Tech layoffs, high mortgage rates and lingering inflation may have put a cloud over the holiday season, but it didn’t dampen the generosity of Mercury News Wish Book readers. The holiday campaign celebrated its 40th birthday, but it was those readers who delivered the gifts — providing more than $772,000 in donations for worthy causes.
Wish Book and Share the Spirit — its companion campaign in the East Bay Times — raised a combined $1.3 million, the fourth consecutive year that donations have topped seven figures. Contributions ranged from a few dollars to five-figure sums, with many Silicon Valley companies providing matching funds.
Bay Area News Group Publisher Sharon Ryan expressed her gratitude to all the community members who contributed to the campaign.
“We are honored to partner with our readers in service to those in need across Silicon Valley,” she said. “Wish Book is one of the most important ways the Mercury News supports our communities every year.”
Dee Dee Robillard, community projects director for the Bay Area News Group, noted there were lots of new contributors joining the many repeat donors who have made giving to Wish Book part of their year-end giving plan, including some who have given for most, if not all, of the 40 years Wish Book has been published. There were also many tribute gifts made in memory of Mr. Roadshow, reporter Gary Richards, following his death in December.
“It’s amazing when we get the big gifts, and it’s amazing when we get the gifts of $5, and everything in between, because each is meaningful to the giver, and combined is going to be a great deal of help in the local community,” Robillard said.
Pratima Gupta, a co-founder of Helping Hands Silicon Valley, gives a pedicure to Mir Sayed, a 94-year-old blind man living at a Motel 6 in Sunnyvale, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Readers were also moved by the stories shared by Mercury News reporters and photographers. One that really resounded was that of Helping Hands Silicon Valley, a Sunnyvale nonprofit founded in 2020 that aims to “empower and uplift the most vulnerable in our community by providing comprehensive support, resources and opportunities to regain their independence and thrive.”
Helping Hands asked for $30,000 to provide 250 nights of hotel rooms for their clients, specifically lodging for 10 to 14 seniors who are living outdoors during the 20 to 25 days of serious inclement weather Santa Clara County experiences each year. The nonprofit also arranges rides to medical appointments, assists with job searches and runs a Saturday program focusing on food, hygiene and clothing.
“There are all these challenges, and I don’t know how they would do it on their own,” Pratima Gupta, who co-founded Helping Hands with Alpana Agarwal, told reporter Jim Harrington.
Thanks to Mercury News Wish Book readers who fulfilled their wish, they won’t have to.
Gerardo “G” Garay, top, a personal trainer at the Timpany Center, works with Kenny Prieto, who has cerebral palsy, in the pool at the center in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 24, 2023. Wish Book for the Timpany Center which is a partnership between Santa Clara County and San Jose State University. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
Other stories that prompted a strong response included that of the Timpany Center at San Jose State, which thanks to readers will be able to purchase new and more accessible fitness equipment to provide movement therapy for people with disabilities and other opportunities for those without them, and Martha’s Kitchen, which is continuing its decades-long mission to feed the hungry.
Donations will also allow Maintenance for Moms to provide a working car for 24 low-income single mothers and their families in Santa Clara County and Abode, a nonprofit that helps homeless and low-income people gain stable housing, will be able to provide move-in kits with furniture, bedding, kitchenware and hygienic supplies to 125 new households.
For some grantees, just being featured in Wish Book can have a lasting positive impact. Jim Gardner, the founder and CEO of Good Karma Bikes, said he felt like the nonprofit was really put on the map when it was first featured in Wish Book in 2013. This year, Good Karma sought $20,000 to cover the cost of refurbishing donated bicycles, more than half of which are then provided free to low-income clients who could use a stable, eco-friendly means of transportation.
Wish Book readers also came through for Good Karma, which lost an entire quarter financially last year when it had to move from its former location on Lincoln Avenue to a new spot on Montgomery Street near SAP Center. But after the story was published, Gardner said Good Karma also saw a bump in direct year-end donations of both money and bicycles — and made some key contacts that could lead to additional outside funding in the coming year.
“The recognition from Wish Book, from the publication in San Jose, says an organization is worthy of public support,” Gardner said. “To me, that’s the main thing and it’s amazing.”