How local residents can help wildfire victims

The Los Altos Community Foundation is offering options for residents looking to help aid victims of the ongoing wildfires in Northern and Southern California.

Joe Eyre, executive director of the Los Altos Community Foundation, suggested residents contribute directly to foundations in the affected areas.

“As we well know, fires have ravaged both Butte County and the Thousand Oaks and Malibu areas in Ventura and LA counties,” Eyre wrote to local foundation members Monday. “If you wish to donate to help victims in either of these areas, we recommend contributing to the fire relief funds of their respective community foundations.

For the devastating Camp Fire in Butte County, the North Valley Community Foundation has established a Camp Fire Evacuation Relief Fund.

For the Hill Fire and Woolsey Fires in Ventura (which includes Thousand Oaks) and Los Angeles counties, you can support fire relief efforts through the Ventura County Community Foundation Community Disaster Relief Fund or the California Community Foundation (covers LA County) Wildfire Relief Fund.

“Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the communities affected by these fires,” Eyre said.

Holiday Fund opens 18th season of giving

The Los Altos Town Crier Holiday Fund is launching its 18th year supporting local organizations that directly serve those with the most pressing needs in the community.

            Since its inception, the Holiday Fund has raised more than $3 million. This year, the fund aims to collect $250,000 to donate to 20 nonprofit organizations.

            The Town Crier has added Los Altos resident Ray Piontek’s Bay Area Furniture Bank to this year’s list of Holiday Fund recipients. The organization recycles gently used furniture for individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness to stable housing. 

            The fund will no longer support ALearn, which has ceased to operate in its original form since merging last year with the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. Town Crier donations to ALearn since 2011 helped underserved students prepare for and attend college.

            Other Holiday Fund recipients include: Bayshore Christian Ministries; Child Advocates of Silicon Valley; the Community Health Awareness Council; Community Services Agency’s Food & Nutrition Center; the Community School of Music and Arts’ Artistic Intelligence program; Downtown College Prep – Alum Rock; the East Palo Alto Kids Foundation; Help One Child; Hidden Villa Summer Camps; Jeremiah’s Promise; House of Grace; the MERIT program at the Krause Center for Innovation; Music for Minors; Mentor Tutor Connection; Reach Potential Movement; Sky’s the Limit Fund; Sunday Friends; the Veterans Resource Center at Foothill College; and WomenSV.

            Los Altos Community Foundation is the Town Crier’s new financial partner for the Holiday Fund. Contributions are tax deductible and processed through a donor-advised fund at foundation. The foundation provides letters acknowledging donor contributions. The Town Crier will present checks to the 20 organizations in early 2019. The paper will profile each organization in a series of articles published throughout the holiday season.

            To donate by check, make payable to Los Altos Community Foundation with “Town Crier Holiday Fund” in the memo line, and mail to 183 Hillview Ave., Los Altos 94022.

         For more information, visit

Bay Area Furniture Bank: Transporting cast-off items to people who need them

Bay Area Furniture Bank was founded in 2015 by Los Altos resident Ray Piontek, left, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired business executive. 

Editor's note: Some information has been updated from the print version of this story.

• Mission: The Bay Area Furniture Bank provides furniture and household items to the underserved in the community – an estimated 170,000 families in Santa Clara County qualify for housing and living assistance.

The Furniture Bank was founded in 2015 by Los Altos resident Ray Piontek, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired business executive. Piontek’s compassion and dedication are evident, but his business acumen results in an efficient, streamlined organization in which more than 97 percent of revenue generated goes directly to client services. Piontek himself still participates in much of the physical labor involved in transporting the furniture.

Los Altos-founded Music for Minors: Bringing harmony to elementary schools

Courtesy of Music For Minors
Music for Minors docent Lydia Ruiz, above, leads a music class.

• Mission: Music for Minors aims to nurture in children a lifelong love of music by providing music education programs in elementary schools.

• 2018 update: Founded in 1976 in Los Altos, Music for Minors was originally a stop-gap solution when public funding for in-school music programs was cut in California. More than 40 years later, the nonprofit organization continues to fill the growing need for quality foundational music education throughout Silicon Valley. Each week, Music for Minors teaches more than 25,000 transitional kindergarten through sixth-grade students in an estimated 900 classrooms in 68 schools in 13 districts.

Help One Child: Providing homes for at-risk children

Town Crier File Photo
Help One Child recruits, trains and supports those willing to provide a home or volunteer services to local at-risk children, above. 

• Mission: Help One Child recruits, trains and supports those willing to provide a home or volunteer services to at-risk children in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

• 2018 update: Founded by Los Altos Hills residents Mark and JoAnne Morris 25 years ago, Help One Child welcomed a new executive director in Valerie Crane, promoted from director of operations in January after Susan Herman retired. Crane said it’s been a “fun, exciting and busy year.”

CSMA Artistic Intelligence: Helping students find their unique, creative voices

Town Crier File Photo
A student in the Community School of Music and Arts’ Artistic Intelligence program exercises her creativity through the use of clay. Approximately 100 students annually attend the special classes at CSMA’s Mountain View campus.

• Mission: The Community School of Music and Arts ensures that the arts are accessible to all, including special-needs participants of its Artistic Intelligence program, which has existed for about a decade.

• 2018 update: Approximately 100 youths and adults from Abilities United of Palo Alto and the Morgan Autism Center of San Jose take dance, music and art classes at CSMA three days a week between September and May.

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