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BIS Opens Online Store

Brain Injury Services has launched a new “swag” store for clients, employees, and anyone passionate about brain injury awareness. The store carries everything from t-shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops, to phone cases, notebooks, and stickers. Designs include our logo, our awareness month campaigns, and green ribbon items. The green ribbon is recognized by many as the color for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

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Finding the Right Fit for Volunteering

So, you want to get involved in your community and make a difference, but you’re not quite sure where to start. There are plenty of causes you care about and important nonprofits that are working to change the world, but how can you find the right one for you? 

While it might seem simple, choosing a nonprofit organization to volunteer with can actually be a very challenging decision. There are so many options to choose from, it might become overwhelming. Even if you care about a cause, how can you ensure you’re a good fit for the position? Here are some ideas to help you find the right fit for volunteering.

Find your passion.
The first—and most important—step to finding your fit for volunteering is to make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. There are a variety of worthy causes out there, but if you work with something you don’t genuinely care about, then you will waste both yours and the charity’s time. Make a list of groups, causes and issues that elicit a strong emotional response in you. For instance, perhaps you care a lot about the elderly because you were very close with your grandmother. Or, you love donating blood because you have a rare blood type. Write down the things you care about to evaluate your passions.

Consider your skills.
Next, consider what skills you have to offer in a volunteer position. Just because you have a passion for the cause doesn’t necessarily mean you would work well there. Nonprofit organizations want volunteers at their best, so evaluate what you’re good at and how you could use that in a volunteer role. For example, maybe you don’t love working with people, but you’re great with numbers, so you could help with financial services. Or, maybe you’re great at projects around the house, and could offer free services to fix up their building. Whatever your strengths are, you can leverage them to support a cause you care about.

Ask around.
Once you’ve identified what you love and what you’re good at, it’s time to investigate charities to work with. Of course, where’s the easiest place to start? With your family and friends! Ask the people around in your life to see if they know any nonprofits with valuable causes who could use an extra set of hands. If you’re still not sure, question those closest to you where they could see you volunteering. Sometimes an outside perspective is the best one we can gain on our lives, so ask where your loved ones think you should volunteer.

Search online.
There are a variety of online databases available for people interested in volunteering. Sites like VolunteerMatch, Idealist and HandsOn Network all have networks of organizations in need and volunteer positions available. Simply go to the site, type in your location and what you’re interested in, and surprise! You have a complete list of nonprofits in your area looking for volunteers like you. Give it a try to start you off on the right foot as you continue to pursue a valuable volunteer match.

Start small.
When you have connected with a charity, be sure to start small. You might not want to dive in right away. Instead, it’s perfectly fine to take some time to get your feet wet. Volunteer when and where you can, and see how you enjoy working with the organization. Once you feel more comfortable or confident in volunteering, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get more involved. And of course, always be sure to organize your time well and avoid volunteer burnout.

Finding a cause to volunteer with can be a challenging decision. Between all of the available organizations and opportunities, how can you choose? Keep these tips in mind as you explore the nonprofit arena and search for your right fit for volunteering.

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How to Cultivate More Empathy for Others

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”? Of course you have! While no one knows who said it first, the intention behind the saying remains: before you judge someone else, empathize with them. Empathy can be difficult to pin down. While many people consider it synonymous with sympathy, the two words are actually very distinct. Though sympathy refers to feeling compassion for someone, empathy goes deeper into actually experiencing someone else’s feelings. As Walt Whitman said, “I do not ask a wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” 

In today’s day and age, true empathy seems to be few and far between. People argue, fight and yell at one another, oftentimes because they simply cannot understand the other side. However, there are ways we can challenge ourselves to grow in empathy. If you want to learn more, check out these tips for how to cultivate more empathy for others. 

