The 7th annual Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund campaign kicks off this week, with the aim of raising several hundred thousand dollars through a unique opportunity to provide assistance to some of the poorest families in the Tri-Valley with a 4-to-1 match of each contribution through the 2009 Tri-Valley Regional Initiative.
The Initiative is a collaborative economic recovery program being sponsored through the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, the Tri-Valley Business Council and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. Gifts to the Holiday Fund will be matched by federal stimulus money designated for temporary assistance to needy families, including a strong employment development component. The matched funds will be used to identify and evaluate the needs of local families hardest hit by the economic downturn and help them directly with crisis counseling, emergency food, housing, job training, and other basic necessities.
This year's new matching gift program means that a gift of $100 will be matched by $400 for a total of $500 in aid to help families in the Tri-Valley living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($48,000 for a family of four). The money donated and matched through the 2009 Tri-Valley Regional Initiative will be used to identify and evaluate the needs of families hardest hit by the economic downturn, and then distributed to local community organizations to provide "wrap around" services for these families, helping them acquire rental housing, complete job training, gain employment and meet the basic needs of their family. This could include providing emergency food, school supplies for the children, car repairs and crisis intervention counseling.
In addition to a wider base of needy recipients, the Weekly's campaign will continue to provide grants to Pleasanton and Tri-Valley nonprofit organizations that provide "wrap around" services for families, including Axis Community Health, Open Heart Kitchen and Tri-Valley Haven. This year, these groups will benefit more than ever by the 4-to-1 match.
"In this time of economic crisis with so many people unemployed and so many families hurting, the Pleasanton Weekly couldn't pass up this opportunity to receive a 4-to-1 match with federal funds," said Gina Channell-Allen, president of the Pleasanton Weekly. "This will help the largest number of families and individuals in our community."
Last year, thanks to matching funds from the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, seven nonprofit organizations serving the needs of children and families in the Pleasanton area received grants totaling more than $138,000 from the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund. With the Weekly's new partners for 2009, it's hoped that total contributions will be at least four times as much.
Among those who benefited last year from the Holiday Fund are people such as Tracy, 34, the mother of two children, a son, 8 and a daughter, 11. Tracy's husband became terribly depressed and abandoned the family after he lost his job. Until then, the couple had a happy marriage, but little extra money to invest in savings. Tracy found a temporary home at Sojourner House in Livermore, a family crisis shelter. She had been pursuing a certificate in cosmetology prior to her husband's departure, but then had no money or time to complete the certification process.
Sojourner House, operated by Tri-Valley Haven, provided a safe place for her family, care for her children, including academic tutoring in their school subjects, and access to "Linkages," a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) program designed to provide "wrap around services" to families in crisis that is operated by Tri-Valley Haven under a contract with HUD.
While at Sojourner House, Tracy and her family thrived. The children blossomed in school, excelling in their academic subjects. Specially trained and certified counselors at Sojourner House provided extra support and guidance for the children, including help dealing with the loss of their father. They knew there were adults who cared about them and were helping them adjust to their new community.
Today, Tracy has her cosmetology license and is fully employed, able to support her young family. During the transition to her new life, and while getting settled in her new home, Tracy depended upon the meal program provided by Open Heart Kitchen. The nutritionally balanced meals helped Tracy stretch her budget while building a cash reserve sufficient to pay her first and last month's rent in a clean apartment building in Pleasanton. Tracy now is a volunteer in her children's schools, and also volunteers two days a month at Open Heart Kitchen. Tracy and her family are involved citizens whose lives have been changed for the better through the help of two agencies, Tri-Valley Haven and Open Heart Kitchen, both agencies supported by the Pleasanton Weekly's annual Holiday Fund.
Another agency that is part of the "wrap around" services for needy families is Axis Community Health in Pleasanton. As more Tri-Valley families struggle through tough economic times, many of them are turning to Axis to provide affordable, quality, compassionate health care services. Traditionally, those who are served by Axis are the working poor families of the Tri-Valley. However, Axis is seeing more and more newly out of work middle class Tri-Valley residents who, for the first time, are seeking safety net services.
Meet the Martins, a middle-class family of five dealing with layoffs that resulted in the loss of health insurance. The family's youngest son, Tyler, is an asthmatic teen who was having trouble controlling his condition. In a six-month timeframe, Tyler was hospitalized twice. Tyler's uncontrolled asthma had caused him to miss many days of school and his grades were slipping. For the last few months, Tyler has been receiving care at Axis Community Health. His asthmatic episodes have dramatically decreased, and he has had perfect attendance at school this quarter.
Lack of insurance creates serious challenges for families like the Martins. Many families are finding that they must chose between covering the rent or making COBRA payments to continue their health insurance. Most newly unemployed families end up letting their medical insurance slip away. Children without insurance are less likely to get care and conditions such as asthma gradually worsen. Ear infections turn into chronic issues. Immunizations are missed. For some children, lifelong health issues result.
For more than 30 years, Axis has been quietly taking care of Tri-Valley families who are facing tough times. Last year, the agency helped more than 12,000 uninsured Tri-Valley residents receive the medical care they need and deserve. Without Axis, most of these individuals would not have received health care.
More than a third of the medical visit costs for the uninsured the nonprofit serves are uncompensated. Direct services programs for the uninsured are partly supported by government funds. However, these contracts are not keeping pace with the growing need for medical care in the community.
Through the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund campaign, Axis has been able to increase its capacity to provide health care services for the growing number of uninsured residents who have no other access to health care. This year, with a 4-to-1 match, contributions from the Holiday Fund can help Axis keep up with the growing demand for its services by needy families.
David Rice, president and chief executive officer of the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, said that "what's important about giving to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund is that, in partnership with the foundation, and the 2009 Tri-Valley Regional Initiative, we can identify these programs and activities that need our help and serve our entire community."
"We know what the needs are locally because of our day-to-day work to help the truly needy in the Tri-Valley," he added. "We can put money to work very quickly and through our program of auditing the various needs of helping families, we can make sure contributions are given to serve those specific needs and will certify the results."
As before, the Pleasanton Weekly will donate all administrative services so all money raised can support the people in our community. All funds are held in trust by the Tri-Valley Community Foundation and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.