There are many ways to get into the holiday mood, such as listening to festive music, setting up decorations and enjoying a feast with your nearest and dearest. But nothing quite captures the spirit of the season like giving back to one's community.
We've compiled a list of opportunities through Midpeninsula nonprofits for you to help make the holidays brighter for those in need.
Since 1955, the nonsectarian nonprofit Christmas Bureau has focused on supporting the needy during the holiday season. Founded by school nurses and staff, the agency initially collected toys, gifts and food and distributed them to low-income families during Christmas time. The organization later switched to distributing checks to families, as well as to seniors and homeless individuals. Those wishing to contribute can send checks made out to the "Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto" to P.O. Box 51874, Palo Alto, CA 94303. The nonprofit also accepts donations via PayPal on its website.
City of Palo Alto
The city of Palo Alto will be holding a holiday toy drive to benefit local youth. Residents are encouraged to donate new and unwrapped toys, books, gift cards and other gifts to Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, or Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.
Community Services Agency
The Community Services Agency has been providing safety net services for Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents in need since 1957. Its programs include a food and nutrition center, homeless prevention programs and various senior services, including the senior nutrition program at the Mountain View Senior Center.
The organization offers various volunteer opportunities, including for senior companions and drivers who can transport food donations. Those wishing to donate can mail checks made out to "Community Services Agency" to: Community Services Agency, Development Department, 204 Stierlin Road, Mountain View, CA 94043.
Information: csacares.org or 650-968-0836
Ecumenical Hunger Program
The Ecumenical Hunger Program provides food, clothes, household supplies and other support to people in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and surrounding communities who are going through financial or personal hardship. Due to the pandemic, the nonprofit has limited the non-monetary donations they are currently accepting and instead is particularly looking for donations of gift cards to major retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, Foot Locker, Target and Best Buy. The organization is also looking for volunteers to fill various roles. For a list of currently accepted items, volunteer opportunities or to make a monetary donation, visit the link below.
Information: ehpcares.org or 650-323-7781
Hope's Corner, based out of Trinity United Methodist Church in Mountain View, serves a free breakfast and bag lunch to community members at the corner of Hope and Mercy streets every Wednesday and Saturday. They also offer shower facilities. The nonprofit is currently running its 10th annual holiday toy drive, which allows families to pick out gifts for their children. Those interested in donating or volunteering to accept and sort the donated toys can visit the link below for more information and to browse a wish list. Beyond the toy drive, the nonprofit also accepts monetary donations and various items, such as food and toiletries, throughout the year to support families in need.
Information: hopes-corner.org or 650-254-1450
Due to the pandemic, the Menlo Park Kiwanis Club will not be holding a Christmas Tree Lot event this year. But the club is always looking for monetary donations to help fund college scholarships that will go towards graduating Menlo-Atherton High School students.
Information: menloparkkiwanisclub.org or 650-327-1313
This holiday season, there are several ways to help clients at LifeMoves, which serves homeless and at-need individuals throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The organization is currently looking for holiday dinner sponsorships, which will go towards meals at more than 25 sites within its counties. It's also looking to distribute 1,400 $25 gift cards from Amazon, Walmart, Target or Kohl's to help families purchase necessities for their children. The deadline for gift card donations is Dec. 14. Holiday decorating and craft kits are additional donation options that will help families get into the festivities at home. Visit the website below to find more information and sign up.
Live In Peace
Live in Peace is an East Palo Alto nonprofit that helps youth and young adults reclaim and pursue their own visions for their futures. That includes working to academically re-engage high school students, running a gap-year project for recent high school graduates and providing scholarships and support to those in college. The group has also launched a Drop the Debt Fund to help pay off the student loans of the college graduates with whom the nonprofit works. For more information on making a donation, including to the Drop the Debt Fund, visit the link below.
The Palo Alto Community Fund
The Palo Alto Community Fund collects monetary donations year-round to provide grants to over 70 local nonprofits. Visit the website below to donate or view the list of organizations they support in order to contribute directly.
Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund
For 28 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has turned monetary donations into grants for Midpeninsula nonprofits serving children and families. The fund is a partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and both organizations absorb the administrative costs to ensure 100% of each donation benefits the grantees. Since its founding in 1993, the fund has distributed more than $8 million. This year, the fund has set a goal of raising $500,000. To read about how the Holiday Fund grants have changed people's lives, go to the link below.
Ravenswood Holiday Toy Drive
The Ravenswood Education Foundation collects toys and gift cards for students in the Ravenswood City School District, which serves children in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park. Toys can be purchased through vendors listed on the foundation's Gift Hero registry or at a local store. Donations can be dropped off at Room 105 of the district's office at 2120 Euclid Ave., East Palo Alto on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Dec. 10. (The office will be closed Nov. 22-26.) Donations can also be shipped to the Ravenswood Education Foundation, Attn: Jazmin Sosa, 5778 Chesbro Ave., San Jose, CA 95123.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area
The Ronald McDonald House Charities' Comfort & Joy Drive gathers wish list items for critically ill children and their familes. The most-needed items include toys for all ages, diapers, disposable utensil kits and clothing of all sizes. Online donation wish lists are also available on Amazon and Target. Donations can be dropped off everyday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Dec. 24 at 510 Sand Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304.
St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room
St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room in Menlo Park, which feeds and clothes the poor, is seeking donations of frozen hams — preferably without the bone. The organization will accept any kind of ham donations, including canned ham. Frozen turkeys, frozen chicken and beef are also needed. The center has a long wish list of fruits and vegetables. Cranberry sauce, bulk pasta, tomato sauce, juices, pinto beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking oils, sugar and coffee are among them. The center also needs warm clothing but asks for only new items at this time. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Information: paduadiningroom.com or 650-365-9664
The Toy Project
This nonprofit organization founded by three students from Bay Area high schools collects gently used toys to give to needy children while also keeping unwanted toys out of landfills — a win-win! Donations of toys, books, games and sporting equipment are needed by Dec. 1. Drop off donations at designated locations in Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Portola Valley or schedule a pickup time online. Monetary donations are also needed for teenagers and families.
Information: thetoyproject.org or 650-850-2656
Toys for Tots
Started by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1947, Toys for Tots collects new, unwrapped toys to give to less fortunate children for Christmas. Toys for Tots also has a literacy program and a separate book and toy program serving more than 180,000 Native American children on reservations. Toys may be dropped off at various drop box locations or donated through the online virtual toy box. Donors choose a child's age and a toy from a menu and pay online for the gifts, which are distributed throughout the country.
WeHope is running two donation drives this season. The first is a toy drive for its Christmas event on Dec. 19, where children receive a wrapped gift. A complete list of requested toys can be found on Amazon. In addition, the organization is collecting essential items such as snacks, undergarments and hygiene products. A complete list of requested items can be found on Amazon. Items for both drives can be dropped off at WeHope's office at 1854 Bay Road in East Palo Alto. The donation deadline for both drives is Dec. 14.
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 Digital Editor Jamey Padojino at [email protected]