Listen.
The first (and most valuable) step for empathy is listening. More often than not, we forget to listen to the other side, frankly because we’re too busy preparing our own argument. Instead, focus on actively listening to what other people have to say. Listen with your ears (what is said), your eyes (what their body language does) and your heart (how the other person feels). Carefully set aside your own agenda, opinion and thoughts while actively listening. Be fully present in the conversation and genuinely soak in the other person’s words.

Validate.
Once you have listened entirely to what the person has to say, and they have fully finished their thoughts, validate their perspective. This doesn’t mean you must agree with their opinion, but it does mean you must acknowledge it. More than likely, they have good reasons to hold that opinion, so you can at least validate them in their experiences. Thank them for their input, show appreciation for their perspective and validate their opinion.

Examine.
Now that you’ve listened and validated the other person, be sure to examine your attitude. Sometimes empathy can be challenging because our attitude holds us back. Even if we want to listen to the other side, we might still feel bitterness, annoyance or even animosity towards them. Are you more concerned with being right and getting your way, or with finding a mutual solution and building a new relationship? Critically examine your own attitude as you enter the situation and consider how you can shift your perspective to be more open towards others.

Question.
Questions are crucial to an empathetic conversation. Whether your loved one is hurting or you disagree with someone, questions matter. Try to ask questions of the other person before offering up your advice or even presenting your argument. Why do they think that? What experiences have shaped their life? What makes them feel that way? Questions like these are a simple way to start a meaningful conversation, gain insight and truly understand where the other person is coming from.

Walk.
Finally, walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. While this might not be physically possible, you can still try new experiences or envision yourself in their life. For instance, make a new friend who doesn’t look like you, visit a different part of town or try out a new place of worship, store or community center. If these options aren’t available, then read books by different authors, watch unique films and listen to music by people you’ve never heard of before. Branch out and try something new in order to expand your comfort zone and gain more empathy for others.

Empathy can be difficult to define, and even more difficult to experience. However, there are ways to grow your empathy and build relationships with new people. Keep these tips in mind if you want to cultivate more empathy for others, and see how your life flourishes. 

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Share the Love and Give Back on Valentine’s Day

Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! You may have noticed the sweet scent of flowers in the air, or seen stores’ shelves stocked to the brim with heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. That’s right: it’s officially the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion for singles, couples, friends and family members to come together and share their love through heartfelt notes, time together and of course, gifts. But what if you could share love with more people than just those closest to you? What if you could live with more compassion this week and share love with other people in your community, country or even the world? Turns out, you can! Here’s how you can share the love and give back on Valentine’s Day.

1. Send an unexpected Valentine.
Do you remember elementary school, when everyone brought Valentines and everyone received Valentines? Back then, you got unexpected Valentine cards all the time. Over the years, that tradition slowly died, and now you might rarely give or receive any surprise Valentine cards. Instead, change things up a bit this Valentine’s Day and give back by sending a card to someone who doesn’t expect it. Pick an acquaintance who might not receive cards, or check with local organizations like children’s hospitals to see if they accept Valentine’s cards for patients. No matter who you send it to, make sure it’s a surprise so you can brighten someone’s Valentine’s Day.

2. Make a care package.
Valentine’s Day isn’t sweet for everyone. However, you can make a difference by brightening someone’s day with a care package. Whether you send a package overseas to military men and women, create a package to hand out to homeless individuals or put together a goodie bag for your neighbors to enjoy—there are plenty of options to choose from. It’s all up to you, and it can all bring joy this Valentine’s Day. Add in some treats like chocolate or candy, but consider throwing in necessities, too, such as warm socks or water bottles. With a care package, the recipients will definitely feel the Valentine’s Day love.

3. Become a donor.
Give the gift of a full life this Valentine’s Day by becoming a donor. Just last month, January marked National Blood Donor Month, and coming up, April will celebrate National Donate Life Month. If you are able, consider donating blood as frequently as every eight weeks—and save up to three lives with each donation! Of course, if you choose to register as an organ donor, your organs can also be used to save someone’s life, even after you’ve passed away. In fact, a single organ donor can save up to eight people! Those are a lot of lives you can impact this Valentine’s Day, simply by donating blood and organs you don’t need to people who do need them. This Valentine’s Day, you impact someone’s life by becoming a donor.

