Friday, December 25, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Feel Good Friday!

If you're reading this today, thank you! This holiday is unlike any Christmas we've had before so you might be in need of some new and different ways to spend your time today. Me too. 

Check out the articles below for ideas and let me know what you decide to do! 

First, from Oprah Magazine, "How to Spend Christmas Alone and Still Make It Merry Without Family". Recommendations include: reading that book that's been on your list, do-it-yourself spa treatments, making a dish you enjoyed as a child and using this time to compile old holiday photos into a collage. Read the article: here

Next, from Delish, "20 Fun Ways to Safely Celebrate Christmas at Home This Year". Ideas here include: wearing matching pajamas with your family or roommates, Christmas movie marathon, creating your own ornaments and video chatting with Santa! Apparently, even he's learned how to zoom this year. Read the article: here.

My plan is video chats with friends and family, making lasagna and a Christmas movie. Do you think Wonder Woman 1984 counts? However you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful time and thank you for following Feel Good Friday.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Operation Christmas Spirit

With Christmas only one week away, today’s Feel Good Friday blog is all about spreading the Christmas spirit with… Operation Christmas Spirit


It’s starts with Operation Help a Hero, a non-profit dedicated to the well-being and care of American military members and their families. One of their signature programs is Operation Christmas Spirit (OCS).


Now in its 17th year, OCS supports military families with holiday gratitude. This can take many forms including, “family "adoptions," single service member gifts, unit Christmas party support, volunteer opportunities, and toy collections for children of service members.”


The most important piece of this program is the family adoptions. In mid-November, families are vetted through unit nominations and/or applications for Christmas assistance. Once approved, they fill out a family wish list which is shared with the donors they are paired with. Gifts can be mailed, or collected at drive through pick up events, created for these socially distant times. 

The focus is on families living in Southern California, the DC Metro Area, North Carolina, San Antonio, Colorado and ​Tampa. A note on the website indicates that as of December 5th, all the original families for this year have been adopted and the volunteers at OCS are now working their way through the waiting list and requesting online donations and gift cards. 

If you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for all the single service members, who often get called to serve on Christmas so families can be together, you can support them too. OCS delivers surprise gift packages to those on duty on and around Christmas. No wish list to follow, anything you buy will be a surprise and a delight. 


Other ways to get involved include hosting a toy drive or gift card collection. While toys are great for the kids, often families prefer gift cards they can use to buy gas, groceries, clothing and household goods. You can also volunteer or make a straight up donation and let the volunteers at OCS do the shopping for you.


Help spread the word of the good work being done by the volunteers at Operation Christmas Spirit by following Operation Help a Hero on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @OHHVolunteer.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Toys for Tots

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, heads up… it’s in two weeks! That’s why today’s Feel Good Friday organization is Toys for Tots. 

Toys for Tots (TFT) is an organization run by the Marines with the mission to “collect new unwrapped toys and distribute those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas.” You can request a toy at this link.


It began in 1947 as the brainchild of Diane Hendricks. When her Marine Corps husband couldn’t find an appropriate charity where he could donate dolls she had made, she told him to start one. That year, Maj Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys! The program was so successful, the Marines made it a national community action program in 1948.


To handle the growing demand, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was established in 1991 to help run and support the program. The Foundation raises funds, purchases toys, provides promotional and support materials, manages all funds raised and donated, solicits corporate support, educates the public, and handles day-to-day operations for nearly 800 local TFT Coordinators and a network of 40,000 volunteers. On an annual basis, TFT distributes an average of 18 million toys to 7 million children – 584 million toys to date!


Every toy tells a story, from the young men who received toys when they were tots and have now grown up and enlisted in the Marine Corps to the mother whose participation in the program put her on a path that led to a getting a job and buying a house. You can read about their stories and many more here.


If you want to help out Toys for Tots, you can get involved with your local campaigndonate cash or use the virtual toybox feature to donate a toy. You can also spread the word on social media by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @ToysForTots_USA


Bonus fun fact for reading the entire blog: the miniature three-car train logo was designed in 1947 by Walt Disney!

