We can’t imagine a better day to wrap up our 2022 Back-to-School Drive than World Gratitude Day! Read on for highlights!
“…gratitude allows us to participate more fully in life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness.”
— Robert A. Emmons and Jeremy Adam Smith "The Gratitude Project"
Our hearts are bursting as we celebrate the goodness that came in the form of support from the community over the summer! With your help Family Giving Tree exceeded our initial goal and supported 28,390 students with backpacks! It was thrilling to see such energetic participation from our Bay Area community, who rallied around the goal of bringing joy to students who had been particularly affected by the extra financial and emotional strain of the past couple of years.
There is so much to be grateful for so let’s break it down:
As a community, we wish to thank our teachers — the true rockstars in the Back-to-School season. The commitment of our education community to their students through a trying few years has been over and beyond. All and all, they have had to pivot three times over three years — being thrown headlong into virtual learning in 2020, caring for extra socio-emotional needs of their students in 2021 as they entered a school year filled with new policies and social distancing, and again this year helping students re-learn social skills and acclimate to a more “normal” school culture. We at Family Giving Tree wish educators a more hopeful, bright, and calm school year for 2022-23!
Curious about what school supply is #1 on teachers' “most-wanted” list? Mr. R who joined FGT staff with his colleagues from Alpha Public Schools in San Jose during our weekly ‘All-Hands” Zoom meeting, said, “Pencils because somehow they always disappear no matter how many we purchase for the classroom.” Note to all: If you’d like to give a teacher a “just because” thank you gift Mr. R says to “let it rain pencils.”
We were grateful to provide a wide array of additional classroom supplies to educators when they arrived to pick up their allotted backpacks. Thank you FGT community, for your generosity in donating so many extra items!
We appreciate the joy educators expressed at their students’ opportunity to obtain brand new supplies! Their love and commitment to educating the next generation shined through as they went the extra mile to get backpacks in the hands of their students by picking them up at the warehouse and working to distribute them on Back-to-School nights. We love you, teachers!
Seeing our “Family Tree of Volunteers” grow fuller as it bloomed with colorful leaves throughout the drive sparked gratitude in FGT staff every time we walked into the lobby.
Our mission would be impossible without the participation of the 649 community volunteers who joined us this year for a combined 2.513 hours of help and service! We especially loved seeing families and kids join as part of their summer tradition, making philanthropy part of the fun!
We are grateful for volunteers like Poornima, who took time out this summer to help at the warehouse with her kids during several shifts. Poornima’s husband is one of our valued Drive Leaders. Due to last-minute unforeseen circumstances, he and his co-workers could not attend their volunteer shift leaving ten slots unfilled for the next day. Being a volunteer herself, Poornima was upset, knowing that would affect the workflow at the warehouse. She realized this could ultimately jeopardize the ability of a school to pick up their backpacks that week.
Rather than cancel, Poornima rallied her community 12 hours prior via LinkedIn to see if anyone could fill the empty ten spots with her. Her plea reached people she didn’t even know, and 8 of the 10 spots were filled by the start of the shift. Poornima brought herself, a friend, her daughter, and her daughter's friend, but the last four people were strangers to her! Her post even reached a friend living in a different country who convinced two of those volunteers to sign up! Thank you, Poornima, for your kindness and empathy and for going the extra mile to ensure our warehouse activities kept humming along!
We would especially like to give a big shout of thanks to Vesna and Winnie, our Angel Elves, who worked to make sure volunteer operations in the warehouse ran smoothly and put in more than 100 hours each to see the backpack drive to completion. You both hold a special place in FGT’s collective heart! In fact, you make up the heart of the Tree!
This year, in-kind donations proved to be more challenging due to supply-chain issues. Stories of resourcefulness encouraged FGT staff as Drive Leaders showed up with over 4,000 filled backpacks at various drop-off locations throughout the Bay! We are thankful to Drive Leaders, who got creative and met the challenge by banding together to order in bulk and hold their own backpack-build parties! Thank you for giving us some creative new tips for next year’s Back-to-School drive! Students were delighted with the variety they had to choose from when Drive Leaders sourced backpacks from various places. Favorites included shark backpacks, fluorescent dinosaurs, and of course, Baby Yoda!
Out of 109 Drive Leaders who set monetary goals on their Virtual Giving Tree, 50 beat them! 30 of the 103 who set backpack goals on the VGT exceeded their goals! Amazing!
One Drive Leader group that is near and dear to our hearts is Team Tiana. Team Tiana began in 2015 in support of Tiana Hines (Mems) and her fight against breast cancer. Tiana ran many drives for the Family Giving Tree by herself and for her employers. Even while battling cancer, Tiana still managed to run a few drives while undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. After Tiana passed away in 2017, her sister, Keyana, and their mother, Cheryl, decided to keep Tiana's legacy alive by continuing her passion for philanthropy and hosting drives in her honor during both the Back-to-School and Holiday seasons. We are grateful that Tiana’s family has continued supporting FGT’s mission in her memory, and we know that her spirit of giving continues to empower the community.
