SEQUIM — Ask Rachel Anderson for two good things that happened this past year, and she answers in an instant.
“Luna started walking — so exciting,” she begins.
This small miracle of motion belongs to Anderson’s youngest, angel-faced Luna. At 18 months old now, she’s a curious imp who explores the contents of this reporter’s handbag. She pulls out a phone, some pens, a lipstick and a debit card before her mom picks her up for some cuddling.
Anderson and Luna are a sunny pair. They’re participants in Early Head Start, the pre-preschool run by the Olympic Community Action Programs, or OlyCAP; the family also has benefited from small, much-needed grants from the Peninsula Home Fund.
Anderson and her husband of nine years, Tristan, for a time received Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. But the federally funded TANF benefits ended late last year, and they needed a hand. While they live in an apartment categorized as “affordable housing” on Sequim’s eastern edge, the rent has gone up and up again.
Through OlyCAP, Anderson learned of the Home Fund, the safety net created three decades ago for local families like hers. The people of Clallam and Jefferson counties make donations year-round, and OlyCAP administers the fund. The agency translates contributions directly into grants and vouchers for needs such as heating bills, bus passes and car repairs — things recipients need to get to work and get through the winter.
The Andersons’ three grants weren’t much — just $25 each — but they meant a lot to the young parents.
Home Fund sums paid for diapers, laundry supplies and hygiene products — stuff they just couldn’t afford at the end of the month.
Anderson is a full-time mother to Luna and to her sister Terra, 6, and brother Vincent, 8. He is, “boy howdy,” a handful since day one, Mom said with a big smile. She added that her eldest is “super smart” and good in math.
Which brings us to another happy thing from 2019: Dad Tristan passed his onerous math class to move forward in his information technology program at Peninsula College. The December day he walked in the door to announce this, Anderson recalled, was one of joyful relief. Math has long been a troublesome subject for Tristan.
Fortunately, said Anderson, he’s strong in people skills. Working with humans bewildered by their computers, Tristan “knows how to talk to them. He doesn’t condescend.”
He’ll complete his degree this year, and be certified to run help desks as well as build computers and networks.
“Thank goodness for financial aid,” Anderson said.
She and Tristan met in July 2010 after finding each other on the dating site OKCupid. They knew, after a short courtship, that this was the one. Married since September 2010, they’ve had their rocky stretches.
“But anything worthwhile takes effort,” Anderson said. She’s from Sequim; he grew up in Federal Way and Spanaway. “We both come from rough homes,” she added.
Their Sequim apartment is a peaceful space. Anderson, who creates mandalas and sacred geometry — “I’ve always been kind of bohemian” — dreams of starting her own art business and even becoming a tattooist. She hopes to wait until her children are all in school, though, before she seeks full-time work outside their home.
Along with running her household, she volunteers on OlyCAP’s Head Start policy council, and has been elected chairwoman. The council is a kind of board of directors that approves the yearly work plan, advocates for Head Start programs in the community and sits in on interviews of new staffers.
“We are really happy to have her. She is a wonderful spokesperson for what we do,” said Diana Assumpcao, longtime manager in OlyCAP’s Early Childhood Services division.
Anderson, like many parents, spent time on the waiting list before enrolling her daughter in Early Head Start. Assumpcao encourages parents of children age 0 to 3 — and expectant moms and dads — to visit www.OlyCAP.org/get-help/early-childhood for an application.
Anyone seeking information can also phone OlyCAP’s Clallam office at 360-452-4726 or the Jefferson County staff at 360-385-2571. The agency’s offices are open for in-person visits at 228 W. First St., Suite J, in Port Angeles’ Armory Square, and 823 Commerce Loop in Port Townsend.
When she’s asked what else she looks forward to in this new year, Anderson again shows where — who — her priorities are.
“My kids’ birthdays,” she said, “are always fun,” since two are close together in April and the other one is near her own in July.
And how old will Anderson be?
She has to think for a few seconds.
“Thirty,” she said; “I’m turning 30.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.