Spirit of giving overflows in the foothills
Foothills: Donations surpass expectations for Western Wheel Cares campaign
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 04:03 pm
The campaign was called the Western Wheel Cares, but it could have been named Foothills Residents Care for their Community.
Generosity was plentiful this holiday season as the inaugural Wheel Cares Christmas campaign far exceeded publisher Paul Rockley expectations, bringing in $26,481.65 for four local charities. The Rowan House Women’s Shelter, Okotoks Food Bank, Sheep River Health Trust and Foothills Country Hospice each received just over $6,600 on Jan. 11.
Rockley said he publically set a goal of raising $5,000 during the Western Wheel Cares inaugural year, but privately hoped to bring in closer to $10,000.
“Its more than double my wildest dreams,” said Rockley, speaking enthusiastically about the final dollars brought in. “It just shows our readership is interested in the welfare of our community.”
Rockley was originally approached by Sheep River Health Trust charitable giving chair Harlene Day about the idea a year ago. He thought it over and when Day raised the question again this year, Rockley said he was ready to get the campaign started.
“I thought this is a way to allow people with smaller amounts of money to pool it together and make a significant difference,” Rockley said.
When things kicked off in December, Rockley said he was nervous the Wheel wouldn’t reach its goal, but generous foothills residents soon put his mind at ease.
“Almost immediately people came in,” he said, smiling. “In the very first week we received $1,000 from a couple in the community.”
All the money was evenly distributed amongst the four charities on Jan. 11.
Sarah Hughes, executive director of the Sheep River Health Trust, said it was gratifying to have a local business offer support to organizations that rely on fundraising.
“We are massively grateful,” Hughes said. “To be able to come to a community leader and have it followed through all the way with this kind of success is huge.”
The Sheep River Health Trust will use the money from the Western Wheel Cares Campaign for the Foothills Children’s Wellness Network. People who need support or assistance with children can get in touch with the network and will be guided to the local resources they need. Last year 117 families used the service, which is entirely operated using money from fundraisers.
Hughes said the service is needed in a place like Okotoks where there are so many children and youths.
“The demographics are 50 per cent of the population is youth and of that 50 per cent are under 15,” Hughes said.
The children’s network costs $50,000 per year to operate.
The Rowan House, a local women’s shelter, is another recipient of the Western Wheel Cares and executive director Sherrie Botten said they were thrilled to receive a financial boost in January.
“Christmas is a very important time for us,” Botten explained. “People are very generous at Christmas. In January people are looking at how to balance their own budgets.”
She said fundraising for Rowan House was down in 2012, after several successful years of raising money to build their new facility in High River. The Rowan House needs to fundraise $500,000 every year to cover operating costs. That money provides things for the women and children who stay at the shelter, such as clothing, food and transportation.
Since the Rowan House opened its new building at the end of July 71 woman and children have accessed the facility.
Botten said this donation is just what they needed to start off their first full year in their new High River building.
“We are really excited,” she said. “It’s really going to help our needs.”
The Foothills Country Hospice will also look to bring comfort to its patients this year with the money they received from the Western Wheel Cares campaign.
Hospice executive director Beth Kish said there are many items needed to keep people comfortable as their life draws to a close.
“We get things like sheepskin liners for wheelchairs,” she said. “We get them music, or anything they desire. We have medical equipment they need to manage their pain.”
The hospice has 36 per cent of its $2.3 million annual operating budget funded from the Province, meaning up to $800,000 must be raised in the community.
“There is zero charge to the patient and it can cost $800 plus per day to care for them,” she said.
The facility sees around 100 patients a year.
The Okotoks Food Bank will also be using their Western Wheel Cares dollars to meet the needs of local people who may need a little help getting food on the table.
Food bank executive director Karen Wilke said the number of people using the service is constantly growing and this new source of funds is welcome.
“It’s a good chunk,” Wilke said.
The food bank used cash donations to buy things like milk cardsMilk cards? and pay for their overhead, such as phone bills and administrative costs.
After a typically busy December costs do go up Wilke said because more people are calling the food bank’s cell phone and receiving more requests for food.
Rockley said he knows the need in the foothills never ends and neither will the generosity so the Western Wheel Cares campaign will continue in 2013. Local charities are encouraged to send in their requests later this year and Rockley said he hopes to work with other people in the community to pick a new group of recipients.
“I think it’s important for the Wheel to lead by example in some ways,” Rockley said. “Giving back is a big part of what we do.”
A notice will run in the Western Wheel later this year inviting charities to put in their applications prior to the December campaign.