Merry Christmas fund helps Issaquah families at the brink
December 3, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
The people that turn to Issaquah Community Services for assistance are often in dire need.
These are families that could lose their home if the nonprofit didn’t step in with the next payment; these are people who would live without electricity if Issaquah Community Services didn’t exist.
Just ask Maria, an Issaquah resident who recently received a helping hand from the organization that provides emergency financial aid to residents of the Issaquah School District in the form of utility payments, rent assistance and other miscellaneous contributions. (Maria’s last name isn’t being used for her safety.)
“The people that are going to ICS, they really, really need help,” she said.
Maria never thought she would be in a situation where she needed to ask for help. Just 10 years ago, her family owned a restaurant where she would be on the giving end, sending leftovers to local food banks.
Circumstances can change at the drop of a hat, though, and they certainly did for Maria.
The mother of two kids, Maria became a stay-at-home mom to care for her son with special needs.
One day while riding her bike, the brakes gave out and she ran into a telephone pole. She was rushed to the emergency room, where doctors performed a series of tests.
Her right kidney was not functioning properly, which led to a series of surgeries, with more still to come.
2013 goal: $75,000
“It’s just been a nightmare of medical problems with this kidney and even though I have insurance, sometimes medicine can be expensive,” she said.
Issaquah Community Services stepped in to pay a portion of her rent. Payment goes directly to landlords or utility companies, not into clients’ hands.
The organization’s contribution made a big difference, Maria said, since the family works diligently to live within its means.
“We don’t live high above where we need to be, so when something comes up, a couple hundred bucks extra, it puts us in a big pinch,” she said.
The nonprofit’s assistance gave her peace of mind to buy some extra groceries, when she usually only purchases the bare minimum, and the assurance that her family would not get evicted.
Issaquah Community Services receives about 500 requests for emergency aid each year. The organization currently has an annual budget of just more than $100,000.
The nonprofit is maintained by a team of 25 volunteers, allowing nearly every penny donated to go directly to the families in need.
Merry Christmas Issaquah is the organization’s most important fundraiser all year. Organizers set a $75,000 goal for 2013.
“With ICS, you can be confident that your money is going to be given out with the maximum benefit to the person that needs it,” Maria said.
The holiday fundraising drive — spearheaded by The Issaquah Press since 1981 — accounts for about 80 percent of Issaquah Community Services’ annual budget.
It has received more than $800,000 in donations since its inception.
Maria still has an uphill battle when it comes to her health, but she said she is eternally grateful for the kindness of the Issaquah Community Services staff.
“I’m just thankful,” she said, “so thankful.”