It was the most money raised in the 20 years that the Holiday Fund has existed, Palo Alto Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said at a reception honoring the donors and community organizations. The nonprofits will receive grants totaling $380,000, and the remainder will be awarded as scholarships to graduating high school seniors from Gunn, Palo Alto, Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools who have performed exemplary community-service work.
Representatives from four of the nonprofits — Silicon Valley FACES, Project WeHOPE, Ada's Cafe and The Magical Bridge Playground — spoke at the reception.
Silicon Valley FACES runs Camp Everytown, a retreat in which high school students of all races go to the Santa Cruz Mountains for three nights and four days to learn about diversity.
"They go there as strangers, and they leave at the end of those four days as family," Executive Director Pat Mitchell said.
Mitchell referenced two events — one local, the suicide of Audrie Potts, and one national, the Boston bombings — to explain the impact of the work her organization does.
"When you look at those kinds of issues and those kinds of incidents in the community and in our country, those things happen because we do not have relationships with each other," she said. "And FACES is all about relationship-building."
The $10,000 Holiday Fund grant will go toward expanding the FACES program throughout the entire Gunn campus, including faculty.
Project WeHOPE, which stands for We Help Other People Excel, runs a homeless shelter in East Palo Alto called The Warming Shelter, where it provides food, housing and counseling. It received $10,000. The grant will help fund the installation of heating and ventilation systems in the shelter.
"It's rough, as we all know, working in a nonprofit arena," Pastor Paul Bains of Project WeHOPE said. "But when you get a call from the Palo Alto police that says there's a mother that has a 2-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son in the rain over at Cubberley Community Center, and you're able to give them a place to stay, it makes it that much rewarding. It makes going through what you're going through all the worthwhile."
Johnson introduced the last two speakers together, saying their organizations share a common goal of trying to bring much-needed services for disabled people in the area.
The organizations — Ada's Cafe and The Magical Bridge Playground — received the largest Holiday Fund grants, each receiving $25,000.
Kathleen Foley-Hughes of Ada's Cafe, a restaurant that will employ disabled young adults to work alongside teens at the Mitchell Park Community Center, explained the organization's model and vision. Her disabled son, Charlie, and two other Ada's employees stood next to her.
"Ada's is about giving jobs to people that are a truly underrepresented part of our community," she said. "The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 80 percent. So that's our mission."
The Magical Bridge Playground aims to design and build a new kind of playground that will serve all children, those with and without disabilities.
Olenka Villareal, the organization's founding board member and president of Friends of the Magical Bridge Playground, spoke about her disabled daughter.
"I realize there's not a single park where she can really truly play safely. So we want to change the playing field — literally."
The park is designed "with everybody in mind," Villareal said. She also brought an example of one playground apparatus — a technologically advanced, interactive musical zone that responds to touch with instrumental sounds and lights.
Villareal added that the Holiday Fund's $25,000 grant will actually amount to a $50,000 investment, as the organization will receive a matching $25,000 from the Peery Foundation.
The Peery Foundation, along with the Packard, Hewlett and Arrillaga foundations, all made large donations to the Holiday Fund this year.
The Packard Foundation, inspired by an anonymous $100,000 donation from a Palo Alto family for the second year in a row, upped its support to $50,000.
The Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk, held in September, also raised $29,000 for the Holiday Fund. Johnson recognized the run's corporate sponsors for their support: the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati Foundation, Lyfe Kitchen and Hewlett-Packard Co.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which is the second-largest community foundation in the country, also supports the Holiday Fund. The foundation helps to process all donations, generate the grants and handle administrative costs, thus enabling 100 percent of donations to be distributed to grantees, Johnson said.