Items tagged with 'giving'

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your holiday donations

donation form mockup

By Christine Schudde

About this every year we get questions from people about making donations to local charities for the holidays. But this year we thought we'd turn the question around a bit and hear from someone whose org is typically on the receiving end, and get some thoughts on ways to make the most of our holiday donations.

So we're very happy to welcome Christine Schudde, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Capital District.

Many of us will look for a meaningful way to give back this holiday season. And there's a lot to consider when making a charitable donation -- which charity, how to donate, the best way to way help.

Here are a few ways to can make sure your holiday gift has the greatest impact.

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This year's Ignite volunteer festival is coming up

Ignite 2018 banner

The Ignite volunteer festival will return November 8, and this year it's at the Albany Capital Center.

Ignite is a kind of like a job fair but for volunteer opportunities. More than 30 orgs will there with info and reps ready to talk about how you can lend a hand. There's a list below.

The evening also includes speakers (including Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan), music, and food from local restaurants. And it's free.

Ignite is part of the Serve Albany campaign backed by Christ's Church Albany. It's Thursday, November 8 from 5:30-8 pm.

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An opportunity to help the people displaced by the recent large fires in Albany

Albany September 30 2018 fires benefit poster

Here's an opportunity to help the more than 80 people displaced by the two large fires in Albany last week: There's a community benefit dinner at the First Lutheran Church (646 State Street) this Thursday, October 11 from 5:30-8:30 pm.

It's a pay-what-you-can dinner. The suggested donation is $15 for families, $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors.

The menu includes chicken parm, baked ziti, green beans, salad, desserts, and beverages. There will be a raffle and silent auction. Also: You might meet a few of your neighborhoods and have a chance to get to know them.

The dinner is organized by UAlbany Student Affairs, Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, and First Lutheran Church.

If you can't make the dinner, or just want to donate, here's how:

· Cash Donations can go to United Way of the Greater Capital Region, Albany City Fires Fund. Mailing address is Albany City Fires Fund, PO Box 13865, Albany, NY 12212. All funds will go directly to the fire survivors. Donations can also be made at any of CAP COM Federal Credit Union's 11 branches in the Capital Region
· Cash Donations can also go to the Catholic Charities Disaster Recovery - indicate Fire Survivors in the Comments Section. Mailing address is Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany, 40 North Main Avenue, Albany, New York 12203. Use the Donate Form to direct funds to fire survivors

That info is via the the Pine Hills Improvement Group / Pine Hills Neighborhood Association.

Where to donate bedding and towels?

pillow on bed v2Amy emails:

I have a bunch of sheet sets, towels, blankets, etc. (clean, of course) that I'd like to donate. Do you know if there are any groups that will take them? Perhaps a refugee resettlement group or a group that helps the homeless with housing?

As we've noted before, charities often have rules about what sorts of items they accept for all sorts of reasons -- sometimes because of logistics, other times because of concerns about condition. But things like sheets and towels seem like something easy to clean and inspect.

So, got a suggestion for Amy? Please share!

Earlier: Where to donate a virtually new mattress?

Where to donate a virtually new mattress?

pillow on bedElisabeth emails:

[My husband] and I recently ordered a new mattress online...thing is, we're not feeling it and decided to return it.
The company told us "there is no one in your area to donate it to..." so they're going to schedule a 1-800 Got junk pick up. Ugh. I find it hard to believe that no organization will take a practically brand new queen size mattress!
Can you ask the AOA hive mind if they know of an organization that will take it? It has to be a not-for-profit and not a friend of a friend thing as we need to provide proof of the donation.

Charities sometimes have rules about what sorts of items they will take, often because of logistics and sometimes because of concerns about condition. In this case, with one of these foam mattresses that would seem to be relatively easy to inspect, we're guessing some org might be interested.

So, got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

Dining Out for Life 2018

Dining Out for Life 2018 logoThe annual Dining Out for Life event returns April 26 at restaurants all around the Capital Region. The event is a fundraiser for the Alliance for Positive Health.*

Here are all the steps required to take part:

1. Go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants.

2. There is no step two.

Yep, that's it. The participating restaurants will donate a portion of their checks from that day to the Alliance. You don't have do anything else.

Well... you could also make a donation while you're there or later on. There will be envelopes at the restaurants. Look for one of the Alliance ambassadors if you don't see them.

Here's the list of participating restaurants for this year -- some of which are also participating during breakfast and lunch.

Some of the restaurants get busy that night, so reservations are a good idea.

* Formerly known as the AIDS Council of Northeast New York.

AOA is again a sponsor of Dining Out for Life.

Morning of Kindness

morning of kindness ronald mcdonald house albanyAround this time of year we often get questions from people looking for ways to volunteer or donate to local charities or non-profits. So, here's something that might help point you in the right direction...

A campaign called Morning of Kindness is organizing donations and other acts of kindness at local charities on December 23: Blurbage:

You will have the opportunity to choose from over a dozen local nonprofits who need your help. Simply let us know how many people will be in your party, and which nonprofits you would like to help.
Once you've chosen a nonprofit partner or four, purchase items from their wishlists.
On December 23rd, The Morning of Kindness, visit your chosen nonprofits, drop off your donations, and learn about how your generosity will make a big impact on the people they serve.

Here's more about how the campaign works, along with some backstory.

The list of local non-profits participating ranges from social services org to food pantries to orgs that help homeless people to a humane society.

Registration is required to take part. See the links above for details.

(Thanks, M.)

photo via Morning of Kindness Facebook

Opportunities for volunteering around Thanksgiving?

chicken dinnerRebecca emails:

I'm wondering about any volunteer opportunities in the area for Thanksgiving.. I know about Equinox but maybe there are smaller or less known organizations that might need help, either with food donations or a warm body to prep/serve/deliver? Thanks

We've had similar holiday volunteering questions in the past, but we like the idea of shining some light on smaller or lesser-known orgs that could use the help.

So, got a suggestion for Rebecca and other looking to lend a hand? Please share! And sentence or two about why're suggesting an org can be helpful.

Serve Albany: Ignite 2017

Serve Albany Ignite 2015The Serve Albany project is bringing back its Ignite event -- kind of like a job fair, but for volunteer opportunities -- on November 2 at the Sage College Armory in Albany.

More than 30 non-profit orgs will be there with info about what they do and opportunities to lend a hand. Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan will give a talk. And there will also be food from New World, along with art and music.

Serve Albany is an initiative of Christ's Church Albany.

The event is from 5:30-8 pm that day, which is a Thursday. The Sage College Armory is at 130 New Scotland, which is right next to the Sage Albany campus and just up the street from Albany Med.

AOA is a sponsor of Serve Albany.

photo via Christ's Church Albany FB

Where to donate gently-used toys?

toy earthmoverJeff asks via Twitter:

Anyone know where I could donate gently used kids toys?

This question came up once before -- but it was many, many years ago. And things change.

