Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013

Like most toddlers, our little Jack loves to make a mess!  And I have to admit, on most occasions even mommy has fun getting in on that mess-making action.  But this month, I was excited to teach Jack the importance of cleaning up in honor of Earth Day.  Today we all have the opportunity (or should I say responsibility) to give back in honor of our environment.  Whether you decide to start a composting project at your local school, visit a recycling facility with your family or plant a tree seedling in your yard, both adults and kids, we can all give back.

Goose Creek Park Cleanup Crew

One great opportunity is to participate in a community cleanup.  The Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association held their 8th Annual Chester Creek Earth Day Cleanup on Saturday morning at four locations in the West Chester area.  At the family-friendly Goose Creek Park, we met a group of volunteers including area residents, college students, baby-wearing moms and dads with strollers.  After checking in with the site coordinator, we grabbed a pair of work gloves and trash bags and set off in different directions to clean the park and surrounding waterways.  We collected just what you’d expect…plastic bottles, cans, food wrappers…but I’m very happy and proud to say that the area we covered was overall pretty clean.  Proud as a Chester County resident to live in a community which values our environment, even getting a “thumbs up” from a motorist driving by who saw our team cleaning the park.  And I know it’s because of organizations like the CRCWA and their commitment to host these community cleanups, that our creeks and streams are clean enough to enjoy recreation, sustain wildlife and provide safe drinking water.  The CRC Watersheds Association is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to the protection of water resources and the natural environment of the Chester, Ridley, and Crum Creek Valleys, and the health, recreational, and quality of life benefits they afford the residents of this region. Supporting organizations like the CRCWA is a great way to teach our children the importance of cleaning up after ourselves, not only at home, but also out in our community.  Visit their website at for upcoming volunteer opportunities. 

Get outside today, enjoy this magnificent planet with your family and create your own act of green.  Even if it’s something as simple as a litter collecting game where your kids spend the last five minutes at the park seeing who can collect the most trash…we can all make a difference!  To learn more about Earth Day and how your family can get involved, visit
Jack thought picking up litter at our local village cleanup was a super fun game:)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

National Day of Service Food Drive

"Everybody can be great because anybody can serve." (Martin Luther King Jr.) That was the message the Chester County Food Bank used to promote their food drive in honor of this year’s National Day of Service…which made me think about our little ones and how this is a great way for them to help.
Food is a basic necessity and as parents, we’re always working on teaching our kids the importance of a nutritious meal. And what better way to help teach this lesson then to work with an organization that is ensuring the availability of nourishing food. The Chester County Food Bank supplies those in need with nutritious meals, not only to survive – but to thrive. We learned that our local food bank distributes food to 65 food cupboards and meal sites which serve over 40,000 hungry families in our county. Some of this food is provided by the state but the Food Bank relies heavily on donations of non-perishables from the community in order to serve all of those in need. The Food Bank harvests fresh produce through their Gleaning Program which plants and harvests in cooperation with local farms, plus a Raised Bed Garden program which is 100% volunteer based, with many of these gardens located at local schools and churches. They also run a Backpack Program which provides much needed supplemental food to children in backpacks sent home with them on Fridays during the school year. There are 12,000 school age children in Chester County that face hunger in their homes every day. They rely upon the free or reduced meals at school to help, but when the weekend arrives, they are not sure if there will be food to eat. Many families are struggling to afford food during these tough economic times and the idea that some of our neighbors and friends don’t have enough to feed their hungry children is heartbreaking.
So how can we help? The Food Bank needs donations now more than ever. Many schools and organizations hold holiday food drives, but donations always seem to drop off after the New Year. Food drives are a simple, fun activity to get your kids involved in helping your local community in a very tangible way. Jack and our family decided to organize a food drive among our network of friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. We got out our boxes, printed flyers, posted messages via our social networking sites and we were able to collect 106 lbs. of food! And delivering it all to the Food Bank’s warehouse is easy, convenient and very educational. Located on Horseshoe Pike (Rt. 322) the warehouse is open to collect donations Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm along with some Saturdays like this past weekend when Food Drives are being held. The staff and volunteers welcomed us into their warehouse to show Jack exactly what happens when food is donated…processed, sorted and stocked on the shelves, ready to go when needed. Sadly, we were the only people to drop off a donation so far that morning and their shelves were pretty bare. The items most needed to help them restock include: peanut butter, pasta, rice, cereal, soup, shelf stable milk, fruit juice, applesauce, canned vegetables and fruit, and can/pouch tuna and chicken. The Food Bank also holds a volunteer night (children 5 and older welcome) every Tuesday from 6-8pm where volunteers can help with various jobs including unpacking stacks of canned goods and sorting them for delivery to local pantries, preparing food in the kitchen and office work. For more information about the Chester County Food Bank and how you can help, please visit their website at
On a personal note, Jack (and his parents) would like to thank our friends and family that helped with the Jack Gives Back Food Drive, including all of Jack’s daddy’s co-workers at Quadratec and our friends in the MOMS Club of Downingtown.
And last but not least, one of my favorite parts of our“Jack Gives Back” volunteer opportunities and blog is capturing our experiences and choosing which photograph to share. This time I picked one very simple, poignant image. Pictured here are the friendly Food Bank staffers with mommy and a very sad Jack who was just told how desperately they need donations. If this picture doesn’t say a thousand words and make you want to help, I don’t know what will?


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jack Can Really Ring A Bell!

