A great effort that started over coffee

Back in the days when door-to-door milk delivery was the norm, so too was the regular appearance on islanders’ doorsteps of neighborhood ladies soliciting for local charities.

Among those making the rounds, Ernest Biggs recalls, was his wife Ann Louise. It was the late 1950s, and collection for island nonprofit organizations was haphazard, in-person, and more or less year-round.

“My wife was asked by four different organizations to go around the island and collect,” chuckles Biggs, now 88, “and it got kind of tiresome, not just for my wife, but for the people who were being called on – ‘Oh, here’s Mrs. Biggs again, I bet she’s going to ask for money.’”

Mr. Biggs was himself no stranger to island residents; in addition to his milk delivery route for Darigold, he was also chair of local fund-raising for Kitsap United Good Neighbors, precursor to today’s United Way. As it happened, one of the customers on his route, Catherine Bournes, was a fund-raiser for the Red Cross. And one morning over a cup of coffee in the Bournes parlor, inspiration struck.

“We just got talking and said, ‘this is ridiculous, we get the same women going out (over and over for charity),’” Biggs recalls. “We said, ‘why not combine ‘em and make ‘em a one-call for all deal?’”

Bainbridge being Bainbridge, a meeting was convened. Biggs, Bournes and representatives from various charitable causes – in those days, the public library; research for cancer, muscular dystrophy, polio, blindness, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis; and the Orthopedic Hospital Penny Drive – met with the town fathers to discuss a unified, once-a-year fund-raising effort. A Review reporter chronicled the meeting.

Thus was born the Bainbridge Foundation’s One Call For All drive, whose proud legacy continues this month with arrival of the Big Red Envelope in local mailboxes. Islanders can support Bainbridge human service and nonprofit organizations by writing a check – once – and designating funds to their causes of choice. Snuggled under the Bainbridge Foundation umbrella are causes as diverse as environmental conservation, music instruction and performance, youth sports and recreation, historical preservation, emergency services, community theater, animal welfare and student exchange. Information on member organizations is available online at www.bainbridgefoundation.org, while copies of the 20-page One Call For All supplement published by this newspaper for the foundation are available at the Review office.

Turns out that since that first effort in 1960, island generosity has outpaced inflation. The first-ever One Call drive brought in $15,250 – the equivalent of $96,318 in today’s dollars. By comparison, the drive has eclipsed the half-million-dollar mark for some years now, and creeps ever upward. Of course, there are many more islanders today to be giving – but with the price of everything going up, the need of local service agencies and nonprofits is also that much greater.

Back in 1960, Ernest Biggs recalls, a quart of milk cost 37 cents, delivered. Exactly the price of the stamp you’ll need to send in that Big Red Envelope – and your check – in 2005.

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