The Orcas Community Resource Center – with financial support and guidance from OICF – has become the primary safety net for islanders in need of social services. We serve 20% of the population – from families with young children to elders struggling to remain in their homes. Help ranges from simple information and referrals to emergency funds to fix a car needed for work, to intensive support for islanders with complex needs – including homelessness and mental illness.
OICF grants help sustain our operations – critical to the health of our community. Orcas Island is a special place and it thrives when we all thrive together. A grant will help us keep our doors open to provide 900+ individuals in 440+ households with 4400+ services. Every contact with an islander in need is an opportunity to demonstrate that the community cares!
Over time, OICF grants have allowed us to become more effective and grow our services. This year, we will be able to assist clients who suffer from a chronic illness or disability to apply for supplemental income benefits. And planning will start for a financial literacy program for struggling young families.
It is not surprising that the Resource Center serves 20% of the population. Orcas is remote and expensive. People cannot easily access services taken for granted on the mainland. Vacation rentals decrease housing for the working poor and seasonal jobs promote a cycle of poverty. We work closely with clients to problem-solve, facilitate referrals and appointments, and access services. Meeting regularly with clients improves coping skills, encourages progress, and increases the likelihood that people will accept treatment services when they suffer from behavioral health and substance use disorders. The Resource Center meets people where they are and helps with problems that prevent them from becoming self-sufficient or attaining services needed for their well-being.
Every day, an average of 20 people come to the Resource Center. We also get referrals from schools, churches, community organizations, and concerned neighbors. Our staff works closely with others in the community network – local, county, and regional – to solve problems and funnel resources to our island.
Short Term Outcomes: Staff match clients seeking services with available programs. For example, a short-term housing grant keeps a family in their home. Energy assistance keeps an elder warm in winter. Emergency funds buy safe tires for a car needed for work. Ferry tickets get an islander to a specialty medical appointment. The bottom line is that the resolution of an immediate need can prevent a much worse problem! Each client contact and service provided is logged into a database and demonstrates client demographics and trends over time.
Long Term Outcomes: Clients with complex needs meet with a family advocate to identify problems and set goals. Clients are encouraged to make progress in each problem area. For example: obtaining health insurance to address a chronic health problem and counseling to address substance abuse can help an islander return to a productive life and escape homelessness.
The Resource Center is in the process of becoming a sustainable organization that can permanently deliver on our mission to help islanders move through their current problems and circumstances to improved quality of life. Like our sister non-profits – OPAL, Senior Center, Funhouse Commons, and the Food Bank – achieving sustainability will take time. Operational support from OICF – in addition to capacity building – has been critical to the process of achieving sustainability.
The Resource Center is seeking $25,000 to help support operations. Currently, with a staff of 4.5 FTE, payroll is $186,350. Another $17,560 is needed for rent and utilities and $18,200 for administration –training, insurance, office expenses, and technology. The requested funds represent 11% of the total cost of keeping our doors open.
Programs such as Household Essentials, Ferry Tickets, and Emergency Assistance provide just-in-time help that can turn a crisis into an opportunity to build trust. Trust is essential to encourage people to communicate their needs so that they can move beyond their immediate problems to greater self- sufficiency.
The Resource Center is funded through a combination of government contracts with San Juan County, Opportunity Council and the Northwest Regional Council; grants from OICF, United Way; and donations from community organizations, family foundations, and individuals. During the grant period we will distribute over $190,000 in direct services to islanders. This number does not include the priceless value of helping people secure health insurance, counseling, housing, food stamps, supplemental security income, and Veterans benefits – to name a few. Nor does it include the importance of these resources to the local economy.
Fundraising efforts to supplement funding from government programs started in earnest in 2015 and have increased steadily – from $36,850 in 2015 to $92,350 in 2018. In 2019 we will seek funding from the Murdock Charitable Trust for a Communications Specialist to assist with this process. This spring, a series of mission-based small group meetings will be launched to communicate our mission to current and potential donors.