Friday, December 30, 2016

Feel Good Friday - AAA Safe Ride Home

For those of you who have been following this blog for the four years I've been writing it, you'll recognize this as a Feel Good Friday flashback favorite! Because, New Year's Eve. 

Formerly knows as Tipsy Tow, it's now called the Holiday Safe Ride Program, which is much less catchy but still gets the job done. The original blog post from 2013 (with updated links) is below.

The American Automobile Association, really?


AAA makes me feel good every day, not just Friday. They can assist you with travel, buying a car and connecting you with tons of discounts. If you're me, they'll also jumpstart your car, change your flat tire and tow you when you blow a head gasket, burn out a clutch or otherwise breakdown on the side of the road. As a side note, I swear I spread these (and other) distress calls over 22 years and two cars.

The reason they are the topic of today's Feel Good Friday post is because of their Tipsy Tow program. New Year's Eve is this Tuesday and a lot of people will go out, celebrate and ring in the new year with a cocktail or two. This can be problematic if you've driven to the festivities. Research from the CDC states, "Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impared drive. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes."

AAA is here to help. From 6pm on December 31st to 6am on January 1st, AAA will provide a free ten-mile tow home for drinking drivers and their vehicles - whether your an AAA member or not!

If you need this service, call 800-222-4357 (AAA HELP), tell the operator "I need a Tipsy Tow" and they'll send a tow truck out to get you and your car and drive your drunk butt home. Even if you don't need a tow but you're happy that it's an option, show your support by liking their Facebook page.

For those of you living and celebrating in San Francisco, MUNI is FREE from 8pm Dec. 31st to 5am Jan. 1st. Most other Bay Area public transportation companies are offering free, and extended hour services that night as well so do yourself a favor and use them!

2017 is going to be an interesting year but I still have faith I'll be able to find 52 new reasons for Feel Good Friday. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

The holiday season is upon us and while there is generally a festive air everywhere you go, it's important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by friends and family at this time of year. That's why today's Feel Good Friday is highlighting the work of Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly

As explained on their website, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) "is a national network of non-profit volunteer-based organizations committed to relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly". Seniors are the fastest growing segment of population in the US and by 2025, one in every five people will be over 65!

Originally founded in 1946 by French nobleman, Armand Marquiset as Little Brothers of the Poor, LBFE opened its first US chapter in 1959 and now has seven locations in the US and chapters in nine other countries around the world. You can watch this 4:19 minute LBFE video from the San Francisco chapter that explains the work they do and the people they serve.

Their motto "Flowers before Bread" signifies that, "in addition to the basic necessities of life, each one of us has a strong need for the special joys that make life worth living." Across the world, 21,000 volunteers give their time to 52,500 elderly which enables these services to be offered free of charge. 

Those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to volunteer can start by visiting an elder on December 24th or 25th and bringing along a provided gift. Details at Little Brothers San Francisco.

You can also check out the work being done in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and the Upper Peninsula Michigan. As they say on the website, "we offer to people of goodwill the opportunity to join the elderly in friendship and the celebration of life." That sounds like a lovely way to spend your time.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Delancey Street Foundation

It's Feel Good Friday and for those of you in the market for a Christmas tree, I suggest visiting one of the lots run by the Delancey Street Foundation.

If you live in the Bay Area, you may recognize the Delancey Street Foundation for their Christmas tree lots, moving services or namesake restaurant along the Embarcadero. What you may not know is the history of Delancey Street and what they're all about.

As they explain on their website, "we are a community where people with nowhere to turn, turn their lives around." Since 1971, Delancey Street has been taking in "people in poverty, substance abusers, former felons, and others who have hit bottom."

If you've got 16 minutes to spare, I'd recommend watching this PBS New Heroes segment about Mimi Silbert, the Founder and CEO of Delancey Street. You get to hear about the program directly from her and current residents, and you get to see how hard it is to move a piano out of a San Francisco apartment.

Residents of Delancey Street stay a minimum of 2 years, with an average stay of 4. During that time, they learn three marketable skills and get their GED. Both the vocational and educational training is based on the "each one teach one" model with residents teaching each other the skills they've learned.

Their model is further explained on the website: "Our daily operations are not funded and we charge no fees. We pool all of our resources. There is no staff. The whole place is run by the residents themselves. All money is funded into the community, and each resident receives food, housing, clothing, education, entertainment and all other services at no cost."

In the 45 years Delancey Street has been operating, they have graduated over 18,000 students as "successful, taxpaying citizens leading decent, legitimate and productive lives." They now have facilities in San FranciscoLos AngelesNew MexicoNorth CarolinaNew York and South Carolina. You can read more about their accomplishments here.

If you already have your Christmas tree for this season, you can still support Delancey Street with a donation or by hiring them for catering, landscaping or moving services. You can also show your love on social media by liking both the foundation Facebook page and the restaurant Facebook page. Delancey Street Foundation, "Enter with a history, leave with a future."

