Halfway through The Seattle Times Fund for Those in Need campaign, and at an unknown point in a pandemic that continues to devastate lives, readers have contributed more than $2 million.

While the sum is about $117,000 below the unprecedented amount raised last year by this time, it’s more than was raised in the entire 2019-20 campaign.

Almost 3,200 people have donated, with gifts ranging from $1 to $150,000. The campaign got a big boost over the last week or so, with several large contributions, including one made anonymously for $100,000.

“I am heartened by the generosity of our readers,” Seattle Times President Alan Fisco said in a written statement. “Our participating agencies are in dire need of support to continue the amazing work they do for our community. Our stories of their work and outcomes are a snapshot of what they do day-in and day-out. They need our help.”

“Thank you so much to all who have contributed,” Fisco continued. “We are about $1 million shy of our $3 million goal. If you haven’t had a chance to contribute, please consider doing so today.” 

The campaign runs through the end of January. It benefits 13 nonprofits providing a range of services, from helping those without housing to feeding seniors to supporting children who have experienced trauma or have special needs.

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Some people have made giving to the fund an annual tradition. Sharon Birks said she has been doing so for at least 16 years.

She gives to a lot of national charities, too, particularly those focusing on environmental causes — a natural fit for the 57-year-old, who works at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, managing a frozen tissue collection from wild animals used in scientific studies. But she largely turns to The Seattle Times fund to make a local impact, she said.

“I like the fact The Times makes it a big community event,” Birks explained. “I think it energizes people to give when they see the articles and then they see a lot of other people are giving, in that it’s like a group effort versus just their individual effort.”

Each year, The Seattle Times Fund for Those in Need raises money for charities that help children, families and senior citizens. Throughout the season, we’re telling the stories of people and organizations who make a difference in the lives of thousands, and the impact donors can have. 

▪︎ Make a tax-deductible donation to the Fund for Those in Need

Seattle Times stories profile each organization supported by the fund. Dave Rogers said one on Treehouse inspired him and his wife Sally to donate for the first time. They were struck by how the state turned to the organization to distribute pandemic relief funds for former foster children, and the difference the payments made in their lives. One young mother, behind on rent after her husband was laid off, cried on the phone with Treehouse as she heard about the help.

COVID-19, of course, hangs over everything. It personally affected Jackie Brandt, who lost an older brother to the disease. A retired social worker, Brandt said she has long been aware of food insecurity and other struggles of vulnerable people, and donated to a variety of causes including the Fund for Those in Need.

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“The pandemic is just another added layer to stress,” she said.

Like other fund recipients, Wellspring Family Services has seen demand for its services skyrocket. “Families have really been hit from all angles with the pandemic,” said Wellspring CEO Heather Fitzpatrick. Low-income families, in particular, have been vulnerable to layoffs and, if working, less likely to be able to do so remotely and find child care.

The agencies supported by the fund are used to coming through in a pinch. A program manager for The Salvation Army, who knows firsthand what it is like to be homeless, found an apartment within weeks for a pregnant mother who had slept in her car for a year. The mom had been calling housing authorities and everybody else she could think of, and it had gotten her nowhere.

Sometimes, it’s the nonprofits that have to keep calling to offer help. The mother of a newborn with a rare genetic condition hung up when a Kindering staffer first called. She eventually agreed to give the organization, which provides therapy for developmentally delayed children, a try and now says its therapists are a big reason her son can walk.

Immigrants and refugees often face added challenges, as Kent Youth and Family Services knows. Almost half of the preschoolers in its early learning program aren’t English speakers or have limited English proficiency. One parent of a child in the program, from Afghanistan, helps interpret for other families from his home country.

Afghan refugees are now streaming into the area after harrowing escapes from the Taliban, a reminder that new populations and needs are always arising for those in the business of helping.