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My 4 year old saw a recent news segment about a retired
teacher who shops all year long for toys and clothes to gift
to kids in need during the holidays, and decided he wants to
buy some toys to give to kids who don't have as much as he
does, too. I know there are plenty of places where you can
drop off gifts, but any recommendations on how to do this in
a more 'real' way? I thought of taking him to a
women's/kids' shelter, but a) there's no way of knowing how
many kids there will be and we couldn't buy enough for
everyone anyway, and b) it feels kind of wrong, like 'using'
and objectifying the people there in a kind of show-and-tell
for the benefit of my own kid's moral/charitable
development. Any ideas?
I highly recommend contacting Compass Community Services
based in San Francisco. They are an amazing non profit that
helps homeless and transitioning families. You will be
given information on a family with a list of the items they
are in need of and the child or children list toys they wish
for. Your son will get a thank you note from the family
after the holidays. Www.compass-sf.org Roger
We would be elated if you would support our Moms Group
'Mocha Moms of Contra Costa County-West' www.wccmm.org in
making a donation of unwrapped toys to donate to the NEW
Drew Gooden Foundation. Mr. Drew Gooden is a native of
Richmond, an El Cerrito High School Graduate and is
currently playing professional basketball with the Milwaukee
Bucks. We are thrilled to help them with their endeavors to
bring toys to families in the West Contra Costa County area
that would not otherwise be able to provide for their
children. If you would like you may contact us and we will
be sure that it reaches The Drew Gooden Foundation. You can
contact us directly by email and we will pick up from you.
Mocha Moms of Contra Costa County-West firstname.lastname@example.org
My kids have enjoyed programs where we were assigned a
specific family in need - given the ages and genders of the
family members (we usually tried to pick one with kids close
to the ages of our kids) and then we could buy toys, clothes
and things with specific people in mind. That might be a
way to make it more tangible for him without being
overwhelming. We've found families through local social
service agencies and I think once even through Starbucks.
Last week I saw one of those 'giving trees' at Bayfair Mall,
where each ornament is a needy kid's wish list. You can fill
the list right there at Kohls or Target. I have seen them in
years past at Hilltop Mall too. Kind of an intense
conversation to have with my 4 year old, but we'll do it in
future years. Mall Crawler
People can donate to foster youth and homeless kids K-12 in
a real way through the Mt. Diablo Unified Homeless Outreach
Program for Education (HOPE). There is a website link where
people can 'sponsor' families in need for the holidays.
Call Elsa Dalpiaz for more information 925.682.8000, ext.
3054 or www.mdusd.org/hope. 100% goes to the children and
families and is tax deductible. James
It might be too late for this year, but every year we
'adopt' a needy family (or two) through Brighter Beginnings
(locations in Richmond and Oakland). We are assigned a
family (you can specify if you want a specific size family,
particular age kids, etc), get their 'wish list,' and then
shop for thing we think they would like. We always add a
grocery gift certificate (they tell you which store is most
convenient for them) so they can have a nice holiday meal.
You are responsible for wrapping the gifts and delivering
them to a drop-off site, but the agency delivers them to the
family - so no 'show & tell' involved. We always receive a
nice thank-you card from the families (via Brighter
Beginnings, so the family doesn't know who donated the
gifts). While we dont' get to actually se the 'poor'
family, we do have a pretty good idea of their situation and
needs, so it seems pretty personal without seeming to 'put
them on display' (ick).
I know there are other organizations that conduct similar
adopt-a-family programs each year, including some int he BPN
We are a mother-daughter team of artisans looking to create
wonderful christmas/hanukkah/kwanza gifts for oldsters, housebound
seniors, parents, grandparents, neighbors, folks who may be in
need of a little cheer. FREE. We are building personalized gift
baskets, thisses and thats, cool stuff, wonderful baked goods,
living plants, whatever - the idea is to spread the joy and remind
folks that they are in fact, not alone. We do this sporadically
throughout the year but know that the holidays are especially
tough for people who think they're forgotten. Does anyone know how
best to find people in need?
