Friday, December 18, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund

Last Feel Good Friday we went global with the work of UNICEF so today we're going local.  Well, local if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is.

Those of you who read this blog and read the San Francisco Chronicle are most likely familiar with the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund. For those of you who aren't, the summary from their website explains it best. "The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund provides temporary assistance to help people living in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties. Over the last 29 years, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has raised more than $105 million to help individuals and families in need."

Twenty-nine years and over $100 millions dollars! So far their 2015 - 2016 campaign fund has raised over $5 million dollars and the best part of it is 100% of this money goes to people in need. Donations are split between individuals and families (85%) and nine local food banks (15%). Although the success stories are only published in the Chronicle between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, distributions are made to support people year round.

In 1986 this was a charitable fund sponsored by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to help individuals and families in crisis. Since that time, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has collected millions of dollars in private donations from people like you and me and is now "one of the largest private sources of emergency financial assistance in the Bay Area."

Whether you need assistance from the fund or you can donate money to help provide it, you can always show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them Twitter @SoSFund. Happy Feel Good Friday!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Feel Good Friday - UNICEF

It's Feel Good Friday and time for a quiz!

Q: What do Susan Sarandon, Jackie Chan, Angelique Kidjo, David Beckham and Shakira have in common?
A: They're all UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors.

Q: Why am I talking about UNICEF at this time of year?
A: Find out at the end of this post!

Q: What is UNICEF anyway?
A: The United Nations Children's Fund (originally the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, hence the acronym.)

Created in 1946 by the United Nations to provide food, clothing and health care to European children facing famine and disease after World War II, "UNICEF believes all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential - to the benefit of a better world."

Children around the world are disproportionally affected by poverty, war and instability. Statistics from the UNICEF website state that "16,000 die every day mostly from preventable or treatable causes" and "every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girls dies as the result of violence."

For almost 70 years UNICEF has been "working globally for the rights of every child. Child rights begin with safe shelter, nutrition, protection from disaster and conflict and traverse the life cycle: pre-natal care for healthy births, clean water and sanitation, health care and education." You can learn about specific programs on the what we do page and read a summary of their story here.

UNICEF works in 192 countries and this year will be "providing a package of assistance for 2.6 million Syrian children inside Syria and across the region." You can learn more by watching some of their YouTube videos, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @UNICEF.

Yes, yes, this all sounds good but it's the holiday season and you've got cards to send and presents to buy. Guess what? You can support the work of UNCIEF by buying cards and gifts for all occasions at this link. As they say, "Every gift you purchase helps saves children's lives". I call that a Feel Good Friday and holiday win-win!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Hip Hop for Change

With the multiple mass shootings that have happened this week, it's important to me to keep posting the Feel Good Friday stories to remind us all that wonderful things are happening too.

Today, we're talking about Hip Hop for Change. I learned about the Oakland, California non-profit from this news story on KALW. Established in April, 2014 their website explains that Hip Hop for Change (HH4C) "uses grassroots activism to educate people about socio-economic injustices and advocate solutions through hip hop culture. We raise funds for local causes that enrich marginalized and historically oppressed communities."

As this video interview with founder and MC, Khafre Jay shows ,he is motivated to inspire young people that they can rap about their actual lives and social justice issues, rather than the misogynistic and materialistic topics that dominate current popular music. His goals and vision for HH4C include:

  1. Change the perception of hip hop perpetuated by the mainstream industry.
  2. Create an empowering organizational culture.
  3. Build infrastructure for justice in the Hood.
To achieve these goals, employees of HH4C go into schools to teach the history and importance of hip hop culture and into the community to have dialogues with people in their neighborhood. They promote shows with progressive music by local talent, and produce cds which you can buy for $15, and they support other community non-profits like East Oakland Community Project, Phat Beets Produce and Habitat for Humanity.

You can learn more about their featured artists and watch videos here. If you live in the Bay Area you can check out some of these upcoming events. No matter where you are, if you like what they do and want to support the original hip hop principles of "peace, love, unity and having fun" like the HH4C Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @hiphopforchang3. You see, there is something you can feel good about after all.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Feel Good Friday - SF-Marin Food Bank

Happy Feel Good Friday!
I hope everyone enjoyed Feel Good Thursday yesterday, more traditionally known as Thanksgiving. In between your free trips to the park or the stores today, take a moment to learn about the year-round work done by Feel Good Friday subject, the SF-Marin Food Bank.

At a time of year when most of us come together to eat and celebrate, it's easy to forget that "one in four residents faces the threat of hunger each day". Therefore, the mission of the Food Bank, as stated on their website, "is to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin."

Statics show they're having a huge impact. 25,000 volunteers each year help distribute over 47 million pounds of food to the community, 60% of which is farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. That's over 147,000 people served per week!

They have programs focused on children, seniors, and helping people access California's food stamp program. 70% of the food they collect goes to supply other organizations you know like Glide, St. Anthony's and Project Open Hand

If you want to support the work they do, there are many ways to give your money. You'll be happy to know that 96% of donated resources go directly into programs, meaning "for every $1 you donate, we can distribute $5 worth of food." You can also donate food or your time

Learn more about their work by watching short videos and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @SFMFoodBank. The rush for Thanksgiving turkeys is over, but the need for food still exists. I'm grateful to the SF-Marin Food Bank for helping to meet that need. #FeelGoodFriday

Friday, November 20, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Active Change Foundation

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut make it hard to imagine there's anything to feel good about, but crisis situations often bring out the best in people. Today's Feel Good Friday looks at the group behind the Twitter trend #NotInMyName, the Active Change Foundation.