So, got a suggestion or thought for Jeff? Please share!

Alternatives to giving money to panhandlers?

outstretched hand with dollar bill

K emails:

I was in Philly recently and I heard from locals that panhandling had decreased incredibly since programs were set up where individuals could donate to groups that help the homeless. Is there something similar in Albany?
Some municipalities distribute business card type handouts that you can give to a panhandler instead of cash, since the money you give to the panhandler will only "help" them, but if you give to charities or groups that work with those communities your money can help a lot more people.

It feels like there's been an upswing lately in people asking for money on the street. Just the other day we encountered three people in downtown Albany doing so all within the span of a block. And it's rare to not see people asking for money at some of the major intersections near the interstate exchanges. (Whether there actually has been an upswing -- and if so, why -- is a good question. Perception is not necessarily reality.)

So we're interested to hear how people handle these sorts of situations. Do you give the person money? Do you offer other sorts of help? And more directly towards K's question, are there better ways to go about helping people?

Volunteer opportunities for helping refugees in the Capital Region

991 Broadway Albany Nipper Building 2016-04-21We've had a few questions come up lately in which people were looking for some way to get involved locally with helping other people. Here's one opportunity:

The local branch of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants -- USCRI -- has an information session Thursday (February 16) for people interested in volunteering or somehow helping out the organization. It's at 6 pm in the org's offices at the Nipper Building in Albany (991 Broadway, Suite 223).

We heard from the director of USCRI Albany -- Jill Peckenpaugh -- this week that the local branch is helping 4,000 refugees in the Capital Region. The org helps people with finding apartments, furniture, housewares, as well as how to navigate things like paperwork and doctors appointments. We get the feeling there are plenty of ways a person could lend a hand right now.

If you're interested but can't make Thursday's information session, USCRI has another one lined up for March 16 -- same place and time.

Local orgs or charities to support that are making a difference right now?

flower in hands

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber (CC BY 2.0)

I. emails (emphasis added):

In response to our current political climate, and in honor of the people fighting to protect our rights, I'd like to begin financially supporting organizations that are making an actual difference in peoples daily lives. National organizations are easy to find, but I'm hoping for some recommendations of local groups helping people in our community.
I'm particularly interested in groups that work with women and children - providing assistance to domestic violence victims, healthcare for children, diapers for parents who can't afford them, feminine hygiene products for homeless women, etc.

We get the feeling there are a lot of people like I. right now who are looking for ways to do something that makes a difference. And as we've mentioned before, focusing some of your energy on local issues and causes can be a way to do that.

So, know of a good local charity or org or cause for I. and others to support right now? Please share. And sentence or two about why to support that charity is appreciated.

Serve Albany: Ignite 2016

Serve Albany Ignite 2015

The Serve Albany initiative has another one of its "Ignite" events highlight volunteer opportunities coming up November 2 at the Albany Elks Lodge.

The event is kind of like a job fair, but for volunteer opportunities. More than 25 non-profits from the Albany area will there with info about volunteering. There will also be a talk by Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan, food from New World Catering, and music.

Serve Albany is an initiative of Christ's Church Albany.

Ignite is Wednesday, November 2 from 5:30-8 pm at the Albany Elks Lodge (25 South Allen St). It's free attend, but registration is encouraged.

AOA is a media sponsor of Ignite.

photo via Christ's Church Albany FB

Dining Out for Life 2016

Dining Out For Life logoThe annual Dining Out for Life event returns Thursday, April 28 at restaurants all around the Capital Region. The event is a fundraiser for the Alliance for Positive Health (formerly the AIDS Council of Northeast New York).

It's just about the easiest way to contribute. Here's how:

1. You go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants.

2. Have a good time.

And that's it. The participating restaurants will donate a portion of their checks from that day to the Alliance. You don't have do anything else. (Well, you could also make a donation... there will be envelopes at the restaurants. Look for one of the Alliance ambassadors if you don't see them.)

Here's the list of restaurants for this year -- many of them will also be participating at lunch (and even a few at breakfast).

Some of the restaurants get busy that night, so reservations are a good idea.

AOA is a media sponsor of Dining Out For Life.

The Mr. Mo Project

mr mo project logoWe hadn't heard of this local org, so maybe it's new to you, too: The Mr. Mo Project helps find homes for senior dogs -- and pay for their medical care, which can really add up. Blurbage:

The Mr. Mo Project saves senior dogs from kill shelters across the United States. These dogs often come with hefty vet bills in order to regain their health so they can live comfortably in their forever foster homes. But, the Mr. Mo Project doesn't stop after covering their initial medical costs, they continue covering the medical needs of each dog in their program for the remainder of their life. This takes the financial demand of a senior dog, that often deters people from adopting them, out of the question and provides homes that give these seniors "The Best of Life for the Rest of Life."

The people behind the org are Chris and Mariesa Hughes from Clifton Park. Back in February they told News10 they would have to slow their adoption work because funding had become tight -- at that point they paying for the care of 75 dogs.

The website has info about adoptions, donations, and events.

(Thanks, Randal)

Holiday charities 2015

flower in hands

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber (CC BY 2.0)

As part of our annual holiday gifts interviews we ask people about a charity (or two) they'd like to support this year.

A lot people make donations around the holidays. So we've gathered all the charities mentioned into one easy-scan list.

If you're still looking for a place to support this year, you might find it on this list. And if you have one to suggest, please share.

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Holiday gifts: Rebecca Haizmann

Rebecca Haizmann

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today we talk with Rebecca Haizmann. By day, Becky coordinates communications for the Downtown Albany BID. When she's not coordinating communications, she's likely to be home taking hundreds of pictures of her dogs. But she's not a crazy dog lady. She swears it.

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Holiday gifts: Jacques Bastien

Jacques Bastien

Jacques Bastien loves his mouse.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today we talk with Jacques Bastien, entrepreneur and CEO of Boogie, a company he founded as an undergraduate at UAlbany. He's also now a lecturer at UAlbany.

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Holiday gifts: Albany Archives' Matt Malette

Matt Mallette

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today we check in with Matt Mallete. He's the creator of Albany Archives and the Albany Postcard Project. Matt's also a graphic designer for a local television news channel, trivia host, and somewhat avid runner.

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Holiday gifts: Jaye McBride

Jaye McBride

Jaye wants more ho, ho, ho this holiday season.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's person is Jaye McBride, a Capital Region-based stand-up comedian who has been featured at clubs around the country.

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Holiday gifts: Julie Madsen

Julie Madsen - tulips

Julie and the tulips.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up is Julie Madsen -- a lover of new experiences, author of Julie Journeys, and a contributor to AOA.

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Holiday gifts: Chopsticks Optional

Chopsticks Optional creditYTK.JPG

These adorable figures are not the real Chopsticks Optional. (The real people Chopsticks Optional are even more adorable.)

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today we check in with J+R of Chopsticks Optiona, who devour their way through the culinary cornucopia of the Capital Region and beyond, documenting her obsession for sushi and his love for poutine.

