Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Opinions Please!

Survey time... it should take you less than 1 minute. Who doesn't have 1 minute to spare?

This summer, OYFP Boston hope to hold a sequence of panels that address interesting issues impacting our communities and provide information on how to become involved in addressing them. Completing this survey will help OYFP achieve that goal.

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about OYFP’s Speaker Series.

A Night at the Aquarium

If you're like me, the last time you visited the New England Aquarium you were young enough to be carried around on your dad's shoulders. Maybe he joked about leaving you there to be raised by penguins. Maybe you didn't find it particularly amusing and started crying hysterically. Maybe your dad didn't make that mistake again.

Point being, it's probably been awhile since you visited the New England Aquarium.

Most of us simply don't have a reason to. It's like walking the Freedom Trail or going on a Duck Tour. It's such a touristy thing to do, a local has no place doing it.

As luck would have it, this Saturday, May 2, you do have a reason to go to the aquarium: The United Way Young Leaders organization, in partnership with OYFP, is hosting their annual gala event -- Cocktails and Starfish.

I've never been, but it looks like a pretty snazzy event, and with an open bar, plus a chance to win Patriots, Red Sox, AND U2 tickets, you can rest assured it will be a night to remember. Not to mention, Young Leaders is a fantastic organization with a strong social mission of helping local students develop important business skills to improve their futures.

Maybe it's time you re-think the aquarium and conquer your debilitating fear of aquatic life that resulted from your last visit in 1985.

More details here (about the gala event, not a personal childhood trauma):

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Be a Best Buddy

Ever heard of Best Buddies? There’s a good chance that you have heard of this noteworthy nonprofit. Since its founding in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, Best Buddies has grown into an international organization. There are more than 1,400 college, high school and middle school campuses across the globe dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships. Plus, there’s also Best Buddies Jobs, which provides people with intellectual disabilities with integrated employment opportunities.

Best Buddies provides a lot of ways to become involved. An easy way to find out how you can get started is by attending the Best Buddies Open House on May 7th. Stop by the Best Buddies office to learn about the organization’s mission over refreshments, and donate to support the office’s very own team for the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port. Two employees at Best Buddies Massachusetts, Jessica and Cara, will be cycling 100 miles in the challenge and have pledged to raise $20,000 for Best Buddies’ cause, so please support their effort.

For more information on Best Buddies, please go to
For more information on the Audi Best Buddies Challenge, please go to

Open House Details
When – Thursday, May 7th from 5:30 to 8:00
Where – Best Buddies Massachusetts Office
45 Bromfield Street, 3rd Floor, Boston
Suggested donation of $15 per person or $25 for two people to support the Audi Best Buddies Challenge team.
Please RSVP to

Friday, April 24, 2009

While it's nice-try volunteering outside

Ah the weather I have been waiting for all week long is finally here.  Sun glorious sun, open-toed shoes, warm weather, ahhhhhh.   From what I here this weekend is going to be even warmer!  Nothing to do this weekend?  Sure you can just lay there and soak up the rays, but why not be active and help a great cause at the same time?  OYFP is teaming up with Boston Cares for their annual event Dash for a Differnence.  Think Amazing Race-volunteer style.   

Teams of two-five will participate in brief volunteer tasks at community agencies, with a healthy dose of fun and informative quests in between. All teams will be invited to celebrate the day’s successes with snacks and beer at their final stop – the Samuel Adams Celebration of Service in downtown Boston

You can still register your team too,  

If you still have Questions you can always contact Rachel Ratner, or 617.422.0910 x203

The Details 
Date: Saturday, April 25th 
Time: 9 am - 2 pm 
Location: Various Boston Neighborhoods 
Partner: Boston Cares 

Picture of:   Dash for Difference logo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Unfair taxes?

First I would like to say that I am proud to live in a country where people can hold demonstrations or rallies to have their voices heard even if it is differing from my opinion.
Two days ago,
tax day, there were rallies across the country for people who believe they are being unfairly taxed.  This is interesting considering our current tax systems have been been benefitting the rich, not the poor who need it most, but I digress.  

Now, I am certainly not rich, but I can sympathize with the notion of not wishing to have more money taken out of my paycheck or given to the goverment when I file my taxes.  That being said, if five more dollars a paycheck could save programs that help vulnerable children or get one more homeless person off the street then I am for it.  I think we all should do our part to help the community around us, hence why I am such an advocate for volunteering.  Sure, people could just donate money to important causes or volunteer to help these causes and we may not need higher tax rates, but most people generally do not volunteer or donate money to help out the local community.

