Olathe residents opened up their pocketbooks and made history over the holiday season.
The city recently announced that the 2012 Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund has been the most successful drive in its history, raising $104,000 — $4,000 more than the goal.
The fund raises money for children-oriented charities in the Olathe area.
“This accomplishment speaks to the generosity of the wonderful people of Olathe,” said Mayor Michael Copeland. “Our community has a big, huge heart. I couldn’t be happier.”
Almost 20 percent of the donations were raised by Olathe schoolchildren. Through the Pennies for Shoes campaign, students dropped change and dollars into jugs in several schools throughout the district. They ended up raising $19,000, which will benefit the Children’s Shoe Fund and the Olathe Public Schools Foundation’s Wimmer Student Care Fund.
That number is a significant increase from the $11,700 students raised last year.
“It’s heartwarming to see this intergenerational spirit of giving,” said Copeland. “I’m so grateful the schools embraced this idea, and encouraged everyone from first-graders to seniors to give back.”
Cindy VonFeldt, the executive director of the Olathe Public Schools Foundation, was overwhelmed by the generosity. This year marks the first time the fundraiser has helped the Wimmer Student Care Fund, which helps low-income Olathe public school students. It has done everything from pay for a special vibrating alarm clock for a deaf student who lost everything in a home fire, to repairing a broken bedroom window for a student whose family couldn’t afford to fix it.
“Our goal is to meet students’ basic needs so when they’re in the classroom, they’re ready to learn,” she said. “When teachers see a problem, such as a kid who needs new eyeglasses but can’t afford it, for instance, we want them to be able to find a quick solution.”
And like the mayor, VonFeldt believes the Christmas Tree Fund’s record high proves Olathe cares deeply about its kids.
“Every year, the need for assistance in our community increases,” she said. “To be able to access a fund like this one is incredible and we are so grateful.”
This year marks the first time that the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund has raised more than $100,000. Although the fund began several decades ago, it wasn’t until the formation of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Board in 2007 that the community started to get deeply involved.
Before then, the fund raised around $5,000 each year. In 2007, with the board’s help, it raised more than $25,000.
In the past few years, the board established annual mini-fundraisers to benefit the fund, such as Pennies for Shoes; Eggstravaganza, in which local celebrities served breakfast at First Watch; and Dining Out for Kids, in which participating restaurants donated proceeds.
“When you put a bunch of hard-working people together, good things happen,” Copeland said.
Ceremonial checks for each charity benefiting from the fund will be distributed at the March 5 City Council meeting.