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Archive for the ‘Volunteerism’ Category

Greetings!

I am thrilled to be co-producing “The Official 25th Anniversary Staged Reading of Steel Magnolias” to benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).  Please join me for drinks, food, and a wonderful night to celebrate Robert Harling’s beloved play, “Steel Magnolias”,  while raising funds and awareness for JDRF. Tickets are on sale now and this cast is simply amazing.
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For info and tickets:  www.steelmagnolias-25years.org
Direct Ticket link:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/248409

Mama, please. I need your support. 
I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful
than a life-time of nothing special.
—Shelby

No child should have to face a life filled with limitations as Shelby does in Steel Magnolias.  Each year, more than 30,000 people, half of them young children (~80 per day) are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the U.S.  With your support, we can change this sobering statistic which is growing at a rate of over 4% a year.

Hope to see you on September 9th!

Our New York reading will be held on Sunday, December 3, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre where the play originated 25 years ago!

Warm regards,

Ferrell

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“The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it’s so accidental.
It’s so much like life.”    ~ Arthur Miller

I am excited to be performing in a play of my dreams at The Production Company, a not-for-profit theater company that I am a proud member of located in Hollywood, CA.  In the past few years, several of LA’s finest small theaters and theater companies have brought down their proverbial curtains and closed their doors.  We are committed to not let that happen. If you enjoy the magic of live theater, please consider making a pledge today.  If you do not live in Los Angeles, please consider seeing a play in your community and make a pledge of support.  The arts need you to thrive and we hope you thrive experiencing the arts!

Watch our short promo video: The Production Company Promo

I wanted to share the following blog I wrote for my theater company about my experience with “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”.  It truly has been a dream come true

Luck Be A Lady
I remember being exhausted – the kind of exhaustion that makes your bones ache and your head fuzzy. I had worked a half day, and then dashed to LAX to catch a flight to NY to attend a two day meeting with my firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. I was on a national task force developing a new scheduling system and we were working hard to meet the launch date. I was the socal representative and was with good cheer referred to as “our resident actor” by the team.  I was always delighted to travel to New York for it offers what no other city in the world can, the opportunity to see one or more Broadway shows if Lady Luck is on my side.

Having done theater most of my life, I tend to kick into gear when most are winding down from the day.  This proves to be a challenge when traveling to the east coast.   Hard as I tried, I did not go to sleep till 3:00am EST and groaned when I received a “wake-up” call at 6:30am. The work day was intense and I consumed many a cup of coffee.  At 5:00pm, it was announced that we were being taken to a nice dinner and had tickets to see a Tony nominated Broadway play.  Normally, I would have been ecstatic but, all I wanted to do was go back to my hotel room and go to sleep.  I pasted on a grin and off we went for a night out on the town.

After dinner, we briskly walked through Times Square and made our way to the Walter Kerr Theatre. We had great seats and seated to my right was Don, a technical brainiac and wonderful mentor who I adored, and to my left, three colleagues working on the project with us.  The theatre was standing room only and there was electricity in the air. The play began and all I could think of was how exhausted I was and how much I disliked all the characters and quite honestly, hated the play.  At intermission, I told Don that I was appalled that this play was being nominated for best of the year.  I remember being very agitated and seriously considered leaving but, I knew they had chosen this play for me, their resident actor so, with a heavy sigh, I sat down to endure Act II wondering how on earth I would be able to stay awake!

Within a few short moments of the lights coming up, I was entranced.

The Act opened with a beautiful monologue presented very simply with each word painting an extraordinary portrait of hope amidst this dark and biting story.  I remained entranced and was breathless when the lights came down at the end of the play.  I was in a state of shock and there were tears in my eyes which I quickly brushed away lest anyone see.  The audience roared at the curtain call and I leapt to my feet clapping as hard as I could.  “Oh My God!” I exclaimed to Don, that is why I love the theater! As we walked back to our hotel, I prattled on and on about the play and the performances and the writing and what it all meant.  They were kind to not remind me of my bad behavior at intermission and when they invited me to join them for a night cap in the hotel  bar, I replied “Absolutely, I’m wide awake!”   I shared while sipping a glass of crème de mint and soda that it would be a dream to have the opportunity to play a role as textured and challenging as the daughter to which Don replied,  “I have faith in you!”,  and with glasses raised, we toasted my dream.

