Do you have a powerful sentence that describes your mission in a nutshell? Here’s one to get you thinking….
“Global community advocate building awareness and connections across cultures step-by-step.”
That’s a mouthful, and a meaningful one. Who does it describe? Meet Stephanie Gee, a recent client who I found absolutely inspiring.
Stephanie is a San Francisco native who has witnessed the city change and grow. While she embraces many of the new developments, she also cares about preserving San Francisco’s identity and advocating for those who are marginalized. After ten years working in Sales at Google, she left the company in early 2016 to travel and to volunteer. Last year, she traveled to sixteen countries throughout Latin America, Asia, and Europe and she’s also been involved in volunteering with various social impact organizations within the Bay Area and abroad.
I’m a San Francisco native, born and raised. I love the city and its various communities who are willing to stand up and speak out for what they believe in.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Most mornings I’ll take my dog out for a 4-5 mile walk. She needs the exercise to burn off nervous energy, and I use the time to listen to my favorite morning show or podcasts.
What is your favorite thing to cook?
Hmm.. that’s a tough one. I don’t eat a lot of meat, so I prefer to cook recipes that are centered around vegetables. Although, I do have a sweet tooth so I tend to bake more often than cook.
What is your favorite spot in the Bay Area?
My neighborhood, the Mission. There are a number of places where I can meet a friend for a delicious cup of coffee and a tasty treat.
What do you love about tech in the context of social change?
Technology has made sharing and learning about information easier. Individuals can create virtual communities across borders and mobilize action towards supporting causes they believe in more quickly.
I’ve also been fascinated to see how tech has influenced the way people learn and work today. My homeschooled niece dials into a virtual classroom with other homeschooled children living in other states. I once had a manager whose commute was so long that she worked from home a couple of times a week so she could see her children when they were awake. Although some of us may have difficulty drawing a line between work and personal time, the presence of tech allows us more flexibility in our schedules to achieve a better work-life balance.
Fill in the blank. Happiness is _________.
… something that comes from within – it’s all about perspective.
What’s your advice for folks who want to make the world a better place, but don’t know where to start?
I can completely understand that challenge. I suggest that they reflect on which issues move them the most and then start searching for local organizations who are addressing them such as volunteermatch.org and idealist.org.
Who inspires you these days?
My mother is my number one inspiration. Although she passed away from breast cancer 8 years ago, her life left an impression on me because she gave back to the community in multiple ways. She instilled in me the values I still believe in and live by today. When she passed, I started reflecting on what I would care about at the end of my life, and I realized that nurturing relationships and helping others matter the most in terms of a successful and meaningful life.
How did you go from local to global in terms of your advocacy work?
My first introduction to global advocacy was in high school when I participated in mission trips with my church youth group. We had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica and Belize where we worked on construction and taught kids vacation bible school. Then in college, I spent a year abroad studying in Vienna. I enjoyed connecting with the individuals I met with from different cultural backgrounds. Finally, in 2016, I decided to make a major shift in my life. After ten years at Google, I left to travel, to learn more about other cultures, and to volunteer with different communities. I was presented with a number of volunteer opportunities locally and abroad, and I signed up for them. My experiences taught me: need is everywhere, focus efforts on supporting a few issues, and it’s important to engage with other communities. The less we view others as “foreign” and “different,” the more time we have for solving problems and making an impact.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve learned too often that life doesn’t work out according to a plan so I haven’t given much thought to the details of my future. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I would leave the security and comforts of Google without another secure job lined up. However, my wish for the future includes remaining connected to international communities and possibly living abroad supporting a global issue I care about.
What are the top three organizations doing great transformational work that we should all support if we can?
There are three local organizations and one national organization I currently support: SF Achievers, the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (BCEF), Refugee Transitions, and the International Rescue Committee. All of them work towards addressing breaking cycles of poverty.
Thanks, Stephanie. I admire the work you do!
Mightybell is the latest product for “identity networks” from the community-minded brain of entrepreneur Gina Bianchini. Mightybell provides a blank canvas for “community entrepreneurs” to quickly and simply create a space for a network of people who share a common interest or identity to meet each other, break the ice and build relationships. There, they can nourish the intimacy of a small community, on a large — even global — scale, so they and their peers “can learn faster and make better decisions” in any specialty, profession, interest, cause, discipline, identity, life stage, diagnosis or passion.
“We’re passionate about unlocking a new breed of community entrepreneurs bringing together people who wouldn’t otherwise meet around the things that are most important to them.” — Gina Bianchini
What do 26,000 craft hairdressers have in common? They come together in their own “identity” network called Hairbrained, powered by Mightybell, on their own native mobile and web apps. Other examples of a Mightybell identity network are Beyond Type 1 and GENDR. These identity networks are literally changing lives for the better by providing crucially needed community connection and support.
The platform comes in four monthly commitment levels from free to enterprise. Long gone are the days of the uni-dimensional forum! Imagine having what feels like a custom app without a huge investment or programming skills. Mightybell is making this easy, people!!
A Mightybell network helps you connect with other individuals with similar interests, ask questions to real people with real answers, and encourages you to meet community members near you. I have a few ideas for communities I’d love to build on Mightybell. Build yours too — and invite me!
