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Although the Federal tax credit programs ended with purchases occuring no later than 30 April 2010, there are still plenty of reasons to make a purchase in today's market:

1. Mortgage interest rates are still at historically low rates - most recently being 4.75% APR. A one percent change in the interest rate on a 30-year $200,000 loan can result in a change of the monthly principal and interest mortgage payment of $125.00.

2. Current inventory levels, downward pressure on sale prices, and low interest rates make this an excellent buying opportunity.

3. Mortgage interest is still deductible on your Federal and State income tax returns (subject to certain income limits and restrictions.)

4. Over a 10-year period, real estate has had a positive return, despite the losses experienced within the last 5 years.

5. What a seller loses on the sale of his/her home can be recovered on the buy side if the individual is purchasing a more expensive home.

6. As the economy improves, the real estate market will follow suit or lead the way. Even if you don't buy at the bottom, so long as you do not have to sell within the next 2 - 5 years, the home should be worth more in 5 years than it is today.

7. With all of the Federal, State and other mortgage loans now available to buyers at all different income levels, more individuals can qualify for a mortgage loan and afford a home.

8. As real estate sales increase, inventory levels will decrease and home prices will rise. This is the basic law of supply and demand.

None of us has a crystal ball which will tell us when the real estate market has reached the bottom and trying to time the market to take advantage of the market is very difficult. However, making a sound investment in a home that is well-priced in today's market is one of the best ways to take advantage of today's low prices and put yourself in a position to profit in the long term.

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The following article is reproduced in its entirety for the benefit of the readers of our Blog. Now is the time to buy your first home, or to sell your current home and move up to a new home! Don't miss out on this extended and expanded tax credit which is set to expire on June 30, 2010!!

By Kenneth R. Harney
December 4, 2009
The Chicago Tribune

If you're thinking about applying for the new $6,500 homebuyer federal tax credit or the extended $8,000 version, here's some news: The IRS has just issued its first formal guidelines for you.

Tops on the agency's list of advice: Cool it for a couple of weeks. Even if you qualify for one of the credits, don't send in any requests to the IRS quite yet. Wait until later this month when the agency publishes its revised Form 5405 with all the key instructions needed to get you a check from the government.

The forthcoming version of the form will incorporate the major changes to the tax credit program made by Congress in legislation signed by President Obama on Nov. 6. These include expanded income limits, a cap on home prices, additional documentation requirements and prohibitions against claims by dependents, among others.

In a tax bulletin issued just before Thanksgiving, the IRS emphasized that all home purchasers after Nov. 6 "must use this new version (of Form 5405) to claim the credit." Put another way: If you send in the old version, which happens to be the one you can currently download from the agency's Web site,, your request for the credit is likely to go nowhere.

The legislation, known as the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009, extended the $8,000 first-time home purchaser credit until April 30, 2010, for signed contracts, and June 30, 2010, for closings. The law also created a new tax credit for people who've owned a principal residence for a consecutive five of the previous eight years, and who purchase a replacement principal residence with a signed contract no later than next April 30, followed by a closing no later than June 30.

Qualified repeat buyers can obtain credits up to $6,500. For both the first-time and repeat buyer program, the credit is equal to 10 percent of the purchase price of the house, up to a maximum of either $6,500 or $8,000.

The new IRS bulletin also outlined the agency's guidance on other important features of the amended credit program:

--Members of the armed forces, plus diplomatic and intelligence personnel who are in service in foreign countries, will get an extra year to buy a principal residence and still qualify for a credit. They will have until April 30, 2011, to enter into a binding contract to purchase a house, and until June 30, 2011, to close on it.

--Anyone who buys a house after Nov. 6 -- even those who had intended to get in the door before the previous Nov. 30 expiration date for the $8,000 credit -- will now need to comply with several new rules. First, the house cannot cost more than $800,000. Second, no one under the age of 18 can claim the credit, no matter what the circumstances. And finally, anyone who is counted as a dependent on another taxpayer's federal filings is ineligible for a home purchase tax credit.

