The Palo Alto Weekly distributed its largest-ever Holiday Fund total in its 25-year history on Monday evening at a reception that celebrated community efforts.
Donations from community members of $403,000 were split into grants given to 60 nonprofits serving families and children in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and surrounding areas. Nine of the grants were made to child care centers for facility improvements.
"We learned 25 years ago that one of the biggest challenges child care centers have is funding capital projects," Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said. "We wanted to alleviate some of that financial pressure on these organizations because it draws away from funding salaries of their staff. ... We really need to be supporting these teachers."
Since 1993, the fund has raised and granted $6.8 million to community nonprofits.
Palo Alto Weekly's 25th annual Holiday Fund kicked off last fall with the newspaper's annual Moonlight Run, which was supported through seven corporate sponsors. All the proceeds were allocated to the Holiday Fund.
Major Holiday Fund donors this year included the Hewlett and Packard foundations, which gave $25,000 each; the Peery and Arrillaga foundations, which contributed $10,000 each; and anonymous donations of $100,000 and $25,000. One of the anonymous donors was a Palo Alto family that gave $100,000 for the seventh straight year, Johnson said.
The grant committee that selected the nonprofit recipients was made up of nine current and former Palo Alto Weekly employees. After a preliminary review of applications for funding, committee members conducted site visits to 15 nonprofits before deciding on the final recipients.
Checks were given out to organization representatives during the evening reception at the Palo Alto Weekly's office.
Kate Young, director of resident services at Palo Alto Housing, accepted a $4,000 grant for a newly started "Family Reading Club" program, which is run in collaboration with the Palo Alto Unified School District for families living in Palo Alto Housing apartments.
The program invites librarians and teachers to the apartment complex and facilitates unique learning experiences for the students based on different themes. Their latest reading club activity was focused on Earth Day and taught children about recycling and ways to improve the environment.
"We're making interacting with teachers cool, giving them tools and a safe place to ask questions ... (and) really nurturing a community of learners," Young said.
She said that through the grant, the organization has the chance to nurture families that make less than $100,000 a year, which is what's needed to meet basic expenses in the area.
"They're really helping create a sense of community in the buildings they manage," Johnson said.
Live in Peace accepted its first donation from the Holiday Fund. The East Palo Alto nonprofit's $5,000 grant will go toward the group's "gap-year" program, which strives to help at-risk teens find their passion and attend college after high school.
Delayzio Amerson, executive director of the East Palo Alto YMCA, said the $7,500 grant will help alleviate pressures for their teens, who often balance many roles at home including being caregivers for their younger siblings or being their family's interpreters.
The summer academic enrichment program, titled "Full STEAM Ahead," will provide an opportunity for these teens to explore science, technology, education and math daily for 10 weeks. The program will be rigorous, with teens participating between 30 to 35 hours a week.
Deborah Farrington Padilla, founder of the new Buena Vista Homework Club, accepted $10,000 for the organization, which supports elementary school-aged children living in Palo Alto's Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.
Farrington Padilla said now that the five-year fight to preserve the mobile home park has ended in success, it's time to provide community support, including helping to close the achievement gap.
"I thought we could focus on the children, their learning and building community," she said.
About 12 Stanford University students and local high school students volunteer to work with the children on programs like homework club. She said the funding will go toward needed furniture, supplies and healthy food snacks.
"This isn't our money -- this is the community's money; we're just an intermediary," Johnson told recipients at the reception. "Thank you for being here and keep it up."
Other beneficiaries of the fund are 10 Books A Home, 49ers Academy, Able Works, Acterra, Ada's Cafe, Adolescent Counseling Services, All Students Matter, Art in Action, Art of Yoga, Bayshore Christian Ministries, CASSY, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Downtown Streets Team, DreamCatchers, East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring, Environmental Volunteers, Family Connections, Foundation for a College Education, Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Get Involved Palo Alto, Health Connected, Hidden Villa, JLS Middle School, Jordan Middle School, Kara, Marine Science Institute, Music in the Schools Foundation, New Creation Home Ministries, New Voices for Youth, Nuestra Casa, One East Palo Alto, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Peninsula Bridge, Peninsula HealthCare Connection, Project WeHOPE, Quest Learning Center, Ravenswood Education Foundation, Rosalie Rendu Center, Silicon Valley FACES, Silicon Valley Urban Debate League, St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club, Stanford Jazz Workshop, Terman Middle School, YMCA Ross Road, Youth Community Service, Youth Speaks Out, Children's Center of the Stanford Community, Children's Pre-School Center, Friends of Preschool Family, Grace Lutheran Preschool, The Learning Center, Palo Alto Community Child Care, Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, Parents Nursery School and Peninsula Family Service.
&149; Learn more about the Weekly's Holiday Fund online.
&149; Watch a video from the event on our Facebook page.