’Tis the season for giving

Elizabeth Arreola, from San Jose, walks a pair of bicycles for a 4-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother from Gilroy, to her car to deliver as part of Community Solutions Holiday Giving Program at a warehouse in Morgan Hill. Community Solutions sponsor

Thirty years ago, an active local nonprofit organization started a modest holiday giving campaign that provided a few local families in need with food baskets.
Fast-forward to December 2013, where volunteers and donors participating in the annual giving effort were able to provide about 150 families and 500 individuals in the area with boxes full of Christmas gifts, toys, clothing and even bicycles.
More than 20 volunteers helped staff at Community Solutions – a leading social services agency that offers a variety of counseling and other services for at-risk and lower-income adults and children in Hollister and neighboring cities – distribute the boxes to the families last week, from a largely unused warehouse space in an industrial section of north Morgan Hill.
Community Solutions Clinical Coordinator ThiVan Nguyen was loading her car up with bicycles outside the warehouse Thursday morning, preparing to deliver them to south San Jose clients she has worked with for two years. Earlier, she delivered a load of gifts to a Gilroy family with whom Nguyen has worked with for most of her four years at Community Solutions.
Nguyen said one of the joys of delivering presents to families is seeing the reactions of the adults, many who haven’t received Christmas gifts since they were children. Nguyen and volunteers at the temporary holiday giving distribution center praised the generosity of local residents and businesses who made this year’s effort one of the most bountiful in the program’s history.
“It’s amazing how generous people were this year,” Nguyen said.
Another testament to the giving nature of the South County community is the flood of new bicycles donated to the Community Solutions program this year. Local companies and nonprofits donated a total of 150 brand new bicycles for Community Solutions families, according to volunteer Mary Beth Anderson.
“Almost every child that asked for a bike will get one,” Anderson said.
She participates in the program because she has been a committed volunteer for a variety of efforts since she was in high school, Anderson added.
“Volunteering is in my heart. This is my Christmas,” she smiled.
Community Solutions’ annual holiday giving program, which serves families in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, San Martin and south San Jose, started in the 1970s, said Anderson, who has helped with the effort for about six years.
Fundraising and donation collections for the winter program take place year-round. In May, Community Solutions had a walkathon fundraiser for the program at the Coyote Creek walking path. A number of Bay Area companies made mass donations of more basic necessities such as toothbrushes and diapers.
The warehouse space which Community Solutions and the volunteers used for 10 days to store the gifts and organize them into boxes for specific families was donated by Rick Raynes, owner of RAR Construction, according to Community Solutions Communications Manager Nicole Parker.
And some more fortunate local families and businesses donated by “adopting” Community Solutions clients and purchasing items for their entire families, Parker explained.
Volunteer Penny Pillman said one reason she has volunteered for the holiday giving program for the last four years is she was once a client of Community Solutions. Pillman, an accountant by trade, also serves as the program’s treasurer.
“It’s amazing to see this warehouse fill up,” Pillman said.
For more information about Community Solutions, including how to donate, visit communitysolutions.org or call (408) 842-7138.

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