--The expanded income limits for purchasers after Nov. 6 range to $125,000 in "modified adjusted gross income" for single taxpayers, and to $225,000 for those who file jointly. Singles with incomes between $125,000 and $145,000 may be eligible for phased-down credit amounts, as are joint filers with incomes from $225,000 to $245,000. Anyone with an income above these amounts cannot qualify for either of the credits. Under the pre-Nov. 6 rules, by comparison, taxpayers applying for the $8,000 credit were limited to incomes of $75,000 (single filer) to $150,000 (joint filer).

The IRS continues to offer detailed consumer information resources on the credits, including questions and answers on a variety of home purchase scenarios.

For example, some taxpayers seeking the extended $8,000 credit are uncertain about co-purchase and co-signing situations, especially involving parents and adult children. When a homeowning parent co-signs for a mortgage with a son or daughter, and both names appear on the note, can the son or daughter qualify for the first-time purchaser credit?

The IRS says the parent clearly does not qualify for any portion of the credit since he or she already owns a principal residence. But if the son or daughter has not owned a house during the three years preceding the current purchase, and qualifies on income, he or she can be allocated the entire $8,000 credit.

Similarly, when unmarried individuals co-purchase a house, and only one of them is eligible for the credit, the full $8,000 can be allocated to the eligible buyer. The ineligible co-purchaser, in other words, does not spoil the deal -- as long as none of the credit goes to that person.

The Washington Post Writers Group

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Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code ("IRC") permits owners of "like kind" properties to trade their holdings and, by doing so, to defer until a future date all or a portion of their capital gains tax obligations on the profits. Real estate held as an investment is considered to be "like kind" and qualifies for a 1031 exchange when traded for another piece of real estate held for investment. "Investment" in this case simply means that the main motive for ownership is the anticipated appreciation in value. A principal residence doesn't qualify for an exchange under Section 1031. As the terms are used in the discussion that follows, a "relinquished property" is one given up in an exchange, and a "replacement property" is one acquired in an exchange.

Vacation Home Classifications

The IRC defines a "vacation home" as a single dwelling unit in addition to the owner's principal residence, and further defines a "single dwelling unit" as one having sleeping, bathroom and cooking facilities. The owner of a vacation home may decide to occupy it exclusively or to rent it to other persons for all or a portion of a calendar year. Mortgage interest and property taxes are generally deductible. However, the IRC's requirements for reporting rental income and determining the deductibility of expenses for a given calendar year are based on the number of days the home is rented as compared to the number of days the owner occupies it for personal use. As a result, a vacation home can have one of three use classifications.

Classification-1 Vacation Home.
The IRC considers this to be a personal-use property. This is a home that's rented for 14 days or less during the tax year. The owner doesn't have to report the rental income, but cannot deduct any other expenses besides mortgage interest and property taxes.

Classification-2 Vacation Home.
The IRC considers this to be a mixed personal-use and rental-use property. This is a home that's rented for more than 14 days during the tax year, but also occupied by the owner for more than 14 days or 10% of rental days, whichever is greater. The owner must report the rental income and may deduct expenses, such as insurance and utilities, but only the portions that are allocated to rental-use days.

Classification-3 Vacation Home.
The IRC considers this to be a rental-use property. This is a home that's rented for more than 14 days during the tax year, and occupied by the owner for 14 or less days or 10% of rental days, whichever is greater. As with a Classification-2 Vacation Home, the owner must report the rental income and may deduct expenses, but once again only the portions that are allocated to rental-use days.

Safe Harbor Exchange Procedure

There's been a great deal of confusion as to whether a vacation home qualifies for a 1031 exchange, particularly when the owner has occasionally used the property for personal purposes. Is it an investment property because it was rented to others? If so, it should qualify. Is it a personal-use property because the owner occasionally occupied it? If so, it may not qualify. To clear up the confusion, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in March 2008 issued Revenue Procedure 2008-16 ("Procedure"), which establishes a "safe harbor" procedure under which a vacation home will be considered an "investment property" and, therefore, eligible for a 1031 exchange. The term, "safe harbor," simply means that the IRS won't challenge an exchange satisfying this Procedure, provided that it satisfies all other requirements for a like-kind exchange under Section 1031. The Procedure became effective for exchanges of vacation homes occurring on or after March 10, 2008. From the summary that follows, it's obvious that only Classification-3 Vacation Homes will qualify.

