COEUR d'ALENE - The late Ellen Walden is likely smiling down brighter than usual on Coeur d'Alene this week.
The 3Cs (Cancer and Community Charities), a group Walden founded 50 years ago, distributed a whopping $82,250 to 24 Kootenai County nonprofits Wednesday during a coffee reception held at the Elks Lodge on Prairie Avenue.
"If she (Walden) only knew what she had done, what she started," said 3Cs member Marcia Saunders with a smile.
With this year's round of grant disbursements, the 3Cs have cumulatively given $1.6 million to various agencies that assist the disadvantaged in Kootenai County.
The amount they distributed this year is $12,000 more than they were able to hand out a year ago.
"To be able to do that, with the economy being what it is, that is just phenomenal to me," Saunders said. "You've got so many ladies who believe in and are dedicated to this community."
The 3Cs organizes two major fundraisers each year, and also raises funds by having fun.
Group membership is $15 annually, and there are about a dozen activity groups for 3Cs members to join. They sing, play bridge, play golf, enjoy gardens, sew, enjoy each other's gourmet cooking and more, and each activity group collects additional annual dues or fees that also go into the pot for distribution to charities.
Another pastime enjoyed by 3Cs members is bowling, the activity that started it all in 1962 when Ellen Walden started the Cancer Crusaders Bowling Leagues. The ladies who participated would donate money to help cancer patients.
Representatives from each of the nonprofits selected to receive grants this year were on hand Wednesday to accept checks on behalf of their agencies.
"I can't say how important each and every agency is to us," said Carol Peterson, 3Cs president. "We know that all of you are out there working like crazy to make Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County the great place it is."