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Holiday gifts: Craig Gravina

Craig Gravina -Holiday.jpg

Cheers, Craig!

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's thoughts come from Craig Gravina, self-described beer history nerd and co-founder of the Albany Ale Project. He's a font of fascinating beer knowledge, one of Albany's biggest fans, and an awful lot of fun.

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Holiday gifts: Karen Tararache

Karen Tararache covering Pope in DC

Karen Tararache in DC earlier this year, covering the Pope's visit to the US.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's thoughts on gifts and giving come from Karen Tararache. Karen is an anchor and reporter for Time Warner Cable News. She's also the co-founder of Studio Six Theatre Company in New York City.

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Holiday gifts: Truemaster Trimingham

Truemaster Holiday.jpg

Truemaster spending time with his niece Terrease and nephews Andre and Kanian.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So, once again, we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

We start with Truemaster Trimingham, AKA DJ Trumastr.

Occasionally you encounter people who make you feel a little better about the world around you. Truemaster is one of those people. Yes, he's an interesting guy -- and one of the most talented DJs in the Capital Region -- but we've also found him to be a thoughtful, kind person with an uplifting spirit.

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Ignite 2015

ignite 2015 logo

Maybe you've been thinking to you'd like to start volunteering somewhere. Or maybe you've thought you'd like to help, but don't know how to start. Or maybe you're looking for new ways to help out.

This Thursday (November 5) an event called Ignite will be at the Elks Lodge in Albany. It's organized by Serve Albany and it's sort of like a job fair for volunteer opportunities. More than 25 local nonprofits will be there offering information.

Here's a list of the non-profits.

Along with the orgs, there will be a talk by Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan, food, art, and music.

Ignite is Thursday, November 5 at the Albany Elks Lodge (25 South Allen) from 5:30-8 pm. It's free.

Dining Out for Life 2015

dining out for life 2015The annual Dining Out for Life event returns this Thursday, April 23 at restaurants all around the Capital Region. The event is a fundraiser for the Alliance for Positive Health (formerly the AIDS Council of Northeast New York).

It's super easy to take part. Here are the steps:

1. You go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants on Thursday.

There is no step #2.

The participating restaurant will donate a portion of its checks from that day to the Alliance. You don't have do anything else. (Well, you could also make a donation... there will be envelopes at the restaurants.)

Here's the list of restaurants.

Some of the restaurants get busy that night, so reservations are a good idea.

AOA is once again a media sponsor of Dining Out for Life.

Where to donate jewelry?

tangle of random jewelryRebecca emails:

Starting the spring purge and wondering if anyone could suggest a place to donate jewelry? It's not fancy jewelry (or anything gold or silver that could be sold) nor is it vintage costume jewelry..just trendy inexpensive stuff that looks nice. I'd hate to just toss it out if there's some place that would accept it.

We're guessing a lot of the places that clothing for re-sale, like the thrift shops, would be interested in jewelry donations.

Got a suggestion for Rebecca? Please share!

Where to donate furniture?

worn couch cushion cornerKara asks via email:

I'm getting a new couch in a few months and my old one while worn, could still be of use to someone. Are there any local charities that pick up donations of this sort?

There are definitely charities that take furniture donations. But we wonder if charities have different rules for stuff like, say, a table and chairs and upholstered things like couches.

Got a suggestion for Kara? Please share!

Holiday charities 2014

flower in hands

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber (cc)

This month we talked with a bunch of people about holiday gifts, both giving and getting . And one of the questions was about favorite charities.

A lot people make donations this time of year. So we've gathered all those charities mentioned into one easy-scan list.

If you're still looking for a place to support this year, you might find it on this list...

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Holiday gifts: Deanna Fox

Deanna Fox

Deanna didn't get the baby brother she asked for. But she did get a Baron.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's thoughts on gifts and giving come from food writer, cooking instructor, AOA contributor and all around lovely person Deanna Fox.

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Holiday gifts: Daniel B.

Daniel B.jpg

Be careful what you wish for...

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's thoughts on gifts and giving come from Daniel B., proprietor of FUSSYlittleBLOG, AOA contributor, and connoisseur of donuts.

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Holiday gifts: Erin Pihlaja

Erin Pihlaja photo credit- joe putrock.jpg

A Range Rover would be nice. Or socks.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Erin Pihlaja is the mother of two girls, a Troy resident, and the executive director of the Downtown Troy Business Improvement District.

She envies people who can make their own gifts, but knows herself well enough to not try to knit or bake cookies.

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Holiday gifts: Lauren Hittinger Hodgson

LHittinger personal photo.jpg

Lauren's answer about her favorite gift from when she was a kid includes a photo and some powerful cuteness.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up in the series is Lauren Hittinger Hodgson, a local freelance writer and regular contributor to All Over Albany. She also maintains her own blog, The Thrifty Ginger.

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Holiday gifts: Sean Desiree

Gifts Sean Desiree has in mind this year: things made and used.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up: Sean Desiree shares her holiday gifts and causes.

Sean is a self-taught furniture maker who uses reclaimed wood at her business, South End Pallet Works. She's also a performer under the name bell's roar.

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Holiday gifts: Ethan Ullman

Ethan Ullman.jpg

Ethan wants to put a little ho,ho,ho in the holidays.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up: standup comedian and host of Storytime Time, Ethan Ullman.

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Holiday gifts: Rachel Person

Rachel Person

Hard working outreach coordinator seeks respite from responsibility

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today's gift giver is Rachel Person.

Rachel is the events and community outreach Coordinator at Northshire Books in Saratoga. Rachel is an Albany High Alum who spent six years working at Symphony Space in New York City as the Associate Director of the NPR program Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story. Today she's the Events and Community Outreach Coordinator at Northshire Books in Saratoga.

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Holiday gifts: Brandon Jones

Brandon Jones - Holiday gift photo.jpg

How do you gift wrap time?

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Brandon Jones is a musical theater teacher and performer from Albany. He's performed locally and in New York City and is currently the music director for Schenectady Light Opera's production of Shrek: The Musical.

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Holiday gifts: Katie O'Malley Maloney

Katie O by Elario Photography.jpg

Christmas 1989 was a banner year for young Katie O.

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Today, we've asked Katie O'Malley Maloney to talk about her favorite gifts. Katie is the woman behind Katie O' Weddings & Events, an event planning and coordination firm in Troy.

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Holiday gifts: Elizabeth Zunon

Elizabeth Zunon personal photo.jpg

Artist Elizabeth Zunon

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next in the series, Elizabeth Zunon. Elizabeth grew up in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, where the bright, colored patterns of everyday fabrics and tropical vegetation left a lasting impact. Today she lives in Albany, where she illustrates children's picture books, including The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and the upcoming One Plastic Bag.

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Holiday gifts: Sean Rowe

sean rowe grafitti background

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up: Capital Region-based musician and naturalist Sean Rowe.

