Winter is here and for the third year in a row for me and my good friend Heide this means Winter Wishes time! In my very first blog post last November (Gosh… it has been a year already!) I talked about volunteering with New York Cares organization and all the reasons I love it.
You can check it out here if you’d like - www.dinarachetyrova.com/blog/it-is-the-season-for-caring
One of my favorite things at New York Cares is the Winter Wishes program, which, you guessed it, helps to make winter wishes come true for kids, teens and senior citizens, that due to different circumstances may not get Christmas gifts at all.
I absolutely love doing this! You get to be Santa for a bit and make someone happy come Christmas, what could be better? Can you think of a better way of getting into holiday spirit and feeling the magic of the season? After all the best way of experiencing magic is making your own.
To become a Santa for a season you need to sign up for the project in advance on New York cares page - www.newyorkcares.org/search/projects/results once volunteers read and process all the letter (what a little hardworking elves) you will be matched with a kid, teen or a senior. I personally choose one in each age group :) so I am getting 3 gift letters total.
Here is an exciting part - you are getting an actual handwritten letters in a mail. I am honestly really excited each time, because I never know what to expect and it is always so fun to read what people wish for. Kids are really sweet, they usually write to Santa and decorate there letters, so special!
Every year is different, this time around I almost got a heart attack because one of my letters actually requested diamonds and I think my heart skipped a bit, how in a world can I do that, I mean I never had diamonds myself and definitely am not in a business of buying some. Thankfully quick research revealed that my lady actually asked for a perfume, phew, this I can do. I was relieved….
I remember one of this years my friend Heide, who I am doing this project with (she has her 3 gifts and I have mine) got a request for an Easy Bake Oven. This was my first encounter with one of those things and it turned out those things are big, like really big and heavy. I don’t know why, but we decided to buy it first and then ended up logging that thing around all over shopping center and Herald Square, while buying the rest of gifts. Afterwards we met some friends for a drink in East Village and then another place and another one. Amazingly we didn’t loose any of the gifts and Easy Bake Oven made it out in one piece. Thank the Lord.
So you see, Winter Wishes are fun! Me and Heide usually buy gifts together, then we get together for a gift wrapping party with christmas music and cupcakes and friends (Jarah is a master wrapper, candy canes for everyone!) and then meet up again for delivering day - that’t when we rent a car and drop gifts off at the shelters, schools, community centers, you name it. I think in this three years we’ve been all over five boroughs.
We learn as we go. The very first time we rented the car too late in a day, it got dark very fast, it was raining and we managed to get lost on a way, we also didn’t think thru that most of this places will be closed after 6 p.m. so we ended up calling everyone in a panic mode, trying to figure out how late places will be open till and how many we can hit before we need to return the car. I think we ended up delivering only one or two gifts that time.
Now we are more prepared - getting the car early in a morning and with all of the locations mapped out. It’s a piece of cake.
The gifts are always different and we talk to each other, making sure that we get the most suitable once. This year for example I got a request for a bike for a 9 year old… as you can imagine bikes are super expensive, especially good once. We considered briefly getting a gently used one, but it is my believe that gifts should be brand new and used bike, might not be safe. So long story short we decided on a skateboard and a helmet, because you know, safety first. I do hope, my guy will be happy with the gift. I know how important bikes are for kids and you always hear this stories about childhood traumas, when they asked for a bike and got a mechanic chicken instead, but skateboard is no chicken, so I am hoping my kid will be happy with Santa this year.
It has been three years and this project turned out to be a tradition of ours. It is something I am looking forward to, it is what sets the mood and lets me know the time for wonder is here. It makes me so happy to know that I can help someone’s wishes come true, that I can give joy to someone, it’s a tiny spark, but it’s mine and that’s what helps ignite the holiday cheer in my soul.
If you wanna be a part of this or want to learn more about program you can do it here - www.newyorkcares.org/winter-wishes
P.S. How do you get into Holiday Mood and what are some of your traditions?