Relinquished Property. A relinquished property qualifies as an investment property and is eligible for an exchange if:

* The owner owned it for at least 24 months immediately prior to the exchange.
* The owner has rented the property to another person or persons at fair value for 14 days or more during each of the two 12-month periods immediately prior to the exchange.
* The owner's personal use of the property hasn't exceeded the greater of 14 days or 10% of rental days during each of the two 12-month periods immediately prior to the exchange.

Replacement Property. The requirements for a replacement property are identical to those for the relinquished property. The replacement property qualifies if:

* The owner owns it for at least 24 months immediately following the exchange.
* The owner rents the property to another person or persons at fair value for 14 days or more in each of the two 12-month periods immediately following the exchange.
* The owner's personal use of the property doesn't exceed the greater of 14 days or 10% of rental days in each of the two 12-month periods immediately following the exchange.

This Blog is not intended to be legal or tax advice and readers of this Blog should consult their own lawyer or tax preparer for legal or tax advice, as applicable.

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Michigan's General Property Tax Act (GPTA) establishes a process for valuing properties for purposes of property tax assessments. A tax assessor must annually estimate a property's true cash value (TCV) and divide this number by two, the result of which is called the state equalized value (SEV); by law a property's SEV cannot exceed 50% of the property's TCV. At one time, the property tax was calculated on the SEV.

In a special election held in 1994, Michigan citizens approved "Proposal A" to amend the Michigan Constitution. This amendment became effective in 1994 and applicable to all property assessments beginning in 1995. The amendment created a new term, "taxable value," on which the property tax is now calculated.

As with the SEV, a property's taxable value cannot exceed 50% of the property's TCV. Further, if the property remains owned by the same owner, annual increases in taxable value are limited ("capped") to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 5%, whichever percentage is less.

There's a special qualification to the taxable value "cap" that permits additional taxation based on increases in value arising from "additions" when they're added to the land. When Proposal A was adopted, the GPTA defined "additions" as "all increases in value caused by new construction or a physical addition of equipment or furnishings . . . ." Curiously and despite the fact that Proposal A was a tax revolt, it amended the definition of "additions" to also include "public services," such as water, sewer, roads, natural gas, electricity, telephone, sidewalks and street lighting. In other words, the amendment allowed an assessor to now increase a property's taxable value to reflect the value added by these public services!

Additionally, once the property is sold or transferred to a new owner, the cap is lifted and the taxable value is reset to the assessed value.

If you want to see what your property taxes would be on a new purchase, you would divide the purchase price by 2 to come up with the SEV. You could then enter the SEV in the Michigan Department of Treasury Property Tax Estimiator. If you already own the property, you would enter the taxable value.

This Blog is not intended to be legal or tax advice and readers of this Blog should consult their own lawyer or tax preparer for legal or tax advice, as applicable.

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This is a family recipe that my grandmother and her neighbor made at the holidays. As a child, I enjoyed it immensely and we called it poppycock, although it isn't exactly the same as what is labeled Poppycock® and sold in stores. I still enjoy it as an adult and making it for my family. You can form it into balls, clumps, bricks or any shape you wish. It is very easy to make and children can help in the mixing of the popcorn with the caramel coating and shaping it when it is finished baking. Enjoy!

6 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups almonds or peanuts or other nuts, of choice, optional

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar & corn syrup and bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Let boil for 4 minutes without stirring. Remove from stove and add vanilla extract and baking soda.

In a very large pan or bowl pour caramel syrup over popcorn (and nuts.) Stir quickly to coat all of the popcorn (and nuts.) Divide coated-popcorn mixture onto 2 ungreased cookies sheets and spread evenly. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour turning mixture every 15 minutes with a spatula. (This baking is what causes the caramel coating to become dark and shiny. You can bake if for a shorter period of time if you choose or if it starts to burn.)

