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 62 article(s) for InMenlo.


A few weeks ago we reported on the urgent need for donations to the annual holiday party held for students of the Ravenswood City School District and their families. The Willows neighborhood group spearheading the effort had less than a week to recruit volunteers and collect toys, gift cards, and blankets to serve the more than 400 low-income families.

Did they succeed? Overwhelmingly so! Here’s the official count from the organizing team: 2,661 toys, including 341 preschool toys, 330 balls, 322 books, 280 stuffed animals, 250 Lego sets, and 120 dolls. They also collected and distributed more than 200 gift cards and 600 blankets.

The party was a lively affair, with students in pre-K through eighth grade having the opportunity to “shop” for a gift among the many stations, organized by activity. Santa was on hand for picture-taking, and raffles for bikes (more on that incredible fund-raising effort below), scooters, and family gift cards were held throughout the day. As they exited, families (many of whom are classified as homeless) also received a blanket. The gifts and blankets remaining at the end of the day, were later distributed to families unable to attend the festivities.

Beyond the numbers, a community outpouring

While the smiling kids and parents marked the event a success, for organizer Dana Shields (pictured with Santa), it was just as much about the incredible volunteers and community efforts leading up to the big day. Neighbors, coworkers, local businesses, church groups, school service clubs, and sports groups came together to pull off the event. While there are numerous stories of generosity and service among the hundreds of people collecting gifts and the more than 100 event volunteers, below are a few of our favorites.

Dan and Patricia O’Brien organized a drive at Ladera Oaks Swim & Tennis Club, as they have done for the past seven years. The effort began with Dan’s Wednesday night tennis group, which in the past few years has donated toys directly to different Ravenswood schools. This year, with the collection effort expanded to the entire club, the O’Briens were thrilled to be able to serve all the schools, and they collected eight barrels worth.

Charlotte Smith, a seventh grader from Woodland School in Portola Valley collected more than 200 toys. Charlotte had volunteered for the Ravenswood toy drive the past couple of years and noticed that each year there have been more and more children. She wanted to make sure there would be enough toys for all the kids who wanted one. She worked with her school’s Service Club this year to make it happen.

Sisters Izamar and Madeline Moya, along with Alejandro Garcia and Karina Maldonado raised money to purchase bikes for the drive. They were motivated by recent policing of local kids riding Facebook bikes. As they explained on their fundraising page: “As a community, let’s not criminalize our already marginalized youth. Let’s have some compassion and understand the root of the issue, which is lack of financial resources to be able to purchase their own bike.”

Missed the toy drive and still want to help Ravenswood students? Donate to the Ravenswood Education Foundation or volunteer with All Students Matter.

Photos by Ola Hopper

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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 […]

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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