I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Gina and the Mightybell team over the last several years. With a focus on community creation, it is no wonder they’re such great group of people. It’s always a pleasure to meet new members of the team at their offices in Palo Alto.
Thank you, Gina, for being such an inspiration. Congratulations on the success and growth of Mightybell; I’m excited to watch the platform continue to bring people together effortlessly. This is the best of tech; empowering human connections and literally transforming lives. Well done.
I’m thrilled to have been voted Best Commercial Photographer in Oakland Magazine‘s 2016 Best of Oakland and the East Bay contest — for the second year in a row! Thank you all so much for taking the time to vote! The flood of kindness (and emails!) from so many of my dear clients and friends warmed my heart.
I feel honored to be a part of a community that celebrate its members; so much that over 175 winners are recognized throughout the East Bay every year! How amazing to be a part of a community that has the diversity to award over 175 different categories, and community-minded patrons who see the significance of shopping local!
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the July issue of Oakland Magazine to check out the full list of this year’s local favorites!
Happy summer, everyone!
Meet Katie Macks: founder of Get Your Glow On, providing transformational coaching and training to growth-oriented individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Get your Glow On is centered on the philosophy that individual positivity has the power to ripple kindness and meaning well into the universe. And who doesn’t want that!
I was lucky to have met Katie (and all her positive energy) through our shared networking group. Naturally, I wanted to share her effervescent spirit, so I asked her to do a mini-interview for the blog!
Here we go!
What is the philosophy behind GLOW? Get your Glow On is centered on the philosophy that Glow is the thread that connects all living things on this planet. Our Glow thrives in both our strength and our vulnerability vs defensiveness and arrogance and it thrives in our compassion vs comparison. Glow liberates us from the limitations that we place upon ourselves and others, and is the pathway to freedom and joy through curiosity, creativity and connection!
What does it mean to get your GLOW on? GLOW is an acronym for Growing – Loving – Opening – Willing; it’s a deep dive into personal development focusing on the most important relationship any of us will ever have, the relationship with ourselves. So often in life we are run by our deep-seated beliefs that often unconsciously drive the choices that we make. Many of us don’t even question the choices we make and we wonder why our circumstances are what they are. Do you ever feel like your life’s circumstances run you rather than feeling like you are in the drivers seat of your life? Getting Your Glow On is about liberating your soul’s full expression: moving from feeling like a victim of your circumstances, to recognizing that you always have choices in your life even if your choices are difficult.
What is a simple step that people just don’t take that can really help them get their GLOW on? Pausing and breathing. Most of us have knee jerk reactions to people’s behaviors, events and circumstances. If we pause and take deep breaths we may get a new perspective. Two keys to learning about yourself and others are to be curious and to be neutral. If you can get curious and find out where others are coming from you may learn that virtually nothing others do is personal to you. Most conflict comes from our own interpretation of what is happening around us. If you are to get curious you may very well learn that other peoples actions and behaviors are a reflection of how they see the world not how you see the world. One of my favorite sayings is “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” -The Talmud. There is so much to learn when we can seek understanding rather than focusing on being “right” about our interpretation.
What’s the most empowering habit people can incorporate into their daily lives? Do your best to not make assumptions and make it a practice to be curious rather than taking things personally. If you are curious you will learn that people’s beliefs, behaviors, attitudes and assumptions are their own and have nothing to do with you. These two things alone can transform your life in unimaginable ways!
What is your favorite thing to cook? Kabocha squash soup.
I am thrilled to be a finalist in this year’s Commercial Photographer category of Oakland Magazine’s Best of Oakland and the East Bay contest! It was such an honor to win last year, thanks to all of your support!
Voting is easy — no login required. Just scroll down to Goods & Services and you’ll find me under “Best Commercial Photographer.”
I know I’ll be voting for my local favorites before the ballots close May 31st.
Thank you for taking the time to vote! I hope to see you soon!
It’s not often that I have the opportunity to photograph a subject I know with certainty is at a pivotal juncture in their life. Just prior to the mark of her 20th birthday, Claudia asked me to photograph her before the end of her adolescence as a gift to her mother.
Claudia wanted to be photographed outdoors, serene and woodsy, in the way of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It seemed unfortunate at the time that the date of our session — the last date possible — was forecast to rain, with the elements markedly against us. Thanks to Claudia’s sense of adventure, however, the wind and mist presented an added air of spontaneity and mischief.
“The setting was like I always imagined it, even better with the lake. I was super cold but I’m glad it didn’t show in the pictures! The wind was a plus! And I’m glad my ideas for the shoot were all accepted.”
There is a sense of magic at a moment when everything is possible. Thank you, Claudia, for inviting me to share that moment!
I wish you all the best as you begin your next chapter. I hope it is filled to the brim with new adventures!
Lorie Curtis, Development Coordinator of Building Futures with Women and Children, along side Merideth Mehlberg, founder of the Holiday Pajama Drive.
Three years ago, I was invited to photograph what was to become Merideth Mehlberg’s first annual Holiday Pajama Drive. The event serves to benefit the Midway Shelter, supporting women and children at a time of undeniable need through the donation of funds and basic necessities.
