Monday, January 30, 2017

101 Ways to Serve In Your Community

 I am a big advocate of community involvement and service. I think it is so important to help each other and relieve suffering where we can. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if we would all get involved and do something to make a difference in the world. And I think that now more than ever we need people to step up and be that difference. Now more than ever we need kindness and love. Now more than ever we need to advocate fairness for all. Now more than ever we need to show love and goodness. 

But I often hear things like "I just don't know what to do." I think that is a common problem. Good people want to help and make a difference, but they just don't know where to begin. So I've complied this list of 100 ways to serve in your community, organized by type of service, to help generate ideas. Some ideas are more large scale and some are things that we could do every single day. The important thing is gauging your current resources and abilities and deciding what you can do right now. I know that there is something on this list that we can all do. Together we can be the change that we hope to see in the world.  



101 Ways to Serve in Your Community 

Serve Refugees
Many of these ideas require partnership with Refugee Relief Organizations. You can find an organization in your area through Google, but let me share a few of the organizations that I have worked with and love. (These are their national websites, but you can find local chapters). The IRCThe International Committee of the Red CrossCatholic Relief Services. In Utah, I worked with the Refugee and Immigration Center--Asian Association of Utah.  In Las Vegas, I've worked with Lighthouse Charities
1.     Invite a refugee family to dinner. Consider playing games or sharing a cultural experience. 
2.     Compile welcome kits. 
3.     Have a drive for household goods. Remember that these people are fleeing persecution and left basically everything behind. 
4.     Mentor a refugee family or individual. You can help them adjust to life in their new country. Most local refugee relief organizations have a mentor program. 
5.     Teach English to arriving refugees. 
6.     Teach basic living skills (grocery shopping, cooking, etc), everything will be new and different here. 
7.     Help a refugee find employment. 
8.     Backpack drives. Collect backpacks to refugee children. 
9.     Take a meal in to an arriving refugee family. 
10. Compile hygiene kits. 
11. Have a fundraiser to help with housing costs. 
12. Volunteer time at refugee events. 
13. Write welcome letters.
14. Drive for refugees. Many refugee relief organizations need drivers to help refugees arrive at case meetings, orientations, etc. 
15. Become a case worker.
16. Help prepare documents.  There is a lot of paperwork that refugees have to complete. 
17. Play date at the park. Coordinate with a local refugee organization to meet refugee mothers with children the same age as yours and meet for a play date at the park. 
18. Bike drive. Many refugees don't have any kind of transportation. Host a drive to give them new or gently used bikes. 
19. Teach a new skill. Use your talents to pass on to others. Many refugee organizations are looking for people to teach sewing, cooking (all of our common ingredients are unfamiliar to many refugees), etc. 
20. Set up an apartment for a refugee family. 
21. Drive to pick up large donations. Some donations are too large for the donors to bring in. If you have a truck, you can pick up larger donations like mattresses, dressers, etc. and take them in to the refugee organizations. 
Serve the Homeless
22. Serve a meal in a food bank. 
23. Take an extra breakfast with you and hand it out to a homeless individual on the way to work. 
24. Have a food drive to donate to a local food bank. 
25. Make beanies, scarfs, gloves, or blankets to hand out during the colder months. 
26. Carry bottles of water to hand out. 
27. Work with the United Way in a Project Connect to help the homeless find resources and receive goods they need. 
28. Volunteer at a Job Fair.
29. Teach vocational skills to the homeless. 
