Giving Back

Wedding Flower Donation: Grace In Bloom

If you have ever worked or been a part of a wedding, then you know that there are typically tons of flowers left over at the end of the event. Sometimes people take them home; sometimes they simply get thrown out. Well, I just learned about an amazing new service for brides and grooms who would like to give back: wedding flower donation. One of my upcoming brides is using this service through a company that a coworker had told her about called Grace In Bloom. The basic principle is that you donate your leftover wedding flowers (bouquets, centerpieces, arrangements, etc.) to Grace In Bloom and they will come and pick them up (for free!) from your venue and take them to nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities in the area. When I first heard about this concept I was very intrigued and wanted to learn more! So yesterday, I met with one of the Owners, Brittany Heare, to get more information; read below!

 
wedding-flower-donation
 

Brittany told me that she first got the idea a few years back when she was working with another wedding planner. One of their brides wanted to donate her leftover flowers to a good cause, but at the time there was no company that provided a service of this nature (and this typically falls outside the scope of what a wedding planner or florist does). That means that it would be up to family or friends who are likely worn out or busy with other post-wedding related activities to drop the flowers off somewhere. As Brittany said, "From what we can see, there is no flower donation service in the Richmond area. Since brides are working with such talented florists and are spending good money on arrangements that often go unused after the event, we are looking to help collect, rearrange, and donate those flowers to hospice centers, nursing homes, hospitals, etc." 

 
 Owners Brittany Manitply and Brittany Heare

Owners Brittany Manitply and Brittany Heare

 

As of right now, they have just worked with nursing homes but would like to expand in the future. Brittany said that the patients absolutely love receiving the flowers. Sometimes the girls will bring the flowers in unassembled and the patients will then get to arrange them as one of their activities. It definitely adds a touch of brightness and color to patients who otherwise may not get flowers (or even visitors). Further, Brittany said that the service is wonderful for facilities with low activities budgets. 

wedding-flowers-hydrangeas

So how exactly does all this work you may be wondering? According to Brittany, "we aren’t charging any sort of fee currently for our services and we come to the event at the end of the evening to collect the flowers and/or containers if they are not being reused or do not need to be returned to the florist. Brides can contact us via Facebook or via email!" The best part about this? You can do something kind and nice for someone and it's as simple and easy as sending an email and arranging a pick-up. That's it! Grace In Bloom will do everything else for you! If you are planning to have a lot of unused and leftover flowers from your wedding, consider using a service like this one to spread a little joy and be kind to our environment all at the same time!

To contact Grace in Bloom, visit their Facebook page here or their Instagram page here. You can also email them at: graceinbloomrva@gmail.com. Below is a video from Upworthy explaining the flower donation process in greater detail. 

Thanks for stopping by! Happy planning!

~Maggie ♥

Youth Life Foundation of Richmond: The Amazing Raise

Over the last few years, my husband Don and I have been actively involved in a local organization called Youth Life Foundation of Richmond. YLFR serves Richmond's North Side neighborhood by offering after school tutoring, mentoring, and activities to children in at-risk communities. Don and I have grown close to this organization and to these children, and for my husband this cause is especially near and dear. Currently, Don serves on the Board, we both participate in their after school mentoring program, and Maggie's Misc gives a portion of every sale to Youth Life. 

Photo by: Taylor Bates Photography

YLFR was started in 2002 by Heather Goodlett and the first learning center was opened in 2003 with 10 students. Back before the organization first came to life, Heather noticed that there were pockets of kids that were hanging out on the streets after school. They had nothing productive to fill their time with and nowhere to go. A majority of them came from single income families, and over 90% of them had no predominate male role model in their lives. These kids were often getting into trouble and many were undereducated. The center was founded as a way to offer a safe place for kids to go after school and to provide them with supplemental educational resources and support in hopes of giving them a brighter future. Because of the impact of YLFR on the community, the organization has been blessed to watch some of these children become the first generation in their family to attend college. They currently have three learning centers that offer four different after school programs for kids K-12. Today, they serve around 50 families including over 70 children – and their growth only continues.

