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FROM THE EDITOR
Nice to hear from you!
hank you for all of the feedback on the Fall edition of ION — what you liked, what you didn’t like, it all helped! I’m also grateful for your tech questions, some of which you’ll find (with answers) on Page 5. Keep those coming to ion@gatehouse media.com and facebook.com/ionnewsmag. Your interest in the electric vehicles cover story was also noted. We may follow up that topic in future issues — look for ION monthly beginning in February. Finally, be on the lookout for a survey you might receive about ION. The survey will help us decide the features, formats and topics you want to see more of next year. Before we move on to next year, let’s embrace the holiday spirit of right now. December is such a time of goodwill — and bad guys know that. To help you make good decisions with your time and money, our cover story features expert advice on giving over the phone and online. Plus, we’ve listed 100 charities vetted by Charity Navigator in case you aren’t sure where or how to give. Besides, it’s usually safer to go directly to a charity to donate, rather than via some unsolicited link or email. All of us at ION wish you good fortune and good health, now and throughout 2020.
Editor LISA GLOWINSKI Copy Editor MICHAEL TOESET Designer MICHELLE LAUZON Art Director MARA CORBETT Vice President, Center for News & Design STEVE DORSEY Vice President, Marketing LORI CATRON Ad Sales GERRY JOYCE To advertise contact Nancy Holdgrafer, 507-440-8191 or firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks to Zak Dennis, graphics artist, for our columnist illustrations this issue
All other photos stock unless noted. © GANNETT CO., INC. 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without prior written permission of the Publisher. Permission is only deemed valid if approval is in writing. ION Magazine and Gannett Co. Inc. buy all rights to contributions, text and images, unless previously agreed to in writing. While every effort has been made to ensure that information is correct at the time of going to print, Gannett cannot be held responsible for the outcome of any action or decision based on the information contained in this publication.
JOIN US Lisa Glowinski Director, More Content Now Gannett (formerly known as GateHouse Media)
Cover illustration: Mark Freistedt, Gannett
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WINTER 2019 passion
G I V I N G A N D T E C H N O L O GY
Donate safely online Worthy charities and ‘do-gooder’ proﬁles Donations and taxation
GO GO GADGETS
Video chat devices HOW DO I ... ?
Better organize your day COLUMN
GO WITH THE FLOW Should I upgrade my smartphone?
Podcasts about tech
Tracy Beckerman: For whom the Skype tolls
conversation The beach in Florida is just one of the Wendlands’ podcast “studios.”
START ME UP
Do what you love, and never work another day
Typewriters are cool again
Your tech questions answered Q: I have been under the impression that roads are built and maintained largely by a tax on gas. As electric vehicles become more popular how will maintenance be financed? — Cliff Coxbill A: The short answer is, it’s not worth worrying about at least for the next 50 years. Gas taxes do contribute to infrastructure, of course, but how much largely depends on the state. Alaska, for example, only gets 19% of its highway infrastructure funding from state and federal gas tax, plus other taxes and use fees. The average for all U.S. states is around 30%. The next thing to consider is that it will be generations before EVs represent even 10% of the vehicles on the road nationwide, if ever in the foreseeable future. Take California, for example: It’s a prime location for EV sales because they’re heavily incentivized, the climate cooperates and the state has invested in infrastructure. Yet California’s market share for EVs totaled only 4.9% in 2017. Finally, take a look at vehicle miles traveled: With three exceptions (the fuel crisis in 1973, the recession in 1981 and the economic crisis in 2009) vehicle miles traveled have never gone down. We travel 24 billion miles a year more now than we did in 1999, and collected fuel taxes have increased commensurate with that rise. Might we arrive at a point where EVs represent — for example — 25 percent of the new vehicles sold in the U.S.? Maybe, but that’s decades in the future. By that point, state and federal governments would likely find another method of collecting those revenues (tolls, excise taxes, etc.).
like Scancafe.com. You just ship them your box of slides and they do all the work and send you back your slides along with digital files of every slide. They will also touch up your slides and remove artifacts. The second way to do it is to buy a dedicated scanner like Kodak Scanza Slide Scanner. There are many devices like this, ranging from under $100 to thousands of dollars, but they each give you an all-in-one solution to scan your slides. This allows you to insert slides or film negatives into the device, and it scans and saves your photos onto a storage device like an SD card. The third way is to use your smartphone and a device like a Kosdak Mobile Film Scanner. You set your phone on top of the film scanner box and put your slide underneath. The scanner will shine a light through the slide and you then take a photo of each slide, and it is saved to the photos on your phone. This method is also possible with a DSLR for higher-quality transfers. — Matt Schmitz of Buttondown Creative, which creates video and web content for clients
— Craig Fitzgerald, automotive editor of BestRide.com Q: Is there a way to view and digitize 35mm color slides? — Charlie Stasey A: To the best of my knowledge, there are three ways to do this. The thing about scanning 35mm slides is that usually people have boxes full of hundreds or thousands and each slide needs to be scanned by hand, so it is a rather time- and labor-intensive task. The fastest and easiest way to do it is to send your slides to a service
DO YOU HAVE A TECH QUESTION? Let one of our experts find the answer for you. Send it to email@example.com.
Great movies you might have missed
BLAST FROM THE PAST (1999)
o many movies out there, and so little time to see even just the great ones. In 2018, 796 feature films were released in the U.S. (not including made-for-TV or direct-to-video titles). Most were skippable, a lot were good, a few choice ones were, indeed, great. This happens every year. But a lot of those great ones fly under the radar, are overlooked during theatrical releases, and are forgotten when they achieve home video or streaming status. The idea of this column is to recommend some films that got away but are well worth watching. There will be some you’ve never heard of, and others that you’ve meant to catch up with because of what you have heard. They’re all, for various reasons, in this movie-loving critic’s mind, winners. Most should still be available for purchase at retail outlets and websites. An even better bet is to check out your local library.
In the paranoid early 1960s, a wealthy, eccentric inventor and his very pregnant wife (Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek) learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis on a TV report. Fearing a nuclear attack, which never happens, they move into their lavish, well-stocked underground fallout shelter, where she has a son named Adam. Thirty-five years later, believing that it’s safe to go back up again, home-schooled Adam (Brendan Fraser), hoping to meet a woman and restart civilization, returns to the surface to find ... contemporary Los Angeles and its many oddball denizens. Featuring Alicia Silverstone as Eve, the object of Fraser’s desire (Adam and Eve ... get it?) and terrific comic turns by Joey Slotnick as a soda jerk-turned-apocryphal guru and Dave Foley as Eve’s best friend, it’s a sweet, sometimes hilarious, sometimes slightly serious, always enjoyable tale about paranoia, survival, urban development, puppy love and the value of old baseball cards. • Stream it on: YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, starting at $3.99
THE LONG GOODBYE (1973) Considered by many cinephiles to be Robert Altman’s best film and showcasing Elliott Gould’s best performance, this is a very loose adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel featuring tough, nasty, honorable private detective Phillip Marlowe. The character had been played many times before — by Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep,” Robert Montgomery in “Lady on the Lake” and James Garner in “Marlowe.” But Gould, who had already starred in Altman’s “M*A*S*H,” brought a whole new mystique to the world-weary fellow, constantly muttering wisecracks under his breath, endlessly smoking cigarettes (lighting wooden matches on every conceivable surface), trying to be a nice guy to his friends while dealing with unsavory people in his work, and failing to meet the demands of his finicky cat. Gould is initially the film’s center of attraction, until a murder mystery involving an old pal (former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton), a smarmy gangster (film director Mark Rydell), an enigmatic woman (Danish socialite and singer Nina van Pallandt) and an alcoholic novelist (Sterling Hayden, who replaced Dan Blocker after Blocker died) kicks into gear. But all of that turns out to be inconsequential when placed inside the swirl of the film’s atmosphere. Altman has his actors talking over one another, cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond keeps his cameras slowly moving in and out and around everyone and everything, and composer John Williams contributes countless instrumental and vocal variations of the title song, which he wrote with Johnny Mercer. • Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu, starting at $3.99
THE MUSIC LOVERS (1971)
TIME BANDITS (1981)
Shortly after wild-man director Ken Russell garnered arthouse glory with an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s “Women in Love” (an Oscar nomination for Russell, a gold statuette for star Glenda Jackson), he attempted to repeat the success he found in telling the stories of artists and composers in his British TV work by shifting it to the big screen. “The Music Lovers” focused on Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, whose romantic works (“Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Nutcracker”) earned him international renown. And Russell, a devoted lover of classical music, featured long segments of it in the film, regularly matching it up with stunning visual scenes, most notably one of Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) performing (OK, finger-syncing) “Piano Concerto No. 1” in small concert setting. But there was a lot more to Tchaikovsky’s life that Russell wanted to reveal. For instance, he was a homosexual, living in Russia in the late 19th century, when and where a fact like that could destroy you. To save his reputation, he did what he believed he had to do: married a woman (Jackson) who was crazy over him. What he didn’t know, till far too late, was that she was a nymphomaniac. Well, that sure didn’t work out! This is a gorgeous looking — and sounding — and emotionally violent film filled with purposely — and terrifically — overwrought performances.
Life after “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” resulted in animator and sometimes actor Terry Gilliam launching a brilliant, if disaster-prone, directing career. But before studios started trying to soften his outlandish visions, he directed and co-wrote (with Python Michael Palin) this truly twisted fairy tale that works equally well for hardcore Pythonites, lovers of fantasy, history buffs and kids of all ages. The unapologetically irreverent story, cleverly disguised as an epic battle between good and evil, suggests that the “Supreme Being” (Ralph Richardson) didn’t actually create the world himself. He did it with the assistance of six dwarfs, who did all the heavy work. But dissatisfied with the way they were being treated, they steal a map of time from Him, then go about traveling within it and looting history’s treasures. Circumstances lead to them being joined by a young boy who, armed with exuberance and a Polaroid camera, becomes the equivalent of the seventh dwarf. They meet various historical figures (John Cleese as Robin Hood and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon, among them) as well as — their bad luck — the Devil (David Warner) who, of course, wants that map so he can rule the universe. Highly imaginative and filled with both spectacular and goofy visual effects, this is a true original.
• Stream it on: Amazon Prime Video, starting at $5.99
• Stream it on: YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, iTunes, starting at $2.99 Ed Symkus has been reviewing films and writing about the arts since 1975. He’s been reviewing and writing about film and music for GateHouse Media publications across the country for the past 10-plus years, and is a contributor to the Boston Phoenix. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
streaming TV, movie services By John Sucich ION magazine
It seems like there’s a new streaming service announced every other week. While that’s not entirely true, there are certainly more options now than back when it was just “Netflix or Hulu.” Here’s a little guide to keeping it all straight — at least until the next offering is announced.
• Cost: $8.99/month (Basic) to $15.99/month (Premium) • Best for: Keeping up with what everybody is talking about • Devices it works best with: Any internet-connected screen • What you’ve heard: Netflix Original Series “Stranger Things” was recently renewed for a fourth season, and the streaming service is still a go-to for its comedy specials. • Future plans: As Netflix loses some favorite programming to new streaming services, expect to hear about increased original offerings from the streaming giant.