Friday, December 4, 2020

Feel Good Friday - San Francisco Animal Care & Control

Well, hello. I skipped last week’s post (accidentally) because I got very involved in Zoom Thanksgiving AND adopting kittens! Today’s Feel Good Friday is dedicated to the agency that put us together, San Francisco Animal Care & Control.

Established in 1989, after taking over the contract from the SFSPCA, San Francisco Animal Care & Control (SFACC) is “San Francisco’s only open-door animal shelter that accepts any animal – in any condition – of any temperament. SFACC is responsible for the City’s stray, injured, abandoned, neglected and mistreated animals – of all species – and wildlife.”

When SFACC says any animal, they mean it. Cats and dogs, of course, but also farm animals, exotic pets and less traditional domesticated animals like rats, hamsters, rabbits, chickens, chinchillas, reptiles, and pigeons. Many of these animals are available for adoption. If you’re looking for a pet, you can see your options using this link. Because of COVID, you aren’t allowed in the shelter and will meet your potential new housemates via Zoom. I was dubious but it works well, and it is very 2020. You can also turn to the SFACC website to check the lost and found for animals, learn about behavior training or find out what to do if you encounter a coyote.

Once you own a pet (not a coyote), SFACC can help you with licenses and permits, microchips and vaccines, spay/neuter services and, if needed, lost and found and humane euthanasia. On that note, while animals that are too injured or sick to survive are euthanized, SFACC saves a very high percentage of the animals that come through its doors: ~85% (compared with a 35% national average). 

Animal rescue services are provided by animal control officers who also investigate cruelty, neglect, and aggressive animals in SF communities. If you have access to the Discovery Channel, you can see them in action on a show called “Animal Cops San Francisco”!

Love what you read about SFACC and want to know how to help? If you live in the Bay Area, you can sign up to foster animalsadopt animals, or volunteer. No matter where you live, you make a donation, and amplify their work by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @SFACC.

Perhaps it was the fact I picked them up during the Thanksgiving weekend, but I’m very grateful to SFACC for bringing these two kittens into my life. Feel Good Every Day!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Feel Good Friday - The Hunger Project

The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. makes me grateful for friends, family and food. It’s also a reminder that this is a great time to highlight an organization fighting hunger. That why today’s Feel Good Friday is focused on The Hunger Project.


Founded in 1977, The Hunger Project (THP) is “a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.” They work in 23 countries on a mission “to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centered strategies and advocating for their widespread adoption in countries throughout the world.”


Of the 690 million people around the world chronically undernourished, 60% of them are women and girls. That’s why all of THP’s programs are built on the same three pillars:


1.     Start with women

2.     Mobilize communities

3.     Engage local government


The foundation of their work is Vision, Commitment, and Action workshops that take place at the village-level. Here people create their own vision for the future and commit to a 3-month project that uses local resources to achieve the vision. THP provides these leaders with skills trainings in literacy, numeracy, nutrition and local laws. Then they organize people into self-help groups so they have a stronger voice. Finally, THP partners with local governments to hold them accountable to the people and to lobby for state and national law changes.


The work doesn't stop there. While the name of this organization is The Hunger Project, they recognize that “ending hunger starts with people.” That’s why they have programs that address: hunger, poverty, gender equality, environment, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, local democracy, empowering girls, education, self-reliance and social cohesion. Whether that’s providing women with access to microfinance, preventing electoral violence in Bangladesh or promoting sustainable farming practices, all of these programs rely on an innovative, holistic approach that meets local challenges and opportunities.


The work of The Hunger Project reaches 16.5 million people worldwide in 13,600 active communities. There are 464,000 women participating in leadership trainings and the ripple effect of their work reaches into their families and communities. Read details on THP’s impact here.


If you would like to make your own impact by supporting the programs of The Hunger Project, you can do that with a donation and by amplifying their work on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @HungerProject.


