Rotary donates gift cards for Christmas The Rotarians distributed a record $20,000 to 43 families with children who attend Washington Elementary School in Centralia.

Members of the Twin Cities Rotary Club, school faculty and assorted volunteers pose for a photo in front of Washington Elementary School on Friday afternoon before heading out to delivery $20,000 worth of donations to families in Centralia.
Members of the Twin Cities Rotary Club, school faculty and assorted volunteers pose for a photo in front of Washington Elementary School on Friday afternoon before heading out to delivery $20,000 worth of donations to families in Centralia.

The Twin Cities Rotary Club (Washington, US — D 5020) has been helping local families keep up with holiday expenses for more than 20 years through its Jeff Alverson Memorial Giving Tree programme.

On Friday, those involved with the charitable effort distributed a record $20,000 to 43 families with children who attend Washington Elementary School in Centralia.

Twin Cities Rotary members Bob Cosser and Bill Logan were instrumental in the creation of the generous memorial effort.

Since 2001, which is as far back as the records go, the Giving Tree programme has contributed a total of $159,254 to local families that need a little extra help getting through the stressful holiday season.

Each year, the Rotary club picks a new school in Lewis County to assist through the programme.

This year, they asked Centralia School District Board member Jami Lund for help narrowing down the student population to the families that would most benefit from the unexpected assistance.

After that preliminary list was generated, the Twin Cities Rotary Club left the final selection process up to the teachers at Washington Elementary.

“The reason we do that is because they know them and work them everyday,” Logan said.

Washington Elementary School counsellor Regina Brown estimated that each family would receive an average of about $400.

She noted that each donation was calculated by taking into consideration how many children there are in the family and any extenuating circumstances contributing to their burden in the holiday season.

In total, Brown estimated that the Rotary club donations will help around 200 school age children.

“This is bigger than just Washington Elementary,” explained Brown.

“There are older siblings and younger siblings who aren’t even in school yet. This will have a big impact.”

Washington Elementary School Principal Danielle Vekich said she was contacted by Twin Cities Rotary about their plans around the end of October. The good news came as a complete surprise.

“It was a good, overwhelming feeling,” said Vekich, who noted that many families are too proud to ask for help.

She told of one parent who expressed indifference to receiving any assistance because her children were used to not receiving Christmas presents.

Many other families tried to turn down the donations on grounds that they did not want to take away from anyone who may need the help more.

Vekich explained that teachers often have the best grasp of what sort of home environment their students come from.

She said that the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for families without much flexibility in their budgets.

“Sometimes students will speak to teachers about what’s going on in their home,” said Vekich.

Instead of cash handouts, the recipients of the Twin Cities Rotary Club donations were given gift cards to Sunbirds in Chehalis and Walmart.

Those cards were purchased by the Rotary club at a discounted price through a partnership agreement with those businesses.

All of the money distributed on Friday was generated during the Twin Cities Rotary Christmas party.

The club is comprised primarily of Centralia and Chehalis residents, but membership is open to anyone who lives in Lewis County.

Twin Cities Rotary Club Mentorship Coordinator Matt Swena says the club is always looking for new members to get involved with their vast service projects and fundraising efforts.

“We’re trying to grow because people don’t understand all the things that make this community tick,” said Swena.

“This is just one of those things that makes Lewis County better.”

Source: The Chronicle

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