“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.” -Shannon L. Alder

There’s a little excitement in the air at Empower Yolo with the holidays around the corner. In addition to providing services staff members are busy preparing to help clients and families in need for the holidays. Every year so many thoughtful and generous donors come to the doors of our humble and bustling agency toting gifts, holiday treats, and other donations for clients. Empower Yolo’s holiday giving programs provide wonderful opportunities to give back to the community and support survivors and families in need in very meaningful ways.

“When mothers at the shelter receive gifts for their children for the holidays it means so much to their families,” says Sonia Jimenez, shelter director, Empower Yolo. “It’s more than just a gift to these families. It means others in the community are thinking of them during the holidays and it’s a reminder that they are not alone. Most of all it brings them happiness to see the joy in their children’s faces which is priceless. For many of the moms and children this is the first time they feel some peace and joy during the holidays,” says Jimenez.

Being at the shelter during the holidays in unfamiliar surroundings without family and friends can be very difficult for clients. Many of the children at the shelter are worried or anxious because they are not at home during the holidays. The staff works really hard to make things special for the families residing at the shelter especially for the children.

Jimenez recalls a favorite client story last year during the holidays.

“There were twin boys staying at the safe house last year at Christmas time and they were both really sad because they believed Santa wouldn’t find them because shelter staff would teach them about confidentiality and told them the shelter was in a safe, private location. One day the shelter received a Christmas donation of a big blow up carousel and we placed it in the backyard. Both boys had the biggest smiles on their faces and everyday they would look outside the window thinking it was the most beautiful Christmas present they had ever seen. That year we also surprised the boys with Christmas presents from our generous ‘Adopt a Family’ donors and they couldn’t believe Santa had found them. It ended up being a very happy and memorable Christmas for them.”

Celebrating the holidays with the families at the shelter by putting up a Christmas tree, decorating the shelter, receiving gifts from the ‘Adopt a Family’ program, and making a special meal, is very meaningful to them.

“Our safe house staff puts together a dinner on Christmas eve and a brunch on Christmas day. All the families enjoy opening their gifts and then they all gather for a Christmas brunch. It’s a wonderful way to build community in the shelter and brings joy to the families during a difficult time for them,” says Jimenez.

Empower Yolo’s annual ‘Adopt a Family’ program is underway. Staff members sponsor certain clients and their children that they are working with. Clients fill out specific wishlists with needs and wants that serve as a guideline. Donors then sign up to ‘adopt’ clients and families in need. Many donors participate in the program with their families, co-workers, groups of friends, church groups, sororities, and/or sports teams. “It’s an elaborate but special program; and we are grateful for our wonderful donors. The meaning of it goes beyond the gifts because it shows clients that their community truly supports them,” says Jimenez.

Another part of Empower Yolo’s holiday program is giving from our general wishlists for moms, teens, Santa’s playroom at the shelter, and Rooms to Go. General wishlist gifts are really helpful to Empower Yolo’s holiday team. Many donors like giving from the general wishlists because they are more flexible and work well with groups. “Having general gifts are always helpful because as an emergency safe house we never know when families will come in. We often have many last minute families that come to the safe house during the holidays, but are not able to fill out wishlists. These gifts help us make the holidays special for these clients as well,” says Jimenez.

Community members can help by adopting a family, or donating from the general wishlists. Supporters can also donate meals (grocery gift cards to any grocery store, or already prepared meals), or items from the wishlist on our website.

All of Empower Yolo’s holiday giving programs are meaningful ways to give back this holiday season. “These special ways to give truly go beyond the material items. It brings our families hope and peace as they all receive gifts they were not expecting, and they know people in our community are thinking of them during this challenging time,” says Jimenez.

Please see more details about Empower Yolo’s holiday giving programs:

Adopt a Family: Each year Empower Yolo coordinates an “Adopt a Family” program during the holiday season where donors can confidentially adopt clients in need for holiday gifts.  This is truly a wonderful program that brings so much joy to our clients and their children, and shows them how much the community supports them. To adopt a family wishlist contact: [email protected].

General giving wishlists: Donating items from our general wishlists offer larger groups (such as work teams, school and church groups, and sports teams) more flexibility in giving together. We have general giving lists for “Mothers for the Holidays”, “Teens for the Holidays”, “Santa’s Playroom at the Shelter” and “Rooms to Go”.  Our clients can always use these items, and we often get last minute clients and families during the holidays where these gift items are greatly appreciated.  The shelter and housing team are especially in need of “Rooms to Go” items and new Pack ‘n Play donations.

Holiday meals: The shelter is in need of grocery gift cards to make warm holiday meals for clients and their families.  Grocery gift cards to Grocery Outlet, Safeway or Nugget of any denomination are greatly appreciated.

Amazon Smile: If you shop on Amazon shop smile.amazon.com choose “Empower Yolo Inc.” in Woodland as the non-profit to support, or you can find us at: smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3027535. Shop as you normally would and Empower Yolo will receive a percentage of eligible purchases, which is an easy way to support Empower Yolo.

Holiday and year-end giving: financial donations are always helpful in supporting needs that come up for clients that grant funding cannot cover. Make a donation in honor of or in memory of a loved one or survivor you know. Make a holiday or year-end gift any time at empoweryolo.org.

To “Adopt a Family”, request a general giving wishlist, or for questions contact: [email protected], or call (530) 661-6336.  Donations can be dropped off at 175 Walnut Street in Woodland, or 441 D Street in Davis during office hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information about holiday giving visit: empoweryolo.org.

Every donation whether financial or in-kind makes a difference in the work Empower Yolo does and when we come together as a community we can make a lasting change on behalf of survivors and families in need that goes beyond the gifts and lets our clients know they are not alone.

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