Sharing the love of reading

A friend/co-worker gave me a gift card for Christmas.

I could donate my $25 to any school/classroom listed on the website.

There are so many schools listed. Just for schools in Oakland there are 207 and the ones I reviewed were all high poverty schools.

How did I choose?

This is how I narrowed it down. I wanted a school in Oakland, since I live in Oakland. I wanted a high poverty school and my money to go toward some sort of reading program. AND I wanted to grant the teacher’s wish by paying off what was left of his request, with my gift card and some of my own money.

In other words, I wanted the teacher and the classroom to get what they wanted and really, what they needed in the request.

The program was titled I Can Read! Mr. Cline teaches kindergarten and first grade and the kids stay with him for two years. On his request he said, 90% of the students are low-income, and 90% are English language learners. Most have not been to preschool, so I am their first exposure to formal education.

Mr. Cline’s request was for multiple books for each level of … Continue reading

A must read: A Gift of Hope

I recently read on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website,, about a book by Danielle Steel.

Now when I was younger I read many of her romance novels. And then I kinda outgrew that phase.

But the article that the Chronicle recently did on her latest book caught my eye and my heart. And I had to buy the book.

It’s a small book and an easy read. And it has changed my life. I am looking at the homeless differently. I have always had compassion for them. But I have been panhandled and played more times than I would like to admit. I no longer give money. I will, at times, buy food for someone.

And I just recently purchased Starbucks gift cards, which I will hand out when someone asks for money. The recipient can get something warm to drink and something to eat.

Danielle Steel lost one of her sons to suicide. He was bipolar and had a compassion toward homeless people. When she was feeling sad and low she asked God to tell her what she should do to ease her pain and help someone less fortunate than her. The message she heard back was … Continue reading

Basic necessities=Christmas spirit

Merry Christmas!

Or happy whatever you celebrate or don’t. Enjoy your time off with your family or friends or if you choose to spend it alone.

And for all those who have to work today, thank you.

I feel lucky for all the family I got to see over the past few days: parents, my in-laws, my brother, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles …

Are you sick of me talking about charities and donations and helping others? I doubt it. But hey, it’s my passion. And I am gonna keep talking about it and hope I rub off on others.

As I have said before we no longer exchange gifts with our families. Instead we donate to charities. We all have different organizations we like to support.

Some of the charities we and our families have supported in lieu of gifts are Brighter BeginningsPajama ProgramHeifer InternationalPlanned ParenthoodCharity Choice Gift Cards, Alameda County Food Bank, Tucson Food Bank, Emerge, Poverello House among others.

For the past year or so I have been supporting the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center in Berkeley. I collect toiletries when we travel and occasionally take them to the … Continue reading

Making Christmas happier for 3 families

As you know I am very in to helping others any way I can. I have a friend who takes it up a notch.

He mentioned on Facebook the other day that he read an article in USA Today about Layaway Angels. If you go to Toys R Us and pay off someone’s layaway balance Toys R Us will donate $200 to Toys for Tots. It’s a win-win-win!

My friend James went to a Toys R Us in Tucson and and asked the clerk what layaway had been there the longest. There was one from October with a $22 balance. He paid it and got to hear the clerk call the woman to tell her to pick up her toys. He could overhear the woman on the other end yelling for joy.

This is also happening at Kmart and Walmart (and I am sure other retailers as well).

From the USA Today article: Lisa Dietlin, a Chicago philanthropic adviser and author, says many Americans “are turning away from the traditional commercialism of the holidays,” and are “instead asking, ‘How can I help those in need?’”

This never occurred to me. And I just think it is great.

I am in Tucson … Continue reading

Shopping for toys

Today I worked on the Heart Challenge part of Go Fit Girl!’s December Monthly Challenge.

I run the toy drive (and food drive) at work. To get more donations I offer to take others’ money and go shopping on their behalf.

So today my co-worker/friend Alonzo and I jumped into the work truck and took a trip to Target.

As I have said previously my company is supporting Toys for Tots this year.

I like to take the monetary donations and focus on donations toward older kids. Those items are more expensive and are donated a lot less. I personally hate buying baby toys and toys that make noise. So I try to avoid those anyway.

I went to the FAQ page on the Toys for Tots website and found an answer to this question: Pre-teen/teens are groups for which shopping is especially difficult.  Do you have any ideas?

