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Help Choose the Next Win Win for a Cause Recipient!

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Do you know of a charity or non-profit making a positive impact in The Valley? Help me choose the next addition to the already amazing group of local charities that benefit from Win Win for a Cause donations by leaving a comment.

For any readers new to my endeavor, I created Win Win for a Cause to give back to the community and, hopefully, encourage others to do the same. I vowed to give a portion from my commission of closed real estate transactions to a charity or non-profit of the client’s choosing within 30 days of closing.

I feel that I can make our world a better place. Through Win Win for a Cause, I want my clients to experience that feeling as well. These donations give my clients the opportunity to support a cause that is near and dear to their hearts.

Recipients so far this year include AHIP, Wildlife Center of Virginia, WARM, and the Augusta Regional SPCA. For a full list of current recipients, click here. Scroll through my recent posts to learn more about some of these organizations.

This is your time to bring another charity into the spotlight. Nominate one (or many) of your favorite groups making a difference in the lives of others. As always, I encourage everyone to Pay it Forward through acts of kindness to effect change in the world.

I want to be MORE than your REALTOR… I want you to WIN WIN for a cause.

Who would you like to see join the list?

Add your nominee(s) in the comment section below the title.

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Cultivating Gratitude

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The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. Studies prove that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

Gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for momentous occasions like a big raise at work or finding your car keys in the morning even though you ran out of coffee. Find the joy and gratitude in the little things that add texture to life. Like the smell of fall in the air or the feeling of the sun warming your eyelids.

Make a decision to be consciously more grateful. Below are just a few ways to help cultivate an ‘attitude of gratitude.’

Write a thank-you note

You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationships by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of a person. Once in a while, write one to yourself.

Keep a gratitude journal

I love this – there are even gratitude apps available!  Make it a habit to write down the gifts you’ve received each day. Share them with a friend or encourage someone in a rough spot to stop and make a quick list of things they are grateful for. It can be as simple ‘I am thankful for this pillow to rest my head on after this exhausting day.’

Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. If you are having a difficult time starting, challenge yourself to picking just five things, but certainly don’t limit yourself.

Pray

People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude. Pray for acceptance of kindness from others, awe in rainbows and the little but amazing joys of life.

Meditate

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Just being present and accepting. Some people may focus on a word or idea, but you can also focus on what you’re grateful for at that specific time (a beautiful sunset, a pleasant sound, etc.).

For many people, gratitude is difficult, because life is difficult. Even beyond hardships, loss, and/or depression, there are many more mundane circumstances in which gratitude doesn’t come easily. Don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Then share it.

 

What are you grateful for today? What made you smile today?

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Voices of Hope and Healing

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SARA is another local organization doing truly extraordinary work and one that I am so proud to offer my client’s the choice of supporting through a Win Win for a Cause donation from my commission. Their vision is a community free from sexual violence is one we can all rally behind.

The mission of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) is to eliminate sexual violence  impact by providing education, advocacy and support to men, women and children.

Each year they reach approximately 550 survivors and 1,100 students, as well as hundreds more through community outreach and prevention programs. SARA is fully accredited through the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the only such sexual assault crisis agency in this service area, and has been providing services to the community for over 40 years.

Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, SARA serves residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, Fluvanna and Greene. They serve anyone who has personally experienced, or cares for someone who has experienced any kind of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual molestation, incest, sex trafficking, stalking, sexual harassment or unwanted touching.

Services are provided free to all survivors, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, age, economic status, education, parenthood, physical and/or mental abilities, national origin, immigration/documentation status or any other status.

Support Services Include:

24-Hour Crisis Hotline – free, confidential, 24-hour support to survivors, their families and friends, allied professionals, and the public.

Therapy – free and confidential therapy for men, women, and children of all ages who have been affected by sexual violence.

Emergency Room Advocacy -SARA staff members are on call 24 hours every day of the year to accompany sexual assault survivors in the UVA Emergency Room. ER Advocates offer support to the survivor, help to address urgent needs, and ensure that survivors understand their rights and their options.

Additional support services include Legal System Advocacy, Support Groups, Therapeutic Horse and Farm Camp for Young Girls, Counseling and Advocacy for Non-Offending Parents and Families of Abused Children.

Prevention

In an effort to reduce the epidemic of sexual abuse, SARA also provides programs to prevent anyone in our community from becoming a perpetrator of sexual violence.

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SARA’s community education and training efforts increase public awareness about the impact of sexual violence, promote community involvement, foster a multi-disciplinary systems approach to victims of sexual violence, and challenge the prevailing attitudes and dispel the myths which perpetuate the problem of sexual violence. SARA offers free specialized training, workshops and sexual violence prevention programming to the general public, as well as professional groups and individuals in Charlottesville, Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties.

There are several ways to help this vital organization achieve and maintain its goals.

A donation of time or money can mean all the difference in the world to a survivor living through one of the worst events of their life.

Donations

 $20 keeps the hotline running for a day.

