Friday, December 29, 2023

Feel Good Friday - The Free Mindfulness Project

As we head into a new year, many people spend time setting resolutions for themselves. If being more mindful is one of yours, let me introduce you to The Free Mindfulness Project.

Founded in 2012 by Peter Morgan and based in the United Kingdom, the purpose of The Free Mindfulness Project is "to provide easy and free access to mindfulness meditation exercises by inviting the wider mindfulness community to share their resources” on the site.

Let’s start with a quick definition of mindfulness from the website: “Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to what we are experiencing in this moment, and doing so with a particular attitude: One of curiosity, openness, acceptance and warmth. Simply observing what we are experiencing, right now, and bringing a warm curiosity to whatever arises.”

To give mindfulness a try, head to the free resources page. Here you will find a selection of guided mindfulness exercises. You can choose exercises that focus on your breath, your body or guided imagery. There is also a collection of brief exercises if you’re short on time.

If you’d prefer to participate in live online sessions, this link lists recurring live sessions that take place in the U.K., the East Cost of the United States, and California. Because they’re virtual, you can join any of the groups no matter where in the world you are.

The website also has COVID-19 resources, a gallery of soothing images, and a collection of poetry provided by Words to Sit With. Take some time to explore the options and try them out until you find some that you like.

If you find this website helpful and want to make a financial contribution, you’re out of luck. The ability to donate to the project was suspended in 2020 so that people would support other organizations experiencing financial hardship. What you can do is spread the word about The Free Mindfulness Project by sharing this post. Have a happy, healthy, mindful new year!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Doing Good Together

Many people spend their time off during the holiday season doing volunteer work. If you’ve been looking for a way get your family involved in an activity, look no further than
Doing Good Together.

Founded in 2004, Doing Good Together (DGT) is a national nonprofit based in Minnesota “that works to make volunteering and service, along with daily kindness, easy for every family.” Their mission is “empowering families to raise children who care and contribute.” 

Studies show that, while parents want their children to be kind and compassionate, children aren’t getting the message and there has been a 40% decline in empathy among college students compared with peers from 10 years ago. The good news is that empathy is like a muscle you can build and DGT is here to help. Learn more about their programs in this short video or keep reading.

A great place to start your involvement is with the Big-Hearted Families Toolkit. This toolkit has ideas for service projects, kindness activities, empathy building book lists and talking tips and tools. Visit the printables page for free resources such as activity books, kindness challenges and ideas of how to add kindness to family routines. If you need to do some last minute shopping, you can view this page to get ideas for gifts that support DGT’s mission.

When you and your family are ready to volunteer together, you can pick a project by the topic of focus, such as fighting poverty, caring for animals or healing the Earth. Check out this list of 12 Holiday Volunteering Tips if you’re looking for something to do now. DGT also shares monthly, family-friendly volunteer opportunities in 10 metro areas around the United States including Silicon Valley, California, Twin Cities, Minnesota, and New York City. See the full list here.

If you’re ready to help Doing Good Together instill the spirit of giving in a new generation, there are many ways to do so. Become a member of the DGT family, make a donation, and amplify their message on social media. Follow Doing Good Together on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube Channel and blog. You’ll never run out of ideas on how you can do something good together!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Harvest Home

In many cities around the United States, figuring out how to care for, and house, the homeless is a challenging issue. One group that often gets overlooked in these discussions is pregnant women. That’s where Harvest Home comes in.

Harvest Home began in 1985 when a woman in Santa Monica, California opened her home to a pregnant young woman who was living on the streets. Since then, Harvest Home has grown into a residential program that “transforms the lives of homeless pregnant women and their children by providing housing, support, and programs that equip women to become great mothers.”

It’s estimated that every year in Los Angeles, 5,000 women are homeless at some point during their pregnancy. Despite these numbers, there are less than 70 shelter beds available in the city for women who are pregnant and in crisis. Harvest Home recognized these women would benefit from specialized interventions and created programs with these needs in mind.

It starts with a 30-60 day stay in the Venice Home. Here pregnant women participate in case management, therapy and programming to assess their short-term needs and set plans for lasting independence. In this short video women explain the impact of having their own room and participating in the program.

Next is the Pico Home, where participants can stay for up to 6 months after giving birth. While here, pregnant women and new moms participate in case management, therapy and educational classes on topics such as child care, financial literacy, and mental and physical health. The goal is for the women to establish long term stability and transition out of homelessness. The final step is joining the Alumnae Program. As alumnae of Harvest Home, women are eligible for ongoing case management, support and access to resources such as diapers.

The impact Harvest Home is having is impressive. They serve up to 70 women and families in their residential program each year, for a total of over 540 since they began. Of these program participants, 90% transition into stable housing, 95% are active in the alumnae program, and 100% of the women maintain custody of their children.

