Real Awareness in Action

From our executive director, Kris:


That’s Daniel Schutzsmith’s word for arm-chair activitism, or what I would call an arm’s length feel-good gesture for the general public. It’s a way to kind-of get involved with a non-profit. Good examples are tweeting support of breast cancer awareness, or to retweet, like or share. Doesn’t require more than a moment’s effort to click or tap the screen and you’re done.

Schutzsmith, in last week’s article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, uses the New York Giants’ recent Breast Cancer Awareness Month hashtag displayed on the jumbotron as a classic example of slacktivism, brought to you courtesy of lazy digital marketers. Who doesn’t know that breast cancer is real, he opines. This type of a campaign is nice, but does it translate into real support for the non-proft? Digital marketers aren’t asking us to do anything that makes a real difference, such as getting out of our seats to hug a cancer survivor, deliver a meal, or donate money.

Transparency, he says, is lacking: Will it generate meaningful support for a non-profit in the form of funds or volunteers? Who will get it?  When?

On the other hand, the jumbotron awareness may be an individual’s entry into the non-profit world. It’s a very small step, and one that appeals to a wide brush stroke of people  on the non-profit supporter canvass. Knowing that your favorite sports team supports a worthy cause may be reason enough to give it a second thought and elevate the cause’s status from vague awareness to more importance. After that, though, it’s up to the individual to follow through: to dig deep within yourself and give of your own time, talent or treasure. And make a real difference.

One of these campaigns should be followed up with a call to real action: The Giants or the NFL could ask fans to text to donate, and offer a match. In Schutzsmith’s example, with nearly 80,000 attendees at MetLife Stadium think of the major impact the team could have. And that’s not counting the television audience. Or, the Giants could initiate a giant call to action: every non-profit needs more volunteers and, led by high profile organizations with built-in audiences, they could make a real difference.

The same is true for large companies, well-known celebrities or influences in every community.

That’s how awareness translates into activism.

Daniel Schutzsmith is creative director and co-founder of Mark & Phil, a digital creative agency working on marketing and fundraising for nonprofits of all sizes.

Read the full article here:

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Disappointing Caffeine Boost News

From our executive director, Kris:

I was reading Michael McCord’s recent blog, “The Scientifically Best Time to Drink Your Coffee” and he got me to thinking about caffeine in general and my caffeine drink of choice in specific. He tells us that the best time for caffeine to boost our energy levels is not in the early morning, as many of us practice.

That’s because our bodies’ natural cortisol levels are peaking around 8 am to 9 am. Cortisol is a “high alertness”  as well as a “stress” hormone. Because one of the key principles of pharmacology is to use a drug when it’s needed, McCord says could develop a tolerance to  caffeine’s effects and perhaps get even less of a boost from the morning caffeine intake. Well, isn’t that disappointing?!

Would the same be true of non-coffee drinkers, like me, who consume a caffeine drink first thing in the morning? Have I been wasting my caffeine boost?

McCord shares research that indicates the best time for caffeine intake is 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., to maximize the body’s natural early morning alertness combined with caffeine infusion as the cortisol wears off. I guess I can live with that.

Check out the blog for yourself:

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The Wait is Over!

From our Executive Director, Kris:

Have you seen the new post office boxes?

On Monday morning, the Postal Service in Dickinson unveiled the project it has been working on for several months. And I must say that they are a grand improvement.

Not only do we have new boxes that are shiny silver, it appears that there are hundreds more PO boxes than before the construction began. Magically, a previously hidden area of the post office – configured with alcoves and various sizes of the new boxes - has appeared.  This expansion gives the lobby more room and a much lessened claustrophobic feeling: there is room to maneuver around the line of folks waiting for assistance and room for that ever-growing line to continue to grow without much  disruption to folks rushing in to check their PO boxes.  It’s such a change from the past few months when a large area of the lobby was walled off while construction hummed and banged, and customers waited with an assortment of other folks while the postal worker wrote down our box numbers and dutifully  retrieved the PO Box mail.

Last week, PO box holders were invited to throw their existing keys into a receptacle for disposal. I did it, taking on faith that, as our notes stated, there would be new keys for a new box. I was not disappointed when I called for my PO Box mail and it contained an envelope with the new keys. They, too, are shiny and new.

