So it's Thanksgiving which marks the beginning of the holiday season. I've gotta say, I'm not a fan. Other than the part where we say what we're thankful for (and I'm thankful for all of you, my darling blog readers), to me it is such a gluttonous time and I'm not just talking about all the eating (I do like eating, though as a vegan, I'm not really into the stuff people usually eat). Black Friday and all the crazed consumerism is what really grosses me out.
So I also am trying to change the focus of the holidays to giving back to your community or giving to those in need rather than buying a ton of unnecessary crap.
This means that throughout the holiday season I am going to change up the focus of Women Who Rock Wednesday. I plan to interview and spotlight charities and positive community or earth-friendly efforts that women I know are involved in. Of course, if there are some charities or do-gooder women out there you think I should spotlight, please do let me know as I could use at least one more woman & her organization to spotlight. Contact info/personal references really helps and you can email those to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com.
Today I'm going to talk about the organization I was involved with as a teen. Sarah's Inn is a Domestic Violence agency in Oak Park, Illinois. I started volunteering there when I was sixteen, after getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship myself. I wasn't openly talking about or dealing with what I'd gone through at the time, but volunteering helped me work through my own issues a little bit. I spent my Saturday mornings there working with a bilingual children's support group. These were kids whose fathers were abusive and their mothers were getting out of the relationship. They were amazing kids, so resilient and smart and inspiring.
I also worked a bit on the agency newsletter and did any volunteer office work they needed. Christmas time always makes me think of sitting in a big storage area assembling gift baskets for the women and children Sarah's Inn served, many of whom were in shelters or temporary housing after leaving their abusers.
There are a lot of things I did during my teenage years that I am not particularly proud of, but my work at Sarah's Inn is something I can always look back at with pride, knowing that I helped others and I helped myself heal. Kimberley, the volunteer coordinator, is a woman who I will always be thankful that I had in my life. She was in her early twenties and a writer as well, a journalism student who fell into this job at a non-profit and truly loved it. She's actually the one who inspired me to go to school for sociology because I saw how I could incorporate writing with non-profit work and truly help people... of course I ended up getting sucked in by creative writing instead, but I do write my books in hopes of helping people--not in some holier than thou let me teach you a lesson way of course, but by creating dialogue about important issues. And if this book writing thing doesn't work out, I may go back to school so I can be like Kimberley, that woman who I admired so much at sixteen.
Now I did this volunteering thing completely on my own, but I know a lot of schools encourage it or require some sort of community service now. Have you done any? What kind of impact did it have on your life?
And once again feel free to comment about an organization or woman you think I should highlight over the next few weeks.
I'm changing up the contest now too. Through the end of December, I will run one big WWRW contest that begins now. At the end of our focus on community service, I'll choose one winner from the commentors on all the blog entries (including this one!) and that person will get signed copies of Ballads of Suburbia and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, but more importantly, I will donate as much as I can afford (minimum 25$, but hopefully the bar will be busy tonight and I'll have some extra cash) to whichever charity they choose from a list I will compile of my favorite charities and of the organizations you tell me about in the comments of this blog entry.
So get in the *real* holiday spirit and start telling me about those great organizations you love and why you love them!
Oh and as usual, you'll get an extra entry for tweeting, linking to, or blogging about this blog entry. Please note those extra entries along with your email address in your comments.