Friday, December 28, 2018

Feel Good Friday - AAA Tipsy Tow

It's the last Feel Good Friday of 2018 and time for the traditional end of year post on the AAA Tipsy Tow program!

Tipsy Tow is a service AAA offers to drivers who go out on New Year's Eve and get too intoxicated to drive back home.

They do this both to educate drivers on the dangers of impaired driving and to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries.

The rules are simple: call 1-800-AAA-HELP between 6:00 p.m. Dec 31 and 6:00 a.m. Jan 1 for a free ride to your home or a hotel and vehicle tow of up to 10 miles.

Anyone can take advantage of this service, you don't need to be a AAA member. If you're hosting a party, you can call this number for a friend who needs a tow.

While New Year's Eve is the upcoming holiday when you might need to call for a Tipsy Tow, this service is offered from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on the evenings of all the following holidays:
  • Super Bowl Sunday
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • 4/20 (this is AAA in California after all)
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • New Years' Eve
If you know you're going to be celebrating a holiday with libations, your best bet is to use public transportation, call a ride share service or host the party yourself. But, if you find yourself with a car you're unable to drive, AAA has you covered.

Are you so excited about this you want to show your love on social media? Then like the AAA Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @AAAnews.

Thanks for following another year of Feel Good Friday and here's to many more in 2019. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Feel Good Friday - National Christmas Tree Association

With Christmas around the corner, it's time to make the National Christmas Tree Association today's Feel Good Friday organization.

As explained on their website, "the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) is the national trade association representing the Christmas tree industry." This includes over 700 member farms and more than 4,000 affiliated business that grow and sell trees or provide related supplies and services.

The NCTA's mission "is to protect and advocate for the farm-grown Christmas Tree industry" and their vision "is that a farm-grown tree is part of every Christmas celebration. They provide the White House Christmas tree (green, not red) and fund the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, which (yes, you guessed correctly) promotes real Christmas trees to enhance value and demand.

Visit the NCTA website before Christmas and use their tree locator to find real Christmas trees near you and then check their selection tips to pick your perfect tree. Help your tree last through the entire season by following these care tips.

When the holiday is over and your tree start dropping needles all over your house, follow these instructions for recycling your tree. For those of you who live in the San Francisco Bay Area,  everything you need to know about composting or recycling your tree can be found at this link.

Want to make sure you remember the NCTA next year when shopping for a tree? Like their Facebook page to stay in the loop. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Attainable Sustainable - Gift Guide

With Christmas in 11 days, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and pressured to buy your loved ones gifts to show you care. Today's Feel Good Friday post is full of tips on how to make memories by giving people experiences instead of things.

Attainable Sustainable is a site maintained by Kris Bordessa who encourages readers to "embrace a more self-reliant life style, one small step at a time." She shares recipes, gardening tips and a DIY section with instructions on how to make things like bread bags, sunscreen and candle holders.

I found her site when searching for ideas of experiences to give to people this holiday season. Lucky for me she has a blog entry with over 30 ideas! You can read them all here:

There are those you might have already thought of, or even used, like a spa day or coupon book full of chores. What I like about this list is it doesn't stop there. She suggests classes that teach people how to cook, garden or paint. You can also give people memberships to zoos and museums or tickets to shows and sporting events. Organize a weekend getaway, give a gift certificate to a family to get their portrait taken or send them to an escape room and decide whether or not you want to be a part of it.

What about the gifts that you do buy? Here are some greener gift wrapping ideas to keep the packaging waste to a minimum:

To get more tips on how you can adopt an Attainable Sustainable lifestyle (New Year's resolution anyone?) like their  Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @AttainSustain.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Operation Santa

The holiday season is upon us! We're in the middle of Hanukkah and Christmas is coming. To help you get in the spirit, today's Feel Good Friday is about Operation Santa.

As explained on their website, "since 1912, postal employees, charities, individual and corporate volunteers have helped children in need experience the magic of the holidays by adopting their letters sent to Santa."

The program started when Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock authorized employees to answer children's letters. It expanded in the 1940s when the volume of letters increased and charitable organizations, corporations and individuals started responding and sending gifts.

Now, Operation Santa has gone digital! There are seven cities across the U.S. where you can select a letter online and then drop off gifts at a designated Post Office: DC, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New York, San Diego, Austin and Phoenix. If you live in one of these cities and want to participate, check out the FAQs to find out how.

For people living outside of these cities, you can check the Be An Elf website to see locations of Post Offices around the country where you can stop by in person to read and adopt letters, then return to drop off gifts.

If you want to write a letter from Santa to your own child and have it mailed back to you with a North Pole postmark, follow the instructions at Letters from Santa.

To see the results of everyone's good work and make sure you're first to know when everything gets started up next year, like the Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @OperationSanta.

Ho ho ho!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Smithsonian Institution

I've spent this week at a conference in DC, which inspired today's Feel Good Friday, the Smithsonian Institution.

The purpose of the Smithsonian Institution, as explained on their website, is a simple one: "The increase and diffusion of knowledge."

