Living United During Challenging Times

Apr 24, 2020

We recently met with our partner agencies to talk about how they are adapting and adjusting to make their critical services available in our community during this extremely challenging time. And we were BLOWN AWAY.

Whatcom County is so lucky to have the nonprofit network that we do. Our agencies are working together and stepping up in big ways, and we’re proud to be able to help them do it.

What’s happening in our community? Everything. And then some.

The demand for basic necessities like food, housing, and health services is drastically increasing. There is an immediate need for childcare for families of essential workers and first responders. Social distancing measures are working to decrease the spread of COVID-19, but they are also intensifying anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Social isolation comes with its own set of challenges, increasing health and safety risks for the elderly, people who live alone, and those who are in unsafe or potentially violent households.

Our partner agencies are digging deep, finding ways to provide their core services AND help clients deal with additional needs emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. To do this, they’ve had to create new service models and invest in new technology to comply with social distancing best practices. Service delivery models that worked last month or even last week may not work today, and no one is sure what tomorrow will bring. But this much we can tell you:

Our nonprofit partners are shining right now.

Their hearts are big, their spirits are brave, and their actions are downright heroic. We have never been more proud to be able to support their critical work.

A few quick examples:

Despite having to close their gym and discontinue many revenue producing programs, the YMCA adjusted their early learning program to take on the responsibility of providing childcare for first responders and essential workers. To follow social distancing requirements, they had to reduce staff to child ratios. This means more staff, fewer kids, less revenue, and higher expenses. And yet they are committed to making it happen. Meanwhile, the Y is also personally checking in with their senior members to make sure they are okay. They are also using their fleet of vans to deliver food to vulnerable populations in the county.

The Opportunity Council is still acting as the main intake for those who need housing assistance and other critical services. In the process, they are finding that social distancing best practices make housing folks even more difficult. They are continuing to find ways to safely shelter homeless families and individuals, including increasing their hotel voucher program. At the same time, they have seen a large increase in requests for food and have put together a food and meal resource guide that they are updating weekly.

Food and meal providers are struggling to restructure their services to be able to effectively feed an increasing number of hungry individuals and families. The Bellingham Food Bank has moved to a drive through/pickup system with prepared boxes of food in order to keep their clients fed and safe. Meals on Wheels and More had to discontinue their meal program at the Senior Center and is receiving an increase in requests for home deliveries to our vulnerable senior population. They have responded by ramping up their frozen prepared meal production, and are delivering a week’s worth of meals at a time to seniors all over Whatcom County.

Nearly all of our agencies reported increasing requests for food and other basic needs as well as heightened levels of anxiety among those they help, and once again, they are stepping up to the challenge. Agencies like Compass Health, Brigid Collins, Lydia Place, DVSAS, and Northwest Youth Services are using new technology to provide critical mental health, counseling, and advocacy services to their at-risk client populations. These services are particularly important for vulnerable populations living in potentially unsafe environments. Rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and neglect are closely tied to levels of stress and financial instability, and this is a very stressful, uncertain time. Agencies focused in these areas are doing everything humanly possible to continue providing safe housing, victim advocacy, counseling services, and abuse prevention right now. And it is inspiring to see.

We were also touched to hear that the folks at Goodwill are offering their job skills training and employment services programs free to their own employees, many of whom have been laid off with the closure of their retail stores.

These are just a few of the ways our amazing partner agencies are working to provide lifesaving services in our community during this crisis.

Through our Emergency Recovery Fund, we are able to give much needed funding to help these organizations deliver the vital services so many of our friends and neighbors need right now.

  • If you’re able to give, please know that your donation is making a big difference.
  • If you or someone you know is in need of services, check our website for links to updated information and resources.
  • For more information about how our Emergency Recovery Fund is helping our community, click here.

Special thanks to our partner agencies and everyone out there doing their part to help.

Whether you’re staying home and staying safe, providing life-saving care, working at one of our essential businesses, or checking in on your neighbors and friends, your work matters. You matter. Thank you so much.