Blog post by nonprofit partner-Bikes for the World

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Yvette Powell Hess

Community Service Leaders

April is a busy time for Bikes for the World as the temperatures start to warm (we hope) and service projects start to lean toward recycling and environmental issues in celebration of Earth Month. Bike donations spike starting now and lasting through summer. This means we get very busy in our warehouse loading containers and prepping bikes for our partners around the world.

We kicked off this busy spring with the McLean School of Potomac who joined us during their school-wide Day of Service this week. This is the second year The McLean School has partnered up with Charity Connect to bring this rewarding opportunity to students.

"When planning McLean's Day of Service my main goal was for the students to be able to understand how their service impacted others and to leave the day with knowledge, inspiration, and a desire to serve again." by Cristin Caine, founder and CEO of Charity Connect

Building a relationship within our community since moving to our new location in Rockville has been a big priority for BfW. Providing rewarding service projects for schools and youth groups in our surrounding area has increased our visibility and improved our ability to serve our partners around the world. We are committed to providing service projects that help promote social and environmental awareness, educate our volunteers about issues around the world, and extend a hand to help our volunteers solve some of those challenges our beneficiaries face.

Charity Connect has been a great partner since we have moved to our new location. Cristin has been great to work with and keeps tabs on our opportunities, connecting members of the community with our projects based on interest and availability.

Over the winter we had many families coming through the warehouse to help us prep bikes for upcoming shipments. It was a great activity for all members of the family to join in together and serve as a family.

Because Charity Connect was behind much of the recruitment, many of the families dropping in to do an hour or two of service on the weekend often knew each other. The warehouse started to feel like a cool community hang out where good work = big fun. Some came before a basketball game or just after and all picked up wrenches, got a little grease on their jerseys and left with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

One of the missions of Charity Connect is to promote service in the community, but also ultimately, to convert those student service hours into life-long, sustainable volunteers. In addition to sending us individual volunteers, Cristin has also coordinated group activities with The McLean School and Adat Shalom's Social Action Youth Group.

The McLean School joined us this week with two group sessions throughout the school day. The students learned about Bikes for the World, our mission, and about some of the partners we work with around the world. In this case, they learned a great deal about MiBici in Costa Rica and how their volunteer service would help change lives through the micro-finance project in the southern region of Brunca, where this particular container would be heading.

Last month, we worked with Adat Shalom, whose youth group helped us prep bikes for a shipment heading to Village Bicycle Project in Sierra Leone.

One of the things we like to see at BfW is a service project that embraces the whole package. By that we mean, volunteers learn more about what we do and who they will be helping alongside the hands on component of collecting bikes, prepping them for the container, and seeing an actual container loading.

We have been encouraging more field trip visits to our warehouse and groups have been eager to respond. This effort brings a better understanding of our operation and helps us prepare bikes which will be loaded the following week. It's been an enriching experience for our volunteers who often only interact with us for one day at their location for the bike collection. Now we are starting to see the same faces drop in the warehouse to lend a hand during our weekly volunteer sessions.

Last month Girl Scout Troop 3234 from Gaithersburg organized a visit during spring break. The girls learned about our mission and prepped bikes that will be included in this week's shipment to Costa Rica as well as next week's to Ghana.Their work in the warehouse also prepares them for their upcoming collection in May when they will be collecting bikes for El Salvador as part of their Bronze Award.

Next week we will be welcoming Girl Scout Troop 4093 who found out about us through Charity Connect.

HS Senior learns, leads and leaves a mark with her volunteer internship

Charity Connect helped me find unique and exciting volunteering/internship opportunities focusing on the different aspects I was interested in. Even after looking at multiple organizations, Charity Connect never stopped or wavered in trying to find the right place for me to develop new skills and gain new experiences. They reached out to a non-profit organization called "A Wider Circle" and introduced me, in the end helping me secure an internship position which showed me a new perspective to ending poverty. My internship experience was truly amazing, thanks to Charity Connect!
-Rhea Tanamala

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Zoe and her friends share smiles with their peers at Children's Hospital

Zoe used her passion for helping kids who are in the hospital to fuel her fundraising. She hosted a percent of sales event at ivivva girls clothing store. She created a fundraising page and after spreading the word, raised over $800! Zoe bought items that would appeal to her peers that are spending time at Children's Hospital. She and her friends assembled the Jared Boxes and wrote friendly messages on the tops of the boxes. 48 kids at Children's Hospital received those beautiful boxes of smiles! 

The "right fit" volunteer opportunity for Debra turned out to fit her family too!

Debra's story is fuel in the tank for Charity Connect. When we first met, she was looking for a meaningful, long-term volunteer opportunity. Enthusiasm and inspiration enveloped our conversation as we talked about the causes that were important to her. We came up with three cause areas and correlating opportunities and then decided to begin with her desire to fight hunger. We facilitated Debra's first volunteer experience at Nourish Now convenient to her in Rockville.  7 months later, Debra has been helping Nourish Now with their food recovery and assistance regularly for 8 hours a week. Her children, along with some of their friends, also volunteer in the warehouse at Nourish Now and as a family, each week they rescue food as part of Panera's Day End Dough-nation program. The mission of Charity Connect is to help people like Debra find the volunteer opportunity that fits into their life and fulfills them. 

Farming and Friendship

For a Charity Connect service field trip, 33 tenth graders from the McLean School in Potomac worked with 25 students with special needs from Rockville HS to spruce up Oasis Farm. They all enjoyed learning about composting while making compost bins, painting the fence together, clearing the hiking trails and taking turns on the ride mower. Everyone agreed that the best part was making new friends!

Online Chat for kids with Celiac disease

Jordan is a 7th grader with celiac disease. With the help of Charity Connect, he started an online community for kids 18 and under who have celiac disease to share tips and support each other.  Gecko Life, a safe, private, fun-to-use app will be hosting Celiac Chat. Please note that Celiac Chat will be private, invite only, and non-searchable on GeckoLife. Here is a link to a review of GeckoLife on common sense media, which rates the app for ages 8+  

To join, please download the app and create an individual account. Email so that she can invite you to join the Celiac Chat Canvas. A canvas is a place where we can post our thoughts and share ideas. We can create more canvases specific to different categories such as favorite gluten-free foods, best celiac-friendly restaurants, recipes, etc. 

Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disease. It is triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system responds by damaging the finger-like villi of the small intestine. When the villi become damaged, the body is unable to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream, which can lead to malnourishment. Left untreated, people with celiac disease are at-risk for serious health consequences, like other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and even certain cancers. The treatment for celiac is a gluten-free diet. 

12 year old enlists her family and school in her mission to support foster kids

Ella Gorodetzky connected with the mission of Comfort Cases, a nonprofit that provides backpacks filled with essentials and comfort items for foster children. She first volunteered with her mom to inventory and organize items for the cases. Wanting to make even more of an impact, Ella organized a collection drive at her school and sent a personal email to friends and family asking for support. Ella didn’t stop there! She recruited more help for Comfort Cases and sparked more connections by hosting 20 volunteers for her school’s Families in Action Day. Way to go, Ella!