Friday, June 16, 2017

Service Project: United Through Reading

With Memorial Day memories fresh in my mind, I look ahead and begin preparations for our family's 4th of July festivities. In addition to cookouts, parades, and sparklers, we will make our annual Independence Day donation to the United Service Organizations (USO). We receive USO mailings on a regular basis, and through one of these packets, I learned about United Through Reading.

United Through Reading (UTR) is "dedicated to uniting U.S. military families who face physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together. UTR creates emotional connections between parents and their children, encourages literacy, and makes homecomings easier."

How does it work?  A service member stops by a United Through Reading recording area near his or her duty station. A book is chosen from the UTR library provided, and a video of the service member reading the story is recorded and sent home to the family. The organization's website details the impact of UTR on the families they serve:
  • 81% of participants report a decrease in their children’s anxiety about the deployment
  • 88% of participants report an increase in connectedness with deployed service members
  • 90% of participants report that participation reduced their own stress during deployment
  • 78% of participants report increases in their child’s interest in reading and books
  • 83% of UTR recordings are watched nearly every day or more often.
More than 80% of participants report that recordings are enjoyed every day or even several times a day. It’s not unusual for children to watch a recorded story 250 times during a ten-month deployment.
How can you help? 
  • Donations are accepted online, by phone, or by mail. United Through Reading is made possible by generous sponsors and donors. Your gift matters!
  • Volunteer. Become part of the United Through Reading Team:  event and communications volunteers are needed.
As we encourage kids to participate in a Summer Reading Program at a local library or bookstore, and as we guide our Scout troops toward various ways to use the money earned during the Cookie Sale, let's remember our service members and their families and give them a gift they will treasure.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Kindness Diaries

Earlier this spring, our daughters discovered The Kindness Diaries as they scrolled through recommended show selections on Netflix. For readers who may be unfamiliar with this adventurous documentary, here is a description of the series:

"Host Leon Logothetis travels the world with only a vintage motorbike and the kindness of strangers, which he pays back in unexpected, inspiring ways."

As we watched each excursion, I was inspired to incorporate his vision in various ways while traveling with our family this summer. I then decided to share my thoughts in this blog post, hoping to encourage other families and even Scout troops to do the same.

When planning a vacation or road trip, people may set aside a discretionary budget for souvenirs. What if your family or Scout troop decided not to buy a t-shirt, cinch sack, fridge magnet, or postcard from the gift shop at your destination, but instead, chose to spend this money to brighten someone's day or make a stranger more comfortable?

Here are some pocketbook-friendly ideas:
Buy someone a cup of coffee
Deliver a doughnut to an unsuspecting recipient
Treat a stranger to lunch
Fill a person's tank with gas
Cover another's campsite costs for a night
Pool your money and purchase a blanket for a homeless person

*If the timing and circumstances are right, consider learning more about the person's story.

As I watched Leon travel around the world, my thoughts drifted to Thinking Day. If your troop is making plans for their Thinking Day booth, host an overnight for the girls and watch an episode or two of this series for ideas and inspiration on a featured destination. While the show is rated TV-G, I would recommend adults preview the show before viewing with children and asses the appropriateness for your kiddos.  Side note:  If your troop chooses to learn more about Uganda, consider watching Queen Of Katwe (rated PG). If the girls wish to discover more about India, I recommend Million Dollar Arm (also rated PG).  Both are great stories that provide a glimpse of the respective countries and cultures. Again, I recommend adults preview these movies before showing them to the Scouts.

Whether you're heading across the country, setting out on a short road trip, or driving across town to the local pool this summer, remember Leon and his quest. With small acts of kindness, we can make this world a better place. As always, thank you for reading.