By Michelle R. Dee, Senior Director of External Affairs

This has been a demanding week at Jersey Cares.  The amazing team that is running Frosty’s Friends and the Coat Drive has enlisted everyone in the office into reading the 4,000+ letters that have come in from children at agencies across the state of New Jersey.  Simultaneously, they are coming up with creative ways to collect more coats to meet the 50,000 requests that we have.  It can be a little overwhelming.  It can make us feel liIMG_3087ke we can’t do enough.  I can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices.

Yet, every day, without fail, that same team walks through the door with fresh ideas and ways to do more.  They text me at 11 p.m. to tell me of a great new idea they had or to share with me that they secured a new coat drive collection site.  They bring energy and enthusiasm and optimism to situations that seem overwhelming.  I can see their passion in everything they do; I know that #makeadifference and #bethechange are more than just hashtags to them.  They embody Yoda and his philosophy “do or do not…there is no try.”

So, we continue to do.  We continue to help – one child, one letter, one coat – at a time.  We know that the pile of letters can only get smaller, one letter at a time.  We know the coat drive containers only get filled when one person decides to open the lock and put a coat inside.  We know that companies and organizations and clubs only get involved when one person decides to make a difference.  So we continue to do and every day we reach out to that “one person.”  We know that when all the “ones” come together we really can make a difference, and we do.

If today is your day to be the “one,” contact us at Jersey Cares; we can definitely help you “do.”

The Blank Check

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Specialist (Tyler) Dee – 1992

By Michelle R. Dee, Senior Director of External Affairs, U.S. Army Veteran

When people ask me the best way to honor veterans I have a hard time answering. Yes, I am a veteran and my husband is a veteran and the majority of people that are not my blood relatives, but are still my family, are either still serving or veterans.  Yet, I don’t speak for veterans.  I don’t think any one person can speak for veterans.  According to VetPop2014, a document prepared by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, as of this year there are 21,680,534 living civilian veterans and active members of the armed forces.  Statistically, veterans are as diverse a population as imaginable.  Veterans come from every cross section of society, every walk of life.

Yet, there is one single tie that binds; the blank check. Every person in the armed forces has written one.  The fallen have had theirs cashed.  Many who have come home with traumatic injuries, visible and invisible have had their checks partially cashed.  Many were fortunate to receive their checks back, unblemished.  Bottom line, every single person who has served has written that blank check; the one that promised to give everything, up to and including their lives, in service to our nation.

In that tie that binds, in my opinion, is the core of the best way to honor veterans. Serve.  Do something.  Be a part of something greater than yourself.  Volunteer.  There are innumerable ways to get involved that not only directly impact veterans, but their families.  There are even more ways to get involved that better your community.  Ultimately, honoring veterans is about respecting the sacrifices they made and continue to make every day.  Making an impact in your community is a pretty great way to honor those sacrifices.

If you are looking for ways to get involved this week, or any week, we can help you find a place to give back. Go ahead; write your own “check,” be a part of something, volunteer.


Dramatic Sunset

Dramatic Sunset

By Michelle R. Dee, Senior Director of External Affairs

It is so easy with busy lives to forget to stop and be thankful. It seems like there is never enough time in the day to do what needs to be done, without trying to add one more thing to a growing list of “to dos.”  There are days when if one more person, little or big, asks me a question or demands my attention I feel like I will lose it.    When do I have time to be thankful, between emails, kid’s activities, demands at work?  Then there is the question of what to be thankful for.  Thanking a higher power for the beautiful sunset can sometimes seem a little dramatic in my world.  Most days, I am thankful that my kids made it out the door on time with everything in their backpacks and I made it to work in less than 90 minutes (it is New Jersey after all.)

Yet, I also understand the intrinsic importance of thankfulness and that taking a minute to stop and be thankful also helps me take a second to breathe. When our children were very young my husband and I started a tradition at family meals.  We say a grace that has been passed down in our family for generations, but at the end, we also go around the table and say something that we are grateful for, youngest to oldest.  Friends that eat dinner with us have to play along.  More often than not, dinner comes right after homework or after school activities and the chaos that accompanies that.  Twenty-five percent of the time I am giving thanks for patience.  What has truly come out if it is the opportunity to see what matters to the people you love.  There was the night that my son was thankful for his dad’s sarcasm, because he knew that meant his dad loved him.  There are also some nights that the best we can do is to be thankful that the day is nearing the end.

As we are gearing up for the holidays at Jersey Cares, I have been discussing more with my sons what is going on at work and asking them how they would like to be a part of it.  As my boys plan their involvement in upcoming events, listen to things that we need or drives we are running, I have begun to notice small changes.  They have always been boys with big hearts, but lately even their thanks have taken on a new tenor.  They are now thankful more often for the basics: food on the table, safe schools, warm clothes and parents that care about them even though we drive them crazy.  Interestingly, they have also begun to ask about more ways to get involved.

So, it seems that I have time to be thankful, every day. It isn’t always easy but it is important.  It is also contagious.  The more thankful we are; as parents, as friends, as neighbors; the more thankful the people in our lives become and the more inspired they are in converting that into action.  Every day is a great day to convert gratitude into grace and share it with someone, but this time of year it takes on special meaning.  If you are looking for a way to say thank you and give back, check out our website http://www.jerseycares.org/HOC__Volunteer_Opportunity_Calendar_Page or call us.  We really enjoy being the facilitators of gratitude.