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A Step in the Right Direction:

“What’s your New Year’s resolution?” It seems to be the question on deck after the hangover clears up. Most people have trouble coming up with just one. Sure, there’s always one super-original person who insists that their resolution is to not have one (can we please let that oh-so-clever joke die already?). Yet, the idea remains a good one.

There’s nothing wrong with resolving to improve life, whether by losing weight (easily the most popular one), becoming more charitable or improving relationships. The problem comes right around February when most of us have already let the promise of a new beginning go out with the dried-up Christmas tree. Well, not this year! Below we have listed a few common New Year’s resolutions and where locals can go for help with that first step.

“I resolve to buy more local foods.”

The people at Progressive Gardens on Oleander can help out with this promise. In fact, they will put it all in a huge box and have it waiting for participants on the counter every week. The store’s community-supported agriculture program with Cottle Organic Farms was a huge hit in 2010, boasting a long list of locals coming through the door each Wednesday for the freshest crops.

Every participant pays an up-front fee of about $300 for 12 weeks of fresh local produce. The box is different each time, with an abundance of fruit and vegetables to take home. The staff will gladly (and usually have to) help carry the goods to the car, even. In fact, encore’s graphic designer, Sue Cothran, said they allowed her to split the membership with a friend, and there was still plenty to go around!

Along with the produce, they have a list of add-ons, like fresh bakery goods, meat and cheese, and even flowers from local vendors. Call them at (910) 395-1156 and reserve a spot.

“I resolve to get my taxes done on time.”

Not everyone can afford to say “I’ve got people” when it comes to filing those scary IRS forms. The deadline is extended to April 18th in 2011 because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls on Friday the 15th. Even so, filing can be a daunting task.

This year, Wilmington can take comfort in the volunteers at VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program). The organization formed last February and exists to help the public with all of those overwhelming little numbers. New Hanover County locations include Miller Motte College at 5000 Market Street; The New Hanover County Senior Center at 2222 South College Road; and the New Hanover County Library at 201 Chestnut Street, downtown Wilmington.

They are also looking for volunteers, so financial wizzes can help out the community in 2011 by logging on to www.eitc-carolinas.org.

“I resolve to be a better role model.”

Aside from our own offspring, there is no better place to practice being a good example than at the Big Buddy Program. Located at 1506 Market Street, the organization’s mission is to find upstanding adults to mentor at-risk youth through positive relationships and activities. Once the required screening process and training sessions are complete, each volunteer is matched up with a kid they can relate to.

Currently, there are about 150 young ones on the waiting list, just hoping the right mentor will walk through the doors and sign up to guide them through their difficult developmental years. Call (910)343-8787 to find out how to get matched up with a Little Buddy.

“I resolve to support the arts.”

There are several ways to get more involved in the creative community. Those who prefer interaction can find countless volunteer opportunities, while others can make it as easy as dropping off donations. Adding favorite organizations on Facebook will help users stay up-to-date on their needs and projects. Proactive types can call the good people at Cape Fear Volunteer Center to register as a volunteer with places like Cameron Art Museum, DREAMS Center for Art Education and many others.

Also keep in mind: Another great way to support the arts is by purchasing work from local artists. Hit up the stops on Fourth Friday Gallery Night downtown, when new exhibitions and artist meet-and-greets take place (www.wilmingtonfourthfridays.com).

“I resolve to get in shape.”

Getting in shape is everyone’s go-to resolution. After attending holiday parties laden with casseroles, cookies and cocktails, the pounds appear in places we never thought possible. When January arrives and beach season is looming only a few months away, it’s smart to start thinking about health. The biggest problem with this resolution comes with sticking to a plan.

Though the treadmill and dieting are stale, new and exciting activities can keep us moving, like one offered by canoe and kayak outfitters Hook, Line and Paddle. The warm-up begins with basic yoga and paddle instruction. Then participants enjoy the scenic route via kayak to Masonboro Island. At sunset, the group partakes in an hour-long yoga session. After a mind-relaxing and body-strengthening 60 minutes, they paddle back to the starting point.

Even newbies at both yoga and kayaking can get their paddles wet, as all levels are welcome. The entire excursion takes about four hours, and costs $90 for a group of six or more. The cost includes boat rental, gear, and instruction. Contact Hook, Line and Paddle at (910) 792-6945.

“I resolve to help people and animals.”

A great way to uplift the spirits of our furry friends and the people they help is to volunteer for Carolina Canines for Service. Foster moms and dads are needed for puppies to provide the first steps of training through classes with CCFS. A puppy will stay in a foster home for up to 24 months, and after that time, the dog may be used to assist people with disabilities, or even get placed in the Paws for Reading program. It allows children to read aloud to the dogs in their elementary or middle school. The kids enjoy it, and the dogs don’t judge when they stumble on a word. It’s a fun and effective way for children to improve their literacy.

Even if folks can’t find quite enough time to foster a puppy, they can still volunteer to plan and organize CCFS participation in local events, or even within the CCFS office by preparing brochures and mailings.

“I resolve to get in touch with nature.”

It’s not news that people should take care of their environment, but there are still things to learn about going green. Why not begin with Wilmington’s backyard? Cape Fear River Watch, Inc. promotes “environmental education, advocacy and action for the Lower Cape Fear River Basin,” according to their website. Professional naturalists provide 60-90 minute lessons for students on field trips at Greenfield Lake Park. First Saturday Seminars feature speakers from local government and industries. Curious adventurers can take an eco-tour at Greenfield Lake with CFRW. Even seasonal birding tours are offered.

To learn about membership, meetings and other fund-raisers, check out www.cfrw.us.

“I resolve to plan ahead for my retirement.”

Preparing for retirement is one of the most important things every adult should do. Luckily, for something so valuable to the future, help is easy to find. Speaking to employers, banks, unions, and financial advisers are all steps in the right direction. Find out what plans employers offer, and set up an Individual Retirement Account, as well.

The American Savings Education Council offers a free six-week online program called the Small Steps to Health and Wealth Challenge, which begins on Sunday, January 16th. The ASEC also offers crucial tips to setting aside money for retirement and saving in general at their website, www.choosetosave.org/asec. Use the site to estimate how much is needed to save for retirement, and also check out the Top 11 Tips for 2011 to help manage debt and learn to invest.

“I resolve to get out more.”

In our quest to freshen up that all-important but seldom-kept “get in shape” resolution, it helps to seek out activities with a built-in motivator. The Prevention Committee at the Cape Fear Health Policy Council is bringing back the Stepping Strong program, a 10-week activity for those who wish to improve their health and be more active.

Starting in February, small groups are led by a volunteer ambassador who acts as a cheerleader for healthy lifestyles. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a big part of the program, along with getting fresh air and stretching those gams in the great outdoors once a week. The program is also looking for volunteers to lead outings; just e-mail the administrators at info@capefearhealthpolicycouncil.org .

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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