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Local Groups Launch Toy and Food Drives
By Pat Rose
The holiday season is upon us, and Noe Valley's stores and churches are gearing up to make charitable giving as easy as one-stop shopping.
In mid-November, the Noe Valley Merchants Association will kick off its annual toy drive for the Women and Family Holiday Party sponsored by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The Merchants will put out toy barrels in front of Small Frys clothing store at 4066 24th St. and the Bank of America branch at the corner of 24th and Castro.
Association vice president Carol Yenne, who owns Small Frys, asks that residents please donate new (unwrapped) toys. "We suggest books and games, stuffed animals, or makeup and jewelry for the girls. Also, those Pokémon trading cards are big this year," she says.
Yenne notes that this is the fourth year the Merchants have collected toys for the family party. "It's really heartwarming. A lot of the children and mothers are struggling with AIDS. And what they get in the way of donations during the holidays is a big part of their Christmas."
A variety of donations can also be made down the street at Zephyr Real Estate, 4040 24th St. According to Zephyr sales manager Randall Kostick, his office will set out four different barrels for donations. Two barrels, one for the Child Abuse Council of San Francisco and another for the firm's traditional Toys for Tots drive, will solicit new, unwrapped toys. This year Zephyr will also offer barrels for Project Open Hand and the San Francisco Food Bank. Canned and nonperishable food can be dropped off in each.
"We've been doing the Toys for Tots barrel on 24th Street since we opened here in 1992," says Kostick. "We always have great success -- people drive up and drop off a load of toys and take off. It takes very little space and effort for us to do something we feel is important for the holidays."
The Zephyr barrels will be available from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas. Donations can also be made at Zephyr's 17th Street office.
Churches Plant Giving Trees
The neighborhood's two Catholic churches will solicit food for Thanksgiving and gifts for Christmas. At St. Paul's on Church Street and St. Philip's on Diamond near 24th, residents can donate canned goods or money (in the form of checks) for Thanksgiving baskets for the needy from Nov. 14 to 24. The food baskets are organized and delivered by the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
Both churches will also put up their annual "Giving Trees" on Thanksgiving weekend. The trees list hundreds of names -- along with gender and age -- of senior citizens and children who are in need of Christmas gifts. Residents are asked to take a paper ornament from the tree, purchase an age-appropriate gift, and bring it back to the church with a real ornament for the tree.
"We've been doing this for years," says St. Paul's Mary Tan. "The Mother Teresa sisters have a big party for the Mission neighborhood kids and seniors to distribute the gifts."
For both Thanksgiving and Christmas donations, St. Paul's prefers drop-off on Saturdays and Sundays while the church is open. The deadline for Christmas gifts is Dec. 20. For more information, contact Mary Tan at 648-7538.
St. Philip's donations can be dropped off daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (The church is closed from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.) On weekends, donations will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more details, call Father Michael Healy's office at 282-0141.
Join a Volunteer Brigade
The Noe Valley Ministry at 1021 Sanchez St. will offer a different kind of charity this year. According to Pastor Keenan Kelsey, the Ministry is busy organizing a series of one-time events, which people can volunteer for in groups.
"We're going to offer things like working at a battered women's shelter, hosting a children's party for a children's center [like Head Start], bagging goods at a food bank, or providing holiday cheer at the safe house for prostitutes at Network Ministries," says Kelsey. Residents can choose from a list of activities that take between two and four hours.
"These are targeted one-time activities you can participate in to serve the community between Thanksgiving and Christ-mas. We think we can make a difference sending a group of people to six or eight projects, instead of having people spin off individually," Kelsey says.
The list of volunteer activities will be posted at the Ministry by mid-November. For more information, call 282-2317.