Skills-Based Volunteering: The Hired Pens

We are thrilled to be selected as The Hired Pens pro-bono client. Here is a nice blog they wrote about the selection process. Thanks guys!
The Hired Pens Selects Pro-Bono Client: Cradles to Crayons
By: Anna Goldsmith

A few months ago, a good friend of mine posted some upsetting images of starving children of Somalia on her Facebook page with a request for donations to Doctors without Borders. I couldn’t stop looking at them … and felt near tears the entire day. (This is not a good state to be in when you’re trying to get work done.) It made me realize that as a copywriting business, we have a lot of power to actually do some good. And at the time, we weren’t.

Sure, over the years we’ve donated writing services to several worthy organizations, from Stop Handgun Violence to Down:2:Earth, a green living expo. But we’ve never had a long-term relationship with an organization, and seeing these images made me realize it was time to commit.

Also, as a mother, I wanted to work with an organization that supported children in need. And I wanted that organization to be local so we could have a more personal connection with its team. I posted on Facebook looking for ideas and kept getting suggestions for the Boston-based Cradles to Crayons, an organization that gives needy local children everything from school supplies to winter coats.

I did a little research and three things sold me:

1.)    They received the highest rating (four stars) from charity watchdog “Charity Navigator.” Translation: This is a trustworthy operation that spends its money wisely.

2.)    They let children as young as five volunteer. I love the idea that someday my toddler will join them, as they wash and sort toys like little elves. And props to Cradles. I’m sure these little elves are quite a handful.

3.)    They’re on top of things. When I told them I was hosting a fundraiser, they replied not just with a vague thank you, but with a flyer they’d personalized for my event. And when I offered to donate writing services, they didn’t waste any time (mine or theirs). They knew exactly what they needed and who I needed to meet with to make it happen. A few of my paying clients could learn a thing or two from them …

We are excited to be working with such a great organization and will keep you posted on the neat projects we’re doing over the next year. First up is a “Recipes for Giving” calendar, where we’ll be writing (hopefully) inspired fundraising ideas in recipe format. So, if you have any of your own you’d like to share, please tell us.

To learn more about this organization or make a donation, please visit Right now they really need new or gently worn children’s coats.


September 30, 2011 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Staff Spotlight: 8 Questions with Ashley Medlar

Ashley Medlar is the Giving Corps Service Leadership Fellow at Cradles to Crayons.  She assists with the day-to-day management of the Giving Corps, particularly the Teen Leadership Corps and the College Corps.  Ashley has been at C2C for three months!

Describe working at Cradles to Crayons in 3 words or less.

Purple. Awesome. Cake

What is the best part of your job?

I get to hang out with fantastic high school and college students all the time.  They’re so much fun, and I really love to see them get excited about service and their own leadership abilities.  It’s amazing watching a 14-year-old stand up in front of a group of adults and tell them what to do!  The second best part of my job is being half of the Ashley and Ashley dream team.

What is your favorite station in the Giving Factory to work at? Why?

I love books.  I’m probably a little biased since it was the first one I really learned, but it’s still my favorite.  I loved to read when I was little (and I still do!), so it’s fun to look through old books that I remember and hope that the child that gets them loves them as much as I did.

What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child?

My favorite toy was a Raggedy Ann doll that I got as soon as I was born.  Her name is Annie, and she used to go EVERYWHERE with me.  I dragged that poor doll through every mess I made, and I got so upset at preschool when they told me I had to keep her in my cubby.  I actually still have her at my apartment!

What children’s character can you relate with most? Why?

Despite the fact that my parents aren’t totally nuts, my headmaster wasn’t evil, and I can’t move things with my mind, I always related to Matilda from the Roald Dahl book.  I think it was our mutual love of reading.  I also liked how she always took matters into her own hands when things weren’t fair.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love nail polish, reading, and watching food shows on TV.  Put me in front of Food Network while I paint my nails and I am a happy camper.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would love to still be here!  I would love to be able to wear this sweet purple sweatshirt at work for a long time.

Describe what you were like at age 10.

I was REALLY shy and had a strange obsession with the Weather Channel.  I was also embarrassingly tiny, and all the other kids in my class used to pick me up all the time just because they could.  Thank goodness I grew!

