Wish Book readers make a huge difference from community
Despite the deep economic uncertainties in 2022, Wish Book readers generously donated more than $900,000 to the Mercury News’ annual holiday campaign, making a big impact on their neighbors who faced even greater challenges.
“This remarkable result is a testament to the power of local journalism partnered with the generosity of our community members,” Bay Area News Group Publisher Sharon Ryan said.
Wish Book and Share the Spirit, its sister campaign in the East Bay Times, raised a combined $1.5 million, marking the third consecutive banner year that donations have topped seven figures. Donations ranged from a few dollars to $100,000, with many Silicon Valley companies providing matching funds.
One story that particularly captured the attention of readers detailed the plight of Mariana Garmash and her two young boys, who fled war-torn Ukraine and found themselves in a gap as refugees without refugee status so were unable to receive certain federal services. That’s where Jewish Family Services of Silicon Valley stepped in, and readers fulfilled the agency’s $30,000 “wish” to support its program to provide housing and food assistance, counseling services, and school and camp scholarships to families like Mariana’s.
“The amount of funding we get from the federal government is not sufficient to provide what they need,” said Susan Frazer, the new CEO of Jewish Family Services. “That’s why Wish Book is so paramount to our efforts.”
Frazer said that the support they provide — similar to what they have provided to Afghan refugees for years — inspired a new positive development: Ukrainians taking English-language classes through Jewish Family Services are making connections. “They’re forming their own communities of support, which is super powerful for them. It gives them a sense of empowerment and normalcy, but it also provides them with reassurance that there’s value to who they are.”
Jewish Family Services expects to aid at least 250 families this year, and Frazer said they are grateful for the help from Wish Book readers because they know the need will only increase as the war in Ukraine approaches the start of its second year. Initially, the agency was seeing young couples coming to California, but now there are more families, and often extended families — with mothers, children, grandparents and aunts — who are making the journey as the men in the family stay behind to fight.
Others also were moved by the urgent needs of many of our longtime residents, including those served by the Hearts & Minds Activity Center in San Jose. Wish Book readers gave generously to the organization, allowing it to provide 300 days of adult social day care and caregiver respite services from economically vulnerable clients who suffer from dementia.
“Dementia is a disease that causes isolation, as it progresses people don’t keep up with family or friends,” Hearts & Minds staff member Maria Nicolacoudis told reporter Aldo Toledo. “You’ll have dementia patients often sit there at functions or social situations and not say anything. Everyone may be talking about their vacation or something, but they tense up and say, ‘I don’t know,’ and isolate themselves. Here they have a social group.”
Hunger was another topic that struck a chord, with strong donations coming for Loaves and Fishes to provide 20,000 meals to those in need and for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley to support its farmers market-style food distribution program. Readers also responded to the story of Austin and Rachel Reagan, who found a path out of addiction through CityTeam Ministries at its House of Grace and through its Men’s Recovery Renew programs. CityTeam will be able to serve 75 more clients because of Wish Book donations.
The list goes on and on, covering nearly two dozen stories published at the end of 2022.
The Wish Book program was launched in 1983 as a way for the greater San Jose community to shine a light on the stories of the less fortunate among our neighbors and provide a way for readers to help them achieve better lives. Tax-deductible donations are accepted year-round at wishbook.mercurynews.com.
“We are just so pleased that our readers make it possible to grant wishes to deserving causes every year, and we really are so grateful to everyone who helped make it possible in a year with inflation and other economic challenges,” said Dee Dee Robillard, community projects director for the Bay Area News Group who oversees both Wish Book and Share the Spirit. “It’s so heartwarming to see our readers’ comments about why they give and their encouragement, and to also hear from the supported organizations how much impact these stories have, not just with the funding, but the awareness built in the community.”
HOW TO GIVE
Donate at wishbook.mercurynews.com.
Read Wish Book stories, view photos and video at wishbook.mercurynews.com.