World AIDS Day is Over – Now What?

“The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free”
– Robert Brault

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, a global event designed to increase awareness of HIV, the fight to eradicate the disease, and the people living with it every day. I marked World AIDS Day by attending AIDS Vancouver’s Red Ribbon Awards honouring pioneers in HIV research, and those people who for years have been dedicated to supporting the HIV community.

It was a lovely, moving event. And it’s over.

But the need to help this vulnerable community isn’t.

AIDS Vancouver will be holding its annual Holiday Grocery Day on Tuesday, December 15th from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, with the goal to provide festive food to 700 people, on this single day.

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How can you help?

Volunteer your time. There’s a need for Holiday Grocery Event Day Volunteers  on December 14th for set-up, and again on the 15th during the event.

Make a donation online, by mail, or in person. Cash donations ensure that the AIDS Vancouver Grocery Program can continue to operate all year round.

Donate in-kind, or become a sponsor. Contact Heidi Morgan, Grocery Coordinator, by email at heidim@aidsvancouver.org, or phone: 604-696-4678.

AIDS Vancouver is located at 803 East Hastings St., Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A 1R8. Hours of operation are 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday.

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I plan to be there, camera in hand. Can you spare some time, or give to this cause?

The Day One Tweet Changed Everything

Sometimes, my Facebook account surprises me. Today, it reminded me of a traumatic event I had tried hard to forget. But I had also forgotten how much good came from it. And all because of one tweet.

Three years ago today, on US Thanksgiving, I was robbed in the security line at LAX. My purse was spirited away in seconds, by someone who just as quickly disappeared into the crowd and was never seen again.

As usual, I had requested a wheelchair and an attendant to escort me through security. Their role is to help get me through the line, assist me in getting my belongings scanned and collected at the other end, and then get me to my gate. I usually have a decent experience – but not this time.

This attendent in LAX didn’t know how to escort a blind person through security, was rude, and worse, actually pushed me and the wheelchair into a cart of plastic bins to get them out of his way. I was appalled. Then, he chose not to stay by me when I was retrieving my belongings – instead, he yelled at me to hurry up and get back into the wheelchair because he “wanted to go home”. I guess he had a turkey dinner waiting for him.

Well, in my haste and confusion and with no assistance, my purse was stolen right off the line. My iPhone, iPod Touch, Surefire flashlight, wallet, cards, keys, sunglasses and my specially made reading glasses, all gone in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, they did NOT get my passport.

I was scared, devastated, crying, and helpless – and at the mercy of a negligent attendant who wanted nothing else but to go home on a Thanksgiving afternoon. I had no idea what to do.

But suddenly, happily, things began to turn around.

A very kind attendant relieved my surly guy, who apparently did go home. She then got her supervisor involved. Her name was Diane, she was an angel, and she ROCKED. She first apologized for her employee’s attitude and neglect. And in a kind act that astounded me, Diane reached into her purse and handed me $10. I KNEW she didn’t have that much money, and it was a big sacrifice on her part.

But the most important thing Diane did that day was letting me use her cell phone so I could do the best and most expedient thing I could think of. I sent out one desperate tweet about my predicament.

That tweet got the attention of friends and acquaintances, who offered help and moral support. My dear friends Lorraine and IdaRose sprang into action. Lorraine managed to cancel bank and credit cards, while IdaRose and her husband Neil arranged a cab (actually a white limo!) to pick me up at the airport to take me to their annual Thanksgiving feast. I was wined and dined and hugged many times that evening by a crowd of very supportive people, got to hang out with friends I love, and even had a night at a nearby hotel paid for so I could rest and recover from the day.

THAT is what I was thankful for on that Thanksgiving Day – and what I recall today with tears in my eyes.

Things are just things, life has its scary moments and hard times, but it’s people, in person and online, those in hugging distance, and those who offer them from afar, that make life worthwhile. 

Thanks again Diane, for making me feel I mattered when all I felt was lost. Thanks, Lorraine, IdaRose, and Neil, for being there when I needed you the most. Thanks to everyone who saw my tweet, tweeted, retweeted, and made my heart sing. Thanks also to my dear friends Dick (who left us this year) and Barbara, who have always given me a place to call home. I will never forget your love and support. And I’ll always try to pay it forward.

 

It’s Time for Kindness

It’s getting close to the holiday season, a time of giving and receiving, of joy and family and good cheer. But it’s not a happy time for many people, who may be homeless, poor, hungry and struggling.