Tackle It!
“What’s the name of that play I love so much?  The Beauty Queen of… what?” I would ask my dear friend, Kelly Jean Clair, time and again.  She would patiently remind me “… Leenane!”  “Oh that’s right… Leenane…” and then I would forget again!  I finally bought the script and would read it from time to time leaving it front and center on my book shelf that contained all my scripts.

A few years ago, after seeing yet another wonderful play at The Production Company,  I asked August Viverito and TL Koman, Co-Artistic Directors,  if they had ever considered producing “Beauty Queen” to which they replied that an exceptional production had recently been done at the The Celtic Arts Center and consequently, they did not anticipate producing it any time soon, if at all.  I remember thinking at that moment that I would never get the chance to do the show.  I was getting too old to play the role, I was too large for the “slight” description of the character in the script, was not even sure I could do an Irish dialect, and who was I to think I would be cast anyway?!  It would no doubt be a highly coveted and sought after role.  Also, I doubted if I even had what it would take to play a role such as Maureen. (Ah yes… an actor’s insecurities can be such an ordeal!) The role was certainly different from anything I had done in the past as I had gravitated to light, romantic and stylized comedies for most of my career.

Photo by: JenKL.com

Early last year to break me from my comfort zone, my acting coach, Michael Laskin, challenged me to do a role that would allow me to work on anger.  I had the perfect role in mind and I went home that night and pulled the “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” script down from the shelf and began to work.  First I had to tackle the dialect.  I knew I sounded like a British leprechaun so this was going to take some work!  I spent several hours listening to online dialect lessons, watching YouTube videos and movies with Irish actors and asked Kelly for some tips.  Kelly, being true to her Irish heritage, has an excellent dialect and gave me some valuable pointers.  I worked on a monologue in the second Act and brought it to class and it felt good to finally get Maureen up on my feet.

Lucky Number Thirteen
Then one Thursday afternoon last summer…out of the blue… it happened…  Lady Luck made her appearance.  I received an email from August asking if I would participate in a staged reading of a play that he was considering for our 2012 season and that play was “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”!  I would be doing the reading with three amazing actors, Judy Nazemetz, Skip Pipo and Rob HerringWhen I read the email, I let out a ridiculous squeal and my dogs came running.  With tears in my eyes, we did the happy dance around my home studio.  The staged readings were a su ccess and it was determined that we would request the rights to produce the play as the first production of our new season.   In mid-November, August confirmed that the rights were acquired and the actors would remain as originally cast!   (Skip was later cast in the west coast premiere of “Dissonance” at the Falcon Theatre and was replaced by the marvelous Alex Egan) As an added bonus, Kelly jean Clair was coming on board to be our dialect coach.

Thirteen years after toasting my dream in a hotel bar in NY, it came true!  And on January 13 (fitting, yes?) of 2012, I opened in Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award-winning play “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” at The Production Company! Our production has  received the much coveted “Critics Choice” in the LA Times as well as several other wonderful reviews.  Sadly, my dear friend Don lost his battle with cancer two years after that memorable night at the theater, but, I know he would have been excited and proud of me and would gleefully tease me about how much I had disliked the play and wanted to leave so I could go to sleep… to sleep, perchance to dream (oh wait, that’s another play!)

Well Worth The Wait!
Playing the role of Maureen Folan has been one of the hardest journeys of my acting career and one of the most rewarding.  I have been blessed to work with an extraordinary cast,  a tremendous producer, TL Kolman, whose calm and quiet leadership kept our energy focused on telling the story and the artful, rich and nurturing direction of August Viverito, who gently and sternly guided us to embrace the ugly… the grit… the anger… the humor… and the beauty of McDonagh’s masterpiece.  I find myself exhausted again but, in a good way.  The role takes all I have to offer yet gives me more in return.   In the play, Maureen tells her mother that “Sometimes I dream… of anything… of anything other than this!”   I however, could not have dreamed of anything better!  “Well worth the wait, it was.  Well worth the wait!”

