Native chambers of commerce step as much as assist hearth departments play Santa

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All through Washington, the leaders of native chambers of commerce are busy delivering luggage of toys to rural hearth departments, enabling the firefighters to play Santa Claus for the kids who dwell of their communities.

For the fireplace departments, that is nothing new. They’ve been giving out toys and meals each December for greater than three many years as a part of the Affiliation of Washington Enterprise’ Vacation Children’ Tree Mission.

However that is the primary 12 months the native chambers have joined the trouble. And it’s all due to the pandemic.

The Vacation Children’ Tree mission dates to 1989. Starting every summer season and persevering with into the autumn, AWB member firms and others donate hundreds of {dollars} yearly to offer for households in want in rural communities. Because it’s starting, the mission has raised almost $500,000.

The donations are then distributed to households in want by hearth departments in rural counties in each japanese and western Washington. This fills a fantastic want for households in rural areas who should not have entry to massive metropolis donation websites. For some youngsters, these are the one items they obtain in the course of the vacation season.

Kris Johnson
KRIS JOHNSON Affiliation of Washington Enterprise

Previous to the pandemic, hearth officers from all through the state would journey to Olympia in early December to gather the toys and checks throughout a brief ceremony held simply earlier than the lighting of the tree within the Capitol rotunda.

Following the ceremony, tons of of individuals would collect for a program that included singing from a youth refrain, remarks from the governor and a dramatic countdown that culminated with the flipping of a change lighting a 30-plus-foot evergreen.

It was a festive and heartwarming night that signaled the arrival of the vacation season. However like so many traditions, it was one which was altered by the pandemic. In 2020, with the world within the grips of the worst pandemic in a century, the tree lighting was canceled. Inviting tons of of individuals to assemble on the Capitol rotunda simply didn’t make sense.

Fortunately, the opposite piece of the custom — the fundraising — continued as traditional. In truth, it set a file with greater than $28,000 in contributions final 12 months. Firefighters had been capable of distribute toys and funds of their communities at a time when it was particularly wanted.

And that brings us to this 12 months. Though we’re in a special place than we had been a 12 months in the past, the normal tree lighting ceremony was nonetheless doubtful as organizers started planning over the summer season. So, relatively than invite firefighters to come back to Olympia to gather their toys and checks, the group determined to make use of AWB’s Grassroots Alliance to assist make the deliveries.

The Grassroots Alliance is a coalition of 100-plus native chambers of commerce all through Washington. They work in tandem with AWB, the state chamber of commerce, on every part from public coverage points on the Legislature to serving to companies of their communities survive the pandemic.

Earlier this 12 months, the Grassroots Alliance was referred to as upon to assist the state Division of Commerce distribute present playing cards at vaccine clinics. The hassle was a fantastic success, so it made sense to name upon the community as soon as once more to assist distribute toys and funds to the fireplace departments close to them.

And that’s why chamber leaders from 14 counties are busy making deliveries to rural hearth departments in 24 hearth districts on each side of the mountains.

They’ve a lot to distribute. Washington employers topped final 12 months’s file by contributing greater than $31,000 and counting this 12 months, a brand new file. And another signal of the generosity — and resilience — of Washington employers.

For extra info on the Vacation Children’ Tree Mission, go to

Kris Johnson is president of the Affiliation of Washington Enterprise, the state’s chamber of commerce and producers affiliation.



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