Good News To Me: Jan. 6, 2012


“Good News To Me” is an ongoing feature that highlights good news from the media. If you see some good news, use our contact form to send us the link.Home for Holidays Pet Adoptions

Pets Go ‘Home for the Holidays’

Some good news for local animals  this week: the six local shelters trying to find homes for 1,000 pets during December as part of a “Home for the Holidays” program exceeded their goal. Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31 they adopted out 1,128 dogs, cats and other small animals. One local animal shelter officer wrote a “giant thank you” to readers for the overwhelming response to the program.

Shepherd Tending Her Flock

What a treat to read about LilyAnn Brannon in the Mercury News. Brannon is 90 years old, a one-woman nonprofit who helps anyone in need in the South Bay. Her organization is called Tending The [Read more…]

Good News To Me: Dec. 28, 2011


“Good News To Me” is an ongoing feature that highlights good news from the media. If you see some good news, use our contact form to send us the link.

Having cut my teeth in the newspaper business, when people say “there’s only bad news in the paper,” I know it’s simply not true. Today’s Mercury News is a good case in point.Mercury News

Police Officer Raises Money For Family That Lost Home Before Christmas

The front page of the local section features three stories of people giving of themselves for others. Like the story about San Jose Police Officer Christian Camarillo, who was moved to help a family that lost their home in a fire just two days before Christmas. In just the last few days, Camarillo has raised $2,500 from other officers and friends to help the children have the Christmas they lost, and to begin rebuilding their lives. Other people and organizations have also stepped up to help; a list of how to participate accompanies the article. [Read more…]

Paper Cranes for Japan Hits Goal of 100,000!


Amazing! Students Rebuild and hit the 100,000 mark today for collecting origami cranes! Young people from around the world have been mailing in boxes and boxes of the paper creations with well wishes for people of Japan."Peace Cranes"

A foundation will now be donating $200,000 for Japan relief, thanks to the campaign. The groups said they will continue accepting cranes postmarked by April 15 for the large art installation they are planning in Seattle, WA.

Check out the Facebook page, Paper Cranes for Japan, for more of the story and the inspirational posts and photos coming from people all over the world.

Wounded Soldiers Get Week of Surfing They Will Never Forget


Last summer this California Girl did something I always wanted to do: I learned how to surf. More specifically, I went to surf camp for adults with the Richard Schmidt Surf School in Santa Cruz, CA.

Richard is an amazing instructor and a really good guy. So I was not surprised when I saw a story in the San Jose Mercury News today about how Richard helped with a project to give wounded soldiers a week of surfing.

A nonprofit called Amazing Surf Adventures arranged the week with Richard’s help, as well as the help of a San Antonio, TX, group called Operation Comfort. Several Santa Cruz businesses donated services to the effort.

One of the best things about this is that even soldiers who have suffered amputations are able to get out into the waves and enjoy the freedom of being carried along by the surf. It turns out Amazing Surf Adventures was founded by National Amputee Surfing Champion Rodney Roller. It’s now led by a friend of Richard’s, Van Curaza, out of Pismo Beach, CA. [Read more…]

Update: Christmas Lights Display Smashes Fundraising Record!


Wow! The Severns-Pease Christmas Display obliterated its previous fundraising record, taking in more than $84,000 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in donations for a local food bank. Last year the display raised nearly $55,000. Dave Severns is of course well pleased that they were able to break the $80,000 goal he set for the season.

I wrote about the display back in early December . Severns and his neighbor Andy Pease have been putting up the joint display since 1995, with each year getting a little more elaborate than the next. When Severns computerized the display in 2002, hundreds of people started flocking to see the magical show of lights and music. Some people suggested they charge a fee, but they decided instead to collect money and food for Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.

As Severns’ own chart shows, the donations have increased every year. With this year’s smashing fundraising success, it puts the display up with large corporations who have collected a million pounds or more worth of food for the food bank.

It will be interesting to see what goal Severns sets for next year. In the meantime, congratulations to neighbors who made a big difference to the local community!

Happy New Year!


Here’s wishing a happy and healthy 2011 to all our good neighbors!

30 Ways to Be a Good Neighbor This Holiday Season – Part 1


‘Tis the season to be jolly, as the song says, and why not spread some of that holiday cheer by being a good neighbor?

I’ve put together a list of 30 ways to be a good neighbor during the holidays, broken into three parts. Today is 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our own neighborhoods. Next I’ll share 10 ways to be a good neighbor in our communities. I’ll close out the list with 10 ways to be a good neighbor to the world.

In Your Own Neighborhood

  1. Host a holiday get together. This does not have to be fancy, complicated or expensive. A simple hand written note left at each neighbor’s door inviting people over for a cup of holiday cheer and some cookies is all that’s necessary. Choose a two-hour window on a weekend or weeknight to have folks drop by. You can get a little more involved by planning a potluck, so everyone shares the load of providing something. In a multi-cultural neighborhood like mine, it would be interesting to have each family bring something from their own culture enjoyed during a holiday or festival.
  2. Bake cookies and bring a small plate to each home. Again, this does not have to be over complicated. No one’s waistline needs a large gift basket of cookies, just a few of your family’s favorites on a small plate or in a small bag is fine. If you have the time, include recipes.
  3. By Fagles [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia CommonsOffer to help a neighbor with installing/removing decorations. Maybe an older or disabled neighbor would like a few strings of lights adorning his or her home. Or, you could suggest to a neighbor that you help each other.
  4. Organize a neighborhood food drive. One year I knew that a local social service agency was short many items to distribute to families who couldn’t afford Christmas gifts and dinners. I made up a simple flyer with a list of needed items, and an offer to come pick up the items and deliver them to the agency. I dropped off flyers at each home on my street and a couple of surrounding streets. I met some neighbors I had never spoken with before, and I took a carload of food and other items that brought cheer to those who were less fortunate.
  5. Be a “Secret Santa”. Leave a bag with treats on a neighbor’s doorstep with a note saying that it’s from their Secret Santa. You can do the same thing to all your surrounding neighbors, or you could do what I saw one year, which is encourage one neighbor to in turn become the Secret Santa for a different neighbor. The idea is to keep the gift giving going, another way of paying it forward.
  6. Write a note to each neighbor saying why you appreciate them. Don’t know your neighbors well? Just send a card with a nice note saying you hope you’ll get the chance to get to know them in the coming year.
  7. Decide as a family to perform chores for neighbors as a gift from your family to theirs. Choose age-appropriate chores for your kids, and contact neighbors about setting up a time to come over to rake leaves, shovel snow, weed, etc. Spread the cheer even more by wearing Santa hats, or holiday colors, while working. Live in a housing complex? Maybe your family could help spruce up common areas, or run simple errands for neighbors.
  8. Is a neighbor out of work or struggling financially? There are ways to help that won’t embarrass your neighbor or put him or her on the spot. Dr. Deborah Bauers suggests in a post on ways to give . One suggestion is to give a financial gift anonymously.  Or cook some extra food at dinnertime, and then bring it over saying you can’t eat it and don’t want it to go to waste.
  9. Offer to watch a neighbor’s house while they go out of town.
  10. Resolve to be a better neighbor in the New Year. Plan on meeting more neighbors you don’t know. Think about offering to create a neighborhood contact list, with people’s phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Plan a summertime block party. Keep brainstorming ideas of how to help your neighbors.

What are your ideas for how to be a good neighbor during the holidays? What have you tried and what was the result? If you try something from this list, make sure to let us know. Share in the comments below!

Common Table Open for Business


The restaurant with a heart featured on 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.

More Reasons to Love Mr. Rogers


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 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…


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.