We Are Living And We're Dying Every Single Day

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Now's not the time to be so sad and mournful
We are going to the funeral and we'll be dancing the night away
So, so, so don't be so shy, we are living and we're dying
We are laughing and we're crying every single day
The first time I heard this song by Brett Dennen, a musician Reach And Teach originally learned about through his work with The Mosaic Project, I was totally drawn to the music but I found the lyrics a little odd. I'd been to literally dozens of funerals and memorials and yes, at the receptions afterwards there were plenty of moments of laughter and joy as people reconnected with each other and remembered the person whose life we were honoring.... but dancing? No, I could not remember a single time in my life when I had gone to a funeral and later danced. Until, that is, yesterday. 
Yesterday afternoon we helped celebrate the too-short life of Jerry Wrenn. Jerry and his wife Joan had come into our lives around five years ago when Jerry called the shop and asked if we'd like to participate in a Fair Trade Fair at his church. Delighted to be invited we said yes and got to meet Jerry and Joan through that fair and then we became friends as the years went by. Jerry was one of the kindest, most generous, gentle, social-justice-seeking, people in the world. He'd died suddenly, unexpectedly, in his sleep last Saturday night, after doing one of many volunteer gigs at his church. 63 years old is way too young. 
His memorial service was beautiful, with folks remembering how he had touched their lives, his love of baseball, nature, family, coffee (fair-trade of course), his 30-some-odd year love affair and friendship with his wife Joan, and even how this Army veteran loved to have a peace symbol tattoo shaved into the back of his hair each time he got a haircut, even the one time the barber didn't know the difference between a peace sign and the Mercedes Benz logo. 
In our lives we've lost a lot of people, including my parents, including people taken way too young by AIDs back in the days of the pandemic, but Jerry's death somehow hit us in a different way, one which both Derrick and I felt but couldn't quite explain. As we got into the car after the memorial, Derrick said "Somehow Jerry made you feel like you were one of the very few people in his life, totally focused on you when he was with you, but then you realized, after talking with him for a while and hearing about many of the wonderful people in his life, that he made each person feel that way." 
So we've gone to the funeral and next we drove all the way across the Bay to our god-daughter's 18th birthday party. Claire, a jewel in our life, was born with Down Syndrome, and we have been blessed to be part of her life as she grew from a sassy toddler to a sassy teenager, all the while growing in her love of acting, singing and yes..... dancing. Wait for it.......
We got to the birthday party early, as requested, so that everyone could be in place on the red carpet when Claire arrived. It was going to be a surprise party, although every element of the party was something Claire had specifically asked for but just didn't know she was actually going to get.
Over many years we had seen Claire perform in plays put on by an amazing organization called Angels on Stage and there were lots of kids and parents from that group on hand for the party. As soon as we arrived, and I tried to do that thing that I as somewhat of a raging introvert (AKA - Shy -- See Brett's Lyrics again please) tries to do during that awkward time before an event really starts, trying to find a spot to hide in, a friend of Claire's spotted me and grabbed my arm saying "You can help me! Here, sit down and help divide this candy up." She then asked my name, told me hers, and showed me how to "EVENLY!" divide up the candy into two neat piles. When we were done I thanked her for including me and got up and once again tried to find a spot to hide. "Hi! What's your name?" Another friend of Claire's, whom I had seen perform in several shows, stopped me in my tracks. I told her my name and complimented her on her performances. Then I spotted it... an air hockey game and I grabbed Derrick and said "Let's play!" We played one point and then a tall lanky teen wandered over and looked at the game longingly. Derrick stepped aside and we spent the next 15 minutes taking turns getting our butts kicked by him. 
Stepping away from defeat (and a beaming kid taking on another challenger) and grabbing a beverage, another young man whom we had seen in plays came up to say hello, ask me my name and tell me his. "I went to Disneyland!" he told me with a giant smile. We then chatted about Disneyland, the best rides, the best food, and yes, how expensive it was. Here was a kid who looked like he was 18 or so, but talked like a boy of around 10, with such excitement about his Disneyland experience as though it had been yesterday, when in fact it had been months ago. 
A little while longer and everywhere I went there was another kid ready to say hello and connect with someone, as though that someone was the only person in the world. Yeah, it reminded me of Jerry. 
Then it was time to line up on the red carpet for Claire's arrival. She was SOOOOO surprised and spent the next 15 minutes hugging every single person who had lined up for her. Then, someone whispered in her ear that there was a dance room all set up for her and she literally shrieked "You've gotta be freakin' kidding me!" as she saw the flashing lights, the dance floor, and a DJ ready to queue up the music. 
The kids were going absolutely wild. Most of the kids on the dance floor had some kind of different ability, including a few locked into wheelchairs, but everyone was dancing, with more energy and emotion and gusto than I could ever have imagined. Pure, unfiltered, JOY filled the room. It was absolutely infectious. 
I danced. I couldn't help it. The introvert who'd rather hide in the corner finding something fascinating in the employment regulation posters hanging on the walls (someone's got to read them), couldn't help but be in the center of the dance floor with Claire and all of her friends, soaking in and spreading some of that joy that, started with something as small as a girl grabbing me and asking for help sorting candy, something as small as a mustard seed, had spread into a giant bush of happiness and love. 
The pastor had talked about that mustard seed at Jerry's memorial, how Jerry had spread tiny seeds like that through his entire life, and how we had to carry those seeds with us as we left that day to help spread them across the world. But those seeds need more than just to be carried, they have to be tossed wildly and recklessly about, maybe through the act of dancing.
So that was our day on Saturday. Going to the funeral and then dancing the night away  with a bunch of kids who would not let anyone be shy. We'll miss you Jerry but we'll keep carrying and wildly tossing those seeds. Thank you Claire for being the sassy dancer you are AND for gathering so many people around you and loving each one of them, hugging each one of them, as if they were the only person in the room. 
Oh yeah, and thank you Brett Dennen, for giving us so many songs that make us think, smile, cry, and to which we can also dance. 
Now's not the time to be so sad and mournful
We are going to the funeral and we'll be dancing the night away
So, so, so don't be so shy, we are living and we're dying
We are laughing and we're crying every single day 

