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Join Us At Our NEW Site

March 18, 2011

Greetings Neighbors!

We’re moving to a new neighborhood of sorts. In a virtual, cyber kind of way. It won’t be hard to find us.

Last June I set up two spots for Good Neighbor Stories. One was on this free WordPress site. Another was on a separate website with a different company at www.goodneighborstories.com. I linked the blog to the website and vice versa, but I had a nagging sense that there was a better way.

So starting now, you can find us at our NEW WordPress site at the www.goodneighborstories.com address.

Thank you to everyone who subscribed and has been following my posts. Looking forward to seeing you at the new site!

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Helping the Japanese People in the Wake of Deadly Earthquake, Tsunami

March 14, 2011

I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath for the last few days since the largest earthquake in Japan’s history hit that country a few days ago. Mostly because the disaster continues to unfold, from quake, to tsunami, to possible nuclear plant meltdowns, with an end somewhere off in the distance.

As we continue to watch and wait to see what happens with our Japanese brothers and sisters, we can help with even the smallest of donations. Here are some sources I trust:

In today’s world of texting, it’s popular – and easy – to suggest texting to an organization like the Red Cross. But I was surprised to learn that the money doesn’t necessarily get to the organization right away. According to a great blog post on the PC World site, it can sometimes take as long as 30 to 60 days for the funds to reach their destinations. If you want to make sure your donation gets to the organization right away, online donating may be your best bet.

The PC World post has some good advice about  how not to get scammed when donating to help after a major disaster. It also suggests checking out charitywatch.org; that site has an excellent overview of charities that they trust for helping after disasters.

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Small Non-profit With Big Impact Warms the Heart of Its Community

February 16, 2011

EAST PALO ALTO, CA – A small non-profit organization, Project WeHOPE, is warming the heart of this struggling community, both figuratively and literally.

Among its many initiatives, Project WeHOPE (“We Help Other People Excel”) founded East Palo Alto’s only warming shelter for homeless people in 2009. Every night from November to April, 27 people on average come in from the cold for a hot meal, medical attention, and a warm place to sleep. The shelter houses individuals, and increasingly in these economic times, entire families.

The shelter opened after it became apparent through the 2009 San Mateo County homeless census that East Palo Alto has the greatest percentage of homeless in the county.

Project WeHOPE volunteer Michael Holt organizes food inside the gym used as a warming shelter for homeless people during the late fall, winter and early spring months.

“Very little was being done…no one was housing the homeless,” said Pastor Paul Bains, President of WeHOPE and co-founder with his wife Cheryl. They did what only made sense to them: opened the shelter in the organization’s gym, located in an industrial park warehouse.

But Bains wasn’t satisfied with just a place to come in from the cold. The shelter had to be, in his words, “not a hand out, but a hand up.” Everyone looking for help was evaluated for their medical and mental needs, and given help with connecting to longer-term transitional housing.

“We’re trying to help the people become members of society,” he said. “We help them to restore their dignity.”

[MORE STORY AND PHOTOS]

Project WeHOPE needs $30,000 to keep the Warming Shelter open through the end of April. Go to the website now to help!

Watch the video about the organization’s Feb. 26 fundraiser: “Enchanted Gardens”.



Volunteers Take Part in Census to Help Government Track Homelessness

February 11, 2011

SAN MATEO, CA. – In the dark, damp, and cold of the predawn on a recent Thursday, more than 240 volunteers left their own warm beds indoors to fan out throughout San Mateo County searching for those who had spent the entire night outdoors with no beds.

Rodney Roberson (left) and Chris Wahl check out a creek bed looking for homeless encampments.

It was a scenario that has been played out nationwide, as local governments and homeless groups tackle the 2011 national homeless census. The process undertaken once every two years in the last couple of weeks in January and early February helps the entities figure out what services are needed, as well as provide a benchmark for how programs helping the homeless are doing.

