Friday, April 28, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Autism Speaks

April is World Autism Month and we’re using the last Feel Good Friday in April to talk about the work being done by Autism Speaks

Founded in 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the vision of Autism Speaks is “a world where all people with autism can reach their full potential.” The work done by this organization involves advocacy, services, support, research and innovation, and advances in care for autistic individuals and their families.

Before we talk more about the work, let’s review definitions from the website. “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.” According to data from the CDC, approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

With 13 local offices around the United States, the mission of Autism Speaks has five objectives: 

  • Increasing global understanding and acceptance of people with autism
  • Being a catalyst for life-enhancing research breakthroughs
  • Increasing early childhood screening and timely interventions
  • Improving the transition to adulthood
  • Ensuring access to reliable information and services throughout the life span

Practically speaking, that means grant funding for research, service providers and individuals and families in financial need; a caregiver skills training program for both parents and professionals; and toolkits, information and resources that you can search for by topic or life stage. People can also contact the specially trained Autism Response Team with specific questions and to get referrals to additional tools, resources and services.

The impact of the work being done by Autism Speaks can be found in their 2022 Annual Report. Highlights include over $1.6 million in funding to next generation autism science leaders and $240,000 in local grants to 54 community providers across 28 states; connecting with over 87,000 people by phone, email and chat to provide information and resources; conducting monthly trainings for 425+ Advocacy Ambassadors on how to advocate for and share resources in their communities; and aiding more than 1.6 million people through funded services, resources and direct support.

If you’re inspired by the work of Autism Speaks, there are many ways you can help them achieve their vision. Register for a fundraising walk, join the grassroots advocacy network, shop for merch, make a donation, and spread the word by sharing their work on social media. Follow Autism Speaks on Facebook, on Twitter @autismspeaks and Instagram @autismspeaks.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Feel Good Friday - National Forest Foundation

Tomorrow is Earth Day and if you haven’t yet decided how to celebrate the planet, check out the work being done by the National Forest Foundation. 

Founded in 1993 and headquartered in Missoula, Montana, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is a conservation organization that works with the U.S. Forest Service and thousands of Americans to “promote the health and enjoyment of our National Forest System”.


The National Forest System is comprised of 193 million acres of forests, grasslands, deserts, and mountains that range from Alaska to Puerto Rico. These outdoor spaces are visited by over 170 million people each year and offer unparalleled recreation opportunities such as hiking, fishing, and camping. They also support local economies, sustaining nearly 223,000 jobs in gateway communities, and provide critical natural resources, as well as clean our water and air, and host wildlife.


NFF works in six regions across the United States: Eastern, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and California. They empower communities to care for their National Forests by focusing on conservation initiatives, grant programs, and tree planting.


Current conservation initiatives include reopening recreation areas in Mt. Hood damaged by fire, investing in watersheds in Northern Arizona, and restoring Tahoe headwaters. Grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations dedicated to addressing natural resource issues in National Forests and Grasslands. Past recipients include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund.


Tree planting is the third focus area of NFF and an easy way for you to get involved. Millions of acres of forests around the country have been devastated by wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and disease. In order to survive, they need to be reforested. NFF has a goal of planting 50 million trees in five years, and this is the last year of the initiative. For every dollar you donate, one tree will be planted! Learn more this video.


There are many other ways to support the National Forest Foundation, in addition to planting trees. Visit their website to find a forest and take a hike! Shop for merch, make a general donation, and let more people know about NFF by amplifying their message on social media. Follow the National Forest Foundation on Facebook, on Twitter @NationalForests and Instagram @nationalforests. #DownToEarth

Friday, April 14, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Free Tax Help Bay Area

Is it possible to write a Feel Good Friday blog about taxes? When we highlight the work of Free Tax Help Bay Area, the answer is yes.

A program of United Way Bay Area, Free Tax Help Bay Area is a coalition of organizations that provides free tax preparation for low-to-moderate-income households in the Bay Area, in partnership with the IRS. All services are free, secure and high quality, and all tax returns are prepared by trained and IRS-certified volunteers.

While it seems like this information is being shared with you at the last minute, it’s really not. Residents of the nine Bay Area counties have until October 16th to file their taxes due to the extreme weather seen statewide this winter. So you’ve got plenty of time to access these resources.

Free tax preparation is available for anyone who needs it and there are several filing options. You can visit a participating site in person to get help or drop off your taxes. You can also file online by filling out a short interview form and uploading your documents. IRS-certified tax preparers from Code for America will prepare your taxes virtually.

Volunteers make sure taxpayers claim the tax credits they are eligible for, helping maximize their refund to make ends meet. In 2022 the program helped provide 32,228 tax returns resulting in $53,289,926 in total federal and state refunds back to families in the community.

You don’t need tax experience to volunteer, you’ll receive training. As long as you are comfortable working with people, computer literate and able to commit to one shift per week, you can help your neighbors in need file taxes accurately, claiming the tax credits that help them make ends meet.

If you’re unable to take a volunteer shift this season, you can also help by making a donation and letting more people know about Free Tax Help Bay Area on social media. Follow United Way Bay Area on Facebook, on Twitter @UWBayArea and Instagram @uwbayarea. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

Feel Good Friday - Arab America Foundation

Happy Feel Good Friday and happy National Arab American Heritage Month! Officially recognized by President Biden in April 2021, a great way to celebrate this month is by learning more about the Arab America Foundation.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Arab America Foundation (AAF) is an educational and cultural organization with the mission to “promote the Arab heritage and empower Arab Americans; educate Americans about the Arab identity and culture, and to connect Arab Americans to each other and to other communities.”  

One of the ways AAF promotes Arab Americans is with a program that spotlights accomplished professionals in fields ranging from law, politics and business through engineering, medicine and entertainment. You can read more about these people on the annual lists: 40 Under 40, 30 Under 30 and 20 Under 20. Additional promotion happens through Arab America, a leading provider of digital media to the Arab American community. Their site shares a new Arabic word and recipe every day as well as highlighting news, events and resources.

Education comes in the form of fun facts, for example Shakira, Steve Jobs and astronaut Christa McAuliffe are all Arab American. There is also a more detailed educator’s curriculum kit that covers religion, demographics, culture and more. That’s where I learned that there are 22 countries in the Arab League united by a common language and similar customs. Also, people from these countries should not be referred to as Middle Eastern Americans because the category “Middle East” refers to a region of the world that is linked by a shared location, but not a common culture.

Connections can be made by becoming a cousin of AAF. You’ll be able to promote Arab American heritage and culture, network with business and professional contacts and attend educational and cultural events. If you live in the DMV area, the National Arab American Heritage Month Commemoration 2023 is happening on April 26th. Celebrations will include guest speakers, performances, cuisine, music, and dance! Get your tickets here

The rest of us can support the AAF virtually by making a donation and amplifying their message on social media. Like the Arab America Foundation Facebook page and follow Arab America on Facebook, Twitter @Arab_America and Instagram @arab_america. Yalla!