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Dewey Donation System

Dewey Donation System

Books are awesome. Getting more books into needy and/or disaster-ravaged areas, and into the hands of kids who otherwise might not get them, is even more awesome. Which is why the Dewey Donation System deserves to be praised and supported and just generally talked about all over the place. Their 2008 book drive is collecting books for both the Children's Institute and the Rockhouse Foundation, and there are Amazon wish list and online donation systems galore, so donating is a pretty quick and painless process. Stop on by and help out.

Cause of the Month: ENIAC Programmers Project

Speaking of series I've neglected to keep up lately, I also missed a month of posting one of my Causes of the Month. I'm going to have to take a quick break from my pledge of personal donations to each cause I feature until after the new year, but I'll still post them, and I'm also planning a large-scale charity effort like I did last year for the holiday season.

Awesome Women ProgrammersAn interesting fact about the first real programmable computer ENIAC is that its first programmers were a bunch of women. You might not have ever heard this. They never got the credit for their work that the male engineers did - which is exactly what a forthcoming documentary is looking to fix. The ENIAC Programmers Project has gathered together not only the stories of these women, some straight from the surviving programmers themselves, to help spread knowledge of their accomplishments.

Google has stepped in to help the documentary along, but there's still a lot of work to be done. You can make donations online or by check to the cause. There's also a fundraiser being held by Google next week, which sounds like it would be a great time. If nothing else, just click on over and learn a bit about some women who helped make it possible for you to do that in the first place.

Cause of the Month - Strummerville

Note: I just realized I have yet to post August's Cause of the Month, as well as a new batch of virtual volunteering opportunities, so I guess today is going to be an impromptu festival of do-good-ing.

The Cause of the Month is a little thing I do to increase exposure of a particular charity or organization I think is worthwhile, and I feature a new one every month. I also donate a minimum of $10 in cash or needed supplies to each cause. You can help the causes you find important in a variety of ways: 1) donate, 2) link to my article and/or the charity's own website, or 3) suggest an organization for future month's cause.

Joe Strummer, the lead singer of the Clash, died unexpectedly on December 22, 2002. My memory of learning the news is still saddeningly clear. A few days before Christmas, I was visiting at my mom's and couldn't get to sleep, so around midnight I ended up channel surfing. To my happy surprise, I found a block of Clash videos on MTV. It was a contented fifteen minutes or so of viewing - until the first commercial break, when they popped up with his name, and the date of his death. I was stunned. I remained in denial until the morning, when I confirmed it online. I remember sincerely wishing it weren't true. I'm sure I remember it so clearly because it was the first time I witnessed the death of one of my heroes.

Me rehashing yet again the reasons why the Clash were called "the only band that matters" is not really necessary, but Strummer himself was important for, even after the Clash days, maintaining his complete dedication to social rights issues and charities, and his close connections to his fans - not to mention continuing to put out fantastic music with his band the Mescaleros. Beyond that, though, I admired Strummer for his inherent conviction in the positive power of music as a force of change, and the audience as agents of that change. He believed in people. He believed in rock and roll, and he believed in revolutions, and he saw both as a way to get justice for those who needed it.

Which is why this Cause of the Month post is for Strummerville: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music. Its' website description:

Set up by the friends and family of Joe Strummer in the year after his death, the charity seeks to reflect Joe's unique contribution to the music world by offering support, resources and performance opportunities to artists who would not normally have access to them.

They offer studio time and promotion for new musicians, and inspire fundraising concerts across the world. You can help support the cause with a PayPal donation, or check out their MySpace. After all, if Strummer left us anything, it's proof positive that a musician with a message and a platform can make a huge difference.

Cause of the Month: FilmAid International

The Cause of the Month is a little thing I do to increase exposure of a particular charity or organization I think is worthwhile, and I feature a new one every month. I also donate a minimum of $10 in cash or needed supplies to each cause. You can help the causes you find important in a variety of ways: 1) donate yourself, 2) link to my article and/or the charity's own website on your site, or 3) suggest an organization for a future month's cause.

FilmAid International in AfghanistanLike last month with the Camel Book Drive, this month's cause is one that focuses on nourishing minds instead of bodies. And like with books, my personal sympathies with movies and the impact they can have on people's lives runs deep. It's no mystery why FilmAid International has long been one of my charities.

"Diversion is a luxury we afford ourselves without sacrifice. Why would we deprive it from refugees? Sometimes, humanitarian assistance can have a narrow emphasis on only material and physical needs. Timely and appropriate interventions like FilmAid not only have immediate relevance but may help avert a generation of emotional incapacitation..." --Gerald Martone, Director of Emergency Response, International Rescue Committee

FilmAid International's mission is basic: they go to refugee camps and screen movies for children and their families. They've visited areas in Macedonia, Afghanistan, East Africa, and even showed films for survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the US Gulf Coast. For some refugees, these are the first movies they have ever seen. For others, it's a welcome reminder of comfort and normalcy. In all cases, it opens a window for audiences to look beyond their current situations towards something better.

