It seems to me, that in the midst of all of this stuff I'm suggesting and recommending, I would be remiss if I didn't also include a list of charities that are close to my heart.  We should all always be paying it forward, and it doesn't have to be financially, either. There are plenty of ways to help without money ever exchanging hands. With that in mind, I’ve amassed a number of organizations that I believe in wholeheartedly (and there are hundreds, if not thousands more, that I simply have not had the time to work with yet) and hope you’ll take some time to read about.

pamela's random acts

ADOPT AN ELEPHANT, starts at $50 a year
What kid doesn't want a pet elephant? The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Fostering Program is a great way to get one and also to save a whole bunch of elephants that are in danger of being killed thanks to the ivory trade.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is dedicated to fostering baby elephants that have been orphaned largely as a result of the Ivory trade. When you adopt one online, you'll receive a fostering certificate with a profile and photograph of your adopted orphan with a description of the Orphans’ Project; An interactive map indicating where your orphan was found and a description of the habitat and the plight of the elephants in that area; A monthly summary highlighting events of the previous month with a direct link to the ‘Keepers Diary’ for your elephant. In the diary you will be able to access the daily calendar entries and the monthly photos. You'll also receive a collectable monthly watercolor by Angela Sheldrick; and from time-to-time, you'll receive news of new arrivals and rescues.

When Alexandra Scott was four years old, she told her parents she wanted to set up a lemonade stand. But this wasn't just any lemonade stand: Alex had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of one, and her plan was to give the money she raised to doctors to help find a cure. And so, Alex's Lemonade was born. Her first stand raised an incredible $2,000 in one day and while she fought her own cancer, she continued to set up the stands every year. As news spread of the remarkable girl so dedicated to helping other sick children, people everywhere were inspired to start their own lemonade stands — donating the proceeds to her cause.
In 2004 when Alex died at the age of eight, she had helped to raise more than $1 million towards finding a cure. Her parents started the Foundation the following year to continue their daughters' work and the mission is simple: "to raise money for and awareness of childhood cancer causes — especially research into new treatments and cures — and to encourage and empower others, especially children, to get involved and make a difference for children with cancer." Today, many chefs are involved in this incredible cause, and I have had the great fortune to be at some of their events. It is an amazing foundation for an amazing cause.

C-CAP works with public schools to prepare underprivileged high school kids for college and for career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry, which is amazing. We have actually used a number of their students as interns, and they are all really incredible. C-CAP offers job training, internships, teacher training, college advising and culinary scholarships. Since it was founded in 1990, they have awarded over $43 million in scholarships and classrooms have received $3.8 million worth of supplies and equipment. All amazing stats, but as I said, most amazing is the passion these kids have and the opportunities that they get that they would never have had before.

Nearly 20% of New Yorkers are currently living under the poverty line, and it's City Harvest's mission to help feed these nearly 1.5 million people who are facing hunger each year. By rescuing more than 150,000 pounds of food EVERY DAY from restaurants, hotels, grocers. Farmers markets and more that would otherwise go to waste, City Harvest is able to provide food and meals to over 500 community programs as well. They also run great programs to teach people living under the poverty line how to make healthy meals, and they run incredible mobile markets in these underserved areas so that community members can "shop" for fresh fruits and vegetables. It's truly an incredible organization making a real dent in the hunger issue in New York.

When Gretchen Witt's 2-year-old son Liam was diagnosed with cancer, she couldn't believe the lack of effective treatment there was out there for kids. So she took to the kitchen and, with the help of 250 volunteers, baked and sold 96,000 cookies, raising over $400,000 for research. Incredible, right?  What I love about this organization is that it's an amazing one for kids to get involved with — it's accessible and meaningful, and who can't get behind a good bake sale?

