In early 2008, the following email was sent to the general listserv of the National Association of Professional Organizers’ San Francisco Bay Area chapter (NAPO-SFBA):

I’ve been contacted by…Rebuilding Together, the national organization that does Habitat for Humanity type rebuilds and remodels of both private homes and non-profit organization’s facilities.

I was a construction captain a few years ago on a fabulous remodel of the basement of the Larkin Street Youth Center and last year did assessments on two homes…

Apparently there are projects in communities all around the Bay Area, but if you’d like to team up with a corporate sponsor and do some great work while showing off your organizing skills and NAPO’s community spirit–please let me know asap.

Really? A unique opportunity to stretch one’s organizing muscles, volunteer for an awesome nonprofit and cause, AND be part of a team that positively impacts the lives of strangers? “Please do put me on the list! I’d love to help if the timing’s right,” I responded to my colleague, Victoria Roberts-Russell.

Two weeks later, another email landed in my inbox. This one contained descriptions of various projects that could benefit from the input of a professional organizers. I signed on, completed a project, and was hooked. When it was over, I wondered how we could get more organizers on board with this seemingly natural partnership and began conspiring with Victoria and our enthusiastic associates at RTSF. (more…)

When you think of love songs, I bet lines like “Oh baby, baby, baby, baaaaaaaaby, I love you” and other word conglomerations of that ilk come to mind. These songs run the gamut of happy, sad, mournful, or even overly goopy.

Leave it to my sweetie to write a song for me that speaks to what we value, not to mention what I spend my days navigating in varying degrees while I make a living. The lyrics go like this:

Shed
by Sven Eberlein

I’ve got a closet full of things
don’t know how they made it in
there’s that sweater I don’t like
and the tapes left behind by my friend Mike

I’ve tried to clear it out before
but all that stuff keeps getting more
my house is looking like a store
and now I can’t even close the door (more…)

For starters, I haven’t started a revolution…yet! But this blog post is a bit revolutionary for me. This paragraph aside, the story you are about to read was penned by my partner, Sven, around a series of photographs I shot on a historic day in the sustainability movement. It was a foggy morning that found us on our way to Sacramento to pursue what we hoped would be our first true documentary collaboration. His recorder in hand, my cameras’ viewfinders taking turns at my eye, we’re happy to share the fruits of this creative jam session. The day was…

January 3, 2012: California becomes the sixth state to adopt law that allows the formation of corporations whose main purpose isn’t to make money.

A day at the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento, where California’s first twelve businesses filed to operate as benefit corporations.

Vietnam Memorial, Sacramento
California Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Sacramento’s Capitol Park, only a short walk from the Secretary of State’s Corporate Filing Office, honoring Brien Thomas (B.T.) Collins, Vietnam War veteran and CA Assembly Member, who “never wavered in the belief that one should give something back to society.”

I hope five or ten years from now we’ll look back on this day and say “this was the start of a revolution, because the existing paradigm isn’t working anymore. This is the future.”

- Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia, California’s first benefit corporation.

(more…)

When you read the name Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP), it’s easy to assume what population this nonprofit serves and make a good guess what kind of services it provides. That assumption changed drastically for me and several of my colleagues when I extend the invitation for a tour of their facility.

Five years ago, the now 22-year-old HPP purchased and occupied its current home, a big grey building with a nondescript facade on the corner of 18th and Potrero streets in San Francisco. Once we were past the front desk, we were struck by the friendly and open physical interior of this surprisingly modern and inviting space that once upon a time was fixed up by a now evaporated dot-com. Visual awe gave way, however, to a deep sense of amazement and frequent mouthing of “wow” at one another as the extraordinary array of services provided by HPP was described by our tour leaders, (more…)

A long ago discarded pair of pants are hanging over my desk. Well, that’s partially true. To be precise, parts of my pants and parts of two other peoples’ pants are hanging over my desk in a wall warming creation called The Traveling Elephant Quilt.

quilt hanging on office wall

detail of elephant quiltdetail of pants in quilt

The elephants are parading through space to an unknown destination, but the “traveling” part of the piece hails from my insanely talented, creative, and silly friend, Sharon. Throughout the earlier part of this year, I received sporadic emails from her that read, “Now where? Hee hee,” and “Elephants in Orleans, CA?” (more…)

It’s early April, and that means Rebuilding Together season is in full bloom. This is my third year participating through the local affiliate – Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF) – of the national organization that brings skilled and unskilled volunteers together to make improvements in the lives of low-income, senior, and disabled homeowners and nonprofit and community facilities.

I realize that for the majority of volunteers, RTSF projects begin and end when the project begins and ends. They get in there, they do the work, and they get to relish in the physical transformation that unfolds beneath their paint brushes and between reaches for their toolbelt. That is one part of the transformation – the visible.

There is also the invisible that happens over a period of time as a homeowner, for example, eases into the changes. Life is suddenly a little bit different and greatly enhanced. They probably have new paint on their walls and the kitchen faucet no longer leaks. It’s possible their belongings have been purged and rearranged and that all takes some getting used to. (Think about a small home remodel and how invigorated yet discombobulated you feel when it’s finished.) As with most clients I’ve had the honor of collaborating with, the result of our work often yields unforeseen changes. (more…)

POWER flagOver the past few months, I have been chief instigator and coordinator for a group of fellow San Francisco-based organizers for our participation in Get Organized (GO) Month, an annual event sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). During our bi-monthly meeting in November, our group of eight agreed to seek out several San Francisco-based nonprofits to which we would offer pro bono organizing services.*

When beginning the search for eligible nonprofits, a call to my esteemed and enthusiastic colleagues at Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF) proved fortuitous on many levels. Their facilities application deadline had just closed for the 2010 National Rebuilding Day activities. Within a day or so, they identified two facilities whose applications specifically mentioned the need for organizing assistance, and one of those seemed to be a likely venue for RTSF’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day undertaking sponsored by Kaiser. There we were, two entities searching for a venue to assist in the month of January. Bingo! (more…)

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