I’m still figuring out what 2019 will look like for me in terms of making a measurable difference for others. I don’t want to just stew about it; I need to genuinely step up, and I will, but how it will be different than years past? Well, I’ve given myself until the end of 2018 to define that. I’m trying to reconcile my holiday spirit with my concern for our broader “community” and let’s face it; this column can’t be a bummer! So, to kick off the season, I’m sharing with you a few cool diversions; places to go, experience or donate to, something to spend money on for the holidays and feel good about. Bonus: there are volunteer opportunities at each diversion, something I always talk about as we get closer to December. Keep all three in mind!

Pies for Prevention
Sharsheret is an organization that supports young Jewish women facing breast cancer or with a genetic predisposition to it through programs, education, access to resources and medical testing.  Sharsheret has created a “community” of passionate advocates, patients, and medical professionals focused on prevention and awareness.  From this platform, Pies for Prevention was born. It was created by Adeena Sussman and Sharon Wieder in memory of their mother and grandmother who both passed away from ovarian cancer.  Now in its 10th year, the Pies for Prevention Thanksgiving Bake Sale supports the Stephanie Sussman and Ann Nadrich Memorial Jewel and Sharsheret’s Ovarian Cancer Program.  Volunteer bakers in most major metro areas around the country bake pies and bread all using the same recipe and ingredients for Thanksgiving. These can be ordered in advance and picked up directly from the local baker.  Whether you like to bake or not, are hosting or visiting, these pies don’t disappoint.  They are substantial and packaged like they came from a bakery.
Why I love it:
Full disclosure, Adeena Sussman is married to one of my oldest, most meaningful friends.  I could write an entire column or even a book about her but I’ll let you Google her, because then I know you will order some pies.  Because picking up the pies has now become part of our holiday tradition.  We order ours from a home in New Rochelle and when we pick them up we meet the baker, their family and other volunteers.  It is usually the night before Thanksgiving although there are a few options.  It is truly a great way to kick off a holiday that focuses on gratitude.

21 Park Avenue, Yonkers
We hear it all the time, “be the change.”  But are we?  I don’t know, but Greyston Bakery is.  Greyston Bakery was created to eliminate or minimize the obstacles to hiring that can change one person’s or family’s life forever.  A true B-Corp with a solid social justice mission, Greyston has pioneered the practice and promotion of “open hiring,” removing poverty, crime, homelessness and other related stigmas from each individual’s access to employment, which in their case is at their bakery in Yonkers. The bakery produces a variety of mouth-watering rich brownies and blondies, packaged beautifully for individual sale or in gift boxes. They can be ordered online, are found in Whole Foods, and at the Park Avenue Bakery.  You may call ahead for a tour or just stop in and they will make up a package for you.  Their brownies have been in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for years.
Why I love it:
Because, for starters, Greyston brownies are truly amazing.  You will definitely not stop at one so don’t even try.  Each brownie is individually wrapped so please don’t think that they are so big and that you’ll only have a bite.  Ha.  Forget that.  Because what could possibly be better than a big brownie with a social conscience?  Because everyone there is so genuinely nice even when you drop in and interrupt their day.  Because at their annual summer soiree at their newest facility I got to taste test vegan brownies and they were  all amazing.  Order all of your holiday gifts from Greyston and be sure to buy some for yourself.

Good Reasons
3 Fields Lane, North Salem
Don’t forget your pets this season!  As if anyone would!  But, why not feel good about gifting them as well. If you need more than a tail wag in exchange for a gift this season, why not get that warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that your dog’s biscuits were made with love by the staff of people of all abilities at Good Reasons.  Part of Community Based Services, a social welfare agency focusing on autism and other developmental disabilities.  There are no human treats at this point, and each treat is made with love and gratitude that a job like this provides independence, confidence and purpose.  Good Reasons treats are sold in our area at like-minded retailers and online.  Typically, one can even visit and tour the facility but right now they are undergoing a substantial renovation so that is not possible.  Call ahead to see when they will be done.  The treats are ideal all year around but are perfect stocking stuffers.  Your dog will only know that they taste great; you will know that to be true and so much more.
Why I love it:
Because, again, full disclosure: having  child with Asperger’s Syndrome as I do, I know first hand how important, empowering and inspiring a job can be. Because the all natural, robust treats are good enough for people to eat (officially known as “people-grade”).  Because our 17 year old golden retriever, Jack, can sniff them out anywhere and he won’t share. Because the head chef is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America; what more can I say?