Update: Christmas Display Raising Money for Hungry Approaching Goal


If you’re anywhere near the San Francisco Bay Area, make sure you plan a trip to the Severns-Pease Christmas Display in Sunnyvale between now and Jan. 1. When you come, bring some non-perishable food, or a check. You’ll not only be helping to feed hungry families, you’ll help the neighbors who operate the display reach their goal of raising $80,000 for the local food bank this holiday season.


The Severns-Pease Christmas Display (www.severex.com) in Sunnyvale, CA., uses LED lights.

The display’s website now says that they have raised $62, 442. It’s quite a tall order to try to raise almost $18,000 in one week, but my money is on creator Dave Severns to reach the goal. He’s a competitive guy, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he figures out a way to attract more food and money donations. I plan on stopping by with some food in the next week to drop in the barrels outside of the display.

Generosity Good, Good For You, According to Research


On this Christmas Eve when we’re all in a more generous mood, here’s a link to an excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle about research that shows being generous and volunteering reaps big rewards for the person displaying generosity.

Click for full article here.

Giving and helping others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves, research shows. Although there is a side of doing volunteer work or giving from a purely self-interested point of view: we get more respect in the community, our influence grows, and people will be willing to cooperate with us more. It’s an interesting read.

Christmas Party Spans Divide Between Rich, Poor, If Only For An Evening


SAN JOSE, CA. – On one recent evening in a downtown office, the great divide between Silicon Valley’s rich and poor melted away amidst some baked ham, gingerbread cookies and a few Christmas carols.

About 50 guests from a local homeless shelter and a low-income housing complex and their volunteer hosts enjoyed a little Christmas spirit around festive tables before shuttling back to a life of uncertainty.

There was no agenda that night, other than to give guests a chance to relax, enjoy a holiday meal, and share conversations away from the stress of a life on the streets.

The event was the third annual “Luke 14” Christmas Party at The River Church Community in downtown San Jose. Overseeing the festivities was Andy Singleterry and his wife Janet, church members who have both committed themselves to working with the poor. Volunteers from The River and at least two other local churches joined them.

As Singleterry explained to the hosts in a huddle before guests arrived, the title “Luke 14” comes from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14, in which Jesus advises people to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” instead of their rich friends and neighbors.

Among the volunteers that night were high tech employees, leaders in business, educators, and in some cases their children, for whom homelessness is usually more of an abstract idea than a reality. For this one evening the volunteers and the homeless and low income men and women interacted as if there was no divide between them, sharing stories about families, lives, and memories of Christmas’ past.


Update: “Magical Christmas Light Display” On Track to Raise $80,000 to Feed Hungry


Earlier this month I told you about the Severns-Pease Christmas Display, the 88,000-lights and music show that is simultaneously raising money to feed hungry people in the community and entertaining all who come to see it. Last year the neighbors behind the fundraising and food drive collected $54,000 between Thanksgiving weekend and New Year’s.

Severns-Pease-Christmas-Display-Dave-Severns-SunnyvaleDave Severns just announced that thus far they have collected $52,000 worth of food and money, as of December 15! Only half way through the season, and they are just shy of last year’s amount! Just $28,000 to go before they reach this year’s goal of $80,000, with about two and a half weeks to do get there. All the money and food goes to Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and haven’t seen the display yet, now is the time to visit. And bring a can of food to donate, some quarters for the snow machine, or a check.

You can follow their fundraising progress here, or by joining the display’s Facebook page.


Silicon Valley Animal Shelter Sends Out Urgent Call for Help Finding Homes for Dogs


Jojo needs a home.

If you’re a dog lover prone to adopting pets in need, proceed with caution. A “drastic” increase in recent weeks of the number of homeless dogs in local animal shelters has Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) officials asking the public to consider fostering or adopting dogs.

San Jose Animal Care and Services has 59 dogs up for adoption, more than twice as many as there is space. In addition, another 200 dogs are waiting for spaces to open up in the adoption area. Humane Society officials brought 15 dogs from San Jose to their center in Milpitas to help with the overflow. The HSSV center has a whopping 11 puppies and 55 dogs available for adoption. Other local shelters are also overflowing.