It’s that time of year!  The holiday season is in full swing!  Entertaining, baking, decorating, shopping…we love it all!  And just as synonymous with the holidays as candy canes and Christmas carols, there is the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign.  I’m sure that on one of your trips to the shopping mall, you’ve seen a red kettle stationed outside the door.  Hopefully you’ve been able to drop in some change or a few dollars to help those in need, given a smile to the frozen, red-nosed volunteer who is cheerfully ringing their bell and been on your merry way.  But this year, we’ve all been given the chance to do just a little more!
Your local Salvation Army is looking for volunteers to man their red kettles during the 2012 campaign which kicked off the week before Thanksgiving and runs through December 24th.  Now in its 122nd year, this campaign has an incredible, grassroots history.  In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome -- funding the project.  He remembered his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England and at Stage Landing where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.  The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.  Today in the U.S., The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.  Captain McFee's kettle idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.
When I heard about this opportunity, we were eager to volunteer.  Not only to be a part of the rich history of such a worthy organization but two hours at the mall with my husband and toddler sounded like a great date night to me!  From beginning to end, it was one of the easiest, most enjoyable volunteer experiences we’ve had. 
Step 1: Call your local Salvation Army to sign up. The Salvation Army’s website ( can help you find the location closest to you.   We called the West Chester Corps (610-696-8746) where Donna Copeland, Program Director, was happy to help assign us a shift.  With four red kettle locations in Exton and two in West Chester, it was easy to find a date and time that worked with our schedule.    
Step 2: Show up for your shift.  We even received a phone call that morning to confirm our time slot.  We arrived a few minutes before we were scheduled to begin, met the friendly volunteer working before us (who volunteers 12 hours a day, all 31 days of the campaign…now that’s dedication!)  to hand off the bell, apron and candy canes.
Step 3:  Ring the bell.  We chose to work at the Exton Mall Food Court which was a very family-friendly place to be.  Jack had so much fun entertaining the crowd as he rang the bell and danced around.  And when it was toddler break-time, my husband and I took turns keeping watch of the kettle.  The two hours went by in a flash.  We worked the last slot of the day which made me a little nervous because we had to make sure the kettle was picked up by the staff before we could go home.  But right on time, an official Salvation Army van pulled up and in swat team fashion, the staff members jumped out and quickly broke down our station and we were ready to head home. 
And now for the question you’ve been wanting to ask the entire time you’ve been reading our blog (and the question almost every single person we met during our bell ringing experience asked us)…weren’t we cold?!?!    Of course!  It’s winter in PA!  And we just happened to choose an evening shift over the Thanksgiving weekend where the high temperature that day was a balmy 40 degrees.  But being outside for our short two hours made me think about the over half a million homeless people in the United States who are living in the cold this time of year.   And why it’s so important to help organizations like the Salvation Army, especially during the holidays, who are providing things such as shelter, food and the basic needs that so many of us can easily take for granted.  So just bundle up, keep a hot beverage of choice in hand and enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing you’re helping provide comfort and hope to those in need.   

(Red Kettle Campaign history provided by the Salvation Army’s website

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jack Walks With The Jack Pack

Photo Credit: Dottie Foley Photography
Welcome to the very first post of our new blog!  My name is Jen and I’m a stay-at-home mom to an energetic, lovable 14-month old named Jack.  Before Jack was born, I worked in the non-profit field for over 10 years, most recently planning fundraising events for the American Red Cross SEPA.  Philanthropy has always been a huge part of my life, both personally and professionally.  And now that I’m a mom, my goal is to teach our son the importance of giving back to our community.  We will be volunteering at local organizations or participating in non-profit events and sharing our experiences with you.  And hopefully we’ll inspire your family to get involved in your community too! 
The month of October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month so our family decided to participate in our local Buddy Walk presented by the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group.  The Buddy Walk is a one-mile walk and family fun day that celebrates the many abilities and accomplishments of people with Down Syndrome.  The 12th annual event was held Sunday, October 14th at West Goshen Community Park in West Chester.  When we arrived on that beautiful afternoon, we heard a talented CCDSIG  member singing the national anthem to kick off the event, and I knew this was going to be an inspirational day.  We had preregistered online so check-in was quick and easy…and we even received goodie bags with event t-shirts, raffle tickets and all the materials we needed to enjoy the day.  Once we had our gear, it was time to find our team for some pre-walk warm-ups.  As if supporting the amazing work of the CCDSIG wasn’t reason enough to participate, we were also there to cheer on our son’s little buddy who is also named Jack.:)    Alana and Jason, the proud parents of this handsome, charming 16-month old, organized “The Jack Pack” to support their little man and we were honored to be a part of the team.

Jacks and their mommies
Jack cheering on the team with his "Jack on a Stick"
Jack and Mini Cooper (from Quest Therapeutic Services where Alana works as a physical therapist) who also walked with our team
Once our team was gathered and group photos were taken, we were off!  The scenic route took us for a leisurely loop around the park back to the festivities where a pep squad cheered us across the finish line.  Walk events, which are usually held in the spring and fall, are the perfect way to introduce your kids to the world of non-profit fundraisers because they usually have a lot of fun activities for your family.  From carnival games and a magic show, to the Pocono Raceway Pace Car and gift basket giveaways, not to mention all of the healthy and delicious food choices, this event committee thought of everything you could possibly need to enjoy a fun day at the park.  And to bring the focus back to the reason we were all there that afternoon, the event ended with a Showcase of Abilities where several of the CCDSIG members showed off their talents including singing, dancing and playing musical instruments.  Reminding us that people with Down Syndrome really are “more alike than different.”  If you missed this year’s event, save the date for the second Sunday in October 2013!  This is an inspirational, fun-filled day that we know your family would enjoy as much as we did!  To learn more about the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group and how you can support their mission, visit