• Cost: $7/month • Best for: “Star Wars” and Marvel fans … and Mickey Mouse, obviously • Devices it works best with: Available on iOS, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku and Xbox One • What you’ve heard: Disney might not offer as much content in total as other services like Netflix, but it packs a punch, controlling the Marvel universe and “Star Wars” franchise, producing shows and movies related to both of those fan favorites. And, of course, expect new shows featuring Disney characters, including the Muppets. • Future plans: Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu will be available as a bundle package for $13 a month, $5 less than subscribing to all three separately.
• Cost: Plans start at $5.99/month • Best for: Fox fans • Devices it works best with: Most internet-connected screens • What you’ve heard: For $44.99/ month, you can get a Hulu subscription featuring Hulu original content as well as live television. • Future plans: Since Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, Disney+ is available as a Hulu add-on, meaning you can keep all of your content in one place.
• Cost: $4.99/month • Best for: Mac users • Devices it works best with: The Apple TV app is already on iPhones, iPads and Macs, and can be found on select Samsung smart TVs. • What you’ve heard: Apple announced the subscription service with stars who will appear in shows on the app, including Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Oprah Winfrey. • Future plans: Apple plans on bringing Apple TV to even more smart TVs, streaming boxes and streaming sticks.
HBO MAX (COMING MAY 2020) • Cost: $15/month • Best for: “Friends” lovers • Devices it works best with: Expected to be compatible with most streaming devices • What you’ve heard: HBO Max is owned by AT&T WarnerMedia, which owns the rights to “Friends,” so that show will be moving to HBO Max from Netflix in 2020. It also bought the rights to “The Big Bang Theory” and will be the streaming source for all Warner Bros. dramas produced for the CW network. • Future plans: HBO Max is expected to coexist with existing HBO apps HBO Now and HBO Go. AT&T is exploring an ad-supported tier for HBO Max that would launch in 2021, according to Reuters in October.
• Cost: Free • Best for: Nostalgia lovers • Devices it works best with: Computer browsers, phones and tablets • What you’ve heard: Crackle is a good place to discover an old series that you didn’t know was still available. • Future plans: Expect changes to the platform. Earlier in 2019 Crackle was sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and was rebranded as Crackle Plus.
• Cost: Starting at $25/month • Best for: Cord-cutters • Devices it works best with: Roku, Samsung smart TVs • What you’ve heard: Add-on packages — for extra sports or movies channels, for example — are available at extra cost. • Future plans: Sling has two separate channel packages, it’s always worth watching which channels are added or taken away.
YOUTUBETV • Cost: $49.99/month • Best for: Cord-cutters who want lots of live sports options • Devices it works best with: Compatible with most streaming devices • What you’ve heard: YouTubeTV allows you to stream live and local shows, including sports, from more than 70 channels. • Future plans: YouTubeTV’s channel lineup can be different depending on where you live, so changes are likely to come to what channels are offered where.
PEACOCK (COMING IN 2020) • Cost: Not announced yet • Best for: NBC fans • Devices it works best with: Expected to be compatible with most streaming devices. • What you’ve heard: Peacock will feature original programming as well as NBC classics like “Cheers,” “Frasier” and “Saturday Night Live.” • Future plans: NBC Universal regained the rights to “The Office,” which had been on Netflix. It will be available on Peacock in 2021.
CBS ALL ACCESS • Cost: $5.99/month (limited commercials); $9.99/month (commercial-free) • Best for: Fans of the CBS network • Devices it works best with: Streams across devices including Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Samsung smart TVs • What you’ve heard: Not only does CBS All Access allow you to watch CBS shows, but it produces original programming such as “The Good Fight,” a spinoff of “The Good Wife.” • Future plans: CBS All Access continues to announce new original shows, including “Star Trek: Picard,” which will premiere in January.
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
• Cost: $8.99/month (free with Amazon Prime membership, which is $12.99/month) • Best for: Amazon Prime members • Devices it works best with: Amazon Fire TV or TV Stick, plus compatible TVs, gaming consoles, or phones and tablets • What you’ve heard: Not only does Amazon Prime Video allow you to watch Amazon Original movies and shows, but you can buy or rent popular movies or new releases. • Future plans: New seasons are on the way for popular Amazon Originals like “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
• Cost: $54.99 to $79.99/month (includes storage space to record live programs and watch later) • Best for: Sports fans • Devices it works best with: Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and most phones and tablets • What you’ve heard: It streams sports in 4K resolution (cool only if you have a 4K TV or device). • Future plans: Fubo started as a $7/month service, so keep an eye on its bundles, pricing and channel lineups to fluctuate.
• Cost: $20/month • Best for: Those who love a classic cable channel lineup • Devices it works best with: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and most phones and tablets • What you’ve heard: Focuses on being a service for cord-cutting college campuses • Future plans: Looking to integrate a social platform that connects viewers with friends and family to discover new content, share favorite shows and watch shows together.
Information as of Nov. 8
Podcasts on the
By Matthew Girard ION magazine
very day, millions of people across the world are affected by technology — whether they like or not. From advanced encryption that keeps your personal information safe to complicated algorithms that suggest what show you might binge watch next, technology is constantly changing the way people live. To keep you up to speed on the latest advances, here are a few podcasts to listen to.
Note to Self Hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, the Note to Self podcast focuses on how technology impacts everyday life. Answering questions like “Is your phone watching you?,” “What is metadata?” and “Will artificial intelligence replace humans in the workforce?,” she helps listeners question the technology and world around them. Find it: wnycstudios.org/shows/notetoself
Suggested listening if: You want to know about tech but don’t want to feel like you’re being talked down to.
Crazy/Genius Produced by The Atlantic, host Derek Thompson dives into the latest technology and how it affects culture. Thompson encourages listeners to ask the big questions and helps draw provocative conclusions about technology and everyday life. Find it: theatlantic.com/podcasts/crazygenius Suggested listening if: You want a semi-deep dive into a pretty heady question, like how Netflix has changed entertainment or what it’s like to live being monitored by facial recognition.
Clockwise Covering the latest in technology news from the newest Apple products to Google’s newest hardware, hosts Dan Moren and Mikah Sargent give listeners a rapid-fire discussion on current technology issues. Each episode is no longer than 30 minutes and features two special guests. Find it: relay.fm/clockwise Suggested listening if: You want a really quick overview of various tech topics in the news.
Future Tense Focusing on the technological world, host Antony Funnell explores the new ideas, approaches and technologies that will be changing the world. Funnell provides in-depth analysis of the social, cultural and economics that come with such rapid transformation. Find it: abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense
Suggested listening if: You can think about the world’s big problems without losing sleep. Or you just dig Australian accents.
Should I upgrade my
Do you need to charge your phone more during the day?
The lithium batteries used to power our devices wear down over time. First research whether you can buy a replacement battery for your device or use a battery-saving mode (Airplane Mode works, too) and turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi until you need them for better results.
Are apps slower to open?
Don’t believe the holiday hype. If your phone works just fine for you, or it’s paid for, there’s no need to plunk down hundreds of bucks for a new one.
First check your Settings to see which apps are using the most memory. Delete those you no longer need, or delete and reinstall on an Apple device to clear their data cache. On Android devices go to Settings > Apps > Manage Apps. View All Apps, open each app, and hit the Clear Cache button. Oh, and turn the phone completely off once in awhile.
It’s a good idea to have the latest software installed on your phone for security reasons. Apple’s iOS 13 can be installed on iPhone 6S and later; Android, the operating system for Samsung, Motorola, LG, Google and most other non-Apple phones, is supported for at least three years after initial phone release.
Do you use your phone for sensitive tasks like banking, email and social media? GRAphic / Jennifer F. A. Borresen
GO GO GADGETS
See you, see me
By John Sucich ION magazine Looking to send a subtle — or maybe not-so-subtle — message that you’d like more face time with your family … without actually using FaceTime? There are plenty of options for sharing quality time from a distance through video chats. Here’s a look at some gift ideas to tell someone, “I’m thinking of you … but don’t forget about me.”
AMAZON ECHO SHOW “Drop in” on family with the Amazon Echo Show. The Echo calls (technically the feature is called Drop In) friends and family who have the free Alexa app or an Echo device with a screen. And, of course, the Echo comes with all of the other benefits Alexa offers, from playing TV shows, movies and music to controlling elements of your smart home.
• Where to buy: Amazon.com • Price: $64.99 for the Amazon Echo Show 5; $129.99 for the Echo Show 8 (model numbers denote size of screen) • Power needs: Needs to be plugged in, but a battery base is available • Ease of use: You can turn off the microphone and camera easily, and it there is a built-in slide shutter that can cover the camera to protect your privacy.
FACEBOOK PORTAL The Portal offers a variety of sizes — the standard is 10 inches, and it’s available in a mini version, a 15.6-inch Portal+ or on your TV — and has the added fun of augmented reality. The AR feature allows you to use filters, animation or music to enhance a video call. • Where to buy: portal.facebook.com • Price: Ranges from $129 (Portal Mini) to $279 (Portal+) • Power needs: Plugs into the wall • Ease of use: The video calls are conducted through Facebook Messenger and What’s App, so the person on the other end only needs a smartphone or tablet with one of these apps — they don’t have to also have a Portal. It also comes with the features of Alexa built in.
GOOGLE NEST HUB MAX “Hey, Google!” That’s all you need to say to open up a world of photos, videos, music and more. The Nest Hub Max offers video calling on Google Duo — also a free app that can be added to smartphones and tablets — with the ability to leave video messages.
• Where to buy: store.google.com • Price: The 10-inch Google Nest Hub Max is $229 • Power needs: Needs to be plugged in, but a battery base is available • Ease of use: The Google Nest Hub Max can be as simple as a digital photo frame, or it can be wired to control elements of your home like your doorbell or temperature and light settings.
Or, just let them know you’re there LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP LAMP You can let someone far away know you’re thinking of them without even seeing them. Two (or more) lamps can communicate with one another using a Wi-Fi connection — when a person on one end touches the lamp, the lamp on the other end will light up to show someone is thinking of them. VIEWCLIX.COM
VIEWCLIX Primarily a picture frame that displays photos shared digitally, ViewClix can also be used for video calls. The pictures are presented in a slideshow that will be interrupted for a video call, but then resumes as soon as the call is over. • Where to Buy: viewclix.com • Price: $199 (for 10.1-inch display) • Power needs: ViewClix comes with a power adapter • Ease of use: A designated Organizer can operate ViewClix from a web browser on any device, organizing the order of pictures in the slideshow and how long they are shown, and adjusting settings such as whether the frame should automatically answer video calls.
• Where to buy: uncommongoods.com/product/ long-distance-friendship-lamp • Price: $170 (for a set of two lamps) • Power needs: Plugs into the wall • Ease of use: Just make sure you have enough outlets — the lamp needs to be plugged into a wall, as does the piece that connects to your router. If the lamps are bought as a set, though, they are automatically connected with one another.
GRANDPAD Geared toward seniors, the GrandPad comes with companion apps for family to download to their phones or other devices, so everyone can share photos or videos. • Where to buy: grandpad.net GRANDPAD.NET • Price: $200, plus a $40 monthly subscription for a more comprehensive experience • Power needs: Comes with a charging cradle that provides one to three days of use • Ease of use: The tablet is designed to be easy to use, with a simple interface and large buttons.
HOW DO I ...?
