With three different Altrusa clubs here in Santa Maria, it’s not hard for people to find a way to give back that meets their interests and fits their schedule.
“Our members pick projects that are near and dear to their heart,” said Ailina Noe Mahelona, member of the Board of Directors for Altrusa of the Central Coast. “and having a variety of Altrusa clubs even just here locally allows those who want to participate to find one that works best with their schedule.”
The three different Altrusa Clubs in Santa Maria meet at different times throughout the month: one in the morning, one at noon, and one in the evening. Mahelona’s club, Altrusa of the Central Coast, is the afternoon club and meets once a month at noon at the Santa Maria Public Library.
Chartered in 2003 by 20 members of the community, Mahelona says it is the passion for giving back that draws people to participate in Altrusa.
“I joined Altrusa of the Central Coast because I wanted to make a change in our city, even if it is a small change; change adds up when you join with others,” Mehelona said. “I remember standing on the sidelines the first couple of months, watching and seeing the other volunteers engage in their projects. Since then I have learned a lot from seasoned volunteers. You can learn from watching other people, especially the volunteers that care for others well being.”
Altrusa has been very active in the local Santa Maria community, partnering with organizations to raise funds, increase awareness, or simply help wherever needed. Projects Altrusa has recently been involved with locally include helping at the Domestic Violence Women’s Emergency Center, collecting coats for the homeless, helping with arts and crafts at Orcutt Library, volunteering at different city festivals, working with VTC, the Los Alamos Library, Food-Bank and CASA Children’s Christmas Party.
Mahelona says Altrusa is different from other local volunteer groups because of the variety of different projects they help with as well as the variety of different clubs and meeting times available.
“What’s great is that we offer so many different projects, that it’s easy for people to find a way to get involved that meets their interests and fits their schedule,” Mahelona said. “And once are volunteers participate once, they tend to keep coming back. Volunteering teaches you to be humble. You stop thinking about your own needs and think of someone else’s.”
One of Altrusa of the Central Coast’s biggest annual events is coming up in November: the Festival of Trees. Started in 2004, the event provides sponsors an opportunity to decorate a Christmas tree and provide gifts under the tree. The trees are then raffled off to community members who purchase raffle tickets. All proceeds from Festival of Trees supports of variety of local organizations who need a helping hand, as well as area high school scholarships and FFA scholarships.
Mahelona. says that there are 38-40 trees in the event each year. The winner of each trees gets to take home the tree and all the decorations and gifts with it. The event is fun for the whole community, including those sponsors who help decorate.
“The sponsors have a fabulous time decorating with their employees knowing the money raised goes back into the local community,” Mahelona said. “And participants who purchase tickets like knowing that the money is going for a good cause and stays in our surrounding community.”
Mahelona encourages everyone to come check out the Festival of Trees event. The trees will be on display November 25 through December 10 at the Town Center Mall in Santa Maria (142 Town Center E, Santa Maria). The raffle will be held on Sunday, December 11 at 1pm.
“When all the trees are up and there are gifts under the trees, it feels like Christmas. We have families come to our event just to get into the Christmas spirit. Small children ooh and ahh over the trees and want to choose the one they will win,” Mahelona said. “It also doesn’t hurt if you win a Tree! Please come check out our trees, buy a ticket and help the organizations in the community of Santa Maria continue their good works.”
If you would like to sponsor a tree or learn more about Altrusa of the Central Coast’s Festival of Trees event, visit their website, altrusaofthecentralcoast.org, or call Melinda at 805-733-1122.