The Family Giving Tree envisions a world where every child is made to feel like a valuable part of their community through a shared belief in the power of giving.
The Family Giving Tree fulfills the exact holiday wish and provides backpacks filled with school supplies to those children in the most need in our communities while inspiring the values of kindness, philanthropy and volunteerism.
The Family Giving Tree began in 1990 as a San Jose State University MBA class project. Jennifer Cullenbine and Todd Yoshida were asked to "create a program that adds value to someone else's life." They created the Family Giving Tree with the hope of providing holiday gifts to 300 children in East Palo Alto. Encouraged by the success of the first year, Jennifer decided to continue and expand the organization. In the 23rd year of the program's existence, the total number of gifts and backpacks donated had grown to over 900,000, making the Family Giving Tree the largest gift and backpack donation program in California.
Making a career out of helping others, our professional staff oversees day to day operations. We currently employ 13 full time and 3 part time employees throughout the year. We all take great pride in being the foundation for our Elves community. Check our official "Org. Chart" here!
Our illustrious founder and Queen Elf, Jenn created the Family Giving Tree as a class project while earning her MBA from San Jose State University in 1990. In addition to managing the Tree, Jenn is affiliated with many organizations, some of which include the Young Entrepreneurs Organization, The Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club of Milpitas. She is happily married to her husband Dan and has two beautiful children, Connor and Kinsey. Together with her family, Jenn nurtures and socializes kittens to get them ready for adoption. She has successfully found homes for over 117 kittens!
Armed with a Bachelors in Social Sciences and state teaching credential from UC Irvine as well as a marketing MBA from Temple University in Philadelphia, David spent 25 years in the transportation industry, including eight years at FedEx. He taught elementary school in San Juan Capistrano for three years and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia in East Africa from 1974—1975. In 2010, David joined the Tree as in a unique switch from the for-profit world and has never looked back. In his free time, he enjoys snorkeling, golfing, and fly fishing. David has been married to his wife for over 30 years and has two beautiful daughters (and a son-in-law).
Jeanne has a degree in sociology with a minor in art from UC Santa Barbara. She completed her postgraduate work in social service management at Santa Clara University. She began volunteering in high school and taught English to migrant workers. Her passion for nonprofit work has continued to blossom and most of her work experience in fact has been in the nonprofit sector. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, traveling, and doing Pilates. And don’t forget to ask her about her private pilot’s license!
Jess is an expert with small to medium sized operations with added extensive work in the not-for-profit sector. With his specialization in financial reporting, internal controls, business planning, financial systems, and organization development Jess keeps the Elves' finances in line. He currently act as the permanent and part-time CFO for numerous not-for profit organizations including the Family Giving Tree. Jess obtained a BSC from Santa Clara University and received an MBA from Pepperdine University. When he's not crunching numbers, Jess enjoys golfing, enjoying fine wine, and spending time with his lovely wife and children.
Originally from Chicago, IL, Al graduated with a BS in Math from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Prior to moving to San Jose, Al served in the U.S. Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer for 8 years in San Diego (ironically, he gets seasick). He then received a Masters in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco prior to working for Integrated Device Technology and at Intel as a Supply Chain planner and manager. In addition to being an avid hockey fan, Al also enjoys running, commuting to work on his bike, and visiting lighthouses on the coast with his wife Jenny.
Theo enjoys developing collaborative relationships with organizations to make a positive impact in the local community. This passion began as a child when he held his first fundraiser, a backyard carnival for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That childhood experience served as the catalyst to over 30 years of community involvement in nonprofit and corporate settings. Previously, Theo worked for Synopsys, Inc. managing the employee involvement programs, Synopsys Shares, encouraging over 6,500 employees in 80 locations worldwide to make an involved difference. Theo received a BA from Luther College in Decorah, IA. An avid singer and member of two choruses, one often hears him singing a tune for an upcoming performance. Theo relishes time with husband Dio, beagles Rusty & Winnie, family and friends.
A Bay Area native, Katie graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies. She went on to earn her Masters in School Counseling and a PPS Credential from St. Mary’s College of California. In addition to sitting on the board of directors for Alameda Family Services, Katie is also the president and technology chair of AFS’ fundraising league. She’s married to her high school sweetheart Travis, and in her free time she enjoys baking, silversmithing, watching horrible reality TV shows, and embracing her inner techie.
All the way from Toronto, Canada, Cristi has since embraced the Bay Area as home and is currently in the midst of earning a sociology degree at San Jose State University. She joined the Tree in 2004 as Communications Specialist, and her day-to-day activities include overseeing all social media and developing electronic newsletters, website content, and collateral campaigns. In her free time, Cristi enjoys spending time with her family at soccer games and lego marathons, cleaning her kitchen ceiling after a weekend of canning and watching her urban garden wilt under her black thumb. She does not like cardboard. Are you following us at fb.com/familygivingtree and @FGTTweets ?