Better organize the day By Matt Schmitz For ION magazine
ife is busy. The tasks keep piling up, our calendars are never empty and our to-do lists seem never-ending. It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by everything on our plates at the
moment. The good news is: There is hope! In fact, the cure could already be in your pocket. We’re talking about a task manager. Keeping your tasks organized becomes extremely easy (and even a little fun!) when you have the right method and use the right tool. To put it simply, a personal task manager is a glorified grocery list. A task manager is essentially a to-do list that holds your tasks from idea to completion. It allows you to organize these tasks by factors such as project, priority or due date. This allows you to efficiently see everything you need to accomplish and plan how you will get there.
A GOOD TASK MANAGER SHOULD:
• Allow for easy inputting of tasks. • Let you organize your tasks efficiently so you can find and review them without effort. • Handle multiple types of projects and tasks, such as for work, kids’ schedules and social events. • Let you easily see all of the tasks that you need to accomplish so you can prioritize the most important ones. It’s important to note that task managers are not just for work. After all, we don’t just have things to do at work. Our lives are full of tasks that we need to remember and
check off when they are completed: Did I remember to make a haircut appointment? What ingredient did I need to pick up for dinner from the grocery store? In this way every part of our lives can benefit from having a trustworthy system for managing what we have to get done.
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT?
Our brains are excellent at being creative and coming up with ideas. This is something no computer can do. But what our brains can often use help with is keeping track of and organizing those creative ideas. Using a task manager can reduce stress and anxiety by helping you plan your day. They can also give mental clarity by taking out all the ideas floating around in your head, leaving more space for focus. Having a plan for what you need to accomplish both increases your chances for success and prevents you from procrastinating. Task managers are also great for building habits such as morning routines. Planning each step of your morning, from brushing your teeth to making coffee or journaling for 20 minutes, can help motivate you to build (and keep) healthy habits.
PICK THE SYSTEM THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU Task managers can vary from a piece of paper to complicated software programs such as Omnifocus, Things 3 or Asana, which have dozens of variables for organizing your tasks. The key is finding a system that is not too overwhelming. Don’t forget that even something as simple as a notebook can be a great option to get started with. Some great online task managers to get started with are: • Google Keep, keep.google.com • Trello, trello.com • Todoist, todoist.com • Wunderlist, www.wunderlist.com • Apple’s Reminders app (standard on Macs, iPhones and iPads)
What kinds of task managers do you use? Email ion@ gatehousemedia.com
Using a task manager can both simplify your life and keep you focused on your goals. Whichever you choose, be sure to pick one that you will remember to use and build trust in. If you don’t trust your system, you most likely won’t use it. Using a task manager that is always with you is also important as you are developing your system. A cross-platform tool like Trello, which works on Apple and Android products as well as several internet browsers, will allow you to access your system on just about any device. It’s also important your task manager isn’t just one more app to download or one more login to keep track of. For example, Todoist can integrate with Google products like Drive, Calendar and Maps; Dropbox; Slack; and Amazon Alexa/Echo, so it makes sense to use something that plays nicely with programs you currently use.
HOW DO YOU USE ONE?
Start by quickly putting what you need to do in your task manager. Don’t overthink this first step, and try to simply add what comes to your mind. After all, having a list too big to begin with can be overwhelming. Keep it simple at first and as you continue to add tasks, you can start organizing them. I recommend organizing your tasks by factors such as priority, project or due date. Each morning, pick three tasks that you need to accomplish that day — and only three. This will help you make sure you can physically
accomplish what you set out to do that day, without getting overwhelmed by the dozens of things that are in your task manager. It’s easy to be overly optimistic and try to complete everything in your task manager. However, our days sometimes don’t go as planned. Be sure to leave margin for things that pop up throughout the day. This is an important step in making steady progress in completing your goals. Another thing to keep in mind as you are planning your day and organizing your tasks is to begin with the task you are dreading the most. This concept was made popular by Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog,” the title of which is based on Mark Twain’s famous words: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Using a task manager can both simplify your life and keep you focused on your goals. A task manager can provide you with a welloiled system for tackling your seemingly never-ending to do list and handling your over-scheduled calendar. When you learn to use a task manager and stick with it, you’ll notice that you aren’t so busy and have more time for things that matter. Matt Schmitz is a partner at Buttondown Creative, a creative marketing agency in Appleton, Wisconsin, that specializes in web development, video production and design/animation. buttondowncreative.com
START ME UP
love Do what you
By Melissa Erickson ION magazine
Mike Wendland has to tell stories. He did it for 30-plus years as an Emmy-winning journalist covering bad-news stories, then tried to “chill out and travel” in retirement. He and his wife, Jennifer, bought a Class B motorhome in 2012 and set a course to “see all the places I’ve been but never spent time in,” Wendland said.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE WENDLAND
RIDE ALONG • RVpodcast.com • YouTube.com/RVLifestyle • RVLifestyle.com
Instead of simply roaming the backroads of North America, the RV enthusiasts built a mini travel empire that includes a weekly podcast (RVpodcast.com), a YouTube channel that posts two fresh videos per week (YouTube.com/RVLifestyle) and the RV Lifestyle travel blog (RVLifestyle.com) with over 750,000 followers in their online community. Plus, they’ve written seven travel books and guides and keep in touch with followers with a newsletter.
Q: How did it start? A: After years of dreaming about it, my wife, Jennifer, and I bought a little RV. I started a blog to keep in touch with family and friends, and it all just grew from there. I did a ton of traveling as an investigative journalist. We called it “parachute journalism.” You “parachute” in, cover the story and leave, sometimes all in the same day. I wanted to go back and see the places I’ve been but never spent time in.
Q: How far have you traveled, and how much time do you spend on the road? A: More than 250,000 miles in the last seven years. We spend about one-half to three-quarters of our time (RVing). Q: Why do you think your blog took off? A: People are desperate for good news. We go out and find wonderful things about America and share them through our blog, videos and podcast. The response we hear from people is that they feel like they’re traveling with us, meeting interesting people and learning about the places we travel. Q: How is RV travel different? A: It’s a wonderful lifestyle. Suppose you’re staying in a hotel. You would never strike up a conversation with the person in the room next door, but with RV travel you instantly have a bond (with other RV people). Q: Don’t you miss family and friends? A: So many people suffer from boredom. They have raised their kids and are asking, now what? You will not be bored in an RV. You will experience the country in a whole new way and expand your reach of friends. It enriches your horizons so much and it’s fun. RVs can help you stay connected to family. Many people use RVs to visit the grandkids. Every Friday I can drive to see my grandson play in his football game. We park the RV in the driveway and spend the night there. It’s more comfortable than a hotel. Q: What are some of your favorite trips? A: We retraced the route of Lewis and Clark from Pittsburgh to Oregon and listened to audiobooks about the history as we went. We’ve traveled the Oregon Trail; you can still see wagon wheel ruts. We went down the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic drive from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, and the same path that Davy Crockett took. And, the Mother Road, Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. Q: What’s the Wendland way of travel? A: We have something called the 330 Rule. That means we don’t travel more than 330 miles per day and/or stop before 3:30 pm local time. That assures that we’re fresh when we arrive and still have time to explore. Q: How do you decide where to go? A: Our philosophy is to follow serendipity. Serendipity is a big thing. In general we’ll know the direction we want to go. For example, we know that in one week we want to be in Utah, so we set a course in that direction but we stop if something interests us. We usually take the back roads, off the interstates.
Q: What’s a typical day like? A: I wake up at about 6 a.m., and Jennifer about 7:30 a.m. If we have a destination planned we take off. If not, we take (our dog) Bo for a walk. Maybe go for a hike, visit a museum, work on our videos and podcast, chill out. We cook (in the RV) but enjoy eating local fare. The videos take a lot of time shooting and editing. We share the driving. One drives and the other navigates. We use apps to find roadside attractions and read up on the history of the towns we pass through.
Q: How does someone know if the RV lifestyle is a good fit? A: Rent an RV for a weekend. Try it out. Try different sizes; you probably don’t need as big as you think you do. If you enjoy it, buy one. They hold their value well, especially the smaller ones. Worse case, you can sell it after a year. Q: What tips do you have for novices? A: Make sure you get along with whoever you’re traveling with. Give each other space. Apologize when needed. There are no hard and fast rules, but you have to like the outdoors. You don’t have to be a handyman or handywoman. I’m not. I just push the button; if it doesn’t work I call someone. Mobile RV repair services are available across the country. Q: How safe is RV travel? A: I have never felt unsafe. All the bad guys are in the cities.
Q: Who is Bo? A: Bo is our Norwegian Elkhound animal companion. She was a surprise present from our grown kids four years ago and regularly appears in our podcast and on our YouTube channel. From our own survey we found that 70% of people said they travel in their RV because they can bring their pets along. Q: How do you produce content and stay connected while on the road? A: The internet is key. I have three systems with two internet providers, AT&T and Verizon, so if one goes down, I still have the other. Plus, I have a cellphone booster and a Wi-Fi booster, which helps pull in cellphone signals and internet connectivity when visiting remote places. Back in the day (as a TV reporter), I traveled with a videographer, a sound man, a light man, a producer, a cameraman. Today it’s just my wife and me. We travel with our own mini podcast studio. Q: Can you clear up a misconception about RVs? A: People think of the eyesore RV in the Chevy Chase “(National Lampoon’s) Christmas Vacation” movie. Today’s RVs are powerful, sophisticated and comfortable with high-end furniture and all the conveniences of home. Our RV is sits on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The roof has solar panels to generate electricity and is powered by lithium batteries, which makes it easy to go off the grid. Q: You go off the grid? A: Yes, it’s called boondocking and it’s very popular now. You don’t need to find a campground to plug in or a hookup for water. It’s very eco-friendly. You can pull off the road and find a remote place. You have to take the back roads to find the best places.
Q: Is the RV lifestyle only for retirees? A: No! Lots of young people enjoy it. You can even make money on the road. With the internet there are so many ways to stay employed. You can work as a campground host. Do photography. Lots of people make crafts and travel around from show to show. Q: What’s next? A: Maybe Europe (in a RV) in the next few years. Alaska. The Canadian Maritime provinces. Q: Any regrets? A: I wish we would have started earlier. When interviewed in September, RV influencers Mike and Jennifer Wendland were appearing at the Midwest RV Super Show in Elkhart, Indiana. Mike Wendland is also PC MIke, a technology reporter who publishes weekly to all 215 NBC TV stations with the PC Mike podcast and blog, pcmike.com. The beach in Florida is just one of the Wendlands’ podcast “studios.”
START ME UP
Rocket men The success story of a ‘Shark Tank’ failure
By Melissa Erickson ION magazine
Jake Epstein, right, and Joe Lemay PHOTOS PROVIDED
he secrets to success for Rocketbook cofounders Jake Epstein and Joe Lemay are to never stop innovating and never get comfortable. The leaders of a seven-figure innovation company, Lemay and Epstein may be seriously smart, but they don’t take themselves too seriously, especially when dressed in their bright orange astronaut suits, which they don at product launches, electronics shows and during their 2017 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Rocketbook’s founders are known for their enormous crowdfunding success and an aggressively forwardlooking yet traditional product, which is a bestseller on Amazon and at stores including Staples, Best Buy and Office Depot. Rocketbook started with the Wave, a reusable smart notebook that uses a microwave to erase its pages, and has grown into a full line of products for classroom and office. After the Wave came the Everlast, a smart pen-and-paper, endlessly reusable notebook that is cloud-integrated. Users can digitally upload notes, lists and creative ideas through the Rocketbook app then organize into handy folders. Everlast’s synthetic pages wipe clean with a damp cloth. “Rocketbook started with a simple idea: to allow people who love low-tech pen and paper to keep up with all of the high-tech organizational technology of today,” Lemay said. Both 42 and born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Lemay and Epstein didn’t meet until later in life. Lemay earned a degree in computer science from Cornell University and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Epstein earned a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University.
