gilroy garlic festival association donations
Gilroy Garlic Festival Association board members and volunteers stand with the recipients of the organization’s 2023 grants during a ceremony at Gilroy Presbyterian Church on Dec. 5. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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Gilroy City Councilmember Tom Cline said while he was in Modesto recently, someone asked him if the Garlic Festival had moved to Stockton.

The person was referring to the California Garlic Festival in Stockton, which got its start in 2022 and was promoted as a replacement to Gilroy’s beloved event.

“I just kind of smiled and said, ‘No, the Garlic Festival is alive and well in Gilroy,’” Cline recalled.

Case in point: On Dec. 5, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association dished out $65,000 in donations to various organizations during a ceremony at Gilroy Presbyterian Church, continuing its long-standing tradition of giving back to the community.

The donations exceeded last year’s total by $25,000, according to the association, and were made possible by a variety of events in 2023, including garlic bread sales at the Gilroy Veterans Hall, a food booth at the Garlic City Car Show and a dinner at a local cherry orchard, among other festivities.

Trevor Van Laar, past president of the GGFA board, said the association continues to follow its mission, which is to support local charities and nonprofit groups.

“We are looking forward to the next few years,” he said. “We will continue to support our community, our love of garlic and our love of our people.”

The association received some positive news recently, when a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought forth by the victims of the 2019 shooting during the festival, which was the last time the organization hosted its traditional large-scale gathering. While “the journey’s not over yet,” Van Laar noted, as the case will be winding its way through the appeal process, things may be moving toward holding a large event sometime in the future.

“As we continue to move on from that, we’re trying to look forward and see where this takes us next,” he said.

Cline, who was active in the organization for more than a decade before being elected to the council in 2022, said the festival is still making things happen with its charitable giving.

“Gilroy is what Gilroy is because of the Gilroy Garlic Festival,” he said. “I’m so appreciative of this board keeping the mission alive and well in the community. Just keep pushing forward. We’ll get there. Honestly, we’re going to get there, and I’m going to be right there with you.”

Among the grant awardees was Kneaded Culinary Academy, a program of Gilroy-based Rebekah Children’s Services that teaches culinary skills to young people. Many of the students come from a background of abuse, homelessness or other traumatic experiences, and Andrew Briggs of Kneaded thanked the GGFA for its “support of the most vulnerable members of our community” with the $5,000 grant.

“This will not only provide ingredients for our youth, but it also allows them to take food home not only for themselves, but for their families, as many of them are experiencing food insecurity,” he said.

Those receiving grants were:

• Ascencion Solorsano Middle School Parent Club: $3,000

• Boy Scouts of America Troop #730: $5,000

• Christopher High School Boys Soccer: $1,200

• Dreampower Horsemanship: $850

• Gavilan College Men’s Soccer: $600

• Gilroy Arts Alliance: $5,000

• Gilroy High School Future Farmers of America: $3,000

• Gilroy Historical Society: $5,000

• Gilroy High School Parents Club, Inc.: $3,000

• Gilroy Leadership & Education Foundation—Leadership Gilroy: $1,200

• Gilroy Prep School Percussion Ensemble: $850

• Gilroy Sister Cities Association: $1,500

• Live Oak Adult Day Care Services: $1,500

• PitStop Outreach: $1,200

• Rancho Maze Band Boosters Association: $600

• Rebekah Children’s Services, Kneaded Culinary Academy: $5,000

• St. Mary’s Mission: $2,500

• Unravel Pediatric Cancer: $1,500

Other beneficiaries were:


• Gilroy Unified School District

• St. Joseph’s Food Pantry

• Veterans Memorial Hall

Volunteer Hour Payouts

• All Animals Rescue Foundation

• Boy Scouts of America Troop #730

• Christopher High School Baseball

• Christopher High School Boys Basketball

• Christopher High School Yearbook

• Gilroy Exchange Club

• Gilroy Gators Swim Team

• Gilroy High School Baseball

• Gilroy High School Boys Basketball

• Gilroy Presbyterian Church

• Knights of Columbus

• Operation Freedom Paws

• South Valley Community Church

• Sportsman Chef

• Victory Outreach

Board President Cindy Fellows said the organization is always in need of volunteers, and encouraged the public to stay tuned for events in 2024.

“I want to thank everybody that’s come out and volunteered throughout the years,” she said. “That’s what it takes to give back to this community, which you’ve done.”

The next round of grant applications are expected to go live in October. For information, visit

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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