 $30 provides a new set of clothes for a victim seen at the ER whose clothes are collected as evidence.

 $125 provides a therapy session for a child or adult victim of sexual violence.

 $150 provides a full day of prevention programming to a local school.

Volunteer

Join their team as a Volunteer Hotline Advocate or Community Outreach Volunteers.

By funding these positions, you are supporting a fundamental change in our community, where survivors of sexual violence are supported and heal well, and where the next generation stops sexual violence before it starts.

Is there a local charity you would like to see join the Win Win for a Cause list?

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Deck Maintenance & Care

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We have discussed curb appeal and concrete resurfacing – let’s move on to one of our favorite, and often most neglected, outdoor home  areas.

Summer is here in full swing, which means your deck is probably in high use. With winter’s weather and increased foot traffic, there’s a good chance your deck is in need of some attention. Here are some quick and easy steps for getting it in shape.

Clean your deck

Regular cleaning prevents your deck from graying and looking worn down. You can employ a few different methods to keep it spotless.

Use a hose: Use a garden hose with a spray nozzle to get rid of debris and dirt.

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Pressure wash: High-pressure water can get between slats and take off any stubborn debris. The cost to pressure wash a deck is about $250 or you can buy a new one at your favorite home repair store for under $200 and do it yourself.

 

Scrub it down: For really harsh debris, you might need to get down on your hands and knees and apply (a lot of) elbow grease to remove the build-up or stains.

Check for repairs

Once the deck is clean, inspect for any potential damage points. Keep an eye out for:

  • Broken boards
  • Missing stain
  • Termite holes
  • Cracks

Most deck repairs can be handled in-house, but if you have termites infesting your deck, think about hiring a pest control service. Otherwise, consider replacing boards or re-staining the surface.

Sand it down

If your stain is stripped away, consider sanding the surface. For smaller decks, an angle grinder should suffice and cost under $50. If you don’t want to spend all day sanding, you can rent a floor sander. After you’ve sanded your decking smooth, apply a finish.

Stain or seal your deck

Once you’ve sanded down the surface, think about sealing or staining. Finishes help protect against water damage, mildew and inclement weather. Here are some considerations when determining whether to seal or stain a deck:

  • Seal: Seal your deck if you like a natural look. Sealing your deck will cost about $790 and you can choose from a variety of sealing products.
  • Stain: Staining will cost about $850, depending on the size of the deck. You can stain your deck in different colors and finishes – this is where you can really customize your deck.

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Brighten it up

Use a brightener if your deck has stains or grey spots. You can apply brightener using a garden spray hose. A fresh coat of brightener will renew the appearance of your deck without expensive and time-consuming repairs.

Make sure to keep your deck in shape with regular maintenance and cleaning. Most of these jobs you can do as DIY projects. It is a chance to improve both the function and aesthetics of your home, while putting your personal mark on it.

Do you plan to undertake any deck repair projects this year?

 

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Ants: That Pesky Little Problem (That Nobody Wants to Talk About)

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The summer time brings us many wonderful things – longer days, sunny beaches, and warm nights. However, summer also brings us ants – those invasive little pesks that can get into all levels of your house, any room, and every unsealed morsel of food. They are especially drawn to kitchens and cooler spaces like basements, bathrooms, and near air cooling units.

Pesticides are typically manufactured with harsh chemicals that can be harmful to both the humans and the animals in a home. Luckily, there are many ways to stop ants in their trails without the use of pesticides. Below are some home remedies to keep ants away from and out of your home.

Stop Them Before They Get In

The best offense is sometimes a good defense. Take cornmeal and pour a bit of it near doors or other areas where the ants are coming into your house.

Soap Barrier

Ants often swarm pet food bowls because they are typically pungent and easily accessible at floor level. An easy way to avoid this issue is to place the food bowl into another bowl filled with soapy water. This bubbly moat acts as barrier to keep ants away from your pet’s food.

Spice it Up

Ants abhor the fresh smells of cinnamon and lavender. Freshen your rooms while scaring away unwanted visitors.

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Rubber Band

Whether it is through a loose lid or due to a little residue left on the exterior, persistent ants can sometimes still get to jarred goods and other containers. Adding a simple rubber band to your containers may help keep the ants away.

Drawing a Line 

Chalk or baby powder are two non-toxic remedies for ant protection. Both contain talc powder, which is a natural ant deterrent. You can sprinkle either substances on areas where you see ants without risk of contaminating food.

It’s a Grind

Like chalk and baby powder, coffee grounds naturally deter these invasive insects. Coffee grounds are especially useful when sprinkled in your garden and anywhere you have mulch. Added bonus – coffee grounds tend to harmlessly repel cats, too.

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Vinegar

Vinegar is a remarkably versatile thing. In addition to being a useful cleaning agent it is also an ant repellant!  Due to its level of acidity, vinegar solutions can kill most bacteria, mold, and germs. Due to its scent, ants avoid vinegar. Thus, cleaning your counter tops, floors, and any other at-risk surfaces can keep your house clean and ant free.

