Volunteers at the Lopez Resource Center helping with food deliveries.

Volunteers at the Lopez Resource Center helping with food deliveries.

COVID this week in the San Juans: A look at the resource centers

As the entire nation faces the realities of life during a global pandemic, the local resource centers have kicked it into high gear to help those living in the islands.

“We’re all experiencing a pandemic, which is affecting the entire globe. Stress, fear, confusion, anger — these are all normal emotions to feel when facing a crisis such as COVID-19,” said Orcas Community Resource Center Outreach and Communication Specialist Zanetha Matisse. “Fortunately, we’re all in this together, on this special island we call home. If you’re lonely, scared, or worried, know that you’re not alone. We’re here for you.”

Orcas Island

Orcas Community Resource Center’s client intake as quadrupled in the past few weeks, according to Matisse. And the center is anticipating that number to continue to rise, she added.

“The staff at the Orcas Community Resource Center has been hard at work in our continuing mission to help Orcas Islanders in need by accessing services and support for their wellbeing,” Matisse said.

OCRC is matching community members with social services such as food stamps and unemployment insurance, Matisse explained. The organization is also helping new and existing clients pay for rent and energy bills as well as providing mental health referrals and more.

“We’re partnering with various island organizations, coalitions and task forces to house and feed our island’s most vulnerable neighbors,” Matisse said. “We’re routinely reaching out to our clients, particularly our seniors and those in quarantine, to ensure they’re getting the medication, supplies, and help they need during this crisis.”

The resource center’s Coates’ Cabinet is available to OCRC clients, as well as to those who utilize the Orcas Island Food Bank. On the first and third Tuesday of the month, islanders may pickup personal hygiene and cleaning supplies from the cabinet.

The community can assist the resource center by donating funds via the Orcas Island Community Foundation’s GiveOrcas catalog at www.giveorcas.org or they can donate to the center directly.

For more information about OCRC, visit www.orcascrc.org, call 360-376-3184, or email a staff member — current clients can email Jana Webb at jana@orcascrc.org; new clients can contact Holly Southern at holly@orcascrc.org; or for general information, email info@orcascrc.org.

Lopez Island

Lopez Island Family Resource Center is helping more than 300 Lopezian families during the COVID crisis, according to Executive Director Barbara Schultheiss.

“LIFRC services are defined as essential services by the governor, so staff and volunteers are still working hard with many community partners and businesses to support the community with the supports they need in creative but safe new ways,” said Schultheiss.

The resource center has teamed up with the Grace Church Food Bank to become a delivery service, bringing bread, dairy, eggs, produce, soup and other non-perishable goods to more than 140 island houses.

Working with San Juan County, Lopez Island School District, Senior Services, Lopez Island Hospice and Home Care and other community organizations, LIFRC has helped to implement a home delivery for high-risk and vulnerable community members.

Coordinating with 19 local restaurants and farmers to buy food and produce to support both the business and economy thanks to generous donors. The program simultaneously provides healthy food to low-income vulnerable community members.

Additionally, LIFRC staff is surveying the more than 300 households it currently serves as well as new clients to establish their need both short term and long. Staff also continues to aid people to enroll in food stamps (Basic Food) and health insurance, as well as helping to provide mortgage, rent and utility assistance.

“We are coordinating with other community members to implement a Telephone Buddy System for volunteers to connect with isolated individuals to have some socialization, get reassurance and make new friends,” Schultheiss explained.

Acknowledging the effects isolation can have on peoples’ mental health, LIFRC has coordinated with local therapists to provide remote counseling sessions. According to Schultheiss, a new program it’s participating in, Open Source Wellness, has shifted its focus to remote gatherings. LIFRC also began hosting a series of six 60-minute workshops regarding COVID stress with Trauma and Resiliency trainer Teresa Posakony.

LIFRC’s youth mentor program and Girls Empowerment Group have been able to continue staying connected with fun online activities, Schultheiss said.

LIFRC is seeking volunteers under the age of 60 who have no underlying health issues to help with food bank and prepared meals bagging and deliveries.

For more information about donating to LIFRC or to sign up for programs, email Contessa Downey at contessa@lifrc.org or visit www.lifrc.org.