Atilla Mitrovich shares an apartment with her two sons in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Home Fund helps Port Townsend family tackle unexpected expense’s damage

  • Sun Jan 8th, 2017 1:30am
  • News

By Diane Urbani de la Paz

For Peninsula Daily News

EDITOR’S NOTE: For 28 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund.

Today, we feature another in a series of articles on how the fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.

To donate online by credit card, visit https://secure. peninsuladailynews.com/home fund.

PORT TOWNSEND — After a whole summer in the sunshine, Atilla Mitrovich and her two teenagers came home to a surprise.

It wasn’t a pleasant one. Though Mitrovich had arranged to shut off her Internet service for the three months she and her sons were visiting family in Woodside, Calif., it had stayed on. A whopping past-due bill greeted her in September.

She contacted the cable company and was told, she said, “Oh, no, you had to call us one more time before we shut it off.”

Mitrovich and her sons, ages 15 and 16, don’t use the Internet just for fun. Both boys have special needs: the elder has Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that gave him very long bones and low muscle mass, while the younger one has Asperger’s syndrome. For years, Mitrovich has homeschooled them via online classes.

While the Internet has been a necessity, she added, cable television is not something Mitrovich has been able to afford.

The Internet bill was high enough on its own, however. When Mitrovich, who lives on Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, had to pay it off, she couldn’t make her rent. She was in danger of losing the tiny apartment she shares with her kids.

A call to the Olympic Community Action Programs, or OlyCAP, office in Port Townsend led to a reprieve — and then some — from the Peninsula Home Fund.

Jo Dwyer, OlyCAP’s Housing Services Coordinator, found Mitrovich qualified for rent assistance, and the Home Fund, which OlyCAP administers, provided $200 to bring Mitrovich back up to date.

Seeing that both boys had outgrown last year’s clothing, Dwyer then used Home Fund money for a $150 voucher, which Mom could use to buy winter gear for them.

Mitrovich, 46, moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Port Townsend in 2004, hoping for a safer place to raise her boys. Their father grew up here; he was the one who told her about the North Olympic Peninsula.

They are no longer in touch, but Port Townsend has turned out to be the ideal community for this family. Redwood City, the place they left behind, was crime-ridden, Mitrovich said. She heard gunshots entirely too often, and this was in an expensive neighborhood: Their apartment was 350 square feet and $1,200 per month.

In contrast, Port Townsend is a place where the family feels safe, where they could find an affordable apartment — and where they can pick wild blackberries in summer and go to the beach on any given day.

Mitrovich’s own youth was not peaceful. She doesn’t share details, except to say that the family relocated a lot, and that incidents during her childhood led to her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and acute anxiety.

“I’m finally seeing the right doctor,” she said.

She changes the subject back to her sons, and speaks, with joy, about their activities.

They’ve started at Port Townsend High School, and are reveling in their classes — from P.E. to a vessel operations course — and are making new friends.

“I’ve been able to provide them with a stable home,” she said.

To her, that is priceless. This has been home for her boys since they were toddlers, and if their mother has anything to say about it, it will be until they go off to college.

Mitrovich, who asked to leave her sons’ names out of this story, smiles as she talks about how her oldest son recently remarked that their refrigerator used to look enormous. Now, at 6-foot-2-inches, he can see over the top of it.

This son is the one who loves reading; “he never leaves the house without a book,” Mitrovich said.

An entire wall of the boys’ shared bedroom is lined with books, while his brother, an artist, has his supplies laid out on a small desk beside the bunk beds.

“I can always tell when he’s mulling things over,” said his mom, “because he draws.”

The older boy was invited to see a movie at the Rose Theatre in downtown Port Townsend the other night. Mitrovich was delighted to know he was included in the outing, though it wasn’t easy for her to hand him the cash for the movie and popcorn.

“When you’re on a very low income, your room for air is very small,” she said, “but I can make it. The bills are paid, but we’re not going to be flying to Hawaii any time soon.”

Dwyer added that she was impressed by Mitrovich’s skills as a home economist. Her situation earlier this year is an example, Dwyer said, “of how, even when someone on a fixed income takes such care to stick to a budget, things can happen to throw everything off.

“We can fix it,” she said.

Mitrovich, for her part, calls her family both blessed and privileged to receive help from OlyCAP and the Peninsula Home Fund.

“What OlyCAP did for me was so huge.

“Bless the people who not only can donate, but they do donate.”

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.

• Assistance usually averages less than $100. The maximum allowance per year is $350 per household. The average spent per household this year has been $182.27.

• 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.)

OlyCAP has kept it in the area of 8 percent, a fraction of the average overhead of other nonprofits.

