Friday, January 29, 2010

National Mentoring Month Ends - Questions Remain

It's almost the month of January, which means the end of National Mentoring Month. If you haven't checked out our Cabrini Connections kids thanking their tutor/mentors as part of National Mentoring month, please do:

Anyway, as part of National Mentoring Month, I have been researching mentoring partnerships in other states. Many states have coalitions similar to the Tutor/Mentor Connection that are recognized by What would it take to create a similar partnership in Illinois? How could we turn the Tutor/Mentor Connection into a recognized mentoring partnership? I encourage you to take a look at other states' mentoring partnerships and see how they have done it. (I have to give a shout-out to my home state of Oregon who has an especially informative and comprehensive website!)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Greater Chicago Food Depository - A Great Ally

The past week I've been researching new tutoring and mentoring programs that were not listed on the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator and deleting old ones that have closed. Along the way, I came across the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which is a fantastic organization that feed's Chicago's hungry at a variety of sites.

Obviously the issue of feeding children is especially important in these tough economic times. Here at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection we always try and have a snack ready when our kids come in after school because sometimes, that will be the first time the eat during the day. Kids can't learn when they're hungry and the Greater Chicago Food Depository is doing its best to make sure that there are numerous sites throughout the city where children can have access to a warm meal.

That's why I was so happy to come across this list of programs that Greater Chicago Food Depository has put up of programs that they have teamed up with in order to make sure as many children as possible have access to a warm meal. This is especially important during the summer months when kids don't have the benefit of a free school breakfast and lunch.

Anyway, many of these programs that help make sure that the children of Chicago are fed year-round also happen to be tutoring and mentoring programs that are listed in our program locator. On behalf of the Tutor/Mentor Connection, I want to salute the Greater Chicago Food Depository for realizing the assets that these programs are in their communities and taking advantage of their sites in order to make sure kids are fed. I also want to commend the Greater Chicago Food Depository for making sure these programs are known and listed. I hope that other programs like the Greater Chicago Food Depository will take their example and team up with programs in order to better to serve their communities and give recognition to these programs, just like the Greater Chicago Food Depository has done.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Students thank their Mentors at Cabrini Connections

Also, here's a video of our kids here at Cabrini Connections, thanking their mentors:

Thanks to my Mentor.

To continue with the theme of National Mentoring Month, I thought I should take the time to write about the mentor who inspired me the most in my life. Today is National Thank Your Mentor Day. This is a repeat of last year, but I thought you can never thank someone too much.

I have had many wonderful mentors who have guided me, but there is one that I think truly made me the person I am today. Her name was Merrill Watrous and she was my 5th Grade Teacher. Mrs. Watrous was one of those teachers that found a gift in every child and tried to bring out that gift. For the students that struggled in school, she did what ever was possible to bring them up to speed, whether it was staying with them after school to work with them on an essay or gave them extra materials to study for history exams. For the students who excelled, she gave them reading recommendations, news article recommendations, and extra credit assignments to push their ability.

Mrs. Watrous was the one who encouraged my interest in history - she gave my assignments to write about great American women such as Abigail Adams and Sojourner Truth. She had me read the poetry of Maya Angelou and encouraged me to try and read the New York Times. For all of her students, Mrs. Watrous emphasized the importance of history, especially the history of minorities and the poor. She taught us spirituals and learned about the slave trade. She assigned us to read The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox, about a slave ship, Lyddie by Katherine Paterson about a young girl working in a factory during the 19th century to teach us about child labor, and Dragon's Gate by Lawrence Yep to learn about Chinese-American history. The fact that I can remember these books 13-14 years later is a testament to what an impact they had on me.

Ultimately, Mrs. Watrous wanted us to be informed, passionate citizens of the world. She encouraged us to know about those who were in need, but also to learn about great figures to become our personal heroes. To this day, I still say Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, and Eleanore Roosevelt are personal heroes to me - all figures that I studied in 5th grade. She also had us keep journals, telling us to write not about what we learning in class, but about what we were interested, and what we were feeling that day. She encouraged us to be editors to one another and always had us "Say one nice thing to someone everyday."

Finally, as the tallest girl in the class (I know at 5'4'' this seems amazing now, but I was in the 5th grade), Mrs. Watrous encouraged me to stand tall and take pride in who I was. It helped that she was tall herself and carried herself with confidence but also with warmth. She also gave the best hugs, and I'm sure many of my classmates could attest that a hug from Mrs. Watrous could make any bad day better.

Mrs. Watrous was most definitely the catalyst that led me to want to work in the public interest sector and led me to want to work at Cabrini Connections. I also think her emphasized on journaling has continued in my blogging - first when I was studying abroad in Paris, and now working at Cabrini Connections.

