This marks the beginning of the 2020-21 Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, a fundraising campaign that will provide vital financial assistance to six core Tri-Valley nonprofit organizations amid the COVID-19 pandemic this winter.
Again this year, the Weekly is partnering with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, so all Holiday Fund donations will be tax deductible -- and eligible for corporate matching -- and so 100% of the funds will go directly to the nonprofits with no administrative expenses.
Tri-Valley organizations benefiting from the 2020-21 Holiday Fund will be Axis Community Health, CityServe of the Tri-Valley, Hope Hospice, Open Heart Kitchen, Valley Humane Society and ValleyCare Charitable Foundation.
"We are asking our readers to turn their thoughts toward those in need, like we do each and every holiday season. This year we have a special focus on organizations that are providing key safety-net services for the community during the coronavirus crisis," said Gina Channell, publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly and president of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division.
"This pandemic has left many residents seeking assistance from local nonprofits, and we hope our Holiday Fund will offer a financial boost to these organizations at a time when the need is paramount," she added.
Channell said the Weekly team also acknowledges that six Holiday Fund beneficiaries is fewer than in past years, explaining that the economic and social realities of the pandemic played a significant role in this year's decision to direct funds to particular service areas.
"Because we are entering a holiday season like no other in our history, with new concerns about how much will be donated and the number of people experiencing food insecurity, homelessness and health concerns, we had to make some tough calls this year when selecting the nonprofits that will receive the unrestricted grants," she said. "We are hopeful that the pandemic and its impacts are behind us soon and we can return to a more robust list of recipients."
The 2020-21 Holiday Fund will run from now until the second week of January. Donations will be directed to, and handled by, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which will also provide all administrative support for the campaign and allow donors to benefit from its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for tax purposes.
The Weekly will donate marketing services and advertising space. As always, every dollar donated will go to the designated groups -- with each beneficiary receiving an equal share of the total amount raised.
Learn more about the six nonprofits below, and please consider contributing this holiday season via the fundraiser webpage.
Axis Community Health
The Tri-Valley's sole provider of medical and mental health services for people and families with a low income or uninsured, Axis Community Health strives to promote the well-being of all community members by providing them with quality, affordable, accessible and compassionate health care services.
Not surprisingly, the nonprofit has seen the need for its services increase during the pandemic, according to CEO Sue Compton.
"Axis depends on community donations from the Holiday Fund to support the medical care we provide for 15,000 low-income residents," Compton told the Weekly. "There has never been a greater need for that support than now, as Axis faces an unprecedented health crisis. Our staff are working harder than ever to help our most vulnerable patients, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, stay healthy."
Among its new programs during the pandemic, Axis recently began offering free COVID-19 testing in Livermore for its current patients, all health care, frontline or essential workers, and any uninsured resident or those without a primary care provider -- in coordination with the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency and Asbury United Methodist Church.
Compton said Holiday Fund monies will be used to buy bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors for elderly patients with hypertension.
"Data will automatically upload into our electronic health records system, allowing our medical team to monitor these highly vulnerable patients while they are safely at home and catch any changes in health status early on," she added.
CityServe of the Tri-Valley
With a mantra of "Care. Coordinate. Connect," CityServe of the Tri-Valley focuses on caring for people in crisis including experiencing homelessness, coordinating resources among the faith-based community, nonprofits, businesses and public agencies, and connecting volunteers with nonprofits in the Tri-Valley that need support.
Compassion is at the core of CityServe, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CEO Christine Beitsch-Bahmani.
"The impact of the Holiday Fund is that it gives us the additional funding needed to support families and individuals who have lost their jobs, struggle to make ends meet with their children at home and/or have faced reduced work hours," she told the Weekly.
"The Holiday Fund allows us to brighten someone's day when we can say, 'Yes, we can help you with that.' It brings hope during the holiday for many people and we are grateful to be a beneficiary of this amazing blessing. Thank you to all who contribute," Beitsch-Bahmani said.
Working to support patients and their loved ones with exceptional care, compassion and dignity during end of life, Hope Hospice and Health Services focuses on physical care as well as emotional, spiritual and social needs of patients as well as educational services for patients and their families.
