Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Donations

My charitable giving “strategy” has typically been to wait until one of my friends is doing a fundraiser, or someone passes away and the family suggests a donation in their memory, and then to donate to those. I do have a few charities that I give to at least once a year without prompting from someone I know doing fundraising – Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) (from where I adopted my beloved kitties), Centre for Inquiry (CFI) Canada (which I believe does important work), and the Wikimedia Foundation1 (because I think it’s important for knowledge to be freely available to all). I also have some money that I’ve leant out through Kiva ((Props to Sarah and Dave who introduced me to Kiva many years ago by giving me a gift card of funds to start loaning through Kiva)), which I just re-lend to new borrowers as existing borrowers re-pay their loans.2 This year I also gave to the BC NDP during the provincial election, because I thought it was really important to get the BC so-called “Liberals” out of power3. But this year it seems like not very many people I knew were doing fundraising, as I’m looking at my 2017 charitable tax donations and I haven’t donated very much at all. So I’m thinking I should probably come up with a better system than just waiting to be reminded to give.

I recently heard about Give Well, which makes recommendations for charities to donate to that are “evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded”, so you know that your donations are doing the most good. As someone who values evidence, this appealed to me! However, this is an American website and being that I am selfishly interested in getting a tax deduction when I can, I tried to find a similar one for Canadian charities, but the only one I found was Charity Intelligence Canada, which does give charities a score for the impact they have, but doesn’t include it in their rating of the charities, which seems weird. Then when I was playing around on their website, I discovered that to get some of their ratings, you have to subscribe! And the only other stuff I could find was articles rating charities based on things like how much of the money they raise goes to overhead vs. how much goes to the services for the cause itself, and other articles talking about how that’s not a good way to rate charities (because does it matter if all the money goes to the “cause” if it’s not effective in making a difference?)

Anyway, I guess all this is to say that I still don’t have a solid charitable donation plan for the new year, but I’m thinking about how to come up with one. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

The other thing that I really should be donating is blood. I’m needle phobic, especially when it comes to someone taking my blood (more so than I am about, say, getting a vaccine injected into me) but I feel guilty about not giving blood when people whose need is much greater than my mere queasiness at the thought of a needle poking into me and my blood pumping out of my body into a bag4.

Image Credit: Posted by Jamez Picard on freeimages.com.

  1. I really wish there was a Canadian arm of the Wikimedia Foundation, as when I give to this charity I don’t get a tax receipt since it is American. []
  2. I also started supporting a podcast through Patreon, but I that doesn’t count as a charitable donation, since you are technically supporting someone to create something, but if feels a bit like one, since one could just listen to the podcast for free. In case you are interested, the podcast is called Onlightened and it’s by one of the former hosts of Caustic Soda, a podcast that I loved but only discovered as it was ending. It’s just getting started and I’m hoping that in 2018 there will be more regular episodes! []
  3. And donations to political parties give big tax deductions – except if you are donating to municipal campaigns, which don’t give you any tax deduction. But that’s a story for another day. []
  4. Oh man, just typing that makes me want to hurl. []

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Running for the Kitties

So now that spring has sprung in Vancouver and all of the various pathogenswith which I’ve been infectedappear to have left the building, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things running-wise. I’m really, really slow from having taken so much time off from running1, but I’m confident that if I keep getting out there, the speed will eventually return.

I met up with my BMO Marathon Relay teammates for brunch on Saturday to discuss logistics, and I’m really looking forward to that event, which a mere 20 days from now! Fortunately, I’m training for the Scotiabank Half Marathon and the 13 km I will need to run for my leg of the relay is in line with my training plan2.

And speaking of the Scotiabank Half Marathon, I’ve signed up to run as part of Team VOKRA, which is raising money for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Organization (VOKRA), which I’m sure you will remember is where I got my kitties from. They do good work in rescuing kitties and finding them safe and loving homes, so I’m happy to help support their work. WhileVOKRA is run byvolunteers, there are lots of costs that need to be covered when it comes torescuing, caring for, and eventually placing homeless cats in their forever homes such as:

  • prenatal, natal, and bottle feeding program
  • trap/spay or neuter/return program
  • supplying all foster homes with food and supplies
  • medical emergencies/medications

The team has a goal of raising $10,000 through our Scotiabank Half Marathon fundraising, so please consider donating on my fundraising page:

Watson in a bow tieWatson & Crick say “Please Sir or Madam, won’t you donate to help the kitties?”

