After nearly 30 years, not everyone remembers Vanessa Behan, even though her crisis nursery has become synonymous with a community that cares. She was a beautiful 2-year-old who was killed by a child abuser. The tragedy shocked all of Spokane, including Bill Bialkowsky, then just an everyday citizen with a job in sales and a young family of his own.
"It was incomprehensible to me that someone could do that to a 2-year-old," Bialkowsky told our InHealth magazine in December. "I wanted to get involved in the fight to prevent child abuse. I didn't want to see that kind of thing happen ever again."
Bialkowsky was called to figure out how to launch an ambitious, complex new organization, and on Jan. 9, 1987, five years to the day after Vanessa was killed, the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery opened.
There are so many inspirational stories like his — stories we all need to hear — that we've been publishing Give Guide annually since 2002. Although new charities are coming into existence at a steady clip, not everyone is going to do what Bialkowsky did. But everyone can be a part of the solution. As Marilee Roloff said in that inaugural Give Guide, "You don't have to be wealthy to be generous." (We check in with Roloff again this year, page 36).
Over that span, our nonprofits have made it easy and fun to give, becoming very clever with their events, including (to name but a few): The Beyond Pink Designer Bra Fashion Show; The Ronald McDonald Polo Classic; The Chocolate and Champagne Gala; Christmas Tree Elegance; golf benefits; fun runs; wine tastings... you get the idea. Just don't forget your checkbook.
Volunteer options are growing, too, including Spokane Gives, which funneled more than 10,000 volunteers into 57 charities in a week last April.
The timing of this year's Give Guide, with wildfires ravaging Eastern Washington and North Idaho, reminds us of how close we all are to needing help. Of course the Red Cross is always delivering when needs are greatest, but you might also check out the Okanogan County Community Action Council (occac.com) or the Community Foundation of North Central Washington (cfncw.org). There's also been a Go Fund Me (gofundme.com/methowfirefighters) set up for the families of the firefighters who lost their lives, along with the ones badly injured last week near Twisp.
Another comment from that first Give Guide sticks out for me: "Spokane is a generous community, but raising money is always hard."
We hope the Give Guide makes it easier for you to find a cause to support, with money or time. You'll find instructions inside on how you can get involved, or go online and check out Inlander.com/give.♦