Five acres of lush greenery highlighted by a backdrop of Gilroy’s rolling hills presents the perfect venue for any function. When that venue is filled with a giving community, a swimming pool, games, food and an assortment of beverages, topped off by five live bands, the end result is Day on the Ridge (DOR).
DOR is the brainchild of longtime Gilroy residents Brenda and Shawn Chizanskos. After executing a successful birthday bash for his wife, which included building a stage in their backyard, the couple decided they should do it again. But this time, they’d sell tickets and the proceeds raised would be donated to their favorite charity, St. Joseph’s Family Center (SJFC).
In 2017, DOR was born.
The event raised more than $40,000 for SJFC, which spurred the Chizanskos’ to plan DOR 2018. Last year’s donations more than doubled what was collected at the inaugural event: $80,527.
“There’s no way we could do it without the community’s support,” Shawn Chizanskos said, adding that this year their hope is to exceed last year’s total.
SJFC Director David Cox is more than grateful for the money raised. The fact that DOR donations are unrestricted funds (donations a non-profit may use for any purpose) is an added bonus.
“Truth be told, our agency has operated much too thin for too long. When we’d receive a dollar donation, 95 cents of that would go right back out,” Cox said. “When you run that hard and that lean for so long, and you continue to grow, eventually capacity becomes an issue. But we’ve been able to do things much more easily, much more frequently, to enhance our programs, increase our capacity, increase our infrastructure, because of this event.
“I think the end result is we’re performing better, we’re performing safer, our programs are getting stronger, we’re setting the table for sustainability and continuity…and this [event] has given us that opportunity.”
The ever-growing homeless situation in the South County area has always been a source of great concern for Cox, and when the Homeless Prevention Program in Santa Clara County began several years ago, SJFC became an active participant.
“Especially within the last few years, the disparity of wealth and the skyrocketing costs of rent and housing inventory so low, and stagnant wages, that the threat of homelessness has become greater for the working poor,” Cox said. “It’s so much easier to keep somebody housed, so that’s been our very, very, strong push over the last couple of years, so definitely part of the funds went to that because they are unrestricted.”
In addition to homelessness prevention, SJFC’s meal program, The Lord’s Prayer, which provides meals to those in need, has improved as well.
“I think we’re trying to make the atmosphere friendlier, we’re trying to make it more welcoming,” Cox said. “We’re trying to actually do more cooking. The end result will be people will eat better and people will come more often. That also allows us to keep that engagement piece, because that’s a very important piece for us, making people aware of the situation or the issue of homelessness.”
DOR begins with the countless number of volunteers, which has grown every year. The DOR board of directors and their committees begin meeting biweekly starting in February to ensure every detail of the May event goes off without a hitch.
According to Cox, DOR committee members go above and beyond, and are always available to step up when needed.
“Each committee supports each other, and it’s just amazing to see these individuals take ownership,” Cox said. “And the thing I like about it is everyone stays accountable. I wish every committee I’ve ever worked on would behave, and act, and be as responsive.”
Stacy Chavez, a DOR board member and friend of the Chizanskoses for close to 20 years, has been a part of the event since its conception.
“We all kind of join forces, lock arms and have a vision, and everybody does a little bit,” Chavez said, adding that every year her husband, Ron, a professional drummer, is the emcee of the event.
“When you’re out there, and having a good time with your friends, and at the end of the day there’s money going to the homeless, it’s awesome,” she said, holding back her tears.
Elizabeth Gordon, a member of the DOR publicity committee, is equally proud to be a part of the annual event.
“It’s always nice to get involved with your local community, and it’s nice to take something that I do professionally and apply it to a cause like this,” Gordon said. “It’s a really special cause, and they’re making a big impact.”
Also contributing to DOR’s success are the local vendors who volunteer not only their time but their goods and services. This year more than 20 local vendors provided donations to the event.
What’s most important is the community itself, who purchase the tickets, help spread the word and encourage everyone they know to attend the event. According to Cox, the Chizanskoses deserve the bulk of the credit for the community’s unbridled support and participation.
“When I give my time or my resources to a cause, almost always, while the cause needs to be important, it’s more about the person or the people asking me,” Cox said. “And I think that’s what resonates for me is this all started because of Brenda and Shawn and their core friends.”
For Shawn Chizanskos, it’s simply about filling a need.
“We love the whole community aspect of it and we love helping SJFC, which is doing such wonderful, wonderful stuff, and so to be a part of that is exciting because there’s a big need in this world, a big need,” he said. “All I know is we can do what we can do every day.”
On the day of the annual event, not only is SJFC rewarded for its efforts, but the community and attendees are rewarded with a day of food, fun and music. This year, DOR takes place on Sunday, May 26, 2-11pm. The lineup of performers includes Cripple Creek Band, The Purple Ones, Heartless and the ESS Band, providing party-goers with a mix of country and Southern rock, an easy listening soul and R&B group, and two tribute bands.
The evening’s headliner is Drake White and the Big Fire, winner of the 2016 Taste of Country Fan Choice Awards.
“I do have to suggest that if people want to see the highlight of the event, they have to stay to the end,” Shawn said, adding that White and his band hit the stage at 9pm.
In addition to a variety of music from beginning to end, there will also be numerous games on hand, including giant beer pong, volleyball, and a bean bag toss. Attendees are encouraged to bring their swimsuits and take a dip in the outdoor pool.
Party-goers are also encouraged to bring their own snacks and drinks, but save some room and bring a little cash. Gourmet food trucks featuring barbecue and Mexican party foods will be on hand, as well as local wine and beer vendors. A new delight added to the menu this year is Mister Softee’s ice cream.
Tickets can be purchased at dayontheridge.com.
Attendees are encouraged to take advantage of the free shuttle service, which delivers guests to the party location. The shuttles, which run every five minutes, are located at the Solorsano Middle School parking lot, 7121 Grenache Way, off of Santa Teresa Boulevard.
Vendors who donated to Day on the Ridge:
Gilroy/Morgan Hill Today
Toyota of Gilroy
Gilroy Heating and Air Conditioning
Marie Blankley, CPA
Giacalone Design Services
Karen Aitken & Associates
NorCal Portable Services
The Westside Grill
The Milias Restaurant
Creative Building Solutions