Donation Day

In 1883 we began a lasting partnership with local schools. The editor of The Union newspaper received a letter from Caroline Meade Hansen, an invalid who spent her days looking out her window. 1883 was not a good year for residents of Nevada County.  The large Eureka Mine and several smaller mines were forced to close leaving  many miners out of work. The Grass Valley Ladies Relief Society was swamped with requests for assistance. As Christmas neared, the treasury was nearing bottom. Knowing of the community's plight, Caroline Hansen proposed each school child could bring a stick of wood and a potato to school, and she recommended that the Grass Valley Ladies Relief Society was the perfect group to collect and distribute the stove wood and potatoes to those in need. “The donation from each child is so small there is hardly any family who could not afford to give it,” Hansen wrote, “but as there are several hundred children attending school, the aggregate might be of some value.”

"Donation Day" soon grew to become an annual holiday observance. City merchants jumped on the bandwagon contributing hams, sacks of flour, and other such goods to augment the children’s sticks of wood and potatoes. In 1889, the owner of a butcher shop suggested the students might march through town with their firewood and potatoes collecting bounty from merchants and townsfolk as they went. Thus, the annual Donation Day parade was born, and the tradition has continued through three different centuries.  Today, nearly one thousand local school children march in the Donation Day Parade each December on the last day of school before their Christmas break.

Teacher Miss Garland leads her charges in Donation Day, 1919.

Donation Day in the 21st Century.