Volunteer Gig: Feed My Starving Children

It’s called Feed My Starving Children, which is a bit of a turnoff for me (Note:  Not sure if it is the word “my” or the word “starving”.  Wouldn’t “Feed the Children” have been enough?). But my co-workers like it a lot so when there a group volunteer session was scheduled at the office this week, I signed up.

FMSC organizes volunteers to package meals – specially formulated for maximum nutrition – to partners around the world who distribute them to children who are literally starving. There is a location right near my office and volunteers are organized every day in two hour shifts. Food is scooped into the bags, weighed, sealed, boxed and labeled for shipment. The meals we packaged were rice-based with soy protein and added vegetables and vitamins. It looked like your average pre-packed rice dishes from the grocery store.

It starts with a video of what we were going to do and why. The instructions are simple and clear and there are cheat sheets at the tables. Then we were sent to wash hands before starting.

Everyone sort of gets into a rhythm and it is funny because someone will eventually need to change jobs. For example, my hands cramped with the cups that scoop the soy and rice. Then everyone switches places and the rhythm is all messed up. But there were lots of laughs and music playing and the staff is really efficient, which is great.

We had a group of kids on the shift with us. Many of them had been there before and were excited to contribute, which is always nice to see. When Time is called, there are specific instructions for cleanup, which goes very quickly. Then there is a closing video and optional prayer circle. I don’t go for prayer circles so I went browsing in their gift shop, which is filled with handmade free trade items from the countries FMSC serves.

Best part:FMSC Impacr 7 2015

The session’s impact report.  I’d do it again.

Orphans of the Storm – 2013 Pooch Parade

Due to The Incident, I had to cancel a trip to St Louis with my nephew.  So I was available for yesterday’s Pooch Parade, and my doctor cleared me for it.  This was the 7th Annual 2-Mile Walk to raise funds for Orphans of the Storm, the no-kill shelter where I adopted the Late Great Dallas.  Fiona and I participated last year, and had a great time.

There was a set up in the picnic area with breakfast and lots of raffle prizes.  Fiona kept steering me in there, scavenging for dropped pieces of bagel.

Main Event


We met several dogs available for adoption.  The volunteers were calling this one Half-Pint, but I am not sure that is the real name.  Very friendly dog, happy to meet people and other pets:



This is Kelly.  We were walking with her for a while and she didn’t seem to be pulling on the leash.  And right after we took this pic, she lay down for belly rubs:



The GSD in front is not available for adoption (I took the pic because Fiona has a thing for GSDs) but Emiilio, standing behind, is available:

Emilio and GSD


Sonny has a bit of a sad story, according to the Facebook page – he was adopted from Orphans, then his person lost him.  Five months later, he was found, but his person had gotten a new dog and couldn’t take him back!  So Orphans is going to find his real forever home:


Coopers Way, a dog treat company in Glenview, had a table selling all-natural jerky treats.  50% of the proceeds went to Orphans, so we went in for a bag:

Coopers Way


By the time we finished the walk, Fiona was good and ready to leave, so we called it a day.  Orphans did not have a final count on the fundraising, but they were already very pleased with the turnout.  It was a beautiful day for it!

I Went to the Chicagoland Pet Expo and Didn’t Take Any Pictures

Which makes me extremely lame.  However, the show has become less interesting to me since:

  1. I am not in the market for a new pet.  For like, the next decade or so.
  2. Many of the groups I enjoyed visiting were not present.

Of the five charity walks Fiona and I did last year, only two groups – Secondhand Snoots and the Puppy Mill Project – were there.  You might recall that I actually met Fiona at the expo last year, with her rescue Fresh Start.  They were not participating, either.  The Refuge was there, along with a few other groups in my Facebook network.

I didn’t stay for the events.  I just made some rounds, entered some fundraising raffles and made my way out.  But just to be posting some pictures:

Fiona, when I met her.  This is the picture I sent to my mother.  After a couple of texts, she told me to come home, get online and apply for her right away.

Meeting Fiona

And Fiona’s Christmas portrait, 2012 – courtesy of Sisterazzi Photography


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:


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.


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!

Pictures with Wanda the Witch

I am sure I’ve told you all that the best way to get me to attend your fundraiser is to have an event that involves my dogs.  Today, The Buddy Foundation held a fundraiser at its facility in Arlington Heights where my dogs could have their pictures taken with Wanda the Witch.  Here is some video from last year’s event:

My dogs were way worse than any of these dogs (or children).