Friday, December 9, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Family Giving Tree

It's Feel Good Friday and this week, I'm switching my focus away from politics and towards the spirit of giving, starting with Family Giving Tree!

Family Giving Tree (FGT) is the largest holiday gift and backpack donation program in California and they have been "bringing hope and joy to those in need" for 25 years!

According to FGT's website, despite the affluence of the Bay Area, "one of every four children here lives in poverty". What began as a San Jose State MBA project has grown into an organization with the mission to "fulfill the exact holiday wishes and provide backpacks filled with school supplies to those children in the most need in our communities while inspiring the values of kindness, philanthropy and volunteerism." Since their inception, FGT has served more than 1.2 million children and individuals throughout the greater Bay Area through their two main annual drives:

For the Holiday Wish Drive, FCT partners with schools, service agencies and nonprofits to get students exact wishes and work with drive leaders and people like all of us to get those wishes fulfilled. In 2015 they fulfilled "more than 72,000 holiday wishes, 85% of those being children's wishes." Watch this video to see just how happy the children are when they get their gifts.

If you're participating this year, gifts are due to the warehouse by December 12th and you still have until January 5th to make monetary donations to the 2016 Holiday Wish Drive.

There is also a Back-to-School Drive which was "launched in 1995 with the goal of closing the educational gap for in-need K-12 students. New backpacks full of essential, grade-appropriate school supplies are collected and delivered to Bay Area students." This event takes place during the summer so backpacks can be picked up and distributed in early August. "In 2016 the Family Giving Tree exceeded its goal of 37,000 backpacks".

To help FGT keep going for another 25 years and expand their services to more children, there are numerous ways you can get involved. Those of you in the Bay Area can lead a drive or deliver toys as an elf and people everywhere can support this group with a donation and some social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @FGTtweets.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Anti-Defamation League

It's Feel Good Friday and, continuing my post-election theme, I'm here to tell you about another organization in the US fighting for justice and civil rights. Today, the Anti-Defamation League.

As the description from their website explains, the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, "was founded in 1913 'to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all'. Now the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all." Their slogan is "imagine a world without hate", and you can learn more about them by watching the 100 year anniversary video, narrated by James Earl Jones.

With offices around the country (and one in Israel), the ADL's main areas of focus include:
  • Anti-Semitism - fighting it is still a priority because it's still an issue. One example is that the number of anti-Semitic instances on college campuses nearly doubled in 2015.
  • Combating Hate - working at both state and national levels to deter and counteract hate-motivated criminal activity as well as tracking cyber hate, monitoring domestic and international terrorism and providing a database of hate symbols for law enforcement.
  • Israel and International - monitoring and reporting hate crimes internationally.
  • Civil Rights - filling amicus ("friend of the court") briefs in legal proceedings protecting religious freedom and preventing discrimination against immigrants, women, Muslims and the LGBT community.
  • Education and Outreach - information, resources and training on anti-bias education and many other topics!
Like the Southern Poverty Law Center,  ADL is tracking anti-Semitic, racist and bigoted incidents. If you are a victim of hate or are aware of an incident, follow this link to #ExposeHate.

Now more than ever, organizations like the ADL can use your support. There are a number of ways you can take action, including making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ADL_national.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Planned Parenthood

Happy Feel Good Friday! I hope everyone was able to spend some time yesterday connecting with family and friends and finding reasons to be thankful. My list of people, experiences and things to be grateful for is long, and since the presidential election, I've turned my gratitude and Feel Good Friday focus to organizations standing up for people in the United States. Today - Planned Parenthood.

The motto of Planned Parenthood is "Care. No matter what." Their website provides the following summary, "Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide." The organization just turned 100 in October and if you don't have time to read the rest of this post, do yourself a favor and at least spend 1:53 minutes watching their video, #100YearsStrong.

While many people associate Planned Parenthood with abortions, of the 2.5 million women and men that visit Planned Parenthood annually, abortions make up only 3% of services they provide. 80% of clients receive services to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In addition, every year, "Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health care, education, information and outreach to nearly five million women, men and adolescents worldwide."

To learn more about their clients and their work, you can check out Planned Parenthood at a Glance. There are online resources you can access to learn about sexual health, pregnancy, general healthcare, relationships and more, as well as an extensive video library. You can also find a location near you if you need healthcare.

There are a number of ways you can get involved and show your support of Planned Parenthood, including liking their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @PPFA for Health. For those of you who want to take a political stand you can support the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. The front page of their website states, "We reject your hate. We resist your threats. We aren't going anywhere. #WeWontGoBack" @PPAct.