Founded in 1846 using funds donated by British scientist James Smithson, "the Smithsonian has become the world's largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums, the National zoo, and nine research facilities."

I'm hoping to go to one or more of the museums tomorrow but it will be hard to decide which ones. A visit to the website is a great place to see samples of the collections and learn about the options, some of which include:
If you're not in DC, you can still learn about and explore your interests. The Smithsonian website has a section with activities and resources for educators, researchers and kids. You can also visit the Smithsonian Channel on YouTube to watch videos about national parks, history, bugs and more!

Inspired by what the Smithsonian is doing? Get involved by becoming one of the 13,000 volunteers. There are opportunities to become a docent, citizen scientist or help with transcribing historical documents. Learn about them all in this short video.

If you don't have time to volunteer, you can still support the Smithsonian by making a donation, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @smithsonian.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Sacramento Tree Foundation

Happy day after Thanksgiving, known in my world as Feel Good Friday! I'm in Sacramento this weekend and want to let you know about a local organization, the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

The mission of the Sacramento Tree Foundation is "building healthy, livable communities in the Sacramento region by growing the best urban forest possible."

Founded on Arbor Day in 1982, the Sacramento Tree Foundation (SacTree) is similar to Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco because they both offer education, advice, training and support for people planting trees in the community. Watch this short intro video for an overview.

As they explain on their website, "a healthy tree canopy provides cleaner air and cooler temperatures, replenishes groundwater, enhances public health, and creates vibrant, livable neighborhoods."

There are a variety of programs including: a seedling growing program for 3rd and 4th graders, an urban wood rescue program that salvages urban trees and mills them into usable lumber and the Save The Elms Program which trains citizen scientists to identify Dutch elm disease and provide monitoring data to City of Sacramento staff.

Of everything SacTree does, my favorite is the Free Shade Tree Program. In partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), residents of Sacramento County are eligible to receive up to 10 free shade trees to plant on their property. After meeting with a community forester, residents get to choose from over 30 deciduous trees. To date SMUD and SacTree have given out 450,000 free shade trees!

If you don't live in the county you can check the Shady Eighty list to see what trees are good for the area and watch an instructional video on how to plant a tree.

With the goal of planting 5 million new trees in the region the Sacramento Tree Foundation can use your help. You can become a tree planting and care volunteer, a citizen scientist or if you don't live in the area make a donation and share the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SacTree.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Feel Good Friday - American Red Cross

This week California has been devastated by the Camp fire in the north and Woolsey fire in the south. Providing disaster relief services to people affected in both ends of the state is the American Red Cross. That's why they are today's Feel Good Friday organization.

Founded by Clara Barton in 1881, the American Red Cross "prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors."

With 21,000 employees and 300,000 volunteers in the U.S., the American Red Cross responds to approximately 64,000 disasters each year. In California, they've up set up evacuation centers for people displaced by the fires as well as shelters for animals. They're also operating a free public reunification tool, the Safe and Well website, where you can post your status as safe and search for loved ones.

While the American Red Cross may be most well known for their disaster relief efforts and blood drives that mobilize 2.8 million volunteer blood donors annually, those are just two areas of focus. Each year, the American Red Cross provides first aid, caregiving and water safety skills training to 5.9 million students. That's a lot of CPR!

They also provide services for military families including emergency communications and financial assistance and partner with a global network of 200 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to administer vaccinations, reconnect families and provide relief for millions of international disaster survivors. With over 17 million volunteers worldwide, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies help 1 in 25 people around the world each year. You can watch an overview of their work in this video, "We Are the American Red Cross".

Exploring their website will give you many opportunities of ways to get involved including getting CPR certified, hosting a blood drive, and educating yourself on emergency preparedness and what belongs in your survival kit.

There are also the usual ways to support the American Red Cross: become a volunteerdonate money directed to the California wildfires and show your love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @redcross.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Code for America

Code for America founder, Jennifer Pahlka spoke at a conference I attended on Monday and given the organization's mission "to make government work in the digital age", they are my Feel Good Friday pick of the week.

Founded in 2011, Code for America explains their work as follows: "We partner with governments to redesign public services in three high-impact focus areas. Together, we work on projects to better serve communities and transform how governments use technology."

Those three areas are healthy communities, criminal justice and economic development. One example is the GetCalFresh app. It's a service that makes it easier for people to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). There are 2 million people in California who are eligible for the program but not receiving the benefits. GetCalFresh allows them to apply from their mobile phones, get their questions answered via text, online chat or email and upload photos of documents instead of faxing them. See the demo here.

Other programs include Clear My Record, a free online tool that helps people with eligible convictions navigate the complicated process of clearing their records and The Integrated Benefits Initiative. That focuses on creating application systems where user experience and user needs are put at the center of what gets built. Pilot programs are currently running in Michigan, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont and Louisiana.

If you like what Code for America is doing and you've got the skills to help, you can apply for a job in government or volunteer on a local project at one of the 77 brigades around the U.S. My local brigade, Open Oakland is having a Civic Hack Night on November 13th.