To support Team Tiana:
Our steadfast supporters and champions of education equity, NBC Bay Area and Telemundo 48, raised nearly 15,000 dollars through their Supporting Their Schools initiative! Each year they amplify our efforts to bring awareness to the public about the realities of the budget struggles of Bay Area families and rally the community to support student neighbors. The team at NBC and Telemundo has genuinely become part of the FGT family. The energy they bring to the drive as cheerleaders for educational equity in the Bay is compelling for our whole community, in and out of the Family Giving Tree organization. We are always sad to see them go at the end of each drive.
This year the NBC crew visited live at our warehouse during California Live, interviewing CEO Jennifer Cullenbine and giving a behind-the-scenes view of the work our staff and volunteers do to make the magic happen. We were thrilled to have the ever-inspirational Women in Leadership at Lam join us for interviews, as they mobilized during their weekend hours to hold a backpack build. They beat their previous record of 1000 backpacks, building a whopping 1500 altogether! Way to go, Lam!
Special thanks go to KCBS, Bay Country, Visit Concord, Pizza My Heart, and Jamba for putting the word out and supporting events in Concord and Mountain View, and collecting backpacks at stores throughout the Bay. With their help, over 246 physical backpacks filled with supplies, along with stacks of extra markers, crayons, colored pencils, and empty backpacks were gathered for area students and teachers over the course of the drive.
There were so many heartwarming expressions of support from the community at the live events. One grandmother dashed to Todos Santos Plaza in Concord to donate before the event closed for the day. Her little granddaughter heard the news on KCBS and insisted she deliver her own school supplies and backpack for donation saying "I know I can get another backpack. Please give the ones we bought so a student can use them." We loved hearing the expressions of gratitude and solidarity from current and retired teachers who visited throughout the day, who donated to the cause, wishing to continue uplifting students.
On August 19th, we culminated Supporting Our Schools events at Ygnacio Valley High School’s Wellness Center, where NBC’s Chris Chmura interviewed student ambassadors, who accepted a wall of backpacks from NBC on behalf of their peers. They expressed how much the supplies meant to their fellow students, many of whom arrived at Ygnacio High as immigrants and sought support at the Wellness Center. Regarding the importance of the backpack initiative to their students, Wellness Center Coordinator Moni Bohnsack said, “It’s about equity…every kid needs to be able to enter the classroom ready to learn, and having what they need to do so. There are a number of different kids with a number of different backgrounds, which makes this an amazing place. And we try to make sure all the students have what they need to succeed.” We appreciate the unity of the Ygnacio High School community and their commitment to uplifting the whole student population and making them feel loved and valued.
Big thanks go out to our partners at Comcast Xfinity who not only collected backpacks at their stores, but included vouchers in all backpacks, and information on how families facing financial difficulty could qualify for free internet services. Thank you for making connectivity more equitable for Bay Area families!
We were bowled over by the outpouring of kindness from the Bay Area business community this year! By the end of the 2022 Back-to-School Drive, over 10,000 backpacks were assembled and donated through build events hosted by our enthusiastic drive sponsors and superstar supporters!
We at FGT and the students who benefit from your generosity are feeling one thing - enormous gratitude for the generosity of our partners. We missed the energy and camaraderie that Backpack Builds seems to generate, and we’re so happy to have your participation again. It was exciting to see so many sponsors eagerly incorporate moments of giving back into their back-to-office festivities!
A few highlights:
Synopsys employees and CEO Aart De Geus took time out of their day to assemble backpacks distributed to students of the neighboring Mountain View school district. We are thankful for Synopsys’ joyful participation in what has become a 16-year partnership! Family Giving Tree CEO Jennifer Cullenbine joined the long-time supporters. She nostalgically remembers bringing her daughter to their very first annual event as a kindergartener!
Meta has been a partner in our mission since 2016 and works to create opportunities for at-promise students in the local community. We're grateful to Meta for helping bring Back-to-School joy and excitement to the 300 students of Castaño Elementary School who directly benefited from their participation. This next generation of STEAM enthusiasts, right in their own neighborhood, was thrilled to receive brand-new backpacks and supplies, adding the promise of new opportunities to a year of exploration.
Our generous friends at Synaptics have been Back-to-School Drive leaders since 2010. This year, they joined us for a day of volunteering at the warehouse and loved it so much that they took the experience back to their colleagues. Hosting a lively interdepartmental Backpack Build between four departments racing for total accuracy, they helped equip 350 elementary school students and still had time for ice cream after. Thank you for your exuberant generosity and for making it so much fun!
Thank you to each and every person who donated this year!
The generosity of the Bay Area is second to none. You contributed to creating a more equitable educational environment for our students, and uplifting families. The smiles say it all! Wishing everyone a bright and joyful 2022 in the classroom!