Economy chills Snoqualmie Valley's giving season
By ALLISON ESPIRITU
Snoqualmie Valley Record Reporter
December 9, 2009 · Updated 10:25 AM
Students at Mount Si High School want food and toys for needy families. Sheriff’s deputies are filling boxes with gifts and necessities. Encompass is asking for gift cards for its Respectful Giving campaign. Those three causes are only a fraction of the dozens of groups collecting donations for charity in the Snoqualmie Valley this season.
With more families in need and many locals changing their giving habits, Snoqualmie Valley non-profit agencies are wondering whether there will be enough donations this year to meet everyone’s needs.
So far, signs are promising for a merrier season for many, and several non-profits have been impressed by a stready stream of donations. They believe that their community’s generosity will keep growing this season.
Ringing the bell
As Snoqualmie Valley Kiwanis member Harold Erland rang a silver bell at North Bend QFC to help fill a bright-red bucket for those in need, he noted that the Kiwanis’ Salvation Army drive has been hard-pressed this season.
With fewer volunteers to ring the bell, there have been fewer donations compared to past years. Nine days into the bell ringing campaign, Kiwanis has collected $105, compared with more than $945 at the same time last year.
“It is what it is, with the economy that bad,” Erland said.
However, he believes that if more volunteers join in, the Kiwanis will be able to collect a more generous amount by the end of the season.
“I have faith in humanity,” Erland said. “The community knows how stressed people are, and they will give generously.”
Erland invites anyone who has time to “ring the bell for the bucket” to volunteer at the North Bend QFC during open hours to help rack up donations. To get involved, call Erland at (425) 698-3180.
High school help
Kicking-off the season of giving with the campus improvement committee’s Foodball campaign, a program that collects food donations for Valley food shelters, students at Mount Si High School have been able to increase the amount of food they collect every year.
In November, they were able to collect more than 7,000 pounds of food and monetary donations from the community. Students alone brought in close to 1,000 pounds of food.
However, as Mount Si’s Key Club begins its annual toy drive, Key Club member and student Amy Smith said that donations of toys have dwindled.
“There’s a large amount of people, but we’re seeing less toys compared to other years,” she said.
Hoping the situation will get better, Smith encourages the community to donate new or unwrapped toys, no matter how big, small or expensive they may be.
The toy drive continues through Dec. 16, and Foodball runs through Dec. 17. Donations can be dropped off at Mount Si High School, Opstad Elementary, Snoqualmie Middle School and Chief Kanim Middle School.
Currently helping 160 families, Valley children’s organization Encompass Northwest expects to see as many as 170 families seek items through its Respectful Giving Campaign, which ends Dec. 19.
Collecting food and gift cards, Encompass seeks to create as normal a holiday celebration as possible for families in need, providing a box filled with a holiday meal and staples that will last them throughout the month.
“We try and do basic needs first,” said Encompass Community Activities manager Stacey Cepeda. There is also room to provide something special for families. “We try to include in each box an extra item that may be fun for kids.”
Families in need are referred to Encompass by their family support programs and by school counselors who see a need during the holiday season.
Increased need isn’t surprising given the state of the economy, Cepada said.
“These are typical families, struggling anyway,” she said. “When you throw in the downside of the economy, it really affects people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Respectful Giving donations can be dropped off at Encompass before Saturday, Dec. 19. Besides food, gift cards for fun family activities are encouraged, since they can help struggling families share bright moments and forget tough times.
Providing a home for women and children in crisis, Mamma’s Hands House of Hope in North Bend has seen inspiring support from the community this holiday season.
Seeing an increased need to help women and children who have lost their homes or need help, Mamma’s Hands asks for essentials including grocery store gift cards, household cleaning items, and cards for activities and needs for the home.
“The bills during the winter go up,” House Manager Marsha Bennett-Reinert said. “Overall giving goes down after the holidays.”
The generosity of the Valley shines through at times.
“People in this valley are amazing,” Bennett-Reinert said. “There are Girl Scout troops and church groups who traditionally come through every Christmas and do a lot of stuff for our ladies and kids.”
Extra help given to Mamma’s Hands includes a Giving Tree and Christmas parties.
Anything that the community can do to help pay bills and normalize the lives of mothers and children is much appreciated, Bennett-Reinert said. To learn more about House of Hope, e-mail to email@example.com.
The King County Sheriff’s Office substation in North Bend is now collecting donations for its Operation Santa Claus.
Filling boxes with holiday food essentials, the sheriff’s office has seen steady support from families in the community, this year as in previous years.
“If you walk into our office our lobby, there’s a stack of donations,” said North Bend Police Chief Mark Toner. “Good people are realizing there are others who need (help) as well.”
Deputies who respond to calls in the community often find families in crisis. They contact those families for Operation Santa, providing holiday care packages,
Families who receive care packages are contacted when officers go out for calls and see them in a crisis situation.
Some families start crying when they get the call to participate.
“A couple of them admitted that they didn’t know what they’d do that year,” said Kym Smith, sheriff’s station office supervisor said.
Families understand the holiday season is a time to be joyous, but many have trouble finding it because of their financial status.
A big difference this year — families that need help are getting bigger.
“Usually they’ll only have two kids, but this year it’s grandparents, cousins and extended family staying in one home,” Smith said.
Constantly filling up boxes throughout the day, sheriff’s staff still need coats, sweatshirts and socks.
While many residents show their generosity through giving during the holiday season, Smith noted that many people are still in need throughout the year.
To start lowering the amount of need in the Valley, Smith said it’s up to the economy.
“It really needs to get a jump start,” she said. “There’s so many people without jobs and the dynamics of families have seen a huge change because of this.”Contact Snoqualmie Valley Record Reporter Allison Espiritu at aespiritu@valleyrecord,com or 425-888-2311.