Erica McClain, a Sequim artist, stands before one of her creations. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

PENINSULA HOME FUND: A gift of glasses allows artist to pursue her calling

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. peninsuladaily news.com/home fund.

SEQUIM — Unfurled on the table, it’s like a map of a fantastical garden. A giant painting is alive with birds — 208 of them — in flight amidst a sea of flowers.

The scene comes from the mind and heart of Erica McClain, a Sequim artist and recipient of a small Peninsula Home Fund grant.

Art, in a sense, saved McClain’s life. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2008, the result of a car crash in Seattle, she said.

Previously, she had worked in leather, making fine handbags, sandals and boots.

That all stopped after the wreck. What started was something entirely new: paintings in black and white and sometimes blue, made with sharpened wooden sticks and toothpicks. Although McClain had trouble speaking and remembering, she could make art like never before.

Paper, swaths of white, is her canvas as McClain spends innumerable hours painting hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, flowers, women.

She says some who see her art are at a loss for words. Is this Chinese painting? Japanese? How did you learn?

“It’s Erica painting,” is all she can say.

But earlier this year, McClain was stymied. Her vision is weak, and she depends on prescription eyeglasses.

Her only pair was lost. Without them, she couldn’t paint, but her meager disability benefits meant buying new glasses wasn’t possible.

“I was desperate,” she recalled.

Someone told her that OlyCAP, administrator of the Peninsula Home Fund, made grants to people in need. McClain applied for and received one: just $105 enabled her to get a brand-new pair.

She resumed painting, astonishing friends — and strangers — with her work.

Michael Mills, a professor of art at Peninsula College and the faculty adviser for the college’s Tidepools art and literary magazine, was one of the strangers to McClain’s particular format.

He said two things happened when McClain walked into his office, art in her arms.

First, the images dazzled him.

Then he discovered how she made them and was doubly impressed.

“These huge drawings … immediately spoke to me. Having a fondness for woodcut prints, I loved the high contrast and the incredible textures, particularly those of the natural world,” Mills said.

“We talked about the two or three images leaning against my wall for a few minutes before she revealed her technique: the fact that she had more or less done these enormous drawings with toothpicks dipped in ink.”

Mills put one of McClain’s images on the cover of the 2015 edition of Tidepools, though this honor didn’t come with any prize money.

McClain acknowledges that since the crash, she’s had a hard time. She cannot afford her own apartment and shares one with her mother, Jill Christian. Her grown children, a son and a daughter, live in Chelan and Seattle respectively, and she doesn’t want to burden them.

She has displayed her work in galleries around Sequim and Port Angeles but had to take it down for lack of funds for gallery membership fees. For now, she still has paintings up at the Family Christian bookstore in Lynnwood, she said.

During this season of thanksgiving, McClain feels gratitude for her family and for other aspects of her life.

“I have a good spiritual life,” she said, “and I have friends who care for me and understand me.”

She’s grateful, too, to the Peninsula Home Fund and expressed this by presenting OlyCAP with one of her abstract vertical paintings. It hangs near a window at the agency’s Port Angeles office.

“I really needed help, and you were there for me,” McClain writes in a note posted beside her work.

“Now that I have new glasses, I’m going to paint like crazy.”

“Erica is one of the many clients that we help each year with prescription glasses,” said Laura Calabria, a client services specialist at OlyCAP.

“The vision coverage that most low-income clients have covers exams, but not the purchase of the glasses. So they get into the predicament of knowing they can’t see but not being able to afford to fix it.

“Helping her with this is just a small step that can prevent other obstacles down the road.”

McClain, for her part, hopes to earn more income from her paintings, find an apartment of her own — and give more to OlyCAP.

“It would be wonderful,” she said, “to be able to give back to the people who’ve helped me.”

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 LaPush, 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 average amount of help this year has been $68.17 per person.

The maximum allowance per year is $350 per household.

• 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 2,994 individuals — 1,045 households on the Peninsula — through the end of October.

The remaining funding of $51,361 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 Terry Ward, PDN publisher, at 360-417-3500. Or email tward@peninsula dailynews.com.

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, please click on www.secure.peninsula dailynews.com/homefund.

Below is a list of donors whose contributions were processed between Nov. 24-29:

Name and amount

• Robert C. Zech, Port Angeles, $100

• Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and 7 Cedars Casino, Sequim, $5,000

• Hoch Construction, Port Angeles, $1,000

• Team Thomson, realtors, Port Angeles, $250. In memory of all veterans.

• John Brewer, Port Angeles, $250. In honor of the hard-working staffers of the Peninsula Daily News.

• Gary and Elaine Nelson, Port Townsend, $50

• Ruth Messing and Mary Jo Cain, Sequim, $500

• Thomas and Barbara Pelett, Port Angeles, $100

• Doug and Trudy Rittenhouse, Port Angeles, $100

Names only

• Olympic Springs, Carlsborg

• John and Renee Jones, Sequim

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles

• Hillcrest Baptist Church, Port Angeles

• Jim and Marci Thomsen, Port Angeles. In memory of Mary (Yaple) Watson, Christmas celebrant extraordinaire, and 30 years of fun with our “B-M-W Tree-Viewing Tour and Stomach-Filling Event.”

