Donation Day returns to honor historic tradition |

Donation Day returns to honor historic tradition


Known to be the oldest celebration event in California, Donation Day is back after a year off because of COVID-19.

In the late 1800s, here in Nevada County as in much of the rest of the country, problems of poverty prevailed. To alleviate the financial needs of many residents, the wives of mine owners formed the Grass Valley Ladies Relief Society in 1876. It is one of the oldest social welfare organizations in California.

The Ladies Relief Society originated the Donation Day Parade in 1883 to aid miners and their families, the society states in a press release.

“It’s older than the Rose Bowl Parade,” said Alison Jones-Pomatto, society vice president and parade chair. “It was founded out of necessity during a recession when mines were closing. So, there was a lot of hardship.”

Jones-Pomatto said it was local resident Caroline Meade Hansen, an invalid and member of the Ladies Relief Society, who thought it was a great idea for school children to bring a stick of wood stove kindling and a potato as donations to families in need.

“Even though it was a small thing, all together it was a huge effort,“ said Jones-Pomatto. “The parade started a year later and children marched through the streets. But today they bring a can of food or jar of peanut butter, all sorts of things. We sort it all out and take it to the Interfaith Food Ministry, who does the distribution. They do the holiday meals. They just finished Thanksgiving and will do Christmas, too.”


The 137th parade is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to about 10:45 a.m. Downtown streets will be closed to traffic between 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The freeway off-ramp of Highway 20/49 at the Colfax exit onto South Auburn Street will also be closed at this time. Vehicle traffic should expect some delays and detours.

The Grass Valley Charter School is the main staging area for the start of the parade for half of the students. Neal and Mill streets will be the start for the other half. The route will proceed from the charter school on South Auburn Street, left up Neal Street, right on Mill Street, right down West Main Street and back down South Auburn Street, ending at Grass Valley Charter School. A veterans color guard will be out front, along with a marching band from Lyman Gilmore Middle School. Other schools participating include Ben Hill, Scotten, and Mt. St. Mary Academy, as well as some pre-schools.

“For me, it teaches the kids about philanthropy without being hit over the head with it,” said Jones-Pomatto. “It’s a wonderful tradition. It’s all about giving and we do whatever we can to help the community.”

The society’s funding depends entirely on the generosity of individuals through cash donations and bequests. They do not accept any government funds nor have any paid employees. All donations remain in Nevada County to help community members in need. If anyone would like to donate to the society, they can contact it at: P.O. Box 1132, Cedar Ridge, California, 95924.

For further information about the parade, people can call the Grass Valley Downtown Association at 530-272-8315.

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at

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