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23rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund grantees announced

Recipients of grants honored at reception

Local nonprofits chosen receive grants from the Palo Alto Weekly's 23rd annual Holiday Fund drive were announced Monday night, April 25, at a reception in their honor.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Peery and Arrillaga family foundations, as well as numerous other family foundations and individuals matched the donations of almost 500 donors to raise a total of $385,000.

The Holiday Fund supports programs serving families and children in the Palo Alto area. The recipient organizations were picked by a committee made up of Weekly employees and retirees. This year, more than 100 organizations applied and 59 were chosen.

Four grantees spoke briefly about their organizations at the reception at the Weekly's offices, including Rose Jacobs Gibson of Hagar Services Coalition; Mora Oommen, executive director of Blossom Birth; Tuyen Fiack, education director of Silicon Valley FACES along with Elisha Jackson, principal of East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy; and Paul Thiebaut, founder and CEO of 10 Books A Home.

Silicon Valley FACES received $15,000 this past year to expand its diversity program, Camp Everytown, to include high school students from East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy.

The four-day retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains is designed to get high school students out of their comfort zones and talking about difficult topics, including racism, gender stereotypes, mental illness, sexual orientation and bullying.

"This year, we were super happy to have East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy join us and, in fact, they joined us with the City of Palo Alto Leadership Group, so there were Gunn and Paly students there. ... To have all three of those schools there at one time was really amazing to watch the differences and acceptance," Fiack said.

Phoenix Academy's Jackson said the opportunity to send some of his students to Camp Everytown was "something incredible for us to be able to do for our students."

"When Tuyen came and met with me, she told me I could choose some students who were leading in positive ways and some students who were leading in negative ways on campus," Jackson said. "I actually really took her at her word, and I sent some students who had been experiencing some challenges on campus, a lot of which were due to trauma from their own personal experiences but were playing out in ways that weren't productive for them as students and weren't productive for our school community."

The most inspiring thing, Jackson said, was to see the "lasting changes" the students made as a result of the retreat.

"There were two girls that I was seriously concerned about just about how the year would end up for them -- if they would even be in school still. And now they're leading on our campus in positive ways, and I can't tell you how positively our school feels and how positively they feel about themselves," Jackson said.

"One of their moms, I was able to tell her -- really for the first time -- about what amazing contributions her daughter was making in school, so there are multiple layers at which this is having an impact," he said. "And I'm excited about the impact it will have in the future."

Thiebaut founded 10 Books A Home, an in-home tutoring and literacy program for preschoolers in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, in 2009 in his apartment because he wanted to see kids in his community succeed, he told the crowd at the reception.

"What we do is basic. We are early-learning, child-parent home tutoring, and we serve kids from 3 until a week before they start kindergarten in their homes, with their parents and siblings," he said. "We believe success starts at home, and we believe in order for our community of East Palo Alto and communities across the country to break the cycle of poverty, they themselves have to be the ones to lift themselves out."

10 Books A Home received $15,000 from the Holiday Fund this year.

The organizations funded this year are 10 Books A Home, Ada's Cafe, Adolescent Counseling Services, Art in Action, Art of Yoga Project, Blossom Birth, Beechwood School, Building Futures Now, CASSY, Children's Center of the Stanford Community, Children's Health Council, Common Ground, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Community Working Group, Computers for Everyone, Deborah's Palm, Downtown Streets Team, DreamCatchers, East Palo Alto Children's Day, East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring, East Palo Alto Youth Court, Environmental Volunteers, Family Engagement Institute, Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Girls to Women, Grace Lutheran Preschool, Hagar Services Coalition, Health Connected, InnVision Shelter Network, Jasper Ridge Farm, JLS Middle School, Jordan Middle School, Kara, The Learning Center, Marine Science Institute, Music in the Schools Foundation, New Voices for Youth, Nuestra Casa, One East Palo Alto, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Palo Alto Community Child Care, Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, Palo Alto School District Music Department, Palo Alto Housing Corporation, Parents Nursery School, Peninsula Bridge, Peninsula College Fund, Peninsula HealthCare Connection, Project WeHOPE, Quest Learning Center, Ravenswood Education Foundation, RISE (Reaching & Inspiring Success through Education), Silicon Valley FACES, Terman Middle School, TheatreWorks, YMCA, Youth Community Service and Youth Speaks Out.

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