Week Four: Wash and Repeat

Project: Love Letters for the Elderly

Actual Time Taken: 45 Minutes

This week I was really torn.

My original goal with this blog was to give an hour a week to charity.

But the rules are fuzzy.

Do I need to give exactly an hour every week? Do I need to find a different charity every week? Do I need to stop making up rules to my own charity blog?

The Answers are: No, No, and Yes.

I had committed to making cards for home-bound seniors through the Letters of Love campaign from www.dosomething.org. I took about an hour last week to make them with the help of our young cubs on our tour. We made about 35 cards and I was feeling pretty good about this number, until I went to drop them off at the local Meals on Wheels location.

I met the local representative, who was very sweet and completely thrilled by the unexpected cards. Smiling, she happily informed me that they will do wonders for the 500 people they deliver meals to every week.

That’s 35 cards. For 500 people.

We have some work to do….

So I decided to dedicate this week’s hour, and every other week’s hour needed to make at least 500 cards for everyone to which they deliver.  Ultimately, I decided that it’s ok that this week’s hour is going to the same charity, since the goal of this project is to experience what it feels like to carve out an hour every week to give to a worthy cause, and not just to find 52 different short term volunteer efforts.

And this week, it feels right to give another hour to the very worthy cause of bringing a smile to a Hawaiian home-bound senior’s face for Valentines Day.


Week Three: Child labor for the Elderly?

Project: Love Letters for the Elderly

Actual Time Taken: One Hour

This week, my volunteering hour is relying on child labor.

Well, sorta.

See, I found myself running out of time in my first week here in Hawaii. It’s our opening six days at the Neil Blaisdell Center in downtown Honolulu and we have nine shows to perform, counting the dress rehearsal. Not that I have anything to complain about, working in paradise and all, but the usual “first-week-in-a-city” errands and my lack of housing were eating up all of my free time this week.


The “errands” in this city included TWO separate blessing ceremonies. *bliss*

So I scoured the interwebs on Friday for a volunteering project I could do from my computer while sitting backstage between scenes. (We have four shows between Saturday and Sunday, so essentially I spend all weekend on or off stage in the theater.)

I found some good leads, but the one that both piqued my interest and was time sensitive was the Letters of Love campaign from a website called www.dosomething.org.


This project focuses on making Valentines Day cards for elderly people in need. The website directs you to create three or more anonymous Valentines Day cards and send them to your local Meals on Wheels location. The cards should include three facts about yourself such as what your hobbies include, (so I would say dance) what your dream job is, (my current one, dancing in the Lion King! Easy! But for anonymity’s sake, I said hosting a show on TV, another dream of mine!) and what state your from (hard for me to answer right now, since I’m on tour full time…. So I just said Florida, where I grew up).

I was planning out what I wanted my cards to say when the thought occurred to me that we have kids sitting backstage during the show that need fun things to do too, so I approached our cubs (our young Nala and Simba actors) for some help. We have two sets of cubs, and they alternate every other show. So while one set of cubs is performing, the other sits backstage during the first act just in case something happens and they need to take their counterparts place on stage.


Nya and Jordan helping with the cause!

Since I’m busy performing the majority of the show, I dropped some craft supplies off in the kids’ dressing room at the top of the show on Saturday and joined them during our 15-minute intermissions to make cards. During the rest of the show, while I was changing in and out of costumes, they continued to happily craft away without me.


Nate and Zyasia helped out in costume too!

By Sunday night, the kids were so into it that one of them had created a chart to document how many they had made. They had a lofty goal of 165, and although they were determined, we topped out at 35 and called it a weekend. They were so excited by the project, however, that they were disappointed when I said I had to send them in this week to make sure that the program received them in time to distribute them all. However, to me, this simply means that I have their interest for other projects, like sending letters to service men, or doing my laundry. 

Ooook, maybe not my laundry….



Week Two: Goodwill Drive for another place of good-will!

Project: Donating Clothes

Actual Time Taken: 30 Minutes

Well three weeks into the new year and I’ve already missed a blog post.

Selena of 2013 is so disappointed in herself.

Selena of 2014 is understanding that she just moved from LA to Hawaii in the last two weeks, so anyone would be a bit behind.

But fear not. For at least my committment of volunteering was accomplished. (Just not the full hour. Sigh.)

This week was our last week in LA before our tour moves to Hawaii. At the end of every city we go through the ritual of packing up our stuff and realizing that we accumulated more junk than we meant to during the course of the city. This ritual is almost always accompanied with mild surprise and consternation at having to downsize quickly before leaving town.

