Friday, December 6, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Be An Elf

Thanksgiving is over so it's officially okay to make this Feel Good Friday post about Christmas and tell you all about Be An Elf.

Be An Elf was started by Hans Dohm and Patrick Reynolds in 2004 with a mission "to make more underprivileged children smile on Christmas morning, and to inspire people with the real spirit of Christmas." They started by handing out presents to children who had written to Santa, now they help other volunteers adopt letters to Santa and mail gifts. Be An Elf works in conjunction with the USPS's Operation Santa (which I wrote about here) to promote their program and recruit volunteers.

In previous years you had to pick up a letter from a post office in a participating city. This year, children's letters to Santa will be made available online so people can adopt a letter from anywhere and mail gifts from 19,000 postal branches.

Families can also go to the Be An Elf site to read tips on writing to Santa and increasing the likelihood of their letter being adopted: tell the truth; ask for basic needs first; bundle letters of siblings into one envelope so volunteers can adopt the whole family and use Santa's address - 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888.

If you still have questions you can check the FAQs. If you need some inspiration, read these letters from previous years. 

When you're ready to get into the Christmas spirit, there are three main ways you can support the program:
  • Go to the Operation Santa site, adopt a letter and respond
  • Donate to Be An Elf and let them buy and send Target gift cards on your behalf
  • Check these examples of how to promote Be An Elf on social media
Letters to Santa should be mailed no later than the 14th so volunteers have time to shop, and gifts need to be in the mail by the 20th to ensure an on-time delivery.

This program depends on volunteers like you so be sure to spread the word by liking the Be An Elf Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Howtobeanelf. Ho, ho ho!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Few Good Friday - REI #OptOutside

Some people call it Black Friday but it will always Feel Good Friday to me. Another group that encourages you to do something other than shop today is Recreational Equipment, Inc., more commonly known as REI.

REI is an 80-year old, member owned co-op that sells everything you need for an outdoor adventure. Since 2015, they've closed their stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving, paid their 13,000 employees for a vacation day and encouraged them to #OptOutside.

Four years later, REI is taking it up a level and encouraging people to join them in a nationwide day of action they're calling Opt to Act. They'll be hosting events with different organizations to clean parks, beaches and riverbanks across the United States. If you need some inspiration to get motivated, watch this one-minute video then search for a cleanup effort near you.

Today's day of action is only the beginning. REI has created a 52-week plan consisting of simple actions you can take to "reduce your impact, get active, and leave the world better than you found it". Examples include switching to electronic bill notification and payment, bringing washable cutlery to use at work, and checking your tire pressure to maintain optimal gas mileage. If you're interested in participating, you can read about all the actions here and sign up for weekly calendar notifications.

In addition to recommending ways for all of us to make a positive impact, REI is taking steps of their own. They've expanded their rental offerings and are piloting a used gear buy-back program for members so that gently used gear can be resold and its life can be extended. They're also aiming to operate at zero-waste by the end of 2020 and reduce plastic packaging for both themselves and their partners.

Whether you start your action today or at some point this year, be sure to let the people in your social media circles know. Post your stories and photos on the REI Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @REI. Be sure to tag them with #OptOutside!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Feel Good Friday - Alameda Food Bank

Thanksgiving is less that a week away and I've got food-related organizations on my mind. That's why I'm focusing today's Feel Good Friday on one close to home, the Alameda Food Bank.

The website explains their history and mission: "Founded in 1977, the Alameda Food Bank is a non-profit organization that helps Alameda residents in need by providing nourishing food in a compassionate and respectful manner with the support of dedicated volunteers and local partners."

In the 30+ years the Alameda Food Bank has existed, it's gone from 2 volunteers serving 35 recipients a month to over 160 volunteers serving 5,000 people a year! That's 7% of the island's residents. If you live in Alameda and need food assistance, you can read up on the eligibility requirements and food bank locations here.

The Alameda Food Bank volunteers work hard to distribute more than 1.3 million pounds of food on an annual basis. Over 900,000 pounds of that food comes from community partners, such as local grocery stores and community gardens across the island.

Volunteer opportunities include picking up donations from community partners, helping clients shop for their shelf stable and produce items or washing and sorting donations. You can find out more and sign up here. If you need convincing, watch this video of volunteers explaining what they love about the time they spend volunteering.

If you don't have the time to volunteer but still want to support the Alameda Food Bank, you can drop off a turkey for the 2019 Turkey Drive or make a donation of food or cash. Stay in the loop year-round and promote their work on social media by liking their Facebook page.

Whether you spend it with family, friends or all of the above have a wonderful Thanksgiving!