4. Buy a gift that gives back.
If you want to give a gift to your loved one for Valentine’s Day, put an altruistic spin on it by choosing a gift that gives back. Lots of nonprofit organizations and businesses offer products or services you can purchase which donate a portion of the proceeds to people in need all around the world. For instance, when you buy goods from Product (RED), 100% of proceeds fund HIV/AIDS health and community programs through the Global Fund. Talk about a romantic Valentine’s Day present! If you already have gift ideas, research online to find a place where you could purchase something similar and give back to a good cause at the same time. 

5. Go on a volunteer date.
What’s the most romantic thing to do on Valentine’s Day? Give back to someone else, of course! If you want a night out with your significant other, consider going on a volunteer date together. Find an organization or cause you both care about and see how you can get involved to make a difference. Then, not only do you have the opportunity to spend time together, but you also make a positive impact on the world at the same time. Not sure where to start? Choose a cause, find an organization and get connected to see how you can help!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This year, share the love with more than just your loved ones. If you want to make a difference, keep these ideas in mind as we head into the holiday, and see how you can show empathy, compassion and love to those around you on Valentine’s Day.

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6 Ideas for Honoring Black History Month

Happy February! This month is known for many things: cold weather, short days and of course, Valentine’s Day. However, one of the most powerful, impactful and important parts of February is its recognition of Black History Month.

While black history deserves to be celebrated every day, Black History Month particularly focuses on recognizing the African-American men and women who have had great influences on the United States. The month of February reminds us to seek out stories and histories which may often go overlooked, and recognize the significance of black history. Nevertheless, it can sometimes be difficult to consider how exactly to recognize Black History Month. What can you do? Here are six ideas for honoring Black History Month.

1. Support black-owned businesses.
One simple way to recognize Black History Month is by supporting black entrepreneurs in your community. Not only can you celebrate the history within Black History Month, but you can also make intentional decisions with your money to champion the future of black history. Explore black-owned businesses near you and consider how you can use their products or services.

2. Contribute to black nonprofits.
There are hundreds of nonprofits who work tirelessly to advocate for equal justice and representation for all people. From confronting the issue of police violence to helping African-American girls learn about the tech industry, these nonprofits work to create more opportunity for black individuals. This month, research black nonprofits and see how you can donate your time or talents to make a difference. 

3. Read black literature.
Literature plays an important role in influencing our perceptions of the world and broadening our minds to varying viewpoints. During the month of February, be intentional in choosing the books you consume. Search for prominent black authors with stories to share, and see how reading can influence your conception of Black History Month.

4. Recognize black artists.
From poets, to musicians, to actors and everything in between, there are multitudes of well-known (and amateur) black artists whom you can recognize during February. Search in your community for artists to watch, read or listen to; or, look on the national or international scale to broaden your horizons and learn more about the important work black artists create.

5. Research black history in your area.
Black history has played a valuable role throughout the entirety of the United States, including right in your own community. This month, take time to research the stories of black history in your area by looking online, visiting a local museum or historical society or simply going to your library for more information. You’ll soon realize that Black History Month isn’t just something worth national recognition, but worth observance in every community throughout the country.

6. Learn about prominent black figures.
Of course, one of the best ways to recognize Black History Month is by learning more about prominent black figures. You can support this month by researching the history of black individuals throughout generations. For example, the first African-American major league baseball player was Jackie Robinson in 1947. More recently, Oprah Winfrey became the first African-American female billionaire in 2003. Later, Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman promoted to principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre in 2015.

While black history should be recognized consistently, Black History Month provides an opportunity to pay special attention to the recognitions and accomplishments of black individuals throughout history. This February, take these ideas to heart and practice these tips as you honor Black History Month.