Meet the Photographer of Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus

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April 23, 2015

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus Photographer Bay Area Exhibit and Speaking Tour June 24-29

After vandals attacked this award-winning photo exhibit showcasing queer youth in Connecticut earlier this year, creator Rachelle Lee Smith and San Mateo publisher Reach And Teach are looking forward to a supportive and enthusiastic reception in the Bay Area. 


The creator of the award-winning photo essay book, Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus will tour the Bay Area June 24th-29th and participate in PRIDE weekend.

The book was published in Winter 2014 by San Mateo publisher Reach And Teach, an imprint of Oakland publisher PM Press.

Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages fourteen to twenty-four, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Each portrait is presented with a stark white backdrop, acting as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.

In April, an exhibit of the photographs was vandalized at the University of Connecticut, prompting a rally by the university and local community against those who vandalized the art and in support of LGBTQ people. The vandalism, which included inappropriate drawings on photographs in the exhibit and the message "god hates the gays" written in the exhibit's sign-in book, is still being investigated.

“We were truly impressed by the response to the vandalism and the outpouring of support from the campus and community.” Craig Wiesner, publisher of Speaking OUT, said. “The book has been wonderfully received, has garnered stellar reviews in places like the School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly, and we’re so excited to have Rachelle Lee Smith here in the Bay Area to talk about the ten year journey she traveled to create this book.”

Rachelle Lee Smith will present images from her book, talk about its creation, and sign books at:

  • Laurel Books in Oakland on Wednesday June 24th at 7pm

  • Human Rights Campaign (HRC) store on Castro Street in San Francisco on Thursday June 25th at 7pm

  • Reach And Teach Bookstoreand Cultural Gift Shop in San Mateo on Friday June 26th at 7pm

  • Gay Pride San Francisco Queer Youth Space and PM Press booth (Civic Center) during the day on Saturday June 27th and Sunday June 28th

  • First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto on Sunday June 28th at 7pm

  • American Library Association San Francisco Conference Pop Top Stage Reading and Signing on Monday, June 29th from 12noon to 1pm

  • Green Arcade Books on Monday, June 29th at 7pm

About Reach And Teach:

Reach And Teach works to transform the world through teachable moments with books, toys, fair-trade gifts, games, curriculum and other products that promote peacemaking, sustainable living, and gender equality, with a shop on 25th Avenue in San Mateo and online at www.reachandteach.com

About PM Press:

PM Press creates radical and stimulating fiction and nonfiction books, pamphlets, T-shirts, visual and audio materials to entertain, educate, and inspire. www.pmpress.org

About Rachelle Lee Smith:

Rachelle Lee Smith is an award-winning, nationally and internationally shown and published photographer. Rachelle’s work in Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus combines her passions for activism and photography to tell the stories of, and provide a rare insight into, the evolving passions, confusions, prejudices, fulfillment, joys, and sorrows of queer youth. www.rachelleleesmith.com/speakingOUT

Speaking OUT has been showcased in magazines such as The Advocate, School Library Journal and showcased by the Equality Forum, the Human Rights Campaign, National Public Radio, The Huffington Post, World Pride and the U.S. Department of Education.

The ongoing photographic essay was published this year by PM Press and Reach & Teach with a foreword and afterword by HRC's Candace Gingrich and Graeme Taylor.

For more information or to arrange for an interview before or during the Bay Area tour, please contact Craig Wiesner (craig@reachandteach.com) 650-759-3784.

Collecting Books for Women and Youth in Prison

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Our fans were so generous last year in the State Assemblywoman Sally Lieber's Book Drive for Women and Youth in Prison. Time to do it again this year. We're accepting fiction and non-fiction paperbacks, children's and young adults' books, easy reading paperbacks and adult reading level books, and also recent magazines in good condition. Collecting in front of our shop until May 15th.

Here's more information about the drive and other drop-off locations:

Book Drive for Women and Youth in Prison April 15th through May 15th.

