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Did you know that there are over 1,200 "National Days" a year? In the month of October, it is National oatmeal, American beer, chocolate, cat, pumpkin, boss and bologna day, just to name a few. Those sound like "fun" things to recognize and have fun celebrating.

I especially like and will be recognizing, Oct. 16 National Take Your Parents to Lunch day! When I read what this day is all about, it was just the opposite of what I thought. During this event, parents will visit their children’s school and have a meal with them in the cafeteria. I have decided that I will be taking my parents out to lunch, their choice. Regardless, I think this is a day that we can all appreciate, spending time with our parents and children.

Another national day that we should all get behind to recognize is the second Wednesday in October, Stop Bullying Day or also known as Unity Day. This day was declared in 2009 by sixth grade students from St. Stanislaus Kostka School. What a great opportunity to use this day to speak about how wrong and damaging bullying is. Speaking with a group of adults two months ago, at a coffee group that I founded, with our guest Dave Versteeg, superintendent of Mason City Schools, we heard several stories of how being bullied in school carried into adulthood. To this day, those who spoke were still emotional when they described their bullying in school. They can remember who bullied them and how they felt that there was no help for them, even when they went to an adult in the school system.

We do a great job about recognizing bullying is bad, but what are we, society, really doing to resolve bullying? Bullying should not be tolerated, ever! It happens in schools all across this country. It can lead to mental health issues, aggressive behavior and addiction. As adults, it can also happen in the workplace. Let us begin to find solutions and really listen to those kids who are being tormented.

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October is recognized also as National Domestic Awareness Month. Domestic abuse happens in every community across our country. I attended the North Iowa Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse Community Coalition event recently and learned that domestic abuse can begin with stalking, or harassment of a partner, a stepping stone to more violent behavior. Your home should be your "safe space," but for far too many, it is not. For many women, it is a place of physical and emotional abuse, constant ridicule and torment. Many times the woman has no finances nor family.

If we all use this month to educate ourselves on what is happening in our own community, volunteering at a crisis center or homeless shelter, donating (funding is so very vital) to an organization that assists women and children in domestic abuse situations, we can really make a positive impact. Police departments see domestic abuse daily. They need outlets to reach out to in crisis and get these women and children out of harmful situations. Time is always of the utmost essence. Without local non-profit organizations such as Northern Lights Alliance for the Homeless Shelters or Crisis Intervention Service, women in North Iowa would not have an option to seek domestic abuse resources and help.

Please remember these organizations in your giving. It truly does keep their doors open.

The last day of October is Halloween. The word "Halloween" dates to 1745 and means "Saints evening." As children celebrate this day, trick or treating, may they have a fun, safe and uneventful night. Let us, as a community, be more watchful and keep an eye out for our neighbors, especially our most prized possessions, our children.

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Barbara Hovland is the founder of Justice For Our Iowa Children and the president of the Northern Lights Alliance For the Homeless.

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