My first animated GIF

Steve Wilhite

You need to realize that I came of age long before the CompuServe GIF format was invented. So when I was managing the creation of the first web sites, in the mid-1990s, the production of these things seemed pretty magical.

I was inspired to create my first by a Fresh Air interview with the creator of this image format, including the animated kind. Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked him for a definitive “correct” pronunciation. Almost universally, no one liked his answer.

Milwaukee Accenture team: Please help give a better holiday to Head Start kids and their families

The Milwaukee office of Accenture is vibrant and growing, as I was reminded at last Friday’s packed ballroom. We were meeting for the office’s 2012 holiday get-together. I was asked to speak there about a significant opportunity for my fellow team members to help some of Milwaukee’s most under-served. Of course, it’s the Milwaukee Head Start Holiday!

Every year during this holiday season, for families in Milwaukee who would otherwise have a more challenging time of it. Or even better: Since you’re with Accenture, you can reach me (I’m jeffrey.s.larche [at] accenture.com) personally, and I can give you a few brief examples. (There was one particular anecdote, about the food baskets, that is fresh on my mind from last week. Ask me about it.)

It won’t take long for you to grasp the direct and significant impact this cause has on these families. If you’re too busy to reach out to me directly, just browse through this blog.

How you can help right now

The point is this: December is our only time of fundraising, and, while we face the need to start immediately investing in 2013, we still are in the red from the 2012 event. You can help!

If you do something yourself this holiday season, such as working at a soup kitchen, or at a homeless shelter, congratulations! You followed the same instinct that my wife and I did five years ago when we started this.

But, if you don’t have the time or opportunity to do something personally, please do the next best thing and consider donating now, using this secure credit card method. Thank you!

This year: Ten activity stations!

The first year we conducted the Milwaukee Holiday Head Start event, we had five activity stations. This year (tonight!), our 5th Annual event will host five more activities. Here’s the full list:

  • Face Painting
  • Photo Booth
  • Cookie Decoration
  • Fun Foam Art
  • Giant Snowflake Painting
  • Bean Bag Toss & Tiny Tot Bowling
  • Tiny Tot Bowling (combined with above activity)
  • Making Candy Cane Bead Ornaments
  • Making Sailboats
  • Decorating Trinket Holders

UPDATE: I stand corrected! Bean Bag Toss & Tiny Tot Bowling are combined, so it’s really nine activities. Each child gets a “bingo card.” They get a stamp for every station they visit. When they’ve completed all of them, the children get a bag of goodies (including their warm hat, mittens and scarf) as well as larger toys.

The event is now only hours away, but we are still taking donations. Between 60 and 70 percent of the items the kids and adults receive are purchased after the event (many at after-Christmas sales to keep costs as low as possible), for the next year’s event. So please, give while the spirit moves you!

Hats!!!

class=”aligncenter size-full wp-image-117613620″ src=”http://www.jefflarche.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/fleece_hats.jpg” alt=”fleece_hats” width=”519″ height=”389″ />Among the final preparations are finishing the roughly 60 fleece children’s hats. They’re surprisingly easy to make. Even I can do them. 🙂

Kick-off of our 3-day fundraising countdown

This post makes it official. We have now enabled this blog to receive credit card contributions via PayPal. It’s the same method we’ve used in past years, and it works like a charm. The dozens of donors over the past four years were able to give quickly and easily using Paypal, regardless of the credit card they were using.

It takes less than 5 minutes to give, and when you do you’ll know you’re doing something to directly help the families served by the Capitol Drive (Milwaukee) Head Start program.

Donate here, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

— Jeff Larche

Food baskets for all the families

This is our goal: We’d like to give a food basket to every family that attends the Milwaukee Holiday Head Start event on December 6, 2012.

Everyone loves a good party. And I’d like to think those who are most under stress by circumstances need a party more than others. Our family and friends have orchestrated this event for four years running now, and this I can tell you without a doubt: The people who attend, especially the children, really need a break.

Many of the parents are working several jobs. Others are struggling with a single job to get the education they need to land a really good one. This is where the food baskets become so important.

One particularly harried dad, who was at that very first year of this event (December of 2008), sat on the sidelines watching his two sons in the various holiday activities. Like several other parents in the room, he was wearing health worker scrubs and had obviously just come in from a long shift at a hospital or nursing home. He looked ready to nod off to sleep right there!

