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Your Guide To a Safe Thanksgiving

Nov 12, 2020

Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for many but also a time together with family and friends. Our job at AFN is to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable holiday, so we’ve compiled some great tips to help you this year, including recommendations on how to celebrate during a pandemic. Clear out the Fridge- before you begin filling your Fridge up with all the necessary items, make as much room as you can in your Fridge. If you don’t want to throw things out, fill up a cooler with ice and place those items in there. Keep Your Mashed Potatoes Warm- The only thing worse than lumpy mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving is cold, gluey ones. To keep your spuds warm when every burner of your stovetop is in use, butter your slow-cooker insert, add a little heavy cream and spoon in the potatoes. Set the temp to low and stir every hour or so to keep your potatoes smooth and silky. Chicken Broth To Save The Meal - Overcooked the bird? Before you spirit that platter of dried-out breast meat to the table, drizzle it with a little warm chicken broth. It'll help moisten the meat and add flavor. This is also a good trick for perking up slices that have gone from room temp to cold. Dietary Restrictions- This way, you can adjust or add to the menu as needed, so everyone feels comfortable. And don’t forget about any kids attending: some may have more selective palates, so ask parents what their little ones love to eat and drink. Safety Check- Make sure to clean out your oven well before the holiday, check your smoke alarms, and if you’re frying a turkey never do it near the house and or deck. COVID-19 Tips Gathering Size- Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the city where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Travel- Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. So remember to stay six feet apart, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask. Stay Outside- If the weather is permitting, try having your Thanksgiving celebration outside, places with poor ventilation can pose a higher risk. Virtual Celebration- If you choose to stay home, host a virtual celebration with friends and family. From all of us at AFN, we wish you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving!

Your Guide To a Safe Thanksgiving

Nov 12, 2020

Thanksgiving can be a stressful time for many but also a time together with family and friends. Our job at AFN is to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable holiday, so we’ve compiled some great tips to help you this year, including recommendations on how to celebrate during a pandemic. Clear out the Fridge- before you begin filling your Fridge up with all the necessary items, make as much room as you can in your Fridge. If you don’t want to throw things out, fill up a cooler with ice and place those items in there. Keep Your Mashed Potatoes Warm- The only thing worse than lumpy mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving is cold, gluey ones. To keep your spuds warm when every burner of your stovetop is in use, butter your slow-cooker insert, add a little heavy cream and spoon in the potatoes. Set the temp to low and stir every hour or so to keep your potatoes smooth and silky. Chicken Broth To Save The Meal - Overcooked the bird? Before you spirit that platter of dried-out breast meat to the table, drizzle it with a little warm chicken broth. It'll help moisten the meat and add flavor. This is also a good trick for perking up slices that have gone from room temp to cold. Dietary Restrictions- This way, you can adjust or add to the menu as needed, so everyone feels comfortable. And don’t forget about any kids attending: some may have more selective palates, so ask parents what their little ones love to eat and drink. Safety Check- Make sure to clean out your oven well before the holiday, check your smoke alarms, and if you’re frying a turkey never do it near the house and or deck. COVID-19 Tips Gathering Size- Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the city where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Travel- Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. So remember to stay six feet apart, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask. Stay Outside- If the weather is permitting, try having your Thanksgiving celebration outside, places with poor ventilation can pose a higher risk. Virtual Celebration- If you choose to stay home, host a virtual celebration with friends and family. From all of us at AFN, we wish you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving!

How to Celebrate Halloween during COVID-19

Oct 07, 2020

Like many things this year, Halloween will be much different because of COVI-19. The CDC has called trick-or-treating a high-risk activity. So what are some alternatives? What are ways to safely enjoy Halloween this year? Well the good news is that you still safely decorate your home for all the festivities. In fact make it a fun family activity to do all together. If you need some inspiration just head to our Pinterest page for spooky ideas click here. Some other ideas on celebrating Halloween include Having a virtual costume contest Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance. Create a Halloween candy hunt. Similar to an Easter egg hunt but you get to dress up. A classic Halloween movie night. Parades are all the rage in 2020 so feel free to have a Halloween parade for everyone to enjoy. If you are able to practice social distancing then head to a pumpkin patch (just bring hand sanitizer). This year stores like CVS and Target are preparing things called “Boo Bags” which are a great way to leave out candy for friends and neighbors. If you do participate in those activities make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, maintain social distancing with members who are not from your household, and keep your mask on. For more information on how you can stay safe and celebrate just click on the link below. CDC Recommendations.