If you’d like to support Harvest Home and the work they do with pregnant women there are many ways to do so. Those of you living in the Los Angeles area can volunteer your time. All of us can donate items or money and spread the word on social media. Follow Harvest Home on Facebook and on Instagram.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Santa's Helpers Foundation

Yes, it’s still early December but don’t be fooled - Christmas is around the corner! Not everyone in California has the means to provide gifts to the children in their families. That’s where Santa’s Helpers Foundation comes in.

Founded in 2021 and headquartered in Concord, California, the mission of Santa’s Helpers Foundation (SHF) is “to provide joy to children, and assistance to those in poverty.” They accomplish this goal by donating items of food, clothing, and gifts to low-income families.

Although Christmas and Santa Claus were the inspiration for this organization, SHF “is committed to creating a world where every child experiences hope, kindness and joy, especially during the holiday season.” They are inclusive of all families and donate presents to children for the many holidays celebrated during the winter months, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year!

While the Holiday Donation Program is the flagship program of SHF, it’s not the only one. Cheer for Kids provides sponsorship for sports activities that promote physical fitness, Komics4Kids donates reading level appropriate comics to children to encourage a love of reading, and Santa’s Nice List recognizes people in the community who are serving and helping the less fortunate. These individuals receive a thank you card and small token gift of appreciation. 

Any family in California who is struggling financially is eligible to participate in the SHF programs. Applications for toy donations end this Sunday so if you or someone you know can use a visit from Santa’s Helpers, fill out this application form. While limited resources mean not every family who applies will be approved, those who are get notified by email and a volunteer Santa’s Helper hand delivers the donation items before the family’s celebrated holiday.

If you want to spread some cheer this holiday season, consider supporting Santa’s Helpers Foundation. You can do so by volunteering, making a donation, and spreading the word on social media by liking their Facebook page. Ho, ho, ho!

Friday, December 1, 2023

Feel Good Friday - AIDS United

December 1st is World AIDS Day and a good day to learn more about AIDS United.

Formed in 2011 as a merger between two organizations established in the 1980s, the mission of AIDS United is “to end the HIV epidemic in the United States.” They note on their website that the biggest obstacle to ending the HIV epidemic is a lack of health equity, which is why they focus on increasing both health equity and access to testing, prevention and treatment.

The work they do is divided into three areas. The first is capacity building for organizations working in the HIV sector. AIDS United provides community-based organizations with organizational management tools and other technical assistance so those groups can support people in their local communities.

The second area is focused on policy and advocacy. By uniting organizations from across the U.S. in their Public Policy Council, AIDS United brings people together to advocate for “the laws, policies and government programs that address health equity and increase HIV testing, prevention and treatment.”

The final area of focus is providing strategic grants to the organizations best situated to end the HIV epidemic in their communities. To date AIDS United has awarded $221 million dollars to groups working in 43 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Examples of programs these grants support “include, but are not limited to, syringe access, access to care, capacity-building, HIV prevention and advocacy.” You can find details on specific initiatives supported by AIDS United at this link. 

If you’d like to support AIDS United there are many ways to do so. Start by reviewing the HIV 101 section of their website to make sure you’re informed on how to prevent the transmission of HIV. Next, you can take action by contacting Congress on HIV-related policy issues or attending the advocacy event,  AIDSWatch, in March, 2024. Finally, you can help by making a donation and amplifying their work on social media. Like the AIDS United Facebook page, follow them on Instagram or TikTok, and subscribe to their YouTube channel

Friday, November 24, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Association on American Indian Affairs

November is Native American Heritage Month and today is Native American Heritage Day. A perfect time to learn about the Association on American Indian Affairs.

Headquartered in Clarksville, Maryland, the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) was founded in 1922 “to change the destructive path of federal policy from assimilation, termination and allotment, to sovereignty, self-determination and self-sufficiency.” Their mission today is “to lead the grassroots fight to protect Native Cultural Sovereignty.” 

The work of AAIA centers around their goals to “protect sovereignty, preserve culture, educate youth and build capacity.” The Cultural Sovereignty programs include work around repatriation of Indigenous land, burial belongings and cultural objects back to the original Native Nations. AAIA also provides technical assistance and training on how to use the law to protect sacred places

The Next Generation Program includes investigations into wrongful adoption practices; justice reform to address the disparate treatment of Native youth; and awarding college scholarships to students and grants to summer camps. In 2023 over 300 youth from 30 Tribes, Nations and communities attended summer camps that provided experiences to connect them with their cultures.

The final programs of AAIA focus on Becoming an Ally. There are resources on how we can all help to end the violence that disproportionally affects Indigenous Peoples and advocate to change racist mascots.

