Friday, April 26, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Friends of the Urban Forest

FUF trees outside
my apartment
What better way to welcome Spring than by planting a tree?

Shortly after purchasing my building in Noe Valley, my landlord contacted Friends of the Urban Forest to get some trees to plant in the sidewalk outside our front window. 14 years later, the results are lovely - and a favorite stopping point for the neighborhood dogs.

Not only is Noe Valley where I enjoy trees outside my window, it was also the site of the first tree planting by FUF back in 1981. After funding for San Francisco's urban forestry program was cut, several people got together and formed an organization to reach out to community members to get organized in their neighborhoods and start planing trees.

32 years later they are still going strong. According to their website, "Friends of the Urban Forest helps individuals and neighborhood groups plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens in San Francisco. This "green infrastructure" improves the city by beautifying neighborhoods, cleaning the air, raising property values and reducing polluted storm water runoff. Since 1981, FUF has planted more than 47,000 trees, totaling 43% of San Francisco's street tree canopy." 43%!! That's almost half the trees in San Francisco - but you can do math, you figured that out.

If you own property in the city, you can contact FUF to purchase a highly subsidized tree for your street. Any any of us, homeowners, renters and squatters alike can volunteer for a planting day or get your whole office to sign up for a corporate work day. As always, you stay up to date with their events by finding them on Facebook and becoming a fan.

Thanks to FUF you don't have go to Golden Gate Park to see a tree.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Habitat for Humanity

Las jefas (bosses) in Chile
This has been a rough week for feeling good. Bombs at the Boston Marathon, exploding fertilizer plants in Texas and shoot outs with Chechen bombing suspects. It's enough to make you question your faith in humanity. But that's what Feel Good Friday is for.

Dancing lessons in India
Enter Habitat for Humanity. Since 1976, Habitat has been working in communities around the globe to provide people with simple, decent, affordable housing. Families are required to make a down payment and monthly mortgage payments (homes are sold to the families at no profit) in addition to putting hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" into the building of their own home and the homes of other Habitat partner families. The work Habitat does is billed as a hand up, not a hand out.

Joseph in Madagascar
Having volunteered on six Habitat Global Village trips around the world (Guatemala, Peru, Romania, India, Chile, Madagascar) I can say they have been some of the most fabulous experiences I have had. Being in a team of volunteers who, like you, are using their vacation time to work with families they never met is inspiring. Add in the fact you get to interact with people you would never meet as a tourist passing through town and it becomes a very special experience.

Omar in Chile
By the end of your two weeks, houses will be built (or at least be further along in the construction process), friendships will be made and tears will be shed. If you are considering a volunteer vacation with Habitat, I can't recommend it enough.

You can find more info about Habitat Global Village trips here and if you've got the time to watch an 7:40 minute video I made about my Habitat trip to Madagascar in 2007, you can find that here. It really is a fabulous way to spend your vacation.

India - why am I so happy to be the only one working?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Feel Good Friday - The Crucible Bike Program

Oakland, CA is city with a bad reputation due to a violent crime rate that in 2010 was 247% higher than the state average. Yet amid all the violence, there is positive change and community involvement to be found at The Crucible

According to their website, "The Crucible is a non-profit educational facility that fosters a collaboration of Arts, Industry and Community. Through training in the fine and industrial arts, The Crucible promotes creative expression, reuse of materials and innovative design while serving as an accessible arts venue for the general public."

I think of it as the place where people go to learn welding skills in order to make art when they're not busy performing with fire. In fact their Fire & Light SoireƩ and Auction is coming up later this month if you want to support the organization and see a fantastic show.

But it's not fire that makes them the Feel Good Friday story today, it's their youth bike programs, "dedicated to promoting healthy social relationships, self-awareness, and skill building as well as nurturing young people that will grow to be healthy adults both physically and emotionally."

The Crucible has bike fix-a-thons, where they provide bike repair and education for the neighborhood kids. There's a 6-week workshop where kids team up with volunteer mechanics to fix donated bikes. By the end of the workshop they will have fixed two bikes and get to keep one. 

Last is the the "Youth Frame Alteration - Hyphy Bike". This is an advance workshop where the participants are taught fabrication skills (welding, grinding, torching) and get to customize a bike for themselves. There's a great article with more detail about this program from Oakland North which you can read about here.

If you're handy with bikes you can volunteer and if you're on Facebook, you can help them win a $25,000 grant from State Farm by by voting for them on their page.

And for those of you in the Bay Area with a bike, it's a beautiful day to get out for a ride!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Tony Tolbert

Tony who?

Tony Tolbert is a 51-year-old attorney in Los Angeles who moved in with his parents so that a homeless family could live in his house. For a year!

I'm a bit short on time this Feel Good Friday so I'm using this blog to point you in the direction of the full article and video I found on the Huffington Post earlier this year.

If you didn't see the story then, I'd encourage you to take a look. It certainly points out that we can all do something to spread a little more generosity, love and joy in this world.

Anyone else feel a random act of kindness coming on?