First things, first. There is a website, Not In My Name created to show that "ISIS does not represent Islam" and it's now a trending hashtag on Twitter. Muslims who condemn the attacks by ISIS can let the world know that ISIS doesn't speak for them. You can follow this group @NOT_INMYNAME and read or contribute tweets using #NotInMyName.

This is just one project of the Active Change Foundation, a youth leadership organization created in 2003 by Hanif Qadir as a response to the violent street crime he saw in his east London neighborhood.

The flagship project of the ACF is the Young Leaders Programme (we are in London after all). As the website explains, the program "enables young people to spend seven months exploring a cause that they feel passionate about through workshops, community events and a residential course. Its aim is to turn young people into community leaders by teaching leadership skills, crisis management and critical thinking within a problem solving environment."

The skills they learn in the program "help them combat street, drug and gang crime, domestic violence and bullying, as well as being given the tools to assist them in preventing radicalisation (sic) and violent extremism."

Other projects run by ACF include a youth center offering a range of activities for 12- 24 year olds, an outreach program that educates young people and their parents about radicalization and gang crime, outdoor activities that connect youth with authority figures, a program that focuses on women affected by extremism and violent crime and a website, See it, report it where people can report extremists posts they see online.

You can read more details on their project page, stay current by liking their Facebook page and following the founder on Twitter @HanifQadir. No matter how terrible the situation, there are always people doing something to make it better. #FeelGoodFriday

Friday, November 13, 2015

Feel Good Friday - National Alliance to End Homelessness

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, Feel Good Friday is focusing on things you can be thankful for and feel good about, like having a roof over your head, and how to extend these privileges to more people.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a Washington, DC based organization that "works toward ending homelessness by improving homelessness policy, building on-the-ground capacity, and educating opinion leaders."

The Alliance focuses their work on four specific groups that experience homelessness: families, youth, veterans and chronic homeless. A blog entry from their website, 10 New Facts About Sheltered Homelessness in America, shares information from the Housing and Urban Development 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, including the following:
  • In 2014, 1,488, 465 people used homeless shelters in America.
  • 70 percent of people in shelter were in major cities.
  • Nearly 9 percent (131,697 people) who used shelter last year were identified as veterans.
Solutions offered by the Alliance range from focusing on providing housing first, then other needed services, to intervention and family reunification programs for homeless youth. You can read about all their solutions focus areas, ten year plan and local progress on the "Solutions" page of their website. You can also learn more about their work by watching videos on YouTube.

If you'd like to get more involved, visit "What You Can Do" and keep yourself informed by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @naehomelessness

Friday, November 6, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Unwanted Project

The last few months of Feel Good Fridays have been focused on people so it's time to check in on our animal friends.

At first glance, they're not doing so well. Approximately 150,000 horses are sent to slaughter every year in the United States, which makes for a feel terrible Friday until you learn about Unwanted Project.

Started by photographer Christy Whitney, the mission is explained on the website: "Unwanted Project documents horses that were once 'unwanted' bi-products of irresponsible ownership and overbreeding from pharma organizations, meat producers, and the racing and horse show industries. We connect viewers with cause based fine art photography and finely crafted goods that educate the public, raise awareness about the plight of American horses and provide funding for horse rescues."

Her photographs of the horses and scarves made with prints of the photos are sold in her pAra Apothecary store. Not only do these items create a conversation around the issue, but a percentage of the sales is donated to various horse rescue organizations.

You can view the image gallery, like their Facebook page or follow Christy on Twitter @Christymwhitney.

I learned about Unwanted Project from this Daily Good article, which has a a lot more information than this feel good summary. I often go there for inspiration and if you're ready to up your feel good news from once a week to once a day, I would encourage to sign up on their mailing list by visiting their website.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Humanitas (Nursing Home/Dorm)

For most of us living in Western countries, gone are the days of multiple generations living in the same house, but that doesn't make a very compelling Feel Good Friday story. Here's what does... a nursing home in the Netherlands that gives college students free rooms in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer work per month!

I learned about Humanitas by reading this Daily Good article. The arrangement was inspired by the  combination of a student housing shortage and a decision to stop funding continuing care for citizens over 80 not in dire need. The result was less older people being able to afford nursing homes and rooms going vacant - enter the students.

Always on the lookout to save money, these students are able to live in the nursing home rent free by interacting with their neighbors. Some of their volunteer hours are spent teaching the elderly residents how to email, Skype and use social media. Not only does this keep the residents engaged by learning new skills, but they also gain the tools needed to communicate with their families. The model has gained in popularity and now there are two additional nursing home/dorm combos in the Netherlands, one in Lyon, France and one in Cleveland, Ohio!

If the program continues to be successful, I hope the students will help the residents set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. For now if you want to follow what they're doing, your best bet is a plane ticket. :)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Feel Good Friday #150 - The Salvation Army

You guys... this is my 150th Feel Good Friday post! To celebrate I looked for an organization that's been around 150 years and found The Salvation Army.

