Story Corps

photo credit: Courtesy of pxhere
The holidays are just around the corner and gifts are beginning to gather, including for a good cause.
 
You might’ve seen paper hearts placed around businesses, banks, or buildings in Sonoma County recently and wondered what exactly they are.
 
"It started with people needing help at Christmas and the Volunteer Center reaching out to help these people," Tiah Foley said. "Now we raise a quarter million dollars. We serve about 1200 families, and we give out about 29,000 gifts to those in need."
 
They’re all part of Sonoma County’s Secret Santa program run by Foley.
 
"I'm Secret Santa for the entire county," Foley said.
 
Foley explained the process.
 
"Our partnering agencies, they ask every single person," Foley said. "They get two wishes for two gifts."
 
And the effort it takes.
 
"My assistant and I, we read 29,000 gift requests," Foley said. "We rack up 6,000 volunteer hours, 900 volunteers. We have 101 sponsors."
 
Foley said the general public plays a part
 
"Once we have the hearts printed, we deliver them to all our partnering sponsorship agencies," Foley said. "And that is where the public sees all these hearts. They see 'em throughout Montgomery Village. They see 'em at Exchange Banks. Everywhere someone sees a heart, they grab it and bring it, the present back to the location."
 
And how the gifts find their home?
 
"Then it goes to Heart Central, and that is where all 30,000 gifts are organized and an entire crew of volunteer women run that, and we wrap up by December 23rd," Foley said.
 
Foley said the joy is shared all around.
 
It's a very, very humbling job," Foley said. "It brings every bit of goodness out of your heart."
 
More information on the secret santa program run via the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership can be found online at secretsantanow.org.
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