The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund raised a record-breaking $465,000 in donations this year to support nonprofits serving children and families on the Midpeninsula. That amount is the most ever raised in the fund's 27-year history.
The donations were distributed in late April to 63 community organizations through grants ranging between $5,000 and $20,000 and through $1,000 college scholarships for eight high school students. Since launching in 1993, the fund has given away more than $7.6 million.
"We are especially pleased to have raised a record amount from the community this year since the needs are so great due to the current COVID-19 crisis," Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said this week. "The shelter-in-place orders came days after our committee finished its review of grant applications, and our only disappointment was the need to cancel the traditional reception for donors and grantees. We are delighted to be able to push almost a half-million dollars to help more than 50 nonprofits at the exact time they need it the most."
The recipients were selected by the fund's grant committee, a group of former and current Weekly employees, who reviewed applications for the fund.
A $20,000 grant was awarded to Youth Community Services, which organizes and facilitates service projects for about 1,500 middle and high school students per year in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Along the way, they develop leadership skills and connect with peers of different backgrounds.
Through exposure to a variety of students, young people walk away with "a sense of their own strength and ... formation of their own opinions and points of view," Executive Director Leif Erickson said.
The San Francisco 49ers Academy plans to utilize its $20,000 grant to continue supporting students in grades 6-12 by connecting them with caring adults as the organization transitions to its new home base: Ravenswood Middle School in East Palo Alto.
Executive Director Michele Sharkey considers the one-on-one relationships students develop with a trusted adult to be the program's "secret sauce" in helping youth adapt from a smaller environment in middle school to the larger, diverse community.
With its $15,000 grant, Heart and Home Collaborative hopes to open the doors of its seasonal shelter for unhoused women, ages 15-19, a month earlier and possibly extend its operations for a month longer until May.
The shelter rotates among Palo Alto religious congregations for 45 days at a time and provides the residents shower facilities, meals, laundry service and a place to sleep overnight, among other amenities.
The Holiday Fund campaign launched in October at the annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk at the Baylands, which raised $89,181 with help from the event's corporate sponsors.
Major Holiday Fund donors include the Peery and Arrillaga foundations, which each gave $10,000, and the Hewlett and David and Lucile Packard foundations, which each donated $25,000. Nearly 400 business organizations and community members also made contributions to the campaign, which wrapped up in January.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a longtime partner of the Holiday Fund, handled the community donations and distributed the funds to the beneficiaries.
More information about the Holiday Fund can be found here.