Bethany, a Snoqualmie mom, remembers when her family faced a huge financial struggle.
She was invited to take part in the inaugural One Voice Holiday Event, three years ago.
“I left with tears in my eyes, just feeling so grateful,” she remembers.
Flash forward to 2013, and Bethany has gone from the helped to the hero.
“This year, we are not struggling any more,” she said. “I want to be on the other end of it.” She convinced her co-workers to join 49 other businesses in the Valley, and give to the annual drive.
One Voice helps families in need have a merrier Christmas, through children’s gifts, clothing and necessities. Bethany’s co-workers stepped up, providing diapers, wipes, new and used clothing, all things that One Voice organizers worried they might not get enough of in this short season.
“I feel passionate about it. I can relate to it,” explained Bethany, who sorted and readied gifts for the big day last Wednesday at the North Bend Church of Latter-day Saints, her own two children working alongside her. “It’s my way to give back.”
Every business, club and church that donated this year made a difference, for the simple reason that both donations and families served were both down this Christmas, compared with past years.
The One Voice holiday event served 250 families and about 600 children. That’s about 150 children less than last season.
The smaller amount of donated gifts was definitely noticeable, said volunteers Stacey Cepeda and Kim Irvine.
“The calendar worked against us,” Irvine said. “Thanksgiving was late.”
Cepeda expects an additional 100 children to be signed up for help before the holidays end.
“Encompass got calls all day from families who want to be in it,” she said. For latecomers, the Kiwanis Club of Snoqualmie Valley will accept donations of gifts and needed items through Christmas.
The One Voice umbrella organization was founded three years ago to unite Valley-wide holiday donation drives and avoid duplication of effort. A number of drives, including Encompass’ giving campaign and the Kiwanis Club’s 18-year-old Giving Tree program, are lumped into a single push.
Families are chosen to take part through referrals by school counselors, food banks, churches and staff at Encompass.
Schools, churches, local clothing banks and more than 50 businesses took part this year. It takes about 12 hours over several days for a dozen or so volunteers to set up rooms of gifts and goods at the Church of Latter-day Saints. Child care is provided while parents shop using a points system based on the size of the household.
Making a difference
On one line of tables, volunteers laid out a selection of diapers, toiletries and blankets.
“We came up with—if you are a struggling family, what are the things that are hard to come by?” Cepeda said, “maybe because it’s not covered by food stamps.”
Our Lady of Sorrow Church and St. Vincent de Paul provided blankets. Encompass provided gingerbread houses.
One bright spot this season, though, was teen donations.
“We did a big push on teens this year and that was very successful,” said Cepeda.
Erica Ribary, a One Voice volunteer, did drives in her neighborhood, and with three moms in the Si View neighborhood made 124 gift bags for teens, with many donations coming in from a single business, Finest Accessories of North Bend. “They went way over and above,” Cepeda said. “They’re just great little stocking stuffer bags.”
Donations for teens, especially girls, came through in a big way—lots of socks, shaving items, wallets and gloves for boys, jewelry, accessories, lotion and body care items for the girls.
Children got into the volunteer act. Girls and boys flattened boxes and put clothes and toys away. Sometimes, when finished, they perused the aisles, pointing out worthy toys. Wii games and a radio-controlled monster truck were the top choices.
Sorting and stocking the teen area late Wednesday, volunteer Diane Garding admitted that she may never be a shopkeeper—she knows how much work it is from helping with the One Voice drive.
Garding, today joined by her family, has been a part of this event since long before it coalesced as One Voice, about eight years in total. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without pitching in, she says.
“It’s totally part of our holidays,” added fellow volunteer Laura Keller.
• To help One Voice through Christmas, you can drop off donations at Sallal Water District office and Encompass in North Bend. Teen items and gift cards are especially welcomed.