Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Expansion Efforts Underway

Greetings friends! So what's new? Well, spring has finally returned- sun is out, our world is blooming, one can't help but feel happy. Things are busy here. I started work on our new program, Project Dignity- we will be providing low income adults and families with basic personal care and household care necessities. This includes soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, baby items, etc. Basically, all the items one needs to look after themselves besides food. There is a huge need for these items. Food stamps only cover food, so you can imagine how hard it is for people to manage all the other items they need. I spoke with the Worcester County Food Bank recently and they are happy to have our help in providing these items. In Worcester County, 10% of the population live at or below the poverty level- over 80,000 people. In Worcester alone, 16% of the population is at poverty level.  I was researching the issue and found a study that was done a couple of years ago by Feeding America. It found that 34% of low-income families found it difficult to afford basic household necessities. 73% of low-income families have cut back on food in order to afford household goods. 21% of low-income families skip or cut back on medical expenses to afford household necessities. 74% of families were forced to skip washing dishes or doing laundry. 33% of families unable to afford household goods report bathing without soap or reusing diapers in order to get by. Not having access to basic items directly affects quality of life. It leads to hygiene and health issues, high levels of stress and discomfort, stigma and robs people of their basic dignity. Now, all I have to do is get some funding so that we can get started. I am working on a grant for the Worcester area, it's almost done, but I need our accountant to finish some financial statements that I have to include in the grant. I also started a grant application for the greater Boston area. I feel really passionately about expanding in this direction. I hope we get funding within the next couple of months so that we can get moving. 

In other news, here is a photo from our recent donation to DCF. It's always one of my favorite donations to do. There is such a need for items for children and the DCF staff are really happy to have items like ours to give to the children they help.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. There's lots more to write about, but I need to go and work on my PS email blast that has to go out tomorrow morning. Until tomorrow friends....

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Latest and Greatest

Greetings friends! So what's new? Well, things are moving along well. This week, I've been working particularly hard on getting auction items for both of our big events. I was a little behind on outreach, but have caught up now. We are doing well with getting items. We've been getting some new items including a vineyard which is donating a wine tasting and tour. It's funny, I was looking at my donation database and there is one company that used to say in their guidelines that a charity could only apply for an item donation every 5 years. We received the donation in 2012 and I hadn't applied since. On a lark, I decided to go on the site and see if their policy might have changed. It had changed! So, I went ahead and applied for an item. I also decided to reach out to a local company that had sponsored the Anniversary event a couple of years ago, but hadn't responded to emails since then. I reached out about sponsorship or auction item donation and the person wrote back almost immediately that they would donate a nice item for the auction. It's really important to keep going back to potential donors. You never know what's changed. With the economy improving, some places can now donate again. Also,  just like sometimes helpful people leave, then sometimes unhelpful people leave too and are replaced with people that want to help your efforts. It can get tiring to keep following up, but it is really critical.

Here is a photo from our donation a couple of weeks ago to Fitchburg PD. We've been donated to Fitchburg for almost 10 years!
Tonight, I was the guest speaker at the Franklin Rotary Club. The Club has been a loyal supporter of our work. They've made an annual donation for over the past 6 years and always invite me to come back and update them. It is a small group and very friendly. I really enjoyed visiting them tonight and letting them know what we were up to. Before I spoke, they were talking about upcoming projects that they are doing. One of them is organizing a soap drive for the Franklin Food Pantry. The President was saying that the Food Pantry was telling them that there is a great need for non-food items. Food stamps only cover actual food, so people are left to struggle to pay for everything else- those are essential items too. Can you imagine not being able to buy soap, toilet paper, toothpaste or if you're a woman- pads/tampons. It must be dreadful. I would like to be able to expand in a way that provide essential items like that for families in need. Maybe I can get grants that would help with that. I'm going to figure out how to turn it into a program.

On that note, I am off to eat- not sure exactly what my snack will be- most likely an orange and a banana. I've been buying Cara oranges at Market Basket. They are super sweet and juicy- highly recommend. Until next time friends..

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Changing with the Times

Greetings friends! It has been a while since my last post. I was on an amazing 10 day vacation to San Francisco and Hawaii and had lots to catch up on when I got back. Hawaii is an incredible place, I have never seen such amazing natural beauty.

