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Know where to give this season: Nonprofits rely on community support
December 20, 2016, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

To those for whom altruism is their favorite holiday accessory, a variety of community-serving nonprofits are urging people to give locally this season.

Whether you want to help a hungry neighbor, a child whose parents are struggling to keep a roof over their head, a woman overcoming domestic violence or a shelter dog looking for a forever home, there’s a host of agencies ready to put your donations to work.

“Think globally, act locally,” said Samaritan House CEO Bart Charlow, who commented on the difference between giving to local nonprofit versus a national charity. “You can see it, you can feel it, it’s immediate. You understand why what you gave was a real value. When you give where you live, it really counts.”

Samaritan House, LifeMoves, St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, Communities Overcoming Relationship Abuse or CORA, and Second Harvest Food Bank are a few examples of charitable organizations relying on donations.

Contributions such as gift cards, new or gently used clothing, appliances, food, new car seats, stocks or bonds, vehicles, diapers, new bedding and sleeping bags, as well as monetary donations are needed year-round. But with the holidays in full steam, nonprofits are hoping the community will rally behind the giving spirit and assist those in need.

CORA Development Officer Marisa Binder said donating to the San Mateo-headquartered nonprofit can having a life-changing impact on those overcoming abuse. Binder said whether or not people are aware, most know someone who has needed help as statistics highlight one in four women and one in seven men experience abuse.

“When you’re donating locally you’re really helping your neighbor … you’re helping kids that may be in school with your kids” Binder said. “Making sure everyone has a safe environment really benefits your community.”

Around the holidays, CORA is especially appreciative of gift cards — such as for Target, Safeway or gas stations — so as to provide clients with the ability to make decisions on what are their most pertinent needs. The prospect of choice can be particularly empowering to those who recently escaped an abusive situation, Binder said.

Holidays cheer helps year-round

For many of the local nonprofits, the holiday season is critical to their year-round work. LifeMoves manages shelters in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and raises almost half of its estimated $7 million in annual private contributions during the holidays, said Amy Wright, vice president of development.

“It’s imperative that we reach people during the giving season to help us raise the funding we need for programs year-round,” Wright said.

LifeMoves houses 750 people, nearly half of whom are children, between Daly City and San Jose. With sky-high housing costs, providing shelter and household goods can help families save money and work toward stability.

Other than financial contributions, which provide the most flexibility to meeting clients’ needs, LifeMoves also accepts household items to furnish shelters or are given to families moving out on their own. It needs new or gently-used blankets or linens, brand-new pillows, dishes, silverware, pots and pans, as well as functioning household items like small appliances, Wright said.

Samaritan House is also hoping to appeal to the community’s generosity as 70 percent of the nonprofit’s budget is privately funded, Charlow said.

“Those donations are our lifeblood,” he said, later adding cash provides flexibility. “Donations from the community are what enables us to be creative and nimble in meeting those needs of the folks that are in dire distress.”

The San Mateo-headquartered nonprofit offers a range of programs, meals, shelter services, financial literacy classes and more. It accepts new or nearly new clothing for children and teens but not adults. It also needs new sleeping bags, working electronics such as cellphones or computers, bicycles, towels and new home cleaning or hygiene products. It accepts a variety of food or cooking items that are listed on its website.

A variety of ways to give

Those looking to donate a used vehicle or stock, who want to make a contribution from a retirement account or want to list a nonprofit as a beneficiary to their estate, are also encouraged to contact these charities directly.

HealthRight 360, which manages the Women’s Recovery Association in San Mateo, also receives a good 35 percent of its annual financial donations during November and December, said Director of Advancement Jeffrey Schindler. Outside of monetary support, the women and children served by the nonprofit can also benefit from new or gently used warm clothing, Schindler said.

For those who have larger household goods they’d like to donate, St. Vincent de Paul accepts a range of items in addition to money. Along with clothing, the nonprofit takes furniture, working electronics like televisions or defrosted refrigerators, books and more. The nonprofit accepts donations at its various San Mateo County locations and pickups can also be scheduled.

If you want to clean out your pantry or help ensure thousands of needy families are well fed, givers should consider Second Harvest Food Bank. The nonprofit helps residents in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and contributes to other agencies such as Samaritan House.

For those wanting to help out a furry companion, the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA can turn a variety of donations into support for needy animals. The PHS primarily thrives off monetary donations and volunteers. It also operates a Burlingame thrift shop where proceeds from used clothing, household items, furniture, jewelry and more go toward benefiting the nonprofit.

PHS is the county’s largest animal welfare organization that operates independently, meaning it receives no support from national organizations, said spokeswoman Michele Moyer.

“PHS/SPCA provides warm beds, nutritious food, veterinary care and loving attention for the thousands of lost, stray, unwanted and/or injured domestic and wild animals that come through our doors each year. We depend on the support of community members and concerned animal lovers to help us provide for these animals in need,” Moyer said in an email.

Becoming a member, donating in a person’s memory, bequests and other contributions given directly to the PHS are great ways to help San Mateo County critters. The PHS is also in urgent need of gently-used or new towels, unstuffed blankets and sweaters for shelter dogs, all of which can be dropped off at their Coyote Point facility, Moyer said.

The best way to give this holiday season and beyond is to contact the various nonprofits or visit their websites to see what items are currently in demand, where or when to drop off donations, and other information about what is accepted. Visit,,,,, for more information.



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