No matter what your skills are you can always show your support with a donation or by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @codeforamerica.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Bend the Arc

The past week has not given us a lot to feel good about. The murder of 11 people in Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue is what inspired today's Feel Good Friday organization, Bend the Arc.

After the 2016 election, I wrote about the Anti-Defamation League and their fight against anti-Semitism. Clearly there is more work to be done.

As explained on their Facebook page, "Bend the Arc's political advocacy arm harnesses the collective power of progressive American Jews to change policy and build a more just and equal nation."

You may have seen them in the news recently because they organized a unity march during Trump's visit to Pittsburgh and sent him a letter demanding he and the Republican Party:
  • fully denounce white nationalism
  • stop targeting and endangering all minorities
  • cease your assault on immigrants and refugees
  • commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity in all of us
As of Thursday night when writing this post, 85,163 people had signed the letter - you can add your name at this link.

Standing with communities under attack, whether Jewish, Muslim, or immigrants is one of the ways Bend the Arc resists the current administration and political climate. They also mobilize to win progressive legislation and polices. Current campaigns include fights for racial justice, immigration reform and economic equity.

On their website, Bend the Arc provides tools and resources to help you organize a phone bank, rally, or letter writing event and instructions on how to hold a town hall meeting. If you live near one of their 15 locations nationwide, you can volunteer with other people in your community to make a difference. 

At times of tragedy, it's easy to get discouraged, especially if you don't live close enough to provide immediate assistance. What helps me is supporting organizations that are fighting the good fight on behalf of the people who have been affected. If you'd like to support Bend the Arc you can do so by signing the letter, volunteering, donating and spreading the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @jewishaction.

One more action you can take... #vote.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Election Protection

The midterms are coming, the midterms are coming! Feel Good Friday celebrates with a profile of Election Protection.

As explained on their website, "the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition works year-round to ensure that all voters have an equal opportunity to vote and have that vote count. Made up of more than 100 local, state and national partners, Election Protection uses a wide range of tools and activities to protect, advance and defend the right to vote."

Established 2001 by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Election Protection provides information and assistance to people in all 50 states. Their resource page links you to partner organizations that can help you find information on registering to vote in person, getting to the polls, voting absentee or helping other people do all of those things.

Election Protection also works with their partners to identify and remove barriers to voting. If you're looking for inspiration you can read people's voting stories and share your own. When you're on the website you can look up resources by state and if you have questions when you're out and about you can call the Election Protection hotline at (866) OUR-VOTE or (866) 687-8683.

The services Election Protection provides are offered to voters year-round, regardless of political party and voting choices. You can support the work they do by making a donationvolunteering and spreading the word by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @866OURVOTE.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Feel Good Friday - One Green Planet

If you've read about the recent UN report on climate change, you know we all need to do our part for the environment. That's why today's Feel Good Friday organization is One Green Planet.

One Green Planet is "your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet." As they explain on their website, their goal "is to help create a world where we eat delicious food and use amazing products that provide us with maximum benefit and have minimum impact on the planet."

Co-founded by Nil Zacharias and Preeta Sinha, this publishing platform has over 6 million unique visitors every month. Content focuses on sustainable food, animal welfare issues, environmental protection, natural health and cruelty-free/green living. This is the place to go if you want to know how to recycle your clothes, how to bake vegan pumpkin pie, and why sloth bears are the cutest.

Their two current campaigns are #EatForThePlanet and #CrushPlastic. Eat for the Planet is a book that advocates a plant-based diet as a way to minimize the impact of climate change. You can find plenty of vegan recipes on the One Green Planet website. They're sorted by meal type, seasons and holidays to help you find what you're looking for.

Crush Plastic provides tips on how to take action in our daily lives to eliminate plastic waste. Only 22% of the 300 million tons of plastic produced around the globe every year gets recycled and 50% of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. We can all help reduce the amount of plastic going into the oceans by bringing our reusable bags, coffee cups and water bottles with us when we go out. Lesser used tips include switching to bar soap, using mason jars for food storage and avoiding microbeads in face and body wash.

You can keep up with all the news and tips by subscribing to the newsletter, downloading the food monster app and staying in the social media loop by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @OneGreenPlanet.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Feel Good Friday - She's the First

Yesterday was the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child so for today's Feel Good Friday, I'm going to profile an organization that's helping girls around the world, She's the First.

Founded in 2009 by Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt as an effort to get Millennials to support girls' education, She's the First "fights gender inequality through education. We support girls who will be first in their families to graduate from high school and train students everywhere to be global leaders." You can watch this 4 minute profile of the founders on the Today Show and get a great overview of their program here.

The organization focuses on girls because two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women, each year 15 million girls are married before they turn 18, and education for girls is still an exception rather than the norm in many places worldwide. As they go on to explain on their website, an educated girl "earns up to 20% more as an adult with each additional year of schooling, is less likely to marry early... and has fewer, healthier children."

She's the First partners with local organizations to provide scholarships for girls to reach graduation, as well as providing them with after-school programs and mentors to help guide their progress. There is also a global leadership curriculum for STF scholars and girls on campus chapters around the world.

