Peninsula Home Fund provides ‘just a little bit more to get by’

PORT ANGELES — When life gives you crates of lemons with no way to juice them, how do you make lemonade?

Billi and Eric Smoot figured it out.

The young couple found themselves in a tough spot. They had been experiencing a series of difficulties with complicated family issues, deaths and a challenging legal situation. It reached a point where they were homeless and knew they had to change the paradigm.

“We picked up and literally moved overnight to Port Angeles for a fresh new start,” explained Billi, a full-time student at WSU Global Campus, graduating next spring with a bachelor’s in accounting. She’s also a full-time employee who admits she “doesn’t get much sleep these days.”

“We left everything behind and are starting over,” she said. “We came here with only what would fit in our Jeep.”

Eric is a devoted husband and full-time dad to their young son, and to two daughters from a previous marriage.

“Everything I do is for my kids,” he said. “I travel twice a week to Whatcom County to visit my girls. We are currently in a custody case. I work when I can to make sure I have the resources to get over there and back.”

Although their experiences have been dramatic and life altering, their bond is very strong.

Billi lost her grandmother and mother with whom she was very close. Their passing impacted her deeply. Combined with a stressful family situation, the challenges of school, working, and being a mom, it can be overwhelming sometimes, she said. She has a therapy animal, Mahti-ti Rebel Softpaws, to help her through some of the stress.

“We left an abusive situation and re-established ourselves here. I got a job, our child is in school and we’re OK despite having been homeless for awhile.”

The Peninsula Home Fund, administered by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCap), provided the couple a deposit for an apartment and help with utilities.

“You know, people go through rough patches. This was ours. I was one of those people who was taught don’t ever ask for help. So this was something that was hard for me to do,” Billi said.

“Eric and I agreed to accept assistance because without it we weren’t going to get anywhere. As much as we tried to do this on our own, we needed just a little bit more to get by.”

“People don’t understand homelessness. They don’t understand how people can become homeless when they have jobs. It’s all in the accounting,” she explained.

“The Home Fund was a boost. They told us, ‘You’re gonna make it and this is what we can do to help you.’ And they came through. It was a stellar moment for us.”

“I wish there was something I could do to help them in return,” Eric said.

“We appreciate what the Home Fund did and we have no problem sharing our story.”

“We have to stay hopeful — for our marriage, the children and the future. This is just a small glitch in our life story. We can do this. It will get better,” Billi said.

Billi is planning to continue her studies towards an MBA with a focus on the hospitality industry. She hopes one day to create a relaxing retreat for people who are facing some of the same emotional issues she has experienced.

Eric, who is passionate about skateboarding, is a builder of skate parks. He said he’d like to put his design talents to work to create a happy place for youth to enjoy the challenge of his banks, bowls, ramps, decks, rails and pipes.

Billi sums up the couple’s positive outlook with a financial metaphor:

“We started with rocks; now we have a piece of gold. It’s a small piece, but we are holding onto it. It will keep growing.”

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 $62 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.)

• 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 $264,486 contributed to the Peninsula Home Fund in 2016, OlyCAP had helped 3,400 people from Jan. 1 to Nov. 9.

The remaining funding of $26,402 will continue to help your friends and neighbors on the Peninsula through the middle of January — when 2017 donations will begin to offer a lifeline in 2018.

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: [email protected]

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 https://secure.peninsuladailynews.com/homefund.

Here is a list of donors whose Home Fund contributions were processed during the week of Nov. 30-Dec.6.

Name and amountNancy and Ed Grier, Port Angeles, $200.

DEW, Sequim, $500.

Tim McNulty and Mary Morgan, Sequim, $100.

Ed and Cheryl Merrill, Port Townsend, $250.

Pamela Westlake-Mirrer, Sequim, $200. In memory of Laurie Westlake.

Nydia Levick, Sequim, $100. In memory of Dal Kilmer.

Mary Lee Long, Port Angeles, $100.

David Bednarski, Snohomish, $500. In memory of Ron Bednarski.

Randy and Sherry Smith, Sequim, $100.

Carol Lee and Robin Moses, Carlsborg, $500.

Name onlyEldora Pederson, Port Angeles.

Terry R. Santos, Sequim.

John Urish, Port Angeles.

Lillian J. Adamson, Port Angeles.

Barbara E. VanderWerf, Sequim.

Vicci Rudin, Port Angeles.

Paul F. Gleeson, Port Angeles.

Connee Foster, Port Angeles.

Wendy Oak, Port Angeles.

Valerie Mohr, Sekiu.

Joseph L. Price, Sequim.

Karen Holtrop, Sequim.

Fred Weinmann, Port Townsend.

Curt Oppelt, Port Angeles.

Joseph L. Price, Sequim.

Barbara Deese, Port Angeles.

Mark Swanson, Port Angeles.

Terry Ward, Poulsbo.

Gary, Jan and Brian Holmquist, Port Angeles. In loving memory of Danny Holmquist. We love and miss you so much, each and every day.

Veli Kallio, Joyce.

Ralph and Cathey Bauman, Port Angeles.

Phil and Debi Saxton, Port Townsend. In loving memory of Don and Eileen Garling.