  1. Not to mention the [redacted number] lbs that I gained over the winter thanks to taking so much time off from running and also Drink-cember. []
  2. I’m scheduled to run 13 km the week before BMO, as it so happens. The weekend of BMO is supposed to be a “rest” week where I go back to 8 km, but I figure two 13 km long runs in a row will be fine. []

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Everyone Deserves Access To Healthy Food

As you may recall, my friend Dr. Dan, in addition to his more-than-full-time job as a professor at the U of G, also runs a non-profit organization called Farm 2 Fork (F2F), in which they

“develop tools to help address food insecurity in the City of Guelph, and beyond. In 2012 and 2013 the students developed Farm To Fork – a website that links people who can donate food to the real-time needs of food banks and food pantries, to improve the quality and quantity of food donated. In 2014 the students worked with the Guelph Community Health Centre to develop programs for the Garden Fresh Box program – a program that brings fresh local fruits and veggies to people who need it. This year the students worked with the national charitable organization Meal Exchange to develop tools for their Trick Or Eat campaign. This campaign – which runs in Canada and the US – sees thousands of university students collecting food for the food banks during Halloween.” (Source: D. Gillis, personal communication that I was too lazy to paraphrase and besides, he said it so eloquently in that email!)

Well, F2F is currently running a fundraiser to support those students. While F2F started as a class project, students really have gone above and beyond – they’ve volunteered hundreds of hours of their time, sometimes even volunteering over the summer instead of taking on full-time jobs to, you know, pay for tuition and living and suchlike. If you donate, the money will go to support these students with things like computer equipment, stipends, and travel to go present about/meeting about/etc. the project. If you donate by the end of December the Dean of the College of Physical & Engineering Science at the University of Guelph will match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $5,000.

So while you are thinking about your end-of-year donations, why not consider donating to F2F?

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Two New Ways to Help The Kitties

As you know, I’m a crazy cat lady. As you also know, I adopted Watson and Crick from the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA). They are a charitable organization that require donations to do their work of rescuing and caring for strays and surrendered cats and kittens, providing them with veterinarian care and shelter, and food and litter for the foster families who take care of them until they are adopted. They have two fundraising efforts going on that I thought I’d share with y’all.

First, you can buy the VOKRA 2016 calendar. And you might just recognize the picture of two adorable kitties in the January 11th square of the calendar1.

Second, you can actual get a donation to VOKRA for free by purchasing gift cards for places that you already shop. Basically, you buy a gift card through them and they mail you that gift card for the amount that you paid (e.g., you pay $100 and you get a $100 gift card). They get these cards at a discount (somewhere between 1 and 10% depending on the store) and that amount is what VOKRA gets. So it doesn’t cost you anything and they get money to do their work. Win-win! There’s a tonne of places you can get gift cards for: Safeway, Save-On Food, Thrifty’s, Shoppers Drug Mark, a bunch of gas stations, London Drugs, some pet stores, Chapter’s, Cineplex Odeon, a hole bunch of restaurants, and even some spas! Check out their website for the full list and how to order (You have to click on their order form to see the list).

Untitled

Watson on the bed

Watson & Crick thank you for helping their kitty brothers and sisters!

  1. I tried to get their photo on their birthday, September 24th, but someone had already bought that one, so I went with my birthday instead. []

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Jumpstart

I’ve been watching a lot of the World Juniors Hockey Championship Tournament this year, since for the first time in eleventy billion years I have cable TV1. The games go by pretty fast compared to NHL games, as there are a lot fewer TV timeouts, but when there are commercials, they’ve played a lot of commercials from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart charity ((As per usual, I have no affiliation with this organization – I just think what they are doing is awesome and wanted to share it here on ye old blog)) , which have been totally tugging at my heartstrings. I can’t find any of the current ads online, but here’s one from 2007 that will give you a sense of what they are like:

Obviously, I’m a big fan of sports and I was lucky enough that my family was able to afford to put me into sports when I was a kid – softball, skiing, and swimming were my main ones, but I also played some extracurricular sports at school: volleyball, track & field, and cross country skiing2. And I got a lot of benefit from this – keeping fit (and setting me up for a lifetime of physical activity), mastering skills, and learning about teamwork, for example. So these commercials about how many families can’t afford to put their kids in sports make me sad! I can’t even imagine what it must be like for a kid to want to take swimming lessons or play baseball or join a hockey team and not to be able to because their family can’t afford it. As I said on Twitter, well played Jumpstart! Those commercials definitely convinced me that some of my 2014 charitable donations should go to this organization. And I also wanted to spread the word about them here, in case others are looking for a good organization to donate to.

Also, watching World Juniors makes me think of my dad, as he loved watching that tournament. And my dad was not a big fan of charity as a whole, because he was concerned about how much of the money went to administrators as opposed to the cause you thought you were donating to3. So I was pleasantly surprised when I checked out the Canadian Tire Jumpstart website that 100% of donations go directly to families in need to pay for their kids’ registration fees, equipment, and transportation to their sport, as the Canadian Tire Corporation itself funds the administrative costs of running of the program. So I feel like supporting this charity is a nice way of honouring my dad.

  1. But only because Shaw offered me 6 months of free cable. I’m sure they assume they’ll get me hooked on cable so that I’ll want to keep it after the 6 months are up, but I think they are underestimating my cheapness. []
  2. Ones I was never any good at included badminton (I just could *not* get the serve right), jumping rope (for some strange reason), and, unsurprisingly, basketball. []
  3. My dad was more of a direct action kind of guy – he’d prefer to give his gloves to a person out on the street in the cold who didn’t have any rather than giving money to a charity where he didn’t know what the money would be used for. []

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Walk for the Kitties!