Now, I'm going to close with some news that warms my heart. The NY Daily News reported on Tuesday  that, since the election, Planned Parenthood has received over 200,000 individual donations, 50,000 of which were made in the name of VP Elect, Mike Pence. If you too would like to let him know that you stand with Planned Parenthood against his efforts to defund this organization, here is the donation link and here is his address:

Office of Governor Mike Pence
Room 206
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

Thank you to everyone who reads and supports this blog. May you all have an inspiring and happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Feel Good Friday - ACLU

As I mentioned last week, the outcome of the US presidential election is influencing what organizations I write about on Feel Good Friday. There will come a time when I'm back to panda preservation and art programs for kids but not yet. Last week it was the Southern Poverty Law Center and this week it's the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union, more commonly referred to as the ACLU, was created in 1920 in response to the "Palmer Raids". Fearing the Communist Revolution in Russia would spread to the United States, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began rounding up so-called radicals and arresting them without warrants. A small group of people banded together to defend them and so the ACLU was born.

Their work is summarized on their website as follows, "For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States". This includes, denouncing the interment of Japanese Americans during WWII when no one else would, fighting off attacks on women's reproductive rights and defending free speech. More details on their cases throughout the years can be found here.

The current focus of the ACLU is challenging Donald Trump, should he attempt to enact any of his campaign promises that violate people's civil liberties. The response from the public has been to donate over 8 million dollars in less than two weeks.

On an ongoing basis the work of the ACLU includes topics such as criminal law reform, national security and religious liberty. You can view the full list of issues and subcategories here. They also have guides to help you know your rights, for example what to do if you are stopped by police, immigration or the FBI. In the upcoming days it will also be useful learn more about anti-Muslim discrimination, what to do if you are detained for taking photographs and your rights during demonstrations and protests.

To support the work of the ACLU, become a member, volunteer with your local affiliate and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ACLU. Because as they say, "freedom can't protect itself".

Friday, November 11, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Southern Poverty Law Center

I try to avoid discussions of politics on Feel Good Fridays because I want this space to focus on the good works being done by people around the world. That being said, the rise in hate crimes only days after the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is what inspired this week's organization.

Once again, we celebrate the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). If that's ringing a familiar bell it's because we profiled their school-based program Teaching Tolerance in this post last month. Today we're focused on what they do to fight hate.

As stated on their website, "we monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement." There is an interactive map of the 892 hate groups in the U.S. so you can see where they can be found.

In an effort to bring these people to light and to justice, SPLC maintains a extremist files database of prominent extremist organizations and individuals and explains their ideologies. They also "publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public."

So what does all this monitoring and tracking do, besides make you depressed realizing how much hate is out there? As the SPLC explains, "over the years, we've crippled or destroyed some of the country's most notorious hate groups - including the United Klans of America, the Aryan Nations and the White Aryan Resistance - by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members or by exposing their activities." That's what happens when you tangle with a law center!

In addition to fighting hate and teaching tolerance the SPLC has programs focused on children's rightsimmigrant justice, LGBT rights, economic justice and criminal justice reform. You can click all these links now or you can wait... this may not be the last time we turn to the Southern Poverty Law Center on a Feel Good Friday.

Support this important work with a donation and by liking the SPLC Facebook, the HateWatch Facebook page following them on Twitter @splcenter.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Hav a Sole

It's Feel Good Friday! Put your feet up and read about this week's organization, Hav A Sole.

As they state on their website, "Hav A Sole's mission is to provide the homeless and at risk youth population with quality footwear to encourage healthier lifestyles and prevent disease, while fostering a sense of community along the way."

The organization was founded in 2014 by Rikki Mendias. Having lived in a shelter in Southern California with his mother when he was younger, and going to school in shoes with holes, he was profoundly impacted by a woman who took him to buy two new pairs of shoes. His boost in confidence turned into an obsession with shoes, which led to him owning over 150 pairs. He realized he could encourage volunteerism and build community by giving away new and gently worn shoes. You can see Rikki and here him tell his story in this 2:11 min video.

In the two years the organization has been operating, they've given away over 7,000 pairs of shoes in 13 cities and now have partnerships with shoe manufacturers Nike and Saucony. At the shoe giveaways there is always an emphasis on the power of choice. People get to pick shoes that they want rather than having to take whatever is available.

The benefits of this program are listed on the Hav A Sole website: "bringing communities together, igniting the inspiration to give, preventing disease, encouraging healthy lifestyles, instilling confidence and showing that we care." Kudos to Rikki and his team of volunteers for setting up mobile shops and bringing high quality footwear to people who need it.

You can visit the website to see photos and videos of the group in action. If you've got new or gently worn shoes (or cash) you'd like to donate, you can do that here. As always, you can show your support via social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @havAsole.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Janwaar Castle

This week, I turned to one of my sources for Feel Good Friday stories, Karma Tube, and I'm very glad I did. It led me to today's organization, Janwaar Castle.

Located near New Delhi, India, Janwaar Castle is a community organization founded in 2016 by Ulrike Reinhard with one purpose, "to uplift the lives of the villagers in Janwaar, especially those of the Janwaar children." The main activity used to bring the children together? Skateboarding!