My wife approached him, and began gently coaxing him to join in — at least to pose with his son at the photo booth. Once the event ended, she explained to me that a key part of this party is to get parents and other family members to interact with the kids in a way that’s positive and creates warm, lasting memories. We want to foster an atmosphere for forging important child/parent bonds.

A little fun once in a while is actually an important part of good parenting — and good learning.

Luckily, the father did relent. Within minutes was playing with his adorable sons at the various activity stations, smiling and re-energized.

Then, abruptly, he announced was going to leave.

My wife Sherry coaxed him to at least stay until the raffle, which was about to start. The raffle was where we give away those food baskets, she explained. Again, he relented.

Food baskets

Why food baskets? We make sure that the children all go home with things they can use. Each child gets a bag with his or her name on it, bursting goodies. They range from the practical:

  • Brand new warm mittens, a scarf and hat
  • A hand-decorated tee shirt (more on this in a later post!)
  • Crayons, coloring books and other pre-school supplies
  • Games and toys

But the parents get something special also. We make up and give away as many food baskets as money will allows, and raffle them off.

The baskets contain hot cocoa mix, canned goods, flour, pancake mix, syrup, etc. — over $20 worth of staples and a few indulgences.

As for that father of two, yes, he turned out to be one of the lucky winners. He was very happy he stayed.

In fact, you would not believe the excitement and cheers as each winner was announced. You’d think we were giving away new cars, not baskets of essentials.

These clearly were extremely appreciated by the lucky families! Here’s is one shot (click on the photo to see other shots from the event, including other winners):

But back to our goal (and thank you for hanging on this long) …

Serving Every Family We Can

This year we’d like to give away a food basket for every family that attends. You can help us get closer to that goal. We’ve raised enough for the other items through personal donations, but we need your help in order to meet this important, final goal.

We have less that a week, so please do this right now, before you get distracted. Please go to our Donate page and use your credit card to give whatever you can. The money will go to an extremely important cause and if you’d like we can follow up afterward with photos and news about the event.

Please give now. These families need our help. Thanks you.

Feeding the Head Start families

A big part of the Head Start event is feeding everyone a hearty, hot meal. It entails buying hundreds of dollars worth of ingredients and preparing nearly everything in advance, since the Head Start facility’s kitchen is mostly used for warming the food once it arrives.

Here’s a typical shopping trip “haul.” I snapped it a few years ago at a Sam’s Club. That year we also bought a case. of ground beef — 10 lb. tubes of the stuff. It never fails to amaze me the quantities needed for this event. But with one very exceptional year (when the summer flooding forced Head Start to hold its event at a remote site), every year has topped the last in terms of attendance.

Nonetheless, we’ve never had to turn people away unfed. I hope this year won’t break our winning streak!

Handmade block sets

Sometimes it pays to have talented friends. One of ours, who will be nameless until I ask if we can reveal his identity here, is a master woodworker. My wife and I were wondering this summer how we would find an affordable source for children’s blocks. This friend stepped up and blew us away.

Handmade Block Sets!

Each set has 30 pieces and comes in its own mesh bag. They’re just one of the items we’re giving the families attending the Fifth Annual Head Start Holiday event.

Doll and stroller sets

We just got back from an experience I won’t soon forget. Leaving a Thanksgiving dinner with family, we took a detour home to check out an 8 PM pre-Black Friday sale. The store’s sprawling parking lot was packed, and once we found a spot and went inside, we entered a store aisle teeming with shoppers. People inched along in every direction, and I would veer our cart into rare empty sections of the store like a cave diver rising to grab a pocket of air. Actually, I only had one cart. Sherry had her own.

We were there to fill them both. The store flyer promised a baby doll and stroller set for a ridiculous price. We planned to buy 35.

These dolls (pictured right, along with equally inexpensive Candyland games), were some of the last purchases of toys we needed to make to complete that part of the upcoming Head Start Holiday Event. The 35 (or so) boys who are students this year had already been fully accounted for with gifts I’ll describe in a few days (update: They’re awesome blocks!).

I’ll never forget the crowds and the lines. But we got the dolls!

I hope to see you at this cool Adventure Rock fundraiser

Read about this terrific young man who worked with his mom, Sue Spaight, to create what promises to be a cool fundraiser.

The G-man!I’m looking forward to meeting “G Man” (below), reacquainting myself with rock climbing, and helping out a good cause!