How to Organize a Great Block Party


Yesterday I posted about how neighbors in Cupertino are strengthening their neighborhoods through throwing annual block parties. Today I’ve got a list of ideas on how to organize a great block party in your own neighborhood.

Live in an apartment building or condominium complex? Don’t let that stop you from getting neighbors together. A common area or local park can be used to gather people together with food and activities to facilitate conversations and connections.

Cottonwood Drive resident and professional party planner Lianne Hatcher, who helped organize this year’s 50s themed block party for her neighborhood, said it’s important to have one person play the role of block leader, who can then organize interested neighbors who want to be on the planning committee.

Plan the party one to two months in advance, and make sure the party date does not conflict with major events, like graduations or holidays where people will likely be traveling. [Read more…]

Block Parties Bring Neighbors Together


Want to make your neighborhood a little nicer and safer? Do like the neighbors on Cottonwood Drive in Cupertino do, and break out the hot dogs and Samosas.

Every summer the residents along the street gather together for an annual block party, a day of food, games, and friendly chatting. More than just a fun festivity, the popular event serves as a way to knit the neighbors together just a little tighter, and make the neighborhood just a little nicer all year long.

“It’s a good community project. The more you know your neighbors, the better for your street,” said Nanette Domitrowich, as she put the final touches on preparations for Cottonwood’s 2012 block party last month.

The yearly party started several years ago, helping to lift morale; since they began Domitrowich said neighbors say “hi” to one another a little more.

Her co-block leader, Sujit Roy, called the tradition a nice way for neighbors to catch up with one another, since normally, “We drive in our cars and we don’t get to see anybody.”

This year Domitrowich and her neighbor a few doors down, Lianne Hatcher, planned a 50s theme for the event; they played pop tunes from the era, added a few decorations, and Hatcher even donned 50s garb.

Like most Silicon Valley neighborhoods, Cottonwood is a mixture of long-time residents—some homeowners have lived there more than 50 years—and newer transplants from around the world. [Read more…]

Candlelight Vigils in Bay Area for Sikh Shooting Victims; Open House Sunday


Bay Area residents have a chance Wednesday, Aug. 8,  to honor the six victims killed at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday at three local candlelight vigils in San Jose, Fremont, and Hayward.

Two vigils are taking place at 7 p.m., one at Lake Elizabeth, 40000 Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont, and another at the Gurdwara Sahib Temple in Hayward, 1805 Hill Ave. A vigil in San Jose begins at 8 p.m., at the San Jose Sikh Gurdwara Temple, 3636 Murillo Ave.

Local Sikh leaders, as well as secular leaders, are encouraging the public to attend. People are asked to bring their own candles, if possible.

“We are very much saddened by the events in the Sikh Gurdwara in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. To pray for the families of those who lost their lives or were injured in this insane violence, we invite everyone to join us,” a press release from the San Jose gurdwara states.

In addition to the vigil, the San Jose gurdwara is hosting an open house this Sunday, Aug. 12, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. People are invited to join the members in prayer or a vegetarian meal called a Langar.

The gurdwara also set up a fund to help families of the victims. Checks can be made out to Sikh Gurdwara San Jose, and sent to 3636 Murillo Ave., San Jose, 95148. Donations can also be made through the website.

“Sikh religion teaches respect for people of all faiths. Sikh Gurus gave their lives to uphold the right of other religions to practice their faith. Every Sikh prayer ends with seeking the welfare of everyone in the world,” the press release from Bhupindar Singh Dhillon, the general secretary of Sikh Gurdwara San Jose, states.

“We condemn this violence and pray that those who committed this crime or planned it find peace in their own souls and become free of these feelings of hatred.”



Social Media for Nonprofits Conference: Final Takeaways


I’ve shared some of the things I learned from attending the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference in Mountain View on July 26, like how nonprofits can best use Facebook, Eventbrite, and LinkedIn. There was plenty more info jam packed into the conference, but here’s one of my final takeaways: nonprofits have to get good at social media.

As the editor of Good Neighbor Stories, I’m on what I affectionately call the “do gooder beat,” because I talk to numerous nonprofit leaders who are doing good in the world. One of the consistent threads I notice between all small nonprofits is that the leaders are overwhelmed, and often social media is at the bottom of the to do list.

But the numbers are clear, social media engagement is only going to grow, especially since children and youth are growing up embracing the social media lifestyle. Meaning, future volunteers, supporters and leaders are hanging out in the social media space, so if nonprofits aren’t hanging out there, too, they’re missing out on a  huge segment of the population. [Read more…]

Catching Up With Project WeHOPE; Trip Sponsors Needed


I got a chance to catch up with Pastor Paul Bains of Project WeHOPE, the East Palo Alto nonprofit I reported on last year. The small organization is making significant inroads toward combating homelessness in a town of 2.2 square miles that has the largest homeless population in San Mateo County.

Recently the city council awarded Project WeHOPE a $30,000 grant for its warming shelter, the only homeless facility in East Palo Alto (EPA). This was down from an original request for $50,000; the council went through some quibbling over details of the request before settling on the final number .

But aside from leading the charge to end homelessness in East Palo Alto, Project WeHOPE is also a service agency for local youth, and currently has a need for sponsors and donations so volunteers can take students on an end-of-summer trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios. [Read more…]

Social Media for Nonprofits Conference: Leveraging LinkedIn for Good


You’re probably aware of how LinkedIn can help you advance professionally, but did you know the social network platform can advance your philanthropic efforts as well?

And for nonprofit organizations, LinkedIn can become an invaluable tool to find skilled volunteers, board members, and resources.

That was the message of Meg Garlinghouse, head of Employment, Branding & Community for LinkedIn, at last week’s Social Media for Nonprofits Conference in Mountain View. All this week I’ve been highlighting speakers from the conference, including Libby Leffler of Facebook, and Dawn Andreas of Eventbrite.

Garlinghouse leads LinkedIn for Good, which has as its mission to “connect the talent and passion of professionals with opportunities to use their skills to make a positive impact in the world.”

Here are some notes from her talk:

  • LinkedIn wants more nonprofits to get on its platform.
  • There are 160 million professionals on LinkedIn and they are “at your fingertips,  and they want to help you; that’s the extraordinary thing, you just have to reach out and ask,” Garlinghouse said.
  • By popular request, last fall LinkedIn added a “Volunteer Experience and Causes” feature to profiles; when you add organizations you support and volunteer for, that information gets pushed out to the network. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in August


Every month I highlight five ways to be a good neighbor either right where you live or in the community at large. Have any more suggestions to add? Share them in the comments section!

I’m also interested in hearing suggestions for future months. Feel free to contact me, or use our free community calendar listing.

1. Say “Aloha”: Enjoy the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands with both old and new friends at the 17th Annual San Francisco Bay Area Aloha Festival, August 4 and 5. The event is organized by the Pacific Islanders’ Cultural Association, bringing together entertaining dancers, arts and crafts displays, island cuisine, kids’ activities, and much more. The festival is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day at the San Mateo County Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Dr., San Mateo. Admission is free.

2. Spend a Night Out With Neighbors: Tuesday, Aug. 7, is the 29th Annual National Night Out, a community awareness campaign that stresses crime prevention, anti-crime activities, and the overall strengthening of neighborhood ties. Neighborhoods and cities all over the Bay Area are hosting activities from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The City of Cupertino is even hosting some pre-evening activities, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Target parking lot, 20745 Stevens Creek Blvd. Check the National Night Out map to see if your neighborhood is participating. At the very least you can leave your porch light on from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., or get a little more ambitious and invite your neighbors over for an impromptu gathering. [Read more…]