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Today, I wanted to share a recent blog post about an outstanding organization, Kidsave, dedicated “to create change – so forgotten orphanage and foster kids grow up in families and connected to caring adults.” The blog was written by two talented and inspiring women, Nancy Nyman and Heather McNama, “two chicks just trying to build a family.”  They have been on a journey to foster/adopt a child/children and have chronicled this emotionally difficult process sprinkling it with gentle and side splitting humor.  My heart races with each post and I marvel at how their hope and humor remain strongly in tact within the bureaucracy of the process. You can read their remarkable blog at TwoGirls Unleashed.

Kidsave  – Posted June 28, 2011 by TwoGirls Unleashed

Note: the names/identities/details of the foster children, foster parents and social workers have been changed to protect their identities

Emilio was getting close to aging out of the foster care system.  Having been taken from his family at 10 months old, he’d lived in over 25 foster homes.  Some treated him like family, some merely met his basic needs, and none wanted to adopt him.  Six months before his 18th birthday, he sat down with his social worker and learned about the grim realities confronting him.  Once 18, he’d be on his own (Note:  the age for termination of foster care services has since been changed to 21).

Having moved so many times and with no steady help from an adult, Emilio had fallen behind in school.  So college wasn’t really in the cards.  He would need to find a job and a place to live.  He’d have to rely on the staff of his current group home to help him coordinate after-school rides to Social Services in order to take advantage of the meager resources available to him, to work on his resume, and to fill out job and housing applications.

The irony:  society expected Emilio to create permanency for himself, despite the fact that the system had failed to provide him with any semblance of permanency in 17+ years.

Emilio had seen plenty of his foster brothers and sisters age out.  He’d witnessed the anxiety and stress and worry of having no place to go.  Upwards of 40% of foster children will end up homeless, which means former foster children have now overtaken veterans as the single largest population in our state’s homeless shelters.

Emilio could see his future.  He’d  heard about how groups of former foster kids would huddle up in the dried-up bed of the L.A. River to sleep, taking turns keeping watch; how many of them turned to crime and prostitution for money; and how some of them just disappeared.

Photo courtesy of Alejandra Reyes @ http://www.fillingtheframe.com

The foster care system, originally built on good intentions, removes children from their biological families in situations of abuse and neglect.  But so often the solution – the foster experience – is just as bad (and sometimes worse) than the original problem.

Statistics show that once a child turns six, his chances of getting adopted drop dramatically.  At 12 or 13, adoption is nearly impossible.  When a child reaches 16, who cares? 

These are the forgotten children.  They live in foster and group homes, and they attend school.   But their journey from foster care to the streets is hidden from view:  an exit paycheck from the state; a list of housing they may or may not be able to afford; a draft of a resume.  But no home base, other than a shelter.  No place to go at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  No social worker to call.  And no one to celebrate their birthday.

Enter Kidsave.  Specializing in ages 9 and up, Kidsave serves to create connections for older children in the foster care system.  With adoption as the ultimate goal, the organization strives to match each child in its program with a caring adult who will provide mentorship and advocacy and a steady relationship.

It works like this…  We start attending Kidsave monthly events (next one is July 10th) and meet the Kidsave kids (and maybe make a connection).  We go through a brief training that includes mentorship and advocacy, and when we are ready, Kidsave will work to match us with a child.

But wait!  This is different than the agency we worked with before in that Kidsave is NOT a foster/adoptive agency.  They are a nonprofit org that works to create long-lasting connections for kids.  So when we’re matched, we’ll hang out with our Kidsave kid twice a month – help with homework, introduce her/him to our peeps (all of you!), advocate for permanency, and basically serve as a strong, consistent, hopefully-lifelong connection.  If there’s a prospective family interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, we’ll help wherever needed.    But the point is to be a connection.  If WE’RE interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, and if our Kidsave kid is interested in being adopted by us (older kids actually have a say), we’ll get our foster/adoptive license through the county and adopt the child.

So…  We don’t typically include a call to action in our blog as this is a journey we’ve chosen to take.  But if you’re looking for a way make your personal difference in the world, please consider getting involved with Kidsave – whether it’s a donation or sharing their link or volunteering for an event, this org is crazy-awesome.