If someone has been a great mentor to you, please let me know and I would love to publish your story. We all have mentors, and many of us have several of them. National Mentoring Month is a wonderful time to thank these mentors for making the world a better place

Friday, January 15, 2010

Step 6 in Raising Money by Running a Race - Complete your Race!

You've raised your money . You've put in your training. This is the moment you've been waiting for:
6. Run/walk/bike/swim your race! This is the fun part! Once you've raised all that money, you're going to be so pumped to actually complete your race. I ran almost all of the Chicago marathon with a huge grin on my face because I knew how many kids I helped support (I'll admit I didn't exactly have a grin on my face miles 22-26.2, more like a look of determination, but still) Also, tell people to come out and cheer you on. I saw several people who supported me throughout the training - both emotionally and financially - who came out and cheered me on. Make sure you have someone in the last couple of miles like my dear friends Nate and Bethany Sutton who were at the painful mile 23 with cheers and hugs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Step 5 in Raising Money by Running a Race - Tell Everyone How You're Doing!

When I was in the midst of my training, everybody was asking how I was doing. Some people would see me hobbling around after my 16 or 18 mile runs, but a lot of friends and family far away were very interested in keeping up-to-date with my progress. I noticed people were also interested in how our progress was in fundraising. So, in order to keep everybody up-to-date with your training and fundraising progress, here's what you do:

5. Blog about your progress! Fortunately I already had this blog to talk about how my training and fundraising progressed. If you don't have one, I encourage you to set one up because not only are you able to tell the world about how you're doing, but also are able to tell the world how much you appreciate everybody's donations. Include pictures and stories. People were also curious about what I was listening to as I trained (I'm sorry, but I just can't run 20 miles without some good music. The marathon itself was another matter because of the cheering crowds.) I was shocked about how curious and intrigued people were and how much they enjoyed reading my stories on my blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Step 4 in Raising Money by Running a Race - How to actually raise that money

So you've dropped little hints that you're training for a race and doing it for charity. Now, it's time to actually ask. Here's how:
4. Ask in a variety of ways. We noticed a two-pronged strategy worked best. A lot of our young friends donated online. We used FirstGiving as our portal for donations but there are a variety of great online fundraising portals that are safe and legitimate. I'd like to give a special shout out to GiveForward, which has been a huge supporter of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection in the past year. All of them will have a variation of a web page explaining what race you're training for and what the organization your fundraising for is. There also is a secure payment link where people can use their credit card to give a donation.

However, we noticed a lot of our older friends and family were a little leery of donating online. That's why we also sent out letters with all of the pertinent information in them as well. I'd say the number of mail donations vs. online donations was about 60/40 for mail to online. A lot of charities also have a paypal site which you can include in e-mails and other communication. Make sure to keep track of every donation you receive - I just printed out all of the donations and put them in a binder. This will make the charity's life easier when they get audited and the donor's life easier when they do their taxes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Step 3 in raising money by running a race- This might surprise you

You've signed up for your race and found your training partner. Maybe you've started training a bit (quick bit of advice - do follow the training plan that the race gives out. Most races do. I really think that I didn't get injured/burnt out because I followed the Chicago Marathon's Training Beginner training guide to a T. Also, they usually do a nice job with making it doable while still having a life.)

Anyway, you're ready to start fundraising. But before you begin asking, follow our Step 3 and people will be MUCH more receptive to your asking:

3. Don't startle people with asking for money. Nick and I sent out letters to friends and family explaining what Cabrini Connections is and why they should donate in late-August/early-September, just a little over a month before the race. However, we had been telling people for at least six months that we were running the marathon and why we were running for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection. Just drop it into casual conversation. Trust me, it's not awkward, if you don't ask right then and there. But if you talk about it initially as an abstract idea, potential donors will begin the thought process of "Oh hey, Joe's running the marathon for charity. He looks like he's training pretty seriously. I should donate to his efforts." When you do ask, they'll be more likely to give.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 2 - You've Signed Up for a Race, Now What?

