Creating happy holidays: where to give and volunteer

Local nonprofit organizations seek donations, volunteers

Opportunities to bring holiday joy to those in need abound along the Midpeninsula. Local nonprofits that are hosting special dinners and collecting tons of toys are seeking helpers and donations to make it all happen for thousands of people. Read on for ways to turn your time and treasure into seasonal cheer.

UPDATE (Dec. 20) for Ecumenical Hunger Program | East Palo Alto

Ecumenical Hunger Program has put out an urgent call asking for donations for its Holiday Teen Gift Program. The teens who benefit are often often overlooked; the majority play a caretaker role in their families, looking after younger siblings, filling in for working parents who cannot afford childcare. Gift suggestions: digital cameras, hand-held video games, jewelry, movie passes, MP3 players, new shoes, purses/wallets, sports apparel and gift cards to Best Buy, Burlington Coat Factory, Kmart, Marshalls, Ross, Sports Authority, Target, Walmart. The nonprofit sustains low-income families in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and surrounding communities through immediate crises and helps them regain stability and independence. The organization runs two other holiday programs, including the Holiday Box Distribution -- food boxes including everything that a family might need to make Christmas dinner with plenty of leftovers for the following week.

Information: or email

City of Palo Alto Toy Drive | Palo Alto

The City of Palo Alto Recreation Department is collecting gifts for kids in need. Unwrapped toys, books, gifts can be dropped off at fire stations, community centers, City Hall, Junior Museum & Zoo and local toy stores.


Community Services Agency | Mountain View

Community Services Agency provides social services for residents of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. The organization needs donations of toys, food and cash. It's also looking for food volunteers to receive, sort and organize food donations; toy donation organizers to receive, inventory and sort toy donations; and toy distribution volunteers to help clients select toys and pajamas, restock the "store" with toys, and receive and inventory toy donations.

Information:, LaDrea Clark at or 650-968-0836 x150

Hope's Corner | Mountain View

Hope's Corner, a nonprofit that provides free breakfast and a bag lunch every Saturday and free showers to unhoused people, is seeking new, unwrapped gifts for children ages 1-18 and $20-25 gift cards for teenagers through Dec. 16. Drop offs can be made Dec. 13-16, from 3-5 p.m., at the Los Altos United Methodist Church parking lot (655 Magdalena Ave., Mountain View). The gifts will be selected by parents for their children at the annual Hope's Corner Children's Christmas Party on Dec. 17.


LifeMoves | Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City

LifeMoves combats homelessness through modern housing and intensive supportive services, including teaching comprehensive life skills. The nonprofit is running a variety of holiday programs. Through Adopt-a-Household, every client at LifeMoves will receive two holiday-gift wishes. The organization is seeking people to purchase the specific gifts asked for by a family or by just one family member (drop off gifts between Dec. 16 and 19). The Holiday Dinner Basket program ensures that every homeless family will be able to enjoy a holiday meal together; donations of dinner baskets are needed. Through the Holiday Meal program, volunteers prepare and serve a holiday meal at a LifeMoves site.

Information: or contact the volunteer coordinator at or 650-685-5880 ext. 180.

Ronald McDonald House | Palo Alto

Ronald McDonald House, the home-away-from-home for seriously ill children and their families, will be hosting several holiday activities this season and could use donations and volunteers. Polar Escape is a 10-day winter camp weekdays starting on Dec. 19. Santa's Workshop is the place where families can select and wrap gifts for their children, starting Dec. 5. The Wishing Tree presents the gift wishes of children and families staying at the House during the holidays.


St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room | Menlo Park

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room, which provides hot meals throughout the week along with take-home groceries and free clothing, plans to host a toy giveaway with Santa Claus on Friday, Dec. 23, together with the Menlo Park Firefighters Association. The nonprofit needs donations of gift cards for teens, and balls and sports equipment. St. Anthony's works closely with the Menlo Park and San Mateo Fire Departments to collect the toys through their "Toys and Food" barrels around the community. Interested people can donate new, unwrapped toys at barrels set up in banks and schools in Menlo Park. The nonprofit also provides a traditional turkey dinner on Christmas Eve; all volunteer slots for that event have been filled.


Toys for Tots | Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, San Jose

The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys to distribute as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children with a message of hope that will help the kids in becoming responsible, productive and patriotic citizens. The organization's local chapter can use volunteers to help sort, count and prepare toys at its San Jose warehouse; pickup donation boxes that are full throughout Santa Clara County; and help at any of the numerous Toys for Tots events. People can also donate new and unwrapped toys at the following locations in Palo Alto:

• Calypso St. Barth, 180 El Camino Real #120, Palo Alto, California

• Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 630 Ramona St., Palo Alto

• Courtyard Marriott and Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, 4320 El Camino Real through Dec. 19

• MacArthur Park Restaurant, 27 University Ave., Palo Alto

• Magnussen's Toyota of Palo Alto, 690 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto

• The Marc, Palo Alto, 501 Forest Ave., Palo Alto

• Mia Aparments, Palo Alto, 535 Everett Ave., Palo Alto

• Premier Property Management, 539 Alma St., Palo Alto

Information: Toys for Tots, Toys for Tots Volunteer Coordinator Sergeant Brown at and 669-273-9514.

Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund | Palo Alto

The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund makes an impact in thousands of people's lives each year by raising money that supports programs serving families and children in need in the Palo Alto area. Over the decades, the annual charitable giving campaign, managed by the Weekly and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, has distributed more than $5 million to local nonprofits. None of the donated funds are used for overhead expenses. This year's goal is to raise $350,000.


If your 501(c) 3 organization is in need of volunteers and donations for holiday events and would like to be listed in this article, contact Editorial Assistant Anna Medina at


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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