Monday, June 16, 2014

My Favorite Charities

Charities and Tithing: How Do You Choose?
Trista @ Not a Minx
Amanda @ Worthy of Agape
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I have to be honest with you all. I don’t financially donate 10% of my income. I have something called student loans that are oh-so-pesky that just never seem to go away. I decided in the long run that it is better to pay off my loans as quickly as possible (2 years! It will happen!), which will free me up financially to be able to save up more for the big things in life as well as be more giving with my charitable contributions. So, until then, I am very much a proponent of the Time, Talent, and Treasure tithing, and so I try to “donate” my time and talents in whatever way I can, whether it is playing the flute with the community band or helping to lead a high school retreat.

But, as my loans will be paid off in the not too distant future, I have been on the lookout for some new charities to support financially. It’s important to me that the charity is Catholic friendly – they do not have to be Catholic, but I will not financially support an organization that blatantly contradicts the Catholic faith. It’s also important to me that the charity is using my money wisely. I’ve found that Charity Navigator is a pretty good resource for finding out how an organization spends its money, but you still have to use your best judgment, especially for smaller charities which will have to spend more money on fundraising and administrative costs.

Here's where I've been sending my charitable contributions lately...

Dawid! Doesn't he have the cutest smile?
Connected in Hope – This is my latest find. I was introduced to them via Camp Patton and fell in love with not only their gorgeous scarves but their mission behind them. They provide holistic services to families in one of the poorest areas of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They offer a weaving and sewing program for 70 widows, women with HIV and other vulnerable women in the community, allowing them to generate the income needed to lift their families from extreme poverty. The gorgeous scarves (and now jewelry!) are hand-made by the women, and every penny from the sales is re-invested back into their programs to benefit the women and their families. They opened up a Montessori preschool that now serves 51 children, and they provide the kiddos with education, healthy snacks during the day, basic health care, uniforms, and social work services. I recently started sponsoring a little boy, Dawid, and I love getting updates and pictures on how he is doing. They still need sponsors for a few more children, so head on over here to find out more information.

FOCUS – College can be a trying time emotionally, physically, and spiritually. FOCUS is a great organization that sends teams out to college campuses to engage the students and encourage them to grow in their Catholic faith. I have experienced first-hand the impact that FOCUS missionaries can have on the lives of college students, and so I know how important this ministry is. While I have yet to support a missionary directly, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about doing once my loans are paid off.

GW Newman Center – The Newman Center was where my faith life was set on fire when I was in graduate school, and it’s important to me to support them financially so they can keep providing activities, fellowship, and free food for every student that walks through their doors. Consider supporting your alma mater’s Catholic student center, or even the Catholic student center in your town, either financially or by volunteering your time.

Catholic Answers Live – I came across Catholic Answers Live podcast many years ago and fell in love. I have learned so much about the Catholic faith from their ministry, and have been a Radio Club member for a couple of years now. My favorite shows are the Q&A open forums for non-Catholics, but they cover a wide range of topics that are always so interesting. You can check out their show live from 6-8pm EST on your local Catholic radio station, or check out the podcast here.

What are your favorite charities to support? Be sure to link up with us over at the Facebook page!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vacation Reads - What's in Your Stack?

Next week, my sister and I take off for our vacation - literally taking off as we fly across the pond to England!

I studied abroad in London more years ago than I would like to admit, and I am so excited to be going back and sharing that experience with my sister.

We've been spending the last few months planning and buying plane tickets and rail passes and booking hotels and picking what sites we have to see, and now that we have everything in order, the most important part of preparing for our vacation can take place... finding some great vacation reads!

Because a picture of books must look sort of vintage-y, right?
I spent lots of time trying to find some good reads for our long plane trips and hours spent on the train. I found all of these books at the thrift store or used book stores, so I didn't spend too much money on this little stack!

Help a girl out... which one should I start reading first?

...from top to bottom*

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - I enjoyed the thrill of reading Gone Girl (even though I wasn't a fan of the ending), so I am looking forward to another fast paced psychological mystery.

Between Heaven and Mirth by James Martin, SJ - I've read a few of Fr. Jim's books, and I love his approachable faith and writing style, so I am looking forward to some laughs while soaking up some spiritual reading.

Gertrude and Claudius by John Updike - I found this on the bookshelf at the used book store and knew I had to get it. A prequel to Hamlet?! This has to be interesting, and will help immerse me in my favorite English town - Stratford!

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett - Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors (hello - read Bel Canto... just read it. Now.) and I've never read something from her that didn't completely suck me in... so I'm hoping this one continues the trend and presents an engrossing read!

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin - This book has been on my reading list for awhile, so when I saw it at the used book store, I snatched it right up! Hopefully it doesn't disappoint!

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - This is the latest from another one of my favorite authors. I love the mystery and history of each of her tales.

What's in your stack of vacation reads? Share, share, share! Inquiring minds want to know!

*Links are through Amazon Smile. Please pick your favorite charity and use Amazon Smile when you shop!

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