I don't think of myself as a socialist, rather I want to help out those who are less fortunate than myself.  If the increase in taxes go to save a persons job, again why is this such a bad thing?  Those are my thoughts, but I always like to hear others.

*This increase in taxes may not go to help these municipal services, but that is why I also think it is important to have your voices heard and talk to your local representatives about your opinions or attend rallies to peacefully demonstrat your views.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NPR and the state of the news

I am an avid NPR listener. And when I say avid, I mean ridiculously obsessed (here's a shout-out to WBUR, my local NPR affiliate - love you guys!). I listen in the car, when I'm cooking, while I put on my make-up.. you get the idea. One of the first melodies I could sing as a small child was the trumpet-lead "doo dooo do do DO DO DO" of All Things Considered (thanks, Mom).

However, I was still surprised to hear that NPR's Morning Edition audience is 60% larger than the audience for Good Morning America, and 33% larger than the audience for The Today Show on NBC. Over seven and a half million people listen to Morning Edition. NPR's audience has increased 47% since 2000. That's a lot of people getting their news from a non-profit organization.

Perhaps the other traditional media can learn something from NPR. A few reasons why I think it's doing so well:
  1. It's portable. People are on the move, with an average commute time of 25 minutes. Personal radios are small, though some of us consider it a fashion statement to carry our bulky boombox around (see guy at right).
  2. Most of us still commute by car - in fact, 77% of commute alone by car. Even the most basic of cars have a radio. What better riding companion is there than the smart people of NPR?
  3. NPR is tech-savvy, which gets GenY-ers like myself to listen even more. NPR tweets, it Facebooks, it blogs, it has an awesome streaming iPhone app, and some shows are even in Second Life.
  4. It has interesting news. Well, and not-so-interesting news, but the point is that it tells me what the heck is going on in Boston, the US, and the world. They have reporters giving first-hand descriptions of what is going on. They do research. They talk to the people behind the stories. There's a difference between a primary news source like NPR, and a secondary one (like many online sources, including most blogs).
  5. It's un-biased. Yes, NPR's listeners may skew slightly liberal, but in fact NPR is 62% more likely to have a Republican on air than a Democrat (source: And just 2% of NPR's funding comes from the government. Most of it actually comes from its member stations, which are funded by donations, foundation grants, and private bequests, or corporate underwriting. NPR itself works hard to prevent bias.
However, I wonder if NPR will always be there for us. Sure, I made my annual donation, but will that be enough? As of 2004, 83% of NPR's journalists were also employed by other typically more traditional news organizations, which are having issues right now (to put it mildly). I mean, the Boston Globe may shut its doors in May! And currently, NPR has an $8 million shortfall in its operating budget.

The overlapping-sources issues aside, traditional media has a lot it could learn from NPR and local affiliates. I still mourn the loss of BostonNOW, which I feel was the best example of Web 2.0 combined with traditional media... though it ultimately folded, so perhaps not.

What do you think of publically supported news sources like NPR? And how do you see our news sources changing?

Related Posts: Read the Paper!; BostonNOW is no more; More News about News; Boston Globe and OYFP; We're good enough for.. (1) and (2)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Vegan Diets for your Pet?

I watched this story about feeding your cat or dog a vegan diet a couple of mornings ago. I am not quite sure what to think about it. Essentially you are turning a carnivorous animal into a herbivore.

I have a dog and I know if my dog had a choice between chicken or Broccoli I know she would choose chicken. I have tried to feed my dog more vegetables (lettuce, peas, spinach), but nope not happening. A point to consider dogs have evolved from wolfs, wolfs hunt meat. I have never heard of a wolf in the wild who doesn't eat meat.

Additionally, many of the ways we play with dogs nowadays mimic the dogs natural instinct to hunt. If I throw a squeaky toy the first thing my dog does when she grabs a hold of the squeaky toy is to shake it violently. This action of shaking the toy is exactly what dogs do when they get a hold of their prey. They shake their catch violently because this is how they know to kill their catch (by breaking their neck). The squeak of the toy also mimics a sound that dying vermin make. When dogs bring the ball back (or prey) they do so as an offer to their dominant master.

My point is that dogs, just like cats have a natural instinct to hunt other animals in order to hopefully eat them. Can a philosophical approach to life from a human perspective be then applied to an animal? Typically your pet has to eat whatever food you provide it, but is it ethical to deny a type of food because of your dietary beliefs?

What are your thoughts?

Related Posts: Don't Forget About Your Pet, Guide Horse? Not Wasting Food - Spaghetti Salad to the Rescue!