So you've signed up for your race. Congratulations! But now, you're a little intimidated about how you're going to get from where you are now to finishing that race.. How do you do it? Here's step 2 of my training/preparation plan for charity:

2. Find a running/fundraising buddy, or a bunch of them! There will be days when you get home from work during your training and you're exhausted. Or it's dark and cold outside and you just don't want to wake up early to get 4 miles in before work. I've been there. But, having a training buddy helps! You don't even have to run together (although that's always nice). My boyfriend/marathon training partner/fundraising buddy Nick was way faster than me (sub 4-hour marathon! That's FAST), but the simple fact that he was getting home from work too and putting on his running shoes helped so much in training, even though we ran separately. Having a running buddy for a charitable race means a fundraising buddy as well. I know I would not have been able to raise almost $3000 on my own. But thanks to Nick's enthusiasm for Cabrini Connections and willingness to get out there and ask for money from his own friends, family, and co-workers, I was inspired myself to get out there and ask as well. Plus, it inspires a little friendly competition. So find someone you know will help you keep to your plan and you will accomplish this goal together. (That's us after a fun run between bars last Spring. A lot of people in our running group were donors and supporters of our marathon training and fundraising effort as well. See training CAN be fun!)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting in Shape for a GREAT Cause? Step 1

So you've made your New Year's Resolution to get in shape. Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you just want to get back into the shape you were in before the holidays, or maybe you were always a casual athlete but want to challenge yourself. In any case, before the new year, you made excuses for yourself, but now you're ready to go for it. However, you need a little more motivation than to fit into your skinny jeans. Maybe you also have a cause you're passionate about. You volunteer at a soup kitchen every Saturday, or you walk dogs at your local animal shelter, or you're a tutor or mentor. This is your motivation, to raise money and awareness for an organization that you love by running (walking, swimming, biking, basically moving) in a race.

Trust me, I've tried the going to the gym every day type of resolution. And the lose 10 pounds resolution. But last year I realized that in order for a resolution to stick, I'd need to combine a goal that I couldn't back out of (signing up for the Chicago marathon) and doing it for a cause I'm passionate about. So here's Step 1 of fulfilling that New Year's Resolution and helping your favorite charity:

1. Sign up for a race. Be reasonable and be KIND to yourself. Don't sign up for a marathon if it intimidates you. If running a 5-k is a big step for you, sign up for one if you think you can finish it. Also, if you hate running, but enjoy swimming, or biking, or even walking there a variety of races where you can raise money for your favorite charity. Do some research, and I'm sure you'll find something. A favorite resource of mine is the Chicago Area Runner's Association website, which has a calendar of races that you can enter throughout the year. They also give you resources for training groups and other fun races along the way. I think you'll find the mere fact of signing up for a race (which you'll raise money for) a very easy and much more concrete goal than just fitting into your skinny jeans.

But how will you get the motivation to stick with your training? Find out tomorrow . . .

Happy Birthday to Me!

Hello Everyone! Today, January 5th, I'm a quarter-century old. If you're friends with me on Facebook, you should donate to Cabrini Connections for my Birthday Cause. This year, rather than asking for presents (Lord knows I have enough stuff), I would appreciate if everybody would donate to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Also, if you have an upcoming birthday and are a member of the Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection Facebook Cause, please consider us as the recipient of your birthday cause. If you have an upcoming birthday and are not yet a part of our cause but believe in giving every youth a chance to succeed in life no matter what their background is, please join our Facebook Cause.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year? New Year's Resolution? Here's How I Actually Followed through with Mine

Happy New Year Everyone! And Happy National Mentoring Month! I love how each new year begins with a month dedicated to that special relationship where one individual guides another in their growth.

Anyway, as it is the beginning of the year, we're all thinking of New Year's Resolutions probably. I know that many people resolve to lose weight or get in shape and many people become frustrated in this goal after a month or so. A lot of people also resolve to do something to help their community as a New Year's Resolution. If you have read my blog before, you know that in 2009, I raised almost $3000 for Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection by running the Chicago Marathon.

Last year I was one of those people who resolved to get in shape and do something a little extra to help my community. By working for a fantastic organization such as Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, I feel so fortunate to be able to say that everyday I do something to help the community. However, I wanted to do a little extra outside of what my job title dictated and I knew that 2009 was going to be a rough year economically, especially for non-profits. It was at Martini Madness in October of 2008 when after a few (too many?) martinis, my boyfriend, Nick Infusino, said "Hey! Let's run the Chicago Marathon for Cabrini Connections next year!" and I replied "That's a great idea!"

For some reason, however, that idea wasn't just one of those drunk ideas that falls to the wayside. As 2009 approached, I decided that it was the year I was going to get in shape and run a marathon. I had always been an avid runner, but I had gotten out of shape for a variety of reasons. The idea of running the marathon was a goal that I felt was feasible and combined with the fact that I would be running it for a worthy cause was all the more reason to follow through. 10 months later, on October 11th, 2009, Nick and I were finishers of a major marathon and helped bring in almost $3000 from friends and family who supported our effort. Over this next week I will tell you how I stopped worrying about the marathon and fundraising and start loving it!