In this 7:30 min video, the Barefoot Skateboarders of India, you'll see how skateboarding together brakes down barriers between children, empowers girls to interact with the boys, and increases all of the children's participation in school due to the rule, no government school = no skateboarding.

Next month (Nov. 12 - 14) Janwaar Castle will be hosting a skateboard challenge that will bring together girls and boys ages 6 - 16 from all across India to compete and to celebrate skateboarding. There will also be trips to the jungle and education about nature and village life.

While the skatepark is the main focus, the people of Janwaar Castle are also fundraising to build an infrastructure to support access to clean water year round. Another project is the Rural Changemakers campaign, the first step of which is "a compilation of photographs of children from Janwaar, talking about the goals they have in life, their passions and their hopes." You can see those photos here.

The goal is for children to be empowered to move forward with their own learning. That's embodied by the principles of the organization, some of which include: resilience over strength, practice over theory and we over me.

If you like what you see you can help Janwaar Castle by making a donation. You can also keep current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Janwaar_Castle. Now take off your shoes, get on your skateboard and go make some friends!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Teaching Tolerance

Today's Feel Good Friday organization is Teaching Tolerance. Why? Because right about now the world (and yes, I mostly mean you, United States) could use a lesson in tolerance.

Teaching Tolerance (TT) was founded in Montgomery, Alabama by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. As explained on their website, the organization is "dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experience for our nation's children." Their philosophy is to view tolerance "as a way of thinking and feeling - but most importantly, of acting - that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them. Yes! More of this please.

TT carries out their mission by providing FREE educational materials to teachers and other school practitioners in the U.S. and Canada. Resources include a quarterly magazine (the fall edition is focused on the 2016 election) and film kits that include Oscar-winning documentaries.

The publications, classroom resources and professional development aides available can be targeted to specific grades and they cover the following topics: ability, appearance, family, gender expression, immigration, media literacy, race and ethnicity, religion, school climate, sexual orientation, the civil rights movement, gender equity, rights, wealth and poverty. Whew!

For the last 14 years, there has also been a campaign called Mix It Up at Lunch Day, which encourages students to move outside of their comfort zones and connect with someone new (and different from them) over lunch. It happens annually on the last Tuesday in October and the benefits are explained in this short video.

You can learn more about Teaching Tolerance by reading this informational brochure or the current magazine issue, access free resources on their website and stay in the loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Tolerance_org.

Now let's all get out there and practice some tolerance!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Pandas International

It's Friday and it may be hard to feel good with all the election news bringing you down but fear not. Today, for a complete change of pace, Feel Good Friday celebrates Pandas International!

Pandas International is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 by Suzanne Braden and Diane Rees after they learned about the plight of the Giant Panda on a trip to the Wolong Panda Center in China. According to the World Wildlife Fund, "despite their exalted status and relative lack of natural predators, pandas are still at risk. Severe threats from humans have left just over 1,800 pandas in the wild."

The mission of Pandas International is "to ensure the
preservation and propagation of the endangered Giant Panda." They do this by providing "public awareness and education, support for research, habitat preservation and enhancement, and assistance to Giant Panda Centers."

You can watch an adorable (how can it not be?) 1:47 minute video here to see lots of pandas and learn about the work Pandas International is doing. They partner with Giant Panda breeding centers and reserves in China to provide medical equipment and supplies. Programs they support include captive breeding, reintroduction, environmental enrichment and bamboo reforestation - because 99% of a pandas diet is bamboo! Details of the programs and annual reports can be found here.

If you'd like to support the work Panda International and the reserves in China you have a lot of options! You can adopt a panda, though at a cost of $10,000, you may prefer to sponsor a year of worming medication ($25) or year of bamboo ($300). You can also host a panda party to raise funds, volunteer in China, buy panda schwag, or show your support on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @PandasInt.

And because we all need to keep our spirits up through November 8th, I offer you a parting gift: live panda cam!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Feel Good Friday - League of Women Voters

It may be hard to believe but this Feel Good Friday we're going to talk about something both election-related and positive: the League of Women Voters.

As explained on their website, "The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy."

The League was founded in 1920 by Carrie Champan Catt, six months before the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, was ratified. You can take a deeper dive into their history and click this link to see photos through the decades.

The mission of the League is "making democracy work". One of the ways they do that is through protecting voters. This includes ensuring compliance with laws like the Voting Rights act, as well as modernizing voting systems and expanding both early voting and online voter registration.

Speaking of which, "The League is one of the nation's largest and most longstanding community based voter registration groups." Once they've got you registered, they can get you educated. The website will populate with detailed information for your area once you input your address.

You can also use this directory find a local league to get information on issues affecting your city and state. For example the League of Women Voters San Francisco hosts candidate forums as well as publishes both an Easy Voter Guide for the California statewide initiatives and a pro/con guide for San Francisco measures. I'm very happy to have found these resources!

