Thinking outside the gift box

Consider buying things for charities in your loved ones’ names

BOATLOAD OF CARS<br>ARC’s Sally Mendez shows off the organization’s new used-car program.

ARC’s Sally Mendez shows off the organization’s new used-car program.

Photo By Tom Angel

See the second feature story for a list of more needs of local nonprofits, along with more detailed lists of two we profiled.


Are you looking over your holiday gift list and thinking, “What am I going to get these people?” Does Auntie really need another knick-knack cluttering up her shelves? And if your mom really wanted that book so badly, wouldn’t she have bought it for herself?

This year, instead of peeling off $20 or $50 so the grownups on your list can have something under the tree, think about giving cash or goods in someone’s behalf to one of the many charitable organizations in the Chico area. It’s always tight at nonprofits, and they’re sure to appreciate your gift. Most of them will happily drop a card to the person in whose name you’ve given. And your loved ones will be pleased to know they’ve contributed to a very good cause. Such gifts, after all, give twice.

The Salvation Army’s angels—which list children who otherwise won’t get holiday gifts—aren’t exactly flying off the trees this year. You could pick up one of those. Or, peruse these wish lists from the charities themselves. You just could make their Christmas.

Go to the Web version of this story for a more complete and specific wish list from some of the organizations.

From markers to movies

Boys and Girls Club of Chico
270 East Seventh St.; 899-0335

After school lets out, the Boys and Girls Club is flooded with young people, there to take advantage of the myriad of programs offered. Many, we figure, are there because they feel welcomed and loved by the staff there. Donations for sports equipment and such is always welcomed, but the community—though generous—tends to overlook some of the boring basics, such as office supplies to keep the place running smoothly.

“We have a lot of community support,” says Rashell Lanham, director of operations for the club. But “there are certainly things [we need] above and beyond, and it’s hard to get funding for operations.” The same goes for the club in Paradise, which needs, mundanely enough, a dishwasher to aid in the kids’ food program.

Lanham said there are some people who keep the Boys and Girls Club in mind when they’re out shopping, picking up a ream of paper from Costco and dropping it off at the East Seventh Street office. There’s also a need for toilet paper and paper towels. “It amazing how many paper towels you go through with the kids,” Lanham said.

In the office realm, needs include: stamps, a postage scale, markers, pens, Polaroid film 600 series, laminating supplies and printer cartridges (see our Web site for specifics). They need everything for the kitchen, from trash bags to cleanser.

The programs could sure use: 20 headphones for computers, guitars, drums, G, PG and PG-13 movies, butcher paper, a conference table, folding chairs and a podium. Outdoors, a picnic table, benches and umbrellas would be great. The teen center could use portable heaters.

Car talk

The ARC of Butte County
2020 Park Ave.; 891-5865

Director Mike McGinnis suggests the best way to help ARC is to donate a running vehicle to its used-car program. That program has proved quite successful. If you don’t have an extra vehicle sitting about, there are other ways you can help.

“We can always use money and volunteers, of course,” McGinnis said.

You can also donate items to and shop at the ARC Thrift Store. ARC’s mission is to provide services to the families of people with developmental disabilities.

And at this time of year folks are encouraged to volunteer at the ARC gift-wrap stand located inside the Bah! Humbug Festival of Crafts at Second and Main streets beginning Friday, Dec. 13. Or bring your gifts that need wrapping anytime between 10 in the morning and 7 at night during the week (closes at 5 p.m. on Sundays).

For more information call Sally Mendez at 891-5865 to volunteer. This time of year, donations of time and money are especially appreciated at organizations like ARC, because there is such competition among service organizations.

Starting from scratch

Esplanade House
2505 The Esplanade; 891-2977

The Esplanade House is a place where homeless families—usually mothers with small children—can go to get back on their feet. It provides substance abuse counseling, parenting classes and more. Since the families set up their new homes in a converted motel, the Esplanade House needs everything one would typically need for a home, from dish drainers to bed sheets.

