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Author: Meghan Langseder

End of Year Teacher Survival Kit: An Online Teacher Appreciation Gift Exchange

End of Year Teacher Survival Kit: An Online Teacher Appreciation Gift Exchange

end of year teacher gift
Image courtesy Brittany Briggs
Teacher Ashley Reed
Teacher and Gifter Ashley Reed

Believe it or not, another busy, hectic school year will soon be coming to a close. Students are already buzzing with plans for bidding farewell to the classroom in exchange for the carefree days of summer. And for teachers, the official countdown to their yearly vacation from the whiteboard has begun. I may be going out on a limb here, but I think they’re just as excited as the kids!

Knowing firsthand how demanding the end of a school year can be, Ashley Reed and Chandra Dills, both first-grade teachers in Georgia (as well as busy moms and uber creative bloggers) recently reached out to fellow teachers across the country. They found that other educators were ready to jump at the chance to be part of an online teacher survival kit gift exchange meant to encourage each other in the race to the finish line. Because who doesn’t need a little encouragement when it comes to wrapping up another fast-paced school year?

Exchanging Teacher Survival Gift Kits to Encourage Peers

Teacher and Gifter Chandra Dills
Teacher and Gifter Chandra Dills

Not only do Ashley and Chandra keep busy every day in the classroom, but they’re both Curriculum Designers for Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT), the world’s first and largest educational marketplace with more than two million original teacher-created resources available for use today.

According to the TpT website, “Our dream is to make the expertise and wisdom of all the teachers in the world available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Teachers Pay Teachers (or TpT, as we call it) is a community of millions of educators who come together to share their work, their insights, and their inspiration with one another. We are the first and largest open marketplace where teachers share, sell, and buy original educational resources. That means immediate access to a world of expertise and more time to focus on students and teaching.”

Just when this dynamic duo thought they couldn’t possibly squeeze anything else into their busy days, the two teachers got even busier and created “The End of the Year Survival Swap,” using Elfster as the online tool to connect their community of fellow teachers from around the country. The goal was to create an online gift exchange for school teachers to be able to reach out and encourage their peers.

teacher survival kit for end of year
A teacher survival kit for end of year | Image courtesy Ashley Reed

Are you getting burned out? Counting down the days til the end of school? All teachers need a little boost of encouragement as we get into the home stretch. In this gift exchange, you’ll be partnered with another teacher somewhere in the US and you’ll mail him or her a package no later than April 28th. Please try to spend $20 on your gift. Your gift can include fun school supplies, inspiring quotes, handy gadgets, and more….whatever would brighten a teacher’s day! Join the fun as we ALL try to survive the end of the school year! :)

“We reached out to other teachers and invited them to participate in this exchange,” explains Ashley.  “Many of these teachers are TPT authors and bloggers as well—but not all are!”

A Peer-to-Peer Teacher Appreciation Gift Exchange Online

encouraging teacher gifts
Image courtesy Teaching with Crayons and Curls

Ashley discovered the joys of sharing and spreading generosity while using Elfster for a previous online gift exchange. “I originally participated in an exchange with a group of mamas I met in an online forum. These were women all over the country, so I knew how easy and effortless Elfster was for the organizer!” So she reached out to teaching communities using Facebook and Instagram—and almost 180 teachers decided to join in the swap!

“Since we’re all in the same boat (teachers surviving the end of school—many of us also parents surviving the end of school), I hope that we’ll just have fun and be an encouragement to one another,” she explains.

The elves at Elfster sure hope we’ve made the job of managing this great community just a little easier (and we think Ashley agrees).

“I don’t have to worry about drawing names from a hat, matching people up, emailing everyone, and answering a million questions,” she explains.

teacher gift exchange
Image courtesy Stephanie Philips, Elfster exchange participant

“Because, let’s face it…I’m a busy teacher JUST LIKE THEY ARE! :)”

And as the group of educators heads into the final days of the school year, hats off to Ashley and Chandra for giving so much of their time, generosity, support, and enthusiasm to encourage their fellow teachers. Here’s to a great summer for all!

Are you a teacher looking for inspiration?

Check out Ashley’s blog here: http://justreedblog.com/

Check out Chandra’s blog here: http://www.teachingwithcrayonsandcurls.com/

Looking for a great way to spread a little generosity in your own community? Organize a free, online Secret Santa-style gift exchange with Elfster. It just takes minutes! Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook, Tweet us @Elfster, or catch us on Instagram at @Elfstergram.

Talented Fingers, Generous Hearts: Everyday Knitters Gift Yarn, Ideas, and Inspiration

Talented Fingers, Generous Hearts: Everyday Knitters Gift Yarn, Ideas, and Inspiration

knitted socks
Image courtesy Pinterest

As a teenager looking for a creative outlet before the dawn of the internet, I learned how to knit. Sitting by my stepmother’s side, trading needles back and forth as she guided my clumsy hands, I came to appreciate the joy of being “crafty.” Though my knitting career was short-lived, my one and only project—a vibrant, rainbow-colored, shorter-than-most scarf—served me well on many chilly winter days (and was a point of pride). I don’t think I’m alone when I say I regret not devoting more time to my knitting when I was young, eventually putting the needles aside.

