Archive for the ‘Such is Life’ Category

Our Day in Pictures

22 Jun

Ok, first and most importantly, we FINALLY got the air conditioning fixed, after over a week.  I don’t have a picture of that because… well, I can’t think of a good reason to take a picture of an air conditioner.

But on to the rest of the day.

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Birthday gift from Auntie Choo: Dinosaur Excavation Kit

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Very serious business.

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And worth the effort.

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Furniture assembly project of the day

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Delivery of furniture I DIDN’T have to assemble (thank goodness)

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Monsters University 3D

 
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Lessons from the Trenches of Parenthood: Anger

03 Apr

angerIt’s funny how raising kids forces you to take intangible concepts and solidify them for the sake of teaching them to others.  Because it’s one thing to understand something, and quite another to PUT IT INTO WORDS so someone else can understand it.

So here’s something I was forced to put into words the other day, while leading my children through the resolution of a confrontation.

Anger: a Secondary Emotion

The biggest myth about anger is that it’s a direct response to something that has happened to us.  But that oversimplification leaves out one very important link in the chain.  Anger is only a secondary emotion.

Most of the time, anger is a defense tactic employed to mask the vulnerability we feel from other emotions – often pain or fear, but there are a variety of emotions that expose this vulnerability we would rather keep hidden.  In Kaelin’s case, Koren was making her feel inferior.  Threatened by this emotion, she lashed out at him in anger, one of the two methods we humans have for defending ourselves when we feel vulnerable (the other being withdrawal).

While withdrawal is more like a shield, anger is a knife: a defense-via-offense tactic, and used much like a cornered cat uses its claws, or a frightened snake its bite.  Emotion has a tendency to block cognitive function, so we flail our knife about in an effort to restore our own security, slashing whatever (or whoever) happens to be in our way.

But anger doesn’t solve anything.  It typically makes our insecurity worse instead of better, because then we have regret to deal with, and usually end up causing in others the very wound we perceive to have incurred.

It isn’t really fair to bring anger unless you’re willing to own and admit to the underlying emotion.  In Kaelin’s case, we worked on saying, “Koren, when you boss me around, it makes me feel like you think you’re better than me, and that hurts my feelings.”

Elementary, but it was so much more effective than her previous reaction, which sent Koren running to me in tears.  Koren apologized for hurting her and said he would not do it again.

Dealing with Anger

The flip side to this is communicating with someone who is displaying anger.  This concept is a little mature for Koren, so we didn’t go into it deeply at the time, but I’m going to put it here anyway.

There are basically three ways to react to someone who is flailing their knife around in response to something you have said or done.

  1. Engage them in the knife fight.  This is basically allowing yourself to be caught in the same trap of mistaking your anger for the true emotion and refusing to admit the underlying vulnerability.  We’ve all done this.  Both parties get injured and nothing gets solved.
  2. Run away.  This option is so very tempting.  When you start to lose control of the conversation because you’ve set somebody off, it’s easy just to withdraw from the range of the knife, or put up your own impenetrable shield.  Even though this may protect you from a few nicks, it still doesn’t solve the problem.  Rather than restoring the relationship, it establishes distance.  Distance demonstrates rejection and abandonment, which are damaging to the person who is already trying so hard to mask and protect his/her own vulnerability.
  3. Compel the other person to drop the knife by responding to the underlying emotion instead of the anger.  In addition to patience and self control, it requires some insight to detect the underlying emotion.  Generally it can be picked up by the cues of the conversation and the timing of the anger response.  Had Koren been a little older, he could have analyzed Kaelin’s reaction instead of just responding to it.  He probably would have realized that her anger was the result of being threatened by his attitude and dictation of the items on her chore list.  It would then have been appropriate to say, “I’m sorry that I’m treating you unfairly.  I don’t want you to feel that way, so I will stop.  Also, it will help me in the future if you can tell me how you’re feeling instead of yelling at me, because yelling at me only hurts my feelings and makes me confused.”

