The San Francisco Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund is an annual holiday fundraising drive that provides support, recovery and hope for Bay Area residents in great need.
Created in 1986 by the San Francisco Chronicle, with leadership from the late Walter A. Haas, Jr. and Fund President Ira Hirschfield, the Season of Sharing (SoS) Fund has grown to be one of the largest sources of private funding for emergency assistance in nine Bay Area counties.
Every year, SoS provides one-time critical assistance to more than 5,000 individuals and families. More than 5,000 donors make gifts of all sizes to help their neighbors cover basic needs such as move-in costs, housing, transportation to work, and food. During the 26 years the Season of Sharing Fund has been in existence, it has raised over $85 million. The 2011-2012 campaign raised more than $6.7 million, a new all-time record and the sixth consecutive year the campaign has exceeded the $5 million fundraising mark.
Recipients are often working poor families who can’t make ends meet when faced with a crisis such as an illness or layoff, even though both parents may work. For residents confronted by the high cost of living in the Bay Area and who are one paycheck away from financial disaster, SoS can mean the difference between stability and life on the street.
The need for SoS support is as urgent today as it was 26 years ago. In addition to grants it provides to help individuals, SoS designates 15 percent of all dollars raised to support Bay Area county food banks. Each year, SoS contributions to food banks result in providing more than 1.5 million meals for low-income families who might otherwise go hungry.
All overhead fees are covered by The Chronicle with help from the Haas, Jr. Fund, so every penny donated goes directly to those who need it most. Grants are paid directly to suppliers of services, such as landlords. Individuals do not receive direct grants.
The Haas, Jr. Fund has made a long-standing commitment to SoS through the leadership of its founders and trustees. In 1986, Walter A. Haas, Jr. began a personal letter-writing campaign to friends and associates on behalf of SoS. He continued that campaign every year until his death in 1995. The late Evelyn D. Haas carried on that tradition and in 2008 was joined by her children – Fund trustees Betsy Eisenhardt, Robert D. Haas, and Walter J. Haas – who remain tireless advocates of this fundraising drive. Continuing the letter-writing tradition, the family sends out a joint personal appeal every year, encouraging others to help their neighbors by contributing to this community effort and ensuring its ongoing success.
From 1987 to 2012, SoS received more than $4 million in grants from the Haas, Jr. Fund.