You are invited to share the gift of reading by donating:
  • Fiction and non-fiction paperbacks
  • Children’s and young adults’ books, easy reading paperbacks and adult reading level books
  • Recent magazines in good condition
Our drop-off locations, April 15 – May 15:
  • Florey's Book Co. in Pacifica
  • Reach and Teach in San Mateo (144 W. 25th Avenue San Mateo)
  • Kepler's Books and Magazines in Menlo Park
  • Books Inc. Palo Alto at Town and Country Village
  • Books Inc. in downtown Mountain View
  • Sunnyvale City Hall (Planning Dept Lobby)
  • Santa Clara County Government Center Bldg. (lower cafeteria lobby) in San Jose
  • Antonella's Ristorante on Park Ave. in San Jose
  • The Levy Family Campus, Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos

About the Book Drive:

The Book Drive was started by interns in Sally Liber's State Assembly District Office and has been held annually since 2005 and has collected and delivered thousands of books for use in libraries in California’s state prisons, including the California Institution for Women, Valley State Prison for Women and the Central California Women’s Facility and county jails in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties.

This year organizers will also be delivering donated books to area juvenile facilities.

We need books for all reading levels, including picture books, easy readers, young-adult, teen and adult reading level books. We need both fiction and non-fiction. We cannot accept ‘true crime’ books, textbooks that are more than three years old or water damaged books.  

We strongly prefer softcover books, but will gratefully accept hardcover books as well. We welcome recent magazines in good condition.

If you would like to volunteer, would like to host a collection site, have questions or need a helping hand with your donation, please contact the organizer, Sally Lieber through this link: 


Santa Claus is Coming to San Mateo and Other Reach And Teach News

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The season is upon us and we invite you to join us at Reach And Teach for a decorating party on Friday November 28th, Santa's visit on Saturday November 29th (which is also Small Business Saturday), and we've got some great volunteer opportunities to help you raise money for Doctors Without Borders or your favorite cause. All of this is happening at our shop at 144 w. 25th Avenue in San Mateo (across from the Post Office and next door to the wonderful Kobeya Japanese Kitchen and two doors down from The Spot on 25th and three doors down from She Sells Resells.... and next door to the Singer Sewing Machine Repair Shop and Spectrum Hair Salon.... we LOVE our neighbors).

Santa Claus on the Saturday After Thanksgiving

Our dear friend Santa Claus offered to spend a few hours at our shop on Small Business Saturday, November 29th, from 1pm to 3pm. He would love to hear your holiday wishes and is VERY open to taking a few selfies with any elves that would like to snap a good photo. Bring your own camera, cell phone, tablet or whatever.

There's NO CHARGE for spending a few moments with Santa but we will happily accept donations for our ongoing fundraiser to help Doctors Without Borders.

Small Business Saturday November 29th

American Express is once again promoting small businesses by offering up to $30 to cardholders who shop at small businesses like ours on the 29th. American Express® Card Members can register their cards to get up to $30 back when they Shop Small® on Small Business Saturday®.

You MUST register your card online with American Express to be eligible (takes a few moments). 

Click here to register your card with American Express.

Decorating Party Friday the 28th

On the day after Thanksgiving, Friday November 28th from 11am to 6:30pm, we invite you to stop by the shop for a warm cup of cider, some delicious treats, and beautiful music and help us gussy up the place for the holidays. We'll decorate all day so come by any time to hang a few ornaments or toss a little tinsel (and no, those aren't code phrases for anything naughty).

Volunteer Opportunity - Gift Wrapping

We'd love to be able to offer our customers gift wrapping but, well, except for Derrick, none of us are really very good at it. So, if you have a flair for gift wrapping we'd love to have you spend some time in our shop wrapping presents. We'll ask customers to make a donation for each wrapped gift, either to go to Doctors Without Borders, OR, any organization you choose. If you're part of an organization and want to raise money for your cause, we'll be glad to give you time slots to do wrapping at our shop. Contact Craig if you'd like to get involved.

Holiday Hours and After New Year

We'll be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Between then and Christmas we'll be open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 6:30pm. On Christmas Eve we'll close at 4pm. We'll close early on New Years Eve at 4pm and will be closed on New Years Day. After New Years Day we'll return to our regular weekly schedule of Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 6:30pm.

How Can We Ever Thank You Enough?

We are so grateful to all the people in the Bay Area who have made Reach And Teach their one-stop-shop for books, gifts, toys, and other products that promote peacemaking, sustainable living, and gender equality. Thank you!!! We hope to see you during this holiday season.

I'm Looking for Something for.....

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Wonderful people walk into our shop all the time and say "I'm looking for something for....." and then they go on to describe someone special in their lives or a special circumstance that brought them out looking for just the right.....

For example, a few weeks ago someone came into the shop and told us that her young niece was having a really hard time any time she made any kind of mistake. "The crying over such small mistakes breaks my heart! So, is there a book I could share with her that talks about mistakes in a healthy way?"

