Josh’s Beard

Nobody likes cancer, least of all when it happens in children. The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that makes grants for research into cancer in children. Some of that money has stayed right here in Syracuse, other money has been granted to hospitals elsewhere across the U.S.

St. Baldrick's signature event is a fundraiser during which people get pledges to have their head shaved. While I'll certainly have my head shaved alongside, I'm launching a social media effort to raise money to shave my beard at the Syracuse event. There is not yet a firm date, but it takes place each year in late March at Kitty Hoynes in Armory Square.

The 2009 event raised nearly $295,000 as 502 had their heads and beards shaved.

If you've met me, you know you're not likely to give lots of money to see my hair disappear. There's not much of it to begin with. But I want to work with all of you – and all of your friends and contacts – to help raise $25,000 to get rid of my beard.

I am posting daily photos and weekly videos at You can see the growth of the beard, and hear how we're doing.

If you have a business, a book, a CD, a video, a t-shirt, a hat or anything else you want to see me hold up or wear in a photo or video, email me at mail (at) joshshear (dot) com and we'll discuss a donation.

If you want me to dye my beard pink, tie blue ribbons in it, or otherwise desecrate my beard in a photo or video, do the same: email me, and we'll figure out what your donation should be.

To make a donation, go to my participant page at St. Baldrick's website. If you'd prefer to donate by check, email me at mail (at) joshshear (dot) com and I'll let you know where to send it.

In addition to the photos blog, you can see the videos at Vimeo and YouTube, and follow the progress (and become a fan!) at the Josh's Beard Facebook page.

Oh, and about the hat and shades: (a) I needed a gimmick and (b) I take a lot of these pictures before 6 a.m. Let's just say this is the better view 🙂

The $1,600 Haircut

Kim Hurlbut was my first roommate in Syracuse when I moved here in August of 2003. I lived with her through some rough times for both of us, and, let's be honest, when I moved out in February 2005, we weren't on the best of terms.

But as time went by, we've grown back into casual friendship – we don't see each other much, but we get along fine when we do (we actually see each other on purpose, too, which is a good thing).

Kim became a hero of sorts on Sunday when she took the radical step of shaving of her hair in the name of charity.

We won't do the psychological thing here, primarily because she and I didn't talk about it. For some women, this is a really big deal. For others, eh, it'll grow back.

But Kim did manage to raise $1,600 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funnels money to find a cure for cancer in children.

Kim's hair was long enough that she also collected a donation to Locks of Love, which takes donations of 10 or more inches of hair to make wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.

Syracuse establishment Kitty Hoynes hosts the St. Baldrick's event every year. They have two rooms with four-to-five chairs, and a bunch of hair professionals stand on their feet all day and shave head after head.

This was my first year attending, and it's a fantastic atmosphere. Yes, the bar makes lots of money on beer and booze, but rather than serve food, they have a hot dog stand out back. It's clearly not a once-in-a-while publicity stunt. The restaurant had a team raise a bunch of money (and at least one of the workers wound up having a hair-based practical joke played on him), and was generally supportive of everyone who walked into the place, paying customer or not.

This is a great event. I'll definitely be back, and maybe next year I'll remember to not shave my head and beard within a week of it so that I can participate!

Thoughts on the Future Fund’s Fall Kick-Off

I went to the fall kick-off event Thursday for the Central New York Future Fund.

The Future Fund is a project of the CNY Community Foundation, and basically borrows an idea from microcredit.

When you make a microloan through an institution like Kiva, you're basically saying, "OK, here's someone who would never get a $500 small business loan from a bank, but if 20 of us can lend her $25, that'll get her to her goal, and if it turns out she can't pay us back, well, we're only out $25."

The Future Fund brings together young philanthropists who might want to increase their charitable footprint but don't have the capital to do so, to combine resources to make a greater impact.

OK, now I'm going to translate that into English.

The Future Fund asks a bunch of people for $100, or $250 or whatever, and combines their money into a $5,000 grant every year for some worthy organization.

I went into the kick-off figuring I was going to say no to putting up $100 because I know organizations that could do more with my $100 than some organizations could do with the Fund's $5,000.

I left the kick-off saying no for entirely different reasons.

The speaker, Community Foundation CEO Peter Dunn, invoked Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone.

Bowling Alone is a massive study done about civic engagement in the U.S. The title refers to the fact that bowling alleys are still doing well, but the number of people bowling in leagues is declining greatly.