Hailing from Colorado, Dawn graduated from Colorado State University. Prior to her 11+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Dawn lived for a year in South Australia as an exchange student and for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia. She joined the Family Giving Tree more than five years ago as an Executive Elf, and she is now our amazing Host Coordinator. Though she misses the Colorado mountains, Dawn loves the Bay Area and enjoys crafting, reading, volunteering, and going on crazy adventures with her other half, Kevin.
At age 14, Celeste volunteered at the O’Connor hospital and received an award for 100 community service hours. Her commitment to service has stayed strong over the years, and we love having her as our Agency Coordinator. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and traveling, and is her next stop is Australia to visit her daughter. Celeste is also a bit of a daredevil — although she is afraid of heights, she’s been skydiving … twice!
A third generation native Californian, Susan earned her business degree from San Jose State University and worked in the for-profit world for many years before joining the Family Giving Tree. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her rescue dog Razzle, quilting, and going on quilt shop hops.
Rene joined us at the Tree in 2003 as a volunteer and became a full-time employee in 2007. Affectionately dubbed “Poppy,” Rene’s our Fix-It Elf, and his responsibilities range from being in charge the gift database to making sure that the wish cards accurately reflect the wishes of the kids we work with. Rene’s favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark (he’s seen it 46 times), and he’s an avid Sharks fan.
Born and raised in San Jose, Shannon graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in public relations and a minor in communication studies. After spending eight years in the corporate world, Shannon is excited to join the Tree as our newest member and contribute her knowledge, skills, and positive attitude as best she can. In her free time, Shannon enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with her husband Phil.
Susie was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She has been bookkeeping and working in accounting her entire career and is a Certified Bookkeeper with the National Bookkeepers Association. Susie is married to Peter and has three children; Jade, Molly and Blake. She is currently one of the high school Sunday School Teachers at Christ Community Church of Milpitas and loves cooking, scrapbooking and going for long walks and bike rides with her husband. Her favorite food is spicy Mexican or Italian!
Colloquially known as the Gopher Elf, Dianne is an incredibly creative and makes centerpieces and awards for all the Tree’s events. She began as a seasonal employee in 2003 and now works part time. A native Californian, Dianne lives in the Bay Area.
Sylvia attended Long Beach City and State Colleges before moving to the Bay Area in 1962, where she completed her degree in Business. She has been friends with the Cullenbine family since the Queen Elf herself was a toddler. She’s been involved with the Family Giving Tree in some way or another since its inception and she’s the best Granny Elf we could have ever asked for. In addition to being a stellar pianist, Sylvia enjoys listening to mystery books on tape and spending time with her grandchildren and husband Randy (UncPa) of 36 years.
With a degree in English highlighted by a focus on Language and Discourse from CSU East Bay, Angie is out to change the world. Born with a rare physical disability called central core myopathy, she learned early on how important it is to help those in need. As a result, Angie’s always dreamed of being a part of an organization that makes a difference to those in need. She joined the Tree in 2010 as our resident Digital Arts Elf, and she continually wows her with her design and photography skills. An avid fan of all things Disney, Angie is either 1) at Disneyland or 2) in the midst of planning her next trip!
Not only a dedicated group of volunteers, the Board of Directors guides Family Giving Tree in pursuit of its goals. This level of performance is a level of dedication unto itself. The board members of FGT have committed time, energy and funds to the overall cause and mission of the team.
Jennifer is a true native Californian who graduated from San Jose State University with an undergraduate degree and a Masters in Business Administration. She created the Family Giving Tree as a class project in 1990 and has been the Queen Elf and Executive Director ever since. Jennifer strives to promote volunteerism and donates hundreds of hours each year to Public Television (KTEH), The Cancer Society and numerous local events.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Lori then attended the University of Washington, where she graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a Concentration in Finance. She moved to the Bay Area in 1999 and has worked for Comerica Bank since 2000, where she currently holds the position of "Alternate Group Manager for Small Business Banking" for Santa Clara and Contra Costa Counties. Lori joined Family Giving Tree in 1999 after volunteering with us for several years and in her spare time enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, including her son, born in 2008.
Bill is a property manager and orchardist, who lives in Milpitas with his wife , Liz, and daughter, Cindy. Bill graduated from Los Gatos High School and then from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He works in the family business of managing commercial and agricultural property. Bill also sits on the Agricultural Advisory Board of the Santa Clara Water District, his HOA and is active in the Model A Ford Club. He is past president of the Milpitas Rotary Club and the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau.