30. Volunteer at nonprofits (receptionist, etc) 
31. Carry info card with lists of shelters, food banks, etc. where they can get help and hand them to homeless people. 
32. Donate toys to homeless shelters for the children who have little or no toys. 
33. Volunteer professional services (doctors, lawyers, hair cuts, etc) to help the homeless. 
34. Call local shelters and ask what they need-- host a drive for those items. 
35. Offer Employment if you own a small business. 
36. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the homeless. 
Serve Children
37. Read books in underprivileged schools. 
38. Donate clothes, books, toys, etc. to foster children. 
39. Participate in a Big Brother/Big Sister program.  
40. Volunteer your skills in at risk programs. Many of these programs could use help after school programs teaching music, art, sports, computer skills, etc. 
41. Tutor.
42. Teach a class at the Boys and Girls Club. Art, computer, music, etc. 
43. Volunteer at a low income school
Serve the Elderly
44. Visit a retirement center. 
45. Play games with residents in a retirement center. 
46. Paint finger nails for ladies in care homes. 
47. Perform music. Get a group together and have a whole show. 
48. Do respite work for hospice. 
49. Call your grandparents frequently. Record their life history. 
50. Volunteer with meals on Wheels 
51. Send cards to nursing homes. 
52. Teach a senior to use the computer and Internet. 
53. Contact and serve with a veterans affairs group. 
54. In the fall, rake leaves for an elderly neighbor. 
55. In the winter, shovel snow. 
56. Pick up groceries or prescriptions for elderly neighbors. 
Serve the Community in general
57. Volunteer at the hospital. 
58. Take thank you baskets to firefighters or other civil servants. 
59. Lead a "clean up" or "beautification" project in your neighborhood. 
60. Get involved in the school PTO. 
61. Attend a local school board meeting. Once you learn the needs in the district, volunteer your time to help. 
62. Serve on the city council or attend meetings to see where you can help. 
63. Volunteer at domestic abuse shelters.
64. Teach Adult ESL classes. 
65. Take a meal to a suffering neighbor. Or invite them to your home for a meal. 
66. Visit a lonely friend.
67. Call someone you haven't seen in awhile.
68. Donate blood.
69. Mow your neighbors yard.
70. Collect cosmetics and toiletries for battered women's shelter.
71. Clean up trash at a park.
72. Volunteer at a city event.
73. Volunteer to paint the city's fire hydrants. (Make sure to get permission first).
74. Make "get well" cards for children in the hospital. 
75. Assemble new parents kits for low income families with new babies. 
76. Collect backpacks and school supplies for children who can't afford them. 
77. Mentor an adolescent on probation.
78. Plant a community garden. 
79. Take cookies to neighbors and introduce yourself to them. 
80. Sew feminine hygiene products for Days for Girls.
81. Volunteer with the Special Olympics
82. Make blankets, toys, hats, etc. for Newborns in Need. If you don't have a local chapter, start one. 
83. Write letters or send care packages to soldiers. 
84. Volunteer at food canneries. (Feed My Starving Children)
85. Teach a Class using your own skills and talents at a community center. 
86. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. 
87. Collect supplies for victims of fire, flood, or other disasters. 
88. Build ramps to homes or businesses to make them more handicapped accessible. 
89. Volunteer at a local library. 
90. Clean up a local hiking trail. 
91. Buy lunch for a friend.
92. Pull over and provide road side assistance. 
93. Take a treat in to your coworkers. 
94. Coach a community sports team. 
95. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through. 
96. Write a thank you note to someone who performed a simple act of service. Consider handwriting and mailing it via snail mail. 
97. Leave a positive review of a new business. 
98. Leave a generous tip for your waiter with a nice note of thanks. 
99. Babysit for free. 
100. Wash your neighbor's car.  
101. Take a meal in the families in the Ronald McDonald house.


