Tradition of giving

South Valley community brightens the holidays for needy families

LIFTING SPIRITS Saint Joseph’s Family Center collects for its annual Toy and Food Giveaway on Dec. 20.

The holidays are all about tradition and St. Joseph’s Family Center’s, (SJFC), tradition ensures hundreds of South County families are provided the opportunity to revel in the happiness of the holiday season through the nonprofit’s annual Toy and Food Giveaway. This year’s event takes place on Thursday, Dec. 20.
With the number of families registered nearing 900, the largest number to date, SJFC’s need for donations is greater than ever.
Vicki Goicovich, Gilroy resident and Emergency Room nurse at San Jose Kaiser Permanente, recognized that need, so she posted a note at work asking her co-workers to consider donating the free turkey gifted to them by their employer to SJFC.
The response was amazing. Kaiser Permanente, San Jose, Emergency and Urgent Care departments donated 107 turkeys to David Cox, SJFC’s Executive Director, in a presentation that took place last week.
“The physicians, nurses, technicians and clerks who work in the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency and Urgent Care departments are dedicated healthcare professionals who give back to the community each and every day while they are at work,” Janice Crosier, RN, Kaiser Permanente San Jose, said.
“So this gesture of donating their gift turkeys and toys for St. Joseph’s Family Center is just another demonstration of their commitment for our community to thrive.”
“They are very giving and supportive of the event as are our managers,” Goicovich said, adding that she always sets up a toy donation barrel at work as well.
Goicovich does much more than that. Eight years ago, Cox was notified that the Toys for Tots organization would no longer serve the South County area, putting the annual toy giveaway at risk, so he immediately reached out to Goicovich.
She was happy to help and so were her family and good friends, Suzanne McCarthy, and Patty Sanchez. Every year since, these dedicated individuals volunteer their time and energy to continue the yearly tradition. Goicovich credits the success of the giveaway to the overwhelming support of the entire South County community, many of which are right here in Gilroy.
“Everybody’s little bit helps in the long run, and it’s enabled us to provide service to the people of South County and the organization, that’s what I’m grateful about,” Goicovich said.
Among those community supporters is the Gilroy Fire Department.
“Gilroy Firefighter’s Local 2805 teamed with SJFC to help local children in need have a brighter holiday season,” Fire Engineer, Nick Garrett, said. “Every year it gets bigger and better and it’s really great to see the community come together. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Also on board is the Gilroy Walgreens, located on First Street.
“We always like to support our community and I really appreciate supporting this event because it all stays local and goes to Gilroy children and families in need,” Michelle Martarano, Walgreens store manager, said. “We have to give credit to our patrons who come into our store because really they’re the ones that donate.”
Goicovich also reached out to the city of Gilroy for support, and they eagerly responded.
“St. Joseph’s Family Center focuses on services for Gilroy families in need…helping others who are struggling or less fortunate, especially during the holidays, is something that City of Gilroy employees strongly support,” LeeAnn McPhillips, Human Resources Director/Risk Manager, City of Gilroy, said.  
“We have many generous and compassionate employees who want to put a smile on the face of a child who will receive a toy from the St. Joseph’s toy drive.”
Gilroy Golf Course is another regular participant combining the toy drive with the annual SJFC golf tournament held every December by the Gilroy Golf Course Men’s Club.
“Each member will bring a toy in and put it into the barrel, that’s pretty much how we get it filled,” Troy Garcia, head chef of the golf course’s, Heavy’s Grill, said, adding that his goal each year is to collect well over a hundred toys from the golfers.
“If I don’t get that goal from the guys, I will purchase some myself,” Garcia said, adding that his participation in the toy drive is motivated by his own family’s Christmas tradition.
“For me growing up, my parents didn’t have everything, but every year, no matter what, we had a great Christmas, they gave us everything they possibly could for Christmas,” Garcia said. “So, I just think no kid should go without having a good Christmas.”
Goicovich encourages the community to participate in the day of the giveaway. There’s no need to sign up in advance, just show up anytime from 8:30am to 3pm at the center on Dec. 20, or, “Drop off new unwrapped toys for children 10 years and under to help our efforts in supporting SJFC provide a smile to those in need this holiday season,” Goicovich said.
Toy drop-off locations are available throughout town: all three Gilroy Fire Stations, 7070 Chestnut Street, 880 Sunrise Drive, and 8383 Wren Avenue, St. Mary’s School, 7900 Church Street, City Hall 7301 Hanna Street, and Walgreens 770 First Street. Food and toy donations are also accepted at Joseph’s Family Center, 7950 Church Street, #A.

Kimberly Ewertz
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About Kimberly Ewertz
Kimberly Ewertz is a freelance writer for South Valley magazine and Gilroy Dispatch.