This week marks the start of the 25th Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund drive, a charitable-giving effort that annually raises about $350,000 for local nonprofit organizations serving children, families and those in greatest need.
From now until mid-January, donations can be made to provide education, counseling, music and art programs, parenting classes, health care, legal help, environmental education, job training and other critical services to the Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Mountain View communities.
Last year, 51 organization received grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000.
One hundred percent of each donation goes directly to the nonprofits because the work of organizing the Holiday Fund is absorbed by the Palo Alto Weekly and the fund's fiscal sponsor, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
One agency funded this past year was All Students Matter in East Palo Alto, a program that trains volunteers to tutor Ravenswood City School District students. Each week, some 230 tutors work in kindergarten to fifth-grade classrooms, a commitment they maintain for the entire school year.
The $5,000 grant was to train the tutors with the skills to help students both academically and emotionally, All Students Matter Executive Director Carolyn Blatman said in April at a reception announcing the grants.
"We're tremendously grateful for this donation since our budget is so small," Blatman said, referring to the group's $50,000 annual budget.
"Our greatest value is probably on the emotional side rather than the academic side," Blatman said. Forty percent of students in the Ravenswood district are homeless or in unstable living environments.
She recalled helping one girl write a letter to her mother, who was in prison.
"We are there to be nurturing, caring, mentoring adults. ... We don't bring any curriculum; we don't have any magic answers. We just roll up our sleeves and work in the classroom with the teachers to help the kids," she said.
To ensure expert training for their volunteers, the nonprofit partners with other organizations, such as youth mental-health agency CASSY, which also received a Holiday Fund grant.
As in years past, the fund is benefiting from the generous contributions from local foundations and families. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are donating $25,000 for matching funds; and the Peery Foundation is contributing $10,000. Last year, along with other anonymous donations, a local family gave $100,000 for the fifth year in a row.
"I'm enormously proud to be part of a community where people so consistently open their hearts to those around them," Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said. "We face in our local area tremendous challenges and deep and difficult needs, but through the many excellent nonprofits rooted here, we've been able to make a real difference in the lives of so many. I hope to see a similar outpouring of care and concern this year."
Learn more about the Weekly's Holiday Fund here.