DONATION: Food Works

This week, I’m making a donation to Food Works.

Food Works was formed to draw attention to local food, local farmers, and issues of social and environmental health. Their mission is “Local, sustainable food systems development for Southern Illinois.”

I’m a really big fan of local foods and local food systems. Here are just a few reasons why:

(1) Eating local food reduces your carbon footprint. In other words, if you live here in Carbondale, it causes less pollution to ship your food from Cobden to Carbondale (about 15 miles) than it does to ship it from California to Carbondale (about 2,000 miles) or South America to Carbondale (about 3,000 to 5,000 miles).

(2) Eating local food supports the local economy. You know how people are always complaining about how the U.S. is in a recession, and how Southern Illinois is even worse off than the national average? Well, if we buy local food, most if not all of that money goes to people who live and work in our area. They, in turn, will spend at least some of that money locally too. If you buy non-local food at a corporate chain, the opposite happens. Most of that money goes out of the region, and most of it will be spent out of the region — or hoarded by shareholders in the form of corporate profit.

(3) Local foods are fresher, tastier, and more nutritious. Our advances in refrigeration and preservation technology have made it so that we can ship food thousands of miles and store it for long periods of time without it spoiling. This is a good option to have in some cases. However, some foods — like greens, vegetables, and fruits — suffer a loss in quality from this treatment. Local foods are fresher because they’ve been harvested more recently — sometimes on the same day that you buy them!

(4) Local foods bring the power back to local people. Currently, almost all of the major decisions about our food supply are made by far-away corporate and government bureaucrats who know nothing of our local conditions, local needs, and local perspectives on food issues. They pass regulations which lower the standards of our food quality, and they cut corners for the sake of profit in ways that put our health at risk. Local food systems allow local people to reclaim power over the food decisions that affect their lives and the state of our region.

Food Works is doing some very important work to develop our local food systems in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner. They initiated a Community Food Assessment to discover what the state of our food system is here in Southern Illinois, and they’re working on developing a new and transitional farmer training program, as well as promoting the many good foods already available here in Southern Illinois.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, consider making a donation to Food Works. They’ve got some good projects in the works, but those projects will only reach their full potential with the proper funding.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support you can send their way!

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DONATION: Gaia House Interfaith Center

This week, I’m making a donation to the Gaia House Interfaith Center:

The Gaia House Interfaith Center is a local community center with a 60-year tradition of serving the Southern Illinois community and SIUC campus with programs that address the burning issues of our times. They are a gathering place for community events and a focal point for social justice activity by people of all faiths and beliefs.

Over the years, this community center has played a pivotal role in my life and my community involvement. This is where I first went to a Student Environmental Center meeting, which was my first introduction to the environmental movement. It’s where I had my first job after receiving my bachelor’s degree. It’s also directly or indirectly the way that I’ve met many of the people who make me feel at home here in Carbondale.

Nowadays, the Gaia House Interfaith Center serves the community through a variety of exciting programs:

* a spacious and charming building where people can host meetings, dinners, and other events;
* weekly dinners such as the InterVeg vegetarian potluck and Rice & Spice international slow foods dinner;
* annual events like the Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner;
* a lending library covering many spiritual, ecological, and political topics;
* a long-term home for numerous spiritual, social justice, interfaith, inter-religious, and multicultural organizations and events;
* weekly Theology on Tap discussion of religious and spiritual issues over the beverage of your choice at a local pub & grill;
* the Gaia House Development Group which is working on a project to rebuild the Gaia House as an ecological dorm and community center that will serve as a model of sustainability for our region;
* and other miscellaneous programs and resources too numerous to mention.

Maintaining physical meeting and office space for all of these groups, events, and resources takes a lot of work and a lot of money! Some of the center’s support comes from local religious, spiritual, and social justice groups who use their facilities or support their work. But the rest of it comes from people like you and me who care about all of the exciting things that the Gaia House Interfaith Center brings to the community.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, I’d like you to consider making a donation to the Gaia House Interfaith Center. The diverse and progressive programs and activities that they support are a big part of what make Carbondale a great place to be.

If you don’t have any spare cash, consider volunteering. They have a big work day coming up this Saturday from 9:30 am until lunchtime, with free Fair-Trade coffee for volunteers, and lunch if you stick around that long! They also have a variety of other ongoing volunteer opportunities.

If nothing else, you can always support the Gaia House Interfaith Center by showing up for one of their events or programs. They’re always happy to see new (and returning) faces, and you’ll be happy to receive some good food, or good conversation, or good food for thought — or all of the above.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support that you can send their way!

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DONATION: The Women’s Center

I’ve been working on new ways to provide and encourage support for local community groups. As part of this effort, I’ve decided to start donating money. Given my low income and growing debt, I don’t have much to give. But I’ve decided that as long as I have income, however little, the nonprofit organizations that do so much for this community will have income too.

My first donation is going to the Women’s Center:

The Women’s Center provides many helpful services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. They have a 24-hour crisis hotline (618-529-2324); emergency shelter; food, supplies, and transportation; individual and group support and counseling; information, referrals, and education; legal, medical, and personal advocacy. Basically, if you are a survivor of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault, they will find a way to help you with what you need.

How are they able to do all of these great things? First of all, the staff and volunteers are the ones who make it all possible. Second, their budget comes from a mix of city funding, state funding, and donations made by people like you.

