The Season of Gratitude and Giving

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The season of giving is really January-December. Many charities close to my heart get automatic monthly donations. I like to do that as it gives them consistency to rely on. But now and then many of us are inclined to give a little extra, and the holidays are certainly such an occasion. 

I recently used Facebook to prod for extra donations to Second Harvest Food Bank in November, before Thanksgiving.  They do such a great job throughout the year, but I would love for everyone to have an extra special meal as we celebrate our bounteous country! Likewise, Christmas is a great time to help others feel loved.

Samaritan House is another outstanding organization. I checked their website to see what would be most beneficial, and then made it a trip to Costco! I loaded up the car with essentials that will hopefully make a difference to many families during this colder yet joyous month. It is a good idea to call to make an appointment if you drop off goods. They have limited hours for accepting donated items.

Besides the local charities that we choose to support, it is impossible not to see the news stories of crises in other states. I cannot help but feel compelled to help in Kentucky and neighboring states after a spate of tornadoes devastated entire communities. The situation is very bleak. There are a number of charities that provide excellent service and care on the ground. Blood centers are particularly in need at this time. Even giving locally will help ease the blood shortages in the country. Consider making an appointment, or donating to an organization such as the American Red Cross.

Sad to say at a time like this, but many scammers will rise up to prey on victims and would-be benefactors. If giving is in your heart, please do be careful not to fall prey to those who are there to take advantage. Here are a few tips to consider:

How to avoid charity scams

·     Avoid unfamiliar agencies and websites. There is a history of scammers creating websites that look like donation pages after a major tragedy, but in reality, were scams.

·     Make sure that where you’re donating is a legitimate organization or a group that has a proven record of delivering aid.

·     Beware of phone calls and emails soliciting donations.

·     Do your research to determine if organizations are legitimate. Charity Navigator lists reputable organizations. Great Nonprofits and Give Well has reviews of nonprofit groups and can help you see how much of your money goes directly to relief.

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Here is a comprehensive list of the organizations on the Peninsula looking for your help this season:

Acknowledge Alliance: Students face complex challenges that impact their ability to focus on learning. Many live in poverty, cope with depression, battle immigration issues. With our resilience-building tools and trauma-informed services, we are not only reaching students but also supporting educators;

Art in Action: Empowers children through an arts education by providing classroom lessons that develop creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem-solving skills through hands-on learning with art. Donations ensure that all students have access to art, especially those in Title I and underserved schools;

Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto: This nonprofit organization provides monetary assistance to more than 2,700 low-income individuals comprised of low-income families, seniors, and adults. Learn more at

Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos: This agency is seeking gift cards (Target, Walmart, Amazon) and holiday donations. Learn how you can help at

CORA is the only agency in San Mateo County solely dedicated to helping those affected by intimate partner abuse. The need for this organization has only increased over the past couple years with the pandemic. This year they are doing a push for both monetary donations as well as gift card donations. Gift cards can be dropped off or mailed to their office at 2211 Palm Ave in San Mateo (most needed are gas cards, Safeway, and Target). CORA finds that it is more empowering to clients to be able to go and purchase their own needed items when they arrive at CORA’s safe houses instead of giving them used donated goods.  But also, their need for general donations is growing – If you would like to donate a monetary contribution, please follow this link:

Daly City Partnership: Gift of cash or checks will support mental health program for families with children who have experienced trauma, and scholarships for after-school enrichment classes. Donations of gift cards (Target, Safeway), new toys, and new or gently used clothing and small home goods will be given directly to families in need, seniors on fixed incomes, and the homeless;

Dragon Productions Theatre Company: Seeking funding for six plays, developmental workshops of new plays by local artists, and community building programs to turn the Dragon Theatre into the Peninsula’s premiere community performing arts venue;

Ecumenical Hunger Program: Donate cash, gift cards, turkeys, hams and chickens for underprivileged families in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Learn more at

Fit Kids: Holiday fitness equipment drive! Please support Fit Kids by donating the equipment we use in our free fitness programs for kids;

Friends of Huddart & Wunderlich Parks: Volunteer naturalists lead hikes for children to learn about nature, science and the joy of being in the outdoors. 52 percent of participants live in poverty. With your support, we can provide free hikes and buses for low-income schools;

Gatepath: Empowers children and adults with developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential. Gifts will help children meet developmental milestones like walking or talking and help adults secure their first jobs;

Geek Club Books: A volunteer-run autism awareness non-profit committed to creating a world where autistic individuals are fully accepted, valued and have a voice. Monetary donations fund the work of our autistic writers, filmmakers, comic artists, and speakers;

Generations United. Our mission is to empower the children and families of Redwood City & North Fair Oaks to reach their full potential…in this generation and the next. There are so many opportunities to be a part of  Sponsor-A-Family 2021 and bring Christmas cheer to our neighbors in Redwood City:

Health Connected: Provides adolescent sexual health education to almost 20,000 students, parents, and teachers each year across California. Help empower young people to make thoughtful choices about their relationships and sexual health throughout their lives by making a contribution today;

