Newspapers have been holding holiday-season campaigns for decades, with some surpassing a century of fundraising for worthy causes.
This year’s campaign comes at a time when the usual holiday funk seems deeper and more pervasive in light of a series of community tragedies and economic uncertainty that continues to drag on with little end in sight.
Shine Your Light was initiated by Mayor Barbara Bass, the newspaper and several East Texas philanthropists to help nonprofit agencies, many of which saw sliding donations during the recent economic downturn while experiencing increased demand for services.
Shine Your Light broke through the $100,000 barrier in its first year, raising money for People Attempting to Help, the Tyler Corps of The Salvation Army, the East Texas Rescue Mission and East Texas Food Bank. Long-established newspaper-led holiday campaigns in larger communities do well to raise half of that.
Since then, donations have almost doubled, as has the number of agencies that benefit annually.
The 2009 campaign — benefiting St. Paul Children’s Foundation, Bethesda Health Clinic, East Texas Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and The King’s Storehouse — raised about $114,000.
During those first two years of sour economic times, the community generated more than $225,000 for the cause.
Two years ago, the newspaper again chose five agencies: the East Texas Crisis Center, food bank, Meals on Wheels, Salvation Army and PATH.
“This year’s record total for this campaign reflects the compassion and generosity demonstrated time and again by this giving community,” Tyler Morning Telegraph Publisher Nelson Clyde said at the time. “We celebrate with these agencies for the lives they will be able to serve with these funds from the generous donors.”
That year of growing generosity perhaps served as a catalyst for things to come, with donations pushing beyond a staggering $225,000 in last year’s effort. The money was split between the Children’s Advocacy Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Christian Women’s Job Corps, Christian Men’s Job Corps, the food bank, Salvation Army, PATH and Meals on Wheels.
The campaign focused on five issues: hunger, homelessness, unemployment, protecting children and protecting seniors.
“This community consistently answers the call when it is time to give,” Publisher Clyde said after the campaign. “Watching this has been the biggest blessing of my holidays. It is a real privilege to live in this wonderful community.”
Now, Shine Your Light organizers hope 2011 serves as a springboard for this year’s campaign, with an ambitious goal of $250,000, with nine agencies selected to receive money.
This year’s beneficiaries are the Samaritan Counseling Center, Bethesda, Hospice of East Texas, Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County, PATH, East Texas Crisis Center, Salvation Army, food bank and Meals on Wheels.
Those nine agencies represent more than double those served in 2008. In all, 16 Tyler-area agencies have been targeted over the years.
This ambitious $250,000 goal to bolster helping agencies couldn’t come at a better time. People out there are hurting.
Addressing community needs and rallying around causes is as much a part of Tyler’s DNA as roses and Heisman Trophy winners.
Shine Your Light serves as a reflection of this city’s giving, nurturing spirit. They say a rising tide lifts all boats. Perhaps an even bigger outpouring of support for this year’s campaign can lift all hearts.
Brian Pearson is managing editor of news for the Tyler Morning Telegraph.