In late November, Gretchen Lambert donated $150 to The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy, happy, as with past contributions, to support local organizations. Over the next couple of weeks, she took stock of COVID-19’s devastating toll and sent in an additional $1,000.
“The need is so much greater this year,” said Lambert, a Seattle marine biologist who at 79 continues to consult and publish papers. She tapped into a retirement account to make the donations. “Those of us who can, need to give more.”
Midway through the fund’s 42nd campaign, many Seattle Times readers are responding to the extraordinary circumstances of 2020. On Wednesday, the campaign was just a hairbreadth away from reaching its goal of $1.7 million, thanks to 3,400 donors, roughly double the number in mid-December last year.
The campaign has yet to reach last year’s all-time high of just over $2 million. The fundraising call to the community will continue until the end of January, in hopes of helping local agencies meet a soaring demand for everything from meals to shelter to mental health counseling during the nation’s worst public health crisis in 100 years.
The fund supports 12 nonprofits, which during the pandemic have had to find new ways to deliver their services.
“We are all so thrilled and thankful for the generosity of readers for this year’s campaign,” said Times President Alan Fisco.
“While we are on track to exceed our goal, I cannot stress enough the challenges our agencies are facing this year,” he continued. “Every dollar contributed goes directly to our participating agencies. If you have contributed this year, thank you so much. And, if you have not participated yet, please consider doing so. We can make a difference.”
Donors so far have contributed an average of about $400 each (excluding a $300,000 bequest), with donations ranging from $5 to, in one case, $50,000.
All kinds of groups have sent in money, as have individuals. Tech workers belonging to the Gurudwara Sikh Center in Bothell, which draws immigrants from India, donated $1,000 through the church’s humanitarian fund. The Olympic Manor Garden Club in Ballard contributed $750.
In the past, the garden club has held an annual plant sale and donated a portion of the revenue to a cause it picks in a particular year, explained treasurer Kathy Keefe. This year, the club canceled the plant sale because of the pandemic, but dug into savings from last year’s sale to make a larger contribution than usual.
Keefe said she suggested the Fund For The Needy based on a recommendation from a previous treasurer and stories she read in The Times about agencies helped by the fund.
One story this year showed how Asian Counseling and Referral Service slips handwritten notes of encouragement into food packages delivered to vulnerable individuals. Another described the impact of rent assistance offered by Hopelink, which helped one Eastside mother and domestic violence survivor after she got laid off from her hotel job.
Kindering has begun teletherapy sessions for children with special needs. Kent Youth and Family Services is helping kids navigate remote schooling with new learning hubs, while Atlantic Street Center has given out laptops and help families connect to school online. And Treehouse turned a physical store offering free clothes, toys and supplies to foster children into a virtual one, allowing it to serve the entire state instead of mostly King County residents.
A Treehouse program manager said that’s one beneficial change that will outlast the pandemic.