PORT TOWNSEND — When you walk into your kitchen to create the big holiday meal, you can take one thing for granted: the ground beneath your feet.
Until it fails, like Marie Sewell’s did.
In the mobile home she moved into some 25 years ago, the kitchen floor was never in great shape. Then, late last year, it started peeling up. She tried a stick-and-seal product, but it didn’t keep the corners from curling — and tripping her and her visitors.
Sewell, 84, had saved some money for new flooring. Then her washer and dryer broke down. A widow, she lives on Social Security and a small amount of food stamps each month.
“I can’t afford anything, but I’ve got to do something,” she thought.
Altogether, “it was a nightmare, and it was only getting worse.”
Sewell heard that the Olympic Community Action Programs, OlyCAP, through the Peninsula Home Fund, helped people in need with living expenses. The Home Fund provides vouchers for home repairs, groceries, bus passes and other basics — things that make all the difference in daily life.
Sewell has lived in Port Townsend for half a century; her husband Gordon died 22 years ago. She raised five daughters and a son. Some of the kids live nearby while others are in Poulsbo; at Christmas, they bring their little ones, so Sewell’s had as many as 30 guests, “including Santa Claus.”
That old floor would not withstand such a flock, she knew. Somebody was going to get hurt.
She went to OlyCAP in Port Townsend, weeping.
The agency, via the Peninsula Home Fund, provided $40 for a new dryer duct. Along with that sum, Sewell came away with a valuable piece of information.
OlyCAP referred her to REPAH, Real Estate Professionals for Affordable Housing. Via the Jefferson County Association of Realtors, the nonprofit agency funds several programs for low-income households — including emergency home repairs.
Next thing Sewell knew, she was shopping at Strait Floors in Port Townsend. The laminate flooring she liked best — Mohawk Acclaim “pearl platinum oak” — was on sale.
More tears. In mid-December of last year, installers Robert Krieg and Tyler Rousos transformed the kitchen, with Sewell watching in near-disbelief.
“I got the country kitchen I always wanted,” she marveled when a reporter visited recently. That afternoon, she’d baked a blackberry cobbler and an apple crisp, in anticipation of a visit from the grandchildren.
Sewell talks about giving back, about sharing what she has with her neighbors. Then she walks her talk.
Her grandmother taught her to crochet 73 years ago, and to this day she’s a formidable maker of afghans, potholders and dolls. Friends give her yarn, or she and her caregiver, Marti Hetrick, find free fiber at yard sales.
At Christmastime, she likes to take an afghan to a nearby house, lay it on the porch, ring the doorbell and scram.
“We almost got caught once,” she said.
Her crocheted dolls come together fast, and Sewell brings them to the hospital for children to take home.
Sewell and Hetrick are a creative team. For Sewell’s granddaughter, they made a quilt from T-shirts she’d gathered at concerts and on trips: “the story of her life,” Grandma said. Other sewing projects are on the horizon, including quilts they will bring to the hospital for newborns who don’t yet have one.
“We have fun,” said Hetrick, grinning at her co-worker.
Peninsula’s safety net
The Peninsula Home Fund — a safety net for local residents when they suddenly face an emergency situation and can’t find help elsewhere — is seeking contributions for its annual holiday season fundraising campaign.
From Port Townsend to Forks, from Quilcene and Brinnon to Sequim and La Push, money from the fund is used for hot meals for seniors; warm winter coats for kids; home repairs for a low-income family; needed prescription drugs; dental work; safe, drug-free temporary housing; eyeglasses — the list goes on and on.
• The average amount of help this year has been $129 per person.
• All instances of help are designed to get an individual or family through a crisis — and back on the path to self-sufficiency.
Home Fund case managers often work with each individual or family to develop a plan to become financially stable — and avoid a recurrence of the emergency that prompted aid from the fund.
As needed, Peninsula Home Fund contributions are often used in conjunction with money from churches, service clubs and other donors, enabling OlyCAP to stretch the value of the contribution.
The goal again: “a hand up, not a handout.”
• No money is deducted by the Peninsula Daily News for administration fees or any other overhead.
Every penny goes to OlyCAP.
The money goes to help the most vulnerable members of our community, from infants to families to seniors.
Please note: Because of heavy community demands, the loss of grants because of the economy and recent cuts in government funding, OlyCAP beginning in 2012 was permitted to use 10 percent — 10 cents of every dollar donated — to pay for the vital programs and services for Home Fund clients. (Previously there were no deductions.)
• All contributions are IRS tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law for the year in which the check is written.
Your personal information is kept confidential.
PDN and OlyCAP do not rent, sell, give or otherwise share your address or other information with anyone or make any other use of it.