You could start by calling local churches. I know that mine would
gladly provide you with a list of older folks who would be absolutely
thrilled with such a lovely gift.
I have been wanting to have a tradition Christmas Day where we go as a
family to a shelter and bring wrapped gifts. One past year, we brought
many different gifts labeled by age and gender - the shelter ended up
being mostly men and we had brought many child and woman gifts. Does
anyone have any ideas for a place that would be open to assorted presents
on Christmas Day??
Well, it's not done right on Christmas, but consider adopting a family through
Brighter Beginnings (formerly known as Perinatal Council). They serve needy families
throughout the area. If you want, you can request a family with similar age kids to
your own family. They tell you a lot of info about each member of your adopted family.
You purchase gifts for the family members, wrap them, and provide (if you wish) gift
cards for a holiday meal. The agency does the actual delivery, but it is quite
personal. Most years, I have received (via the agency) a personal thank you note from
the family. I think some needy families, while grateful, may be embarrassed to have a
''richer'' family drop in with gifts. They might prefer the anonymity of getting the
gifts through the agency. You can still make it very personal to your kids by talking
about the individuals. Contact them at adopt-a-family[at]brighter-beginnings.org (you
must put in all the hyphens!)
I am a Jewish single parent and though we are very busy over the holidays, Christmas Day is always a bit of a
let down. This year I'd like to find something generous and loving for myself and my 7 year old to do. Does
anyone have a suggestion of a shelter, hospital, soup kitchen or something where we could do a little giving
and filling of our own hearts and others?
Hoping for other gifts on Christmas
While I applaud your desire to teach your seven year old to give to others, many
do the kind of work you are describing have an age limit -
both for the safety of the
for the efficiency of the work. So call before you go. That said, a number of Jewish
organizations try to cover Christmas Day so that those who observe the day can just
could call Jewish Community Information and Referral at 415-777-4545, they serve the entire
area, and ask them for referrals. Additionally, you may want to spend part of the day having
this year the Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF had a Family Day on 12/25 and a number of
Jewish institutions had special programs too. Again, JCI&R will have a full list of them.
added note, JCI&R just produced their 5767 (that's
2005-2007 on the Western calendar) copy
Resource: A Guide to Jewish Life in the Bay Area. You can also get that for free by calling
or Judy at JCI&R- at the number above.
If you're in the East Bay, I'm happy to help. At Building Jewish Bridges 510-839-2900 x347.
Trying to make ''giving'' meaningful to my 3 and 5 year
olds...would love suggestions of ways to have my children see,
and particpate in giving back over the holidays. For instance,
if we donnate toys and gifts, I'd love to have them give the
gifts to needy children. Or, visit old people whose faces light
up. Or, bring food to the hungry and see what hungry really
means. Any ideas appreciated.
when i was living on the peninsula my family and i worked with the county
another family during the holidays. we collected food, toys, clothes and
items from our entire family and then delivered the items to the family in
was good for everyone. we felt good about giving, and the receiving
good about having gifts to give their children and food to put on the
alameda county has a similar program?
I admire your intention. Our family, also, tries to engage in
meaningful giving. Last year we let our five-year-old choose one
of the organizations we gave to, and it has become a great source
of pride for him. However, it's often a good idea to proceed
gently and a step at a time with very young children. When my
son was a toddler, I started to talk about giving to the
community with him. But I found it upset him very much to know
that there were other children who did not have enough to eat or
a place to sleep. The fact of that was too scary for him at the
time--if it could happen to others, he knew it could happen to
him, too, and the fear prevented him from knowing how to give. I
actually see this as a step towards compassion: the
identification with the other's situation. But at
three-years-old, he was too young to know how to separate his
experience from the experience of others.
So I backed off there, and focused on giving in other ways and to
other concerns--the environment, charities that help animals,
picking up trash we see on the street and throwing it away,
recylcing, and other things. Also, I made community involvement
a regular part of our daily lives, rather than a once-a-year
Now that my son is six, he takes great pride in his world and his
community and wants to give to it. But he is still a child, and
needs to have his own world feel secure. Giving away toys is
very hard for him. Going to a homeless shelter is way too scary
still. But he is better able to help with food banks, and
community resources. And he is very creative and motivated to
find ways stop global warming, help endagnered animals, and
generally take a positive approach to the world's problems.