So first, we had to get over the fact that we didn't, in fact, at that moment, have the right book. We really feel TERRIBLE when that happens but it sets us off on a hunt and.... Here's the book! Actually, just in time for the next customer who came in with a similar request and we fell all over ourselves rushing over to the shelf where we had just placed the book. Later that same day a great teacher friend of the shop came in and saw the book on our front table display and told us that it was one of her favorite books too! 

Beautiful Oops! A life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It's OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn't ruin a drawing-not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don't be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator. Barney Saltzberg, the effervescent spirit behind Good Egg, offers a one-of-a-kind interactive book that shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion "telescope"-each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder. The smudge becomes the face of a bunny, a crumpled ball of paper turns into a lamb's fleecy coat-celebrate the oops in life.

Click here to check out more about this book and BUY IT!

Looking for Something Else????

In the coming days and weeks we'll be sharing more special requests and the books, games, toys, and fair-trade gifts we recommend. If you've got someone special in your life for whom it is tough to find just the right gift, please drop us a line (click here) and tell us about that person. We LOVE to help!

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

Part of the inspiration for this series is a book we found, in of all places, a bookstore! The Reading Bug in San Carlos CA is a sweet shop with a special focus on children's books but we found Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops near the register and bought it and have been laughing ever since. The book is based on the blog of the same name which you can visit here.

(Finally, thanks to Pedro Ribeiro Simões for the beautiful photo that started this post. Visit his flickr pages.)

Order Any Books from Us

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Reach And Teach is an independent bookstore and while we have a special focus on books that promote peacemaking, sustainable living and gender equality, we can also get just about any book currently in print, usually within one or two days. Let us know what book you would like and we'll get back to you with a price and an estimated delivery time. You can pick up books here at our shop or we can have them shipped directly to you. 

Guardian Princesses - Books That Transform the World

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The Guardian Pricess Series - Review by Craig Wiesner

She was SOOOOO cute, this little girl who came rushing into the shop, her mother a few steps behind... The little one was completely decked out in princess attire, adorable. While many of our friends are quite comfortable being champions of little boys who want to dress up as princesses, there are some mixed emotions around the idea of little girls being over-enthusiastic about princess culture. Why? Too often princesses have been portrayed as beautiful outside without much inside, stereotypically white, thin, with perfect teeth and hair, and all-too-often needing to be saved by a handsome prince in order to have any worth at all. This picture doesn't exactly lead to high self-esteem among girls who don't quite fit into those glass slippers!

Shaping Youth's Amy Jussel, who has spent many years working to shine a bright light on media's unhealthy manipulation of children and empower parents, teachers and children to overcome the toxic messages of omnipresent marketing, has taken her own approach to princesses:

In my house, I brushed off princesses dismissively rather than give them any ‘heat' at all, preferring to subversively turn stereotypes upside down with a wink and a nod reading fairytales like The Paper Bag Princess (who does NOT live happily ever after with Ronald) and Dinorella (the dinosaur that saves ‘Duke Dudley's tail, quite literally). Sure, we read the classics, but it became a favorite past-time to add a dollop of irony to the usual palate of kid-lit and lack of cultural diversity in the princess posse.

Amy Jussel has a fantastic post about princesses on her Shaping Youth web site (click here). She knows that you can't overcome the massive amount of money spent to market to our kids by trying to shield our eyes and cover our ears. Instead, you have to flip things around through education and a little bit of subversion.

Reach And Teach is all about subversively turning stereotypes upside down which is why we love books like My Princess Boy and Goosebottom Books' Dastardly Dames series. We're always on the lookout for more titles like these so when Setsu Shigematsu reached out last year to tell us about a series of books she and a team of folks were working on, with princesses as the lead characters, but not your typical princesses, we were intrigued.

Imagine you are hearing some movie commercial music with a deep-voice saying "In a world where evil multinational conglomerates  seek to despoil the planet and enslave all its people, where toxic waste dumps spew poison into the rivers and free-thinking people are turned into mindless drones, who will come to the rescue to save the innocents and the entire world from death, despair and destruction?"




The Guardian Princcesses will save the world! Using a combination of compassion, quick-thinking, keen intelligence, community organizing, and of course a little bit of magic, these princesses will help overcome the most nefarious evil-doers around. The Guardian Princess team has just released the first three books in their series, which can be purchased separately in paperback or combined in one hardcover book. Here's how the team describes the first three stories:

Princess Terra and King Abaddon

Princess Terra is the Guardian of the Land. Her role is to care for and protect the land that allows her fellow people to lead healthy and balanced lives. All is well until the greedy King Abaddon comes and tries to take it away and make it his own. How will Princess Terra stop King Abaddon from forcing them off their land? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

Princess Vinnea and the Gulavores

Princess Vinnea is the Guardian of Plant Life in the land of Hortensis. At harvest time, a mysterious stranger appears with Gulavores that destroy their crops and gardens. He then feeds the people his unnatural food which makes them ill. How will Princess Vinnea help her people? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

Princess Mariana and Lixo Island

Princess Mariana is the Guardian of the Seas. One day, Princess Mariana and her friends discover dangerous garbage that is polluting their beautiful waters. This garbage comes from Lixo Island, a land of trash and filth ruled by the Spumas. How will she prevent the Spumas on Lixo Island from harming marine life? In addition to providing a wealth of inspiring lessons and ethical models for our children, our books are also designed to meet the current Common Core State Standards. www.corestandards.org Includes Etymology Chart, Glossary, Common Core Discussion Questions and Bonus Activity.