Acknowledging that “times are tough” the Humane Society is offering a special “Your Price is Right” deal, where adopters name their own adoption fee. Training deposits and licensing fees still apply. The deal is good through December 31.

The organization is also looking for experienced “dog guardians” who will foster dogs for short periods of time.

“CHiPs for Kids”: San Francisco Bay Area CHP Asks Help in Spreading Holiday Cheer


The Golden Gate Division of the California Highway Patrol is asking the public’s help in collecting toys and canned food for needy children this holiday season. “CHiPs for Kids” runs through December 20. Collection spots around the Bay Area are available to take new toys that will be distributed to children in local shelters.

“Last year’s toy drive was a big success, and we hope to collect even more toys this year,” said Chief Teresa Becher, Division Chief of the CHP Golden Gate Division office, in a press release.

The campaign also spotlights the importance of safe driving, including wearing seat belts and the proper use of child safety seats.

Below are the CHP offices that are accepting donations Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Golden Gate Division
1551 Benicia Road., Vallejo

(707) 648-4180

Castro Valley
21020 Redwood Road, Castro Valley
(510) 581-9028
3601 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
(510) 450-3821
Contra Costa
5001 Blum St., Martinez
(925) 646-4980
Redwood City
355 Convention Way, Redwood City
(650) 369-6261
4999 Gleason Rd., Dublin
(925) 828-0466
San Francisco
455 Eighth St., San Francisco
(415) 557-1094
2434 Whipple Rd., Hayward
(510) 489-1500
San Jose
2020 Junction Ave., San Jose
(408) 467-5400
53 San Clemente Dr., Corte Madera
(415) 924-1100
Santa Rosa
6100 LaBath Ave., Rohnert Park
(707) 588-1400
975 Golden Gate Dr., Napa
(707) 253-4906
3050 Travis Blvd., Fairfield
(707) 428-2100




30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 3


We started with how to be a good neighbor in your own neighborhood during the holidays, then talked about how to extend cheer to the community. Today is all about how to be a good neighbor to the world this holiday season.

  1. Use LED lights for light displays. According to physorg.com, LEDs last five times longer than regular lights and use 75 percent less energy (the link has several more great environmental holiday ideas).

    The Severns-Pease Christmas Display (www.severex.com) in Sunnyvale, CA., uses LED lights.

  2. Get creative about wrapping gifts. One friend of mine who wanted to reduce the amount of waste her family created during the holidays bought pretty fabric and sewed simple drawstring bags in various sizes to use for “wrapping” gifts. The bags are beautiful and will last for many years to come.
  3. Show your support for a soldier or veteran. A group called Soldiers’ Angels needs help delivering 190,000 care packages to deployed soldiers this holiday season and needs donations. The USO has it’s own care package program. Another great clearinghouse of information for how to help both soldiers and veterans here and abroad is salutetoservice.org. You may even find volunteer jobs right in your own community listed at the site.
  4. Give an alternative gift. For the person who has everything, you can donate to worthy causes in that person’s honor. You can visit the website of Alternative Gifts International to find an array of gifts that will help projects all over the world. Buy a cow or build a well for a village, or help education programs to build literacy. Or donate to nearly any cause you or the recipient believe in, and let that person know with a beautiful card.
  5. Sponsor a child abroad. For a monthly donation, you can help improve the life of a child in another part of the world. My family has participated with Children International for many years, and there are other wonderful groups that have similar programs such as World Vision and Compassion.
  6. Send a thank you to a former teacher, or greetings to friends far away you haven’t been in touch with for awhile. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
  7. Think Fair Trade when holiday shopping. Fair Trade is an entire movement that is trying to help communities lift themselves out of property by offering fair prices for products produced using fair labor practices in environmentally sustainable ways. Fair Trade coffee is probably best known, but you can also purchase chocolate, teas, spices, dried fruits, nuts, olive oil and wine. Fair Trade USA has an excellent website to learn more.
  8. Combine shopping errands to reduce fuel use. Plan out your shopping trips and try to come up with routes that use the least amount of gas (will probably help you save time, too!).
  9. Pray for peace. Take a few minutes out of each day this season to pray for peace not only in the world, but in your own community and even your own family. Just the act of praying will bring you a few moments of peace in your own life.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor to the world in the coming New Year. Make a new commitment to some act you haven’t tried before, like bringing reusable shopping bags to the store. Or think about conducting an energy audit for your home this year.