So my advice, I guess, is to proceed slowly but positively.
Don't expect a little child to have the same feelings about
giving that an adult has. Work with their interests, and work
year round. Add more ideas and actions as they grow and can
understand more. And thank them often for their efforts. Just
as I thank you for yours.
For the past three years we have purchased and donated a gift
through Wells Fargo. There is a giving-tree in our branch's
lobby during the holiday season with tags that have been filled
out by kids with specific gift requests. We choose one that is
the same age as our son and he shops with us for the present.
We explain that this child doesn't have as many things as we
do -- without totally blowing the Santa-myth! I like that we
know we are getting a gift that is really wanted. I think
there are other places that have such lists like the Regional
Center of the East Bay. We talk alot during the holiday season
about why we give and receive presents. It is a fine line
since we do the Santa-thing, but I talk about Santa's
motivations too and other cultural holidays during the time of
I just rec'd a brochure on Operation Christmas Child from
Samaritan's Purse. They collect shoe boxes full of gifts for
young children and distribute them throughout the world. Sounds
like a fabulous idea for my kids, but the organization is a bit
religious for us. The form you fill out to send in a box
says ''I will pray for this ministry...'', which I'm probably not
going to do. I hate to mis-represent my beliefs even though
this is going to strangers. Anybody heard of a non-religious
alternative (or maybe not so obviously Christian) who does the
Want to Give
I just signed up for this today--found it in Child magazine
yesterday. The box project www.boxproject.org was established
in 1962 to help poor rural families in Maine, Appalachian
states, a few other southern states, and Native Americans in
South Dakota. In essence you adopt a family, commit to one year
at least, and you have to pay a $50 membership fee (this covers
the staff's time matching you with a family). You fill out the
online form and they will send you information about your
family match in the mail, then about once a month you send a
box to the family that includes whatever they need. All the
correspondence is between you and whomever you adopt, so the
family can tell you specifically what they need (food,
utensils, clothes, blankets, whatever). There doesn't seem to
be an overt religious affiliation as far as I could tell (I
read all the ''about us'' stuff and there wasn't any god message
in it anywhere). They also have a holidays only box program,
but signups for that closed on Nov. 18. On the online form you
can specify whom you would like to help if you want (I said I'd
like a family with kids to personalize it for my son, who I
intend to involve in the selection and packaging of items to
give). Or, you can just say you'll help whoever needs help.
They also have classroom/community center projects that you can
read about on the site.
I am helping to coordinate a holiday drive at my daughter's
preschool. We would like to select an organization that could
really use some extra assistance this year. We would gather
together a bunch of Christmas donations for them (toys, clothes,
gift certificates, whatever is needed). Last year we did
the ''Adopt-A-Family'' program at Children's Hospital. We may do
that again but I thought I'd solicit some other ideas. An
organization that helps women and children would be of
particular interest. Thanks!
The Catholic Voice always publishes a list of charities with
their wish lists. I imagine you can access it online. We
often give to the Elizabeth House which is a wonderful home for
woman and children in Berkeley. Some of the others listed
are: A Friendly Place- drop in center for homeless women - 451-
8923. Bay Area Crisis Nursery in Concord, Jubilee West in
Our preschool would like to adopt a family or families for the
holidays. Our preference would be to actually receive a family
profile so that we can buy individual gifts for the family
members. We have gone through the Center for the Vulnerable
Child in the past, but wondered if there were other similar
groups that we coiuld help
I am in charge of a family for my babysitting coop, and we were
assigned a single Mom and her 5 kids from St. Mary's Center in
Oakland. I spoke last week with Sister Marilyn Medau, 510-893-
4723, ext. 202, who tells me they had an unusually high number
of families (350!) apply for help. Sister indicated they still
had a number of (smaller) families left to adopt. I'm sure she
would appreciate the help very much, and they are also looking
for volunteers to distribute the gifts and food certificates on
Dec. 14, 15, 16, and 17.