The art of knitting is timeless. It’s been around since the days of ancient Egypt, where one of the first examples of true knitting—cotton socks with stranded knit color patterns—was discovered. Fast-forward a few thousand years and cozy, handknit socks are hotter than ever!

Luckily, there are artisans like Louise Tilbrook, the self-described “enthusiastic (some would say obsessed) sock knitter” behind Louise Tilbrook Designs, who returned to the craft as an adult several years ago after giving it up as a child, and has since become an inspiration to her community of Everyday Knitters.

A Heartfelt Way to Spread an Artful Passion

expresso knit sock pattern
Expresso Pattern | Image courtesy Louise Tilbrook Designs

It didn’t take long to get back into knitting wholeheartedly for Louise, who hails from rural Essex in the United Kingdom. As she notes on her website, which focuses on fun ways to explore the art of knitting, “socks (and lovely hand dyed sock yarn) have become my first love and over time this passion of mine has expanded into pattern design and teaching and now consumes most of my waking thoughts.” And from that passion, a community of thousands who admire her work, and connect with her on social media 24/7, has emerged.

“I created the Everyday Knitters Facebook Group to be a fun place where people can come together to share knowledge, experience, and have fun around a common monthly theme,” Louise says. “There are a lot of knitting groups on Facebook, but most are very general. I wanted to create a vibrant and engaged community that is supportive, but also educational.”

As fellow sock knitters discover her busy online community, they seem to be instantly drawn in by her friendly, goal-oriented greeting:

“Welcome to the Everyday Knitter Group – a place for knitters to relax, set some goals and above all enjoy their knitting. During 2017, we’re going to be exploring new challenges in our knitting. Whatever your current level of experience, I hope you will join us as we set monthly goals and cheer each other along in our attempts to fit more knitting into every day.”

Inspirations from the Online World to the Yarn Basket

sock yarn swap
Image courtesy Louise Tilbrook Designs

Looking to bring the Everyday Knitters together virtually to share their love for this artistic pastime in a tangible way, Louise recently hosted an online exchange of sock yarn mini skeins, giving her fellow knitters the opportunity to share their precious, coveted supplies—and to get to know another knitter who lives across the world in the process.

Each participant was paired up and exchanged yarns with the same person who drew them, making the exchange even more personal. “I set up the swap and then shared the sign-up details in the Facebook group so that any member could join. We had just over 1000 online members and 80 participants in the swap, which I was really pleased with,” Louise says.

“The swap was a small exchange of leftover yarns between group members,” she continues. “Many of us are working on scrap yarn projects to use up all our leftovers, but it’s nice to get an infusion of color from someone else’s stash. We are all knitting along on our projects and sharing our progress on the group.”

And as they say, one knitter’s unused stash is another one’s inspiring treasure!

“I hope that our swap will help foster a real sense of community and belonging within the group. I’m really pleased by how enthusiastic the participants have been,” she adds. “There have been a lot of chats and people making deeper connections with each other which is just fantastic.”

And words of gratitude and enthusiasm are pouring in from all over the world:

“Amazing selection of beautiful yarn, thank you so much. They’ll make some cosy contrasting sock toes.” – Exchange participant Susan Hempenstall (Ireland) to her exchange partner Jannika Hammarbrink (Sweden)

“Thank you so much for the amazingly beautiful yarns, Claire. I adore how they look all wound by hand with their beautifully detailed tags, each with a wonderful story. I feel so connected to you and the dyers after reading them. ❤ Thank you so!” – Exchange participant Lisa Cornish (US) to partner Claire Steele (UK)

 Image courtesy Susan Hempenstall, Elfster exchange participant
Image courtesy Susan Hempenstall, Elfster exchange participant

According to Louise, using an online gift exchange tool like Elfster made it easy for her community to connect. “I participated in an Elfster swap previously and was impressed by how quick and easy it was to sign up. When I mentioned the idea of the swap, a few of the group members also suggested Elfster as being the ideal way to do it. Many people commented that they loved the experience, and people are already asking when we are going to do the next one,” she enthuses.

So, cheers to Louise and the knitters who share her passion for the cozy things in life. May their generosity, support, and enthusiasm for their craft be a creative inspiration to us all, every day.

To join the fun and engaging Everyday Knitter community, check them out on the web or on Facebook.

Looking for a great way to spread a little generosity in your own community? Organize a free, online Secret Santa-style gift exchange with Elfster. It just takes minutes! Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook, Tweet us @Elfster, or catch us on Instagram at @Elfstergram.

Lead image courtesy Etsy seller KnittingOnTheHill

Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

Have a Ball with Charitable Giving by Joining ZogSports, the Largest Social Sports League

zogsports team It was arguably the worst day America had ever seen—a few moments in time that no American will ever forget. But, many stories of strength, fortitude, and positive energy have emerged in the 15 years since the events of September 11th, 2001.

One such story is that of Robert Herzog, founder of ZogSports, which has grown to become the most popular adult co-ed social sports league in the country. Each year, ZogSports has seen its membership grow. Over 100,000 fun-loving, sports-minded “Zoggers” now come together on courts and fields all over the nation to play for fun, for community—and for a cause.

