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Awesome Ideas for Winter Charity Work

As winter starts to settle in (maybe a little early for some of our tastes), we start thinking about things like hot chocolate and warm fires and nights spent inside with the people we love. It’s an exciting time of year, but it’s also a good time to think about those who may not be as happy this winter.

There are a lot of unique issues that winter brings for those in the changemaking community. From working to get everyone a warm coat to reaching out to those suffering from SAD (it’s a thing, we promise), there are a lot of issues to be addressed during winter. Read on to learn about some ideas for winter charity work.

Give Someone a Coat

In the mornings, when the temperatures start dropping, it’s a natural thing to reach into the closet and pull out your favorite coat. You wouldn’t dream of going out in below-freezing temperatures without a coat on. For most of us, having a coat is something we take for granted.

It’s easy to forget, but for many people, a warm coat is a luxury they cannot afford. For the homeless, especially those living in colder parts of the world, it may mean the difference between life and death. Everyone should have at least one warm coat.

That’s the mission of the charity One Warm Coat. They hold drives across the country collecting funds and coats to provide a warm coat to every person in need. Since 1992, they have given away more than 5 million coats.

Tomorrow, November 15, is One Warm Coat Day, a day to spread awareness and raise funds for this awesome charity. If you have some extra cash, their site says that $5 helps provide ten people with coats. If you prefer to donate your time, check out their info on how to set up a drive in your area.

Support Homeless Charities

Winter is one of the most challenging times of year for the homeless. In addition to the usual problems they live with, they also have to contend with the cold and sometimes danger of frostbite or hypothermia. More than a thousand people die of hypothermia each year because they don’t have a place to go.

Look around in your area for a charity that supports the homeless. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out lists online, or run a search for your area. If cash is a little tight this holiday season, you can donate your time as a volunteer helping these charities.

Give Someone Holiday Cheer

One of the most fun parts of the holidays is the giving and receiving of presents. Searching for the perfect gift, wrapping it, and watching your loved one open it is a joyful process. And of course, who doesn’t love getting the perfect gift?

For some people, though, giving gifts around the holidays may not be such a fun process. People in nursing homes often may not have any gifts, and the homeless and women and children in shelters may not be able to have holiday gifts. Lending a helping hand to those people can make an enormous impact during the holidays.

You’ve almost certainly seen drives for Toys for Tots, a charity which focuses on providing toys to needy children. Sometimes nursing homes also run gift drives for their residents to make sure their holidays are happy. Some local programs collect wish lists from struggling families in the area and ask for donations to give them a miraculous holiday.

Feed the Hungry

Food is another huge part of holiday celebrations. No doubt you’ve already started planning your Thanksgiving dinner, and possibly meals for the rest of the holidays as well. But for those on food stamps, homeless people, and other underprivileged communities, large holiday meals may not be a reality.

There’s no better time than the holidays to help feed the hungry, both in your community and around the world. Food pantries are a great resource for this; while you’re digging out that can of cranberry sauce, maybe toss a few cans of food in a bag to donate. Soup kitchens are also a wonderful place to volunteer or donate during the holidays.

Support Mental Health

While the holidays are a generally joyful time, winter is not. Grey skies and sleet don’t make for a very cheerful atmosphere. But even beyond the usual wintertime blues, there are some people who suffer more during the winter months.

The aptly-named Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects about five percent of the U.S. population – more than 16 million people. Symptoms can include severe depression, anxiety, mood shifts, trouble sleeping, and more. Women are more prone to SAD than men, with four out of five SAD sufferers being women.

It’s especially important during the winter months to reach out to those around you. Check in on friends and family, and if you’re struggling, ask for help. There are a number of charities devoted to promoting mental health that you can contribute to as well.

Save the Planet

It seems like the topic of global warming gets brought up more often during the winter season, usually in a joking tone. “Where’s that global warming everyone’s been talking about; it’s freezing!” But climate change is a serious issue, and winter is a great time to do your bit to save the planet.

Whether it’s setting up a recycling program in your area or just picking up that can off the sidewalk, there are tons of ways you can support the fight against climate change. For one thing, you could donate to some of the excellent charities working to save our world. Or, if you prefer to make a more direct change, you can take small steps to help reduce your own carbon footprint.

