Sparking Ideas

Announcing TLC’s December Year of Service Project

For our final Year of Service project, TLC will travel to Atlanta to assist Atlanta Children’s Shelter with their Annual Holiday House. Holiday House is a week-long event that provides parents with the opportunity to do all of their Christmas shopping free of charge. Warm clothing, toys, household items and gift cards are all made available through generous in-kind donations and financial support. TLC staff will volunteer at the Holiday House on Wednesday, December 5 and Thursday, December 6.  We look forward to helping make the holiday season a little brighter for many families in need in the Atlanta area.

Interested in volunteering on our final project? Contact Ashley Gunning at or 703-845-8484 x231.  

TLC Volunteers with 826 Valencia

When we asked our clients across the country to nominate non-profit organizations in their city for our Year of Service, we received three nominations for our San Francisco organization, 826 Valencia! It seems that everyone in San Francisco knows about the great work of this group of volunteers does. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, 826 Valencia was founded by a writer and educator  need for one-on-one tutoring in the literary arts. Recognizing that many writers had flexible schedules and the ability to fill this void, 826 Valencia was established. In addition to free after-school tutoring, the organization also offers bookmaking field trips for public elementary schools, college admission essay workshops, summer programs and special workshops for teachers. Since opening its original San Francisco location, an additional seven chapters have opened across the country in cities like New York, Chicago, DC and Boston.

On day one of TLC’s visit to 826 Valencia, our volunteers assisted one class of third graders with their bookmaking workshop. After writing a story about a sandy buggy and half-turtle/half-giraffe titled “Friendships are Gold”, the story was typed up, illustrated and bound for each student. Volunteers returned the next day to help at after-school tutoring hours where students ages 6-18 can come in for free help with their writing.

Everyone agreed that the experience was incredibly rewarding, for volunteers and students alike. Kojo Duncan, Director of Online Services commented, “The work that 826 Valencia does to help kids improve their writing skills is simply amazing. And the look of appreciation on their parents’ faces when they came to pick up their students – it felt great to know that we helped make that possible.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities with 826 Valencia, or to make a gift, contact Yalie Kamara at or 415-642-5905 x204. To learn more about the 826 chapters nationally, visit

TLC Raises Money for Much Love Animal Rescue

As we mentioned earlier this month, TLC’s Year of Service is taking a two month break from the road this fall and instead raising money for two local charities. In September we called on our east coast vendors to help raise money for the DC Capital Area Food Bank – money is still trickling in, but we hope to have a final count in the coming weeks!

This month our Los Angeles office is raising money for Much Love Animal Rescue, a LA based organization that rescues abused, neglected and homeless animals from the streets and shelters. Animals are then placed in loving homes. Founded in 1999, Much Love is run entirely by volunteers who have found homes for over 3,000 animals.

We called on our west coast partners earlier this month to support Much Love and so far over $1,000 have been raised for their cause. We still have a few more days of fundraising left, so stay tuned to see our total rise! To make a gift to Much Love Animal Rescue, please click here

TLC Raises Money for DC Capital Area Food Bank

TLC’s Year of Service took a break from the road in September, and instead our efforts have been spent organizing a special fundraising project to benefit one local organization – DC Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB).

Founded in 1980, the Capital Area Food Bank is the largest, hunger and nutrition education research non-profit in the D.C. area. Their mission is to feed those suffering from hunger by acquiring food and distributing it throughout a network of local agencies. Additionally, CAFB works to educate, empower and enlighten the community about issues facing hunger and nutrition.

In September, we put our direct marketing expertise to good use and called on our vendor partners to join us in raising money for this important cause. We’ve already raised over $2,000 and we plan to continue our efforts through this month! To make a gift to the Capital Area Food Bank, please click here and stay tuned for updates about our progress. 

TLC Runs for Seattle Children’s Hospital

TLC staff trained for our August Year of Service project during DC’s hot summer months, so the cool Seattle air was a welcome change when team “Smells Like TLC Spirit” laced up their running shoes for The Covey Run’s 10k on Saturday, August 18. Staff from TLC’s east and west coast offices met in Seattle for this month’s Year of Service project to support Seattle Children’s Hospital. Their assignment was to either participate or volunteer behind the scenes at The Covey Run, an annual 10k run/5k walk that supports uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Of the 86,000 patients treated at the hospital each year, 65% need financial assistance and the need for uncompensated care is expected to exceed $100 million this year.

