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Pleasanton Weekly's 2015 Holiday Fund now underway

Give now to help others in our community

The Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund campaign is now underway, a time when we ask our readers to turn their thoughts to supporting local nonprofit agencies and services that care for those in need year-round.

It's also a timely effort.

"The Holiday Fund is underway at a time when many nonprofits that benefit from this campaign are still faced with diminished contributions as a result of the waning recession while needing increased funds to meet a growing number of those in need," said Gina Channell-Allen, president and publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly.

For example, REACH, an acronym for Resources Education Activities Community and Housing for special-needs adults of the Tri-Valley, uses funds collected through the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund to enhance the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities. It uses these resources to support education programs, for activities and to provide housing opportunities. It has nine homes in the Tri-Valley serving 26 people with disabilities that range from cerebral palsy to Down syndrome to autism, with some being more impaired than others.

REACH expanded several years ago to provide a more holistic approach to its services, and it now also addresses fitness, social and educational opportunities for the special needs community, as well as continuing its initial focus of providing housing in the local community.

Another recipient of the Holiday Fund is Axis Community Health, which is the Tri-Valley's sole provider of medical and mental health services for individuals and families who have a low income or who are uninsured. Axis serves more than 14,000 Tri-Valley residents each year through a variety of services that include medical care for children, adults and seniors, prenatal care and women's health services, mental health counseling, drug- and alcohol-recovery services and a WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition program.

More than 25% of Axis patients are children under the age of 12. The families who depend on Axis are the working poor; 95% of Axis medical patients have a family income less than 200% of the federal poverty level, which is less than $46,100 a year for a family of four. Axis is also the Tri-Valley's only Certified Enrollment Center, and its certified enrollment staff is available to assist anyone in the community in signing up for Covered California health plans.

Its staff of 160 includes physicians, nurse practitioners, mental health professionals, drug and alcohol counselors, and a large team of support staff. A sixth service site, located at 5925 W. Las Positas Blvd. in Pleasanton, is currently under construction and set to open in early 2016.

"Axis is proud to be selected as a recipient of the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund again this year, and we look forward to being able to provide more medical visits for low income Tri-Valley families who would otherwise have no access to health care," said Sue Compton, CEO of Axis.

Contributions to the 2015 Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund will be distributed in two tiers, with 65% of all dollars raised going to Axis, Open Heart Kitchen, Pleasanton Partnerships in Education Foundation, Valley Humane Society and Stanford Health at ValleyCare.

Another 35% of the contributions will go to Agape Villages Foster Family Agency, Hope Hospice, the Museum on Main, REACH, Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley and Sunflower Hill.

Besides REACH and Axis, beneficiaries of contributions made to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund are:

Open Heart Kitchen

Open Heart Kitchen is another Tri-Valley charity that is again on the Holiday Fund list for 2015.

"A growing need has motivated us to increase our programs," said Linda McKeever, executive director. "We now serve six low-income senior centers, have added more schools to the children's box lunch programs and have expanded the program to serve lunches during the summer months. We have also added longer hours and additional sites to our hot-meal programs."

McKeever said the Weekly's Holiday Fund has been "extremely helpful in allowing Open Heart Kitchen to expand its programs and keep up with the growing need in the community."

PPIE Foundation

Also in line for Holiday Fund help this year is Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation, an organization that has a collaborative relationship with the Pleasanton Unified School District and contributes to the needs of Pleasanton students and educators.

The organization hosts two community fundraising events each year and also raises funds through donations and grants from regional companies and organizations.

"We appreciate the generosity of the community whose donations through Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund last year helped us achieve our goals," said Susan Hayes, executive director.

Valley Humane Society

Again a recipient of Holiday Fund contributions is Valley Humane Society (VHS), which creates a brighter future for cats and dogs by encouraging and strengthening the bond between people and pets.

VHS rescues and rehabilitates companion animals, champions responsible caretaking, shares pets' soothing affections with people in need of comfort, and supports and preserves existing pet-guardian relationships.

"Valley Humane Society is a nonprofit organization whose programs and services are made possible by the generosity of donors, including those who contribute to the Weekly's Holiday Fund," said Melanie Sadek, executive director. "We receive no government funds, tax dollars or money from national humane organizations."

