The Importance of Opportunity for Those with Disabilities

Carole-Argo-Opportunity-for-those-with-Disabilities

With rumors, rhetoric and misinformation about crime statistics swirling and spreading throughout the country, it’s important to remember the insight that examining real statistics can shed on the world around us. One piece of information that sticks out sorely: those with intellectual or developmental disabilities are four to ten times more likely to be a victim of a crime in America. On top of that, there’s also an increased likelihood that those with a disability will commit such crimes.

The criminal justice system is not, according to the standards of many people, a forgiving and coddling experience for those unfortunate enough to have spent time enduring it.  For those who are living their lives with a disability, the justice system can present the first step in a vicious cycle of repeated crimes and a lack of direct, meaningful rehabilitation.

For being the nation that locks up a higher percentage of its population than any other, issues with the justice system prevail. Putting those with mental and developmental illnesses behind bars presents an obvious problem: if they don’t receive the particular care they need, they’re significantly more likely to cause problems within the prison. These problems lead to lengthy stays for what amounts to minor crimes, each new altercation driven by mental illness serving to extend the inmate’s stay.

Upon release, over half of people with mental illness will reoffend and find themselves facing another stay in prison.

Breaking that cycle requires two key ingredients: respect and opportunity. And it’s time we start providing them, unconditionally, to those who would benefit from additional care.

For just over eight years I’ve worked closely with people with disabilities–both adults and children. Predictably, behavior problems are common among those who are burdened with disabilities. Within the walls of a prison, behavior issues aren’t handled with the same care or individually-shaped treatments that they are elsewhere. In my position at the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, we work to break the cycle that so many people with intellectual and emotional disabilities fall into. But we can’t do it alone.

Part of the responsibility of overcoming life with a disability falls on the shoulders of those who are living without one–that is, everyone else, including you. Getting involved in breaking this cycle starts with educating yourself. Take time to read the stories, the studies and the information that surrounds the vicious cycle spawned when a person with a disability is sentenced to prison. Then, take action.

Find a nonprofit in your area that caters to these needs and volunteer–give your time, your money, or anything else you can provide to help break down the barriers that those suffering from mental illness try so hard to break every day.

And then, lastly, open your mind up. Understand and exercise patience when interacting and working with people who have these disabilities. These people don’t want your pity, they want your respect, your understanding, and your support.

Clean Out Your Closet, and Donate to Charity Too

Carole-Argo-Charity-Spring-Cleaning

The allure of spring’s freshness often translates to new life, rejuvenation, and cleanliness in the home. Do you usually clean out your storage areas at this time of year? Instead of tossing old items in the trash, give them a second life by donating to charities. Not only will you create much-needed space in your home, but those who are less fortunate will receive assistance from the items you donate!

If you’re cleaning out your pantry…

Do you have a large stash of canned goods in the back of your pantry that you haven’t touched in months? Consider donating canned and nonperishable foods to a local food bank. Here are a few items that are commonly in-demand:

  • Canned or dry pasta and sauces
  • Canned beans, soups and stews
  • Canned vegetables and fruit
  • Spices to provide flavor to bland meals
  • Protein-rich foods like peanut butter or almond butter
  • Boxed meals that don’t require additional ingredients
  • Pet food (because pets are members of the family too!)

Check out Feeding America’s food bank locator and type in your ZIP code to find a food bank near you.

If you’re cleaning out your attic and/or basement…

You probably won’t be surprised if you come across boxes upon boxes of old shoes, jewelry, and toys that have been collecting dust for years. Consider donating your gently used items to GreenDrop, which is an organization that converts lightly used clothing and household items into critical funds for charities. All donations received are sold to thrift shops, and the money made will be used to help the four charities GreenDrop serves: American Red Cross, Purple Heart, National Federation of the Blind, and St. Vincent de Paul in Philadelphia.

As you’re combing through your attic and/or basement, keep in mind the following items that could be donated:

  • Household Items and house decorations
  • Kitchenware
  • Games/Toys
  • Small Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Sporting Goods
  • Books, CDs & Videos
  • Baby Items

GreenDrop serves the northeastern United States. If you happen to live in the Baltimore area like me, click here to see how you can donate today.

If you’re cleaning out your closet…

Whether it’s formal wear, jeans, hoodies, or blouses, you can donate your used clothing to those in need—and clear out some much-needed closet space in the process!