Cool slightly and either break apart or form into balls (the size of a small snowball.) Store when cooled completely in air tight bags or containers.

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The Internal Revenue Code provides for an exclusion on the sale of a principal residence for an amount not to exceed $500,000, for which no federal income tax is due. The term "universal exclusion" refers to the $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of profit that is excluded from federal taxation when a taxpayer sells a principal residence after:

• Owning it for not less than 2 years; and
• Occupying it as a principal residence for not less than 2 out of the 5 years prior to the resale; and
• Providing the taxpayer hasn't claimed the exclusion on the sale of another residence within the 2 years prior to the resale.

(Please note that all 3 requirements must be satisfied. [See worksheet.])

Since many individuals often purchase vacation homes as an investment strategy for retirement, their long-term goal being to sell their current residence and take advantage of the universal exclusion, and then move into the vacation home and claim it as their principal residence. Prior to the enactment of Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 ("HERA"), once they had met the ownership and occupancy requirements, they could resell the vacation home and again take advantage of the universal exclusion. This was a great strategy for converting real estate assets to cash and avoiding federal income taxes in the process. However, since the enactment of HERA, and specifically Section 3092 thereof, there is a new calculation to determine the amount of the universal exclusion that may be claimed for a vacation home that is purchased and later converted to a principal residence.

Specifically, the amount of the exclusion is now limited to the fraction of profit created when dividing the number of years the home was used as a principal residence by the total number of years the property has been owned. Consider the following example:

EXAMPLE: A married couple purchases a vacation home for $300,000. Ten years later, they sell their current principal residence, take advantage of the universal exclusion, and then make the vacation home their principal residence. Fifteen years after that, they resell the vacation home for $800,000. To summarize, this couple has owned the vacation home for 25 years, they've used it as their principal residence for 15 years, and they've realized a profit of $500,000 upon resale.

Prior to HERA, this couple could have excluded the entire $500,000 of profit on this former vacation home. As a result of HERA, they may exclude from federal taxation only 15/25ths, or 60%, of the $500,000 profit. This means that $300,000 of the $500,000 profit is tax free, but the couple must pay capital gains taxes on the remaining $200,000.

This new limitation applies to sales closing on or after January 1, 2009 and only to nonqualified use periods beginning on or after that date. In other words, when such a property is sold in the future, the periods of use as a vacation home or rental property that occurred before January 1, 2009 are treated as if the use was as a principal residence.

This Blog is not intended to be legal or tax advice and readers of this Blog should consult their own lawyer or tax preparer for legal or tax advice, as applicable.

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This recipe is courtesy of Susan Amory who shared it with me and informed me that her mother is the Casserole Queen. You will see more recipes from Susan and her mother in the future.

2 pounds of ground beef
2 beaten eggs
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 cup V8 juice (Susan sometimes uses a bloody mary mix instead)
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup chopped celery (optional)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup fine bread crumbs
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. (Susan says that she uses her paws.) Form into a loaf and place into an ungreased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

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This recipe was provided by Josh Westlund of The House Inspector Company. His family bakes it every year during the holidays.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 can (16 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift or mix flour, salt, sugar and baking soda together. Mix pumpkin, oil, eggs, water and spices together in a separate bowl and then combine with the dry ingredients. Do not mix thoroughly. Pour into two greased and floured bread pans. Bake loafs for 1 hour.

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As Fall has arrived and Winter will soon be upon us, I am reminded that the first-time homebuyer Federal tax credit will expire on 1 December 2009, so first-time homebuyers should be mindful of this date to ensure that they are closing on their purchase by no later than this date. There are also several other important facts regarding this credit:

Applies to purchases that close after 8 April 2008, and before 1 December 2009.
Applies only to homes used as an individual's principal residence.
Reduces an individual's tax bill or increases his or her refund, dollar for dollar.
Is fully refundable, meaning the credit will be paid out to eligible individuals, even if they owe no tax or the credit is more than the tax owed.

In order to claim the credit, a buyer must file Form 5405 along with his or her Federal income tax return.

