This year's Seattle Times Fund for the Needy has concluded its 33rd annual campaign, in which readers donated a record $1,159,058.

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The check for $114.63 from Priscilla Wood, of Kent, was not among the largest donations The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy received in its record-setting campaign, but it was one of the most creative.

Wood is a retired teacher who, for more than three decades, has kept statistics for Auburn High School girls basketball teams. When this season opened, Wood told the players she’d make a gift to the Times fund, and would base the amount on the number of “positive stat points” the girls recorded in their games.

Each point scored would count — and so would rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots and more — with additional bonus points for each game the teams won.

At the outset, she didn’t say — or even know — the specific amount she’d give for each point, because she didn’t want to end up with a total too low to be significant or too high for her to afford. But she recently came up with a formula based on 3 cents a point.

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Her gift created a win-win-win-win situation:

• The players won because even when they lost a game, their achievements helped local charities.

• Wood won because she helped motivate the players while exposing them to the importance of giving.

• The Fund For The Needy won because Wood, who’d never given to it before, helped this year’s recently concluded 11-week drive collect $1,159,058 — more than a 25 percent increase over last year’s campaign, which had also set a record, despite the troubled economy.

• And now the community wins because every one of those dollars soon will be distributed to 13 local nonprofit social-service agencies that help children, families and seniors.

“The generosity from the community is astounding,” said Ruthann Howell, CEO/president of Wellspring Family Services. “It reflects the kind of community we are and want to be.”

At her agency, the additional funds may help accommodate 25 more children in the Early Learning Center’s Morningsong program, which has been providing day care and education to 75 kids, ages 1 to 5, in homeless families.

Denise Klein, CEO of Senior Services, said the boost in donations could help her agency continue to offer reimbursement toward the gasoline used by volunteers who drive seniors to medical appointments, a service that last year involved 610 volunteers logging more than 532,000 miles.

Klein attributes the fund’s success in tough times to a “communitarian spirit” in which people take the attitude that “it’s not enough for me to do well. Others should also do well, and if I can help, I will. … When things get tougher, people get more generous and more aware of the suffering that they can help to alleviate.”

At Kent Youth and Family Services, executive director Mike Heinisch said the increased support from Times readers comes as government grants are flat or shrinking.

Among his agency’s services to benefit from the donations will be Watson Manor, a transitional housing program, based in a small apartment building, for previously homeless pregnant and parenting mothers between 16 and 25.

Since its creation in 1979, The Times fund has raised more than $15.4 million. This year’s drive not only raised more money than any previous year, but attracted the greatest number of donors, 3,873 — about 700 more than last year.

Heinisch said, “I think it shows that people recognize need and are willing to step up, in some cases regardless of their own situation, to support people in need.”

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or

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