Sadly, Emilio’s social worker never referred him to Kidsave.  Instead, he aged out of the system without an adult role model, without a positive connection, without a mentor.  Determined to create a life for himself despite his circumstances, he applied to job after job after job, but with no experience and poor grades, he never made the final cut.  Unable to afford a place to live, and with shelters full, Emilio began to sleep on the street.  He had no place to shower, no way to keep his interview clothes clean, thus his dream of creating permanency for himself faded away.

Desperate to survive, Emilio took the only job he could get – he became a runner for a local drug dealer.  Emilio is currently serving time for possession with intent to sell. 

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Over the last two decades, I have had the pleasure of working closely with corporations, not-for-profit agencies and hundreds of donors and volunteers in finding unique ways in which to connect them for the benefit of all.  I have worked on several sides of this equation – as a Community Relations Leader at one of the world’s largest professional services firms, as the Vice President of Major Gifts at one of the largest and oldest not-for-profit organizations in Los Angeles and as a member of the board of directors of an agency dedicated to mobilizing volunteers in my community.  I am also proud to call myself an actor and have spent many an hour over the years raising funds for several theatre companies.  In my experience, I have learned that there are four key elements that bring extraordinary results when inspired to help:

THE KEYS

1.       identify your passion

2.       keep focused

3.       keep it simple and

4.       have fun!

With that said, I am really excited to share with you a new website that has captured this winning formula!

Recently, a gift arrived in my email in the form of a message from Stefani Beckerman.  Although I had not met her in person, we both belong to the same networking group.  The group is comprised of amazing woman and we often reach out to each other to ask for support and to share and celebrate successes.  The message Stefani sent was an announcement of a website that she and her two partners, Bryan Edwards and Ben Scharlin, were launching.  My interest was piqued and I wanted to learn more so, she arranged a meeting for us to get together.  We met early one evening at a popular coffee shop on the Westside.  I was greeted with warm handshakes and after we got comfortable on the patio with the traffic serenading us, they shared their story.

THE HITCH

In August 2010, Bryan and Ben were searching in earnest for alternative and inspired ways to help the community, for cool forums to connect with friends, family and like-minded strangers around common charitable goals and for websites that were aesthetically pleasing and easy to maneuver.  They were greeted with tired, apathetic sites spouting statistics that did not pique their imagination nor motivate them to get involved.  What they wanted to find were sites that made them want to stop and stay awhile, that instilled a desire to jump in, sites that offered things like after-school programs that used the sport of skateboarding as an effective and fun teaching tool or programs that connected troubled teens with troubled horses that bond and heal together or programs that taught students in the inner-city to paint beautiful murals.  They wanted to find charities they could trust that offered social networking, continuous updates, online videos and special speakers sharing the impact of their involvement.  Jokingly, Ben tossed out the question… “So what do we do, search for…fresh charities?!”  Silence. It seemed almost too simple when the answer came.  Yes!  And thus, the idea for Fresh Charities was unleashed!

THE BRAINWAVE

FRESH: an innovative twist on a classic idea, hip, inspiring, exciting, not boring or stale, not traditional, trend setting and bold in conviction CHARITIES: not-for-profit organizations whose generous and creative actions are kicking butt in our communities

Excited, inspired and motivated they set out to create an online presence and supportive community for charities that are not considered mainstream and tend to operate “under-the-radar” yet have extraordinary impact every day.  A site that would offer everything they were looking for and more.

THE FORCE

The passionate leaders of this endeavor, Ben, Bryan and now Stefani, bring together a graceful combination of individual experiences and strengths that nicely complement each other.  “In sync” is the phrase that comes to mind.  It’s that camaraderie and shared vision that drives the journey, a journey that I believe will inspire and motivate many others to join them.

Ben, Stefani & Bryan

“We want to change the world – here is where we start.”

Bryan Edwards, Founder & CEO
Bryan is passionate about creating a peaceful world and protecting our environment.  He is an artist, dancer and graphic designer and is the talent behind the design of this beautiful site.