Q: Have you always been interested in invention? A: “Yes, from an early age,” said Lemay, who was unsure whether he wanted to be an engineer or an architect. “In college I thought I might want to study chemical engineering, but then an upperclassman showed me how a computer image of a hummingbird could be turned into a flower. It opened my eyes to computer vision, AI. I went into computer science.” “I definitely was that kid in the basement experimenting with things. My father was a lifelong engineer, and my brother is in marketing. I like to think I bridged the two,” Epstein said.
Q: Did the idea for Rocketbook, a cloud-connected paper notebook, really launch at the Sligo Pub in Somerville, Massachusetts? A: “Absolutely! We always kept in touch and pitched each other ideas. It was the first of many meetings over pints,” Lemay said. Rocketbook’s co founders are both “notebook guys,” but it was Lemay who had previously shown up for an important business meeting without the correct notebook. “I had been using notebooks for my whole career, but life was going digital. I tried every product I could find — digital pens, iPads — but nothing was a natural or efficient as using pen and paper,” he said.
Q: What happened next? A: “The next morning, we shook off the hangover and got to work. It was kind of crazy. It was during the holidays 2014. We had been sitting in this dark dive bar decorated with strings of hanging Christmas lights, then four months later through the glory of crowdfunding we turned an idea into a video and a show-stopping presentation. We presented it at Launch Festival 2015 in San Francisco. Within three days of going live on Indiegogo we had secured over $100,000,” Epstein said. “Standing on stage we demoed it and the crowd loved it. We said, ‘Who wants a Rocketbook,’ and everyone cheered,” Lemay said. The next day Rocketbook was a featured item on Indiegogo, and their phones exploded with sales queries. “The product wasn’t even real yet,” as it was only available for presale at that point, Lemay said. Within a few months that first crowdfunding campaign netted over $2 million. Q: Tell us about your appearance on “Shark Tank.” A: “‘Shark Tank’ approached us. At first we declined.
We had been wildly successful with crowdfunding. We were skyrocketing but thought it would be cool to be on TV,” Epstein said. When Lemay and Epstein finally did agree to appear on ”Shark Tank” they showed up in their orange space suits. “At that point we didn’t even care if we got a deal. ... what we wanted was to be remembered. So instead of going on dressed as typical innovators in jeans and branded T-shirts we got orange astronaut suits. We wanted to blow people’s minds,” Lemay said. Their flair for the theatrical as well as a solidly innovative product led to success, but was called “crazy” and viewed as a gimmick by the “sharks,” who all passed on investing. The episode was filmed in September 2016 but didn’t appear until May 2017. “They were amazed, but they didn’t really understand our product. They saw us as a single product, not a truly powerful tech platform that enriches people’s lives on a daily basis,” Lemay said. The sharks also questioned how to make a profit off a reusable product. Lemay and Epstein both said they enjoyed the experience and love the show.
Q: What was life like after “Shark Tank?” A: “We came back with fire in our belly,” Lemay said. As the 2016 holidays approached, Rocketbook really began to blossom, and the company made more than $10 million in revenue. Q: Do you have a piece of advice for someone who wants to try something new? A: “Few things are irreversible. Whether it’s going back to school or starting a new business. Don’t keep your ideas secret. Get them out there. People appreciate your vision even if you’re finetuning it. Get feedback and improve as you go,” Lemay said. Q: What’s something that you’re proud of? A: One month before the “Shark Tank” episode aired, Rocketbook raised over $3 million and became the most successful crowdfunded office supply product in history, Epstein said. Q: How do you like to relax? A: Lemay enjoys hiking and rock climbing and Epstein likes to surf.
WHAT’S NEXT • Rocketbook’s latest product, Beacons, take something commonplace — the whiteboard — and make it digital. Four restickable, reusable Beacons convert a dry erase surface into a smartboard by pairing with the free Rocketbook app. See it at getrocketbook. com/pages/beacons-how-it-works • Lemay and Epstein host the Betterment Experiment podcast in which listeners can tune in and suggest life hacks that the pair will test drive. Then, they report back on which methods of self improvement work best. player.fm/ series/the-betterment-experiment • In addition to the reusable Rocketbook Everlast ($32), Rocketbook Fusion ($35) and the original Rocketbook Wave ($25), Rocketbook products include the Rocketbook Color ($22), which has the same wipe-to-erase features but is compatible with dry erase markers, and Rocketbook One ($12), a single-use notebook.
START ME UP
By Melissa Erickson ION magazine
Philly Typewriter repair classes are open to the public. Students restore a typewriter from beginning to end. PHOTOS PROVIDED
estled on one of the coolest streets in South Philadelphia sits a shop that harkens back to another era yet is surprisingly of the moment. Philly Typewriter is a repair shop that may feel nostalgic but is prospering due to an unexpected social phenomenon. Like record players and Polaroid cameras, typewriters are trendy again. For owner Bryan Kravitz, 70, typewriters never went out of style. In 1975 Kravitz, a native Philadelphian, enrolled in a
six-week typewriter repair course at a California trade school. An 18-month apprenticeship followed, then years with his own business maintaining Smith Coronas, IBM Selectrics, Remingtons and Underwoods until the rise of the computer made him seek other opportunities. Now his career has come full circle back to typewriters, but this time instead of simply repairing them heâ€™s spreading his love for these machines and his typewriter frame of mind to a younger generation.
LEFT: Selectrics have nearly 3,000 parts. Bryan Kravitz has been a Selectric specialist since the 1970s. BELOW: Close up of the typewriter ribbon installation.
Q: Why typewriters? A: You have to remember back then typewriters were a massive industry. Typewriters were essential office equipment. Every office had a typewriter mechanic. Large companies would have hundreds of typewriters and often had their own staff mechanic. I’ve always been mechanically inclined. (During trade school) I discovered the IBM Selectric, a real marvel. I met a man who taught me how to repair it, and he took me under his wing. The Selectric is special. It was the first machine that could change font, size of font, the first auto-correcting. It’s an incredibly engineered machine. It has about 2,500 different parts where other typewriters maybe have a couple hundred.
went out of business. I was 40 when it happened. If I was older I might have retired. I knew how to do direct mail and I did that for a couple years, I had a boutique direct mailing and marketing business.
Q: What happened after you completed your apprenticeship? A: I got a job with the University of California, Berkeley, maintaining hundreds of typewriters for the school’s 29 libraries. Later I opened You’re My Type, my typewriter repair shop in Berkeley. I also worked with the U.S. Navy teaching typewriter repair courses.
Q: How did you decide to open another shop? A: For me it was important to find someone who could help me. I’m older. I can fix typewriters and I can teach people how to fix them. I want to pass my knowledge on but I also wanted someone who had the energy to help run the business. And that’s Orrin Leeb (50), who’s co-owner with me.
Q: What happened when computers emerged in the 1990s? A: I saw the writing on the wall. I closed the door and
Q: What do kids like about typewriters? A: If you put a typewriter in front of a child — even a very young child who can’t hold a pencil — they
Q: What brought you back to typewriters? A: I’m passionate about these beautiful machines. What I needed was somewhere to let people know I was available to fix them. A couple years back a friend let me set up a display in his shop window. I set up the typewriters and would be there every Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. for three years. I was fixing typewriters out of my house with these pop-up shops. I became very busy.
can type a full sentence. Typewriters are tactile. The touch, the sound, the immediacy of seeing the printed word is very satisfying. People are buying typewriters for their kids and grandkids. For them typewriters are like new, cool inventions. Q: In addition to teaching beginner students how to restore post-war Royal Standard office typewriters and a more advanced class restoring the Underwood No. 5, how else are you passing on your knowledge? A: In our public program we take the typewriters that have been restored by students (in Philly Typewriter repair classes) and put them in public spaces around the city (universities, libraries, cafes) for people to use for free. It’s a social experience. People line up to use them, to bang out sentences. Typewriters are a tool to get stuff out of your head, to get your original thoughts on paper without spellcheck or anything else between you and the creative process. You don’t get that with a computer. Q: If someone has an old typewriter that’s not working can you fix it? A: Yes! A lot of people come in with a grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s typewriter that’s been sitting in a corner unused.
Q: How rare is Philly Typewriter? A: Typewriter shops used to be like cellphone shops, but very few have survived. We are unique among the unique. Today there’s less than a dozen around the country. … We’re a 21st century typewriter repair shop. In addition to repair classes and the public program, we’re involved with literacy programs around the city. After 30 years of digital technology people are craving a slower pace. Whether it’s writers, journalists, hipsters, businesspeople — there’s nothing like writing on a typewriter. Q: What’s a unique typewriter you have sold? A: Each typewriter is unique. Maybe it was your great-grandfather’s that he used when he started his business. Maybe it’s the typewriter someone wrote a novel on. They are antique, vintage, retro, but we can actually still use them. We recently sold a 1929 Remington portable to this gentleman who must have been walking by the shop for two years and eventually came in. It was a beauty: shiny black enamel but also useable, functional and relevant. In addition to co-owner Orrin Leeb who not only repairs typewriters but is instrumental in running the business side of Philly Typewriter, Kravitz employs two full-time staffers and part-time employees.
Letters to Santa at the shop last Christmas.
Volunteer training session.
A disassembled typewriter in the middle of service.
TECHNOLOGY I t’s the end of the year, and it seems like everyone has their hand out. You want to give what you can, but how do you choose? And how much of your money will go to actually help the needy, rather than toward the beautiful mailers and address labels you receive from groups you’ve donated to in the past? Let’s open our eyes to some charitable giving practices before we open our wallets.
INSIDE • Tech is making it easier to give, but it’s a lot less safe. Here are expert tips on not giving away more than you want to online. Page 32 • Check out our list of charities and volunteer organizations broken down by category so you can choose to donate to causes that align with your interests and values. Pages 34-42 • Get to know some of the “do-gooders” behind charities big and small in our communities. Pages 35-42 • What will all of this goodwill mean for your tax returns next year? Experts from NerdWallet.com break it down. Page 43
Tips on donating safely
By Danielle Braff ION magazine
t’s easy to donate to a charity online or even via text — but it’s now even more important to vet those charities before pressing that button and possibly sending your personal info directly to a scammer. According to the Federal Trade Commission, technology has made it easier for us to donate online, but it’s also made it easier for scammers to get our money. Some of their safety tips:
CHECK OUT THE CHARITY
There are already organizations in place that have vetted the major charities to make sure they’re legit. Plug in the charity’s name to BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar. When you type in the name of the charity, you’ll get information about the charity’s organizers, founders and board members. You’ll also be able to see how much the charity relies on donations for funding. Next, verify that the company has an updated 990, says Krystal Nelson, founder and CEO of I-Impakt Consulting, a company that helps businesses make sustainable impacts. If the charity is a 501(c)3, they are legally required to have an updated 990, no matter the size of the organization. Something is likely wrong if the charity is not listed in the IRS list of Tax Exempt Organizations and does not have an updated 990.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK WHEN IT COMES TO GOFUNDME Fundraisers via sites including GoFundMe or Kickstarters — which allow anyone to host their own fundraising campaigns online — are harder to vet. According to GoFundMe, you should be able to answer the following questions before making your donation to one of its campaigns: • How are the organizer and recipient related? • How will the funds be used? • Do family and friends of the recipient control withdrawals? If not, who does? Crowdfunding sites have very little control over who uses them and how the donations are spent, so you need to do your own research, says the FTC.