Remove the Food Source

Summer often means wonderful, fresh fruit, a favorite ant food. This may appear simple enough, but during the summer season, eliminating the food source is a sure-fire way to eliminate the ants.

Though an invasion feels icky, ant infestations have less to do with the cleanliness of your home and more to do with the weather. Ants are more prone to invade during rain and drought – it is simply their biology. Regardless of how you decide to tackle the problem, sometimes you will just have to wait it out.

What are some of your tried and true ant repellant solutions?

 

Ten Quick & Easy Upgrades

It doesn’t necessarily take deep pockets to make upgrades your home. Below are some tips to inexpensively, and often quickly, add a little flair to your home and make it your own.

Plant an Evergreen Screen

Plant an evergreen screen to add privacy and curb appeal. If planted on the north side of your house they can also block winter winds. Arborvitae ‘Green Giant’ can climb 3 feet in one year!

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Hook Yourself Up

Wall-mount a row of hooks above your kitchen counter to keep dish towels and measuring cups at the ready.

Turn a Closet into a Home Office

This is a great space-creator! Remove a closet door and swap hanging rods for shelves. One deep one for the desktop and several shallow ones above for storage.

Instant Shelving

Remove the doors on upper cabinets, then paint the interiors for instant open shelving. Just a gallon of acrylic paint in a washable semi-gloss sheen will let your true colors show.

Install a New Doorbell

A new, attractive doorbell can add a polished and welcoming element to your entryway.

Raise the Lighting

Free up some space by swapping end table lamps with matching pendant lighting.

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Doorway Shelf

Add a shelf above a doorway, paint it to match the trim, then use it to display pottery, books, whatever fits your style.

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Install a Ceiling Fan

Install a vintage-look ceiling fan to recirculate warmed air in winter. Reverse the blades’ spin to lower summer cooling costs.

Add Floating Shelves

Add floating wall-mount shelves in place of a bookcase. Floating shelves create an open, airy look and frees up floor space, making the room feel bigger.

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For an instant transformation, brush on your favorite vibrant color, such as a rich red or warm blue, for a more welcoming entry that makes a statement.

What are some of your favorite, affordable home upgrades?

Summer Home Maintenance

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Summer is officially here! Now is the time to undertake some preventative maintenance on your home to prepare it for the months ahead and prevent damage that can occur in hot weather. Below is a checklist of essential summer home repairs.

Prevent Water Damage

Summer often means heavy rains and thunderstorms, so protecting your house against water damage may be one of the most important things you do. Start with your foundation; check your basement for cracks and leaks.

Check gutters for breaks or low spots that allow water to pool near the house, potentially damaging the foundation. Ensure that downspouts are in good repair and direct water away from your house by at least three feet. This can be done with a gutter extension or splashguard. Inspect your windows and doors — anywhere there is trim — for cracks, leaks, or wear in the caulking.

HVAC

Give your HVAC system a good checkup before cranking the cool air. Change the air filters monthly so the system runs efficiently. Clear grass, leaves, and debris away from the condensing unit outside, which could cause it to malfunction. Remember to disconnect the power before you begin cleaning, and be careful not to bend the cooling fins.

Touch Up Paint

Paint isn’t just for aesthetics — it protects wood from water and other natural elements, so chipping or peeling paint on siding and fences leaves wood vulnerable to things like mold and rot. Take the time to spot repair and retouch before it becomes a much bigger job.

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Trim Trees and Shrubbery

While shade can reduce AC bills, be sure to cut any tree limbs or shrubs that touch your house. Over time, the wind will cause these to rub on your roof or siding, resulting in potentially dangerous and expensive damage.

Deck

Don’t forget to protect one of your greatest summertime grilling and entertaining assets. Seal your deck with an outdoor wood stain, sealant, or paint to ensure its longevity. Remove dirt and grime with a power washer or deck cleaner before you apply the product, or it won’t adhere properly to the wood. A well-maintained deck should last most of your lifetime; a neglected deck may only last a few years.

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Pest Defense

Check the caulking around doors and windows, both inside and out to prevent insects from coming in your home. Replace cracked or worn weather stripping on doors (this may lower your energy bills, too). Next, spray the outside of your house — around the foundation, windows, and doors — with a preventative insecticide, creating a perimeter the bugs won’t cross.

Concrete

Inspect concrete slabs for signs of cracks or movement. All exterior slabs except pool decks should drain away from the home’s foundation. Fill cracks with a concrete crack filler or silicone caulk. When weather permits, power-wash and then seal the concrete.

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Firewood

Make sure to remove firewood stored near the home over the winter. Firewood should be stored at least 18 inches off the ground at least 2 feet from the structure.

Summer is a season for fun and relaxation. Take the time to inspect and maintain your property so you can enjoy the months ahead. A few maintenance tasks at the beginning of summer can save you a lot of time and money in the future.