Five Ways to Be a Good Neighbor in May


thank-a-teacherRecently I was told that “Top 5” lists are “OVER!”, as they say in Portlandia. Random numbered lists are supposedly in.

Ah, well, it’s a tradition here at Good Neighbor Stories to count down five ways to help others in the Bay Area every month. So maybe the number is a little passe, but helping others never goes out of style. Here is the May 2013 list of ways you can be a good neighbor.

1. Praise Our Public Servants: We could not function without our nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. May is the month to formally thank them, with May 4 as International Firefighters Day, May 6-12 as National Nurses Week, May 7 as National Teacher Appreciation Day (6-10 is the official week), May 12-18 as National Police Week, and May 19-25 as National EMS Week. Consider saying “thank you” to these professionals who make our communities better places by dedicating their lives to serving others. Don’t know one of these folks personally? You can still say thank you. Write a letter of appreciation to a one of these servants who made a difference in your life, or surprise those who serve and protect your community with special treats or donations at your local school, hospital, or station house. Find specific ideas on the Teacher Appreciation website for teachers. The Police Wife Life on Facebook has an impressive list of ideas to thank your city’s police officers that could translate to fire fighters and EMS personnel.

Side note: There is oddly no “National Firefighter’s Week” in the United States. Colorado celebrated a week for firefighters last October, and since then efforts are underway to create a formal week nationally.

2. Consider Changing a Lifetime: May is National Foster Care Month, designed to highlight the needs of an estimated 380,000 minor children across the country in foster care. The Foster Care Month website encourages people to “change a lifetime” by becoming foster parents. In Santa Clara County the Bill Wilson Center is working to prepare people to become foster parents to one or more of the 1,400 children in the system. For the greater Bay Area, you can find out more at the nonprofit organization Family Builders.

3. Bike!: It’s also National Bike Month, a very popular time for bicyclists in the Bay Area. The most popular day of all is Bike to Work Day, on May 9. Every year thousands of people participate, and numerous local bike organizations are out in force providing energizer stations, raffles, giveaways, and other events. That morning there are 26 energizer stations in San Francisco to greet bicyclists, with more than 100 throughout the Bay Area. For more information, see the websites for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

4. Stamp Out Hunger: Saturday, May 11, is Stamp Out Hunger Day, when you can leave a sturdy bag of canned goods and other nonperishable foods next to your mailbox for pickup by your mail carrier. Now in its 21st year, Stamp Out Hunger Day is an important day for local food banks, which depend on the donations from the event. Last year Americans donated 70 million pounds of food in just one day. Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties reported that more than one million pounds were collected in those two counties in 2011.

5. Clean a Creek: National River Cleanup Day is Saturday, May 18, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, a time when thousands of Bay Area residents take to local waterways to pick up all the nasty trash and debris that pollute the water and endanger wildlife. Most of the efforts are focused in the South Bay, with more than 40 cleanup sites. Check the Clean a Creek website for locations and instructions, and make a point of signing up in advance, as some volunteer slots fill up quickly.



  1. alisa says:

    For #2, there’s also a great organization called Child Advocates ( where you can mentor kids that’s been removed from the home for abuse or neglect (many are in foster homes). But I guess if you go there, there are plenty of other mentoring groups like big brothers…

  2. Pam Marino says:

    Thanks for the tip, Alisa!