Fort Walla Walla Museum fund drive under way

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Fort Walla Walla Museum is counting on history buffs and community residents for support.

The museum's annual fund drive is officially under way, operators say. The museum, a regional heritage destination on Myra Road, gets only 20 percent of its revenue from admissions and memberships, said Director James Payne, in a prepared statement. Though the museum has secured numerous grants in recent years -- three national grants and several regional and local awards in 2009 -- those funds are almost always targeted to specific projects and can't be used to support operations.

Fort Walla Walla Museum serves about 5,000 participants in its School Tour Program, as well as another, 2,500 children who arrive with family or friends. About 20,000 visitors reach the museum each year.

Those interested in donating to the operation can do so at the museum's Web site at: www.fortwallawallamuseum.org . click on the "Donate Now" feature. Unspecified gifts are dedicated to general operations. For more information, call 525-7703.

Fort Walla Walla Museum has a few ideas. The operation's museum store has been moved into its headquarters through the Christmas season. Special gift ideas include sweet onion mustard, books, toys and more. The store is open weekdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Access is through the gate in the staff parking area.

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The Milton-Freewater Area Chamber of Commerce is settling in for a winter's nap.

Starting today, the Chamber office at 157 S. Columbia St. will be closed. The office will re-open Jan. 4.

Speaking of the Milton-Freewater Chamber, the business advocacy organization will welcome a special guest at its general membership meeting Jan. 6. Former Philadelphia Eagle John Wilcox will kick of the 2010 Chamber year by sharing his experiences in the NFL.

Local residents may recognize Wilcox for his years coaching at Whitman College. Drafted by the Eagles in 1960, he won an NFL championship ring with the team and came to Whitman as an assistant football coach seven years later.

He coached football until 1975, a few years before the gridiron program ended. He also coached the men's basketball team for 10 seasons during the 1970s and served as athletic director for five years in the early 1980s before revitalizing the women's basketball program. After coaching women's basketball 15 seasons, he ended his nearly 30-year career at Whitman.

The Chamber meeting is open to the public; a no-host lunch is $7 per person. RSVP by Jan. 1 to Mike Watkins, 938-8236 or mike.watkins@milton-freewater-or.gov , or Gina Hartzheim, 938-8234 or gina.hartzheim@milton-freewater-or.gov .

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Customers at local Safeway stores raised a record donation to help support breast cancer patients at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

According to an announcement from the hospital, fundraising efforts in October at the two Walla Walla Safeway stores and the store in Milton-Freewater raised $28,789.41. The check was presented to St. Mary last week.

The grocery stores hold an October Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. Customers can donate at the checkstands. The proceeds are used for breast cancer research, screening, treatment and patient assistance programs. All of the money stays in the community to help local patients.

The stores have offered the campaign annually since 2005, when customers raised $2,500. Every year since has set a new record for donations. The total since 2005 has been $83,853.

"You look at how this has grown in such a short time, and it is absolutely amazing," said Dennis Maughan, Providence St. Mary Foundation director, in a prepared statement. "The enthusiasm of the staff at all three stores is infectious. Their passion and dedication to this campaign is inspiring. Literally hundreds of patients and their families will benefit from this."

A few details on breast cancer in the Walla Walla Valley: About 300 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Walla Walla every year, according to information from St. Mary. One out of every five cancers treated at the Poplar Street medical center is breast cancer. The survival rate here is better than regional or national averages with a five-year survival rate at 98 percent, compared to 89 percent nationally and 84 percent regionally.

The higher survival rate is attributed to early detection, and that's where the money raised at Safeway helps. Funds from the campaign provide free screening mammograms for low-income women and assist breast cancer patients with an array of needs not covered by insurance.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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