DON’T GIVE AWAY YOUR INFO
Instead of sharing your personal information online, use a Donor Advised Fund, says Andy Albertini, president of A2 Consulting Group, a non-profit consulting firm based in Dallas. A DAF is a planned giving product widely available and easy to open. “The IRS allows you to contribute to a DAF and take an immediate deduction on your taxes, but allows you to hold the donation in that account until you are ready to make a distribution to your chosen charity,” Albertini says. “Then, simply issue a check directly out of the DAF, and your personal information is completely protected.”
Yes, it’s easy to click on a button on a website and donate. And plenty of charities want you to do this, especially directly after a natural disaster. Charity Navigator, under its Hot Topics section, aggregates all the charities operating after a storm onto one page, so you can see the organizations already assisting in relief efforts and compare their ratings, says Sofya Perrin, an organic search specialist with Tandem Interactive in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
CONSIDER TEXT DONATIONS
Known as text-to-give or text-to-donate, charities can advertise a word or code for you to text to a short phone number, and the donation amount is added to your phone bill. This type of donation has become increasingly popular, especially after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, when the Red Cross alone raised $43 million in this manner, CNN reported in 2012. Giving through text is easy but just like other charity donations, you should vet these for legitimacy. You should also inquire about how long it will take for your phone carrier to transfer the funds to the charity. For example, it normally takes up to 2 months for most carriers to transfer the funds. If your charity needs the money faster, you may want to consider a different method of giving.
DON’T GIVE OVER THE PHONE TO A SOLICITOR
If contacted by phone, first ask a fundraiser for the charity’s name, website and mailing address so you can confirm it. Also ask if it will be a tax-deductible donation (gifts to political action committees, for example, are not tax-deductible). You can double-check this by looking up the organization in the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization search, according to the FTC.
USE THE SAFEST METHODS OF PAYMENT
The safest method of payment is via a credit card, the FTC says. Never wire money or pay by giving numbers from a gift card. After you donate, review your credit card statements and bank account to double-check that you’re only charged the amount you agreed to donate, and that the charity didn’t sign you up to make a recurring donation.
Worthy causes PEOPLE • Meals on Wheels America: Help conquer senior hunger and isolation by cooking and serving meals to seniors, along with safety checks and visits. mealsonwheelsamerica.org • Guide Dog Foundation: Raise puppies, work in kennels and host events to raise money for their programs. You can even foster a guide dog while it’s waiting for placement. guidedog.org • Project on Government Oversight: They investigate government reform, corruption, misconduct and conflict of interest. On their site, there are plenty of petitions you can sign, along with letters they suggest writing. pogo.org • Coalition for the Homeless: It’s a direct service organization helping the homeless in every way. Volunteers can assist in shelters, distribute food, clothing and blankets, collect backpacks and school supplies, collect toys for the holiday drive and organize fundraisers. coalitionforthehomeless.org/ take-action/volunteer • Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice: This charity funds LGBTQI activism globally. You can help by attending an event, which ranges from film premiere screenings to panel discussions to protests, or you can donate. astraeafoundation.org • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Promote suicide prevention and understanding by joining your local chapter and creating community programs, research and advocacy. You can also march in a walk, write letters, raise money and donate. afsp. org • National Women’s Law Center: Advance and protect women’s legal rights. Website lists a wealth of information on issues including equal pay, child care and reproductive rights. Also ways to share your story and donate. nwlc.org • Armed Services YMCA of the USA: Enhance the lives of military members and their families. Each local branch has different ways you can volunteer, from organizing food drives to doing crafts with
Not sure where to start? We vetted 100 charities via Charity Navigator so you have plenty of giving options, based on what’s important to you. Not a complete list, but food for thought:
military kids. asymca.org • Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund: Provide services to support severely injured military. Donate or propose your own fundraising initiative on their website. fallenheroesfund.org • National Military Family Association: Guide military families through tough and stressful times. Donate, judge scholarship applications, speak on behalf of the military community, share information and resources, and more. militaryfamily.org • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: Offer assistance to anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one in the military. Volunteer as a grief professional, or help in the office or as a mentor. taps.org • National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: Honor and remember fallen firefighters. Start a fundraiser, buy a walk of honor brick or shop to support the firefighters who died in the line of duty. firehero.org • The National Council on Aging: Improve the lives of millions of older adults. On the website, you can search your area for volunteer programs. You can also partner with the organization for sponsorships and donations. ncoa.org • The Glass Slipper Project: This is a nonprofit that collects fancy dresses and accessories and gives them to high schoolers unable to buy their own prom dresses. Volunteer to work at an event or donate your gown. glassslipperproject.org • Common Cause Education Fund: Ensure an open, honest, accountable government. Sign petitions on their site, join protests and become a grassroots lobbyist. commoncause.org • Firehouse Subs Foundation: Provide firehouses with the lifesaving resources they need. Donate to help purchase bunker gear, extrication tools, bulletproof vests and more. Or, eat at Firehouse Subs. firehousesubsfoundation.org • Feeding America: End hunger by organizing food, information and support for your community; they connect you with your local food bank. Donate food, pack food, deliver food and donate money. feedingamerica.org • Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep: Photograph families experiencing the loss of a baby. Volunteers do an intimate photo session and gift the families with the photographs. Must be a photographer. nowilaymedowntosleep.org
HEALTH & MEDICAL • Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation: This foundation looks for cures for spinal cord injuries. Help with advocacy initiatives, help with fundraising and donate money: There are so many ways to help here. They’re also looking for people to lend a hand with everyday projects, programs and events. christopherreeve.org • Cancer Research Institute: There are many ways to donate to this charity, which raises money to cure all cancers: you can start your own fundraiser, gift stocks, donate in honor of someone or even shop through AmazonSmile partners. No gift is too small. cancerresearch.org
• Helen Keller International: Donate money toward more than 120 programs to prevent blindness and vision loss for vulnerable people. They also provide free vision screenings and glasses for those living in poverty. hki.org • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: They’re leaders in the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer. Donate to their center via their site. mskcc.org • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network: This network funds research and supports patients with pancreatic cancer. They have plenty of local ways to volunteer, ranging from walks to letter-writing campaigns to fundraising events. pancan.org • Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR): They’re dedicated to ending the global AIDS epidemic through research. In addition to donating, you can help by attending their events: Their galas are infamous. amfar.org • Death with Dignity National Center: Provide an option for dying individuals, and stimulate improvements in end-of-life care. Share your story, add your name to a petition and declare your own independence for the end of your life. deathwithdignity.org • Compassion & Choices: Educate, support and advocate for patent rights at the end of life. Sign a petition, organize an event, spread the word, call elected officials and share social media posts. compassionandchoices.org
THOSE WHO DO GOOD Whether through technology, face-to-face counseling or literal legwork, there are people in our communities who are giving back every day. They aren’t all rich or privileged. Many started at their lowest low and knew there was a way to rise up, bringing others with them. They succeeded through equal parts determination and compassion. The following profiles, written by Melissa Erickson of ION, look at just a few of the people out there doing good work year-round.
‘I don’t see limits’
chone Malliet is a passionate advocate for changing the lives of a younger generation through the power of winter sports. A veteran and a former Marine captain and pilot, Malliet left a high-paying, successful career in finance to found Winter4Kids, a sports/mentoring program that operates at National Winter Activity Center, located in a former commercial ski mountain in Vernon, New Jersey. He serves as chief executive officer for this growing non-profit that expects to serve over 3,000 kids in 2020. “It is a better use of my skills and talents to help others. I’m an educator at my core. I want to make a difference,” Malliet said. The goal of Winter4Sports is “making unimaginable dreams inevitable opportunities for youth,” Malliet said. At its heart is the fact that many children who live in urban or rural areas or come from lower-income families are never exposed to winter sports. The aim is to leverage the “dark days of winter” and challenge kids to be more active. “The focus is to make a difference in the lives of kids. With instruction we take them from never-ever to mastery all with the help of experienced mentors. We provide everything from healthy meals and proper equipment and clothing to understanding safety and teaching new skills, in addition to a guided curriculum from values to virtues,” Malliet said. In the first year, kids try two sessions each of downhill and cross country skiing and snowboarding. “In the second year they get to choose which activity they want to focus on,” Malliet said. A former Bronx kid who grew up playing street basketball, Malliet is thrilled when he witnesses kids go beyond what they thought was possible. Succeeding at a winter sport is more than just a healthy, fun activity. It also gives kids perspective. It can change a child’s outlook on life. “There’s a real wow factor. Kids start out curious. Most have never been exposed to a snow sport, but this
Schone Malliet [PHOTO PROVIDED]
is an opportunity for them to realize they can master things they never even dreamed of,” Malliet said. His vision for others is deeply rooted within himself. “Growing up how I did, by all rights I should not be where I am: coming out of the Bronx to fly fighter jets in the Marines, to go from a salesperson to a CEO. I pursue things I was driven to do. I don’t see limits,” Malliet said. Malliet’s first attempt at skiing came on leave from the Marines, and it didn’t go well. But he kept trying. Malliet joined a ski club and eventually became executive vice president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers. His experience and commitment led to the founding of the National Winter Sports Education Foundation and then to founding Winter4Kids. “Embracing a love for the outdoors while acquiring skills, our participants look forward to new opportunities for their lives. Improving health, better attendance in school and the joy of new perspectives creates inflection points for these kids. We make a difference.”