Don and I first heard about YLFR after our friends, Shedon and Taylor Bates (Taylor is now serving as the Chairman of the Board), invited some folks over to their house in the fall of 2013. The Bates live on the North Side, and had taken a special interest in the kids in their neighborhood and were pouring into their lives. They, along with Heather and her husband, Raymond, shared the background of the organization and the impact it had on these kids (and their families') lives. Shortly thereafter I started volunteering once a week on Thursday evenings as an elective teacher. I worked with the kids three different semesters over the next year teaching them arts & crafts and baking (I am NOT a baker so this class was....well interesting to say the least!). This past spring I switched to mentoring a child one-on-one (I discovered that teaching was definitely not my calling), and at this time, Don joined me. We have been working with a brother and sister of the last year and since that time Don has joined the board. The kids we work with come from an especially dysfunctional home life and because of their environment have some developmental issues. In addition, we have noticed the homework they bring in is sub par in terms of quality and quantity. In many ways, these kids are very disadvantaged circumstantially. 

I understand having to overcome adversity based on environmental circumstances and Don understands having to overcome poverty. He is from South Florida and after the age of 10 he was raised in a single parent household with his mom working two jobs in order to support their family. His dad left his mom for another women when he was around 10, and around the age of 13 he was deported back to Haiti where he was originally from. Don hasn't heard from him since. His mom worked very hard to put Don in a private, Catholic school known for it's academic excellence. He graduated from high school with honors, went on to attend college, and then graduated with honors from law school. He pulled himself out of poverty based on his education and has said that some of his friends from the same neighborhood weren't so fortunate. He has often mentioned that had it not been for his mom and the amazing opportunity she provided him with school, it's hard to say where he would be. The school system in his neighborhood was not very good, and many kids in that environment will never be provided with educational opportunities. For many, poverty is all they will ever know. 

Photos taken at last year's Christmas party by: Taylor Bates Photography. 

Don is very passionate about this organization and believes wholeheartedly in its mission and what it is doing for these kids. Not only are they being provided support and love from the consistency of the staff, mentors, and teacher, but they are being taught about God and His love for them as well. YLFR is helping to show these children what their true identity is and what value they have in this world. Take it from someone who has been given a new identity, salvation, freedom - I can assure you, there is nothing so precious in all this world. 

Today and tomorrow in Richmond we are celebrating the Amazing Raise. The Amazing Raise is our region's 36-hour online giving challenge that allows organizations to win additional incentive prizes ranging from $500 to $15,000! The competition is based on individual gifts and a gift of $50 or more anytime during the Amazing Raise will help Youth Life reach their goal of $17,200 in giving and prizes. This is the amount it takes to send two children to one of our Elementary Learning Centers and five youth to our LC Remix, Middle and High School Programs for an entire year! The Raise ends tomorrow at 6:00 pm. Please consider donating to this wonderful and sacrificial organization as any help with go toward providing more opportunities for more children. To give, click here. And even if you can't donate your money (I know how tight money can be), they are always looking for mentors and teachers to volunteer in the evenings. For more information on this, visit their website at: http://ylfr.org/ or to volunteer email: mentor@ylfr.org

Thanks so much for taking your time to read this. May you be blessed as you bless others. 

~Maggie ♥

celebrate! RVA : Youth Empowered

I had the pleasure to meet Julia Warren, Founder & Executive Director of celebrate! RVA a few months back. Julia and I share a passion for giving back and serving the underprivileged (among other things) and while I look for ways to give back through my business, Julia's business is giving back through and through. celebrate! RVA is a non-profit that throws birthday parties for inner city youth that would otherwise not have the means to celebrate their special day. Julia believes that all children should be celebrated and through founding this organization she does this in the best and most humble way. Julia serves heart, body, and soul and these kids are her life. celebrate! RVA is making a huge impact on the youth of Richmond, and it's hard to believe that she founded the company at the ripe old age of 16! Sixteen! It is easy to forget when you are with her that she is now still only 19 and working toward her undergraduate degree in college. I am glad to say that I know Julia professionally, and even more thankful to be able to call her a friend. I am excited to see where the road leads from here. Now, I will let Julia tell you in her own words what celebrate! means to her.

