Season of Sharing Fund marks 30 years helping Bay Area needy

- The San Francisco Chronicle's Season of Sharing Fund this year is marking 30 years of serving as a safety net for tens of thousands of needy Bay Area residents, many of whom are faced with unexpected crises.

An accident, a layoff from a job, being diagnosed with a debilitating health problem-- these types of unanticipated hardships can be absolutely frightening for an individual and can threaten the stability of any family.

So in 1986 the San Francisco Chronicle and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund established Season of Sharing to help families put food on the table, help shore up supplies for food banks, and provide assistance for housing and other critical needs for a family facing dire times.

That help has come in many forms: a financial lifeline to cover a month's rent, help to pay a security deposit for an individual transitioning out of a homeless shelter, and assistance in purchasing essential medical equipment.

To date, the Chronicle Season of Sharing fund has helped more than 100,000 families across the Bay Area, providing about $113 million dollars in assistance.

The Fund works to identify families in need through its partnering agencies, to provide short-term, critical assistance grants.

Grants are given directly to the provider, such as a landlord.

100 percent of the money that's donated goes directly to help individuals and families in need.

Those benefitting from the Fund include disabled individuals, veterans, victims of domestic violence, an emancipated young person transitioning out of foster care, and low-to-moderate income families with dependent children who have a critical need.

As part of the program, the Chronicle covers stories about people who have been helped by the Fund.

They are stories of resilience and hope, of people overcoming difficulties and life altering financial challenges. And for many readers, they provide a window into the struggles and challenges that face those living in our community.

The stories of those who have benefitted from the Fund is wide and varied:

A mother was facing eviction and the possibility of being out on the streets with her children when the Season of Sharing Fund came to her aid.

That mother said it was difficult to ask for help but she felt she had nowhere else to turn and the charity provided the help she needed during that time of crisis. "It was like everything lifted, like there were angels," she said.

The charity has also stepped in to help a father who was paralyzed and in need of permanent housing to regain custody of his children.

Another story involves a veteran who was seeking to get his life back on track after the heartbreaking loss of his wife. 

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund has a history of answering the community's call for help when most needed.

In 1989 when the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake shook the region, that was the year the Season of Sharing Fund (established only three years prior), surpassed $1 million in donations.

A large portion of those donations went directly to help families rebuild in the aftermath of the disaster.

"What links each subject is the role the Season of Sharing Fund played in restoring their homes, families and, in many cases, their self-respect," notes the charity on its website.

The group says it has grown to become "one of the Bay Area’s largest safety net providers," as it partners with more than 150 agencies across the region.

This Thanksgiving, the Fund is officially kicking off its celebratory 30th anniversary campaign.

As the Season of Sharing marks this milestone, organizers say the need for the assistance it offers is just as urgent as it was 30 years ago, if not greater. 

You can join the campaign and be a part of the group's decades long work by donating online at seasonofsharing.org.
 

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