My grandfather’s house sits on the corner of Highway 20 and Highway 9. Rite-Aid, Dairy Queen and AM/PM Minimart share the intersection. Only the old, shingle-sided house prevents the intersection from looking like a thousand other places. The pressure to sell this prime real estate to the highest bidder has been the subject of many family meetings. But we remember Grandma’s cookie jar, and the gooseberry bushes and we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to part with it. We hold out because we sense our human spirit needs more than fast food, cheap gas and disposable goods like our neighboring businesses provide.
To create a sense of place takes all of us making hard choices. For example, together we can figure out how to create a variety of housing options for young professionals, families, seniors, handicapped people, newcomers, people with behavioral health challenges, even if it means, yes, in our backyard. My grandfather’s house has a root cellar and I often think it could be a studio apartment!
The barista who makes your coffee drink, the mechanic who fixes your car, the medical assistant who takes your blood pressure, all contribute to this sense of place. Imagine your life without them. When you make a gift to the Skagit Community Foundation, you are taking care of your extended community family, everyone who has contributed to this sense of place. Instead of intergenerational wealth only benefiting bloodline relatives, your intergenerational wealth is spread across a community and strengthens the social bonds that make life rich in the most human ways.
“If you treat them with respect, you will be fine.”
When our Board member, Mary Hudson, learned about our funds for basic needs, she called Erin von Fempe, the social worker with the Mount Vernon Police Department. Erin needed wheelchairs, walkers and canes because most of the homeless people she sees have disabilities. Dan Fisher, a second Board member, piped up with the names of nonprofits who loan out such equipment and contact information of his friend who repairs wheelchairs. Such eagerness to help speaks volumes about our board members. I asked Erin if she ever felt afraid working with the homeless population and she said, “They are down on their luck and down on their own humanity. If you treat them with respect you will be fine.” On any given day, there are about one hundred people unhoused between Burlington and Mount Vernon. At least 60% have family relations here. Skagit County is their home. “Sometimes they need help getting identification papers like a birth certificate, but that can cost $50.00,” said Erin. Without identification papers it can be a challenge to access any services.
The Mount Vernon Police Department Outreach Coordination program exists to ease some of the hunger and cold of people living on the streets. Erin helps move them towards utilizing mental health, medical, and substance abuse services. At the REACH center on College Way, a peer-run drop in center, homeless people can find hot coffee, a friendly welcome, and respite from the weather…until 6 p.m. when the doors close for the night. With a grant from a generous donor, the Skagit Community Foundation will help Erin buy supplies needed to make sleeping outside a little more bearable, until we can collectively figure out how to build an overnight shelter and more housing of all kinds.
(Erin von Fempe, Outreach Coordinator City of Mount Vernon)
Now Accepting Grant Applications
To learn more about our annual grant cycle, our historical giving, and to contact us directly please see our website at www.skagitcf.org. Vist our Grant Guidelines page for further details on how to apply.
Submitted by Mary J. McGoffin, Executive Director, Skagit Community Foundation.