Multi-Service Centers need support to help the needy
by Anne Schefter
The holidays will be brighter for many in need, thanks to the services available to them from the Multi-Service Centers and the gifts of generous donors.
"We're seeking donations of unwrapped new toys, clothing, and other items for children, and foods such as canned hams and pumpkin to make a holiday meal for the whole family," said Sharon Parshall, public information officer for the Multi-Service Centers (MSC) of North and East King County.
"We especially need gifts for kids under 2 and for teenagers. They tend to be forgotten," she said.
The MSC is requesting new items for its young clients because they ordinarily receive hand-me-downs or used toys and rarely receive new gifts, Parshall said. "Cash donations are always welcome," she added.
"Our holiday giving is behind $8,000 this year as compared to last year," she said. "At this time last year, we had received $111,000; this year we're at $103,000." Parshall said the average gift now is $10 less than this time last year.
Parshall attributed the decrease in donations to various factors, including the state of the economy. "Many people have maxed out their credit cards and are living paycheck to paycheck, and it's difficult to find extra money to give," she explained.
Last year, the MSC served 3,600 clients for the holidays. Parshall said the numbers would probably increase this year.
"The number of clients we've served has never gone down since I've been here," she said, adding that she has been employed at MSC for three and one-half years.
The increase in people needing assistance is due to many reasons, Parshall said. "Poverty has moved to the suburbs. We have a greater number of poor people living on the Eastside now than in Seattle," she said.
"With many of our clients, both Mom and Dad have to work at low-paying jobs that don't pay a living wage," she added. "They have to come to us for food from the food bank, for financial help with their winter heating bills or help in paying rent so they don't become homeless."
Such help is offered year-round, as well as during the holidays, Parshall said. "We offer a whole range of services for those in need."
Other year-round services include transportation for seniors, the disabled, and clients who are medically eligible under state and federal guidelines; emergency shelter; transitional housing facilities; bus tokens; and emergency financial assistance.
"Information and referral is a very important service we also offer," she said. "We get thousands and thousands of calls per year and provide information and referrals to other agencies as needed."
Parshall urged those needing assistance to call MSC's central phone number (869-6000). She said donors can obtain gift and holiday food ideas by calling the same number.
Donations can be left at the Northshore branch of MSC, located at 18220 96th Ave. NE in Bothell. The MSC is the largest social service agency of its kind on the Eastside, with five centers (Bothell, Bellevue, Carnation, Kirkland, and Redmond).
The MSC is also one of the oldest, receiving its start in 1971 as a job bank for laid-off Boeing workers.