EDITOR’S NOTE — For 21 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the Peninsula Home Fund.
Today, we feature another in a series of articles that provides a window into how the fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.
It is the final article of the campaign, which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Please make your donation now before midnight Friday. Another list of donors will appear Sunday.
PORT ANGELES — V is for vital, for victory and for Victoria Zmuda.
The 20-year-old mother has chosen not to be owned by her past but to create a healthier future for herself, her family and, she says, any of those she can help in the future.
In the beginning, Victoria’s road to independence was rocky, and she made many mistakes — but she says people showed her great kindness and never gave up on her.
“It’s really nice to have positive people to look to as an example and to help guide me as to what I need to learn and do to get on my feet,” she says.
Now, she says, she’s proud to be known as the “Go-to Girl” for other teens in need.
“So many kids aren’t aware of all the programs out there to help,” says Victoria.
“I like to be a resource they can approach and ask where to get help.”
Pregnant at 16, she dropped out of high school and tried to make a life with the baby’s father. But both were too young, and the pressure pushed them apart.
She sought help at OlyCAP’s Port Angeles office where she was referred to the First Step Family Support Center, an organization she says changed her life forever.
OlyCAP is the 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.
“Growing up, I never had a responsible adult tell me I needed to learn to get up on my feet, become independent and learn to give help back to others,” says the mother of two, William, 4, and Marticia, 2.
“Now, I’m a big activist for First Step. Last year, I helped them raise $18,000 just by talking.”
Helped by Home Fund
Since 1971, First Step Family Support Center, an award-winning nonprofit at 325 E. Sixth St. in Port Angeles, has provided support and education services to encourage the healthy development of families in Clallam County.
As a guest auctioneer at a fundraiser for First Step last year, Victoria helped raise more than $12,000.
More than $5,000 was raised when she spoke at other meetings.
“When people started donating just because I was talking, I started bawling my eyes out I was so happy.
“After that, I started to feel everything in my life coming into place.”
The Peninsula Daily News’ Home Fund supported her as she began moving toward self-sufficiency, providing bus passes and fuel vouchers to help her get to work and deliver her children to day care.
Other organizations have further aided Victoria on her road toward her goal of self-sufficiency and providing her children with the stable family life she experienced before her father died when she was 7.
She received assistance from Serenity House’s Evergreen Family Village transitional housing programs.
She was also accepted into OlyCAP’s community jobs program. It provides on-the-job training in conjunction with the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Subsequently, she got hired at Family Planning of Clallam County as an administrative assistant.
“Family Planning opened my eyes to nonprofits,” says Victoria, adding, not only did she get a job, but she also learned the importance of giving to charity.
Now she feels it’s a privilege, not even a burden or sacrifice, but a privilege to help others.
“I feel good helping raise money for these programs.”
Victoria is spreading her wings.
She now works for an accounting firm.
She is leaving Serenity House’s transitional housing and, thanks to a federal program, is moving in to her own home.
She earned her GED certificate in August and plans to begin classes soon at Peninsula College.
She may become a counselor to those with chemical dependency or get an Associate of Arts degree and someday be a business administrator.
No deductions — a ‘hand up’
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.
From Port Townsend to Forks, from Quilcene and Brinnon to LaPush, it’s a “hand up, not a handout” for children, teens, families and the elderly.
All the money collected for the Home Fund goes — without any deductions — 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, drug-free temporary housing . . .
The list goes on and on . . .
Begun in 1989, the Home Fund is supported entirely by Jefferson and Clallam residents.
Individuals, couples, businesses, churches, service organizations and school groups set a record for contributions in 2009 — $230,806.95.
With heavy demand this year, the carefully rationed fund is being rapidly depleted.
Since Jan. 1, the Home Fund has helped more than 2,200 individuals and families like Victoria Zmuda’s on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Money almost gone
The last of the money collected in 2009 is expected to be exhausted this week.
Peninsula Home Fund is a unique, nonprofit program:
• No money is deducted for administration or other overhead.
Your entire donation — 100 percent, every penny — goes to help those who are facing times of crisis.
• All contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible.
• Some people call the PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund “shoestring philanthropy.”
Money from the Home Fund is usually given out in small amounts, normally up to $150.
And assistance is limited to one time in a12-month period.
But even though the dollar figures are small, the impact can be big, in huge, life-changing ways.
• Instances of help are designed to get an individual or family through the crisis — and every effort is made to put them back on the path to self-sufficiency.
That’s the “hand up, not a handout” focus of the fund.
In many instances, Peninsula Home Fund case managers at OlyCAP work with individuals or families to develop a plan to become financially stable — and avoid a recurrence of the emergency that prompted aid from the fund.
And, as necessary, Peninsula Home Fund contributions are often used in conjunction with money from other agencies, enabling OlyCAP to stretch the value of the contribution.
• Your personal information is kept confidential.
Peninsula Daily News does not rent, sell, give or otherwise share your address or other information with anyone, or make any other use of the information.
Applying for a grant
To apply for a grant from the fund, phone OlyCAP at 360-452-4726 (Port Angeles and Sequim) or 360-385-2571 (Jefferson County).
There’s also an OlyCAP office in Forks — 360-374-6193.
If you have any questions about the fund, contact John Brewer, Peninsula Daily News editor and publisher, at 360-417-3500.
Or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Peninsula Daily News publishes stories every Sunday and Wednesday during the fund-raising campaign listing contributors and reporting on how the fund works.