So what are the people behind this new series of books trying to do? Here's what they say:

The Guardian Princesses provide a welcome and much needed alternative to the current princess culture which has become a multi-billion dollar industry. The "traditional" princess stories marketed to our children emphasize external beauty-as-virtue. The stereotypical story of a damsel-in-distress who needs to be saved by a prince teaches children that a girl's destiny and happiness is to be coupled with a man. We are not "anti-romance," but we believe that children should not be encouraged to focus on finding prince charming or a beautiful princess their life priority.

We thus aim to shift the focus of girls' self-esteem and self-worth. We want to encourage children's empowerment through their full development, promoting both their independence and a deeper understanding of the vital interdependence between people and other living beings.

Reach And Teach says:

How do we feel about these first three books? We like them! We like the way the princesses think (pretty sharp young ladies who have both book-smarts and street-smarts), their compassion for all creatures and the land, their use of community-building and princess teamwork, and their ethnic / color diversity. The stories are compelling and mirror real-life quandries communities across the world face. 

The first story felt a little heavy handed (King Abaddon trying to buy Princess Terra's community) but still fun to read and filled with plenty of fodder for great discussions. The next two books took themselves a little less seriously and were more fun to read, though still dealing with some pretty weighty issues. 

We'd like to see a little more diversity in future princesses and know the Guardian Princess team already has a few good variations in the works. Color and/or ethnic diversity clearly do abound in the princesses and all the other characters portrayed in the first three stories (giant kudos here), but the princesses themselves can use a little more shape and feature diversity. A girl with Down Syndrome, for example, will not see herself reflected in these princesses faces. Nor will a girl with a fuller body type or more "average" features see herself in these stories. The villains and plots of future tales could also be a bit more subtle, and perhaps a few could be female instead of male. We like these first three stories and are excitedly looking forward to future releases.

Buy the Book:

Click here to buy an "Heirloom" copy of the inaugural trilogy. 

Reach And Teach Wins Sustainable San Mateo Award!

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Reach And Teach is thrilled to announce that we have been chosen as this year's Sustainable San Mateo business award winner. Below is information about the awards from Sustainable San Mateo, including information about how you can join us at the awards dinner on April 3rd.

 Thursday April 3, 2014

College of San Mateo Bayview Dining Room

5:30-6:30 Wine and Beer Reception, Exhibits and Silent Auction
6:30 Dinner, Live Auction, Raffle and Presentation of Awards


Keynote presentation: Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, international leader in sustainable development, Deputy Chair of the Elders, and Former Prime Minister of Norway (bio on wikipedia)
Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University

Featured Auctioneer: State Senator Jerry Hill

Guest Emcee: State Assemblyman Kevin Mullin

2014 Awards Winners

Ruth Peterson Award – SSMC’s highest honor, awarded at the discretion of the Board of Directors to an individual who has contributed significantly to our mission.

Ricki McGlashan - As a founding Sustainable San Mateo County member and close friend of the late Ruth Peterson, Ricki McGlashan’s contributions to the organization and local sustainability are immeasurable. Her past service as board member, and currently as an advisory board member, only scratch the surface of her 21+ years of commitment to our mission. In addition to significant financial support, she has been an active participant in several program committees and provides graphic design services pro bono for nearly all SSMC materials, including all 16 years of the Indicators Report. An avid cyclist, Ricki has served on the board of the Western Wheelers bicycle club and has also spent decades volunteering for Beyond War and the Foundation for a Global Community. Her passion and upbeat demeanor are infectious, and she spends much of her remaining free time staying active with her grandchildren. A San Mateo County resident for 60 years, Ricki’s commitment to the environment, peace and other civic causes embody the principles and values of the organization.

Sustainability Awards – Recognizes businesses, community groups, city programs, and individuals that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to improving sustainable practices within San Mateo County.

Grand Boulevard Initiative - The Grand Boulevard Initiative brings together representatives of all the jurisdictions responsible for the design and planning of the 43-mile long El Camino Real transit corridor from Daly City in San Mateo County to San Jose in Santa Clara County. It sets out a vision for how El Camino Real (ECR) and neighborhoods located within ½ mile either side of ECR (including many existing downtown retail centers) can be developed in a more sustainable, attractive, and people-friendly manner to accommodate anticipated population growth. The Initiative is in response to the State’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, which links transportation and land use planning and encourages new infill development designs so that new residents will be able to safely walk, bike or take public transit to go to work, recreation, services, and retail locations. The Initiative visualizes wider sidewalks, street trees, landscaped roadway medians, bike routes, and safer pedestrian crosswalks. The goal is to redevelop the El Camino corridor so that it can provide enough new housing units to meet countywide housing needs while creating a streetscape that is so attractive that people will want to live and work there.

