EDITOR’S NOTE: For 24 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund.
Today, we feature the first in a series of articles on how the fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.
More information about the Home Fund will appear Wednesday.
PORT TOWNSEND — Broke, busted, disgusted and in an economy that can’t be trusted, Gregory Brown, a once-successful carpenter and single father of two, feared his family would be homeless.
He worried how losing their home would affect his sons, Dakota, who just turned 18, and Gabriel, 13, who was born with disabilities.
“I thought we’d be living in my car,” he said.
“And if you know anything about children that have disabilities or have lived through traumatic situations, you know consistency is their key to stability.”
Brown, 60, is a well-educated man with a master’s degree in multicultural elementary education.
However, after working in education, he found he preferred working with his hands “out in the elements.”
He became a professional carpenter.
In recent years, he enjoyed success primarily building homes on speculation “from the dirt all the way up to turn-key.”
When the market for spec homes crashed because of the recession, he was able to get a job as a maintenance man at a local hotel.
When it closed because of the economy, he went on unemployment.
But his monthly stipend wasn’t enough to cover expenses.
The bills for his family mounted quickly.
He got an eviction notice.
“I never, ever thought I’d be in that position,” he said.
He found help from the OlyCAP office in Port Townsend.
OlyCAP is nonprofit Olympic Community Action Programs, the No. 1 emergency-care agency in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
It also screens the applicants for the Peninsula Daily News’ “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund and distributes the funds.
“Getting their help was life-changing,” Brown said.
The Home Fund was tapped for resources to help Brown and his children, and as soon as the lease expired on his rural home outside Port Townsend, his counselor at OlyCAP arranged for them to move into a more-affordable apartment in town off Hancock Street.
With the move, he discovered something unexpected.
He no longer suffered from SAD — seasonal affective disorder — the depression brought on during the winter at his old home by reduced sunlight and colder weather.
The new apartment was full of windows and light.
“There [at the home in the country], we were surrounded by 50- to 60-year-old trees about 250 feet high, so we didn’t have a lot of sun,” he said.
“Here, we have all these windows, and we get major sun shining through here. It’s just wonderful.”
He has been able to find work on and off as a handyman. Part-time works best for him right now.
“As time goes on and Gabriel gets older,” he said, “I’m finding that a full-time job doesn’t work with a child with disabilities, so right now, I pretty much have to stick with part-time work as a handyman, and it’s working out well.”
And, he added, “I feel lucky to live in this incredible Victorian town.”
Port Townsend “is a small town where almost everybody here is pretty happy.
“Even if they’re going through rough times, a lot of people smile in this town.
“And people just help one another, so it’s a great town and place to live.
“I am so very grateful for things like the Home Fund for helping me regain a stable life for my kids.”
Home Fund campaign
The PDN’s 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 goes for hot meals for seniors, meeting rent, energy and transportation needs, warm winter coats for kids, home repairs for the low-income, needed eyeglasses and prescription drugs, dental work, safe and drug-free temporary housing . . .
The list goes on and on.
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 2011: $254,593.73.
With heavy demand this year, the carefully rationed fund is being depleted rapidly.
Since Jan. 1, the Home Fund has helped more than 2,700 individuals and households like that of Greg Brown and his two sons.
As we move into winter, the toughest period of the year, all of the money collected in 2011 is expected to be exhausted by Dec. 31.
■ The Peninsula Home Fund is a unique nonprofit program.
No money is deducted by the Peninsula Daily News.
Every penny goes to OlyCAP to help the most vulnerable members of our community, from infants to families to seniors.
Because of the extraordinary demand experienced by OlyCAP in 2011 and 2012 — and plummeting cutbacks in grants and government support — for the first time in the 24-year history of the Home Fund, OlyCAP used a portion of the fund in 2012 to pay for the helping hands who see clients.
The amount is limited to no more than 10 percent — 10 cents of every dollar donated.
OlyCAP has kept it below 10 percent — specifically, 8.9 percent.
The fund is not set up to hand out money passively.
OlyCAP can no longer absorb the costs of managing all the facets of the Home Fund — screening applicants, providing counseling and carefully disbursing the funds — without financial assistance.
It must tap a small portion of the fund as tough times compound the challenges it faces to help those in need.
■ The Home Fund is not a welfare program.
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 about $57 per family.
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.
The Home Fund staff’s most important goal is to get the individual or family through a crisis and back on the path of self-sufficiency.
Whenever possible, case managers 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.
The goal again: “a hand up, not a handout.”
■ All contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible for the year in which a check is written.
