U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

'Tis The Season: Sacramento Fish & Wildlife Office Celebrates 20 Years of Holiday Gift-giving

December 6, 2016

SFWO and Region 8 program sponsors

SFWO and Region 8 program sponsors—Back row L to R: Amber Aguilera, Dana Herman, Kellie Berry, Valary Bloom, Stephanie Jentsch, Jennifer Hobbs, Dwight Harvey, Ruth Osthruff; Front row L to R: Adam Stewart, Angela Picco, Thomas Leeman, Leif Goude (not all sponsors photographed). Photo Credit: Veronica Davison, USFWS

When your focus is to conserve the fish, wildlife, and plants of California in service to all Californians, you pay it forward every day. But Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO) employees still have more to give their fellow Californians—and they do it through the Gifts From The Heart Program.

Over the past two years, staff have purchased gifts for over 100 Gifts From The Heart recipients.

Over the past two years, staff have purchased gifts for over 100 Gifts From The Heart recipients. Photo credit: Valary Bloom, USFWS

This year marks the 20th anniversary of SFWO's commitment to supporting the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services' Gifts From The Heart Program. Through this annual program SFWO employees provide gifts to children, teens, seniors, and dependent adults served by the county's Child Protective Services, Senior & Adult Services Divisions, and Public Guardian/Conservator Office. Recipients include Sacramento County's most vulnerable and low-income individuals. "It's heartwarming to know that our office is able to fulfill the wish lists of people who might not receive anything special for the holidays otherwise," said Jennifer Norris, Ph.D., SFWO field supervisor. "I'm proud of the staff's generosity and that we're celebrating our 20th year supporting this really important program."

Each November, SFWO and staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Pacific Southwest Regional Office sponsor one or more recipients. Sponsors receive "wish lists" the recipients prepare that include very specific requests for a variety of gifts. According to Valary Bloom, SFWO fish and wildlife biologist, seniors typically request blankets, scarves, and flannel clothing, while teens and children's lists include bikes, building blocks, books, and scooters. Dependent adults often ask for store gift cards, cologne, music CDs, and DVDs. Over the past two years, staff have purchased gifts for over 100 recipients.

After the holidays staff receive heartfelt thank you notes from recipients and their social workers

Between the two offices, there are 30 staff participating in the voluntary program this year. Bloom is the coordinator and expressed a sentiment that is widely shared, "I like to see people happy. It's an easy way to brighten someone's day. I've been giving for five years and I sponsor two recipients so I can go with my kids and they can each buy gifts for one of the two people we sponsor. They really enjoy it—they put a lot of thought into it, whether it's a child or a senior."

Staff shop and wrap the gifts on their own time and seeing the impressive stack of gifts before Sacramento County volunteers pick them up is moving. "It's magical—it's a community type of thing where everyone cares enough about the needy to give," said SWFO Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist John Digregoria.

SFWO staff never meet the recipients and do not get to watch them open their gifts, but after the holidays they receive heartfelt thank you notes from recipients and their social workers. "The cards are the true gift for us. They serve as a nice reminder of what the holiday season is really about," said Norris.


by Veronica Davison / SFWO External Affairs

Last updated: October 22, 2019