The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund: 30 Years of Giving

The groundbreaking charitable Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The Fund, founded jointly in 1986 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, raised $700,000 that first year for housing assistance, critical family needs and food banks. During the past three decades, more than 100,000 families throughout the nine-county Bay Area have benefited from almost $113 million in assistance, including over $8 million in 2015-2016 alone! One hundred percent of the donations go directly to help individuals and families in need.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund focuses on providing assistance to those facing an unexpected crisis. Support from the Fund can help families in many ways, such as paying a month’s rent so they can stay in their home, covering a security deposit so they can transition out of a homeless shelter, or buying essential medical equipment that they couldn’t otherwise afford. The recipients have been a bus driver who needs help with move-in costs, a paralyzed father in need of permanent housing to regain custody of his children or a veteran looking to get back on track after the loss of his beloved spouse.

Most often, the beneficiaries never anticipate their need for assistance, as most are beset by an unforeseen accident, job layoff or, in the case of one wheelchair recipient, a misdiagnosed infection. Their stories are our stories, challenging narratives lived by our neighbors across the Bay Area. What links each subject is the role the Season of Sharing Fund played in restoring their homes, families and, in many cases, their self-respect.

In the Bay Area, the year 1989 will always be remembered for the Loma Prieta earthquake. For the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund, it was the year they surpassed $1 million in donations, with much of it, not surprisingly, going to help families rebuild their lives in the aftermath of that devastating earthquake.

The Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund initially served seven Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma. The Fund’s reach expanded in 1990 to include Napa and Solano counties. Just one year later, the Fund surpassed $5 million total dollars raised, and by 1993 had distributed more than $1 million to area food banks.

By its 12th anniversary in 1998, the Season of Sharing Fund had helped thousands of people throughout the Bay Area – remarkably raising more than $20 million in those first twelve years. Families who were facing a crisis continued to turn to the Fund to provide temporary assistance as they got back on their feet.

Fast forward eight years to 2006, and the Season of Sharing Fund had now exceeded $50 million raised since its founding. That year, its 20th anniversary, was also the year that the Fund hired its current Executive Director, Jennifer Kirschenbaum.

Through its network of more than 150 partner agencies in communities throughout Bay Area, the Fund has provided help and hope for people with nowhere else to turn. One mother, whose family was about to be evicted until the Season of Sharing Fund stepped in to help, explained, “It was like everything lifted, like there were angels. It was hard to ask for help, but we had to do it. And now we are so grateful.”

In 2014, the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund hit another significant milestone when historical donations surpassed $100 million. Many North Bay residents affected by the 2014 Napa earthquake received critical assistance from the Season of Sharing Fund that year.

In recognition of its years of service to the Bay Area, in 2015, the University of San Francisco honored the Season of Sharing Fund with the California Prize for Service and the Common Good.

Best known for helping families and individuals stay in the homes and put food on their tables, by 2016, the Fund had provided more than $93 million for housing assistance and critical family needs, and delivered nearly $19 million to Bay Area food banks.

What began as a joint venture between the San Francisco Chronicle and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to help prevent homelessness and hunger in the Bay Area, the Season of Sharing Fund has become one of the Bay Area’s largest safety net providers.

As support for the Season of Sharing Fund has grown over the last 30 years, so has the need for their life-changing assistance. They will kickoff their celebratory 30th anniversary campaign in the San Francisco Chronicle on Thanksgiving Day. You can support Season of Sharing by donating online.

This story was written by StoryStudio for SFGATE. You can find the original blog post here.