Kern County folks like to think of themselves as some of the most caring, generous people around. We don't have a reliable way of measuring that, but we're pretty sure many, many local nonprofit organizations and charitable groups are well acquainted with the good will that bubbles forth from Bakersfield and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Several of those organizations wrote us last week to spread their message and give credit where it's due -- to you, the generous people of this humble little corner of the world.

We put food on empty plates

The hungriest city in America, Bakersfield, could not do without a food bank that serves the needs of thousands of struggling residents. And the Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank could not survive without the generous support of a genuinely caring community.

The CAPK Food Bank has been especially fortunate in 2013, not only because of numerous monetary and in-kind donations received from individuals, corporations and other nonprofits who support us on an ongoing basis, but also because of some special gifts that are helping to fill hungry citizens' need for a basic food staple: protein.

In March, the Food Bank added a 20,250 cubic-foot walk-in freezer thanks to donations from such funders as Walmart, Kern Health Systems, Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America, the Wheeler Foundation and others. The increased cold storage capacity has allowed the Food Bank to be able to receive and distribute 55 percent more fresh and frozen products -- including meat -- than it could in the past.

Then, this fall, an anonymous donor purchased hundreds of heads of livestock at the Kern County Fair's 4-H auction for the purpose of donating the meat to the Food Bank. Had it not been for the freezer, we would have been hard put to accommodate such a large donation of cuts of meat.

The charity of some earlier in the year, therefore, made room for the charity of others to be fully received and maximized a few months later. To our familiar and mystery donors in 2013: Thank you!

Jeremy T. Tobias

Executive Director

Community Action Partnership of Kern

We educate, comfort and serve

Last month, Kern County communities donated over $200,000 to the American Red Cross for Typhoon Haiyan Relief. These contributions are making a difference for survivors of the Pacific Typhoon that affected millions in the Philippines and we so appreciate the generosity.

However, I would like to take a moment during this holiday season to remind everyone that your local Kern Red Cross needs your assistance as well. Every 15 hours we answer the call to assist at a home fire. Local Red Cross volunteers provided critical assistance to your friends and neighbors. The services provided are funded by donations from people just like you. We put your donations to work 365 days a year because there is always someone in need of the Red Cross.

A local fire client explains it best: "My apartment was engulfed in flames when the Red Cross volunteer gave me a hug, a blanket and water. By the time she left, I had food, clothing, shelter... and hope."

Through our local Red Cross services, including disaster response, preparedness education, CPR/First Aid as well as support of our service members and veterans, we have helped more than 65,000 families this year. Thank you for your continued support of the American Red Cross. We wish you the best during this holiday season.

Amy Smith

Executive Director

American Red Cross, Kern Chapter

We really do put children first

Nine major projects in seven of our school neighborhoods that touched over 5,000 students and their families: All due to our wonderful volunteers. I have been the Executive Director of Children First Campaign for a year. I am blessed to have met so many wonderful people that gave the most valuable resource they have: themselves. On a budget that is most likely very meek compared to other nonprofits, we implemented our mission that all Bakersfield children deserve an opportunity to succeed in life. Our goals are to create prosperous communities, ensure that all children live in healthy, safe, and nurturing neighborhoods, and to counter the negative influences of drugs, crime, violence and poverty with resources and organizational support to their neighborhoods.

Whether it was working with CCAT to provide piano lessons using iPads and keyboards at a community center across from Casa Loma School, partnering with the Clark Foundation of Mexican Folk Art and the Bakersfield Museum of Art to bring a Mobile Art Museum to BCSD's summer school, or a summer outreach program with Stay Focused Ministries for the students of Stella Hills School, our volunteers made it happen. These partnerships and relationships allow us to send 98 percent of the money donated to Children First Campaign right back out to our neighborhoods and empower the local community to make a positive change for the children of Bakersfield. I look forward to 2014 and working with our "hero" volunteers out on the streets of Bakersfield.

Linda Fiddler

Executive Director

Children First Campaign

We shelter, care and protect

Life can get ugly for the people that we are privileged to serve. Homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault; all can be ugly and our clients can feel isolated and alone.

I am grateful that we live in a part of the world where people do care about one another and do want to help. The Bakersfield Homeless Center and the Alliance Against Family Violence & Sexual Assault could not survive without our supportive community. It is humbling how our neighbors respond to those in need, in crisis, or just down and out. In our 30-plus years of service, Bakersfield and Kern County residents have proven to be very caring and generous. Gifts from the community are not always financial; many support the work at BHC & AAFVSA by giving of their time, household items, gently used clothes, and much needed diapers (to name a few examples).

Food is also essential. When our pantry has been dangerously low we have put out an appeal and, as always, people stream in with canned goods and other nonperishables to restock our pantry. Every year BHC hosts a number of fundraising events that help to keep our doors open. They have been successful because of the volunteers that create the events and because of the attendees that support us year after year.

Individual financial gifts from the community have provided much of the "life blood" of our organizations. All gifts ranging from a couple dollars to several thousands of dollars -- it all adds up, it is all needed and we are grateful.

Louis Gill

CEO, Bakersfield Homeless Center

Alliance Against Family Violence

& Sexual Assault

We assign the volunteers

On behalf of the Volunteer Center of Kern County I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to our community for your support during 2013. In the season of "giving" there are none better to exemplify that spirit throughout the year than our volunteers. A special heartfelt "thank you" to all of those who volunteered during the year and for contributing more than $68 million in volunteer support to Kern County's local nonprofit organizations.

The Volunteer Center has focused on serving as the hub of volunteer services in Kern County for more than 40 years, linking volunteers with the agencies that rely on their assistance to address the needs of our community.