Find More Ideas for Winter Charity Work

Winter is one of the most important times to be a changemaker. It’s a lean time of year for a lot of people, and winter charity work can make some of the most powerful impacts.

If you’d like more resources for changemaking and updates on winter charity work, keep an eye on our blog, Sullivan Connect. If there’s a topic you’d like to see or if you’d like to let us know about the projects you’re involved with, reach out to us!

Now What? Daily Political Action After Elections

Yesterday, the U.S. experienced one of the biggest midterm elections in decades. Voter turnout soared from a little under 37 percent in the 2014 elections to somewhere north of 49 percent. Young voter turnout increased by a whopping 188 percent.

But now, the elections are over, and some of us may be feeling a sense of letdown. Leading up to the elections, we knew what our duty was: get out and vote. But now that the ballots are in, you may not be as sure how to create change in your community.

Changemaking doesn’t only happen on election days; rather, it’s a day to day push. Below are a few ideas about how you can take daily political action and keep the wave going.

Talk to Your Officials

One of the most important ways you can stay politically active is to contact your representatives. State representatives are elected by popular vote, which means they are highly interested in keeping their constituents happy. Therefore, the majority of elected officials want to hear what their constituents – you – think.

It can seem difficult to keep up with the issues that are going on in your state and stay in touch with your elected officials about them. But apps like Countable put that process at the tips of your fingers. Write, call, and send emails and letters.

If you live in a state where your representatives support policies you believe are wrong, contacting them can seem like an exercise in frustration. Remember, not calling only reinforces the belief that the actions they are taking are okay with all their constituents. It’s important to make your voice heard.

Choose Your Sources Wisely

Of course, before you can vote on issues, you need to be informed about the issues. Reading the news is one great way to stay politically involved, but you want to choose your news sources carefully. When you click on a certain news source, you support their voice, even if you don’t support their message.

Social media is where this really comes into play. If a public figure you disagree with or a news platform you know to be unreliable posts a story, it can be tempting to repost it with a comment arguing against it. However, this gives these sources more influence; it’s better to stick to reliable sources you agree with.

Check Facts

Part of choosing a good news source to support is knowing which ones tell the truth. The term “fake news” has been thrown around a lot in recent years. While that term has often been abused, it is true that in the age of the internet, it’s important to check facts before you pass them on.

Checking the truth of a story only takes a few extra seconds, and it can make a huge difference. The spreading of false information makes it easy to skew people’s understanding of what is actually happening in the world (the hysteria surrounding vaccines is a good example of this at work). Making sure a story is true before you share it is an easy way to make sure people get the right information to act on.

Talk to the Other Side

While you do want to make sure to get verifiable information from sources you support, it’s also important to make sure you don’t get stuck in a political vacuum. These days, our country seems to be so divided that it can feel wrong to talk to people on the other side of the fence. But it’s one of the most crucial things you can do to make daily change.

Our country was founded on the belief that it takes all types to make a country go. Even more than that, we have to remember that every person on the other side of the aisle is just that – a person. They have reasons they believe the things that they do, just like you, and learning about those reasons can help you be more compassionate and find new solutions to our political issues.

Challenge yourself to talk to someone who holds different political views than you do at least once a month – maybe once a week. Ask them why they believe the things they do and what they want to see in the country. If you’re not sure where to start, people like Romain (who spoke at our Ignite Retreat) are working to reach across the political divide and promote compassionate understanding.

Focus on Solutions

Part of the goal of reaching across the political divide is to work together to create innovative solutions that can work for all parties. As such, we have to focus on coming up with ideas to solve our problems during these discussions, rather than arguing. It can be easy to only complain about what’s happening in the world, but in the end, that isn’t productive.

Imagine what might happen if, for one day, everyone spent all the time they usually spend complaining about politics searching for solutions instead. We’d have some amazing ideas in no time. Challenge yourself to go a whole week without complaining about politics; when you get the urge, instead, ask, “What can we do to fix this?”

Show Up

There’s an old adage that says that nothing beats showing up. Whether it’s when a friend needs a hand, when you need someone to get something done, or when you want to impress someone, that advice holds true. It also applies to participating in the political system.

Staying in touch with your representatives is wonderful, but it can be easy to write off an email. It’s much harder to discount or ignore someone standing in front of your desk. Get out in person and go meet your representatives and engage in political discourse.

