'Tis the season to be a Friend

"It's been a good year for some of the people of South Whidbey. The economy is good, local business sales are on the rise, and many people seem to have a little more of everything this year than they did last year.But for those who have health problems and who still don't have as many resources as they need, everyone else's good year is not particularly important. Then again, perhaps it is, because South Whidbey's Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund is hoping some of this year's fortunate individuals, families, and business can help them help some of their neighbors out from under the weight of medical bills and soaring prescription medicine costs. Having spent $25,000 this year to satisfy 60 requests for help so far this year, Friends of Friends is fund-raising for 2001.Although the nonprofit organization received $13,000 in emergency donations this fall, its members say Friends of Friends needs more than that in the coming year. Friends member Helen Bjerum said those fall donations could not have come at a better time.It became critical, Bjerum said. The need was equaling or exceeding what we had.During the next few days, more people will become donors to Friends of Friends than ever before when they shop at Langley's Star Store. From Dec. 4 until Dec. 8, Star Store owners Tamar and Gene Felton will donate one percent of their total sales to the organization. Gene Felton said he and his wife have supported Friends of Friends since it began four years ago. This year, instead of giving the organization a check for a few hundred dollars, the Feltons are hoping their new donation strategy will not only bring in more money for Friends of Friends, but will encourage store patrons to be part of the effort.We just believe that their cause is so worthwhile, Felton said. This year they have a greater need.During the past year, Friends of Friends has helped locals with a myriad of medically-related financial problems. Most of those who receive help are working people or seniors who do not have the funds or insurance coverage to make medical ends meet. Friends' funds purchased medications for heart, blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions for one retired woman whose only income is Social Security. The organization paid for ferry tickets for another woman so she could travel daily to the University of Washington for treatment. A man disabled by a stroke who had not yet begun to receive disability payments even got help paying his heat and phone bills.Bjerum said about two-thirds of Friends of Friends' funds come from individual donations, but local businesses and churches have also been generous. The Piecemakers quilting group and artist Georgia Gerber raised money for Friends with their art, and Friends itself held a Mother's Day Brunch fund-raiser in the spring.In addition to the Star Store donation, the local singing group Sing!Chronicity will also involve a large group of people in Friends' fund-raising. Sing!Chronicity will give a portion of the proceeds from their Dec. 15 and 16 performances of Handel's Messiah at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts to the Friends of Friends' cause.Bjerum encourages individuals to become sponsors on their own. To give to Friends of Friends, send checks to P.O. Box 812, Langley, WA 98260. All donations are tax deductible. To find out more about Friends of Friends, call 730-7915 or 221-5105. "

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