• Jim and Julie Haguewood, Port Angeles

• Mary Sue Brancato and Ed Bowlby, Sequim

• Randy and Deana Volker, Port Angeles

• Laura Behr and Tom Christman, Port Angeles

• Alan and Michaelle Barnard, Port Angeles

• Diane Kaufman, Port Angeles

• Gary and Patricia Flesner, Sequim. In memory of Jim and Jean.

• Herb and Marolyn Russell, Port Angeles. In loving memory of Will and Carolyn Muller.

• Barbara Erler and Mel Perricone, Sequim. In memory of Jim Dow and Jim Harlan.

• John Trowbridge, Sequim

• Claudia and Rich Fox, Sequim. In honor of Dan Holmquist.

• Susan and Wayne Roberts, Port Angeles

• Barbara Vanderwerf, Sequim

• Roger and Maura Oakes, Port Angeles. In memory of Dorothy Skerbeck.

• Rose Crumb, Port Angeles. In memory of Red Crumb.

• Ed and Sue Marx, Port Angeles. In memory of Maxine Clark.

• Gary, Jan and Brian Holmquist, Port Angeles. In loving memory of Danny Holmquist.

• Sue and C.V. Tondrean, Sequim

• Homer and Karla Muto, Port Angeles

• Voneda Stiewe, Chimacum

• Kent and Rosemary Brauninger, Port Angeles

• Ellen and Ted Tsoneff, Port Angeles

• Carol Young and Glenn Browning, Sequim

• Rick and Wendy Oak, Port Angeles

• Kevin and Connee Foster, Port Angeles

• Quail Hollow Psychotherapy, PLLC, Sequim

• Drs. Judy M. and Joseph L. Price, Sequim

• Carolyn Morillo, Port Angeles

• Judith A. Lindberg, Port Angeles. In memory of Marvin and Ruth Lindberg, my parents, who taught me the value of giving unselfishly and that the greatest gift is love.

• Samuel Shusterman, Port Townsend. In memory of Frances P. Shusterman and Esther H. Fine.

• Randi and Heather Hansen, Port Angeles. In memory of friends and family who have passed on. We miss you all.

• Dennis Beguelin, Sequim

• Russell Hesselman, Port Angeles. In memory of Sandra and Scott Hesselman.

• Richard S. Seaman, Port Angeles

• A. Laverne Dixon, Port Angeles

• Beth McGuffin, Sequim

• Leila Roberts, Port Angeles. In memory of Dan Roberts Sr.

• Evan, Brett and Thea Waldron, Port Angeles. In memory of Evan “Matt” Waldron. You are missed and loved.

• League of British Women, Carlsborg

• Dr. Roger Eichman, Norland

• Kaaren Peterson, Port Angeles

• Norma Peirce and Sharon Hall, Sequim

• Donald Leslie, Sequim. In memory of Blossom Leslie.

• Eldora Pederson, Port Angeles

• Larry and Marilynn Elliott, Sequim. In memory of John Bugher, Mary Flo Bruce, Sandy Decrman and Rita Dinger.

• Mark and Ninette Swanson, Port Angeles. In honor of our parents, and with thanks to everyone who has made us feel at home in Port Angeles.

• Terry R. Santos, Sequim

• Ross and Virginia Canning, Port Angeles

• Ron and Michele Franker, Port Angeles

Amount only

• $10, Port Angeles

• $500, Port Angeles. In memory of Vincent Anthony Bettger. We miss your bright smile and warm giving heart.

• $200, Sequim

• $350, Sequim

• $500, Port Townsend

• $600, Port Angeles

• $100, Port Angeles

• $15, Sequim

• $30, Port Townsend

• $100, Port Angeles

• $50, Sequim

• $100, Port Angeles

• $50, Sequim

• $1,000, Port Angeles. In memory of Bob Boardman.

• $25, Port Angeles. In memory of William Gaskill.

• $200, Sequim

• $200, Port Angeles

• $50, Sequim

__________

EVEN THE BEST handwriting can be hard to decipher at times.

Please report any errors in this list to 360-452-2345.

We’ll rerun the listing correctly.

Our sincerest appreciation again to our donors.

^

Give voice to your heart

A GIFT OF any size is welcome.

Peninsula Home Fund has never been a campaign of heavy hitters.

If you can contribute only a few dollars, please don’t hesitate because you think it won’t make a difference.

Every gift makes a difference, regardless of its size.

From children’s pennies to checks for thousands of dollars, the generosity of Peninsula Daily News readers makes a positive difference.

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 does not rent, sell, give or otherwise share your address or other information with anyone or make any other use of it.

To donate, write a check to “Peninsula Home Fund” and attach it to the coupon that appears in today’s PDN.

Mail both items to Peninsula Home Fund, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

You can also contribute online using a credit card: Just click on https://secure.peninsuladaily news.com/homefund.

^

To delay may mean to forget.

Birds fly across Erica McClain’s paintings. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

OlyCAP staff members Marki Lockhart, left, and Laura Calabria frame a painting given to the agency by artist and Peninsula Home Fund beneficiary Erica McClain. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

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