Tom Seim wasn’t sure anyone would step up to match his $10,000 pledge.
The Richland man threw out the challenge in July, vowing to contribute up to $10,000 to the Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels program if others in the community donated the same amount.
The donations were slow in the beginning of the Seim family’s “Double our Money” challenge as the Sept. 30 deadline loomed.
“A lot of it came in at the last minute. It was literally at the 11th hour — in the last hour of the last day,” said Seim, a 70-year-old retired electronic engineer.
Seim said he’s familiar with the continual challenges Meals on Wheels faces to keep operating. He served on the board of directors for Senior Life Resources Northwest, which manages the senior meal program, from 1992 to 2016.
“There’s the perpetual need to keep it operating. Only a portion of the funds come from the state to do the Meals on Wheels. … We have to do fundraising to meet to the rest of the needs,” he said.
Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels is on track to prepare and serve 185,000 meals this year, nearly 12,000 more meals than in 2016.
The program operates eight local dining centers for seniors, as well as delivers meals for those who are homebound.
“Demand continues to grow, traditional funding dollars are steady or declining, and it takes our community members, like Tom and Della Seim and those who rose to the challenge, to build sustaining support to bridge the widening gap,” said Marcee Woffinden, nutrition services director for Senior Life Resources Northwest, in a news release.
The need for the program in the community is apparent, Seim said.
“Anyone can go on a ride-along. You can see the people who actually benefit from the meals. And see, ‘Wow, they really need it,’ ” he said.
The Seims presented their check for $10,000 to Meals on Wheels on Oct. 23.
Woffinden said $21,000 was raised in the fundraising pledge drive, fully funding nearly 3,000 warm, nutritious meals, or ensuring eight vulnerable seniors will receive a meal every day of the week, for a whole year.
Seim called the challenge a “resounding success. I hope to do more of that in the future,” he said.
He’s already tried it again — at the fourth annual Pink and Blue Scramble golf tournament on Sept. 29. Net proceeds from the event benefit Kennewick’s Northwest Cancer Center via the 21st Century C.A.R.E. Foundation.
Seim pledged to put up $2,000 at the event’s dinner “on the spur of the moment” and ended up doubling the amount for the cancer clinic. He is a prostate cancer survivor.
“It’s been successful on two accounts now. I’m going to go around and put the bug into some other higher net worth individuals’ ears,” he said.
Seim said he uses a portion of his investment gains from the past year for his philanthropic work.
“I’m not rich but we’ve been fortunate and are in a financial position to do this,” he said. “If I do well, I’ll give more; if not, I’ll do less.”
In addition to the Seim family’s donation, Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels also received a new 2018 Subaru Outback from Subaru of America. The Richland-based program applied for one of the 50 cars available to be used to increase meal deliveries in rural areas by having it take a different rural route each day of the week.
Last year, Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels volunteers drove more than 92,000 miles.
Subaru has supported Meals on Wheels for the past nine years through the Share the Love program, contributing more than $12 million to Meals on Wheels America and providing more than 1.7 million nutritious meals, visits and safety checks to seniors in communities nationwide.
Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels staff and board members, McCurley Integrity Subaru and Subaru of America presented the new SUV to the organization Oct. 26.
“It will be the dealership’s privilege to deliver the vehicle and help Meals on Wheels start their ownership experience off on the right foot,” said Mason McCurley, president of McCurley Integrity Subaru, in a news release. “We have had a long-standing partnership supporting Senior Life Resources and look forward to again supporting the mission this year during the Share the Love event to be held in November and December.”
Meals on Wheels also received a $5,000 donation from Battelle in early October.
For more information about the program, call 509-735-1911.
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