Picture Courtesy of: My dog, Chai.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Twitter- Do people know about it?

One of the things I remember most about my grandmother is how she always had a phone on her ear. Always. She was an early adoptor of the cordless phone. She would be talking to a friend, one of her kids, an in-law, or a grand-child; coordinating donations for a charity that collects and distributes cribs; or frequently, trying to get into contact with a customer service department.

If only Twitter had existed when she was around. Yes, Twitter, the microblogging platform. Think Facebook status updates, except without the rest of Facebook. (For further explanation, watch Twitter in Plain English.) When my grandma Mil was awake at 2 AM, she could have scanned her grandkids' tweets, or written an angry tweet to DelMonte foods about the declining quality of their green beans.

There are numerous jokes about Twitter. (Here, here, and here are my faves.) It's vain, it's egocentric, it's boring, it's dull. I've heard it all. Yet I keep going back to it.

But really, for us consumers, it can be great. See, many companies and non-profits have accounts on there, posting updates and responding to our tweets that are relevant to them. Gone is the time where you would have to wait hours and hours and hours on the phone just to speak to a Comcast representative. You can tweet them if your cable is out!

If you have a flight on Southwest, you can monitor its tweets to see if you're going to be on a WiFi enabled flight. If you're a huge NPR fan, follow the tweets of your local station and you might get to go to a special event!! Heck, even is on Twitter, talking about new jobs and trends in the non-profit world.

These companies and non-profits have realized that Twitter is a platform that allows them to engage with their audiences. They can talk - and people will listen!! And vice versa. Brands are actually able to create a relationship with their consumers. And you know what? It benefits us. At least for now - while they're still listening.

What are your thoughts on Twitter-land?

Follow Casey on Twitter:
Related Posts: Getting your volunteer on; Words for Sale; Create your own community - Online!

Monday, April 6, 2009

80s Game Night - April 7

If you have always dreamed of living in the 80s (minus the blatent coke consumption and over-use of hairspray), Tuesday night is your chance.

Join OYFP and the Italian Home for Children for a night of fun and games (literally)! We'll be having Connect-4 and foos-ball tournaments, so you had better bring your A game.

On the other hand, if you bring a new or slightly used game instead of your A game (or in addition to), your entrance fee of $5 to $7 will be waived, since OYFP is all about helping the children. All donated games are going to the Italian Home after we're done playing with them. And yes, the Italian Home is quite a worthy organization. It provides schooling and care for children of all ethnicities who have nowhere else to turn.

Don't forget to put on your best approximation of 80s styles! I've included a photo of the always stylin' Designing Women for some inspiration.

See you there!

Event Details
Date: Tuesday, April 7th
Time: 7 pm
Location: Our House West
1277 Commonwealth Ave
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 782-3228
Partner: Italian Home for Children
Cost: $5 Online $7 Door

Related Posts: Volunteering at Lunch; Read about Fred; Volunteering: Sara's Experience; "Stay-cation" in Boston

Friday, April 3, 2009

Make Your Own Rain Barrel

My plus one and I really do try to be green, and one way we figured out to reduce the amount of water we consume is to create our own rain barrel. This rain barrel will allow us to collect all the rain water from one of our down spouts so we can water our indoor plants and my garden to be when it hasn't rained in awhile. So I thought would provide a how-to model (with Jamie's help) for those that are interested in having one.

Supplies Needed:
  • Shower Drain
  • Mesh Screen
  • Large Barrel (Ours is 30 Gallon and was found on its way to the dumpster)
  • 1-inch Threaded Hose Connector
  • Half-Inch Vinyl Hose
  • Brass Spigot
  • Teflon Tape
All our supplies cost $35.00 at our local hardware store and of course our Barrel was free.


Top: Cut the Mesh Screen to fit the size of the drain. Hold it in place with the screws that hold the grate to the drain assembly. Cut a hole in the lid of a barrell to fit the diameter of the drain assembly. Attach the drain into the lid by tighting down the threaded collor of the drain assembly onto the lid. The rubber gasket should be positioned so that you have a water tight seal.

Overflow Tubing: Drill a one-inch hole into a side of the barrel towards the top. Thread the hose conector through the one-inch hole and attach overflow tubing to the hose connector.

Spigot: Drill a second one inch whole into the side of the barrel towards the bottom. Wrap the threading of the spigget with some teflon tape. Thread the spigot into the one-inch hole, turning until you have a tight fit.