• Planned Parenthood: Provide comprehensive reproductive health care services for everyone. Fill out a form on their website, and they will see if your skills match their volunteer openings. plannedparenthood.org • Autism Society of America & Foundation: Improve lives affected by autism. Work with the society to advocate for federal public health policies. Contact your legislation and share links on social media. autism-society.org • Breast Cancer Prevention Partners: Work to prevent breast cancer by eliminating exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Help by donating and signing petitions listed on the website. bcpp. org/take-action/ • Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: They aim to cure Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improve the quality of life of those affected. Volunteer at a residential summer camp, volunteer at your local chapter, organize a support group in your area, advance public policies and participate in fundraising events. crohnscolitisfoundation.org • Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research: They’re dedicated to developing better treatments and ideally a cure for Parkinson’s disease. They have marathons, bike races, community events, fundraising events and more listed on their website. You can also start your own fundraiser. michaeljfox.org • Alzheimer’s Association: Support Alzheimer’s research. You can help by walking in a march; volunteering as a support group facilitator, community educator or advocate; taking part in a clinical trial and in many more positions that are listed on their website. alz.org • American Transplant Foundation: Support for living donors, recipients and their families make organ transplants possible. Volunteers can do legislative outreach, special events, research, fundraising, office work, mentorship, graphic design, patient relations and more. americantransplantfoundation.org • American Heart Association: They save lives from heart disease and stroke. Learn CPR via their website, host a fundraiser, become a social media volunteer and advocate for grassroots change. heart.org • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians: Advocate on EMT issues and provide education that improves the skills of the practitioners. Advocate for through the site, or join. naemt.org
ANIMALS • Wildlife Conservation Society: This society attempts to conserve biodiversity. In addition to funding, they could use help with letter writing to representatives. wcs.org • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: The primary goal is to stop cruelty to animals. Ways to volunteer include donating, fundraising and joining the PETA Vanguard Society, where you’ll go to events and support PETA’s efforts. peta.org • Center for Biological Diversity: They fight to save the endangered species. To help, they have many events listed on their website, from protests to pledges to petitions. biologicaldiversity.org • National Wildlife Federation: They strive to help with wildlife conservation. Become a member to support their initiatives, or virtually adopt a wild “pet.” nwf.org • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Rescue and help animals of abuse and neglect. Advocate, report animal cruelty, become a pet foster parent, adopt a pet and donate money. aspca.org • Animal Welfare Institute: Reduce the suffering of animals. Sign petitions and letters on the website to help sharks, wolves and other animals who can’t speak for themselves. awionline.org
KIDS • Children’s Defense Fund: Help a child have a healthy start in life by donating, shopping on their behalf and signing petitions on various topics ranging from gun violence to child poverty. childrensdefense.org • Ronald McDonald House Charities: They provide housing near hospitals for families of sick children. You can help by cooking, hosting, nurturing or donating. There’s no minimum. rmhc.org • Child Fund International: Support and protect children in extreme poverty by donating, playing with the kids, telling their stories and organizing fundraisers. childfund.org • Make-A-Wish: They literally grant wishes for terminally ill children. Donate airline miles, donate a car, fundraise for wishes, sponsor a child and work in a local chapter to help grant a child’s wish. wish.org
One act of kindness deserves another
obin Redfern was at her lowest point. She wanted to give up, give in to the cancer she felt was defeating her, when a stranger’s kindness lifted her up. “It wasn’t a coincidence. God sent her to me,” she said. In 2009 at a pretty young age, Redfern of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing multiple rounds of “very hard” chemotherapy at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. Just before Christmas, she completed her fifth round. “It was so hard. I was crying, fearful and sick. I told my husband, Chad, ‘I’m just going to stop. I can’t continue. It’s too much,’” Redferm remembers. Out of nowhere, a woman approached and asked if she could sit with her. Not in a good place mentally, Redfern declined, but the woman was persistent. While she doesn’t remember much, she does recall the woman saying, “A lot of people are praying for you. You’re not allowed to give up.” The mystery woman handed her a gift bag filled with comfort items and told her to keep fighting. “After we spoke, I was calm. I had stopped crying and I didn’t feel scared anymore. I thought, if I survive this I need to pay it forward,” Redfern said. In March 2010 Redfern completed chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She regained her strength and health and returned to work, but often thought of the woman from the hospital. As Christmas approached that year, Redfern shared her plan with her husband. Like the mystery woman from the hospital, Redfern would minister to women receiving chemotherapy offering hope, love and a gift bag. “I asked family, friends and local businesses to donate items. That first year we started small with 12 bags. My husband and I drove to UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, delivered the bags and talked with patients. They were grateful, but it was even better for me. Part of my healing has been to help others,” she said. The next year, Redfern and her husband organized 50 gift bags, and the charity has grown each year. “Along the way I’ve learned a lot about cancer and
Robin and Chad Redfern [PHOTO PROVIDED]
how living a cleaner lifestyle free from toxins and chemicals can benefit a woman’s health,” Redfern said. Today, the gift bags are filled with natural and organic goods that can help relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, such as products with vitamin D, magnesium and peppermint, as well comfort items such as lip balm and sugar-free snacks, faith-based journals, handmade hats, scarves and pillows, and vitamin and protein supplements. While the gift bags have an estimated worth of $500, the real value may be the connections made. “Everyone has a story. They may not have any support at home. They may not have the finances they need. They may have no faith. Some need all three. Some need to vent. Sometimes they just need someone to listen,” Redfern said. In 2018 Redfern and her husband expanded to a second local hospital, and in March 2019 the ministry received nonprofit status under the name Bags & Blessings. Its first fundraiser, a fun walk/run 5K, held in September attracted almost 400 participants and 57 sponsors. Redfern encourages others to use the low points in their lives to see the bigger things. “When life drops you to your knees, as it will, there’s no better time to look up and pray. I never thought that day when I wanted to give up that years later I would be where I am today. It wasn’t in my plan. It was in His plan. It brings joy to my heart. I love doing it and hope it continues to grow.” Bags & Blessings currently operates only in eastern Pennsylvania. For more information or to donate, visit bagsandblessings.org or bit.ly/2O8llXc.
‘Step out in faith’
ary Gray had zero dollars but a lot of faith. She turned a heartfelt gift to her son into a worldwide ministry of spiritual encouragement. Gray is the founder and executive director of Operation Bandanas, a simple yet powerful effort that provides soldiers serving at home and abroad with camo-pattern bandanas printed with the words of Psalm 91, also known as the Soldier Psalm. Gray is a social worker at heart, drawn to helping others. “God’s given me the gift of mercy,” said Gray, a Louisiana native who resides in Wilmington, North Carolina, moving there four years ago from Fayetteville, close to Fort Bragg. In 1967 Gray married and became a military wife. Her husband, Eastland, is a decorated Vietnam veteran with 20 years of service. They called home wherever he was posted, from bases across the United States to Germany and England. They have three sons. “All have served their country in extraordinary ways,” Gray said. Rob is a career soldier. Andrew served for 5 1/2 years, including two long tours in Afghanistan. The youngest, Michael, is in the diplomacy field as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department. In November 2006 her oldest son, a Fort Bragg Special Forces officer, was deployed to Iraq. Wanting to send him a gift she looked online and found a bandana printed with Psalm 91, a prayer for divine protection that has long been embraced by soldiers. “It’s a spiritual message and reminder that God is always with them and that they are loved, appreciated and remembered. God’s word is a source of comfort,” Gray said. The next morning she woke up and thought, “I need to get all these bandanas for all the soldiers at Fort Bragg,” Gray said. She felt moved to make it happen, but her next thought was “How am I going to do this? There’s 40,000 troops at Fort Bragg,” she said. She asked her church for a small donation and got to work. After the first bandanas were shipped and passed out through military chaplains, the word spread fast. The timing was incredible, Gray said. An Iraq War troop surge began almost immediately after, in January 2007. “It really blew up. Chaplains passed on names and
Mary Gray delivering 300 bandanas to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
addresses and it really mushroomed. The biggest challenge is that demand exceeds supply,” Gray said. While there are many great military charities, this resonates with people because of its spiritual emphasis. “We’re sending our troops a piece of God’s word printed on a camo bandana,” Gray said. Plus, they’re practical gifts. “Men and women use them to wipe the sweat out of their eyes, dip them in water to cool their necks. They put them under their pillows or in the springs of the bunk above them,” Gray said. One soldier said he took two and tucks one in each boot. “He said he wants to be standing on God’s promises, but it makes you think. With the IEDs (improvised explosive devices) he wanted to get home with his legs intact,” Gray said. Gray is humble but happy about her worldwide ministry and encourages others to think beyond themselves and how they can help others. “Don’t let fear and doubt or thinking you don’t have what it takes keep you from doing something that you feel you have been called to do. Step out in faith,” Gray said. For more information or to donate, visit operation bandanas.org.
• Partnership for Drug-Free Kids: They offer resources and help for those struggling with drug addiction. Volunteers can become parent coaches, they can share their stories, write op-eds, become a social media ambassador and more. drugfree.org • Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: Prevent pediatric HIV and eradicate pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, prevention and treatment programs. Support the cause through your donation, your fundraiser and your community event. pedaids.org • Feed My Starving Children: They strive to eliminate starvation throughout the world. Pack meals, distribute meals and donate money. fmsc.org • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America: Become a mentor to a child facing adversity. Sign up to have a one-on-one relationship with a child. bbbs.org • Girl Scouts of the USA: Build girls’ courage, confidence and character. Volunteer to host an event, speak at an event and teach skills to scouts. girlscouts.org • Camp Fire National Headquarters: Help kids with service and leadership. Donate your skills and leadership, or donate funds to support the camp. campfire.org • Boy Scouts of America National Office: Promote the ability of boys to do things for themselves and for others. Volunteer to lead a group, to teach skills and to host an event. scouting.org • DonorsChoose: Offer the public a simple, accountable way to address educational inequality. There are many different educational projects on this site looking for funding. Choose a project that you relate to and donate. donorschoose.org • Junior Achievement USA: Empower young people to own their economic success. Share your personal and professional experiences and skills with the people learning through this program. You will need an hour per week to volunteer. juniorachievement.org • CASA/GAL Association for Children: Advocate for those who experienced abuse or neglect. Volunteers advocate for a child’s best interest in court by helping judges develop a fuller picture of each child’s life. casaforchildren.org
• Food and Water Watch: They research and educate to ensure the food, water and fish we eat is safe and sustainable. There are protests and events in most states, and these are outlined on the website. You can also donate. foodandwaterwatch.org
• Amazon Conservation Team: This organization protects tropical forests and strengthens traditional culture. Donate or create a monthly giving through their website. amazonteam.org • Environmental Defense Fund: They aim to find practical and lasting solutions to serious environmental problems. There are plenty of petitions and letter-writing campaigns outlined on the site. You can also help via a donation. edf.org • National Forest Foundation: Help promote and restore the national forests by planting trees, reducing your carbon footprint and participating in Friends of the Forest Day, an annual summer event where volunteers remove trash from the forests. nationalforests.org • Union of Concerned Scientists: They use science to solve our planet’s issues. On their website, they offer tips, tools and resources to help you become a more effective advocate for science. You can also donate or sign petitions through their site. ucsusa.org • Charity Water: They bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Volunteer by writing thank you notes, helping out at events and donating. charitywater.org • Natural Resources Defense Council: Defend our water, community, air and wild places. Write and call your legislators via this website, save energy at home, block big polluters and more. Each initiative is outlined on the site. nrdc.org • Ocean Conservancy: Support clean beaches and a healthy ocean. Take action and speak up via petitions and letter-writing campaigns outlined on this site. Skip the straw and get rid of plastic, including plastic cutlery. oceanconservancy.org • The Conservation Fund: Create solutions for the environment. Donate to support America’s land, water and communities. conservationfund.org • The National Park Foundation: Protect the parks so they’ll be here for generations to come. There are many ways to donate, from estate planning to financial partnerships. nationalparks.org/ • Earth Justice: They fight for our environment. Host an event, and sign petitions to help the planet. earthjustice.org
• American Civil Liberties Union: Protect immigrants’ rights via donations and starting your own fundraising campaign. Other issues include capital punishment, voting rights and religious liberty. aclu.org
‘You’re doing too little if you can do more’
t 80, Gene Epstein seems unstoppable. Even though he has an essential tremor that makes writing difficult, the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, millionaire “runs at 90 miles an hour” putting his time, energy and wallet to work helping those in need. “I have done relatively well in life and I learned early on it was important to give back to others less fortunate than myself,” said Epstein, who contributes “as much as possible” to a variety of charitable organizations. He’s been called a “one-man social service agency.” He looks at philanthropy with a sharp sense of business acumen. During the Great Recession when businesses were trimming jobs, Epstein earmarked a quarter of a million dollars and created Just Hire One, a program that boosted employment by donating $1,000 to charity for each unemployed person hired. “My entire life has been devoted to making people’s lives better. It is an uphill battle and never ending,” said Epstein, husband to Marlene for 59 years. They have two children, Ellen and Robert. Their family foundation, the Gene and Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund, champions many charitable causes in areas including education, health care, homelessness, hunger and unemployment. Deciding where to put his wealth to work, Epstein looks for organizations “that are doing their best to help people that need it the most and are also efficient and don’t waste money on things like administration and payroll,” he said. The Epsteins created a Bridges to Higher Education scholarship with Bucks County Community College. To earn a scholarship, rather than being based on academics, the student must come from a low-income, single-parent family and have a part or full-time job. “That kid knows responsibility. That’s the kid I want to put my money into, and I’ve seen results. These kids are excelling,” Epstein said. Born in North Philadelphia, Epstein has lived in Bucks County since 1974. His wealth comes through his car businesses and commercial real estate. “I know what it’s like to be poor,” said Epstein, whose father died when he was 11. His grandparents
Marlene and Gene Epstein [PHOTO PROVIDED]
owned a candy store in Philadelphia. He worked there before and after school. There was just enough money to put food on the table and cover the bills, not the $6,000 mortgage taken out on the house. The family took in renters. At 16, he asked his mother to borrow $50; she had $85 in the bank and was behind on the mortgage. “I used that $50 to buy a Studebacker. I fixed it up, cleaned and polished it right on the street in front of the house,” Epstein said. A $5 advertisement brought in prospective buyers, and Epstein sold the car for $155. He paid his mother back $50, cleared $100 and kept at it selling two or three cars a week until at 17 he was able to pay off the mortgage — all while going to school full time. Epstein lives by this motto: “Never feel you’re doing too much to help someone. You’re doing too little if you can do more.” “Helping people is actually selfish for me. I get such a high. You can’t put a dollar amount on it,” Epstein said. Considering giving to charity this holiday season? Here’s a pro tip from Epstein: “If you know of an individual in dire need do your best to help that person personally. That way 100% of your help or money is going directly to that person rather than paying for administrative costs,” he said. Epstein will soon publish his autobiography, “Lemon Juice: Confessions of a Used Car Salesman.”
