Helping Works

Anna Webb: Tour Boise’s historic churches

St. Michael's Cathedral at 8th and State Street in downtown Boise will be one of the historic churches included in the Downtown Boise Christmas Church Walk on Dec. 26.
St. Michael's Cathedral at 8th and State Street in downtown Boise will be one of the historic churches included in the Downtown Boise Christmas Church Walk on Dec. 26. Joe Jaszewski / jjaszewski@idaho

The Les Bois Chapter of the American Guild of Organists is once again hosting its self-guided historic Church Walk from 3-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26. The tour is a chance for people to bid farewell to the Yuletide in style while enjoying Christmas decorations, listening to music and learning more about the city’s architectural treasures.

“So many people have told us that they’ve walked by these churches so many times, but have never been inside,” said Michael Civiello, tour organizer and guild member.

The seven churches in the tour represent different religions and different architectural styles, but are within walking distance of one another, he added. The tour will end with a Christmas Music Sing from 5:30-6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church with Ryan Dye as organ accompanist.

The walk is free and open to the public. The seven churches are: Capitol City Christian Church at 615 N. 9th St., First Presbyterian Church at 950 W. State St., First United Methodist Church at 717 N. 11th St., Immanuel Lutheran Church at 707 W. Fort St., St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral at 775 N. 8th St., St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral at 518 N. 8th St. and St. Paul Baptist Church at 1320 W. Bannock St.

Note, in addition to the Christmas Music Sing, St. John’s and St. Michael’s will hold Saturday services at 6 p.m.

Route maps will be available at each church. Call Civiello at 208-939-0408 for more information.

Keep homeless veterans warm

Phil Hawkins, volunteer coordinator at the Idaho State Veterans Home, has put out a call for donations of gloves and socks to be distributed to homeless veterans through the home’s outreach program.

Drop donations at the Veterans Home business office, 320 Collins Road in Boise, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the canteen on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Hawkins at 780-1700 for more information.

Women’s and Children’s Alliance Wish List

The WCA updates its wish list monthly on its website. Here’s the latest: Drop new items at the WCA lobby at 720 W. Washington St. Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bath towels, baby wipes, blow dryers, hangers, pillows, portable DVD players, postage stamps, Pull-Ups (boys and girls — 2T, 3T, 4T and 5T), seasonal children’s outfits for boys and girls in all sizes, sit and ride toddler toys, Thomas the Tank Engine toys.

Idaho ranks second in the U.S. when it comes to volunteering

Idaho ranks high, according to the just-released Volunteering and Civic Life in America report by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This year’s report found that nearly 36 percent of Idaho residents volunteered in 2014. In total, 451,620 volunteers gave 51 million hours of service worth an estimated $1.2 billion. Additionally, 68 percent of residents participated in “informal volunteering,” which includes activities like helping sick neighbors shop for groceries or watching each others’ children. The state also ranks second for volunteer service by baby boomers and parents, third for volunteer service by veterans, and rounds out the top 5 for volunteer service by college students.

Looking for volunteer opportunities? Check out the United We Serve website at

Local artist’s book will benefit Make-A-Wish Idaho

Meredith Messinger’s book, “7% Chance of Sunshine,” tells the story of a boy named Simon who collects sunshine to give to those in need of a little light. Messinger, who graduated from Mountain View High School in 2005 then studied at Boise State University, where she double-majored in illustration and music, launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, which successfully funded the printing and shipping costs of this project.

Messinger is donating 90 percent of the proceeds from each book sold to Make-A-Wish Idaho. Visit Messinger’s website,, for more information and to purchase a book.

To refer a child to Make-A-Wish Idaho, email or call 208-345-9474. You can support Make-A-Wish Idaho with tax deductible monetary donations, by volunteering your time or airline mileage, and by purchasing a copy of Messinger’s book.

Local Girl Scout Council bucks national trend

National reports have suggested that Girl Scout membership is declining. That’s not the case at the Boise-based Girl Scouts of Silver Sage, say staffers. The group has 4,051 youth members, a 10 percent increase over last year. The council also reported adult membership for the last fiscal year at 2,372, an 11 percent increase over the year before.

The Associated Press also reported that the Girl Scouts organization is struggling in terms of financial support. Again, good news on the local front. Girl Scouts of Silver Sage reported an 11 percent increase in product sales revenue and an 18 percent increase in fundraising support last year. The council also finished the year ahead of revenue projections and in the black.

Girl Scouts of Silver Sage CEO Maureen O’Toole attributes the council’s success to an increase in community awareness about the positive impact Girl Scouts has on young girls’ lives.

“The Girl Scout program helps girls reach their full potential in school (and) inspires them to go on to college and careers and become leaders in their communities,” she said. “Parents, volunteers and donors understand the power of the local Girl Scout program and have rallied to support it.”

For the current year, starting Oct. 1, Girl Scouts of Silver Sage reports youth membership at 14 percent ahead of last year at this time, and adult membership up by 10 percent.

The group is also celebrating several recent grants: ICON Credit Union has pledged $10,000 in year-round support for local Girl Scout programs and activities. D.L. Evans Bank is also a year-round sponsor of Girl Scouts, pledging a $2,500 sponsorship. The Simplot Foundation has committed $5,000 to support Girl Scout activities in Eastern Idaho. Valley Corvettes and the Gladys E. Langroise Fund in the Idaho Community Foundation each awarded the council $1,000 to help support Girl Scouts in southern Idaho. Continued funding for the council’s in-school Visions program for low-income, at-risk girls has been provided by the Whittenberger Foundation in the form of a $3,000 grant for the current school year and a $10,000 grant from the John F. Nagel Foundation for the same year.

Connect with the group online at

A volunteer’s story

This is an ongoing feature in the Helping Works column. If you’d like to share your experiences as a volunteer, email your story to Please include a photo of yourself (JPEG format).

From Pam Rybus, Boise

Several years ago I cut out an article in Oprah Magazine about a nonprofit called Hug It Forward which builds “bottle schools” in Guatemala — buildings constructed with “eco-bricks” made of plastic bottles. The bottle school project addresses two issues: the environmental harm caused by trash and the lack of adequate educational facilities.

It became my dream to participate. Last May, my dream came true and I was able to lead a group of volunteers to Guatemala. We spent one week building a bottle school in the village of San Martin Jilotepeque.

To make eco-bricks, children in the village collect plastic bags, chip packets, polystyrene and more, and stuff these materials into discarded plastic bottles until the bottles are as hard as bricks. The eco-bricks are then sandwiched between chicken wire, tied into a post-and-beam structure and covered with cement to form walls. It takes around 6,500 eco-bricks to build a two-classroom school. Because bottle schools are built using upcycled trash and volunteer labor, they are much cheaper than traditional cinder block schools. A bottle school costs around $6,500 per classroom, which is 30 to 100 percent cheaper than classrooms built with traditional materials, according to the Hug It Forward website.

The community has ownership because they built the bottle school with their own hands. Kids of all ages can say something that few children in a developed country can say: “I built my school.”

I like this project because it empowers communities to come together and create an educational future for their their children. What I also love about this volunteer experience is the impact it has on all the participants. We all felt overwhelming acceptance and gratitude from the students and community members.

I am excited to be leading a similar trip in March 2016 to help build this time a middle school and am looking for more volunteers to join me. The focus of this week will be tying bottles into the school wall. We will also learn about the cultural heritage of the villagers and students at the school. If you’re interested, email me at .

Visit the Hug It Forward website to learn more about bottle schools and to sign up for this or another volunteer trip.