Merry Christmas Issaquah demand continues to grow
December 13, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
Sudden hardships can expose people reeling from the effects of a down economy to even more risk — financial ruin and, in extreme cases, homelessness.
Darryl Zewe experienced such a hardship earlier in the year, after relocating from Pennsylvania to Washington. Soon after the move, he turned to Issaquah Community Services for assistance as Puget Sound Energy prepared to shut down the electricity at Zewe’s Issaquah apartment.
“They were so kind and they went way out of their way to provide some money for me,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting the worst.”
Issaquah Community Services President Marilyn Taylor said the organization started to experience increased demand for assistance after the economy weakened late in the past decade.
“We have had a dramatic increase over the last couple of years — I think about 50 percent since 2009,” she said.
Merry Christmas Issaquah
2011 goal: $65,000
To date: $28,570
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.
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.
Issaquah Community Services helped 503 families from October 2010 to October 2011. Holiday donations through Merry Christmas Issaquah enable the organization to help people in the coming year.
Most clients need assistance to pay rent or, like Zewe, a utility bill.
“My electricity was ready to be disconnected, and Marilyn — she’s one of the workers — she just got right on it. I was shocked. It was great,” he said. “It was like I was a little child and this was Christmas.”
Issaquah Community Services offers rent assistance if eviction is imminent, help with utility bills if the provider is threatening shutoff or emergency transportation.
“Without the Merry Christmas Issaquah fund, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do now — and we already don’t have enough,” Taylor said. “That’s why it’s so important. If it weren’t for the donors and also all of the volunteers that we have, we wouldn’t exist.”
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.
Issaquah Community Services organizers and recipients said the aid is essential as more and more people ask for assistance.
“I’ve been having some bad times,” Zewe said. “We all have bad times.”