What have you tried? Let us know about it! And if you try anything on this list, please let us know how it goes.


30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 2


Yesterday I listed 10 ways to be a good neighbor in your own neighborhood. Today I’m sharing ways to spread holiday cheer into the rest of the surrounding community. In Part 3, I look at ways to be a good neighbor to the world.

  1. With a major recession and chronic joblessness, food banks and social service organizations are hard-pressed to provide for all the needs out there. If you have any resources available, now is the time to share. Money, food, clothing, coats, blankets are all needed. It’s very easy to find places that need your help as early in the season as possible. Do an Internet search for food banks in your community, or check the local newspapers and their websites for links to charities. Don’t have money? How about some time? The same agencies who need donations need volunteers to distribute to needy families.
  2. Shop local. More and more of us are shopping online, but there are small businesses in your town who need their neighbors to stay afloat and keep jobs and sales taxes in your community. Try to do at least some of your holiday shopping at a locally-owned business. And if you’re going out to eat at any point, visit a local establishment, not a chain restaurant.
  3. Thank the people who keep you safe year round. Drop by the local fire station or police station and say “thank you”. Bring a basket of goodies if you’re able. When I say “goodies”, I mean things that are good for you. I used to take cookies to an office each December to thank the workers for their help, until one of them took me aside and said that as much as they appreciated my gesture, everyone there was trying to eat healthier. I wasn’t the only one bringing cookies or candy and the temptation to overeat was great. The next year I brought a basket filled with tangerines, nuts, specialty coffee and tea, and even a little dark chocolate. They loved it!
  4. Attend a community holiday event. Pick something happening in your town, a tree or candle lighting, a community breakfast or services and events at houses of worship. Challenge yourself to introduce yourself to at least one other person and find out a little bit about who that person is. It’s good to get to know a wide variety of people in the community. You may even make a new friend.
  5. Find out if a local school has a wish list. These days there’s no doubt teachers have a long list of needs. Call one of the schools near you and ask.  You can also find worthy projects at edutopia.org, a site created by The George Lucas Education Foundation, or at iloveschools.org.
  6. Recycle your Christmas tree. Most communities have a way to do this, either with curbside pickup or a place to drop-off. Check for requirements; some cities ask you to cut the tree into smaller segments, depending on the tree height. The trees get mulched and help nourish local soil.
  7. Call the nursing home near you and ask if they need volunteers to visit residents. Chances are you would be a welcome sight to many folks.
  8. Take part in a regional campaign to raise awareness about drinking and driving. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are a very deadly time of year with holiday parties happening. Go to www.madd.org to find out if your local Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) chapter is leading an effort, or ask your local law enforcement agencies. (See my recent post where I mentioned MADD as a success story in raising awareness)
  9. Tip your baristas! Do you have a regular spot you go to for coffee or meals? Give the people who serve you year-round a special tip and say “thank you” for doing such a good job of taking care of you.
  10. Resolve to be a better community neighbor in the New Year. Find out when your city council or school board meets and plan on attending at least once. Look into emergency preparedness and discover how you can get involved. Plan on being a positive part of your community!

Have you helped your community during the holidays? Tell us! If you try anything on this list, please let us know how it went. What other ways are there to help the community at this time of year?

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 1


‘Tis the season to be jolly, as the song says, and why not spread some of that holiday cheer by being a good neighbor?

I’ve put together a list of 30 ways to be a good neighbor during the holidays, broken into three parts. Today is 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our own neighborhoods. Next I’ll share 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our communities. I’ll close out the list with 10 ways to be a good neighbor to the world.