At 6 a.m. on Jan. 27 at San Mateo City Hall, one of 12 “deployment centers” that day, volunteers received their final instructions before heading out into the darkness. They were told safety first: don’t attempt to speak to people found out on the streets. Don’t worry about the exact count, there are formulas to figure out the results. And “zero” is a valid report.

Small groups of three and four people headed out in cars to their assigned census tracts. Each group had a “homeless guide”, someone who is currently homeless and staying in a shelter or transitional housing.

The director of San Mateo County’s Center for Homelessness, Wendy Goldberg said that by pairing volunteers with homeless people on the census, it helps put a face on homelessness.

“I think it’s a golden opportunity for people to learn about homelessness in the county,” she said.

[MORE STORY AND PHOTOS]

 

Update: Christmas Lights Display Smashes Fundraising Record!

January 21, 2011

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!

Continuing King’s Legacy All Year: Take the MLK 25 Challenge

January 18, 2011

After last week’s sadness over the violence in Tucson, it was good to watch thousands upon thousands of people pour their hearts into service yesterday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I am one who believes the good news far outweighs the bad, if we pay attention. Yesterday was a day to pay attention to the people who are committed to their communities, and want to leave a positive stamp on those communities.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the people behind the National Day of Service have come up with a terrific way to extend the day into a whole year. The Corporation for National and Community Service is challenging all of us to commit to 25 acts of service in 2011. It’s called the MLK 25 Challenge. From simple acts like donating to  your local food bank, to more involved things like becoming a mentor, anything that helps make your community a better place can be part of the challenge.

If you’re scratching your head for ideas, the organization’s website has a handy checklist to get you started. See this blog’s posts from last month, when I listed 30 ideas for being a good neighbor at the holidays and beyond.

The group is encouraging anyone who takes the challenge to post their actions throughout the year on Twitter, using the #MLK25 hashtag.

Although the focus is on the Day of Service here in the U.S., Martin Luther King Jr. transcends this country. Anyone, anywhere on the planet could participate in this challenge. It would be amazing to see a Twitter feed with thousands of posts from all over the world, marking acts of kindness done in memory of MLK.

To help me remember the challenge, I’ve posted a sticky note on the side of my computer screen that says “#MLK25”. I’m starting with a small goal of remembering to take reusable bags to the market. Another small act I realized I did yesterday: I momentarily helped a neighbor try to locate a missing pet. Little things, I know, but sometimes when we start with the little things, it leads to bigger actions down the road. I like to think that even a small act, like a small raindrop in a pond of water, sends out ripples far beyond what we may even realize.

Yesterday I posted my favorite King quote:

“Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Think of each act of kindness – no matter how small – as a light against the darkness. When thousands of us shine our lights of love together, the darkness cannot triumph.

What about you? Will you take the MLK 25 Challenge? What ideas do you have to help others this year?

“Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate” – Martin Luther King Jr.

January 17, 2011

In honor of Martin Luther  King Jr. Day, I offer one of my favorite MLK quotes from his book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community:   

“Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

When I think of what Rev. King and his contemporaries accomplished by combating hate with love, I am in awe. Our basest instincts when hurt are to lash out. But King, who drew upon the teachings of Jesus, called all of us to a higher way of living. He asked us to love, even when love seems like a ridiculous response.

What I love about the quote, is the contrast between dark and light. Violence and evil exist in darkness. Love shines a light on evil, exposing it for all to see, and allowing us to stand up to what is wrong in order to bring about what is right.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share the love light that shines when people help others, making this world a brighter place. We all have the capability to make the choice for love, not hate. By sharing stories of that love choice, it’s my hope we will all be inspired to make a similar choice in our own neighborhoods and communities.

The Christian Science Monitor is featuring a list of 10 favorite MLK quotes today. One quote talks about “good neighbors” so I had to share it here:

“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.” – Strength to Love

What are your favorite MLK quotes? Share them with us! Also, if you are doing anything in honor of today – like participating in a special service event, or just your own special action – please share that, too.