Holiday donations from employers and individuals help families across Washington
The light from this year’s Holiday Kids’ Tree is spreading far beyond the marble-decorated Capitol rotunda to families in rural America that need it the most.
The dollars from AWB’s Holiday Kids’ Tree Project buy baby formula, groceries and school clothes for kids in rural Grant County.
In Walla Walla County, the fire district will distribute groceries, and Christmas dinner.
And Thurston County leverages the annual business community donation to benefit at least 10 families, and 25 kids who need a helping hand.
“This program is just so awesome,” said Barbara Davis, business manager for Grant County Fire District No. 8, one of 18 rural fire departments that benefited from the program this year.
Last year, the donations from AWB employers bought diapers and baby formula a single parent with four children who was too sick to work, Davis said.
“The gift that we gave them just really, really made a huge difference for them,” Davis said at Friday’s annual Holiday Kids’ Tree lighting ceremony.
AWB members and other citizens once again stepped up in the holiday season to make donations to rural families in need. Just before Friday’s tree lighting, AWB President Kris Johnson and Gov. Jay Inslee celebrated the work of 18 rural fire districts to distribute groceries, toys and more to families in need across the state.
A few minutes later Olympia Police Officer Jon Hazen and family flipped the switch to the AWB Holiday Kids Tree, sending waves of blue light, good tidings and a happy roar of good cheer throughout the Capitol.
But it’s what happens outside the Capitol that really matters.
Grant County’s Davis said this year’s $1,000 grant will help two families in her community. The first is a grandparent raising three children on their own. The second is a mom and dad with five kids.
And this year’s grant will be leveraged with help from Harvest Foods in Grant County, where managers have agreed to donate a gift card worth several hundred dollars at half price.
Last year the grants helped a family whose father died in a car accident, and the single parent with four children, she said.
Chief Rocky Eastman of Walla Walla County Fire District No. 4 said this year’s donations will help six families. AWB’s donation would normally cover just four families, but the department’s auxiliary support group provides matching funds so the department can help six families.
“What you do for the community is amazing, so thank you,” Eastman said.
He grabbed a bag of toys before heading out to enjoy the celebration, and eventually make the five and a half-hour drive home to Walla Walla.
Meanwhile, Battalion Chief Tom Fitzgerald of Thurston Fire District No. 11 was getting ready for a Breakfast with Santa event Saturday morning. He expected the community to give at least $3,000-4,000 in cash donations, on top of the two AWB grants his two fire districts received.Altogether, this will enable his department to help 10 families and 25 children from Thurston County, he said. Local schools determine who is eligible.
Finally, his department sets up a “Giving Tree,” where people can take a slip of paper from the tree, and go buy a gift for an anonymous recipient. For example, an 8-year-old girl could need a gift card for new clothes.
Capt. Lanette Dyer of the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority spoke to AWB Saturday morning at the Breakfast with Santa event. She said the department’s “adopted” families had free admission.
“It was our way of kicking off the year for the holiday,” Dyer said, “and showing them that their community stands behind them through all the good things, and the bad things that happen in their lives – that we’re together.”
AWB’s Holiday Kids’ Tree has raised more than $420,000 for families in need since 1989.
Friday’s celebration marked AWB’s 30th anniversary. And for the families that need it, the impact of the these gifts will be remembered for many years to come.
To learn more or get involved, please contact AWB’s Bonnie Millikan at 360.943.1600.