Posts Tagged ‘benefits’

Some years ago I was among a small group of people interviewing a woman for a job. When we asked about her computer skills, she hesitated. Then she explained that she’d been out of the workforce for a while but had been proficient in Lotus and WordPerfect at her previous job.

The interviewer across from me rolled their eyes and snorted.

That ticked me off.

We didn’t know the circumstances that had kept that woman from working. Or what had thrust her back into the job market again. But I knew it took guts for her to tell us that.

Ours is a world in which we need to keep up. Not just to get ahead but even to be where we’re at. Knowing where to get the skills you need is crucial. In my community, a good place to start is the focus of my February 5K:

The circumstances that bring people to the Right Turn vary. Maybe you’re recently divorced or widowed and need a job to support yourself and your family. Could be you’re a high school student who had trouble fitting in at a conventional school but still want a diploma. Perhaps you were raised in a home where English wasn’t spoken and having it as a second language will help you to communicate.

Nobody there will judge you. But they will empower you. Find out more at therightturn.org.

Who will I be hitting the streets for next month as my Year of 5K’s continues? I’m still undecided – what do YOU think? Drop me a comment with your suggestions.

If you ever see me running, I’m either escaping from danger or trying to get somewhere that’s closing in 5 minutes.

I’m a walker. Which is the same as a runner except it takes me longer to get there.

We all walk a certain distance every day to get from one place to another to do whatever it is we need to do. I also walk for exercise, physical and mental, mostly alone or with the dogs, but sometimes in groups to benefit causes.

Our community plays host in the spring and summer to a variety of runs and walks to benefit local organizations and events. If it’s a cause I support, I sign up, pay my fee and walk. The longest benefit walk I’ve ever done was the Breast Cancer 3-Day in St. Paul, MN, which was 60 miles walked over the course of 3 days. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of doing in my life.

Planning a walk/run takes time, money and good promotion. While many organizations do it successfully, there are other groups who could benefit from the exposure but may not have the resources. In 2018, I’ll tell you about 12 of them.

Each month this year I’m doing my own 5K to highlight one program or organization that’s doing good in our world. It’ll just be me (and whoever wants to join me) walking 3.2 miles to raise awareness. No entry fee, no tee shirts, no time limit. My first walk was this morning in 8-degree South Dakota weather with barely any wind or ice (which you’ll appreciate if you live in snow country). This is who I was walking for:

Maybe we don’t all have the opportunity to do good things on a grand scale affecting millions of people but as long as you’re upright and breathing, you have the ability to do SOMETHING. Even if that something is telling a couple of people about something good that’s going on in your corner of the world. They could tell a couple friends who tell a couple friends and so on and so on and so on. It worked for selling shampoo – why couldn’t it work for raising awareness?

If you missed it in the video, the program is the Pennies for Robert Bed and Breakfast Program through Countryside Hospice in Pierre, SD.

One month done, 11 to go. If you have an organization or event you’d like me to highlight in the coming months, drop me a comment and some information. I’m always up for a GOOD, long walk.

To raise money for any worthy cause, you need a flexible plan, belief in what you’re doing, and comfortable shoes.

The Thompsons, resplendent in pink, at “Viva La Vonda”.

Last weekend, our family put on a fundraiser for my sister-in-law Vonda who is battling breast cancer. For the past several months, a core committee of six – my sister-in-law Bonnie; niece Savannah; friends Jeanne, Judy and Lisa; and myself – planned and prepared for the event, amassing a small army of friends and family members to help solicit donations, hang flyers, sell raffle tickets, arrange for food and entertainment, and otherwise try to cover every small detail imaginable.

