Tag Archives: community advocacy

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

So, Dancing with The Keene Stars 2017 has come and gone and this year was one that will go down in my memory banks and diary as one to remember for the rest of my life. For so many reasons.

Project Graduation is an event held in our town’s high school the night after the kids graduate. And yes, I did just call them kids. They are. All under legal age, mostly 17 and 18. And what do 17 and 18 year old kids like to do to celebrate, test boundaries, and prove their cool factor is off the charts? Some drink and/or engage in illegal drug use. Project Graduation provides every single graduate a safe haven for the entire night after graduation, and engages them–not in illicit, illegal behavior — but good, fun, funny, and memory making behaviors with their fellow graduates. It is a smoke-free alcohol-free, drug-free night where the kids (!) are locked into the high school and not allowed to leave without a parent picking them up and escorting them out. Keeping them off the streets and at parties where they could get into potential trouble is one sure fire way of keeping every graduate alive to get to the next stage of their live. In the 100 days between high school graduation and college start-up more kids this age die in alcohol and drug related ways than at any other time. That pre-frontal cortex of theirs hasn’t fully developed yet, so they still make stupid decisions thinking they are sound ones. Project Graduations helps keep this number down with a goal toward eliminating it from the statistical curve.

Now. PSA complete. Back to DWTS.

I saw my first DWTS show four years ago when it was brought to my town as a fundraiser for Project Grad, and I wanted to participate within the first 10 minutes of the show. I actively – and I mean ACTIVELY pursued a spot on the next year’s roster and was -Yippie- given one! I was a STAR! I thought I knew how to dance before being picked. Yeah…not so much. The 8 weeks of preparation were grueling and oftentimes frustrating. I’d just undergone surgical removal of a melanoma from my stomach and was in constant pain, worried about my deep incision line, and frustrated because I wasn’t doing well in practice. When all was said and done, I loved the experience.

The next year I was a judge.

This year I was partnered with a STAR and the Gods above gave me the perfect one. I call him my brother from another mother, although in truth I could have agewise been his mother! We were in sync from the first 5 minutes of meeting. Every rehearsal was a shear joy – physically testing – but shear joy.And when all was said and done, we came in first place both nights!

The backstage moments of the competition, though, are the memories I’ll cherish the most. All 20 dancers formed a solid wall of friendship and camaraderie, knowing we were doing something good for the community and for our kids. I met community leaders I’d never met before and found some true, lifelong friends among them.

Volunteerism is a facet of this country that more people aspire to than actually engage in. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not knowing where to go to offer your time, your money, or your expertise. I’ve always thought that to have a strong community, you need to be engaged in that community, so ever since my daughter started school I volunteered for room mother, snack mom, to be a chaperone on trips, etc. She’s been out of the house for 10 years and I still feel a responsibility to my community to give back. Participating in annual 5ks for local charities; attending auctions to raise money for school upgrades. Heck, even saving the box tops on tops of cereal boxes all contribute to making my community a better, safer, healthier place to live and grow. Hence, Dancing with the Stars.

So. I said this last year when I wrote my after-dancing blog experience and I’ll say it again this year: VOLUNTEER. There are so many opportunities within your community to make a difference. And believe me, you may not think you’re making a big one, but you are. For me, keeping that one kid who had the idea to go to a graduation party, drink, and then get behind the wheel of a car to head on home off the road makes a huge difference. Just think of all the people effected if he crashes and dies: his parents and loved ones, friends, anyone else involved in the crash and their loved ones and friends, the response teams, medical personnel and grief counselors pulled in to care for the survivors, and the kid himself who has just now lost his future. All because he wanted to go to a party and celebrate his high school graduation and didn’t make wise choices about drinking.

If I am asked to perform or judge next years’ DANCING WITH THE STARS fundraiser for our town high school, you can put money on the fact I will say “Hell, yeah!” Whether I dance, judge, or just sell tickets, it will be one of the highlights of my year.