Answer: The Foundation does purchase supplemental toys/gifts for our campaign sites and focuses on these age groups.  In the past, items purchased for these groups have included, but are not limited to:  sporting equipment/bags/balls; books, backpacks, cosmetics, purses, watch/wallet gift sets, bath gift sets, board games, radio control cars/trucks, … Continue reading

Comment Contest Tuesday is about the heart

In honor of Go Fit Girl!’s December Challenge of the Heart this Comment Contest Tuesday is dedicated to that and helping others. If you would like to read the original post, please go here.

Years ago both sides of Curt’s and my families decided to stop giving each other Christmas gifts. Everyone has what they need and for the most part, what they want.

There are so many people who are so much less fortunate than we are. And we want to help them and make Christmas a little better for them.

In the past Curt and I have donated to Brighter Beginnings, Pajama ProgramHeifer International, Planned Parenthood, Charity Choice Gift Cards among others.

We are doing something different this year. But I can’t tell you about it as some of our family members read the blog. But I am excited about this one and promise to share later on.

What are you doing for the Heart Challenge?

A reminder of the December Heart Challenge: Grab an Angel from a tree; run a toy drive; buy a toy (or toys) for a toy drive; deliver toys to needy children. Or find some other worthy … Continue reading

My heart goes out to babies

Peet’s near my gym has gotten me into helping a couple of “new” charities.

A few years ago there was a representative from a women’s day drop-in center, which I still support to this day. In fact, I just took some toiletry donations over there about a week ago.

Today after spin I grabbed a soy latte and noticed a set up for a charity called Loved Twice, which is geared toward helping babies.

According to the Loved Twice website, the organization helps underprivileged newborns in the San Francisco Bay Area community, giving disadvantaged babies a better start in life.

At the coffee shop you could donate clothes or money. I threw in a little money.

I plan to knit some baby hats for the organization. Not sure if I will have them done in time for Christmas. But that doesn’t matter. I can donate anytime.

There are so many charities and people out there who need our help. And I know I can’t help everyone. I try to focus on children, food banks, women (centers to help women, whether day center or shelter and Planned Parenthood), a little with animals …

Curt and I also like to support our … Continue reading

A little history lesson on Toys for Tots

As you have read before, I run the food drive and toy drive at work.

When my company was still in Emeryville (where Pixar is located) I worked with an Emeryville organization called ECAP for the toy drive and food drive.

Because employees live all over the Bay Area we felt it was best to support the community we worked in.

Now that we are in South San Francisco we support organizations in San Mateo County. For the food drive I work with Second Harvest and for the toy drive I work with Toys for Tots.

Since the toy drive recently launched someone inquired how the Marines got involved in Toys for Tots. So, of course, that inspired a post.

I did a little research and found some information on Wikipedia.

You can read the whole history in the link I provided above.

But here’s the quick and dirty: In 1947 a Marine’s wife wanted to donate a homemade doll to a needy kid. But she couldn’t find an organization in which to do so. The Marine gathered a group of reservists to collect toys in Los Angeles. The next year it became a national campaign.

Continue reading

Exercise, say no, buy toys and don’t gain weight …

And today we launch Go Fit Girl!’s December Monthly Challenge.

December is a challenging month in all aspects of my life. So I am gonna guess that it is the same for most of my readers.

The challenges this month are going to be a little different than the previous months.

Exercise: Exercise 3-4 times a week. Try to keep up your regular routine as much as possible. I know you are busy. But don’t you deserve it? And exercise is a great way to deal with stress. Hey, if you don’t have time to exercise take break and go for a 15-minute walk. You will feel better and be able to concentrate so much better.

Nutrition: Say no once a day, once a week or just once this month to a second serving; to dessert; to bread at the table; to a piece of candy; to a second, third or fourth drink. (That one is going to be tough for me.)

Heart: Grab an Angel from a tree; run a toy drive; buy a toy (or toys) for a toy drive; deliver toys to needy children. Or find some other worthy cause you want to support. Later this month … Continue reading

Buy a tree, help someone out

Curt and I got our Christmas tree yesterday.

I love having a live tree. I know that isn’t environmentally aware … or maybe it isn’t so bad.

According to this article I found online:  North American real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent of all artificial trees are manufactured in China. Real trees are recyclable. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastic.

Every year that we have gotten a tree in the Bay Area (so about seven years) we have gotten our Christmas tree from the Delancey Street Foundation tree lot.

Delancey Street Foundation is a self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit bottom. They run restaurants, moving companies, furniture making, Christmas tree lots and cafés and bookstores.

These guys work hard and they seem happy to be working so hard.

Sometimes you can be in such a bad place and someone gives you another chance or a job or a choice to help yourself with just a little boost.

Most of the time people just need a little help. They need that encouragement to get out of that bad place.

And I believe Delancey Street Foundation is doing just … Continue reading