Find out when the town hall meetings in your area are, as well as city council and school board sessions. Go talk about the issues that are important to you. You can be a part of making change at the community level.

Take Daily Political Action

The energy surrounding these midterms was huge, and now that the elections are over, we have to make sure that momentum doesn’t die. We can be catalysts for change in our community every day. By taking daily political action and staying involved, we can reshape the world into something better and stronger than ever before.

If you’re looking for resources to help you get started making a change in your community, visit the rest of our site. The Sullivan Foundation supports changemakers, whether that be recognizing their hard work with our prestigious award or providing scholarship dollars to students starting out on their path. Check out our website to learn more about how we can help you today.

Penn State Ignite Retreat

This year, the Sullivan Foundation held our first-ever college-sponsored Ignite Retreat. Penn State University’s Schreyer Honors College partnered with us to host an Ignite Retreat this September on the Penn State campus. The event was free to all PSU students, and we had forty attend.

The weekend was an amazing time of connection, inspiration, and discussions about changemaking. Students formed amazing bonds, and the weekend kick-started a new wave of change in Pennsylvania. Read on to learn a little more about the Penn State Ignite Retreat.

Facilitators

We had six amazing facilitators at the Penn State Ignite Retreat. Spud Marshall and Chad Littlefield, both of whom facilitate the North Carolina Ignite Retreats, joined us in Pennsylvania.

Spud, the founder of the co.space, said of the weekend, “As a facilitator for the weekend, I was reminded of how important these gatherings are at building authentic relationships for students who may otherwise feel overwhelmed at college – from selecting a major, to finding meaningful friendships, to pursuing a purposeful career – college is stressful! But the Ignite Retreat gives students the time, guidance, and encouragement to dig into those questions and unlock new paths for themselves!”

Chad is the founder of We!, a company focused on gently eradicating small talk and replacing it with genuine connection and real conversations. He, too, saw the weekend as a unique opportunity for college students to form lasting bonds. “Universities that care about retention and career development support high-impact experiences like the Ignite Retreat. Students who care about a life filled with purpose and connection cannot get enough of the Ignite Retreat. It is the rare event designed both for the university and the student.”

Shelby Seybert, Tony Weaver, Katie Marshall, and Jared Yarnall-Schane also served as facilitators for this retreat. Shelby is the founder of Joyful Wheels, an initiative dedicated to finding the joy around us and bringing it to the surface. Shelby talked about the connection that happened during the course of the weekend. “One of my favorite moments at these retreats is talking to students after they finish an activity called ‘deep listening.’ It’s incredible how quickly people will share things that are so deeply personal to them, things they may have never shared before, when someone else is intentionally choosing to listen and care.”

Jared consults with Happy Valley LaunchBox, as well as working as a startup coach and adventure facilitator. He helped facilitate the adventure of this retreat, as well as fostering connection among the students. “One thing we often forget about when helping young changemakers discover their path is how lonely it can be. This is where the Ignite Retreat thrives – helping youth forge life-long bonds of friendship and support so that they can tackles challenges big and small.”

Tony Weaver is the founder and CEO of Weird Enough Productions, which is a new media production company that focuses on creating positive media images of black men and other minority groups. He led the Intro to Changemaking session, as well as several other sessions throughout the weekend, along with Katie. Katie, who also goes by Tenny, is the assistant director of the Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose at Penn State.

What the Students Say

We had forty students attend this first retreat, an awesome number for our first retreat there. Rather than try to talk about the student experience ourselves, we’ll just let them say it in their own words.

“I walked away with a lot of energy and forward motion. The experience felt like it was way longer than 48 hours (I can’t believe it was less!!!) and I didn’t want it to end.”

“This retreat lit up my mind in more ways than one, redirecting my life and driving my desire to make a social impact on the world.”

“I had no clue what I was getting into but it was one of the best “on a whim” experiences I have ever had.”

“The retreat took all these crazy ideas in my head and actually made them possible.”

One of the most awesome things about the Ignite Retreat is how amazing the participants always are. Being able to spend the weekend with such inspiring college students is a huge privilege, and one we never take for granted.

Sponsors

The weekend would not have been possible without the sponsorship of several organizations at Penn State. “This September, Penn State hosted the Ignite Retreat in State College, PA for its student body. After sending 3-4 of their students to the Ignite Retreat in North Carolina each semester for the past few years, Penn State decided to bring the event closer to home and host it in the woods of central Pennsylvania 30 mins outside of campus. Thanks to sponsorship from the Schreyer Honors College, the event was made accessible to countless more students,” Spud said.

