Mervyn’s aids needy families at Christmas

Mervyn’s aids needy families at Christmas

Michelle Beaver, STAFF WRITER

It’s a garbage bag. Stuffed with goodies, but otherwise lumpy and unassuming. And in it lies the possibility of a happy Christmas morning in Hayward-area homes.

Every year, volunteers from an emergency nursery in Concord drive around the Bay Area and deliver hundreds of garbage bags full of nice, new, wrapped gifts for every family the nursery has helped in the last 12 months. The nursery may be far from Hayward — especially for those without transportation — but for many local families, any drive is worth the help this nursery provides.

Families who are under severe stress can enroll their children at the nursery for about 10 days or less. Hayward-based Mervyn’s department store executives are aware of how much the nursery helps local families, and this week they donated $15,000 to the nursery.

Some of the money went toward the gifts, and the rest went to general operating costs. The money is desperately needed since, in an effort to retain control over the program, the nursery does not accept government funding.

“We were delighted about the gift,” said Sister Ann Weltz, the nursery’s founder. “When we get anything that large there is great rejoicing here. We don’t get many large donations. It makes possible keeping our doors open for every child that comes.”

The nursery is the only one of its kind in the Bay Area. It’s possible that the Hayward area needs its own such service, because many of its residents have sought help from the Concord nursery. In the last few days, volunteers have delivered garbage bags full of new toys to about five families in Hayward and San Leandro. There were others before this week — Sister Weltz starts her “Santa missions” early. She has lived at the nursery since its inception 25 years ago. She likes to personally choose some of the gifts.

“It all goes according to the child and what their dreams are,” she said.”If the child wants a laptop computer, obviously we can’t give that, but we do give really nice gifts. We start in October, getting sizes and wishes.”

It is all kept as quiet as possible — Sister Weltz does not release family names and she certainly does not want children to know that the nursery is shopping for them. It is vital to protect their identities, so they can feel as much like “normal” families as possible, she said.

Sister Weltz goes without accolades and the nursery does too, when on December 25 children see what “Santa” left. The nursery wants the parents to get the credit.

“The parent needs to be the hero in the family,” she said. “We never give a used item. We try to make it a really special Christmas.”

The nursery takes in all children under 11 and provides at least seven gifts to about 500 children a year and their parents, regardless of income level.

There are Hayward and San Leandro kids who consider the nursery “extended family.” This Christmas they may be too overwhelmed with gifts to think of Sister Weltz, but she’ll certainly be thinking of them.

Michelle Beaver is a general assignment reporter who also covers police and San Lorenzo. She can be reached at or (510) 293-2463.

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