Robert Herzog, and the Inspiring Story Behind ZogSports

 

“After his close call on September 11, 2001, Robert Herzog was inspired to create an organization which brought like-minded people together to have fun, give back, and create community. He identified a need amongst New York’s young professionals for better organized sports leagues and more natural social interactions outside of the workplace. Plus, he wanted to tap into the charitable spirit which pervaded the city following 9/11.”

– ZogSports.com

 

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How This Unique Sports League Works

If you’re interested in taking part in this one-of-a-kind movement, it’s easy to join in!

sports balls

  1. Go to www.zogsports.com and find a team in your area. ZogSports operates sports leagues around the U.S., specifically in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
  2. Select your sport, from basketball to whiffle ball, and many in between.
  3. Select a charity, as a team, to play for that season. This is where the social part comes in—the league hosts happy hour events all season long where it accepts charitable contributions over the course of the entire season. Donations from corporate sponsors are also added to the charity pool.
  4. Try to win! At the end of the season, the winning teams won’t get trophies, Instead, a donation will be made to the team’s charity of choice.

The True Mission of ZogSports

With generosity as its core mission, the organization has now turned Robert’s original dream into reality with over $3 million donated to various charities all over the country since its inception in 2002. And players are having plenty of fun and laughs along the way!

This year, the league leaders from each city are taking a time out and getting generous with one another. These busy “Zoggers,” who take their fun seriously, are hosting a ZogSports global Secret Santa online gift exchange using Elfster.com to connect their team, managed by HQ team member and “Director of Basically Everything,” Amy Cooperstock.

ZogSports team members

According to Jody Zellman, ZogSports’ National Expansion Manager, “All full-time staff members nationwide will be participating in this year’s Secret Santa. Amy heard about Elfster after an angel came to her in a dream and said, ‘Check out Elfster and go back to sleep.’” Ha!

“Every person will purchase a gift worth up to $20 for another person in the company,” he explains. “If years past are any indicator, it’ll be an afternoon of hilarity—and painful inside jokes. This is the first year we’re expanding our Secret Santa beyond our physical office to incorporate all seven of our markets’ employees nationwide,” he adds.

Team Elfster is proud to help connect these caring and sharing elves!

And here are a few fun facts about the team according to Jody:

“Chris, our general manager of New Jersey, was the first baby born in Michigan in 1977. We have four Matts, a Chris, another Chris, a Christine, a Danny, a Danielle, a Joe, and a Joey. Let’s see if Elfster can keep up with that name scramble.”

We’ll give it our best shot, Jody! ;)

Want to connect with your favorite co-workers this holiday season? The elves at Elfster can help! An online gift exchange is a quick, easy, fun (and free) way to bring your team together, no matter where they are. Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram for office party ideas that are virtually endless!

 

Photo Credits: ZogSports, Kaplan

How to Create Hair-Raising Halloween Fun: A You’ve Been Booed Neighborhood Gifting Game

How to Create Hair-Raising Halloween Fun: A You’ve Been Booed Neighborhood Gifting Game

A slight chill is in the air. Pumpkins are creatively perched on porches all over town. And the neighborhood candy collectors will soon be dressed to thrill, hitting the streets on their sweet mission to fill their sacks all the way to the tippy top. From princess to pirate, minion to mermaid, as kids young and old eagerly anticipate the big night, the question of the season remains, “What are you going to be for Halloween?”

Halloween only rolls around once a year, so as you contemplate this difficult decision, get your friends, family, and your entire community, ready for the celebration in a way that’s super thoughtful, generous, and a little bit on the sneaky side…

How to create a You've Been Booed Event Infographic

To snatch up Elfster’s free You’ve Been Boo’ed printable,click here.

Spread a little “Boo” this Halloween with a friendly scare for your neighbors. A You’ve Been Boo’ed fall-themed treat exchange is a fantastic way to bring everyone together in spooky spirit!

Never been “boo’ed?” Here’s how it works: Your family is assigned to another family in your neighborhood. You gather a little basket of Halloween goodies and secretly leave it on your neighbor’s porch, with a note letting them know they’ve been boo’ed—but don’t let them know you were ever there. This free printable card from Elfster will do the trick.

Using an online gift exchange like Elfster makes it even easier to get your family and friends inspired for a little hair-raising fun, and keep it a secret. If your neighborhood has a master list of everyone’s email addresses, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure you include everyone in the fun. Each family participating in the neighborhood “booing” will be assigned one other family they may or may not know, which makes it even better, and a great icebreaker for newcomers to the neighborhood. Be sure to invite older neighbors, too—they may not have trick-or-treaters at home anymore, but it’s still fun to join in the neighborhood escapades!

This free printable from Elfster is the perfect addition to your Halloween:

folding-card-elfster

I love how one You’ve Been Boo’ed organizer and “Halloween Hostess with the Mostest,” Paloma Benst, has reached out to her San Diego neighborhood of nearly 50 families to easily let participants know how the exchange works by posting the rules on her Elfster exchange homepage. Here are her great tips to avoid a Halloween headache:

Please answer the following questions and post them so the person that gets you knows a bit more about your family. This is going to be lots of fun!