Finally, the League directs additional efforts into reforming money in politics, defending the environment, advocating gun safety and more. You can get the complete breakdown of their work here.

The most current information can be found on their blog or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @LWV and @VOTE411 for election info.

While I certainly have an opinion of who you should vote for on November 8th, what will give me the biggest Feel Good Friday feeling is knowing that people are engaged and participating so please, get out there and vote!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Action for Happiness

Today's Feel Good Friday is a win-win. Not only do you get to feel good about the work Action for Happiness is doing, you can easily get involved and improve your own happiness!

Action for Happiness was founded in Britain in 2011 by Lord Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon, specialists in economics, education, politics and social innovation. Why? Because they want to use the ability to measure happiness "to increase well-being in our personal lives, homes, schools, workplaces and communities."

As explained on their website, this organization is "a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. We want to see a fundamentally different way of life - where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others."

The three fundamental values of the group are:
1. We can each affect our happiness and the happiness of those around us.
2. We need to prioritize the things that cause happiness (positive relationships, good mental health).
3. Helping others is essential for a happier society.

If it sounds a little too woo woo for you, fear not. Their approach draws on the latest scientific research, which you can learn more about in the recommended reading list or by checking out the section titled "answers to sceptics." (I know, skeptics but come on they're English).

There is a 9:07 minute introductory video about the organization you can watch to hear from Director Mark Williamson. You can also download a guidebook that list the 10 keys for happiness. If you like what you see, you can explore the ideas such as helping others, living mindfully and learning resilience by checking out the online resources. For each key you'll find facts, articles for further reading and actions you can take immediately.

If you want to join the movement, you'll be asked to make a simple pledge: "I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me." I think that's a pretty good policy whether you make it official or not.

In addition to all the resources on the Action for Happiness website, you can also stay informed by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @actionhappiness.

Finally, congratulations to those of you who made it to the end of this post. One of the 10 keys to happiness is to keep learning new things, which you just did. Well done!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Feel Good Friday - SCORE

Ever dream of running your own business and being your own boss? Today's Feel Good Friday organization, SCORE, can help you make it happen!

In their own words, "SCORE, America's premier source of free and confidential small business advice for entrepreneurs and small businesses, is a nonprofit resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). We have over 300 SCORE offices across the country offering free business mentoring and low- or no-cost workshops."

SCORE volunteers, now numbering over 13,000, have been mentoring small business owners, and aspiring small business owners since 1964! Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, there are chapters across the United States, including many in the Bay Area.

People who access the services of SCORE do so throughout the lifecycle of owning a small business. In 2014, 33% were considering starting a business, 30% were in the process of starting a business, and 37% were already in business and looking to take it to the next level.

There is a wealth of information on the SCORE website including the benefits of receiving mentoring, a series of training courses and workshops you can take, and reasons to put your own expertise to use and become a volunteer mentor.

If you're looking for some inspiration, you can read a variety of SCORE success stories here and even sort them by business stage and industry. As always, to stay in the loop with the national organization, like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @SCOREMentors.

SCORE has the goal of helping 1 million clients by 2020. Perhaps one of them will be you!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Touch*A*Life

We spent last Feel Good Friday in San Francisco, California. So, in an effort to provide variety, today we go to Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Touch*A*Life is, as stated on their website, "an international humanitarian organization that embodies the principle of loving kindness to serve the world's poor and displaced." The organization was started in 2004 by Mavis Ching after being inspired by a man in Indonesia who had been feeding the poor for over 30 years. You can read more about her and TAL's beginnings here.

While Touch*A*Life keeps some basic medical supplies on hand to distribute and connects people with other aid organizations, the main program of TAL is their Free Meal Program. From the first batch of 52 egg sandwiches, they now serve almost 6000 vegetarian meals a month to people living in and around Siem Reap. The program is "driven by the belief that people in need deserve, and would welcome, a helping hand that also lifts their spirit."

In this 3:24 minute video, Mavis explains the origins of TAL and you can see many of the children and volunteers involved with the program. If you are planning a trip to Cambodia, you too can be a volunteer! If Angkor Wat is not in your future, you can support the children of the area with a donation.

There are lots of photos posted on the website and you'll find the most current ones by liking the Touch*A*Life Facebook page.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Feel Good Friday - San Francisco Symphony

I had a feel good Thursday at the San Francisco Symphony last night and that got me wondering if there were any programs that would make them a good subject for Feel Good Friday. The answer? Yes!

The San Francisco Symphony has been a part of city life since their first concerts in 1911 and they've been a part of San Francisco classrooms since 1988.