 Julia Warren, Founder & Executive Director of Celebrate! Rva

Julia Warren, Founder & Executive Director of Celebrate! Rva


"I live and breathe celebration, love and joy. So when my dear friend Maggie asked me to share some of the heart behind celebrate! RVA, the non-profit I founded almost three years ago, I was so excited to get to “chat” with y’all — because I know you understand the importance of love and celebration as well. 

celebrate! RVA has a simple mission: to give disadvantaged children a memorable birthday celebration in a safe and fun environment. We believe that joy can transform a child and impact their lives in countless ways. 

Our biggest program is our service in local schools. Both of the schools we currently work in, Oak Grove Bellemeade and Carver Elementary, see a 99% poverty rate in student demographics. Our children don’t know their own birthdays. They are not afforded the opportunity to celebrate their special day and be given the chance to be told how much they matter and are loved. 

Our second program is one that created some of my most cherished memories. Working in the safe houses we partner with is incredible and so eye opening. The women and children that temporarily seek confidential housing with Safe Harbor, have been through more than I could ever fathom. They are inspiring and brave people who have taught me more about life than anyone else. 

I’ll never forget a moment at the very first party we threw at Safe Harbor. I was so nervous for the event. I didn’t know what to expect. I had instructed and trained volunteers, hoping that the residents would respond well to the celebration. When our volunteers from VCU Men’s Soccer arrived at the home, the women were visibly scared, hiding behind me and finding every reason to leave the party area. But when they began to celebrate with us, and watched our birthday boy blow out the candles, and watched him open his presents, I saw smiles and I heard laughter. I watched these women and children slowly transform. 

At the end of our birthday party, something magical happened in a moment I will never forget. A woman reached out for hug from a volunteer. For the residents in these safe houses, human touch does not come easy. Time and time again they have been betrayed by such actions. But an hour of simply joy, turned women who were hiding behind me, into women who reached for men they hadn’t known just an hour and a half before. The children desperately wanted more time with our volunteers, because they had finally been given the opportunity to celebrate their lives. 

celebrate! RVA is always looking for volunteers (register here!). As we enter into this upcoming school year, we are seeking sponsors for birthday children. Each sponsorship is $15, and with that, you will give a child the opportunity to celebrate their special day. And for the next week, if you sponsor a child (here!), we will send you a “I celebrated my birthday with celebrate! RVA” wristband. Each one of our birthday children receives one, and we want to share this tradition with the people who help make it happen. 

I’d love to chat more with any of y’all about our programming, or about how you can get involved! My inbox is always open to you, julia@celebraterva.org

xo, Julia"

Isn't what Julia is doing for these kids simply amazing? It is important that we look upon people with less than and view them as holding as much value and worth as any other human walking the planet. What we have or don't have does not determine our worth. Organizations like celebrate! help restore some dignity to families in a fun, loving, and thoughtful way. If you are able, please consider getting involved. Even if you can't donate financially, I know Julia is always looking for volunteers to help with the parties. Thank you for taking the time to read this today and may you be blessed as you bless others.

~Maggie 

Photos by: Stephen and Lily Photography

Radical Selflessness In the Age of Radical Selfishness

Hey friends. Wednesdays are my day to write about personal, non-wedding related stuff (or more like this is the day my marketing coach allows me to talk about topics that I want - ha!).  This week I have been thinking about the human tendency toward selfishness and how it permeates every single part of our lives. I've noticed in my own life that even some of the acts of service I do for others are done because I know I should do them not necessarily because I want to do them; not always, but sometimes. I think about our culture, our country, and the world at large and the effects of selfishness are almost tangible. Selfishness and hate breeds violence and unrest. In the age of "selfies" (of which I have done myself) the last thing we need is more individuality. As I was thinking on this, I was reminded of a blog I wrote on February 26, 2013 from my blog Musings de Maggie (the inspiration behind this blog's name and before I had the first clue what to do with a blog) addressing the same issue. For more on this, read the original blog below:

RADICAL SELF-LESS-NESS

I awake this morning, groggy, from a restless night of tossing and turning, looking at the clock, followed by more tossing and turning. With a large canine in tow, I slowly drag myself out of bed, to begin my morning ritual of getting ready for another day.

Take dog out. Check. Contacts in. Check. Shower. Check. Oatmeal. Check.