I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Wildlife Conservation Society

Friends, the 2020 election is over! While there are still some ongoing shenanigans, I am moving on and fulfilling my blog promise to dedicate today’s Feel Good Friday post to animals. In particular we’ll look at the animals protected by the Wildlife Conservation Society.


Founded in 1895 as the New York Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) was one of the first conservation organizations in the U.S. Their mission is to save “wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.”

In order to maximize their resources for the greatest impact, the programs of WCS focus on conserving “14 intact regions on land and in the sea, while reversing the decline of six priority species groups: elephants, apes, big cats, sharks & rays, whales & dolphins, and tortoises & freshwater turtles.” 

Solutions focus on partnering with governments and indigenous communities to protect wildlife, wild places, oceans and fisheries. The team of scientists at WCS share information with other organizations to help combat climate change and wildlife trafficking. They use their expertise to investigate and prevent diseases that move between people and animals, advise on wildlife management, and to influence international policies that will benefit both wildlife and wild places.


In addition, in the 125 years WCS has existed, they’ve “supported governments and communities in the creation or expansion of 268 national parks and protected areas.” They also manage four zoos and an aquarium in New York and provide educational experiences and programs that connect people to animals and inspire an interest in conservation. If you’ve got a favorite animal, whether it’s the African elephant, Siamese crocodile or Siberian tiger, you can search through the WCS website to get information on specific conservation efforts.


To learn more about the history of the World Conservation Society, you can watch a 16-minute film created for this year’s anniversary celebration. You can also support the work of WCS with a donation and stay current by liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TheWCS. #StandforWildlife

Friday, November 6, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Election Integrity Partnership

I was looking forward to posting a variety of Feel Good Friday topics again but, given that the election isn't over yet, we’re going to stick with the voting theme for another week and highlight the work of the Election Integrity Partnership. 

As they explain on Twitter, the Election Integrity Partnership is “a coalition of research entities focused on detecting and mitigating attempts to prevent or deter people from voting or to delegitimize election results.” 

Created in July of this year, the EIP consists of “four of the nation’s leading institutions focused on analysis of mis- and disinformation in the social media landscape: the Stanford Internet Observatory and Program on Democracy and the Internet, Graphika, the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, and the University of Washington's Center for an Informed Public.


The researchers at these institutions work with election officials and other stakeholders to find instances of election-related misinformation, analyze reports from public sector and NGO partners and send their findings to the appropriate partners and agencies to mitigate the impact. The EIP website includes a page with detailed policy analysis and a rapid response section that addresses issues such as how the media is handling Trump’s false claims of victory.


In this November 1st NPR story with one of EIP’s researchers, they advised that we might not have election results on Tuesday and emphasize the uncertainty is expected and does not mean the process is illegitimate. Since then, researchers have been hosting multiple briefings each day to share rapid analysis and resources on the election. You can find links to those recordings and read their latest tweets on the EIP home page. If you’d like to get their updates with the rest of your social media, follow them on Instragram and Twitter @2020Partnership.


Here’s hoping this election comes to a fair and peaceful conclusion and next week we can focus on animals. 

Friday, October 30, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Smart

It’s the last Feel Good Friday before the election and here’s something to feel good about – Vote Smart.


Vote Smart is a political research organization that has been providing non-partisan, unbiased information to voters since 1992. Their mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans.”


How does it work? As explained on the website, over 7,000 volunteers spend time “researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data (including their work history) and evaluations of them generated by over 400 national and 1300 state special interest groups.” There are multiple ways you can find the information you’re looking for. Watch this 4-minute video to get details on the programs or keep reading.


I Spy is a collection of information on over 40,000 politicians that includes their bios, votes, positions on the issues, ratings from special interest groups, speeches, tweets, and funding sources. All you need to do is put in the name of the politician you’re interested in and start reading! You can trust the information on the site because Vote Smart posts a BULL icon by comments that have been proven false by, PolitiFact or the Washington Post.


Political Galaxy is a flashy and fast way to select a politician and an issue then find out where they stand by viewing their special interest ratings, votes and speeches. You can also get this information on the mobile app, On Point. With millions of facts at your fingertips, you really will be able to vote smart. 