Fall Maintenance Tips

Sep 20, 2020

As summer begins to wind down it’s time to get ready for a new season to emerge, and while it may be still hot outside it’s always best to get an early start on your fall maintenance checklist. Prune Your Plants- Late fall is the best time to prune plants and trees -- when the summer growth cycle is over. Your goal is to keep limbs and branches at least 3 feet from your house so moisture won’t drip onto roofing and siding, and to prevent damage to your house exterior during high winds. Check Your Fireplace- Before you begin using your fireplace this season make sure you inspect and clean it. To make sure your fireplace is safe, grab a flashlight and look up inside your fireplace flue to make sure the damper opens and closes properly. Open the damper and look up into the flue to make sure it’s free of birds’ nests, branches and leaves, or other obstructions. You should see daylight at the top of the chimney. Clean Your Gutters- Clogged rain gutters can cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. After the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Make sure gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water; tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets. Replace any worn or damaged gutters and downspouts. Seal Any Leaks- Grab a couple of tubes of color-matched exterior caulk ($5 for a 12-ounce tube) and make a journey around your home’s exterior, sealing up cracks between trim and siding, around window and door frames, and where pipes and wires enter your house. Preventing moisture from getting inside your walls is one of the least expensive and most important of your fall maintenance jobs. You’ll also seal air leaks that waste energy. Remove Your Garden Hoses- Remove garden hoses from outdoor faucets. Leaving hoses attached can cause water to back up in the faucets and in the plumbing pipes just inside your exterior walls. If freezing temps hit, that water could freeze, expand, and crack the faucet or pipes. Make this an early fall priority so a sudden cold snap doesn’t sneak up and cause damage. Seed Your Lawn- If you want a great looking lawn come next spring then start to seed your lawn soon. A general recommendation is to start seeding 45 days before the first expected frost of the season.

Planning an Enjoyable At Home School Experience

Jul 30, 2020

As the summer nears an end your child may be preparing to head back to school for a new semester. This year however, many of those lessons may conducted from a room in your house. We’ve prepared some helpful ways to make your home an enjoyable learning environment. Going back to school virtually may pose additional challenges with staying connected to peers, since students may have less frequent or no in-person interactions to each other. You may want to talk to school staff to learn more about what they are doing to support connection among students, interactive learning with feedback, building resilience, and social-emotional wellbeing for students who will not be onsite. In addition, if your child receives speech, occupational, or physical therapy or other related services from the school, ask your school how these services will continue during virtual at-home learning. Create a schedule with your child and make a commitment to stick with it. Structure and routine can greatly help your child from falling behind with assignments. Discuss your family’s schedule and identify the best times for learning and instruction, as well as family-oriented physical activity, such as walks outside. A family calendar or other visuals could be useful for keeping track of deadlines and assignments. Try to find a space where you live that’s free of distractions, noise, and clutter for learning and doing homework. This could be a quiet, well-lit place in your dining room or living room or a corner of your home that could fit a small table, if available. Identify opportunities for your child to connect with peers and be social—either virtually or in person, while maintaining physical distance. Many mobile apps like House Party are free to use. Ask your school about any plans to support school connectedness to ensure that students do not become socially isolated during extended periods of virtual/at-home learning. It’s not the same as going into the classroom but try to keep the same routine that you would during the school year. Need more advice or resources? We recommend using the Parent Portal on the CDC website. The link is below. https://www.cdc.gov/parents/teens/index.html

Creating a Comfortable Home Office

Jul 01, 2020

While many of us are working from home more, it’s important to be able to separate your personal space and your office space. Having two separate areas allow you to focus when it is time to work, and leave it all behind when you hit the long commute to your couch. AFN has some tips to help you get started. Location: You'll likely spend many hours in your home office, so don't stiff yourself on space in a cramped area. Also, consider the amount of foot traffic coming through your area. Can you handle the noise of home, or do you need something quieter to focus. Functionality: Your desk, shelves and storage should serve you, not the other way around. Consider your workflow and what items you need at your fingertips before investing in furniture, make sure it is functional. The right seat: If you’re going to be putting a lot of hours sitting in a chair, make sure it supports you. The wrong chair can lead to back problems down the road. If a proper office chair is out of your budget, try added some cushion to help you out. Don’t forget, getting up to stretch and take a break is important! Make The Space Yours: If you’re decorating your desk back at the office with personal touches, do the same at home. Make it comfortable for you, creative, anything that will help boost your productivity. Wrap your bulletin board in a gorgeous fabric, and hide utilitarian bookshelves behind curtains made from the same material. Hang inspirational prints on the walls. Maximize Storage: Hang floating shelves on the walls to get papers and office equipment off the desk, and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm's reach. Are you a stacker or a filer? If you tend to make piles, get a nice basket to tame your mail, notes and papers. Make the most of the space you have! Shine a Light: Here's a bright idea: make sure your office has plenty of light to cut down on eye strain and headaches. Position the computer monitor so there's no glare from a window or overhead light, and put a small lamp on the desk for task lighting. Team AFN is here for you! Stay safe and healthy.

