Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to feel great about yourself for $2.74

It's been over a year since I last wrote about the Prison Book Program.  In March 2010, the Prison Book Program ran a dictionary drive.  I sent in a donation to cover the cost of five dictionaries and was so impressed by the organization that I started volunteering with them.

In the past year I've worked to set up a blog featuring essays and artwork from inmates who write to the Prison Book Program.  I've donated books, sorted mail, packaged books for inmates and worked the organization's postage machine.  I've recruited a few friends who now volunteer on a regular basis, typing up essays from inmates and sorting through donated books.  In short, I've become involved in an organization doing good work and I'm glad to be a part of it.  

Now, the Prison Book Program is running another dictionary drive.  Inmates use dictionaries to improve their spelling and vocabulary.  They use them to check Scrabble words and to help solve crossword puzzles.  These prisoners are using dictionaries to improve their lives by making positive choices that focus on education. 

Please join me in donating to the Prison Book Program's dictionary drive.  $2.74 will buy you a large cup of iced coffee, or provide an inmate with a life-changing dictionary.  A mere $13.70 provides five prisoners with dictionaries (or it might buy you a movie ticket and—if you're luckya small popcorn).  You can change the life of 20 inmates by donating $54.80—the price of a dinner out. 

So, consider skipping one cup of coffee, a movie ticket, or a dinner out with your partner and change a life instead.  The warm fuzzies you'll receive will be worth it.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tornadoes hit Western Massachusetts

Yesterday, tornadoes touched down in my city and some surrounding communities.  My family is safe, as is my home, but I'm still shaken.  I think I'm feeling shaky for three main reasons. 
First, I've always lived in Massachusetts and I've always believed that my little corner of the world is relatively safe from disaster.  For the most part, we don't have earthquakes here or hurricanes.  Volcanoes don't erupt.  We're not in danger of tsunami waves.  New England has always felt safe and free of the natural disasters that plague other parts of the country.  This tornado business caught me completely off guard.
Then, there's the fact that the tornado struck so close to home.  One tornado touched down only two miles from my house; it hit a neighborhood I drive by frequently, and an area where friends live.  While I am grateful that the tornado avoided my house, it's eerie to think about how close it really came.  It's even more unsettling to think about the danger my boyfriend was in.  He works in a nearby town and a tornado touched down in the parking lot next to his building.  Windows were blown out, power lines went down, and trees crashed everywhere.  Nearly all the cars in the lot were damaged; some flipped over completely, others were hit with tree branches and debris, and some simply had their windows smashed by rocks.  My boyfriend and his coworkers managed to get out of the building safely, but the building is now uninhabitable. 
The final reason I still feel shaky is because in the worst-hit areas, the damage and destruction is so complete.  Cars were tossed around and landed top-down.  Trash barrels, tree branches, and lawn furniture blew together to create small mountains of debris.  Roofs were ripped off of schools.  The scene that struck me most profoundly was a damaged three-story apartment building made of brick.  The whole front of the building had been ripped away by the tornado; what was left looked like some sort of tragic dollhouse—furniture and appliances still inside, but the front wall completely missing.  All this complete destruction, and yet, in areas just a couple of miles from the flattened neighborhoods, people were back to business as usual. 
I guess that's the eeriest part—the fact that there was a lot of sunshine today and that my house looks no worse for wear, but just down the road, entire homes were blown off their foundations.  Four people have already died in Massachusetts as a result of the tornadoes.  Towns have declared a state of emergency and the governor called in the National Guard.  My little piece of the globe is both completely devastated and wholly unaffected, depending only on which end of the road you happen to be on.

The extremes make my head feel a little woozy.  I feel blessed and relieved that my family and friends are safe; a few of our friends suffered some property damage, but to my knowledge no one was seriously hurt and none of their homes were flattened.  That being said, neighborhoods I know and love have been destroyed and it will likely take a long time to rebuild.  For now, I'm hoping to support my community and help out when I'm needed.  I'm also saying a prayer to thank God that everyone I know is all right.  

To help with relief efforts, consider making a contribution to the Red Cross