Applications for Share the Season now being taken

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Share the Season changes lives.

Last year, more than 145 individuals or families were helped by the $223,700 that was donated by Wichitans.

Share the Season is a local nonprofit effort coordinated by the Wichita Community Foundation, the Salvation Army and The Wichita Eagle. It offers one-time assistance to people who need help because of hardships such as job loss or illness.

A few months ago, a 63-year-old woman who is in the end stages of emphysema was struggling to pay her bills.

“I was in a situation where I was supposed to have a roommate and moved into a house and circumstances went from bad to worse,” she said. “I didn’t have a roommate and was struggling with my utilities. I had no money to even make my payment agreement.”

The woman said she receives $720 each month in disability payments and was paying $500 a month in rent and more than $300 a month in utilities.

She went to the Salvation Army.

“I was appalled and heartbroken” at all the people who were needing help, the woman said.

“I sat there and started saying prayers,” she said. “I told the woman who talked with me that ‘I understand if you can’t help me.’

“I thought, I’ve got a car. I can sleep in my car. I’m sitting there, and I’m praying and I’m crying.”

That’s when she was told about Share the Season. People who have experienced unexpected hardships can apply for help.

When the 63-year-old woman told her story, the Salvation Army worker told her, “I think I can help you.”

And indeed, through the help of Share the Season, the woman found an apartment where the rent was $300 – instead of the $500 she had been paying – and utilities were $100.

“A lot of things happened after that day,” the woman said. “That’s my story. They paid everything so I could start off in my new home with a clean slate.

“And the woman who helped me was so gentle, kind and sweet. She was my angel that day.”

The average Share the Season recipient receives help paying utility or medical bills. Payments are made directly to creditors.

Since the program started in 2000, it has helped more than 3,100 families with $2.9 million in donated funds, said Shelly Prichard, president and CEO of the Wichita Community Foundation.

The generosity of Wichitans is unprecedented, and we look forward to another year of providing help and hope to people in need.

Shelly Prichard, president and CEO, Wichita Community Foundation

“The generosity of Wichitans is unprecedented, and we look forward to another year of providing help and hope to people in need,” Prichard said.

In the first several years of Share the Season, the Wichita Community Foundation provided seed money to help start the campaign. In recent years, contributions have continued to pour in after the holiday season; some have been used to help people with unexpected needs at other times of the year.

Share the Season is a grassroots effort in which donors send what they can – $5, $10, $25 or more.

“Share the Season truly encompasses the spirit of the holiday season,” Pritchard said.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

How to get help

People can apply for assistance during the holiday season at www.sharetheseason.org and at the Salvation Army headquarters, 350 N. Market. If you have questions about applying, call 316-263-2769 or visit www.sharetheseason.org. The application deadline is Dec. 17.

Starting Thanksgiving Day, The Eagle will feature a daily story of someone in need. Those featured will remain anonymous, but their need will be verified by the Salvation Army.

How to help

Donors can send contributions to Share the Season, Wichita Community Foundation, 301 N. Main, Suite 100, Wichita, Ks. 67202. Donations can also be made through PayPal online at www.sharetheseason.org.