Marshall: ‘How to make someone else’s Christmas brighter’

A little helping hand can put an upswing into a down-luck Christmas, writes Islander columnist Becky Fox Marshall. Read her column below….

Here’s a holiday riddle for you – what community group can you belong to, fail to show up for two years and yet miss only two meetings?

Or … what community group is 59 years old and few people have even heard about, but manages to ensure that more than 400 children and adults with whom we share this island have food and gifts for Christmas?

It’s the Bainbridge Committee, and its “child,” the Katy Warner Christmas Fund.  And it’s that time of year again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I belong to the Bainbridge Committee and because of commuting and my proclivity for being a bit of a slacker, I didn’t show up throughout 2006 and 2007. Or maybe it was 2005 and 2006. Regardless, I showed up at a meeting last month – and expressed by sincere apologies for being gone for two years. The good news was that I only missed two meetings.

The bad news is that the Bainbridge Committee is the victim of its own quiet way of operating in the background – because it needs money, and it needs people who want to step in and keep it going.
Talk about your low-maintenance community work.  Talk about an easy way to give back. We’re talking one, sometimes two, meetings a year.

It works like this – all year, the Bainbridge Committee provides funds for one-time emergency help for island families in need. It might be paying a phone bill, or ferry tickets to get to a job interview, an electric bill, or a new pair of eyeglasses. It’s a quick hand in dire need, and we depend on Helpline House to disburse that money based on that organization’s deep knowledge of where the help is needed.
We get the money for those things through the annual Bainbridge Foundation One Call For All fund drive.

The loudest we ever get is over the holidays, when we conduct our annual Katy Warner Christmas Fund drive, in which people and children donate whatever they can from Thanksgiving through New Years. 

You’ll see our collection boxes at American Marine Bank, Walt’s Market at Lynwood Center and the Review on Day Road. Or you can mail them to:  PO Box 10354, Bainbridge Island WA 98110.

The drive culminates in a Christmas Shop where food vouchers and gift certificates are distributed to families and households in need who have preregistered through Helpline House.

Last year, 152 households representing 190 children and 248 adults used the Christmas Shop held on the Helpline campus over two early December Days.  This year, the Christmas Shop will operate Dec. 10 and 11.

At this Christmas Shop, families can get $20 gift certificates for on- and off-island merchants – deliberately chosen to appeal to children 0-18 years old; $7 book certificates to the always generous and enthusiastic supporter Eagle Harbor Books for kids up to 11, and blanket sleepers for babies and toddlers. Also $25 food vouchers are available – one for each household member.

Last year, we distributed nearly $11,000 in food vouchers, $3,800 in gift certificates, $180 worth of pajamas, for a total of nearly $15,000. And we anticipate the need this year will be greater than ever. We need great support from the community, which is hard to get when you’re not jumping up and down about it.

The Christmas Fund was the brainchild of my personal hero, the late editor Walt Woodward, who simply wanted to be sure that “islanders down on their luck” had a shot at a merry Christmas.  Since then, the Christmas Fund and its parent the Bainbridge Committee have quietly and consistently helped hundreds of islanders every year.

So if you are looking for some way you, too, can ensure your neighbors who are down on their luck have a good Christmas, donate whatever you can. And, if you’re looking for a way to ensure this tradition lives on, email me at and become a committee member  (because honestly, with a couple of exceptions, there wasn’t a spring chicken to be found around  the table at that last meeting, and they’d all agree!).  The meetings aren’t tedious, either. We almost got kicked out of the library one year for being rambunctious. Honest!

So pay it, and it pays itself forward. Trust me on this. Merry Christmas.