"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher

Simple Giving

By Amy Johnson, Outreach and Marketing Manager, PGK - Bay Area

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen and read all the hype about simple living. Edit your life! Less is more! Simplify, simplify, simplify! While I’m all about this in theory, I’m a work in progress when it comes to practice.  Our family has taken baby steps, and I will admit that each step forward brings about a bit more breathing room, and in turn, a bit more happiness.

Whether by happenstance or because I’ve got simple living on the brain, the concept of simplicity has made its way into our service. Our church is participating in Village House, an interfaith program through which 15 homeless women are provided shelter and services through the winter. The program relies on volunteers to offer a variety of support, from providing medical care to serving as campus watch. Our family signed up for laundry duty. Once a week, we collect a dirty laundry bag belonging to one of the guests. We bring it home, wash, dry, and fold the clothes, and return the bag that evening. All without ever seeing the woman whose laundry we just folded. It’s been an interesting experience in service because not only is the act super simple (who doesn’t enjoy a pile of freshly laundered clothes?), it is also anonymous.

I started brainstorming other simple, anonymous acts of service we could do as a family and was totally inspired! Here’s the best of the bunch for those of you who want to give it a try. Maybe you’ll find that simple giving is the first step towards simple living.

Simple Giving Ideas

  • Walk your shopping cart back to the front of the store. Better yet, offer to take someone else’s cart! (I have been the recipient of this while juggling two toddlers and was sooooo grateful)
  • Next time you bake cookies, make an extra batch for your local fire department, police department, or nursing home.
  • Bring a trash bag with you to the park and collect litter you find along the way. (But please don’t forget to wear gloves!)
  • Pick up a few extra groceries to donate during your next shopping trip. Most stores collect donations on site.
  • Pay for a stranger’s bus fare or cup of coffee. Perhaps you’ll start a pay-it-forward trend! 
  • We have a difficult time when we come across someone asking for help at an intersection. Keep granola bars or bus tokens in your car to give when you encounter someone asking for help. Or if you want to go further, make a few sock sacks to keep in the car and pass out when needed. Fill a new pair of socks with individually wrapped snacks and a water bottle. It will be a useful and portable treat for them to enjoy.
  • Remember all those packets of crayons you collected from restaurants? Donate them to a local preschool or family shelter. You could even start a Crayon Collection!
  • Leave a nice note or poem for your mail carrier to enjoy.
  • Help someone with a stroller get through a door or around an obstacle. Again, I’ve been the recipient of this and was very grateful!
  • Like to craft? Make greeting cards or paper flower arrangements for your local hospital or nursing home.
  • Give your neighbor a heart attack! Simply cut up a bunch of hearts from pink, red or purple paper, write sweet messages on them, and tape them on your neighbor’s outside front windows. Pinterest is your go-to place for more ideas like this (Boo Grams, Candy Grams, etc.)
  • Are you the next David Blaine or Harry Houdini? Take your magic show on the road to a local children’s hospital or nursing home.
  • Last but note least, open the door for someone else. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!


Spotlight: Kids for Positive Change

We are lucky. We get to know some of the coolest people and projects through our work, and there are so many inspiring kids and grown-ups to get to know! One such woman is Camille Licate, founder of Kids for Positive Change. Kids for Positive Change is a multi-media educational platform with live enrichment programs and online videos for kids focused on raising awareness and taking positive action for animals, people and the planet!  Camillle knows every child has a positive idea that can light the world! And here are three of them - Reese (age 6), Morgan (7) and Mia (6).

Find out how they took a birthday party and made it yummy for others! And if you want to know why, it's simple. Just ask a six year old:

"I think it's important to help kids in need because I want them to stay healthy so they can live a longer life."

Imagine if we all thought about that on our birthdays. Thank you, Reese, Mia and Morgan, for being such good examples!


PGK Bay Area - A Venture in "What If"

By Amy Johnson, Outreach and Marketing Manager, PGK - Bay Area

When you think of the Bay Area, what words come to mind? Technology? Innovation? Entrepreneurship? Amazing food trucks? OK, maybe the last one is just me (seriously, they are so good!). But I think everyone can agree that the Bay Area has a history of making the impossible possible by asking, “What if?” 

As a 15 year resident, I find it amazing that an area with such a wealth of resources has so much need. The Bay Area is home to thousands of non-profit organizations working to strengthen the community. In recent years, these organizations have made great strides by tapping into their corporate neighbors and adopting innovative business strategies. Founded like a high-tech startup in 2005, Downtown Streets Team played a great role in the recent decline of local homelessness even in the wake of increasing rents. In 2014, Loaves and Fishes reinvented their 35-year old soup kitchen model, resulting in a 90% increase of meals. And most recently, The Art of Yoga Project (AYP), a leader in the rehabilitation of at-risk and incarcerated girls, partnered with YCore to design and build a platform that allows teachers to train virtually in AYP methods.  By asking, “what if?” Bay Area non-profits have been able to make the impossible possible.

As someone who has made a career working with youth, I have a “What if?” question of my own. What if we brought our high-tech culture and vibrant non-profit community together in a way that allowed youth to become more active, engaged, and empathetic? What if we used existing technology to connect youth with meaningful, timely, and fun volunteer opportunities? What if youth could lend their voice to the non-profit community using devices at their fingertips?    

Fortunately, I don’t need to ask my “What ifs” any longer. Project Giving Kids- Bay Area is here. It’s changing the way we look at youth service and cultivating the next generation of givers. Project Giving Kids is allowing youth to become a part of something much bigger than themselves and realize they have the power to make the world a better place.  Maybe that’s the next great legacy of the Bay Area, and I'm excited to be a part of it.


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