If you’d like to learn more, you can attend an AAIA event, or tune in to Red Hoop Talk, a streaming Native news and talk show. If you’re ready to support AAIA’s efforts to protect Native Cultural Sovereignty there are many ways to do so. Make a donation, join the association, and show your support on social media. Like the AAIA Facebook page, follow them on Instagram @associndianaffairs and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Feel Good Friday - SPOON

For many people in the United States, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday means friends, family and food. It’s a good time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, and it’s also a good time to highlight an organization focused on child nutrition, SPOON.

Established in 2007 by Cindy Kaplan and Mishelle Rudzinski and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, SPOON’s mission is “to nourish children who are highly vulnerable to malnutrition by empowering their caregivers around the globe.” 

Their work is focused on children with disabilities, and those living outside of family care because these children are much more likely to experience malnutrition than their peers. SPOON approaches this issue in three ways which you can learn about in this short video or by continuing to read below. 

The first step is training for caregivers such as community health workers, nurses and social workers. Topics include nutrition, feeding and disabilities. This training has been provided across 17 countries and there are also self-paced, online courses available to help the program scale.

Once training has been completed, the caregivers can access a digital health app called Count Me In. The app includes educational content and assessment tools. It helps service providers track mealtime, growth, and anemia for children in their care and makes recommendations for intervention when needed. 

Finally, data from SPOON’s work around the world is shared with their partners and used to advocate for inclusive polices, services and investments for all children.

The impact of this work is impressive. Last year, SPOON trained 352 people in 8 countries, who worked with over 13,000 children. For children being monitored with the Count Me In app, 35% saw an improvement in growth, 40% had a drop in anemia rates, and 82% experienced improvement in rates of safe feeding positions.

If you’d like to help SPOON increase their impact around the world, there are many ways to do so. Volunteer your time, donate your money and share their message on social media. Follow SPOON on Facebook and on Instagram @spoonfoundation.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Hope for the Warriors

Tomorrow is Veterans Day in the United States and today is a great time to learn about an organization that serves veterans, Hope for the Warriors.

Hope for the Warriors was founded by military families in 2006. Headquartered in Virginia, they are a national organization that “provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and military families that are focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.”


The team at Hope for the Warriors believes that “those touched by military service can succeed at home by restoring their sense of self, family, and hope.” Their holistic approach to well-being focuses on six domains: financial wellness, life roles, physical wellness, emotional wellness, social support, and community connection. Programs are available for service members, veterans, caregivers, and family members from all branches of the military, across all 50 states. 

Examples of financial wellness and life role programs include short term financial assistance, educational scholarships, job assistance and a driver rehabilitation program. Physical and emotional wellness programs include mental health services, a virtual course to learn resiliency and coping skills and endurance events for athletes. The final group of programming targets social support and community connection. There is a peer support network to mentor veterans and a grant program to fulfill the wishes of severely injured service members and families of the fallen.

In 2019, the most recent data available on the website, Hope for the Warriors served 4,756 clients, and brought their scholarship total to over $400,000 and their Warrior’s Wish grant total to over $1 million.

If you or someone you know can benefit by getting connected to any of these services, apply at this link. If you’d like to support Hope for the Warriors there are many ways to do so. Check this calendar for upcoming events in your area, volunteer your time, donate your money and amplify their work on social media. Follow Hope for the Warriors on their Facebook page and on Instagram @hope4warriors.


Friday, November 3, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Eyes in the Sky Revisited

Today I’m revisiting a post from 10 years ago in honor of a friend who recently passed away. She was a longtime volunteer at Eyes in the Sky in Santa Barbara so it’s time to take another look at this organization.

Since the year 2000, Eyes in the Sky (EITS) has been the key wildlife education program of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society and it is still the only licensed raptor education program in Santa Barbara County.

EITS is home to seven rescued and rehabilitated birds of prey who serve as wildlife education ambassadors. There are three owls, two kestrels, a falcon and a hawk. While the birds are housed in the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the majority of the EITS programs take place off site in “public elementary schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, and after school programs.” They include classroom visits from the birds, neighborhood bird walks and art sessions where you can draw, paint or photograph the birds.

If you live in Santa Barbara and want to get involved with Eyes in the Sky you can visit or volunteer. The rest of us can show our support by making a donation and spreading the word on social media. Like the Santa Barbara Audubon Society Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @sbaudubon.

Teresa and Ivan
If you do donate, I would appreciate if you can mark your donation “in memory of Teresa Fanucchi”. Thank you. 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Y'alloween

Halloween is coming up on Tuesday so it’s time for a spooky Feel Good Friday post about Y’alloween.