So I'm happy to announce that we're going to be launching a new fundraiser item- our own Project Smile coloring book! The color book will be designed by children, for children. We're going to sell advertising space to help cover the cost of producing the coloring book and to raise funds. We will debut it at our Anniversary Celebration on October 21. We will sell some on our website and we will donate some to the departments and organizations that participate in our program. The coloring book will be replacing the calendar. It is sad to think of the calendar disappearing, it was my very first idea for a fundraiser and marketing tool. Our first calendar was produced in 2003. We're now on our 13th calendar. However, it is time for a change. The calendar sales have been declining the last couple of years and we need to do something new. I think the coloring book would be perfect. A lot of people don't necessarily use paper calendars anymore (I do) and also it was just time for a new thing. People get bored with seeming the same type of thing, so we need to mix it up. I will miss doing the photos, that is always fun, but maybe in the future we can do something else that will incorporate photos of children. We're going to be doing a drawing contest to encourage children to submit drawings that we can use in the coloring book. I'm going to reach out to local schools and also the police/fire departments that used to participate in the calendar and see if any of their children would like to enter the contest. We will invite the children and their parents whose drawings were selected for the coloring book. I need to get a contest flyer done, then start working on advertising. I'm excited to do something new and see how it goes. I have a lot of confidence in this and I'm happy that we're changing.

There is a lot of change happening this year. We're adding a new event- the High Heel Dash. We've given the Date Auction a new design look, new webpage, new start time and now I need to move on to making some changes to the Anniversary Celebration. I also want to add a new Smiling Stiletto Chapter in Providence which will help Project Smile eventually expand in that area. Change is good!

On that note, I am off to finish the items on my to-do list. I got a  lot done today, but there are still a few more things I need to do. Until next time friends...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Latest and Greatest

Greetings friends! So what's new? Well, today we donated items to the Worcester East DCF office for the Easter baskets for children. I am part of the Worcester East DCF Area Advisory board- it's made of community members who help support DCF. I've been on the board for the past few years and last year became Chairperson. It's a nice group of people who are very dedicated and I am happy to be a part of it. The board, with help from the Worcester West office, does almost 100 Easter baskets which are given to children in need. We've donated items for the past number of years. This year, we donated stuffed animals, puzzles and crayons. Here is a photo with Kelly, the area director.
Our high heel dash is coming along great. Our site is now live! You can check it out at: www.highheeldashboston.com
I bought the domain name and it links directly to our the race registration page which I set up through Red Podium. It took a bit of time to get it all looking good, but I am happy with the results. It looks good and is simple to use. Our designer, Marie, found an awesome image for the event flyer. I can't wait until she has it done, so I can share it with everyone. It's one of those images, that when you see it for the first time, you just know that's the one to use.

Well, that's all for tonight. I know this is a short post, but I'm getting tired and feel like I can't remember all the things that I have to talk about! Until next time friends...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Welcome March!

Greetings friends! March is already here- what a change from last year when we had 8 feet of snow on the ground! So what's new? Well, things are chugging along. Here is a photo from our donation this week to Boston PD. It's one of my favorite departments that we donate to. It's one of the largest and they are always enthusiastic about having more items for children.
I've been working a lot on our high heel dash. One of our sponsors and participants from the Date Auction, Melanie, a Boston area Realtor, is helping with the event planning. We met on Tuesday to brainstorm and discuss things that needed to be done. It's great to have an extra person to discuss the event with and get their feedback. She suggested buying a domain exclusively for the event, which was a good idea. The event site will be: www.highheeldashboston.com. It's super easy to remember and will have the registration info linked directlny to it. I'm still working on the participant registration page. It's been needing some tweaking and I'm also waiting for our board lawyer to draw up the waiver form that participants need to sign. I spoke with Assembly Row on Tuesday to go over some more details. I'm speaking with them again tomorrow to finalize a few things. Our designer is working on our event flyer. The goal is to have the event go live next week so that we can start promoting it and selling tickets. We are going to do an early bird ticket in order to get people to sign up early. The goal is to get 200 people signed up. I think that is reasonable. This is a new ineevent for me, so there are a lot of things to figure out in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It is going to be great- you can't imagine how much I am looking forward to it.

In other event news- Sofft Shoes is returning as a sponsor for the Date Auction! The bachelors with the 10 highest bids will each come with a $150 Sofft Shoes gift card for the winning lady. It is an awesome partnership and helps drive the bids up. I am so happy to have their support.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I have a bunch of work things to catch up on- starting with emails. Until next time friends...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Exciting New Event