Odds are you're familiar with the red kettles you see outside grocery stores during the holidays and you may have even gone to the Salvation Army to donate, or buy, a couch, an outfit or some household goods. Yes, but what were they doing 150 years ago?

It started with William Booth preaching to poor congregations in 1865 London. According to the history section of the website "Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth's first converts to Christianity" and soon began preaching to others. It wasn't until 1878 that Booth renamed his "Hallelujah Army" the "Salvation Army".

Their religious beginnings can still be seen in their mission statement today, which "is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination" but their work isn't focused on religion. As their tag line says it's focused on "Doing the Most Good".

Again from their website, "Each year, thanks to generous donations, The Salvation Army serves nearly 30 million Americans - or one person every second - from a variety of backgrounds. People who come to us for assistance will be served according to their need and our capacity to help - regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation."

Their services include those you might expect: hunger relief, housing and homeless services, adult rehab and assistance for the elderly, veterans and youth. They also provide prison ministries, missing persons services, emergency disaster relief and work to combat human trafficking! Money you drop in the red kettles goes to support all of these programs as well providing "Christmas dinners, clothing and toys for families in need, including families of prisoners." You can get details on any of these programs here.

There are tons of inspiring videos you can watch on The Salvation Army YouTube channel. Then, if you want to support this organization that's been going strong for 150 years, you can donate your money, items or time.

As always you can stay in the social media loop (certainly not an option in 1865) by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS. 150 years, 150 posts... thanks for celebrating this Feel Good Friday with me and The Salvation Army!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Feel Good Friday - EveryoneOn

I'm writing today's Feel Good Friday post from Oregon, which I can do thanks to the Internet. That did, however, get me thinking that not everyone in the US has easy access. In fact, 1 in 5 American households do not have home Internet. There's a group that's working to change these statistics for the better, EveryoneOn.

As they explain on their website, "EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy training accessible to all unconnected Americans. We aim to leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans - regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level."

That's important because low income and minority communities are least likely to have access to the Internet. High cost, lack of digital literacy and not recognizing the relevance of being connected are the main culprits. Those of us with Internet access know it's not all cat videos on YouTube, it's also a way to find a job, stay connected with your friends and family and access basic information on an infinite number of topics. Yes, including cat videos.

EveryoneOn relies on philanthropic support and Internet providers who offer $10/month plans to qualifying families. They also provide low-cost, refurbished computers and tablets and links to computer training around the US that you can discover by typing in your zip code on the home page.

Since you're reading this, I know you've got an Internet connection which you can use to read some EveryoneOn success stories. After being inspired, you can stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Everyone_On.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

In the almost 3 years I've been writing these Feel Good Friday posts, there have been a number of mass shootings in the United States, including the most recent at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. So today we're going to focus on an organization with the goal of "cutting gun deaths in half by 2025", Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

You may remember Jim Brady, Assistant to the President. He was shot and paralyzed during an assassination attempt on Ronald Regan in 1981. It wasn't until 1993, the Brady Bill, which required a five-day waiting period and background checks on handgun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton.

Today the Brady Campaign is "the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence." Their mission, as stated on the website, "is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries." You can go there to read shocking statistics on gun violence.A few highlights are below:

Every day, 89 people die from gun violence: 

      • 31 are murdered
      • 55 kill themselves
      • 2 are killed unintentionally
      • 1 is killed by police intervention
      • 1 intent unknown.
Every day, an additional 208 people are shot and survive.

In order to reduce these numbers, the Brady Campaign focuses on policy and legal changes, as well as a public awareness campaign. They ensure that all of their programs and efforts have an opportunity for impact, that no one else is doing similar work and that the actions fit into their core values. You can read their full list of solutions here or watch a 16 minute video Pathology of Gun Violence, which explains their strategy in great detail.
Support the work of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence by visiting their take action page, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Bradybuzz. Enough is enough.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Girls on the Run

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, Girls on the Run from my friend Una, who is a volunteer coach at her local council.

What I love about Girls on the Run is the mission posted on their website, "We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running." The program began in Charlotte, NC in 1996 with a group of 13 girls and grew into the non-profit organization Girls on the Run International (GOTRI) in 2000.

Now GOTRI serves "over 168,000 girls in 225+ cities across North America each year". So what exactly do the 120,000 volunteer coaches do? They facilitate the curriculum with groups of 8-15 girls.  The programs last between 10 and 12 weeks and are designed for girls in different age groups. All of the programs end with a Girls on the Run 5k event.

The after school program for 3rd - 5th graders focuses on "helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what's important to them. Then we look at the importance of team work and healthy relationships. And, finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world." Physical activity is woven into all the lessons to help build healthy habits.

Girls from 6th - 8th grade can choose from the Heart and Sole program, which is similar to what's offered to their younger counterparts and also includes help with other issues such as boundary setting and decision making. Girls in this age range can also participate in the Girls on Track program, which includes discussions and guidance around more mature topics such as "eating disorders, internet safety, relationships, cyber-bullying and tobacco and alcohol use."

All of these programs are designed to support the vision of Girls on the Run, "... a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams."