In addition to the Schreyer Honors College, the Honors College Student Council and the Penn State Presidential Leadership Academy also sponsored the retreat. Their support was invaluable, and the Sullivan Foundation is grateful for their commitment to changemaking and connection among their students.

We’re also grateful for the opportunity to use the Krislund Camp and Conference Center as our facility. The venue, in addition to being beautiful, provided some unique opportunities for connection during the retreat.

Spud explained, “One of my favorite – and unexpected – moments from the weekend was due to the lack of cell or wifi service, and a very long walk between our housing and dining hall. What could have been a frustration resulted in the opposite. The combination of long walks and no service on our phones meant that everyone was incredibly present throughout the entire weekend. In our large group time together, a guiding question for everyone simply became ‘are you present?’ which helped set the stage for the powerful conversations and connections that followed.”

Looking Forward to a Future Penn State Ignite Retreat

Although this was only the first school-sponsored Ignite Retreat, we hope to do more in the future. Spud said, “The Penn State Ignite Retreat encouraged me to package this experience up to more students across the country. In 2019, I will be working to offer similar university-focused gatherings.”

If you’re interested in the possibility of hosting an Ignite Retreat at your school, visit our website to learn more about the retreat, and feel free to contact us with any questions. You can also see photos from the retreat on our Facebook page.

Ignite Retreat 2018

This weekend, ninety-four students and a couple of dozen faculty came together in Black Mountain, North Carolina for a weekend of inspiration, learning, and discussion about social change. We had six facilitators, three tracks for students to choose from, and about forty-eight hours dedicated to exploring how to save the world.

These numbers are a good way to get a handle on what happened this weekend, but they don’t begin to show how powerful the weekend was. The 2018 Ignite Retreat was an event to be remembered.

Friday

Friday night, we gathered in Eureka Hall (a fitting name, all things considered), most of us coming off a long day of travel. Students sat with friends from their schools, and nobody really knew what to expect from the weekend. Chad Littlefield kicked things off with a resounding, “What’s up,” Spud started drawing, and the retreat got off to a roaring start.

As you might expect at an event like this, the first part of the evening was dedicated to ice breakers. As you might not expect, these ice breakers involved talking about what defines us as people and what the students hoped to gain from the weekend. They formed bonds and found partners for the weekend and connected faster than you’d think possible for a group that had been together for less than an hour.

Chad threw out cards he created to help people connect, and students raced to grab them and start high-fiving other students. They “bumped” issues they cared about to the top of a lineup, and they talked about how they felt about those issues. The evening wrapped up with a bonfire, and we all headed to bed.

Saturday

As we mentioned, there were three tracks that the students could choose from: the personal track, the problems track, and the project track. After morning activities, the personal track group started off Saturday by combining head and heart to come up with a hustle. They listed issues they cared about and skills they were good at, and then, with the help of Diane and the other facilitators, they found creative ways to combine those into a hustle that used the best of both.

The problems group started with a lively discussion about the differences between apathy, sympathy, and empathy. They talked about how to learn what the problems surrounding an issue really are and how to start to address them. They practiced asking the right questions.

The projects group, led by Harrison, started out with a discussion about projects they were working on or wanted to launch. Thirty-odd students went around a circle, each telling about a plan they had to solve a specific problem and the ways they had already started to tackle those issues. The facilitators helped them figure out which details they still needed to nail down and how to start taking those next steps.

After a delicious lunch, the groups split back out into their separate tracks again. Everyone went for a long walk, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery of the North Carolina mountains. The personal group practiced deep listening, while the projects group brainstormed.

We all came together again in the evening and the students helped their peers come up with even more creative ideas to tackle problems. We had story time, and two of our facilitators, Romain and Tessa (better known as T-Money) told the stories of how they started the projects they’re using to change the world. We wrapped up the evening with another bonfire after a long, productive day.

Sunday

Sunday morning dawned bright and cold, with the temperature plunging to near-freezing during the night. We went down to the lodge for breakfast (most of us having found the hidden Starbucks by then), and then we went back up to Eureka Hall for the closing activities.

