Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in the New Year

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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…]

The Kindness Challenge Day 5 and Beyond

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free-hugs-campaign-random-acts-of-kindess-week

From the “Free Hugs Campaign” YouTube video.

In honor of Valentine’s Day and Day 5 of Random Acts of Kindness Week, today’s Kindness Challenge is to give an extra someone a hug. Yes, you are going to hug the ones you love (I hope), but why not extend a hug to someone you wouldn’t normally hug? There may be someone out there who really needs it.

“I have learned there is more power in a good strong hug than in a thousand meaningful words,” novelist Ann Hood is quoted as  saying, and I know in my own life that’s been true. I don’t remember a word people said to me after my father passed away more than 20 years ago, but I do remember the hugs I was fortunate to receive. [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…]

Funds Needed for Poster Asking Us to See, Not Watch, Our Neighbors

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see-my-neighbors-not-watch-poster-Micah-Bazant-Reach-and-Teach-Indiegogo-crowdraising“I don’t watch my neighbors. I see them.”

So starts a poster recently created by San Francisco Bay Area artist Micah Bazant, to promote seeing our neighbors with compassion, rather than suspicion. The team at Reach and Teach in San Mateo, and Bazant, are partnering to promote the poster on Indiegogo, a crowdsourcing platform for raising money and awareness for charitable causes.

Reach and Teach is seeking $2,000 to fund the first print run of posters, to be sold for $10 each. A portion of the sales will go to Bazant, and another portion will go to the Oakland organization, Justice for Families, which originally commissioned the poster. Fundraising started Aug. 14, and ends Sept. 20. The project had raised more than $1,100 as of Sept. 11. [Read more…]

GOOD Declares Last Saturday in April as ‘Neighborday’

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Neighborday 2013The website GOOD.is recently declared the last Saturday in April as “Neighborday”, a day to come together with your neighbors, get to know them better, and in turn, build a stronger community.

“We’re running a little social experiment called Neighborday,” said Hillary Newman, Senior Social Media and Community Manager at GOOD, during a Google+ Hangout recently.

The original goal was to sign up 1,000 people to do some sort of action in their neighborhoods, from something as simple as knocking on doors for making introductions, to actual parties or other events, she said.

More than 1,600 people in over 30 states, and even some foreign countries, pledged to take part in Neighborday. The new goal, according to Community Manager Hannah Wasserman, is to have people from all 50 states represented. [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…]

‘It’s Up to Us’: How We Can All Make a Difference

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Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyIf real and lasting change is going to happen for Silicon Valley residents, it’s going to have to come from them. That was one of the conclusions drawn from the 2012 Santa Clara County Assessment Project.

One of the phrases interviewers heard from residents surveyed last fall was, “It’s up to us.” The residents knew that in order to create a more cohesive community where those who are struggling are helped, the residents themselves were going to have to be more involved. They are no longer looking to government and institutions to do the job for them.

Yesterday I applauded United Way Silicon Valley President and CEO Carole Leigh Hutton for outlining in the Mercury News how her organization is going to change its focus toward fostering more community involvement.

Today I’m sharing the first part of the excellent action list that was included in the executive summary of the assessment. Tomorrow I’ll share the second part. To see the full list, including what institutions and policy makers can do, go to the United Way website page about the project, and click on the picture of the report.

What You Can Do
Around Your Home

  • Interact with your neighbors. Share fruits, vegetables or baked goods from your home. Make a point to welcome new residents. Invite your neighbors to join you in a walking group.
  • Say “hello” to young people in your neighborhood. Get to know them by name. Ask them for help with yard work or bringing in trash cans when you’re away. For very young children, keep chalk handy near your front yard and offer it for sidewalk art.
  •  Keep your front yard tidy. A clean appearance is inviting to neighbors and promotes community pride. [Read more…]

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…]

Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor in October

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Like those fun Russian nesting dolls, tucked inside each one of our five ways to be a good neighbor tips are even more ideas on how to Pink for Octobermake your community a much better place. Take a peek, see what ideas pique your interest, and do good!

Know some more ways? Leave ideas in the comment section, or drop us a line and let us know about ideas in October, November, and beyond.

1. Go Pink: If you’re noticing pink ribbons cropping up everywhere, it’s because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Nonprofits, health groups, government agencies, and businesses are banding together to promote awareness of the disease, raise funds for research, and provide greater access to diagnosis and treatment. Events are taking place all month, like El Camino Hospital’s Girls’ Night Out on Oct. 23, in Los Gatos, or the TREK Breast Cancer Awareness Ride on Oct. 13, in Los Altos. You can even bowl for breast cancer awareness in a special league in Milpitas; proceeds throughout the month go to fund Susan G. Komen For the Cure. On Oct. 27 the American Cancer Society is presenting the 5th annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, in San Jose. For even more ideas, check out this local Patch.com story. For early detection cancer screening for low income women, see the Every Woman Counts page on the California Department of Health Services website.

2. Walk On: Speaking of walking, besides the aforementioned breast cancer walk, there are a number of charity walks happening in the Bay Area this month. Consider raising money for a good cause, while at the same time meeting friendly people and getting some exercise along the way. Upcoming charity walks include the Bay Area Leadership Foundation Fourth Annual Walk for Leadership in Oakland on Oct. 6, to benefit deserving youth going to college, the Walk for Farm Animals in San Francisco on Oct. 13, promoting compassionate treatment of farm animals, and the Bay Area Walk/Run for Food Allergies in Memory of BJ Hom, also on Oct. 13, in San Jose, to support the Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). On Oct. 14 walkers can support the American Diabetes Association at the  Step Out: Walk to End Diabetes  in San Jose. And on Oct. 20 it’s the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, in San Jose.

3. Be Festive: Fall seems to bring out the festivals, so take advantage of the chance to make new friends in your community. [Read more…]

How to Organize a Great Block Party

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Yesterday I posted about how neighbors in Cupertino are strengthening their neighborhoods through throwing annual block parties. Today I’ve got a list of ideas on how to organize a great block party in your own neighborhood.

Live in an apartment building or condominium complex? Don’t let that stop you from getting neighbors together. A common area or local park can be used to gather people together with food and activities to facilitate conversations and connections.

Cottonwood Drive resident and professional party planner Lianne Hatcher, who helped organize this year’s 50s themed block party for her neighborhood, said it’s important to have one person play the role of block leader, who can then organize interested neighbors who want to be on the planning committee.

Plan the party one to two months in advance, and make sure the party date does not conflict with major events, like graduations or holidays where people will likely be traveling. [Read more…]