Aid from Providence charity no small thing to kids

They host Bingo parties and gourmet dinners, sell poinsettias and chocolates, and give their time to hospital gift shops.

If you think that sounds like a little charity work, think again. Contributions made by the Providence General Children’s Association are no small potatoes.

Through volunteer efforts, more than 300 members of the group — all women — support important causes that help our community’s kids. The association, which also helps Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, has made significant gifts over the years.

How significant?

On Feb. 14, the children’s association board of directors voted to pledge $250,000 to the Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center. The Everett-based organization serves child victims of sexual or physical abuse.

It’s a place that brings together medical services, law enforcement and legal professionals, mental health help and the state to assist victims and their families through a daunting process.

“Oh my goodness, what this gift is going to do is help us with our building completion project,” said Kristine Petereit, fund development coordinator for Dawson Place. The agency’s home is a 15,000-square foot building at downtown Everett’s California Street and Hoyt Avenue.

“We want to make our building more child-friendly. We may have more murals and more child-friendly furniture, where a victim can feel more at home,” Petereit said.

The nonprofit Dawson’s Place partners with the Providence Intervention Center for Assault and Abuse, Compass Health Child Advocacy Program, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit, the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office Special Assault Unit and the state’s Child Protective Services.

Before Dawson’s Place opened in 2006, Petereit said, “a victim used to have to go to multiple locations in Snohomish County.”

The $250,000 pledge to Dawson’s Place, $50,000 per year for five years, is just one gift of many that the children’s association has donated to causes large and small.

Also announced by the group’s board last month was a $250,000 pledge for Providence Regional Medical Center’s Patient Care Tower campaign. That’s in addition to $500,000 the group has already given to that fund.

Among grants the association made in 2012 were $15,000 for Providence Hospice Camp Erin, for children who have lost loved ones; $8,000 for the Readiness to Learn Foundation, which helps children on Whidbey Island; $5,000 for Arlington Kids’ Kloset, which supplies school clothes to low-income families; and $2,970 to Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. The association also gives out 10 scholarships each year.

Lori Kloes, director of development for the Providence General Foundation, said the children’s association has provided $2,131,828 to support the Everett hospital through the years.

A big chunk of the donations has come from two hospital gift shops. The Twig Gift Shop at the Providence Colby campus and the Pavilion Boutique at the Providence Pavilion for Women and Children are run entirely by volunteers. All profits go to the children’s association charitable efforts. In 2012, the gift shops alone netted $165,000.

Tips from espresso stands at the hospital’s Colby and Pacific campuses also support the children’s association efforts.

The group has a distinguished history dating back to 1953, when Everett’s two hospitals each had women’s guilds. After the 1994 merger of Providence Hospital and General Hospital Medical Center, the guilds came together to form today’s children’s association.

“We have about 16 guilds,” said Julie Dickson, chairwoman of the children’s association board. What began as groups of doctors’ wives is now an astute organization with a legacy of major philanthropy.

“Our mission is to promote and contribute to the health care needs of children in the Northwest. We’re pretty diligent,” Dickson said.

The decision to make a large gift to Dawson’s Place came after Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe made a presentation to the association last spring. “We were all in tears,” Dickson said.

Hearing about child victims and learning about the work of Dawson’s Place was “heart-wrenching,” she said. “We don’t like to think about it. Just to hear the stories, this is going on in Everett.”

The money will help.

Cheri Russum, spokeswoman for Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, is impressed that the gift shops are run entirely by volunteers. “The shops are beautiful, they are great places to shop,” she said.

What the Providence General Children’s Association does with the profits is beautiful, too.

“They are a money-making, money-giving machine for kids in this community,” Russum said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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