Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in December

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It’s December, which means it’s holiday time, when many people feel that tug to spread good cheer to others. We’ve got five ways you can indulge in the spirit of giving this month. If you’ve got additional ideas, please share in the comments!

Jacob-Goeders-The-Leukemia-Slayer-Santa-Slayer-Christmas-fund-drive

Jacob Goeders, a.k.a the Leukemia Slayer, in December 2011.

1. Give to a Holiday Drive:Some people love the tradition of giving at the holidays, others are looking for an end-of-year tax deduction. Whatever the reason, you can help a lot of people in need have a brighter season by contributing to a holiday drive, either with goods or cash. One of our favorite fundraisers, Jacob Goeders, a.k.a. The Leukemia Slayer, is raising money for the second year in a row for his Santa Slayer Project. This young man uses money donated to the project to buy gifts for other children on the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital cancer ward, where he himself is being treated for leukemia. But you need to hurry, Jacob needs to finish up shopping soon. Other charities are collecting items like socks, bedding, or coats. Still others could really use gift cards to give to clients, or cash donations to buy what is most needed. Look for food donation barrels at stores and other locations to help local food banks combat hunger at the holidays. Or donate to the Good Neighbor Stories Virtual Food Drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Our goal is to raise $1,500 by Jan. 1, 2013.

2. Give the Gift of Time: If you’re low on cash and items to share, consider volunteering your time this month. The United Way of Silicon Valley is looking for volunteers to help spread holiday cheer to the children of East San Jose. Every child at four schools will receive presents from their wish list, along with a book to encourage reading skills. Younger siblings will also receive gifts. Sign up for a shift today before all the spaces are filled. Find more volunteer opportunities at HandsOn Bay Area, and One Brick Silicon Valley.

3. Consider Giving Alternative Gifts: If you’re scratching your head wondering what to give as gifts this year, consider alternative gifts that both honor those you are giving to, and make a difference in the world. Alternative gifts range from donations made in the recipient’s name, to items purchased from nonprofits and companies focused on social justice. A great place to shop for gifts in person is the Holiday Peace and Social Justice Craft and Info Fair, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, at the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, 1140 Cowper St., Palo Alto (I’ll be there selling the Good Neighbor Stories 2013 Datebook!). Or, “shop” online at Alternative Gifts International, which has been providing gifts of food, shelter, trees, animals, medicine, and more, since 1986. Pick from 30 different projects located all over the world (including the U.S.) to support in honor of your friend or loved one. [Read more…]

How to be a Good Neighbor at Election Time; Why it’s Important to Vote

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Note: Today I give reasons why good neighbors vote. Join me next time for a list of ways to be a good and kind neighbor to our family, friends, and fellow citizens throughout the election season.

I spend a lot of time at Good Neighbor Stories working to inspire people to be better neighbors, not just in the literal sense of proximity on our own blocks, but in the global sense of how our actions ripple out through our communities and the rest of the world. What we do—or don’t do—has very real impact, even if we don’t perceive it. And while I haven’t said it explicitly, I do imply in my writings that being a good neighbor equals being a good citizen.

In this age of  up to half or more of the eligible voters not exercising the right to vote, this may seem like a bold, or even naive, claim: good neighbors/citizens vote. It is a right, but it’s also a responsibility. And with that responsibility comes some preparation so that the vote you make is an informed one.

If you have not registered to vote, or moved since you last voted, you have until Monday, Oct. 22, in California (postmarked or turned in at an official site) to register. You can register right now onlineOnce registered, take some time to do a little research before voting. In my next post, I’ll go into more detail on that aspect.

In the meantime, here are several basic reminders of why it’s important to vote: [Read more…]

A New Silicon Valley Thanksgiving Tradition: The KidsSTRONG Amazing Race to Help Kids with Cancer

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Because cancer doesn’t take a holiday, Christine Falsetti is determined to use the Thanksgiving holiday as a way to raise money and awareness for children with cancer and their families.

Falsetti is founder and CEO of KidsSTRONG, a non-profit that seeks to offer emotional and informational support to families that are facing the awful reality of a child with cancer. Her own 7-year-old son, Ben, died five years ago this year after a nine-month battle with the disease. A few years ago she and other families who had been through the same experience founded KidsSTRONG. You can read more about the organization and the race at http://losaltos.patch.com/articles/kidsstrong-race-to-help-kids-with-cancer-a-new-thanksgiving-tradition.

You don’t need to live in the Silicon Valley to participate; some racers are running or walking wherever they live in the country, so they can help raise money for this great organization. Go to http://www.kidsstrong.org/cms/take-action/kidsstrong-amazing-race to learn more.

 

Update on Missing Young Man, Jackson Miller

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In July, goodneighorstories.com reported on the search for 20-year-old Jackson Miller, who went missing in San Francisco back in May of this year. Friends and family hit the streets of The City searching for Miller, and later expanded their search by creating a Facebook group, “Jackson Miller – Missing, Help Us Find Him.”

