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!