Christmas is the season for giving.
It sounds like a Facebook meme, or the inside of a holiday card, and like most pithy sayings, merely brushes the surface of truth.
In reality, people in need — who truly appreciate a timely gift, given — are around all year. Thankfully for those struggling in Columbia County and Waitsburg, there is Project Timothy, an ecumenical ministry spearheaded by the St Joseph (Dayton) and St Mark (Waitsburg) Catholic parishes, but joined by a number of other churches in the area. It provides emergency housing, rental assistance, help with utilities, food vouchers, bus passes, and more for the nearly 700 families that seek its aid every year.
“Project Timothy is unique to Dayton,” says Terri Schlachter, president of the 13-member board of the organization. Opening its doors in 1990,. Project Timothy grew out of the energy and vision of Father Paul Wood, who came to the area from the Brooklyn, New York, Diocese, and was struck by the need to collate the benevolent efforts of the Christian community into one place.
“It’s always been meant to be an ecumenical ministry,” Schlachter says. “It’s not just the Catholic Church; it’s the entire community helping.”
Working in cooperation with religious, private, and public agencies, Project Timothy runs from a designated office space in the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store on Main Street. Volunteers staff the office from noon to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and off hours, clients can reach an on-call volunteer by going through the Sheriff’s Department.
Operating with funds donated by individuals, private groups, Catholic Charities of Spokane, and grants, Project Timothy strives to be a physical interpretation of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, a young Greek Christian who eventually became a bishop of Ephesus in the first century, A.D.:
“Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share.” (1 Timothy 6:18)
“Project Timothy works very hard to be good stewards of the money entrusted to us by our donors and grants to help those in need,” Schlachter says. There’s only so much to go around, the need is great, and it is a delicate balance ensuring that the funds go where they are most and truly needed, while every person who enters the office leaves with their dignity intact.
Volunteers, who undergo 20 hours of training in interviewing clients and familiarizing themselves with the bylaws of the organization, must be discerning and kind, wise and compassionate, able to make intelligent judgments without being judgmental. On the wall is a list of phone numbers of various agencies, resources, and organizations in the area, and before any client leaves, volunteers review additional options available for assistance and referral.
As with most giving organizations, Project Timothy finds itself most in demand in the winter months, when higher heating and electrical bills command more of a family’s budget. December’s activities center around Christmas baskets, some 85 boxes which include foods for a holiday dinner such as a ham, vegetables, potatoes, pie, rolls, and canned foods.
“If we have enough donations, we will include Dayton Dollars so families can buy a little something for their children for Christmas,” Schlachter says, adding that vouchers provided for food, clothing, and other essentials stay in the area, benefiting local businesses.
On the opposite side of the calendar, the month of June finds the organization with a request to fund a very specific purpose:
“We have had donations in the summer with the specific request that they go to swim passes.
“This has been a great asset for families as the price for swim passes has gone up. It (swimming) is a great activity for children, but expensive for some families.”
It quickly becomes obvious that Christmas is not the only time of the year for gifts, and quite fortunately, Schlachter observes, the people in the area are conversant with this. The gift of giving runs both ways.
“It is very clearly the Lord’s work, for after 25 years, Project Timothy is still going, even though there have been some real economic down turns in the American Economy.
“Dayton has some very kindhearted people.
“To help someone you know is really in need, it feels great.”
Located one block away from the Project Timothy office, Wenaha Gallery devotes every January to a food drive supporting the community food bank, one of the organizations to which Project Timothy refers. Each year, people from within and without the community donate hundreds of pounds of food to the effort.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.
This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.