"The pandemic affected our community and the world on so many levels," CEO Jennifer Hansen told the Weekly.
"Of course, the increasing number of human lives lost to this virus is crushing, and we grieve with all those families. But the impact is seen in other societal layers as well, such as drastic employment reductions and even closed businesses as safety measures enacted to slow the spread of COVID-19 have touched commerce," she said.
Hansen noted that pandemic and economic downturn have impacted charitable giving as well, with Hope Hospice's donation intake "down significantly" in 2020, in part hurt by the cancellation of regular and special fundraising events -- including the nonprofit's planned 40th anniversary celebration.
The Holiday Fund will help fill some of that void.
"Money raised from these important events, along with regular giving, supports our bereavement program, Family Caregiver Education Series, and dementia-care education. The Pleasanton Weekly's Holiday Fund helps keep these services available to the community at no cost," Hansen said.
Open Heart Kitchen
With a simple yet imperative mission, Open Heart Kitchen aims to serve prepared, nutritious meals for free to those facing food insecurity in the Tri-Valley, with a particular focus on the underemployed, low-income seniors and children of families struggling to make ends meet.
The need has become even more distinct during the pandemic and economic downturn, and with it, the importance of heightened safety protocols for food handling and distribution.
"The Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund donations will help Open Heart Kitchen keep up with the higher demand for food during this COVID-19 pandemic," said Denise Bridges, development director for Open Heart Kitchen.
"This crisis is especially difficult for our clients that are experiencing homelessness and for our seniors that are fearful and isolated. The donations will provide healthy, hot meals to people that need it most," Bridges added. "We truly appreciate Pleasanton Weekly readers for supporting us in the fight to end hunger in our community."
Valley Humane Society
Valley Humane Society staff and volunteers work to save and improve the lives of Tri-Valley companion animals and their human counterparts while prioritizing values such as compassion, companionship, optimism, gratitude, collaboration and integrity.
For more than 30 years, the nonprofit has supported the reciprocal relationship between people and pets -- a bond that has become a critical component to community members' well-being during a difficult 2020, according to Executive Director Melanie Sadek.
"Having a pet to lean on is more important than ever, with emotions and stress running high due to health and financial worries," Sadek told the Weekly. "Keeping pets at home and out of shelters is crucial to the well-being of both the animals and their families."
Amid the pandemic, Sadek reports that Valley Humane Society has seen "a huge increase in pet adoptions" aided by the nonprofit's early development of a safe adoption protocol.
"Donations from the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund support the rescue, medical treatment and care of dogs and cats, support pets in their own home through the AniMeals pet food pantry, promote the human-animal bond, and more," according to Sadek.
ValleyCare Charitable Foundation
The nonprofit fundraising arm of Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare, ValleyCare Charitable Foundation dedicates its efforts to improving health and well-being in the Tri-Valley through the ongoing funding of the local hospital and its innovative medical programs.
And for the health care field, 2020 has been a year unlike any other in recent memory, according to Shaké Sulikyan, president and executive director of the foundation.
"For almost 60 years, your local hospital has cared for patients who turn to us in their hours of greatest need and uncertainty. Our doctors, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and other team members are our first responders when a health crisis hits our community," Sulikyan said. "They are here day and night to not only provide medical care and treatment but to offer a hand to hold or a listening ear, share an encouraging word -- taking care of patients like family."
While COVID-19 is changing how we interact, it hasn't stopped babies from being born prematurely, it hasn't stopped local residents from having heart attacks or strokes, it hasn't stopped cancer from upending a patient's life. Although the pandemic has temporarily changed our way of life, our hospital remains dedicated to serving our community, one patient at a time, no matter what," she added.
This year, Holiday Fund donations will help Stanford-ValleyCare increase its capacity "to continue to respond to the needs of our community and healthcare providers during this period of reopening and in the event of a resurgence," Sulikyan said, adding:
"On behalf of the hospital and VCCF, I'd like to thank all the donors for their continued support and investment in the health of our community through the Holiday Fund."