Finally, you can use the very engaging Vote Easy resource to determine which candidate most matches your views on the issues. Go to this link and either “click on a candidate’s sign to see their positions on key issues OR compare your issue positions to those of all the candidates.” While you probably don’t need this to make your decision on your vote for president, it may come in handy for the congressional races. It’s also fun to use. 


If you’d like to support the work of Vote Smart, there are several ways you can help out. Put your researching skills to work by becoming a volunteer, make a donation or share these resources by liking the Vote Smart Facebook page and following them on Twitter @VoteSmart.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Save America

Only two Feel Good Fridays left before election day so it’s time for more voting resources. Today, we’ll focus on Vote Save America.

Vote Save America is a project of Crooked Media, the team that brings you the Pod Save America podcast and many others. As explained on their website, Vote Save America is “a website, an initiative, and a community to help guide you with each step you need to take throughout the year to have the impact you want.” Provided the impact you want to have is a more progressive national agenda and a new President.


Like many of the organizations we’ve been sharing in recent weeks, Vote Save America’s site includes information on registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot and important deadlines for every state and US Territory. For example, you can find everything you need to know about California here.  


There are also resources to learn more about the records of the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees and their stands on issues including: coronavirus response, healthcare, economy, education, foreign policy, climate, criminal justice reform, guns, voting rights and election reform, immigration and reproductive rights. Even if you know who you’re voting for, these pages are worth a look. In the coronavirus response section, policies listed under Biden include “enacting a universal mask mandate” and under Trump say “being a dick to Dr. Fauci”. Actual policies are included too.


Last, Vote Save America provides creative ways to volunteer, including becoming a poll worker or partnering with Fair Fight as a hotline volunteer or poll observer. You can also Adopt a State and get resources to help organizers, volunteers and candidates in six key battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.


If you’re reading this blog, I’m confident that you’re voting in this election. If you want to step up your participation use the links above to find the right volunteer opportunity. If you’ve got more money than time you can donate to one of Vote Save America's targeted campaigns: Get Mitch or Die Trying (elect key Democratic Senators and flip the Senate) or F*ck Gerry(mandering) Fund (flip state legislative races so new, fairer maps can be drawn in 2021). Last you can spread the word on social media by joining their Facebook group and following them on Twitter @votesaveamerica.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Democracy Works

As we count down to election day, we’re keeping the voting theme going. Last week, we shared the story of TurboVote. In today’s Feel Good Friday we’ll talk about their parent organization, Democracy Works.

The vision of Democracy works is to “make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election.” It’s the brainchild of Seth Flaxman and Kathryn Peters who, after missing several elections when they were graduate students, were inspired to build a reminder system. In 2010, they launched this system under the name TurboVote

As explained last week, TurboVote is a tool that provides voters with information they need to register, details on where and how to vote and reminders about important deadlines. Democracy Works also collects and standardizes election data that is used to produce polling place and ballot data. That data is then used in Google searches and by election officials, universities, organizations and companies who want to embed an interactive tool on their own sites.


Finally, Democracy Works helps election officials “build new tools and share technology, as well as best practices, so they can best serve their voters.” That includes adding intelligent bar codes to mail ballots so they can be tracked and providing a reporting tool that feeds directly into the USPS to help escalate concerns related to election mail.


All of these programs help Democracy Works achieve their mission of serving voters, powering elections and building a better democracy. If you want to be a part of it you can support Democracy Works with a donation and by amplifying their message on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @demworksinc. And for goodness sakes, #vote!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Feel Good Friday - TurboVote

Hard to believe that Election Day is finally less than a month away! Let’s celebrate with a Feel Good Friday post highlighting the work of TurboVote. 

A program of Democracy Works, who we’ll profile next week, TurboVote is “a tool that helps you vote, no matter what.” Since 2012, TurboVote has helped 9 million voters keep track of voter registration, absentee, and vote-by-mail rules for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


TurboVote’s website includes a page titled How to Vote where you can look up information for your state. Resources on how to register include instructions and links on who can vote, how to register, how to check your status and a list of key dates and deadlines. For example, in California the online registration deadline is October 19th but you have until November 3rd to register in person.