The Homeless Youth Collaborative assists homeless youth to find
jobs and housing. The youth often need household goods (dishes,
etc.) and food when they are moving into housing. These items
are always appreciated, but even more so during holiday season.
For information about donations, please call the Homeless Youth
Collaborative at 510-652-4111.
The Windrush Parents Association Family to Family Program does
just that. We sponsor new clothing, toys and gifts for the
residents of the GRIP homeless shelter in Richmond (GRIP stands
for Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, a consortium of 35
churches and temples in the area). We just completed matching
nearly fifty families at Windrush School with children and their
parents for holiday gifts. However, I am told we will get another
10-12 individual referrals (2-3 families) next week and so we
could use that many more sponsors.
Each sponsorship carries a commitment of $50-$100. worth of new
toys and clothing which you buy, wrap, and deliver to the shelter
by Dec. 20. You get a name, age, gender and wishlist for each
person, and sponsoring a whole family would be fabulous, as would
sponsoring just one or two people. If that fits your parameters,
let me know. I would love to know that we have the whole shelter
covered (because right now we are just a bit short.) And I can
tell you, buying one of the parents new boots, a coat or bathrobe
feels just as good as buying toys for the kids. We try to cover
everyone who lives there.
Please contact Peggy Scott, the Windrush parent who is
coordinating this program directly for more information.
Thanks for your generosity.
Inspired by the recent thread on excessive gift giving at the
holidays, my extended family has decided to limit our presents
this year and ''adopt'' a family in need. Now we have to find out
how to go about finding a family. I've looked at the archives
and found nothing, while a Google search returned a daunting list
of thousands. Advice about local organizations from people with
firsthand knowledge would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Our Girl Scout troop has done this for several years through the
East Bay Perinatal Council in Richmond. They can be reached at
The Perinatal Council Richmond, 2727 McDonald Avenue, Richmond,
CA 94804 510.236.6990. There's also an office in Oakland. Last
year we had a single mom with 3 very young kids and the girls had
a great time shopping for them.
My daughter's Girl Scout troop has been ''Adopting a Family'' for
years. Each year they call the East Bay Adopt-A-Family
coordinator Rose Arnold to get a family. They can state a
preference for size and configuration of the family and even the
gender and age of the kids. (Of course choices are probably less
plentiful the later in the season).
Call Rose Arnold at 510-903-7531.
The Hematology Oncology Clinic at Children's Hospital Oakland
often has families that are truly destitute, in addition to
having a child with a life threatening condition, who need
sponsorship during the holidays. I think the volunteers at the
hospital also coordinate a family adoption program for the whole
hospital. Families served by the hospital are usually dealing
with some serious health condition in addition to being poor so
it is a very worthwhile place to help out. The number for the
hospital is 510-428-3000.
Children's Hospital has a program as part of their Vulnerable
Child Program. You agree to sponsor a family by purchasing
holiday gifts. The case worker gives you the ages and gender of
the various family members and some ideas of what might be needed
or desired. I think you have a choice about whether to actually
meet the family and deliver the gifts in person, but check with
the case worker the make sure if this is something that is
important to you. You will need to act quickly however, as I seem
to recall getting the list sometime in November so that the gifts
can be ready to go before the holidays.
My family and work use the Family Support Services of the Bay
Area (510) 834-2443. This group came to speak at our United Way
drive, and they are wonderful. They provides respite care to
families of special needs children, teach parenting and
household skills and literally save families from entering the
foster care system. They reach some of the neediest families in
Alameda, Contra Costa, S.F, and San Mateo counties. They are
able to give you a local family. I support your decision to make
a difference this year.
Call Children's Hospital - I think it's called the Center for the
vulnerable child. Our pre-school adopts a family every year and
this is who we work with. The director of the program can pair
you with a family and give you their wants, needs, sizes etc. If
you can't find the number let me know and I can track it down
through the pre-school. Good luck - it's great that you are
doing this as there are a lot of families in need.