Enter the Lion King’s “Goodwill Bin.” At the end of a city, we sometimes try to accumulate all of our gently used, unwanted goods to donate to the local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or in LA’s case, the local “Out of the Closet.

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This non-profit chain (who even has locations as far away as Florida and Amsterdam!) uses the revenues from donated items to provide free HIV/AIDS and STD testing. Some locations even provide counseling. educational resources, and medical services for HIV/AIDS positive patients.

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I got the word out at the theater on Friday and collected five completely full garbage and paper shopping bags by Sunday.

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It’s not pretty, but it’s good.

I dropped them off at the Sunset Blvd location of Out of the Closet before packing up the rest of my life in my Prius and watching my boyfriend drive it away.

So the irony in this week was I had more than enough time to give my bit of volunteering, but the project didn’t take the full hour, and I couldn’t find the to write this quick little blog. The learning curve continues…

Week One: Puppy Chow for Puppies! (An Itty Bitty Bake Sale!)

Project: Bake Sale Fundraiser for a No-Kill Animal Shelter

Actual time taken: 3:15

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Of COURSE the first time I decide to embark on an ambitious once-a-week project, the year decides to start on a Wednesday. In the middle of the week. (Yes, that’s where Wednesdays usually are, Selena….)

Given not only the short amount of time I had to complete my first hour of volunteering, as well as the fact that half of the week stores are closed due to the holidays, I had to improvise right away.

As I tried to formulate a plan of attack, I realized I still have a bunch of leftover ingredients for my world famous (Well, famous in the touring Lion King cast, at least) Puppy Chow. It’s a gift I make for my cast and crew every Christmas- a confection of Chex mix, chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar. I make 100 little baggies for everyone, and it’s always quite an undertaking. In my hurry to get ready for the holidays, however, I somehow managed to overestimated my original recipes’ numbers…. By 14.


So Friday morning, I got to work. I had already worked out a pretty fluid system from making 100 baggies a few weeks before, so I clicked right back into my Puppy-Chow-Factory mode and whipped up five batches in one hour and fifteen minutes. (I’m quite proud of that fact- the recipe says it will only take 15 minutes and seeing as I’m usually completely inept in the kitchen- most of my entrée’s are blackened, whether it’s called for or not…- sticking with the average time on the recipe is quite a feat!)

Disclaimer: I’ll break it down for you here, but mind you, this is NOT a cooking blog or a cute Pintrist board. My kitchen is a mess, the bowls aren’t different pastel colors, and the end product doesn’t look like Martha Stewart was anywhere near my kitchen.

For the complete recipe, click here.

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Better Homes and Gardens this is NOT….

First, you mix 1 cup of white chocolate chips, 2/3 cup of peanut butter, and 1/3 cup butter. (It’s marked on the stick, FYI. As a baking neophyte, I didn’t know that before I began. Oh the things you learn by doing…)

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Put it in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Mine took about two 30 second intervals. After the first 30 seconds and a good stirring, it should look something like this:

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Let’s all say it now… ewwwww… (but it’s yummy. I promise)

After two 30 second intervals and a few good stirrings, it should look like this:

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Muuuch better…

When the mix is good and liquefied, stir in the teaspoon of vanilla, and start working in the Chex.

To save time, I premeasured the 6 cups of Chex and marked it on a Tupperware, so I wouldn’t have to measure cup for cup. I did the same for the powdered sugar, which comes later…

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Make sure the Chex is nice and coated before adding the powdered sugar.

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Stir until they are all coated and pretty white. My sugar tended to absorb the powdered sugar and turn a little tan, so I sprinkled a little more powdered sugar on top and kept it moving.

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Tan puppy chow is just as yummy as white puppy chow. It’s scientifically proven.

Then I bagged and tagged them.

(Clearly I’ve been watching too much Law and Order lately…)

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I spread the word among the cast and crew a few days before the bake sale, and by the time the weekend came, I had hungry crew guys asking “Where’s the puppy chow?!”

This was a good sign.

But I wasn’t ready.

I had told everyone originally that they would be on sale on Saturday, but when Friday night rolled around, I was too exhausted to make the remaining four batches, so I went to sleep, thinking I would wake up early Saturday and finish them.

Orrrrr not.

After kicking myself for slapping the snooze button four times (but trying to be a little gentle with myself, as per one of my New Year’s Resolutions…) I pledged to stay up Saturday night and finish, by hook or by crook.

