December event benefited 100 families and 400 individuals

By Erica Flores

for SYV People Helping People

Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP) spread holiday cheer for its 27th annual Fulfill-A-Wish program benefiting families in the Santa Ynez and Los Alamos valleys on Dec. 17 and 18 at the historic Veterans Memorial Hall in Solvang. 

The City of Solvang renewed its support by donating the space, which is located in the heart of its service area, for the second year. The Fulfill-A-Wish Program assisted 100 families and 400 individuals, which is a 20% increase from pre-pandemic years.

“The Fulfill-A-Wish program represents the very best of the valley community, demonstrating that together, we are changing lives for the better,” said Valerie Kissell, CEO of PHP. “We are a community that cares for one another. Year-round our agency helps our most vulnerable neighbors navigate the hardest time of their lives.” 

In the spirit of the holiday season, more than 50 volunteers collectively donated 200 hours to transform the hall into a fully operational two-day boutique. The community pulled together to donate gift cards for teens and basic-needs household items for families. 

PHP continued its partnership with Toys 4 Tots to collect and distribute toys, and the Rotary Club of Buellton, with support from the Los Olivos Rotary, have led coat drives for all ages. PHP is the only official organization in the Santa Ynez Valley designated by the Marine Corps reserve to distribute Toys 4 Tots donations.

“Throughout 2021, we have distributed an unprecedented amount of support in rental, utility, and food assistance. Fulfill-A-Wish goes beyond basic needs and nourishes the human spirit,” Kissell said. “We are in awe of the generosity of over 50 businesses, community organizations, schools, churches, families and individuals that have sponsored donation boxes; and generous volunteers and donors that have given their time, toys, clothing and funds,” 

Although families must meet income qualifications to participate in the PHP Fulfill-A-Wish program, the eligibility and distribution process is completed with sensitivity and respect for the dignity of the families. Many of the clients are survivors of domestic violence, single moms, experiencing housing insecurity, and very-low-income families working in the local service and agricultural industries.