Help a Mother Out: Works to improve baby and family well being by increasing access to diapers for families in need. Donations will help our diaper bank reach our milestone goal of distributing 10 million diapers by March 2019;

Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley (HFSV): Dedicated to improving the quality of life of Latinos in the Silicon Valley region. Your donation supports juniors and seniors in college majoring in STEM, college readiness programs for parents and students, and leadership development classes;

Jewish Coalition for Literacy: Volunteer reading tutors are the backbone of our organization. We provide structured training and then place our tutors one-on-one or with small groups of children in K-3 for read-aloud sessions. To donate or volunteer, call (415) 977-7439 or visit

JobTrain, Inc: Help support low-income students in our career training programs with transportation passes, work uniforms, textbooks, and emergency childcare. These resources make it possible for our students to gain valuable job training and life skills;

Justice At Last: Provides free legal services and representation to survivors of human trafficking so that they can seek justice on their terms;

Kainos Home & Training Center: Serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Kainos’ Community-based program. This provides the opportunity for individuals to increase their physical and mental health; enhancing physical activity, stress management, and nutritional education;

Menlo Spark: Their mission is to reduce carbon emissions to zero in Menlo Park by 2025. To volunteer or donate, visit

Midpeninsula Community Media Center: Levels the communications playing field by providing access to media tools and distribution. Using Midpen’s TV studio, production truck and video equipment library, individuals and nonprofits create and control their own stories;

LiveMoves is dedicated to finding solutions to homelessness in Silicon Valley. The programs work but they urgently need your help to support the growing need. They need your help and donations to confront the homelessness crisis in our community.

Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center: Uses community mediation and mediative facilitation to empower people, build relationships, and reduce violence;

Peninsula Family Service: Our Holiday Giving Guide is a unique way to give a meaningful gift for the holidays. Give in honor of a loved one, and we’ll send a special card showing how much you care – and the impact of your support;

Peninsula Healthcare Connection: This state-licensed medical clinic provides free health care and mental health services for homeless and low-income individuals in North Santa Clara County. Learn how you can help at

Peninsula Volunteers, Inc.: Our Meals on Wheels – San Mateo County program increases food security and access to nutritious food, keeping adults ages 65+ well-nourished and healthy. Requesting monetary donations to help remove clients from the waitlist and provide them with meals (about 100 meals per person);

Project READ – Redwood City (Redwood City Friends of Literacy): Offers literacy and educational programming that enriches the lives of families most in need. You can help give the gift of reading this year through monetary donations, book donations or volunteering;

Reading Partners Silicon Valley: Empowers students to succeed in reading and life by engaging community volunteers to provide one-on-one literacy tutoring. In each partner school, we transform a space into a reading center where student-tutor pairs work for 45 minutes twice weekly;

Rebuilding Together Peninsula: This organization provides renovation and repair services for the Peninsula’s most vulnerable homeowners — seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and families with children. Learn how you can help by donating or volunteering at

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Mid-Peninsula Center: Delivers intensive small business training classes and workshops, special programs for women, individual consulting, and access to capital and resources throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties;

SafeSpace: Services encompass youth outreach and community engagement that fosters emotionally connected young people and families. Please support our teens who advocate for mental health and wellness in schools. Monetary donations are accepted through PayPal or website;

San Mateo County Parks Foundation: Addresses barriers to visiting parks by funding bus transportation that connects low-income youth to parks;

San Mateo Police Activities League: Requesting donations of gift cards (Target, Safeway, and Old Navy) to distribute to needy families as part of Santa Cop event in collaboration with the San Mateo Police Department;

Science is Elementary: Support exciting hands-on science and engineering for elementary school students. Ninety percent of our students are low-income and 75 percent are students of color;

Sisters of Mercy, Burlingame: Participating in the One Warm Coat Drive, collecting for women, men and children. The drive runs through Jan. 4. Also collecting toys for children who are members of a local San Mateo parish, ranging in age from infant to 16 years old.

The Art of Yoga Project: Delivers ongoing yoga and creative arts programming to incarcerated teen girls in San Mateo County’s Juvenile Justice system. Seeking monetary donations for art and yoga supplies and to compensate specially trained instructors;

Salvation Army: This group’s Adopt a Family program provides Christmas toys and meals to families with children. To help, call a program near you or visit

Salvation Army: Needs volunteer bell ringers. By volunteering to bell ring, you are helping your community with food, clothing, bus tokens and PG&E assistance, as well as food boxes and toys during the holiday season;

Tim Griffith Foundation: Provides safe and sober housing for young men recovering from addiction, and holds grief retreats for parents who have lost a child. Tim’s House needs a sectional coach and window blinds. Grocery gift certificates and monetary contributions benefit the retreats;

Upward Scholars: Seeking donations for low-income students to go towards books, laptops, bus passes or food vouchers;

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This post was written by Rumana Jabeen

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