HELPING THE HELPERS Essentials, comfort items on wish lists

DURING THE holidays, most people remember to help the poor, the lonely, the children.

Not all remember to help the helpers: The people who clothe preschoolers for inclement weather while shivering in drafty offices, or those who keep track of low-income families on a wheezing computer. They improvise, recycle and mostly just stick it out.

Through the Volunteer Center of Contra Costa County, we sent out a call to nonprofit organizations to ask what they needed. Pleas came in for everything from cutting pliers to minivans, and many basics the average corporate office or pack rat’s garage could provide.

What also came through is the hope that someone will help them to help themselves, so that they can continue to aid others. Giving just one gift can help countless others and recognize a difficult job well done. Happy holidays.

Offbeat requests

Bay Area Chapter of the Names Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt

Educates locals about AIDS, offers grief support and exhibits parts of the quilt at schools, companies and places of worship.

  • 1,000 12-inch or longer cable ties, 3-foot-long sturdy duffel bags
  • 25 diagonal cutting pliers
  • Sponsor to produce HIV/AIDS educational brochure

Contact: Media co-chairman Michael W. Henschel, 2362A Market St., San Francisco, CA 94114; 415-863-1966.

Birthright Pregnancy Support Service

Gives pregnancy tests, counsels and supports women in crisis pregnancies.

  • VCR
  • Diapers, crib blankets and baby and maternity clothes.

Contact: Director Arlene Verdugo, 1070 Concord Ave., Suite 105, Concord, CA 94520; 925-798-7227,

Books for the Barrios

Gives the gift of reading to disadvantaged children.

  • Storybooks, textbooks (no U.S. history), National Geographic magazines, dictionaries, encyclopedias
  • School supplies

486-level and above Pentium computers

Contact: National Children’s Recycling Center, 2350 Whitman Road, Suits D, Concord, CA 94518; 925-687-7701,

The California Autism Foundation

Gives developmentally disabled people a ride, a place to work and the guidance to live independently.

  • 486-level and above computers with modems, 15-inch monitors, phone system
  • Any working van
  • Kitchen equipment (from utensils onward)

Contact: Development director Barbara Arriaga, 4075 Lakeside Drive, Richmond, CA 94806; 510-748-0433 or 510-309-0856.

Project CARE (Children At Risk Excelling)

After-school program helps “at risk” children become healthy, proactive members of Pinole’s community.

  • Arts and crafts supplies
  • Typewriter, cameras
  • Refrigerator for daily snacks

Contact: Program director Malaika Morris, 2200 Pear St., Pinole 94564; 510-724-9838.

Comfort for Kids

Provides pediatric home care and hospice for gravely ill children.

  • Gift certificates from Creative Therapy Store Catalog (800-648-8857), Michael’s crafts supply or Toys R’ Us
  • Camera
  • Digital portable baby scale, pulse oximeter, otoscope, ear thermometer

Contact: Comfort for Kids coordinator Diane Marie Coughlin, RN, 2051 Harrison St., Concord, CA 94520; 800-400-2820.

Concord Child Care Center Inc.

Takes in 140 children ages 3 months-8 years from low-income families.

  • 35mm, 200 ASA film
  • Classroom computers with educational games and Microsoft Word
  • Crib sheets

Contact: Executive Director Judy Waggoner, 1360 Detroit Ave., Concord, CA 94520; 925-689-5151, Ext. 201.

Contra Costa Food Bank

Collects and distributes about 4 million pounds of food to 46,000 households each month.

  • 20 orange traffic cones
  • Two 25-foot rolls of safety flags on ropes
  • Two printers

Contact: Marilu Boucher, P.O. Box 271966, Concord, CA 94527-1966; 925-676-7543.

Down Syndrome League of the Greater Bay Area

Has provided people with Down syndrome with education, recreation and employment since 1974.

  • Toaster/convection oven, double burner hot plate
  • Television/VCR
  • Seven-passenger minivan

Contact: Executive director Michael Williams or resource specialist Peggy McCurdy, 3321 Montevideo Drive, San Ramon, CA 94583; 925-556-1700,

Mountain View House

Provides women with or without children short-term shelter, care, job training, counseling and assistance in finding permanent housing.

  • Color television with remote
  • All sizes of bed linens and towels
  • Kitchenware, from utensils to small microwaves.

Contact: Program director Sam Mataraso, 1391 Shell Ave., Martinez, CA 94553; 925-228-6920.

Mount Diablo Community Child Care Advocates

Offers child care for low- to moderate-income families.

  • Eight to 16 sets of rain boots, raincoats and umbrellas for preschoolers and eight to 16 sets for school-age children
  • Child-size, sturdy garden tools
  • One to five windows for office modular

Contact: Executive director Paivi E. Lane, 2750 Parkside Circle, Concord, CA 94519; 925-798-5021.

Recovering Racists Network

Travels the country to show people how to understand the roots of racism and intolerance and how to overcome them.

  • New notebook computer, high-quality copier, HP laser printer toner cartridges
  • Deep-throat electric stapler
  • 29-foot to 36-foot motor home

Contact: Founder and president John McKenzie, 2455 Marcia Drive, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-3944; 925-682-4959,

Volunteers for Inter-American Development Assistance

Serves low-income Latin American communities, for instance sending 30 tons of medical supplies to victims of Hurricane Mitch.

  • Medical supplies
  • Macintosh computers

Contact: Marc Ross Manashil, 6251 Hollis St., Emeryville, CA 94608; 510-655-8432,

Holiday gifts

The Juvenile Hall Auxiliary provides services to minors and dependents under the jurisdiction of the court and/or probation departments. It also tries to give them presents for birthdays and holidays. On Christmas Day, the 300 children and teen-agers open their gifts, then give them back to be locked up until they leave juvenile hall. Only the youngest get to keep one stuffed animal.

  • Financial or gift donations for 300 youths ages 9-18, such as stuffed animals, wallets, deodorant, comic books, sweatshirts, lotions, after-shave or perfume (plastic bottles only), cookies, stationary.

Contact: Executive administrative assistant Shannon Grosenheider, 202 Glacier Drive, Martinez, CA 94553-4826; 925-646-4818.

Las Trampas Inc.

Provides job training, supported living, group homes, community integration and medical services to the developmentally disabled.

  • Anything from sweat shirts or outerwear to soft cozy blankets that would be appropriate for ages 20-57 who feel the loss of close family ties during the holiday season.

Contact: Karen Peterson, P.O. Box 515, 3460 Lana Lane, Lafayette, CA 94549; 925-284-1462, Ext. 240.

Heavy duty

Mount Diablo Habitat for Humanity

Ecumenical Christian housing organization gives local low-income families an affordable roof over their heads.

  • $5,000 to help build a house in the Philippines
  • Heavy-duty 1-ton pickup with 8-foot bed
  • 10- to 12-foot trailer and stake-bed dump truck for occasional use

Contact: Volunteer and development associate Carol Vilevac, 1543 Sunnyvale Ave., Ste. 101, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; 925-933-1296, Also, for its own wish list, contact East Bay Habitat for Humanity, Lisa R. Wash or Krysta Morgenthaler, 2619 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612; 510-251-6304,

This article originally appeared in the Contra Costa Times Sunday Features