Team Seattle flew out a day early to visit Seattle Children’s Hospital before race day. They were given a tour of the facilities and had a chance to meet some of the wonderful staff who help take care of the patients. Families come from all over Washington, Oregon, Utah and Montana to receive treatment at the hospital. Seattle Children’s is in the process of building a new wing, which is set to open in spring 2013. The new wing will allow for private hospital rooms, of which there are none in the hospital currently. With no private rooms, there isn’t space for parents to stay overnight with their children in the shared rooms – the new wing will alleviate this issue.

Naturally the volunteers on this project were very inspired by this cause and they decided to conduct their own grassroots fundraising for the event. Team “Smells Like TLC Spirit” really took their fundraising seriously and raised well over $2,500 in a matter of weeks. Their efforts were matched 100% by TLC and, as a result, we were the #1 overall team for fundraising by a landslide – nice job, guys!

TLC’s support was warmly received by Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the team had a chance to present their cumulative donations at The Covey Run event itself. There they met Keilana, this year’s featured patient, and her family. Keilana’s story is a remarkable one (read more here) and the team agreed that meeting this spunky young woman was a highlight of the experience.  

West Coast Account Director Kathryn McMonagle found the project to be both rewarding and fun.  “Seeing firsthand what our efforts were supporting made the entire experience much more meaningful,” Kathryn explained. “Beyond the fundraising, taking part in the actual run with hundreds of local North westerners – all running for a common cause – was an experience words cannot describe.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities with The Covey Run and Seattle Children’s Hospital, or to make a gift, contact Aileen Kelly at

Announcing TLC’s August Year of Service Project

Year of Service Team Seattle has been training for a few months now for their assignment – a 10k race to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital. On Saturday, August 18 TLC’s Year of Service will participate in The Covey Run. A team of six will actually run the race while two additional staff members will help behind the scenes, along with a few of our local clients. Money raised for the event will benefit uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s Hospital, which ensures quality care to all children in the Northwest regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

In addition to preparing for the race, team “Smells Like TLC Spirit” also decided to spur a grassroots fundraising campaign to support the cause. On top of their regular Year of Service gift, TLC will also match whatever the team raises. Staff will arrive in Seattle the day before the race so that they can get a tour of Seattle Children’s Hospital and learn more about the children and families their training and fundraising will support.

Are you interested in helping behind the scenes at The Covey Run on August 18? Or maybe you’re even up for the 10 race or 5k run/walk? Contact Ashley Gunning at or 703-845-8484 x231. To make a gift to Team Smells like TLC Spirit, click here

TLC Gets a Little Dirty with Urban Habitat Chicago

Mother Nature must have really wanted TLC to volunteer with Urban Habitat Chicago on July 19. After some staff barely made it to Chicago due to weather related delays, we woke up to rain the morning of our volunteer project. Thankfully things cleared up and cooled off just in time for staff to work with Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC) – and work volunteers did indeed!

UHC is an organization committed to enabling Chicagoans to make direct environmental and social change through hands-on training in urban agriculture via city school programs and adult workshops. TLC joined UHC for a volunteer shift at their teaching farm, located at the Northside College Preparatory High School. Before UHC became involved, the land directly behind the school was a brownfield, meaning the soil had been contaminated, in this case by deicing salt that the city had previously stored on site. Along with students at Northside College Prep (dubbed the “Dirt Actualizers”), UHC volunteers have worked for nearly four years to transform the land into an urban garden space that’s not only beautiful, but also incredibly functional and sustainable too.

Before getting down to work, Executive Director Mike Repkin and his volunteer staff, including some current and former students, led TLC volunteers on a tour of the grounds. Staff members were completely floored by the ingenuity of UHC’s urban garden design and the dedication of their volunteers. UHC is committed to using recycled and found materials, so Mike explained how the organization constantly seeks unwanted materials from all over the city. For example, pieces of ground concrete are used as stones; stabs of city sidewalk become retaining walls; and unwanted brick are used to build seating for an outdoor classroom area. 

Enthusiasm from UHC volunteers about their work was absolutely contagious, so the orientation session made staff eager to get a little dirty for the cause. Everyone was assigned a project including helping to build the outdoor classroom area, removing the wooden border around recently poured pervious concrete, and wheeling woodchips about the garden. It was hard work, but Mike and his volunteers made it fun for everyone and staff left the experience inspired. 