As a Bay Area native, Todd graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from San Jose State University. He founded his own structural engineering firm in 1989 after working for various other firms in the Santa Clara Valley. Todd has been with the Family Giving Tree since its inception and is Jennifer's constant reminder that she is making a difference in the lives of people.
Marguerite has worked at Cisco since 1996 and is currently an employee engagement manager, focused on the employee experience, inclusion and diversity, and Cisco’s corporate culture. She worked in other areas of the company including Community Relations, University Recruiting, Public Relations, and IT. A native San Franciscan, she holds a degree in Liberal Studies and Mathematics from San Francisco State University and has been a volunteer in the community for over two decades. Along with a committee of corporate partners, she worked with the California State Secretary of Service and Volunteering to help increase volunteerism between businesses and nonprofits. She and her husband enjoy their two dogs, spending time with family and friends, and run a successful family pizza business called A Slice of New York.
Born in Washington D.C. and raised in California , Cristina was a Family Giving Tree delivery Elf for three years before joining the Board of Directors in 2004. She graduated from San Jose State University with a BS degree in Business Administration, specializing in Human Resources. Currently, she uses this degree to make her living as a self-employed Human Resources Consultant. As a consultant, she is primarily focused on HR management customized for the client, including HR infrastructure, programs and policy, and employment law. Before becoming an independent consultant, Cristina served as Director of Human Resources at Novell for 15 years. Cris is married to husband Steve and together they have two grown sons, David and Paul. Her Jack Russell Terrier, Jackson (Jax for short), rounds out their family. She is interested in fitness, travel, gardening, antiques, and reading.
Josh was the Founding CEO of MyTwoFrontTeeth.org and is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at Greylock Partners. Prior to this, he held the role of Senior Product Manager at Google and Zaplet, a business process management software company. Josh earned his Bachelor's degree with distinction in Economics at Stanford and was selected to complete the Mayfield Fellows Program, a highly prestigious fellowship designed to hone entrepreneurial skills. McFarland has also worked for Riffage.com, Trilogy Software — and yes, even as a truck driver in a coal mine.
Larry has been a member of FGT board of directors since 1996! He has worked for a variety of firms in Silicon Valley, most recently with Netscape/AOL. In 2003, he formed a Systems consulting business called "KC and Associates" and classifies himself as a "systems geek". In June of 2004, Larry and Gerry Young formed an alliance and now work together as part of Focused I.T. Solutions. He is currently employed by the City of Cupertino as an IT Assistant, and holds a staff photographer position at The Santa Clara Weekly. Larry is an avid photographer and can be seen at many FGT events toting a camera. He has his own photography business; Larry Sacks Photography. Larry is an active volunteer with Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose and when he is not working, he can be found racing (on a track), working pit crew and as crew-photographer for friends that race in the SCCA, autocrossing, driving his Fiat, cooking, hiking, and playing tennis.
Carol is a CPA and a principal at the public accounting firm, Abbott, Stringham & Lynch. Her career has focused on meeting the accounting and audit needs of privately held companies and nonprofit organizations. When she isn’t helping a client, Carol is helping to further the goals of her colleagues and of their profession through her service on the Board for the Silicon Valley San Jose Chapter of the California Society of CPAs. After growing up in Colorado and attending college in Texas, Carol and her husband have now been California residents for almost 30 years. Carol enjoys sharing activities with her family, traveling, and following her favorite professional sports teams.
David Selinger, Larry Rogers, Theo Olson, Jonathan Hicks, Gerry Young, Malia Mueller-Smith, Anne Hohenberger, David Bratton-Kearns, Charles Yun, Bonnie McCarthy, Carol Cullenbine, Jeanne Basselgia, Leslie Rusell, Lisa Bonder, Peter Sylvester, Sheila Blash, Sylvia Beatty, Ken Cantrell.
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Keep up to date with what the Elves are up to! Check out our e-Newsletter Archives page. Want to join the list? Sign up to receive our monthly mailing by visiting: http://bit.ly/15n5rh1Read More
A Milpitas non-profit organization is helping low-income children start the school year with the necessary tools they need to succeed.
The Family Giving Tree has collected 135-thousand backpacks and school supplies for children for over 17 years.Read More
Texas Instruments (TI) (NASDAQ: TXN) and Family Giving Tree will host "STEM in the Schoolyard" at Downtown College Prep (DCP) on Friday, July 27. The event kicks off the school year for 130 incoming, low-income DCP freshmen and their families and will include inspiring presentations by elected officials, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities, as well as a welcoming reception for the new ninth grade students.Read More