On Monday morning, I was excited to find our box and to try the keys.

Shucks! No mail.


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Parents: Just Breathe

From Pamela, our Development & Volunteer Coordinator:

Many years ago I realized, with a wisdom beyond my years, that disappointed expectations were the source of all the world’s misery.  I mention this because, now that I am working with mentors and mentees, I also speak to parents from time to time.  And parents are, sadly, subject to disappointed expectations regarding their children.  And needlessly, in some cases!  For example, many parents of elementary school kids think they will have more discretionary time when their kids head into Junior and Senior High School.  Why would they think that?  Because it’s comforting to think that, when their daily schedules are so often crunched into powder.  They think—“In a few years, I will no longer be 100% responsible for how for my offspring’s every waking moment is spent.”  Unfortunately, they will soon enough be 40% – 80% responsible for all those waking moments that are, now that the kids are older, 700% more complex, bewildering, and requiring ever-vigilant re-scheduling.  Below, I have sketched out a hypothetical schedule for Jr. and Sr. High parents (that I carefully researched and that is absolutely true-to-life) for a random four days in October.  (I was trying for a full week but quickly ran out of space):

Wednesday, Oct. 1

Orthodontist appointment

P/U from cheerleading practice

Tennis lesson

P/U from band practice

Observe World Vegetarian Day/Make special veggie salsa

Thursday, Oct. 2

Dermatologist appointment

Boys Jr. High Football game

Swimming Lesson

Plan ahead for Oct. 16 & 17, school closed for NDEA

Pay online bill for all tele. and personal devices

Friday, Oct. 3

Orthodontist Follow-up Appointment

Girls Junior High Volleyball Game

Boys Varsity Football Game

Start planning for Halloween Party/decorating house

Saturday, Oct. 4

Girls JV Volleyball Tournament

Observe National Golf Day/Take kids out for nine holes if no rain

Drive daughter to sleepover

Check to see if things are going okay at sleepover

I’m exhausted just keystroking this—and this was a typical four days for kids who aren’t socially active and say they don’t have any friends.  So, you parents with younger kids, you get the idea.  And, now that I think about it, to parents with Jr. and Sr. High kids, mentoring must sound really, really easy.

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Each Dinner with Your Kids & Be a STAR

Studies show that children who eat dinner with their parents have a reduced risk of substance abuse. Try to make meals a family event. Here are some other ideas for activities that strengthen your family from

Become a Family Day STAR!

I commit to:

SSpend time with my kids

TTalk to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs

AAnswer their questions and listen to what they say

RRecognize that I have the power to help keep my kids substance free!


Family Day is a national movement to celebrate parental engagement as an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free.



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Importance of Childhood Self-Control: New Study

From our executive director, Kris:

Why is self control important?

Research has found that childhood self-control, defined as “internally focused active control tendencies involving regulation of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors” predicts multiple psychological outcomes later in life. Studies show that:

  • Greater childhood self-control was tied to more positive adolescent behaviors, which were then linked to greater educational achievement.
  • Less childhood self-control was tied to more negative adolescent behaviors, which were associated with less educational achievement.
  • Educational achievement predicted greater job complexity and higher income, both of which in turn were tied to greater job satisfaction.

The findings from this study have implications for youth mentoring. Mentors can use strategies aimed at reinforcing students’ self-control through evidence-based therapies and exercises. These strategies, whether enacted through structured, skill-based approaches or more informal, “teachable moments”, have the potential to foster positive outcomes.

Citation: Converse, P. D., Piccone, K. A., & Tocci, M. C. (2014). Childhood self-control, adolescent behavior, and career success. Personality and Individual Differences59, 65-70.

Read the article here:

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What the Best Friends Mentoring Program Has Meant to Me

Caleb Burgard is a teacher education student at Dickinson State University. He has been a mentor since January 2011.

Insights from Caleb, one of our mentors:

Looking back on these past few years as a mentor, I truly believe the Best Friends Mentoring Program has given me the ability and tools I need to pursue my teaching degree. The ability to give my precious time to my particular best friend is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. I look forward to every week when I get to spend time visiting, working on homework, playing games, and hopefully making a lasting impact on his life.

