It’s that time of the year when charity is most keenly felt, and a Columbia Bank charity program is helping to spread the love around.
The bank’s Warm Hearts Winter Drive is back for the third year in a row, helping homeless shelters throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho clothe and shelter residents in need as the cold weather worsens. The campaign runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 31.
The goal is to raise $225,000 and more than 10,000 winter wear items, which will be distributed to more than 50 homeless shelters and aid organizations across the Northwest states. Sandpoint can do its part by donating winter jackets and clothes or money at local Columbia Bank locations. Alternatively, donate online at www.columbiabank.com/warmhearts.
“We are proud to continue partnering with our neighbors to help those struggling with homelessness during the coldest months of the year,” said Hadley Robbins, president and CEO of Columbia Bank, in a press release. “Our combined efforts will provide warmth and comfort for those in need this winter.”
Bonner Homeless Transitions is just one local organization of the many Northwest nonprofits set to benefit from the winter drive. Other organizations among the 58 beneficiaries include Portland Rescue Mission, Seattle Gospel Union Mission, Tacoma Rescue Mission and Eugene Mission.
The Warm Hearts Winter Drive got its start three years ago after Columbia Bank employees noticed the remarkable upswing of people on the streets. As they discussed the trend amongst themselves, they soon began considering what help they could offer. Their efforts launched the first Warm Hearts campaign, an eight-week period of collecting money and clothing that bank officials deemed an unmitigated success.
It its first year, Warm Hearts raised $150,000 in cash donations and 12,000 winter items for 53 shelters in its three states of operation. In 2016, Columbia Bank flew past its $160,000 goal to a total $209,400 raised in cash donations.
The Warm Hearts Winter Drive serves a much-needed role in keeping vulnerable Northwest residents safe during the wintertime. More than 36,000 people in Washington, Oregon and Idaho experienced homelessness in 2016, and in Idaho, homeless populations increased by 6.5 percent. The state has the fourth-highest rate of unsheltered people in families with children.
There are troubling circumstances in Washington and Oregon, too, with King County, Wash., the home to Seattle, ranking just below New York City and Los Angeles for the highest number of homeless people. Washington State also had the second-largest increase in homeless people — a total of 7.3 percent — in 2016. Likewise, Oregon has the second-highest rate of unsheltered homeless people and the highest rate of unsheltered people in families with children.