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Holiday gifts: Heather LaVine

Heather LaVine personal photo.jpg

At the intersection of wine, rescue pups and baseball, you'll find Heather LaVine

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

Next up, Heather LaVine, the co-owner of Lucas Confectionery and The Grocery in Troy. LaVine and her husband, Vic Christopher, are restoring the 18th-century building that houses their current businesses, and are working on reopening The Tavern on Broadway.

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Holiday gifts: Lecco Morris

Lecco & Mouse.jpg

Lecco is the one on the right

Gifts and giving are on most everyone's mind this month. So we thought we'd ask a few people to share some thoughts on presents, past and present.

First up: Lecco Morris.

Lecco grew up in the Capital Region and, after several years in New York City and a year traveling Europe, is now one of the administrators of The Chefs' Consortium, which gets chefs involved with helping people learn about local food. He is also a talented jazz pianist, poet, and actor.

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Where to donate a turkey?

coldwater creek farm turkeys flockT. emails:

I was told at ShopRite today that I've qualified for a free turkey. I don't want it myself, but I was wondering if I should pick it up and drop it off at a food pantry or shelter. Seems like there are probably other people in my position too - how about a roundup of places to donate them, how and when etc? My receipt says to get it from ShopRite between 11/16 and 11/27.

We were just thinking it'd be great if these supermarket chains would allow you to designate your free turkey or ham or whatever to be given to charity directly.

Got an idea for T.? Please share!

Serve Albany Ignite

serve albany ignite 2014 posterAs the end-of-the-year holiday approach, we often get questions about opportunities for volunteering. And an event this week might be able to point you in the right direction.

Serve Albany's Ignite event -- this Wednesday, November 5 -- is like a fair for volunteer opportunities. Blurbage:

The event will include live entertainment and fine art, the food of some of the finest area chefs, and fuel for inspiration as volunteer agencies from around the city are on hand to explain their work and needs. Ignite is an initiative of Christ's Church Albany, in partnership with our many community partners.
Ignite attendees will have the opportunity to choose from more than fifteen agencies and dozens of projects with ease - on the spot. It has never been easier to Serve Albany!

Here's the list of participating non-profits.

Ignite is Wednesday, November 5 at the Albany Elks Lodge (25 South Allen Street in Albany). Doors open at 5:30 pm. It's free.

Serve Albany

serve albany logoCurrently in progress: Serve Albany, a week-long event focused on highlighting volunteer opportunities. Blurbage about the event:

The catalyst for Serve Albany can be found in research showing that New Yorkers lag behind the rest of the nation in volunteerism, saying "I haven't been asked" (37 percent) and "Don't know where to go to be of help" (28 percent). Almost six in 10 had not been asked to volunteer by an organization or a cause in the previous year. [Source: Albany Times Union, Dec. 24, 2012, "Why charity doesn't start at (our) home"]
"We believe that volunteering and serving is the best possible way to live," said Jonathan Hentrich, Lead Pastor of Christ's Church Albany. "The purpose of Serve Albany is to make it as easy as possible for people in Albany to serve in our city."

The program is a partnership between Christ's Church Albany and The Stakeholders Regional Volunteer Center. It started this past Monday and runs through Sunday. There are volunteer opportunities still available. (And if you'd like to help out, but can't this week, the projects might give you some ideas for future volunteering opportunities.)

AOA is a media sponsor of Serve Albany.

Donating hair for charity?

curly hair statueChrisck emails:

My question is about donating hair for charity (for wigs for cancer patients). My hair has gotten quite long and I want to cut it, but would donate it if I knew where to go to donate it. Also, I'd like to talk to someone about exactly how long they need the hair to be because I might be willing to wait a while longer for the cut if my hair needs to be longer to be useful. Anybody know anything about donating hair?

As we understand it, there a few charities that collect hair for this purpose (and some criticism of at least one).

So, anyone have the scoop for chrisck? Suggestions about a local place to go to have the hair cut properly for this purpose? Please share.

photo: Flickr user quinn.anya (cc)

Volunteer or mentoring opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics?

slide ruleElizabeth emails:

Are there any local organizations that need volunteers to mentor or tutor K-12 students interested in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics? I am interested in volunteering, but having trouble finding a reputable organization where I can have an impact. I am especially interested volunteering for an organization that encourages high school aged girls to pursue a degree in a STEM related field. And while I've got your attention, are there other organizations (any type) you would recommend volunteering for?

Sometimes having someone there to lend a hand now and then, and tell you "I did this and you can, too" can be a powerful thing.

So, got a suggestion for Elizabeth? Please share!

photo: Flickr user s58y (cc)

Dining Out for Life with AOA, this Thursday

dining out for life 2013 logoDining Out for Life -- the annual fundraiser for the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York -- is Thursday. Here's how it works:

1. You go out to eat at a participating restaurant.

2. That restaurant donates a portion of the bill to the AIDS Council.

It's just about the easiest charitable thing you can do.

As in past years, AOA is captaining one of the restaurants. And this year out spot is the City Beer Hall in Albany. We'll be there for both lunch and dinner. Please say hi if you stop by.

We've had good times with people at dinner in previous years. So, if you'd like to eat with the AOA group -- and we hope you do -- please take a quick moment to RSVP here. It's just so we can organize a table. We're aiming to have dinner around 6 pm.

Dining Out for Life 2013

dining out for life 2013 logoOne of our favorite fundraisers of the year is coming up next month -- the AIDS Council of Northeastern New York's Dining Out for Life event. It's Thursday, April 25.

Here's how it works: You go out to eat.

That's it.

Well, that's almost it. You go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants on that day and the restaurant will donate a portion of your bill to The Aids Council. There are lunch and dinner options available, and there are even some bakeries and dessert places in the mix. It's an easy way to do a good thing. And it's a good excuse to get a bunch of friends together for dinner.

As in past years, AOA is again a media sponsor/ambassador for Dining Out for Life. And our restaurant this year is the City Beer Hall. We'll be there for both lunch and dinner that day. So please say hi if you stop by -- we've had a fun time the past few years.

If you can't make it to one of the Dining Out for Life events here's how to make a donation.

The Hard Places: The Tom Little Story

Hard Places Sign.jpg

The late Dr. Tom Little is the subject of an upcoming documentary.

In August 2010, Tom Little -- an optometrist from Delmar -- was part of a group of ten humanitarian aid workers killed in Afghanistan. The Taliban later took credit for their deaths. Dr. Little had spent most of his life there, and made it his mission to bring eye care to Afghans in need. He was known in humanitarian circles around the world, and in Afghanistan there's a hospital wing named after him. In 2011 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But here in the Capital Region, where he and his family maintained a residence, he appeared to be an everyday guy -- until news spread of his death.

