Archive of Chrisie Wendin

Peninsula-born Chrisie Wendin discovered Menlo Park some 20 years ago through a fortuitous house-sitting gig on Oak Grove. Once married, she settled down to raise her family in the Willows. Chrisie is an award-winning editor who’s been covering business and technology for the last two decades, having “been there” during the heady days of many now-defunct magazines. Currently working at a professional services firm on a custom business publication, Chrisie sees contributing to InMenlo as pure fun.

Chrisie has written 61 article(s) for InMenlo.


Post image for Willows neighbors embark on ambitious toy drive for 2,500 kids in the Ravenswood school district

10 days. 400 blankets for homeless families. 2,500 gifts for low-income kids. And 100 volunteers to pull it all off. That’s what’s top of mind for Willows resident Dana Shields and her neighbors.

The children in the Ravenswood City School District (RCSD) are close to her heart. For six years, Dana has volunteered in RCSD via All Students Matter as a STEAM and Design teacher. (Shields is also an artist and designer whom we’ve profiled before.)

For the past three years, Shields (pictured photo right — red jacket, front row) has rallied her neighborhood — along with the broader community — to collect the toys needed to provide every child in the district with a special gift. This year, that’s 2,500 students, down 500 from 2017 due to declining enrollment (that’s a function of the high cost of living).

“We all talk about how expensive it is here, but what often surprises people when I talk about where I teach is just how many kids are homeless,” says Dana. “That doesn’t mean they’re living on the streets; they might be in cars, RVs, shelters, or squeezed into a small two bedroom apartment with multiple families. They don’t have a lot, and that’s why it means so much to me to give them each a little joy each holiday season.”

According to the district’s latest figures, some 44% of students are classified as homeless and 89% as low-income. The homeless factor is one reason why Dana and team are adding fleece blankets to the drive.

While Dana may be the heart and soul of the effort, she’s quick to point out how it really does take a village. “Every year I’ve been blown away by how generous people are and how much they want to help. Not only do they donate thousands of gifts, but they also set up and volunteer at the holiday party. It’s a huge job, and this year we have a super short window. But I’m confident our community will come through as they have each year.”

How you can help

Between now and December 14, the organizing group needs to collect 2,500 toys and gift cards, as well as 400 fleece blankets. They also need to recruit more than 100 volunteers to run the event on Saturday, December 15 at Costaño School in East Palo Alto.

Here are five ways you can get involved:

1. Purchase and drop off unwrapped toys, gifts, and fleece blankets to 1231 Woodland Ave, Menlo Park. See gift ideas below. (Leave on porch, in a plastic bag if it’s raining.)

2. Buy gifts online and have sent directly to Dana Shields, 1231 Woodland Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

3. Volunteer, Friday, December 14, in the morning to load up the toys, or from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, to help us organize gifts and prep for the holiday party. Families are welcome to volunteer together, but please no children younger than middle school age. Sign up here. 4. Volunteer, Saturday, December 15, from 7am to 4pm, to set up, pass out gifts, escort families. (Please no children younger than middle school age.) Sign up for a shift here.

5. Donate funds that can be use to purchase gift cards and toys. Contact RavenswoodToys2018@gmail.com or 209-730-0535 for PayPal, Venmo, or other details.

Gift ideas

Choose your favorites or consider these popular items from last year:

• Fleece blankets

• All ages: soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, soccer backpacks, scooters, skateboards warm hats, cute throw pillows, cute sleeping bags, toy slime

• Preschool to Grade 2: dolls, cars, legos, stuffed animals

• Grades 3 to 5: legos, remote-control cars, stuffed animals

• Grades 6 to 8: $20 gift cards to retailers within walking distance to home and school: Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Target, Baskin Robins, Taco Bell, Togos, iTunes

Questions or ideas? Contact RavenswoodToys2018@gmail.com or call/text 209-730-0535.

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Toy drive for Ravenswood students extended — 1 more day to help!

Thumbnail image for Toy drive for Ravenswood students extended — 1 more day to help!

Despite the towering pile of toys taking over Dana Shields’s living room, there’s still a need for hundreds more to ensure that every child in the Ravenswood City School District receives a gift at Saturday’s holiday party. As she has done for the past few years, Dana, a Design and STEAM teacher for the District […]

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Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation grants $3.6 million to school district

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At Tuesday night’s board meeting of the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD), excited students from Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview presented a symbolic $3.6 million check to the school board, which passed a resolution to accept the grant. The grant from the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF) will become a crucial part of […]

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Shop the MPAEF Chic Boutique at Allied Arts on Friday to support local schools

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Tonight kicked off the MPAEF’s annual holiday boutique, this year appropriately dubbed the Chic Boutique with its smart and stylish gifts for all ages and budgets. Twenty local vendors including many InMenlo favorites are featured at the boutique, which continues until 2:30 pm tomorrow and is free and open to the community. The fourth annual […]

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MPAEF Chic Boutique at Allied Arts on Nov. 21 and 22 benefits local schools

The community is invited to attend the fourth annual MPAEF Chic Boutique, a local tradition at Allied Arts, which raises funds for the schools in the Menlo Park City School District. The Boutique will feature a wide array of local vendors, offering gifts and treasures that span Holiday Sparkle, Delicious Delicacies, Home, Decor & More, […]

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MPAEF grants record $3.6 million to Menlo Park City School District

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This week’s MPCSD School Board meeting had a full agenda, but one of the highlights was surely the presentation of a giant check—both in size and dollar amount—from smiling students. The kids delivered the check to the School Board and Superintendent Maurice Ghysels on behalf of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF). The grant has […]

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Laurel students create outdoor art with polka dots, paint, and inspiration from local artist Dana Shields

Thumbnail image for Laurel students create outdoor art with polka dots, paint, and inspiration from local artist Dana Shields

Second-grade students in Ms. Cressey’s and Ms. Warren’s classes had plenty to smile about last week when they put the finishing touches on a large-scale outdoor project, which was the brainchild of class parent and artist Dana Shields. The spectacular project transformed a grove of on-campus trees into a vibrant, polka dot–covered work of art […]

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Schools earn $50,000 from MPAEF’s Participation Challenge grant with 83% of families contributing

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After a month of tireless activity by parents, teachers, principals, and students, the good news came this morning: Menlo Park’s schools would receive a $50,000 challenge grant from an anonymous, local donor. The Participation Challenge sought to increase the number of families in the Menlo Park City School District that supported its four schools through […]

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Get a head start on shopping at the MPAEF Holiday Boutique at Allied Arts in Menlo Park

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Two dozen local vendors, including Menlo Park’s Wrap It Up, which sells holiday aprons and other handcrafted wares, are taking part in the MPAEF Holiday Boutique, which continues until 2:30 pm today at Allied Arts and is free and open to the community. (Pictured above is Wrap It Up owner Kim Salkind and daughter Hannah […]

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It’s the animals turn to get blessed at Trinity Church

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Dozens of dogs, stuffed animals, and a few birds went to church this morning, as part of Trinity Church’s annual Blessing of the Animals. Children and their families say the outdoor service is one of the highlights of the year, and today’s beautiful, sunny morning made it all that much better. Earlier in the week, […]

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Are You In? day at local schools celebrates community support for public education

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Forget the blue and green. Yesterday, everyone’s school color at Laurel, Encinal, Oak Knoll, and Hillview was orange—and more orange!  The occasion? The Menlo Park City School District’s (MPCSD) annual Are You In? Day. Students, like those at Oak Knoll (above), reminded everyone how vital it is for parents and the broader community to support […]

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