1. Does anyone in your family have a peanut allergy?

2. How many kids do you have age, and their gender?

3. Any favorite candies?

4. Your family’s favorite movies or characters?

5. Do you have a favorite color?

6. Make it spooky or keep it cartoonish?

Please add anything else you think is important. You will deliver your “boo” personally, and let the organizer know once you have done so. 

With rules and expectations clearly defined, let the “booing” begin!

If you’d like to do a Big Boo Reveal Party, gather all the neighbors, even if they didn’t participate, for a festive block party, including a costume parade before the trick-or-treating begins. Ask around the group to find your secret “boo’er” to say thanks. Include pizza or your favorite potluck picks for a little snack, and perhaps a little “witch’s brew” for the grown-ups. And, don’t forget to pass out glow sticks before the sun sets and the kids are off and running!

Boo Halloween Front Porch Decorations

Photo credit Rugals

A You’ve Been Boo’ed gift exchange is a great way to celebrate Halloween as a community. Looking for ideas for your hauntingly great party? Be sure to check out Elfster’s Eat, Drink and Be Scary gift guide for some festive fun.

Want to include friends that don’t live in your neck of the woods? It’s just as easy to gather the gang online for your own secret Halloween exchange. It may just require a little extra driving, or shipping, but it will be well worth the effort.

And why not share some scare with your co-workers, too! That’s what Elfster exchange organizer Leah Cappadona has been doing the past two Halloweens and her co-workers look forward to this annual tradition. 

“We are an all female group of nurses who work in a cancer center together,” Leah says. “We spend more time together than with our families, so we see each other as extended families. With the nature of our work, and the fact that there can be ten women working in one room at the same time, our work days can be stressful and tense.”

“Once names are drawn, each week ‘Boo Buddies’ will leave a small surprise on their chosen person’s desk,” Leah explains. “A piece of candy, a Halloween Card, or sometimes we decorate the nurses desk and computer with fake spider webs. Last year, one of the nurses hid a fake rubber rat on her person’s chair. We like to be goofy and have fun with it. During our Halloween ‘party,’ we will each bring pot luck to the office and eat throughout the day. We all have patients at different times, so an actual party is not really possible. We keep it casual with a constant flow of food and people. Our gift exchange and “Boo Buddy Reveal” is usually food influenced. We all wish we could go back to the days of trick-or-treating. This is a great way to give a treat of a gift certificate to a restaurant, or a bottle of wine.”

“It really gives all of us something to look forward to, and an opportunity to not be so serious, loosen up, and really connect like the extended family we are,” she adds. Thanks for letting Elfster be a part of your festivities, Leah!

So now that You’ve Been Boo’ed, time to get prepped for the scariest Halloween ever! Explore Elfster’s Halloween guides for the ultimate inspiration, including super cute costumes for kids and pets. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! Check us out on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram. Need help? Send us a message at  help@elfster.com.

Online Artisan Community Connects on Elfster to Share Unique Pottery Gifts

Online Artisan Community Connects on Elfster to Share Unique Pottery Gifts

image of potter

By its very definition, generosity is an act of unselfish giving—and offering one’s own talent, time, and creativity to a new friend you’ve just met is a beautiful example of selflessness. Recently, a group of more than 50 potters from many corners of the globe got down and dirty for a Secret Santa gift exchange. They used the Elfster website to help them share amazing and unique ceramic art created with their own two hands.

The pottery exchange community, led by Elfster exchange organizer and professional potter Katie Zupan, first came together on the popular Reddit website. According to Reddit’s site, it’s a “place of community, conversation, and connection with millions of users worldwide.” And within that vast universe lie many subgroups that serve to connect members with common interests, like pottery and ceramics.

“There are areas of Reddit called ‘subreddits,'” explains Katie, “which are basically mini-forums for specific interests, fandoms, and almost anything under the sun. I have been a part of the r/Ceramics and r/Pottery subreddits for a while, where we post our wares, get feedback, and share interesting things like cool new tools and techniques. I saw someone ask about doing an exchange for a bit but no one initiated it, so I thought I’d give it a go!”

source

The online community of subreddit potters boasts over 6,400 members who discuss “anything and everything related to throwing, hand-building, sculpting, glazing, firing, and appreciating ceramic art,” according to the site.

And the Elfster community is very grateful that Katie motivated the group to join us, and gave members the opportunity to share their creative talents in the spirit of spreading generosity by participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange.

Katie says, “I heard about Elfster from a group that I am a part of, Sign Makers, that I know in-person or from acquaintances! We held a Secret Santa during Easter and I really liked the ease of the site. I made a page for the exchange and posted it on the subreddits and we got almost 40 people participating from it!”

mustache pottery mug

This was Katie’s first time organizing an Elfster gift exchange and from the looks of the group’s gallery wall on Elfster, participants thought the exchange was a great success. Katie received this hilarious mustachioed mug and sent a note showing her appreciation: “Thank you so much for the cup and the little bowl! It has a ton of awesome character, and will now be my cup at work! Thank you so so much! It’s GREAT!”