“They don’t always have the necessary, basic items to begin a household,” said Case Manager Christine Hartman. The Esplanade House appreciates the many donations it receives, but people “do tend to overlook the basics, like dish drains and mops.”

The “extras,” like journals and art supplies, would also be appreciated.

CAT SCRATCH FEVER<br>Tracy Ross, volunteer coordinator for Butte Humane Society, goes over the organization’s holiday wish list with “Old Flame.”

Photo By Tom Angel

The administrative office, too, needs things, from floppy disks and legal pads to white boards and a Rolodex. A vacuum and broom would also be appreciated.

The clients need toiletries and cleaning supplies, pots and pans, silverware, towels, sink plugs—basically what one needs to set up a living space. They’d also appreciate makeup and even meditation tapes. Diapers are always on the wish list.

The Esplanade House is also looking for a wheelbarrow—presumably for its garden.

Dog (and cat) do’s

Butte Humane Society
2579 Fair St.; 343-7917

The folks at the Butte Humane Society take care of and try to find homes for about 200 cats and dogs at a time. That’s a lot barking and meowing, but it’s also lot of pet food and chewy toys. Though society director Cathy Augros said cash donations are always welcome, there are a few extra goodies people can donate that could really help keep the critters happy, as listed below. For more donation ideas or to adopt a pet, call 343-7917.

· High-quality dog and cat food. Cheapo brands can cause allergic reactions and don’t provide enough nutrition, Augros said. Preferred brands include Kirkwood (the Costco brand), Iams and Pedigree.

· Old towels and blankets to use for bedding, especially in the cold months.

· Collars and leashes.

· Doggy bones and toys. The Humane Society doesn’t use Nylabone, but the pups love durable chewies like rawhide bones and Kong toys.

· Cat toys. When cats get bored, watch out. It would be nice to have some toys that could be tied to the top of a cage so cats have something to do while they’re waiting for a new owner to take them home.

· Heavy-duty, portable dog runs are needed so the woofers can get their exercise. The preferred type would be made out of a chain link material.

Comfort for the abused


Many women and children find themselves at Catalyst’s battered women’s shelter with only the clothes on their backs, having fled abusive situations with no time to gather the basics, let alone the extras.

Executive Director Anastacia Snyder said they’re doing all right with clothing (except for new socks and underwear), but the safe house needs some stuff to make it more homey. “Really what we’re looking for is things like new lamps, new alarm clocks,” she said. “Things that actually outfit the house—the shelter.”

Also, an ongoing need is new toys in their original packaging that can be given to the children, ages birth to 15, for their birthdays. For the older kids, gift certificates (with no expiration dates) to the popular clothing stores “are huge.”

Besides that, consider giving twin bed blankets and comforters, full-size toiletries, new hairdryers and curling irons, journals, city and county bus passes, phone cards, new car seats, alarm clocks, backpacks, umbrellas and gift certificates to places like Target, Old Navy, Wal-Mart and Safeway.

Critter comforts

The Chico Creek Nature Center
1968 East Eighth St.; 891-4671

Call the Nature Center, and there is no hesitation in Gen Mattice’s response. “I’ll fax you a list,” says the center’s PR director. And within seconds, it seemed, our fax machine was issuing that list.

(Sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas":) A 50-gallon terrarium for Rosie the 45-year-old-plus boa constrictor, a 12-gallon tall terrarium for the center’s Western fence lizards, large bales of American pine shavings for animal bedding, 50-pound bags of walnut hulls for animal bedding and 50-pound bags of corn cobs for animal bedding.

Also needed for the holidays are frozen bags of vegetables (spinach, green beans, peas, and Brussels sprouts) for the desert tortoises, a wet/dry shop vacuum or cheaper commercial version, a 35mm camera and film, Polaroid instant 600 film, folding chairs, a lawn mower and a treat for Gruck the original rehab crow.

