Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - November 18, 2011

2011 Holiday Fund

Help for those who need it most

by Jeb Bing

Five nonprofits have been selected as this year's recipients of the ninth annual Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund, the community-wide campaign that starts today to provide needed funding for vital local nonprofits.

This year, the Tri-Valley Community Foundation has agreed again to provide matching funds of up to $50,000 to the campaign so that for every $1 contributed, another $1 will be given to these five nonprofits. With the match, this year's goal is $100,000 with the funds to be allocated equally to each of the five organizations: Axis Community Health, Hope Hospice, Open Heart Kitchen, Valley Humane Society and the Ryan Comer Cancer Resource Center at ValleyCare Health System Foundation.

"Last year, when the state of the economy was perhaps even more dire, our readers rallied to the call and contributed nearly $100,000 in direct donations over and above the Tri-Valley Community Foundation's match," said Gina Channell-Allen, president and publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly.

"That gave us a grand total of $147,000, which enabled us to contribute nearly $30,000 to each of last year's beneficiaries," she added. "We hope to do even better this year."

Unlike most other fundraising drives by individual organizations, the Holiday Fund has no administrative expenses or other overhead. The Pleasanton Weekly donates all the support services so all money raised can go to the local nonprofit groups.

All funds are held in trust by the Tri-Valley Community Foundation and are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

David Rice, president of the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, said giving to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund this year is more important than ever.

"Although Pleasanton is ranked as one of the wealthiest cities of its size in the nation, there are hundreds here and many more in the Tri-Valley who rely on these organizations for individual and family assistance, emergency aid when they're suddenly without jobs, and health care," Rice said. "Not everyone is wealthy here, not everyone has a job, not everyone has health insurance. These are the people who need our help."

"Whether we're employers or among the employed or in business for ourselves, each of us has been affected by fast-rising costs in health care, for basic commodities and food, even for highway and bridge tolls," Rice said.

"Those on the bottom rung of the employment ladder may have a job, but they don't earn enough to meet these ongoing higher living costs. They often have inadequate or no health insurance at all. Some have lost their jobs or their benefits, or both, because of corporate downsizing, layoffs and benefit reductions. We see these needs vividly through the Tri-Valley Community Foundation's programs and the good work the Pleasanton Weekly's Holiday Fund accomplishes."

Rice added that although the public should continue to support other fundraising efforts, such as through the Red Cross and United Way, the Weekly's Holiday Fund offers a close-to-home approach that is more effective and direct in getting the funds that are contributed to the local organizations that need them.

One of this year's recipients is again the Ryan Comer Cancer Resource Center at ValleyCare. The center is located inside the ValleyCare Health Library.

Money generated by the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund helps the center offer personalized reference assistance and access to medical databases, some in other languages, including websites and articles, plus books, videos and models.

"Funds received from the 2010 campaign have been instrumental in keeping our cancer support groups running," said Stephanie du Pont-Pensa of ValleyCare's Ancillary and Outpatient Services. "We were even able to add another support group for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients."

Open Heart Kitchen is another Tri-Valley charity that is again on the Holiday Fund list for 2011.

"We served over 216,000 meals in 2010 and expect to serve even more this year," said Linda McKeever, executive director. "The biggest increase is the newly unemployed and underemployed in the local area."

Open Heart Kitchen, which serves meals in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore, has seen a 25% increase in demand for free meals, far greater than the pace of donations given directly to the organization.

"Open Heart Kitchen is often the 'bridge' that enables a family stay on its feet from week to week," McKeever said. "Last year's generous grant from the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday fund went directly to support our hunger relief programs. Your funds helped purchase food, supplies and the direct cost of preparing and serving meals."

Axis Community Health, another recipient of this year's campaign, provides medical care and behavioral health services for all members of the Tri-Valley community regardless of income or ability to pay.

Last year, Tri-Valley residents made more than 115,000 visits to Axis, which is a 15% increase over the previous year. Axis is enrolling more than 400 new patients each month and the need for care continues to increase as the recession continues. Although Axis serves all ages, the need for adult primary care medical services has been explosive in the past year as more people have lost their job or had their insurance coverage curtailed.

"In the past year," said Sue Compton, Axis's CEO, "we have added two more physicians and two more nurse practitioners to our staff and we are providing care at our five sites every day or the week, as well as on Saturdays and evenings—and even all of this is not keeping up with the need for care in our community."

"We are especially grateful to be selected as a recipient of the Pleasanton Weekly's Holiday Fund campaign this year as it will allow us to continue to meet this critical need in our community," she added.

Another beneficiary of the 2011 Holiday Fund campaign is Hope Hospice. The organization, headed by Larry Lakes, is known throughout the Valley for the special kind of healthcare it offers. It's unique because it works to not only meet a dying patient's physical needs, but supports their emotional, social and spiritual needs as well. Hope Hospice care is provided regardless of the ability to pay and relies on contributions such as those raised by the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund to provide services.

Its mission is to provide compassionate, quality end-of-life care and grief support to patients and families. Hope Hospice and its volunteers step in when medical science can no longer add days to life, and what matters is the quality of life that can be added to each day.

Last but not least is help for our furry friends who give so much to us in return. Once again, the Valley Humane Society is on the list of recipients for the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund.

This all-volunteer group, with its mission to educate others on responsible pet ownership, recently moved into its new facility on Nevada Street. It is finding that more people are giving up their pets due to lack of money to care for them. One service Valley Humane Society provides is donating pet food for pet owners who are having financial difficulties. The organization also rescues, treats and funds a home for abandoned or injured animals. It does not euthanize unless health problems dictate.

David Rice said that "what's important about giving to the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund is that, in partnership with the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, 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 expertise in covering these nonprofits in the Weekly's news columns and through the Foundation's programs to help serve their financial needs," he explained.

"We can put money to work very quickly whereas it might take quite a long time for these organizations to partner up with donors themselves," he added. "So this is a much more effective and direct way to get money to work in the community by giving to the Holiday Fund."

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