PORT ANGELES — In Alexis Haire’s life, the support that came around is now going around.
Haire, 31, lives in a spacious house she built with her own hands; it’s part of a neighborhood she and seven other families constructed from the ground up.
They moved in five years ago after 10 months of labor: clearing debris from the land, leveling dirt, putting up trusses, doors, windows, siding and insulation; planting trees and roses.
Haire arrived here — in her sky-blue two-story house on Village Circle — thanks to the Peninsula Housing Authority’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.
The three-bedroom place is home for Haire and her girls, Lily and Maddie; their dad, Paul Spoon; their husky-German shepherd mix Nukka and their big, black cat Zippy.
About a decade ago, Haire lived across town in a Wildwood Terrace apartment. She worked at the Lower Elwha Klallam child care center and Lily, then 18 months old, was in Early Head Start, part of the Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP).
Through Early Head Start, Haire learned of OlyCAP and the Peninsula Home Fund, which lends a hand to working parents such as she.
As Haire was putting her funds together to move into that little apartment, a small Home Fund grant helped her buy a couple of things householders tend to take for granted: a vacuum cleaner and a microwave oven.
Back then, home ownership wasn’t high on Haire’s list of possibilities. Then she began to learn about the Peninsula Housing Authority’s “sweat equity” home-building program, the modern answer to a rural barn-raising.
Local and federal organizations, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Port Angeles Association of Realtors, work with families, singles and couples of various ages. After an application process, they become home- and neighborhood-builders. Combining federal and community financing plus sweat equity — 32 hours of labor weekly, per person — the Peninsula Housing Authority has sponsored a total of 87 self-help homes in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Now another home-building team is preparing to start construction in Port Angeles, while a new group is forming in Forks, according to www.PeninsulaPHA.org. That website has information about applying for the mutual self-help program in either community.
There’s a connection here, a link between the rented apartment and the house Haire owns today. Spoon, listening to her talk with a reporter, sums it up.
Back when it provided money for those two appliances, OlyCAP and the Peninsula Home Fund, “showed us there are people out there who can help,” he said.
OlyCAP demonstrated to Spoon and his family that in this community, no one is alone. Those who donate to the Peninsula Home Fund and those who work and volunteer at OlyCAP — they’re people who care about their neighbors.
Now Haire is an infant-toddler specialist at Early Head Start, so she’s gotten to know other families who receive Home Fund help. OlyCAP-issued vouchers and grants make it possible for people who’ve hit rough financial times to pay their heating bills, put food on their tables and buy gas to get to job interviews and jobs.
Haire and her family live a full life. Lily, 11, and Maddie, 7, are students at Roosevelt Elementary, and they have career plans: Maddie hopes to become a veterinarian while Lily thinks it would be excellent to drive the Metro bus in Seattle. The pay’s good, she hears.
Lily is a generous girl. About two years ago she went to a Port Angeles hair salon and had her long, tawny tresses cut off. She sent them to an organization providing wigs for cancer patients who’ve lost their hair after chemotherapy. Lily doesn’t recall which charity it was, but Locks of Love (www.LocksofLove.org) and www.wigs 4kids.org are among the nonprofit groups.
She found out about this giving opportunity, she said, in a video she saw on YouTube.
As Christmas approaches, Lily and her family look forward to choosing and cutting their own tree at the Lazy J Tree Farm in Agnew, and with school out, they will be able to spend more time making treats with their grandmother, Christine Haire.
They know her as Mimi, because that was easier to pronounce when the girls were younger.
Another highlight of the season: cookies and peanut butter balls — “we roll them up,” said Haire, “freeze them and dip them in chocolate.”
As for Haire, when asked to reflect on 2018, she could only say: “I love my house.”
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.