It’s time for all of us to be kind, to give back. And I can’t think of a better way than to be part of my friend Marc Smith’s 4th Annual #30DaysOfKindness campaign. Marc has a huge heart, and a keen sense of community, and it’s a testament to his hard work and ability to motivate people that the 30 Days Of Kindness is one of the most popular features of his 30 Day Adventures series.

I participated in the 30 Days Of Kindness last year, and felt so good about my contribution that I’m doing it again! This year, I’m supporting one of the most inspirational organizations I know – Beauty Night Society, founded by the amazing Caroline MacGillivray. Beauty Night is dedicated to building self-esteem and changes lives of improvished women and youth in Vancouver through wellness programs, life skills development and makeovers.

This month, Beauty Night is in the process of soliciting donated items for 1500 Christmas stockings that are being sewn, decorated, filled and delivered to their clients. The stockings are created by fashion designer Nancy Perreault, and are sewn by volunteers. Other volunteers dressed as elves hand out the stockings at shelters, transition homes, housing locations, drop in centres, and health care facilities.

I’ll be donating a few bags of goodies myself – but I need your help to make this act of kindness the best it can be.

Here’s what we need:

Journals (the most requested item)
Jewelry
Gloves
Socks
Chocolate
Coffee Cards
Granola Bars
Stationary
Body Care Products
Nail Care Products
Dental Care Items
Skin Care Products
Hair Care Products
Makeup Samples

From 2-5 pm on Monday, November 23rd, I’m camping out to accept your donations at one of the most community-minded businesses in my South Hill neighbourhood – Eastside Fitness, located at 5854 Fraser Street at 43rd Ave. Please drop in – I’m happy to take whatever donations you’d like to give! And if you’re unable to make it on Monday, let me know by commenting below, or emailing me. I’ll be happy to facilitate your contribution.

I can tell you from my experience that nothing feels better than offering help, no matter how insignificant it may seem. I have been helped by so many people myself – and I’m forever grateful. The best way to repay people for their kindness is to give back as much as I can as long as I can.

Won’t you join me? Your kindness will never be forgotten.

Time to Spare? Time to Share…

Last year, I was fortunate to discover and lend my support to a charity that was so unique, so creative, that I had to get involved again. Let me tell you about the 3rd Annual Timeraiser Vancouver event that’s happening this coming Thursday, September 23rd at the Roundhouse Community Centre in the heart of Yaletown.

Timeraiser was started in 2002 by a group of friends who wanted to find meaningful, relevant volunteer opportunities in their home community.  It’s blossomed into an annual event that operates across Canada.

It’s a charity with a twist, using a silent art auction as an incentive for what they call “speed dating for volunteerism”. For a $20 ticket, people can view works of local artists, then bid on their favorites. But the currency during Timeraiser isn’t cash, but volunteer hours which are so desperately needed by cultural, social and health agencies.

Participants meet with representatives from more than 25 diverse agencies – including Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Canadian Autism Network, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Immigrant Services Society of BC, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation – and match their skills to the needs of the organizations.  Once they decide where they want to get involved, they bid anywhere from 20-125 volunteer hours on their favorite piece of art.  Winning bidders then have 12 months to complete their pledge before they receive the artwork as a reward for their dedication.

So far, Timeraisers have prompted 3,600 Canadians to volunteer, generated more than 45,000 volunteer hours for some 250 different charities, and invested $300,000 in the careers of cutting-edge artists.

Interested? I’d love to see you there. In fact, let me help make that happen.

I have two Timeraiser tickets to give away. Simply comment to this post and tell me why you want to attend, and what volunteerism means to you, and I’ll pick a lucky winner at random tomorrow at 5pm.

It will be my pleasure to meet you there and introduce you to the wonderful, committed people who’ve made this happen for the past three years.

Blogathon Vancouver – 24 Hours, Many Heroes

Yesterday, at the ungodly hour of 6am, several of my Vancouver friends plunged into 24 straight hours of blogging for charity.  Blogathon Vancouver has helped support the efforts of some 20 local charities – from the BC Cancer Foundation and the BC Children’s Hospital to the Vancouver Food Bank and the Federation of BC Writers.  And it’s also introduced the world to some of the most talented and caring people I know.

I was fortunate to guest-blog during the event.

Check out my post for @hummingbird604 on Making the Most of  Twitter in Real Life here.

And I took a slightly lighthearted look at how social media, especially Twitter, can level the playing field for disabled people. Take a look on @ganga_narayanan’s blog here.

For more comprehensive info on Blogathon, visit both @hummingbird604’s and @Miss604’s blogs for starters.  You’ll see references to the many people who participated and the charities they helped.

Next year, I hope to be part of this marvellous group in person.  Great job, everyone!

You are heroes.