Viewpoint - November 24, 2010

Editorial: Holiday Fund will help strapped local agencies

Last year, as much of Silicon Valley remained in the grip of a persistent recession, Almanac readers brushed aside the downturn and contributed nearly $100,000 to the Holiday Fund. Not surprisingly, donations were down compared to 2008, but when foundation grants were included, the Holiday Fund was able to contribute nearly $13,000 to each of the 10 nonprofits that benefit from the Fund.

We hope that readers will keep that spirit alive this year, as the nonprofit agencies supported by the Holiday Fund say that their demand for help continues to outstrip their ability to provide it. This year, more than ever, it is important for those who have the means to share with those who are down on their luck.

If you are able, we urge you to consider a donation to the Almanac's Holiday Fund, now in its 19th year. Your contribution will help support 10 nonprofit agencies that provide a safety net to local residents who have nowhere to turn. These are our neighbors who may have been laid off unexpectedly, or had a catastrophic illness, or suffer from addiction or mental health problems. They deserve our help.

The Holiday Fund provides grants to organizations that can offer a temporary home, arrange health care or provide counseling to bring an end to the substance abuse that destroys families and victimizes young children.

Last year the Holiday Fund and its partners — the Rotary Club of Menlo Park, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation — were able to raise nearly $130,000 for 10 local agencies. Well over half of that contribution — $100,000 — was donated by more than 200 Almanac readers.

Monies contributed to the Holiday Fund are held by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and will be distributed to the nonprofits in February or early March. No administrative costs or fees are deducted from Holiday Fund gifts, so 100 percent of all donations will be received by the nonprofit agencies.

Over the last 18 years, Almanac readers and the supporting foundations have contributed more than $3 million to local social service agencies. More than half came from Almanac readers, and the rest from generous individuals and foundations.

The Almanac's Holiday Fund this year will support the following nonprofit organizations in the community:

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula

Provides after-school academic support and enrichment activities for 1,000 youth each day, ages 6 to 18. Operates clubhouses in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood, East Palo Alto and Redwood City, and after-school programs at schools in these communities designed to extend the learning day and supplement the school's curriculum.

Ecumenical Hunger Program

Provides emergency food, clothing, household essentials, special children's programs and sometimes financial assistance to families in need, regardless of religious preference, including Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for more than 1,500 households.

Ravenswood Family Health Center

Provides primary medical care, behavioral health services and preventive health care for all ages at its clinics in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto. It also operates a mobile clinic at school sites. Of the 22,700 registered patients, most are low-income and uninsured.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room

Serves hundreds of hot meals six days a week in a social and friendly atmosphere to anyone in need. Funded entirely by contributions from the community, St. Anthony's is the largest soup kitchen between San Francisco and San Jose. It offers groceries to take home and distributes clothing to families.

Second Harvest Food Bank

The largest collector and distributor of food on the Peninsula, Second Harvest Food Bank distributed 30 million pounds of food last year. It gathers donations from individuals and businesses and distributes food to some 162,000 people each month through more than 700 agencies and distribution sites in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Shelter Network

Provides short-term shelter and transitional housing services to more than 3,700 adults and children each year. Offers programs for families and individuals to become self-sufficient and return to permanent housing.

Youth and Family Enrichment Services

Provides many programs to help people who struggle with substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health, relationship and communications issues. Helps strengthen youth, families and individuals to overcome challenges through counseling, education, and residential services.

Project Read-Menlo Park

Provides free literacy services to adults in the Menlo Park area. Trained volunteers work one-on-one or in small groups to help adults improve their basic reading, writing and English language skills so they can achieve their goals and function more effectively at home, at work and in the community. In 2007-08, a total of 120 volunteer tutors assisted more than 300 students.

The Art of Yoga Project

Offers incarcerated teen girls a rehabilitation program of yoga and creative arts to instill greater self-awareness, self-respect and self-control. The project serves over 500 girls annually at four local sites, including San Mateo County's juvenile detention centers.

St. Francis Center

Provides services for families in need with the goal of helping them to live in dignity and become self-supporting community members. The center assists some 2,000 people each month with such services as low-income housing, food and clothing, shower and laundry, counseling, community garden, and education.


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