If you’re fortunate enough to have money in your pocket after you’ve paid for food, shelter, utilities, and so on, I’d like you to consider making a donation to the Women’s Center. They do some of their own fundraisers like the Taste of Chocolate, and those exciting events help to keep the center going too. But they accept donations year-round from people like you who care about the work that they do. You can even make a donation in someone else’s name and the Women’s Center will send them a nice card for their birthday or other special occasion.

Here’s the link to their donation page:

If you don’t have any money, you may be able to help them with some of the supplies on their Needs List. You can also volunteer your time in a variety of ways:

If nothing else, you can help by letting people know about their services and participating in events like Take Back The Night.

This issue is important to me because I know far too many women and men who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The people at the Women’s Center work hard every day to help these survivors and do whatever they can to raise awareness and reduce the rates of violence and assault. Personally, I think that they deserve ten times the funding that they get for the work that they do. Until that happens, each of us can do our part to support them, whether that means making a donation, or volunteering, or simply being aware of the work they do and spreading awareness about it in your own way.

Thanks for listening, and thanks for any support that you can send their way!

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Real Life Superheroes

Have you ever watched a movie about superheroes, or read a comic book about superheroes, and wished that you could be one too? As someone who has spent a lifetime admiring fictional superheroes, I’ve finally decided that it’s time to start living the dream. Therefore, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve become a Real Life Superhero!

What’s a Real Life Superhero? There’s a growing community of us, but we haven’t come up with an official definition of the term. Generally speaking, a Real Life Superhero (RLSH) is someone who creates and adopts a special new identity in order to perform a public service. The new identity of a Real Life Superhero is usually inspired by the archetypal superheroes of popular fiction. This identity is a unique creation and usually includes a new name, a new uniform or costume, and a set of goals and methods intended to serve the public good. Forms of service include neighborhood watch patrols, charity work, grassroots activism, and beyond.

For some people who don’t know me very well, this may seem like a silly idea that came out of nowhere. People who know me well, though, probably won’t see this as much of a surprise. When I was in preschool, our teachers asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Other people wanted to be astronauts, firefighters, and so on. I, on the other hand, wanted to be Superman. On some level, I’ve been trying to live that dream ever since.

My first step in this direction happened about ten years ago. After working with the Student Environmental Center for a year or two, I realized that I was experiencing a deep transformation in my basic understanding of who I was, my place in the world, and the nature of the world itself. In honor of this spiritual transformation, I adopted the name Treesong.

For a few years, my entire life centered around ecological and social justice work. Then, I spent a few years focusing primarily on survival and self-healing. Now, as I turn my attention back to community involvement, I’ve decided that becoming a Real Life Superhero is the best way to apply my personal energy and creativity to the causes that are near and dear to my heart.

What does it mean to be a Real Life Superhero? For me, it means that I do what I can to support worthy causes and community service organizations, especially those located right here in Southern Illinois. One of the ways that I already do this is by co-hosting Your Community Spirit with Aur ‘da energy mon’ Beck. We spread the word about community happenings and eco-social news every Friday from 10 am to 10:30 am on WDBX 91.1 FM.

This, however, is only the beginning.

As of this moment, in my capacity as a Real Life Superhero, I’m starting several new efforts to serve our community and the eco-social causes that I support. My hope is that these efforts will provide tangible benefits to community groups and good causes in our area, and that my actions will also inspire other people to become more involved too.

First of all, I’ve decided to create and maintain a listing of local, regional, national, and global causes that I support. This list will start small, but will grow with time based on your input and my research. This list serves several functions, including promoting community groups and projects, gathering all of their contact information in a single location, encouraging networking among local community groups, and offering a To Do List for any fellow community members who are looking for more ways to get involved.

Second, I’ve decided to select three local community groups each quarter of the year for special attention. These “Featured Causes” will be highlighted at the top of the list of Causes on my website. Throughout the quarter, I will make an extra effort to support these causes by volunteering my time, doing online promotion, and donating what little money I have to their capital campaigns. I encourage you to do the same.

Third, effective immediately, I pledge to donate approximately 10% of my income to the Causes listed on my website.

As someone who is deep in debt and has an income level far below the poverty line, this was a very difficult decision. I’m sure that some of my friends will try to dissuade me from this course of action. I’m sure that in the short term, this choice will affect what few remaining luxuries I have in my life. However, my decision is final, and no one will change my mind on this.

I’m so convinced of the importance of community service organizations that I’m willing to give my last penny to ensure their continued existence. I’m also convinced that this tithe will motivate me to find new ways to earn money. The more I earn, the more I can give back to the community. Perhaps most of all, I’m convinced that this will provide me with a good opportunity to encourage others to support these causes. Whenever I make a donation, I will publicize the donation and call on other people to join me in providing this essential financial support to organizations in need.

Finally, in addition to the above efforts, I’m issuing a call to action for anyone else who likes the idea of becoming a Real Life Superhero.

I know that most people who do community service work do so without much fanfare, and some of them do very hard work on a daily basis that far exceeds anything I’ll do as a Real Life Superhero. But I also believe that there’s a place in the community for people who want to run around in homemade costumes and do good deeds in as many creative and exciting and dynamic ways as possible.

If anyone else is up to the challenge, we can form a team of local Real Life Superheroes. We can work together on fundraisers, volunteer efforts, events, and more unconventional tactics like guerrilla theatre and public performance. We can organize media events where we present oversized checks to local community groups or oversized citations to corrupt corporations or institutions. Really, when you’re a Real Life Superhero, the possibilities are endless.

So, there you have it. Real Life Superheroes exist, and I’m one of them. If you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me.

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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