If you are looking for specific opportunities to serve in your area, look for a website that compiles service opportunities. My favorite is JustServe.org  They are still growing and don’t have every area available, but I have found great projects in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona using this site. I know they are in other areas as well.

Please let me know of any other ideas you have in the comments. I would love to expand this list! 


Now, I’d like to leave you with just a few of my favorite quotes as of late:

"Serve your mother. Serve a stranger. Serve your neighbor. Just serve." - Carl B. Cook
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” - Howard Zinn



Saturday, January 28, 2017

At Home Chocolate Tasting Date Night

If you've been around here for awhile now, you know that I absolutely LOVE Stay at Home Date Ideas. With a toddler to chase after, it's tricky to get out of the house very often. Which is why I adore Stay At Home Date Nights. But the trick is that it has to be something different. I don't want to do the same thing that we do every night, and I want date night to be extra special.

So hosting a Chocolate Tasting sounded like the perfect idea! You can either get a group together or do the tasting just the two of you. If you would like to join us for a virtual Group Date via Facebook Live, make sure to join my Facebook Group. We will be hosting a tasting on February 3rd at 7:30 PM PST. It is sure to be a lot of fun!!

So back to the details on how to host a tasting. Some links contain affiliates. All opinions are my own and we have tried every product that I recommend. 

First, the materials. You will need:



Chocolate! We recommend gourmet chocolates to get the full experience, but really any chocolate will do. Make sure to have a variety of flavors and types. Pay attention to the percentage of cocoa in each one of your chocolates. Get some extra dark all the way down to milk. For our date, we used 
SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolate Tasting Squares. They come in a large box, so don't let the price tag dissuade you! You can host a tasting with 6-12 people using this box, depending on how much chocolate you want to offer. Another fun option is to do a Taste the World experience with chocolates from different countries.

Plain/Wheat crackers to cleanse your pallet.

Water



If you would like to organize the chocolate, I highly suggest these adorable and FREE printables from the Dating Divas.  They also have a great scoring card and place to take notes. I'll be updating this post with pictures after our tasting next week.



For the actual tasting, you will want to follow these steps.

1. Taste the chocolates in order from least to most sweet (highest % of cocoa to lowest).

2. First, look at the chocolate. It should be smooth and free of any white marks (called bloom).

3. Next, break the chocolate in two. You should hear a snap and the break should create smooth lines.

4. Use your other senses before tasting. Rub the chocolate between your fingers. It should be smooth and even. Smell the chocolate--this will enhance the flavor once you taste.

5. Place the chocolate on your tongue and let it melt slowly. Biting into dark chocolate too quickly will release a bitter flavor. Notice the texture... good chocolate will be velvety rather than oily. Enjoy the chocolate slowly. Does the flavor change over time? Does it taste like it smelled?

6. Write down any notes that you want to remember. Tasting multiple chocolates will make you forget some things you noticed about each.

7. Cleanse your pallet before tasting the next chocolate by eating a cracker and taking a sip of water.

8. When you've tasted all of your chocolates, rate them according to your preference. Did you all prefer the same chocolate? Different? What did you like or dislike about each?


This is seriously such a fun date! We've done it twice now and have had so much fun both times. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed the darker chocolates when I ate them correctly. I've always through that I disliked dark chocolates, but it turns out that I just didn't know how to enjoy them!

I'll be updating this post after our Live Group Date with which chocolates were our favorites (don't want to give away any spoilers here).

Have you done a chocolate tasting? Did you enjoy it? Which chocolates are your favorite?



Friday, January 27, 2017

Valentine's Day Countdown

(This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase using my link, I will receive a small commission at NO additional cost to you. Thank you so much for supporting Two Best Friends In Love). 

You guys! We're less than a month away from Valentine's Day!! Can you believe it? I absolutely love Valentine's Day! I know that we can (and should) show our spouses love every single day, but there also isn't anything wrong with doing something extra special for Valentine's Day!



That's why I'm so excited to be sharing this special Valentine's Day Countdown from the Dating Divas! This countdown makes Love Day extra special, but takes away all of the pressure to come up with something great. They've seriously done all of the work for you! All you have to do is print, fold, and insert the little gifts. Every day will have either:

A Super Cute Love Note
An Act of Service
A Romantic Date Night





So every day your spouse will open one of these adorable heart envelopes to find his/her gift for that day. It's all very simple, but I promise that it will make for one super memorable, absolutely perfect Valentine's Day!


I've had so much fun prepping all of the little love notes and I seriously can't wait for Mr. Pew to open them up! We are going to have one amazing Valentine's Day!

And the best news is that if you buy in January, the Divas are including a bonus pack of adorable love fortune cookies! I'm talking sooo cute! So make sure to head on over and grab your Valentine's Day countdown HERE.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Walking With Giants

You know those opportunities that come your way that just totally pull at your hearstrings? The ones that touch your very soul? The ones that have such a profound affect on you that you feel you will be forever changed? Well, I had one of those opportunities awhile back and I just had to share with you all.


