Usually I like to imagine winter as if I am in a snowglobe, glittery flakes falling all around me, everything placed just so. But there's something to be said for this 65 degree weather as well. I have my tri-weekly weather conversations with the lovely bellringer at the Schnuck's on Arsenal. I hop through there a few times a week, and each time I stuff my change into the little red Salvation Army pot, I keep talking to this lady. We often have the same conversation when I come out again, but it dosn't matter. Her, "Oh, baby, ain't this weather something. They say it will be like this 'til Monday. MERRRRRRYYYYYY Christmas indeed! Yeah, baby!" was filled with such genuine warmth I could hear it over and over without tiring. Even last week, in the bitter freakin' cold, as everyone had heads tucked against the wind into hoods and scarves, she still rang that bell something fierce, smokin' her cigarette, and smiling and blessing all who passed. Every season I have favorite bellringers, and those are the places I will make sure I hit a few times a week. This year, she's my favorite. So if you need a red pot for your quarters and dimes, the Schnuck's on Arsenal is my suggestion.
There's been a lot of recent buzz about giving, as there is this time every year. In a recent report, John Stossel on ABC did a special on who gives and who doesn't. He seemed somehow shocked by the fact that the poor give more than the rich, though anyone who works in a restaurant knows that those who make less are always the quickest to give to others. In STL though, I see us give every week. In recent weeks, I have seen people come out in droves to support the STL Effort for AIDS with Dining Out For Life, and a recent benefit at the Royale to support Reporters Without Borders and an upcoming documentary film in Darfur showed me that we will continue to reach into our pockets and that a little at a time from a lot of people will go a long way. In St. Louis, we give to PBS and KDHX. We even have some great coporate donors in this city, continually making our museums and our zoo better (and always free). We, seem to be, without doubt, a giving city.
So, if you're looking for one more place to give, I have two suggestions that are near and dear to my heart. As you might know, I'm a teacher, and every day I teach, I wish I had more resources to give my kids, and that they had more to work with. We do well with what we have, but with education, you can never have too much funding. Each year in the fall, people, especially parents are reminded that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford school supplies. We take for granted that kids will have pencils and erasers and notebooks, but many don't-- and where I work, most don't. So there are organizations like KIDSmart to make up the difference. Located in Bridgeton, KIDSmart is a virtual superstore for teachers at low-income schools. It's a warehouse full of donated school supplies where teachers can go shop and get the things their kids and their classrooms need. Over the years, I have organized supply drives bringing carloads of donations, and it's one place I can always find money for.
You can go to their KIDSmart website to donate money. Or, even better, through partnerships with over a hundred merchants, you can go to the KIDSmart site, click a link, and shop with their partners, where a portion of your purchase will be donated to the KIDSmart cause. A recent perusal turned up partnerships with iTunes, hotels and car rentals, Restoration Hardware, REI, Omaha Steaks, Old Navy, and 10% (!!!!) of purchases through Zappos.com going to the organization. So, buy some shoes, and let your purchases help an organization that needs it. In the middle of the year, people somehow forget that kids still need supplies.
Or, if you want your money to go more directly to education, especially in the public school system, Springboard to Learning is an organization that's very important to me (and in full disclosure, one which I am affiliated with...). Springboard to Learning furnishes the public schools with arts and cultural professionals who go into classrooms for a semester and share their knowledge and experiences. There are dance programs, math and science enrichment, cultures of other countries, music, art, storytelling, and writing programs. You ca check them out online, get more info. and donate money. $50 will give a Springboard specialist enough money for school supplies for 120 kids for their program, or will give that Springboard teacher the money they need to bring in ethnic foods or create projects with the kids. Springboard has been around, in the city schools, since 1968, and it's largely due to the support of the community that these amazing programs continue. (Trust me when I say this: Springboard is a program that works, and one that matters. It greatly widens the horizons of the kids it serves, and it seeks constantly to inspire and motivate them to be more curious about the big world that surrounds them.)
So if you feel some pennies jingling or have some loose change, these are places where even $5 or $10 can add up and make a huge difference. At this time of the year, I know everyone thinks about toys for kids and the basic home necessities for the 100 Neediest Cases-- both of which I support-- but I just wish more people remembered that helping kids have a great education is one of the best ways for them to not be on those charitable lists later in life. 'Tis the season. Thanks for any help you can give, and seriously, go see the bellringer on Arsenal. She might be one of the best parts of this season.