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Caring Hands clients Rachel Rapoport, left, and her brother, Semyon Rapoport, thank Sandi Luchessi, a Caring Hands volunteer since 2005.

Helping others can bring healthy benefits to you, according to a new study published by Carnegie Mellon, shared with us via The Volunteer Center of the East Bay.

Older adults who volunteer at least 200 hours per year decrease their risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, by 40 percent. Hypertension is a major contributor to heart disease. Here's a way to actively change your health: Volunteer!

Week of Caring

The Week of Caring, an annual event sponsored by Volunteer Center of the East Bay, matches nonprofit agencies which have projects needing help, with small or large corporations and employees who want to contribute their energies to worthwhile efforts.

This way, East Bay nonprofit agencies can meet committed, high-quality volunteers they might not otherwise know.

Agencies have already submitted their projects and in late July, the Volunteer Center will open up project lists for all businesses to select the work they would like to do.

The center makes the matches.

The actual volunteer work will be during the week of Sept. 16-21. Week of Caring is sponsored by United Way of the East Bay and Chevron.

So far, 93 nonprofits have submitted 398 opportunities with room for about 5,000 corporate volunteers.

Dee Dee Robillard, Volunteer Center program coordinator said, "I really wish everyone could hear the conversations when I speak with our nonprofits regarding their Week of Caring projects. They are always so appreciative and many speak of how much difference the volunteer hours make.


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"One or two days' help from a large group can often mean completion of a project that would have taken years to get to, using staff or regular volunteers," said Robillard. So, let me say thank you in advance on their behalf."

Do you have an urge to get involved in your community but don't know where to begin? There is a lot of need out there, and it's hard to choose what's right for you. Volunteering is personal.

The Volunteer Center of the East Bay has a wonderful website that allows you to search for specific volunteering opportunities as an individual or as a group, throughout the year.

The organization is funded through individual gifts, foundation grants, corporate contributions and government funding. Visit www.volunteereastbay.org to learn how you can make a difference.

Concord Relay for Life

Join the community of supporters, families and survivors of cancer to "Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back" and raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Relay for Life activities begin with a survivor walk at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 13, at Todos Santos Plaza, between Willow Pass Road and Grant Street, in Concord.

Saturday activities are planned throughout the day and evening for registered kids and adults, including music, dance groups and a midnight movie.

The fight back ceremony will close the relay at 9:45 a.m. Sunday, July 14. Registration is welcome at the event.

"Pretty much everyone knows somebody affected by cancer, whether they've had it themselves or a family member or friend," said Elizabeth Cofer, event chairwoman. "It's a powerful day for a lot of people."

For more information or to make donations, visit the group's website relayforlife.org/ConcordCA.

Fostering hope

The Celebration of Hope event brought the entire Youth Homes family, auxiliary, staff, board members, Aftercare alumni and resident foster youth together in June to celebrate their achievements.

Kim Chivers, Youth Homes program director, awarded eight educational achievement scholarships to very motivated and deserving foster youth moving on to college. Dedicated auxiliary members honored by outgoing president, Sandra Abram, and included Pam Kinder, Lola Hammons, Naomi Beisheim and Tat Welcome. Stuart McCullough, executive director, honored every employee, especially noting Margie Davies and Donna Heimbruch, who have been with the agency for 25 years.

Youth Homes Auxiliary is a volunteer group that supplements county and state funding, and provides personalized attention to foster children on their birthdays, holidays and high school graduation. There is also free clothing and supplies from the Youth Homes Thrift Shop, 15 Vivian Drive in Pleasant Hill, which the auxiliary supports with volunteers.

Caring Hands

The Caring Hands Tea is held each year to celebrate the special friendships between caring volunteers and their senior care receivers.

Area seniors are matched with a Caring Hands volunteer who provides a little support and transportation when needed, vital in helping seniors live independently as long as safely possible.

Linda Groobin, program manager, welcomed everyone at the June event held at the John Muir Medical Center Walnut Creek campus, and thanked generous sponsor, The Kensington Vintage Living and its managing director, Anna Price, for supporting this event for the fifth consecutive year.

Guest speaker and Caring Hands client, Doris Rillings, 99, living independently, said she would not still be around if it weren't for her Caring Hands volunteer (and octogenarian), Jack Butler, who has volunteered more than 1,500 total hours to Caring Hands. They have been matched since July 2004 and she considers him a close friend.

She will celebrate her 100th on Oct. 23. Happy Birthday!

Caring Hands Advisory Committee chairman Joe Bettencourt thanked the many volunteers attending and those who couldn't, and reminded everyone how important it is to bring new volunteers into the program. The need for volunteers is growing and currently there are more than 35 seniors on a waiting list.

To volunteer, contact Linda Groobin at 925-952-2999.

The next training is Friday, July 26, in Walnut Creek. Visit Johnmuirhealth.com/caring hands for details.

SHELTER Swings

The Swing for SHELTER celebration dinner still has seats available. Cocktails and dinner start at 5 p.m., Monday, July 22, at Round Hill Country Club, 3169 Round Hill Road in Alamo. Tickets are $70.

Funds are being raised to prevent and end homelessness by providing resources that lead to self-sufficiency. Last year, SHELTER, Inc. served more than 6,500 homeless families and individuals.

Bid on prizes and a chance for you and a friend to participate in the 2013 Lexus Champions for Charity Event, courtesy of Lexus of Concord, at Pebble Beach Resorts for a $100,000 charity purse.

Contact Elaine for dinner reservations at 925-957-7566 or elainec@shelterincofccc.org.

ARF's cat days

ARF will liberate all adult cats six months and older from their adoption fees through July 28, including microchipping, spay/neuter surgery and age-appropriate vaccinations. Standard adoption criteria apply.

Save the date for "Wine & Whiskers" from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, 2890 Mitchell Drive in Walnut Creek. Cost is $80. Visit www.arf.net or call 925-256-1273.

Come shop at the ARF Thrift Store, 1950 Market St., Suite H, in Concord, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call the shop at 925-685-0908.

Proceeds support the ARF Emergency Medical Fund, which provides veterinary care through the ARF clinic for the companion animals of low-income Contra Costa County residents. Email volunteer@arf.net to become a member of ARF's Thrift Store team.

"Good Neighbors" is compiled by Faith Barnidge. Send club and organization news, Scouting items, notices of awards and other submissions to goodneighbors@bayareanewsgroup.com.