In November, I noticed that a charity organization was looking for photographers to document a charity event for refugee families. I brushed over it quickly since I'm definitely not a photographer. But the request kept popping up. They were getting close to the event and it seemed like the need had not been filled. I reached out and told them that I'm not a photographer, but that I have a nice camera and if they didn't end up finding someone else that I would be happy to snap a few shots. They responded and asked me to come. I was a little terrified to tell the whole truth. After all, I really don't know much about photography. But I wanted to help and I was looking forward to the event.

I asked some questions in a Photography group on Facebook, prepped everything they suggested, and then went to the event with excitement.

I arrived with all my equipment and preparation only to throw it all out the window and just experience everything. The event was absolutely incredible. Lighthouse Charities had collaborated with a number of organizations and private parties to bring together Operation Lighthouse, an event where refugee families and individuals were brought in to receive clothing, bedding, dental exams, eye exams, books, food, and more. The event was huge. I was in awe at what a few individuals had accomplished by having a vision and working together to make it happen.







Lighthouse charities had also been working with a number of the refugee young women in a dance troupe to help them acclimate to life in the United States and give them something worthwhile to do.


A refugee man shared his story of leaving his war ravaged country after seeing many loved ones killed, arriving in America with practically nothing, and working his way through school with the support of organizations like Lighthouse Charities and giving individuals to obtain an advanced degree and become a CPA. He spoke of hope and healing as we all reach out in love to each other.

The children who attended were all able to visit with Santa and receive a unique gift based on their age and gender. The kids were so excited that they were inching closer and closer to Santa, leaving me such limited room that I was literally on the ground trying to capture a couple of the many special moments.





During the entire event I felt like I was truly walking among giants. The individuals who had put this event together were incredible. In one morning, over 500 refugees were provided for and loved. There was no judgement, no bigotry, no hate. And the true giants were the refugees themselves. Their stories were heartbreaking. Many had literally seen family members killed. Others had experienced exploitation at the hands of should-be protectors. Still others had left behind lucrative employment to save the lives of their children. And yet, they walked in with smiling faces. They received with gratitude everything that was given them. They had hope for their futures and desire to work to obtain that future. They were incredible.




My part in this event was so very small. But I was changed for the better for participating. Just being able to spend the morning talking with and getting to know such strong people had a profound affect on me. I hope that you will take the chance to get to know the refugees in your area. They are remarkable. They have suffered so much. Let's remember to ask ourselves "what if their story was our story?" and help to make a change.

For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; 
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; 
I was a stranger, and ye took me in; 
Naked, and ye clothed me; 
I was in prison, and ye came unto me... 
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto 
one of the least of these my brethren
ye have done it unto me. 
--Matthew 25:35-36, 40






Friday, January 13, 2017

How To Make Date Night Happen Every Week

When I tell people that Brad and I haven't missed a single date night in the three and a half years that we've been married, they think I'm lying. Sometimes they flat out tell me that there's no way.

But there really is a way. I mean, we had a date night two days after I gave birth. It was super simple and a stay-in date night, but we made it happen.

And I'm going to share my secrets with you today. And the main secret is that there really isn't a secret. We just do a few simple things to make it happen.


Make the Commitment
First and foremost, you both have to make the commitment. When we were first married, we both promised that we would always make date night happen. No matter what. Every week. With that commitment in place, it is much harder to just brush it off. You both have to be on board with this. So I guess I should probably mention the why of date night. It's easy to just say "we're married now, we're good." But I would actually say "we're married now, date night is even more important." After marriage, things get busier. You will both have a lot on your plate and you might go for days without really reconnecting. And then kids join the family and as wonderful as they are, you lose the little alone time you once had. So for me, a weekly date night is a minimum. And why? We need that time to reconnect. We need to catch up on the week and get on the same page. We need time without the distraction of the kids, work, studies, etc. We need time to just slow down and hold hands. So make the commitment!

Plan Ahead
I get it. Spontaneity is exiting. It's attractive. It's fun. But there is nothing worse than getting to Friday night and realizing that date night just isn't going to happen. One of you has to work late. The kids have a concert/ball game/project. You have another obligation. Planning ahead can avoid this hurdle. We like to sit down and see if Friday Night is available for date night. Generally speaking, we have set Friday Night aside for our date, but we've learned that we have to be a little flexible sometimes. If Friday night at 7:00 just isn't fitting, find a day and time that will work. Which brings me to my next point.