Capital Region public television producer Dan Swinton never met Tom Little, but he remembers being very moved by reports of his death. He couldn't stop thinking about it. Later that day he found himself in the grocery store. "I was looking at this wall of ice cream debating about what flavor I should get," says Swinton, "and suddenly I was so deeply affected by how much I have and how spoiled I am -- how I lack for nothing -- and how what kind of ice cream I get is the kind of choice I make. And here was a guy who died in another country for something he cared about and who deprived himself of so much."

For a lot of people, that would be the end of the story. But two and a half years later, Dan Swinton is now preparing to go to Afghanistan with Little's wife, Libby, and a pair of German filmmakers, on a mission of his own. They'll tell the story of Tom Little, and of the people and the place that became so important to him in a documentary called The Hard Places.

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Good local charities for donations?

Thumbnail image for flower in handsEric asks via Twitter:

Any suggestions for local holiday charities with high ratio of money donated/good deeds performed? Esp. food or kid-related?

We're guessing you have suggestions for Eric. Please share! We're looking forward to them.

Our quick suggestion: the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Its director has said they can turn $1 in donated money into $10 worth of food.

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber (cc)

Now's a good time to donate blood

be nice I gave blood buttonThe nation's blood supply is at a 15-year low, according to the American Red Cross. So now is an even-better-than-usual time to give blood.

Maureen Wellman, communications manager with American Red Cross Northeast Division, says there's usually a slowdown in donations over the summer. But for whatever reason -- maybe the mid-week Fourth of July, or severe weather around the country -- this summer's downswing has been atypically large.

She says there aren't numbers available for blood supplies in the Capital Region -- the org shuttles blood around the country as needed, and so far it's been able to keep up with demand. But that will get harder if donations don't pick up. A continued shortage potentially could threaten the care of people needing surgeries or other treatments.

Here's an easy way to donate
There's a blood drive at the Best Western on Western Ave across from the UAlbany campus Thursday from noon to 7 pm. The drive is in conjunction with the Giants training camp -- every donor will have a chance to get their picture taken with the Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy. Here's how the donation process works.

The Red Cross has info about other blood donation options online.

Wellman says red blood cells have a shelf-life of 42 days (platelets just five days), so there's always an ongoing need for donors -- shortage or not.

photo: American Red Cross

Earth Day: Cleaning up in Troy

Troy Earth Day cleanup:photo credit Mary Rynasko.jpg

Saturday's Earth Day weekend clean-up in Troy

By Kim M.

soapbox badgeSpring is here!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I've needed to remind myself of that after this warm winter. I am dying for another chance to throw open the windows and get inspired to do some much needed cleaning.

While my apartment remains a stale pigsty, I got started on some spring cleaning yesterday by celebrating Earth Day -- our annual chance to organize a little frenzied cleaning of our public spaces.

Actually, thanks in part to the warm winter, my neighborhood group in Troy got a head start on cleaning up our little corner of the world. Two months in a row we were able to get a small group together for a few hours to pick up some of the trash that has been littering our streets.

In neighborhoods like mine, this is about more than picking up trash.

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Dining Out for Life with AOA

Dining Out for Life -Save the date.jpgIt's time for one of our favorite fundraisers of the year -- the Aids Council of Northeastern New York's Dining Out for Life event.

Here's how it works: You go out to eat.

That's it.

Well, that's almost it. You go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants this Thursday, April 26 and the restaurant will donate a portion of your bill to The Aids Council. There are lunch and dinner options available, and this year there are even some bakeries and dessert places in the mix. It's an easy way to do a good thing.

AOA is a media sponsor for Dining Out for Life. And we're adopting Mingle on Delaware Ave for this year's event, so we hope you can join us there. We've reserved a table for 25 people at 6 pm, so if you'd like dine with us, just RSVP here. Last year's event was a lot of fun, so we're looking forward to meeting some new folks and spending time with old friends.

If you can't make it to any of the Dining Out For Life events, but would still like to help out, you can make a donation here.

Volunteering around Christmas?

Thumbnail image for flower in handsLooking to help, Anonymous emails:

I know a few AOA readers are involved in charitable work, so I was wondering if you could ask ... how one could volunteer to help on Christmas night? I'm staying in the US this year for the holidays, my buddies are out of town, maybe I can make myself useful. THANKS!

We'll expand Anonymous' question to include all the time around the holidays -- not just Christmas.

And if you can think of some way to just do something nice for other people, that would be great, too. Someone once shoveled our driveway while we were away for a few days over Christmas break, and it was just about the best thing ever.

Got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

Local holiday wish list: Unspeakable Visions Christine

Christine Hmiel

Things that would make Christine happy this holiday season: tea, movies and apple vodka.

In holiday seasons past AOA has made lists of local gifts we thought people might like to get. This year, we're going right to the source. Instead of making our list, we've asked a few people directly: what's on your holiday wish list.

Our first wish list comes from Unspeakable Visions Christine...

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How to help the Irene flood response?

Thumbnail image for irene_flooding_schenectady_0225.jpgUpdated September 7 at noon

Julie emailed this morning:

I just made a donation to the American Red Cross, but was wondering if there were other ways that I can help the victims of flooding.

We've collected a few ways after the jump. We're sure there are others -- so, if you know of way to help, please share it.

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A fruit/vegetable picking charity?

peach sliceJennifer emails:

I recently heard about a program in Toronto called Not Far From The Tree. It seems like an awesome idea, and I was wondering if you guys had heard about anything like it here in the Albany area.

The first thing that came to our mind was the Capital District Community Gardens' Squash Hunger Program, which collects surplus produce. But we wouldn't be surprised if there are others.

Know of local program like this? Please share!

Cameron Varano & Hens for Haiti

Hens Haiti Cameron

Cameron during one of her trips to Haiti.

By Liz Clancy Lerner

Some people write checks when they see desperation in the world. Others are able to lend a hand.

Cameron Varano is the latter.

In 2009 the 24-year-old Niskayuna resident helped create the Hens for Haiti project, an initiative to build a hen house in Gros-Morne, Haiti. The goal is to bring jobs, nutrition and hope to the community and they're making progress.

The hen house is being constructed and the chicks are supposed to arrive in the spring, but like many projects in developing nations, Hens for Haiti has encountered some speed bumps along the way.

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A good place to volunteer?

flower in handsLooking to help, Camilo emails:

With the upcoming season of holidays, I was wondering if you guys know of a good place to volunteer in, where I could spend a couple of hours a week. I am not affiliated with any church (neither am I interested in), but any place where I could feel like i'm being useful for the community would be cool. I checked online and I cant find anything really worth. Most of the volunteering positions I find around are more like office-assistant-of-the-church kinda work, but not really community oriented.

This question has come up a few times in the past. And people had some good suggestions -- some of them probably still apply.

There's also a site called VolunteerMatch that allows you to search for volunteer opportunities as if they were job listings. You just tell it the location and what you're interested in. Here are the results for "everything" within a 20 mile radius of 12203.