If you want to support this vision, you can! Volunteer as a coach or running buddy or donate some money. As always you can provide your support through social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GOTRI. You go, Girls on the Run!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Feel Good Friday - UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency

These days there is a lot of news of refugees from Syria and other countries trying to make their way towards Europe and meeting with varied amounts of resistance and success. Since it's Feel Good Friday, we're going to take a closer look at the The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more commonly known as UNHCR.

As explained in the "About Us" section of their website, UNHCR "was established December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people."

While they may be most well known for their emergency preparedness and assistance to people fleeing wars - they have teams of people and stockpiles of food ready to be deployed at a moments notice - this is just one of many services they offer. Others include advocacy on behalf of refugees, providing alternatives to camps and guidance for countries accepting asylum seekers and migrants, and helping refugees with repatriation and resettlement.

Violence and economic hardship are not the only reasons people put their lives at risk to relocate. "In 2013, 22 million people were displaced by disasters brought on by natural hazard events." That's why the UNHCR also focuses on climate change and minimizing the environmental impact of refugee operations.

Being such a well-established organization, their website is full of statistics, resources and videos. They post new videos on their website every few days and most are under 3 minutes long. If you want to see something inspiring, rather than depressing, watch this video of immigrants being welcomed in Austria.

If you want to make a difference, there are various ways you can get involved - donating money, volunteering time or supporting UNHCR online by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Refugees.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Feel Good Friday -

Odds are this will not be the last politically inspired Feel Good Friday post of the election season, but for now it is the first.

While watching a portion of the GOP 2016 Presidential debate last night, I was dubious of some of the claims being made. Where does a person go to learn the truth when it comes to political posturing? is, according to the mission statement on their website, "a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. policies." Hooray!

But how, you ask? "We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases." They already have information posted about last night's debate and they have an entire section dedicated to the 2016 elections.

If you're doing you're part to stay engaged with politics in the United States, let do some of the difficult work for you. As they explain, "Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding."

The website has a lot of articles you can read and you can even write in and ask a question. For those of you more visually inclined, you can check out their YouTube channel, Flack Check. It has a number of videos calling out current presidential candidates on misinformation they've shared. Donald, Bernie - no side is spared. (Though Bernie's video was 0:52 min long and only mentioned one statement while Donald's was 3:35 min. Just sayin'.) They also have helpful videos that explain, among other things, how to spot a false viral rumor in their section, Viral Spiral.

If that all feels a little too serious and you want to take a quiz to test your knowledge, ala BuzzFeed, you can do that too! Though these are a lot more difficult that determining which presidential candidate is your soulmate.

They get their funding from the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and now, from people like you and me. Whether you choose to donate or just stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @factcheckdotorg, you've now got a place to go when you want "just the facts ma'am".

Friday, September 11, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Student Diplomacy Corps

Every time September 11th rolls around, I think about how much nicer the world would be if people took the time to learn about and appreciate other cultures rather than assume different means bad. In today's Feel Good Friday, we visit an organization in New York City that offers a way for students to bridge the cultural divide.

I learned about the Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC) through this article on the Christian Science Monitor People Making a Difference page, a place I often go on a web surfing safari for a bit of inspiration.

Anthony Allen, Chris Frantz and John Meislin, used their 30 years of experience running cross-cultural education programs to conceive of and found SDC. According to the website, "The Student Diplomacy Corps (SDC) provides opportunities and scholarships for high school students from across the nation and around the world to access dynamic international education summer programs that build college readiness, deepen understanding of global issues and unleash the potential and creativity of youth."

These programs place groups of 10-12 students in Chile, China, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Spain, Turkey and Uruguay! Whether you're interested in The Importance of Being Basque or Sushi Dreams and Sustainability, there's something for everyone. You can get all details about their programs at this link but be warned, it will make you want to fill out application paperwork.

Of all the people that applied last year, 123 Student Diplomats were selected to participate in SDC and they received scholarships covering 85% of the tuition and travel costs. As the founders point out, insights and skills come not only from the program content but also from the application process.

Application Process:

  • Prepares you for the rigors of the college application process.
  • Develops writing and interview skills.
  • Teaches you how to create a personal statement.
  • Orients and prepares you for the program.
Program Content:
  • Helps develop critical thinking and independent living skills.
  • Increases cross-cultural competencies.
  • Deepens civic engagement.
  • Raises confidence and personal expectations.

All this while meeting new friends, seeing new places and making memories that will last a lifetime? Yes!

I've been fortunate enough to travel the world as an adult but oh, how I wish SDC was around when I was in high school! To support their work, you can donate online. To get the latest and greatest info, like their Facebook page.

Happy Feel Good Friday and may all your sushi dreams come true!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Creating Better Communities

Today, Feel Good Friday gets personal. Why? Because the President of Creating Better Communities, Becky Murray, is someone I met when she came with me on a Habitat for Humanity trip to Madagascar in 2007!

So what is Creating Better Communities, aka CBC? As stated on their website, "CBC is a non-profit organization providing food to homeless and hungry neighbors in Venice Beach, CA."

Volunteers prep food Friday evenings and Sunday mornings for distribution at 7:30pm and 9:00am respectively. Right now much of the food is donated by Food Forward, an organization that "rescues fresh local produce that would go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same."