Reach and Teach - Reach and Teach is a retail store on 25th Avenue in San Mateo dedicated to selling books, curricula, music, films, games, toys and fair-trade gifts to help people learn how to make the world a better place and get involved in local and world transformation. They also have “filling stations” where empty laundry, dish or hand soap containers can be refilled with earth-friendly products. The store is employee-owned, supports locally made products, and promotes social equity by bringing local groups together and fostering understanding between different communities. The store is available for community groups to use for meetings, and has hosted several workshops and films ranging from media literacy to the elimination of nuclear weapons. Reach and Teach is an eco-friendly retail store that teaches all ages about economic equity, gender equality, and environment issues.  Co-founders, Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi, have won acclaim and awards for their publications.  Reach and Teach is a San Mateo County Certified Green Business.

North Shoreview Montessori School - North Shoreview Montessori School (NSMS) is the only school in San Mateo County to be Green Star Certified by RecycleWorks. In addition to following the Montessori method of actively involved learning, it is a public “Magnet School” for Art and Music. NSMS strives to teach students environmental responsibility by encouraging them to care for the environment as a daily activity. Each classroom has a garden and many classrooms bake bread. The school addresses social equity by using a program called Kimochis to help students understand themselves and their peers and to resolve differences. Students test scores are above average, and parents are very involved in the school by doing volunteer work and fundraising. Each week all K-8 students and many parents come together for a “Friday Morning Gathering”, which includes a Pledge to the Earth emphasizing care for all races and living creatures, peace and dignity.

Green Building Award – Sponsored by SSMC, RecycleWorks, and the San Mateo County Chapter of the American Institute of Architects to highlight environmentally friendly design.

5th Avenue Alternative School, Redwood City -  Architect: Brent McClure, AIA, Cody Anderson Wasney Architects; Builder: Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.; Owner: Sequoia Union High School District - Judges from the local AIA were impressed with the simplicity and beauty of this building. The daylighted atrium and corridors create a delightful atmosphere for sitting, reading and studying between classes.  This project sets a high standard for a public school project and is the firstLEEDPlatinumPublic Schoolin the Bay Area.  Proper siting of the building and careful computer modeling helped the designers achieve optimal solar and wind-aided natural ventilation through a central clerestory roof monitor. Energy consumption was reduced through daylighting, natural ventilation, and a heat recovery system. The project incorporated photo-voltaic panels on the roof allowing the generation of 77% of the anticipated energy load of the building.  The team’s collaborative design approach brought the owner, architects, engineers and contractors together to maximize the implementation of sustainable design strategies, studying each building component: exterior skin, building systems and programs to see how each one affects the building’s final performance. The result is a very vibrant learning environment that will inspire students, teachers and the local community.

Honorable Mention – Affordable Housing at 755 Mission Street, Daly City – Architect: Dan Ionescu Architects & Planners; Owner and Builder: Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco - This development’s unique approach to sustainability through in-kind donations, sweat equity and cost effectiveness was impressive.  The architectural design is colorful and comfortable, similar to apartment developments that cost two to three times as much. Yet the reported cost per square foot is $86.56, unheard of in the Bay Area.  By integrating energy saving techniques and 162 energy generating solar panels, the designers were able to achieve long term energy efficiency for 36 working families.  The gearless elevator uses regenerative drivers to return energy to the electrical grid, eliminating the need for a machine room and petroleum based lubricants. The owner also received a grant from Levi Strauss for the purchase of insulation made from reclaimed denim scraps, which was a great reuse and repurposing of a material with no VOC’s or chemical irritants. Careful selection of materials and detailing provided a durable, environmentally friendly and attractive design.

About the Awards

The Sustainable San Mateo County Awards Event is the premiere sustainability event in our region. It is an inspiring evening that provides an opportunity for business, government, and nonprofit leaders to gather and pay tribute to those working to make our region truly sustainable. Attendees are treated to a networking hour, sustainable dinner and wine, entertaining live and silent auctions, and video presentations of our winners. Proceeds from the evening support SSMC’s general operating funds and programs.

Since 1999, SSMC has presented the annual Sustainability Awards program, an event that heightens community awareness about sustainability. The awards recognize San Mateo County businesses, community groups, and individuals that have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to bringing sustainable practices to their work. In addition, SSMC, San Mateo County RecycleWorks, and the San Mateo County Chapter of the American Institute of Architects present a Green Building Award. To date, over 100 Sustainability and Green Building Awards have been given among hundreds of worthy nominations. The goal is to inspire and support sustainable design in architecture and to recognize the designers, builders, and owners of green buildings in San Mateo County. More than 350 community leaders, volunteers, interested citizens, and local media representatives attend the awards event.

Sponsorships and Ads

Show your support for sustainability in San Mateo County! Contributions to the Sustainability Awards support SSMC’s operations throughout the year and our mission of educating about our local economy, environment and society.

An anonymous donor will generously add $500 to all sponsorships of $2500 or more!

For more information view our Sponsor Flyer & AdSpecs or contact Executive Director Adrienne Etherton at 650.638.2323 or adrienne [at] sustainablesanmateo.org.

