Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in the New Year


be-kind-everyone-you-meet-fighting-hard-battle-whoisplatoThe old year is put to bed, and the New Year is still waking up and getting started. As you rise up with it, consider some ways to make this year a little happier for you and those around you. You can make a difference in the lives of the people you come into contact with with only a small amount of effort. Here are five ways you can be a good neighbor this year. Can you suggest more?

1) Seek First to Understand: By now we’ve all seen the Internet memes out there with Plato’s quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard (or harder) battle.” Next time you encounter someone who seems like he or she is about to bite your head off, consider the person might be having a really bad day, or is going through a painful time. If it’s someone in a store or on the road, let them pass and silently wish them well. If it’s a friend, co-worker or family member, save the tart response and ask a few questions. Hey, are you having a bad day? What’s up?

2) Schedule in Chance Conversations: Years ago my neighbors told me it always looked like I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I [Read more…]

SF Bay Area Holiday Toy Drives are Waiting for Your Donations

toy-drives-bay area-silicon valley-holidays-toys for tots

Toys for Tots Poster, 1948

Make this holiday season even merrier by brightening the lives of Bay Area children with donations of toys, clothing, food, and other needed items. Dozens of nonprofits are waiting for people like you to drop by a new, unwrapped gift, or to make an online donation.

Below is an extensive list of San Francisco Bay Area holiday toy drives, their drop-off locations, needs, and deadlines, organized by area. Click on the links to visit organizations’ websites.

Can’t drop off a donation? Many are taking online donations, or will provide an address for checks.

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

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. 16

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

It’s Time to Donate Turkeys


second-harvest-food-bank-turkey-donations-thanksgiving-holiday-givingBuying a turkey this weekend for your Thanksgiving table? Pick up one or two more frozen birds to donate to local charities, and while you’re at it, consider buying canned hams, canned soup and other nutritious nonperishable foods to help feed the more than 780,000 children and adults in the San Francisco Bay Area estimated to face hunger on a consistent basis.

Nonprofit organizations throughout the Bay Area are putting out the call for turkeys not only for Thanksgiving, but other holiday meals. On Friday, Nov. 21, officials from Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties announced they were only a little over halfway to their goal of collecting 13,000 turkeys.

Below is a list of agencies collecting turkey and other foods this holiday season. Did we miss one? Tell us in the comments section below.

Bay Area Food Banks

Find the food bank near you by visiting The website represents seven food banks serving 11 Northern California counties. All the food banks are in need of frozen turkeys and other holiday meal staples.

Your donation could even win you a pair of tickets to see the 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving Day if you donate frozen turkeys or chickens to Second Harvest by Monday, Nov. 24. 
[Read more…]

Leukemia Slayer Plays Santa For Fourth Year


Santa Slayer at the Four SeasonsJacob Goeders, the Leukemia Slayer, may have conquered cancer and moved clear across the country this year, but he’s not about to let go of his beloved annual Santa Slayer Project he started four years ago to buy Christmas gifts for other kids fighting the disease.

Jacob, 13, announced to Facebook fans on Tuesday, Nov. 18, that he’s repeating the Santa Slayer Project, asking for only $1 from each of his more than 10,500 fans. The money will go to buy gifts for children at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital (LPCH) in Palo Alto, as well as on the oncology ward at the Duke University Medical Center and the Ronald McDonald House, in Durham, North Carolina. Jacob’s family moved to the southern state from Mountain View earlier this year. [Read more…]

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


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 to find the agency nearest you. Consider making a generous year-end monetary donation. [Read more…]

Holiday Toy Drive Donation Deadlines Almost Here

mom squad holiday toy drive poster

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…]

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


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…]

#GivingTuesday Asks Us to Open Wallets for More Than Shopping


GT-Web-Banner250x250-redJust as “Black Friday” branded itself into the collective consciousness, #GivingTuesday is on a pace to do the same for single-day charitable giving. Already the event has doubled in size over last year, with more than 5,000 nonprofits, corporations, and community groups signed up as #GivingTuesday partners.

In just two weeks, on Tuesday, Dec. 3, millions of dollars are expected to flow into the coffers of nonprofits, mostly through online donations. Some of the Bay Area nonprofits participating this year include the Bill Wilson Center, Samaritan House, both the Habitat for Humanity San Francisco and East Bay/Silicon Valley chapters, the Oakland Youth Chorus, and Loaves and Fishes, among others. [Read more…]

Startup Solving In-Kind Donation Challenges for Nonprofits, Donors


Roonga-in-kind-donations-nonprofits-project-weHOPE-East-Palo-Alto-Evelyn-HorngClothing and blanket drives are popular this time of year, but in-kind donations can pose a challenge, not only for donors who have to coordinate dropping off items, but also for nonprofits that sometimes wind up with supplies that don’t quite fit their needs.

Enter Silicon Valley startup Roonga. Company founders say they are committed to solving both sides of the challenge by offering a new way to run donation drives online.

“We’re trying to make in-kind donations cost effective, and help nonprofits get exactly what they need,” said Roonga co-founder Evelyn Horng.

Currently Roonga is working with Project WeHOPE in East Palo Alto to make sure its new homeless shelter has all the blankets, sheets, towels, robes, and coats it needs for clients this winter, plus laundry detergent to keep it all clean. The nonprofit previously operated a warming shelter from fall to spring, but recently received the funds and approval to open year round. [Read more…]

Carter Work Project Day 3: ‘The Volunteers are Very Cool’


Overfelt High School’s Habitat for Humanity Club.

I lived to see Day 3 of the Habitat for Humanity Carter Work Project (CWP) in San Jose, something I wasn’t too sure about at the end of Day 2, when President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter came to work. After getting up at 4:30 a.m. and working a full day on Tuesday, I had my doubts, especially when I felt a little tickle in my throat that evening.

To make it to a new day of volunteering, I loaded up on Vitamin C and let myself sleep in, knowing that the registration table was in good hands with the other volunteers I worked with on Monday and Tuesday, and that the number of volunteers checking in would drop back down to Monday’s levels. Thankfully the extra sleep worked; I had the energy to continue my social media volunteer duties all day Wednesday.

On Tuesday my focus was on capturing photos of the executives and employees of the numerous companies that donated to the CWP. Wednesday I spent time with an awesome group of Overfelt High School students who founded a Habitat for Humanity Club at their school. I also interviewed a group of experienced Habitat construction employees who came up as a group from Los Angeles. [Read more…]