• 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 $255,468 contributed to the Peninsula Home Fund in 2015, OlyCAP had helped 3,609 individuals — 1,266 households — on the Peninsula through the end of November.

The remaining funding of $24,708.80 will continue to help your friends and neighbors on the Peninsula through the middle of January — when 2016 donations will begin to offer a lifeline in 2017.

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.

OlyCAP’s website: www.olycap.org; email: action@olycap.org.

If you have any questions about the fund, phone the Peninsula Daily News at 360-452-2345.

Contributions

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, please click on www.secure.peninsuladailynews.com/homefund.

Below is a list of donors whose contributions were processed between Dec. 28-Jan. 3:

Name and amount

• Jack and Kristine Morris, Chimacum, $100.

• Wayne and Rosetta King, Port Angeles, $100. In memory of Ernest and Helen King.

• John and Ellen Kassen, Port Angeles, $25.

• Phil and Kathy Giuntoli, Port Angeles, $200. In memory of the Page Family: Kenny, Mildred, Larry and Keith. Thanks for the memories.

• Gail Hebrank, Port Angeles, $500. In memory of Scott Younkin, who is always on my mind but more so this time of year.

• W. Ron and Merine Allen, Sequim, $500. In memory of Bruce Randall.

• R J Services Inc., Port Angeles, $750.

• Emil and Judy Moilanen, Port Angeles, $500. In honor of Dale A. Durrwachter.

• Emil and Judy Moilanen, Port Angeles, $100. In honor of Marie Cauvel.

• Emil and Judy Moilanen, Port Angeles, $200. In honor of Sylvia Durrwachter.

• Freia Palmer, Port Angeles, $200. In memory of our beloved Bubba. We miss you!

• Bob and Leola Reeve, Sequim, $200.

• Karen Blessing, Port Townsend, $50.

• Peninsula Driftwood Artists, Sequim, $100.

• Beth Ashkin and Joseph Abril, Port Angeles, $200.

• William and Nancy Irvine, Sequim, $200.

• Kay and Don Allen, Port Townsend, $100. In memory of Vida Mae Joyner.

• Smith-O’Hara Parker Family, Port Angeles, $100. In memory Daniel Holmquist.

• Larry and Pat Harwood, Port Angeles, $100.

• John and Christine Usher, Port Angeles, $50.

• Edward Boyd, Port Angeles, $500. In memory of Richard Boyd.

• Charles Standley, Port Angeles, $100.

• Diane Pirner, Sequim, $500. In memory of Conrad Pirner.

Name only

• Julie Wilson, Poquoson, Va.

• Eric and Christine Brown, Port Angeles.

• Hillary and Mack Wray, Port Angeles.

• Wayne and Claudia Barrett, Port Angeles.

• Jack and Janet Real, Sequim. In memory of Henry Meyer, and Jim and Nancy Harlan.

• Lori Oakes, Port Angeles. In memory of Mike Oakes.

• Donna M. Campbell, Sequim.

• Steve Moore and Gigi Callaizakis, Port Townsend. In honor of Jane Stearns, Elaine Moore and Marie Callaizakis.

• Gene and Lois Brown, Sequim. In memory of Greg Brown.

• Jerry and Judy Mann, Sequim.

• David Brewer, Port Angeles.

• Diane Markley, Port Angeles.

• Karen Gates-Kilpatrick, Sequim. In memory of Dyrene Coburn and Tommy Gates.

• McLoughlin Spagle, Port Ludlow.

• Robert Sheridan, Sequim.

• Deanna H. McHenry, Port Angeles. In honor of Oma, John and Granny.

• Kate Larson, Port Angeles. In memory of Bokie and Ol’ Bob.

• Shirley Stolz and Steve Clark, Port Angeles. In memory of Mary and Pinkie and Fred.

• Larry and Darlene McCaffrey, Sequim.

• Dave and Sally Ellefson, Port Angeles.

• Glenn and Nancy Powell, Sequim.

• Barry and Hilda Anderson, Port Townsend.

• Dorothy and Ron Brown, Sequim.

• Tom Lamure, Port Angeles. In honor of Tom, Joyce and Lane.

• Juanita Bellew Jones, Sequim. In memory of my parents and brothers.

• Keith and Jill Sharkey, Port Angeles.

• Sydna and Barry Baker, Sequim.

• Barbara and Harry LaRue, Port Angeles. In memory of Deborah Hollingsworth.

• Anne and Vincet Murray, Port Angeles.

• Mike and Kathy Backes, Port Angeles.

• J.D. Walters, Lakeside, Calif.

• Bette Schuyler, Port Angeles.

• Chick and Carol Carmichael, Port Angeles.

• Vicky Murphy, Port Angeles.

