By Kristin Cooper, First Lady of North Carolina

Before I became first lady of North Carolina, I have been an advocate for children. I served as a Guardian Ad Litem for the past 14 years and am delighted that my last adoption is on the cusp of being finalized.

Being involved with the foster care system opened my eyes to the myriad issues that threaten the safety and stability of families and children. I want to use my platform to attack some of the big issues that prevent children from thriving - reducing childhood hunger, putting more books into the hands of kids, preventing abuse and neglect, increasing access to the arts, and encouraging playing and exploring outdoors. The more I considered the challenges facing foster children and families in poverty, the more I realized how vital it is to explore the integrated nature of all the issues I wanted to address.

In my first year as first lady, my team has been traveling across the state (25 out of 100 counties so far!) to listen and learn. We are meeting extraordinary people who are dedicated to lift up the children in our state. Through thoughtful partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation, we are learning how to best serve children in need, and more importantly, through work with ACES (adverse childhood experiences), we are focusing on eliminating the root causes of these issues instead of simply addressing the byproducts.

On this Giving Tuesday, I urge you to learn more about the organizations my office has been working with to support the health and well-being of children. Volunteer, donate money, be a champion for a cause, use your voice, exercise your talents.

Some ways to help this Giving Tuesday:

Drop off some non-perishables to your local food bank. A monetary donation is always welcome too!

Donate an amount that equals something tangible. For instance, $10 provides one week of Backpack Buddies through the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.

Choose a family cause to rally around. Love to reading to your children? Support the expansion of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in North Carolina.

Find volunteer activities kids and families can do together (make no-sew blankets to comfort abused children, clean up trash on a nature trail, visit animals at a local shelter).

Plant a native plant or a bird garden. Your local Audubon chapter has great resources.

Write to your legislators! Children have poignant messages for their elected officials, and bonus points for being a great writing exercise.

Join me in the spirit of giving this #GivingTuesday.