Raising up others
fter two suicide attempts, Mark Gonsalves, 48, jumped off Rhode island’s Pell Bridge in 2015 hoping to find release from a troubled life. He survived the 220-foot plunge and was pulled to safety by boaters headed for an early morning fishing spot. The cold water arrested his heart. CPR was performed and the Coast Guard was called. After emergency care Gonsalves was transferred to intensive care and placed in an induced coma because his lungs and heart could not properly sustain his life. He doesn’t remember much upon waking, except a visit by his youngest son, who held his hand and cried. He remembers thinking, “God, just let me live.” Today, Gonsalves’ past is like a different life. The drinking and drug use, gang membership and prison terms have been replaced with classes and certifications, volunteering, working, saving money and spending quality time with his children. “I’ve accomplished more in these last couple years than the 10 or more years before. I’m on the road to recovery. I’ve dedicated my life to helping people,” Gonsalves said. He works as a house manager and a peer-recovery specialist at Amos House, a recovery-based shelter program in Providence, where he lived for 90 days as he transitioned into a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle. He’s completed over 500 hours of classes and has 20 certifications in different fields including counseling. At the heart of his turnaround is Gonsalves’ commitment to supporting others who struggle with the same issues of depression, addiction, mental illness or incarceration. A big part of his life now is listening to other people’s problems and offering acceptance. “We create a rapport with people who are struggling. It can be overwhelming for family members, especially those who don’t understand mental illness. There is a stigma, a shame. Many men feel too alpha to say they are struggling,” Gonsalves said. He is a mentor to a young man, 23, who found himself at the same Pell Bridge contemplating suicide. Sometimes the only person who can help is someone who’s experienced the same issues, Gonsalves said. “Every second counts when a person is suicidal. You’re on life support,” Gonsalves said.
Mark Gonsalves (left) and a mentee. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
After multiple phone conversations, the pair agreed to meet for lunch. Gonsalves suggested Amos House. “You’d be surprised. The food is great,” he said. Like it was meant to be, a parade of Amos House “big guys” walked by and stopped to chat. They walked around the shelter and discussed social services, housing, education and training programs. The mentee signed up to volunteer on the spot. The young man is now working as an auxiliary officer with the Rhode Island Department of Corrections and wants to train to become a police officer. On a bigger level, Gonsalves is working to help pass the “Fair Chance Licensing” bill to make getting licensed in certain occupations easier for ex-convicts in Rhode Island. He testified in front of a house judiciary panel in April 2019. While he is enrolled in a re-entry program and taking college courses toward a career in counseling he cannot currently become a counselor because of his past felony convictions. “With my experiences in life and the education I’m receiving I can make a large impact on a lot of lives through my power of example. I’m proof that people can turn their lives around,” Gonsalves said. The best piece of advice Gonsalves wants to share is to “stop turning your back on people who are not like you.” See more of Mark’s story at providencejournal. com/redemption.
• Innocence Project: They research and exonerate wrongly convicted people through DNA testing and criminal justice system reforms. You can help with photography, data entry, event planning, writing, researching, fundraising and more. There’s an entire list of volunteer skills needed on the website. innocenceproject.org • International Peace Institute: This is a think tank dedicated to building resilience to promote peace and sustainable development. Donate or make a planned donation. ipinst.org • Fair Immigration Reform Network: Win long-term social change for immigrants in America. Go to the website to see volunteer opportunities in your area. fairimmigration.org • The Black Youth Project: Help understand the factors that shape or contribute to the social and political attitudes of African American youth. Donate to help the cause. blackyouthproject.com • National Organization for Women: Ensure equality for everyone by mobilizing for reproductive justice, joining other campaigns and donating. now.org • Center for Reproductive Rights: It’s a legal advocacy organization that promotes and defends women’s reproductive rights. Contact your policy members, show your support on social media, report rights violations and donate. reproductiverights.org • Guttmacher Institute: Advance sexual and reproductive health rights in the United States and globally. Donate and support via social media. guttmacher.org
GLOBAL • Human Rights Watch: They’re dedicated to protecting human rights around the world. Donate and sign petitions ranging from ending child marriage to protecting factory workers. Everything is available on the website. hrw.org • Action Against Hunger: They prevent, detect and treat undernutrition during and after disasters and conflicts. They’re in need of donations. actionagainsthunger.org • Catholic Relief Services: Provide assistance to the poor overseas. Volunteer overseas, sign petitions and donate money. They have plenty of ways you can volunteer listed on their website. crs.org • Doctors Without Borders: Provides independent medical emergency aid to those affected by armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters and exclusion from health care. Help with mapping projects, volunteer in your local office, share the message and donate money. doctorswithoutborders.org
Winter 2019 Sponsored content
• Oxfam International: Create lasting solutions to overcoming poverty and fight for social justice. Host a hunger banquet, stand with refugees, organize or attend an event such as a protest, or start a fundraiser. oxfamamerica.org • UNICEF: They work in more than 190 countries to save children’s lives and help them fulfil their potential. Fundraise, advocate, write letters and speak with officials about policies and legislation affecting children. Tips are on the website. unicef.org • ProLiteracy Worldwide: Promote adult literacy learning worldwide. Teach an adult in your area to read. They will connect you with those who need help. proliteracy.org • Global Fund for Women: Champion the rights of women and girls who are building social movements. Host an event, spread the word, make a donation and join the movement to stay informed. globalfundforwomen.org
ARTS & HISTORY • National Endowment for the Arts: Fund, promote and strengthen the arts in our communities. Write letters to the government to support this charity. arts.gov • Americans for the Arts: Provide information on top issues affecting the arts. Start a corporate arts challenge, help lead arts management programs and more. americansforthearts.org • American Battlefield Trust: Preserve the nation’s battlegrounds and educate the public about the past. Communicate with legislators, rally the troops and fundraise.battlefields.org • Archaeological Conservancy: Acquire and preserve the nation’s remaining archaeological sites. Become a member to preserve the past. archaeologicalconservancy.org • Daughters of the American Revolution: It’s a volunteer women’s service dedicated to promoting patriotism and preserving American history. Volunteers restore historical sites, preserve genealogical records, support schools, promote education and more. dar.org • The HistoryMakers: Commit to preserve and make widely accessible the untold personal stories of African Americans. Research, proofread, archive and more when you become a volunteer. thehistorymakers.org • Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund: Preserve the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Donate through the website. vvmf.org
Fighting for kids
s public relations director for Transformco, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, Larry Costello counsels executives, develops and manages public relations campaigns to drive brand awareness, and handles media relations. One of those responsibilities is the marketing and public relations campaign supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “Two years ago I was able to become more involved in our St. Jude campaign. Now I understand the positive impact that St. Jude has on thousands of children and their families,” said Costello, who has been with Sears/Kmart for 21 years in January. “Our campaign included producing a video for a Christmas in July event. I was also able to attend the corporate sponsor meeting at St. Jude, where I met some of the doctors, staff and kids.” Sears and Kmart are corporate sponsors of St. Jude and since 2006 have raised more than $116 million to support the hospital, more than any company in the history of St. Jude, thanks to the donations of members, customers and associates. Sears and Kmart team up with St. Jude because children should be able to grow up and live their lives, Costello said. Based in Memphis, Tennessee, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital along with eight affiliate facilities around the country work to prevent and treat catastrophic childhood illnesses including childhood cancer. “Their purpose is clear: Finding cures. Saving children,” Costello said. “It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude won’t stop until no child dies from cancer,” Costello said. Visiting St. Jude, meeting and spending time with the children being treated there opened Costello’s eyes to how the nonprofit is making a difference in the lives of families affected by childhood cancer and other illnesses. “St. Jude does a terrific job. It feels more like a home than a hospital. They try and make life fun for the kids. They do an amazing job,” Costello said. Both stores collect donations online, through the pinpad at checkout and with a St. Jude branded holiday ornament, and 100% of the money raised at
Shana Fazal (from left) Larry Costello, Paige Hidlay, Keegan Thornton and Staci Wuokko ran for St. Jude in September. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
checkout benefits St. Jude, Costello said. “Last fall we also sold holiday wrapping paper. During the Christmas in July party, which was a wonderful party filled with hope, children drew their vision of what their dream life would look like. We took that imagery and turned it into wrapping paper,” Costello said. Kmart and Sears were national team partners for the 2019 St. Jude Walk/Run at races in 63 cities during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. “I enjoyed running in the 5K. The course took us along the beautiful Chicago lakefront to McCormick Place and back to Soldier Field, and it was a thrill to finish by running through the concourse level of Soldier Field. Many of our associates were there and enjoyed the entertainment and festival atmosphere that St. Jude created with bands, food and drinks. Their events are always top notch,” Costello said. The money raised is used for medical research and training but also to benefit families facing the terrible challenge of a very sick child. “St. Jude fits in well with our company culture. We value the work that they do. At St. Jude families never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food. All families should have to worry about is helping their child live,” Costello said. This holiday season consider giving to St. Jude, Costello said. “Our fundraising is made possible by the generosity of our customers, Shop Your Way members and associates. Small donations made by our customers add up to significant contributions that help make a real difference in the fight against pediatric cancer,” he said.