I have seen his growth and improvement throughout his elementary years and I am convinced the Best Friends Mentoring Program is definitely worth someone’s time. He has changed my perspective on life and I strongly encourage everyone to become a mentor. The Best Friends Mentoring Program gave me the appropriate chance to make a perfect match. We have established a friendship that goes beyond the classroom and continue to build on it each time we meet.

My only regret with the program was not getting involved sooner or during my high school years. I wish I would have taken the time back then to give back but now I am very appreciative of the Best Friends Mentoring Program. They have been outstanding throughout the entire process and I look forward to using these concepts in my future classroom.

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Remember 9/11

For the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner, 6,600 kids in Maryland created a living flag, replicating the same event 100 years ago.

From our Executive Director, Kris:

On this Patriot Day, a National Day of Remembrance and Service, each and every individual in the United States  is reminded how quickly life can end. How the last time you see someone can be your last. How quickly you can be left with an aching, empty feeling of things unsaid and of life gone suddenly. How reality can be changed forever in just an instant.

Here’s a way to make September 11, 2014 personally meaningful: Resolve today, for one day, to make a difference in the lives of everyone you meet: smile, hold the door, lay off tailgating when you’re in a hurry, wave, say please and thank you, be free with compliments.

Make today your personal tribute to our country and to those who died on September 11, 2001.


Today is Patriot Day. Take a look at this news story that commemorates the bicentennial of the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. (copy link & paste into your browser if it doesn’t directly link):




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Have we already spoken?

From our administrative assistant, Dorothy:

You’ll most likely speak with Dorothy when you call Best Friends Mentoring Program.

Hi, my name is Dorothy, and we may have already spoken—if you’ve ever called Best Friends Mentoring.  I’ve been the receptionist here for three years and counting.  I’ve got four kids, 11 grandkids and one great-grandchild, and I’ve really learned a lot about kids today from the mentors and mentees here.

I’ve had a varied background—I’ve worked as a truck driver, in road construction, as a welder, and for many years as a nurse’s assistant.  I moved from Bismarck to Dickinson about six years ago to be near my grandkids.  (Well, some of them.)

But working for Best Friends has been the best job I’ve ever had!  I’ve met so many interesting and amazing people—the people I work with and those I speak with on the phone are so well-spoken and caring, and they always treat me with such respect.

And I’ve seen so much good come out of this program!  Some of the kids we work with are just about to get into real trouble, and we find, time after time, what they needed was a true friend to listen and care. A mentor DOES make a difference!

I wish I’d had mentoring to help my own kids—and in fact, to help ME when I was growing up.  In those days, parents were in a hurry for their kids to grow up fast and start working.

You know, Best Friends doesn’t just help kids, it helps the mentors.  I know they’ll be better parents (eventually, if they aren’t parents yet), for all the training and experience they get as mentors.

If you think mentoring might be for you, or if you’d like to volunteer to help out—just give me a call at 701-483-8615.  I’m not in charge here, but it’s very likely it’ll be my voice that introduces you to a really, really important organization here in Dickinson.

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Tuesday, August 26. Eleven days without sunglasses! and other remarkable newcomer revelations

News from Pamela, our new Development Coordinator:

Relocating to Dickinson after 13 years in sunny/parched Southern California has been transformative.  Here, sunscreen and sunglasses are not absolutely essential to remember before opening the front door in the morning.  In fact, sun defense seems not to be a top-of-mind priority.  Last Saturday, I opened an umbrella for the first time in three years.  I turned on my car’s windshield wipers for the first time since I bought it in October, 2013.  And last Sunday I attended church for the first time in 18 years.

Next week, all my transformative experiences will probably be connected with mentoring, as I will be visiting some matches at Dickinson elementary schools and I may be helping out with mentor training.

Ever wondered if mentoring might change your life or even the way you see Dickinson?  No need to wonder further about how you’d match with mentoring—you can contact me any time at all at

As you’ve probably noticed, I can be endlessly informative—did you know that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear?

More valuable data headed your way, so stay tuned.

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