Donated gifts saved Christmas for Issaquah families

December 28, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Debra Rowley-Petruccelli did not want to fill out a wish list for the holidays, but her friends at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank insisted.

Rowley-Petruccelli began frequenting the bank soon after a divorce tore apart her world five years ago. Between surgeries for intestinal problems and going back to school to get a degree, she has relied on the food bank.

“It’s the heartbeat of the city for those who don’t have anything,” she said. “You got to have that heartbeat and then everything else works. It prevents people from being lost. It provides them services.”

The community sponsored more than 300 families and 150 children who had registered for the holiday drive at the bank, food bank assistant Kim Ortego said.

“All of the schools did an amazing job, not to mention the individuals and families that put their heart into everything,” she said.

Endeavour Elementary School, one of the schools that participated in the gift drive, collected 300 presents and everyday supplies for sponsored families.

“It’s really important for them to learn about giving back and being generous,” Principal Kathy Connally said.

Fourth-grade teacher Katie Nack’s class sponsored a 10-year-old and 8-month-old.

“We talked about what it would feel like if you weren’t able to have any presents on Christmas,” Nack said. “They need to realize they’re really lucky.”

Rowley-Petruccelli, of Issaquah, said the food bank offers her emotional support and independence. For the holidays, she received gift cards to Fred Meyer, a “beautiful blue jacket” and turtleneck, plumbing for her toilet and necessities, like toilet paper and laundry soap. She even received a recliner for her new business, Elderday of Issaquah, where she cares for elderly women.

“Now, it’s slightly used. It wasn’t brand new from La-Z-Boy, but it’s beautiful,” she said. “The point is what was on that list was honored.”

Ortego said she has worked 13 hours a day for the past several weeks to help organize the drive with Issaquah schools, churches and families for those in need.

“I had one family come in and start crying, because every year she had asked for a bicycle and this was the first year that she got it,” Ortego said. “It means so much.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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