Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect phone number for the Salvation Army. The correct phone number is 316-263-2769.
Mario Collins needed some costly car repairs before he could drive his fiancee to Kansas City last year for a meeting at a cancer center about a bone marrow transplant to treat her sickle cell anemia.
The repairs set him back on his electric bill and his auto insurance payment.
So Collins and his fiancee, who are the parents of seven children, turned to Share the Season for help.
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Share the Season, now in its 14th year, offers one-time aid to people who have been hit by unexpected hardships and can’t pay bills. It is a joint project of the Salvation Army, Wichita Community Foundation and The Eagle.
“They saved the day,” Collins said.
His fiancee didn’t get the transplant because no match was found. She suffered multiple strokes and seizures and for a while couldn’t walk or talk, Collins said. But she’s doing well now.
“A sickle cell crisis caused a blood clot in her frontal lobe,” said Collins, who is disabled with a herniated disk. “She’s back now. She is fully functioning.”
Share the Season helped them pull through the hard times, he said.
“It was a blessing that I got the opportunity for help,” Collins said.
Applications for Share the Season assistance are now being accepted. Application forms are available on the Wichita Community Foundation’s website, www.wichitacf.org. They also may be obtained at the Salvation Army office, 350 N. Market, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, or by calling the Salvation Army at 316-263-2769.
Beginning Thanksgiving Day, The Eagle will feature a daily story of someone in need and tell readers how they can help. Most of those featured will remain anonymous.
The Salvation Army screens applicants and verifies the needs for each family. The Wichita Community Foundation handles all donations and issues receipts to contributors.
Share the Season is for those who have had a recent crisis while working or have lost their jobs due to some catastrophe, said Shelley Prichard, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation. The average recipient receives help toward paying mortgages, utilities or medical bills. The program doesn’t pay for rent, food or toys and Christmas gifts. Payments are made directly to creditors.
“Hopefully, we can help take some of the bills off their plates,” Prichard said. “We write a lot of checks to utilities and medical companies.”
Last year, 987 donors gave nearly $250,000 – a record – to help 235 families in need.
Since its start in 2000, Share the Season has raised $2.25 million and helped more than 2,700 families.
The program began after local philanthropist Mary Lynn Oliver told Wichita Community Foundation leaders about a program in Santa Fe, N.M., called “The Empty Stocking Fund,” which helped the working poor with essential bills during the holiday season. That program served as the prototype for Share the Season.
In the first several years, the Wichita Community Foundation provided seed money to help start the campaign. In recent years, contributions have continued to come in after the holiday season. Some of that money has been used to help people with unexpected needs at other times of the year.
Last year, the foundation began sending out letters to past donors in October to raise more funds.
Share the Season had $22,000 left over from last year to help jump-start this year’s campaign, Prichard said. Letters sent to past donors in October have raised an additional $17,000. The $39,000 total puts Share the Season $4,000 ahead of last year’s record pace, Prichard said.
Among donors so far to Share the Season:
Adam S. Jones Agency Inc.; K.C. “Buck” and Gladys Alley; Ruby Anderson, in memory of Cathy Hansen; John Andrews, in memory of Kay and Crystal; James and Patty Armstrong; William and Marlene Bayer, in memory of Tommy Bayer; Marylyn Blanding, in memory of Max A. Blanding; Edwin and Eleanor Bolain; Billy Bolin; Margot Breckbill; Deborah Brinegar, in memory of Frances Brinegar; Kurt and Jean Carter; Charles and Marla Chandler; Terry Chesnut; Norma Clem; Barbara Coats; Coleman Employees Community Fund; Homer and Pat Compton, in memory of Darin Compton; John and Phyllis Connelly, in memory of Robert A. Constable; Everett Cook, in memory of Lois Cook; Jeraldine Cooper;
James and Lois Daniels; Tom Devlin; Thanh Dinh D Dinh and Kim Dan Huynh; Frederick and Wanda Eilts; Susan Ellis; Ronald and Barbara Engelbrecht; Roland and Heidi Ensz; Phillip Escareno; Beverly Fowler, in memory of Brian Kirby; W. Peter and Connie Geiger; Thomas and Denise Glenn; Ron and Patricia Griffin; Norma Grotz; W.E. and Leota Gustin; Joan Harris, in memory of Pam Slaughter and Robert L. Harris; Louis and Terry Heldman; Gary and Debbie Henning; Richard Hiebsch; Robert and Ruth Holliday; Leo and Carolyn Holmes; John and Anita Horton; Lonnie Hossfeld; James and Christine House; A.C. Hunsaker;
J. Douglas Ingrim; Clyde and Vicky Jacobs; Pamela Johnson, in memory of Jarrett J. (Jerry) Johnson; Richard and Roseanna Jones, in memory of Leslie Ann Morris; Charles and Patsy Kerley; Mabelle Kirkland, in memory of Leon Kirkland; Roger Koeppen; Kent and Jeanette Lanier; C.T. and Valerie Ledesma; Randy and Leslie Leroux; D. Craig and Deborah Levering, in memory of Nadine Jansen; Timothy and Jill Lipke, in memory of Mark and Ryan Sageser; Jane Luellen, in memory of Anna Stevens and Bill Lewis;
Rod Maclean; Donna Main; Jean Marchand; Greg Martin, in memory of Winnie; Don and Linda McGinty; Dorothy McIntire; Daniel Menzies, in memory of Vi Menzies; Janis Meredith, in memory of Jill Niblack; Merlin Enterprises Inc.; Leo and Virginia Merriman; Jerry and Charlotte Miller; Kathryn Owens; Thomas and Kathleen Pott; Bob and Colleen Rogers; Sara Rogers;
Dwayne and Sandra Schrag, in memory of John and Peg Busselle; Deryl and Anita Schuster, in memory of Douglas Schuster; Billie and Jayde Sprecker; C.M. and Laurel Standley, in memory of Lisa O’Neal; Keith and Georgia Stevens, in memory of Keeney Stevens; Harold Stover; Clint Stucky; Florentino and Enid Tuason; James and Shirley Traner, in memory of Frank Traner; Bradley and Joann Tuzicka;
Shelley Von Merveldt, in memory of Kenny and Mona Smith; Thomas and Elaine Ware; Jean Wellshear; William and Judith Ann Wynne; Loyd and Kay Zang; anonymous in memory of Jimmie Ellis; anonymous in memory of Judith Hiss; anonymous in memory of Frank and Emma Morgan; anonymous in memory of Robert Oliver; anonymous in memory of Cory Pugh; anonymous in memory of Lou Reed; anonymous, in memory of Orlan Simpson; anonymous in memory of Mel Snyder; and 46 other anonymous donors.