The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone who is angry at you is that the anger is only a facade.  What’s underneath is vulnerable and likely linked to a deep fear or pain, that the angry person themselves may not even recognize or understand.  Handle with care.

 

The Birthday Album

18 Oct

We surprised Kaelin with chocolate covered strawberries for breakfast on her birthday.  For dinner, she chose Gattitown, so we had a small family celebration there and the kids all played themselves silly.

 
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In Memory

13 Aug

Yesterday we attended Xander’s memorial.  It was a nice service, with a hopeful message and a lot of sweet memories shared between friends and family.  When they asked people who knew Xander to come forward and share, I really wanted to.  But each time I tried to stand up, my stomach lurched in such a way that I was pretty sure my attempt at speech would end with me running toward the nearest exit.  See, I have this unfortunate fate of possessing a digestive tract that is ever so closely linked with my emotional state, and sometimes when things aren’t easy, my body starts rejecting anything I eat.  It’s really annoying (though my trainer commented on Saturday that I look like I’ve lost weight… I guess that could be considered a benefit).  Anyway, had I been able, I would have said something like this…

Xander was my son’s best friend.  In fact, in the full version of the picture [on display at the memorial], his arm is around my son.  His arm was always around Koren.

Koren’s not a huge kid, so we were amused when he immediately picked the biggest kid in class to be his best buddy  – we figured if they grew up together we’d never have to worry about anybody picking on him.

When Koren started going to preschool with Xander, we had just moved back from Alaska.  He didn’t know anybody and was used to being in the same class as his older sister – so drop-offs in this new environment were hard.  Even on days he didn’t cling to my leg as I dropped him off, he would still walk slowly and timidly into the noisy cafeteria.  Until he saw Xander.  If Xander was there in the mornings, he and I both knew it was going to be alright.  He’d climb into a seat next to his newfound friend and start chatting.  His teachers picked up on this pretty quickly.  Pretty soon, we’d open the door to hear, “Xander, Koren’s here!” or “Koren, Xander’s over here!”

They were quite a pair, and brought out the silliness in each other.  Sometimes they would get in trouble together.  Jens or I would walk in to pick Koren up in the afternoon, to be told immediately that Koren had been reprimanded.

“I had to separate him and Xander,” his teacher would say.  “They were hugging too much.”
“They were… what?”
“They were hugging too much when they were supposed to be paying attention.”
“Oh.   … Ok.”

I’ll be honest, it’s kind of hard to make your kid apologize for being a distraction when you really just want to laugh at the fact that his crime was being affectionate.

I was always in a hurry to pick up Koren and get out of there (you know, us and our busy lives), but I frequently got roadblocked by a certain four-year-old with outstretched arms:

“Kowen’s Mom, gimme a hug!”

How can you say no to that?  Sometimes he wouldn’t even ask, he’d just plow into me when I wasn’t looking 🙂

When Xander got moved to a different preschool class, we saw that it affected Koren.  Not anything super dramatic, but I noticed that he was a little more subdued when I picked him up.  He told me several times how much he missed being in class with Xander.  He soon found a new little friend to hang out with in class, but always referred to her as “my best friend in Ms. Teresa’s class.”  Best Friend (without qualifications) was a title still reserved for Xander.

Tonight Koren wanted to look at pictures of his birthday party.  For every picture he flipped through that had Xander in it, he would say, “That’s my friend Xander who’s in Heaven,” or “There’s Xander.  He’s a hero.”

I want Koren to remember the special bond he shared with this remarkable boy.  I wish they had been able to grow up together, but I think that somehow Xander will continue to be with Koren in the years to come.  And every time we look at his pictures, read his story, or release ladybugs in his honor, I hope he feels the warmth of that friendship and remembers the loving boy he was so privileged to know.