With 200 campus chapters and 1,100 scholars, the impact of She's the First is widespread. A few of their successes include: a girl in Gambia who takes photos of her classmates, charges a small fee and is saving this money to go to college and support her dream of being a photographer; a girl in India who graduated high school and hopes to become a software engineer instead of work in a rock quarry; and Tizita Hagare from Ethiopia who starred in Angelina Jolie's movie Difret. You can visit this page to read more scholar stories and watch additional videos.

If you'd like to help She's the First support girls around the world you can shop for merch, start a campus chapter, make a donation and share the social media love by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @shesthefirst.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Feel Good Friday - TechWomen

Last week, Autodesk hosted opening day for the TechWomen emerging leaders program. I had the opportunity to be a part of it and want to share the work of the organization and my experience in today's Feel Good Friday.

As explained on their website, "TechWomen empowers, connects and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and inspire women and girls in their communities." You can watch this video for a good overview of the program.

An initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the first program took place in 2001 with 37 women participating. This year's group includes 100 women from 20 different countries.

The women will participate in project-based mentorships at Bay Area companies, attend professional development workshops and networking events and wrap up the five-week program in Washington D.C. During their time in the Bay Area, they'll also have a cultural mentor who will take them to local attractions, cultural events and community service opportunities.

The women I met last Friday came from a variety of countries and worked in different STEM fields. When I asked one woman what she thought of her day at Autodesk, she said she felt "like Alice in Wonderland". I also met a woman from Kyrgyzstan who was shocked when I told her I had been to her country and was able to have a very short exchange with her in Krygyz.

All the women will return to their countries when the program is finished to share what they've learned and start projects of their own. You can click this interactive map to see how participants from previous years are affecting positive change in their communities.

If you like what TechWomen is doing, there are many ways to get involved. You can become a mentor, convince your company to host an event or show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TechWomen.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Feel Good Friday - RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

Today I'm highlighting RAINN as
a response to the Kavanaugh senate hearings yesterday. It's part Feel Good Friday, part crisis intervention.

According to their website, "RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operations the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country."

During Thursday's hearings, the hotline experienced a 147% increase in calls compared to a normal weekday. If that's not enough to demonstrate why this is a necessary resource, you can read the statistics: in the United States every 98 seconds another person experiences sexual assault and only 6 of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison.

RAINN provides services in four main areas:
  • Victim services include the national hotline, a Department of Defense Safe Helpline for members of the DoD, training for companies, partner service providers and volunteers.
  • Public education includes media commentary, curated news content, an active social media presence, a speakers bureau of volunteers who can share their stories with local communities and the media and the Prevention Navigator program which helps colleges choose an appropriate sexual assault prevention program for their campus.
  • Public policy efforts at both the federal and state levels are focused on improving the criminal justice system, preventing sexual assault and ensuring justice for survivors.
  • Consulting services are provided to clients in the public, private and nonprofit sectors and include both prevention and response programs.
In addition to contacting RAINN via the hotline or a live chat, you can also view their website, which is full of resources. Whether you're looking for safety and prevention tips, help on what to do after a sexual assault or want to find out how to get involved in public policy you will find the information you need.

Since their founding in 1994, RAINN has helped more than 2.7 million people. You can see the impact their programs have by reading through and watching survivor stories here.

If you'd like to support RAINN and the work they do to support sexual assault survivors there are many ways to do so: volunteer, fundraise, donate, join the speakers bureau and spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RAINN.

It's been a difficult week for many people and the Feel Good Friday spin on this is to know that there are people and organizations here to support you. You are not alone. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Focus Ireland

I'm in Ireland on this rainy Feel Good Friday and so is our organization of the week, Focus Ireland.

As stated on their website, "Focus Ireland is Ireland's leading not for profit working to prevent people becoming, remaining or returning to homelessness."

Founded in Dublin in 1985 by Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, Focus Ireland is "driven by the fundamental belief that homelessness is wrong". In the early days they provided services to young people including advice, advocacy, help with finding a home and a place for a low-cost meal.

Now services include an advice hotline and resources for people worried about losing their home, placement services for people who need a bed for the night, employment assistance, low-cost meals,
as well as housing, advice and referrals for people being released from prison.

In 2017 Focus Ireland supported over 14,500 people who were homeless or at risk, including over 1000 homeless families. You can watch short videos of people who have been helped by Focus Ireland here.

If you'd like to support the work of Focus Ireland, you can make a donation knowing that 89% of every Euro received is spent directly on services to prevent homelessness. You can also show your support by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @FocusIreland.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Spread The Vote

There are only 52 days left before the midterm elections in the US, so on this Feel Good Friday we're going to profile Spread The Vote.

As explained on their Facebook page, Spread The Vote "fights voter suppression by helping citizens of states with Voter ID laws get the IDs they need to vote."

You can get a great overview by watching this recent report on CNN or continue reading here.

