Maskerem Muka and her 4-year-old son

PENINSULA HOME FUND: A hand up to a mother and her son

EDITOR’S NOTE: For 25 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund.

More information about how the Home Fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity, plus a list of new donors, will be published in Sunday’s PDN.

To donate online by credit card, click on https://secure.peninsuladailynews.com/homefund.

PORT ANGELES — Maskerem Muka, a university-trained accountant, had met an American in Ethiopia and came to Port Angeles more than two years ago to be with him.

But their relationship grew fragile, and, this fall, she found herself going it alone with her 4-year-old son, Adam.

Where to live? How to get food? Where to find work?

“I didn’t have anything,” Maskerem said. “My life was messy, so I began by asking people one by one.”

Mother and son found a bridge past the crisis — food, clothing and other basics covered — through the Port Angeles Head Start program and through OlyCAP, which tapped the Peninsula Daily News’ Peninsula Home Fund and other resources.

OlyCAP — Olympic Community Action Programs, the No. 1 emergency-care agency in Jefferson and Clallam counties — manages the Home Fund for the PDN, screens the applicants, carefully disburses the funds and provides life-changing counseling and services to those who need a “hand up, not a handout.”

Temporary housing came through Healthy Families of Clallam County, and Maskerem, 31, is now working with the Peninsula Housing Authority on a longer-range solution.

Other support came from a lattice of other assistance, including an opportunity to take business and accounting classes at Peninsula College and giving back through volunteer work with Serenity House of Clallam County’s community services.

“I want to be independent, but right now, I can’t,” Maskerem said.

Eventually, she hopes to return with her son to Ethiopia where her mother and brothers still reside. Her strong work ethic makes her aware that she is going to have to earn her own way home.

“Someday, I want to help other people because I am grateful to people who have helped us,” she said.

Fundraising campaign

Peninsula Home Fund — a safety net for local residents when there is nowhere else to turn — is seeking contributions for its annual holiday season fundraising campaign that runs from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31.

From Port Townsend to Forks, from Quilcene and Brinnon to Sequim and LaPush, the Home Fund is a “hand up, not a handout” for children, teens, families and the elderly to get through an emergency situation.

Money from the Home Fund is used for hot meals for seniors in Jefferson and Clallam counties; warm winter coats for kids; keeping the heat on, home repairs, clothing, furniture, food, rent and other essentials for a low-income family; needed prescription drugs; dental work; safe, drug-free temporary housing; eyeglasses — the list goes on and on.

3,100 helped

Begun in 1989, the Home Fund is supported by Jefferson and Clallam residents.

Individuals, couples, families, businesses, churches, service organizations and school groups set a record for contributions in 2012: $268,137.

With heavy demand again this year, the carefully rationed fund is being depleted rapidly.

Since Jan. 1, the Home Fund has helped more than 3,100 individuals and households, many with children.

As we move into winter, the toughest period of the year, all of the money collected in 2012 is expected to be exhausted by Dec. 31.

Assistance, which usually averages less than $100, is also limited to one time in a 12-month period.

The average amount of help this year has been $69.86 per family.

But even though the dollar figures are small, the impact can be big, in huge, life-changing ways.

And, as needed, Peninsula Home Fund donations are also used in conjunction with money from churches, service clubs and other donors, enabling OlyCAP to stretch the value of the contribution.

No money is deducted by the Peninsula Daily News for administration fees or any other overhead.

Every penny goes to OlyCAP to help the most vulnerable members of our community.

All contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law for the year in which a check is written.

Your personal information also is kept confidential.

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

Applying for a 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: [email protected]

Geoff Crump, OlyCAP’s executive director, oversees disbursements from the Peninsula Home Fund. He can be reached at 360-385-2571 or by emailing [email protected]

If you have any questions about the fund, phone John Brewer, PDN editor and publisher, at 360-417-3500.

Or email [email protected]

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