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.
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.