Make a Difference for an Older Adult

Imagine you walk in to a library and see a computer… and don’t know how to use it. This is the experience of many older adults today, and we want to invite you to have a role in helping us change that.

Here’s where you come in. You can volunteer to help train older adults in basic computer skills at the Fair Oaks Adult Activity Center. Techniques as simple as using a mouse, describing an icon, typing, and simply turning the computer on and off are invaluable to build confidence. With this confidence, our clients will be able to walk into a library and use the computer to access the internet to find out about other services they need, or fill out an application for work. There is a wealth of information on the internet – but you can’t get there without learning the basics first.

Whether you speak English, Spanish, or both, you can help change the life of an older adult. To learn more, contact Carla Fondrick at or (650) 403-4300 ext. 4416.


Treasure Trove

It’s been a while since our last blog, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been keeping busy here at Peninsula Family Service. We’ve got some great projects that you’ll be able to see by the end of the month, but one of the main things we’ve been working has been our Treasure Trove. Yes, Treasure Trove (pirates not included).

We have so many activities in our centers and provide a hand up to nearly 20,000 children, families and older adults each year, so we thought it was time to concentrate on getting great photos of our clients, staff and volunteers in action! If you’ve driven past our office on 24 Second Avenue in San Mateo, you’ve seen some of our large scale window decals featuring our clients. (Free gift to the first person who can tell me something about all four of the decals! Email me at As we’ve gotten more photos, we’ve been excited to share them and use them in materials.  I hope you’ll enjoy some of these snaps from our Treasure Trove of photos…after all, a picture is worth a thousand words!

A Month of Hearts

I think we all know what happens in February. You see those little hearts everywhere. You can’t help but be reminded…it’s Heart Health Month! True, true. Valentine’s Day does happen as well, and that can be good for your health, but this is a whole MONTH versus a day. Let’s let those hearts linger everywhere, and let’s think about what makes a heart feel good.

What makes a heart healthy? Well, we hear increasingly about the heart-mind-body connection these days, so keeping all three in good shape can’t be a bad idea. In 2008, it was estimated that 15.8 million Americans took part in practicing yoga to keep their minds focused, their bodies healthy and their hearts open. If the Friday morning yoga class at the Fair Oaks Adult Activity Center in Redwood City is any indication, that number has grown rapidly in the last several years. On one of my many visits to the Friday yoga class, I spoke with Sansan, a yoga class participant who works as a flight attendant. She explained that yoga was something she could do easily while traveling. She tries to make the free Friday morning class whenever she can, but she can always practice by herself when she is in a different city. For Sansan, the yoga helps her keep her body and heart healthy, but it also provides a bit of a familiar routine when she is far from home. That has to be good for her heart.

Doing something physical isn’t the only way to do something good for your heart. Jack, one of our Senior Peer Counselors, knew that he’d be doing something helpful in the community by volunteering, and for many people, giving back is a way of feeling good. What Jack didn’t count on was how much he’d get from his role. “My client has taken me to parks I didn’t know existed…I’m actually learning about my community,” explained Jack when we spoke by phone recently. By volunteering, Jack has become more connected to his community and found out about new things. As a Senior Peer Counselor, I’m guessing that Jack’s Heart Health is doing pretty well!

If you would like more information about ways to keep your heart healthy, either through physical activities such as yoga or much needed volunteer acts, please contact or call 650-403-4300. We’ll be happy to help you with your heart-mind-body connection…and, as our logo shows, we’re about Heart Health all year ‘round!

The Love Boat

Enjoy Marisa’s thoughts about the upcoming Love Boat gala! ~ Chapin

For many people, it was the place to be on a Saturday night. The Love Boat  TV show offered a fun escape from the weekly grind and something to look forward to each week. So, with unashamed excitement, I have to let you know that IT’S BACK!!! The Love Boat is back! Well, at least to some extent. Let me explain…

One of our auxiliaries—amazing groups of volunteers that come together to host events and raise awareness of Peninsula Family Service—is holding their largest annual event on February 4th. The Love Boat Gala hosted by Hillsborough Auxiliary to Peninsula Family Service is definitely going to be worthy of Captain Stubing. Held at the Pavilion by the Bay on Treasure Island, the Gala will have cocktails, a sumptuous dinner, live music by Double Funk Crunch, a raffle and a great auction with some incredible packages, including Be My Valentine…A Year of Romance. Think about this, Men. You would be guaranteed an exciting date for you and your partner each month, and all you would have to do would be to show up. How great is that?!?

