Jazz Fest donation is music to the ears

Photo credit: Recreation Department — Members of the Gardena Management Employees Organization recently contributed $500 to the Helping Hands holiday food and toy program. From left are Ramisi Wadkins, Nikki Sweeney, Donny Harris and Uneice Jones.

By Gary Kohatsu

Sen. Steve Bradford’s wildly popular Jazz Festival was silenced in August due to the pandemic. However, the senator and the festival still made a sizable contribution of $2,000 to the 2020 Helping Hands holiday food and toys program recently.

With four contributors to this year’s Helping Hands program thus far, the total funds raised is a very respectable $7,000.

(Due to an addition error in last week’s GVN Hands story, the donation amount was adjusted and corrected for this issue.)

The hefty Jazz Fest gift follows on the heels of the Gardena Elks Lodge donation of $3,500 in recent weeks.

Despite the pandemic hardships, the Gardena Management Employees Organization stepped up big time in with a $500 check presentation by Ramisi Wadkins, Nikki Sweeney, Donny Harris and Uneice Jones to Hands coordinator, Jaclyn Arcos.

Kicking off this year’s donations with a $1,000 gift was the Charitable Funds Benefitting Gardena. Board members Barbara Phillips, Chris Vlahos and Stephen Koch were present for the check donation to Jaclyn Arcos.

The 2020 kickoff is moving along nicely despite the limited donors and challenging times.

At the start of this year’s Helping Hands holiday program, Recreation Department director Stephany Santin was a bit cautious in her expectations, due to the virus. 

This Thanksgiving week will be an indicator of how individuals, families, churches and service organizations might respond heading into December.

While the Helping Hands program benefits local families for the December holiday season, the 2020 coronavirus has led to operational changes.

Families participating signed up electronically by Nov. 13, Santin said.

Those who did sign up and meet certain qualifications, will receive food and toys assistance this holiday season .

The program generally helps between 400 and 450 families a holiday season, Santin said. That would include about 700 children and overall, about 2,000 people.

Families who live outside of Gardena, in the unincorporated area of the Harbor Gateway, might also qualify for the Helping Hands program if there is enough food and toys, Santin said.

“The hard part are the donations,” Santin said at the start of the Helping Hands season. “Normally, we have a lot of organization donate to Helping Hands, but this year, businesses are struggling. We don’t really want to push hard for people to donate. Everybody is in a difficult situation.”

In anticipation of a sparse fundraising season, Santin and city staff have organized a variety of drive-thru events, such as the Halloween trick-or-treat celebration and the city of Gardena’s 90th anniversary to generate funds for the needy. 

These and other events have included a drive-thru for motorists to donate food and purchase city products to generate funds.

For A Great Cause

Now in its 39th year, Gardena’s holiday food drive will benefit 400 to 450 needy families in the community, and will serve more than 2,000 people with grocery vouchers and gifts for the kids.

Sponsored by the city of Gardena in cooperation with the Gardena Valley News, the holiday food drive began in 1980 as a food basket giveaway to Gardena’s less fortunate.

In recent years, food vouchers to area grocery stores have replaced food baskets, which provides families with a greater selection of food items, including dietary and ethnic items.

Last year, the Helping Hands program received palettes of canned foods and non-perishables from various groups for the holiday.

The city of Gardena provides all staffing in the Hands drive and all monetary contributions go toward the holiday fund-raiser and the year-round food pantry. No money is used for administrative costs.

As in the past, the Gardena Valley News will publish a list of contributors, with a weekly update of new donors. For more information about Helping Hands, call 310-217-9574.

Checks should be made to “Helping Hands” and can be sent or dropped off at:

City of Gardena

Human Services Department

c/o Helping Hands

1651 W. 162nd St., Gardena, CA 90247

To learn more about the event, please contact:

Jaclyn Arcos

City of Gardena Recreation Department

Human Services Division

1651 West 162nd St.,

Gardena, CA 90247

Phone: 310-217-9574


Week Three – Nov. 26 Unofficial total $7,000

Gardena Jazz Festival $2,000


Week Two – Nov. 19 Unofficial total $5,000

Gardena Elks Lodge 1919 $3,500

GMEO $500


Week One – Nov. 12 total $1,000

Charitable Funds Benefitting Gardena $1,000

Jazz Fest donation is music to the ears