Tuesday, April 28, 2020

#MyNonprofits Update: Deliver Seedlings by Bike on May 9 in San Jose

I have a calendar by my desk as I work from home. Because of COVID-19, there isn't anything on it - just two yellow sticky notes. One has the word TODAY written on it that I move from one day to the next. For quite a while, it has felt like there is no tomorrow - just another version of today. 

Speaking of today: San Jose Spotlight's coronavirus blog just reported the County of Santa Clara is extending their Shelter in Place order is going through May 31. So the other yellow sticky on my calendar - the one that reads 'lockdown ends' just moved up to the end of next month. Other than that, my calendar has seen no action.

But if you live near downtown San Jose, have either a bike with big panniers, a bike trailer or a cargo bike, you're going to mark your calendar with a blunt-point Sharpie: On Saturday, May 9th, Valley Verde needs your help to deliver seedlings by bike to area families.

Let me back up a second.

Valley Verde is, as of last night, one of #MyNonprofits. For those of you who don't know: #MyNonprofits is a campaign when you make a financial donation* to a different nonprofit every day for seven days or more, encourage others to donate, and nominate one friend or more each day to take the #MyNonprofits challenge. I started this because I was supposed to fly to Italy for vacation in May, and of course that was cancelled, so I reasoned that if I can't enrich my life abroad, I was going to take the money that would be used on the trip and help nonprofits that enrich other people's lives - including mine. 

I first visited Valley Verde last year - my wife and I rode our tandem on the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition's garden ride, and Valley Verde was one of the stops. Neither of us had heard of it before but we ended up taking an eggplant in the seatpost bag which survived the rest of the journey and later gave us an eggplant.

Like Veggielution (another one of #MyNonprofits) Valley Verde is a farm in San Jose that specializes in giving education and other programs to low-income families - as well as edible gardens. They teach how to grow their own food - like, real food**sold seedlings at their annual seedling fair, but like my vacation in Italy, that was cancelled which is a big loss for them and the families who use the seedlings. 

What Valley Verde is doing instead is giving the seedlings away to low income families. Let's skip ahead of their incredibly nice gesture and get to the rub: limited public transportation, no options for child care and other factors means a lot of people want seedlings but can't physically go get them. 

So the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is trying to get volunteers to help bring seedlings to families on Saturday, May 9. It is not an organized ride - it is a socially distanced one. This means you can't just show up with a cargo bike or a bike trailer or big panniers and take plants. What you need to do is click here to make an appointment to give away seedlings by bike and choose how many miles you wish to ride to deliver zucchini, peppers or other plants. 

The plants themselves are in containers - the size is about 6' x 10" by 10" -  so if you have a trailer or a cargo bike, you can carry a lot more plants and help a lot more people in one go. You drop the plants off at the addresses they give you - so it is 100% social distanced all the way.

So what I ask you today, the readers, is to make a donation to Valley Verde. I personally know the feeling that comes when a big fundraising event doesn't take place for a nonprofit and it is not a good feeling. So make a donation to Valley Verde, then share the Valley Verde donation page online. 

Next - if you have a bike that can carry plants that you can ride safely, live close enough to ride to Valley Verde, are free on May 9, then sign up to deliver seedlings. If you want to read something better written - and with more detail and fewer spelling errors - here's the Valley Verde post by Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition executive director Shiloh Ballard. 

That's all for now. Please check out the list of the nonprofits I have on #MyNonprofit list and take the #MyNonprofits challenge: give a little money to one nonprofit a day, ever day for seven days or more, and each time nominate a friend to do the same. COVID-19 is taking away a lot from us now but let's make sure it doesn't take even more from the less fortunate among ourselves later. Thanks for reading, thanks for riding (alone), and thanks for taking the #MyNonprofits challenge. 

*if it is the American Red Cross - blood if you prefer. Make an appointment to give blood online here.  

**I swear, every time I am in the grocery store I notice what someone is carrying in their baskets or trolleys and think "If the coronavirus doesn't kill you, that junk you plan to eat will." Don't get me started on the people who pull down their masks when they get outside to smoke a cigarette.

Monday, April 6, 2020

#MyNonprofits and Other Ways to Live Through a Pandemic

I was supposed to get together with a friend for coffee. I was supposed to take a train and use a folding bike to get to work. I was supposed to watch the San Jose artist Cellista tweet joyously about her March 27th concert in LA. 

I was supposed to go to yoga class. I was supposed to get a tart at Pastelaria with a colleague. I was supposed to fly to Italy in May with my Bike Friday in checked luggage. 

The coronavirus has taken a lot from us - much more than I just listed here.

