Share the Season raised a record amount of money in 2013 to help people affected by unexpected hardships.
The program, a joint project of the Salvation Army, Wichita Community Foundation and The Eagle, had raised more than $251,000 by the end of last week. That’s up from nearly $249,000 last year.
And the donations continue to come in.
“It is because people across the board gave more,” said Carol Nazar, the Wichita Community Foundation’s director of donor and grant making services. “We had a lot more returning donors who, instead of sending in $25 or $50 (as in past years) sent $100 or $250. It was consistent.”
Letters sent to past donors in October raised $57,000 before the campaign began in earnest on Thanksgiving Day. Each day until Christmas, The Eagle published a story on people who needed help.
“People feel connected to the program,” Nazar said. “As the stories started, people started calling and saying things like, ‘Is anyone checking on that grandmother raising her grandson?’ We had people give outside Share the Season to help her so she wouldn’t have to worry about her car being repossessed.”
Another story readers connected with involved a 14-year-old girl who had developed a cough, Nazar said.
“Her parents have taken her to six doctors and three specialists. She has undergone test after test,” read the story on Dec. 12.
“Cough drops don’t work. Cough syrup doesn’t work,” her mother said in the story. “Her medical bills keep adding up. She’s had a CT scan, thyroid test, sonogram of the gallbladder. It all keeps adding up and we are not getting ahead. We wish we knew what it was so we could deal with it.”
The girl had dizzy spells that caused vomiting and difficulty walking. She had missed 13 days of school and her grades and spirits were dropping. The couple, with three other children, was struggling to pay bills.
Shortly after that story ran, a donor called wanting to know about the girl, Nazar said. The girl’s records have now been sent to a Mayo Clinic.
“We are waiting for the doctor to evaluate the records and we are going to see if we can help this girl,” Nazar said.
The average recipient receives help toward paying mortgage, utility or medical bills. Payments are made directly to creditors.
Since 2000, Share the Season has raised more than $2 million to help nearly 3,000 families.
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.
“People go above and beyond,” Nazar said. “They care and form a connection. Underneath it all is the feeling that the people in these stories are hardworking people who life has dealt a blow. It really is inspiring. People cut stories out of the paper and email them in with donations. It is a remarkable reaffirmation of the human spirit.”