By Britney Barnes
7:55 PM PST, November 21, 2012
Community members can spread holiday cheer through a Westside Costa Mesa nonprofit that has served underprivileged teens for the last 20 years by helping them decorate a virtual Christmas tree.
Save Our Youth, or SOY, is asking the community to help decorate its first virtual tree by donating $20 to $5,000 for virtual ornaments, lights and presents to help support its programs that assist students in going to college, keeping them out of trouble and raising their self esteem.
The tree can be seen on the nonprofit's home page at www.save-our-youth.org.
"We are just hoping to be able to keep our programs alive through the school year," said Mary Cappellini, a member of the nonprofit's board.
SOY spent the last 14 months struggling financially after losing its long-time anonymous donor due to the economy. It looked like the nearly 20-year-old organization would have to shut its doors, but it managed to rally, with the community's help.
Still, SOY had to pare down the jewel of its program — a financial incentive program for students who get good grades — cut some of its offerings, and let go of much of its staff, including its executive director.
"Funds are desperately needed, so we figured we'd try something for the holidays, and hopefully it will take off," said Operational Manager Silvia Rosales.
The organization hopes to raise $50,000. It already has raised $10,000, Cappellini said.
The money raised through the virtual tree will go toward funding the many programs SOY offers. In addition to tutoring, the center hosts workshops, game nights, dances, a girl's program, and art, fitness, dance and music classes.
SOY also takes students on hikes, field trips and on one of its most popular trips: tours of University of California and California State University campuses.
Cappellini said they also want to set aside money for future senior scholarships.
"We spend a lot of time helping the students here in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach," Rosales said. "We help out the kids not only academically, but with the arts and the music, and they learn specific skills — and it keeps them away from the street."
How To Help
Want to help decorate the tree?
Ornaments: $20 to $100
Lights: $250 to $750
Presents: $1,000 to $2,500
Donations can be made at http://www.save-our-youth.org or sent to: Save Our Youth, 661 Hamilton St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627.