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One person gave $1. Another, $60,000. A third sent three separate checks, each for $100.

More than 4,000 donations, large and small, helped The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy raise a record $1,217, 801 in the 11-week drive ending today.

The generosity of the newspaper’s readers will benefit 12 Seattle-area nonprofits that help children, families and seniors in difficult times.

“As government funding continues to decline, the generosity of the community is profoundly appreciated,” said Paula Houston, CEO of Senior Services, one of the agencies benefiting from the fund.

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Houston said the donations will help the agency “provide essential services such as food, transportation and support to families caring for elders in their homes.”

For the third straight year, the Fund For The Needy received more than $1 million in donations, an amount that likely wasn’t even envisioned when the fund was created in 1979 and raised $107,994 in its first campaign.

The number of donations this year, 4,084, also set a record.

Some donors were willing to have their names published in the newspaper during the drive. Others, such as the donor of $60,000, preferred anonymity.

Some gifts came tucked inside holiday cards.

“I have a nice life and happy family,” one Mercer Island woman wrote. “I hope this helps another family to a better Christmas.”

Employees of Providence Mount St. Vincent, a long-term-care facility in West Seattle, sent $121 that visitors, staff and residents had dropped into a donation jar at the center’s gift shop.

The Seattle Times covers the administrative costs of the fund, passing along 100 percent of the money to the recipient organizations.

Over the life of the fund, readers have donated more than $17.7 million.

During the campaign, Seattle Times articles tell of successes achieved by the agencies, one person at a time.

“In this year’s stories, we saw proof of the resilience of the human spirit, and the universal desire and ability to give something back,” said Ruthann Howell, CEO of Wellspring Family Services, helped by the fund.

Howell said, “The generosity and commitment of everyone involved — from Seattle Times readers, staff, reporters, and editors, to our colleague organizations, to the brave individuals who share their stories — are a leadership example not only for our community, but for communities across the nation.”

Other organizations receiving support from the fund are The Salvation Army, Childhaven, Hopelink, Atlantic Street Center, Youth Eastside Services, Treehouse for Kids, Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Kindering Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, and Kent Youth and Family Services.

Donations were up nearly 13 percent over last year.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Times Publisher Frank Blethen. “What truly is gratifying is the trust readers have shown in The Seattle Times. They trust our journalism, they trust our storytelling and they trust that every dollar is going to the recipients.”

Even through the recession of 2008 and an uneven economic recovery that has benefitted some people and not others, the fund has seen an increase.

“It’s like people realize this is the new reality,” Blethen said. “And they’re saying, ‘If I can, I’m going to help.’ ”

Jack Broom: or 206-464-2222

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