Every penny counts for Merry Christmas Issaquah fund
December 17, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
New Issaquah resident Michelle Whitehead’s entire life was tucked away in a Milton storage unit.
It’s where the single mom of two children kept her assets after she lost her job and her Pierce County residence.
“I had my personal belongings there and furniture. The entire house was in there,” she said.
The unit’s contents remained in Milton when Whitehead moved to the Eastside, where at one point she lived in a homeless shelter and then a motel, all the while working to get back on her feet.
A moment of relief came when she received transitional housing in the Issaquah Highlands, but the costs to transport her home furnishings from Milton were too much to bear.
That’s where Issaquah Community Services stepped in, offering to pay the storage unit’s last month of rent, while Whitehead came up with the money to bring her belongings to Issaquah.
“That was the one thing that I needed in order to become stable, was to get my belongings here and be able to settle down for once, and not have to run around chaotically like I was,” Whitehead said.
Issaquah Community Services offers emergency financial aid to residents of the Issaquah School District in the form of utility payments, rent assistance and other miscellaneous contributions, depending on a client’s specific need.
Had the organization not stepped in, Whitehead said she would have accumulated late fees or even lost the unit’s contents.
2013 goal: $75,000
To date: $27,885
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.
It relies on a trained team to assist people in need — especially if the person requesting assistance is embarrassed or reluctant.
“The staff was very helpful and they’re very understanding,” Whitehead said. “They don’t typically help with storage units, but they understood my needs and made the process very easy.”
Merry Christmas Issaquah is the organization’s most important fundraiser all year. Organizers set a $75,000 goal for 2013.
The fundraiser — spearheaded by The Issaquah Press since 1981 — set a record for the number of donors last year with 244, but fell short of its $75,000 goal, raising $68,683.
The holiday fundraising drive accounts for about 80 percent of Issaquah Community Services’ annual budget. It has received more than $800,000 in donations since its inception.
“A little bit does go a long way and it can really make a difference in people’s lives,” Whitehead said. “A hundred dollars may not seem like very much money to a lot of people, but it is to someone who is starting over or struggling to get stable.”