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We Care presents checks to six nonprofits that top last year’s

Charity gives away $465,000, up from $415,000 last year, in pandemic year

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jill mckibben

THANKFUL — Jill McKibben, director of Mental Health Association (left), receives a check for $20,000 at the We Care building. McKibben broke down in tears after realizing the donation was twice as much as the nonprofit received last year.

Despite significant changes to We Care this year due to COVID-19, which drastically reduced fund raising efforts, the charity’s six beneficiaries received bigger checks than last year’s.

Last week, the We Care board presented the checks to the nonprofits – Kokomo Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, Goodfellows, Mental Health America, Bona Vista, and Kokomo Urban Outreach – and they received a combined $465,000, up from $415,000 last year.

We Care raised nearly $225,000 in donations this year, which was significantly less than the $417,120 raised last year, but the board pulled $241,017 from the nearly $5 million Hope trust fund to make the beneficiaries whole – and then some.

Receiving $115,000, up from $105,000 last year, were Salvation Army, Goodfellows, and Kokomo Rescue Mission. Bona Vista received $90,000, up from $85,000 last year, while Mental Health Association and Kokomo Urban Outreach received double last year’s donations at $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Van Taylor, director of the Kokomo Rescue Mission, said he was grateful past We Care volunteers had the foresight to start a trust fund in case of disaster, which proved useful this year.

“I want to say ‘thank you’ to the leadership and the board of We Care for having a Hope trust fund. Because of your foresight, because you realized that someday like many of us here in Kokomo know, if there’s a tornado or a flood, you have to have insurance. If you don’t have insurance in a disaster, you’re in a double disaster. But because of the board of We Care planning for whatever, and it happened to be a pandemic, we have Christmas.

“If it hadn’t been for that foresight, that wisdom, that judgment to do that even against some people’s nitpicking – I guess that’s the right word – we wouldn’t have had Christmas. That $240,000, right? We would have been short. So thank you to those people that had that wisdom, took a stand, made the right decision, maybe somewhat unpopular at the time, but was the right decision.”

The money the rescue mission received will be used to assist about 1,350 men, women, and children in the community by providing them with 15,000 gifts for the Red Ribbon Christmas program.

Kim Graves, president of the board for Goodfellows, said the donation was much needed as Goodfellows experienced a record year. Last year, the nonprofit received 512 applications for holiday assistance, and that more than doubled this year to 1,139 applications, amounting to 1,772 children in Howard County Goodfellows assisted this year.

“We Care, you guys are making this possible,” said Graves.

Brianne Boles, president of Bona Vista, said the donation will make a big impact on her nonprofit, which has been affected financially by the cancellation of fund raisers throughout the year due to the pandemic. Despite the challenging year, Bona Vista has continued to provide services to more than 1,000 individuals daily, Boles said.

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During the check presentations, Jill McKibben, director of Mental Health Association, was brought to tears when she learned her nonprofit would receive twice as much as it did last year.

“I want to say thank you so very, very much,” she said. “It’s just really unexpected, so thank you very much.”

We Care funds Mental Health Association's Gift Lift program, which provides gift bags to hundreds in the community who are living with mental illness or development disabilities each holiday season. McKibben said the program, now in its 70th year, is as important as ever this year.

“With the pandemic and the isolation that they’ve had to go through, it was very, very important to us to make sure that they knew they were not forgotten, that someone cares. And you’re allowing us to continue with the program and make sure that those people in our community that may be some of the most vulnerable know how special they are and know they’re valued members of our community,” McKibben said.

In addition to We Care assisting the nonprofits with the annual donations, the charity also assisted during the pandemic. In the spring, the board used $75,000 from its trust fund to assist those in need, and another $450,000 was taken out in August to assist. One of the beneficiaries then was Kokomo Urban Outreach, which received $5,000 that was used to completely upgrade internet service for students who were using the building to do virtual learning.

Newton said he was thankful for the $10,000 given last week, in addition to the assistance his nonprofit received earlier this year.

The We Care board also presented Craig Dunn of Liberty Financial Group with $975.54 in designated funds to go to the Hope trust fund, putting it at $4,986,000.

Dunn said the “success story of the year” was how well We Care did during a pandemic, and part of that was thanks to the Hope trust fund, he said.

“I promised years and years and years ago that I would always tell the roots of the We Care Hope fund, and I think it’s very important. I was sitting in Dick Bronson’s office down at WWKI … He said, ‘We have somebody (Norma Marschand) that’s given us $10,000, and they want to do something a little different than just giving it into the general fund and having it be distributed out right away,’” Dunn said.

With that, the idea to start the trust fund was born, and it since has grown exponentially. Dunn touted the fact that it even grew during a pandemic year, even after pulling funds from it, with a return of 15.5 percent.

“You pray for a lot of things. But back in April when it looked really bleak as far as where the markets were and everything, you know, prayers were answered at that point in time for restoring back the value of the Hope fund and being able to make these distributions,” Dunn said. “So happy to do that, and we’ll try to do our best in the future to make it happen again.”