A thank you note from participant Adam Dunn encourages his secret spinner. “I really like your pottery. Best of luck to you in finding what you need in your education and future. You are very talented. Keep spinning.”

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Participant Pam Kinnison also let her secret elf know she cares. “I love your work. Keep plugging along. Using the wheel is like using a bicycle. Once you learn and obtain the muscle memory, it gets easier :) ” (Her awesome gift is pictured here.)

Katie encouraged her group to get to know each other better by exchanging personal messages, as well as by posting pictures and thank you notes to the group’s photo gallery wall, which is a feature offered on Elfster to help communities share the exchange experience.

“I thought it would, overall, be a great way for people to share their craft,” she explains.

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And the elves at Elfster believe the incredibly talented artisans of this group certainly fit the definition of “generous.” We look forward to what they have planned for the future.

Want a great way to let your creative juices flow? Spread a little generosity in your own community. Organize a free, online Secret Santa gift exchange between friends, family, or co-workers with Elfster. It just takes minutes! Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here, Tweet us @elfster, or catch us on Instagram at @Elfstergram.

 

Wish. Gift. Shop. Share.

 

Pottery gift photo credits: Katie Zupan, Pam Kinnison, Jess Baer

Weight Loss Community Hosts Send The Love Campaign

Weight Loss Community Hosts Send The Love Campaign

Determination. Dedication. Motivation. Inspiration.

All are key factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reaching goals, especially when we face the daily challenges of trying to eat healthy, getting enough exercise, or shedding a few unwanted pounds. But we may also realize it’s harder to take such a journey alone.

One group dedicated to supporting and motivating one another through these difficult daily tasks was created to serve members of the popular Weight Watchers program from all over the United States. This movement, #wwsendthelove, was started by one selfless member of the program to help others through their own personal weight loss journeys. Not only is the group’s story quite inspirational, it’s gaining in popularity every day.

“Weight loss journeys can be a tough and sometimes an uphill battle,” says Elfster exchange organizer Stephanie Encin, who has created the Weight Watchers Send the Love campaign to support and inspire her community. “Knowing you have a buddy who can not only relate to you, but who is also rooting for you can make a huge difference and have a great impact on your success. A popular hashtag from the Weight Watchers app is #bettertogether. Send the Love was born from the idea that we really are better together.”

WW 5

“I was inspired to start the Weight Watchers Send the Love group [using Elfster] after seeing a similar exchange on Instagram,” Stephanie explains. “I’d seen a few IG users who are also WW members post photos of care packages they had sent to one another to offer support and encouragement on their weight loss journeys.”

“I’ve been an online member of WW since February, so I don’t attend meetings in person,” she adds. “The online community for all WW members, called Connect, is accessible to members through the WW app. Connect has been a vital part of my success on the program. On the app, members post their inspirational stories, before/after photos, meal ideas, triumphs, and struggles, and offer one another support. The Send the Love campaign was a way to take that connection one step further.”

The popular Elfster group has grown exponentially, exploding from 200 participants in July to more than 750 participants in August. Wow! And Stephanie says Elfster has played a key role in managing such a large community.

“When I first posted to the WW app, Connect, about starting a Send the Love exchange, another member commented that she had used Elfster to participate in gift exchanges for other online communities,” Stephanie says. “As a facilitator, I’m so thankful she recommended the site.”

WW 7

Using Elfster, Stephanie has the option to pair her participants either Secret Santa style, which is a random match-up, or Meet and Gift style, which is a one-to-one match. Either way, it’s a great way for participants to get to know one another.

“The first exchange in July was set up so that the person members received a gift from was different from the person they sent a gift to,” she explains. “For August, members are paired with one partner to give and receive a gift. Participants are encouraged to get to know one another better to put together a personalized care package that will support their partner’s weight loss journey. July’s care packages included everything from low Smart Point snacks (Smart Points are point values assigned to track food in the WW weight loss program) to fitness equipment, inspirational quotes, kitchen supplies, spa goodies, and so much more.”

“The thoughtfulness and generosity of members toward one another has been simply amazing,” she says. “They truly do put love into the packages they send!”

WW 2

To encourage her online community to join her exchanges, Stephanie uses the Weight Watchers app to post a signup link to her Elfster exchange and asks participants to use the hashtag #wwsendthelove to post pictures of the great packages they receive. She is also pleased that existing members have been sharing her enthusiasm and helping to spread the word.

Team Elfster is proud to support such an inspiring, motivated community and we look forward to the growth of this generous campaign.

“Using Elfster has absolutely made the exchange more fun,” says Stephanie. “Not only has it made facilitating such a large and growing group possible, but it’s features also allow members to connect beyond the WW app.”

“Many members use the wishlist and secret questions/answers to get to know one another better and get a feel for their likes/dislikes,” she says. “These features are a great way to get ideas for how to put together a personalized package that will put a smile on your recipient’s face.”

So what are you doing to stay motivated to reach your own personal fitness goals? Find some inspiration in Elfster’s Wellness Guide. Want to connect with the elves at Elfster? You can reach us via Facebook here, Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

Wish. Gift. Shop. Share.