Over the past couple of years, Uber and Goodwill have teamed up for one day to collect donations of clothing. Through the Uber app, donors can request a free pickup for their donations to be delivered by an Uber directly to their local Goodwill. Although there is no word yet if the partnership will continue this year, keep this in the back of your mind just in case. You can read details about the Uber and Goodwill partnership here.

Four Favorite Ways to Fundraise with Food

Carole-Argo-Ways-to-Fundraise-with-Food

If your philanthropic organization is looking to raise money for a local charity, it’s easy to immediately think about hosting a bingo night or raffle. Instead of going the predictable route, incorporate the fun of food into your fundraiser, because everyone has to eat! There are a handful of creative and out-of-the-box ways to sell food. Here are four of my favorites.

Partner with Local Restaurants

You’d be surprised that quite a few chain restaurants have fundraising programs! Below are a few examples.

  • Rita’s: With spring around the corner, our local Rita’s Water Ice will soon be open for the season! You can schedule a day when members of your organization will be “celebrity scoopers” at your local Ritas. Your organization can earn money in return. Feel free to invite friends, family and colleagues for the opportunity to get served by their favorite “celebrity scooper.”
  • Applebee’s: Although they are not open for breakfast, Applebee’s offers a pancake fundraiser during non-operating hours. Customers can pay at the door and will be served breakfast plates filled with pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs by members of your organization.
  • Friendly’s: You can earn a portion of the store’s sales if customers dine with a voucher created specifically for your event. In the days leading up to your fundraiser, distribute vouchers around your local community and advertise for your event with flyers.

Hold a Non-Traditional Bake Sale

Tired of the predictable bake sale with traditional chocolate chip cookies and brownies? Add a pop of excitement to your baked goods with bright colors and complex flavors — people will be more enticed to take a took at what you’re selling and make a purchase! Take the time to get creative by tie-dying icing on cupcakes, baking a patch of decadent salted caramel pretzel brownies, or shaping cupcakes like shamrocks in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

Coordinate a Customizable Food Bar

This easy charity event requires minimum preparation and has the allure of personalization to suit everyone’s tastes. Coordinate a customizable potato or macaroni and cheese bar complete with chili, cooked broccoli, sour cream, shredded cheese, bacon bits, chives, spices and more.

Wine Tasting

Although participants will have to be over 21, an evening of wine tasting will be very enjoyable for participants looking for a night out while still making a difference. Try contacting local wineries to see if they will sponsor the event and provide a variety of wines for participants to try. It’s also very important to provide light refreshments, so think about putting together a fruit, nut, cheese, and cracker plate that will pair well with the wines being served.

Family Charity Funds Bring You Closer While Helping Others

carole-argo-philanthropy

There’s always been something special about getting your family together for an activity that everyone can get involved in. Whether it’s taking a small vacation with the family, cooking a meal together or digging out a garden in your backyard, time spent with your family is time that should be appreciated and cultivated when at all possible.

If you’ve already laid out that garden, cooked enough meals for a month and expended your vacation fund, perhaps it’s time to look into involving your family with a local nonprofit.

Family volunteering is both fairly common and immensely helpful when it comes to nonprofits in need of a few extra pairs of hands on a job. But volunteering your family also requires similar schedules and a good bit of time–just one of the reasons that I am a strong advocate for creating a charitable family fund.

Similar to an IRA, you and your family can set up a charitable fund with most any bank, and you don’t need to deposit huge amounts of money to get it started. When people think of charitable funds, they often think of the big players–the Susan G Komens, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the ASPCA, and so on. People tend to believe that, without a multimillion dollar budget, the changes you’re able to create will be negligible. Though I’ve written about the powerful changes you can bring about through smaller donations of just a few dollars, it’s worth reiterating time and time again: you do not need a huge savings account to make a difference. In fact, a family charitable fund can be set up for as little as $1,000 more often than not.

These accounts can receive deposits over time from your family, growing over time in a very similar way that an IRA functions. Nominal contributions over time can add up over time and present a fantastic way for your whole family to get involved. If your smaller children are earning an allowance every week (or every month), encourage them to contribute a portion of it to the account in the name of doing good.

Starting a charitable family fund is a perfect way to get your children interested and accustomed to giving back to the community around them. Doing it at a young age helps to instill the meaning behind helping others, ensuring it will follow them for the rest of their lives.