I'm still better off than most. Way better. I can do my job from home. I'm not furloughed. I don't have a greedy landlord to contend with or rent increases to worry about. I also don't have a stack of paper coffee filters on the back of my toilet - not yet, anyway.  

What I do have is a bike - well, a couple, actually - and ride it regularly and alone - like I did in the time before. Only now cars that I once had to beg for three feet of space are suddenly giving me six - and frames from the opening sequence of 'I am Legend' sneak into my ride from time to time. This was Friday afternoon in San Jose. 

On the same ride I headed toward Be the Change Yoga and Wellness. The doors were shut, the place was dark. But there was a sign on the door letting patrons know that they were offering classes on Zoom. I've taken some. They were some of the first people I met when I moved to San Jose five years ago and yoga helped me through a very difficult adjustment period to California. It's helping me again, right now. 

You already know I'm going to tell you how much biking is helping - and it is. It's also a bit of a spirit-lifter that bike shops are deemed 'essential' business. Remember Vera - the great mechanic at the mobile bike shop Velofix? She's still at work, and you can book her. 

Like anyone else who is still working out of the house - be kind, be patient and tip generously.

Latest downtown San Jose mural by Bay Area artist Lila Gemellos 
Let me offer something more concrete than a few abstracts - here today I am giving you an activity. Something to keep you occupied, feeling empowered and encouraged. It's called #MyNonprofits.

Here's how it works: every day, for seven days or more, donate to a different nonprofit that has touched your life in some way, and share the donation link on social media and encourage your friends to not only donate, but join in on #MyNonprofits too.

Donate any amount - it's up to you. 

That's it. That's the post. That's what I want you to do. Eight years or so of entertaining you for free on DIYBIKING.COM and I want you to pass the time by donating to and talking about nonprofits every day for seven days. 

It is easy. Each day under shelter in place, after all, feels like it goes by in a blur but every week feels a month. Now is the time to introduce good habits. So take a little time to think and start donating to seven nonprofits in seven days. 

Here are mine. 

Be the Change Yoga and Wellness

2016 was easily the worst year of my life and finding time for a class at Be the Change Yoga & Wellness, no matter how chaotic, lonely, or unhappy I felt, was always time well spent.  As I said, they are offering classes online with Zoom so in chaotic, lonely and unhappy times it's a good way to feel connected and feel healthy.  

Donate to Be the Change Yoga & Wellness here 

Good Karma Bikes

Within weeks of arriving in San Jose in 2015, I was doing part-time freelancing  for faraway clients so I began some part-time volunteering for Good Karma Bikes as a mechanic and a little social media managing. They take bikes in as donations, fix them, and gift some bikes and free repairs to the homeless and have other programs - including Women's Night (run by Vera!).They had to scale back their operations a lot in the wake of COVID-19 and could use some help. 

Donate to Good Karma Bikes here

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley helps an incredible number of people in the Bay Area each year - food created 30 million meals just last year. Traditional food drives, like the ones done by Cranksgiving San Jose, are cancelled right now but you can still do a virtual food drive. However, due to the blood-curdling number of layoffs the work Second Harvest of Silicon Valley does has grown more important than ever. 

Donate to Second Harvest of Silicon Valley here

YWCA Silicon Valley

Quick backstory: a long time ago I helped a friend move out of the house of a domestic abuser. Just a few years ago I did a freelance assignment for a talented friend who hired me to make a series of charts about the impact of domestic violence in one U.S. state. It was incredibly grim work but it made me realize how horrifying and massive this problem is, so I started doing Walk a Mile with YWCA Silicon Valley I kept the size twelve wedges I wore last year thinking I'd use them again this year (and try to get the guys i my own workplace to participate too) but at this point who knows if and when registration for Walk a Mile will open. Eliminating racism and helping women leave domestic violence can't wait. 

Donate to YWCA Silicon Valley here 

San Jose Spotlight

San Jose Spotlight is just over a year old and they are the reason I knew where to take two unopened boxes of five N-95 masks so nurses could have them instead of my garage. That's one small reason they're important.

My career has been shaped by journalism - my first job was reporting for an industry newsletter and my third career was about being a book publishing expert at Simba Information where I was interviewed by journalists a couple hundred times and learned the importance of journalists who are experts in their beats. Even before COVID-19 journalists and journalism has been subject to the wrath of vulture capitalism and just plain neglect. Reporters who are still in the game and genuinely trying to do what's best for their communities deserve praise and the publications they work for deserve money. If you live in the Bay Area, you'll want to follow San Jose Spotlight on Twitter and get to know their reporters. 

