Lynn Robinson loves a challenge. The Executive Director of Valley Churches United (VCU) and her team of volunteers have had to pivot and approach problems imaginatively because of the impact of Covid-19 on the San Lorenzo Valley community as well as a mandatory evacuation during the CZU August Lightning Complex fires. 

Robinson’s upbeat attitude has kept the Ben Lomond-based charity organization afloat during these tough times.

“It started with Covid,” Robinson said. “People were experiencing hardships like never before. Community members that have never needed a hand came to us for help. It’s easy for us to say that’s why we’re here, even when it’s hard for neighbors to turn to us. The support of our community allows us to do what we do.”

On Dec. 5, the community will have an opportunity to support this nonprofit that has supported them in times of need. VCU’s Holiday Gala Virtual FUNdraiser will be held from 4-7pm, and Robinson is hoping for a kick-up-your-heels-in-quarantine kind of event. 

A $50 admission fee will allow individuals to tune in for a live-streamed, socially-distanced gathering, featuring The Lost Boys with James Durbin, and a bevy of local musicians including Chloe Hubbard and Bobbie Ward. Look for featured speakers and dignitaries such as Supervisor Bruce McPherson, former Scotts Valley Mayor Jim Reed, current Vice Mayor Derek Timm and Kevin Foster of Facebook’s Boulder Creek Neighbors group.

But the kicker is the car that’s up for grabs.

Purchasing admission automatically enters supporters to win the car that heralded a renaissance for the Ford T-bird brand, a convertible Thunderbird. The car was donated by a donor, Robinson said.

“It’s a sporty little 2-seater convertible with a hard top, and someone’s going to walk away with it by the end of the night,” she said. “Since we can’t gather for the gala like we normally do each year, it’s a wonderful way to still celebrate and support Valley Churches.” 

The benefit of an opportunity drawing means everyone who registers has an equal chance of winning the vehicle. Unlike an auction where the deep pocket wins, the $50 registration fee gives everyone equal footing when it comes to driving off in the Thunderbird. 

Robinson says the event will stream live on VCU’s and My Scotts Valley’s Facebook pages. 

Robert Aldana from My Scotts Valley will emcee the evening.

With nothing else to bid on, the car is the main act. The minimum tax-deductible donation to enter the virtual event is $50, but Robinson hopes that attendees will give more to support the charity’s mission: to provide help to those who are down on their luck. Unable to pay your electric bill? Need transportation assistance for a medical appointment or job interview? Don’t know how you’re going to feed your family during the holidays? VCU offers support and services to make life a little easier for the less fortunate among us. 

“Valley Churches prides itself on giving a hand up, not a hand out,” Board of Directors Vice President Danny Reber said. “Most of our regular donors and volunteers are people who have received our services in the past. It’s the most heartwarming thing to see them come back.”

Robinson says the organization has seen an uptick in donations despite the dual disasters.

“Some people gave their entire stimulus check to Valley Churches. We have a CZU Fire Recovery Fund that provides short-term support for those in need; so far, donors have given $45,000 to that fund alone. It’s going to be a long haul for our service area,” Robinson said. “There were so many houses lost, and just so much loss. We’ve not seen some families that we would normally see. They probably had to leave the area because they couldn’t find local housing. It’s heartbreaking.”

Thanksgiving was a turning point for the agency, Robinson said. 

“We did our usual grocery distribution, and assisted 135 households,” she said. “People normally come into the building and leave with big bags of food to prepare their own meal. This year, we ran the event as a drive- thru, and it was so well run. I guess that’s the silver lining from Covid. We discovered a new method that worked well. We’ll do something similar for Christmas, including presents for households, especially those with children.”

But first, the Gala.

“It’s something totally different, new and challenging, and it’s really come together in the last three weeks,” she said. “We’re usually teeming with volunteers this time of year, but we’re down to three people running the charity due to Covid.” 

The annual event, held at Scopazzi’s, normally nets the nonprofit about $25,000, Robinson said. 

“That helps support the year-round pantry and our programs like rental or utility assistance,” she said. “We really hope the community can respond and enjoy the possibility of winning that classic car.”

And if attendees don’t want to win the $15,000 car, Robinson says, they can opt out of the opportunity drawing for the Thunderbird, “and just enjoy an evening of music and community.”

“It’s an evening for us to promote what we do,” Reber said. “It’s important to get the recognition for what the organization does. We’re kind of unique in that we receive no government money; we’re completely funded by local donors. If anyone in our community needs a helping hand, they should know that Valley Churches is poised and ready to go.”

To attend the Valley Churches United Holiday Gala and be eligible for the opportunity drawing, visit vcum.org.

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