After two shows Saturday, I found myself in my kitchen on throbbing feet making the last four batches, which ended up taking me two hours, waaaay off the 15-minute-per-batch mark, due to my delirious exhaustion.

But I was done. So I lugged the 72 baggies of sugar to work, and set to selling.

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I was nervous at first because there weren’t many bags sold during the first show, but apparently word got around that someone was selling the candy equivalent of crack downstairs, and the next time I checked we had made over $60!!

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I put our cutie pie “cubs” (that’s a Young Simba or Nala nickname) to work, counting cash for the cause

At the end of the day Sunday we had 14 bags left over out of 72 and had raised a grand total of $84.44!!! I was SO proud of this number, meaning that some people donated MORE than the suggested donation of $1 per bag! Now to deposit it and go on a shopping spree at Nordstroms!!!

Juuuust kidding.

(It wouldn’t get me much there anyway…)

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My very professional, Sharpie decorated donation box. Really channeling my inner fourth grader here.

I’m going to donate it to a local no-kill shelter, but I’m researching a few that my dresser knows personally before I decide on the particular shelter to give the money. I’ve heard some horror stories of “no-kill” shelters that  save the pet’s life, only to let them live in other shelters for years and years, forgotten in cages. So I’m being a little picky and vetting the various shelters around before sending our hard earned pennies over.

The last 12 baggies are going with my friend to her place of business (a “grown up job,” as I call it, at a local bank) to try to sell the last 12… wait, did I say there were 14 before? Oh, yeah. Aaaanyway, our new total is now $86.44 and I’m nursing a slight belly ache, tempered with a satisfied heart from the first week of volunteering well done.

I almost didn’t make my first weeks’ deadline, squeezing the bake sale out under the gun on Sunday. I was battling fatigue, as predicted, and finding it hard to find the time to make the Puppy Chow, so going forward I think I’m going to try to start whatever my hour of work that week will be earlier than Friday… but for the record, I blame my struggles this week squarely on the Wednesday that wanted to be a Monday….

(Also, a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the Bake Sale!!! You all seriously rock for taking me seriously. Seriously. Thanks.)

Why 52 Hours a Year?

52 out of 8,760.


Doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?


How about 1 out of 168? Even better, huh?


That’s how much I’m going to try to volunteer this year.


One hour a week.


That’s only 52 hours out of 8,760 yearly, or 1 hour out of 168 weekly.


Sounds easy when you put it that way, doesn’t it?


Now let’s talk logistics.


I’m a dancer on the National Tour of the Lion King.


This makes life complicated, which I wrote about at length here.


Basically, living on the road means that I don’t have a steady home. I move from city to city every month or so. This makes establishing a regular place to volunteer difficult, to say the least.


Usually, non-profits frown upon spending time and resources to train a volunteer who will only be around for four weeks. Sometimes there’s lengthy background checks or health tests you have to go though to be approved to work with people, such as hospice patients or the elderly. Sometimes there are training classes that only run once a month, and I’ll have just missed it. Sometimes it’s a smaller town that lacks in the basic infrastructure to have a bunch of volunteering opportunities.


And sometimes I feel like I just don’t have the time or energy to navigate all of these hurdles, on top of the basic challenges of a gypsy life, which include, but aren’t limited to, finding a place to live, grocery shop, work out, hang out, and retain my sanity while living without a constant home base.


But this year will be different.


This year, I’m committing to finding a way to give back to this great big world every week.


Some weeks I’ll have to be a little creative if I can’t find an official non-profit to work at, but I’ll do my best not to cut corners. The challenges will force me to be creative with my volunteering efforts, especially in cities where I can’t find any places to volunteer. The prospect of this is exciting, intimidating, and exhilarating all at the same time.


In fact, the difficult aspect of this is what initially attracted me to the idea in the first place. Last year I tried a “12 in 12” challenge, where I would volunteer with a different organization once a month, which would result in 12 volunteering efforts in 12 months. Needless to say, this seemed imminently do-able.


But when December 2013 rolled around and I realized I had only completed 8 out of 12 volunteer hours, I was a bit defeated. Why was it so hard for me to find 12 hours out of the year to give back?


So this year, I went all or nothing.


Beyond the potential difficulty of finding places to give my time, I’m not sure what to expect. I’m hoping for some memorable experiences, looking forward to meeting lots of different people, and wondering how this endeavor will change my world view.  Will my perspective on time management change? Will my view on volunteering alter in any way? Will I be able to complete the challenge at all? Have I completely gone mad?


These are all questions I’m hoping to answer, one week at a time.