Keeping islanders warm and clean through Coates programs

by Megan Ehrmantraut

Orcas Community Resource Center

Hygiene poverty is a hidden crisis. Buying the basics like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, or diapers when we need them is something most of us take for granted. For many living on a fixed income or with limited wage earning capacity, these essential products have become out of reach luxuries. We all make financial choices, but for those living in poverty, these choices can be extremely grim.

In addition, unexpected events can change the course of ANY of our lives. Losing a job, having an accident, or battling a sudden health condition can erode the security we come to rely on and leave people struggling.

Hygiene poverty comes with a social stigma that affects all areas of life, work, school and relationships. It is oftentimes a silent struggle impacting confidence and self esteem, potentially discouraging people from accessing education and employment – the very things that can help them move forward.

Strengthening a community’s hygienic health results in many benefits. The Orcas Community Resource Center (OCRC) established the Coates Cabinet program in 2017 to combat hygiene poverty and promote wellness. Each month, clients may choose an allotment of essential household and personal hygiene products from current inventory. Islanders are eligible to participate if they are a current client of the Orcas Food Bank or the Resource Center. Together with your help along with much-appreciated support from the Coates Family Foundation, we provide a safety net for islanders in need.

Access to hygiene products help entire households improve their quality of life. If you’re in a position to help, please consider dropping off new unexpired personal care/cleaning products (toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, baby wipes, deodorant, laundry soap, etc). A comprehensive list of our inventory can be found at

As an offshoot of Coates Cabinet, we developed Coates Closet, a winter gear program for those in need. Throughout the month of November, on Tuesdays from 1-4pm (or by appointment), islanders finding it hard to make ends meet can receive a winter coat along with other items that may be available such as gloves, hats, scarves and socks.

A special thank you to our Coates Cabinet volunteers, John and Will, for kindly helping shoppers each month. Recently, neighbors that stopped by were in for an extra tasty treat – soup and fixings prepared and served by Chef Raymond from the Kingfish at Westsound. Thanks Raymond for your surprise visit!

Supporting the Resource Center’s Coates programs is a simple way to help our community stay healthier throughout the year and a little warmer over the cold winter months. If you have the means to help, we gladly accept the above mentioned items in new condition. General donations to support programs like these and all the work of OCRC can be made through our website at

The Orcas Community Resource Center’s mission is to foster a healthy community by connecting Orcas Islanders with the services needed to thrive and achieve equitable well-being. We’re here to help! If you’d like to learn more about our services, please contact us.