Think Out of the Box
Date Night doesn't have to be a 3-4 hour long thing every week. While that would obviously be the ideal, there are weeks that just doesn't happen. It also doesn't always have to be dinner and a movie. If you're in a super busy week, try some of our Date Night Ideas for Busy Weeks. You might have to have a breakfast or lunch date rather than a dinner date. You might have to catch a quick dessert on Tuesday night. You might have to have a stay-at-home date night once you get the little ones to bed. You might even have to make something that could be mundane into a date night. Have to go grocery shopping? Split the list in two and see who can finish the fastest. Then have a treat together. Have to wash the car? Change into some old clothes and get your work done and then have a water fight. Anything can be turned into a date night if you make it special and different. Just because Friday night at 7:00 isn't available doesn't mean that you have to skip out on date night.

Get Creative with Sitters
Most people figured that our date nights would end or drop lower once we had our little one. But for us, it was even more important to make it happen every week once we were parents. So here are some of our ideas for what to do with the kiddos:
Pay for a traditional babysitter.
Swap babysitting with friends... you take their kids once a month and they take yours once a month.
Have a stay at home date night once a month.
Mooch off of family who adores your children.

Generally speaking, we do 1 date a month where we pay a babysitter, 1 a month where we swap, and 2 stay at home dates a month after our little one goes to bed (it's all about that alone time). And when we're visiting family, we definitely take them up on their offers to watch the baby... if you don't abuse that option, they will keep offering!

Basically, find what works for you with the little ones, but don't make them an excuse. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare in the week, make it a date night.

Budget it In
Give yourselves a date night budget. Even if you can't afford much, give yourselves a little something. That demonstrates that it's important to you and that you are going to invest in your relationship.


Well, there you have it. My ideas for making Date Night happen every week! Like I said, it can be tricky. While we always shoot for Friday Night, sometimes it just doesn't happen. The key is finding at least a little bit of time in the week where you can mix up your routine, do something different and fun, and spend some quality time together just the two of you!

If you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear them in the comments! How do you make date night happen every week?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making My Mom Game Easier with Thrive Life

Do you ever get to about 5:30 in the evening and wonder how you will ever pull off getting dinner on the table? My little one really doesn't like when I cook, so I have to come up with quick and easy meals that I can get on the table in minutes. Much beyond 30 minutes of me being otherwise occupied and she's done for. So I'm always looking for quick dinners that will also please my little one. And the real tricky part is finding fast, healthy meals for my family. The longest part of my meal prep seems to be chopping all of the vegetables. It's important to me that my little one eats her veggies, but it can be so hard to make that happen.

That's why I have loved using Thrive Life Freeze Dried Foods.


Thrive is all about using whole foods in the most convenient way possible. You can eat them as they come packaged, or re-hydrate them to use in recipes as you would fresh food. It cuts out all chopping and you never have to worry about the vegetables going bad in your refrigerator before you can get to them!

My dear friend, Millie invited me over for lunch a few weeks back, and I was amazed when she put together this amazing chicken salad in minutes. She didn't have to cook the chicken, she didn't have to chop any vegetables, and she had the entire thing mixed in under 5 minutes.



And the best part? it was absolutely delicious! You can literally put everything in a big bowl, add a bit of liquid, and mix. It re-hydrated and tasted just like you would expect chicken salad to taste without all of the extra work. There are so many benefits to using Thrive Foods.

Of all of the Thrive products that I've tried, my favorite is their Snackies line. Snackies come in small bags, perfectly ready to grab on the go. My baby loves her snackies and I love that she has such an easy, healthy snack with absolutely no prep.




And this week only, Thrive is offering free shipping on all Snackies orders! You can order yours HERE.  Or you can shop for any of their freeze dried foods HERE. 

If you are interested in hosting an online party, you can sign up HERE.


If you want to enter to WIN this set of three snackies, you can enter the GIVEAWAY over on my Instagram Page.

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