Ways to give back

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During the holiday season, charities across the US see a large increase in the number of volunteers.  As people get into the giving spirit during the holidays, they find great ways to give back, whether it’s donating their time or money to an organization. Unfortunately, after the holiday excitement has come and gone, charities and non-profits oftentimes find themselves still needing enough volunteers.

So if you’re still looking for a New Years resolution that doesn’t involve a daily commitment, but can provide a lasting impact, we’d like to suggest setting a goal for giving back this year.

Need some help getting started? Here are some great ways to get involved in your community:

  • The gift of time – find a non-profit that resonates with something you’re passionate about, whether it’s doing a craft with local nursing home residents, caring for animals at a pet shelter, or putting together packages for military members overseas. By selecting a cause that’s near and dear to your heart, you’re more likely to follow through and the time you spend there will be even more meaningful.
  • Power in numbers – if your skill set includes event planning and a large network of friends and family, consider serving as an fundraising organizer! Community bake sales, rummage sales, and spaghetti dinners not only bring people together, but they can bring in surprising amounts of money for important causes.
  • Get moving – If you enjoy running or walking, there are a number of opportunities to raise money for charity while enjoying the great outdoors. Check to see if your favorite non-profit hosts a run or search for runs here.
  • Just get giving – If you find yourself time-strapped, non-profit organizations are always looking for financial contributions. This allows them to allocate dollars to the places that are most needed, but may not get as much attention. Websites like Guidestar can help you select organizations that are well-known for their fiscal responsibility.

If you still find yourself struggling to find something that’s a good fit for you, check out Volunteermatch.org, a site dedicated to helping you find local charity and volunteer opportunities!

What are some other ways to give back throughout the year to show gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives?

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What to Write in a Thank You Note

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The holidays brought so much joy–from glorious gifts to fabulous dinners—and there’s so much to be grateful for. The perfect way to show it, of course, is with a thank you note. The following tips will make writing them a breeze, and can be used for any occasion.

Begin with a greeting: Be sure to  include everyone. If a gift was from a family, include the children as well, and name both the host and hostess.

Be specific: “Thank you for…” or “I really appreciate…” Be expressive, too, and include complimentary adjectives. So, if you’re thanking someone…

  • For Gifts — Let them know how you feel about the gift, or how you plan to use it. For example: “I’m so touched you remembered my favorite…!” or “It looks perfect in…”
  • For Gift Cards —  If you’ve already spent it—or know what you’re going to buy with it—let the receiver know. If you don’t know, tell them how much you’re looking forward to shopping with it. If you received money, it’s polite to say thank you for their “generosity” or “kindness,” and then how you plan on using it.
  • For a Party Be sure to compliment the host/hostess on a specific food, decoration, or even refer to a shared conversation. For example, “It was great hearing about your kids-you have to be so proud of them!”

Include well wishes: Add a message about the receiver, not the gift. Wish them well or express your hope that you’ll see them soon— make it sincere. This thoughtful touch is always appreciated!

 Add a perfect finish: Say thanks again and close the note, using words appropriate for the relationship, such as Love, Warm or Kind Regards, Sincerely, etc.

So, don’t put off those thank you’s!  After all, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William  Arthur Ward

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Celebrating Summer!

Refreshing iced tea on a hot summer's day... delicious!

Long sunny days, warm starry nights…Who doesn’t love summer? Summertime = fun time—and one of the best ways to have fun is with a party – so get those summer party invitations ready!

There are so many choices when it comes to summer parties and they’re such a breeze to plan. All you need is the right setting and the perfect summer recipes.  A beach or pool party is a great way to cool off on a hot day, especially when you serve tall glasses of gourmet iced teas. Thinking of having a relaxing get-together? A woodsy site is another wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors. Bring along a portable grill, throw on some perfectly seasoned burgers, and you’re off to a great time!

If you’d like to keep the festivities at home, why not throw a tropical soiree and light up the night with strings of colored lights and tiki torches. For athletic sorts, a backyard sports extravaganza is a winner when you set up games like horseshoes, badminton, and croquet. And whether you’re cooling off those competitive spirits, or just looking for a refreshing treat for any summertime party, serve quick and easy desserts like frozen fruit slush. If you’re concerned about decorations, the best idea is to take a hint from Mother Nature and use bright, floral colors and lush, vibrant greens. Those summer-inspired hues will work great no matter what type of get-together you’re having.

Even though the air is causal, be sure to remember your manners! Thank you notes are always in season, so if you’re a guest, send a personalized thank you card saying “thanks for inviting me!” Your host will be thrilled—and you’ll be guaranteed a future invite. Likewise, if you are the one throwing the party and receive any gifts or treats, be sure to send out your thank-yous, too. It’s the perfect way to wrap up every wonderful, fun-filled celebration of summer!

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