After Chris Anderson read in Thursday’s Missoulian about the Salvation Army’s quest to raise $50,000 for a drop-in overnight warming center for homeless people in Missoula, he had an epiphany and formulated a challenge.
Anderson, president of the engineering firm DJ&A, decided to donate what he expects will be at least $5,000 from the company’s Dec. 14 Christmas raffle to the Salvation Army instead of the charity they had already chosen.
Then he issued the challenge, not just to other engineering, planning and surveying companies, but to all Missoula businesses: one-up DJ&A.
“We have so many successful businesses in the Missoula community,” Anderson said. “I feel it’s incumbent upon those of us who are experiencing that success to take care of those around us in such minimal ways, like donating money or time.
“I think it is the responsibility of those who have to help those who do not have.”
In the past, the company’s Christmas charity raffle has raised between $3,000 to $4,400 from about 50 employees buying $5 tickets for prizes like a trip to Hawaii, televisions and fly rods. Anderson figured they’d probably top $5,000 this year, so he’s pledged at least that amount to the Salvation Army.
Captain Josh Boyd was surprised when he got the phone call Thursday morning from DJ&A’s Emily Snitker, who offered the donation.
“At first, he was speechless,” Snitker recalled. “I think he was overwhelmed, surprised, thankful and definitely very gracious.”
Boyd said they’ve received single donations of $100 to $1,000, but the $5,000 pledge is the largest amount in this fundraiser. This donation brings to $44,000 the amount of money the Salvation Army has raised; its goal is to clear $50,000, which will pay for the salaries of two people to work overnight in the warming center at 355 S. Russell St.
“I was amazed and impressed with their generosity,” Boyd said. “It was unexpected and a blessing to get that.”
He also likes the idea of DJ&A’s challenge.
“Developing the competition means we may meet the needs for all,” Boyd said.
He’s currently looking for the overnight employees, which will allow the Salvation Army to open the warming center within a few weeks. The pressure is on, as overnight temperatures drop into the single digits. Boyd anticipates operating the warming center through March 31, with space for about 40 people. They mainly serve individuals, but sometimes provide space for families.
Anderson said every day, people in Missoula see the homeless and they see the need for services for them. The Poverello Center has space for about 175 people to stay overnight, but already is reaching its limits this year and turning people away at the door.
“I get cold just walking from my car to the office in this air, and you can’t help thinking about people with far less fortunate circumstances,” Anderson said. “I can’t comprehend how we can’t come up with $11,000 to help people come up with a warm place on a cold night. It’s pretty tough if we can’t do that in our own community.”
Boyd said if they surpass the $50,000 goal, the additional money would either go to meet the tangible needs of the homeless, like blankets and coats, or to perhaps increase the duration of the overnight warming center past March 31, depending on the weather. Additional funds also could possibly go toward next winter’s warming center opening.
“The needs never stop, and anything helps,” Boyd said.