On January 21, 1907 a small group of women met in the home of Mrs. Park Weed Willis at 1316 Columbia Street to organize the “Seattle Fruit and Flower Mission.” They provided flowers, fruit and vegetables to hospital patients. The volunteers of the Seattle Fruit and Flower Mission were motivated to help those people who were in need, in the same way they would help a friend or neighbor. For over a century, members have gathered each month in groups – called circles – throughout King County, to celebrate their friendship and contribute their time and resources to building a stronger community.
Mrs. Eda M. Goodwin was elected president in 1921 – the first of 13 terms that she served. The inspirational addresses by Mrs. Goodwin in the later years of her presidency (as stated in the History of Seattle Milk Fund) were masterpieces of motivational thought and sure of delivery.
As Mrs. E. Goodwin often remarked “Fruit symbolizes the food we give while flowers stand for the friendship we offer.” To honor her memory, the Eda M. Goodwin Circle was formed in 1952. The circle was always among the most generous contributors in projects and funds.
During the “Great Depression” starting in 1929 there was a significant need to fee the many unemployed and homeless. The Seattle Fruit and Flower Mission provided eggs, bread, and heating fuel and operated a free milk dispensary to expectant mothers, children and the elderly. In 1935 the name of the Seattle Fruit and Flower Mission was changed to the Seattle Milk Fund to more clearly represent the work being done. Three large dairies in Seattle- Carnation, Western and Kristoferson – delivered fresh milk and dairy products to families in need. These dairies supported Seattle Milk Fund and all our fundraising effors in the late 1930′s.
Throughout our history, circle members raised money in a variety of ways. One longstanding community event was the famous Salmon Derby. The even was unique in that it was the only fishing derby known to be organized and managed by women. Over the years, newcomers to our area when hearing the name “Seattle Milk Fund” would respond with instant recognition, “Aren’t they the women who run that Salmon Derby?”
Over the years the Seattle Milk Fund has focused on the most pressing needs at the time. In the 1940′s and 1950′s our volunteer efforts ranged from raising funds for tuberculosis clinics to supporting our men and women serving int he military. The Trap Shoot Event, hosted by the Governor McGraw Circle was a big hit with sports minded enthusiasts. The long history of coin bottles started in 1931 when a member introduced an idea of placing one pint milk bottles in stores to collect odd change for Seattle Milk Fund. The bottles were donated by Kristoferson and Carnation Dairies. By 1956, we had 251 milk bottles in operation.
The variety of projects offered to Seattle Milk Fund members and their friends is proof of each circle’s ingenuity and enthusiasm. Major fundraisers over the years were inventive and lucrative. Circles kept scrapbooks of their major events that included an Evening at the Ballet, the Mink Coat Raffle, the Candlelight Ball, Showboat Theatre Party, and an annual Fashion Style Show.
Although bowling bazaars and bingo parties flourished, the Salmon Derby and its’ originator, the Agnes Healy Anderson Circle, brought us the greatest recognition. For 38 years, ticket sales each August morning began one hour before sunrise. The launching docks at the Ballard and Elliot Bay boathouses were busy with activity, and every person in a boat had a ticket to compete for a prize. The loyalty of fisherman who always fished in this derby was legendary. Proceeds benefited over 570 families each year.
Beginning in 1965, our focus changed and we began funding education and childcare expenses for low income families. By providing educational scholarships and daycare funding, our students are able to focus on both school and family. This program is designed to meet the needs of both parents and children. As parents attend school full time at an accredited neighborhood educational institution, their children attend quality, licensed childcare or preschool. We applaud the many young mothers who have had the strength and perseverance to finish their college degrees while caring for young children on a limited family budget.
For many years our governance meetings were held in public halls and church facilities. We used rented space for our office. Circles continue to meet monthly in each other’s homes to make plans and organize service and fundraising projects. In 1996, we were able to purchase an office building at 1130 N. Northgate Way, Seattle, WA 98133. Today, we have one full time Executive Director and one part time Administrative Assistant with an operating budget of about $420,000.00. Revenue sources include individual donations, investment fund growth, fundraising events and foundation grants.
Seattle Milk Fund is one of the oldest incorporated charitable organizations in the state of Washington. Today, Seattle Milk Fund is an organization comprised of 270 volunteers, some whom are 3rd generation members. As our services and goals change over the years, the spirit of our founding women remains. This year, we will provide 168 children with daycare grants, 56 students with education scholarships, 850 children with backpacks and age appropriate school supplies, and 400 children with a new pair of shoes. Seattle Milk Fund builds stronger communities through access to education, childcare and temporary basic needs – empowering families to achieve self-sufficiency.