Idealist Gratitude: What Jasun and all of us are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.


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A few SOS Outreach kids.

I volunteer with an organization called SOS Outreach, where I mentor at-risk youth. I get to use snowboarding to help them develop self confidence, leadership skills, and positive decision making via a set of core values.

On a typical day, we do some snowboarding, then eat lunch and talk about pretty much anything. At times I am frightened at how big a responsibility it is to be a positive role model to them. I’m also sometimes frightened by how strong their riding is—they’re fast, and can navigate trees and jumps!

But I’m most thankful for this opportunity because the kids tend to teach me more than I teach them.

For example, last year they taught me about being a courageous and inspiring leader when we were off the mountain doing a service project about bullying. I was sincerely moved by a poster we made to hang in their elementary school. They did all the work—but I led the conversation about this volatile topic and helped them get their thoughts on paper.

When I volunteer with SOS Outreach, it reminds me how big a difference one person can make.

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth? Search Idealist for over 2,600 ways to get started.



Jasun Wurster is an operations engineer at Idealist.





This is what gratitude looks like.

Of course, we don’t want to go without saying that YOU make our snood wobble with joy every day, Idealist community! Your dedication, good ideas, creativity, generosity, and sheer intelligence truly make for a moveable feast.

Thank you for being here with us, and happy holidays.


The Idealist crew, November 2013.

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Idealist Gratitude: What Becky and Joshua are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.



Mara with a pig she is about to turn into bacon.

My friend Mara is the kind of tattooed farmer chick who built her own canoe and had pet goats until she butchered them.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer this September, self-pity wasn’t really an issue.

She was pissed about losing strength, kind of “silver lining” excited about getting new boobs after her double mastectomy, and as a 32-year-old, upset about losing fertility because of the estrogen suppression therapy she’ll need to stay healthy.

I’m thankful that she was able to find support and resources through the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Fertile Hope program, which helps cancer patients secure financial assistance for fertility treatments. Fertile Hope covered the cost of her appointments with the fertility specialist and Walgreens donated the (crazy expensive) medication.

Because of this awesome program, Mara and her partner can have a kid when they’re ready to be parents. I have a feeling that in a few years, they’ll be taking some pretty epic family canoe trips.

Want to make a difference in the fight against cancer? Idealist can show you over 2,000 ways.

becky olson!


Rebecca Olson is a communications intern at Idealist.





Joshua’s greyhound, Conquer.

Nine years ago, I was at the grocery store and saw three greyhounds sticking out from the back of a truck. The driver was going around to racing tracks, trying to find greyhounds new homes so they wouldn’t be put down after they’d fulfilled their commercial purpose. I told him next time he was at the track to find me a dog and I’d take it in.

One month later I had Conquer. She came to me both emaciated and muscular. She had hairless patches from malnourishment. Her toenails were fragile and would easily break. She didn’t know what stairs were, and the first time she saw a fireplace she walked right into it.

It was amazing to watch her transform. Before I had her she’d only known the racetrack and cage she lived in; eventually she knew things like how to play with balls and splash in the ocean. She opened up to my affection, and loved being petted and cuddled.

Because of this experience, I’m extremely grateful for groups such as the Greyhound Adoption Center and Greyhound Pets of America for the work they do rescuing retired greyhounds from racing tracks across the nation and placing them in good homes.

It is not well known that greyhounds make amazing pets, and the exposure and advocacy these organizations generate for these gentle animals is crucial to their welfare.

Passionate about animal welfare? Browse Idealist for over 6,000 animal-related opportunities.



Joshua Richey is a web designer at Idealist.

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Idealist Gratitude: What Celeste and Tim are grateful for this Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, we asked our fellow Idealist staff members to reflect on a person or organization they’re grateful for. We’re posting their stories this week.

We’d love to hear what’s stuffing you with thankfulness this holiday season, too—drop us a line in the comments.


Joe Bell

Joe Bell.
(photo via Benjamin Zack/Standard-Examiner)

Jadin Bell was 15 years old when he took his own life. He was an openly gay teen in La Grande, Oregon who couldn’t take the bullying anymore.