Added Melissa Adkins, marketing and development manager: "Valley Humane Society is well known as a group that cares just as much about people as it does for animals. We partner with a number of groups like Open Heart Kitchen, Tri-Valley Haven and Meals on Wheels to ensure low-income families have food and supplies for their pets. This keeps the pets with their loving families and out of the municipal shelters."

Stanford Health at ValleyCare

The ValleyCare Foundation and the services it supports make use of contributions to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund for its breast cancer Patient Navigator program.

When a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer, moving through the care process can be complex and sometimes confusing. In continually striving to improve a patient's experience and assist her quest for wellness, the medical center has expanded its cancer program with the addition of a Certified Breast Cancer Patient Navigator, who guides patients through the treatment and follow-up processes.

Hope Hospice

Beneficiaries of the Holiday Fund in the second tier, which will receive 35% of the contributions made this year, include Hope Hospice, a Dublin-based organization that serves patients and families in Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, Alamo, Blackhawk, Castro Valley, Diablo, Danville, San Ramon, Sunol and surrounding communities in the East Bay.

The organization provides ethical hospice care, transition services for those not quite eligible for hospice, bereavement support for adults and children, and community education.

Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation

Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation is again on the Holiday Fund's list of beneficiaries. Funds that go to this organization help provide cancer patients with the benefit of complementary therapies to help alleviate the side effects caused by radiation and chemotherapy.

The group is supported entirely by generous donations, including those from the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund.

Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley

Also benefiting from the Holiday Fund this year will be Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley, an independent, nonprofit agency serving seniors over 60 in the communities of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Sunol.

The group was established in 1981 as a "Friendly Visitor" volunteer program serving 35 seniors. It has since grown to include programs that annually serve more than 5,600 seniors in the Tri-Valley area, and this year it is expanding its one-stop resource shop to meet these needs.

"We are so thankful to be part of the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund," said Marlene Petersen, executive director. "These funds contribute to helping seniors go through the process of changes one goes through with age, such as the loss of a loved one, friends, the ability to drive and hear well, and many other meaningful experiences we often take for granted."

Agape Villages Foster Family Agency

Another Holiday Fund recipient, Agape Villages Foster Family Agency, has been around for over 55 years, finding loving homes for abused and neglected children throughout 14 counties in Northern California.

"Unfortunately, statistics tell us that 46% of foster youth don't graduate high school and half of all homeless youth were at one time in the foster care system," said Jennifer Oxe, Agape's community engagement director. "At Agape, we aim to beat these odds by providing a loving and stable environment for these children."

Museum on Main

This year, the Museum on Main has been added to the Holiday Fund's second tier of recipients. The museum has grown over the past 50 years to become a community resource that enriches community life through education and preservation. This past year, the museum hosted its first traveling Smithsonian exhibition, called Journey Stories, that helped people to examine their own journey stories, whether that is migration, immigration or simply a vacation journey.

Jim DeMersman, the museum's executive director, said the museum is "a place where people can not only reminisce about the 'old days' but engage with one another in a dialogue on how life has changed."

Sunflower Hill

Another added nonprofit to this year's group of Holiday Fund recipients is Sunflower Hill, an organization working to create a sustainable residential community for individuals with special needs, similar to senior living.

Susan Houghton, president of the organization's board and the mother of a 22-year-old with moderate autism, said an updated statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in 45 children are now being diagnosed with autism.

"This is an increase from one in 150 in 1992 and essentially means that approximately 2% of all children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have some form of autism," she said. "As these children become adults, there is and will continue to be a tremendous need for housing and support services."

Again this year, the Weekly is partnering with Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which will handle all finances related to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund. This will allow donors to take advantage of a tax deduction for the dollars they contribute through the Foundation's 501(c)(3) status to the fullest extent of the law.

Also, the Pleasanton Weekly will handle all costs of the campaign. That means that every dollar will go directly to the 12 nonprofits with no administrative expenses.

How to Give

Contributions should be directed to:

Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund

c/o Silicon Valley Community Foundation

2440 West El Camino Real, Suite 300

Mountain View, California 94040

Checks should be made payable to Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

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