As explained on their website, the Adventures in Music (AIM) program "includes in-school presentations by music ensembles, specially designed classroom curriculum, classroom materials and a visit to Davies Symphony Hall for a private concert by the San Francisco Symphony." There are two programs targeted to students in different grades and together they reach every student in grades 1-5 in the SF Unified School District. That's more than 25,000 children in 95 schools! You can watch a 2:20 min video of the program, and see adorable kids playing triangles, here.

In addition, students from kindergarten to grade 9 can attend special concerts which help introduce them to musical concepts and ideas. Materials are sent to the classroom ahead of the concert and teachers can also request a visit by an education docent to help prepare the students. Students from grades 9-12 are invited to attend open rehearsals of the symphony and teachers can find many helpful resources at this link.

For kids who want to continue to learn more about music there is a separate website, SFS Kids, where you can read about and try to play a variety of instruments, conduct an orchestra of animals and compose your own music!

If you want more SF Symphony in your life, you can buy tickets to a performance, watch their extensive collection of videos and stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SFSymphony.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Feel Good Friday - La Tortuga Feliz

Today Feel Good Friday is going to Costa Rica for a little Sentries Bien Viernes!

La Tortuga Feliz (the happy turtle) is a volunteer-run organization in Costa Rica focused on turtle conservation. Poaching, fishing nets and pollution have taken their toll on the turtle population and La Tortuga Feliz (LTF) has been working to reverse that decline since 2006.

Volunteers work with people in the local community to patrol the beaches looking for eggs before the poachers find them. As explained in more detail on their website, "These local inhabitants guard/patrol the beach (Caribbean coast of Costa Rica) together with volunteers, collect the turtle eggs and bring these eggs to a hatchery which is manned by volunteers on a 24 hours basis. Volunteers also participate in the care for and study of recuperating adult turtles in the turtle reduce and rehabilitation centre."

This turtle conservation work provides income for the locals, which the people at LTF hope will take away the necessity for locals to poach the turtles and their eggs. Many of the people working for LTF are former poachers who are happy to earn money saving, rather than killing the turtles.

Volunteers pay $35/day for room and board, which seems like a pretty sweet deal. While you're spending time learning about, and saving turtles, you can also take Spanish lessons and bond with volunteers from around the world! Not convinced yet? Check out the videos on their home page and view their photo gallery, which both give you a great idea of the work being done.

If you can't book your plane tickets to Costa Rica just yet, you can follow the work of La Tortuga Feliz by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @latortugafeliz1.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Rubicon Bakery & Rubicon Programs

Today's Feel Good Friday is a Rubicon two-for-one special!

First, Rubicon Bakery.

Located in Richmond, California, their motto is "Treat yourself. Transform Lives." Why? Because they employ people who need a second chance, whether that's because they've done time in jail or have had issues with substance abuse.

The short version of the story is this. Rubicon Bakery was founded in 1993 as a social enterprise by Rubicon Programs to provide job training skills and employment to low-income clients in their program who were the hardest to employ. After 16 years, with the bakery losing money and down to 14 employees, they sold it to Andrew Stoloff, who promised to continue the bakery's mission.

Now they have over 100 employees, are growing at a rate of 30% per year and their products (made with all natural ingredients) can be found in stores around the country, including your local Whole Foods! You can meet some of the bakers and hear how working at Rubicon Bakery has changed their lives in this 3:50 minute video. You can also read this Berkeleyside article by Alix Wall which gives you a much more detailed version of the story and includes photos!

That leads us to the second Feel Good Friday group, Rubicon Programs.

As explained on their Facebook page, "Rubicon's mission is to transform East Bay communities by equipping low-income people to break the cycle of poverty. Since 1973, Rubicon has provided employment, housing, mental health and other supportive services to individuals who are very low-income, especially people who are homeless or have mental illness."

Their programs include a one stop career center that provides workshops, coaching and job placement assistance as well as a host of legal services. They also operate a fully licensed landscape maintenance and installation business called Rubicon Landscape, which provides training and employment to a team of 60-80 people.

You can support the work of both groups by buying some cupcakes, hiring help for your yard work and following them on social media! Remember, treat yourself. Transform lives.

Rubicon Bakery: Facebook page and Twitter @RubiconBakers

Rubicon Programs: Facebook page and Twitter @RubiconPrograms

Friday, August 19, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Project Favela

The 2016 Olympics are taking place right now in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and plenty of medal winners are feeling good. But what happens when the competition is over and the athletes go home? There's still a reason for a Feel Good Friday and that reason is Project Favela.

Project Favela is located in favela Rocinha, the largest community of it's kind in Latin America with over 250,000 residents. Project Favela is a non profit organization founded in 2009 by Scott Miles with the goal "to provide a means in which children have access to high quality educational programs that have the ability to move their lives forward and break the cycle of poverty."

They manage this by recruiting and relying on a team of international volunteers, known as volun-teachers, who teach and mentor over 100 children a day for free.

Programs run from 8am to 9pm. They include the Preschool Project, which focuses on getting the youngest students classroom ready, and an Out-of-School Time Program, that combines classroom learning and project based learning events.