 

Protected: A Lesson in Humanity

10 Aug

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Visionary

15 May

Kaelin mentioned to me yesterday that her right eye had suddenly gotten blurry during school, and that the blurriness never went away. I told her to let me know if it was still bothering her this morning. It was. We did the “finger” test and she was unable to tell how many fingers we were holding up from four feet away.

So Jens took off work this morning and rushed her to the eye doctor. I sent out prayer requests and sat anxiously by the phone awaiting any news. They were there for two hours, running various tests.

The verdict? My daughter is a faker. She sees 20/20, but has decided that glasses are cool and that she wants some, so this was the best way to get them.

The eye doctor was able to determine that Kaelin’s vision issues were made up when he asked her to tell him if he was holding up one finger or two. He became suspicious when, with a 50/50 chance of getting it right, she got it wrong 20 times in a row. So he tricked her into thinking he was having her look through prescription lenses, when really it was just regular glass. Suddenly, her vision became perfect!

Apparently this is not an uncommon deception at this age.  The optometrist’s own daughter, who is Kaelin’s age, pulled this same maneuver not long ago – so I guess he knew what to look for.

Sigh. At least the eye doctor is still smarter than my kid. Not sure I can say the same about her parents.

But that doctor appointment? Is totally coming out of her allowance.

 

Drumming Fingers

17 Jan

The only part of my job that I don’t like (and really, this isn’t specific to MY job, just any job in which the objective is to accomplish something) is when everything on my “TO DO” list is pending some action by another person.  I can remind, I can beg, I can annoy people until they yell at me, but ultimately I cannot force compliance.

There’s this strange dance that takes place when you’re trying to get something from another person.  First, the initial request – which is subsequently ignored.  You’re pretty sure it has been ignored when you haven’t received a response after a few hours, but yet you must to wait the requisite period of 2-3 days, the socially acceptable time period in which action can be taken on a request before it’s considered delinquent.

3 days pass and you haven’t heard anything, so you ask again.  You might get a response this time (“I’m on it”) but you will not get the actual information or commodity you need to obtain.  Since the other party has in fact responded, you must allow an additional waiting time out of common decency – usually another 2-3 days, depending on the urgency of the issue.

By this point, it’s time to poke the person in question again, inquiring whether there’s some holdup that they haven’t bothered to communicate, or if they’re just soft in the head.  If this person is a coworker with which you work closely (or your boss), it’s best to just send another gentle reminder.  If it’s a a vendor or party outside the company, it’s time for the firmer “I HAVE ASKED TWICE ALREADY AND I’M TIRED OF BEING NICE” notice, which informs them exactly how they are holding up your progress.  Copy other people who may be remotely related to the project for good measure, especially if you have a relationship with Person In Question’s supervisor.

You will usually get a response to this urgent request, but it may not be the actual piece of information or file that you need.  Guess what?  More waiting.  (If you receive no response at all within one day, you’re pretty much screwed and should go ahead and give up on getting whatever you need from this person – it ain’t gonna happen.)

By now, the initial request (which should have taken the other party 5 minutes to complete) has gone unanswered for over a week (and God forbid there’s a holiday or long weekend in the middle).  You still have nothing to show for your efforts, and no hope of resolution in the near future.  And you’re still responsible for completing the task assigned to you, which is hanging out on your To Do List with 5,000 underlines and exclamation points drawn around it, as though you somehow believe that EMPHASIZING its importance any more will miraculously CONTRIBUTE TO ITS COMPLETION.

Sometimes being dependent on other people is the biggest pain in the butt.

 
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35 Charitable Organizations to Consider

13 Dec

Looking to extend a little generosity this season (or any time)?  I’ve heard of several people that plan to donate their Christmas bonus or hope to contribute to something more life-changing than their kids’ toy collection this Christmas, so I thought I’d throw this out there.

Giving to church is easy and always available, but our family prefers to vary our contributions, so I’ve been compiling a list of charitable organizations with good reputations that could benefit by donations – whether monetary or otherwise.

I figured I’d publish my list in case anyone else out there is looking for a worthwhile cause and is unsure where to find it.