Donate to San Jose Spotlight here

Lick Observatory

A year ago next week, I decided, on a whim and a 21 year old Bike Friday, to ride up to Lick Observatory. It was a 62 mile trip that impaired my ability to walk, stand, or sit comfortably for days but it was ultimately spiritual and uplifting. I wrote about that trip here. Due to COVID-19, Lick Observatory only has the robotic telescopes in operation and the technical labs on UC Santa Cruz campus are closed - which is a shame, because with fewer cars on the road air is clearer (imagine that). You can help the staff and help the science today.

Donate to Lick Observatory Here 

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

In April of 2015, when I was still flying back and forth between CA and CT, I went on a group ride the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition organized through Willow Glen. I felt like the new kid on their first day of school introducing myself, but I had a lot of fun on the ride, and quickly learned the SVBC does a lot more than that. Advocacy, education and outreach - not to mention the fact that if there is an intersection in the Bay Area that is suddenly safer for bicycles than it was before, chances are excellent the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition had something to do with it. 

They just postponed Bike to Work Day to September 24th but they are keeping up with ways to have us pedal together even as we have to ride apart - the hashtag campaign they rolled our recently is #JoyRideSV where you post photos of different solo rides you've done under the SIP order.

Donate to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition here


Veggielution is a working farm on the east side of San Jose - tucked under the 101 and 280/680 interchange. Growing vegetables in the shade of a maze of overpasses is a great use of the land. The last time I was there I bought tomatoes and peppers, which I made into a homemade sauce I ate over pasta. But this place is more than a location to buy good food - they have a lot of education and community programs, including serving food on site (the tacos are amazing) and provide a place to meet and make friends.

Donate to Veggielution here 

Highways Performing Arts Center 

Highway Performance Space is a performing arts center in Los Angeles. I know nothing whatsover about them other than that is where Cellista was supposed to perform Transfigurations on March 27th. Even though my track record of being in the same area code as Cellista when she does do a show has been terrible, I am looking forward to this concert being rescheduled. Hope you, as you come up with your #MyNonprofits list, remember performing arts centers during this time of social distancing - even though the arts are essential. 

Donate to Highways here 

Bike New York

While living in Connecticut, I knew what day the first Sunday in May was: the Five Boro Bike Tour: a ride of over 30,000 people in car-free New York City streets organized by the nonprofit Bike New York, which teaches people how to ride and does advocacy and education work. The last FBBT I did was in 2014 - and at the time I had no idea I would be moving from Connecticut to California during the 2015 event. The 2020 Five Boro Bike Tour is cancelled and event cancellations for nonprofits are hard - let's help them out. 

Donate to Bike New York here 

Me on my recumbent at the 2007 Five Boro Bike Tour (photo by Brightroom)

Community Cycles of California

Community Cycles of California is a young bike-based nonprofit in San Jose (if you look really closely you can see me at the ribbon-cutting of their headquarters and shop last year). They take donated bikes and refurbish, administer repair centers in affordable housing developments and are getting a vocational training program started. They just opened a new retail location on Santa Clara Street - and on the day of the Measure E rally on Leap Day I rode my cargo bike to downtown to attend the rally and 'panic bought' a folding bike at Community Cycles on my way back. 

Their shop closed two weeks later due to the COVID-19 SIP order - but just today Community Cycles announced a few changes in operations so they can still help people safely during the pandemic. 

Donate to Community Cycles of California here

Silicon Valley Community Foundation / Silicon Valley Strong Fund

The Silicon Valley Strong Fund was created a few days into the Shelter in Place order when it was clear a lot of people in the Bay Area would need financial help. The fund launched with $11 million and several individuals and organizations made donations. Even still, the fund had over 4,400 applicants in three days and the waiting list for aid just keeps growing. On Saturday, NBC Bay Area ran a telethon for aid and received over $250,000 in donations. The number of government, business and nonprofit entities that are giving time, money and infrastructure are numerous, and if you want to help give money, time or both you can visit www.SiliconValleyStrong.org. Visit it a lot, and I am convinced if we ask ourselves 'what can I do to help?' enough times, our minds will give the answer.  

Donate to the Silicon Valley Strong Fund here

That's what I've got - and now that I look at this list, I see more than seven and I see reason to add more. For instance, the Stanford Blood Center needs donations and if I, a needle-fearing child trapped in an adult's body, can visit the Stanford Blood Center and make an appointment to give blood, you can too.  

I hope you give to these and take the #MyNonprofits hashtag and support any nonprofits who have touched your life in some way. I mentioned earlier how much the coronavirus has taken from us but please remember: it isn't done taking. The antidote to taking is to give. And to paraphrase a line from Ed Harris in Apollo 13: as we all grieve the things we are supposed to do but can't: It's not about what we are supposed to do, it's about what we can do.

Thanks for reading about #MyNonprofits and for telling the world about yours.