• Stanley Johann, Sequim.

• Ron and Phyllis Stecker, Sequim.

• David Meissner, Sequim.

• David and Barbara Allen, Forks. In memory of Barney and Sylvia Murphy.

• Darlene Clemens, Port Angeles.

• Frank and Karen Jahns, Port Angeles.

• Robert and Virginia Bowling, Sequim.

• Lorna Konopaski, Port Angeles. In honor of Warren Konopaski.

• Margo Sanders, Sequim.

• Bonnie Davison, Port Angeles.

• Rolland and Diane Kenitzer, Port Angeles.

• David and Loretta Bryant, Sequim.

• Valerie Johnstone, Port Townsend.

• David Goldstein and Eriko Inage, Port Angeles. In honor of everyone still trying to do right. You all shine on!

• Connie Engvall/ Pat Schoen, Sequim. In memory of Florence Engvall.

• Kathy Snyder and Ed Dougherty, Port Angeles. In memory of Jim Snyder.

• Carolyn and Ray Braun, Port Angeles.

• Katherine Dunham, Sequim.

• Jim and Robbie Mantooth, Port Angeles. In honor of Hanako and Sora Iwasaki Mantooth. We want our granddaughters to know the joy of helping others through this fund.

• Susan Owens, Olympia. In memory of Dr. Steve Ironhill. He did much for many.

• Nippon Paper, Longview. We hope this contribution and others like it will create smiles for the people and families you serve this holiday season.

• Chris Walvatne, Port Townsend. In memory of our parents, Clarence and Betty Brown, and Casper and Anna Walvatne.

• Frederic Robinson, Sequim.

• Brad and Nancy Anseth, Sequim.

• John and Diana Anderson, Sequim.

• Tim and Pat Morgan, Sequim.

• Shirley Widdicombe, Sequim. In honor of my husband, Bob.

• Linda Button, Port Angeles. In memory of my family.

• Mary Jacoby, Port Angeles. In memory of Stephen Ironhill, Ph.D.

• Cynthia Spawn, Port Angeles.

• Jean Irvine and Jim Saarinen, Port Angeles. In memory of Bill Watts.

• Thomasine Schwent and Dolores Reher, Port Angeles.

• Bill and Barb Pearl, Port Angeles.

• Sandy Frankfurth, Sequim. In loving memory of my brother Frank L. Sharp.

• Dorothy Phillips, Port Angeles. In honor of Franni, my brave, loyal, bossy, little Corgi.

• Glen and Jeanie Robards, Sequim.

• Artigas Charitable Fund, Cincinnati, Ohio.

• Christina Mace, Port Townsend. Donation for the Winter Shelter at Port Townsend’s American Legion Hall. Thank you.

• Nan Evans, Port Townsend.

• Anita Leccese, Port Angeles.

• Thomas and Barbara Sharp, Port Angeles.

• Michael Moss and Betty Gordon, Sequim.

• Susan and Eric Bjork, Port Angeles.

• Bob and Barbara Boekelheide, Sequim.

• Tom and Naomi Foley, Sequim. In memory of Barbara B. Mull.

Amount only

• $100, Sequim.

• $50, Sequim.

• $500, Port Angeles.

• $100, Sequim.

• $100, Port Angeles.

• $50, Sequim.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $1,000, Port Angeles.

• $200, Port Townsend.

• $200, Sequim.

• $500, Port Angeles.

• $100, Sequim. In memory of Frank Migliore.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $100.

• $100, Port Townsend.

• $500, Port Angeles.

• $75, Port Townsend.

• $750, Sequim.

• $50, Port Townsend.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $100, Port Townsend.

• $300, Port Townsend.

• $50, Sequim.

• $100, Sequim.

• $600, Port Angeles.

• $125, Port Angeles. To honor of my parents.

• $100, Port Angeles.

• $100, Sequim.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $750, Port Angeles.

• $100, Port Angeles.

• $300, Port Angeles.

• $1,000, Port Angeles.

• $75, Port Angeles.

• $200, Sequim. In memory of Amos Bernard.

• $100, Port Angeles. In memory of Bill Miller.

• $200, Sequim. In honor of Larry Phillips, Vietnam veteran.

• $100, Port Ludlow.

• $100, Port Angeles.

• $500, Port Angeles. In honor of Elfie.

• $50, Port Angeles.

• $100, Sequim.

• $100, Port Angeles.

• $100, Port Angeles. In memory of Danny Holmquist.

• $500, Sequim. In honor each our beloved fathers, Edward and Robert, both of whom served this country proudly.

• $300, Sequim.

• $25, Sequim.

• $200, Sequim.

• $100, Sequim.

• $100, Sequim.