We’re (probably) all familiar with Unicef, American Red Cross, World Vision and The Salvation Army, so I didn’t include them in the list.  You may have heard of many others on this list before, but you might find some new ones as well.  There’s a good mix of local, national and international organizations, and many accept forms of contribution other than money if you’re looking for a place to donate goods or time.  Happy giving!

Charity Navigator

This is an incredibly useful site for anyone concerned about whether their chosen charity is reputable.  They analyze charitable organizations independently and score them according to financial health, accountability and transparency.  If you’re doing some research on your own, I highly recommend checking out your charity’s profile and evaluation on this site.  You might learn some interesting information – like how much the CEO makes and how financially stable the organization is.  You have the option to donate to charitable organizations directly from Charity Navigator.  They also have lots of useful information and tips on how to do the most good with your donations.  While you’re there, support them with a few dollars for all the time and energy they’re saving you.

All Stars Project

ASP seeks to enhance the lives of poor and minority young people through extra-curricular performing arts.  It sponsors community and experimental theatre, develops leadership training and pursues volunteer initiatives that build and strengthen communities.

Angel Tree

An Angel Tree Christmas connects incarcerated parents with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.  Local churches deliver gifts and the Gospel to children in the name of their incarcerated parent. Right now, $12.58 will bring gifts to TWO children (instead of one), thanks to a generous matching grant.

Agros International

This Seattle-based organization enables rural poor families in Central America and Mexico to escape the cycle of poverty by purchasing their own land. Agros extends land loans to purchase farmland and partners with families in applying sustainable agricultural practices.

The Apparent Project

The Apparent Project is a faith-based 501c3 Nonprofit organization responding to the orphan crisis in Haiti through job creation, education, family support, medical care, social development, and housing the homeless. The Apparent Project artisans guild uses discarded materials such as cereal and cracker boxes, oil drums, and trash paper to create beautiful “upcycled” pieces of jewelry, journals, and stylish home decor. While redeeming the Haitian landscape, these artisans are also bringing new hope to their families, employing themselves for a brighter future and earning the means to pay for their children’s food, shelter, andeducation. That means less orphans, less crime, less garbage, less stress, and a whole lot more beauty.

Cards for Causes

When you purchase holiday and all occasion cards and invitations from this site, 20% of every card purchase is donated to the nonprofit cause of your choice.

Children’s Miracle Network

CMN raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals (including DFW’s Cook Children’s Hospital) to help sick and injured kids in local communities. Donations to Children’s Miracle Network create miracles by funding medical care, research and education that saves and improves the lives of 17 million children each year.

Communities in Schools

The above link is to the Dallas operation, but they also have a national office.  Communities In Schools was founded to address the growing number of high school dropouts in Dallas and surrounding areas. CIS’s professional staff brings community resources into schools to work in the interest of at-risk children in a coordinated, caring and cost-effective way. Currently, CISDR operates in 61 schools in 10 school districts in Dallas, Collin, Ellis, Hunt, Johnson and Rockwall counties in the field of dropout prevention and the leading provider of the highest quality, most effective services to at-risk schoolchildren.

Compassion International

Founded by Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean war orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than one million children in more than 25 countries.

Direct Relief International

Founded in 1948, Direct Relief International is California’s largest international humanitarian nonprofit organization. Direct Relief provides medical assistance to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty and disaster – at home and throughout the world. Since 2000, Direct Relief has responded to a wide range of urgent and ongoing health emergencies, by providing more than $1.6 billion in essential material resources – medicines, supplies and equipment, including more than $250 million in assistance in the United States

Doctors without Borders

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Today, MSF provides independent, impartial assistance in more than 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition,exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize.

DonorsChoose

Make it personal!  DonorsChoose allows citizen philanthropists to fund specific project requests from teachers in U.S. public schools. You choose a project that moves you, and then you hear back from the classroom with photos and updates. DonorsChoose validates the project request and purchases the resources for the teacher.

