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Sun., Dec. 27, 2009

Charity fund swells with region’s generosity

On Christmas Eve, a day holding such symbolic promise, The Spokesman-Review’s annual Christmas Fund reached and surpassed its goal of $500,000.

No nail-biting. No down-to-the-wire tension. No uncertainty.

With nearly a week to go before the books are closed on 2009, the tally reached half a million dollars and just kept going, thanks to the perpetual big-heartedness of the people and businesses of the Inland Northwest.

It would be a mistake, however, to think the lack of drama means the achievement was easy. The 2009 drive’s success was no matter-of-fact yawner.

The fund – now a partnership including the newspaper, Catholic Charities and Volunteers of America – has a history that can be traced back to 1945. But never in those 64 years has the economy been as bad as recession-battered 2009, intensifying the need while stifling the capacity to give.

Traditional big givers, who push the fund upward thousands of dollars at a time, could have used the bad conditions as a rationale for cutting back. But they didn’t.

Individuals who can afford to donate more modestly, but who give the drive its human soul, could have concentrated their limited means on their own needs. But they ignored personal plight to brighten the lives of others whose need is even greater.

Organizers of the fund could have foreseen all those realities and adjusted their sights downward. But that would have been focusing on the obstacles instead of the need, so they increased the goal from 2008’s $495,000.

Yes, profits are down, and joblessness is up – conditions that suggest tighter purse strings. But the generosity of the Inland Northwest reflects a keen understanding about the power of Christmas to excite children with hope and expectation. It is also the power to deliver crushing disappointment.

The aim of the Christmas Fund is to prevent that. Only 4 percent of the money raised goes to overhead. The rest is for toys, books and food vouchers for needy families who otherwise would face a bleak holiday.

As Rob McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities, put it a month ago when the collection drive opened, “This is their only shot at having a decent Christmas dinner, and it’s their only shot at getting a gift or two for their kids.”

Mindful of that, the charitable residents of the region came through again as they have for 64 years.

The task was profound, the response even more so.

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