Auction and In-kind Donations

Have something else to contribute? Donations for our live and silent auctions such as certificates for local restaurants or services, sustainable goods or experiences; or in-kind contributions to the event such as wine, printing or professional services, also contribute to SSMC’s financial success and are tax deductible.

Contact Executive Director Adrienne Etherton at 650.638.2323 or adrienne [at] sustainablesanmateo.org with any questions or to discuss your contribution. Download the donation form here.

Thank You to our Awards Committee and Volunteers:

Joanne Bruggemann, Kara Cox, Nancy Crabbe, Tammy Del Bene, Adrienne Etherton, Ricki McGlashan, Dan Peterson

The Awards Committee meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month from 5:30-7:00 PM to have wine and snacks and plan a party with a cause. Want to join us?  Contact Adrienne at 650.638.2323 or adrienne [at] sustainablesanmateo.org.


When Toby Stopped Dancing for His Dinner

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Eight years ago we were blessed to find our new CDO (Chief Dog in Charge of Operations) at the Peninsula Humane Society. He was, they told us, a three time loser, having been returned by other families. We were probably his last chance and we took him home and he soon took over our home, our office and our lives.

Toby was one of the happiest dogs we'd ever known. In the morning he would run around in circles, totally excited to be going out for a walk, and when we put food in his bowl he would dance around on his hind legs trying to sniff the bowl unttil we put it down. I often wished I could have his great attitude about life's everyday events. 

Dear friends had invited us after New Years to bring Toby to Lake Tahoe to visit with them at their cabin. At one point we were at a spot by the lake where Toby could be off leash and at first he walked around sniffing until suddenly his paw touched the water at the edge of the lake. Realizing that he was off leash and near water, two of his favorite things, he started dashing back and forth, in and out of the water, leaping for pure joy. He went wild for around 15 minutes until he had exhausted himself. If anyone tells you that dogs can't smile, let me tell you that is absolutely false! Toby was grinning from ear to ear, soaked and joyous.

Around two weeks ago, Toby became less enthusiastic about food. He still ran around in circles whenever he thought we might take him out for a ride in the car and go for a walk, but he wasn't very interested in food. By late last week, he was hardly eating at all. We made an appointment with the vet. 

Monday morning, he seemed lethargic until he realized that we were going out. He spun around in circles and leapt into the car. As we drew near to his favorite spot on the planet, Fort Funston, he didn't make the usual fuss, spinning around in his kennel and crying for joy. Still, he leapt out of the car and headed into the park. Soon, though, we could tell something was really wrong. He was winded after a short time. The appointment with the vet was coming up soon. 

The doctor found a lump and after an x-ray she recommended surgery to see what was going on inside. What she found was really bad. Toby was going to be in a lot of pain and there was really no hope. Yesterday, at around 12:30, we held Toby as he slept and then, we let him go.

Right now our hearts are broken as we look from place to place around the house, places where Toby would be, and he's not there. Susan Munroe had taken some pictures of us and Toby at an open house she held at her studio last year. I remembered that she had gifted us with the photo at the top. Here on the right is Toby at Half Moon Bay, near the water, and thinking about nibbling on my ear. This is how I want to remember Toby. Thanks Wendy Wark for that photo from your birthday party by the beach. Toby loved to party, especially near water!

Toby was a fixture in our lives and at Reach And Teach. Less visible at the shop on 25th Avenue than he was at 178 South Blvd., but still running the show. We'll have Toby's cookies at the shop for any dogs who want to come by and console us over the next few days. And the one treat that even in the last day or so still got him to dance, Pupperoni. 

Goodbye Toby. We love you!

Kids Can Make A Difference

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This YouTube video from One.org shows kids quoting the all-too-familiar laments / excuses people often use when claiming that efforts to reduce suffering don't really work. Hearing these words from the mouths of children is especially moving, but even more moving is the switch from cynicism to a message of hope, with details on real results, what spending just 1% of the US budget can do to change the world. 

  • 15 million children, who would have died, are alive
  • 46 million children, who would never have seen a classroom, are in school

Having these statistics, proof that money and time spent on reducing poverty, hunger, and disease locally and around the world, and increasing access to health care and schools can and does make a difference, is a powerful tool.This is a great video which we hope goes viral. But, beyond just feeling good about the message, we also hope people are inspired to learn more and take action.

We've got great resources to help people of all ages do just that plus we'd like to lift up one special organization that is demonstrating in a most compelling way the incredible difference one dollar can make. Plus, we'll lift up an organization that is working to reduce the cynicism and negative messaging with which children are bombarded every day. We need our kids to have high self-esteem and positive attitudes, knowing that they are great for who they are and they have amazing powers to change the world.

Kids Can Make A Difference: This is an AMAZING resource for teachers and others who work with young people. It goes way beyond introducing the concepts of hunger and activities kids can engage in to make a difference. Instead, it delves into the root causes of hunger and poverty around the world, holding no punches as it examines colonialism, gender issues, the vast difference between the haves and the have-nots, developing versus industrialized nations and their lifestyles (over-consumption versus barely surviving). Combine this with Teaching Economics As If People Mattered, 25 Math Investigations that Will Astound You, the Poverty Project and Real Lives and you've got the ultimate package of world-changing education.