Beverly Smola, Sequim. In memory of my son, Tom Carlin.

Cyndi Ross, Port Angeles.

Norma Peirce and Sharon Hall, Sequim.

Lucille Caughron, Sequim. In honor of Leonard Caughron.

Teddy Gaskill, Port Angeles. In memory of John Nelson.

Tristan Bell, Port Angeles. In memory of Beth Kovac-Row.

Marcus Reinertson, Port Angeles.

Richard and Karen Grennan, Sequim. In memory of all our loved ones who remain in our hearts.

Art and Ruth Dewey, Sequim. In honor of the Brit Pit Gang.

Van A. Maxwell and Rennie Shannon, Port Angeles.

Sally Rodgers, Port Townsend.

Judith Lindberg, Port Angeles. In memory of Marvin and Ruth Lindberg, my beloved parents.

Bernt Ericsen, Port Townsend.

Bengt and Ann Nilsson, Sequim.

Sue and Bob Erzen, Sequim.

Larry and Darla Kalsbeek, Sequim. In memory of Kimberly Kalsbeek.

Jim and Cathy Hinz, Sequim.

Chris Minard, Carlsborg. In memory of Barbara J. Minard.

Toni Randall, Port Angeles.

Gary and Geri Braun, Port Angeles.

Bob and Libby Stack, Sequim.

Don and Faith Knowles, Sequim.

Marjorie Faires, Port Angeles.

Kathleen E. Devanney, Port Townsend.

Russell and Arlene McClelland, Sequim.

Bill and Georgia Keeran, Sequim.

Bob and Barbara Gray, Port Townsend. In memory of Michael Gray.

Gene and Jean Spargo, Sequim.

James R. Karr, Sequim.

Kay Garrison, Port Angeles.

Kay and Don Allen, Port Townsend. In memory of Vida Mae and Bryan Dennis.

Gary and Dianne Salyer, Sequim.

M.P. Minor, Sequim.

Bonnie Dyrness, Sequim.

Larry and Lynn Gosser, Port Angeles.

Dennis and Diane Isaac, Sequim. In honor of Karen and Dean Conklin.

Jon and Lori Jacobs, Port Angeles.

Janet Nickolaus, Port Angeles. In memory of Jim and Winnie Nickolaus.

Kris Ecklund, Sequim. In memory of Stewart Michael Harris.

Stephen Conner and Weezie Jenkins, Port Townsend.

Roland Raymond . In memory of R.C. and Vivian Raymond.

Susan Molin, Sequim. In honor of the North Olympic Land Trust.

William and Carol Peet, Port Angeles.

Dona R. Cloud, Port Angeles.

Russ and Janet Holt, Sequim.

Doug and Trudy Rittenhouse, Port Angeles.

Kerry and Marilyn Perkins, Port Angeles. In memory of Jeannie Seresun Rawley.

Greg and Vicki Sensiba, Sequim.

LaRue Robirts, Sequim. In memory of Dale Robirts.

Esther Baker, Port Angeles.

Penny Ervin, Port Angeles. In memory of Doug and Carole Cudd.

Barbara Brittingham, Port Angeles. In memory of my younger sisters, Joan and Laurie.

Rosemary Kane, Port Angeles. In memory of Midge Bader.

Anne Dalton, Port Angeles. In memory of Bob Dalton.

Al and Kathy Cox, Sequim.

Ellen and Ted Tsoneff, Port Angeles. In honor of Glenn Goldberg.

David and Marcia Chance, Port Angeles. In honor of family, friends and traditions.

Amount onlySequim, $100.

Sequim, $100.

Port Townsend. $100.

Port Townsend, $100. In memory of G.W. Thorsen.

Sequim, $100.

Port Angeles, $150.

Sequim, $100.

Port Angeles, $200.

Port Ludlow, $100.

Chimacum, $200.

Sequim, $200.

Port Angeles, $25. In memory of Phil Hill.

Port Angeles, $15.

Port Angeles, $200.

Port Angeles, $1,250.

Sequim, $200.

Nordland, $25.

Sequim, $50.

Sequim, $1,000.

Sequim, $100.

Sequim, $25.

Sequim, $300.

Port Angeles, $100.

Sequim, $25.

Sequim, $100

Sequim, $100.

Port Townsend, $30.

Port Angeles, $400. In memory of Bal and Jack.

Sequim, $350.

Sequim, $30.

Sequim, $200. In honor of Ron Farquhar.

Port Hadlock, $25.

Port Angeles, $100.

Sequim, $20.

Port Townsend, $100.

Sequim, $200.

Port Angeles, $100.

Port Angeles, $100. In memory of Gene Calder.

Port Ludlow, $200.

Sequim, $65.

Port Angeles, $100.

Port Angeles, $50.

Port Angeles, $150.

Sequim, $200.

Port Angeles, $100.

Port Angeles, $500.

Port Angeles, $100.

Port Angeles, $200.

Port Angeles, 250.

Port Angeles, $500. In honor of Vince Bettger.

Sequim, $200. In honor of Jewel.

Sequim, $205. In memory of Paul Lauritzen.

Sequim, $100. In honor of all the community volunteers.

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