In Your Own Neighborhood

  1. Host a holiday get together. This does not have to be fancy, complicated or expensive. A simple hand written note left at each neighbor’s door inviting people over for a cup of holiday cheer and some cookies is all that’s necessary. Choose a two-hour window on a weekend or weeknight to have folks drop by. You can get a little more involved by planning a potluck, so everyone shares the load of providing something. In a multi-cultural neighborhood like mine, it would be interesting to have each family bring something from their own culture enjoyed during a holiday or festival.
  2. Bake cookies and bring a small plate to each home. Again, this does not have to be over complicated. No one’s waistline needs a large gift basket of cookies, just a few of your family’s favorites on a small plate or in a small bag is fine. If you have the time, include recipes.
  3. By Fagles [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia CommonsOffer to help a neighbor with installing/removing decorations. Maybe an older or disabled neighbor would like a few strings of lights adorning his or her home. Or, you could suggest to a neighbor that you help each other.
  4. Organize a neighborhood food drive. One year I knew that a local social service agency was short many items to distribute to families who couldn’t afford Christmas gifts and dinners. I made up a simple flyer with a list of needed items, and an offer to come pick up the items and deliver them to the agency. I dropped off flyers at each home on my street and a couple of surrounding streets. I met some neighbors I had never spoken with before, and I took a carload of food and other items that brought cheer to those who were less fortunate.
  5. Be a “Secret Santa”. Leave a bag with treats on a neighbor’s doorstep with a note saying that it’s from their Secret Santa. You can do the same thing to all your surrounding neighbors, or you could do what I saw one year, which is encourage one neighbor to in turn become the Secret Santa for a different neighbor. The idea is to keep the gift giving going, another way of paying it forward.
  6. Write a note to each neighbor saying why you appreciate them. Don’t know your neighbors well? Just send a card with a nice note saying you hope you’ll get the chance to get to know them in the coming year.
  7. Decide as a family to perform chores for neighbors as a gift from your family to theirs. Choose age-appropriate chores for your kids, and contact neighbors about setting up a time to come over to rake leaves, shovel snow, weed, etc. Spread the cheer even more by wearing Santa hats, or holiday colors, while working. Live in a housing complex? Maybe your family could help spruce up common areas, or run simple errands for neighbors.
  8. Is a neighbor out of work or struggling financially? There are ways to help that won’t embarrass your neighbor or put him or her on the spot. Dr. Deborah Bauers suggests in a post on helium.com ways to give . One suggestion is to give a financial gift anonymously.  Or cook some extra food at dinnertime, and then bring it over saying you can’t eat it and don’t want it to go to waste.
  9. Offer to watch a neighbor’s house while they go out of town.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor in the New Year. Plan on meeting more neighbors you don’t know. Think about offering to create a neighborhood contact list, with people’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Plan a summertime block party. Keep brainstorming ideas of how to help your neighbors.

What are your ideas for how to be a good neighbor during the holidays? What have you tried and what was the result? If you try something from this list, make sure to let us know. Share in the comments below!

Wow! Facebook Post Got A Lot of Notice/Welcome New Readers!


goodneighborstories.com logoToday has been an interesting day. I posted about the whole Facebook “change your profile picture for child abuse awareness” issue last night. In the morning I found about 25 people had viewed the post after finding it through a search engine. And then more views started racking up. And then the comments started coming in. At one point one of the commenters said “congratulations on getting pressed.” I have to admit, I didn’t know what the term “pressed” meant right away. And then it dawned on me that the post had been featured by WordPress on their home page. A quick check, and yes, there it was, front and center.

The post has had more than 3,500 views since last night, and more than 100 comments (I think I accidentally deleted a good one I wanted to reply to; so sorry whoever you are). Plus a lot of “likes” from all over North America and four other continents. Plus some new subscriptions.

If you’re new to this blog, welcome! So glad you found me, and hope you come back often. To everyone who reads this blog, thank you! I very much appreciate your readership, comments, and supportive words. I hope all of you will also check out the goodneighborstories.com website on a regular basis.

Tomorrow I’m starting a three-part series on “30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season”.  Hope you’ll join me.