Becky has certainly been inspired. In addition to the weekly food distribution, plans for CBC include starting a community garden and a donation based restaurant!

You can get involved by volunteering if you live in the area and donating if you don't. To see pictures of the volunteers in action and keep up with the latest, greatest news - like their Facebook page.

Me, then Becky on the left. First she built houses, then she built lunches.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Zen Hospice Project

I like Feel Good Friday to be a wide variety of stories from all around the world. Since we spent the last two weeks with talking trees in Australia and six year old superheroes in Singapore, it's time to bring it back to the United States and get serious.

Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco offers direct care, educational programs and inspirational support to both the dying and the living.  As stated on their website, "Our mission is to help change the experience of dying. We create space for living that offers the opportunity for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers to find comfort, connection and healing in this shared human experience. Through our pioneering model of care, we inspire each other to live fully."

They operate a 6-bed licensed residential care facility for the chronically ill known as the Guest House. It first opened in 1990 "as a community-based model to attend to those dying and in most need of support. As an early responder to the AIDS crisis, we provided care when others would not during this era of fear." Now they have a partnership with UCSF and host healthcare students and residents in addition to providing two beds for UCSF patients.

Zen Hospice also offers classes in mindful caregiving and has trained 1500 volunteer caregivers to date. They have 125 active volunteers who work both at the Guest House and also with hospice patients at Laguna Honda Hospital. Since they've been in operation, Zen Hospice has served more than 31,000 people in the Bay Area. 

To learn more about the impact they have had over the years you can listen to short stories told by people involved with Zen Hospice. You can also watch a 2 minute video and hear from the Executive Director BJ Miller or read a San Francisco Chronicle article about him from 2011. 

As always, to stay in the loop, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @zenhospice

Friday, August 21, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Superhero Me

You know what makes me happy on Feel Good Friday? Little kids in Singapore picking out superhero powers and names and then creating costumes for themselves. It's almost too adorable to handle but I encourage you to try.

As explained on their website, Superhero Me "is a values-based craft movement inspiring children to develop a stronger sense of self through costume crafting. It aims to create awareness for early childhood education in Singapore and trigger children to discover the joy of creative confidence."

The goals of Superhero Me are to build character, celebrate imagination and affirm doing good. It all began on Children's Day 2014 to empower preschoolers from less privileged families and is a part of Startwell, "A national movement that seeks to give Singapore's children the best possible start in life."

Deciding on what superpowers they will possess and creating their costumes from start to finish gives the children a sense of power and pride - and it looks like a ton of fun! If you click the "meet the superheroes" section of the website, you can use a sliding tool to transform children in matching uniforms into superheroes with names such as Lady Rain, Singing Tornado Boy, Master Chef and Electro Claw.

If you want to inspire a child in your world to become a superhero, you can download the toolkit here.  Even more information and craft cutouts can be found at the website of the Superhero Me festival that was held in June, 2015.

To up the adorable factor, you can watch the full 11 minute documentary about the program here or check out the 6 minute version included in an article from Our Better World.

To support the work of the Superhero Me project, like the Startwell Facebook page or follow them on Twitter @StartwellSG. And, since you've still got over 2 months, perhaps this will inspire you to Superhero You for Halloween!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Melbourne Urban Forest

We're starting this Feel Good Friday post with a trip down memory lane. If you're a fan of Dr. Suess, you'll remember his character the Lorax who speaks for the trees. Well in Melbourne, Australia, the trees have email addresses and they're speaking for themselves!

I learned about the Melbourne Urban Forest Visual from this Daily Good article by Adrienne LaFrance. Two years ago, the City of Melbourne gave an email address and ID numbers to the 70,000 trees they maintain so that people could report any problems with the trees. Here's why.

A quick read of the FAQ section of the City of Melbourne Urban Forest Precinct Plans provides the following information:

"Thirteen years of drought and water restrictions have now accelerated the severe decline of our trees. In addition, many of Melbourne's trees were planted at the same time, so they are now reaching the end of their life at the same time. Our research shows that we will lose 27% of our trees in the next 10 years and 44% within 20 years - that's almost 30,000 trees." In addition just three species (eucalyptus, planes and elms) account for 35% of all the trees, a lack of diversity that makes the tree population more vulnerable to future threats.

To combat this loss, the city has developed Melbourne Urban Forest strategies designed to:
  • increase canopy cover
  • increase urban forest diversity
  • improve vegetation health
  • improve soil moisture and water quality
  • improve urban ecology
  • inform and consult with the community
Citizens certainly have sent emails to the city to report problems with the trees as expected, but those emails have been far outnumbered by people sending love letters and other messages of support to the trees. Even better, the trees are writing back! Messages from the trees include educational emails about tree gender and comments on the Greek debt crisis. Not only are the trees wise (as I've always imagined trees to be) but they're also funny! You can read some example emails in the Daily Good article.

To send your own message to a tree in Melbourne, use and don't worry, if you select a tree from the visual map, the tree ID number will be automatically added to the subject line.

You can also show your love for the City of Melbourne by liking their Facebook page or following them on Twitter @cityofmelbourne.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Feel Good Friday - She Is ______ Project

It's Feel Good Friday and time to fill in the blank! Today we go to San Antonio, Texas to visit the "She is ________ Project : Empowering Girls Through the Celebration of Extraordinary Women". 

