The Shine Your Light Community Campaign has left a large footprint in its nine years of existence, giving almost $1.3 million in that time to local nonprofit agencies.
But that large number can mask the specific ways in which this money affects agencies and ultimately people who live in East Texas.
It has meant more food given to people in need. More academic, emotional and spiritual support for children. More educational opportunities for adults. And greater health care assistance to those who need it.
“This year-end campaign helps replenish the coffers of our selected agencies, who give all year long, then go the extra mile during the Christmas season,” former Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass, a Shine Your Light committee member said. “My hope is when our community reads the stories this year, each will recognize the collective impact we can make and the lives we can touch if we individually do our part.”
PATH Executive Director Greg Grubb said in the seven years the nonprofit has received Shine Your Light funds, it has used them in different ways.
Some years PATH has opted to devote the donations to its general emergency services providing assistance with food, utilities or prescriptions. Other times it has been more specific, directing monies to the organization’s mentoring program called Bev’s Kid Reach. That year, the funds allowed the nonprofit to do some extra activities with children and their mentors.
Grubb said the agency likely will use this year's funds toward rental assistance.
That’s the No. 1 need people express, but it also is the need that eats up the dollars more quickly than other needs, he said.
The organization typically assists people who have a one-time need brought on by an unexpected situation.
Another area the organization might use the funds is for one-time prescription assistance. This would work in much the same way as the rent assistance, Grubb said.
For people in need of long-term assistance, PATH helps facilitate the prescription assistance programs available through pharmaceutical companies.
Hospice of East Texas has received Shine Your Light funds twice, once in recognition of its 30th anniversary (that year it went to the general fund) and once for its WINGS Children’s Bereavement Program.
Nancy Lamar, hospice’s vice president of community relations, said this program for grieving children is the only one of its kind in East Texas and is funded entirely by private donations.
Through the funding, the nonprofit was able to offer that program, which includes grief camps, support groups and individual counseling for grieving children and adolescents.
“That support from Shine Your Light really was critical for us in being able to make that program happen,” Ms. Lamar said.
Ms. Lamar said the children’s bereavement specialists help the children work through their grief by using play therapy and other experiential techniques that help them identify and cope with their feelings.
“Children aren’t little adults,” she said. “You know, they grieve differently and they express their grief differently than adults do.”
Over the years, the East Texas Food Bank has received almost $210,000 from the Shine Your Light Campaign.
That money has helped the food bank provide people with about 1.4 million meals and 6,500 backpacks filled with food and drinks.
“It’s been (a) significant impact to the community,” said East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane.
The food bank operates on an annual budget of about $8 million, with the funds for that coming from donors and the state and federal government.
The Mentoring Alliance is in its fourth year as a Shine Your Light recipient.
In that time the campaign has funded every aspect of the alliance’s ministry: the Boys & Girls Club, the Gospel Village mentoring program and the Rose City Summer Camps.
Deanna Sims, the alliance’s vice president of development, said for the mentoring program, the funds helped pay for recruitment efforts, mentor training, background checks and the staff who help facilitate the relationships between mentors and mentees.
The 2015 funds, which went to Rose City Summer Camps, helped supplement the cost of putting on the camp. It costs the ministry about $300 per child, but the most a family paid was $99 a week, with some paying much less than that.
Ms. Sims said the Shine Your Light funds helped to cover the expenses of this camp, the greatest of which was the staff.
This year’s Shine Your Light funds will supplement the cost of the alliance’s Boys and Girls Clubs, particularly at five schools, which charge a reduced rate of $15 per week instead of the usual $45 per week.
Ms. Sims said without the Shine Your Light funds, the organization would not be able to serve as many children.
“You want to be able to serve the children who need it the most, but they are least likely to have the ability to pay,” she said. “Every person pays something, but we are growing and seeking to grow in the parts of the community that can least afford our services.”
Other agencies that have benefited from the funds include the Literacy Council of Tyler, which received almost $30,000 from the 2013 campaign, and The Salvation Army, which has received more than $180,000 in eight years as a recipient.
Literacy Council Executive Director Nancy Crawford said the funds the nonprofit received filled in a gap created by a reduction in state grant funds that year.
It allowed the council to serve about 60 students they could not have served otherwise. It serves 2,000 plus students per year.
Lindsey Galabeas, The Salvation Army’s community and public relations coordinator, said the funds have provided for meals, clothing vouchers and shelter expenses over the years.
Mrs. Bass said this year-end campaign helps replenish the coffers of the selected agencies, “agencies, who give all year long, then go the extra mile during the Christmas season.”
Dawn Franks, president of Your Philanthropy and a Shine Your Light committee member, said being a part of the (Shine Your Light) campaign is more than just the one-time gift an individual can make.
“The (Shine Your Light) campaign creates an opportunity to pool our donations creating a larger … gift to each agency than any of us could do alone,” she said.
SHINE YOUR LIGHT
Profile stories about this year’s Shine Your Light recipients ran in the Tyler Morning Telegraph through Dec. 24 and are online.
Thursday, Dec. 15: People Attempting To Help (PATH)
Friday, Dec. 16: Meals on Wheels Ministry
Saturday, Dec. 17: Samaritan Counseling Center of Tyler
Sunday, Dec. 18: The Mentoring Alliance’s Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas
Monday, Dec. 19: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Tuesday, Dec. 20: East Texas Food Bank
Wednesday, Dec. 21: The Salvation Army
Thursday, Dec. 22: Bethesda Health Clinic
Friday, Dec. 23: Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County
Saturday, Dec. 24: Children’s Advocacy Center of Smith County