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College or childcare? Seattle charity makes choice easy

Students return to the University of Washington and other area colleges this month.

Some face a difficult decision — pay for tuition or childcare. But thanks to one of Seattle’s oldest charities, choosing whether to go to school or pay other bills is a decision they won’t have to make.

The Seattle Milk Fund was founded in 1907 by the wives of some of the city’s founding fathers.

“It began with Mrs. Denny and Mrs. Blanchard, and those women who were more affluent, and they took milk to needy families,” said Terry Dessert, board president of the Seattle Milk Fund.

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The organization is still going strong after more than a century but the mission has significantly changed. Now, it provides grants for low-income parents to pay for childcare so they can return to college or attend for the first time.

“There is so much scholarship money available, but we are the only people who do childcare funding,” Dessert said. “And these grants are imperative for them to go back to school.”

The need is greater than ever, especially in Seattle, where it can cost nearly $2,000 per month for childcare.

“School is often that per quarter, depending on where they go to school,” Dessert said.

The nonprofit helps low-income families of all kinds — from young single mothers to dads returning to school later in life.

“Many parents can barely pay the rent, let alone afford child care,” said Inga Paige, Executive Director of Seattle Milk Fund. “They think, ‘How can I ever go back to school?’ That’s where we come in.”

Thanks to the Seattle Milk Fund, dozens of parents return to school every year. Like the hard-working father who went back to school after a back injury forced him to leave his job at UPS.

He gets up at 3 a.m. every day to deliver The Seattle Times, then rushes home to get his twins ready for pre-school, sleeps for an hour, then goes to class, according to Dessert.

He’s just one of the 45 families served every quarter.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot,” Paige said. “But when you hear the fact that we’re putting in more than $300,000 a year for these families that makes a huge difference. But we could be doing triple that.”

That’s where we come in. Even a $10 a month donation can go a long way to helping a needy family break the cycle of poverty. And unlike so many other giveaways these days, Dessert says this is a hand up, not a handout.

“These are people that are scrambling to make a better life for themselves,” Dessert said. “They are not waiting for a check at the end of the month. They are looking for ways to better themselves, and that’s why Seattle Milk Fund has operated since 1907.”

And they do it all without any government subsidies or grants. The Seattle Milk Fund is entirely funded by private donors and grants, Paige said.

The requirements for parents are simple: Attend an accredited school ranging from Bellevue College to the University of Washington, take a full course load, and maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher. For those who succeed, it can make all the difference in the world.

“One recent student had one child when she was homeless and sleeping at Seattle Central,” Paige said. “She got off of methadone, went to nursing school, and she now has her dream job as a labor and delivery nurse at University hospital.”

This is why the stations of Bonneville Seattle and our partners at the Seahawks and Carter Subaru are proud to honor the Seattle Milk Fund as our charity of the month.

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