This public art initiative founded by marketing professional, Cassandra Yardeni and photographer, Kat Carey gives young women the chance to determine their own adjective by dressing up as real-life female heroines. 

Formerly known as The Isis Project, the website best explains the process: "The Isis Project... invites all girls, age infant through 18, to participate and pose as one female trailblazer. The photographs will be accompanied by a description of the heroine and shared via social media."

The girls are encouraged to pick a woman who inspires them and they've chosen a variety of women in science, the arts and history. You can view photos of the girls and their heroines in the gallery and meet some of the participants by watching this short video from KSAT news. 

If you live in the San Antonio area you can make an appointment here. Sitting fees are only $20! For those of you who don't, you can get the most current info by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @sheisprojectsa

Friday, July 31, 2015

Feel Good Friday - The Unusual Suspects Theater Company

I often perform improv on Friday nights, which makes me feel good, so for today's Feel Good Friday, I'd like to introduce you to The Unusual Suspects Theater Company in Los Angeles, California.

Their mission, found on their website, is "to empower youth in underserved and at-risk environments with the means and methods necessary to explore personal and social conflicts and develop self-esteem, communication and coping skills to make positive life choices and become productive members of the community."

Since 1993, The Unusual Suspects has worked with children between the ages of 9 and 21 who are in foster care, the juvenile justice system, gangs and/or low income communities providing a variety of theater programs. The main focus is on two consecutive 10-week workshops. The first is a playwriting workshop, which results in a staged reading by professional actors. The second is a performance workshop that readies the youth to perform the play they wrote in the previous workshop.

A review of the impact page explains that some of the changes experienced by the 300 kids who go through the program each year include improved self-esteem, communication and teamwork skills and decreased physical confrontation, drug use and gang involvement.

If you want to learn more, you can watch a segment about the program on NBC Los Angeles or a handful of other videos they have on the home page. You can support their work by donating cash or, if you live in the LA area, becoming a volunteer mentor. As always, for the latest and greatest, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @UStheatreCo

Friday, July 24, 2015

Feel Good Friday - One Sight

One more Feel Good Friday for my mom. I took three pairs of her glasses to LensCrafters where they have a donation box for One Sight, today's profiled organization.

Over 500 million people around the world suffer from vision loss and as I learned on the OneSight website, "Since 1988, OneSight's volunteers have helped 8.5 million people in 40 countries. We won't stop until the world can see."

Their program is not just about free glasses, though those certainly are a part of it. Volunteer's with OneSight provide training to local partners (so they can provide a sustainable infrastructure) as well as comprehensive eye exams and a new pair of glasses for every patient.

They have charitable clinics all around the world, from Nicaragua to New York City, Rwanda to Richmond, VA. You can find a complete list of clinics here and read stories about people whose lives have been changed through better vision here.

I feel better knowing the donation of my mom's glasses can help another person out, especially as a person who wears glasses myself.

To see what's currently happening with OneSight, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @OneSightOrg

Friday, July 17, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Peninsula Humane Society (PHS/SPCA)

For those of you who follow this blog regularly (and keep track) you'll know that in the 2 years and 8 months it has existed, there have only been two times I haven't posted an entry on Feel Good Friday. Once when FGF fell on my birthday and again last week, when my mother passed away.

As I deal with my grief and the logistics of shutting someone's life down, there are a few things I can feel good about. One is the support of my remaining family and my family of friends, the other is the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS/SPCA).  My mom was an animal lover all her life and she liked to do her thrift store shopping at Pick of the Litter because the proceeds benefit PHS/SPCA.

As stated in the "about us" section of their website, "PHS/SPCA is a private, independent, non-profit, and our scope of services goes beyond that of a so-called no-kill, or limited admission, facility. As an open-door shelter, PHS/SPCA accepts all animals brought to us, regardless of age, breed or size, and we've rehomed 100% of the healthy dogs and cats in our care since 2003 and promise to do this going forward."

Their programs cover just more than finding new homes for cats and dogs. They accept, treat and release 1,200 - 1,400 birds and other mammals each year and have a "feral cat package" that helps San Mateo county residents trap, spay and neuter feral cats then offers discount services for future care. Some of the more typical program offerings include: obedience classes, cruelty investigations, spay/neuter and euthanasia services. They also have volunteers who foster animals while they wait for adoption and a program that pairs dogs with limited adoption potential and minimum-security inmates who provide care and training to prepare the dogs for adoption.

But wait there's more! Pet assisted therapy where residents bring their animals to visit hospitals, rehab centers and correctional facilities,  a pet loss and grief support group,  30 days of free housing for pets of domestic violence victims, educational programs, a resource library and birthday parties on site for kids 7-12! You can get more details about these and other programs at this link.

Because of her love for animals, and a good thrift store bargain, my brother and I have decided to donate my mom's belongings to Pick of the Litter. This way she can continue to support the fantastic work being done by PHS/SPCA. To learn more about the current happenings at the organization and see videos of some animals up for adoption, visit and like their Facebook page. You can also follow them on Twitter @PeninsulaHumane.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Wounded Warrior Project

As you get ready to celebrate Independence Day in the United States, take a Feel Good Friday moment to learn more about an organization that supports injured service members, Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

Founded in 2003, the purpose of WWP, as stated on their website,  is "to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members; to help injured service members aid and assist each other; and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members."

