Gift Cards (copy)

This is the 14th annual Grunion Gazette Gift Card Drive to benefit domestic abuse victims being served by WomenShelter.

It also is the biggest to date, with a total of more than $23,000 and counting on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

"It's just so gratifying to see how the Long Beach community steps up to help their neighbors," Gazette Publisher Simon Grieve said. "That's been the case in good times and in bad. This is a great record to set."

A new online option for giving this year made a difference, with more than $3,000 donated that way. There were two very large donations — an anonymous giver wrote a $5,000 check, and the Long Beach Grand Prix Foundation contributed $4,000.

Another added wrinkle was the drawing for gift certificates to Sevilla in downtown Long Beach. Everyone who donated was entered.

Jane Bemis won the grand prize of $500 in certificates, while Linda Hanson took home $150 for second place. The five honorable mentions for $50 in certificates were Charmel Huffman, Marisela Mendoza, Erik Bueno, Floyd Fredricks and Penny Hill.

"We're very grateful to our partners, the Aquarium of the Pacific and Sevilla," Grieve said. "The aquarium tickets (a pair for donations of $50 or more) always go fast, and the new drawing was a great, well, draw. We know people give from the goodness of their heart, but a little incentive helps."

WomenShelter of Long Beach has been helping domestic violence victims and educating to stop the cycle of violence since 1977. There is an emergency shelter in an undisclosed location and a resource center for counseling and other help at 4201 Long Beach Blvd. near Bixby Knolls.

Some of the cards collected are used to provide a Christmas for those who might have none otherwise. Single parents newly on their own struggle with children already traumatized by leaving a violent home now facing a sparse or no Christmas celebrations. The gift cards let those parents shop to get their children presents, and to buy food for a Christmas dinner.

The rest of the cards and donations are used throughout the year to help families set up new homes or to provide necessities to those already out on their own.

The gift card drive ends today, Thursday, but donations are always welcome. People can donate through the Grunion or directly to WomenShelter at www.womenshelterlb.org or P.O. Box 17098, Long Beach, CA 90807.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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