Founded by high school junior BJ Rottinghaus and his family in 2021, Y’alloween is a non-profit based in Houston, Texas that helps kids in need get free Halloween costumes. Given the name of the organization, I suspect the location of the headquarters is not a surprise. 🎃 Knowing that the expense of a Halloween costume is out of reach for many families, the team at Y’alloween partners with local community organizations who have programs for children. 

In their first year, Y’alloween worked with the Houston Area Women’s Center and provided 50 costumes. Since then, they’ve added Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence and Assurance Therapeutic Outreach to their list of partners. They’ve also recently expanded beyond the Houston area and are now working with the Austin branch of the Salvation Army

By working with these partners, Y’alloween has already given away 300 costumes to children in need and they’re on track to give away 400 more costumes this year! Their goal is for “every kid in Texas to be able go trick-or-treating without parents worrying about buying a brand new costume.” 

There are many ways you can help make this goal a reality. Buy an item from Y’alloween’s Amazon wish list or make a general donation. You can also use the next few days to spread the word on social media. Like the Y’alloween Facebook page and follow them on Instagram @yalloweentx.


Friday, October 20, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Doctors Without Borders

Another Friday with people around the world impacted by conflict and natural disasters. Another post about an organization doing something to help. Today we focus on Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as MSF. 

Founded in 1971 by a group of doctors and journalists in France, MSF provides “independent, impartial medical humanitarian assistance to the people who need it most.” 

What started as a group of a few hundred volunteers 50 years ago has grown into an international movement of more than 63,000 staff providing over 10 million medical consultations in more than 70 countries and territories every year. This short video gives a great overview of their work as told by the people who do it.

MSF provides care where the needs for their expertise are greatest regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or politics. Nearly 25% of their projects are dedicated to assisting people living in conflict. In the current Israel-Gaza war, MSF offered support to Israeli hospitals treating large numbers of casualties following attacks by Hamas militants. They are also treating people at the MSF-supported Al-Awda hospital in Gaza. You can find the latest updates at this link.

MSF aid workers respond to natural disasters like the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan and Morocco. Because they have a worldwide network, they are often the first group to deploy rapid, lifesaving medical care. This network can also be activated during an outbreak of infectious disease. MSF will set up temporary facilities to treat patients, run mass vaccination campaigns and improve water and sanitation services to help prevent the spread of disease.

Finally, MSF teams work with refugees and internally displaced people to conduct rapid needs assessments and provide services such as vaccination; primary care and mental health counseling; nutrition support; and clean water and sanitation. Because MSF is financially independent they are able to reach communities in need without restriction and directly provide high quality medical care.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world and unsure of how you can help, supporting an organization like  Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is one way to make an impact. You can get involved by fundraising, joining a college chapter of MSF or volunteering. You can also make a donation and spread the word on social media. Like the MSF Facebook page, subscribe to their YouTube channel follow them on Instagram @doctorswithoutborders. 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Alliance for Middle East Peace

With news of the recent terrorist attack on Israel and the ensuing violence in the Gaza Strip, it’s difficult to feel hopeful about the state of the world. That’s the reason I started posting a Feel Good Friday blog 11 years ago. To remind myself that at the same time terrible things are happening, there are also people and organizations working to make a positive impact. This week, I’m highlighting the Alliance for Middle East Peace.

Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Washington D.C. the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) is a coalition of over 170 organizations, and tens of thousands of individuals. Their vision is “a Middle East in which its community of Palestinian and Israeli peace builders lead their societies toward and beyond a sustainable peace.” Many of the ALLMEP member organizations have issued statements about the current situation, opposing the violence and committing to an Israeli/Palestinian partnership to achieve peace and equality.

When not in a time of immediate crisis, ALLMEP amplifies the voices and impact of their member organizations by sustaining and scaling the work being done in support of peace. Some of that work is focused on capacity building and training on topics such digital media, grant writing, monitoring and evaluation. Another big portion of the work is around global advocacy and fundraising. 

ALLMEP is working with governments around the world to create an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and has already secured financial commitment from the United Kingdom and United States. This is modeled after the International Fund for Ireland, which was used to make peace building investments in Northern Ireland.

An example of groups that receive funding from ALLMEP include: The Parents Circle, a group of Palestinian and Israeli parents whose children have been killed, now working together for peace; Hand in Hand, bilingual schools where Jewish and Arab children learn together; and Olive Oil Without Borders, a collaborative economic initiative among olive oil farming communities in Israel and the West Bank. Learn more about those organizations in this short video.

If you’d like to support organizations like those above and see peace in the Middle East, supporting ALLMEP is an actionable step you can take. Make a donation and amplify their message on social media. Follow the ALLMEP Facebook page and subscribe to their YouTube channel.