They do this by offering 20 different programs focused on mind, body, economic empowerment and engagement. All programs are free of charge for warriors, their families and caregivers. Some examples include resources to help warriors access VA benefits, employment and educational opportunities; outdoor activities such as Project Odyssey and Soldier Ride; and the Combat Street Recovery Program.

Wounded Warrior Project has helped over 70,000 warriors to date and they are on track to help 100,000 by the year 2017. You can read about some of these individuals in the Meet A Warrior section of the website and make a donation to support the work that WWP is doing. As always, to stay in the loop like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @wwp.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Feel Good Friday - LYRIC

This Sunday is the 45th annual Pride Parade in San Francisco and Feel Good Friday is starting the celebration early with a visit to the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, aka LYRIC!

As stated on their website, "LYRIC's mission is to build community and inspire positive social change through education enhancement, career trainings, health promotion, and leadership development with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth, their families, and allies of all races, classes, genders, and abilities."

Founded in San Francisco in 1988, the first event was a dance. Since then, services have grown to include:

  • School-based initiatives - a three part program LYRIC brings into middle and high schools that focuses on a gender and sexuality social justice course for students, professional development training for the staff and support groups for the families
  • Workforce development - providing support and assistance for youth job seekers
  • Case management - free services provided by youth advocates who can help with issues including housing applications, school enrollment counseling and more
To date, LYRIC has served over 1500 youth in the Bay Area! You can help keep it going by becoming a LYRIC champion with a $10 monthly donation and/or like their Facebook page to stay in the know and look for them in the parade on Sunday. Happy Pride!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feel Good Friday - 826 Valencia

From all the literacy-related organizations that get profiled here, you know I love reading. But what would I have to read if not for the writers? Today, Feel Good Friday goes to the Mission district in San Francisco to find out how 826 Valencia brought together students with a need for tutoring and writers with flexible schedules.

826 Valencia is not only the name of the organization, it's also the address. Since writing is their speciality, I'll let them explain what they do in their own words. "826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resources students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success."

826 was founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who wanted to support teachers by providing a space where adults and kids could come together for free one-on-one tutoring. Their plans were to have the publishing company McSweeney's in the back of the space and the tutoring center in the front, but they learned the building was zoned for retail use and in order to keep it they'd have to sell something.

While renovating the space, they discovered hardwood floors and exposed beams which inspired the creation of a pirate supply store. Whether it's because of the San Francisco location and our love of pirates or just because it's awesome, sales of pirate supplies generate enough income to keep the center going.

All their programs are free. FREE! They include the after school tutoring as well as bringing classes of students to the center on field trips during school. 826 also sends volunteers into classrooms to work with teachers and students on special projects. You can find the complete list of programs here.

This idea is so popular and the need so great, six more chapters of 826 have opened in cities around the country - New York (fronted by a Superhero Supply Store), Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angels (fronted by a Time Travel Mart), Boston and Washington, D.C. San Francisco will be getting a second location in the Tenderloin which is scheduled to open by January, 2016.

You can hear how the original idea for 826 came about and get a virtual tour of the stores by watching this Dave Eggers TED Talk. If you want to get more involved by donating your money or your time, click here.

As always, like the 826 Valencia Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @826_Valencia and if you live in, or visit, San Francisco by all means go see the pirate store. Argh.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Feel Good Friday - National Center for Transgender Equality

By now, you've most likely seen the current issue of Vanity Fair introducing the world to Caitlyn Jenner. This debut, and the fact that June is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender pride month, makes it a great time to spend Feel Good Friday talking about the T in LGBT!

Since 2003, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has been providing a transgender advocacy presence in Washington, D.C. As explained on the website, "The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national social justice organization devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people. By empowering transgender people and our allies to educate and influence policymakers and others, NCTE facilitates a strong and clear voice for transgender equality in our nation's capital and around the country."

Much of their advocacy work focuses on:

  • ending discrimination in the workplace
  • ensuring transgender people have access to healthcare
  • ensuring transgender people have access to accurate identity documents
  • ending mistreatment in jails and prisons
They also work on issues such as aging, housing and immigration. A complete list of issues can be found here.

Not only is NCTE working to affect public policy, they also provide practical "Know Your Rights" guides for transgender people having to navigate what can become complication situations such as employment, public accommodations and airport security. All the available guides can be found here.

With people such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox helping to raise awareness of the transgender community, it's good to know there is an organization working on both awareness and equality.

For more information you can listen to The Diane Rehm show (52m), to hear from several transgender advocates, including Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy at the NCTE.

If you're short on time, watch an introductory 3:38 minute video and keep current by liking the NCTE  Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TransEquality. You may also enjoy reading about #MyVanityFairCover where a variety of transgender people introduce themselves to the world ala Caitlyn.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Feel Good Friday - ArtBridge Houston

The world is full of Feel Good Friday stories. Since we've spent the last two weeks out of the country, it's time to bring it on home with an art program in Texas. Yeehaw!