(See accompanying box.)
■ Your personal information 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, phone OlyCAP at 360-452-4726 (Clallam County) or 360-385-2571 (Jefferson County).
■ OlyCAP’s Port Angeles office is at 228 W. First St., Suite J (Armory Square Mall); 360-452-4726.
■ Its Port Townsend office is at 803 W. Park Ave.; 360-385-2571.
■ The Forks/West End office is at 421 Fifth Ave.; 360-374-6193.
OlyCAP’s website: www.olycap.org; email: email@example.com.
If you have any questions about the fund, phone John Brewer, Peninsula Daily News editor and publisher, at 360-417-3500.
Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Peninsula Daily News publishes the donation coupon and information about the fund every Sunday and Wednesday during the fundraising campaign.
Contributions so far
We’ve gotten a running start on this year’s holiday season fundraising campaign.
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.
Thank you very much for making a difference in the lives — and futures — of your neighbors like Greg Brown and his two sons:
■ The Crafty Ladies, Port Angeles — $100. In memory of Mae Gagnon and Ann McCartney.
■ Joyce and Beraud Mestayer, Sequim — $100.
■ Russ and Margaret Carlson, Port Angeles — $100. In honor of Catherine Eleanor Grace Laib. In honor of Catherine’s 100th birthday, January 4, 2012. A birthday wish made long ago will come true by helping others! Happy Birthday, Mom.
■ Mel and Helen Williams, Port Townsend — $100. In memory of Marion Platt.
■ Robert and Virginia Kuhn, Port Angeles — $100.
■ InSpired! [gift store], Port Angeles — $300.
■ Margaret J. Levitan, Port Angeles — $100. In honor of living in the Pacific Northwest.
■ Proceeds from Andrew May’s Peninsula Daily News Garden Bus Tour to the 2012 Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle— $900.
Many thanks also to these donors (who requested that the amount of their donation be kept private):
■ Ron and Bobbi Khile, Port Townsend. In memory of Gerald K. Sandquist.
■ Ron and Bobbi Khile, Port Townsend. In memory of Gail Rayment.
■ Peninsula Daily News employees, Port Angeles.
■ Mike and B.J. Kurnajetz, Port Angeles. To honor the Kurnajetz and Vincent families and all our 9th & “E” Street neighbors.
■ Barbara Frederick, Port Angeles. In honor of Anita, Char, Pam, Laura and Cher.
■ Olympic Lodge No 37 Sons of Norway, Port Angeles. In memory of Florence Ninke.
■ Ed Dougherty and Kathy Snyder, Port Angeles. In memory of Floyd Matthews.
■ Irene Irvine and Dick Goodman, Port Angeles.
■ Mark and Pat Lewis, Sequim.
■ Sons of Norway Olympic Lodge No. 37, Port Angeles. In memory of Florence Ninke.
■ Marge Peterson, Sequim. In memory of Bob Peterson.
■ Sherman and Eileen Knight, Port Angeles.
■ Clallam Transit Employees Association, Port Angeles.
■ Claude Hall, Sequim.
■ Margaret Levitan, Sequim. In memory of Seymour Levitan.
■ Estes Builders, Sequim.
■ Just For Dolls of Washington, Port Angeles. These funds were earned from our “American Girl” doll raffle at our Feb. 4, 2012, show and sale.
■ Park View Villa Resident Council, Port Angeles.
■ Paul Richmond, Port Angeles.
■ Joseph Cammack, Port Angeles.
■ AMS Audio Enterprises, Inc., Sequim.
■ Olympic Springs Inc., Carlsborg.
Many thanks also to these donors (who requested anonymity):
■ Sequim — $50.
■ Port Angeles — $200.
■ Sequim — $25. In memory of Leonard and Tea Beil.
■ Port Angeles — $50. In memory of Deborah.
■ Sequim — $50.
■ Port Angeles — $100.
■ Port Townsend — $50.
■ Port Angeles — $100.
■ Port Ludlow — $150.
■ Sequim — $500.
■ Port Townsend — $200.
■ Port Angeles — $30. Tribute to Mark Harvey for his wonderful contributions to our community. Angels do walk among us!
■ Port Angeles — $50.
■ Carlsborg — $100.
■ Port Angeles — $500.
■ Cedar Falls, Iowa — $100.
HANDWRITING CAN BE hard to decipher at times.
Please report any errors in this list to John Brewer, 360-417-3500 (there’s voice mail if he’s away), or email him at email@example.com.
We’ll rerun the listing correctly.
Our sincerest appreciation again to our donors.