Join us as we look back and reflect on our top 5 moments of 2021. A year we'll never forget!

2021 was a year full of new beginnings. It was also another year amidst the pandemic, but despite the challenges, many moments that brought joy and excitement showed through. In reflection, we've put together a list of our Top 5 moments of 2021 to share with you.  

5. Drive Leader Appreciation Event 

The 2020 Drive Leader Appreciation held in February of last year was the first holiday Drive Leader event of its kind for Family Giving Tree. Though different in many ways from our last in-person celebration the year prior, it allowed for many new opportunities to connect. Representatives from 2 of our partner agencies joined as guest panelists to share their stories with our Drive Leaders and staff. James, Elizabeth, Lloyd, & Thomas joined us from Cops that Care, a program hosted by the Mountain View Police Department Youth Services Unit while Louise and Kenisha joined us from Black Infant Health, a program from the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. It was an incredibly insightful conversation that we were honored to share with our hard-working Holiday Wish Drive Leaders. Hearing stories from Cops that Care about the youth community of Mountain View that they support and the perinatal Black women that are uplifted by the Black Infant Health program were an enriching and educational part of the celebration. We were thrilled to not only celebrate the efforts of our Drive Leaders, but of our own hometown heroes that support these very important community programs as well.

4. Health Response

In 2021, Family Giving Tree distributed 54,000 Essential Health Kits: 22,000 during our Back-to-School Drive, 10,000 through the Student Restock Program, and another 22,000 during the Holiday Wish Drive! Each Essential Health Kit included a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, a face mask, and hand sanitizer. 

Why a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss? At Family Giving Tree, we want to make sure our community has access to these essential items that we often take for granted. Many of the families we serve struggle to pay their bills and don’t have much money saved for emergencies. According to the CDC, children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%). Having the items needed to maintain a healthy smile makes a big difference and can help maintain overall health.

Why face masks and hand sanitizer? While disposable face masks are available to many, it is important to make sure our community can have a reusable face mask of their own. The same is true of hand sanitizer. While simple, it can lend a sense of safety and a feeling of being proactive in protecting the family’s health.

3. Looking Forward & Planning Ahead

Starting in February of 2021, our organization began crafting a new strategic plan with the help of Christine Jeffers of Elevating Good. Family Giving Tree staff and board members met virtually with Christine over four months to reflect on where we are as an organization, where we would like to be, and how we can get there. Family Giving Tree is extremely grateful for Christine; her support and dedication over those past months were invaluable. Her depth of experience has helped us pivot in a new direction, and we look forward to the future with excitement and confidence. Special thanks to The David and Lucile Packard Foundation for supporting us with a grant to help get us started! You can learn more about our strategic plan here.

2. New Technology

We also invested in other technology areas, including our proprietary Holiday Wish App, which allowed FGT’s approved partner agencies to offer their clients the opportunity to select first and second wish choices from our list of available gifts. Here's how it works: once an agency has finalized its selections, the data is auto-populated into Salesforce. FGT’s Agency Coordinator reviews the data and if it meets our criteria (all necessary data such as age, name, etc., is correct). Next, “Child numbers” for that agency are assigned with the click of a new button that uses Apex code to make the assignments. In the past, this was a tedious one-by-one task. Child numbers are integral for our wish “filing system” as they are attached to gifts and sorted in our warehouse. Once all of our agency's wishes have been reviewed and child numbers assigned, we can then schedule pick-up times with the click of another new button (also generated with Apex code). Voila!

The second technology improvement made was using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags for wish cards for our 2021 Holiday Wish Drive. Each physical wish card we send to drive leaders has a unique RFID code and, when gifts are returned to the warehouse with the wish card, they are automatically scanned and the wishes are marked as fulfilled in our Salesforce database. This provides an accurate picture, in real-time of the number of gifts that are physically in our warehouse and allows us to determine any items that are running low.

1. Our Journey to 2 Million

It's no secret that we reached our two millionth recipient in 2021 - we've shared the big news with everyone we know! It took 22 years to reach one million and just 9 years to reach two. 

For over 30 years, Family Giving Tree has been an active part of the Bay Area nonprofit community serving children, adults, and seniors in need through our Holiday Wish and Back-to-School Drives. A long-standing program that, since 1990, has been fulfilling holiday gifts for children, adults, and seniors. In order to make all this possible, we partner with more than 250 agencies such as homeless shelters, community centers, rehabilitation houses, schools and after-school programs, and various charitable organizations. 

In 2021, Family Giving Tree, like many other nonprofits, struggled to grant wishes around the Bay Area due to the toy shortage exacerbated by supply chain issues. These Issues stalled donations as continuously rising shipping costs meant higher prices and empty shelves. Additionally, electronic items kids have asked for can be extremely difficult to find due to the global shortage of chips used in electronic devices. 

Even though 2021 has had its unique hurdles, the community continuously supported the Holiday Wish Drive and Back-to-School Drive, allowing Family Giving Tree to reach this amazing milestone! To celebrate, we had an intimate celebration at our warehouse and others joined us online to watch our FB Livestream celebration. At the event, we highlighted three partner agencies and distributed $25 vouchers to each of our guests to “donate” to one of these agencies. It was important that we celebrate by giving back to our incredible partners who have helped us serve and support the community. 

Thank you to those who joined us in 2021 to spread joy and hope in our communities. We look forward to seeing what more we can do in 2022!