West Coast Account Manager Lauren Gordon remarked, “I was really impressed by the sustainable practices utilized by UHC to create a beautiful landscape and garden that benefits both the campus and the local Chicago community. The UHC volunteers were so passionate about their work, and it was great to be able to contribute to their efforts!” 

Because the organization has a very small operating budget, our monetary contribution was especially well-received. Volunteer coordinator Lee Bouchard said, “I can’t even tell you how much of a difference your gift makes for us and the people we serve – we stretch our dollars a LOT at UHC.”

To see more photos, check out our Year of Service photo albums here: For more information about volunteer opportunities with Urban Habitat Chicago, or to make a gift, contact Lee Bouchard at

Announcing TLC’s July Year of Service Project

It’s no coincidence that we decided to head to the Windy City in the middle of the summer, so we figured we should take advantage of the warm weather with a project that will get us outdoors. Enter our July Year of Service organization, Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC). UHC was founded in 2004 and their mission is to create sustainable urban farming projects all over Chicago. These sites are used to run gardening and environmental programs for children and teens in challenged neighborhoods and the fresh produce harvested is distributed to Chicagoans in need through the organization’s partnership with Neighborhood Nutrition Centers. 

On Thursday, July 19, TLC volunteers and friends will roll up their sleeves to garden at UHC’s Teaching Farm behind Northside College Preparatory High School. This is the organization’s largest site and volunteers will work alongside local students and adult volunteers.

Want to exercise your green thumb while spending quality time with TLC staff? Contact Ashley Gunning at or 703-845-8484 x231.  

TLC Does Heavy Lifting with Denver’s Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

In early June staff from TLC’s LA and DC offices met in Denver for our most challenging Year of Service project yet –two days of trail restoration with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC). VOC is a non-profit based in Denver and the organization is committed to motivating and enabling citizens to protect, enhance, restore and preserve Colorado’s outdoors. Projects range from tree planting to invasive weed removal to campsite and trail restoration.

On a 1-10 scale of difficulty, TLC’s Team Denver agrees that their assignment was an 11! Along with a group of about 70 volunteers, the team was tasked with helping to restore the beautiful Midland Hill Trail. This meant constructing 170 new steps of rock, installing over 30 feet of new rock walls, building several large switchbacks (trails that follow a zigzag course on a steep incline), and rehabilitating over 2,000 feet of existing trail. Set near the scenic mountains of Buena Vista, the Midland Hill Trail is subject to severe erosion due to the rain storms that often hit this valley region and regular maintenance is important in keeping the trail safe for Colorado’s many hikers.

Although exhausted upon their return, TLC volunteers agreed that the experience was incredibly rewarding. “The VOC staff were just great!” said VP of West Coast Operations, Anthony Plamondon. “Our crew leader Joe was so experienced and funny, too. He made sure we had a lot of fun while working hard. I’m really proud of our team – this project was no easy feat!”

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado’s Project Manager Matt Martinez was equally impressed with TLC volunteers. “Our organization is grateful to receive a lot of donations, but it’s rare that comes coupled with boats on the ground,” Matt remarked about TLC’s willingness to jump in and help on one of the more challenging projects this season.

For more information about volunteer opportunities with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, or to make a gift, contact Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Becca Summer at

Announcing TLC’s June Year of Service Project

The past five months of the Year of Service have been leading up to this – our biggest and most challenging project, yet! In June TLC staff from both coasts will meet in Denver to join Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado on their two-day Midland Hill Trail Restoration project. One of the most popular trails in Arkansas River Valley, Midland Hill Trail is about a hundred miles south-west of Denver near beautiful Buena Vista. Rain storms in the valley cause severe erosion on the area’s natural surface trails, so regular maintenance is necessary.

Volunteers will spend the weekend of June 9 camping in the great outdoors while restoring this popular trail in order to provide a safe and sustainable route for trail users. Work will involve repairing trail drains, constructing walk retaining walls and installing new rock steps. It will be hard work, but this project is set in one of the most scenic areas of the Colorado mountainside and there will be plenty of time for fun around the campfire and relaxation in the nearby hot springs.

Up for joining TLC on this adventure? Contact Ashley Gunning at or 703-845-8484 x231.