Early in 1980, Operation USA (then called Operation California) was just finding its footing in the nonprofit sector. Just six months earlier, a friend and I had been inspired to launch our flagship relief effort aimed at providing relief to the Vietnamese “Boat People” refugees in Malaysia. As we gained momentum in the US at the start of the new year, thanks in large part to the involvement of founding board member Julie Andrews, we saw an opportunity to host a television special to raise funds for our cause–and “Because We Care” was born.
Filmed on January 29, 1980 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, “Because We Care” aired on February 5, 1980 as a 2-hour special event on CBS and featured numerous celebrities who had a passionate interest in aiding famine victims in Cambodia. Funds were generated by selling tickets to the taping of the special and by public donations made during a phone-a-thon when the concert aired on television. Over $1.1 million was raised to aid Operation USA’s relief efforts, sending medicine, food and supplies to southeast Asia.
Looking back on “Because We Care” now, 35 years later, I am still proud of the celebrity talent we were able to bring on board as part of our fundraising effort, and am grateful for all the help and support we had in putting the event together. To this day, the special remains one of our most successful fundraising efforts ever, and the money we raised made such a meaningful impact on those people suffering in Cambodia at that time.
With the rise of the internet and social media, celebrities now have an endless supply of platforms on which to call attention to causes like ours, and the fundraising landscape has changed quite a bit. But, I will always remember that special day when superstars like Julie Andrews, Michael Jackson, Jane Fonda, Ed Asner, Natalie Cole, John Travolta, Bob Newhart and many more all came together for the television special in support of Operation USA, ultimately leading to 35 years of successful humanitarian aid worldwide.
To donate to Operation USA’s ongoing relief and recovery work, visit give.opusa.org.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, and we can begin to feel like whatever we can get done on our own or with a small group of friends and family will not be meaningful enough to make any real difference. But that’s not true! It’s the sum of many small acts of kindness that really add up to a whole lot of change and good vibes.
Come on. Get inspired! Here are 5 small ways to make a meaningful difference in your community – with very little more than an open heart, a big smile, and lots of NICE.
Reach out to your neighbors. Do you have an elderly neighbor who could use a friend? Reach out to them and ask if they’d like to visit with you on a weekend afternoon. Maybe they need help cleaning their home or organizing the attic. Or perhaps all they need is someone to check in on them once in a while, or share a cup of iced tea and a snack on the porch. Sometimes just being there for a neighbor can make such a huge difference in their spirits. You can give that to them simply by being yourself! How awesome is that?
Organize a food and clothes drive for the homeless in your community. Many of us have one or two cans of food in our pantries to spare, but others aren’t so lucky. This weekend get the family together and check out that pantry to see what’s in there that you can do without. Take a couple of hours to clean the house and figure out what clothes and other items you and your family might have outgrown. Fill up a box (or two, or three!) with everything you find, and call up your friends. Let them know what you’ve done, and encourage them to take a look in their own pantries and homes too. Then it’s time to share and take action! Make a big batch of fun snacks, and invite everyone to bring over all of the cool stuff they want to donate. Sit in a big circle (snacks in the middle!), and take turns sharing what helping others means to everyone. Before your donation party, find a local homeless shelter and coordinate a carpool to take everything over there yourselves after the sharing session. But don’t stop there! Maybe you can coordinate a small drive every month that can add up to a ton of donations over time. What a simple way to make such a huge difference in the lives of those who need a little NICE the most!
Always be polite and helpful. Opening a door for someone. Saying please and thank you. Offering to help with grocery bags when you see your neighbor struggling to make it up their porch steps, or babysitting for a neighbor desperate for a last minute sitter free of charge. All of these things sound so simple, so small, right? But they’re the complete opposite! Making an effort to be polite and helpful wherever and whenever possible is powerful, and it can make a huge difference. Often we can inspire others to be a little more polite and helpful just by setting an example ourselves. And when everyone in a community begins to pay just a little more attention to these small everyday acts of kindness, something amazing starts to happen. We all help each other more. We start to feel better, happier and less alone. And little by little, life becomes just a bit easier. You can start that incredible change today simply by acting with kindness!
Smile. Just like small acts of kindness can create powerful change in your community, so can something as simple as smiling at each other more! When we smile, we create positive energy that can turn even some of the worst days around. It costs nothing, and it’s so, so simple. Want to make a difference? Smile more, and brighten up someone’s day every chance you get. Even on a bad day, a simple smile can help others feel more positive and in turn encourage them to smile at someone else that will then smile at someone else, and well, you get the point!
