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A Millionth Milestone

A Millionth Milestone

“Thank you for the pillow pet,” read Lena. “I did not have a pillow to sleep with. Now I have my ladybug pillow and it’s so soft. I got a book with it. It’s about space because I like looking at the stars and learning about space.”

Paul read another letter. “Thank you for the books. I got to keep them. I had to leave all my books when we left our house. We stayed at the shelter. We are safe here but I miss my books. You made me so happy I cried. Thank you for thinking of me this Christmas.”

These letters are just examples of the impact Family Giving Tree, a Milpitas-based non-profit, has on the children it helps. This year it reached an important milestone.

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“This year, our 23rd annual Holiday Wish Drive, we’ll be helping our one millionth child,” said Jennifer Cullenbine, FGT co-founder along with Todd Yoshida at a December 10 ribbon-cutting attending by 300 supporters, donors and volunteers at the organization’s temporary Cupertino warehouse. Dignitaries included Cupertino City Council member Rod Sinks and Milpitas Mayor Jose “Joe” Esteves. NBC Bay Area’s weekday morning traffic anchor, Mike Inouye, took on the role of emcee for the event.

“What we do is incredibly valuable, I know it is,” said Cullenbine. “It happened to me when I was seven-years-old. Some people that I’ll never meet and never be able to thank helped our family and it really does make a difference. The little bit of hope and the little bit of joy and the little bit of love from people that you’ll never meet, it’s worth it. It’s amazing.”

Tonie Hansen, NVIDIA’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility talked about the company’s dedication to FGT. “Many of us in the room are fortunate…to have our friends and family close by in the holiday season and as we get older we realize it’s less about receiving physical gifts and more about creating memories with the ones we love. But we can all remember the days when we were children when we had slightly different priorities and slightly different needs, and there was that special gift that we just had to have. And every child, no matter what holiday they celebrate, deserves to have that special gift. That’s why the work at the Family Giving Tree is so critical and why NVIDIA’s employees have been passionate supporters of Family Giving Tree since 2005…having…provided more than $650,000 worth of financial and in-kind support to the organization’s efforts, one of many local corporations that have made the Holiday Wish Drive a tradition.”

Simple Process, but with Mind-Boggling Results
Each holiday season, low-income children registered with social service agencies are asked what they want during the holidays. FGT is able to give each child their specific gift wish. FGT’s 2012 goal was to help 70,000 children through 300 agencies – up from nearly 67,000 in 2011. The system is seemingly simple, but the results continue to be mind-boggling.

The children’s wishes are printed on cards and distributed to host companies for employees and customers to take, buy a present, attach the card to the gift, and return. The gifts are then brought to the FGT warehouse, sorted and wrapped by more than 7,000 volunteers. The gifts are picked up by the participating agencies and presented to the children the agencies serve. Gifts began arriving at the warehouse on December 11 and agencies began picking them up on December 15. The warehouse closed on December 22 so the staff and volunteers could enjoy the holiday knowing they helped make a difference in the lives of so many. On December 26, the warehouse reopened for cleanup so it could be returned to its owners who donated the space. By January 4, 2013, there won’t be any sign the building was used as a warehouse.

For more information on Family Giving Tree, visit www.FamilyGivingTree.org.

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