One more interesting option: The Stakeholders group is starting up a network to match non-profits with volunteers. It looks like they're currently taking applications for January matches.

Know of good place to volunteer? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

Other Capital Region orgs up for Refresh money

pepsi refresh logoAfter the seeing that Hannah's Hope Fund fell just short on a second Pepsi Refresh grant, we were curious about what other local groups are currently in the running for soda money.

All these projects up for votes through the end of this month. All descriptions from the Refresh site. There's a wide range of ideas...

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What are you thankful for?

Otto and Daisy napping

Otto's thankful for his BFF Daisy.

The holiday this week has us thinking about giving thanks (and turkey, too). So, we were curious:

What are you thankful for?

We'd love to hear your answer in the comments. It could be anyone or anything.

We'll draw one person at random from the comments and AOA will give $100 to a charity of that person's choice.

OK, we'll start: AOA is very thankful for our loving and supportive family and friends -- we never would have been able to start this site without them. And we're also thankful to you. We count ourselves very lucky that AOA is part of a community that includes so many interesting and thoughtful people. It makes us smile.

Important: To be part of the drawing, you must submit your comment (that answers the question) by noon on November 24. You must include a working email address (that you check regularly). The winner will be notified by 5 pm on November 24 and must respond by 5 pm on November 29. The choice of charity is subject to AOA approval (for example, we're not going to give money to People Against Puppies).

Good places to donate furniture, clothing?

generic couchJudi emails:

An older pair of friends of the family are doing some serious downsizing to live in a pretty impressive independent living community in the area. They have quite a bit of furniture, clothing, etc that they need to find good homes for and they've expressed an interest in donating most of their things, but don't really know where to start.
I want to help them as much as I can, so I've been trying to do a little research on all the places they can donate ... Do you know of any good places to donate in the Capital Region? Would any of these places be willing to pickup the donations?

Judi says she's considered a few of the places that probably first come to mind -- Goodwill and Salvation Army. She's wondering if there might be some good places she's missing.

Last year, Naomi donated some used furniture to Troy Area United Ministries and got the scoop on how it all worked. And while it wouldn't necessarily be a donation, the local Freecycle network could be useful (more scoop from Naomi).

Anyone have suggestions for Judi? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: If you're looking for the inverse situation, Slacker asked about good places to buy a couch.

Tour de Habitat 2010

tour de habitat 2010The annual Tour de Habitat bike ride is coming up September 26. From the brochure:

The Tour de Habitat gives riders a choice of pedaling a 100, 50, 25 or family-friendly 10 mile route to benefit Capital District Habitat for Humanity. All rides start and finish at the Albany Pump Station, with a post-ride reception featuring food and beer.

The entry fee is $100, for which the org is hoping people will get sponsors. The fee includes "riding a fully supported route, pre- and post-ride meals at the Albany Pump Station, two pints of any Evans beer after the ride and a souvenir t-shirt."

Earlier on AOA: Scoring your very own urinal at Habitat ReStore

Hannah's Hope Fund

Sames family.jpg

Hannah and her family

Your three year old daughter is diagnosed with a rare disease.

There's no support group. There's no foundation. There are no clinical trials -- just well meaning doctors with advice about how to make her more comfortable.

If you took that advice, who could fault you?

But Matt Sames and his wife Lori couldn't let go without a fight.

The Rexford couple has managed to bring together an international community of scientists and doctors, and raised over $2.2 million to help save their daughter and others like her.

Now the Hannah's Hope Fund is in fourth place for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant that will help support an upcoming clinical trial.

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New York is not the volunteer state

top volunteer activities in Albany

The top four volunteer activities in this metro area.

From a report called Volunteering in America, based on averages from 2006-2009:

The Albany metro area has 200,000 volunteers
27.1% of residents volunteer - ranking them 44th among the 75 Mid-size cities
34.7 hours per resident - ranking them 44th within the 75 Mid-size cities
$532.2 million of service contributed here

Here's the full rundown for this metro area.

The report includes a list of "community factors that may influence Albany's volunteer rate" -- but in Albany's case they would seem to indicate that more people in this area would be volunteering.

New York State did terribly in the rankings -- 51st among all states (and DC) for percentage of people who volunteer. NYC probably accounts for a lot of that -- it's volunteer rate was 50th among 51 large cities.

Here are the national rankings.

The federal government produced the report based on data collected by the Census Bureau.

[via the TU's Chris Churchill]

Earlier on AOA:
+ From 2008: Know of a great place to volunteer?

graph: Volunteering in America

Rappelling down the Crowne Plaza -- for a good cause

There was originally a Streetview embed of the Crowne Plaza, but we heard it was messing things up for some people who were using IE

This isn't your typical fundraising drive: Special Olympics New York is giving people who raise $1000 for the org the chance to rappel down the side of the Crowne Plaza in downtown Albany. From the press release for "Over the Edge:"

Approximately 100 "Edger's" will rappel 18 stories down the State Street wall of the Crowne Plaza Albany. Each participant will be required to raise a minimum of $1,000 to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity. The chance to rappel is completely exclusive and can only be done in this area through Special Olympics New York! Our goal is to raise $100,000 for athletes across the State.

The fundraising starts today. The the Crowne Plaza descent is August 20.

(Thanks, Nick)

Lark Tavern benefit

lark taven benefit posterThere's a "Rock to Rebuild the Lark Tavern" benefit coming up May 22 at the Washington Park lake house. On the schedule for the event: music, food, an art auction and a silent auction. Tickets are $10.

If you have goods or services to donate, contact Jasen Von Guiness: jvg |at| albanysociety |dot| org.

If you have art you'd like to donate for the auction, contact Samson Contompasis at the Marketplace Gallery: TheMarketplaceGalleryNY |at| gmail |dot| com.

To volunteer: larktavern.volunteer |at| gmail |dot| com

Earlier on AOA: Fire at Lark Tavern

Voting opens for "community sponsored" Sculpture in the Streets

community sponsored sculpture voteThis year's Sculpture in the Streets exhibit in downtown Albany will feature works by J. Seward Johnson (a little background). And, for the first time, the exhibit will include a "community sponsored sculpture." From the web site:

One of the sculptures will be sponsored by you- the residents, employees and friends of the Capital Region! $3,000 will support one life-sized sculpture for the duration of the show. We ask everyone in our community to donate $1.00 and show how, especially in today's economy, collaboration is the key to success. To truly involve each of you, the sculpture will be chosen from one of the three [options] -- each $1.00 donation will serve as one vote for [a] sculpture ... Each donor will have his/her name printed in an ad in the Times Union this summer to celebrate our community coming together in this effort!

The thumbnail on the right is one of the options (title "Generation Bridge"). Voting started today and goes through May 21.

The kickoff party for this year's Sculpture in the Streets is June 18.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Sculpture in the Streets 2009
+ Sculpture in the Streets 2008

Dining Out for Life

dining out for life logoThere's an easy -- and fun -- way to help the Aids Council raise money coming up this week.

