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Sonoma County Families Helping Families in Need

Celebrating Families is an event for parents and caregivers to provide their children with opportunities to participate in lessons about compassion and acts of charity. The event is for the whole family and is sponsored by St. Patrick’s in Kenwood on the second Saturday of each month during the school year.

Recognizing that families have very busy schedules and that children love to learn by watching their parents and by playing, the event aims to both make things very easy for parents, and to include playtime with the whole family and other young children. For this reason, the event takes place on a Saturday evening at a kid-friendly time (from 5:00 P.M. -7:30 P.M.) and includes a home-cooked meal capped off by family board games and activities chosen by the children.

Here is a line-up of a typical evening:

  • 5:00: We are welcomed into a sacred space. This may be the church, garden or patio. Sacred space is anywhere we treat one another with dignity, acceptance and respect.
  • Candle lighting ceremony –Youth begin by lighting 3 candles – one for the families in our homes, one for the families in our heart and one for the families of the world. Others may then come forward and light a candle for someone who is in their thoughts.
  • A short (~10 minute) interactive lesson – A brief reading focuses us on how we might care for and about one another. An activity helps reinforce the concept and relate it to the craft and charitable activity of the evening.
  • 5:15: A craft or activity to support the targeted community or family in need. Often the activity is related to the season or current events. (Valentine’s cards for elderly shut-ins in February, care packages for those affected by local fires, Easter baskets for children in need, etc.)
  • We close the outreach portion of the evening with an informal communion service to highlight the importance of being a community that welcomes and nourishes one another. All are welcome to participate at whatever level feels comfortable.
  • 5:45: We move to the event hall for a home-made dinner. Each month, a meal is selected from a different country for fun and to introduce the children to different cuisines. Menu items have included dishes from Chinese, Korean, Greek, Brazilian, Mexican, Moroccan food and more! Dishes are kid-friendly and often gluten free and always very healthy... The dinner is offered “free of charge” and attendees can RSVP here to give us a headcount.
  • 6:30: Board games and basketball –this is a fun opportunity for multi-generational competition. The kids seem to love the game “apples to apples”, especially when they beat their parents!
  • 7:30 Wrap up and good night


“Good energy and low pressure!” -Santa Rosa dad 

“We attend Celebrating Families whenever we are in town to visit our grandchildren. We are marveled by Mary’s thoughtful lessons that leave us pondering deep thoughts and the thoughtful activities that we get to do with our grandkids. This program is one of a kind in today’s fragmented world.” –Irene Shackelford, Los Angeles

“The recipients of the 50 Easter Baskets you donated to our food pantry for families in need were very appreciative.” Thank you, Celebrating Families! --Jeff Burton, the Distribution Manager of  F.I.S.H.


Celebrating Families is put on by Mary and Lara.

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Mary Banks is the coordinator of the lessons and corresponding outreach activities at Celebrating Families. Knowing that today’s world is filled with conflicting demands on our time and attention, Mary developed the program to support families who are raising conscientious children, while offering them an opportunity to help those in need. Celebrating Families is a time for adults, youth and children to step away from the frenetic pace of daily life, simply take a breath, enjoy time with one another, and make a difference in our small corner of the world.

Mary’s professional background includes teaching special education in grades K-12 and working at the University of Michigan. Now in retirement, she loves developing lessons that both appeal to the fancy of children and provide a deeper meaning to adults.  Mary and her husband, Peter, live in Santa Rosa and part time on a boat in the Caribbean.

Lara Daly is the “head chef” for Celebrating Families. Having lived and worked in various countries, she finds international cuisine a fun way for children, parents, grandparents and family friends to bond and therefore a fun closer for Celebrating Families. The monthly dinner menu at Celebrating Families is selected based on the month and typical holidays, children’s requests or just someone’s whim for a favorite recipe.


Lara and her husband Devin found Celebrating Families when they were looking for an avenue to introduce philanthropical thinking for their young children’s upbringing. They live in Santa Rosa near Spring Lake with children Sébastien and Anaïs