It’s never too early to instill your children with a sense of altruism. The world functions better when people are involved, when people are loving, when people are caring, and when people are

What a Trump Presidency Could Mean for Women’s Rights

When the United States of America elected Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, roughly half of the country celebrated. Branding themselves as the “silent majority” before election day–claiming they’d be the ones responsible for the single biggest political upsets in American (and maybe world) history. Then, surprisingly to many, he did pull off that upset. And while about half of the country celebrated, the other half (slightly more than half, if popular vote numbers are a good indicator) became fearful.

Without getting too overtly political, Donald Trump has proposed radical changes to America, to say the least. Whether he will follow through with them is a different matter–will he actually build the wall on the US-Mexico border? Will be actually follow through and ban all Muslims from immigrating to the United States? Will be appoint Supreme Court Justices to overturn Roe v Wade?

At this point, it seems like we’ve been put in a “wait and see” position. And since we, as a Democracy (or Republic, since Clinton did end up winning the popular vote) elected Donald Trump as our 45th President, many advocate that we “give him a chance,” and see what he actually does.

Here are some of the things that Donald Trump has proposed, said, or done, that could have a profound impact on women and the state of America.

The Trump Tapes

This one isn’t a proposal (thankfully), but it does put Trump’s view on women as a whole on center stage, and helped to bring his colors to light during the campaign. Trump’s supposed “locker room talk” wasn’t just excusable “everyone has said stuff like that,” off the cuff remarks. They weren’t remarks made by a group of drunk fraternity members or a janitor or electrician or virtually anyone else. They were the rantings of a grown adult man who is now about to become the President of the United States. His clear lack of respect towards women will put on a pedestal that type of behavior and ensure that it’s harder to get respect than it has been in the past.

Defunding Planned Parenthood

The defunding of Planned Parenthood is something that both Donald Trump and Mike Pence have touched on during the campaign, both under the guise of making receiving an abortion more difficult. The issue at hand is, of course, that no funding for Planned Parenthood goes towards abortions; it goes instead towards cancer screenings, reproductive healthcare and much more. Defunding Planned Parenthood would mean many, many women would go without these healthcare needs, jeopardizing their health.

Overturning Roe v Wade

Trump has said numerous times that he plans to appoint a Supreme Court justice who would be committed to overturning Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court case that granted women access to safe abortions. While many say that overturning Roe v Wade would be difficult, even under a Trump administration, the fact that he’s committed to trying is still there, and should remain in the minds of everyone across the country during the next four years.

Charities that Help Those with Disabilities

Getting behind a philanthropic cause is easy when you know that the charity you’re supporting is a highly rated, strongly supported, ethically and morally sound organization.

It’s always important to do your research regardless of where you’re sending your money. Double checking never hurt anyone, so while a charity might have a large public following, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s as ethical as you may think.

Finding a charity to help is a straightforward process; choose the niche that you’d like to benefit–children, cancer patients, people with disabilities, etc–and utilize websites like CharityWatch or Charity Navigator to find quality organizations that could use your help.

For the purposes of this blog entry, I’d like to focus on helping those with disabilities. Whether adults or children, people living with disabilities are put at an immediate disadvantage from birth. They are not allowed the same blessings that many of us take for granted every day: having all five senses, the lack of social and physical limitations and the absence of a stigma surrounding your mere existence.

Thankfully, many organizations around the nation are committed to helping those with disabilities live their lives to the absolute fullest. Here are some of the highest-rated charities that help those with disabilities.

Goodwill Industries International

Many people know Goodwill as simply a chain of thrift stores that exist in seemingly most every city around the nation. However Goodwill operates as a nonprofit through these retail thrift stores. The money made through the store sales–which obtains its merchandise through donations–goes towards helping to provide people with disabilities with job training, job placement and starting community initiatives. According to Goodwill’s website, the organization helped over 300,000 people secure career training and placement last year alone.

CharityWatch:

Rating: A

% Spent on Programs: 86%

Cost to raise $100: $8

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

A spinal injury resulting from a fall from a horse permanently disabled former Superman Christopher Reeve, leaving him a quadriplegic. The foundation, started by Reeve and his wife Dana helps those with spinal cord injuries by raising awareness, securing grants to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the injuries, and by helping to search for a cure. Although both Christopher and Dana have passed, the foundation has continued to thrive, providing millions of dollars in research and quality-of-life grants to those suffering from paralysis since its start.