Once you’ve got your registration taken care of, you can research how to vote. TurboVote explains where you can find your polling place and what you’ll need to bring with you if you vote in person. They also provide tips on voting by mail and resources to find your ballot measures online.


Best of all, if you sign up with TurboVote, they’ll send you text and email reminders about registration deadlines, upcoming elections and where to vote!


So how do you get involved? Research information on voting in your state, get reminders by signing up with TurboVote and stay in the loop by liking the TurboVote Facebook page and following them on Twitter @TurboVote.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Black Voters Matter Fund

It’s Feel Good Friday and we’re continuing our voting rights/election theme with the Black Voters Matter Fund.


Headquartered in East Point, Georgia, the goal of Black Voters Matter (BVM) is “to increase power in marginalized, predominantly Black communities. Effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny.”

BVM works to achieve this goal while keeping five core beliefs in mind:

  • Respect and support local infrastructure
  • Black voters matter every day
  • Black voters matter everywhere
  • Messaging must be authentic and speak to the issues
  • Leadership of Black women must receive recognition and investment


Their work focuses on increasing voter registration and election turnout. BVM also advocates for voting rights and access issues such as expanded early voting, resisting voter ID and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. Last, they work with other groups to help them develop infrastructure, provide staff training and network development.


The BVM website has a voting toolkit with information and links on how to register, request an absentee ballot, check your registration status and get election reminders. There are also state-specific resources for people living in FL, SC, TN, GA, LA, NC, PA, AL and MS. Most fun, the Black Voters Matter “Blackest Bus in America” is currently on the road as part of a national voter outreach initiative. Watch a short video pinned on the BVM Twitter page to see where the bus will be next.

If you’d like to support the work of Black Voters Matter, you can volunteer for an activity such as phone banking, writing post cards or fundraising. You can also make a donation or raise awareness by wearing some BVM merch, liking their Facebook page and following them on Twitter @BlackVotersMtr.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Feel Good Friday - Vote Forward

As promised, I’m spending the next few Feel Good Fridays focused on voter education and election-related organizations. For all of us feeling sadness, fear or anger right now (or for the last four years), I have a lovely antidote – action. 

Vote Forward is a nonprofit organization that builds tools “to enable Americans, wherever they may be, to encourage fellow citizens to participate in our democracy.” Their mission is “to empower grassroots volunteers to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote.”  

It began in 2017 as an experiment by Scott Forman during the special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Using a randomized, controlled trial he found that turnout among people who received get out the vote (GOTV) letters was 3.9 percent higher than for turnout in the control group. That was a big enough success for Scott and some friends to build the Vote Forward platform. As he explains, “we believe our democracy depends on everyone participating, so we volunteered our time and expertise to achieve that goal.


So how does it work? You can watch this short video or keep reading.


Start by going to the Vote Forward website and clicking the link to “send letters”. Fill out a short form and get approved within 48 hours. Once confirmed, decide whether you want to send 5 or 20 letters (you can always go back for more) and either let the randomizer send you names or pick a state to target from this list of social campaigns.


I chose the randomizer and now have the names and addresses of 20 registered voters in Florida! Next step is to print out the letters (or go to your local copy shop), add a personal note and wait until the send date of October 17th to pop them in the mail. If you’re wondering why October 17th, Vote Forward found there is a sweet spot for GOTV letters, not too soon and not too late. You can read the full explanation and get mailing tips here.

Are you ready to join me? Vote Forward set a goal of sending out 10 million voter turnout letters in 2020 and the current count is 8.23 million. I got my list of voters on Thursday and I already feel better even though all I’ve done so far is print out the letters and buy stamps.


If you don’t have time to write, please consider a donation to Vote Forward and help them meet their goal of 10 million letters by spreading the word on social media. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter @votefwd.