Weekly's Holiday Fund campaign commences

Annual charitable fund drive helps local youth programs, family nonprofits

It's that time of year -- as the days grow colder and preparations for the holiday season begin, the Palo Alto Weekly kicks off its annual Holiday Fund drive to raise money for local nonprofits helping families and children.

"Since the Holiday Fund's inception in 1993, thousands of people have received critical and caring services, thanks to the $4 million given by generous donors," said Bill Johnson, Weekly publisher and president of Embarcadero Media, the Weekly's parent company. "And this year, as in years past, community members have stepped up to offer matching donations that will make other donors' gifts go further."

In 2009-10, the fund raised and distributed $240,000 from 430 donors. The majority of the donations are given to Palo Alto and East Palo Alto agencies that serve children and families. Grants are also made to nonprofit child care centers, and scholarships are given to graduating seniors at local public high schools.

"Thanks to the grant from the Holiday Fund, we were really able to create something so beneficial for this community," said Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet, coordinator for Parents Place's Community Education Center, which received $5,000 last year.

With the funding, Parents Place (a division of Jewish Family and Children's Services) was able to set up a free workshop series for parents and teens focusing on communication. The first workshop, called a "community conversation," was held in October.

"We looked at the needs of the community and found that parents want to foster a connection with teens and with each other," Moskowitz-Sweet said.

Upcoming workshops will cover such topics as "the romance of risk" (tackling risky behavior), problem solving and staying connected to teens in a 24/7 digital world.

Another $5,000 grant recipient, Palo Alto Family YMCA, used its funding to create an after-school health and fitness program open to all fifth-grade students at Fairmeadow and Palo Verde elementary schools.

Participants visit the YMCA, are introduced to peers from the other school, learn about nutrition and health and are then offered a choice of a variety of fitness activities -- from swimming to working out with machines to athletic games. Each fifth-grader is also given a free family pass to use at the YMCA once a month. Last year, 60 students participated.

"We got really good feedback and a lot of interest in that we'd be able to do it again," said Danny Koba, the YMCA's senior youth and community director.

"The kids really appreciate the social component, having a place to come after school and the fact that they have a lot of freedom. The goal is to empower the kids to make decisions," he said.

The Weekly Holiday Fund is a partnership with Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The Packard and Hewlett foundations are supporting the campaign with matching grants totaling more than $50,000.

People may donate to this year's Holiday Fund online through Donors may also write checks payable to Silicon Valley Community Foundation and mail them to Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, c/o Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 2440 W. El Camino Real, Suite 300, Mountain View, CA 94040.

The campaign runs through Jan. 14, 2011.

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