The other really exciting thing about the evening, in my mind, is that money raised from the evening will help support a disabilities clinician in the child development and education programs at Peninsula Family Service. By helping identify developmental delays early, disabilities clinician ensures children receive help for special needs at an early age. This makes a big difference for kids. If you’ve ever seen the powerful Head Start advocacy video “One Window of Opportunity,” (we offer Early Head Start!) you’ve been reminded that kids learn more in their first 5 years than at any other time. If they are behind their peers in certain skills when they start formal education, there is a very real chance that they may never fully catch up. We have the power to change that with some early intervention.

While I know I’m going to love the Love Boat for the fun outfits, the awesome people involved and the beautiful views, I already love the Love Boat because of what it will help make possible for another generation of Peninsula children. I’m looking forward to spending another Saturday night with the Love Boat.

For more information about the Love Boat Gala or our programs, please contact or call 650-403-4300.

The New Year’s Buzz

Enjoy this great post from Marisa. Happy New Year! ~Chapin

I’ve got it. I’ve got the New Year’s buzz, when you feel like you have a fresh start. You can be the person you have always wanted to be. Those extra pounds are gonna be a distant memory, that long put-off adventure is really around the corner, that time that you promised yourself you’d make a difference in the community is NOT gonna  be spent watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother on the coach. It’s a New Year. Anything is possible.

To start my New Year off right, I followed through on a promise to a friend to make a loan through Kiva, and my loan will help a gentleman buy new tires for the car he uses to provide taxi service in his central European country. The fact that I got matched with him made me smile because I am such a fan of the Financial Empowerment programs we run at Peninsula Family Service. I can talk to a Ways to Work client in our programs and find out how the small loan we provided through our organization helped a family get a car and changed their lives. As I pushed the final button to confirm the transaction, it reminded me that the needs of people around the world are often the same. Microfinance programs are important around the world. I feel really lucky that I can work for an organization that helps change lives and empower people.

Next on my list is to figure out to give more to my community in terms of time. I’ve run out of re-runs, but I also have a feeling I could find something better to do with myself. I know we are always recruiting for our Senior Peer Counseling Program, which offers support and information to older adults in San Mateo County. I love that program! Coming from a small town, I really believe you need to band together when times are tough or someone is having a problem. While I’m a little too young to volunteer for that (you have to be 50 or older), I’m always impressed by the things I hear. One of our volunteers told me that he was experiencing his community MORE because of the things he and his client do, such as going for walks in parks. I hope I find a volunteer experience that is just as positive.

So, while I’m plotting my activities, I’d like to know what you are planning to do with your New Year. E-mail me at and let me know what is inspiring you!

For more information about our programs, please contact or call 650-403-4300.

After the Turkey…

Thanks to my colleague Marisa for writing today’s blog! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! ~Chapin

Ok, I admit it. I ate too much turkey on Thanksgiving. Not too much in a Wow-I’ll-Skip-the-Next-Meal sort of way but too much in an Oh-My-Gosh-I-Don’t-Know-If-I’ll-Ever-Move-Again, Get-That-Food-Away-From-Me sort of way. As you can imagine, I spent a fair amount of time sitting/lying down on Thursday, which gave me a chance to think. Normally, I just run through my checklists of what I need to do for the day and week, but this time, as I rolled around with my distended stomach, I had a chance to ponder life and times…and turkey. Let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be going anywhere quickly. You have time for these sorts of things when you can’t move.

So, back to turkey. Thankfully, I didn’t have to cook this year (thank you, Friends!), but I did do a lot of observing of turkey. Those suckers are big! They are also heavy. You could do some serious damage to your toes if you dropped one. (Yes, deep thoughts, I know.) Anyway, that got me thinking, how would I have gotten a turkey home for my family if I didn’t have a car? This is not an improbable situation. For many years, I didn’t need one. As a college student, I lived close enough to my school and to work to walk everywhere. My weekly grocery shopping was a little limited because I could only buy what I could carry, and luckily, that never had to include a turkey. If I were really in need, I could often find a friend with a vehicle, but I knew better than to ask for favors or someone’s time during busy periods, like exams. In real life, that would probably translate to holidays. So, what if I needed to get a large turkey home, along with other groceries? Let’s make it even more complicated…what if I had to do all that with little children?