It took an entire team to help us get this shot, and I was given a print rather than an e-mail after the fact.  There was some pretty bad flash in their eyes, so I actually took a picture of the picture with my iPhone and played around a bit.  This was the result:

Hounds of Hell and all.

Because my dogs wouldn’t behave, I didn’t take the time to tour the facility, but it looked lovely.  I know at least one person that adopted from there and she was very happy.  They seem to specialize in cats, but there are dogs available for adoption and we saw the Mastiff named Hank in what I think was a play room.  He looked like a charming, friendly dog.

Thanks to the Buddy Foundation for giving me something to do with my dogs today.  I hope you raised a lot of money for the animals!

Miles for Mothers – The Puppy Mill Project Walk 2012

Fiona’s weekend adventures began Friday night, when she had a rematch with a skunk in the backyard.

Skunk 2 – Fiona 0

My mother, Kay, had mocked me after the first battle, when I purchased an Emergency De-Skunker Kit (Read as: Two bottles of hydrogen peroxide and a spare box of baking soda) but lo and behold, two months go by and there it is.

On Saturday, Kay planned to take Gibbs to Splash Dog for a swim – more on that later – and since I was at a yoga class, Fiona tagged along for the ride.  Very nice of Splash Dog to let her hang out.  Then today we went to another charity dog walk – this one for The Puppy Mill Project.

I am not an active supporter of the group for a couple of reasons, one of them being – and I am not proud of this – that I just don’t like to think about puppy mills.  I am already active in the rescue world with my time, my money and the pets in my house.  I don’t need to be converted.  However, I understand that there are a lot of uneducated people out there and The Puppy Mill Project sets out to educate them.  I am grateful for the work they do and the least I can do for them is show up for a dog walk.  And it was a big one:

I snapped this shot after finishing the walk, heading back to my car.  There were so many people that after we had finished, stopped for water and chatting  – people were still coming back.

The Dog Saving Network was onsite raising funds with a Spin the Wheel game.  The wheel was spun by a dog.  Several dogs, actually – they took turns.  For $3, I was all over seeing that.  And I won, thank you very much.  A new toy for Gibbs.

We skipped the Halloween contest, but there were lots of dogs in costume.  I liked the Corgi-Lobsters:

And Fiona found this pretty impressive:

It wasn’t a terribly long walk, but it was a lovely day and Fiona and I had a great time meeting people and dogs.  So far, they have raised over $10,000 on the First Giving site alone.  I also expect there were a lot of walk-ups today with the fabulous weather.  And shout out to Wags on Willow, our favorite brick-and-mortar pet store.  They sponsored the event in some way because I found their information in the goody bag!

If you would like to contribute to the Puppy Mill Project, my page is still live right here.

Run for Shelter – Wright Way Rescue 2012

Yesterday Fiona and I continued our tour of the pet rescue walk circuit with Wright Way Rescue’s Run for Shelter event. In addition to the 5K, there is a picnic that is also billed as a bit of a family reunion.  Since so much of Wright Way’s work is with litters of puppies, there is an opportunity for a dog to come back and run into a littermate.  For that reason, I felt a bit guilty about taking Fiona instead of Gibbs.  But seriously, Gibbs would not have enjoyed himself.  It was also a very chilly day – I was dressed in multiple layers and we saw several dogs like this:

The fabulous news is that I did really well with the fundraising.  My co-workers in particular really came through and I worked my employer’s charitable match.

I remembered to take Fiona’s picture when we returned to the car to drop off some swag.

This was registration.  Big turnout:

We had seen this dog from Sit Means Sit at another event.  I think Fiona has a crush:

And we saw the awesome van donation by the Petco Foundation.

There was a DJ and a bouncy house and lots of dogs of all shapes and sizes.  But I must say that I have never seen so many black labs in my entire life.  As the day began, Wright Way had raised $16,000.  I have no doubt they reached their goal of $20,000.  The event fundraising pages are open for awhile longer, so if you are interested, this is a link to my page.

Fiona and I left early so race back to Northbrook where Wags on Willow hosted Second Hand Snoots.  They were raising funds by taking pet portraits.  I received a sneak peek of Fiona’s pics on Facebook and they are freakin’ fabulous.

So it was a big day.  I am thinking of doing a recap of my experience this first year attending fundraisers.  But right now I want to lie around and do nothing.