Let’s Get Personal

Let’s Get Personal

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with some of my favorite people on earth, my awesome cousins. We don’t see each other that often because, fact is, sometimes life and distance just get in the way. But once we started reminiscing about the days we spent splashing in the waves and basking in the sun during our family trips to the Jersey shore as children, it was just like we were all back there again. We spent hours laughing until our sides hurt. It was then that I realized how happy these folks make me and how important it is to keep them in my heart.

Cherish the memories you create this summer, especially those moments spent with the special people in your life. Whether you are gathering the family for a once-in-a-lifetime reunion or spending the weekend at a friend’s summer home, make sure they know how happy they make you. Need help finding something stylish and fun to show how much you care? Elfster can help you find the perfect gifts for any occasion.

Here’s to the Hostess

Planning to spend some special time with family and friends during your vacation this summer? I love to take along a little something to say thanks to the host or hostess to let them know I realize the efforts that goes into hosting guests — the cooking, the cleaning, the prep work. We’ve all been there. Show your gratitude for those who go all out to make you happy by sharing a personalized gift from the unique selections in Elfster’s Host & Hostess gifts guide.

And a fabulous token of your appreciation doesn’t have to break the bank either. Elfster features lots of inexpensive gift ideas, and many personalized gifts as well, in our $25 and under gift guide. It’s the perfect way to show you care and the essentials for any Elfster Secret Santa Anytime gift exchange that may come your way this summer.

Ooh Baby, Baby…

Meeting a new bundle of joy for the first time this summer? Welcome the special new baby in your life by selecting the perfect, personal gift they (and Mom & Dad) will always cherish. I know my 4-year-old son can’t sleep without the comfort of his “D blankie” monogrammed just for him! Our top personal picks for baby are featured in an entire guide of personalized gifts for baby featuring many unique and handmade gifts to make your visit with baby one you’ll always remember.

Are you participating in an Elfster gift exchange this summer? Get personal with your secret elf and send them something all about them! And remember — Elfster isn’t just for Secret Santa gift exchanges. Our inspirational gift guides are a sure thing for great gift-giving, as well as the perfect way to show your gratitude. If you see something you love, be sure to add it to your own wish list. You never know when the elves are peeking!

Elfster makes gift giving easy, free, and fun! Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

Wish. Gift. Shop. Share.

Disney Alums Celebrate The Best College Job. Ever.

Disney Alums Celebrate The Best College Job. Ever.

I am sure I am not the only one who once dreamed of being a Disney princess when I “grew up.” Don’t get me wrong, the whole elf thing is certainly awesome, but just imagine spending all your days in the most magical place on Earth! For one lucky group of Elfster users — and Disney lovers extraordinaire — that dream really did come true, as they were once lucky enough to spend their college days with the ultimate job opportunity. And for some of these motivated college kids, it became the “day job” they never want to quit.

This group of Disney dreamers, who all hold the distinction of being alumni of the Disney College Program (DCP), celebrate their shared passion by hosting Secret Santa gift exchanges several times a year using Elfster.

“The Disney College Program is an opportunity for college students, or recent graduates, to work and live at Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland in California,” explains exchange co-organizer Jamie Meadows. “I personally got involved because I have LOVED Disney as long as I can remember. I knew some people who had done the program before me, [and since I] never got the ‘going away to college’ experience attending a community college in Michigan, I felt like this was the greatest opportunity for me to take a break from school, work at the most magical place and come back to school refreshed and filled with Magic.”

 

And what does the job description look like for such a life-changing opportunity? Well, according to the DCP website, “As a Disney College Program participant, you’ll become part of the magic that is known worldwide. You’ll get valuable, on-the-job experience in our parks and resorts, and expand your knowledge in a classroom with international diverse students from all over the country and potentially the world. Discover new worlds and create long-lasting memories. Because here, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will change your life forever.”  It really is a dream job come true!

According to co-organizer Emily McGilvray, “The Disney College Program is a paid internship through the Walt Disney World Company. Opportunities are available on both coasts and in a variety of different area (or roles as we all call them). Some schools offer college credit. You must be a currently enrolled student at the time you apply and you can participate up to 6 months after graduation from college.”

Roles within this amazing program vary by resort, but by working in Operations, Entertainment, Lodging, Food & Beverage, Retail/Sales, as well as Recreation, all have one common goal — to ensure that Disney guests have the most enjoyable vacation experience possible. In her role, Jamie worked in merchandise at World of Disney in Downtown Disney. Emily held six different positions in a variety of programs, including Main Street Operation at Magic Kingdom and Character Attendant. And lucky Emily now works full-time in the Magic Kingdom!

And it was this love and devotion to all things Disney that has brought together Jamie, Emily, along with many members of the thousands of men and women from all over the country, who are connecting several times a year for Elfster exchanges.

“I originally heard about Elfster because my family was looking for a new way to do Christmas,” explains Emily. “We decided once the kids were all older that we do a secret Santa and so I Googled ‘secret santa websites’ and Elfster came right up!”