September 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

C2C Staff Spotlight: 8 Questions with Marissa Ferber

Marissa facing one of her biggest fears...chickens

Marissa Ferber is the Manager of Volunteer Relations at C2C Boston. She works with our volunteer team to ensure that every volunteer has their best experience possible at the Giving Factory while preparing only the highest-quality Kidpacks for our kids! Marissa has been with C2C for 8 months.

Why did you decide to work at C2C?

I always knew I would end up working at a nonprofit. I had actually volunteered at C2C a few times before coming to work here and loved it. Sometimes people can find it difficult that volunteers and staff don’t work directly with the children we serve, but that’s one of the reasons I appreciate this organization and part of why I chose C2C. I think there’s something admirable about volunteering your time where those you serve don’t know who’s helping them. It offers privacy for the families we serve. We have amazing volunteers!

What is your favorite station in the Giving Factory to work at?

Outfits. I’m really detail-oriented–I could sit in that room and organize the shelves all day!

What story about a child we have served has stuck with you most?

We received a donation of a brand-new toy vacuum cleaner in the Spring. When I was little I had an obsession with miniature versions of things around my house and knew I would have loved it at 4 years old (I was a trash can for Halloween when I was 3…I wonder how my parents explained that one to the neighbors!). I kept waiting for the vacuum to leave our birthday shelves and no one ever picked it. Finally, an order came in for a 4 yr old girl who desperately wanted a vacuum cleaner, and her social worker couldn’t believe we had found one for her! I just imagine how incredibly happy that little girl must have been to get her dream birthday gift.

Where are you originally from? What do you miss most about your hometown?

I was born on Long Island, NY but spent most of my life in Scottsdale, Arizona. I absolutely miss the weather! I still don’t understand how to use an umbrella or properly drive in the snow. I miss swimming year-round, carrying water bottles with me every time I step out of my house, and driving in circles until I find a parking spot with the tiniest sliver of shade in it. Having seasonal wardrobes is a completely foreign concept for me.

What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child?

As I said, I was very in love with everything miniaturized. I had a collection of hundreds of tiny plastic dogs that I used to play with. I knew all of their names and life stories. My parents used to come home with random tiny items for me to use when I played with them—bows, paperclips, giant glittery pieces of confetti—I swear I was the cheapest child to keep entertained in the entire world.

What is your favorite memory from working at Cradles to Crayons?

I loved working my first Backpackathon event this year. There’s something incredibly fun about keeping a level head while running to refill supplies, pumping up your volunteers to move faster, and shouting to a Teen Leader to “borrow” a box of erasers from another tent.

Who is your role model?

I hope to be half as cool as my mother when I’m older. Clearly by the answers above, I’ve already destroyed any chance of that.

If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only take 3 things OR one other C2C staff member with you what/who would they be?

Oh my goodness, I would take Tams Tidwell, Assistant Volunteer Manager, in a second. We would spend the first few hours discussing why it was necessary for me to drag her onto my deserted island when she was perfectly happy at whatever dance party she had been attending. Then we would cry somewhere together for a few minutes about the fact that we are, in fact, stuck on a desert island. After that, I think we could easily entertain each other until we were rescued. We’re by far the loudest in the office when we’re together, so if neither of us showed up for work for a few days, it would be hard not to notice!

Thanks for sharing, Marissa.  Stay tuned for more staff spotlights each Friday.

September 23, 2011 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

C2C Staff Spotlight: 8 Questions (plus 1 extra) with Dave Cotugno

Dave Catugno

"Really? That's just bananas..."

Dave Cotugno is the Group Volunteer Service Fellow at Cradles to Crayons. He is responsible for scheduling all groups to volunteer at C2C. He’s also working as a volunteer leader in the Giving Factory, and developing our student programming for school groups.

How long have you been at Cradles to Crayons? What other roles have you held during your time (if any)?

4 weeks!

Describe working at Cradles to Crayons in 3 words or less.

Wicked tan-fastic.

Why did you decide to work at Cradles to Crayons?

I volunteered over Thanksgiving break and loved the way the company was run, and how many children we were able to serve on a weekly basis. All of the staff were so passionate about the C2C mission that I looked into opportunities.

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting new volunteers every day and inspiring new volunteers to come back and help out again

What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child?

