During this time of year, we're thankful for so many things, but being a group of passionate city-lovers, we want to give a special shout-out to all of the cities that we're grateful for...
We are so grateful for our family, friends, and health, but we also want to take a moment to recognize the role of the places and spaces in our lives. Gratitude for place can often be overlooked, but everyone can name their favorite city - whether it's where you live, work, or play - that brings on waves of gratitude for just being there. Today, we are each sharing our favorite city, along with an organization that we think is worthy of your donation this #GivingTuesday. Whether it's climate change, nature conservation or community development, there's an organization that could use your support. We hope that you'll consider donating to one or more of the organizations listed below and make a difference this holiday season. Also, be sure to check out last year's #GivingTuesday list of deserving organizations!
Dr. Mariela Alfonzo
Founder & CEO
So, where are you from? You’d think that’s an easy, straightforward question – but invariably, that simple query triggers a deer in the headlights look in me. I live in a digitally nomadic state, in my very own version of the “Bermuda Triangle,” splitting time between Shanghai, Boston, and NYC. And while this ephemeral existence does sometimes make me draw a temporary blank when asked yet another normally straightforward question – so where are you flying to today? – I consider myself extremely privileged to be able to call each of these amazing cities home, in different ways (I know I told the rest of the team to pick just one place they are grateful for – but what’s the fun of being the Founder/CEO if you don’t get to break your own rules?). While I officially left NYC two years ago, I visit at least eight different times a year to teach my class. I still get immediately sucked in by its energy, spontaneous public spaces, and never-ending, free “entertainment” you get just by walking down the street. Boston – or rather its suburbs serving as home base in the U.S., serves as a quiet respite, sandwiched between the craziness of NYC and Shanghai. Despite essentially reliving my teenage years (ahem, no access to a car yet living in car kingdom) while in residence in this quixotic Northeastern town, one can’t help but be drawn in by its natural beauty, crisp air, and peacefulness. And then there’s Shanghai. Like an on again off again on again lover – drawn in by its exoticness, then getting to know its dark sides (or skies…full of pollution – look up Shanghai Airpocalypse 2013), and then remembering why you fell in love with the city to begin with – its dynamism, its people’s curious thirst for learning and sense of adventure, and that beautifully quaint tree-lined walk that awaits you every morning when you stumble out for amazing coffee and a Chinese version of a crepe meets a burrito. Yum.
Please consider donating to my friend's effort to help Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria devastated the island, and these funds will be used to buy and deliver vital resources to those in need.
Dynamic, multicultural, historical, and walkable, London is one of my favorite cities! I had the opportunity to live in Central London for almost 5 years and had some incredible experiences there. The best part was getting around everywhere by foot with great public transportation and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes.
Please consider donating to the Bridge to Turkiye Fund. It is a 100% volunteer-run organization that is devoted to generating philanthropic resources benefiting the socio-economically disadvantaged segments of Turkish society, with emphasis in children’s education and health care. The #LetGirlsAchieve campaign creates scholarships for first generation college students - with a focus on under-served girls in rural Turkey.
I have really appreciated my travels in Dijon, France and Weimar, Germany. These are two small European cities that both exemplify the focus that small European cities put on the walkability and mixed use in their city centers. In the case of Dijon, I was able to stroll through a music festival on the streets and go to a prominent plaza and watch a European Championship match outside with local residents at one of the myriad restaurants that had outdoor seating and a viewing screen set up. In Weimar, I stayed above the car-free streets downtown and walked charming gardens that were the stomping grounds of writers Goethe and Schiller as well as the Hungarian Composer Franz Liszt.
Please consider donating to the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR). SPUR is the preeminent urban advocacy organization in the Bay Area. They are doing great work in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
Technical Product Manager
My favorite city is Arlington, Virginia. It's a vibrant city across the Potomac from D.C. that has so much to offer. It has a tremendous bus service, many walkable neighborhoods like Clarendon and Ballston, and a wide variety of walking and biking trails. The city really prioritizes public spaces and accommodating bikes. I moved 15 minutes south a few years ago, but we still enjoy Arlington's ever-evolving restaurant scene every weekend!
Please consider donating to the non-profit organization World Access For The Blind. They teach blind persons to use sound to navigate their cities and surroundings, which gives them independence and confidence to be a part of the community.
Thinking about one of my favorite my urban experiences, I would roll the clock back to when I was in undergraduate and spent a semester studying at the University of Bonn in West Germany. What I remember, in addition to the university and beer gardens, was how the outlying areas where I lived were supported by public transportation, and within the city how easy and pleasant it was to get around on trams or by foot. Having grown up outside a major east coast city, I was impressed at how the Germans got it “right” when planning.
Please consider donating to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. I’ve enjoyed the fruits of their work. RTC’s mission, and its value, is creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for people. Re-purposing single rail lines is magnified in urban areas, where one mile of trail can completely redefine the livability of a community.
Outbound Marketing Associate
I'm thankful for the weekend I spent in Cleveland, Ohio. The bike ride from Pepper Pike to Chagrin Falls, with its rolling hills and lush vistas was a particularly awesome break from "big city life" in New York City. On my last day, we toured Rust Belt Reclamation and Worthington Yards. Both beautiful examples of how Cleveland is reclaiming and reinventing historic materials and space. I'm also grateful for discovering my new favorite IPA (a micro-brew called Masthead) at a beer garden in Ohio City!
Please consider donating to the Sierra Club. They are working hard to protect our wildlife and taking action against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Business Operations and R&D Associate
Every day I’m grateful to live in Philadelphia, arguably one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. Living in the Washington Square West neighborhood, I enjoy historic human-scale buildings on my way to work, frequent the outdoor cafes and bars during warmer weather, and regularly marvel at the resiliency of the cobblestone streets that provide so much character to the area. This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to call this city home and for all of the Philadelphians that make this city a truly special place to live.
Please consider donating to Project HOME. They work tirelessly to help families break the cycle of homelessness and poverty in Philadelphia.
What city are you most grateful for? Let us know on Twitter using #SoPCityLove.
Happy Thanksgiving, fellow city-lovers!