“Viva La Vonda” (good fundraisers need catchy names) became a reality on November 17 at a local community center that holds about 400 people. We nearly filled it. It was an evening of amazing highs and lows, moments of startling generosity and emotion, inspirational, frustrating and funny. Here’s what we learned and how it can help you:

Be a Gumby. You have to be flexible. Yes, the silent auction tables you spent hours setting up look wonderfully inviting but people will bring donations with them that night. Accept them graciously, throw up another table, have extra bid sheets handy. The beer at the “Beer for Boobs” booth may run out hours earlier than expected. Go get more. And when it runs out again, someone may step up and donate $100 worth of beer to keep you selling a little while longer. Someone did that for us. The free will offering chili feed could end 15 minutes early when all the food is gone. Most unfed people will understand. They’ll go up the street to the nearest restaurant, grab a quick bite and come back. Because they’ll know that cooking for a crowd of undetermined size is a crapshoot and they’ll appreciate that you tried.

Trust others…but not everybody. A real auctioneer works the crowd, fuels bidding rivalries and entertains while he sells. Hire one. Get a band that knows the guest of honor; they’ll play her favorite song at just the right moment. Put volunteers used to dealing with money and customers in the payment booth for your auctions. They’ll get it all figured out in the end, even when bidders are picking the wrong items up off the tables and spilling beer on the bid sheets. Realize that you can’t trust everybody. If you think people won’t steal at a benefit, you’re wrong. Whether it’s beers from a cooler when the bartender is helping someone else or palming a handmade necklace off the silent auction table, it’ll happen. If you find the perpetrator, punish accordingly. If you don’t, make amends to the aggrieved as best you can. 

Keep talking. People don’t come to events they don’t know about. The time to stop putting up flyers is when you can’t walk into any place in town and not see one. We used free public service announcements on our local radio and TV stations, did live radio interviews the week of the fundraiser, maintained a Facebook event page about it, and casually dropped it into every conversation we had for weeks. People may have been tired of hearing us talk about it but they remembered to come.

Don’t try to please everybody. You never will. Some people will complain about the food, the price of the beer, the selection of auction items, the seating, the parking, that they didn’t get a winning raffle ticket, that you’re not taking credit cards. We actually had one person who made all of those complaints, repeatedly, to nearly every adult family member working the event as well as to anyone who would listen to her. It was finally suggested that since everything INSIDE the building was not up to her expectations, perhaps she should see if things OUTSIDE were more to her liking. I don’t know if they were or not and honestly, I don’t care.

Kylar makes a lasting impression on the “Thumbprint” picture.

This time, it’s personal. When you do this kind of fundraiser, it becomes personal the moment you make their illness public. Vonda shares her cancer battle on her Facebook page and will discuss it with anyone who asks her. At the benefit, we wanted to give people more than just a chance to help defray her medical expenses; we gave them an opportunity to assist in her recovery. Everyone was invited to put their thumbprint on a special picture that now hangs in Vonda’s house and sign her “Hope” book, a scrapbook of messages that she can read whenever she needs a boost. One of the highlights of the evening was when she took to the stage with her husband Todd and son Daulton and thanked everyone for their love and support. Make it personal, because it is.

Celebrate the unexpected. Like a high school classmate willing to shave his head for cash donations. Or the moment you realize the freezer that you put 12 pounds of frozen donated meat into was actually not a freezer and you are now handing over a dripping bag of thawing burger to the highest bidder. Or when you notice the crowd is not just pushing tables and chairs back to make room for a dance floor, they are actually taking them down and putting them away so you don’t have so much to clean up at the end of the night. Or that the one keeping your workers’ spirits up is an exuberant four-year-old named Kylar who is proudly wearing a tiny tie-dyed pink t-shirt that proclaims “Stop the War in my Rack.” These are the moments that make memories, people.

Keep success in perspective. “Viva La Vonda” raised somewhere in the $20,000 range. Although the cost of fighting cancer is immense (I know this from my mom’s own lost battle), the money donated through the fundraiser is a great start. At the end of the night, when you can finally sit down, kick the shoes off your aching feet, and crack the beer that was thoughtfully hid back for you, keep this in mind: good benefits raise more than just money. They raise spirits, awareness, and support. You can’t put a price on that.

Vonda (right), our guest of honor, with her sister, Bonnie.