“Why are you doing this?” was the first question I got asked when I shared that I want to skip birthday presents and ask people to donate to a fundraising campaign instead. The question was valid and conversation that followed even made me a bit unsure of my decision … I wondered if people will be open to my ideas, if they would think that I am an attention seeker, trying to come across as all high and mighty,if they would be relentless to participate and then I talked to my Mum and as always she was supportive of my decisions, that took away any doubts I had, which proofs one more time, you should always speak to your mother first :)
Anyways, let me recap the story: with my birthday fast approaching I was feeling blue, I think many of us do, pre -birthday blues - you involuntarily start giving your life evaluation and let’s face it, more often then not you see that you are not where you’d want and/or thought you’d be. I also felt strongly that even tho my life was not as accomplished as I would want it to be, it was still a good life and I wanted to express how grateful I am for it. So I decided to use my birthday as an opportunity to raise money for a charitable cause. I’ve heard about this before and decided to give it a shot, being a bit of a nerd I did some research, I wanted to donate to a non-profit that would have a high score by charity watchdog - transparent, accountable etc, etc. I decided to go with charity.water - www.charitywater.org. This name came up in a number of lists, plus they had a 100% policy - which meant that 100% of funds they raise go towards helping people, no cuts for budgeting in day to day operations of non-profit itself, besides they promised detailed report at the end of the campaign so you can see exactly where your money is going, combined with he fact that water is essential to life itself and that so many countries still don’t have an access to clean drinking water it seamed like a no brainer, so I charged on and set up a campaign page -my.charitywater.org/dinara-chetyrova/birthday-wish.
What followed surprised me in many ways…
First of all turned out that it is really hard to motivate people to give money to you (even if it is not actually for you) although this must have been apparent I still was surprised how much harder it was to get a dollar then say “like” under a photo, people liked the pix on a post, or wrote how great the idea was, but none donated… My first donation had me broken into a happy dance, I have never been so happy to see virtual 25$ in my life…
Time went on - still no donations I was getting worried. My friends started coming through the closer it got to the big day and every donation made me super happy, even tho it didn’t go at all as I imagined, some even reached out to double check if this is really want I wanna do, because this no gift policy seamed a bit weird for them. This made me realize, that I might have not been fare to my friends, I was thinking I was releasing them from the agonizing pain of coming up with the gift ideas, providing them with quick and good for your soul option instead, but I failed to think that not everyone might feel the same way I do about certain things. I was in fact making them do something, they might not be comfortable with and I also secretly placed my own value on participation in my campaign, which you should never do, it is like wanting someone to love you and then expecting them to do it in the very specific way and getting upset if they didn’t, just because someone doesn’t show there love the way it is in your head doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
My birthday came and it was wonderful and I was showered with flowers and love from my friends donations or not. I saw how much I meant to them and it was amazing.
The birthday came and gone and I was still way under the campaign goal and a little upset, like I am bringing people down and then something amazing happened - one of my friends was passing on belated birthday wishes and she mentioned that donating to campaign made her feel so good, she decided to sign up for a monthly donations. This meant a world to me! To know what something I started made an effect on at least one person, made them motivated and got involved, that validated the whole experience to me, goal reached or not and this gave me an answer to the question I was faced with at the very beginning. “Why are you doing this?” - because if I can make a small difference in people’s lives I want to give it a shot and if I can make a small impact on someone’s heart, well this is just an icing on a cake. I know that in a grand scheme of things - one person is just a drop, but so many things starts with just one drop.
Week after my birthday another amazing thing happened - people I’ve only met in my life handful of times, and even relatively unknown people saw my many, probably annoying, FB/IG posts and pitched in, finally pushing me OVER my campaign goal and it felt amazing! Now thanks to my incredible friends, who handle me in my many states and go along with my many weird ideas, thanks to kindhearted acquaintances and even incredible strangers - 13 people will have an access to clean drinking water. This means 13 happy people plus super happy me.
Fundraising on any scale is hard and I have learned many things about myself doing this, I am so happy and grateful for every donation. I am sorry for such a long long post, but I wanted to explain my point of view and why I do, what I do and I hope it came across.
I also hope this might inspire you to get involved in any way you wish.
My charity water campaign is still active and will be for some time, I couldn’t figure out how to change campaign length for the life of me, but the more happy people - the better it is, so feel free to join in - my.charitywater.org/dinara-chetyrova/birthday-wish. No donation is small, you know my views on significance of drops.
