New Favorite Charity – Adopt a Classroom

I forget where I first heard of Adopt-a- Classroom, but the premise was very familiar:

Teachers spend a lot of their own money for stuff needed in the classroom.  School budgets are tight, parents can’t always afford supplies and teachers want the best for their students. 

So teachers can go on this website and make a request for resources.  Donors can search for a particular school or teacher to support, or browse the database for a classroom that sparks their interests.  Once a donation is made for a particular classroom, the program hooks up the teacher with its partners to spend the money as effectively as possible. 

So.  There are lots of schools in Chicago that could use some help.  I found a teacher that wanted to buy some books for a classroom library to encourage her bilingual second graders to read.  It is not news that most low income students lack books at home, and we all know that starting early is good.  I liked this project for three reasons:

1.       Chicago

2.       The teacher could use my donation right away, as opposed to waiting for other donors to fully fund a project

3.       Duh.  Books.  Reading.

Also, my nephew Alex is in second grade.  So I made my donation.  I received an acknowledgement right away.  A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the teacher:

Thank you so much for adopting my classroom. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. My students will be thrilled to know that someone is thinking of them and cares enough to donate money so that we can have more books in our classroom library. My students are incredibly motivated and love diving into new books. They are constantly asking me if I have more books about different topics and I always try to find what they are asking for. I know that they will be more motivated if they are interested in what they are reading. My students are in a bilingual spanish classroom, and are just beginning to read in English. They are grabbing the English books off the shelves and are extremely excited to show me what they are learning as they read those books as well. Thank you again for your donation. I will put it to good use and my students will be so grateful.

Later that night I received another e-mail.  The teacher I sponsored had done her shopping and sent me another note, along with a detailed list of her purchases.  By “detailed list” I mean the titles of each book and how much each one cost so that I could see that my entire donation went to the classroom.  Scholastic books is one of the partners.  I didn’t need that much detail to believe that my dollars were going to a good place, but it was very nice to see.

Charity Navigator gave Adopt-a-Classroom four stars last year.  You can find them at adoptaclassroom.org.

2012 Year in Review

In the past year, I read lots of books, did lots of volunteering, adopted two pets and joined a  gym.  I also had a really good year at work.  Outside of the office, here is how I want to step it up:

Reading

I have passed 60 books two years in a row, so I think I will make that the new benchmark.  60 Book Challenge!  But the real goal is one I discussed with my friend Nyla last night.  My TBR pile is out of control.  I am not going to try to make myself read certain types of books or read only things that I already have.  But I am going to make a concerted effort to buy fewer books.  A serious thing since I still volunteer at a used book store.  But I have made some progress in the last couple of months by recognizing that the popular mysteries are not likely re-reads, so I checked them out from the library.    Also, Christmas netted me an ipad mini and the library app is already more appealing to me that paying $10 from a retailer for a download.

Volunteering

Doing pro bono work through Taproot has been a fabulous experience, but it takes an awful lot of time.  While my employer has been very supportive in allowing me work-time to pursue it, I just don’t think I can fit it in to my schedule.

I continue to volunteer with a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue, through weekly work onsite (feeding, cleaning, interacting with the birds) as well as maintaining the Facebook page.  I expect to be helping out with the main website next year, also.

I have also picked up responsibility for the Facebook page of my chapter of Project Linus.  The Facebook audience isn’t very big compared to the number of active participants in the chapter, but it is slowly growing and I am working on sharing more stuff from other groups to differentiate a bit from the main website.  Also, I attended most of the Saturday events, most of the Starbucks gatherings and made 91 blankets this year.  I expect to keep it up.

With the library, also, I am maintaining my once a week onsite work.  We have settled into a much more consistent routine in the past year and our sales have improved tremendously in the new building.  Online sales are still troublesome, but I don’t know what the answer is there.  I continue to hope for better communication between volunteers.

Finally, Fiona and I had a great time at the five charity dog walks that we did.  I expect to attend at least as many next year.

Health and Wellness

I joined my local YMCA a couple of months ago and have tried out different classes.  Oh, how awesome it would be if I didn’t have to work during the day.  But I am pursuing yoga and a couple of other things during the week.  The goal, which will start after I return from our annual meeting in Nashville, is to complete the Marython.  It is a 26-week program developed by one of the leaders at Project Linus designed to help people get moving.  Her name is Mary.  A full Marython is 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week for 26 of the 52 weeks in 2013.  I imagine that for 26 weeks out of the year, (particularly with the flexibility of the rules) I can manage that, but because I am lazy about tracking things, I will primarily be counting things I do at the actual gym and will commit to the Half Marython.  Three days a week for at least 26 weeks out of the year.

The Pets

We adopted Sigmund the Grey in February and Fiona the Border Collie in March.   In 100 ways Fiona is a great dog, but her herding instincts are unbelievable and we are not able to have her on the same floor of my house when the birds are out of their cages.  I expect to be contacting the trainer sometime soon.  Also, the tummy troubles continue for both dogs.  On Boxing Day, I took a stool sample to the vet out of sheer frustration and found that Gibbs has parasites again (or still).  So both dogs are on the serious meds (again).  And basically, all of the data I had about different diets we had tried is totally invalid.  I must get this under control because it is making me insane.

