by Steven Jung
Special to the Sounder
Although it opened in 1995, surprisingly few Islanders are aware of the Orcas Community Resource Center.
This is partially due to the fact that it began as a tiny appendage to our preschools, tasked only with increasing parenting skills and supports for young families. As recently as 2015, the Resource Center, then known as Orcas Family Connections, was confined to a single room within the Kaleidoscope Preschool and Childcare Center. Its staffing consisted of one FTE! (A brief early history of the Resource Center may be found on the OCRC website at https://orcascrc.org/about/history/)
But wow, how things have changed since then!
Starting in 2015, with significant and ongoing help from the Orcas Island Community Foundation (OICF) and private donors, OCRC began to reach out to and develop a complete public/private safety net for Orcas’ most vulnerable residents. Staffing has increased to 2.5 FTE, and the Resource Center has moved to attractive new quarters at the corner of Prune Alley/North Beach and Rose Street (374 A North Beach).
The assistance provided is caring, confidential, and focused on helping people solve their problems, get the resources needed for their well-being, and attain self-sufficiency. Volunteer and paid staff at the Resource Center now help clients apply for health, disability and veteran’s benefits; obtain rent, energy, transportation assistance and food and household essentials; achieve housing stability, exit homelessness, and access special programs such as dental and vision care and job training. Counselors are available to help people weather a crisis or a run of bad luck.
Every day, the Resource Center provides a bridge for many to connect to services such as the following:
• Refer for counseling through the Community Wellness Program
• Enroll in health insurance
• Arrange Food Bank home deliveries
• Sign up for the Transportation Voucher Program
• Enroll in DSHS benefits or renew/update prior enrollments
• Referral to Dental Van for care up to and including dentures
• Referral for eye care/corrective lenses
• Spanish language translation for forms and applications
• Enroll in Meals on Wheels
• Referral to WIC for food and nutrition support
• Referral to Safe San Juans for domestic violence protection
• Enroll in OPALCO Project Pal (energy credits)
• Apply for LIHEAP (assistance with home heating)
• Obtain short-term rental assistance
• Secure a deposit to enter into a rental agreement
• Obtain Veterans’ benefits
• Manage the Christmas Giving Tree in partnership with Island Market
• Manage the Sons of American Legion Shoe Drive
• Obtain permanent housing for the homeless through various government grants
• Manage the Kindergarten Transition/Kindergarten Readiness Programs
• Arrange for ongoing assistance from a professional social worker for complex needs
In accomplishing the above, and more, the Resource Center staff partner with local neighbors, businesses, and like-minded public and private organizations, including the United Way, San Juan County, the NW Washington Opportunity Council, and the Northwest Regional Council. Last year, over $150,000 was funneled directly to hundreds of islanders, whose needs are far greater than most people probably imagine. Without OCRC, all this valuable assistance would be lost!
Private donations are critical
Resource Center operations are partially funded through administrative fees associated with the government programs – federal, state, and county—that are leveraged. But those government dollars have never covered the Center’s full costs, and they have become even more constrained over the past few years.
As a result, the resource center relies on private donations to meet a significant share (more than 40 percent) of its operating costs. And this year, to entice more people into contributing to this important work, the OCRC Board is offering a matching grant of $11,000. For every two dollars donated by the community, the board will contribute one dollar, up to $22,000! And every dollar helps change lives, helps attain our collective wish to be a caring community. Have YOU donated yet?
If not, it’s easy. Simply go to https://orcascrc.org and click on the donate button. Or mail or drop off a check to OCRC, PO Box 931, 374 A North Beach Road, Eastsound, WA 98245.