Friday, April 29, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Nothing But Nets

Feel Good Friday question: What do basketball and malaria have in common?
Feel Good Friday answer: Nets and Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry.

Here's how they go together.

Washington DC-based Nothing But Nets is "a global grassroots campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria, a leading cause of death among children in Africa." Statistics on their website state that a child dies from malaria every 60 seconds. 

Nothing But Nets began in 2006 with a challenge from Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly. He encouraged his readers to send in $10 donations to fight malaria. As explained on the website, "Your $10 contribution goes towards the cost of purchasing a long-lasting, insecticide-treaded bed net, distributing it, and educating communities on its use." Nothing But Nets partners with UN agencies and other organizations to purchase and deliver the nets across Sub-Saharan Africa.  They've delivered over 7 million bed nets to date!

So you see how nets tie in to both basketball and malaria, but what about Stephen Curry? He's helped lead the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals and is clearly connected to basketball, but malaria?

As I learned from a San Jose Mercury News article earlier this month, Stephen Curry created his own Nothing But Nets campaign in the 2012-2013 season, the 3-for-3 challenge. He donates 3 bed nets for every 3-pointer he scores. At time this article was written on April 14th, that was 402 3-pointers (or 1,206 nets) this season alone. There you have it, basketball and malaria prevention, together at last.

Regardless of your basketball skills, you can support the work of Nothing But Nets. Advocate, donate or become a fan on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @nothingbutnets

Friday, April 22, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Harlem Children's Zone

Today's Feel Good Friday is inspired by Prince.

Like many people, I spent time reading all about him online after his unexpected death on Thursday. I learned about his philanthropy from this Bustle article and want to pay my respects by sharing the story of one of the organizations he supported.

In 2011, Prince donated $1,000,000 to the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). Yes, you read that right, one million dollars!

A review of their website will tell you HCZ is "a national model for breaking the cycle of poverty." What started as a one block pilot project in the 1990s has grown to cover 97 blocks in Central Harlem. The goal of HCZ is "to give our kids the individualized support they need to get to and through college and become productive, self-sustaining adults".

To do this HCZ offers comprehensive educational and social service programs that involve the whole community. These programs cover children from before they're born, with parenting classes in The Baby College, through their school years and finish with job placement assistance provided by the College Success Office. In 2015 HCZ served 13,083 youth between the ages of 0 and 23.

Other offerings include help with applying for public benefits and tax preparation, community centers with exercise classes for adults and family game nights and a program focused on "nutrition education fun fitness activities, and parent encouragement" called Health Harlem.

The 2015 results are impressive: 7,000 kids participating in Healthy Harlem, 913 HCZ students in college, 99% of Harlem Gems tested school ready and $5,300,000 in tax refunds given to 3,504 families that participated in the free tax preparation services.

Also impressive, a complication of HCZ President Geoffrey Canada's TV appearances. So Oprah knew about HCZ before I did. That's cool.

You can support the work of HCZ with a donation or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @hczorg. Do it for His Royal Badness.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Feel Good Friday - IRS

What?!? Why is the IRS the focus of Feel Good Friday, you ask?

First of all, this is a friendly reminder that your taxes are due on Monday (you're welcome). Second, and more importantly, the IRS runs two programs where volunteers provide free tax preparation for qualifying individuals!

As explained on their website, "The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns."

There's also assistance designed for people over 60. "Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors." You can click this link to find a VITA or TCE site near you.

Now maybe you've already done your taxes or you don't fit in either category. Well, you can still feel good by passing this information on to the procrastinator in your life who may need the assistance OR you can sign up to be a volunteer next year.

As you can see in this brief volunteer recruitment video, you will receive free training to teach you how to prepare taxes. You can also volunteer as a greeter/screener, interpreter or computer specialist. Whatever your role, you'll be helping other people maximize their credits, get refunds and generally make tax time less traumatizing.

You may still hate doing your own taxes but you can show some love for the IRS and its volunteers by following them on Twitter @IRSnews.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Bread & Roses

Happy Feel Good Friday! I learned of today's group, Bread and Roses Presents, through my friend Gemma Bulos who volunteers with them. You may remember Gemma from her Inspiration Safari video interview in 2014 and if you don't you should check it out!

Yes, yes but what exactly is Bread and Roses, you ask? Luckily for me, they provide a paragraph on their website that gives you a quick explanation:

"Bread and Roses mission is to uplift the human spirit by providing free, live, high-quality entertainment to those who are institutionalize or isolated.  Since its founding in 1974 they have produced over 10,000 performances for more than 300,000 individuals of all ages and ethnic groups. Every year they produce more than 600 shows in 125 facilities. More than once a day, on average, a Bread and Roses show is creating hope, healing and joy somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area."

Established by singer-songwriter and activist, Mimi Farina, a pool of 1400 volunteers donate their time as performers, hosts or event and office staff. Concerts take place in children's day care centers, senior day programs, drug rehab programs, detention centers and more. You can check out the full list of facilities served and get a detailed breakdown of the shows and audiences here.

As they point out on the website, "there is no other organization in the San Francisco Bay Area that systematically brings live entertainment to seniors, adults and children in need." 

Is there any way to see what a show is like if you're not a resident of one of these institutions or a volunteer? Of course there is! You can watch short videos on the Bread and Roses Facebook page

To support the work of bringing "hope and healing through live music", become a volunteer, attend the Spring Benefit Concert on May 26th or show your love with a like on the Facebook page and a follow on Twitter @BreadAndRosesCA.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Feel Good Friday - Faithful Fools Street Ministry

Happy Feel Good Friday and Happy April Fool's Day! I can't think of a more appropriate organization to share with you today than the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco.

Founded on April 1, 1998 by Unitarian Reverend Kay Jorgensen and Sister Carmen Barsody, the mission statement of the organization is, "We discover on the streets our common humanity."

Located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, Faithful Fools seeks to "meet people where they are". They advocate for people facing displacement as well as register, educate and mobilize voters in the neighborhood. In their offices at 234 Hyde Street, they offer meditation space as well as writing, clowning and art classes.

The most unique programs they offer are Into the Streets and Street Retreats. The first program is a mid-day walk through the neighborhood that happens the 2nd Friday of each month and is designed to show people that, "when we walk the streets, the life around us is a mirror, reflecting back to us our humanity, our frailties and our strengths."

The second program is a one day retreat that happens the 4th Saturday of every month. It starts with reflective readings, songs and an orientation, then you spend the day on the streets of the Tenderloin before coming back to share your experience with others from the morning group. There is also a 7 day, 6 night version. To understand why people with homes choose to sleep on the streets you can read this blog.

If you want to learn more about the Faithful Fools you can read their annual, downloadable magazine called Fools Fables which will answer all your what, why, how questions. You can also visit the website to participate in their programs and like their Facebook page, because you know Facebook is full of fools.