the boost we needed…

A big reason I started this blog was make myself accountable for the swirling ideas that keep me up at night.  The thoughts trip over themselves and I fool myself into thinking that daylight will somehow organize them and provide a moment of peace which I’ll use to put those ideas into action.  But let’s be honest, daylight is not havin’ this plan.

It’s the small tasks of emails and phone calls and writing a list that are standing in the way of the big things that will let me sleep at night.  Some of those things are stressful, like sending our food allergic son to a new school safely and the financial bag o’ fun that most people deal with.  Some of it is exciting, like the new resolve that I want to make a living through art again, and of course, the Safe Staples program.

It felt so good to get the Safe Staples program out there, because I knew I needed to start somewhere. (If you are unfamiliar with the program which gets gluten free and allergy-friendly food into food pantries, check it out here and if you’d like to hear more about the reason behind it, here you go.)  A dozen times, I had to fight the urge to “finish” it more before sharing it because my brain knows we’ll learn as we go and adjust as needed.  But now what?  Which is the next step in the many places it can go?  I’m more than a little overwhelmed at all of its possibilities.  I mean, how incredible can this be? How many families can we help?  How many safe cupcakes can we send with a child to a birthday party?  How many bellies can we fill?  How many hearts?

I know, that was total cheeseball.

But it’s true.  It feels a bit like I’m standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon, afraid to look.  I know it will be as uncomfortable as it will be beautiful.  I believe in this program.  This vision and my work habits need to reconcile.  I can’t be afraid of how great it can be.  I just need to take a step. Any step.  I have been holding back out of fear of making a wrong move. So totally useless, I know.  Just when the guilt was starting to outweigh the to-do list, my incredible cousin Patti swooped in to snap me out of the standstill she didn’t even know I was in.

One of the many dreams I have for the Safe Staples program is to assist people in having their own Safe Staple food drives.  If we can’t all share a table, we can certainly share our food.  Life is about sharing what you’ve got.  Small gestures connect us and seeing a food drive box fill up, package by package, is one easy way to create a positive connection.  Why yes, I do have feathers in my hair and am currently singing folk songs.

What did Patti do?  Patti proposes to the staff at the Bright Horizons Childcare Center that she works at to make Safe Staples the beneficiary of their annual Great Kindness Challenge.  I never, ever thought to ask her to do this.  She just did.  Because I come from good people. The entire center (staff, children, parents) focuses on one task or organization and this year, at this moment, they are having the very first Safe Staples Food Drive!!!

AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaAAAAhhhhhhhhhhh!

That food drive kit I contemplated instead of sleeping actually got done!  I sent her a few docs, hit the store to take some photos, and finished a couple more documents and Patti made an info board for the families at the center.  I kept it simple, because most of these families don’t have experience with shopping for a special diet.  Maybe the food drive kit isn’t quite right.  I’m stating now that while I will post it this week, it will likely change.  Permission to fail a bit granted. We’ll adjust as we learn.  I’ll post in the Safe Staples tab and on the Safe Staples facebook page. Let me know what you think.  While I was plotting to invite others to have food drives once I had the ultimate, most perfect, food drive tool kit all complete and purty-like, Patti beat me to the punch.  Action? Way more useful than purty plans.

As if a food drive wasn’t enough, there are a whole bunch of cherries on top.  Food allergy and celiac and galactosemia and autism awareness to a huge group of families with young children? Yes, please.  The opportunity to educate kids about food allergies and how their classmates may have to deal with them?  More, please.  I brought Patti our favorite food allergy books so the teachers can read to their rooms during the week.  Regardless of the amount of food they donate, their efforts have already made an impact.

Back to the food for a minute.  I just got a text message saying they have already started filling their SECOND box of goodies.  Yahooooo!!

Now that I’ve been reminded that I’m not alone in this, I’m asking for help.  Obviously, I want folks to continue to donate directly to food pantries using the Safe Staple bag tag and sign, but there is more we can do. Here are some of the dreams I have for this program, and since my only qualification for the job is desire, I’m hoping someone may want to help:

1.  Has anyone ever started a non-profit?  I was hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, that I would just be able to partner with an existing organization, but I realize I’ll need to do this in order for the program to grow.  I’d love to be able to be able to offer more direct help to families as well as the ability for companies and individuals to donate online. Any direction toward resources is appreciated.

2.  Does anyone know someone who works at one of the larger organizations like Feeding America or the Greater Chicago Food Depository?  I’m looking to learn more about the architecture of the food pantry supply system and how we work from the top down.

3. I want to setup a way for people to donate online, particularly by the holidays. Without an official non-profit status, another organization would have to partner with us.  Any ideas are welcome.

4.  I’d love to match make special diet families over the holidays. Personally, if I’m making a mess in the kitchen anyway, it’s not hard to make an extra safe dessert to share.  Perhaps some support groups or smaller communities can do this.

5. Partner with food companies so they can donate directly and provide coupons on our fb page and to those planning to do a food drive.  Who works for a food company like this?  Come on, this could be great for all of us.  I love to brag about community-minded companies!

6. Coupon Connection-any specialty couponing sites want to partner up so folks can donate more?

7. More food drives. Our first food drive in December of 2011 brought in almost $500 in addition to two big boxes of food from one small email and a facebook post.  I’d love to see Safe Staple food drives at every community fundraising walk and benefit that our groups have.  I’ll have the tool kit posted later this week.

If you have any ideas or can introduce me to someone who can help with any of the above, please send an email to safestaples@gmail.com.

There’s more to this story, but I’d say we’ve been here long enough today.  A huge ginormous thank you to everyone at Bright Horizons Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.  Thanks for being open and generous and rising to the Great Kindness Challenge in so many ways!

P.S By the way, this particular Bright Horizons Child Care Center is about to open up to enrollment outside of Sears’ employees.  If you need childcare in the area, I highly recommend checking it out.  I’ve been a fan of their centers for a long time.  My godson and his brothers go to a different location so I’ve been many times and each time, it makes me want to be a kid again and belong to a community like this.  Seriously, it’s an awesome place! As a food allergy parent, I get a little giddy when I see each room with a cabinet clearly marked with an Epi-pen sign and the child’s picture who needs it. Add a menu and a constantly-updated ingredient binder posted at the entrance of the kitchen and I’m over the moon.

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5 thoughts on “the boost we needed…

  1. This is a great program and I’m so happy it’s taking off. I’m sure that the DuPage Community Foundation would help with either your non-profit status, or partner w/ you until you are 501(c)3. I’m meeting w/ them tomorrow, so I’ll ask. For donations, try chipped-in or PayPal. Both take a small portion of the donation as a “fee”, but that is the best I’ve found (the Food Co-op outreach program is in the same non-profit boat). Yaaahhhhh!!!!!

    • Thank you so much for all of the ideas and connections! I was thinking of doing paypal for my personal circle of family and friends for another food drive around the holidays, but would assume companies or people who don’t know me wouldn’t donate that way. Maybe I’m wrong? I would love for companies to be able to make an online or physical donation, but I’m sure they would want the tax write-off and would require the tax number. But maybe DuPage Community Foundation would take donations on our behalf and allow me to shop for food pantries in DuPage. Hmmm, thanks for the ideas!

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