• For those with wings fly to your dreams

    Giving Tuesday: 3 Great Non-Profits to Donate to!

    Y'know all that money you saved on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

    How about using it to support organizations that help people in your community become more environmentally and mentally healthy?

    Today is Giving Tuesday and if you're surfing the  social media wave today I'm sure you're going to see a ton of recommendations to help many great causes.  For me, Sustainability and Suicide Prevention/Mental Health Parity are the causes that I'm most active in supporting.

    I think this is a very unique set of recommendations as I've volunteered and/or worked with each one so I can provide a bit more insight at what the great non-profits do.

    Community Energy Services Corporation(Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties in CA)
    Okay, I admit extreme bias here. This is where I currently work, where I spend my days helping small business owners become more energy efficient through lighting and refrigeration in the SmartLights program. SmartLights manages lighting and refrigeration rebates that help customers save 40-80% on average on their projects, some projects are even free.  Also assisting in developing more comprehensive measures that target HVAC and Food Service equipment.   So yes, by donating to CESC in a way you're helping me keep my job which while a great cause is hardly inclusive.
    CESC does so much more, we're part of the East Bay Energy Watch and Marin Energy Watch. We work with Marin Clean Energy, one of the first Community Choice Aggregations in the country. The SmartSolar program guides homeowners and business owners in Alameda county through the Solar (Electric or Hotwater) process. We do free assessments based on their indivual energy usage to see if Solar is a viable options (Sometimes Energy Efficiency is a better idea, albeit not as sexy). We analyze up to 3 bids and have a recommended contractor list.
    In the Residential Department they have several programs to help home owners and renters alike in home repairs, asthma patients have healthier homes, and use less energy thus having lower energy bills. Some programs are free while others are low-cost.
    The residential department also perform RECO audits. For property sales or transfers in the City of Berkeley, you must take steps to meet energy efficiency standards and pass an audit. CESC conducts these audits quickly and at a low cost.

    So as you can see we're pretty awesome. You can donate to CESC online or by mailing check/money order directly to our office. More info here

    GRID Alternatives (California, Colorado, NYC/NJ area and growing)
    GRID is non-profit dear to my heart. They are a non-profit solar contractor that provides solar electric systems to low-income homeowners at no cost to them. That's right, free solar!  GRID does this with the help of volunteers and job trainees, who install the systems. That's right again, if you're in an area that does GRID installs you can attend a training and then learn how to install Photovoltaics (PV).  In California they also manage the Single Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) rebate, similarly to CESC's SmartLights rebates. GRID works with Habitat for Humanity, Native American tribes, and others for new construction projects. They also receive donations from companies like: Google, Wells Fargo, Sungevity, and Clif Bar.
    Longtime readers of this blog know that I worked at GRID's Bay Area office as the Volunteer and Training Coordinator back in 2011-2012 and continue to volunteer there to this day.  It's one of the best jobs I've ever had and no doubt a big reason I have my current job.  As an Americorps (ClimateCorps) I learned so much about project management and working with different departments. Out in the field I learnt how to bend conduit, wire inverters, and install some of the latest PV technology like Enphase microinverters.  As an engineer I feel this helps me in project management as I've real-word experience of what installers do, I know how difficult it can be, doing a conduit run.

     I worked with the local job-training partners and it was truly inspiring and heart warming to see job-trainees of every type: young, old, high-school drop-outs, veterans, college grads trying to gain valueable skills. Helping them find jobs in the Solar industry was my favourite part of my job. There's a former job-trainee from Laney College who's been working for Solar City as an installer since I helped referred him back 2012 and he recently has been promoted to crew lead!
    GRID's growing too and donating to GRID helps them to continue to grow. So if you want GRID to come to your solar state, donating is great way to start. I'm looking at you North Carolina!
    You can donate to GRID here. There are options or you can enter your own amount

    American Foundation for Suicide  Prevention (Nationwide)
    Suicide Prevention is a cause near and dear to my heart. So far I've participated in 2 Out of Darkness walks. I've had a few friends who've died from suicide, and a few more that have attempted suicide. When I was an engineering student I once read that just having an engineering department is one of the factors in determining "Most Stressful schools in America", that really stayed with me.  AFSP helps by doing suicide prevention programs for many including special program targeted at :Veterans, LGBT, Youth, and Minorities. Known for their support for "Survivors of Suicide", the family and friends of people who've died from suicide, they are gradually offering help to a very underserved part of this cause: those who've attempted suicide. This is the group of people who are most at risk, in fact a previous attempt is the greatest risk factor! Unfortunately this group is meant to recover, cope with any mental illness they have and never ever mention it again outside a individual therapist session. It's discouraged in group therapy and understandably, the friends and family of attempters aren't always open to talking about it after time has passed.  Some see it as setback in therapy but I had a friend who attempted who sometimes brings it up to me. They refer to it as their 'reference point' a sign of either taking things out of proportion or that they really need to seek active help so they don't go down that path again. Still, at times they see it as a "I can overcome this, it doesn't have to go there" as a victory even. Attempters too are survivors of suicide and I'm glad that AFSP is helping more.
    There are many ways to donate to AFSP learn more about them here.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this. No matter what you cause you decided to donate to, it's great. It helps people and communities in need, it keeps people employed. Did you know that while donations during the recession went down, employment in nonprofits went up? After working over 5 years in the non-profit sector I can say there's nothing more fulfilling than doing what you loove and helping people. And after the past year at CESC, making a living wage, that's good too.

    Till next time,



    About me

    I'm a 20-something Southern girl living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've been working in the wild and wacky world of non-profit green construction in one way or the other for over 3 years. I'm also the owner of Oakland's own Engineered Cupcake.