CharityWatch

Rating: A-

% Spent on Programs: 82%

Cost to Raise $100: $22

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism

About one in every 45 children in the United States live with autism. The number seems to be trending upwards, an unfortunate fact that could be attributed to how the disorder is diagnosed. Former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie has seen this first-hand, as his son Doug Jr. was diagnosed with autism at a young age. The foundation helps to provide care and resources to families with children who have autism through grants and partnerships.

Charity Navigator

Rating: 93.33/100

% Spent on Programs: 78.3%

Cost to Raise $100: $11

Setting Back-to-School Year Intentions

The change of any season can be a turbulent time for both parents, students, and teachers. While countless blogs offer advice for parents on how to make that transition easier for their children, it’s not all that common to read an article geared toward the parent and his or her intentions.

 

Why Set School Year Intentions?

 

Much like the process of setting New Year’s Resolutions, the act of setting new intentions for the school year can be a great activity that benefits you and your family. When setting intentions, don’t shy away from small goals. The purpose of creating new habits is to better your life in a sustainable way!

 

Examples of School Year Intentions

 

It can be hard to switch gears after the long summer of rest and relaxation. Now that school is back in session, days are busier and nights are shorter. As a parent, you can feel this pressure build as you begin to balance your career and your children’s school work. Here are a few different examples of intentions you can start today.


Intention For Your Family

 

What’s the one thing you’d like to strengthen in your family unit? Quality time? Communication? It may feel difficult to outline your family’s weaknesses but this is the first step towards growth.

 

Intention For Yourself

 

Think of the school year as a fresh start. This can be a great time to dive into a new hobby just for yourself! Take a few minutes to reflect on areas in your life that you’d like to improve. Maybe you’d like squeeze in extra exercise each week. Or you’re looking to cook a slightly more adventurous repertoire of foods for your family. One of the best perks of starting a school year resolution is that the process will feel less contrived. You’re not embarking on a cultural tradition that typically fails; you’re making the choice to better your life. That choice starts today!

 

Intention For Your Community

 

Each year it happens. Your child brings home her folder stuffed with volunteer opportunities. While you’d love to attend each field trip or class party, it may not be feasible with your career. That doesn’t mean you should disregard it entirely! While helping out during the school day may never be a possibility, chances are there are dozens of volunteer opportunities in your community. Whether you donate a Saturday afternoon to help tutor students or your family works together to rake leaves for your elderly neighbor, you can practice and model volunteerism in many ways!

 

Start autumn off on the right foot by creating intentional goals that will better your life and the lives of those who you love!

 

Carole Argo’s Back to School Guide

Carole Argo back to school

 

Countless parents around the country may be noticing that their lives are suddenly a lot more quiet than usual, and there’s a reason for that: school is back in session. While mornings and afternoons may be calmer for parents than they are during the rush of summer, evenings may be much more hectic as kids settle into new routines of homework, after-school activities and earlier bedtimes.

 

There’s a checklist to follow to be prepared for the school year, like this one from Care.com, but even after their backpacks have been packed and put by the door and their outfits have been laid out, there’s more to do to ensure that your children make the most out of the year ahead.

 

Organization

For young children, especially those in elementary school, getting ready for school can be quite a challenge, because nothing is worse for a five-year old who just wants to play basketball and watch cartoons than finishing math problems and book reports. Work with your child to make a checklist of their homework assignments so they can see what they need to finish while also teaching them the value of organization.

You can also use timers to show your budding Einstein how long it takes to finish all of their work so they can begin to get a sense of time management.

 

Technology

Today, iPads are the new catcher’s mitts and Barbie Dolls. Studies have shown, according to NPR, that kids are spending more and more time in front of screens and that it may be hurting their social skills. While there are apps and digital resources designed to help students, try to limit your child’s use of smartphones, games, and other devices. Set limits on the amount of time they can be plugged in each day so that they’re focusing on their schoolwork – and getting to know their peers in person rather than online.

 

Communicate with teachers

When it comes to your child’s education, there’s someone else on the front lines with you: their teachers! They see everything that happens in the classroom and you see everything that happens outside of it, so spending time talking to them can help everyone get a complete picture of your child’s growth. If your schedule permits, try to set regular meetings with them in order to talk about how your child’s progressing and discuss what each of you can do to help them improve. If you don’t have the chance to meet them face-to-face, email can work just as well, and it can be a great resource when you want to reach out to them to talk quickly.