What if you bought your home in 2008 but prior to 8 April 2008?
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established a tax credit (which is actually a no-interest loan to be repaid in 15 equal, annual installments beginning with the 2010 income tax year) for first-time homebuyers that is worth up to $7,500.

For 2009 Home Purchases

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expanded the first-time homebuyer credit by increasing the credit amount to $8,000 for purchases that closed between 8 April 2008 and 1 December 2009, and the credit does not have to be paid back unless the home ceases to be the individual's principal residence within a three-year period following the closing. Currently, first-time homebuyers who purchase a home in 2009 can claim the credit on either an amended 2008 tax return, or a 2009 tax return, due April 15, 2010. In no event may the credit be claimed before the closing date of the purchase. IRS News release 2009-27 has more information on these options.

There are certain aspects of the tax credit, e.g., income limit restrictions, married filing joint vs. married filing separate status, and percentage ownership, which apply, so you should consult a tax professional for advice on your specific situation. An unmarried couple would qualify for the tax credit, however, the amount that each individual could claim would depend on the percentage ownership of the specific individual in the residence and that amount of the credit would be included on that specific individual's individual tax return.

So, rake the leaves in your lawn and the rake in the benefits that Uncle Sam is providing to you as a first-time homebuyer!

For more information on this topic, go to:,,id=187935,00.html

This Blog is not intended to be legal or tax advice and readers of this Blog should consult their own lawyer or tax preparer for legal or tax advice, as applicable.

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OK, this week you get two blogs for the price of one. Recently I was asked why I don't do dual agency as a real estate agent. One reason is because I am an attorney and I believe it is a conflict of interest for me to represent both sides of a transaction. Another reason is because I don't believe anyone can fairly represent competing sides to a transaction. But the main reason is because I align myself with either my buyer or seller and stay on that side of the transaction because that is what my client expects and deserves.

I read one opinion on the subject of dual agency that used buying a car as an example of dual agency that works. When you buy a car, you know the salesman works for the dealership but you don't hire someone to assist you in negotiating the purchase of the car. The author likened this to dual agency in selling real estate when the buyer doesn't use a separate agent to assist in negotiating the purchase of a home. Needless to say, I don't agree with this particular author and present this scenario. If you were getting divorced from your spouse, would you use the same attorney to represent you that your spouse is using? Hopefully, you are never in this situation, however, I think you can see that if you were, that you would want someone on your side to represent your interests.

When a real estate agent provides dual agency in representing both the buyer and seller of a specific property, ultimately, the agent must not advise either party with respect to price. Also, the agent can not share with either party confidential information and can not suggest or recommend questions to be asked or due diligence to be requested. When I represent a buyer, I ask a lot of questions of the listing agent, sometimes a lot more than what would typically be requested, but always enough so that my buyer feels comfortable with making an offer on a property and proceeding forward with the purchase. If I were to do dual agency, I couldn't advise my buyer as to what to ask or request. I also couldn't advise my seller as to what is the right price for the current market. Both the seller and buyer are left on their own to decide these things, without guidance from the dual agent. It is exactly this type of guidance that really is a big part of the service a real estate agent provides and is compensated for. It's almost like going to the dentist and cleaning your teeth yourself without the dentist cleaning them for you or providing you with his/her professional opinion on the condition of your teeth.

So, while other real estate agents may choose to do dual agency, I will continue to represent each of my clients to the best of my ability and in each client's best interest one transaction at a time, and only on one side of each transaction.

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As we continue on with recipes that I have come across and would like to share with you, my children deserve the credit for this next recipe. Our son, Joshua, subscribes to Highlights High Five magazine and in the August 2009 edition is this wonderful Maple-Cinnamon French Toast recipe which is written so that kids can make it with the help of an adult. For this blog, I have cut out the adult-aide section and submit the recipe for you to try and have your children help you with if you prefer. Serves 2, or 1 if you have a big appetite. (*See notes below as to Dan's variations and changes.)