FilmAid International is now eight years old and still going strong. If so inclined, you can contribute directly to their cause at their donation page.

Cause of the Month: Camel Book Drive

Girl ReadingThe Cause of the Month is a little thing I do to increase exposure of a particular charity or organization I think is worthwhile, and I feature a new one every month. I also donate a minimum of $10 in cash or needed supplies to each cause. You can help the causes you find important in a variety of ways: 1) donate yourself, 2) link to my article and/or the charity's own website on your site, or 3) suggest an organization to me for a future month's cause.

I was one of those kids for whom books were a matter of survival. An escape from divorce, loneliness, fear, anything and everything that was too hard to go through without help. If help wasn't available from a human source, there were always your favorite books to depend on. Because of this, I have a highly-developed sympathy for any cause whose aim is to get more books into the hands of kids who otherwise wouldn't have them. The Camel Book Drive is just such a cause.

There is a mobile library that makes its way through Kenya, borne on the backs of camels. Since 1996, twelve camels have delivered books to four settlements of semi-nomadic peoples in Kenya once a week. For these people, who struggle with poverty and harsh living conditions, the mobile library books are an otherwise impossible treat and opportunity for education.

Author Masha Hamilton (of The Camel Bookmobile) jumpstarted the Camel Book Drive after her visit to Kenya and her first-hand viewing of the library's continuing needs. Over two hundred other authors have also lent their support, including Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, and Judy Blume.

Every couple of weeks, if not more, I take my daughter to the nearby Barnes & Noble and let her run around in the children's section. We read books, and more often than not take one home with us. I'm a constant library goer, and have been known to take out armfuls of books at a time. I can't imagine only having access to a few books, dried and damaged by the heat and sun, brought to me once a week by camel. It's such a simple luxury to have good books, one wonders why it can't be spread just as simply. One of my favorite Hugo quotes, from Les Miserables, has always been: "If there is anything more poignant than a body perishing for lack of bread, it is a soul which is dying from want of light." Books may be not be strictly needed for survival. But sometimes, to some people, it may seem that way.

Cause of the Month: The Adrienne Shelley Foundation

Cause of the Month: Adrienne Shelley FoundationThe Cause of the Month is a little thing I do to increase exposure of a particular charity or organization I think is worthwhile, and I feature a new one every month. I also donate a minimum of $10 in cash or needed supplies to each cause. You can help the causes you find important in a variety of ways: 1) donate, 2) link to my article and/or the charity's own website, or 3) suggest an organization for future month's cause.

Last November, actress and director Adrienne Shelley was murdered. She left behind a two-year-old daughter, an unreleased film, and thousands of fans, including me, who remembered her sincerely wonderful work. Her husband has established a foundation in her honor to award grants and film school scholarships to women filmmakers, which is a cause as near and dear to me as Shelley's work was, so it's become my very first Cause of the Month.

Of course it's Trust from which I remember her best. Hal Hartley's funny/sad story of misfits with Shelley as Maria, a pregnant high-schooler kicked out of home by her family. As typical of a set-up that is, there is nothing typical about Maria's character. She is tough, thoughtful, and without a lick of self-pity, even though she is also often scared and uncertain about where she's going next. Emotional bravery - it's not flashy, but it's the stuff of great film, and Shelley, in Trust exemplified it subtly and beautifully. It is hard to imagine the movie working even half as well, despite its other merits, without her.

From then I kept tabs on her work: as an actor, a writer, and a director. It wasn't always easy, because fame did not seem to interest her much. While she did a string of critically-acclaimed film roles, she also retained close ties to the local New York theater and film communities. More recently, she performed only small roles (Factotum), and focused on her writing and directing work.

The details of her death on November 1, 2006 are outlined on many sites, and not necessary to go over yet again here. The only thing that really matters is that it was far too soon.

In its wake, however, there is good. Her last film, Waitress, which she wrote, directed, and in which she acted, premiered at Sundance to an overwhelmingly positive reception, has won other festival awards, and opens in theaters nationwide May 2.

In addition, Shelley's husband has established a foundation in her name that provides grants and scholarships to young women working in film. From the Adrienne Shelley Foundation:

We know that Adrienne would like us to do everything possible to help young women pursue their filmmaking dreams, and to assist others in making the same leap from acting to writing and directing as Adrienne had done so successfully.

Which seems to be the best possible way to remember her.

Information & Links

  • Adrienne Shelley Foundation - Here you can find information on the foundation, as well as a list of currently available grants and application instructions. You can also donate to the foundation online.
  • Auction of Aprons Signed by Waitress Stars - To benefit the foundation, CharityFolks is hosting an online auction of five aprons signed by Waitress stars, including Keri Russell and Rosanna Arquette. Bidding ends May 14.