If you wish to donate your time instead, you can join me in volunteering. More on how to volunteer in NYC here - www.dinarachetyrova.com/blog/it-is-the-season-for-caring
If you read this far - thank you and
Happy clean water drinking
For the past year and I half I have been volunteering with New York Cares and last Thursday something exciting happened. I received Presidential Service Award and a letter of appreciation for the year of 2016 signed by the President Barack Obama, I am so excited to have little piece of history now in my house.
I talked about volunteering before and the ways you can get involved in, so if you want you can read more about it here www.dinarachetyrova.com/blog/archives/11-2016 and as I mentioned there, I started to volunteer in a dark period in my life, when my world was falling to shreds and I was questioning everything I know about myself, friendship, love … all of the basic concepts I was once so sure of. I was morbidly depressed and while I found that it was so hard to get out and do something for myself it was easier to pick myself up and come to a project, because it was not about me… I felt like I was needed there, like I am making a difference, like my presence changes something. As corny as it sounds helping others helped me in a end and I am so happy that something that started as an escape from something so negative turned into something so positive, that now I have a physical prove that I can turn things around, that I chose love and compassion.
Right after I got my award from New York Cares office, I was picking up my friend Heide and ended up on her finance’s vlog. You can see as being all excited here (9:07) www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9V3a9Jxdo4
If you want to get involved please find more info on ways to volunteering here it-is-the-season-for-caring.html
Many people have asked me lately about volunteering opportunities in NYC, so I have decided to write this short and coincidentally my very first blog post.
I myself started volunteering little over a year ago. Truth be told I was going through a rough patch in my life and felt like everything was spinning out of control and since my own life was so unstable and all over crazy I thought why not channel my frustration into something positive. Being able to help someone else in need gave me a feeling of taking control over something and seeing immediate result gave an instant validation. Sometimes when you feel hopeless in your own situation it is helpful to get out of your own head and start helping others. I am not suggesting you can fix their lives but you will make a difference, change starts with even smallest of actions. May be that’s why people been showing more and more interest in volunteering opportunities lately, when the world seem to be spinning out of control you can choose to look inwards and start with yourself, you can choose making change, choose love. In any event, if you’ve been wondering about ways to give back to community and looking for volunteering opportunities, but didn’t know where to begin or felt intimidated, this post is for you.
If you have a cause you are really passionate about you can seek out non-profits dediicated to that particular issue, they are usually pretty open and encouraging to people wanting to volunteer, you would find all the information on their related web sites.
If you know that you want to get involved, but not sure where you will be most helpful I would suggest New York Cares. This is an organization I am doing all of my volunteering through and they are making it super easy and convenient. All you need to do is register here - https://www.newyorkcares.org/volunteer
attend an orientation which you can do either at one of few locations around city or even on line and after your orientation you are good to go!
Find a project you are most interested in here - https://www.newyorkcares.org/search/projects/results
Possibilities are endless. You can work with kids or elderly, you can walk dogs, clean up parks, work at soup kitchens, food pantries or shelters etc etc… really there are so many different projects list goes on.
My advise would be to try as many as you can, so you can find what really works for you.
Also don’t wait too long before signing in for your first project, life gets in a way and sometimes you will find 6 month passed by and you are wondering what was that thing you once wanted to do.
There’s an orientation that takes place at St. Francis Xavier shelter center and usually people attending could stay for a project (shelter clean up) that’s a great way of starting, because you get to jump into action right away and see what it is all about, besides that you will be provided with the important information about shelter system in NYC, lots of things I never knew about, I can promise you, you may work out slightly dirty, but your soul will feel much brighter and you will feel like you are actually making difference.
Another great way of volunteering is getting involved together with your friends. Me and my friend Heide have this tradition now, every winter we are signing up for Winter Wishes program - getting Christmas gifts letters from underprivileged kids, teens and seniors. This is a tone of fun, you get to play Santa for a bit, great way of getting into holiday spirit. We are usually making 3 days of joy out of it. Buying gifts together, gift wrapping party and delivering gifts, Heide in a Packers - Santa hat since she is a driver and in charge, me in a reindeer antlers.
Signing up for projects is easy, you can do it on line and you will get a reminder from a team leader, along with all the useful information you may need for the project, if for some reason you can’t make it (hey, things happen, no one will judge you) just be sure to de-register on line so someone else will have an opportunity to step up, the show must go on.
Well this is pretty much it. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, need more information.