That ought to do it.  Happy New Year!

Christmas Reading Challenge

I am several posts behind, including three Charlaine Harris books, and one about a cupcake truck in the suburbs!  But I want to sign up for The True Book Addict’s Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge, so I need to skip ahead a bit.

I have four books ready to go:

 

Christmas in Plains, by Jimmy Carter

Star Bright!, by Andrew M. Greeley

The Queen’s Christmas, by Karen Harper

Silent Night, by Mary Higgins Clark

 

And that is before I check out what they have going on at the library.  Also, I picked up a lovely illustrated copy of A Christmas Carol, so I just might read it again this year.  Oh!  And I have that compilation that Caroline Kennedy did.

I need to finish up these Aurora Teagarden books – ought to have that done this weekend.  After that..on to Christmas!

One More Thing to Love about My Library

Reprinted from my blog on the Glenview Patch:

I love to read.  My average is at least one book per week, and has been for many years.  But when I started making blankets with our local chapter of Project Linus, it really cut into my reading time.   So I went to the Glenview Public Library and took a look in the audio section.  There were plenty of books from my “to be read” pile (OK, it is a bookcase.  An overflowing bookcase.  With piles in other rooms.) to be found.  I began checking them out and was back “on pace” in no time.

In an attempt to control the size of the “to be read” pile (“TBR” to the bookworms), I generally borrow audio books from the library that I already have in some other form at home.

Eventually, I started to run out of audio books to borrow from Glenview.  Which is not to criticize the size of the collection, I really am trying to clear out the TBR pile and sticking to that list of books.  So I started checking them out from Northbrook’s library.  It felt like cheating on Glenview, but you gotta love the reciprocity.  The Glenview Library’s website even has the online record of audio books I have checked out from Northbrook, so I receive the same reminder e-mail when they are due.

One day, when I went online to renew a book, I saw a link that says, “Suggest an item for the Library to purchase.”

Whoa.  I can ask the Library to buy a book just so I can borrow it?!  Sign me up.

I blindly looked at my bookcase and submitted some titles, requesting audio format.  Within a couple of days, I received an e-mail from a librarian saying that none of my requests were available in CD audio, but a neighboring library had one of them in cassette form.  She asked if she could reserve it for me.  I wasn’t interested, but really happy that the response was so quick and thorough.

I tried again, this time checking Amazon.com to see if a CD audio version existed before putting in the request.  (Note:  I realize that Amazon.com is not the all-knowing resource, but it is easy and helped me to refine my request list a bit.)   This time, it took a bit longer for a response.  But when it came:

Three of the four books I named are being ordered!

The website is careful to remind us that not every request can be honored.  As in my case, sometimes things just aren’t available.  And of course, we know there is a limited budget.  But this just made my day.

I hit “Reply” and told the librarian so.

In the Dark Streets Shineth, by David McCullough

It seems like cheating to count this for any reading challenges, as it was so short.  I picked it up at the clearance sales last year, so I knew it was a slim volume.  I didn’t realize that it was mostly pictures.

However, it is a nice little story about Winston Chruchill secretly heading to the U.S. to see President Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  He spent the holiday in Washington, attended the tree lighting and church service with the Roosevelts and then spoke at the President’s holiday radio address.

So, this is a nice book to have in my library, but it didn’t run as deep as I’d hoped.

Holiday Reading Challenges

I trust Miss Busy to find the good Holiday Reading Challenges and these are the two she picked:

Christmas in July in December doesn’t officially start until December 1, but since I am still finishing up Travels with My Aunt, I think I will be ok.

Then there is The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge.  Technically, this has already started, but I am pretty sure I can catch up.

I have scrounged a bit and come up with a list:

  1. A Christmas Secret, by Anne Perry
  2. In the Dark Streets Shineth, by David McCullough
  3. Christmas in Plains, by Jimmy Carter
  4. The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir, by Ken Harmon
  5. The Autobiography of Santa Claus, as told to Jeff Guinn
And if I finish these in time, I shall be reading A Christmas Carol again.

Online Ordering at the Library

My favorite thing about my library’s website is the notification e-mails when something is due. The e-mail has a link that I can click to renew it right away. This has rescued me several times when I was in the middle of an audio book, and several more times when I was on the road.

I love the Internet.

The Chicago Tribune ran an article about online ordering at the Chicago Public Library. Apparently, it has grown so popular that the waiting lists have gone crazy:

“”It was an expected shock,” said Lednicer of the surge in hold requests with the advent of online ordering. She notes that 40,000 holds were placed online in the first month of the new system three years ago. These days, as many as 120,000 items are placed on hold each month, 95 percent of which are done via computer.”

The Trib calls CPL a victim of its own success.

Personally, I don’t use online ordering for library books. I like to wander the stacks. But I am glad to see other patrons embracing the technology. And borrowing books!