3 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
teaspoon vanilla

Mix together in a bowl all of the above ingredients. Place a slice of bread in the mixture. Press down until the bread is soggy. Repeat with 3 more slices of bread. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bread for 1 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

* Double the recipe but use only 5 eggs instead of six.
* Use butter instead of oil in the skillet for cooking.
* Substitute honey for the maple syrup if you want Honey-Cinnamon French Toast.
* Top with fresh fruits or warmed compote.

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In addition to the charities which we will continue to blog about, we wanted to branch out to other topics. If you don't already know this about Dan, he loves to cook and is always looking for recipes that are both nutritious and full of flavor. Our friend, Mary Abbott Hess, shared the following recipe with us after making it for us while we were visiting her at her SW Michigan cottage. Mary is a nationally recognized speaker and authority on food and nutrition and has authored a number of books on making healthful food choices, including "Essentials of Healthful Cooking" which was originally distributed by Williams-Sonoma stores.

Here's the official recipe for one pancake that serves 2. (*See notes below as to Dan's variations and changes.)

cup flour
cup milk
cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus 1 lemon, cut in wedges
cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make batter of flour, milk and eggs. Mix with whisk.

Put 9" Pyrex pie plate or heatproof pan in oven to get hot. Melt butter in the hot pan and slosh around to go up the sides so all inside surfaces are buttered.

Pour batter into hot pan and bake 20 minutes or until pancake is puffed and lightly brown.

Squeeze on lemon juice and sprinkle with powdered sugar and extra lemon wedges.

* Add grated lemon peel on the pancakes in addition to the lemon juice.
* Substitute fresh orange juice and peel for the lemon.
* Double the recipe to feed four makes two pancakes.
* Use half of the butter to reduce fat content i.e., stick for my doubled-recipe to coat two pie pans
* This recipe can also be used as a dessert if you top with fresh fruit, ice cream or whipped cream and chocolate syrup

We hope you enjoy this recipe and others that we will be adding to our blog on a weekly basis. Comments are always welcome!

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James Hicks e-mailed with a plea for monetary support. Excerpts from the e-mail follow.

"Our Church, St. Pauls UCC is helping a Bhutanese family, after they lived for years in a refugee camp in India, relocate here in Chicago. They arrived here last Thursday. But we found out on their arrival that they do not have winter clothes; indeed, two of the sons do not have shoes, but only sandals, one in flip flops, and we all know you can't make it through a Windy City winter in sandals. And they were all in need of winter coats. So we are asking each of you we are contacting to send at least $20 or $25, and more if you are able, to St. Pauls Church, for the Phuyel family, a Mom, Dad, and three sons, one 19, one 15, and one 11...

You can make your check out to St. Pauls and mail it Attention: Rev. Jeff Carlson."

The address to send money and support is:
St. Pauls UCC
Attn: Rev. J. Carlson
2335 N. Orchard
Chicago, IL 60614

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Solar Light for Africa, Ltd. ("SLA") began its program in 1997 with the electrification of the Mustard Seed Babies Home in Hoima, Uganda. Since that time, SLA has been providing rural electrification and clean water to villages, health clinics, schools, and other public facilities using solar technology to help the poorest of the poor combat hunger, improve health care, increase educational opportunities and foster micro-enterprisedevelopment. Our program has had its greatest impact on the lives of women and children in Uganda, Rwanda, northern Tanzania and Liberia. We have also completed projects in Ethiopia and Ghana. To date, SLA has installed over 2,400 systems.

Will Redfield can be contacted about joining in a casual evening to learn about Solar Light for Africa (SLA) and to meet SLA's Executive Director, Katherine Lucey, who will share with us the latest news about SLA's achievements and how we can make a difference to change the world from Chicago.

The event is Thursday, November 20, 2008 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm at The Spread Bar & Grill (2476 North Lincoln Ave, Chicago). To RSVP, click here:
click here

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Seth Bent is raising money for the transport & care of the animals while the Oceanarium undergoes its nine-month renovation. Here is a some information from his site:

"I'm making waves for Shedd Aquarium to support the renovation of the Oceanarium! The Auxiliary Board is raising funds to help with the transport and care of the Oceanarium animals and their trainers during the nine-month renovation. Animal care is the top priority at Shedd, and the Auxiliary Board has committed to raise $1 million to underwrite this important piece of the campaign and Oceanarium renovation.

