As the season for Share the Season begins to wind down, leaders with the charitable organization say they’ve had a record-setting year in donations.
As of Saturday, more than $223,000 had been raised, topping last year’s amount by $7,000. They expect the number to go even higher as people continue to give throughout the end of the year into January.
“It is the overwhelming generosity of the Wichita community,” said Shelly Chenoweth Prichard, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation, which helps oversee and collects the donations for Share the Season. “We have had many $25 and $50 gifts, people sending in money in honor of their loved ones and friends. One man donated $100 anonymously in honor of the Starbucks staff at 21st and Amidon.”
What helped set the record for the 12-year-record for the group, Prichard said, were two anonymous donations one totaling $40,000 and another, totaling $20,000.
Share the Season is a nonprofit local effort that provides one-time aid to people over the holiday season. The Wichita Community Foundation coordinates the annual program along with the Salvation Army and The Eagle.
Share the Season began accepting applications at the beginning of November and continued until mid-December. Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, the Eagle has been publishing daily stories of people in need.
“I have been really touched by the people who walk in (to the Wichita Community Foundation) with a check because they read someone’s story and have either been in the same situation or on a personal level have someone, a friend or family member in a similar situation,” Prichard said. “They give whatever they can.”
On Sunday, Cheryl Warne, director of the Salvation Army’s emergency social and disaster service, said that 128 families have been helped by Share the Season. Another 40 will be helped throughout this next week.
“It has been very similar to previous years,” Warne said. “The number of families asking for help has significantly been because of medical issues. They may be people having difficulty with insurance. They may have undergone job loss or layoffs or a cut in hours due to the struggling economy and can’t make ends meet.”
Share the Season began in 1999 when local philanthropist Mary Lynn Oliver told Wichita Community Foundation leaders about a program in Santa Fe, N.M., called The Empty Stocking Fund, which served as the prototype for Share the Season.
In the first several years of the program, the Wichita Community Foundation provided seed money to help the campaign, in more recent years, contributions have continued to pour in after the holiday season. Some of that money has been used to help people with unexpected needs at other times of the year.
One anonymous recipient who was helped this past season wrote: “I am very grateful to receive this gift from Share the Season. I was very despondent about how I was going to take care of my utilities, with my husband just passing away. This gift has relieved some of the stress. Thank you and God bless those who gave so that I might have.”