Ben Scharlin, Founder & President of Marketing
Ben is inspired to promote, protect and sustain both natural and urban environments.  He is an actor and artist and is all about connection, communication and taking action.

Stefani Beckerman, President of Operations
Stefani is a fire cracker and her enthusiasm for Fresh Charities is contagious.  She brings the gifts of structure and organization to the team

THE MISSION

In just a few short months from the spark of their idea, a mission statement was developed, a stunning site modeled after Facebook was created and in March 2011 the site went live with a “soft” launch. Official site launch will be Summer 2011.

Mission StatementFresh Charities aims to connect the charitably
curious to the world of local and global organized giving by providing a place where the two can meet, communicate, connect and take action together
for the well being and general improvement of our planet and everything that lives on it.
Website

www.freshcharities.com

THE INVITATION

YOU are the key for the next phase.  Fresh Charities would like to extend an invitation for you to join them in building and expanding their online community by:

  • Identifying charities that you would like to see benefit by joining a passionate, generous and action oriented community
  • Creating your own personal profile.  It’s EASY and FUN!  You can check out my profile at: http://freshcharities.com/users/ferrellmarshall
  • Sharing this invitation with your friends and family and ask that they share with family and friends and so on and so forth… let’s get “the buzz” going

THE BENEFITS

Charities Get To:

POST+UPDATE+INFORM

o   Create, maintain and update a charity profile

o   Post updates, videos, pictures, and events

o   Increase visibility, awareness, and activity

o   Share essential facts about the organization

o   Connect with a public excited about charitable giving

Users Get To:

LEARN+SHARE+GIVE

o   Find, follow, and interact with fresh charities

o   Create and update a personal profile

o   Share useful tips about smart and effective giving

o   Get updates from charities that resonate

o   Learn how to help your favorite charities

THE TIME IS NOW

At a time in our lives when ideas, tweets and videos can go viral within hours plummeting people and issues onto the world stage, a time when the power of social networking has overturned governments and hundreds of millions of dollars can be raised in minutes to help people impacted by natural disasters… I think the timing for an innovative and socially conscious website like Fresh Charities is a gift to all who want to help create a better world.

I hope to see you online at Fresh Charities soon!

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A Day of Service

Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m always taken by surprise when a month comes to an end, in particular when it’s the first month of a new year!  I find myself a little panicked and want to say “WAIT!”… I’m not ready for February!  I still have items on my January “To Do” list!  Of course, my internal rants will not stop the clock ticking…so, I am taking time on this first evening of the second month of 2011 to reflect on the last 31 days.  A smile appears – overall, it was truly a lovely month!  One of the highlights of the lovely month was a simple day of service.  Not even a full day, a morning really where I stood side by side with over 1500 energized volunteers at the Rosemont Elementary School near downtown Los Angeles where we created two new literacy gardens, painted numerous murals and taught workshops for parents and students to prepare them for college.  This awesome community project was given to my community for the last six years by  LA Works.  I am proud to be a member of the board of LA Works, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to creating and mobilizing volunteers for hands-on community service projects throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

If I were to be honest and a little embarrassed to share, when I woke up on Dr. King’s birthday, the last thing I wanted to do was to get up  to spend the day to work with strangers so I tapped the snooze button a couple of times.  Then Lacey, my beautiful German Shepherd, nudged me with her cold wet nose, and her big beautiful brown eye gaze prompted me to say “You’re right, I need to get going.”  I jumped in the shower, dressed, poured coffee in my travel mug and headed downtown.  With it being a holiday, I flew to my destination arriving in 20 minutes.  I secured an awesome parking place close to the project.  As I walked to registration, numerous teams were forming and I heard lot’s of laughter. I smiled.  No sooner did I grab a yummy breakfast muffin then I heard announced an opportunity to warm up with a guest Zumba instructor.  I tossed the fattening muffin after taking a nibble and joined several hundred people doing a high energy fun “funky” dance.  I was awake, energized and excited to be a part of this special project!

