District announces annual school grants

West Contra Costa schools trustees have announced their annual grants for special enrichment programs.

A total of $30,000 in awards are going to 40 teacher-initiated and outside programs, including a music and literacy program at Downer Elementary School in Richmond and a one-on-one tutoring program in writing at Portola Middle School in El Cerrito, El Cerrito High School and Richmond High School.

The music program, Sound Minds, provides instruments and instruction in violin, cello and vocal music at Downer. It is co-sponsored by the California Symphony.

The writing program, Oakland-based Writer-Coach Connection, supplements writing instruction in English classes at the three schools using adult volunteers.

The awards were announced at the board's meeting last week. It is the 30th anniversary of the grant program that "has a focus on innovation and (developing) the whole child," said school board President Madeline Kronenberg.

Albany to host Fixit Clinic on Sunday

Albany will host another Fixit Clinic from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1. Bring a broken, nonfunctioning (electronic, appliances, computers, toys, etc.) for assessment, disassembly and possible repair. The city will provide work space, specialty tools and guidance to help you disassemble and trouble shoot your item. This is a family-friendly event, and children are invited.

The clinic will be held in the main hall at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave.


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St. John's School and Parish Christmas Fair

The annual Holiday Crafts Fair and Breakfast from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 in the gymnasium at St. John School, 11156 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito, is a one-stop local option for kicking off the holiday season.

Come early for the breakfast and then browse the handmade gifts, take part in family activities, let the children decorate gingerbread cookies and get gifts wrapped (donations accepted). There will also be raffles for gift cards good for Safeway, Best Buy and two romantic getaways. Plus hot dogs and nachos for sale in the afternoon.

Swing and sway with the Albany Jazz Band

The Albany Jazz Band will play a free concert of timeless tunes from the big band era from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave.

Dance or listen as the polished 26-member ensemble, a favorite at its seasonal concerts and the Solano Stroll, performs swing, fox trot, and waltz numbers. Details: www.albanyjazzband.org.

Two events to benefit open space acquisition

El Cerrito Trail Trekkers is announcing a pair of events Dec. 7 related to the Madera Open Space and the efforts to raise funds for its purchase.

At 10 a.m. the Berkeley Path Wanderers will host a two-hour Missing Link hike from the Hillside Natural Area through the Madera Open Space to the area to the north known as Motorcycle Hill. Meet at the Schmidt Lane entrance to the Hillside Natural Area." Some parts are steep and you should be sure to bring water and wear appropriate footwear. Dogs are welcome," say organizers. For more details contact Tom Gehling at tgehling@gmail.com.

At 10:30 a.m. there is a free showing of "Rebels With a Cause," a documentary about the preservation of Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands from development, of at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito, 10070 San Pablo Ave. "Following will be a discussion of how folks in El Cerrito are raising fund to preserve the Madera Open Space adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area," says the announcement, with speakers from the Trust for Public Land, the El Cerrito Open Space Campaign, and the Trail Trekkers. The showing is presented by the city's Environmental Quality Committee.

Details: www.ectrailtrekkers.org.

Breakfast event will again welcome holidays

Tickets are now available for the annual El Cerrito Holiday Pancake Breakfast, with food and entertainment from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 14 at the Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.

Special guests will include "visitors from the North Pole (Santa, his stilt walking Angel and juggling Elf courtesy of ClownSnotBombs Circus), pianist Alex McMurray, and renowned story teller, Kirk Waller."

Students in the city's preschool and child care programs will also perform.

All proceeds benefit the David Hunter Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The El Cerrito Fire Department Holiday Toy Drive will accept donations of new, unwrapped toys.

Advance tickets are available at the Community Center or online at www.el-cerrito.org/recreation.

Benefit concert set for Philippines relief

International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave., is holding a concert to benefit victims of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines on Dec. 4.

The Farewell Benefit Concert 2013, featuring performances by I-House residents, starts with desserts at 7 p.m. and music at 7:30. Admission is free, but donations are requested. For details or to reserve seats, visit ihousebenefitconcertphilippines2013.eventbrite.com.

-- Chris Treadway

Annual holiday market has a local focus

A holiday market to benefit the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., will have gift items, entertainment and food available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7.

Organizers promise reasonable prices on a variety of holiday decorations, crafts, jewelry, books, art work, cards and miscellaneous white elephant items. Admission is free.

There will also be a bake sale, lunches sold by the Friends of Albany Seniors and entertainment by singers, instrumentalists and a recorder ensemble.

Donations of items to sell are welcome, but call the center at 510-524-9122 to learn what's acceptable.

Arts and Crafts Fair at Albany Middle School

Admission is free to the fifth annual Arts and Crafts Fair at Albany Middle School, 1259 Brighton Ave., from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 8. There will be works by students and adults for sale, baked goods and musical entertainment and proceeds benefit school programs.