You can bring the gifts directly to the center at 1968 East Eighth St., where they will give you a slip for a tax write-off. For animal-related donations call 891-4671 and ask for Jessica Farwell. Other calls should be directed to Mattice.

SNAKES A LOT<br>Gen Mattice and “Rosie” offer a specific list of things needed for the Chico Creek Nature Center.

Photo By Tom Angel

Gift of peace

Chico Peace and Justice Center
526 Broadway; 893-9078

Bolstered by its core beliefs that violence begets further violence and that democracy can’t be brought at the end of a missile, the Peace and Justice Center uses an extremely small budget as seed money to support its volunteers’ educational and activist efforts, whether it’s demonstrating for peace at Rep. Wally Herger’s office, bringing speakers to town (last week the subject was socially responsible investing), or helping sister groups Food Not Bombs, which provides free food, blankets and clothing on weekends, and Chico Peace Works.

A membership ($20 basic or $50 sustaining) would make a fine gift, says Director Bob Trausch, himself a volunteer, as would of course a simple money donation. The office could also use a good computer and printer and fax machine, he says. A subscription to an appropriate magazine or newspaper for the reading library would also be welcome.

“We’re also looking for a trailer that we could convert to a mobile kitchen so Food Not Bombs can serve hot, freshly prepared food on weekends,” he said. Donations of good-quality clothing and blankets are also welcome.


Butte Environmental Council
116 West Second St.; 891-6424

If the folks at the Butte Environmental Council have one main wish this year, it would be that people stop trashing the environment, especially the people who can’t stop throwing their cans in the creek. (You know who you are.)

Other than that, the council needs volunteers as well as a few items (see list below) to help them continue to educate people on environmental issues. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, call 891-6424.

· A portable display for posters and educational items. Program Director Barbara Vlamis said something is needed to display educational materials at events outside of the council’s office. Ideally it would be about 5-by-6 feet and collapsible so it could fit in a car.

· A standard overhead projector or a projector compatible with PC computers for PowerPoint presentations.

· A color printer.

· A donation of time for filing and office work or an environment-friendly cleanup session.

· Volunteers for annual events in May and September. A pledge of time can be made in advance, and the center will give a reminder call when it’s time to participate.

Books for kids

Valley Oak Children’s Services
287 Rio Lindo Ave.; 895-3572

This state-funded child care resource-and-referral agency operates book and toy lending libraries that rely to a great extent on donations, so gifts of new children’s books or toys would be greatly appreciated, says Executive Director Carol Roberts.

“The books don’t have to be expensive,” she quickly adds. “They’re the best thing we could get to pass along to children to enhance their early literacy work.”

The libraries are open to both child care providers and families and are well used. “Any parent can come in here and check out toys,” Roberts says, pointing out that a gift of a book or toy to VOCS would bring joy to many children.

Food for people

Jesus Center
1297 Park Ave.; 345-2640

The unsinkable Katy Thoma, longtime director of the local free-meal program, responded without hesitation when asked what the Jesus Center could use this holiday season.

“Oh,” she said with enthusiasm, “a vacation for the director. Maybe Hawaii, where she could sit on the beach and drink piña coladas!”

Returning to reality, the ever-pleasant Thoma said the center could use flannel shirts, size large and extra-large, cans of coffee—decaf, she emphasized, otherwise things could get out of control in the lunchroom. Stocking caps and gloves (Thoma suggested Gates Resale) are always needed and appreciated, as are new socks.

The center, which was the victim of arson a couple of times at its old Park Avenue location, now resides across the street in the spacious building once known as the Ice House. The center serves free meals year-round for people and families in need.

Thoma noted that volunteers at the center are always needed, as is money, which can be earmarked to go to food or to help pay bills like gas and electric or to the Sabbath Health Shelter, which provides refuge for women and children. For more ideas or information call the center at 345-2640.