Tacoma nonprofits benefit from a boost in donations, volunteerism

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Nonprofits across Tacoma are experiencing a significant boost in individual donations, providing new opportunity to expand existing programs and help more people who need it most in the community with essential services.

On March 22, St. Leo Food Connection welcomed 200 people to its breakfast fundraiser, held at the William J. Bischel Social Hall at St. Leo’s Catholic Church. 

“Our attendance was about 25 percent higher this year than last year,” said Kevin Glackin-Coley, executive director of The Food Connection. “People came ready to give, and we were ready to receive.”

Donations to the Food Connection were nearly triple this year compared to last year, topping at a little more than $35,000. Glackin-Coley said average donations this year were larger in size. A large part of what made up the total was monthly donations, equating to $14,000 or a third of total giving.

“We gave a real concerted push for people to give monthly donations, and about 40 people did that,” Glackin-Coley said.

A signature pillar of the Food Connection is its children’s feeding program, which serves low-income students across 40 schools in Tacoma Public Schools, Clover Park School District, and Franklin-Pierce. Based on one metric, the dollars raised this year will provide 150 students every weekend with six meals and snacks to bring home. Across all programs in 2017, the Food Connection fed more than 15,000 families and provided enough food to prepare 1.6 million meals.

James Harper, development and services coordinator for the Food Connection, was grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.

“It was really exciting to have so many people want to feed hungry families,” Harper said.

Peace Community Center, which serves students in the Hilltop neighborhood who are impacted by poverty and other inequities in the education system, raised $110,000 at its March 9 fundraiser, more than $20,000 than what was raised in 2017, equating to a 16 percent increase.

“We have one of those missions that is always needed, and is really compelling,” said Ruth Tollefson, director of development at Peace Community Center. “As people might be upset on a national level, we’re seeing people leaning in and wanting to make more of a difference at a local level. It’s nice to have a community that is just behind kids and loves serving kids. Donors are really at the heart of us being able to do that.”

Tollefson said first-time donors this year made up 40 percent.

“I think we really leaned into our community to think of those who would be excited about our mission and invited them to come,” Tollefson said. “We see this as a start of a journey with these new donors.”

New donations will help support the cost of programs serving students and the salaries of staff and teachers administering those programs.

Tacoma Community House is anticipating a significant uptick in giving at its annual fundraiser on Friday, April 13. Now in its 108th year, TCH is encouraging people to give donations that end in eight. At last year’s fundraiser, giving was 15 percent above dollars raised in 2016, equating to a little over $116,000.

Tacoma Community House provides services to Tacoma’s immigrant and refugee population, which is about 13 percent of the city population.

“Immigration in the national news has brought people forward,” said Liz Dunbar, executive director of TCH. “We have an event called Talk Time where volunteers can come in and help immigrants practice their English. The day after the 2016 election we had the biggest turnout for the event ever. We used to do the program monthly, now we’re doing it weekly.

“We’ve done a lot of public education on this topic, and that has introduced us to a lot of new people, so we have a lot of new donors,” Dunbar said. “We will probably get more than 750 attending the fundraiser. It’s heartening to see the increased donations and involvement from the community.”

Finally, the Greater Metropolitan Parks Foundation of Tacoma netted $86,000 at its Because Parks Matter annual luncheon, aimed to benefit the children on the Eastside through ongoing programming, according to Renee Houston, a board member of the parks foundation. This represents a $23,000 increase over last year’s fundraiser, which focused on supporting funding for the Eastside Community Center.

Houston said GMPF partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA to fundraise a youth program endowment that will offer ongoing enrichment for Eastside children.

“One part of this year’s success is that people could see the investment in the community of the Eastside with the groundbreaking and construction underway (of the community center),” Houston said. “It was very compelling for people to see how the unique partnerships GMPF convened came together.”

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