This time last year, Pam Tate faced a series of unexpected major expenses.
Her roof needed repair.
So did her furnace.
"I was really struggling and a friend told me about Share the Season," Tate said. "It was life-changing. It was hard for me to ask for help, but they didn't treat me like I wasn't taking responsibility or that I was looking for a handout. They were wonderful to work with."
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Share the Season, which offers one-time aid to people who face unexpected hard times, starts taking applications and donations online today for this holiday season.
"There are so many more needs this year," said Rob Allison, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation, which started the program nearly a decade ago with the Salvation Army and the Wichita Eagle.
"I know since the first of September the calls have been starting to pick up," Allison said. "But we know Wichita is a very giving city. I saw what happened last year and I was just amazed. Hopefully, we will retain many of the donors or increase them because everybody is so close to the issues now."
The Eagle will begin running daily stories of need on Nov. 15. Most of those featured will remain anonymous, but their need will be verified by the Salvation Army.
Since it began, the program has helped more than 1,700 families with more than $1.3 million in donations.
Last year, more than 830 people sent in $190,000 in donations. Some included notes like this one: "I hope this small donation can help someone have a more joyful holiday. The stories always touch my heart."
Some recipients wrote thank-you notes like this one:
"It means so much... Times are hard right now for a lot of people and you all are out there helping as many families as you can. Thank you so much for picking my family as one of them."
Each year, the foundation provides $20,000 in seed money. All money raised goes to help local people in need.
The average recipient gets about $700 in assistance, mostly to pay the mortgage or rent and utility bills.
The payments are made directly to creditors, such as a landlord, utility company or doctor.
"When you have a city like Wichita that is so heavily tied to the aircraft industry and economic downtown, you just expect the needs to be greater," Allison said.