Charity

Doing Good With Wood

Organization Needs Volunteers Wounded Warrior Project Tax Benefits Being Charitable Get Books To Kids Got An Hour? Give It Back Serving Blinded Veterans Community Gardens

Doing Good With Wood

(NAPSI)—The next time you watch a home improvement show on TV and think “I can do that,” consider this: Through the Do Good With Wood Award program, you may earn national recognition for your creativity with wood combined with your community spirit.

Whether you’re a high school student, a seasoned woodworker or a creative crafter, if you’ve used your skills to give back to the community, let Minwax recognize you for Doing Good With Wood.

The First Prize is $5,000 in cash, a workshop with wood finishing expert Bruce Johnson, and a supply of products valued at $1,000. The Second Prize is $2,000 in cash plus the products.

The program is open to virtually anyone involved in wood finishing projects, through individual effort, DIY groups, craft or hobby groups, school classes, clubs or guilds.

Past winners include a guild that made wooden holiday toys, a shop class that created a campus gathering place by building benches from a fallen tree, and a group that made beds with storage, for children transitioning from shelters to foster home care.

For more information on how to enter or to submit an entry online, visit www.minwax.com. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2014.

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Organization Serving Today’s Girls Needs Volunteers

(NAPSI)—If you think the Girl Scouts of today are just about camping and cookies, you’re in for a big surprise; fun, new experiences are the main focus.

Today’s Girl Scouts have turned ordinary household items into robots, hiked the Appalachian Trail, and more. Girls Scouts get to participate in environmental programs and events, as well as explore the arts, STEM, business and entrepreneurship activities with a focus on fun and adventure.

One thing these various programs all have in common is that they need the support of volunteers to be successful. In fact, the need for volunteers nationally is one reason there are some 30,000 girls currently on lists, waiting for an opening in an organization that’s supported by volunteers.

Volunteers Needed

Says Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, “We know the majority of volunteers feel their Girl Scout experience has helped them both personally and professionally, but in many places throughout the country, the lack of volunteers is what keeps girls on waiting lists.

“Every adult who volunteers for Girl Scouts can help us bring fun, new experiences to at least five girls. Imagine what that can do to shape the next generation of female leaders.”

Making Lives Better

Whether you have just a few hours per month to give or more; whether you want to participate in exciting activities or share your passion regarding a favorite topic; whether you are looking to make new friends or serve your neighborhood, Girl Scouts will welcome your support.

Successful volunteers come from all walks of life. After receiving training from their local Girl Scout council, volunteers introduce girls to new experiences that show them they’re capable of more than they ever imagined.

Volunteers serve as cheerleaders, guides and mentors helping girls develop skills and confidence that will last long after the programs and events are over.

Volunteers Benefit

According to a recent poll conducted by the Girl Scouts of the USA, it is not just girls who benefit from taking part in its programs. Ninety-four percent of volunteers queried said they made new friends, 88 percent reported they believe their life is better because they volunteer with Girl Scouts, and two-thirds believe their volunteer experience has helped them professionally.

Ninety-five percent of Girl Scout volunteers said they are happy knowing they are making girls’ lives better.

To learn more or to find a volunteer opportunity, visit www.girlscouts.org/volunteer.

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Brawny® Brand Extends Partnership With Wounded Warrior Project® To Help Support Our Nation’s Heroes

(NAPSI)—After soldiers return home from demanding tours of duty, they’re eager to resume the simple pleasures of life, like spending time with family, enjoying abandoned hobbies or reconnecting with friends. But the warriors—as well as their caregivers—often learn that resuming “normal” life can be a challenge.

A physical wound might be visible through a veteran’s limp or shrapnel scar. An invisible wound might take the form of a traumatic brain injury not obvious to the outside world. Either way, warriors and their families can become emotionally exhausted by the voyage to uncover a “new normal.”

Inspired by the journeys of dedication and perseverance on which these men and women embark, the Brawny® brand is renewing its partnership with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) for the third year. Based in Jacksonville, Fla., WWP was founded in 2003 with a vision to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. WWP helps injured veterans adjust to civilian life and persevere through the visible and invisible wounds of war.

A new campaign—known as “Tough to the Core”—focuses on warriors and caregivers. To support both groups, the Brawny® brand is asking people to answer the question “What does tough mean to you?” through texts, photos and video using #ToughIs on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. For every text or photo post, Brawny® will donate $1 to WWP, and for every video post, it will donate $5, up to a total of $350,000.

The Brawny® brand has donated more than $1.4 million to WWP since the partnership began in 2012. WWP shares the same brand spirit and values as Brawny®: an inner strength that emboldens and inspires people to be “Tough to the Core.”

Tens of thousands of Wounded Warriors and caregivers receive support each year through WWP programs that range from helping veterans with career placement to providing support for warriors dealing with Combat Stress Recovery.

