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Pandemic Prescribes New Approaches for Charities’ Holiday Programs

Local non-profits are finding new ways to organize well-loved Santa Clara programs, making their events virtual and designing new programs. While families won’t be enjoying familiar holiday events, they won’t be losing out on the help that’s more important this year than ever before.


Soroptimists Christmas Store: Special Delivery

One of Santa Clara’s most popular holiday programs is Silicon Valley Soroptimist Club’s Christmas Store where shoppers never get a bill. But the pandemic meant that the program would have to operate very differently this year.


“We were saying maybe we wouldn’t do it this year,” said club past-president Birdie Pacelli. “But then we realized that this year it’s more important than ever. There are more families in difficulties.”

So the Soroptimists retooled the Holiday Store as a Special Delivery program. Instead of families coming to the store, the club sent the store to them, pre-packaged. Club members packed bags with toys, blankets, small appliances, winter clothes, grocery gift certificates and dental hygiene kits.

The packed bags were delivered to schools, which then distributed the gifts to the families.

“What a great feeling it is to be able to continue this annual tradition even during this most unusual time,” said event co-chair Marilee Dunn.

“The success of this project was due to the dedication of the members who were active in helping families during this pandemic. We are grateful to Scott Lane Elementary School who assisted us in this project, SISCSV members and my co-chair Norma Elena Rios.”

Funding for the Soroptimists’ Christmas Store came from the proceeds of its annual fundraising event, The Classy Bag Affaire. This year the club won’t be holding the event and will be launching a virtual fundraiser early in 2021.

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49ers Foundation: Fighting a Digital Divide Worsened by Pandemic

When school goes online, disadvantaged children are faced with another obstacle to learning. In addition to increased family housing and food insecurity, they also suffer from unequal access to computers and the Internet.

That’s why the 49ers Foundation is hosting a month-long Season of Giving focused on fighting this digital divide.

“Distance learning revealed a huge problem in our country: the significant lack of technology available to kids, specifically in under-resourced areas,” said 49ers Foundation Executive Director Justin Prettyman. “We’ve also seen a lack of curriculum and digital content available for teachers. That’s what the 49ers Foundation is looking to change.”

The Foundation’s Season kicked off with the team’s fourth Holiday Sports Auction on Giving Tuesday (12/1). During December, the 49ers also held several sweepstakes where fans could win unique holiday gifts.

Among the programs that will be supported are the Foundation’s two educational programs, 49ers PREP and 49ers EDU, which are developing 1,500 hours of K-8 video content for classroom use.

The team also sponsored 12 Days of Giving, which kicked off Dec. 13. Each day 49ers players and staff held a specific event. Some of these include: Meals at JW House delivers by players and their families, a Holiday Drive-In showing of Elf for military families, virtual robot visits, holiday meals and U.S. Bank-funded $490 gift cards for minority-owned businesses.

“Pre-pandemic, there were already many people struggling and, unfortunately, the number of people needing the support of community programs has grown exponentially since March,” said 49ers Director Community Relations Stacy McCorkle. “The 49ers hope to brighten our community’s spirits with these acts of service.”

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Rotary Brings This Year’s Christmas to Kids  

Another well-loved Santa Clara holiday program is Santa Clara Rotary Club’s Christmas for Kids. This year Rotary took the party with Santa outdoors with a Winter Wonderland drive-through event.

The Club was exploring several alternatives to the annual party, but when the second lockdown was imposed, as club president Mike Sellers put it, “We went to Plan E. With the county restrictions we had to go really basic.”

Held in the Wilson school parking lot, families drove in and children registered their coat sizes and picked three gifts. While the guests enjoyed the Wonderland and Santa from their cars, Rotarians packed the bags — including extra treats — and delivered them to each car’s trunk.

“At least the kids will get a coat and toys, even though they won’t have the fun of a holiday party,” said Sellers. “The kids are the bottom line.”

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