The annual Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund campaign is getting underway this week with the aim of raising much-needed funds for local nonprofits that provide a safety net for families, children and adults in need on the Peninsula.
Grants between $1,000 and $30,000 are awarded to more than 50 organizations every year, groups that run youth-education programs, provide housing and food for those who are impoverished, deliver mental and medical health services to those who can't afford care and more.
"Each year, community members step forward to contribute to the health and well-being of our entire community through the Holiday Fund," said Bill Johnson, president of the Embarcadero Media Foundation. "As in years past, you can rest assured that 100% of your donation, large or small, will be directed to the local agencies for services. Embarcadero and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation absorb all of the administrative costs."
In addition, every contribution from the community will be doubled, thanks to matching grants from two additional Holiday Fund partners, the Packard and Hewlett foundations. Several family foundations and major donors also contribute matching funds anonymously.
This year, Palo Alto Weekly's goal is to raise $800,000. Last year, the Holiday Fund neared that level, with $793,000 in donations.
Through the Holiday Fund grants, local agencies last year were able to meet needs across the spectrum.
A $10,000 grant to AbilityPath paid for a safer ramp at the nonprofit's Children’s Therapy Services center in Palo Alto. AbilityPath regraded the entire entryway to the therapy clinic and created a more gradual ramp from the courtyard to eliminate hazards for the children with special needs.
"Your support is helping create a world where people of all abilities are fully accepted, respected and included," wrote Anne-Marie Hong, grants manager, in a grant-impact report in December 2022.
Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto received $10,000 from the Holiday Fund in 2022 in support of its Housing Program, which provides legal advice and representation to those at risk of losing their housing.
"We are proud to report that in the last year, we provided critical housing legal services and advice in over 580 cases. Our attorneys were able to secure financial benefits for many of these families, helping to stabilize their tenancies long-term; we secured more than $320,000 in awards for clients," Patricia Narciso, director of strategic partnerships, wrote in an impact report.
"This included tenants who had been overcharged on rent or made to live in uninhabitable conditions by their landlords. Through negotiation and litigation, we were also able to secure waivers of over $570,000 worth of housing-related debt for families."
"Many thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund for your solidarity and support through the years," Narciso added.
Palo Alto nonprofit DreamCatchers provides disadvantaged middle school students with academic support from local college and high school students, who serve as both role models and tutors.
The organization received $15,000 from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund last year. With the money, the DreamCatchers significantly expanded its four-week summer program to supplement the school district's summer school. In addition, DreamCatchers also offered two weeks of swimming lessons for free.
The nonprofit also engaged students' parents, both through events and its Parent Advisory Board, which provides parents' input to the DreamCatchers, the staff and the board of directors, according to the organization's impact report.
More than 100 nonprofits submit applications for funding every year and are carefully reviewed by a committee of current and past Palo Alto Weekly employees. A complete list of last year’s grantees and donors can be found at PaloAltoOnline.com/holiday_fund.
"Thank you in advance for joining this community campaign once again and helping to make it another record-breaking year," Johnson said.
The Holiday Fund runs through mid-January 2024. All donations are tax-deductible and may be made in one's own name, in honor or memory of a friend, relative or organization, or anonymously. For more information, go to embarcaderomediafoundation.org/holiday-fund.