries for their annual childrens party today. We donated approximately 150 stuffed animals, books and small toys. Since we don't have a Christmas event of our own (yet), I'm really happy that we can partner with other groups that have events, it is particularly meaningful this year where there are so many more families that are hurting and less money for organizations to help provide items. Goodwill was very busy today with people lined up for their job training classes- such a reminder of just how many people are out of work right now. I consider myself very lucky that at least I don't have to worry about going into work one morning and finding out that I don't have a job. I always worry about our financial situation (as everyone knows who reads my blog), but it is a different type of worry.

I haven't heard back from the company who wanted to donate the 1,200 stuffed animals, so I don't know what will happen with that. I was working on calendar sales phone calls today, but had trouble getting through to people. I am heading up to Quincy next week, that department has always been very supportive.

I'm tired- I can't remember what else I wanted to write about. I went to bed at 3:30 last night- no, wasn't working- I went to switch off the office computer and started playing around with a Snapfish program that I had open. They were offering a free photo book through the Oprah show ($29 value), so I started working on one and I had never done it before so it took a while. When I start working on things I usually like to keep going until it is done- I hate leaving things unfinished. So, 12:30 became 3:30 when it was done. It is a hardcover photo book of family photos from the last few years- I'm doing it as a Christmas gift for my mom. I'm really excited to see it.

My office is improving. I went to Home Goods again tonight and bought a few more storage boxes for my bookshelves and it is really helping to organize and make things look more visually appealing. It is hard because I have a lot of office things that I need and not a lot of space, but these boxes really do help.

Anyways, I'm getting boring- when one starts writing about storage boxes in their blog it is a bad sign. I'm off to bed- it is 12:40- must write my list, I didn't do that last night. I'm glad I blogged- now I can go to bed relaxed. Until next time friends..

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday News

So what's new? Not a whole lot today. I did a follow-up donation to Newton Police today, it went well. The Lt. invited me to City Hall on Monday to do an official presentation of our donation immediately following the mayor's press conference. That will help with media exposure which is very important for our ability to get donations. It has been a while since I participated in a press conference, so I'm looking forward to it- I always get nervous before I speak, but I've heard that nerves are a good thing, it keeps you on your game.

I followed up with the sponsor and auction item money that is owed, it looks like those issues will be sorted out shortly. I spent well over an hour today sorting stuffed animals that had already been sorted by a volunteer. I hadn't intended to do any of that, but I had loaded my car for tomorrow's donation for the Goodwill childrens party and I opened a box to check the contents and they were filled with grubby stuffed animals that were completely unsuitable for donation. There were about a dozen boxes that needed to be resorted. It takes a lot longer to resort a box than to fill a brand new box- I can do that very quickly. It is very difficult to find volunteers who are actually good at sorting stuffed animals. I don't know why it is so hard- I think I explain things clearly and I give examples of what to look for- I don't know what else I can say. I don't want to appear ungrateful- I really appreciate every volunteer who comes to help, but it gets annoying when I have to spend extra time doing a job that should only have to be done once. It is a simple job, but it is a very important job because it is the basis of our entire program. I work hard to make sure that we only give out excellent quality items- usually half of what we get donated is thrown out because it doesn't meet our guidelines.

What else is new? I have to finish the foundation grant which is due on Friday. It is a fairly simple grant- we are basically seeking maintaining funding. I finished the cover letter, but still have to work on the grant- I'm working backwards for some reason. It's pretty funny how I'll finish a cover letter or grant and I'll sit with it for a while- making sure that everything is perfect. Sometimes it will be a couple of hours before I actually print it- I'll look at it, do some other things, then come back and check it again. Grants are particularly important and I get a little anxious making sure that I've done everything right.

