For the past 60 years the nonsectarian Christmas Bureau has brought holiday cheer to tens of thousands of the often forgotten low-income members of the Palo Alto community.
Beginning in 1955, at the instigation of school nurses and staff who daily saw children in the Palo Alto Unified School District slipping through the cracks, the Bureau quietly collected toys, gifts and foods to distribute to families at Christmas time. In the ensuing years the Bureau moved to a check distribution policy which enables families the dignity of deciding for themselves their greatest needs. In recent years, the program has expanded beyond families to include seniors and the homeless community.
As the thank-you letters to the Bureau testify, these needs may vary from “I was able to get new tires for my wheelchair” (from a senior) or “I was able to buy gifts for my children after receiving your surprise gift!” or “Your check came just in time to buy a warm coat.”
The all volunteer 15-member Board of Directors makes it possible for approximately 98% of the funds collected to pass directly through to individuals and families. The other approximate 2% goes for mailing supplies, stamps and Web support. Board members bring skills from educational, business, legal, and non-profit backgrounds.
In the fall, the Bureau seeks referrals from cooperating social service and public agencies, conducts a fund drive starting in November, and culminates its work in early December with two all-day sessions of writing checks and mailing them to over 2700 individuals.