For more information on the partnership, go to www.brawny.com/wounded-warrior-project or “Like” the program on Facebook: www.facebook.com/brawny. For more information on WWP, please visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

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Tips On The Benefits Of Being Charitable

(NAPSI)—Paying it forward can pay off on your next tax return, if you keep track of your donations.

“Giving to charity, even if you’re simply donating clothes and furniture to a thrift store, can reduce your taxable income,” explained Jessi Dolmage, of the popular digital tax preparation brand TaxACT. “To maximize your deduction, just follow a few simple tips.”

• First, be sure you’re giving to an eligible organization recognized by the IRS. Search for the group using the IRS’ Exempt Organization Select Check at www.irs.gov. Even if it’s not listed in the database, most religious organizations and government agencies are eligible.

• Second, keep detailed records for accurate valuation (and, in turn, your tax deduction) and in the unlikely event of an audit. These should include organization name, donation date and amount.

• For noncash donations, document the charity name, date and location of the donation and a reasonably detailed description of the items. If you receive a receipt from the charity, keep it with your records. The IRS requires additional documentation for vehicle donations. You must receive a written acknowledgment or a Form 1098-C from the charity for the vehicle.

• For monetary gifts, keep the written acknowledgment from the organization with the donation date and amount. A canceled check or card statement with the transaction date will do for gifts under $250.

• If you get merchandise, benefits or privileges in exchange for the gift, you must subtract the value of those from the original gift amount. If your payment is more than $75, the organization must give you a written statement with a description and estimated value of the merchandise, goods or services.

• Noncash donations, such as clothing, kitchen gadgets and furniture, must be in good condition or better. The tax-deductible amount of those items is the fair market value (FMV), the price if they were exchanged between willing buyers and sellers. Special rules apply to cars, boats, airplanes, property subject to debt, investments that have appreciated in value, and inventory from your business.

• Mobile apps can make donation tracking easier. For example, TaxACT’s free Donation Assistant app tracks cash, noncash and recurring gifts, with FMVs for more than 1,300 commonly donated items. The app can save photos of donations and receipts. Come tax time, the information can be imported into the TaxACT Deluxe program, which calculates the maximum deduction and completes related tax forms.

Charitable gifts made between Jan.1 and Dec. 31 can be deducted if you itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A. To do so, all itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction amount based on your adjusted gross income and filing status.

Additionally, you must file Form 8283 if your noncash contributions total more than $500, and include a qualified appraisal of property worth more than $5,000.

You can download the free app at www.taxact.com/apps and learn more about the tax rules of charitable giving at www.irs.gov and www.taxact.com/taxinfo.

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An Ingenious Way To Help Get Books To Kids

(NAPSI)—If your child is like the average American school kid, he or she spends 17.4 hours a week watching TV or playing video games, 16.7 hours a week playing outside and only 5.9 hours a week reading.

Despite research that shows the importance of summer reading in helping children keep skills sharp, only 17 percent of parents say reading is a top summer priority, according to a new survey from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s.

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll, also found:

• More than 60 percent of parents in the survey said they do not believe their child loses reading skills over the summer, although existing research shows summer learning loss is a major problem, particularly for low-income children, who can lose up to three months in reading skills each summer. Children who don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than others to drop out of high school.

• Parents who consider reading to be “extremely” or “very” important are twice as likely to have a child who reads every day.

• Children who are involved in a reading program are up to two times more likely to read every day.

• Despite the proliferation of e-books and digital formats, 83 percent of parents said their children prefer print books for summer reading, compared to 7 percent preferring tablets and 4 percent preferring e-readers.

Many literacy studies show a direct correlation between income level and the number of books in the household, creating even more obstacles to developing children’s literacy.

“Many families think of reading as eating your vegetables—good for you but not necessarily a treat. Reading is the best vacation. It takes you places you never dreamed you would visit, and summer especially is a time when kids can immerse themselves in the topics they like best,” said Carol H. Rasco, CEO of RIF.

RIF works to inspire a love of reading by delivering free books and literacy resources to children and families that need them most.

For example, it launched the 11th annual Be Book Smart campaign to support children’s literacy. Everyone can support reading this summer by donating $3 at any Macy’s store to help get more books to kids in need. Shoppers who make a $3 donation get $10 off a $30 purchase, and Macy’s will donate the full amount to RIF.

Macy’s has already helped raise nearly $30 million for RIF to promote literacy at all levels, buying books for children, training educators, and providing resources to parents.

Learn More

For further facts on getting books to kids who need them most, visit www.RIF.org.

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Got An Hour? Give It Back

(NAPSI)—Volunteering is easy way to give back the increasing number of older Americans who rely on services and social activities within their community.

The Figures

The number of older adults in this country is growing at a fast rate. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Administration on Aging, there are roughly 11 million seniors living alone in their homes and nearly 1.5 million seniors in nursing homes at any given time.

The older population numbered 41.4 million in 2011, an increase of 18 percent since 2000. Over one in every eight people, or 13.3 percent of the population, is an older American.