There is also the big issue that needs some serious help- the over 700 calendars that need to be sold. I need to work harder on getting them sold- it is a major priority since I only have about 6 weeks to get it done. I had planned on making calendar related phone calls this afternoon, but got sidetracked with sorting stuffies. I wish I had more time- I know everyone says that, but there is so much that I need to get done. It's not that I'm a bad time manager- it's the problem that I keep talking about- it's more work than I can get done in a day- without exaggeration, it is two full time jobs (program director and fundraiser) that I've been doing for over 4 years and I can't get enough done. It is a problem that is easily solved (hire staff), but I'm not in a financial position to do that. I know I've talked about this many times and I'm sorry for the rerun, but it is something that is on my mind often- particularly at night when I slow down and think- think of how things are and how things could be. There is a line that I think of all the time and I find inspiring. I don't know where I heard it:

"Be better today than you were yesterday and be better tomorrow than you are today."

Well, that's it for tonight. I'm off to bed and write my list. I was going to go back and work on the grant, but it is 12:30 now and if I go back to work again, it will be around 2am when I go to bed and I'm trying to avoid that. Tomorrow, I'm doing our Goodwill donation, finishing the grant, contacting more departments and working on calendar sales. I started reorganizing my office tonight- sorting out some things and trying to make it more visually appealing and better functioning, so I want to work on that tomorrow night as well- in between the Jets game! I'm trying to suppress the urge to go and eat- I was snacking on pickles, cherry tomatoes and brie before I started blogging- so good! Until tomorrow friends..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quiet Day and Good News

Today was a relatively quiet day- I did some work this morning, but took the rest of the day off- following that advice from the business book that I read many years ago-the writer was a successful businessman and firmly believed in taking every holiday off and enjoying personal time. I know a lot of people don't have Veteran's Day off work, but I think it was fine not to work and spent quite a bit of time cleaning up and catching up on household things.

Two good things did happen today though- I received a phone call from a company in NY who are planning to donate 1,200 new stuffed animals to us. That was great news. I'm going to have them shipped to the warehouse space in Worcester because I don't have space for them here in Hopedale. It hasn't been finalized yet, I should be hearing back from them tomorrow.

In other cool news, I received a phone call from a writer who is going to be featured on the Today show next Wednesday, Nov. 19 and she is going to mention Project Smile on-air! How cool is that? Her name is Helen Coronato and she wrote a book called Eco-Friendly Families. Project Smile is mentioned in the index as a source for stuffed animal donations. She told me that she is going to mention Project Smile as an example of an oganization that gives new life to stuffed animals that children may have in their homes. So that was exciting news- I'm looking forward to watching it. Hopefully that will generate more traffic to our website and donations too. Helen said that she was going to be featured during the 8am hour.

Not much else new today. I've been working on trying to get the last group of auction items delivered and receive payment for them. It is a sizeable amount of money that is owed and it is getting a little frustrating. I'm also owned a portion of money from a date auction sponsor, so that will be tomorrow morning's first call of the day. I'm also waiting on another check relative to the Halloween event, but the company is very supportive and that should be coming soon. On the other side of the issue, I sold a silent auction item and haven't been able to deliver the auction item to the winner, because I'm having trouble connecting with the person holding the gift certificate. The winner has been patient and I appreciate that, but I don't like owing people things. I also don't like having to chase down auction winners to pay for their items and sponsors who, according to the installment plan we agreed on, should have had their check in before Sept. 19. I have a lot of things to do during the day, and I shouldn't have to spend so much time on this.

Anyways, enough on that subject- I'm off to write my list. Tomorrow, I have to finish a grant that is due on Friday and I'm doing a follow up donation to Newton Police and back to work on contacting more departments. Hopefully, I will also hear back from our board attorney- I've asked him to review the contract with the event planner. I did have some questions, so I'm anxious to hear what his opinion is. I'm definitely looking forward to working with the event planner, she has a lot of really good ideas.
Until tomorrow...

Monday, November 10, 2008


Today was a good day- it was one of those days where real progress gets made- as opposed to those many other days where I work really hard and don't seem to accomplish much of anything. So what was the progress? A check for a million dollars! Kidding of course. I was focusing on contacting police/fire departments for donations and following up with departments that we donated to a while ago. I was able to get in touch with a lot of people and have 4 donations scheduled for next week. I did do some work on calendar sales today, but spent the most time focusing on contacting departments. I have to spend a lot of time fundraising in order to keep our program going, and that means time which isn't spend on our reaching more departments. It is a very difficult balance. If I didn't have to spend so much time fundraising, there would be a lot more that I could do.

