Donors and recipients of the Palo Alto Weekly's 24th annual Holiday Fund gathered for a reception filled with insightful stories on Monday, April 24.
The fundraiser surpassed its goal of gathering $350,000 divided among 51 nonprofits that provide services to children and families in the Palo Alto and East Palo Alto area. Since 1993, the fund has gathered more $6.5 million.
The fund launched last fall at the Weekly annual Moonlight Run, which raised more than $60,000 through sponsors. Matching donations also were made from numerous individuals and organizations.
A $100,000 matching donation also came in from a family that chose to stay anonymous and has made similar gifts in the past five years, Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said.
The grant committee was made up of eight current and retired employees who reviewed 110 applications that were later narrowed down to 70, Johnson said. About a dozen were selected for site visits.
Leaders from the organizations received their respective checks during the evening event at the newspaper's office.
Leif Erickson, executive director of Youth Community Service, accepted a $20,000 donation for the organization, which connects youth in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park with service-learning projects.
"The method in our madness is to build a sense of resilience in our students," Erickson said.
Jason Tarricone, directing attorney of the housing program at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, said the $15,000 grant couldn't have come at a more important time.
"We are in a deep housing crisis right now not just in East Palo Alto, but the whole Bay Area," Tarricone said.
While the nonprofit can keep almost 70 percent or more East Palo Alto families in their homes, it continues to see rents rapidly rising, according to Tarricone.
"Things at the national level are not helping, but we are making progress at the local level," Tarricone said.
All Students Matter Executive Director Carolyn Blatman was grateful for a $5,000 grant that will help train the group's 230 volunteer tutors who assist students in transitional kindergarten to fifth grade at the Ravenswood City School District, where roughly 40 percent of children are homeless.
"One of the key variables of our success is being able to train our volunteers so when they go into the classroom they have some skills both to deal with the academic and emotional side," Blatman said.
The volunteers cherish the children they work with and consider them their own, she said.
Youth Speaks Out Executive Director Carolyn Digovich was grateful for a $20,000 donation that will help continue showcasing art by Palo Alto and Gunn high school students.
The program, which began six years ago in response to a cluster of teen suicides, gives students a place to express themselves through art classes.
"When students choose to be in one of these classes, whether it's a beginning photography class or an AP painting class, they execute the curriculum but they work with the unfolding of their inner reality and inner life," Digovich said.
The latest collection of art that debuted in March also will be displayed at a youth mental health event in San Francisco, Digovich said.
Other beneficiaries of the fund are 10 Books A Home, Abilites United, Ada's Café, Adolescent Counseling Sevices, Bayshore Christian Ministries, Building Futures Now, Cassy, Community Working Group, Downtown Streets Team, DreamCatchers, East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, Family Connections, Foundation for a College Education, Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Grace Lutheran Preschool, Health Connected, Hidden Villa, Jasper Ridge Farm, JLS Middle School, Jordan Middle School, Kara, The Learning Center, Marine Science Institute, Midpeninsula Community Media Center, Mural Music & Arts Project, Music in the Schools Foundation, New Creation Home Ministries, New Voices for Youth, One East Palo Alto, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Palo Alto Community Child Care, Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, Palo Alto School District Music Department, Palo Alto Housing, Parents Nursery School, Peninsula Bridge, Peninsula HealthCare Connection, ProjectWeHope, Pursuit of Excellence, Quest Learning Center, Ravenswood Education Foundation, Silicon Valley Urban Debate League, St. Elizabeth Seton School, St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club, St. Vincent de Paul, TheatreWorks and YMCA.
Learn more about the Weekly's Holiday Fund online.
Watch a video from the event on our Facebook page.