Archive for Thursday, January 5, 2006

Agencies report strong charitable giving

National, international disasters didn’t dampen donations to local groups

January 5, 2006

Hogwash.

That's what predictions forecasting the demise of the giving spirit this holiday season amounted to for the primary philanthropic organizations in Basehor and Bonner Springs.

Some pundits believed that many people, while normally charitable, would find themselves financially fatigued because they'd already donated heavily to tsunami and hurricane relief efforts.

Far from it.

According to Debbie Dearinger and Carol Gear, leaders of Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services and Vaughn-Trent Community Services, respectively, the local communities' compassion toward others knows no bounds.

"It was awesome," said Dearinger, who noted that publicity in the weeks leading up to Christmas dramatically aided BLAS' cause. "Everybody was very generous."

"We were able to take care of everybody that needed help and that's something we take a lot of pride in," Geary said.

All told, the local organizations helped more than 1,000 area residents in need. Items ranging from Christmas hams to shiny new toys greeted a plethora of residents from Basehor and Bonner Springs who were a little down on their luck this season.

Neither group receives state or federal assistance; donations are acquired solely from generous, warm-hearted community members and businesses.

BLAS, which received more participation from the Basehor and Linwood business communities than ever before this year, was able to provide for 22 families in need. The donations were distributed Dec. 17.

"They stepped up," said Dearinger, citing the Basehor Chamber of Commerce as a particularly helpful group this year. "It all added up ... and went to the people that needed it."

The efforts of Vaughn-Trent, a substantially larger, more established charitable group, also reached far and wide. Organization members said 500 food baskets were given to families, and 253 gifts cards for $25 each found their way to children. Also, the group helped coordinate efforts by churches, businesses and community members to adopt 13 local families and chipped in themselves by donating toys to 75 children.

Though the holidays are behind them, neither organization is content to rest on its laurels. As they pointed out in the weeks leading up to Christmas, need is never out of season.

BLAS and Vaughn-Trent are now focusing on assisting residents with their winter utility bills. And, for once, the hype machine may be justified: Dearinger and Geary said speculation that more people are having a difficult time paying increased natural gas costs appears to be true.

"All these dire predictions ... we think that'll be a big thing," Geary said.

"It looks like fuel costs will be a big problem for needy families," Dearinger said.

Both Dearinger and Geary said the effectiveness of their organizations depends on others and that those donating can be assured their contributions are used for a worthy cause.

"We're going to keep doing what we've been doing," Geary said. "And quality donations always helps."

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