by Sid Espinosa
Another Palo Altan (this one a Stanford professor) recently asked me, "Where should my wife and I volunteer this holiday season? We want to include our kids, and we definitely want to help those who are struggling in our city during the holidays."
It is easy to assume that all Palo Altans are well off, but as evidenced by the nearly 500 people who were provided free Thanksgiving meals last week, many in our community need help. The good news is that there are non-profit community organizations doing great work for those most in need in Palo Alto, and here are a few ways that you too can help:
Provide meals. Sadly, many men, women and children in Santa Clara County go to bed hungry every night. Learn how you can provide, prepare and/or serve meals in Palo Alto at www.InnVision.org or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donate clothes and blankets. Do you have any clothes and blankets that you haven't used in the past year? How about jackets? As temperatures drop, people who are sleeping on the streets or in parks need help keeping warm. Drop off these items at the Opportunity Center, 33 Encina Ave., weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Collect canned food. The food banks in Santa Clara County are getting fewer donations this year and the need for food donations continues to skyrocket. Please donate canned or pre-packaged food today and throughout the year. The Palo Alto Food Closet is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. They offer two bags of groceries per week to those Palo Altans most in need. Contact the Food Closet at 650-325-3663.
Contribute presents. Many kids go without any new toys at the holidays. Please put a smile on a local kid's face by donating to the Toy Shoppe. Toys can be dropped off at the Opportunity Center, 33 Encina Ave., weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Mentor someone who is homeless. The Downtown Streets Team has developed a successful program whereby you can work one-to-one in a supportive environment to mentor someone back to a life of self-sufficiency. Attend a monthly dinner to see if this is a good fit for you. Resume writing, gardening, team management, a good listening ear -- many backgrounds and skills are needed. Contact Chris Richardson at 650-462-1795.
Provide medical services and healthcare. Are you a nurse, doctor, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor? Peninsula HealthCare Connection needs volunteers to help with the myriad issues faced by the homeless. Contact Eileen Richardson at 650-462-1795 or email email@example.com.
Make a donation. All of the organizations listed above would welcome your donations. Non-profits are struggling through this recession. Use your monthly coffee allowance to support an organization doing great work in Palo Alto.
Support the Palo Alto Christmas Bureau. The Christmas Bureau collects funds each year and as it learns about local individuals and families in need, it provides direct support to folks through the holidays. This organization's history and many examples of "paying it forward" are truly inspiring. Learn more at www.christmasbureauofpaloalto.org.
Donate to the Holiday Fund. The Palo Alto Weekly organizes an annual fundraising campaign that supports local non-profits through grants. To learn more or to donate, visit www.paloaltoonline.com/holidayfund.
During the holidays, as we gather with family and friends and count our blessings, let us all tangibly help those who are in need just a few blocks away. And please consider building a long-term relationship with the organizations that are listed here. Helping at the holidays is an excellent start, but all of these organizations will tell you that the needs exist throughout year.
Get involved. Donate. Volunteer. The rewards and the impact will be immeasurable. Thank you, and happy holidays!