WENATCHEE — Families gathering for a joyful Thanksgiving feast. Children excited with the anticipation of gifts piled high beneath a Christmas tree. Those are the images that come to mind as the holiday season begins.
Those were also the images that came to mind when Wenatchee World editors gathered with Beth Stipe, executive director of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington and Alan Walker, executive director of United Way of Chelan & Douglas Counties, to pick recipients of this year’s Neighbors Care Fund.
Each year The Wenatchee World asks its readers to make holiday donations to help a selection of four local non-profit agencies essential to the community. Over the past 12 years, the Neighbors Care Fund has raised more than $182,000 in community donations that were distributed to local non-profit agencies. Last year, more than 180 individual donors pitched in more than $22,000 to help four programs that helped people find and keep jobs. Some years, the fund has raised as much as $50,000.
“It’s a way where a lot of people can give a little,” Rufus Woods, Wenatchee World publisher, said about the fund. “It’s gratifying to be able to address these issues,” Woods said, “and be an instrument of positive change.”
Agencies picked this year are those that help put food on the table and that help children succeed.
“When we think of the holidays, certainly food and kids come to mind,” said Stipe. “We wanted to target programs that really help kids.”
The World picked specific programs in two large agencies — Children’s Home Society and Catholic Family & Child Services — that focus on helping kids succeed in school.
Also selected are two rural food banks that do much more than just give out a monthly box of food. Funded mainly by donations from small communities, rural food banks often have a hard time meeting expenses or offering enough help.
There are those who may not have all the fixings for the ideal Thanksgiving dinner today, nor even for more simple everyday meals. Many families and adults, senior citizens and the handicapped have come to depend on supplemental food and other help offered by local food banks. But with a lingering slow economy, local agencies report growing numbers of new families that haven’t needed help before.
“In a tough economy we have a lot of people who used to be donors to food banks who are now clients of food banks,” Woods said.
Here are the four programs that will get a share of contributions to the Neighbors Care Fund this year:
Upper Valley MEND and the Community Cupboard: MEND is an acronym for Meeting Each Need with Dignity. Started by Leavenworth-area churches in 1983, the non-profit group has several arms, including the Community Cupboard food bank and thrift store, the Upper Valley Free Clinic, SHARE Community Land Trust, Cornerstone Community Adult Family Home and Jubilee Global Gifts.
Entiat Valley Community Services Food Bank: The food bank is dedicated to assisting those in need by providing clothing, food, direct services, access to programs, education for the illiterate, disaster relief and emergency services.
Children’s Home Society’s Readiness to Learn program: Family advocates mentor children, support parents and work individually with children at school and in the community to address problems that may interfere with a child’s success at school.
Catholic Family & Child Services’ Valley Intervention Program: A hands-on parent-training program that regards the family as the basic unit of change and parents as the principle agents of change. The program serves children ages 6 and under who fit the criteria. Services include twice a week two-hour sessions in behavior management skills.