Friends In Sonoma Helping, the Sonoma Valley’s grand central station of giving and goodness all year long, becomes like the North Pole when the holiday season rolls round. FISH elves kick into high gear for seasonal sharing, and they need help from everyone in the community to meet the needs of those among us who are struggling.
There are giving opportunities galore, from providing gifts for an entire family or dropping off one toy, to placing a few bills in the FISH bell-ringers buckets at local stores. You can volunteer to help put to together boxes for the Holiday Food Giveaway, or to help pass them out at Hanna Boys Center on Friday, Dec. 20.
“This year is definitely more difficult than last year,” said FISH Co-Chair Sandy Piotter. “There are more people depending on FISH for services.” She explained that most of the clients are working poor families, and that the lack of affordable rents and seasonal work contribute to the strain. “These are families where there is usually at least one person working,” she said, but they still cannot make ends meet. At this time of year, many of those who work in agriculture are not receiving paychecks.
And right now, there is a huge need for non-perishable, nutritious food donations. “Compared to other years, we are behind at this point,” Piotter said. FISH gave out 470 food boxes last year and expects to have more people sign up for food this year. A volunteer, with a large, barn-style garage, helps store donated can goods before the holiday distribution. “She told me, usually by now she wouldn’t be able to get her car in, and she’s still parking in the garage,” Piotter said.
FISH has a new Adopt-A-Family program this year. Families and individuals are referred by other Valley nonprofits and matched with donors who then meet their specific requests. Donors sign up online at fishadoptafamily.org, noting whether they want to help an individual or a whole family. Donors then receive a wish list with the first name and ages of each member of the family, along with their wishes. It is suggested $100 be spent on each child and $50 each for parents. The parent gifts are to be wrapped, and children’s gifts unwrapped, with wrapping paper provided, so parents can see what their children have received.
There are 300 families and individuals signed up to be adopted and so far only 135 people have agreed to adopt them, so there is a serious need. Some are choosing to contribute as a group, with clubs or office workers mutually adopting a family. The families and individuals have been referred by Becoming Independent, Boys and Girls Club, Brown Baggers, Ceres, CASA, FISH, Hanna Boys Center, La Luz Center, Nuestra Voz, Sonoma Overnight Support, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Sonoma Unified School District and Sonoma Valley Teen Services.
If you can’t take on a whole family, you can donate a new toy or two, which can be dropped off at FISH or Rabobank. These will be given to families who did not sign up to be adopted.
The bell ringing campaign is the only FISH fundraiser of the year, and takes place the four weekends before Christmas at Safeway, CVS, Lucky, Sonoma Market and Glen Ellen Market. So far it has raised $3,000, again falling behind previous years at this point.