COVID-19 Response

May 24, 2020

To our valued Associates, Clients, and Partners: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as we collectively navigate these new waters together, we want to offer you words of encouragement and also assure you of our operational stability. AFN, like most businesses, has always had a contingency plan. We have successfully weathered many storms during our 19 years in business, from extreme market volatility to a veritable industry meltdown, and have remained strong and competitive. We realize what the world faces today is different than past challenges, but we are confident that our business continuity plan will allow us to continue serving communities across the country. Our corporate office is currently open and operating in its usual capacity. We are operating business-as-usual with the added commitment to keep our valued team members healthy and safe. Our work-from-home initiative has been expanded, and our entire workforce—all the smiling faces and voices you are accustomed to having greet you and work with you toward common goals—are still here for you. While we will do as advised by the CDC and our governing federal, state and local authorities and keep a physical distance, we remain a teleconference, phone call, email, or text away. We will forge ahead in this capacity until advised that the COVID-19 threat has passed and we can be more social. We want you to know that you are appreciated and highly valued, and we wish you all the best during this challenging time. We are here for you, as always, and want you to please be safe, be well, and keep in touch. You can reach us through all customary channels or call toll free at (888) 636-7573.

Happy Mother's Day

May 07, 2020

For the past few month’s America and the world has been celebrating our first responders and essential workers and rightfully so but for most of us the very first member of our front line, whether protector, provider, or counselor was mom. We’d like to acknowledge the wonderful, hardworking mothers who are part of our team here at AFN and the many more who have supported and continue to support TEAM AFN’s individual members. This Mother’s Day we asked them to share memories and stories about their own mothers. Here are some of the great tributes, shout-outs and thank-yous they shared. Mom: Andi Story: “She is absolutely the best, she makes sure Brayli is ready for school and fed, all while being a top Realtor here in Lubbock and working endlessly to provide us with leads and closings! The good Lord knew I needed a strong, independent, courageous, self-motivated and tolerant woman and along came my wife, Andi Kim Black. I thank him every day for her and my daughter! You won’t find a more deserving mom out there for this award!!!” - Gary Dunlap, AFN Loan Officer Mom: Lenore Story: “I thought of my friend Lenore and her son Skyler. She is a teacher at a school in Brooklyn. She has a unique perspective of the effects Covid has had on a community, one where many of the children are don’t have access to technology. She is doing all of this while teaching her son Skyler how to play guitar, read, write, and speak 2 languages.” - Ronnie Solomon, AFN Branch Manager Mom: Delois “Lolo” Story: “Delois is my daughter’s daycare provider and a second mom to her. Since the onset of COVID-19 Lolo (as we affectionately call her) has been a rock to not only our family, but also to 6 other families whom are essential workers in the health care field. Lolo has taken on the role of provider/teacher/2nd parent/protector and many other hats. Some of her actions are so thoughtful, such as ordering personalized mask for her kiddos and parents. She herself has stayed in consistently for nearly 50 days to minimize her exposure to ensure that her parents were able to be present on the frontlines. This is nothing new for Lolo, she constantly goes way beyond the call of duty for each of the 6 children that she mothers on the daily bases!! Lolo, thank you!” - Fairlen Browning, AFN Loan Officer Mom: Thelma Story: My mom has worked for the past 15 years at Whittier Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital as a Phlebotomist. She loves people and has received many letters of appreciation from people she only gets to speak with a few minutes/day while they are being hospitalized. During this pandemic, she is exposed to Covid-19 patients each and every day that she goes to work. At her age (73) and with an underlying medical condition (diabetes), she is at high risk for contracting the virus. However, she goes to work knowing that she is contributing to the recovery of the local community and saving perfect strangers. There are so many hospital workers just like her that go to work every day without any expectation at all of recognition. She is my hero in more ways than one. - Andrew Lugo, AFN Loan Officer Mom: Breonna Story: “Here is a special Mother of our mixed 4 kids. She works, teaches the kids (especially through actions), manages the household, and goes above and beyond to plan fun events for the kiddos. We love her!” - Jonathan Gwin, AFN Chief Operating Officer Mom: Tricia Story: “My mom is an RN Los Alamitos Medical Center. She inspires me to push through any obstacle that comes up in my personal or professional life regardless of how challenging it may be and to always remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Her drive and passion to provide the best patient care possible have shown me that putting passion into the work you do and having a strong work ethic will make you successful while making a difference in other people’s lives.” – Jeffery Houle, AFN Multimedia Designer Mom: Lisa “She is a nurse at Pomona Valley Medical Center Hospital. However, she’s also military and was stationed to the Air Force base in Riverside. Now, she’s been sent to New York! Prior to leaving for NYC, she coordinated a community support system to mend (sew) old masks found on the base. These masks were from the Ebola outbreak and never used. Now, these masks have new elastic and were distributed to medical personnel on base. To top it off, prior to leaving, she was so concerned about thanking the volunteer seamstresses that she printed awards and thank you letters for each of them. At home, she has 2 young boys and a husband. She’s on the front lines. Lisa gives, gives and continues to give! We’re saying prayers for her safe return from NYC.” -Amy Valdivia, AFN Branch Manager