The Facts

Many older adults require assistance with daily activities and report having functional limitations which can make staying in their homes difficult without assistance. Over 20 percent of all adults aged 75 and older had 10 or more visits to a doctor or other health professional in the 12-month span. Often, these limitations in activities because of chronic conditions increase with age.

To remain active in their communities, many seniors rely on programs such as meal delivery, adult day activities and other social programs. Seniors in nursing homes use services to connect with their communities. These programs often need volunteers.

The Answer

Volunteering can be a fun and easy way to give back to the community.

That’s where the Got an Hour? Give it Back Campaign comes in. It was developed by the Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative through a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging to help agencies throughout the country attract volunteers to programs that work with seniors. The campaign’s website includes a search toll to help connect volunteers to opportunities in their neighborhood.

Volunteering can be as simple as driving an older neighbor to the doctor, bringing him a meal or helping her with housework. You can spend only 60 minutes of your time but the effect can be infinite.

The Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative is a national re_source center that helps leaders in the aging and disability networks engage talented older adult volunteers to meet growing needs for services. The Volunteer Collaborative offers online resources, comprehensive training, and opportunities for leaders to learn best practices from each other.

The Info

To find programs and events nearby, visit www.GiveitBacktoSeniors.org.

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Volunteers Are Key To Serving Blinded Veterans

(NAPSI)—Thanks to dedicated volunteers, an organization that was created to serve blinded veterans has been able to carry out its mission and steadily expand its range of services for nearly 70 years.

The Blinded Veterans Association’s (BVA) Volunteer Service Program is designed to support men and women who are blind or experiencing significant visual impairment by providing programs and support through volunteerism.

BVA is a member of the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service (VAVS) National Advisory Committee. VAVS volunteers assist veterans by supporting and augmenting staff in settings such as hospital wards, nursing homes, ambulatory care facilities, outpatient clinics, domiciles, community-based volunteer programs, home-based respite programs, end-of-life care programs, veterans outreach centers, national cemeteries, and the Veterans Benefits Administration regional offices.

Over the years, volunteers have shown themselves to be a key resource for the blinded veterans served by BVA. One such shining example is Felipe Flores, a BVA Volunteer National Service Officer since 1994. He currently works at both BVA’s office in Menlo Park, California, and the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in nearby Palo Alto, where he is assisted in his work by his wife, Estrella.

Flores meets with new trainees to provide information about BVA and VA benefits. He also meets on a one-to-one basis to discuss personal benefit issues.

“By all accounts, Felipe embodies the BVA motto ‘Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans,’” said National Field Service Officer Claudia Perry. “He and Estrella continue working with the National Field Service Program as highly skilled volunteers.”

The Blinded Veterans Association was established specifically to help veterans and their families meet and overcome the challenges of blindness.

To learn more, visit www.bva.org.

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Community Gardens: More Beneficial Than Many Think

(NAPSI)—People around the U.S. are increasingly bringing the “green” back to their neighborhoods. In addition to initiatives like Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) and environmental education through the schools, residents are starting to focus much of their attention on building long-lasting landmarks such as community gardens.

The American Community Gardening Association estimates that there are already 18,000 community gardens throughout the country, and for good reason. According to Minnesota nonprofit Green Matters, community gardens decrease crime in urban areas with little vegetation, increase the value of properties in the surrounding area and can help locals save money on food through garden-generated produce. Instead of driving to a distant supermarket for produce or a faraway park for some green space, it’s just a matter of walking over to the nearby garden.

The health benefits associated with these gardens show how important open garden spaces can be to otherwise “greenless” urban environments. In 2013, University of Utah researchers found that residents who get involved with community garden projects have recognizably lower body mass indexes than nongardeners, with less chance of being overweight. Not only that, fresh produce from community gardens is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides than other kinds and can be used to teach kids about better nutrition.

Organizations such as GrowNYC try to make neighborhood gardens more prevalent. It has already helped establish more than 70 community gardens in New York City, one made with recycled beauty waste with the help of Garnier and recycling company TerraCycle. Initiatives like these not only help establish community gardens in areas with otherwise sparse vegetation, but get the public involved, increase environmental awareness, and educate the community at the same time.

Assistant Director Lenny Librizzi shared these tips for getting involved in a community garden.

• Look Online—Well-organized community gardens usually have websites or Facebook groups.

• Visit—Take a walk through nearby gardens to see which one you’re most drawn to.

• Get Your Hands Dirty—Being a member of a community garden is about more than just growing vegetables. All members should expect to help with common areas, composting, watering, or volunteering time.Ê

• If At First You Don’t Succeed—Each garden has different rules and management systems. If you don’t feel like you’re gelling with the group, try out another one or consider starting your own.

Organizations such as the National Recreation and Park Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer grant programs to communities to help fund garden projects. Some companies are also helping. For example, TerraCycle and Garnier will bring another Garnier Green Garden made out of recycled beauty waste to one of five urban areas in the U.S. in a contest decided by a public vote.

To vote and learn more, visit www.green.garnierusa.com.

 

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