We first discovered this wonderful book when we were working with a national homelessness organization, putting together lesson plans to teach kids about homelessness. Through that we got into the promotion of "service learning" and from there we discovered the Kids Can Make A Difference Organization (kidscanmakeadifference.org).

Larry Levine and his wife, Jane Finn Levine, are the heart and soul of KIDS and you couldn't find a more devoted pair! They've helped so many teachers and kids learn about and do something about hunger directly through workshops and seminars - plus their ongoing newsletter. We're so pleased that they have allowed us to offer our customers this book.

Doing Good Together: Is your organization looking for service project ideas? An increasing number of schools, workplaces, and organizations are doing family service projects as a way to make positive change in their communities. The 101 projects in Doing Good Together answer this growing demand for family service with hands-on projects focused on easing poverty, promoting literacy, supporting the troops, helping the environment, and more.

Each of the 101 self-contained family service projects provides an overview, time requirements, materials list, step-by-step instructions, debriefing questions, recommended books to help kids and teens do or learn more, and ideas for extending the activity.

Youth Community Service Curriculum: We've worked with Youth Community Service for many years now and have always been amazed at the incredibly well developed programs they have led where students discover their passion for making the world a better place, create an action plan to actually do something, and then work with community organizations and individuals to turn their plan into reality. All the while these students are also improving their educational outcomes in math, science, civics, reading, the arts, and more.

Now, YCS has taken years of experience, combined with some of the best practices and successful projects from other organizations, and put together a month by month service learning after-school curriculum. Everything you need to apply the very best practices of service-learning with proven projects and learning materials is combined in this terrific single volume. Whether you apply the month-by-month strategy or just pick and choose from among the dozens and dozens of unique project ideas, you'll find this to be one of the most valuable resources on any bookshelf.

One Dollar for Life: What if a school could order everything needed to carry out a campaign to raise money to build a school somewhere in the world,  with asimple message to all the kids in that school that all it took was ONE DOLLAR to make a huge difference in people's lives? And by the way, everything needed comes in a single box! That's what One Dollar For Life (odfl.org) has to offer. 

The photo here is from a Nicaragua trip. This Summer Service Trip in July 2013 was the fourth trip ODFL has organized to Nicaragua to help with construction of one of its schools. The trip included home stays, work on the school, recreation, and many opportunities for cultural exchange between U.S. and local students. 

ODFL helps US high schools manage fund-raisers, aggregate their monies, identify qualified NGOs and worthy projects, and oversee the projects’ implementation in developing countries.  Here's a quick video to help tell ODFL's story.

Raise Awareness, Raise Our Voices, and Make A Difference

The kids at the very beginning of this story echoed the cynicism we encounter, raised our awareness of the truth that we CAN make a difference. The children called on viewers to raise their voices and then go out and make a difference. Our goal at Reach And Teach is to help spread that kind of awareness, empower people to raise their voices, and then go out and make a difference. The first and often most important thing is knowing that we can truly create change. But sometimes, before we can do that, we have to believe in ourselves.

Shaping Youth: Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, open a magazine, head to the theater, and the messaging aimed at children is overwhelming. You're no good unless you look a certain way, act a certain way, eat certain kinds of foods, consume, consume, consume... These messages are anything but empowering. ShapingYouth.org is working to flip those messages. 

Here's how founder Amy Jussel describes their mission:

Shaping Youth's mission is to shift negative influences of pop culture to a healthier worldview for kids.

We're implementing innovative programs for parents and kids (via film, web, mobile, hands-on education, & enrichment) to build awareness and promote healthier values by using the power of the media turned on itself.

Our self-funded, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization changes the channel of influence using entertainment tactics to impart informal learning three ways:

1.) Embedding positive behavioral cues inside media itself (pilot testing within virtual worlds, social media, gaming, mobile media)

2.) Eliciting content accountability/change from industry producers (advocating via social media on Twitter, blog, multi-channel platforms w/partners etc.)

3.) Counter-marketing harmful messages with media literacy (instilling awareness, critical thinking and vital youth inquiry via fun, hands-on "M-power" edu-game format)

Reach And Teach shares many of ShapingYouth.org's posts because we believe that media literacy is one of the keys to empowering people, young and old, to believe in themselves for who they are, not who they ought to be based on the latest commercial. And we know for a fact that when people come together and demand change, even from the most powerful media forces, change can and does happen. The web site is a treasure trove of information, incredibly well researched and compellingly presented. Click here to visit the site and then bookmark it!

Kids can make a difference, but it is up to adults to create an environment in which kids can flourish and diiscover each of their unique talents, and apply themselves to their passion. Please help spread the positive news that our money and efforts are making a difference. Share this post with friends and family on Facebook, tweet about it, email it to folks around the block and around the world. AND, please tell us about great resources, organizations, stories, that also need to be amplified so that together we can continue to transform the world through teachable moments.

Green America approved