The Push is On: 2,000 Habitat Volunteers Needed for Carter Work Project This Fall

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Mike Rico of Americorps and Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley readies a volunteer project.

Former President Jimmy Carter could use some help on an important “To Do” list of community work projects in Oakland and San Jose this October, which is why the Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley staff is busy at the moment rounding up approximately 2,000 volunteers.

Carter, who will turn 89 on Oct. 1, and his wife Rosalynn, 85, are coming to Oakland on Sunday, Oct. 6, to kickoff Habitat’s Carter Work Project (CWP),an annual major service and fundraising event now in its 30th year. This is the first time a CWP has come to the San Francisco Bay Area.

After an opening ceremony in Oakland on Sunday, the Carters will work with volunteers on Monday at the nonprofit’s Brookfield Court Development in Oakland, and on Tuesday in the Dorsa-TOCKNA neighborhood of San Jose. They will then fly to projects in Denver, and finally New York City, where the first CWP took place in 1984. Work will continue on projects in the Bay Area through Friday, Oct. 11. [Read more…]

Dedicated Volunteers Help Rescued Birds Take Flight to New Homes

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Pamela Lee engages Tango, a Meyer’s Parrot rescued by Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue.

They can be friendly, affectionate, chatty, noisy, curious, clownish, enchanting, playful, shy, and maybe even a little exasperating at times—they are companion birds, and thanks to the dedicated Bay Area volunteers at Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, thousands of parakeets, parrots, cockatiels, cockatoos, macaws, and others facing neglect or an early demise are finding new homes.

The volunteer-run Mickaboo (a combination of two birds named “Mick” and “Aboo” belonging to the group’s founders) rescues and places a few hundred birds every year, with estimates of helping a total of up to 1,000 birds with its programs. At any given time there are more than 300 birds in the “foster flock”, cared for in volunteers’ homes dotting the region, according to board member Pamela Lee.

The nonprofit is not as well known as dog and cat rescue groups, but for about 17 years it has consistently offered a safe place for San Francisco Bay Area residents to relinquish birds, adopt, and find much-needed advice and guidance. [Read more…]

Put Your Sweater On and Help Someone, it’s ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ Day

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It’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day, a.k.a Mister Rogers’ birthday. America’s favorite neighbor would have been 85 today. Over the last 10 won't-you-be-my-neighbor-day-fred-rogers-mister-rogers-volunteerismyears since his death, March 20 has grown in popularity as a special day to promote volunteerism and all-around neighborliness. Plus wearing sweaters.

When “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” premiered on PBS in 1968, the gentle children’s show always started with the song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, along with Mister Rogers putting on a signature cardigan sweater (usually zip-up, and always knitted by his mother) and a pair of lace-up tennis shoes. The show encouraged the qualities of creativity, kindness, tolerance, and altruism.

In Fred Rogers’ hometown of Pittsburgh, PA., city groups celebrate this day with volunteer service projects, and everyone is encouraged to don a cardigan sweater. In fact, collection drives for sweaters, shoes, and other clothes, along with diapers, food, books, and more, are popular events. [Read more…]

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Coming to Bay Area for Habitat Project

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president-jimmy-carter-rosalynn-carter-work-project-habitat-for-humanity-east-bay-silicon-valleyPresident Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are coming to the San Francisco Bay Area for two days in October as part of the 30th anniversary Carter Work Project (CWP) service event for Habitat for Humanity. It is the first time the annual project is happening in the region.

This year’s CWP runs from Sunday, Oct. 6, to Friday, Oct. 11, with building activities, community projects, and special events taking place in San Jose, Oakland, Denver, and New York. The Carters will start in the Bay Area on Sunday, and leave on Tuesday, Oct. 8, traveling east until they reach New York, the site of the first CWP in 1984. [Read more…]

‘Optimistic Explorer’ Leads Service Trips to Make the World a Better Place

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Alisa Matsuzaki with a rainbow created by children at the Hogar Cristiano Orphanage in Costa Rica. Photo by Matthew Borror.

Alisa Kumiko Matsuzaki is a world explorer searching for more than just exotic destinations. She’s searching for hope, optimism, and new ways to make the world a better place. And everyone is invited to join her.

The San Jose freelance web designer is pursuing her passions of volunteer service, cultural exchange, and travel, through organizing service trips to foreign countries, as well as here in the U.S.

Although a number of her trips are done in conjunction with larger nonprofits—she’s leading a trip in April to volunteer with an organization in New Orleans—she recently returned from a Costa Rican service trip she organized with the help of friends. [Read more…]

Giving Back Q&A with Steven Ketchpel

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What’s the biggest mistake people make when donating?Giving-Back-book-Stephen-Ketchpel-volunteering-donating-good-neighbor-stories

I had an inkling Steven P. Ketchpel, Ph.D., Bay Area author of Giving Back, would have a very good answer. His well-written and thought-out guidebook helps readers through the process of figuring out their passions and interests, as well as through the planning, implementation, and follow-up of any donation or project.