When I was only a few months old my parents put me in a green Celtics onezie. I still have the outfit, and plan to give it to my first child to wear when they are born.

What is your favorite memory from working at Cradles to Crayons?

I have only been here for 4 weeks (ish), but when the Grad school from Harvard came in, we completely reorganized the Toy station and Arts and Crafts Supplies station, and still managed to play wiffle ball and play catch with a nerf football during our breaks. They all wanted to come back so badly, and I saw a bunch of them using our donation station next to the Danger Room before they left.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the Red Sox, and try to watch as many games as I can (and go to a few each season).

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hopefully still working at Cradles, I love everything about it and want to be part of this team as we double our impact in the next 3 to 5 years.

What children’s character can you relate with most? Why?

Arnold from Hey Arnold. He’s a laid back kid who loves his life and doesn’t stress the big things. And has a stalker.

Thanks for sharing, Dave.  Stay tuned for more staff spotlights each Friday.

September 12, 2011 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

C2C Staff Spotlight: 8 Questions with Julie Lima

Julie Lima is the Director of Individual and Family Philanthropy in Boston. Her job is is to raise money to benefit  C2C.  She greatly enjoys her job where every day she’s touched by people’s generosity and desire to make a difference in the world. Julie has been at C2C for 8 months.

What were you doing before you worked at Cradles to Crayons?   
I worked at the Pine Street Inn in a similar role.

Describe working at Cradles to Crayons in 3 words or less. 
Inspiring, Fun, and Hopeful

What story about a child we have served has stuck with you most?
It sometimes saddens me to think about how many children in my own community are living in such need, without basic essentials.  All kids have dreams and potential.  It doesn’t quite seem fair that some kids are born with such disadvantages. It’s the newborn orders that hit me the hardest.  The orders often come in without a name, and it reminds me that before these kids even enter the world they are at a disadvantage. What would these children do without the support of C2C? It is my faith in people that reassures me; it is the generosity of the volunteers, donors and community that make C2C run and gives me hope.  Children’s dreams and potential can flourish with love and support from the community.

What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child? 
My favorite book was Charlotte’s Web. My dad read it to my sister and I every night before bed. I loved Wilbur and was so sad when Charlotte died. I had a pig collection when I was younger.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 
I like to run and spend time with my friends and adorable nieces and nephews. I also enjoy nature and love going to the beach and taking my dog, Nicky, for walks in the woods.

Describe what you were like at age 10. 
I was a tomboy. I loved sports and playing soccer. I enjoyed climbing trees and playing in the woods behind my house with my friends.

Who is your role model?  
My parents are my role models. They are hard workers, committed to their faith and taught me the importance of helping others.

If you could meet one celebrity, who would it be?
I would like to meet former President Carter. I admire his dedication to the country and the world post Presidency.

Thanks for sharing, Julie! Stay tuned for more staff spotlights each Friday.

August 18, 2011 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

Digitas Day at C2C: by Barbara Goose, Executive Director at Digitas Boston and Detroit

In May, the Digitas Boston office took over the Cradles to Crayons Giving Factory in one of the largest volunteer efforts that Cradles has had to date in their new location.  As the largest advertising agency in Boston, we aim to take advantage of volunteer opportunities where the whole office can work together to make an impact. Our day at Cradles delivered on just that.

We arrived at Cradles to Crayon’s new facility, and were immediately broken down into groups, allowing us to do what we do best- work in close knit teams toward a common goal. The Digitas teams tackled projects from coat sorting to toy inspection to coordinating wish-list packages that will be sent to deserving families in the Boston area.

In total, our teams organized 330 bags of assorted clothes, created 274 outfit packs, cleaned and sorted 730 pairs of sneakers, inspected and assembled 560 toys, created 648 packages of books, sorted 274 coats and 480 sets of pajamas, and finally, prepared 250 wishlist packages for selected children. The Cradles team organized our hundreds of volunteers so efficiently that this work was completed in just under six hours! And  in total, our efforts helped over 3,700 children in Massachusetts.

Digitas Interns at C2C Boston 7/27/2011

We look forward to continuing our relationship with Cradles to Crayonswith future on-site volunteer efforts and quarterly clothing and toy drives. It’s a fantastic organization and I am proud that our employees had an opportunity to experience their vision and mission statement. In fact, just two weeks ago, our summer interns came to Cradles’ Giving Factory for a community service day of their own!