Miller is still missing, and the family continues to work leads and mount organized searches. One such search is planned for tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 12. The search was organized after hearing from someone who thinks he hung out with Miller a week ago. With a new description of what clothes he was wearing and what he was carrying, the family is hoping to finally be successful in the quest to find Miller and get him help.

Miller is 5’10”, 155 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. Anyone who thinks they may have seen him is asked to call the toll-free number, 888-818-4673.

 

Common Table Open for Business

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The restaurant with a heart featured on goodneighborstories.com in August, Common Table, is officially open for business. The Bend, OR., eatery opened to customers last month, but yesterday was its official grand opening.

Common Table

Local Bend, OR., artists created each letter for Common Table's sign inside the restaurant.

The motto of Common Table is “Eat good. Do good. Make good happen.” The business model is to create and sell healthy, farm-to-table, sustainable food, and turn the profits back into the community by feeding homeless and hungry people. Customers can purchase wooden tokens that can then be distributed to anyone who needs a good, free meal. Common Table also has “pay what you want/can” days, when customers can pay any amount for what’s on that day’s menu. And organizers are mostly volunteers, to cut down on staffing costs.

I follow Common Table on Facebook, and I have to say I wish I lived close enough to Bend to savor some of the delicious-sounding soups and main dishes that have been on the menu recently. The evening programs have also sounded interesting. One of the goals of the restaurant is to provide a place for the community to meet, by hosting talks and gatherings on a regular basis.

If you live up in Central Oregon, or are ever passing through, make sure you drop into Common Table for some good eats.

Good Media Neighbor: Dr. Oz

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One of my favorite current “Good Media Neighbors” is Dr. Mehmet Oz, of The Dr. Oz show. The show has been a major syndicated hit ever since it kicked off last year, and it shows no signs of losing popularity. People (mostly women, it seems) love Dr. Oz’s friendly, no-nonsense approach to health, and his seemingly genuine desire to see everyone in America lead healthier, happier lives.

Dr. Oz kicked off this season back in September with his own colonoscopy – nothing new these days with anchors like Katie Couric and Harry Smith having already aired their procedures. But for Oz, it went beyond a routine screening when his gastroenterologist found and removed a pre-cancerous polyp. Oz is a guy who practices what he preaches, eating right and exercising, and he has no family history of colon cancer, so it came somewhat as a shock to him. He admitted to viewers that he thought they would film the procedure, do a nice segment on why it’s important to get screened for what is often a silent killer, and move on. Dr. Oz’s experience appeared to have further strengthened his resolve to convince people of early screenings, as well as eating the right foods and being more active.

This season Dr. Oz is the nation’s cheerleader for weight loss, launching his “Just 10” challenge, and encouraging everyone to lose 10 pounds. Dr. Oz is always about what’s doable for people, so instead of haranguing viewers to get down to their goal weights – for some a herculean task – he’s letting them know that by losing just 10 pounds, they will reduce their risks for deadly diseases and improve their daily quality of life.

Occasionally the show features those yucky cadaver internal organs Dr. Oz so famously made Oprah handle on her show, and those now infamous purple surgical gloves squeamish audience members don to handle the organs as part of an object lesson about bad health habits. But the show’s producers have come up with lots of positive, creative props to help Dr. Oz demonstrate principles, like a recent segment with a mini-water wheel and pitchers of water to show how a lack of oxygen in the body results in a lack of energy.

The show gets cheesy at times, like when Dr. Oz plays game show host and quizzes participating audience members on health questions, but overall it does a good job of combining important health information with just the right amount of day time talk show entertainment.

In a sea of sometimes negative daytime programming – think endless array of bickering adversaries on court shows and Jerry Springeresque programs – Dr. Oz is an island of civility and positive news about how to live a healthy life. Here’s hoping The Dr. Oz show has a nice long TV lifespan.

More Reasons to Love Mr. Rogers

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In my first post ever to this blog, I did a little tribute to the King of all Good Neighbors, Mr. Rogers. I saw this story today on CNN.com called “15 Reasons Mr. Rogers was the Best Neighbor Ever.” It has some great stories I had never heard before, and just cemented his position as “best neighbor ever” a little more. Enjoy!

The Hunger Challenge Continues…

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This week is Hunger Action Week. To educate the public about the issue of hunger in communities, two organizations, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and United Way Silicon Valley, issued a challenge for people to try to eat on $4.50 a day, the average amount that those on Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as “food stamps”) receive. I decided to take the challenge and blog about it. See the previous entries to find out how I prepared for the challenge, and how I fared each day.

I won’t lie, I’m relieved the “Eat on $4.50 a Day” Challenge is over for me. Officially the challenge ends on Saturday, when Hunger Action Week concludes. But I had a commitment today that precluded being able to actually eat on $4.50 for the entire day, so I chose to only take it for four days. And I am glad, because I was hungry most of the time all four days.

But while I get to end the challenge and my self-imposed budget diet, thousands of my neighbors in this area don’t get to end it right now, because for them the challenge is a day-to-day reality. I’m glad I took the challenge. It made me think about hunger and what people on SNAP must go through. It made me appreciate my food better. It made me look at my pantry and fridge in new ways. My household of three has a lot of food around that we take for granted.