As a follow-up to my review of his book, he agreed to answer that question and a few more about donating and volunteering.

Good Neighbor Stories: What’s the feedback from readers been like for the book?

Ketchpel: I love hearing back from readers (ketchpel@giving-back.info), and have heard stories of action inspired by the book:  starting to volunteer on a new project, having a discussion about values with their family, or making loans through Kiva.  I’ve also heard from experienced volunteer/leaders who love the book—one described it as a “yellow brick road” with “simple, easy steps we can take to create something important.”

What’s the biggest mistake people make when making donations? What’s the number one thing they can do to avoid mistakes in the future? [Read more…]

Giving Back: Great Guidebook for Volunteering, Donating Decisions

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If you’ve ever struggled with where to volunteer your time, or the most efficient way to donate money, Giving Back by Steven P. Ketchpel, Giving-Back-book-Stephen-Ketchpel-volunteering-donating-good-neighbor-storiesPh.D., is the book for you.

Underscore that advice if you have kids and have always wanted to find ways to volunteer as a family, or teach life lessons about the value of donating to causes you care about.

Ketchpel is a San Francisco Bay Area computer scientist and entrepreneur who grew up in a family dedicated to giving back to the community. He writes that even before he was born his parents were very involved in church, Scouting, and spreading kindness throughout their neighborhood. He grew up in Boy Scouts, and when it came time for his Eagle Project he helped his church modernize by computerizing membership records.

Uncovering Passions and Creating Plans

When I first met Ketchpel in December, he described the book to me as a sort of a What Color is Your Parachute for volunteering and donating. In other words, a guidebook to help users discover their passions and create strategic plans for service and giving away money. [Read more…]

Be Kind by Thinking Globally, Donating Locally

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Today’s Random Act of Kindness Week assignment is to donate either time or money to a local charity. I like this one, because it shines a light Yasmine-Davis-Make-a-Birthday-Wish-Good-Neighbor-Stories-Random-Acts-of-Kindness-Weekon those nonprofit organizations that serve our communities day in and day out, many times without the recognition or larger donations that benefit big name national and international groups.

Good Neighbor Stories often features small nonprofits making a big impact while operating on shoestring budgets here in the San Francisco Bay Area. On Wednesday two groups, The Grateful Garment Project, and Good Karma Bikes were part of my “Profiles in Kindness” post.

I’ve also written about other small nonprofits like Make a Birthday Wish in Cupertino, led by teenager Yasmine Davis and her family. Together with Yasmine’s friends as volunteers, they throw birthday parties for Silicon Valley children whose families are homeless or in deep financial need, complete with gifts, cake, decorations, favors, and fun activities.

Another great example of a small group making a big difference is Project WeHope in East Palo Alto. Pastor Paul Bains [Read more…]

Nvidia’s Project Inspire Repeats Its Holiday Magic at Veggielution Farm

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For the second year in a row, Santa Clara-based tech company Nvidia threw an employee holiday party in the guise of a massive volunteer Nvidia-Project-Inspire-Veggielution-Farm-San-Jose-Good-Neighbor-Stories-Constructionservice event under its Project Inspire Banner at a local nonprofit farm.

About 500 employees, family members, and friends invaded Veggielution at Emma Prusch Farm Park in San Jose on Friday, Dec. 7, and another 1,000 hammered, sawed, dug holes, hammered, painted, and more, on Saturday, Dec. 8.

It was a redux of Project Inspire’s 2011 holiday service event, when a similar number of Nvidia employees and others expanded Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale. Nvidia stopped having company holiday parties about a dozen years ago, substituting with service on a smaller scale. About six years ago Project Inspire was launched, and each year the projects got bigger.

This year volunteers constructed a permanent farm stand, a teaching kitchen, and a produce washing and packing shed. They also installed new irrigation, planted native hedgerows, painted murals, and many other tasks. Project Inspire also invested approximately $300,000 in materials for the event. [Read more…]

Project Linus Nearing 50,000 Mark in Bringing Happiness to Kids in Need

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“Happiness is a warm blanket,” as Linus famously says, and it’s that premise that is sending one San Jose group on its way to creating and Project-Linus-South-Bay-Chapter-San-Jose-Good-Neighbor-Storiesdonating 50,000 blankets to local children in serious need of a little happiness, or at least the warm, cuddly feeling of their very own blanket.

The South Bay Chapter of Project Linus has donated 48,840 blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or somehow in need, since its inception in 2002. Nationally, Project Linus chapters have collectively donated more than 4.3 million blankets.

Blankets and quilts have gone out to children affected by major disasters like Sandy, Katrina, and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Locally the chapter regularly donates to agencies like the San Jose Family Shelter, the Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI) Asian Women’s Home, Valley Medical Center, and dozens more.

“If you’ve ever seen, or had the opportunity to see, someone receive one of these quilts, it brings tears to your eyes,” said Project Linus volunteer Linda Lemos at a group sewing event in late October. [Read more…]