I also scheduled our donation for the Goodwill children's holiday party for Thursday. Last year, we donated approximately 60 stuffed animals for the children's party, this year it will be over 100 and we're also donating books as well. Their party is Dec. 6, they need the items by Dec. 1. Amy, our awesome volunteer, was working on sorting the stuffed animals for Goodwill today, so it is easier for me to get them over to Goodwill this week, instead of holding onto them. Goodwill is working on getting gifts for 400 children- they have many more kids this year who need help and are having a harder time getting items. It is so sad to think of kids not getting Christmas gifts. In our family, there were always Christmas gifts- there may not have been a ton of gifts, we never had great financial resources, but we were always happy. Giving a child a holiday gift isn't about being materialistic, its an important gesture that matters to a kid. I was thinking today when I was driving to the supermarket, how it doesn't really make sense to be buying gifts for family/friends who really don't need very much, when there are thousands of children in our own state who will get little, if anything, for Christmas. Things are very difficult financially this year, so I can't manage to do very much for Christmas, but I was in a better position there is so much more that I would do. I know things won't be like this forever and when they improve, both for Project Smile and personally, I will do a lot more, especially to help children at Christmas time. We are also donating items for the Department of Children/Families for their holiday packages for children in the foster care system as well.

In another issue, which is only vaguely related to work- never underestimate the power of an apology. I had two incidents happen when people apologized for something recently and it made such a difference. I had made a reservation at a restaurant last week for 15 people, when we got the to restaurant, there was no reservation. I was, of course, annoyed- the manager came over and the first thing he said was, "it was our mistake and I'm sorry." It was such simple, sincere words that it made my annoyance disappear immediately. Tonight, someone apologized for remarks that they made last week. I hadn't even expected the apology, but it was a validation for my feelings that they had been obnoxious and it made me feel a lot better. Of course, there are certain things that no apology can ever fix, but it is important and when it is sincere, it goes a long way.

Well, that's it for tonight. It is 12:39 and I'm working on getting to bed early- or earlier at least. I did well with accomplishing my list items for today, so I'm going to write my short list for tomorrow- it is a holiday and I have a bunch of other non-work things I want to do, including reading my John Irving book that I love. I'm also going to the monthly DWC networking night tomorrow- that is a great group. Until tomorrow friends..

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Day

So what's new? Well, the meeting with the event planner went really well today. We got a lot accomplished and things are off to a good start. The event is only in the early stages and there is a lot more planning that needs to be done, but it has the potential to be a great event.

My interview tonight with the Foundation for our grant application seemed to go well too. Most of the people there where the same ones that had interviewed me last year and they were really interested to see how things were going. The best part was that they really seemed to get it- to understand how much work goes into running this organization and they appreciated how much we've done these past few years. It is great to be with people that get it- I meet a lot of people, and there are even some people that I'm close with that I don't think really get what I do or the amount of work that goes into it.

I was thinking tonight when I was driving home about how I still feel like such a kid sometimes. When people take an interest in Project Smile, its that same feeling of happiness that I remember feeling as a little girl when I talked about stories I'd written, dreams for the future or about the farm game I loved. When I drive in unfamiliar areas or even places I drive all the time, I'll marvel at the littlest things- a bridge I've never seen before, planes at an airport, how the sun makes the water in a pond sparkle or even the patterns of the leaves on the ground. I remember doing that as a girl and I still feel the same sense of wonderment. When I dress up in my nice clothes, I still feel the same way I did when I dressed up as a 13 year old- I may be a world away, but the excitement never leaves. When people talk about things I've never heard of, I remember what it felt like as a kid, trying to figure out what was going on. When I get sad and nervous and I don't know what to say- its the same way I felt as a kid.