Greetings friends! Well, I am excited to announce that we are going to be having a brand new event for Project Smile- a High Heel Dash! It will be held Wednesday, June 8, 6pm at Assembly Row, Somerville. Melissa and Ramiro from HOT 96.9 FM are hosting! Participants will put on their favorite high heels and dash 50 yards. There will be an after-party with guests enjoying complimentary appetizers, cocktails, silent auction and prizes for the top runners and best teams. I am so excited to have this event. I have been wanting to do it for years, but never had the right partner. We had an awesome experience working with Assembly Row last for our spring show and I am so happy that they were on board to partner for this event. High Heel dashes have been done across the country in recent years, but this will be the first one done in Boston. It was only a matter of time before there was one in Boston and I am happy that we will be the first. This is the type of event that I have always wanted to go to and now I get to do it! The dash will be presented by Smiling Stiletto Shoe Club which is the social organization for shoe and fashion lovers that I organize. The Improper Bostonian is already on board to donate an ad in their magazine for the event and Yelp will feature it as the sponsored event in their newsletter before the event. The Improper and Yelp have been terrific partners for us over the years, I'm happy that they jumped on board to support this event. So friends, in a few months, we will be dashing for smiles! We're looking for people to get involved with the event, so if you would like to volunteer on the organizational side of things, please let me know.

Last week, we received 3 huge bags of stuffed animals from U.S. Air Force soldiers who were part of the Patriot Enlisted Association. Last month, one of the soldiers dropped off 3 big bags of lovely stuffed animals, they had been collected immediately after they had started their drive. She came last week with the additional bags of items. She drove over an hour to drop them off. It was awesome to have their help. Here is a great photo of the soldiers with some of the items they collected.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm back to work on the race registration platform that I want to use for the high heel dash. Until next time friends...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Happy Grant News

Greetings friends! So what's new? Well, we received happy grant news in the form of a $5,000 grant from the TJX Foundation! The Foundation has been supporting us for the past few years and I am so happy to have their support of our work. We applied at the end of last year. I was wondering what the status was of our application and getting a little concerned because I hadn't heard anything yet. I was on their website a couple of days ago and saw that they were retooling their grant application system, so I wasn't sure what that meant for our grant. I went to pick up the mail yesterday and there was the envelope. I always get a burst of anxiety before I open the envelope. I always check to see if I can feel a check inside- indeed it was a little bulky, so that was a good sign, but then I thought, maybe it was just a notice to all the organizations that have received grants to let them know that there was a new system starting soon for applications. I hurried into the car and opened the envelope. I always let out a little cheer when I get news like that. The feeling never gets old. You work so hard for every grant, every dollar raised, so it's nothing short of a victory when you get the results you want.

I want to send a press release to our local newspaper about the grant. I emailed the Foundation today to thank them and asked for a quote that we could include. On a personal note- Marshall's, Home Goods and TJ Maxx are my favorite stores to shop at, so it makes me even happier to shop there knowing that they support Project Smile!

In other grant news, we also received a $500 grant from the Price Chopper Foundation in support of our local work. They have donated to us in the past. It's always great to have continued support like that. It's really the foundation for growing an organization.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm very happy to share our good news with you! Until next time friends...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday Happenings

Greetings friends! So what's new? Besides, the suddenly very frigid temperatures? Well, things are chugging along. I had a meeting with Assembly Row on Tuesday to talk about our very exciting event that we are planning to do. We weren't able to finalize a date/time then. We have a phone call tomorrow to talk about it more, so hopefully, we will have a firm date and then we can get to work and I can share the news with everyone!

Last week, we made another donation to Somerville PD. We've been donating to Somerville for a number of years. The sergeant gave me a card for a nearby women and children homeless shelter, she suggested that I reach out to them, because they made need items. I didn't get to it yet, but it will be on my list for tomorrow. Here's a photo from that donation.
A middle school community service group reached out today- they had reached out a few weeks ago wanting to raise money to buy items for us. I had suggested that they donate the money directly to us, so that we could buy the items that we need ourselves. I hadn't heard back from them, so I wasn't sure what they were going to do. They emailed today and had collected $300 for us- so nice!

In other news, we raised $1,200 on Saturday at our silent auction during Boston Event Guide's winter wine/beer fest. I love those events, because we raise good money with limited amount of effort. If we could do more, that would be great. They just added this event, so that made it even better. It's always so hard to predict what items are going to do well. Some Bruins photos that always used to do well, didn't sell while another picture of the Patriots crossing the Charles River- an artist's interpretation- did amazing. One autographed Ortiz photo sold for over $500, but then one in the second session, didn't get any bids.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. Once again, I have a bunch of emails that I need to catch up on. I bought a new variety of oranges at Market Basket today- Cara Cara- which I am rather excited to try- probably more excited than I should be! Until next time friends...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday Wonders