Founded in 2017 by Kat Calvin, Spread The Vote operates in 5 states with strict voter ID laws: Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Georgia and Florida. This link shows what the requirements are in all 50 states.

The problem Spread The Vote is solving is that 21 million eligible voters in the US do not have photo ID. On average IDs cost $40 and take 3-4 weeks to obtain. 57% of these voters also need to obtain a birth certificate for an additional $60.

Spread The Vote helps people obtain IDs by following a 5-step process:
  1. Create community chapters and train volunteers to become ID experts.
  2. Partner with local service organizations like shelters, food banks and free clinics.
  3. Connect volunteers with eligible voters in partner communities who need IDs.
  4. The voter-volunteer pairs work together to get all information needed to obtain an ID. Spread The Vote covers all the costs.
  5. Voters use their IDs to help find jobs, housing and of course, vote!
As elections near, Spread The Vote provides voter education and rides to the polls on election day. Volunteers across 30 chapters have obtained over 100 IDs with 200 more in the pipeline. You can click this link to see short videos of the impact getting IDs has on new voters.

If you need help getting an ID, you can fill out this short form and someone from Spread the Vote will contact you to get the process started. If you're in one of the states with an active program you can volunteer. No matter where you are, you can donate, shop and spread the word on social media by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SpreadTheVoteUS.

This is what democracy look like!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Blue Endeavors

It's been awhile since we've talked about ocean conservation on Feel Good Friday so today we're going to profile Blue Endeavors.

The mission statement from the website explains their purpose: "Blue Endeavors is a nonprofit organization that utilizes traditional and scientific scuba diving education, community outreach, and partnerships with national and international environmental conservation organizations to foster and embolden a social movement of citizen scientists and activists in pursuit of saving our oceans."

Founded in 2012 in Alameda, California, Blue Endeavors has a full calendar of classes including free diving, open water certification and specialty scuba classes such as night diving, rescue diver and research diver.

Through training that includes both skill instruction and classes in marine biology, ocean conservation and research, they endeavor (pun totally intended) to:
  • cultivate a passion with youth for ocean conservation and discovery
  • spark an interest in marine biology, physics, physiology and engineering
  • support published marine biology research while teens participate in programs that facilitate the attainment of advanced degrees in science
  • protect and preserve sharks, endangered animals and the marine ecosystems they inhabit
Blue Endeavors also partners with organizations such as Doer Marine, Mission Blue and Conservation International to collect data and conduct research both under and above the water.

If this sounds like fun, and you live in the Bay Area, you can become a member and enroll in classes. No matter where you are, you can support Blue Endeavors by making a donation, buying a swim suit made from recycled, abandoned fishing nets or taking a more traditional path by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @BlueEndeavorsCA.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Feel Good Friday - The Happy Newspaper

While looking through The Independent's Happy List 2018 this week, I found my sister from another mother. Today's Feel Good Friday celebrates The Happy Newspaper!

The Happy Newspaper was created by Emily Coxhead and the first issue launched in December, 2017. As you might expect it is "a Newspaper to celebrate all that's good in the world. A platform to share positive news and wonderful people."

Released every quarter, it's a 32-page publication that highlights good news stories from around the world and the actions of people they call "everyday heroes". An example of recent story is that of a trash collector in Bogota, Columbia who has created a library from books he rescued from the trash. His library is now over 20,000 books and he opens it to children in the community every weekend.

Everyday heroes are nominated by the newspaper's readers. Some recent heroes include a woman who has undergone a mastectomy and now makes heart shaped pillows to provide comfort to other women and men who have undergone surgery and a boy who paints positive messages on rocks then scatters them for other people to find.

If you want to support another person who is sharing good news you can subscribe to receive The Happy Newspaper once a quarter. You can also keep current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @HappyNewspaper_ 😀

Friday, August 24, 2018

Feel Good Friday - GreenToGo

Today's Feel Good Friday is about an innovative takeout container program in North Carolina called GreenToGo.

If you watched the PBS News Hour this week, like I did, then you've seen the story on GreenToGo. For those of you who missed it, you can watch it here or read the summary below.

GreenToGo is a project of Don't Waste Durham that was launched by Crystal Dreisbach and Amy Eller last summer after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Their goal is to reduce the number of single-use  disposables going into the landfill. As explained on Twitter "GreenToGo is the East Coast's first returnable, reusable takeout container service. We're a subscription-based model making it easy to #SkipTheTrash."

It works like this:
  1. Become a member ($25/year for one box)
  2. Go out to eat at one of the 25 participating restaurants in Durham
  3. Check out a box for your take-out or leftovers
  4. Rinse and return your box to a participating restaurant or drop off station
  5. A team of volunteers picks up the containers, then washes and sanitizes them in a commercial dishwasher before redistributing the boxes back to the restaurants.
With 507 subscribers and over 1500 uses, GreenToGo is already making a big impact. A Duke University study found that "one GreenToGo container replaces the need for on average 1,000 disposable takeout containers"! If San Francisco can find a way to share electric scooters, certainly we can get on board with this idea.