For six months afterward, his father Joe Bell walked across the U.S., talking to anybody who would listen about his son’s suicide: students, churchgoers, random passersby.

When I first read about Joe in this beautiful Salon article, I was moved by the sheer amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy it must’ve taken him to talk with all those strangers, rehashing such a painful event. As an idealist, I applauded him. As a mom, I cried.

Here Joe was, a grieving father helping the best way he knew how by literally taking steps toward ending homophobia. He set up a nonprofit, Faces for Change, to help fund the journey.

He made it as far as Colorado. In a terrible twist of fate, he was struck by a car and died last month.

This holiday, I’m grateful to Joe for showing me the remarkable depths of a parent’s love. I can only hope to be that dedicated, compassionate, and courageous someday.

Want to help break the bullying cycle? Search hundreds of opportunities on Idealist.



Celeste Hamilton Dennis is an editor at Idealist.





A cared-for classroom is a happy classroom.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

I’m thankful that exists. Whenever I get the urge for some retail therapy online, I stop first at DonorsChoose to browse. I find that donating towards the education of deserving students and classrooms in need makes me feel a lot better than a new pair of sneaks!

I first became aware of DonorsChoose when a previous employer of mine gave the staff $50 DonorsChoose “giftcards” rather than a traditional corporate holiday gift. The company was, in effect, giving money to worthy causes, and employees got to funnel the funds to things they were passionate about or interested in. I’ve been a fan since.

Just last week, I funded an elementary school class back in my home state of Ohio. They were looking to acquire books that would help the students learn to read while garnering scientific knowledge. My mother recently retired after decades as a reading teacher, and I am personally very interested in furthering STEM education, so this particular opportunity was a win-win!

Need some good giving ideas for the holidays? Browse the 80,000+ nonprofit organizations on our site for inspiration.



Tim Forster is a video producer at Idealist.

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Three ways to be generous at work and further your career

‘Tis the season for giving! Have you thought about how being generous at work can help your career? In this post, we explore three things you can do for others that help you grow and strengthen your network.

by Eleanor C. Whitney

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching and while you may be in the midst of figuring out the best side dish to make with your turkey or Tofurkey, now is the perfect time to explore how a spirit of generosity can help your career.

Photo credit: Funchye, Creative Commons/Flickr)

Common wisdom in the career-advice field recommends that when you start a new job you should volunteer for tasks that others might be hesitant to take on and go the extra mile to show your capacity for commitment, hard work and acting as a team player. While this is certainly sound advice, generosity goes beyond simply volunteering for tasks at opportune moments.

When you act with generosity you are consistently open with your skills, ideas and knowledge. When you are generous you don’t just give of yourself, but acknowledge the contributions and needs of others. The result is a network of people who are also willing to help you.

Here are a few ideas of how you can bring a spirit of generosity to your career:

  • Create a resource or service that is useful to the people you serve

In my current position I co-run the Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts. Artists are required to submit a budget for their project when they apply to our program. My colleagues and I noticed that artists often made the same budget mistakes and some neglected to submit budgets at all. In response we organized a free project budget basics workshop that we presented to a packed house and offered online as a free podcast. As a result, artists can build their skills free of charge and we receive stronger, complete applications.

  • Share information that helps others take the next step

In his book The Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk explains that businesses and professionals need to adapt to the openness, feedback and communication the Internet offers by becoming more communicative and caring with their stakeholders.  Keep this in mind as you communicate daily with your clients and colleagues. When they reach out to you with a question or need, even if you can’t offer exactly what they are asking for, give them the information they need to take the next step, whether that’s directing them to someone who can help them or a suggesting a resource where they can find what they are looking for.  Send them a link, a person’s contact information, or an article. They will remember and thank you for it.

