Merry Christmas fund way below goal

December 24, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Untitled 2.crtrThe volunteers at Issaquah Community Services often see families at their lowest point.

They see the anguish, the struggle and the heartbreak that comes when clients cannot make ends meet.

As hard as it is to watch that, though, they also get to see the euphoria when a volunteer says, “Yes, I can help you,” making everything worthwhile.

“It’s unbelievably rewarding, it really is. It’s just a very rich experience, I think, for all of our volunteers,” said Jane, an Issaquah Community Services volunteer whose last name is not being printed due to the required anonymity between volunteers and clients.

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.

The nonprofit is maintained by a team of 25 trained volunteers, allowing nearly every penny donated to go directly to the families in need.

Jane began volunteering for the organization more than 15 years ago, when she sought an outlet to give back to her community.

Her job primarily is to listen to the clients, hear their stories and circumstances and help them if she is able.

“It isn’t always easy, and I am not certainly the only volunteer that has carried home some of the anguish and sadness of some of these people,” she said.

The nonprofit’s volunteers are often lauded for their professionalism and respectfulness when dealing with families, making clients feel comfortable to come to them for help.

“These people have a right to dignity,” Jane said. “Just because they can’t make their bills doesn’t mean that they have to be treated as second- and third-class citizens.”

Volunteers show a strong degree of resilience in front of their clients, but the families’ stories and despair have a great affect on them.

A lot of the volunteers, when their clients leave, are moved to tears because some of the circumstances are incredibly sad, Jane said.

“We sometimes have a bit of frustration because we cannot do more, and we worry about these people,” she said. “They stay with us.”

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.

Merry Christmas Issaquah is the organization’s most important fundraiser all year. Organizers set a $75,000 goal for 2013.

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.

No matter how big, or small, the donation, every penny counts to these families, Jane said.

“Those little amounts make huge differences in the lives of people who don’t have a roof over their heads, who have shut-off notices from the power companies or who have their water turned off,” she said.


2013 goal: $75,000 To date: $37,225


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.


a long way to go

Merry Christmas Issaquah donations keep coming, but the total is less than half of what will be needed to meet the demands in 2014. Just in the past week, more clients than usual have come in for assistance with heat bills after the early December cold temperatures.

Last year, the fund drive raised $68,683 from a record 244 donors. The fund will remain open through the first week of January.


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