LADUE • Katie Eisenman calls it her Giving Box, but it’s actually a red plastic piggy bank she keeps in her lavender bedroom.
Of her weekly $1 allowance, she puts a quarter of it in her giving box to go to a charitable cause at the end of each year. If Katie finds some change on a parking lot or sidewalk, she adds that to the stash. Another quarter of her allowance goes to savings.
Half of her allowance she can use at her discretion — ice cream, oftentimes.
Early each December, she opens the giving box and counts the change. Whatever she has saved, her parents match. This year, her $15 became $30.
For the fourth year in a row, she sent the money to the 100 Neediest Cases, a 90-year giving tradition in the St. Louis region that helps thousands have a brighter holiday season.
Her parents began reading details of the cases, published in the Post-Dispatch, to Katie when she was in first grade. Katie, now a fourth-grader at Reed Elementary in Ladue, knew she had to do something.
“I told my mom that I wanted my giving box money to go to people who don’t even have a penny,” Katie, 9, said in a letter she sent to the 100 Neediest Campaign along in with her $30 check. “I’m very glad to be able to help your organization make Christmas special for other families this year.”
Katie and her older sister, Sarah, a seventh-grader at Ladue Middle School, have both been taught from a young age the importance of giving, said their mom, Joanne McAndrews, a medical writer.
Giving boxes or tzedakahs, are common in Jewish households. Katie and Sarah’s dad, Larry Eisenman, a neurology professor at Washington University, is Jewish; their mother is Catholic. The household celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah. McAndrews said their family practice of giving isn’t necessarily rooted in religious beliefs, though.
“My kids don’t need any more stuff and they know it,” McAndrews said. When they began seeing that there were so many people out there with so little, both girls embraced helping others, she said.
When Katie was in kindergarten, she donated her giving box collection to Reading is Fundamental, a children’s literacy nonprofit.
Katie and Sarah also have collected pajamas for patients at Missouri Baptist Children’s Home. Among the charities Sarah has given to include Little Wishes, a program run by the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition and to Kiva, an organization that provides micro loans on five continents to those who do not have access to traditional banking systems.
Vanessa Wayne, director of the 100 Neediest Cases campaign, a collaboration of United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Post-Dispatch, said $25 or $30 might not seem like much to some people.
“But there are people out there for which every $1 counts to make sure they are going to have enough to pay rent, have money left over to buy food, to save up to get their kids some shoes,” Wayne said. “It can be a huge difference.”
The annual campaign raises about $1.3 million in cash donations. That’s not counting the items donated to the nearly 1,300 families each year., who often get carloads of toys, clothes, even furniture and electronics. The cases not adopted get a portion of the cash donations.
The campaign has received about 3,000 cash donations so far, averaging $161, while more than 800 cases have been adopted.
“I want Katie to know her $30 will make a difference to somebody,” Wayne said. “It’s not going to go out there into a black hole.”
McAndrews said giving is just the right thing to do.
“We live in a nice house, we have good jobs,” she said. “We’re just lucky.”