Having fully established its community presence and nonprofit credentials, the Hands to Hands Community Fund has come out from under the charitable umbrella of the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation.
Like neighbors who move but never truly part, however, the two organizations say they will continue as colleagues in support of programs that benefit youths, adults and seniors in North Texas.
“In July of 2009 we began discussing the creation of Hands to Hands and it soon became clear we would have to begin our first fundraising campaign by September,” said Ty Thacker, a founding board member and now vice chairman. “Because we had no organization in place and 501(C)3 status takes time to achieve, we turned to the Community Foundation as a way to quickly establish our credibility.”
Hands to Hands stepped in to raise money for area agencies whose missions no longer met the United Way’s new funding models. Collectively $350,000 was raised.
Its first campaign collected $340,000. As more businesses supported payroll deduction, the 2011 campaign raised $400,00 for organizations like the Arc of Wichita County, Boy Scouts of America, Camp Fire USA, Child Advocates (CASA), Children’s Aid Society, Friendly Door of Iowa Park and the Burkburnett Boys & Girls Club.
“We were able to identify key programs these agencies offered that otherwise would have been eliminated,” said Nancy Brown, the group’s administrative assistant. “These were programs families in the area depended on.”
Brown said she has been particularly proud of the collegial relationship Hands to Hands has developed with the United Way. Today the two groups often campaign side by side “beautifully.”
“We have gladly served as a charitable incubator for Hands to Hands, a bridge between the community and their desire to help these organizations,” said Teresa Pontius Caves, president of WFACF. “We handled the donations and grants, allowing the agencies, volunteers and board members time to gather, grow and give. Now they’re ready to do this on their own.”
During its first three years, Thacker said he and board members and volunteers have grown an enduring passion for the organizations Hands to Hands supports. Both he and Brown tell story after story about how the lives of children, the disabled and seniors have been touched by its member agencies. They also tell how they have been touched by the stories of donors who hold a special place in their hearts for these programs.
“The community recognized the need for Hands to Hands as a way to support programs, some of which have histories that go back 80 years through the old Community Chest,” Thacker said. “Everyone came together with one voice and our neighbors have benefited.”