The organization featured today is ArtBridge Houston. Founded in 1999, their mission statement from the website reads, "ArtBridge Houston provides therapeutic and expressive arts programs to homeless and at-risk children within a supportive and creative environment."

Last fall they offered 14 weekly classes in 9 local facilities. As explained in their vision, the hour long group sessions encourage "self-expression and nurtures imagination, hope and self-esteem while reducing the despair of homelessness and the effects of poverty." 

Therapists and volunteers have reported seeing children improve their communication, focus and cooperation with others as well as increase their ability to tolerate frustration. Since the start of the program, over 5,800 children have participated!

You can watch a short video about the program here and hear directly from co-founder Jo Ann Williams at this link.

If you live in the Houston area you can sign up to volunteer and no matter where you are, you can always make a donation of cash (or crayons!) to support homeless youth and the arts. For the latest and greatest, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @ArtBridgeHou

Friday, May 29, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Stitches of Hope

It's Feel Good Friday and once again I've spent my Thursday evening in search of a story that will put a smile on your face. What inspires me is how many of the organizations I find began with the good intentions of one person. Today is no exception.

Stitches of Hope is a group founded by Kay Eva with the simple goal of "Bringing hope to Cambodia".

In 2004, Kay traveled from her native Australia to Cambodia on an awareness trip. During that time, she met parents who sold their baby for $20 to buy food to feed the rest of their family. Deeply affected by this story she wanted to do something to support the community but was unsure of what she had to offer. After discussing it with a friend, she returned to teach underprivileged women and young girls how to sew so they would be able to earn an income. As stated on the website, "Since Kay's first trip to Cambodia, she has returned more than 20 times, working tirelessly to help Cambodian mums and dads, boys and girls to gain a better way of life."

A lot has happened in those 20 visits and Stitches of Hope has expanded well beyond the original sewing center. The program now includes housing and education for children, monthly food packs for the elderly, an agricultural project that supports HIV widows and funding for the medical treatment of cancer patients!

You can learn more about Kay and Stitches of Hope by reading this article on the Daily Good website and find details about the various programs offered at this link.

Program fundraising events take place in Australia. If that's where you live, you should go! If not, consider making a contribution or liking their Facebook page to support the people of Cambodia.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Rainbow Reading Gardens

If you've been following Feel Good Friday, you know I love stories about literacy, libraries and the like (alliteration too). Today, we're going to visit a group that has established 29 children's libraries across 14 islands in Eastern Indonesia - Rainbow Reading Gardens! Or Taman Bacaan Pelangi, for those of you who speak Indonesian.

It started in November, 2009 when founder Nila Tanzil brought 200 books to a small village called Roe. As explained on the website, "Our goal is simple: more books and more libraries means kids in remote areas in Indonesia are given access to books and stories that will open a whole new world of opportunity." The original library in Roe now has over 3,000 books!

These are not the libraries I grew up with in the United States. Many times, these libraries are located in people's homes. You can watch a very short video of a fisherman named Pak Baco, who agreed to host a library in his house in hopes that the kids in his village, including his own, will expand their horizons and even go on to get a university education.

These hopes are shared by the people working for the organization. "At Taman Baccan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), we encourage children to dream big. And books will inspire, broaden their horizon and motivate them to reach their dream." In the last five years, over 6,000 children in Eastern Indonesia have had access to the books in the libraries.

If your summer travels take you to Indonesia, you can volunteer at a library and meet some of the children in person. If you'll stay closer to home this summer, you can always donate some cash, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @pelangibook. If you don't do it for me, do it for LeVar Burton.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feel Good Friday - Confections with Convictions

Chocolate is something that makes me, and I suspect a lot of you, feel good any day of the week. But this is Feel Good Friday so we can't just talk about chocolate, we're going to talk about chocolate with a purpose!

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor's People Making a Difference series profiled Dale Anderson and his chocolate shop in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Confections with Convictions. (You can read the full article here.)

Dale is a counselor who works with juveniles involved in the court system, a licensed builder, and now, after years of training, a chocolatier. What makes his chocolate shop so special is that he hires young people whose felony convictions make it difficult for them to find employment.

He wanted to find a way to help the youth he was counseling become productive members of society. The idea of the chocolate shop was inspired by the play on words in the name, Confections with Convictions. Not only would he employ young people with convictions, the shop operate with the following convictions (taken from the website):

  • Making wholesome, delicious, high quality confections;
  • Utilizing organically grown, Fair Trade, & locally sourced, ingredients whenever possible;
  • Treating our customers, employees, and suppliers in an honest, friendly, and professional manner;
  • Supporting environmental stewardship through our choices of ingredients, processes and packaging;
  • Providing fair compensation for our employees, and for those whose labors provide our ingredients and supplies;
  • Hiring people who have barriers to regular employment; and
  • Working to make our business, community, and world more peaceful, just, joyful, and environmentally sustainable.

Since Confections with Convictions opened in 2010, 12 teens have fulfilled their community service by working at the store and 5 have gone on to other careers.

To learn more you can watch this short video to see Dale and some of his employees, read an article about the shop on the Huffington Post and like their Facebook page to hear the latest news.

Of course, if you're ever in Kalamazoo, stop by the store and pickup some chocolate so that you can feel, smell and taste the goodness!