Today is Sunday. Church day. Church, I have found, is the equivalent to my spiritual well-being as exercising is to my physical well-being. Yet, I always want to find a reason to get out of both. It is something my mind wants to talk me out of, if for no other reason, than there is always something more tempting within my grasp. My bed, a beautiful day outside, etc. Whatever the dull and shallow temptation may be, it always appears to me, to be so luxurious inside my mind. It is only after, church or exercising that is, that I am thanking myself, once again, that I ignored the resistance to take the easy path, for there is a sense of “fullness” one only feels after feeding the body, spiritually.

Today the pastor, Steve Constable, whom I adore to listen to (he is English), taught a message on selfishness. His message was that God could see how we treated not only other people, but how we treated Him. In light of this, we should spend less of our time and energy dedicated to our needs, desires, thoughts, wants, and wishes, and instead focus our efforts on the needs, desires, thoughts, wants and wishes of others. It is not merely enough, he said, to passively donate to charity, or to give our tithes to the church on Sunday. What we should be sacrificing is our time, our energy, our sweat, and our compassion. In a world where need is as great as it has ever been, if not greater, why are we so unwilling to lend a hand? Why do we hear the hypocritical whispers.....

Why do we judge those living with diseases like HIV? Do we not remember how God feels about the “least of these?”

There is an entire world in need. Individuals, families, and even entire communities have gaping holes where the wounds of sickness, divorce, famine, poverty, abandonment, illiteracy, shame, rejection, and grief threaten to take their lives every single day. So what do we do in response? We are afraid. Afraid to get involved. Afraid we won’t be needed. Afraid the sacrifice will be too much, or the emotional attachment will become too real.

Steve referenced an article in the New York Times written by David Samuels in October of 1999. The article is entitled, “In the Age of Radical Selfishness.” Steve’s message really resonated within me, and I wanted to know more. I came home and read the article. Over twelve years ago, Samuels noticed a shift in society, that has only continued and expanded over time. I found the article to be two things: depressing and inspiring. The article holds an even greater weight in our current social climate of texting, facebooking, tweeting, skypeing, and yes blogging. Our generation has the techology to be more connected than ever. We can talk to someone in China instantly. We can post a video to YouTube and a 1,000,000 people will have seen it by the end of the day. If we have all of the technology to connect, why are we more disconnected than ever? In a day and age when things are possible that 100 years ago seemed like something straight out of the “Jetson’s,” why are people spending more and more time alone, and less and less time invested in building relationships? David’s answer: our selves. We are standing in the way.

I have thought about Steve’s message several times today. I urge all of you, and myself, to be radical when it comes giving of ourselves for others. When I say these things, I am holding myself to the same standard. At one point in my life, my heart was so devoted to the plight of others. Then, when life got a little messy, and things got a little cloudy, I lost sight of this. So my challenge, is a shift in the way we think and behave. A shift to radical self-less-ness, instead of radical self-ish-ness.

Before I started this blog, I read that you should write about what you’re passionate about. If not, your readers will be able to see right through you. I thought, what can I write about? Sure, I love art, football, pets, traveling, etc. I wanted to write about something different.... But then it dawned on me today. Just write about what you feel strongly about. And what I am really passionate about is others, volunteering, and service. This…I could talk about all day.

I leave you with this, a quote from the article in the Times:

“The self is a necessary illusion that allows us to function in time, to create law, and morality, and art, and the rest of civilization. But it was never meant to save us from death, or imbue our lives with meaning and purpose. The self is the root of selfishness, and selfishness is what makes us unhappy. Too much concentration on ourselves makes us anxious, because the self cannot support the weight. That is the difference between the self and the soul.” -David Samuels. (End original blog).

This issue of "self" is not brand new to our day and time. Look at the Roman civilization. We aren't the first people to encounter selfishness; we simply just have the technology and means to broadcast and showcase it before everyone. As you may have heard me say before, I have been on a journey to become a more loving person, and as a by-product, a less selfish person. Boy is this no easy feat. However, all God needs from me (and any of us) is an honest + pure heart and a desire to change and He can do the rest. I am finding that when we resist the urge to be selfish and self-focused, real, lasting change happens; not only in our lives but in lives of those around us. I have fallen short and will continue to fall short, but oh grace. Sweet, sweet grace. 

Thanks for stopping by.

~Maggie ♥