Fisher House Foundation

The Fisher House Foundation program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in their time of need. The program recognizes the special sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and the hardships of military service by meeting a humanitarian need beyond that normally provided by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Good Search

A free way to give.  Every time you use this search engine, they contribute money to the charity of your choosing.  It’s that simple.

Habitat for Humanity

Since 1986, Dallas Habitat has built over 850 homes and served as a catalyst for the revitalization of 20 communities. Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity provides affordable housing opportunities to families no other nonprofit or private mortgage lender in Dallas is able to serve. Qualified families are required to provide 400 hours of ‘sweat equity’ in lieu of a down payment, which is fulfilled by building their own home and the homes of other Habitat families. This hands-on participation builds new skills, a sense of tremendous accomplishment, and strong relationships with their neighbors.

Heifer International

“Not a cup, but a cow.”  Heifer’s approach to providing global assistance to struggling countries has been characterized by long-term development, rather than short-term relief.  After immediate needs for food, shelter, fresh water, clothing and other necessities have been met, Heifer works within communities to empower disaster survivors with the economic means – such as livestock, training and other resources – to rebuild their families, their neighborhoods and their hope for sustainable futures.

Interfaith Housing Coalition

Interfaith Housing Coalition was founded in 1985 to provide transitional housing and support services to homeless families. Through the years, a broad coalition of individuals, foundations, churches, and service groups have joined the ministry. Initially designed to help families with situational homelessness stabilize and move forward within 90 days, the Interfaith Housing program has evolved to provide an in-depth approach to address the root issues of generational poverty and homelessness with families now staying up to 18 months depending on their specific needs. IHC promotes family stability, teach skills to break the poverty cycle, and building a strong sense of community.

International Justice Mission

Founded in 1997, International Justice Mission (IJM) is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local governments to ensure victim rescue, to prosecute perpetrators and to strengthen the community and civic factors that promote functioning public justice systems.

Kiva

You can make a donation to help the organization run, or participate in their capital lending program with as little as $25 to help create opportunity and alleviate poverty around the world. Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. 100% of every dollar you lend on Kiva goes directly towards funding loans; Kiva does not take a cut.

Locks of Love

Don’t have any extra money?  Donate your hair!  Locks of Love provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. They utilize donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.

MAP International

Founded in 1954, MAP International promotes the total health – physical, economic, social, emotional and spiritual health – of impoverished people in over 115 countries through: provision of essential medicines; promotion of community health development and prevention and mitigation of disease, disaster and other health threats. MAP’s international programs help eliminate the causes of sickness and disease by providing free medicines, improving water supplies and knowledge about health threats like HIV/AIDS and establishing community directed health education and training.

Matthew 25 Ministries

M25M is an international humanitarian relief organization helping the poorest of the poor locally, regionally, nationally and internationally regardless of race, creed or political persuasion. By rescuing and reusing products from major corporations, manufacturers, hospitals and individuals, Matthew 25: Ministries provides basic necessities, skill development and disaster relief across the US and worldwide.

Meals on Wheels

My mom and I used to volunteer occasionally with this group in high school.  Once we delivered a meal to a diabetic lady who was having a low blood sugar episode as we got there and was unable to sit up.  My mom was able to give her some orange juice and get her the medical attention she needed.

The organization provides hot, nourishing meals to elderly and disabled persons who are unable to prepare meals for themselves. The meals, daily contact by caring volunteers and professional case management allow frail, homebound persons to remain in their own homes, where they want to be. Volunteers also deliver blankets, fans, supplemental groceries, medical equipment, microwave ovens, and other items essential to help a client maintain their independence.

Medical Teams International

MTI sends teams of volunteer health professionals to carry out disaster relief, long-term development and community health programs in collaboration with local partners. They also ship millions in humanitarian aid to more than 70 countries each year.