“The group was created because two Christmas’ ago someone started a Secret Santa exchange within the Disney Alumni Association (another title for the group), but there was a lot of miscommunication and people missed the first sign ups. I started a second round and had a ton of fun with it. There was feedback on the Alumni Association page that there was too many posts about the Secret Santa, so I created a separate page.”

Jamie says she heard about the Elfster website and got involved with organizing the group from another member of the group who ran past exchanges. “[Emily] had the idea to make a separate page on Facebook apart from our main 14,000+ DCP Alumni page and needed another person to help her out. Having no idea who she was, I stepped in to help!”

“[Emily and I] connected through, well, wanting to make connections!” Jamie adds. “We both love the idea of connecting DCP Alumni since the program has been running from the early 90’s to today and obviously love Disney! Our group, double checked with the DCP Alumni page, has a little over 100 members and consistently growing. We required our exchange participants to like our page to keep them updated with exchanges we run throughout the year.”

“When we have a new idea, Jamie or I become the point person and we create the event on Elfster, then advertise on the Gift Exchange page, as well as the Alumni Association,” Emily explains. “We try to only advertise once or twice for each new exchange on the Alumni Association, so that we don’t get too annoying!”

So what is the biggest expectation for participants in gift exchanges with the group? Both organizers will agree — communication.

“Our expectations are following through and communication. Emily and I have only been running exchanges for about a year and a half and although we have come a long way, we have far to go. We hope when people sign up they actually send their elf a gift and if they are struggling and are sending late, they will communicate with us and their elf,” explains Jamie.

Additionally, Emily says she and Jamie create a list of guidelines that every member must read and acknowledge before they are able to join a new exchange. “These include saying that you have an up to date wish list, you know when the gifts are due by, you’ll update tracking information as it comes, etc.,” she adds.

 

This month, the group is hosting two themed gift exchanges, including “Sharing My State” and “Disney Art.”

“Personally, my favorite ones are the Christmas ones — and it is our most popular with about 130 participants. I love shopping at that time of the year, wrapping the gifts off the person’s wish list and KNOWING they will love them!” says Jamie.

“Elfster has helped our exchange [to be] way more fun!” she adds. “Our group loves the wish list (and updating them!) because you can get to know that person better and pick from so many items. We feel that Elfster forces – in the best way! – the exchange participants, with cute and friendly reminders, to interact and connect with one another and that was our goal with the group – to connect.” Love it!

“We couldn’t do this without Elfster!” Emily adds.

And I’m pretty sure I know Jamie’s favorite feature of the site…

“Personally, I think I use the wishlist too much,” she says. “I’m guilty of having 70+ items, but the members of our Gift Exchange group find and love so much cool stuff! We hope some people use the secret question/answer part of Elfster. I know I do when wanting to get more specifics on a person’s relation to the Disney College Program Alumni page.”

Even though you have to be an Alumni of the DCP to join these exchanges, more information about this unique program may be found on the DCP Facebook page. If you’re part of an amazing group that shares a common bond, why not take a note from Jamie and Emily and connect on Elfster with a Secret Santa gift exchange. It’s easy to get started and stay connected. Need help? You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

Wish. Gift. Shop. Share.

Photo Credit: MommeeFriendsLI, Disney Programs Blog, Disney Tourist Blog,

Celebrating Summer at the North Pole And Beyond

Celebrating Summer at the North Pole And Beyond

It seems that summer is the new winter here at the North Pole these days. Surf’s up for Santa and while the elves are busy monitoring the naughty and nice list, plenty of great exchanges are in full-swing. As a matter of fact, over 500 new exchanges have been created on Elfster in just the first two weeks of July!

Our friends in the fun-loving “Our Disney Ohana” group led by one of our favorite elves, Sandra Rumsey, are gearing up for Christmas in July and will be exchanging Disney-themed Christmas decorations on July 25 to celebrate the occasion. Nearly 200 participants from all over the world will be joining in the festivities.

And who can forget a great summer birthday celebration? Almost 300 members of the Hogwarts Running Club will be exchanging gifts with each other, even though it’s to celebrate the July 31st birthday of their beloved Harry Potter. (Coincidentally, this birthdate is shared by author J.K. Rowling as well.)

The possibilities are endless when it comes to connecting on Elfster. Why not celebrate the season by hosting your own summer-themed gift exchange with others who share your interests? We’ve got plenty of great ideas to get you started. Just add your own friends, family or online community. Here are a just a few of our favorite exchanges happening this summer:

 

Motivation For The Healthy Elf

Many groups are helping each other stay on track in the diet department this summer, but one group in particular will be sending the love, too. Over 200 members of one Weight Watchers community are connecting on Elfster to “Send the Love (#wwsendthelove),” an exchange which, according to organizer Stephanie Encin, “involves sending a small motivational care package to a friend full of Weight Watcher friendly items! Think: treats, pampering items, recipes, words of encouragement, kitchen items/utensils. The possibilities are endless! THANK YOU FOR SENDING THE LOVE!”

Sharing Foodie Fun

There’s nothing better than sharing a meal with great friends. Why not connect to share your favorite flavors and local fare like many folks on the site this summer?