When you listen to Good+ founder Jessica Seinfeld discuss her foundation, it's impossible to not want to get involved. For the past 15 years she has worked tirelessly to change the way the more than 16 million children living in families with household incomes below the federal poverty line (which is $23,350 a year for a family of four, FYI) live. She does this by focusing on early childhood needs (for example, diapers: For a low-income family, a parent will need to work approximately 1.5 hours at the federal minimum wage to afford a single pack of diapers.), mother support, and most recently, father engagement. In a world where it’s too easy to look away, GOOD+ is looking these families in the eye and changing their futures.

My son is a baseball fanatic and so, with our Mark Teixeira obsession, we learned about Harlem RBI. Teixeira is on the board of this organization that provides inner-city youth with opportunities to play, inspiring kids to recognize their potential and realize their dreams. Another great one for kids to get involved in, especially all of the sports fans out there.

When Mariska Hargitay started playing Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the content of the scripts, as well as the work she did to prepare for the role, opened her eyes to the epidemics of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. What she learned was staggering:
• One in three women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.1
• Every two minutes in the United States, someone is sexually assaulted.2
• More than five children die every day in this country as a result of child abuse and neglect, and up to 15 million children witness domestic violence in their homes each year.
But what really opened her eyes—and subsequently, her heart—was the fan mail she received. The letters didn't say, "I love your show. Can you send me an autographed picture?"  They said, "I was raped when I was fifteen. I'm forty now and I've never told anyone." Survivors were disclosing their stories to her, many for the first time. The fact that these individuals were revealing something so personal to someone they knew only as a character on television demonstrated to her how desperate they were to be heard, believed, supported and healed, and Mariska’s response was to create Joyful Heart.
Today, Joyful Heart is a national organization with hubs of service in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu. The vision of the Joyful Heart Foundation is a world free of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse and their mission is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever.

The world is mostly not a nice place. Route is paving the way to make it a little bit nicer. Started my good friend Margaret Zakarian’s cousin, Christina Weaver, Route is an online shop selling everything from jewelry and clothing to gifts and home goods. But that’s not all. Every single item offered on the site is ethically produced, which means that every maker is provided safe working conditions and fair wages.
Route works with over 25 partners, some not-for-profit and others for-profit, but what they all have in common is that they are each committed to ethical employment, they are run by “caring, thoughtful entrepreneurs who are changing the world by changing production practices.” Many of them go beyond fair wages and safe working conditions to include a variety of other supports as well:  outreach in their maker’s communities, providing education, healthcare, using environmentally sustainable production practices such as natural dyes or remnant fabrics or the use of renewable energy sources.  Each product on the site is carefully selected to also be high quality, fashionable and have the highest impact.  From clothing sourced from zero-waste facilities in Cambodia to micro-jewelry made by refugees in the U.S., the stories are endless. 
This small nonprofit believes strongly in the power of purchasing to change the status quo. Child labor, dangerous factories and slavery plague the production industries.  Route believes that every purchase of an ethically made product is one significant step away from those atrocities and towards a safer, more equitable world.  Purchases from Route, and other ethically sourced retailers, create paths — routes — from maker to customer that are safe and sustainable. In a time when there are more slaves than ever before; when hundreds die every year because of unsafe working conditions; when millions of children are working instead of going to school – the more we are committed to ethical purchasing from Route, and others like them, the more we can help.  Check them out at or @knowtheroute. They also have a brick and mortar store in Columbia, Missouri, so if you’re in the hood, please stop in, say hi and tell them we sent you.
If this isn’t the best way to make the world a nicer and better place, then I don’t know what is.

Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign is working to end childhood hunger in America. Wait, what? Childhood hunger? In America. Yep. It's hard to believe, but it's true and luckily brother and sister Bill and Debbie Shore believe that everyone "has a strength to share on the global fight against hunger and poverty." A future without childhood hunger is a future where kids have access to healthy food all of the time. It gives them good breakfasts at school and food all year long, even in the summer. This is an organization very near to our hearts and one that make huge impact in the lives of all of our children every day.