You can get more details by watching this video of Angela Crawford, the Director of Education. She explains the programs in greater detail and you can see scenes from the classroom starting at 6:22. When the after school program is done at 6pm, free English lessons are offered to both children and adults in the community.

If you've got plans to be in Rio, or need an excuse to make some, Project Favela is preparing to open a third school in 2017 and they need volunteers! You can hear a message from Scott and get an idea of the volunteer experience at the Project Favela Blog.

Other ways to support the children of Rio? Donate some cash and like the Project Favela Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @projectfavela. Obrigado!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Alzheimer's Association

It's Thursday evening and I just came back from a fundraising event for the Alzheimer's Association with a great idea for an organization to feature this Feel Good Friday! Let's take a trip to their website, shall we?

The Alzheimer's Association "is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research." Their vision is very straightforward, "a world without Alzheimer's disease".

Some statistics I learned tonight are that "an estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease" and it's the 6th leading cause of death in this country. It's affected people in my family and the families of my friends and odds are it's affected someone you know too. This 1:30 min video gives a very good summary of the impact and cost of Alzheimer's.

Founded in 1980 by Jerome H. Stone, the programs and services offered by the Alzheimer's Association fall into three main areas:

Support: for caregivers in the form of online resources and referrals and face-to-face support groups. There is education for the general public such as this list of 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's and a 24/7 toll-free hotline to provide information, support and assistance to everyone in need. 1.800.272.3900.

Research: as explained on the website, "as the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer's research, the Association is committed to accelerating the global progress of new treatments, preventions and ultimately, a cure."

Advocacy: developing policy resources to educate decision makers and engaging elected officials at all levels of government.

If you're inspired to learn more or get involved, you can volunteer at a chapter near you, join a fundraising walk or straight up donate cash. You can also show your support and stay connected by shopping, liking the Alzheimer's Association Facebook page and following them on Twitter @alzassociation. As they say, they are "the brains behind saving yours" and saving your brain sounds like a fantastic idea.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Street Poets Inc.

Today's Feel Good Friday group is Street Poets Inc - "Saving Lives One Rhyme at a Time". Intrigued? Me too!

I learned of the organization from this Daily Good article about their founder, Chris Henrikson. For
those of you short on time - 20 years ago, he answered an add to teach creative writing to incarcerated youth in Los Angeles, California. He continued to work with these young people after they were released and Street Poets Inc was born.

Their mission, as stated on the website is broken down into four areas.

  • "Street Poets harnesses the healing power of poetry and music to save lives, create community and transform culture. 
  • Street Poets breaks the cycle of violence in the lives of at-risk and incarcerated youth, awakening them to their gifts. 
  • Street Poets builds creative community, bringing youth, adults and elders of diverse backgrounds into deep transformational relationships. 
  • Street Poets consults and collaborates with other organizations and communities to inspire both individual and systemic change, transforming our culture from one too often driven by fear to one that celebrates healing and the creative process."

The programs they offer to achieve these goals include: writing workshops in schools and detention centers, performances, a poetry in motion van that serves as a mobile performance venue and recording studio, community open mics, retreats and a reading series which brings published poets and spoken word artists together with the Street Poets. They also create CDs in their recording studio.

These programs serve between 600 - 700 young people each year and make a powerful impact. In this overview video, many of the students interviewed say that Street Poets saved their life. To see more videos and read some of the poetry, check out the media gallery.

And now to leave you with a little poem of my own.

Street Poets Inc is all the rage,
Show your support and like their Facebook page.
Staying informed is not as hard as you think,
Follow them on Twitter @StreetPoetsInc!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Year Up

Today's Feel Good Friday is all about an organization called Year Up. Why? Because on Monday, an intern from Year Up will be coming to work in my office!

Year Up, was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000. It's an organization whose slogan is "closing the opportunity divide". And just what is that divide? As explained on the front page of their website, "6 million young adults are disconnected from stable career pathways" and "12 million jobs requiring post-secondary education will go unfilled in the next decade."

"Year Up's mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education." In a single year.

They do this through a mix of training. Six months of technical and professional skills training taught in the classroom followed by a six month internship with one of Year Up's corporate partners. Throughout the program, students earn college credit, receive a weekly stipend and get the support of staff advisors, professional mentors and a dedicated social services staff. You can learn more by watching this video.

Results are dramatic. Of the 14,000 young adults who have been through the program since it's inception, "85% of graduates are employed or enrolled in postsecondary education within four months of completing the program" and "over 90% of corporate partners would recommend the Year Up program to a friend or colleague."

There are locations throughout the US, including Year Up Bay Area, and many ways for you to get involved. Share this information with a student you know, become a mentor, or make a donation.

