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Los Altos birdhouse fund-raiser nets 25K


Denise Brosseau eyes a prize-winning birdhouse.

Child Advocates of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, a non-profit organization that trains volunteers to act as advocates and mentors for children in the foster-care system, raised $25,000 through a live and silent birdhouse auction, May 22, in Los Altos. More than 200 people attended the "Birdhouse Bash 2004" fund-raiser, which sold 110 birdhouses. The proceeds support the non-profit's work with abused, neglected and abandoned children.

The handcrafted birdhouses were created by local artists, students, residents and children. Guests bid on birdhouses in categories such as Traditional Starter Homes and The Best in Modern Living. Birdhouses were awarded blue ribbons for Best of Show, Best Children's Entry, Most Functional, Most Artistic, Best Architecture, Best Craftsmanship and Wackiest.

Los Altos resident Toni Cupal, vice president of the non-profit's board of directors, conceived the idea for the "Birdhouse Bash" last year after a suggestion from her friend. The second annual birdhouse event was held at Cupal's historic home, featured in a Los Altos History Museum Spring Home and Garden Tour.

"It seemed like a fun, whimsical idea," Cupal said. "And I thought the analogy between trying to provide safe, stable homes for children and safe, stable homes for birds was neat."

Cupal said she began volunteering after she had her son because she realized "how vulnerable children are and how much love and caring children need. The thought that some children might not be getting that really frightened me.

"Children are extremely resilient," Cupal said. "A child can come through something extremely difficult and find a way to overcome it. Each child I've advocated for has had such promise and spirit."

Child Advocates serves 1,000 children in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and has more than 400 children on its waiting list. More than 3,000 children in the counties' foster-care system need advocates.

Los Altos Hills resident Judge Leonard Edwards, one of the founders of Child Advocates, helped create the non-profit because as a judge he understood that due to heavy caseloads, social workers and attorneys cannot provide the depth of services needed by foster children. A child advocate is someone who follows a child long term through the foster care system.

Trained to understand the foster-care system, volunteer advocates ensure children have access to all available resources in the system. They must make an 18-month commitment and spend at least three hours each week with the child in addition to writing reports, appearing in court and meeting with people in each child's life, including foster parents, biological parents, lawyers and social workers, Cupal said.

Child Advocates is the only organization appointed by Santa Clara and San Mateo counties dependency courts to represent the needs of foster children.

For more information, call 627-8541 or logon to www.cadvocates.org.Above, At right, handmade birdhouses are set out for the

fund-raiser's silent auction.

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