Lynn Robinson, the executive director of Valley Churches United, has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. In addition to the success of their Sidewalk Holiday Gift Shop, the nonprofit has a new list of benefactors with whom to share its gratitude: contributors to the Santa Cruz Gives fundraising event.
The holiday fundraising program founded in 2015 has encouraged tax-free, project-based giving over the past six years, resulting in a shift towards “modern fundraising,” and supports area nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre and the Alzheimer’s Association.
This year, Robinson’s group is thrilled to be part of the program.
“We don’t have the same name recognition as other large organizations, so we’re really thrilled to be in such great company. It’s tough to get the word out about our programs, especially when we’re in the crunch time of the holidays, so we appreciate the opportunity to share what we do,” said Robinson.
The agency is finding its footing amongst the other nonprofits on the website’s leaderboard, with nearly $800,000 raised since the fundraising kickoff in November.
“Currently,” said Robinson, “we have about $5,000 in dedicated donations to us. If we can get closer to $10,000 that would be a huge win for our program.”
Robinson reminds readers that the agency’s main goal is to keep the community pantry stocked for those in need year-round, but that need increases exponentially around the holidays.
“In November, we served 391 families, and 785 individuals,” Robinson said. “Those numbers always go up in December, so we appreciate any donations that come our way.”
In addition to keeping food on the shelves, the agency also provides financial help to locals who are struggling, with special attention being dedicated to CZU fire victims.
While Santa Cruz Gives supports nonprofits of any size, its backing comes from well-known behemoth sponsors like the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, Driscoll’s Berries, Santa Cruz County Bank, and the Good Times (sister publication of the Press Banner). The 2020 campaign brought in over $700,000, and 2021 has proved to be even more successful, which makes Robinson overjoyed in the face of hardships that she knows local residents have endured.
“There are 80 nonprofits participating, so we’re watching our own hometown find its footing. It’s an honor to be part of the program,” she said.
But Santa Cruz Gives isn’t the only messenger of hope for Valley Churches United. Schools within the Scotts Valley Unified School District are holding a canned food drive benefitting the nonprofit.
“We’ve been hosting the canned food drive for over 20 years; as of Dec. 8, Vine Hill students collected nearly 6,000 cans of food,” said Michele Sanguinetti, a kindergarten teacher at Vine Hill School.
Brook Knoll, Scotts Valley Middle School and Scotts Valley High School all participated in the event this year. There was no canned food drive in 2020 due to the virtual learning environment caused by Covid-19.
The classroom with the most canned food donations collected will receive a trophy and a pizza party, but the real winner is Valley Churches United.
“We are recognized for serving a portion of the county that is traditionally underserved,” said Robinson. “I see how engaged the staff is at the Good Times, and how dedicated they are to making sure that this is a successful event. It’s a great experience for everyone involved, and for agencies like ours who are operating on a skeleton staff, we can get spread pretty thin. Fundraisers like this can make all the difference for us.”
Want to throw your checkbook in the ring? Santa Cruz Gives is accepting donations through Dec. 31. To contribute, visit santacruzgives.org.