The org's annual Dining Out for Life event is this Thursday. Here's how it works:

  1. You got out to eat at one of the participating restaurants
  2. The restaurants donate 25 percent of their food sales that day to the AIDS Council

That's it. Easy.

At a lot of the restaurants, "ambassadors" are organizing group dinners. We went to a group dinner at Athos last year and met a bunch of interesting people. It was a lot of fun.

Great local gifts for Valentine's Day

Dolce Biscotti Cookies

Like those Necco conversation hearts -- but better.

By Kaitlin Resler

Valentine's Day is nearly here! This means candy, lots of pink and red things, frivolous and sometimes-almost-too adorable paper goods, dinner reservations, flowers and all manner of stuffed animals propped in store windows. Oh... and, you know, letting the people in your life know that you love them.

After all the fuss of the biggest winter holidays has died down, Valentine's Day is a funny little break from the every-day. It's a little bit of warmth in the otherwise totally freezing, month of February.

Lots of Capital Region shops have their share of hearts and flowers but here are four of my favorite local ways to do something special for Valentine's Day.

What are your favorites?

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Hearts for Haiti

hearts for haiti etsyVictoria Van Der Laan, the local artisan who sells on Etsy as ex libris handmade, has organized an Etsy shop called Hearts for Haiti. The shop has been up for just a week -- and its page reports that it's already raised more than $8500.

Wrote Victoria on her blog:

... Having no money to donate I was feeling helpless and desperate to do my part. Somehow I ended up on the Etsy forums and it struck me that a charitable shop should be organized to help the people of Haiti in some way.
So I started a forum thread. The response was immediate and incredibly inspiring. So many amazing people stepped up to help in all of the many ways that were needed. Throngs of Etsy sellers offered up amazing items. I got swept up in all of the camaraderie and the amazing spirit of charity and before I knew it I was well on my way to opening a shop!

As of this afternoon, the shop had more than 650 items for sale -- all donated by other Etsy artisans. The proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders.

(Thanks, Leah!)

Earlier on AOA: ex libris handmade was featured in the holiday gift guide

James Taylor benefit concert at the Mahaiwe

james taylorJames Taylor has added a second Haiti benefit concert at the The Mahaiwe (the first one sold out in 90 minutes Tuesday morning). The second show will be January 23 at 8pm. Tickets start at $100. They go on sale at 9am Wednesday morning at the theater and via its web site.

That sold-out first show raised $150k for the org Partners in Health -- and Taylor then matched it with another $150k of his own. The proceeds from this second show will also benefit the same org.

The Mahaiwe is in Great Barrington, MA, which is about an hour drive from Albany.

Toy donations?

toy earthmoverChuck emailed this morning about trying to find a place to donate gently used toys:

As the only child, and worse, the only grandchild, our now 7 year old has several (clean) garbage bags and RubberMaid storage bins full of (also clean) plush toys, and other assorted kid paraphernalia. An embarrassing amount for one child actually. We'd love to see that these go to other kids as they are all in great condition, but it seems toy donations always need to be new toys.
I'm tempted to just leave them on some church steps or push them into one of those used clothing bins, but I'd rather like to see that they go to the right place.
Can you help!

Anyone have ideas?

Local holiday gift guide round-up


The Peppermint Pigs from Saratoga Sweets are still one of our favorite holiday gifts.

If you haven't finished (or -- you know -- started) your holiday shopping yet, there's a good chance you're getting a little... what's the word we're looking for? Panicky?

No worries. We've had the AOA elves out compiling a list of local holiday gifts that are fun to give and pretty easy to get.

Check out the full list after the jump. And by all means, if you have a good last-minute gift in mind that you'd like to add, pass it on.

Happy shopping.

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Holiday gift guide: Candy!!!



By Kaitlin Resler

If you've been waiting to find the perfect little extra gift, or you're just looking for something nice for someone you know so well, today's gift idea might be just the ticket.

Because let's face it: locally made candy might very well be the best thing since --- well, itself.

Here are a few of my favorite local candy shops and some of their most popular holiday treats:

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Holiday gift guide: children's museum memberships

Children's Museum .jpg

Nothing says happy holidays like exploring earthworms.

Maybe you know some kids that seem to have more stuff than they know what to do with. You want to get them a gift but you don't know what they have, you don't know what they need, and you don't know what the hot new toy is.

Today's holiday gift guide suggestion is something kids can appreciate in December, or in June (and that parents won't have to clean up).

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Holiday gift guide: local history

Local History Books.JPG

Your Capital Region history questions, answered.

Maybe it's just our inner geek, but we love knowing the back-story about the place we live.

Learning who stayed in that old hotel back in the day, what ghost haunts the music hall or the correct pronunciation of Kosciusko just kinda makes our day in a weird little way.

Today's local holiday gift guide suggestion celebrates exactly that type of local history geekdom.

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Holiday gift guide: Rolf's

Rolf's 2.JPG

Smokey holiday goodness.

On the 4th day of the gift guide AOA gives to you:

The gift of meat.

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Holiday gift guide: museum shops

AIHA artblocks.jpg

From the gift shop at the Albany Institute.

By Kaitlin Resler

Sometimes, in order to find just the right "what" you've got to find the right "where."

Some of the most overlooked "best places for gift shopping" in the Capital Region aren't in the malls -- they're in the museums. Best part -- you're supporting the museum while you shop.

Here are some local museums with lovely gift shops and a few of the gifts you can find there.

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Holiday gift guide: bags at The Paper Sparrow

Paper Sparrow Bags.jpg

They're our bag, baby. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

We were Victorian Strolling through Troy last weekend when we popped into The Paper Sparrow to see what new home made goodies Kate had added to her collection.

What we saw on the wall had us digging for our wallets.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Spectrum passes

Spectrum Tickets.JPG

Just add popcorn (with real butter).

'Tis the season and all that, so chances are you're doing a little holiday shopping.

If you're looking for something cool and you want to shop local, the AOA elves have pulled together a few fun holiday gifts that come from right here in the Capital Region.

Day 1: the gift of film

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Donating locally for the holidays

flower in handsThe holiday season is a time when many people are thinking about giving back.

There are lots of wonderful organizations and worthy causes in the Capital Region, and it can be tough to know where to start. We've put together a list of a few local charities that do some very good work, with details on what they need, what not to send and how you can help.

We're sure you know of some others, so please, add your favorites to the list.

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Where to volunteer during the holidays?

flower in hands

Maybe you have something to offer a local non-profit.

Updated: Jess provided a little more detail in a comment.

Tweeted Jess this morning:

Looking for ideas of where to volunteer on Christmas. Wondering if any readers might have some tips.
Okay, so here's the deal: I'm kinda trying to get out of Christmas. Yes folks, I'm just not that into Christmas - not in a Scrooge way, more like Charlie Brown in the "Peanuts" holiday special way.
My brother will away this year and I'd really like to find some sort of other meaningful activity for my parents and I to engage in on the 25th.

