Be Kind! Random Acts of Kindness Week Kicks Off

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Image by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Kindness is a popular Internet topic. People are consistently searching the word “kindness,” which I know personally since the Good Neighbor Stories “Be Kind: Kindness Ideas” page is usually the most viewed on the site every single day. It’s heartening to know that there are folks out there who actively seek to be kind in a world where the bad can at times seem to overshadow the good. But this week the good will hopefully shine above all in a wave of kindness, thanks to International Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, which kicks off today and ends on Sunday.

For 19 years the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and others have promoted the event, which always falls during the week of Valentine’s Day. The idea is to promote kindness by encouraging people and organizations to perform good deeds for others around them, both those they know and total strangers. The acts can range from simple things like smiling at people, to more involved community volunteering. The foundation has a list of 10 ideas for this year’s week, plus dozens more for places like the home, school, and office, as well as hundreds more ideas on its site. Of course you can always check out my “Be Kind” page for more ideas. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in February

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national-heart-month-american-heart-association-american-heart-monthThere are many problems we can’t individually solve, from a possible mega-drought in California to the entertaining-but-possibly-serious snafus at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. We can’t fix those head-scratching bathrooms in Sochi (!), but we can look around our own communities and find something we can fix, or at least take steps toward a positive resolution. Here are five ways you can help your own community or circle of influence in February.

1. Mend a Broken Heart: This is the 50th Anniversary of American Heart Month. The American Heart Association (AHA) is teaming up with Walgreens to offer free blood pressure screenings all during February. According to the AHA, unchecked blood pressure can seriously damage arteries, the heart and other organs. Get checked, and make sure those you love get checked, too. And consider readying yourself to one day save a life by signing up for a CPR course. The AHA offers many levels of training, including the basic “Friends and Family.” The AHA website allows you to search by zip code for classes, and you can even get CPR training online at your convenience. [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in January

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Concert to Fight Poverty2014 is off and running! Whether you made New Year’s resolutions, intentions, goals, to dos, dreams, set a theme, or came up with guide words for the year, I hope that you included helping others in your vision.

After reading Beth Kanter’s blog post about setting a theme and choosing three words for the year (she borrowed these concepts from Peter Bregman and Chris Brogan), I chose “peace” as a theme (for myself and those around me), and for good measure repeated “peace” as one of my three words for the year, adding to it “relationships,” and “community.”

Here are five ways we can make a difference for our communities in the San Francisco Bay Area during this first month of 2014. Will you try one of these? If you do, let me know what happens. Happy New Year!

1. Fight Poverty Through Choral Music: Two South Bay churches, Trinity Cathedral and Stone Church of Willow Glen, are combining efforts to put on a Concert to Fight Poverty, 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12, at Trinity Cathedral, 81 N. 2nd St., San Jose. The choral concert features Saratoga composer Henry Mollicone’s “Beatitude Mass,” sometimes called the “Mass for the Homeless.” Tickets are $20; all proceeds go to Downtown Streets Team, and Trinity Cathedral’s social good programs. Call 408-315-4354 for reservations, or purchase at the door. [Read more…]

Silicon Valley Shelters Want to Send a Dog or Cat Home With You This Holiday Season

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Home for the Holidays Shelters FirstThere are some adorable pooches and kitties waiting for their forever homes right now, so six Silicon Valley shelters have dropped their adoption fees for adult dogs and cats to $12 in December, as part of a “Home for the Holidays” campaign.

“Our shelters are beautiful, but they’re not homes,” said Beth Ward, VP of Shelter Operations at Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV). “Our volunteers and staff are warm and wonderful, but they’re not the same as a permanent, loving family. We hope families will consider opening their homes and hearts this holiday season.” [Read more…]

Sacred Heart Needs 9,000 Toys; Holiday Donation Drives in Final Stretch

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holiday_facebook-process-s450x174Last week I reported that Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose was short by 17,000 toys, and that number has shrunk to 9,000. But Christmas is just a week away, and if those gifts are going to get under San Jose Christmas trees in time, they need to show up by this Friday, Dec. 20.

Sacred Heart has 6,000 children signed up to receive gifts this year, according to the organization. It needs to collect about three times the amount, so that each child receives around two gifts and a book. A late Thanksgiving resulting in a shorter period between the holidays is said to be partly to blame for the shortfall, since groups and volunteers that normally collect the toys for Sacred Heart had a shorter period to conduct drives.

You can make Christmas bright for a child by donating a new, unwrapped toy or book to the agency, located at 1381 S. First St., San Jose. Drop off hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., today and Thursday, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday. Or make a donation online.

To see other agencies still collecting toys (some right up until Christmas Day), click on “Read More” below.

In addition to toys, Bay Area food banks say they are in serious need of food and monetary donations this holiday season. According to a KQED blog post on Dec. 17, donations are way down, plus the recent cold snap resulted in more people showing up at food banks in need of assistance. Agency officials are theorizing that the improved economy is giving people the impression that the need for food banks is lower, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Rising housing, food and heat costs are squeezing many low income families quite hard.