We offer our gratitude to the donors whose ongoing support allows us to continue this valuable work and to the community for partnering with us in events such as our annual fan drive, senior volunteer recognition luncheon, bingo fundraiser and other efforts. We look forward to 2014 and the chance to continue to provide vital services that show Kern County a community that serves from the heart.

Brenda Ratliff

Executive Director

Volunteer Center of Kern County

We mentor low-income girls

Every year, more than 10,000 girls in the south Central Valley start their journey toward success. They learn to help the less fortunate in our communities. They learn to get along with others from different cultures, while becoming independent, resourceful and good communicators. They discover the fun and power of working together -- as Girl Scouts.

A report released this month by the Girl Scout Research Institute highlights the obstacles that many of these girls face; although girls in the United States have made substantial progress in the classroom and elsewhere, persistent disparities and challenges keep many girls from achieving their full potential. Black/African American and Hispanic/Latina girls are far more likely than their white counterparts to face socioeconomic hurdles that range from growing up in poverty or a low-income household to dropping out of school and struggling with obesity.

Our Girl Scouts Connect program reaches more than 4,000 girls every year, from low-income families in the Central Valley. Most face barriers such as lack of education, training or professional skills. We provide bilingual materials and staff for girls and their families. Without the support of donors and community partners, Girl Scouts of Central California South could not provide programs directly to these disadvantaged girls, to help them stay on track to become productive citizens.

Cathy Ferguson

Chief Executive Officer

Girl Scouts of Central California South

We feed hungry animals

Last December, we at the Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry asked our community to monetarily help us establish a physical location to serve from, and they made it happen. The Pantry now rents a small warehouse, making it possible to help more people and pets in need, and for this, we are truly grateful.

Our great volunteers range from pre-school age to senior citizens. So many organizations, businesses, schools, clubs, Scout troops and individuals have reached out to help us with their time, money and pet food donations. They've helped on fundraisers, collected pet food, bagged and distributed the food, all to aid struggling people.

Our volunteers' hard work was recognized with a Beautiful Bakersfield Award nomination. What an honor this was for everyone who's put in countless hours of their time keeping the Pantry running. In just a few weeks we will be entering our fifth year of filling empty bowls and hungry bellies with emergency pet food. We are blessed to have such a caring and loving community.

Cindy Frye


Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry

We feed and shelter the poor

Thank you to our volunteers and donors for their dedication and commitment to serving the poor in our community. The Center, located at 316 Baker St., serves 100 to 150 people a day. Our volunteers come from various churches, schools, civic groups, businesses, book clubs and families who want to be part of the community effort. It is impossible to name each and every one individually, but at the top of our list is a local business, family owned and operated: Jim's Supply Co. The Boylan, Drake, and Cerrina families assist many charitable causes and we are fortunate to have them as a major sponsor for our services to the poor. During the year, they see that our visitors to the Center are well fed, kept warm, and made to feel loved and cared for by providing financial support for holiday and seasonal celebrations. If that were not enough, the owners themselves volunteer with their families and friends to fix and serve meals at the Center.

Many volunteers keep the programs running smoothly. Hundreds of hours in time and service are tallied by our volunteers each month. Some are retirees, some are homeless individuals themselves who simply want to pay back in gratitude for a safe place to stay during the day. Thank you to all our volunteers, and thank you to everyone at Jim's Supply Co. for your commitment to the St. Vincent de Paul Center.

Joanne Border

St. Vincent de Paul Center

We grant special wishes

I have witnessed, firsthand, Bakersfield's legendarily generous nature, and it is truly inspiring. Recently we held our fourth annual donation drive with the Bakersfield and Kern County fire departments. The firefighters donate several hours, during their time off, to help collect donations. Wish families, who have and are still struggling through so many hardships of having a sick child, take time to come and volunteer at the event, as well.

I was especially touched to see wish parents Michael and Jessica Garcia lend their support. December marks the one-year anniversary of their son Nathan's passing. This has been an extremely difficult time for them, and yet they came to support the other Make-A-Wish families and then went on to organize their own fundraiser, Nathan's Toy Drive, to collect and deliver toys to children in hospitals in honor of their son's last wish.

It's amazing to see that one dollar, five dollars, even spare change can make such a difference. All year long, I witness Kern County's generosity with groups that raise money from big to small events for Make-a-Wish -- the Stockdale Moose Lodge Car Show, Cruisin' for A Wish or the Poker Run, Ridin' for Wishes organized by a small motorcycle club in Taft and even a lemonade stand run yearly by a former wish child in Delano. Every effort means a lot and makes a difference. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is honored and grateful for the caring and giving citizens of this amazing community.

Catherine Anspach

Kern County Community Director

Make-A-Wish Central California

We assist those with disabilities

New Advances for People with Disabilities provides a safe and nurturing environment for over 500 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities every day. The NAPD, a non-profit that has existed in Kern County for three decades, offers programs, advocacy and skills that empower our clients to live more productive, rewarding and independent lives.

Over the last few years, state budget cuts have had a negative impact for our clients and the specialized public services available to them. Fortunately, private companies, local service clubs, and generous individuals are stepping forward to assist. For example, through the Kern Community Foundation, NAPD received $20,000 from the Arthritis Foundation. Money from a local foundation helped fund badly needed playground equipment for our children's program. A grant from Bank of the Sierra helped purchase sports equipment and games for our teenagers. An anonymous private donor funded a computer lab. And a recent mini-grant from Chevron's Community Investment Program will be used to purchase a smart board learning system for the adults at our Center for Creative Achievement. The generous support we receive from the community helps enrich the lives of our clients, and we are grateful.

Darla Benson

Executive Director

New Advances for People with Disabilities You gave so we could