The day got even better! I was assigned to paint a beautiful mural of birds and mountains.  I LOVE murals and I LOVE birds so, what could be better?!  I joined two members of the Target team and we took our bird painting very seriously.  We painted a big red bird soaring over a green mountain and when completed, I then moved on to other images and colors and when I glanced around the campus to view all the numerous murals making an otherwise dreary campus come alive with color, creativity and inspiration, I smiled again.  WOW! I was so proud to be volunteering with so many committed volunteers.  They all made the choice to serve… a choice to make a difference…a choice to not hit the snooze button one more time!

Every time I volunteer, I feel energized and a part of something special. It gives me the opportunity to meet amazing people and my spirits are uplifted.  Yet, I started the day wishing I could stay in bed!  I would venture a guess that you sometimes may feel the same way.  It is my goal to volunteer at least once a month in 2011.  Would you like to join me?  Let me know.  Let’s be great together!

Some helpful volunteer sites you may enjoy and a cool video to motivate you:

Volunteering in America

Volunteer Match

United We Serve

Global Volunteer Network

The Responsibility Project

Video:

Why Volunteer?

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Sealed With A Kiss

As a child, did you ever play the game that you are going to be stranded on a deserted island and you can only take one beauty product with you?  Now guys, don’t let this topic scare you away… replace “beauty product” with “power tool” and stay tuned for gift tips at the end.  I loved playing this game as a little girl, listing the pros and cons of each product and debating with my friends why my choice was the best.  The item I declared most important on the island was and still remains, lipstick. Trust me, I’m scary looking without it plus, being practical, in addition to keeping my lips moist and pretty on the island, it can also be used for blush.  This silly childhood game came to mind because I recently learned about an awesome fundraising campaign that I wanted to share with you.

Not being a M.A.C. Cosmetics girl, I’m late to discover that in 1994 this company established the M.A.C. AIDS Fund in support of men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally.  That same year they introduced VIVA GLAM lipstick and since that time have donated every cent of the selling price to the fund. To date, they have raised over $160 million!

In celebration of the indestructible idea that all girls (and boys) just wanna have fun,

Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga have joined forces to spread the word and two of this year’s VIVA GLAM lipsticks have been named after them, VIVA GLAM CYNDI (light reddish coral) and VIVA GLAM GAGA (light blue pink.)  In addition to these two fabulous colors, there are seven additional lipsticks and two ”lipglass” from which to choose.  Rarely will you find an opportunity to buy something that you need, knowing that all the money will be going to make a difference in our world! The lipstick and lipglass cost $14 each.  Visit the M.A.C. AIDS Fund website to learn more about the program.

This would be a wonderful and economical gift for your girlfriends, sisters, moms and sweethearts this Valentine’s Day!  Glam up the 14th this month by spending $14 on your gift.  You’ll put a smile on their lips and help in the fight against AIDS.  Gotta love that!

Here are some other beauty products and sites that give back in a beautiful way:

Chantecaille

“Using Beauty To Change the World” – This luxury skin care and cosmetic company donates a percentage of sales of several of their beauty collections to numerous environmental and wildlife causes.  Their compacts are gorgeous!

The Body Shop

I always enjoy pampering myself with products from this company focused on enhancing natural beauty.  The company values are to Activate Self Esteem, are Against Animal Testing, Support Community Trade, Protect Our Planet and Defend Human Rights. They donate 100% of the profits of their “Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream” to their global partner ECPAT:  End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Child Trafficking.

Beauty with a Cause

This woman-owned business provides healthy and affordable cosmetics with 10% of all proceeds going towards breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and scleroderma research. This month, they celebrate Colleen as “Our Passion & Purpose Customer of the Month.”  She designated the Susan G. Komen Fund to be the recipient of their monthly 10% donation.  Great excuse to become a frequent shopper on this site?!

If you are a traditionalist and prefer giving beautiful flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s, consider ordering them from the

Gift Back Website

Their mission is to connect individuals with the non-profits of the world by providing them with innovative tools to incorporate giving into everyday activities like shopping and interacting onlineThey donate 10% of your gift back to a charity of your choice!

If you would like a few more ideas, then you might enjoy this article from the Huffington Post: “Top Ten Valentine’s Gifts That Give back.”

No matter what the gift, give it with love and seal it with a kiss.

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