For the fourth year in a row, Carl “cazzy” Zepeda is back with his “Egghead Rub & Sauce Exchange” in an exchange seriously dedicated to the art of barbeque. The 71 members of the exchange are all owners of the Big Green Egg sending care packages of barbecue favorites. The ceramic cooker/grill/smoker/oven known as the Big Green Egg – or BGE, for short – has a thriving community of enthusiasts around it, which has proven to be highly creative and very social using unique nicknames like “Brisket Fanatic” and “HoustonEgger.” Participant John “20stone” Jones gave a great shout-out to his secret elf: “Package received! Thanks a ton for all the stuff, and just in time for Porkapalooza down here.”

The “Champagne Room” group is going all out for its July exchange organized by Cassandra Shockley. With a budget of a very generous $60, Cassandra encourages her group to “Go wild – have fun and give a yummy food or drink (make sure it won’t melt if it has to sit on the porch a day or two).” Great advice as the mercury rises!

Creative Good

The name says it all for this super summer exchange — “Swiggity Swag, We’re Swapping a Tote Bag!“ We love the creative twist used by organizer Emma Spalding as she brings together artistic-types from all over the UK, with a few Americans and a Serbian thrown in to share the fun. Emma tells her elves to “Have a looksee at your swap’s wishlist and see if you can find an awesome canvas tote bag that would suit them perfectly! Then fill it with 3 (no more, no less) handbag essentials, we all have them, like the playmobil figurine that lives in mine and only pops up to say hello when i’m paying for something, bloody kids, anyway i digress. Keep within the spending limit (£10) and have fun!”

For those special elves organized enough to keep up with a daily planner, it’s easy to become addicted to not only the functionality, but the accessories as well. Courtney Jacobs is hosting an exchange of 60 Secret Sisters from Central Ohio Planner Addicts who take their creativity seriously when it comes to planning. In this exchange, participants will be paired for three months and will finally reveal themselves as they send their final gift.

“There were so many great ideas for this SUMMER swap,” according to organizer Amanda Wissmann of the 92-person “For the Love (FTL) Favorite Things of Summer” group. “So let’s stick with a summer theme — all things bright, summery and fun! Anything that’s giving you life so far this summer that you just can’t help but share! Could be a great book you read, a new bath scrub, etc. Just a super happy SUMMERY package! This is going to be FABULOUS!”

Sadly, summer will not last that long, but Team Elfster is so happy to help all these communities — and many more — to have fun, and connect with each other over their shared interests this summer. We would love to hear the story of you are using Elfster, too. You can visit us on Facebook or tweet us @elfster, or check us out on Instagram at elfstergram.

Photo credit: Eat Drink Chic, Pinterest, Backyard Pinklette, Smallwood Home

Set Your Sights On Easy Summer Travel

Set Your Sights On Easy Summer Travel

 

Do you have your sights set on a great getaway this summer? Whether you are taking in the local scenery or taking off to a faraway destination, Elfster has what you need to make the most of your summer travel.

Our helpful Summer Travel Gift Guide and a few handy travel tips are all you need to make planning and packing a breeze. Your world awaits!

 

travel collage 2

 

 

 

Tip #1 – Pack Precisely

Going by car? Or by plane? Make life on the road easier by packing efficiently — place lightest items on the bottom of your bag, then layer with more flexible clothing and finally, toiletries and smaller items on top. Elfster’s Summer Travel Gift Guide features travel gear to keep you organized on the road, like convenient ultra lightweight packing cubes and functional classic backpacks. Leave the uncomfortable shoes at home and try to travel light…

 

 

 

 

Tip #2 – Travel Smart

Nothing can ruin a perfectly great vacation than leaving behind the obvious, like your tickets or passports. Keep them safe and sound in a personalized passport holder to accommodate all your travel documents. And don’t forget to pack the necessities:

 

 

 

 

  • Phone and laptop chargers
  • Sunglasses and sunblock
  • TSA-approved travel size toiletry kit
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Umbrella (just in case!)
  • A great summer read

 

 

Elfster’s guide features easy ways to pack all the essentials for a fun and stress-free trip. And you’ll stay organized along the way.

 

 

Tip #3 – Start Your Adventure

Planning a road trip? Spending time outdoors? Relaxing with family and friends? Wherever your summer adventures take you, make the most of them. Elfster has some great ideas to help you plan the perfect vacation that works best for your summer plans. From travel guides to spark your sense of adventure to travel journals to keep track of where you’ve been, we’ll get your started with some great ideas in our Summer Travel Gift Guide. Need some inspiration for the adventure of a lifetime? Check out Elfster’s Bucket List Guide for the ultimate vacation experience.

 

 

Tip #4 – Share Your Love of Travel With Friends

How about sharing your sense of adventure by hosting a summer gift exchange with friends and family? Elfster’s secret Santa style gift exchanges are a easy and free way to connect, no matter what the occasion. And Elfster’s Summer Gift Ideas Guides have something for everyone and just what you need for inspiration for your own wish list. Need help? We are here all summer long. You can reach us via Facebook here. Tweet us @elfster or catch us on Instagram at #elfstergram.

 

Wish. Gift. Shop. Share.

Photo credit: vnsny, theodysseyonline