When I’m not dancing you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Dancing with the Stars, female friends, Friends, Life challenges, Project Graduation, Strong Women, Uncategorized

The power of PEOPLE who care…

I’m going to go off the NaNoWriMo blog bandwagon for a moment because  I want–need–to tell you about an event that happened in my little town yesterday that still has me weeping.

The problem of hunger,  homelessness, and economic disparity in this country is nothing new. Go back to the Great Depression and you can practically mimic some of the events that happened during those devestating years with what is happening in our country today. Hunger, especially, has always been a big concern of mine. I’ve mentioned before I didn’t exactly grow up in the Leave It to Beaver or  Brady Bunch version of a family or household. We were, by today’s standards – poor. The term bandied about nowadays is working poor. My mother and stepfather had jobs, but they didn’t quite make it paycheck to paycheck every month and there were times when the easiest thing to let go was the food bill. I ate a lot of mayonnaise sandwiches growing up, and in a weird way, its kind of like a comfort food for me today.

But I digress…

As I said, hunger and people going hungry have always been a concern for me. I happen to live in a community that has a food pantry, a Saint Vincent DePaul society, and a community kitchen. In October, our local newspaper published a piece about the community kitchen and their struggles to keep available food on the shelves for its recipients and clients. The kitchen had barely enough food to last through Thanksgiving and if their food coffers weren’t filled, they would need to close down right after Thanksgiving. The Community Kitchen serves a large number of families and individuals in this area who–for whatever reason–are not able to adequately feed themselves. The holiday season is an especially difficult time for some families to cope with paying bills, trying to bring some kind of Christmas cheer to their children, and in general, just getting a meal on the table. To have the kitchen close its doors – and at the holiday season – was a grave concern.

Well, enter MOMS On A MISSION.

Yesterday, in an empty storefront in the center of Keene’s busy downtown, these wonderful women organized what was originally billed as 1000 cans in 1000 minutes. Facebook publicity, word of mouth, and in every way they could, these women got the word out that they would be manning this store all day to accept any and all food and monetary donations for the Keene Community Kitchen to aid them in keeping their doors open to the people who so need them.

That 1000 can goal quickly switched to 2000…then 10,000… then 20,000. And when it looked like they might be done, they issued another challenge: why not 25,000 cans/boxes of food?

Final tally last night when they officially closed their donation doors? 25,860 cans/boxes of food raised by the grassroots efforts of 8 Moms who know that no child or family or person of any age should know hunger in this day and age.

I love living in a small town because of unifying events like this. When you really know your neighbors, know their struggles, their strengths, the foundation of their circumstances, you know yourself as a human being in ways you’d never consider in a more urban, non-individualistic, less neighborly area. And you can see the benefits of generosity firsthand.

These women epitomize the good neighbor principle.

I just want to add one more thing before I finish. Yesterday in Mass, my Pastor spoke a homily extolling the virtues of living the Corporeal Code of Jesus as Catholics and Christians.  One of the codes for Christian behavior Jesus asked of us is to feed the hungry. These women, by the virtue of their actions, the love in their hearts, and their  spirit of giving, have shown our community what it means to be generous, selfless,  and charitable. They have truly shown us what it means to walk the walk and talk the talk of neighbor-helping-neighbor.

The power of a Mother on a Mission is one of the greatest and most powerful forces in the universe. I am so proud of these women. Proud to know them, proud to honor them, and proud to tell you about them.

No child, or any person really, should ever know the ravages of a hungry belly. Not at Christmastime or any time of the year. I ask you to be that good neighbor; that community spirited and minded person; that honorable human being. Take care of your neighbors as you’d take care of your own family. Put yourself in the body of someone who doesn’t have enough to eat and see what it feels like to them to know hunger when all around them are full. And, if you’re like me – someone who knew the horrors and pains of hunger and who now lives a full, better life – pay it forward.

A generous spirit, and a knowledge of how to make someone else’s life better make us all better human beings. I live this and I believe this with all my heart and soul.

To support our local Community Kitchen and other Food based charities in our area, click here:

Keene Area Food Pantries

The NH Food Bank

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Cooking, Life challenges, love, New Hampshire, Strong Women