Place the rain barrel under a down spout from your roof. The down spout can be cut to fit the barrel with a hack saw. Additionally we placed it on top of several cinder blocks so we could easily fit our watering can underneath the spigot.

Related Posts: What is hindering your ability to be Green, Get out of the House, Learn New Skills, Help Others and Your Resume Talking Trash

Picture Courtesy of: Jamie

Thursday, April 2, 2009

down:2:earth expo

This weekend at the Hynes Convention Center is the down:2:earth expo, "an exploration into sustainable living." Over three days, nonprofits, as well as small, local, and large businesses will set up shop, "exploring how we can live well for ourselves and our planet."

And if that isn't enough to make you want to head down to Boylston St., there looks to be an array of interesting volunteer opportunities. I'll be heading in on Friday for the "Local Bites" event -- if you end up attending, leave us a comment below about what stood out to you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kennedy and Obama making big moves, House passes Serve America Act

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (H.R. 1388/S. 277). President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

This bill "will create a Community Solutions Fund within the Corporation for National and Community Service to award grants to nonprofit organizations for “social entrepreneurship” projects. "

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "By creating 175,000 new service opportunities - more than tripling the number of volunteers nationwide, and rewarding those who volunteer with real investments in their education, we are launching a new era of service. This new era of service will create a stronger nation for all Americans."

This bill will expand elements of AmeriCorps and would provide service opportunities for seniors, teachers, scientists, engineers, accounting and Internet technology professionals, who were not eligible under the original AmeriCorps legislation passed almost twenty years ago.

Keep an eye out for new service corps: Clean Energy, Education, Healthy Futures and Veterans Service Corps. Watch for educational stipends for high school seniors. All in all, big moves. Read more about the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.

Related Posts: Presidential Election and Free Speech

Not Wasting Food - Spaghetti Salad to the Rescue!

It was a never-ending mantra at my house when I was growing up: "Finish what you have on your plate. Don't waste food!" If we were lucky, our Dad (who we called the garbage disposal) would eat our last few bites. As kids, we understood that we were lucky to have dinner on the table every night, and that every kid didn't have that.... but we didn't really get it. Even now, I don't really get it, because I've never been without food.

However, I can try to "get it" by not wasting the food that I'm fortunate enough to have. My friend Berkley made a New Year's Resolution to not waste food, and she has inspired me to try even harder not to let stuff get moldy (photo at left illustrating my failed attempts). Of course, this also fits in with the whole "recession" thing we've got going on. Not wasting food means not wasting money, and that's something we could all do a little better.

It's harder than you might think, especially if you live along and are trying to cook/eat for one person. Often times I have good intentions when I purchase food at the grocery store, but then have to work late, or a friend calls up, or I overestimate what one normal sized person actually consumes, or I get sick and can only eat chicken soup and bananas for a week or... you get the idea.

However, I have come up with a few tricks to prevent waste:
  • "Just In Time" food purchases. Only buy food for the meals you are 100% you are going to prepare. This may mean more than 1 trip to the grocery store in a week, but it prevents waste. I'm still struggling to control what my boyfriend calls me "food buying urges." It just all looks so pretty on the shelf...
  • The freezer is your friend. Label and freeze leftovers after cooking, and before they go bad. Trust me, after the third night of lasagna you're going to want to take a break. A month later, though, the lasagna from the freezer will make a great weeknight dinner!
  • Re-use! Or do what I call "re-purposing." Leftover rice can easily become fried rice. Bread on its way to becoming stale can become croutons, bread pudding, or stuffing. Or my new favorite: If you made too much spaghetti and meatballs and not enough tomato sauce,and happen to have a head of romaine lettuce and italian dressing in the fridge, make Spaghetti Salad (photo at right)!
  • Host a Leftover Night. My mom also used to have what she termed "leftover night," where dinner would be bits and pieces of the previous night's meals. You could invite a close friend or two over to bring their leftovers, and all enjoy the potpourri of foods. Of course, they would have to be the close type of friends who wouldn't mind eating leftovers.
  • Share at work. There's nothing people like better than free food, especially if it's homemade. Share the wealth, people!
And for those foods that have gone victim to the mold monster, or all my extra vegetable cuttings, I have my handy (but grumble-y) indoor compostor, which turns organic trash into nutrient-rich dirt.

Hopefully with a little more creativity, and a lot more self control, I'll reduce my wasted foods. What are your tips for reducing food waste? And what's the most creative (but still tasty) leftover creation you've made?

Related Posts: Composting in an apartment; Shopping Thriftily; Find local food locally; CSAs Rock
Photos courtesy of me and my kitchen. :-)