Check out photos from Digitas’ Volunteer Day as featured in the Boston Globe here. Plus, be sure to watch the promo video that we created for Cradles to Crayons’ website here.

– Barbara Goose, Executive Director, Digitas Boston and Detroit
Board of Directors, Cradles to Crayons

If you would like to learn more about how YOUR company can get the Cradles to Crayons experience, contact Angela Martano at 

August 8, 2011 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

C2C Staff Spotlight: 8 Questions with Josh Nespoli

Josh Nespoli is the Community Outreach Manager at Cradles to Crayons in Boston. In this role he builds and maintains relationships in the community with the goal of developing “Champions” for our cause. He works with the Boston Community Outreach team to develop and implement strategy to increase incoming product donations through community events and large scale initiatives. Josh also manages C2C Boston’s social media. He has been at C2C for 4 years.  He worked as an AmeriCorps*VISTA after graduating from Babson College in 2007 before moving into the role of Community Outreach Manager.

Why did you decide to work at Cradles to Crayons?
I heard there was cake.

Well….that and from the first time I heard about C2C I was intrigued by the organization’s innovation, model and mission.  But when I met the employees and witnessed first-hand the passion they had for their work, I needed to be a part of that.

What is your favorite part of working at Cradles to Crayons?
Working here forces people to be versatile.  Our team can do anything, and problem solving is our specialty.  On any given day we might be using skills in marketing, sales, customer service, logistics or all of the above.  And we always need to be ready for some heavy lifting.

What story about a child we have served has stuck with you most? 
It’s actually the story of a volunteer group that sticks with me most.  A group of 8th graders from an inner city private school.  While working on our puzzle project, they expressed frustration over how many puzzles were no good because of a few missing pieces.  At the end of their shift they asked to take the unusable pieces back to school with them.  Over the course of the next month they used these pieces to create arts and crafts – pins, magnets, picture frames, etc. – and sold them in their community.  On their next visit to C2C they beamed with pride as they handed our staff a check for $1,000 for new games and puzzles.  Social entrepreneurship in its purest form.  Amazing.

Where are you originally from? What do you miss most about your hometown?
Berwick PA.  The greatest small town in the United States. Aside from my family, I miss the rural summers most.  I miss the hours spent on the tractor mowing the field, and the smell of the fresh cut grass.  I miss jumping on some inner tubes and floating down the crick on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and carnival games at night.  There’s nothing quite like enjoying a greasy carnival cheeseburger with the clink of the bottle toss and the clapping of the spin wheel in the background, except maybe the fresh corn on the cob grown right down the street for dinner.  Oh, and warm strawberry shortcake that soaks up milk like a sponge for dessert.  And there’s nothing quite as peaceful as driving up to the grove each weekend, laying out in the beds of our trucks and sleeping under the stars.

What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child?
When I was in 5th grade, I put on a serious hissy fit in Kaufman’s Department Store until I finally convinced my mom to buy me a flannel jacket like my big brother Marc had.  It was five or six sizes too big, but I wore it to school every day that year.  And every year after that – all the way through college.  People in Boston make fun of me, but 15 years later I still wear it every fall.  It’s thread-bare, faded and border line stinky, but it’s the single comfiest article of clothing I’ve ever owned.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 
Since I’ll still be a few years too young to run for Vice President of the United States, I’ll most likely be co-organizing the world’s largest Santa Speedo Run with my brothers back in Berwick, Pennsylvania.

Who is your role model?  
My dad not only has this uncanny ability as a teacher to connect with anyone and change their lives, but he has a wealth of wisdom, generosity and perseverance.  Plus he landed my mom.  They’ve been married 39 years today.  I’d say that’s his most spectacular achievement.  If I can be half the man my dad is, then I did something right along the way.

Describe what you were like at age 10.
Sickeningly adorable and obnoxiously nerdy.  Family videos nauseate me.  I was an artist, and the family video camera was my canvas.  If I ever run for Vice President, there will surely be videos all over the internet of me performing “Skinnamarink” with my baby sister Wheezy.

Thanks for sharing, Josh! Stay tuned for more staff spotlights each Friday.

August 5, 2011 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

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