The Difference a Dollar Can Make

Carole Argo Charity

The acts of philanthropy that make the news aren’t small acts of kindness. They’re the ones that include five or six-figure sums of money donated in a lump sum to a charity, usually by someone in the limelight. Acts such as donating cases upon cases of water and money to Flint, Michigan during its water crisis or giving 100,000 chickens to various areas around the world that thrive on livestock are the ones that reach the press and capture headlines.

 

What Difference Would it Make?

These charitable deeds wind up helping thousands upon thousands of people around the world who need it the most. But they also set the bar high for the average man or woman who may not have the money to cut a five, four, or even three-figure check to a charity of their choice. They may then conclude the smaller donations won’t really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

This fallacy could prevent people from donating at all, thinking that when compared to a larger sum of money, their $20 or $50 donation would make no difference. The sentiment of “what difference would it really make” is often seen come around during the political season, when some refuse to vote because of the idea that one vote won’t matter.

 

Quite a Difference

In the above example of casting a vote, people often fail to recognize that getting out to vote is what drives a democracy–it’s everyone’s combined vote that lets us choose our next president. The same goes for charitable donations! Even small donations–anything from the minimum that a charity will accept (often put in place due to associated surcharges and fees) to whatever you can afford can add up over time. Whether you give a recurring donation, even just 10 dollars out of your paycheck each week, or a one time, 50 dollar gift, these can go a much longer way than you anticipate.

 

Giving Grows

Before you hesitate to take five or ten dollars out of your paycheck, or deduct 50 dollars from your bank account for the sake of a charity, think about this: what if everyone at your company did that? If you work somewhere that has even 100 employees, a $10 per week donation turns into $1,000 given every week! Over the course of a year, you and your coworkers will have donated $52,000 to people in need.

 

Small Donations, Big Impact

The No Kid Hungry campaign, a nonprofit that helps to provide meals for hungry children in America, can provide 10 meals for every dollar they receive. Books for Africa turns a $1 donation into two textbooks shipped to school-aged children in Africa. Doctors Without Borders can give 15 children the incredibly important measles vaccine for just $6.

 

These numbers may seem low, but they’re much more common than you may think. They are, however, perfect illustrations of how small donations can make a big, big difference in the lives of those who need it.

Giving Safely: How to Make Sure You’re Donating The Right Way

Carole Argo Charity

 

Writing a check is easy and fast. So is clicking a few buttons on a website, entering your info and clicking “send.” Maybe it’s even easier to respond to an email.

With yearly donations to charitable causes on the rise throughout the country in the recent past, many of us are eager to continue the trend. And while giving is an incredibly noble cause, as I’ve outlined in the past, not all charities meld with everyone’s ideals and the issues they care about most. Not only do some charities donate lower percentages of the funds they receive towards the actual cause–it’s also extremely important to be wary of scams and fraudulent if you make the decision to donate money in the near future.

 

Look at the Mission & Vision of the Organization

The mission and vision statements of an organization can tell you a lot about what it stands for, why it does what it does, and what its end goals are. Some of what this entails should be obvious–if you’re passionate about helping children get a better education, find a charity that focuses on that. If you’re passionate about women empowerment then find a charity that includes empowering women as one of its primary goals.

However the mission and vision statements can also tell you more about an organization than just that. They tell you the passions and aspirations of that business–that is, who they want to become and their ambitions.

 

Don’t Give Via Email–Only an Official Site

Responding to emails, particularly unsolicited emails, is best practice if you’re looking to get your bank account emptied into the hands of a scam artist. It’s a common tactic that often preys on those who are not as tech-savvy as the rest of us, including the elderly. Don’t give out your credit card or bank account information over email or the phone, these could easily be scam artists trying to make a quick buck off of a charitable individual. Instead, make sure you’re visiting the official site of a charity before you input any sort of personal or financial information to insure your money is going to the right hands.

 

Do Some Googling Yourself

If you’ve decided on a charity that aligns with the causes of those who you feel you want to help, and you’ve on their official site, pause for a moment and do a little bit of research. Looking up a nonprofit on a site like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch is a great way of determining not just the legitimacy of an organization, but their practices below surface-level, including salaries of executives, percentages donated to programming and much more. It’s a great way  to ensure your money is going to the right cause without doing strenuous and tedious research.

 

None of this should discourage anyone from giving their money to charity. If you’re afraid of your money going to the wrong places, though, consider giving your time and/or your resources towards the cause! It’s a great way to make a real effort in changing your community for the better.