Merry Christmas Issaquah makes a difference all year

November 29, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah Community Services is highlighting successes to help people in need as the annual Merry Christmas Issaquah fundraising drive opens.

The organization provided a lifeline to Vicky Tranilla as her husband battled cancer.

“We got behind on our bills, and I was paying the medical bills for his cancer instead of paying the bills for the rent and power, because my husband came first,” she said.

Issaquah Community Services is the all-volunteer nonprofit organization responsible for dispersing the donations to families living inside Issaquah School District boundaries. Merry Christmas Issaquah is the organization’s most important fundraiser of the year.

The organization offers rent assistance if eviction is imminent, help with utility bills if the provider is threatening shutoff or emergency transportation.

The organization offered rent assistance to Tranilla and then, after her husband died weeks later on Oct. 8, volunteers also offered financial assistance and someone to talk to about her loss.

Merry Christmas Issaquah

2011 goal: $65,000

How to help

Help by making a tax-deductible donation to Issaquah Community Services. The organization is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Send donations to Merry Christmas Issaquah, c/o The Issaquah Press, P.O. Box 1328, Issaquah, WA 98027. The names of donors — but not amounts — are published in The Press unless anonymity is requested.

“I have never met anybody that had so much sympathy for the loss of my husband,” Tranilla said.

In the weeks before her husband died, they filled out paperwork for his benefits to be transferred to her upon his death.

Tranilla’s late husband served in the Navy for 24 years, and Issaquah Community Services volunteers helped her navigate the process to receive benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Volunteers contacted U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s office and the congressman’s staff checked to see if Tranilla could receive benefits sooner than a monthslong wait.

“They’re very, very nice people, wonderful people, at Issaquah Community Services,” she said.

The assistance and a chance to open up to volunteers offered Tranilla a chance to cope during a difficult period.

“I feel like it’s still a dream, but it’s not,” she said.

Issaquah Community Services helped 503 families from October 2010 to October 2011. Holiday donations through Merry Christmas Issaquah bolster the fund for the year ahead.

“It’s unbelievable how many people really are in need,” longtime Issaquah Community Services volunteer Pam McDonald said. “Especially in the community that we live in, I’m not sure everyone is aware of that. There’s just an awful lot of need out there. It’s pretty satisfying when you can help someone and it actually will keep them in their apartment, help them keep their lights or keep them warm.”

The fund has received more than $700,000 in donations since starting in 1981. The holiday fundraising drive accounts for about 65 percent of Issaquah Community Services’ annual budget.

The city provides office space and overhead, so 100 percent of donations go to people in need.

Merry Christmas Issaquah set a record last year as 215 donors contributed $66,297. The goal for the 2011 fundraising drive is $65,000.

The prospective donors to Merry Christmas Issaquah include Tranilla.

“Once I get back on my feet after the holidays, I will be donating to them, because they helped me and especially my husband,” she said. “That’s what I’m going to be doing.”

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