Recycle, never litter, and encourage others to do the same. What better way to make a difference in your community than by helping to keep it clean, and encouraging others to do the same? If you don’t already recycle in your home, this is the perfect time to figure out how you can start. Ask your neighbors what days the recycling pick-ups happen, and start thinking about your trash before you toss! Recycling helps us minimize waste and keep the environment safe, plus it’s a great way to make a small, meaningful difference every day. Making an effort to never litter (or throw garbage out in the street), is another great way to keep your community clean and welcoming. Always wait until you get to a trash can to throw away your garbage, and if you see friends, family or neighbors littering, politely encourage them to do the same.
And if you have an idea for an awesome volunteer project, but you’re overwhelmed or not sure where to start, don’t give up! Share your ideas with friends, and brainstorm together. Working as a team, you will be able to figure out a game plan and make it happen.
Most importantly, always remember that what might seem like a very small gesture can really help turn someone’s day and even life, around. No amount of NICE is ever too little, and simply by making it a point to spread kindness wherever and whenever possible, you can make your community a better, happier, more positive place for everyone. And that is pretty awesome.
“Once you have attained knowledge you cannot go back to ignorance.” –Admiral Michelle J. Howard
February is Black History Month, and all month long we’ll be highlighting African American women who have defeated the odds, dreamed big, and paved the way for girls and women to follow in their footsteps. The best part? They’re all Girl Scout alumnae!
We’re kicking things off today with the amazing Admiral Michelle J. Howard, who has served in the United States Navy since 1982 and is the highest-ranking woman in American naval history. Michelle also has countless “firsts” under her belt: not only is she the first woman in the U.S. Navy’s 236-year history to be promoted to four-star admiral, but she also, in 1999, became the first African American woman to command a naval ship.
Over a span of three decades, Howard has continuously shown perseverance and bravery in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Her shining example has helped change perceptions about what women can accomplish when they follow their passions, never give up, and always strive to be their best.
Admiral Howard attributes many of the values that helped her succeed to her time in Girl Scouting.
"For me, Girl Scouts was about friendship and learning—mostly learning about ourselves and that we could do anything if we worked as a team," she says.
"My favorite camp memory was an orienteering weekend. Our troop split into two teams, and we laid a 10-mile trail and put three distinctive markers (that we made) at waypoints. The next day, we traded routes and had to hike the other team's trail and find the markers. There is no end of satisfaction knowing that, with a compass and friends, you don't have to get lost in the woods."
And that's the lesson that has stuck with Admiral Howard.
"In life, with a moral compass and friends, you can find your trail to success."
Note: The views expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.
Perhaps it’s their limited availability (cookie season is just three to four months a year); perhaps it’s because of their unique flavors. But the real reason is this; buying Girl Scout Cookies is good for the world. When you buy cookies from a Girl Scout, you are investing in so much more than a box of treats – you are investing in her future, and the future leadership of our country.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a vitally important program for girls. A cornerstone of the Girl Scout experience, it’s the largest, most successful girl run business in the world. Through this program, girls not only learn goal setting, but decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—key 21st century business and finance skills.
So perhaps that’s why buying Girl Scout cookies feels so satisfying. After the boxes are empty and the cookies are gone, you’re left with a feeling of fullness and fulfillment; knowing that you played a small part in helping a young girl – a young leader – reach her truest potential. In a world that too often throws up roadblocks for girls, you helped tear them down. The cookies? That’s just the dessert, your prize if you will, for a job well done.
Chefs of all levels, from home cooks to established professionals, are encouraged to submit Girl Scout Cookie-inspired entries in one of four categories: (1) cakes, pies, cupcakes, (2) cookies, brownies, bars, (3) pudding, ice-cream, gelatin desserts, and (4) candies. The experts in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen will review and test the recipes, selecting the top 16—four from each category—based on taste, visual appeal, creativity, and crowd appeal.
From March 30 to April 14, the public will have a chance to vote for their favorite finalist recipes here. The recipes with the most votes in each category win and winners will be announced in mid-April.
"Each year, we see so many excited cookie fans share their own recipes using Girl Scout Cookies via social media and more, so we figured it was high time to do something with all this positive energy," said Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "The creative possibilities are endless, just like the number of ways girls use their cookie money to give back to their local communities."
Taste of Home Editor-in-Chief Catherine Cassidy is equally enthusiastic about the contest and the opportunity to collaborate with Girl Scouts. "Fostering a sense of care and community in homes across America has always been part of the fabric of Taste of Home," she said. "As a Girl Scout alumna, I'm thrilled to lend a helping hand in and outside of the kitchen. We are pleased to work with an organization that encourages young women to put their skills and creativity to positive use."
Participating in the National Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest, Sponsored by Taste of Home, could be a fun activity to do during this year's National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend (February 27 -- March 1, 2015). The weekend will celebrate the positive impact girls make on their communities through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. The Girl Scout Cookie Program aims to teach girls five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.