The Centralia Public Works Department raised $1,402.72 for the Lewis County Special Olympics by holding an office-wide donation challenge and presented the organization with the check on Friday morning.

Public Works Director Kim Ashmore said that he wanted to help Special Olympics but didn’t have the time to join a committee, so he started the fundraiser and incited some friendly competition. Ashmore said that he expected to raise about $250 during the month-long fundraiser but by the two-week mark more than $400 was raised — and another $1,000 in the final two weeks.

“I set up collection bins and I was hoping that just by people throwing spare change into the bins that we would raise $250 … at the end of June, we got all the bins together and started rolling all the coins. Just going through that month-long process trying to raise money for Special Olympics we raised $1,400,” said Ashmore before presenting the check. 

The check was presented at the Centralia Police Department training facility to officer Ruben Ramirez, who is involved in the planning of the Law Enforcement Torch run that occurs before the start of the Special Olympics along with his sister Brenda Padgett. 

The torch run, which is usually a large community event, had to be modified this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Only law enforcement personnel were able to participate in the roughly 14-mile run — escorted by police officers on motorcycles and police cruisers. The torch run was held on June 6. 

“On behalf of my son, who’s 37 and has participated in the Lewis County Special Olympics for many years, and all of our 110 athletes, we appreciate what you have done so much,” said Patti Nelson. 

Nelson said that this year the Washington Special Olympics is holding virtual games because of the COVID-19 related restrictions on gatherings and the $1,400 check will go into the Lewis County Special Olympics fund to be used to pay for uniforms, equipment or whatever else the athletes may need in the future. 

Six departments within Centralia Public Works competed against each other to see which department could average the most money raised per person. 

Andy Oien led the water department, Darcie Twining was in charge of administrative and customer services, Rick Eaton led the wastewater group, Jeff Carr oversaw finance and Marc Baine led the information services group. 

The administration and information services department took first place followed by the engineering and water departments — averaging more than $30 per employee.

“Maybe next year we’ll challenge City Hall and City Light and see if we can double what we raised,” said Ashmore.

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