The many gifts of giving

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill.

This time of year it can be easy to get caught up in the what you might get or what you need to get for others but it is also a great time of year to focus on giving to your community. Volunteering is a great way to build relationships with your family, friends and coworkers and depending on the volunteer opportunity, a great way to get physical exercise. Here are some suggestions on opportunities that I have personally done with friends and coworkers over the last few years that I really enjoyed.

Contact your local senior center: See if there are opportunities to go and clear some driveways or sidewalks and check in on seniors in your area after a snowy storm. Knowing that someone is around and looking out for them means a lot to seniors and their families who may not live nearby. Plus you’re getting active by shoveling the sidewalks and drives.

Contact your local police and fire department: One year a bunch of coworkers and I got together and along with the fire department dressed up a fire engine and went out to neighborhoods to collect canned food. Weeks prior we put fliers on their door informing them of the event. That night we turned on the lights on the engine, had Santa waving from the truck and as we collected literally bags full of food, we handed out candy canes. It was chilly, but we walked alongside the engine and had a great time seeing the smiles and excitement on kids faces.

Local community gardens: If you live in a warmer climate this is a good one for you. Seek out a community garden in your area and see if they are holding any events where they might be preparing for winter, harvesting, or overhauling the garden. I have done this in several different states and the most recent was for Neighborhood Impact. See if there is a Neighborhood Impact in your area and what opportunities might be available to participate in. http://www.neighborimpact.org/

There are a few things you will want to do in order to coordinate an volunteer activity.

1. Have one person be the point of contact and coordinator.

2. Take an assessment of the availability of those on your team or in your family or friends. See what opportunity fits best for the most people.

3. If you’re doing this as a work team make sure that the place you are volunteering for is compatible and approved by your company.

4. See if there are people in your group that already volunteer regularly and if their organizations need any help during the holiday season. That also helps with them becoming the point of contact and coordinator of the event.

5. Invite friends and family to join if possible.

Not only are you going to get to spend some quality time together but you will be staying active and helping your community out too. Make it a monthly tradition if you can. Try out several different opportunities to keep it engaging or if you find a really great organization see if they have predictable events that you can be a part of. Life can get pretty hectic but taking some time to step away and help others always helps put things in perspective and replenishes the soul. I don’t know about you but around the holiday season I get overwhelmed and it always helps me to help others. Stay Merry & Bright!

US Embassy Walking Challenge

Sometimes a client truly delights us with their programs. Today, during our all program’s meeting, we were all tickled by the competition currently running between the US Embassy in Katmandu and the US Embassy in Warsaw. The two embassies are competing against each other in a walk from Poland to Tibet. As an embassy brat myself—my stepfather served in Mexico, in Colombia, and in Croatia—I love the idea of embassy friends and colleagues competing and collaborating in a walking challenge. Go Warsaw! Go Katmandu! You think we can get other Embassies to pile on, and do a world-wide challenge?

 

You asked for better weekly stats

Our programing elves have been hard at work… We’re always improving the Walker Tracker program, and we always love to hear ways that we can make Walker Tracker better for you. Over the last year, many of our clients have requested regular status emails sent to their walkers to both increase engagement in their company wellness initiative, and to provide real-time feedback on walking performance.

We thought this was a great idea!

Based on your input, we’ve built a  (rather handsome) weekly status email (see screen shot below). The email shows your walkers what they’ve done in the last week—total steps taken, miles covered, and calories burned, plus it gives an update on how they’re doing in the competition and how they’re performing compared to their friends. We also have an area for health and wellness tips, and we’re collaborating with a certified fitness coach to help us build great, relevant, and useful content, every week. Employees can easily turn this off in their settings (each email contains instructions how), or you can turn it off program-wide in your Admin Features area.

Thanks for all your great feedback, and keep the requests coming. This is your tool, and we want to hear from you.

Portlanders: Help sponsor a great magazine about low-car life

Michael Anderson, the publisher of Portland Afoot, is running a Kickstarter campaign to make Portland Afoot free, and an App for your phone. Portland Afoot provides quality journalism on the ins and outs of having a car-lite life here in Portland, and on making Portland a better city for walking, biking and public transport. We’d love to see this project succeed – they’ve got our Kickstarter backing.

New initiative for Walk Friendly Communities

Hey – great news from the Federal Highway Administration, of all places.

They’re starting a new initiative to encourage towns and cities to recommit to putting walkability as  a high priority. The program will  “evaluate community walkability and pedestrian safety through questions related to engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation and planning.”

“The Walk Friendly Communities program will show us how communities are improving walkability and demonstrating leadership in addressing pedestrian safety concerns,” said FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez.

Have a city you think should get reconized as a “Walk Friendly Community” – you can apply for official designation on their website:

http://www.walkfriendly.org/

I hope this means funding and help with creating new greenways.

Walking to school

from nytimes.com

In Lecco, Italy, less than a hundred miles from Milan, the town has made a commitment to give up schoolbuses and encourage children to walk to school. The New York Times ran a fascinating article on the walking program, called “piedibus,” or “foot bus,” because the children walk in guided groups along a predetermined path.

From Students give up wheels for their own two feet:

Although the routes are each generally less than a mile, the town’s piedibuses have so far eliminated more than 100,000 miles of car travel and, in principle, prevented thousands of tons of greenhouse gases from entering the air, Dario Pesenti, the town’s environment auditor, estimates.

This inspired me to find out if there was anything similar happening here in Portland. There are no piedibuses, at least not that I could find, but there is a school walking program called Safer Routes to School which operates from a similar desire to improve the health of children while improving the health of the planet.

The Portland Safer Routes to Schools offers a selection of family-friendly walking maps based on each school’s neighborhood. These walking maps show recommended routes to school, the location of traffic signals, high- and low-traffic streets as well as offstreet paths, and even have a “map game” with child-focused instructions on how to read a map and plot a path.

Safe Routes is the national clearinghouse for walking safely to school. Check to see if there’s a program in your town — if there’s not yet, Safe Routes has information on how to set one up.

Using Walker Tracker for your organization’s wellness program

Of course – the best solution for running a wellness program with your organization is to get a Walker Tracker Private Level.

However, it’s certainly possible to run a successful walking program for your organization using the Walker Tracker community site. 

Here are a few tips if you wish to do so:

  • Register yourself first
  • On the lower right hand column there’s a box that says ‘invite a friend to Walker Tracker
  • Go there and copy the ‘invite link’. Use that link to invite everyone in your organization. That way you’ll be able to see who signs up and when via the ‘View your invitees‘ page 

This will allow you to corral and track signups that are part of your organization.

Once everyone is signed up, remember that:

  • You can create private groups (you’ll need to invite all those users to this group)
  • You can create private competitions. Note that you can create a competition as private – play around with it to get it just as you want it – and then make it public.
There are other corporations/organizations using the Walker Tracker community site for their wellness programs, so if you seek further help – don’t hesitate to post a question in the forums.

If later you decide you need the extra privacy, administrative controls, branding and statistics that a private level affords, no worries! We can help migrate your users to your own program.