Though schoolchildren did not grace the streets of downtown Grass Valley Friday morning, the 129th annual Donation Day parade did march on.
“I’ve been up since 5 a.m. checking the radar,” said Grass Valley Schools Superintendent Eric Fredrickson. “We had the band and buses ready to go, but the way our kids from Scotten walked to the parade and back, I was concerned that the kindergarteners and younger kids would end up in a storm and have to walk back to school in the rain.”
Fredrickson’s decision kept those kids from getting drenched, as rain and snow fell around 10 a.m. Friday
“We didn’t make the decision until about 9:30 (a.m.),” Fredrickson said. “I actually made the right call, but it’s a hard one to do.”
Despite the weather, members of the Grass Valley Ladies Relief Society, Marine Corps honor guard, bagpipers and honorary members of the Grass Valley Fire Department drove their classic fire engine through downtown Grass Valley.
Decorated boxes and labeled shopping carts filled the Grass Valley Charter School multi-purpose room and the school’s students paraded through the hallways in a symbolic gesture.
“It’s a long-standing tradition,” said Grass Valley Relief Society member Julie Cobden. “It’s always an important event to help local families in need.”
Members of the Nevada Union FFA volunteered for Donation Day, sorting cans and helping fill boxes.
“It’s a great way to give back,” said Nevada Union senior and FFA member McKenna Kane. “The community chips in, in so many ways and we want to thank them and be there for the community.”
The event helps children focus on looking outside themselves to help the community, said Brian Martinez, principal of Grass Valley Charter.
“It’s such a historical part of our community,” Martinez said. “Giving a little can help a lot, especially during this time of year when people can get me-centric.”
Donation Day originally included school children bringing a potato and a stick of wood for orphans and struggling families after the closure of the mines in the late 19th century, Cobden said.
“It was originally about schoolchildren helping the orphans and women of the miners,” Cobden said.
Cobden said Donation Day is especially beneficial because of the immediacy of the assistance, with families taking boxes of food that can be used right away.
“One of the most important things is it’s really immediate to the local community,” Cobden said. “It’s something real, concrete, useful and immediate.”
Families in need sign up through community organizations including the Salvation Army and local schools, which Ladies Relief is notified about and prepares for.
This year 150 families received three to four boxes of canned goods and donated items from various organizations, including cereal boxes donated by Grass Valley Jazzercise.
Ladies Relief Society was founded in 1883 and the Donation Day parade began in 1888, after member Caroline Mead Hanson thought children could offer a small contribution to help make a bigger impact. The society focuses on helping women, children, and the elderly by offering a variety of services.
“The emphasis is on the elderly and the young to help shelter and clothe, offer health care and dental care,” said Ladies Relief Society member Marian Jewett. “There is also a scholarship fund to help single mothers trying to better their education.”
The society is supported through donations as well as donated goods and services, bequests and investments, Jewett said. Donations can be made to the Ladies Relief Society, P.O. Box 1132, Cedar Ridge, CA 95924.
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.