gmhTODAY Spring 2022 - Page 20



One Giving Tree ( OGT ) is a wonderful example of inspiration turning into reality . The nonprofit is run by Mike and Debbi Sanchez , natives of Gilroy and executive editors and publishers of gmhTODAY . In November of 2014 , Mike learned of ten donated Christmas trees no longer needed for an event . He began calling local agencies to find families for the trees . He created a “ tree kit ,” which includes a fresh , live tree , ornaments , a topper , a handmade tree stand , waterless hydration , and local gift cards in a reusable shopping bag . The calls resulted in requests for 36 tree kits for local families who would otherwise go without , and One Giving Tree was born .
OGT partners with multiple agencies in the community to provide Christmas tree kits to local families , group homes , and seniors in the community . Agency case workers make the final deliveries to families , allowing the Sanchezes to remain in the background . “ We prefer it that way . We want the case workers to be the heroes .”
Mike said . The pair sees this nonprofit as a way of fulfilling their motto –“ Making the holidays brighter ”— for those who might otherwise feel lonely , depressed , or left out during the holidays .
Mike said , “ The tree kits provide bridges to normalcy for kids and a little hope for them and their parents . They help create years of lasting positive memories and healthy emotions around the holidays for our recipients .”
OGT has provided 1500 tree kits since 2014 and hopes to provide 600 more in 2022 . Their annual fundraiser “ One Bright Night ,” held in September , is their main source of donations . After canceling their 2020 event due to the shutdown , they held a successful 2021 event . However , the loss of a full year ' s fundraising was devastating . As a result , they have kept expenses to a minimum the last couple of years . Still , they both agree the future looks bright . “ With our amazing volunteers and generous supporters , we will always find a way .” Debbi said .
Mike and Debbi Sanchez are floored and humbled to receive the award . “ We ’ re inspired by all those who ' ve come before us , and those working alongside us , to make our community the best it can be . This award is for everyone who helps make One Giving Tree a reality . They are the ones who are making the holidays brighter for local kids and their families ,” Mike said .
Andrea Nicolette spends a lot of time helping youth , families , and seniors through her job at Mt . Madonna YMCA , based in the Centennial Recreation Center in Morgan Hill . She also helps businesses as an Ambassador for the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and is involved in other forms of volunteering .
Nicolette has worked for 19 years with local YMCAs , including the Central Coast , Hollister , and Mt . Madonna locations . Nicolette moved through the ranks from the kids ’ club coordinator , membership director , senior program director , to executive director .
One of her proudest achievements is the Power School program in Gilroy . This grant-based after school program began as a collaboration between the YMCA , GUSD , and other agencies . They help students with schoolwork and physical activities after school and offer sports camps and other camps during summer . They also help entire families with healthy lifestyle guidance . She also helps the YMCA ' s senior lunch program , serving hundreds of meals weekly .
Nicolette was born and raised in Morgan Hill , and she and her husband raised their three children in Hollister . She has a special place in her heart for Gilroy , though , because of the Power School program , which she considers her pride and joy . She said , “ I love the service work we ’ ve been able to do there , helping the entire family ; we ’ ve done so much good work .”
Although Nicolette has been very busy working for the YMCA , she has still found time to be an Ambassador for the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce . She is passionate about supporting local businesses and understands that it can be hard to be an entrepreneur .
Nicolette volunteers and is an advocate for the LGBTQ community , Hispanic families , and women . In 2021 , she coordinated the sixth House of Toys with Toni Bowles at the Neon Exchange . With the help of local businesses and donations and volunteers from community organizations , they collected 3,500 toys for 1,900 families .
Nicolette ’ s long-term goals are to see the YMCA have more of a physical presence in Gilroy and for the city to have their own community center . She is honored and humbled to receive the Volunteer of the Year Award .
Nicolette ’ s inspiration comes from all the people she helps . “ It ’ s the human touch , being able to help people ,” she said . “ It ’ s why I get up each day . I say a prayer and ask how I can serve people today .”
20 SPRING 2022 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com