A Better Way is a foster family and adoption program in Berkeley.
Every year during the holiday season they ask their children in
foster care what they would like from Santa. They always need
people to ''adopt'' these wishes - they have a huge party with
Santa who gives each child what they have asked for. None of
this happens without the generous help of the families who are
able to provide the toys. The nice thing is that they provide a
small toy for every child attending (for the biological children
of the foster parents too). You can attend the very festive party
so your children can see where their gifts are going - the kids
are thrilled to get something special. It is a very hands on way
to make a difference. Their website is
http://abetterwayinc.net/fosterfamily.htm and their number is:
510-601-0203. Ask for Shahnaz Mazandarani.
P.S. I know about this organization because I used to work there
- the children have been through a lot so I always think about
them during the holidays. Please contact me (hmatzger AT arg.org) if
you have any questions.
Children's Hospital Oakland's Center for the Vulnerable Child
works with many families needing a variety of support over the
holidays. If you participate, you will be matched with a family
and given information about number & ages of children, specific
needs, etc. You can then shop for and deliver wrapped items to
the Hospital. You will not personally deliver the presents to
the family. It is a wonderful program that supports families of
all sizes and flavors who will truly benefit from your
generosity. If you need more information, contact the
Hospital's Center for the Vulnerable Child, 428-3000.
Several years ago our family adopted a family for holiday gift
giving. We called the local Jewish Family Agency and they
called several rabbis in our area. One identified a single
dad and young daughter as a family in need. Our kids had a
great time choosing clothing for her. They also chose toys
from their own things to offer. We rounded out the gift with
supermarket and electronics store gift certificates for the
dad. The family remained anonymous to us, but we
received a lovely thank you note. I recommend calling your
local churches or synagogues or Catholic Charities or
Jewish Family and Children Services. I know they can
connect you with a needy family. Good luck.
Call the Center for the Vulnerable Child at Children's Hospital,
Oakland. They have a holiday adopt-a-family program of local
families which is in full-swing right now. Our preschool adopts a
family every year and it has been a very rewarding and well-
I've heard about a way to give over the holidays, but can't find
out where it's happening. It's called a ''giving tree'' or
something like that. There are people in need listed, with their
ages and wishes. You can choose one or more people, and bring
back the item wrapped as a gift. Has anyone heard of this and
where it might be happening?
Barnes and Noble in Berkeley has a basket in the childrens
section with little cards. Each card has a child's name and some
sort of interest,and then you but a book the you think
corrolates to that. They give you 10% off and wrap and
distribute the books.
I highly reccomend Heifer International. See www.heifer.org.
Last year my four siblings and I skipped our annual gift drawing
and gave the $500 we would have spent to the Heifer Project to
buy a cow that will feed a hungry family in the developing world
for years to come. You can also buy a share for $50 or a duck
for $20. Many options and they are helping build
self-sufficiency in many places. A great organization, based on
peace church witness. Called one of the 100 best charities in
the country by ''Worth Maga
The Wells Fargo Bank in Montclair always has one of those Giving
Trees, and last year I saw one in the Emeryville Toys R Us. There was
also a front-page article in the SF Chronicle (Nov 26th) that said The
Salvation Army (415-575-4849) , the Family Giving Tree (408-946-3111)
and Samaritan House (650-341-4081 x 15) are really looking for help as
You can donate a new pair of socks for kids or adults and tie
them with our red ribbon onto one of the Solano Sock Trees
located in the banks on Solano Avenue: Bank of America, 1516
Solano; California Bank & Trust, 1451 Solano; Citibank, 1377
Solano; The Mechanics Bank, 1801 Solano: The Mechanics Bank, 801
San Pablo; or Wells Fargo Bank, 1800 Solano. Socks will be
distributed to local shelters in time for the holidays. Or
purchase a new, unwrapped toy and leave it in the 'Toys for Tots'
barrel at Powder Box, 1757 Solano; Marvin Gardens Real Estate,
1579 Solano; and The Mechanics Bank, 801 San P
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