The holidays are taking up most of our time this month, whether it's family gatherings, work parties or seasonal shopping. Not to say that there aren't special events you might want to attend this weekend, starting with the annual Strolling Dine-Around Wednesday and Thursday, both this week and next, the monthly Second Saturday ArtWalk, and the other happenings you can find in the Patch Events calendar.
But let's focus instead on the local businesses and organizations that are doing holiday toy drives, fundraisers and other events that encourage sharing, in the spirit of the season.
The Healdsburg Fire Department has started its annual Toy Drive, which runs until Dec. 18. New unwrapped toys are needed for the children of community , and donations can be made at the Fire Station (corner Healdsburg and Grant) in the large gift-wrapped box in the lobby.
If you have children at St. John the Baptist School, you should know by now that each class is collecting for Toys for Tots through Friday, Dec. 21, as they have in past years. Other public and private schools in town may be doing the same; be sure to ask your children or their teachers if they are accepting toys or food for local charities.
In the area's primary industry, winemaking, the Jordan family has taken the lead in a trans-generational competition that also pits region against region, winery against winery. Jordan Vineyards and Winery of Alexander Valley, owned and operated by Thomas Jordan and his son John Jordan, has challenged J Vineyards and Winery of Russian River, whose founder and president is daughter Judy Jordan, to a "friendly head-to-head competition" to see which can collect more for those in need.
Retired grape gondolas once used to transport fruit in the 1980s have been transformed by winery staff into sleighs with paint, pin stripes and other holiday decorations. Area winery workers as well as visitors are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys to either winery -- Jordan is on Alexander Valley Rd., J is on Old Redwood Highway at Eastside -- and add them to the gift gondolas.
The gift-off runs through Dec. 14, when each gondola will be weighed to determine the more generous appellation at a 2 p.m. event at Jordan. Donations will be given to Toys for Tots for distribution.
At they're having their annual Holiday Open House on Sataurday, Dec. 8, themed "Reindeer Games," from noon to 4 p.m. There wil be wine, music, holiday games, raffle prizes and hors d'oeuvres. It's free for wine club members, plus a guest who brings an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots; otherwise, guests are $10.
If your Christmas shopping takes you south, Redwood Credit Union (RCU) is sponsoring holiday food and toy donation programs in all of its branch locations, including the one in Windsor on Brooks Road. They will be collecting new, unwrapped toys and non-perishable food items through Dec. 14, for holiday distribution by local non-profit agencies.
There's also a RCU office in Cloverdale, and many other Sonoma and Napa towns, but not (yet) in Healdsburg.
Finally, the California Highway Patrol is collecting toys at several locations. You can drop them off at the CHP office in Rohnert Park (6100 LaBath Ave.) Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., through Dec. 16.
They're also taking donations at the DMV on Corby in Santa Rosa and the DMV in Petaluma as well. All new, unwrapped toys of any size will go to local charities and nonprofit organizations for distribution on Dec. 17. Food donations will be distributed to the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
If you know of other toy drives, food drives or similar holiday giving programs, please list it in the Events calendar, or let us know in the comments section, below.