A handful of people have asked us this question in some form recently, so we'll expand this a bit: know of a good place to volunteer during the holidays?

Our suggestion: the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Demand at food pantries in the Capital Region is up -- and it looks like the Regional Food Bank has a bunch of volunteer slots open over the next month.

As it happens, this question came up around this time last year, too.

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

Help others rest easy

equinox drive pillowsIf you're looking to clear some extra room in your linen closet, here's a good cause you might be able to help out. The Equinox Domestic Violence Shelter is holding its "Sweet Dreams" drive right now. From a shelter press release:

The public is encouraged to make donations of new or gently used nighttime items such as twin sheets and blankets, pajamas, robes and slippers to be donated to the women and children who reside at Equinox safe houses.

The items can be dropped off at Equinox headquarters at 95 Central Avenue in Albany. You can get more info by calling 434-6135.

PrimaLoft, which is a division of Albany International, is helping with the drive. It donated hundreds of pillows (the photo on the right) earlier this month.

Squash Hunger

zucchini boxHere's a good way to put that bumper crop of zucchini to good to use. The Capital District Community Gardens has started up its annual Squash Hunger program:

The seasonal effort, underway through October, collects produce donated by gardeners, farmers, CSA (community supported agriculture) members and shoppers at drop-off locations throughout the Capital District and distributes the fresh food to local missions, shelters and food pantries.

Chrisck pointed out this program to us. She adds that you can help out even if you're not a gardener:

... because the drop-offs are at grocery stores and farmers markets and folks can purchase some extra vegetables when they do their own shopping. Before I had a community garden, I would buy an extra cabbage or sturdy vegetable at the Honest Weight to put in the box. My other tip is that people should note when the pick-up times are and schedule their donations so their veggies can get to people as fresh as possible.

Pick-up locations and hours are posted after the jump.

This is the 6th year for Squash Hunger. CDCG figures the program's brought in about 50,000 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies.

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The Albany Society for Advancement of Philanthropy

speedo santas

It's all about giving back.

By Jessica Pasko

Speedo-clad Santas and festivals of meat don't exactly conjure up typical philanthropic ventures. Then again, the members Albany Society for Advancement of Philanthropy aren't exactly your typical philanthropists.

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Gifts that say Albany -- literally

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

IHEARTALBANY.jpgWhen you visit NYC, you can't throw a snow globe without hitting a Big Apple themed gift. Hats, shirts, mugs stickers, ties, postcards. But if you have friends or relatives visiting the Capital Region, have you noticed that it's nearly impossible to find the same kind of things with an Albany theme? It's the capital city, but can you find an "I heart The Egg" bumper sticker, or an "I got my tan in Albany" t-shirt? Noooooo.

Well, if you're just busting to show your A-Town pride you might find an outlet at CafePress.

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AOA's holiday gift guide


These little piggies are on the AOA holiday gift guide.

OK gang, we're down to the wire on this whole holiday shopping thing. It is officially the time of year when those who haven't finished shopping (or started) might begin to panic.

No need.

We're kind of big on thoughtful gifts here at AOA, so in case you still haven't been able to think of the right gift for someone on your list, we've been compiling a list for you. If you've missed them, after the jump you'll find a list of local gifts we think would be fun to give (or get).

Got some fun favorites that aren't on the list? Help an elf out and post your suggestions.

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Don't Bogart the Egg Nog

eggnog_cover_index.jpgJust in time for Christmas, The Rev Records has released a holiday album. The Silver Screams Don't Bogart the Eggnog is a collection of original holiday music recorded by A-Town's Bryan Hamill.

From the website:

Hamill turns his lens on the holiday season, tackling such subjects as pets,knitting, and pastries, all in his signature hodge-podgey bedroom pop style.

You can download an mp3 for 5 bucks or email one as a gift.

Pendant necklaces from Elissa Halloran Designs


A plethora of pendants.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews


Pendant necklaces from Elissa Halloran.

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The Frankencake at Cheesecake Machismo


Mmmmm. Frankencake.

By Jessica Pasko

Why settle for one flavor of cheesecake when you could have six? Or more!

If you're headed to a holiday party this season and don't know what to bring, here's the perfect idea: A Frankencake from Cheesecake Machismo.

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Albany Art Room Gift Certificates


Gift certificates to the Albany Art Room AND permission to get dirty? Yay!!!


Gift Certificates to the Albany Art Room. Think about it-- the kids are going to be off for a whole week, it's cold out, and the the time it takes to go from infatuation with new toys to stir crazy is shorter than you think. A few hours at the Albany Art Room could be a lot of fun for kids and a great break for parents.

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Belgian beer from Brewery Ommegang

ommegang gift pack

Not just beer -- Ommegang beer.

On day five of AOA's holiday gift guide -- a little holiday cheer.

The 2008 gift pack from Cooperstown's Brewery Ommegang: three 750 ml bottles (one Hennepin, one Three Philosophers and one Chocolate Indulgence Stout), plus a special Ommegang glass.

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Holiday treats for furry friends

Dog Treats.jpg

Yes, they look yummy, but hands off! They're for the dog (or cat).

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

On day three of AOA's holiday gift guide -- a little something for man's best friend.


A selection of baked pet treats from Sherry's Kitchen.

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The Peppermint Pig


The three little peppermint pigs.

Done with your holiday shopping yet? Yeah, didn't think so. In our ongoing effort to be helpful (live elves), we've been keeping an eye out for gifts that are fun, interesting and local. We'll bring you one a day. And as always, if you've got any thoughts or suggestions, tell everyone about it.

On the first day of the AOA holiday gift guide we give you peppermint porcine goodness.


The Peppermint Pig.

It's not bacon candy -- but it's almost as much fun. Candy pigs may seem kind of random, but they were a traditional holiday gift in Saratoga Springs generations ago. About 20 years ago Mike Fitzgerald at Saratoga Sweets brought them back. Now they're in catalogs and on the internet. They've even marched in the Macy's parade. But they're made right here in the Capital Region. Here's how the tradition works:

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cranksgiving posterIt's a canned food drive! It's a bike race! It's both!

Here's how Andrew (Pink Tallbike) Franciosa described Cranksgiving to us:

This race takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving every year. There's no registration fee, but riders bring money with them, because the checkpoints are all grocery stores. At these grocery stores, they have to leave their bike outside, run in, and purchase a specified food item. Once they've collected all of the food items and have finished the race (we check the receipts to make sure they didn't cheat), all of the food gets donated to the Albany Homeless Action Committee.

Registration starts at 8:30 pm Saturday night (you'll need $20, a bag and a lock -- and, we're guessing, a light) at the memorial near State and Henry Johnson in Albany's Washington Park.

By the way: if you're curious about the backstory to Cranksgiving, it was started by bike messengers in New York City in 1999.

The Scoop

For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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