Marin Partners Brighten SBS Clients' Lives

The tradition of gift giving has been called one of the five love languages. But holiday gift giving can sometimes be stressful for all of us, and is often more so for the young people that Side by Side serves.


Many of our clients are from low-income families where gifts are a significant strain on the family budget; or they are former foster youth living on their own with limited resources. Side by Side brightens our young people’s holiday season by ensuring that they each have a present to unwrap. But we don’t do it alone! Today we’re highlighting our dedicated Marin County community partners who help us bring holiday cheer to youth across our community.

Each year, Marin Country Mart erects its well-loved Giving Tree, adorned with tags that name a Side by Side youth and their wished-for gift. Any passer-by can pick a tag from the tree, purchase the gift, and return it to the Trading Post at Marin Country Mart. “It’s been a wonderful program over the years,” says Diana Rodgers, Director of Events. “Our community just loves it.” From art supplies such as watercolor crayons, oil pastels and sketchbooks, to hoodies, Lego sets, books, gift cards and fuzzy blankets, Rodgers says that buying gifts for others in the community brings a sense of joy to everyone who participates. 

“This wonderful program promotes community spirit. Thank you, Side by Side, for making it so easy for us to get into the holiday spirit and help others in our community!” Join Marin Country Mart this year on December 1 at 5pm for their annual tree lighting event to kick off the season of giving.

For over a decade, Mill Valley Middle School has proudly provided holiday gifts for each and every student enrolled at the Irene M. Hunt School. Event chair and board member Eleanor Murray notes that because the Hunt students receiving the donated gifts are approximately the same age as Mill Valley Middle School students, “It really resonates. It’s an honor to fulfill these wish lists each year and it’s a tradition that all in our school community look forward to.”

Gifts fulfilled over the years have included 49ers gear, Disney backpacks, a robot making kit, and one year, a memorable request for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal! Parents bring their purchased gifts to the school drop off lane and students get involved by making cards for Hunt School students. “We love the healing mission of Side by Side, and how they see the potential in every youth they serve,” says Murray. “This program also allows us to promote to our students the importance of giving back– an important lesson at any time of year.” 

Book Passage in Corte Madera has been supporting Side by Side’s holiday client wishes drive for over 30 years with an incredible 100+ books each year. “The best way to foster a love of reading is for people to be able to read what they want,” says Children’s Buyer Ari Ray Agnew. “Whether it’s dense and literary, short and sweet, or a graphic novel, people see themselves represented in the books they read. We're passionate about getting books into the hands of youth who will enjoy them!”

In November and December, two small trees can be found in the children’s wing of Book Passage, adorned with tags that note the names of youth who will receive the gift of reading. According to Agnew, it’s become a tradition that many Book Passage patrons look forward to each year. “Some people come in with their own kids and foster that spirit of giving in the next generation. It’s just lovely to witness. The opportunity to help youth feel that special holiday excitement that everyone deserves is truly a blessing.”

Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to these amazing community partners! Thanks to them, and to supporters like you who fulfill the client wish lists, last year Side by Side provided 117 clients in Marin County with individualized, specially purchased holiday gifts. Additional partnerships with the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership's Secret Santa program (which kicks off Nov. 1) and Temple Beth Sholom and Kids Bike Lane in the East Bay help support our clients in Sonoma and Alameda County.

Look out for an email next month with links to this year’s client wish lists, and help us keep this beloved holiday tradition alive!

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