Now, even though I’ve been out of college for a few years, taxis are still a luxury in my eyes. So, scratch the taxi idea. There are buses and bikes, so they might be options. There is also the possibility of walking, but I don’t have a grocery store close to my home. I imagine I’d be trying to roll the thing down the street after the first two miles of carrying it. In that case, those imaginary kids of mine had better be ready to walk and help by their first Thanksgiving. Needless to say, none of these images led to a warm, happy family meal when I thought them through. I finally came to the conclusion that a car of some sort would really be the easiest way to get my imaginary turkey and imaginary children home safely.

As hard as I tried to avoid this, my deep thoughts led me into pondering my job. On the plus side, I didn’t automatically jump to my checklist of projects. Instead, it was back to the car idea. How would I obtain this car for my imaginary family? The first thing I thought of was our Ways to Work program, which offers low-interest car loans of up to $6,000 at a fixed interest rate of 8% over 30 months or less to parents of dependent children. I’d just been talking to one of our Ways to Work clients last week about her car and how it had helped give her more time with her three children. As someone who works full-time, has kids in three different schools and is attending classes for her Bachelor’s degree, time is a pretty precious commodity for Regina. (Read more about Regina’s story in our Winter 2011 newsletter.) Hmmm, I thought, a car would DEFINITELY give me more time than would my multi-mile turkey roll.

The thought of a car also got me onto the topic of travel. I once heard that Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for travel. Nationally, AAA projected a total of 42.5 million travelers this Thanksgiving. For me, growing up in a rural area, I either drive 10 hours to get to my family or have to fly and then drive 2.5 hours. Only recently was a shuttle route started. For the majority of my life away from home, I would have been stuck in limbo had my parents or their friends not been willing to claim me at the airport hours from home. So really, a car would not only be necessary for helping me avoid a very mashed, bruised, road rash turkey, it really has to come into play if I want to see my parents. Now that I have a car, I often take my ability to see them for granted.

As much as I love trains, long walks and biking, a car makes a huge difference in my life, even when my imaginary children aren’t expecting that imaginary turkey at Thanksgiving. I know that, for the people who participate in Ways to Work, a car often helps them avoid work absences and tardiness, and perhaps most importantly, gives them more time with family. As I looked past my stomach to survey my wonderful friends—my San Francisco family— I decided to add an extra, silent thanks for a job which allows me to help others through programs like Ways to Work. Pretty cool.

For more information on Ways to Work, please contact or call 650-403-4300.

The Pumpkin Patch Project, or How I Got My Holiday Groove Back

The magic of a homemade pumpkin patch - for him and for me.

As the holidays are getting closer and closer (how in the world is it mid-November already?), I have to admit that I’m getting more and more excited. Granted, I’m too old to qualify for gifts from Santa, and I know how much *fun* holiday shopping can be when you are pressed for time. Still, I can’t help thinking there will be something magical about the holiday season.

Part of my excitement has to do with working on a site with one of our Child Development Centers. Earlier this month, when I was wishing I could take the kids to a pumpkin patch, I decided to do as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work.” I bought a few pumpkins and a mini-bale of hay from Walgreens so that the kids could get into the holiday spirit. They got to play with the pumpkins and sit for pictures on the hay, which, to be honest, may have been more fun for me than for them. They had me cracking up!

Anyway, their enthusiasm for the holidays, and MY enthusiasm over their enthusiasm, made the holidays feel special this year. So often I get bogged down in my “To Do” lists over cards, gifts, work projects before we all take off for vacation, decorating, etc…the holidays were starting to lose their luster. Hanging out with the kids brought some of the magic back.

Focusing on them and my PPP—Pumpkin Patch Project—got me thinking, too. I was able to bring something to them that they might not have experienced otherwise, and that reminded me of something else. Many people this holiday season might not be able to get somewhere or celebrate because of age, health, lack of funds, etc. That doesn’t mean the holidays can’t be brought to them. Call your local non-profit (say, for example, PENINSULA FAMILY SERVICE, St. Vincent de Paul, Shelter Network, or Samaritan House) and see how you can help. Maybe check in with an elderly neighbor who doesn’t have family nearby. The holidays can be magical, even if you aren’t on Santa’s list. The PPP definitely helped me get my holiday groove back.

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