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Cooking Up the Contributions
CHORI Expands Charitable Activities

"We haven't changed what we want to do - to help out the community we live and work in - only how we do it."

What began a few years ago as a group of CHORI administrative staff who wanted to make a difference in the immediate community of Oakland has now expanded into CHORI CARES, a handful of like-minded individuals from both the administrative side of CHORI life as well as the research side.

“CHORI CARES is made up of many of the same administrative staff as before, but now we have people from the labs, too," says the new Chair of CHORI CARES, Karen Catanese.

As a result, CHORI CARES has taken over the organization of CHORI's portion of the annual Adopt-A-Family fundraising in which Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland (CHRCO) participates every year.

"People can make outright donations just by writing a check directly to the Adopt-A-Family program, but we also raise funds through our bake sales, which we've been doing all through the year," Ms. Catanese says. "We've actually already raised $1,700 that way, but we really wanted those funds to be the icing on the cake of our outright donations and our annual Basket Raffle."

The Basket Raffle, one of the more unique vehicles by which the CHORI community raises contributions, is becoming an annual expectation, and one which all the CHORI labs look forward to.

"It serves two functions," says Ms. Catanese of the Basket Raffle. "It's an activity that's fun and gets people at CHORI involved with each other, and at the same time it raises money for the Adopt-A-Family program."

Any lab or group of peers, such as tech support or the front office, can get together to create a theme for a basket, to which all the individuals then either contribute money, or provide some kind of thematic item. The baskets then get wrapped up to go on display, and CHORI employees can buy raffle tickets to try and win them. Nearly all the contributions go toward the Adopt-A-Family program.

"There is an exception, which is that we take a very small portion out to provide a pizza party to whichever group of people came up with the basket that raised the most amount of funds. That way it's both encouragement and incentive. People were even more creative this year than last," says Ms Catanese.

The baskets speak to that themselves, with one of this year's highlights being the Christmas Spirit basket, which was contributed by one of the larger labs at CHORI, which has employees from over 14 different countries.
"They each contributed some kind of liquor typical of their home country, there's even some home-made limoncello that came from someone's mom in Italy," Ms. Catanese says.

The end result is that CHORI's combined donations from outright contributions, the bake sales and the Basket Raffle will be approximately $5,000 this year, and will help over 10 families have a merrier holiday than they would have without the generosity of the CHORI community.

As Ms. Catanese explains, “The program, which is organized by our CHORI administrator, Betsy Lathrop, spends about $50 dollars on each child in a family, buys something for the caregivers as well, whether they’re parents or grandparents or guardians, and then they also get two $100 gift-certificates, 1 at Target and 1 at Safeway. This lets the caregivers buy their own gifts for their kids, as well as food for the holiday.”

In addition to raising funds for the Adopt-A-Family program, CHORI CARES will be conducting food and clothing drives throughout the year, and has just started putting out a monthly CHORI CARES newsletter.

"We want to make people aware of what we're doing and what we've already completed," Ms. Catanese says. "We want to give CHORI the acknowledgement that it's thanks to their efforts that we can do these things for the community. We also want to use it as a way to come up with ideas for other fundraisers as well."

With plans for a CHORI Calendar, a book drive and a CHORI Cook Book drawing on the wealth of ethnicities represented at CHORI, CHORI CARES already has some great ideas stewing, and plans to make next year even bigger and better than this year.

"It's a great way for us to give back to the community, we are all fortunate to have so much. But I also think CHORI gets just as much as they give. We really enjoy doing it and at the same time we're helping meet others' needs. It gives us a good feeling that we're able to do it."

Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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