I wanted to make things better when I was a child- I wanted to make my dad not have health problems, I wanted to take away the financial pressures, for everyone to be happy, I wanted to keep the peace, to fix what was broken, to help as much as possible and to never be a burden. Those feelings grew even more as I got older and I saw, I understood the destruction and chaos that those you love can cause. I could make very little better as a kid and I had no way to fix the deep problems of one that I loved. Today, those feelings haven't changed, except now it has grown beyond my small world as a child to a grown up world, where I can devote my time to making things better for other children and someday adults too. The girl who always had big dreams, is now a woman with an even bigger dream. As much as I can, I want to make the world a better place for others- I want to take away the hurt- that's basically all that it comes down to. Maybe that sounds childishly simple, but it is true. Someday I also want Project Smile to work to prevent the heartbreaking cycle of domestic violence and child abuse that so frequently is handed down from generation to generation. Project Smile may have started from an incident in NJ of 3 abused brothers, but its roots runs much deeper than that.

Anyways, enough on that for tonight. I'm tired and need to sleep. I forgot to write my list last night and I'm not doing well with the exercising- I couldn't exercise when I was sick, but now I need to get back to it. Until tomorrow friends..

Back to Work

I'm back! Well, my Baltimore trip got cut short- I got sick and came home on Saturday which was obviously very disappointing. I did get to do some sightseeing on Friday which was good- but it would have been a lot better if my nose wasn't running like a faucet. Anyways, I'm feeling better and was back to work today- sort of. I was catching up on emails, mailing calendars that had been ordered and doing a few other small things. I didn't get a lot accomplished, mostly because I was feeling pretty tired. Two really good pieces of news came in today though- we are getting a $1,000 grant from a large discount chain's Worcester store. This was really surprising- they did a $500 grant last year in support of our Halloween/Child Safety event and in February, I had applied for another $500 grant in support of this year's event and never heard anything back. I had heard that the company had changed their donation policies, so I wasn't particularly surprised that we didn't receive anything. Our Halloween event obviously has come and gone, so I had put that donation request out of my mind. The lady from the store called this morning with the good news! She said that she liked our event so much that she increased our request to $1,000 from the $500 we had asked for. How great is that? That happens very rarely.

In other good news, we will be receiving a $500 grant from an electrical supply company. A friend had suggested that I write to them for a donation, so I really appreciate his help, because without that suggestion, I wouldn't have thought of it.

There is something especially great about getting news of financial donations when one sitting at their desk, feeling mopey and half wishing they were back in bed and still feeling a little sorry for themselves that their vacation wasn't really enjoyed because of sickness. The good news did help cure the mopeyness (is that a word? probably not).

Tomorrow, I'm meeting with the event planner to discuss details of the potential Valentines themed event. We don't have much time to put together a Valentines event, so if we are going to do something, it needs to start now. Tomorrow evening, I have an interview with the foundation that awarded us a grant last year. It was an incredibly quick interview last year and I left feeling that they weren't interested in PS, but then we received a grant, which actually surprised me because I felt that it hadn't gone well. I also need to get back to work on regular program things, grant, and calendar sales- we have about 750 calendars to sell and about 7 weeks to do it.

Well, I'm tired and my eyes are hurting. I wish that didn't happen so much. I do feel inspired though. When one looks around our country and see people who came from so little, that started so humbly, worked so hard and have achieved such greatness- beyond what anyone could have imagined, that is truly inspiring. It makes me believe that it is possible for Project Smile too- that we can go from working in one room to someday becoming a national charity- and that it can be done under my direction- with a lot of help from a lot of people. It is a reassuring reminder that it can be done, that anything is possible.

Well, it is now 1:46, eyes are realy hurting. I need to switch CNN to my favorite bed time tv show- ESPN Sports Center (yes, I am serious), write my list for tomorrow and go to sleep. Wish me luck for the grant interview tomorrow please! Tomorrow, I also want to work on changing my schedule- I need to set aside time every day to work on certain tasks no matter what else is going on. I'll write more about that tomorrow- need to stop now. Until tomorrow friends..