The students who had projects they wanted to start spent a few minutes putting together booths to present their initiatives. Pipe cleaners, Sharpies, and a lot of poster board were involved, and in about ten minutes, we had a mini-pitch fest. The other half of the group went downstairs for more activities while the projects group got their pitches perfected.

Then the real fun kicked off. The other group came upstairs, armed with a dozen small, plastic gems each. They voted on their favorite projects by dropping gems into cups, and it was inspiring, to say the least, to hear all these plans to change the world.

We wrapped up by giving away $300 to the top two winners so they can get started putting their projects into action. We had one last chat, tossing the blue elephant to the person who had the floor, and then we parted ways.

Moving Forward from the 2018 Ignite Retreat

The Ignite Retreat is an amazing event, and one that changes lives. So often in the media and on the internet, we hear people saying, “The world is a terrible place,” and not doing anything to change it. That was not the case at the 2018 Ignite Retreat.

At that retreat, these students said, “The world may have problems, but we’re going to fix them.” And not only that, they have plans for how they’re going to fix those problems, and business plans and names and logos and people and products. Even better than that, there were ninety-four of these people setting out to change the world.

The Ignite Retreat is a place of enormous hope and enthusiasm at a time when we need that more than ever. These students are the people who will save the world, and we are honored to help them start on that journey. If you’d like a more detailed account of what went on this weekend, visit our social media pages, and visit our website to sign up for the next Ignite Retreat!

How to Register to Vote

 As you’ve no doubt heard, midterm elections are coming up this fall in the United States. These elections will be among the most important in American history, and you want to make sure your voice is heard. If you live in the Southeast and you aren’t sure how to register to vote, here are the basics for each state.

Alabama

Alabama offers both online and in-person voter registration. You can also register by mail if you prefer. If you plan to register online, you’ll need an Alabama-issued ID, and voter registration closes October 22.

Arkansas

In Arkansas, you must register by mail or in person. If you register by mail, make sure you include a social security or alternate ID number and that you sign your form. You don’t have to indicate your race ethnic group or register with a party in Arkansas.

Florida

Florida allows online, mail-in, and in-person voting registration. Like Alabama, online registrants have to have a Florida-issued ID to register. If you don’t have a Florida ID, you can visit your local election office to register in person there.

Georgia

Georgia offers online, mail-in, and in-person voting registration, like Alabama and Florida. If you have a Georgia-issued ID, you can register online. If you don’t have a valid Georgia driver’s license or similar, you can register by mail or in person.

Kentucky

Kentucky also offers all three forms of voter registration, online, in-person, and mail-in. You need a Social Security number to register online in Kentucky, but you don’t need a Kentucky ID to do so. If you’d like more information or to vote in person, you can visit your local election office.

Louisiana

Louisiana offers online, in-person, and mail-in voting registration. You have to have a Louisiana-issued ID to register to vote online. The deadline to register in person has passed, but you can register online until October 16.

Mississippi

Mississippi does not offer online voter registration, but it does offer mail-in and in-person registration. If you register by mail, remember that in Mississippi, you do not have to register with a certain party. You can register in person at your local election office.

North Carolina

North Carolina also does not offer online voting registration. You can register by mailing in a voter registration form, and you do not have to have a North Carolina-issued ID to do so. The deadline to register by mail is October 12, but you can register in person at your local election office until November 3.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers online voting registration as an option, as well as mail-in and in-person. You need a South Carolina driver’s license with a valid, up-to-date address (the same one you’re registering to vote with) to register online. All forms of voting registration are open until October 17.

Tennessee

Tennessee does offer online voter registration, as well as mail-in and in-person options. You do have to have a Tennessee driver’s license to register to vote online. If you do not have this, you can still register by mail or in person at your local election office.

Virginia

Virginia offers all three forms of voter registration, online, in-person, and mail-in. You have to have a Virginia-issued ID and a Social Security number to register online. Voter registration in Virginia is open until October 15.

Deadlines

If you live in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, or Tennessee, the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming midterms has already passed. If you live in one of the other states, there’s still time; check under your section for registration deadlines! Election day is Tuesday, November 6, so don’t forget to show up to the polls that day!

Go Register to Vote Now!

Voting is one of the best ways we can be changemakers in our society today. Your vote is your voice in the government, so take this opportunity to create the world you want to live in. If you need more information about how or when to register, visit your local election office or check out this site.