  • Take time to understand your colleagues’ needs, goals and concerns

When I worked a large museum in New York City, I took time to understand the schedules and job-related concerns of colleagues in other departments. Because I established a reputation of respecting my colleagues’ processes and listening to their needs I found that people would go the extra mile for me. For example, I knew that the editorial department worked on a strict schedule that was determined by the availability of the graphic design department and print shop.  If I requested last minute changes to publication text from the editors it meant they would have to reach out to the designers and I would potentially slow down the whole publication and printing schedule. When I acknowledged that what I was asking for required extra effort on their part, explained why my request was important to the museum overall, and acknowledged their help, I found they were happy to help me.

Generosity is a kind of currency that you build slowly. When you are generous you establish your reputation as a key facilitator, team member and leader. That recognition can lead to new and deeper connections and opportunities and will translate into a feeling of good will towards you. Good will is the strongest quality you can offer.

Eleanor C. Whitney is a writer, arts administrator and musician living in Brooklyn, New York. She currently is a Program Officer at the New York Foundation for the Arts and is the author of the forthcoming book Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job, which will be released in the spring of 2013 on Cantankerous Titles

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Random Picks for Autumn – Happy Thanksgiving!

By Flickr User Noel Zia Lee (Creative Commons)

If you’re like me, and you live too far from home to celebrate Thanksgiving with family this year, how about volunteering some time to make turkey (Tofurkey!) day a little more special for those in need?  I’ve gathered up some Thanksgiving Day related volunteer opportunities to help spread the cheer.  For those of you not partaking in Thanksgiving festivities, I’ve also gathered some fall-related opportunities follow below.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Volunteer Opportunity: Thanksgiving Day – Meal Delivery (Washington, DC)
Organization: Emmaus Services for the Aging
In their own words: “Emmaus Services for the Aging meets the needs of homebound senior citizens on Thanksgiving Day by delivering meals to them and spending time visiting during the morning.”

Volunteer Opportunity: community and hunger
Organization: License to Dream (Denver, CO)
In their own words: “For the past 10 years we do an annual feeding on Thanksgiving Day. We cook and deliver 3500 meals.”

Volunteer Opportunity: Atlanta Half Marathon Volunteer
Organization: Atlanta Track Club
In their own words: “Earn your turkey this Thanks Day by becoming a part of the Atlanta Track Club volunteer team for the Atlanta Half Marathon and Thanksgiving Day 5K on Thursday, November 25.”

Volunteer Opportunity: Volunteers needed for Thanksgiving Lunch at low-income senior housing (Ontario)
Organization: LINC Housing Corporation
In their own words: “Volunteer with LINC Cares and make a difference in the lives of low-income seniors!”

Volunteer Opportunity: Thanskgiving Dinner for Individuals disabled by autism (Gaithersburg, MD)
Organization: Community Support Services, Incorporated
In their own words: “If you are seeking to give back to the community on this important holiday, here is an excellent opportunity for you to brighten the day of an individual disabled by autism and/or other developmental disorders.”

Job: Volunteer Coordinator & Educator (Evendale, OH)
Organization: Gorman Heritage Farm
In their own words: “Gorman Heritage Farm, a non-profit 120-acre educational farm located in the Village of Evendale, just north of Cincinnati, provides the opportunity to explore and learn the history, methods and values of a working family farm in a natural setting.”

Volunteer Opportunity: Farm Based Educator (Weston, MA)
Organization: Land’s Sake, Inc. of Massachusetts
In their own words: “We talk about anything from the changing of the seasons and soil science to local sustainable agriculture.”

Internship: Kartemquin Films Fall Internship (Chicago, IL)
Organization: Kartemquin Films
In their own words: “Interns at Kartemquin will have the opportunity to learn how a local non-profit media arts organization is run and how social issue documentary films are created, from development to distribution, all while collaborating with a team of filmmakers who have produced emotionally compelling, challenging, and socially relevant documentaries through thirty-eight films in over forty years.”

Event: Responsible Rural Tourism Program (Rajasthan, India)
Organization: Development Foundation Worldwide
In their own words: “Our rural tourism program showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience.”

Search hundreds of other listings or post an opportunity of your own on!

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