Nearly 8 months ago, I adopted my kitties, Watson and Crick, from VOKRA – the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association. VOKRA is a volunteer-run organization that has been rescuing kitties who are abandoned or surrendered – more than 1800 per year! – and finding them safe and loving “forever” homes for 14 years. It takes a lot of money to do this work – they provide vet care for sick kitties, food and litter for kitties living in foster homes while they await adoption, and they had to create a new intake centre because they have so many kitties coming in that they couldn’t keep operating out of the president/co-founder’s basement. Hence, their fundraiser – the 5th Annual Walk for the Kitties – coming up on Sunday. Unfortunately, I can’t do the walk myself, as I’m already double booked that day, but I encourage all kitty lovers to check it out. And even if, like me, you can’t participate, you can always donate!

WatsonCrick in the tub

Watson and Crick thank you for helping kitties just like them to find their own forever homes!

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Only Two Days Left for You to Help! #FarmToFork

Remember that time I told you about Farm To Fork? Would you believe that they are down to the last 2 days of their crowd sourcing fundraising campaign? And so far, they’ve managed to raise – at the time of writing this blog posting – $10,990 of the $15,000 that they need to do the great work that they are proposing to do.

In case you haven’t read my previous posting, what they are proposing to do is, simply put, to connect people who have healthy foods to donate with the food banks that need those healthy foods to provide to the 1 in 40 Canadians who don’t have enough food to eat. Yes, you read that right – 1 in 40 Canadians use food banks every month.

Raising $10,990 is a pretty amazing feat – but they need $15,000 and they need it now! So check out the Farm to Fork project and consider making a donation – whatever amount you can spare – today!

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Farm to Fork Needs Your Help

So the fine people over at Farm to Fork are in need of your help. Farm to Fork, for the uninitiated:

… began with a simple question: in a culture that wastes nearly 40% of all food produced, how do we connect the people who have fresh food to give to those who need it most?

The Farm To Fork website is part of the solution. Designed to facilitate communication between donors and emergency food service providers, the website aims to increase the quality and quantity of fresh food donated to local food banks and food pantries.

The project involved a bunch of students at the University of Guelph – one of my alma maters – along with my friend, Dr. Dan, and his friend Danny – building prototypes and other such computer-y things to make this project a reality. Now they need your help to take this thing to the next level. They are crowdsourcing funding for beta testing by undergrad students over the summer, some necessary hardware, and to send the undergrad developers to the Community University Expo to spread the word and share their knowledge. Supporting this project means providing quality summer employment for undergraduate students, helping get a really beneficial product to its launch (which will ultimately mean getting more nutritious food to people who need it), and a warm feeling in the cockles of your heart. True story.

So check out the Farm to Fork project and consider making a donation! Do it for your heart cockles.

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Donate To It!

This is Dan rappelling in a cave. Wouldn’t you like to see him do this off the side of a 13 storey building?

My friend Dr. Dan wants to throw himself off the side of a building, but he needs your help.

More specifically, Dan is raising funds for Easter Seals, a charity that helps children with disabilities, and if he raises $1,500, he gets to rappel down the side of a large building. Rappelling, for the uninitiated, is where you hang from a rope and use it to descend down a long distance – usually a cave or a cliff. In this case, Dan will be rappelling down form the top of a 13 storey building! But only, as I mentioned, if he can raise the required sum of money for Easter Seals. And that’s where you come in. Will you consider making a donation to this fundraising effort?

Easter Seals (from their website):

Easter Seals is dedicated to fully enhancing the quality of life, self-esteem and self-determination of Canadians with disabilities.
As Canada’s largest local provider of programs, services, issues-leadership and development for the disability community, Easter Seals is dedicated to helping more than 100,000 Canadians with disabilities participate fully in society.

They do things like camps for kids with disabilities, as well as “year-round active living opportunities, as well as the provision of specialized mobility and access equipment such as mobility aids, assistive technology, adaptive computers, augmentative communication devices and adaptations to homes and vehicles for wheelchair accessibility.”

That sounds like a worthy cause, right?

Donate!!

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Hike It!

As you may recall, my friend Rick won the Big Mountain Challenge where he and Dan got a trip to Banff and Lake Louise to do some amazing hikes, got pampered at swanky Banff and Lake Louise spas, AND raised $26,762 for the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Well, he and Dan completed all the necessary hikes (and then some) and, on the very last hike, were greeted at the top of the mountain by the press, the mayor of Banff, a bunch of other dignitaries, and an oversized novelty cheque for the Kidney Foundation of Canada! Here’s the video:

I am so jealous that I’ve never received an oversized novelty cheque1! But even more, I’m so proud of Rick and Dan, for all their hard work to win this contest and then do all the crazy mountain climbing. Way to go guys!

  1. Perhaps that needs to go on my next 101 list! []