With an abundance of toy drives, food collections and people sharing resources with their neighbors in need, Lewis County residents clearly have hearts of gold. Among those? The generous team at Windermere Centralia. They’ve supported Lewis County schools annually since 2002, with contributions increasing every year. The numbers went from around $4,400 in 2017 to approximately $15,000 in 2018 to a whopping $45,000 plus in supplies and funds this year.
Gifts include donated backpacks, school supplies, and contributions to cover food, clothing, field trips and other necessities. Windermere Centralia owner Max Vogt decided to focus on school children facing homelessness about four years ago when he noticed that homelessness increasing locally. “This last year there were well over 200 homeless school children and that was just in Centralia alone,” Vogt says. Data for 2018 from the US Census shows that about 15% of Lewis County residents live in poverty, which negatively affects stable housing, good nutrition and all aspects of life.
To make a positive impact, Windermere Centralia raises money through different streams. One way is when agents donate a percentage of their paychecks to local charities. Another successful tactic is big fundraising events. The team partnered with KMNT/KELA radio station again this year for the “Make the Change for Lewis County” event in August. Special guests included Lewis County Little Miss Friendly and the Mayor of Centralia Lee Coumbs with his wife Bonnie. The school bus and hubbub out in front of the historic Windermere Mansion encouraged people to stop by and enjoy a good time for a great cause for the second year in a row.
A new event surpassed everyone’s expectations this September. “This year we had a big event in Toledo benefitting school kids there,” says Vogt. “Other businesses from Toledo joined in and we raised over $35,000!” The delicious BBQ dinner, music and auction certainly paid off in a major way.
Paula Burrows, who was part of the Windermere Centralia team for ten years enjoys raising funds to help children in Lewis County. In addition to her personal donations, she worked with a committee to put on the Down Home Toledo Shindig to fundraise for the Windermere Foundation. That particular event benefits the Toledo School District and children there who need assistance with basic needs. Burrows appreciates that the Foundation’s other efforts support schools across the county, with local distribution of 100% of the donations. “I feel the children are our future and helping them have a better quality of life is important to me,” says Burrows. “I will continue to give my time and support to the children of Lewis County.”
In addition to the public activities, some of the work is behind the scenes. Windermere agent Kelvin Wallin likes the Community Service Day in June when the team comes together to purchase school supplies. Then in August, they gather to separate the supplies and distribute them to different schools.
While the early efforts initially focused on Centralia and Chehalis, Windermere Centralia now supports schools in Mossyrock, Toledo, Pe Ell and Evaline. “My favorite part is seeing everyone pull together for students in need in our community,” says Wallin. “We live and work here in Lewis County and we are here for our neighbors.”
These efforts make a huge difference for underprivileged children across the county. Just ask Susie Duren, the headteacher at Evaline School. “Our students have benefited greatly from receiving the school supplies,” she says. “It has been a true blessing for several families in particular who did not have the resources to provide supplies themselves this fall.”
Other giving crosses county and state lines. Windermere Centralia is part of the larger Windermere Foundation, which began in 1989 and has raised over $38 million to help low-income and families experiencing homelessness. Every time a Windermere agent sells a home, a portion of the commission goes to the nonprofit foundation.
“We jumped in full speed when we became Windermere locally and it has been our pleasure to be a part of this charity,” says Vogt. “It’s been the heart of the Windermere Community for 30 plus years.” He also points out that anyone can contribute to the Foundation through Windermere Centralia, which pays any fees related to the administration. Therefore, 100% of any contribution goes to the donor’s preferred school. All money donated locally goes directly to needy children in Lewis County.
With a focus on giving back all year-long, Windermere Centralia looks forward to continuing this tradition of generosity for many years to come.
411 W. Main St.