It's not just bowling leagues that are suffering. Attendance is down at houses of worship; service organizations like the Elks and Rotary International are seeing declining memberships. You get the idea. More people are going it alone, and there's not a lot of gathering together.

This was Dunn's pitch: Let us pool this money together. We'll get a bunch of grant proposals, and the steering committee or advisory board will whittle down the proposals to a few finalists. Everyone who put money into the pot will then get the chance to visit all the finalists, vote on who you want to give the money to, and hopefully, while you're checking the organizations out, you'll make some connections and either want to give of your time or money once you meet them.

I can't fault people who honestly don't have time to do any volunteer work. If you're a young lawyer or doctor, you're putting in 80 hours a week, and maybe you're trying to start a family, or raise your already-young kids. If all you can do for charity is write a check, by all means write a check.

But I felt very much like the pitch was, "You don't want to put your time and energy into volunteering, and we understand that. Write us a check, and we promise we'll make you feel really good about it."

Assuming they get about 60 people to put up $100 (50 for the grant, and another $1,000 in operating costs – though I didn't ask to see their books, so I don't know how they roll), I'd be surprised if more than 10 actually do check out the organizations that are picked as finalists. I'd be surprised if five begin volunteering with one of the organizations.

Between SPaRC, the Art Forum, 40 Below, and a new project I'm hoping to get involved in this weekend, I volunteer a fair bit of my time and energy. What I think I got out of the kick-off last night was a look at what the Fund might look for from an organization I'm working with. I guess that's something.

Involvement Fair 2

Crocodile Purse
Keep reading to find out why this purse made out of a crocodile was at the Involvement Fair.

I spent about five hours Thursday afternoon and evening at the second incarnation of the Involvement Fair, which is a project of the Civic Engagement Task Force of 40 Below.

If you're familiar with the concept of a job fair, that's pretty close. At a job fair, you have maybe 50 or 100 employers at tables in a large hall, and a bunch of people looking for jobs walking around, handing out resumes, and meeting their potential employers.

The difference here? You have a bunch of service organizations sitting at tables, and a bunch of people looking for volunteer opportunities walking around meeting representatives from the service organizations.

I handed out instruction sheets for using the Helping Out Blog, and also finding both new members and new organizational partners for CNY SPaRC.

There were 40-ish organizations there. Here are a look at some of them.

United Way of Central New York – If you're not familiar with United Way, you should be. In pretty much every decent sized market, UW sponsors a lot of small organizations that otherwise would struggle for funding and visibility. They also do work with larger, mainstream organizations.

Eastwood Neighbor Association – I don't live in Eastwood, but I do live pretty close (about a 15-minute walk). I'm excited to be getting involved in one of their projects: getting a multi-use skate park together. Some kids have been very involved with this project for a long time, and it's a unique idea – it will be a tri-level park in the woods, and it will be able to be used beyond just skateboarding and freestyle bicycling. I'm in the extremely early stages of being involved, so read often, as I'll be mentioning it frequently.

Center for Community Alternatives – Spend a lot of time learning about this organization from their Web site. Two of their programs that struck me were taking people who have done their time and working with them to find housing, employment and peer support; and getting to children as young as middle school whose parents have been "in front of a judge" (as they put it) to mentor them both with their schoolwork, and keeping them on the right path to make sure they don't wind up "in front of a judge."

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Next to the SPaRC table, a woman wearing a name badge identifying her as Ellen set up an elephant molar, a tiger-fur throw, a python skin, a crocodile purse (that's the photo above), and other stuff that you're not supposed to have. It turns out that when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confiscates banned items at entry locations on borders, at ports and in airports, it tags them, then sends them to schools and zoos for educational purposes.

On Point For College – The gentleman behind the table for On Point (one of those organizations the United Way helps out) was living proof the program works. He had dropped out of high school and gone back for a GED, and then On Point helped walk him through the scholarship, financial aid and application processes. He went to the University of Buffalo and Cornell. They work with some fairly hard-luck kids, and do good work.

There were a host of other organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Girl Scouts, and some others you've heard of – and still others you haven't heard of. If you're looking for a little extra fulfillment in your life, there are plenty of ways to donate your time and expertise around here.

Want to get hooked up? Maybe we'll see you at a 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force meeting. We meet the first Monday every month from 5:30 to 6:30 in the 18th floor conference room in the State Tower building. Regardless of the name, we don't require you to be under 40 years of age.