St. Jude patient Woods
Kmart & Sears support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® in its lifesaving mission: Finding cures. Saving children.® Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food—because all they should worry about is helping their child live. This holiday season, we hope to raise even more.
DONATE NOW AT KMART.COM/STJUDE | SEARS.COM/STJUDE Or you can shop Kmart or Sears stores throughout the year and donate when you check out.* *Beginning 12/16 at Sears.
SINCE 2006, KMART HAS RAISED
FOR THE KIDS OF ST. JUDE
Thank you FOR YOUR DONATIONS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON! making moments matter
• 911 Memorial & Museum: Never forget. Commemorate 9/11 in your community by hosting an event, honoring those who died, or join a run/walk and a community day. 911memorial.org • National YoungArts Foundation: Identify talented and accomplished artists in every arena and provide them with opportunities. Donate money to pay for lessons and master classes for the young artists. youngarts.org
SHOPPING • AmazonSmile: Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to the participating charity of your choice. smile.amazon.com • Toms Shoes: When you purchase a Toms product, you choose an issue that you feel strongly about, ranging from ending gun violence to mental health — and they’ll donate money to those programs. toms. com • Goodshop: Shop at thousands of online stores, and they’ll donate to your favorite charity or school. They work with more than 110,000 organizations. goodshop.com/how-it-works • (RED): Make sure that AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Shop for (RED) products or follow @Red on social media for simple ways to get involved and donate. red.org
RELIGIOUS • Hadassah: Support education, health care and youth programs in Israel, and enhance the quality of American and Jewish life in the United States. Advocate alongside the group, and become a member ($36) to connect with local chapters and to show your support. hadassah.org • The Catholic Charities: Provide food, clothing, counseling and more to those in need. Read to children, provide a meal, help in a food pantry, support a veteran searching for employment, spend time with seniors and more. catholiccharities.net
Helping women ﬁnd their strength
omen must shape their own destinies, and Mary B. Morrison would like to guide them along the way. A successful author of 27 books, Morrison is always looking forward, whether that means confronting a stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis that arrived in November or moving past an abusive relationship. In 2016, Morrison started the nonprofit Healing Her Hurt (facebook.com/HealingHerHurt) to promote the emotional, physical and financial health of marginalized women and girls by providing self-empowerment tools, resources and education. Too often, she said, women put themselves second to men or others in their lives. Her mother committed suicide after being in an abusive relationship. Morrison was married at 21, had a baby at 22, separated at 22 and divorced at 24. “I said if he ever put his hands on me it was over,” Morrison said. And she left. Morrison quit her near six-figure government job to self-publish her first book, “Soulmates Dissipate,” in 2000 and begin her literary career. “It was a big deal for me 20 years ago. Maybe that isn’t a lot of money for some, but it was for me,” Morrison said. She took to heart the examples of other successful black women such as Oprah Winfrey and author Terry McMillan. She went for it. And she felt support flow back to her. “What people like is that no matter what the (female) characters go through, the challenges they face, they will rise above,” Morrison said. “Bad things happen to good people, but it’s not our fault.” Through her books, she gives a voice to her mother, she said. “Don’t stay in an abusive relationship. I saw what it did to my mom and to me,” Morrison said. “Not everyone has been wounded and battered like my mother. Some of us just need a reboot. They need confidence, a change in attitude.” Born in Aurora, Illinois, and reared in New
Mary B. Morrison [PHOTO PROVIDED]
Orleans, Morrison resided in Oakland, California, for 20 years, and in Washington, D.C., for three. She currently lives in Atlanta. Morrison’s goal is to uplift and educate women about their self-worth. She often speaks on college campuses, voicing words of wisdom to younger women. Recently she was at Tennessee State College with a message that college freshmen should be careful of being targets. “Do not be vulnerable. Never let a man come first,” Morrison said. “Women are the caretakers of the Earth. When women are not healthy, society is not healthy.”
Donations taxation and
By Ramona Paden & Tina Orem NerdWallet.com
ax-deductible donations are contributions of money or goods to a tax-exempt organization. They can mean hefty savings when you file your taxes, though to claim these donations to charity, you must itemize on your tax return.
CLAIMING TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS
• Itemize at tax time. When you file your tax return every year, you’ll need to itemize your deductions in order to claim tax-deductible donations to charity. That means filling out Schedule A along with the rest of your return. • Weigh the costs and benefits ahead of time. You can only deduct charitable donations if you itemize on your tax return by filing Schedule A of Form 1040. However, itemizing can take more time and it may require more expensive tax software or create a higher bill from your tax preparer. Plus, if your standard deduction is more than the sum of your itemized deductions, it might be worth it to abandon itemizing and take the standard deduction instead. If you abandon itemizing, however, you abandon taking the deduction for what you donated. Here are the standard deduction amounts by filing status. Again, if your standard deduction is more than the sum of your itemized deductions, it might be worth it to skip itemizing (and thus skip claiming those tax deductible donations) and take the standard deduction instead. Filing status 2018 tax year.......... 2019 tax year Single.......................... $12,000.................... $12,200 Married, filing jointly.......... $24,000.................... $24,400 Married, filing separately........ $12,000.................... $12,200 Head of household.................. $18,000.................... $18,350
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Tax-deductible donations must meet certain guidelines, or you won’t get the extra cash to accompany your good deed. Here’s how to make your tax year a little sweeter. 1. Donate to a qualifying organization Your charitable giving will qualify for a tax deduction only if it goes to a tax-exempt organization as defined by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Examples of qualified institutions include religious organizations, the Red Cross, nonprofit educational agencies, museums, volunteer fire companies and organizations that maintain public parks. An organization can be nonprofit without 501(c)(3) status, which can make it tricky to ensure your charity of choice counts. You can verify an organization’s status with the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at irs.gov/ charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search. Before you donate, ask the charity how much of your contribution will be tax-deductible. In general, you can deduct up to 50% of your adjusted gross income via charitable donations, but you may be limited to 20% or 30% depending on the type of contribution and the organization (contributions to certain private foundations, veterans organizations, fraternal societies and cemetery organizations come with a lower limit, for instance). IRS Publication 526 has the details. The limit applies to all donations you make throughout the year, no matter how many organizations you donate to. Contributions that exceed the limit can often be deducted on your tax returns over the next five years — or until they’re gone — through a process called a carryover. 2. Document your contributions Keep track of your tax-deductible donations, no matter the amount. If you made a monetary contribution, qualifying documentation includes a bank statement, a credit card statement and a receipt from the charity (including date, amount and name of the organization) or a cancelled check. If you made a contribution as an automatic deduction from your paycheck through your employer, keep
copies of your W-2 or pay stubs showing the amount and date of your donation. You’ll need additional documentation in these circumstances: • Cash or property donations worth more than $250: The IRS requires you to get a written letter of acknowledgment from the charity. It must include the amount of cash you donated, whether you received anything from the charity in exchange for your donation, and an estimate of the value of those goods and services. You must receive the letter of acknowledgement by the date you file your taxes (usually April 15) for the year you made the contribution. • If you deduct at least $500 worth of noncash donations: Fill out Form 8283 if you’ll deduct at least $500 in donated items. Additionally, you must attach an appraisal of your items to the form if they’re worth more than $5,000 total. 3. Don’t miss out on tax deductions for volunteering IRS rules don’t let you deduct the value of your time or service, but expenses related to volunteering for a qualified organization can be tax deductible donations. Expenses must be directly and solely connected with the volunteer work you provided; not previously reimbursed; and not personal, living or family expenses. Your tax deductible donations can include mileage you drive to charitable events and volunteer opportunities, or mileage you used to bring items to a donation site. You can either deduct your actual expenses using receipts for gas and similar costs, or you can take the standard mileage deduction. For 2019, it’s 14 cents per mile when you use a vehicle in service of a charitable organization. Keep your receipts if you plan to deduct your actual expenses.
NerdWallet is a personal finance company that shares its expertise with GateHouse Media publications like ION. For more on retirement, investing, credit card comparisons and more, go to nerdwallet.com.
Skype tolls For whom the
I’m trying to video chat with you but I can’t see you.
Mom, you have to turn the camera on!!
shouted my mother, somewhere in the vicinity of her cellphone. She did not speak into the phone. She did not look at the phone. She aimed the phone at the ceiling and spoke at it. “Mom, this is a video call,” I told her. “You have to look at the phone so we can see you!” She relocated the phone so it was two inches from her face. “Is that better?” she wondered. “Yes,” I said. “If I want to look up your nostrils.” “Well, I can’t see you guys either,” she replied, lowering the phone and turning it around. I sighed. “That’s because you have the phone facing the wrong way.” Truthfully, I was not surprised that the video call wasn’t working out that well. My parents were late cellphone adopters. My mother suspected the government was going to brainwash her through the cellphone frequencies, and my dad thought the phone, like his microwave, was going to give him cancer. When they finally acquiesced, they each got a flip phone, and then kept the phones in a nighttable drawer for the next 15 years without using them. Eventually, we persuaded them to step up to a smartphone, but the joke was on us because my parents had so many issues with using their smartphones that they primarily just used them every hour to call us ... for help with their smartphones.
My parents were late cellphone adopters. My mother suspected the government was going to brainwash her through the cellphone frequencies, and my dad thought the phone, like his microwave, was going to give him cancer. This being the case, I was not optimistic when the holidays rolled around and we suggested my folks Skype with their grandkids. They were in Florida and the kids were in New York, so it seemed like a nice way for us all to connect. However, getting them to download the app took nearly a week and involved two phone techs, my husband and a UPS delivery man who stopped by to deliver a package. Having them find our accounts on Skype took another week and ended up with my mother Skyping seven other Tracys and a woman named Becky Beckerman from Saskatchewan before she found me. We finally got them all squared away and set up a time for our video call. But then my mother forgot to charge her phone and my dad dropped his in the toilet, so we had to reschedule. The big day arrived and everyone seemed to be in the right place, with the right app and dry phones. “Grammy,” said my son, “Hold the phone away from you and look at the screen.” My mother did as told. “Oh, there you are!” she said. She smiled, and then the screen went blank. “I think she hung up on us,” I said. “What gave you that idea?” said my husband. We called her again. My mother’s mouth moved but no sound came out. “Grammy,” said my daughter. “We can’t hear you. You have to unmute the phone.” My mother did as told. “Can you hear me now?” she asked. We nodded.
She smiled, and then the screen went blank. “I think she hung up on us again,” I said. “What gave you that idea?” said both kids in unison. The third time we called her, we got the ceiling again. In some respects, the call was a success because we could hear her and she didn’t hang up on us. It was also the first time I noticed my parents had a ceiling fan. However, it didn’t seem like this Skype thing was really working out the way we’d hoped. “Carol, give me the phone!” I heard my father say. “I’ve got it,” she protested. “No, you don’t. I’ll do it.” “Fine! Here,” she said. “Hey guys, don’t worry, I know how to do this,” came my father’s disembodied voice from some place far, far away, which was probably the living room couch. We saw the phone change hands, fall on the floor, get picked back up, spun around a few times, and then my father’s face appeared. Shockingly, he looked a lot like a ceiling fan.
Tracy Beckerman has written a humor column, Lost in Suburbia, for GateHouse Media since 2008. You can find her new weekly column — about life back in the city with her husband now that the kids are grown — and her Lost in Suburbia Classics column in most GateHouse Media newspapers. You can follow Tracy on Twitter at @TracyBeckerman and become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage.
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