Generous readers surpass Share the Spirit’s goal for giving to nonprofits

Generous readers surpass Share the Spirit’s goal for giving to nonprofits

Economic uncertainties and changing spending patterns may have affected giving nationally in the past year, but in the East Bay, generous Share the Spirit readers continue to show support for area nonprofits and the ​​important work they do every day.

Readers have contributed $529,294 so far to this news organization’s annual Share the Spirit campaign, which benefits nonprofits in Contra Costa and Alameda counties that provide critical services to our less fortunate neighbors in their time of need.

That’s $29,294 more than the program’s $500,000 goal, and donations are still welcome, said Dee Dee Robillard, community projects director for Bay Area News Group, which administers the program.

Sharon Ryan, publisher of the Bay Area News Group, thanked all the community members and others who donated.

“We are honored to partner with our readers in service to those in need across the East Bay,” she said. “Share the Spirit is one of the most important ways the East Bay Times supports our communities every year.”

Overall, about 28,000 individuals and families will benefit from the grants. This year donations came from some 1,200 readers.

“It’s alway so touching to see the community respond,” Robillard said. “Some people were able to make an increase in how much they helped this year, which was amazing. We get gifts from $5 and up, and all of these are so meaningful because each person is showing such generosity.”

Robillard said there were also many repeat donors. “Some names are very familiar now as they have been giving for almost as many years as the program has been going,” she said. “And there were lots of new ones too.”

Share the Spirit is one of two company-sponsored programs that help the Bay Area’s neediest. Wish Book, sponsored by The Mercury News — the Times’ sister paper in the South Bay — raised $772,468 so far, Robillard said.

Now heading into its 35th year, the East Bay’s Share the Spirit is supported by individual, foundation and business contributions.

Since its inception, the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation has provided some of the program’s most critical support, Robillard said. This year the Bay Area News Group and employees also added $29,380 in donations and matching funds to the Share the Spirit and Wish Book holiday campaigns, she said.

The East Bay Times stories featured nonprofits that help the hungry, the homeless, job seekers, business owners, and those that offer recreation programs for disabled persons, give help to struggling youths, injured pets and low-income pet owners, among others.

In all, 20 groups were featured, and the top five stories for raising funds were Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, Paws In Need, First Place for Youth, Loaves & Fishes, and La Familia, Robillard said.

Tri-Valley-based nonprofit Paws In Need helps those who don’t have enough money to spay or neuter their pets or need help with emergency treatment, logistical support or transportation. It also helps find homes for cats and dogs and more.

The services provided by the 10-year-old program are even more critical as fewer mom-and-pop veterinarians are available to help cut the costs, said Leslie Silberman, the nonprofit’s volunteer development and marketing director.

Despite the challenges, Silberman said they continue because they know there are many people who are experiencing financial hardships and can’t take care of their pets without help. As for the animals, they try to find foster homes or shelters, if needed, and “go to great lengths to make sure the animals are safe and healthy.”

“If it weren’t for us, they would have to maybe surrender and maybe euthanize,” she said.

Silberman added that some 90% of the money donated goes directly to the animals. The STS readers’ donations – even if it’s only $5 – are “hugely important,” she said.

“There’d be no way that people would know had they not read the story that this organization even exists,” she said. “I feel like our story … in the lovely way that it was told, giving a real-life success story, really helps to show the lengths we go to to get help for these animals and for the people who own them.”

Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, an East Bay organization that has helped people with disabilities stay active through activities and sports, was also grateful for the Share the Spirit help, executive director Emily Seelenfreund said. The organization offers wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, Tai chi, kayaking and much more.

“We got some really positive feedback on the story,” she said. “I think we’re in an area where people especially understand the importance of recreation. … And I think people can really understand what it would be like to not have those opportunities easily (available).”

Seelenfreund said the equipment needed to make this possible is often expensive. The organization also hosts some 2,000 hours of fitness classes at its adaptive fitness center in Berkeley for those with physical and vision disabilities, and the Share the Spirit donations are “going to go a really long way” to help pay for the costs.

​​​​”That’s what we are all about — making these opportunities available to the whole population so that everyone can get the well-known benefits of sports and recreation.”


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