I'm looking forward to meeting our Year Up intern on Monday and to staying in the loop with the program by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @YearUp and @YearUpBayArea.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Raphael House

Have you ever wondered how I keep coming up with Feel Good Friday organizations every week? Well, sometimes I talk about places where people I know work or volunteer, sometimes I try to be topical and other times I see an ad on the side of a MUNI bus. Well played, Raphael House, well played.

Located in San Francisco, CA, the motto of Raphael House is "Inspiring Families. Illuminating hope." Their mission is "to help at-risk families achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity."

The history section of their website explains that Raphael House began in 1971 as "an emergency shelter for single mothers and their children" and, after relocating to bigger space in 1997 they became "the first homeless shelter for families in Northern California."

They offer a variety of programs in the community. The residential shelter program provides not only a family-centered shelter, but also case management, job placement services, mental-health counseling and educational workshops. Up to 60 families per year participate and 85% of those find stable housing. Support for these families continues through the bridge program, which serves over 300 families per year. Children staying at Raphael House can participate in an interactive children's' program and an academic enrichment program which includes tutoring, mentoring and scholarships for extracurricular pursuits. 

To increase the good feelings on a Friday that could really use it (ooh, vague yet topical), check out the success stories and news pages. From two college-bound teens who participated in the academic enrichment program to two girls who sold lemonade for $0.50/cup and donated their $40 in profits to Raphael House there are plenty of stories to make you feel good.

So now that you love Raphael House, how do you support them? They have both short and long term volunteer opportunities for those of you living in the Bay Area. You can also make a donation no matter where you live. 

As always, be sure to stay in the social media loop by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RaphaelHouseSF. I've done both of those things and am now going to the store. I've got a sudden craving for lemonade.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Girl Up

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday group because of the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls and NPR you guys. Stop laughing. Focus on NPR.

The story I heard was about how the UN created a new video version of the Spice Girls' song Wannabe as a call to action for the Global Goals campaign promoting the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. You can read the article, see the video and learn all about that initiative here.

What I got out of that story, in addition to an ear worm, was an introduction to Girl Up. As they explain on their website, "We're the leading global community of passionate advocates changing policies and raising funds to support United Nations programs that help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl."

Why girls? A quick look at the website should convince you. 75% of HIV infected youth between the ages of 15-24 are girls and complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the second most common cause of death for girls 15-19. With some help, girls can make big changes. "Every year of schooling increases a girls future earnings 10-20%."

Just this week the 2016 Girl Up Leadership Summit took place in Washington DC, bringing together 300 girl advocates from around the world to "participate in leadership training, learn from influential speakers, engage in skills-based workshops, and lead an official lobby day on Capitol Hill."

What's the impact of all this girl power, you ask? In the 5 years since Girl Up's creation, they've raised $5,600,000 "for programs working to improve the lives of adolescent girls." Current countries Girl Up focuses on are Guatemala, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, India and Uganda.

Specific programs vary from basic education and health service training in Malawi to increasing the legal age of marriage to 18 in Guatemala. You can read about these and other initiatives here or watch a 2 minute video celebrating 5 years of impact.

Now that you're all fired up and inspired, you can support the work of Girl Up by becoming an advocate, making a donation or spreading the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GirlUp. Sisterhood IS powerful!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Free Rice

It's Feel Good Friday and you want to relax by playing a game on your phone. I get it. Today, instead of crushing candy, connecting dots or killing zombies with bok choy, may I suggest Free Rice?

Free Rice is an online trivia game with a twist. As they explain, "For each answer you get right, we donate 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to help end hunger." Their goals are to "provide education to everyone for free" and to "help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free."

Topics include humanities, math, language learning, sciences, English, chemistry, geography and SAT prep. The categories can be challenging if you pick the right one and, thanks to the sponsors who advertise on the site, every correct answer translates to a donation of 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme (WFP)! Want to learn more about the WFP so you can feel good about wasting time playing games? Of course you do.

"The United Nations World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency on the front lines against hunger." (You can tell it's an international organization because the of the extra "me" in program.) As stated on their website, "The World Food Programme's mission is to save lives and livelihoods, and to improve the nutrition, food security and self-reliance of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people."

Their work involves responding to emergencies, preventing hunger by distributing school meals and meals to people living with HIV and AIDS as well as promoting women's empowerment "as a key to improving food security for all." They work all around the world and in 2015, 76.7 million people in 81 countries were assisted directly by WFP. Of all these people, 82% were women and children.

You can read more info from their year in review here or browse their collection of stories. They really are living up to their motto of "fighting hunger worldwide".

To support the work of WFP, you can make a direct donation then stay in the loop by liking both the Free Rice Facebook page and the World Food Programme Facebook page. In addition, you can also follow both groups on Twitter @Freerice and @WFP respectively.

While I encourage you to do all of the above, I admit that the most fun way to fight hunger around the world is by going to Free Rice and answering trivia questions. You'll be surprised just how quickly you can put together a bowl of rice. Now get out there and rice up!