Greetings friends! Well, there weren't exactly any wonders happening today, but I wanted a snappy title! So what's new? Things are chugging along. I was spending time today researching an exciting race type of event that we're planning to do this summer. It will be a new event for us, so there is a lot that I need to learn. I have a meeting next week with Assembly Row to talk more about the event. They are excited for it and I am really looking forward to working with them again. It is always good to add new events and it has been a while since we added a whole new event. I had already been researching websites that offer race registration and management tools. There are a lot of sites out there, but some are rather expensive. I think I've found a good one that is well priced and will give us what we need. It is so important when you are researching to keep an open mind and really look at everything that is out there and not just look for things that back up what you are already thinking.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Somerville PD to drop off  our next donation of stuffed animals, books and coloring books. The new contact person that I am working with is a female sergeant. She seems very enthusiastic about our program. I always like to meet women police officers- I don't meet that many of them and it is great to see women in that role.

Right after that, I'm heading down to Braintree to pick up silent auction items for the silent auction that we're doing at Boston Event Guide's winter wine/beer fest this Saturday. They are always really good to us and I'm happy for the opportunity that they give us. This winter event is a new one for them, so hopefully it will be a good attendance. I think the weather is going to be good, so that will be helpful. It's nice to have events this time of year because people are looking for things to do.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to eat some more clementines. I really wish I was eating cheese and crackers- ah, if only cheese was a health food... Until next time...

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Latest and Greatest

Greetings friends! So what's the latest? Well, things are chugging along well over here. One of our supporters, Melanie Fleet, a Boston area realtor, organized a client appreciation event where she collected donations of new stuffed animals for us. We received over 100 beautiful stuffed animals. It is awesome to have support like that. Below is a photo with Melanie and a photo of some of the stuffed animals. Thank you Melanie and everyone who donated! We included them in our donation last week to Lowell Police.

A brother and sister duo, Piper and Parker, also helped recently. They were inspired to start their own charity to help children and collected hundreds of stuffed animals. Their dad reached out to me after the kids decided they wanted to donate to Project Smile. They dropped off 200 beautiful stuffed animals. We included them in our DCF donation last week and some of our other donations. Here is an adorable photo of the children with their collection. No- the massive dog was not donated to us! I don't think that would fit in a cruiser or ambulance!

We're always looking for more groups or individuals who would like to help out like this and collect new items for us. So, if you know anyone who might like to help, please spread the word.

We've been adding some new departments recently- Littleton Police, Bolton Police and Bolton Ambulance. I love it when we add new departments. One of the officers who reached out first heard about Project Smile when he was in the police academy and I had gone to his class to talk about our work and recruit participants for our annual Date Auction. It's hard to keep up with all the departments we work with, but it's great when new ones reach out and want to be involved. The Littleton Police sent a press release to their local newspaper and I received a note from a lady with a $30 check as a donation. She read about our efforts in the newspaper and wanted to support what we were doing. I wrote her a card thanking her for the donation.  I have a bunch of Boston area departments that I need to follow up with tomorrow. It has been a while since we donated to some of them, so their supplies must be running low.

Well, that's the latest for tonight. I'm off to eat my grapefruit- hopefully, there is one left in the fridge. Until tomorrow friends...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Kicking Off 2016!

Greetings friends and happy new year! We're almost half way through January, so maybe I'm a little late on the new years greetings! Anyways, I am excited for the new year. We finished 2015 on a high note with some great donations. It was another good year for us and for that, I am very grateful. Thank you to everyone who supported us last year and through the many years. Every donation made a difference.

I am excited for everything that I want to do this year. One of my goals for Project Smile is to expand our event into other areas. I've started work on bringing Shoe Club events to Providence this spring and hopefully to launch a Project Smile event there. I also want to work on doing a second Date Auction in another area. I think that it is an event that could travel well. It's a matter of finding the right event partners. I reached out to Assembly Row about having our spring fashion show with them again this year. They are interested in working together again for another event. We're going to be speaking later this week. They were great to work with and I would love to have another fashion event with them. I also want to look for more speaking opportunities, whether it is Rotary Clubs or other groups- the more opportunities I have to speak in front of groups of people, the more I can get people involved to support our work. I also want to attend more networking events with different organizations.

We've been getting lots of lovely donations of stuffed animals lately. A woman from a social organization in Warwick stopped by today and dropped off 4 big bags of new teddy bears that they had received for a Christmas program they organized.  Right before Christmas, employees at Converse did a team building event where they stuffed teddy bears. They donated 200 lovely little bears to us. The bears all have hand written tags on them which are so cute. Here are photos from the Converse event
Well, that's all for tonight. I'm off to do some event research. Until next time friends....