If you live in Durham, you can sign up for the program here. The rest of us can show our support and follow new developments by liking the GreenToGo Facebook page and following them on Twitter @GreenToGo_Life.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Skateistan

I learned about today's Feel Good Friday organization, Skateistan, from a friend. Not only is skateboarding not a crime, it's a great way to inspire children around the globe!

Skateistan, Sanskrit for "land of skate", started in Afghanistan as a way to empower children. As explained on their website. "Through the hook of skateboarding, we engage with children, especially girls and youth from low-income backgrounds, giving them access to safe spaces and education and provide valuable life skills that go beyond the skatepark and the classroom." 
Since their earliest days in 2007, Skateistan has expanded to include programs in Cambodia and South Africa. The four core programs are designed for ages 5 to 17, offered free of charge and focus on keeping the youth involved for the long term. 

Outreach involves educators and youth leaders bringing skateboards and equipment into the communities for an hour of recreational activity. Skate and Create is a combo of one hour in the skate park and one hour in the classroom. Back-to-School varies by country. In Afghanistan it's an accelerated learning program covering the national curriculum for children who are not in school. They spend 5 days a week in class and are enrolled in public school after graduating. In Cambodia and South Africa it's a drop in program after school that provides homework help and further education and career planning. The final program, which must be applied for, is Youth Leadership. Youth leaders assist educators, mentor younger students and help plan events.

If you've got 13 minutes, I highly recommend you watch the documentary, "Land of Skate" here. Children involved in the program share how skateboarding has changed their lives and you can see how happy they are when they're skateboarding.

The best way to support this work is by making a donation and becoming a Citizen of Skateistan. You can also represent by shopping for merchandise to wear and showing your support by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @Skateistan.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Twende Social Innovation Center

Jambo! Let's take a Feel Good Friday trip to Tanzania to learn about the work of Twende!

Twende, Swahili for "let's go", is a social innovation center located in Arusha, Tanzania. Their mission is "to empower people to become creative problem solvers who make their own life-improving technologies."

Founded in 2007 by Jim Elsworth, Twende began as a workshop where people could identify local needs and create innovative technology solutions. In 2012 Twende merged with AISE, an organization focused on running creative capacity building workshops.

The idea behind both organizations is that community members, rather than outside organizations, are the best people to identify their challenges and create solutions that use locally available, inexpensive materials that can be maintained and repaired by locals. Now, Twende offers workshops for the community, products for sale and support for innovators.

The current workshops are "Creative Capacity Building", a 5-day workshop teaching people the design cycle of build-test-iterate then putting them in teams to brainstorm and build one of their ideas and the "Build It Workshop" which teaches specific skills, either electronic or mechanical, and results in students building practical items such as a flashlight or stove.

The two products developed by the Twende Core Team that are currently in production and being sold in Tanzania are a drip irrigation kit and bicycle-powered maize sheller.

Twende has taught more than 1,300 people in their workshops and over half of the students have been women! Twende also provides funding, space and technical advising for participants who want to continue their projects and complete their first prototype.

If you like what Twende is doing, share their work and their story on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TwendeTZ. Asante sana!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Feel Good Friday - The Posse Foundation

It's that back-to-school time of year. For students going to college, wouldn't it be nice to have a scholarship and a support system? Enter today's Feel Good Friday organization, The Posse Foundation.

As explained on their Facebook page, "The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains incredible young leaders and sends them in Posses to top colleges and universities across the country." Since they began in 1989, they've recruited and trained 5,574 public high school students and awarded 1.2 billion dollars (yes, billion) in scholarships from partner colleges.

Here's how it works:

1. Every year, from September to December Posse uses a unique evaluation method called the Dynamic Assessment Process to identify young leaders who might be missed by traditional admissions criteria. They recruit in 10 cities around the country and are looking for motivated, talented, ambitious people who have demonstrated leadership and academic potential in high school. You can nominate a student here.

2. Once selected, scholars meet weekly with Posse peers and staff for workshops focused on: academic excellence, team building and group support, cross-cultural communication and leadership, and becoming an active agent of change.

3. The four-year campus program is all about retention. The Posses of 10 students meet with mentors individually and in groups and attend an annual weekend retreat to to discuss campus issues.

4. Final support comes in the form of a career program which provides internships, career development workshops, coaching and access to an alumni network.

Posse scholars graduate at a rate of 90% and alumni go on to do great things, like become president of Ithaca College.

President Obama made a donation to The Posse Foundation and you can too! Not only will you be supporting future leaders of America, a one dollar donation allows Posse to secure five dollars in scholarship funding! To stay current with all the activities, like the Posse Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @possefoundation.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Feel Good Friday - WildAid

I've been asked where I find the groups I profile on Feel Good Friday. Sometimes it's organizations I have experience with, other times I search for ones that connect to current events, this time I saw an ad for WildAid at the Fruitvale BART station. I'll take inspiration anywhere I can find it.

As explained on their website, "WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts." They are the only organization in the world focused on reducing demand for endangered species products and they target many of their efforts in Asia where demand is highest.