AFN Team Member

Apr 23, 2020

Michelle Graziano, Divisional Branch Coordinator Story Highlights: Michelle's father is a manager at a Shope Rite grocery marketing in Staten Island, NY. He is currently working 12 hours each day to ensure access to groceries. "He is the hardest working man I know. Working these crazy hours to ensure his customers & workers are as safe as possible. I overheard him on the phone talking to another store manager that they are donating food to children who are not without food due to schools shutting down and they relied on those lunches. He has been working 7 days a week, even on Wednesdays where that is supposed to be his day off (my mom and him have Wednesday date days for 35 years and now they babysit my nephew). He goes in even if it just for a few hours to check on the store and make sure it is running ok & safe." "My Little sister's best friend, Alexa Gammo is working around the clock in the ER of St. Barnabas Medical Center, Also, my very best friend, Samantha Casasnovas that I have known since I was 4 years old works as a Pharmacy tech."

Stay At Home Guide

Apr 02, 2020

We are going through challenging times. There is no denying it, but if we do our part, we can make staying home a little more enjoyable. That is why AFN has come up with a full guide on helping you while you're are staying in your house. Below is a complete list of resources, ideas, and tips on becoming the expert at social distancing. Staying Informed A lot of information is buzzing around, but you want to make sure you are getting the correct news. That's why it is important to follow local, state, and even federal guidelines. You can always fact check this information online, but make sure you are using reputable sources. Currently, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are doubling down on false information and creating COVID-19 information centers, making sure you are provided with the correct news and information. Exercise If your gym is closed, you can still try some at-home activities that will help you maintain your fitness goals. First, make sure to reach out to your gym and see if they provide any resources to help you while they are closed. Some gyms are allowing people to rent equipment while others are doing live videos on Instagram each day. Here is a quick list of accounts you can follow on Instagram to enjoy live workouts. Barrys Bootcamp Men and Women's Health Magazine GNC Livestrong.com If you are a member of ClassPass, you can go to your mobile app and look at the variety of fitness class videos they offer. Another great resource is livestrong.com, which provides healthy recipes, exercise tips, and more. Social Media As mentioned before, major social media platforms are doing their part to keep you not only informed but connected with friends, family, and co-workers; we will break it down by each site. Facebook The largest social media site has a variety of ways to keep you informed and is making sure that false information is not misleading you. When you log into your account, you will notice a COVID-19 information center on the explore tab of your screen. This will provide up to date information from reputable sources. If you are looking for assistance or want to find ways to offer help, go to facebook.com/covidsupport. Enjoy a video chat with Facebook Portal which allows you to set up a video chat on your T.V. or through other devices on Facebook messenger or WhatsApp Click Here to learn more about Facebook Portal . If you would like a free version to video chat, you can download the Facebook messenger app on your P.C. or Mac today and start a video call with multiple people.