For its 20th annual Holiday Fund, the Palo Alto Weekly awarded $400,000 in grants -- the greatest amount given in the fund's history -- collected from just under 500 donors, the Weekly announced at a reception on Monday night, April 21.
Fifty-two local organizations devoted to a variety of causes received the grants, which amounted to $390,000. The remaining $10,000 will go to scholarships given to local high school seniors who have performed outstanding community service.
This year's contributions pushed the total amount raised and distributed by the Holiday Fund over $5 million, Palo Alto Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said Monday.
The money raised this year came from a combination of individual donors, matching gifts from foundations and the Weekly's annual Moonlight Run, which netted proceeds of just under $40,000. The Packard, Hewlett, Peery and Arrillaga foundations continued their support of the Holiday Fund this year, with Packard and Hewlett each giving $25,000 and Peery and Arrillaga each donating $20,000, doubling what they gave last year. In addition, an anonymous Palo Alto family donated $100,000 for the third year in a row.
"This assembly is really a lot of people who care deeply about this community, and that's what this effort is all about," Johnson told a crowd of this year's recipients at Monday's reception.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation also continued its partnership with the Weekly, handling the donations and distributing them to recipients. The foundation's assistance enables 100 percent of donations to go directly to grant recipients. A representative from the foundation, Milton Speid, spoke briefly at the reception and reminded the audience about Silicon Valley Gives, a May 6 event that aims to raise money for local nonprofits through an online donation platform.
Representatives from three organizations receiving grants this year, which Johnson noted community members "may not know much about," were invited to speak at Monday's reception: Music in the Schools Foundation, Youth Speaks Out and Deborah's Palm.
Entering the first year of a three-year grant provided by the Holiday Fund, Music in the Schools received $15,000 this year. The grant will support the addition of music programs to middle schools in East Palo Alto; the group already has music programs in place at elementary schools in the community. At the reception, founder Virginia Fruchterman spoke about the importance of this expansion, explaining it will help children from East Palo Alto to not only continue studying music through high school, but also to find a place to belong.
"So many children who should be successful from the Ravenswood District -- who even end up in mainstream classes when they enter the Sequoia High School District -- fall through the cracks," She said. "They fail because they cannot find traction with a group, with a community that they feel at home with."
Carolyn Digovich, founder of Youth Speaks Out, also spoke briefly at the reception, with Deanna Messinger, a Gunn High School visual arts teacher who wrote the curriculum for the art program, by her side. The organization was founded following the rash of teen suicides in Palo Alto in 2010 and seeks to provide a space for teenagers to express themselves and to collaborate with each other and supportive adults.
"I gave my word in 2010 to those freshman at the first youth forum who had lost six of their classmates," Digovich said. "When they asked for an art program with a recurring venue where they could safely express what was happening with them, I volunteered to do that."
Katie Ritchie, founder of women's community center Deborah's Palm, said the organization serves about 125 women a week, whether it is helping them find food or housing or providing mentorship or other counseling. Deborah's Palm also holds about six free seminars a year on various subjects and screens films at the Aquarius Theatre.
"It's a privilege, your partnering with us, and I want to thank you for entrusting us to care for the women in our community," Ritchie said.
At the reception, Johnson also mentioned two organizations in the third year of three-year Holiday Fund grants: Kara grief counseling services and DreamCatchers, which supports low-income youth. The grants allowed Kara to recruit and hire a bilingual outreach staff person and DreamCatchers to expand its existing programs for low-income Palo Alto middle school students with a new "Healthy Eating Program."
The Holiday Fund also continued its support of Ada's Cafe, an organization which trains and employs disabled adults, by providing a $20,000 grant to sustain the program while it awaits its move into a permanent location at the Mitchell Park Community Center and Library.
View the full list of recipients here.