After watching this very high quality intro video, I learned the following shocking statistics about the illegal animal trade:
  • 33,000 elephants are killed each year for their ivory
  • the world's tiger population has dropped from 100,000 in 1900 to 3,800 today
  • 90% of the world's rhinos have been poached in the last 40 years
  • since 2000, 1 million pangolins have been trafficked for their meat and scales
  • 73 million sharks per year are killed so their fins can be used for soup
No wonder WildAid's tag line is "when the buying stops, the killing can too".

In order to get the message across that conservation can be exciting, WildAid uses a small budget and lots of donated media to deliver messages with the quality of the worlds best tv ads. You can see examples of these videos here.

In addition to slick production value, WildAid harness the power of celebrity. They have an impressive roster of celebrity ambassadors who all champion different animals: Yao Ming (sharks), Lupita Nyong'O (elephants), Zhang Ziyi (pandas), Leonardo DiCaprio (tigers), Jackie Chan (pangolins), and Prince William and David Beckham (elephants and rhinos and sharks, oh my).

Their awareness campaigns have made a difference. Consumption of shark fins in China has gone down 50-70% in recent years. Three years after a 2012 campaign against the ivory trade featuring Yao Ming, prices for ivory had dropped 50% and the governments of China and Hong Kong announced they would ban ivory sales. In Kenya, elephant poaching has dropped from 390 per year to 90.

You can see what WildAid is doing for your favorite animal by checking out their programs page. To support their work you can make a donation, apply for a job or spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @WildAid. Now do yourself a favor and go to the website to learn more about pangolins!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Aim High

Yesterday I met with with several students participating in the Aim High program and am inspired to share the story of this organization for today's Feel Good Friday.

As explained on their website, "Aim High expands opportunities for low-income middle school students and their teachers through a free summer learning and enrichment program." Yesterday, that meant coming to Autodesk, touring the gallery and chatting with me and my colleagues about career goals.

The mission of Aim High is that it:
  • Nurtures the promise and potential of middle school students from low-income neighborhoods
  • Prepares students for high school, setting them on the path to college and future success
  • Inspires the next generation of teachers and educational leaders
The first program took place in 1986 at Lick Wilmerding High School in San Francisco with a class of 50 students. Since then, the program has been expanding to schools around the Bay Area. In 2017, over 2,100 students participated in the program across 18 campuses.

In order to prevent summer learning loss, the students receive 150 hours of instruction over five weeks. In addition to morning classes, there are afternoon enrichment activities in sports and the arts and field trips to local companies. Check out this breakdown of a typical day.

You can read details and personal stories about the impact of the program here. Statistics on the website compare Aim High graduates to the national average of low income students. Aim High students graduate high school on time at a rate of 98% vs. 76% and enroll in college 98% vs. 52%.

If you want to support the work of Aim High there are many ways you can get involved: donate, visit a program or convince your company to host a career day! At a minimum you can stay in the loop by liking the Aim High Facebook page and following them on Twitter @AimHighProgram.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Feel Good Friday - RAICES

Over the past few weeks, many of you may have seen or contributed to the social media fundraising campaign by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, also known as RAICES. Having learned about them during this recent fundraiser I'm making them our Feel Good Friday origination for today.

Founded in 1986, "RAICES is the largest immigration legal services non-profit in Texas, focusing on underserved immigrant children, families and refugees." In response to the current situation of immigrant families being separated at the border, RAICES crowdfunded $20 million which they brought to Washington DC earlier this week to cover bail bonds of migrant mothers who have been detained. You can read more about their efforts to #ReuniteEveryChild in this article from The Hill.

On a daily basis, "a diverse staff of 130 attorneys, legal assistants and support staff provide consultations, direct legal services, representation, assistance and advocacy to communities in Texas and to clients after they leave the state." These services include assistance with residency, citizenship, asylum, DACA and family reunification. Education and outreach programs focus on immigrant accompaniment and refugee resettlement.

The list of accomplishments from 2017 is impressive:
  • closing 51,000 cases free of charge
  • serving
    • 7,000 mothers and children in family detention
    • 680 DACA applicants
    • 6,000 unaccompanied children
  • resettling over 300 refugees
  • training 642 volunteers
RAICES has offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. There is a selection of know-your-rights workshops that you can request for your organization as well as several educational videos on the website.

If you'd like to support the work of RAICES, the easiest way for most of us to get involved is to make a donation. For any readers living in Texas, you can join the Accompaniment Network or sign up to become a volunteer.

Everyone can stay current on the work of RAICES and the status of their bail bond offer by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @RAICESTEXAS.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Canine Companions for Independence

While I was searching for an Independence Day related organization to talk about on this Feel Good Friday, I came across Canine Companions for Independence and decided to highlight them.

As summarized on their website, "Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships."

Headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, there are six training centers and multiple chapters around the United States. Canine Companions breeds Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers then volunteer puppy raisers provide 14-18 months of basic obedience training and socialization. Next the dogs return to Canine Companions for specialized training before being partnered with their human companions and completing a final training program together. This 2-minute video gives a good summary of the process. 

