By: Tamara Orozco
Every year, United Way Bay Area hosts our Winter Wonderland event, bringing Bay Area families together to celebrate the holidays, build community, and support those who are struggling. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took the necessary precautions, following CDC guidelines and organized a heartfelt, socially distanced Winter Wonderland celebration. This year’s event took on a new level of urgency, as we’ve seen the needs of more families in our community increase over the past several months due to the pandemic.
To meet the need and spread some holiday cheer, we teamed up with our partners, Family Supportive Housing, Union City Family Center, SparkPoint Napa, and SparkPoint Solano. We set up distribution centers and over 100 families picked up gifts, gift cards, and boxes of food provided by donors and sponsors, including BayBridge Capital Group, Deloitte, and Enterprise. Childrens’ eyes lit up at the sight of their gifts which donors had purchased based on wish lists provided by families.
“My favorite moments had to be seeing youths’ eyes widen with pleasant surprise when they asked, “Are these gifts really for me?” and I nodded my head yes,” says UWBA Community Engagement Specialist, Jodie Kench. “Their happiness brought me happiness, and it is these exact moments that truly show how impactful it is to be able to give back and do your part to share the merriment of the holiday season.”
Due to the pandemic, our partner, Family Supportive Housing (FSH), canceled their typical holiday activities but Winter Wonderland allowed them to celebrate safely with the San Jose families they serve. “In past years, we have volunteers come onsite to host holiday workshops for the kids. Meal teams come onsite to prepare wonderful meals for the families and we host a large-scale Christmas shop for parents to “shop” for their families,” says FSH Community Resource Manager, Stephanie Salgado. “This year we had to break that tradition for the safety of our residents, volunteers, and staff. Which is why, Winter Wonderland was so special for us. It gave us the opportunity to safely give joy to the families here at Family Supportive Housing.”
We are thankful to all who participated in and supported Winter Wonderland, helping make this year’s event a safe and joyous one for families. We are encouraged by the strength of our community and those who show the #LiveUnited spirit by supporting their neighbors in most need during these times!