The Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund campaign exceeded expectations this year by raising $411,000 for local nonprofits, the largest amount in its 26-year history.
The donations from community members were distributed to 57 nonprofit organizations serving families and children in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and the surrounding area. The fund has now distributed a total of $7.2 million since launching in 1993.
"We are just passing along funds that our community members want to give to support the good work that you (organizations) all do," Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson told representatives at the nonprofits, who gathered with donors Monday night for a reception.
This year's major donors included the Hewlett and Packard foundations, which gave $25,000 each; the Peery and Arrillaga foundations, which contributed $10,000 each; and an anonymous family that donated $25,000. Another family has donated $100,000 a year for the last eight years, according to Johnson.
More than 300 individual donors contributed to the campaign, which ran from mid-November to the beginning of January.
The annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk kicked off the Holiday Fund again this year, bringing in a net total of $70,000, supported by eight corporate sponsors.
Johnson said the donations he loves the most, however, are the $25 to $100 dollar donations.
"It just represents the diversity, the community and everybody trying to do their share to the extent they can," he said.
Checks in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 were given out to organization representatives at the end of the reception held at the Palo Alto Weekly's headquarters.
The Holiday Fund grant committee, which selected the nonprofit recipients, is made up of Weekly employees and former employees who reviewed about 100 applications from programs.
Those applications were reduced to about 70, and after a preliminary review, committee members went on site visits to assess new nonprofits as well as old ones that had not been reviewed in a while.
DreamCatchers accepted a grant of $20,000 to help support its after-school tutoring program serving low-income Palo Alto middle school students.
The organization currently serves up to 65 middle school students and is made up of about 100 volunteers, according to Johnson.
"Our goal is to make sure that students truly feel, as well as families, that there is somebody that truly cares about them, that they are a part of a valued community and they actually can do this with just a little bit of help," said Miguel Fittoria, program director of DreamCatchers.
Michael Patrick, board president of senior meal program La Comida, accepted $7,500 for the support of the newly opened downtown location for the senior lunch program.
La Comida provides sit-down food services to senior citizens to enforce the idea of creating a community through hospitality. The nonprofit has never raised funds, but the organization's leaders felt it was time to expand and serve more people, which means spending more money, Patrick said.
Lisa Rock, executive director of Palo Alto Community Child Care, an outdoor garden learning classroom at Thacher Children's Center, accepted a $10,000 grant for capital improvements.
PACCC has previously benefited with the support of a spectrum of projects from upgrading playgrounds, to supporting educators and underprivileged children, said Rock.
This year, the organization is building a "one of a kind" garden with plant observing stations and reading areas for kids to use, Rock said.
Nicole Taylor was also introduced as the new president and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a longtime partner in the Holiday Fund.
She recently went on a listening tour for her first 100 days for strategic planning to rebuild and move the organization forward following a series of workplace harassment and bullying scandals, she said.
Taylor said the reception was a great place to see all the dedicated people doing important community work and their supporters coming together.
"It gives me hope," she said, "in a time when it's hard to find hope sometimes."
Curt Weil, a longtime Palo Alto resident and donor for many years, said he is grateful for the Holiday Fund. He trusts that his money will be going to organizations he feels really make change happen.
"That's all any donor can ask for is that their contribution be well-used," Weil said.
Other beneficiaries of the fund are 49ers Academy, CASSY, Foundation for a College Education, Able Works, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Ada's Café, Downtown Streets Team, Get Involved Palo Alto, Adolescent Counseling Services, Hidden Villa, Aim High for High School, East Palo Alto Academy Foundation, Kara, All Students Matter, East Palo Alto Charter School, KIPP Valiant Community Prep, Art in Action, East Palo Alto Kids Foundation, Art of Yoga, East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring, Live in Peace, Bayshore Christian Ministries, Environmental Volunteers, Marine Science Institute, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Family Connections, Music in the Schools Foundation, Buena Vista Homework Club, Fit Kids Foundation, New Creation Home Ministries, New Voices for Youth, Project WeHOPE, TheatreWorks, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Ravenswood Education Foundation, YMCA East Palo Alto, Palo Alto Housing, Rebuilding Together Peninsula, YMCA Ross Road, Silicon Valley Urban Debate League, Youth Community Service, Peninsula HealthCare Connection, St. Elizabeth Seton School, Youth Speaks Out, Peninsula Volunteers, St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club, Friends of Preschool Family, The Learning Center, Palo Alto Friends Nursery School, Grace Lutheran Preschool and Parents Nursery School.
A description of the funded programs and a list of this year's Holiday Fund donors are posted at PaloAltoOnline.com/holiday_fund.
Watch a video from the event on our Facebook page.