To find out how you can make a donation to a local food bank, visit bayareahunger.org to find the agency nearest you. Consider making a generous year-end monetary donation. [Read more…]

Bay Area Events to Remember Sandy Hook Victims This Weekend

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Newtown-ribbon-sandy-hook-12/14/12-speak-up-show-up-for-change-good-neigbor-storiesBay Area leaders, gun violence prevention activists and volunteers are set this weekend to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 26 shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Ceremonies, marches, rallies, and gun buy-back events are planned for locations all over the region starting today, Friday, Dec. 13, and through Saturday, Dec. 14, the actual anniversary.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there have been 30,000 gun-related deaths since Dec. 14, 2012. The group’s leaders are calling on the public to attend the events and commit to, or recommit to, efforts to prevent gun deaths. All the events listed below are free. [Read more…]

Sacred Heart Needs 17,000 Toys by Dec. 20

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Courtesy Sacred Heart Community Service.

Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose needs to collect 2,000 new, unwrapped toys a day by Dec. 20 for more than 5,000 children already registered to receive Christmas gifts, according to agency officials.

As of Wednesday, Dec. 11, the agency had only collected 950 toys as a part of its annual Holiday Food and Toy Program, a deficit of 17,150 toys, officials told supporters in an email.

UPDATE 12/18/13: Sacred Heart still needs 9,000 toys by Dec. 20. Please check out the latest story for more info.

“We are especially in need of teen gifts, action figures, sports equipment, and books,” the email states.

Donation station hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, with special holiday hours 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, and Sunday, Dec. 15. The agency is located at 1381 S. First St., San Jose. Monetary donations are also accepted online.

[Read more…]

Holiday Toy Drive Donation Deadlines Almost Here

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The Campbell Mom Squad is hosting a drive for EMQ FamiliesFirst, ending Dec. 15.

With Christmas just about two weeks away, a number of Bay Area toy drives have deadlines coming up in the next several days leading up to, and during, this weekend. Another wave of deadlines will come the following weekend.

Deadlines coming up this week include those for West Valley Community Services today, Dec. 10, the Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) drive and the City of Saratoga toy drive on Thursday, Dec. 12, and the Gift of Reading and Sunnyvale Community Services on Friday, Dec. 13. More are taking place Saturday and Sunday. For a complete list with links, see our story, “Bay Area Holiday Toy Drives Need Some Elves (Like You).” [Read more…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in December

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gift-of-reading-san-jose-mercury-resource-area-for-teachers-RAFT-five-ways-to-be-a-good-neighbor-in-DecemberThis year December and the season of sharing kicks off big time with #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3. While a lot of emphasis is on making online donations to deserving charities that day, giving includes sharing yourself through volunteering, making responsible shopping choices, donating to collection drives, and other similar ways. Here are five ways you can make an impact on your world this month.

1. Give the Gift of Reading: The annual Gift of Reading book drive is struggling this year and could really use help in collecting new and like-new books for kids in need. As of the day before Thanksgiving, the drive had only collected 3,200 books, far short of the 50,000 goal, according to San Jose Mercury columnist Sal Pizarro. The drive is co-sponsored by the Mercury and the Resource Area For Teachers (RAFT). Consider dropping off a children’s book at one of many South Bay locations, or donate money online so the folks at RAFT can purchase books for kids, some of whom have never owned their own book before. The drive ends Friday, Dec. 13. Or give books, toys, gift cards, and other goods in one of the many donation drives taking place throughout the holidays.

2. Help a Neighbor with Decorations: This idea comes from our original list of “30 Ways to be a Good Neighbor at the Holidays.” Maybe an older or disabled neighbor would like a few strings of [Read more…]

Bay Area Holiday Toy Drives Need Some Elves (Like You)

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Adobe Photoshop PDFThis is a 2013 list. See the 2014 list.

You can be a Santa’s helper and make the holidays brighter for Bay Area children by donating to a local toy drive in the coming weeks. If you’re already out shopping, consider picking up a new toy, or grabbing an extra gift card (much easier for donations to teens), to donate to one of the many drives in need of donations.

Below is our extensive list of local holiday toy drives, their drop-off locations, needs, and deadlines, organized by region.

Can’t drop off a donation? Click on the name of the organization to go to its website (if available); many are taking online donations, or will provide an address for checks.

Know of a toy drive we missed? Tell us in the comments. We’ll update the list with new information as it comes in.

UPDATE:  See the latest deadline info, plus a link to more Bay Area holiday donations drives here. Scroll down for our complete list.

All Over the Bay Area

CHiPs For Kids

What it is: Annual toy drive for kids in need conducted by the California Highway Patrol.

Needs: New, unwrapped toys; also accepting canned goods.

Deadline: Dec. 14

Drop-off Locations: Any Golden Gate Division CHP office, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. [Read more…]