MercyCorps

Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Since 1979, Mercy Corps has provided $1.7 billion in assistance to people in 107 nations. Mercy Corps provides immediate, sustaining humanitarian assistance, always with the goal of hastening recovery. As the most urgent needs are met, they move toward programming that pursues longer-term stability and prosperity.

The Miracle Foundation

Founded in 2000, The Miracle Foundation is making a significant impact on the lives of orphaned children in India by raising the standard of living for the children in orphanages and reducing the number of non-orphaned children living in orphanages. The Miracle Foundation renovates existing orphanages, builds new ones, raises money for construction and finds sponsors for our children. In India, our money goes a long way towards healthy food, tuition, better living conditions, clothing, and medical care. The Miracle Foundation currently operates four Children’s Homes and one home for unwed mothers.

Operation USO Care Package

A $25 donation sponsors one USO care package and allows you to include a personal message of support and appreciation to our troops. The program also takes care of families by providing a Military Family Care Package. This Care Package is the USO’s latest way of connecting families separated by deployments. They are packages that deploying troops can have sent to their families once their deployment begins, as a way of letting their family members know they are thinking of them.

Samaritan’s Purse

Operation Christmas Child is coming to a close this week, but you can donate to the parent organization at any point during the year.  Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. Emergency relief meets desperate needs of victims worldwide. Operation Christmas Child delivers more than 8 million shoebox gifts to poor children in more than 100 countries each year. World Medical Mission sends doctors, equipment, and supplies to underprivileged countries. Community development and vocational programs in impoverished villages and neighborhoods help people break the cycle of poverty and give them hope for a better tomorrow. Vulnerable children are rescued, educated, fed, clothed, and sheltered, letting them know that God loves them, Jesus died and rose again for them, and they are not forgotten.

Save the Children

Save the Children, founded in 1932, is the leading independent organization creating real and lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Save the Children’s programs focus on economic opportunities, education, emergencies, protection, health, hunger and malnutrition, and U.S. literacy and nutrition.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (via ALSAC)

ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) was founded in 1957 and exists for the sole purpose of raising funds to support the operating and maintenance of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is to find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. It is supported primarily by donations raised by ALSAC.  No child is ever turned away from St. Jude’s because of the family’s inability to pay.

SunErgos International

Founded by a friend we attended college with, SunErgos International works to better the lives of abandoned, abused and orphaned children in the Russia. They host international teams who work in orphanages, street centers, organize summer camps and give emotional, spiritual and material support to the children.

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (the only Scottish Rite hospital in the world) is a world leader in the treatment of pediatric orthopedic conditions and provides exceptional care to thousands of Texas children every year. TSRHC is not a United Way agency and does not receive state or federal funding. The hospital relies on the generosity of individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations to continue its mission.  They accept donations in form of money, as well as toys, books or games for the children.

The Water Project 

This organization brings relief to communities around the world who suffer from a lack of access to clean water and proper sanitation. Using local labor and management, and donated funds, The Water Project digs wells, builds small dams, collects rain-water in large tanks, and filters dirty water with Biosand water filtration systems.  It costs about $5,000 to complete a well, which can make the difference of survival in a community.

WFAA Santa’s Helper

Want to make a difference in a DFW child’s Christmas?  WFAA distributes toys to children who might not otherwise get a Christmas gift.  The WFAA Santa’s Helpers toy drive hopes to collect enough toys for 50,000 North Texas children in need.  But due in part to the economy this year, less toys have been donated than usual, so they are still in need of more donations.  Toys can be dropped off at Chick Fil A and Tom Thumb locations city-wide, and you can also make monetary donations online.

Wounded Warrior Project

Your donation to WWP helps thousands of Wounded Warriors – and their families – as they return home from the current conflicts. Donation options include one-time gifts, the Advance Guard Monthly Giving Program, and more.  WWP programs are free to those who have incurred service-connected wounds, injuries or illnesses.  Each program is uniquely structured to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment and engagement.

 

PS – Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

 
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