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Patch Picks: 5 Local Organizations Making a Difference in the Community

These five nonprofit organizations are helping to make local communities a better place—and, if you have the time or the funds, they could use your help.

As the summer season begins its inevitable goodbye, and the last of the vacations come to an end for many of us. Life starts shaping up into a new—albeit, sometimes, crazy and chaotic—routine.

As the pace quickens, you may start thinking again about that one New Year’s resolution you’ve been meaning to get around to, at some point: Giving back.

If you’ve had that nagging feeling in the back of your brain lately that you’d like to do a little more to give back to causes that need support, or local organizations that make your town a better place, Patch would like to help you out by suggesting a few.

The following is a Patch Picks list of five organizations that work tirelessly to help make Los Altos and Los Altos Hills (and our neighbors Palo Alto and Mountain View) a better place for all of us to live. We give a description of what each organization does, as well as list ways you can support them if you happen to find the time or a little extra money that you can spare (that could also help earn you a nice tax deduction before the end of the year).

This is, by no means, a complete list—rather, it’s just a starting-off point. Know a great local organization not mentioned here, that you think people should know about? Please tell us in the comments, and Patch will do our best to try and mention that organization in the future.

1. PARTNERS FOR NEW GENERATIONS (PNG)

PNG is a local, volunteer-based organization that supports the schools in the Mountain View and Los Altos school districts. Funded solely through donations, the group employs two part-time mentor coordinators, and relies heavily on its volunteer base of around 150 local residents. The group provides tutoring to elementary and middle school students, both during the day under the supervision of classroom teachers, as well as in after-school programs. The tutoring supports a wide base of learning for regular school subjects such as writing, math and science, to support for non-English speakers struggling to learn the language. For high school students, PNG provides mentors to help students feel connected to their school and the adults in their lives, feel supported socially and emotionally, and provide advice and inspiration as they move forward in their high school career and beyond. Tutoring can also be provided to help students pass the high school exit exams and ensure they receive their diploma.

How can you help PNG? PNG is always in need of support, both financially and from volunteers interested in tutoring or mentoring local students. Fill out the volunteer form on PNG’s website to get more information sent to you, or you can always make a donation to help ensure PNG can continue its work in our local communities.

 

2. LOS ALTOS COMMUNITY FOUNDATION (LACF)

The Los Altos Community Foundation, founded in 1991, is dedicated to building a better community both through its own activities and by supporting existing civic, cultural and educational organizations in the city. Proponents call it Los Altos best-kept secret for the number of efforts it supports. It gives other groups their start with its non-profit status, and directly has had a hand in many others. Thanks to its special classification by the IRS, LACF supports a variety of programs funded through charitable contributions and bequests from individuals, families, businesses and other nonprofits, targeted for funding local community programs in the greater Los Altos area. LACF can act as a fiscal sponsor, assisting in the management of funds related to community–based funding campaigns, and can offer services for donors to support civic, cultural and educational activities in the community. Some of the community initiatives LACF helps to support include the Bus Barn Stage Co., day worker support, education projects, leadership training programs, mediation services, teen mentoring and many more. It sponsors a Los Altos leadership program and teaches youths about how they can practice philanthropy.

How can you help LACF? Community members can become “LACF Founders” through a one-time donation of $1,000, which can be paid in installments, or can establish their own fund within the organization to help support a variety of local philanthropies. Also, the LACF is holding its 20th anniversary “Roaring 20s Gala” this Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Stonebrook Court Estate in Los Altos Hills. The costume party will feature a sit-down dinner, live jazz entertainment, dancing and casino games. There's also a silent auction with trips and sporting events for bid. Tickets are $175 each, or $1,750 for a table of 10, and funds derived from the event will go to grants, projects and programs provided by LACF to strengthen weaknesses and fill gaps in areas of need within the community, including services to schools, children and teens, our aging population, and the community at-large. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit LACF's website.

 

3. COMMUNITY SERVICES AGENCY (CSA)

Even in the seemingly most stable situations, hardship can strike a family. That's when, for more than 50 years, CSA has been there. CSA provides vital social services to residents of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to help restore self-sufficiency when fortunes change. CSA's clients range from a young, working, poor couple, to an elderly resident in need of support or companionship. Emergency assistance can include food, help with unexpected car repairs or one-time help paying a bill, to temporary shelter or help with medical, dental or vision care. Senior services aim to help the elderly remain independent and provide geriatric care, including help running errands such as grocery shopping or providing transportation to and from medical appointments.

How can you help CSA? CSA has drives throughout the year in which community members can help with specific requests, such as the Backpack Drive at the start of each new school year or the Holiday Sharing Program in December, to help make a struggling family's holidays brighter. However, people can make monetary donations to CSA any time of the year, and CSA is always in need of volunteers. People are always needed in a variety of capacities including working in the food pantry, transporting seniors to medical appointments or errands, and more.

 

4. LOS ALTOS ART DOCENTS

The Los Altos Art Docents started around 40 years ago, as a way of bringing engaging and motivating art classes to schools in the Los Altos School District. Today, this large group of roughly 80 volunteer art teachers works in classrooms throughout the district, teaching art in a way that expands and motivates the development of creativity and curiosity in our local children, engages their imagination and helps build upon their technical art skills. The Art Docents help fill gaps in local classrooms affected by budget cuts, and help foster an important commitment to arts education in our community, whereas it might otherwise fall to the wayside.

How can you help the Los Altos Art Docents? If you like art, and you like children, you can volunteer to be an Art Docent. No formal training or expertise is needed; the organization will provide all the training you need. A two-year commitment to the program is required. Visit the Art Docent website for more information—or, you can attend an informational coffee with the Art Docents on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 10-11 a.m. at , 205 Covington Road.

 

5. PALO ALTO HUMANE SOCIETY (PAHS)

The Palo Alto Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable, volunteer-supported organization. PAHS is one of the few humane societies nationwide with no animal shelter. Instead of managing animals inside a shelter, the organization works to keep animals out of shelters through humane programs in intervention, advocacy, and education. PAHS’ mission has been, over the past century, to alleviate the suffering of animals, increase public sensitivity to animal issues, and elevate the status of animals in local communities.

How can you help PAHS? Financial donation programs are in place that allow people to donate money in a number of ways, including Employer Matching Gift Programs, the annual donor program, one-time donations through JustGive, Humane Ambassador Gift Cards that allow you to give someone else a gift by making a donation in his or her name, and even ways for you to leave “estate gifts” to PAHS when you pass away. PAHS also hosts an Animal Art Gallery, in which anywhere from 30-100 percent of the proceeds go back to PAHS, and the organization is also a beneficiary of other local retailers that donate a portion of their proceeds to charities, such as Kepler’s Books stores throughout the Bay Area, which donate 10 percent back to PAHS when you mention them at checkout. There are many more ways to support PAHS than we could possibly mention here, so visit the website for a more complete description of the many opportunities.

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