Here are a few of my conclusions:

  • We don’t think about hunger enough in this country. It somehow exists in the shadows for many of us who are not hungry on a regular basis. We’re aware it’s going on, but we don’t see it (don’t want to see it?). We watch food programs on TV almost endlessly, but millions of our fellow citizens are without enough food to be healthy and happy.
  • Related to the above, every elected politician at every level should be required to take this challenge at least once.
  • $4.50 is not enough money to feed a person every day. If you expect people to live on oatmeal and rice and beans, sure it’s fine. But it’s not enough to get in all the calories and nutrients needed to be healthy long-term. It’s extremely important people can afford good, quality produce on a regular basis. This amount doesn’t always allow for that.
  • For the long-term health of our country, we need to figure out (fast) how to feed children in this country. We’re collectively doing a really bad job. Too many kids live in households where food insecurity is a severe issue. Being food insecure can actually lead to high obesity rates. Not only will people eat the wrong things (like cheap fast food), when they have food they will overeat because they may not get anything to eat for an unknown period of time in the near future. It sets into motion a cycle that is tough to break. If we can’t raise healthy kids, we endanger our future.

There’s so much more to this issue, and thankfully there are people like Second Harvest Food Bank and others who think about this every day and work hard to get the rest of us to think about it, too.

Day 3 of the Challenge

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This week is Hunger Action Week. To educate the public about the issue of hunger in communities, two organizations, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and United Way Silicon Valley, issued a challenge for people to try to eat on $4.50 a day, the average amount that those on Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as “food stamps”) receive. I decided to take the challenge and blog about it. See the previous three entries to find out how I prepared, and how I’ve been doing on the challenge.

I was definitely grumpy by yesterday afternoon. The challenge of eating on only $4.50 a day is wearing on me, and I am glad today is my last day. I’ll be writing more tomorrow about some of my conclusions from conducting this experiment, but for now I will say I don’t think this is enough money to keep someone from being hungry, or to keep them healthy. And the fact that the majority of households on SNAP include children, is disturbing.

I’m ending the challenge tonight because of a commitment I’ve got this weekend starting tomorrow, but it officially runs through Saturday and you can still participate, if only for a day. I know I’ve been complaining about being hungry and grumpy, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve always been someone who considered herself to have compassion for the poor, the hungry and the homeless, but this made me think about their situation in a more concrete way. If you’re interested, go to www.450adaychallenge.org.

Here’s what I’m eating today:

Breakfast: cereal, milk, soy breakfast patty and a banana, $1.15

Lunch: leftover rice and beans, a nectarine, $1.14

Dinner: Tuna and White Bean Salad, rice

Tuna                                               .74

Beans                                             .44

Hard boiled Egg                           .20

Chopped Veggies                         .20

Brown Rice                                    .12

Total                                               1.58

With my leftover money I snacked on a rice cake with a little bit of peanut butter, and a hard boiled egg.

Day 2 of the Challenge

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This week is Hunger Action Week. To educate the public about the issue of hunger in communities, two organizations, Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and United Way Silicon Valley, issued a challenge for people to try to eat on $4.50 a day, the average amount that those on Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly known as “food stamps”) receive. I decided to take the challenge and blog about it. See the previous two entries to find out how I prepared, and how I fared on Day 1.

I’ve always liked rice and beans. But yesterday, I loved rice and beans.

I spent most of the day hungry, as I had on Monday, the first day of the “Eat on $4.50 a Day” Challenge. Despite two healthy meals and an apple at around 3:30 p.m., By 5 p.m. yesterday I was feeling a little out of it. Then came dinner. I sauted a chopped onion, some garlic, and a chopped red pepper, then added a fresh chopped tomato, salt, pepper, oregano, a can of red kidney beans, and about four cups of cooked brown rice. When it was ready I divided it into four portions – that’s how I did the math when figuring out my menu and budget – and realized I was getting nearly two cups of food! Plus a salad! I enjoyed every bite, and when I was done, my stomach felt satisfied for the first time in nearly two days.

The amazing part was, I estimated that a serving of the rice and bean dish cost around .64. That’s using canned beans; I’m sure I could have lowered the cost using dried beans. And it’s vegetarian, and it’s full of good-for-you-fiber and vitamins.

Day 3 Menu

Here’s what I’m eating today.

Breakfast: same as yesterday; $1.15

Lunch: leftover rice and beans and some steamed broccoli, $1.14

Dinner: Taco Salad

Soy Taco “Meat”                                                                             .58

Cheese                                                                                               .24

Avocado   (Trader Joe’s packaged – one serving)                   .11

Tomato                                                                                              .25

Onion                                                                                                .10

Homemade Salsa                                                                           .20

Olives                                                                                                 .17

Chips                                                                                                  .21

Lettuce                                                                                               .25

Total                                                                                                 $2.11

Only leaves about .10 for a snack. Maybe a few carrot sticks. Fortunately I’m eating rice and beans for lunch!

By the way, it’s not too late to take the challenge yourself! Take it just for one day. Go to www.450adaychallenge.org to find out how.