There are four types of assistance dogs, all provided to participants free of charge:
  • Service dogs - assist adults with physical disabilities by performing daily tasks such as turning on lights, opening doors, pushing elevator buttons and pulling their partners in wheelchairs
  • Hearing dogs - alert the deaf and hard of hearing to important sounds like doorbells, alarm clocks and smoke alarms
  • Skilled companions - bred to be calm and affectionate, these dogs work with adults and children under the guidance of a facilitator
  • Facility dogs - work with a professional in a visitation, education or healthcare setting
Reading through the stories on the website illustrates how life changing a canine companion can be for both the people who train them and the people who rely on them.  If you're in need of an assistance dog, there are online resources to determine which dog is right for you. If you live near a training center and are interested in being a puppy raiser you can learn more about what's required and request an application here.

Whether or not you're able to raise a puppy, you can support Canine Companions in their goal of helping children and adults with disabilities live more independent lives. Make a donation, join a DogFest Walk'n Roll event and show your love on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ccicanine.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Birthday Dreams

Having just celebrated a milestone birthday yesterday, I wanted to know if there are any birthday-related non-profits I could write about for this Feel Good Friday. The answer is yes!

Birthday Dreams, in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, "is dedicated to bringing joy, hope and dignity to homeless children with the gift of a birthday party."

There are two types of parties Birthday Dreams provides. The first are onsite parties run by volunteers. These take place at homeless and transitional housing shelters and include cake, ice cream, presents and often games and entertainment. A Birthday in a Box is just what it sounds like - cake, a gift, balloons, party hats, streamers, plates, forks, napkins and a party game. Open, assemble and enjoy.

In addition to donating items (or cash) for the festivities, volunteers attend the onsite parties, bake cakes, buy gifts and party supplies and deliver the boxes. To date Birthday Dreams has held celebrations for over 6,000 children. You can get an idea of what the parties are like by watching this short video of twins enjoying their big day.

There are testimonials on the website so you can read what the impact is on both the kids who get to celebrate and their parents. If you live in the area and want to volunteer at a party or make the birthday cake, you can check this calendar of upcoming events.

No matter where you live, you can still support Birthday Dreams with a donation and by spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @BirthdayDreams to get all the latest updates.

Happy birthday!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Feel Good Friday - PFLAG

June is Pride month and Sunday is the Pride Parade in San Francisco, so I'm going to spend this Feel Good Friday talking about one of my favorite groups that marches every year, PFLAG.

Formerly known as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG was "founded in 1973 after the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son" in the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in New York. Today, "PFLAG is the nation's largest family and ally organization."

As explained on their website, "PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression."

A great example of respect and affirmation can be seen in this video called, Parents Coming Out. It shows how important and meaningful it is for LGBTQ people to have parental support and how the coming out process affects the parents as well.

PFLAG's priorities are proud people, loving families, safe communities and a diverse and inclusive world. The work they do includes not only marching in Pride parades, but also providing resources and guidelines to make schools safe, advocacy one-pagers for people who want to reach out to their legislators and a project called Straight for Equality, which is a guide on how to be a straight ally.

With 400 chapters in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and over 200,000 members, you can find local and online support here as well connect with events happening in your community.

To help keep the PFLAG flying, make a donation, buy a shirt, and stay active on social media by liking their Facebook page, following them on Twitter @PFLAG and using the hashtag #ConnectedByPride.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Feel Good Friday - Engineers Without Borders USA

Odds are you've heard about Doctors Without Borders but did you know there's also an Engineers Without Borders USA? Well it's Feel Good Friday so you're about to learn.

The mission of Engineers Without Borders USA is stated on their website, "EBW-USA builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world's most pressing challenges." You can see a quick video summary of their work here.

Founded in 2002 by Dr. Bernard Amadei after he took 14 of his civil engineering students to Belize to construct a clean water system, EWB-USA is now operating in 46 countries working on 698 infrastructure projects. Volunteers in the 275 EWB-USA chapters partner directly with communities to meet their self-identified needs.

The International Community Program focuses technical assistance on the areas of water supply, civil works, sanitation, agriculture, energy and structures. Specific projects include building bridges, roads, biosand filters and harnessing solar power. In the communities that work with EWB-USA, 75% are able to sustain the projects once the engineers leave. That helps fulfill the organization's vision of "a world in which every community has the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs."

More experienced volunteers can join the Engineering Service Corps and provide engineering project support to governments, NGOs and United Nations agencies. These larger-scale programs focus on disaster relief, agriculture, infrastructure, water, sanitation and hygiene and energy. From improving hospital systems in Sierra Leone to rebuilding wells in Ethiopia, the Engineering Service Corps is focused on creative and lasting solutions.

Finally, for volunteers who want to stay closer to home, the Community Engineering Corps was created in 2014 to assist with engineering projects in both urban and rural communities across the United States.

If you are an engineer and want to volunteer with EWB-USA, you can learn more here. The rest of us can support this important work with a donation and by liking the Facebook page and following them on Twitter @EWBUSA.