I hope you can help us reach our goal of $150,000 in on-line donations. Every dollar raised will help take care of the animals and their trainers while they are on "vacation" at the Minnesota Zoo and Mystic Aquarium. Whether it is shrimp for the sea otters or an ultrasound for a beluga, all the money we raise goes directly to animal feeding and care. We're also supporting the trainers, who have relocated with the animals to continue to give them the best possible care. "

To visit his site or make a donation, click on the link below.

Visit his site.

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Megan Gavin walked for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on October 5. I know this is past but I am sure they would still welcome the funds. Here is a part from Megan's letter:

"As many of you know I work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. This is my third year as Walk Manager for the Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes...Go Cubbies! This year we are celebrating the 30th annual Walk on October 5th.

At my Walk site I am responsible for raising over 1.3 million dollars on one day. In Chicago we have 5 Walk location and our crossite goal is 6.1 million. The Walk is JDRF's largest fundraiser.

As much as I love my job, and I want to help the 3 million people affected by this disease, I really want to help my MOM. She is my insiration, role model, my go to gal, and the reason I do what I do every day. She is a type 1 diabetic and I want to find a cure for her.

I know times are tough and each one of you have your charity of choice but I am hoping that you will find a way to support something that is near and dear to my heart and to my family. Please click on the link below to make a donation to my Walk team, Megger's Team."

Visit her site.

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Two real estate agents, Sarah Coulter, along with her mother Wendy Coulter are both involved with Hands and Hearts International. Sarah and Wendy will be traveling in January, 2009 to Nigeria on a medical and humanitarian mission. Sarah's details of the mission:

"On our two-week trip, our team comprised of medical and non-medical volunteers, will focus on providing medical care, sustainable and entrepreneurial opportunities, along with educational information for student nurses and children. We will also provide HIV education for children and adults, along with medical assistance in the most under served African communities hit by the AIDS pandemic. Our medical team will see patients and provide medication for diseases including tuberculosis, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid, dysentery, and impetigo - all diseases that are easily prevented in countries like the US, but needlessly kill many impoverished Africans."

The website for Hands and Hearts International is There is a contact section there or if you would like to make a donation, you can let me know and I will put you in contact directly with Sarah or Wendy.

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Although it has been a month since I started this blog and haven't added to it since, I have been trying to figure out what to spend time blogging about. There is so much news and info already out there everywhere so I have decided to go in a different direction with this. I want to go in a direction that may actually help an organization or people.

With this in mind, I am going to mostly add to my blog with opportunities to give to charities, worthwhile causes, or people in need. Many of my clients are involved with charities and request donations for their cause. As I receive these requests, or as I learn about charities and fundraisers, I will post them to my site. If anyone is involved with an organization raising funds, please post to my site a promo for your charity as well.

Sara McCarthy is a real estate agent that is involved in the Breast Cancer 3-Day Susan G. Komen for the Cure walk in San Diego November 21 - 23.

Visit her site.

Obviously a very worth while cause that I hope people will support.

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It's no secret that the market is moving in constantly changing directions that few have experienced. All of these changes and the differing media reports can lead to confusion and misinformation about much of our local market. With this in mind, I have started my blog site to attempt to address concerns that buyers or sellers may have about the current conditions and to provide advice based on the current conditions. None of us are predictors of the future, but certainly with enough experience, we can evaluate trends to help us plan. You are invited to post questions which I or other guest bloggers may respond to and hopefully together we can create an interesting blog site.

To be clear, I am starting this site with no defined boundaries or guidelines. My intention is to address real issues in today's market, as well as add pure fluff at times. All suggestions are welcome. If you have a comment or complaint about your current situation, feel free to post it here. Want to post why you hate real estate agents? Hey that's ok too. I can always learn from bad experiences. Want to make suggestions for doing something different? Always welcome.

I hope with this small start, we can begin a great site together that can be fun and actually worth checking in to and reading from time to time. It's up to me to try to keep things interesting, but I certainly will need help there. That's where you come in.

Type away!

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