Reality Church pulls together, shares attitude of gratitude

Thumbs up: Outreach

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year because the generosity and kindness of South Sound residents is on full display. Whether it’s the annual meal prepared for the community by Barb’s Family and Friends, Sea Mar children’s holiday party or merely the good cheer of shoppers as they hustle from one store to another, there is a spirit of thoughtfulness and compassion that grips the community during this time of year. The good folks at Reality Church, 620 Franklin St. in Olympia, went out of their way to bring the joy of Christmas into the lives of the homeless. The second annual “A Home for Christmas,” event sponsored by members of the nondenominational church was born out of the experience of church member Cody Simmons, who found himself living out of a car with his mother when he was 13 years old. “We really had no place to go,” Simmons recalls. When the church opened its doors at the old Carnegie Library on Christmas morning, about 20 homeless people were waiting to get in. They and the hundreds of homeless people who followed were served a full turkey dinner. Before the dinner, however, visitors could drink coffee, eat snacks, work on a puzzle, relax on the couch or catch up on their reading. Prizes, too, were raffled off throughout the day. The attitude of Gene Schiele reflected the views of the other volunteers who created the special Christmas memory for the less fortunate. “It’s not about me,” Schiele said. “It’s about working to serve and love others unconditionally.” Fortunately, that’s an attitude that extends throughout the South Sound community beyond the holiday season.

Thumbs down: Shooting

A wounded bald eagle that nearly died is recovering at the Northwest Raptor and Wildlife Center in Sequim. Center Director Jaye Moore says that it’s unclear whether the eagle will recover enough to be able to return to the wild. The bird was shot in the left wing and found Dec. 15 floundering on the ground near Beaver, about 10 miles north of Forks. Who would shoot a bald eagle — a majestic bird that has been the national emblem since 1782? Bald eagles across the United States are in a struggle for survival. Folks in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area were soaring at Christmas because the winter gathering of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene rose to record numbers. “I can hardly believe it myself, but the total today was 254, well over the record,” said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist. In the more than two decades BLM has been surveying the annual eagle congregation, the highest previous count was 156 in December 2004, so this year’s 254 birds was stunning. The annual count shows how important each eagle is. To have someone shoot a bald eagle and threaten its ability to live in the wild and reproduce is repulsive.

Thumbs up: Charity

Once again, South Sound residents have reached deep into their pockets to help local nonprofit organizations who are struggling to serve an ever-increasing number of needy clients. Social service agencies report that charitable donations were on pace or up slightly in the final months of the year. Advocates recognize that fundraising, in this horrible economic recession, likely will remain a challenge during the new year. Officials at United Way of Thurston County, the Olympia Union Gospel Mission and the Salvation Army of Olympia say the end of the year was a mixed blessing: Donations were up in some categories and down in others, but all agree that there has been no decline in the number of South Sound residents reaching out for assistance. 2011 will remain a challenge, though, because of state revenue cuts that likely will disproportionately affect the state’s low-income population. That’s why it’s imperative that each of us keep charitable giving a yearlong habit.