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Sonoma Valley Holiday Program ready to roll

How can I help?

Gifts can be dropped off at Santa’s Workshop (301 First St. W.) before 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

The Workshop is open:

Saturday, Dec. 9 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m.

Donate online at svholiday.org/donate/

Volunteers needed. Register at svholiday.org/volunteer-registration/.

Constance Grizzell and Diana Bugg are positively brimming with holiday cheer. Standing in the frosty confines of the Sonoma Valley Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program’s (SVHP) Winter Wonderland the pair are simply aglow with the notions of giving.

“There are so many families in need now. The fires have impacted our most vulnerable residents severely,” said Grizzell. “We’ve doubled our outreach but are ready to meet the demand.”

Now in its fifth year, the Sonoma Valley Holiday Adopt-a-Family Program launched in 2013 as a way to provide a special holiday season for Sonoma Valley residents – individuals and families – who might otherwise go without gifts.

With a mission to serve locals in need including low-income families, emancipated youth, the elderly, and those living with homelessness or disability, the program would not be possible without the efforts of very generous donors, volunteers and, yes, shoppers.

“This is community helping community,” said Bugg. “There is a wonderful one-to-one connection to our program that really resonates with people. Adoptive families know they are helping to give things that a family truly needs.”

There are 15 nonprofits that funnel adoptive families toward the program’s doors and the “doubling” Grizzell refers to means there are now 400 families – and 350 individuals – who need help this holiday season (up from 125 families in 2016).

The Program in Action

For Pedro and his family, the SVHP has made the holidays much easier.

“Everyone in our family sacrifices for the holidays,” says Pedro. “It’s not like we’ve not been able to put food on the table or anything like that. But, with four kids in our family, it’s made a difference in terms of not having to overspend or go into debt to provide a nice holiday.”

Pedro also remembers receiving a bed courtesy of the SVHP which “changed his life.”

“I slept on a couch in the living room from when I was 4 years old until I was 15 and received the bed. My back has improved and it’s great to have a place for my friends to hang out. My dogs like to jump on it, too.”

The program works like this. Go to the SVHP website – SVholiday.org – to apply for and receive a family’s Wish List. People can choose between a family or an individual including a senior, a teen, etc. Next, start shopping for their gifts. Any number of adopters can help a family so groups of people – co-workers, neighbors, friends, a classroom – can get in on the action together. For instance, both Prestwood Elementary and Presentation schools have adopted 25 families each.

The suggested budget is $100 per family member or individual but Grizzell noted that many people spend more. “But if that budget is too high, we are happy to contribute to it as well. We don’t want to turn away adopters who want to help but may not be able to spend that amount.”

If shopping isn’t your thing, there are still ways to participate. People can make a financial donation and choose between an individual, a family or whomever needs the most help.

Ginny and Larry Krieger have adopted a family for the past four years, making a donation and choosing to have shoppers handle the details. Says Ginny, “In the spirit of the holidays and to quote the old adage, it truly is better to give than to receive. For our family, exchanging material things isn’t as satisfying as knowing we are helping somebody else.”

How can I help?

Gifts can be dropped off at Santa’s Workshop (301 First St. W.) before 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

The Workshop is open:

Saturday, Dec. 9 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m.

Donate online at svholiday.org/donate/

Volunteers needed. Register at svholiday.org/volunteer-registration/.

If neither of these options fills your stocking, volunteer with the program instead. There are a myriad of opportunities – from elves and shoppers to gift wrappers and the Winter Wonderland Work Party – to be found at the volunteer link on the website.

Winter Wonderland

With retail space generously donated by the Niles family, the former Sandox children’s consignment store in the Marketplace Shopping Center has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland complete with snowy trees, a reindeer, frosty windows and more. The space will function as Santa’s headquarters with entertainment, a storyteller, a magician, art projects and the jolly one himself. Kids can have their picture taken with Santa and families are given the opportunity to write a thank you note to their adoptive family when they pick up their gifts.

“We want this to be a respectful, joyous occasion. Not have it feel like a hand out,” said Grizzell, who is also looking for donations of new books so that children may pick out their own reading material. Bugg added that bicycles are especially needed for those children who lost theirs in the fires.

So, whatever fits your fancy, helping others is certainly the name of the game this holiday season. To get in on the action, go to SVholiday.org.