I first met Merideth when she came to me for new marketing imagery for her executive coaching and consulting firm based in Alameda. As our kinship grew, Merideth brought me onto her team to provide headshots to her clients. Throughout my time working with her, I have been endlessly impressed by her positivity, motivation, and ever-generous spirit. She is truly an inspiration!
The Holiday Pajama Drive began with a simple idea. With so much focus on receiving during the holiday season, Merideth wanted to give her kids the opportunity to experience the joy of giving. She had a strong memory of her parents helping a family in need when she was young, and she wanted to continue the family tradition of giving back. She soon learned that the sentiment resonated with others in her community and the wheels began to turn.
Rather than simply gifting checks, guests are encouraged to pick a specific family, who remains anonymous, to shop for each holiday season. Beyond building a spirit of generosity, Merideth’s event creates a feeling of community — with each family who shopped for a family coming to bring their gifts and enjoy an evening together, all in the spirit of giving.
Three years from its start, this year’s event raised $1,100 and clothed 115 people, women and their children, across three shelters with fresh new jammies and other comfy clothes. The event featured a delicious spread from Lainie Acacio of Gather & Grub, a performance by the amazingly talented Barefoot Quales family bluegrass band, and a fun Zumba dance session for the kids led by Denise Lum.
This is beautiful event full of kids and parents coming together to care for other kids and mothers in their community. Thank you, Merideth, for continually inspiring us to be our best selves and showing the next generation what it means to be a good neighbor and a good human being!
Merideth Mehlberg is an executive coach based in Alameda. You can find more information on her firm, the Holiday Pajama Drive, and notifications for next year’s drive on her website.
Midway Shelter‘s mission is to advocate for homeless women and their children, assuring their right to live free of domestic violence in a safe and supportive environment. The Network strives to secure adequate funding to keep the Midway Shelter operating 24 hours a day while raising the consciousness of our community. Even though this year’s Pajama Drive is over, you can still help!
(Top to bottom) Merideth Mehlberg presents a check to Lorie Curtis of Building Futures with Women and Children; proud gift giver poses with this year’s presents.
The experience was both a privilege and an engaging endeavor, as we worked together to cultivate the candor that her work so aptly portrays. I loved the process of getting to an honest image, where the true self came through.
Linda’s work takes on challenging issues, and it was important for her portrait to be just as honest, engaging, and real. Beyond capturing a simple or welcoming smile, we needed to convey a more complex message, one that her work ultimately does; that life is complicated, messy, and that she maintains her ability to be present with all of it and reconcile the extremes.
Linda kindly lent a few words of appreciation about our process working together:
“Having my author photo taken by Nancy Rothstein was a transformative experience for me. I was nervous about looking old in the photos–and, was I wearing the right earrings, the right top?—but she put me at ease and got me talking about my book. Later, when I saw the photos, I saw a woman I liked: animated, thoughtful, complex—the age and beauty questions didn’t matter anymore. The photos seemed to reveal me from the inside—that was enough. That was a gift!”
A big congratulations to Linda Lancione on her upcoming title. Thank you, Linda, for giving me the chance to take on the feat of distilling your inspiring, captivating, complexity!
Time flies. I realize now that it’s been over three years since I met Kerry, when she reached out to me for new headshots. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of photographing her as she and Chris were expecting their first child, and we’ve captured each phase of their darling girl’s first year. Kerry has an amazing eye for design, and her clean aesthetic comes through in her home and wardrobe. It’s always calming and inspiring to be in her home. But, of course, the star of the show is this amazing little girl, whose smile lights up the room. Every time I get to photograph her she absolutely wins my heart.
We had our first session when Josephine was a mere three weeks old, and I was delighted to bear witness to just how much her charm had blossomed six months later. I love how the warm, neutral tones in their home help to accentuate Josephine’s beautiful blue eyes.
We met for our third session just last month, before Josephine’s first birthday, when she and Kerry joined me for a mother-daughter session. It’s always such a blessing to be invited along on a family’s journey to capture these landmark moments.
I am so excited to see what the future has in store for this winsome, young family.
Bon anniversaire, Josephine!
I’m thrilled to have been voted Best of Oakland and the East Bay in the Oakland Magazine 2015 contest! Thank you so much for your support; I’m honored that treasured clients, colleagues, friends, and family all took the time to vote.
I remember the very first time I earned money with my camera…it was over twenty years ago and I was beside myself about making $100. Well, I’ve raised my prices a bit since then!! Building a business has been a long process, and it feels amazing to receive this recognition in the community. Even better, I am humbled to be among such amazing businesses in the list of winners, like Giovanna Tanzillo, owner of Uptown Body and Fender; truly one of Oakland’s finest–the only body shop I know of that holds major art and cultural events! Trust me; meeting Giovanna should be on your bucket list.
Another great organization, and winner in the category of Non-profit Group, is the Alameda County Community Food Bank, a wonderful place to donate and volunteer. Last year they distributed 25 million meals, more than half of which was fresh fruits and vegetables!
If you haven’t had a chance, grab a copy of the July issue of Oakland Magazine and check out the list!