Since its beginning in 1989, the fund has relied on the support of Jefferson and Clallam residents.
Using the $218,004 contributed to the Peninsula Home Fund in 2017, OlyCAP had helped 1,087 people from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30.
The remaining funding of f $64,611 will continue to help your friends and neighbors on the Peninsula through the middle of January — when 2018 donations will begin to offer a lifeline in 2019.
How to apply for a Home Fund grant
To apply for a Peninsula Home Fund grant, contact one of the three OlyCAP offices:
• OlyCAP’s Port Angeles office is at 228 W. First St., Suite J (Armory Square Mall); 360-452-4726. For Port Angeles- and Sequim-area residents.
• Its Port Townsend office is at 823 Commerce Loop; 360-385-2571. For Jefferson County residents.
• The Forks office is at 421 Fifth Ave.; 360-374-6193. For West End residents.
Leave a message in the voice mail box at any of the three numbers, and a Home Fund caseworker will phone you back.
Contributions so far
A number of generous individuals and organizations have been donating money to the Peninsula Home Fund since the first of the year.
While most of the money is raised between Thanksgiving and Dec. 31, the fund itself never closes.
Donations of any amount are always welcome.
To donate online by credit card, click on www.olycap.org/peninsula-home-fund.
Here is a list of the most recent donors whose Home Fund contributions were processed up to Tuesday last week.
Name and Amount
Virginia Bischel, Port Hadlock, $100.
Kathleen E. Devanney, Port Townsend, $50. In memory of Linda Scott and Margaret Clinton.
Fredda and Ted Burton, Port Angeles, $200.
Renate Melvey, Sequim, $50.
John and Christine Usher, Port Angeles, $50.
Betty Manning, Port Angeles, $100.
Sharon L. Palmer’s Card Club, Sequim, $350.
Jay F. Burcham, Port Townsend, $200. In loving memory of my wife, Shirl.
Merry Van Deusen, Port Angeles. In honor of my great women friends.
Brian and Gloria Doerter and Moe, Port Angeles. In honor of Martha Doerter.
Vern Bessey, Port Townsend.
Jo Anne Hughes, Port Angeles.
Larry and Lynn Gosser, Port Angeles.
Bart and Marielle Eykemans, Port Angeles.
Ann Chang, Port Angeles. In honor of my amazing family.
R. Messing and M.J. Cain, Sequim.
Carol and Tom Sinton, Port Angeles. In memory of Melvin Sinton.
Dan and Patricia Nellis, Sequim. In memory of our sister Marcia Rudge Fox.
Eve Farrell, Port Angeles. In memory of Dan Farrell.
Neal Liden, Port Townsend.
Teddy Gaskill, Port Angeles. In memory of William Gaskill.
Juanita Weissenfels, Forks. In memory of Liz Brown and MaryAnn Halverson.
Ingrid Lehrer, Sequim.
Mack and Barb Boelling, Port Townsend.
Margie Faires, Port Angeles.
Doug and Trudy Rittenhouse, Port Angeles.
John and Nancy Jost, Sequim.
Neil and Jacqueline Eklund, Sequim.
Mike and Linda Peters, Port Ludlow.
Judith Carlson, Port Angeles.
Joseph Cress and Elaine Peaslee, Sequim. In memory of Jenny Cress.
Don Claussen and Pat Beltz, Sequim.
David T. Neil, Sequim.
William Baughman, Sequim. In memory of Craig Baughman.
Gayla Napiontek, Port Angeles.
Jan Hintermayr, Gardiner. In memory of Susan Foskett.
Jill Blake, Sequim.
Wayne and Claudia Barrett, Port Angeles.
Barbara K. Miller, Port Angeles.
Lee Roberts, Port Angeles. In honor of Dan Roberts Sr.
Lucille Caughron, Sequim. In memory of Leonard Caughron.
Brenda and Gary Dickinson, Sequim.
Eugene and Lois Larsen, Port Angeles.
Emery and Lila Winters, Port Angeles. In memory of our parents, Emery and Nancy Winters and Maxine Willis. In honor of our parent, Phyllis Carlson.
Stephen Conner and Mary L. Jenkins, Port Townsend.
Norma and Jerry Hall, Sequim.
Barbara Deese, Port Angeles. In honor of Ann Holke.
The Wauters Family, Port Angeles.
Port Townsend, $100.
Port Angeles, $150.
Port Angeles, $100.
Port Ludlow, $200.
Port Angeles, $200.
Sequim, $800. In memory of Elvira “Billie” Mann.
Port Townsend, $200.
Port Angeles, $100. In honor of Deborah Hollingsworth, to keep your giving spirit going.
Port Angeles, $20.
Port Angeles, $250.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.