After 56 years, the need for the Times Colonist Christmas Fund and other seasonal charities is as acute as ever.
When the Times Colonist initiative started in 1956, it was known as the 500 Fund because the goal was to help 500 of the region’s neediest families. Greater need prompted a name change to the 1000 Fund in 1980, followed by a switch to the more-inclusive Christmas Fund in 2000.
Whatever the label, the goal of the fund has never wavered: Donations are gathered from generous readers, money is raised by concerned businesses and organizations, and every cent is distributed to people in need.
Each year, we tell the stories of fund applicants who have consented to have their circumstances made public. Their stories of courage in the face of difficult circumstances, and the ability to stay positive in tough times, have a huge impact and are vital to the Times Colonist’s efforts to collect as much money as possible.
One subscriber who was moved by a recent Christmas Fund story called to offer a 42-inch television, said Times Colonist promotions director Shannon Kowalko. Another story that mentioned a girl needing a winter jacket brought an immediate donation of a coat from Capital Iron’s Mike Black.
“For me, and I think for any of us working closely with the fund, it’s really humbling,” Kowalko said, “because all of us here are lucky. We come to work every day. We do our job. We have a roof over our heads. We have food in the fridge. Some people just don’t have those simple things.”
Close to 4,000 applications for assistance were received by this year’s Dec. 3 deadline. More than half — 2,300 — will be assisted by the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, helping a total of 4,500 people when children and other household members are added in. They’ll receive food vouchers and certificates for children’s gifts for their Christmas celebrations.
The rest of the applicants will be assisted by other members of the newly formed Christmas Giving Program, an umbrella group that includes the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, CFAX Santas Anonymous, the Salvation Army, the Mustard Seed, St. Vincent de Paul and the Sidney Lions Food Bank.
All six member agencies use the same application forms, making it easier to ensure donations help the most people.
Despite the ongoing generosity of readers and widespread community support, donations to the 2012 Christmas Fund are down from last year. The 2011 fund brought in an all-time record $284,553.13.
“There are a lot of people that still need help,” Kowalko said. “Together, the Christmas Giving Program is trying to help as many people as it can.”
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