Christmas Fund begins with $900

The holiday season is leaping upon us and it is time to renew our focus on the Katy Warner Christmas Fund. As many of you know, my mother and I co-authored this column for the past several years. I am now going solo, having lost my darling mother, my best friend, last February. She had cardiac surgery, and as she was coming out of the anesthesia her heart stopped and she could not be revived. It has been an exceptionally difficult year, compounded by the loss of many dear friends. What is up with 2008? Neighbors, friends, family – no one has escaped the loss of a dear one.

Despite the grief, I am reminded that my family copes with challenges by employing humor and remembering those things that make life exceptional. I have a very fine family; wonderful brothers, dear, dear cousins, aunts, uncles and nieces and nephews. We have a new baby in the family, who is a blessing for us all. We see before us the cycle of life and cannot help but be moved by the continuity.

Another tool to aid us in stepping outside our own troubles is to help others who are burdened. No one need remind any of us that the economy is in a tail spin, which means that many of our neighbors are going to have a difficult time making Christmas a time of joy for their families. Can you imagine the pain of looking into your children’s eyes, knowing you cannot give them the meanest gift to open on Christmas morning? What if you couldn’t even set a holiday table to feed your family? That is why the Bainbridge Committee began this tradition, and why we keep it alive today.

Before I get into the background of our fund, I have some contributions to acknowledge. The first two are donations remaining from last year’s drive, but our column had wrapped up before they were recognized. The first, from the Adobe Co., is a generous $500. The second, from a Bainbridge “old-timer” who has made his name in Washington politics, donated $200. His wife, too, was part of that generosity. To round out this week’s thanks, we bow to our group treasurer and thank her for seeding the pot with a very nice $200. This starts us off this year with $900.

To newcomers to our column, let me introduce our procedure. We thank the donors for each contribution, but we keep them as anonymous as possible, while trying to give enough information so that the specific donors know we mean them when we express our gratitude. The exception to this anonymity is that it is sometimes necessary to name a company or foundation.

I’d like to give you some of the history of the fund, and if you’ve read us each year, you may skip this part. On the other hand, it is important to remember where we came from and why we do what we do.

From original board member Bert Klingbeil, the following was conveyed to the board of directors of the Bainbridge Committee in February 1966:

“The Bainbridge Committee is a voluntary community welfare group, organized in 1947, designed to take care of a wide variety of personal or family needs in our community only.

“...Mrs. Emanuel Olson, Lynwood Center, realizing the need for special help for many indigent and/or ill islanders who could not get help at that time from ANY established organization, called a special meeting of any and all interested citizens. The public response was most gratifying, and in February 1947 the Bainbridge Committee was organized complete with charter, by-laws and officers duly elected by ballot.

This concerned group of citizens, under the leadership of Mrs. Olson (Edna), first raised money through dances and other benefit drives. Finding themselves short of their needs, however, they allied the committee with the Kitsap County Community Chest. Eventually, the committee moved from the auspices of Kitsap County assistance to the umbrella of the Bainbridge Foundation. This alliance continues to this day.

The Christmas Fund has always been part of the goal of the committee, but it took on a life of its own through the years. The attention of islanders such as Genevieve Williams and Bainbridge Review co-founder, Walt Woodward, allowed it to stay true to the original goal of community volunteer assistance.

Woodward started a column in the Review to ask for donations and collected those monies at the newspaper’s office. Island historian and humorist, Katy Warner, wrote the entertaining column for many years as she acknowledged each gift, always keeping the donor anonymous. After her death, the Katy Warner Fund name replaced the Christmas Fund and the column has been written by a series of volunteers.

The Bainbridge Review, still a staunch supporter of the fund, is one of three locations for drop-off donations: The Review office at Sound Publishing on Day Road; American Marine Bank in Winslow; Walt’s Lynwood Market; or, by mail to The Katy Warner Christmas Fund, P.O. Box 10354, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. Thank you.

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