Home Fund’s ‘little extra help’ gives ‘hand up’ in Forks (CORRECTED version)

EDITOR’S NOTE: For 20 years, Peninsula Daily News readers in Jefferson and Clallam counties have supported the “hand up, not a handout”Peninsula Home Fund.

Today, we feature another in a series of articles that provide a window into how the fund operates and the people it serves.

The next article will appear Sunday with the latest list of donors.


CORRECTION — This story has been updated to reflect the following correction:

Shannon Marie Shelton of Forks, subject of Wednesday’s Peninsula Home Fund profile (below), is expecting her fourth child, not her first.

She has three other children, 11, 9 and 7, who do not live with her. The error was due to a misunderstanding between Shannon and the PDN reporter.

FORKS — Imagine being alone, about to give birth . . . and homeless.

Shannon Marie Shelton was on the brink of such a crisis.

When her electricity was about to be shut off for nonpayment, Shannon received a voucher from the Peninsula Daily News “hand up, not a handout” Home Fund to help pay her electric bill.

“I work part-time and struggle to keep a roof over my head,” says Shannon.

“And I’ve come to appreciate sometimes we need a little extra help to make ends meet.”

Follow-up OlyCAP programs have since helped her avert eviction.

“I would not be able to stay in my apartment if it weren’t for the help of OlyCAP and the Home Fund,” says Shannon.

OlyCAP is Olympic Community Action Programs, the No. 1 emergency care agency in Jefferson and Clallam counties.

In addition to offering a wide range of community services, nonprofit OlyCAP also screens the applicants for the PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund and distributes the funds.

Single, alone and nearing childbirth, Shannon, 32, a waitress who wants to become a certified medical assistant, has been plagued with health problems this year, including gallbladder issues and severe colds.

Not working meant no money — and no way to pay her rent or electric bill.

Her hope for the immediate future, to stay in her apartment with her baby, seemed certain to fail.

Earlier this month, she spent a little more than a week with pneumonia.

While confined to bed, she spent hours . . . worrying.

Shannon and her boyfriend had moved from Eastern Washington to Forks last May.

They recently separated, she says, leaving her to cope with being pregnant, paying the bills and having their baby.

While she likes her part-time job, she would prefer to work full time; however, full-time jobs can be difficult to find — and even more unlikely to attain while expecting a baby.

Although she has no family she can turn to for help, she does have supportive friends.

When she received notice her electricity was going to be shut off for nonpayment, it was a friend who suggested she contact OlyCAP for help.

It took a visit from a caseworker at OlyCAP’s Forks office for her to realize there were people willing to provide her with assistance, along with helping her work on a plan to pay her bills and stay in her apartment.

“My friend spoke of a program which helped people like me who struggle to make ends meet,” says Shannon.

Her short-term goals are to stay in her apartment and have a healthy, happy baby.

After the baby is settled, she hopes to “finish up my schooling to become a medical assistant.”

She dreams of taking her baby with her to Peninsula College to take classes.

Certification would help her reach her long-term goal of providing for herself and her baby.

Shannon says a side effect from medication administered for her pneumonia left her face temporarily paralyzed.

Although she was told the numbness and lack of motion would be brief, she laments the paralysis prevents her from showing a smile of appreciation for all the help she has received from OlyCAP and the Peninsula Home Fund.

“It means a lot to me to have lights and live in a safe house,” says Shannon.

“I’m so grateful for help from the Home Fund and OlyCAP.

“Without it, I’d be homeless.”

No deductions — a ‘hand-up’

From Thanksgiving through Dec. 31, the PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund — a safety net for residents in Jefferson and Clallam counties 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” — hot meals for seniors, warm winter coats for kids, home repairs for the low income, needed prescription drugs, dental work, safe, drug-free temporary housing . . .

The list goes on and on — from Jan. 1 through Dec. 18, “we have served 1,921 families, comprising about 3,643 individuals” — in Jefferson and Clallam counties, said Ken Dane, OlyCAP’s development director in Port Townsend.

The Peninsula Home Fund is a unique, nonprofit program:

No money, not one penny, is used for administration or other overhead. All costs are absorbed by the PDN and OlyCAP.

Your entire donation goes — without any deductions — to help those who are facing times of crisis.

All contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible.

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 it.

Instances of help are designed to get an individual or family through the crisis — and back on the path to self-sufficiency.

That’s the “hand up, not a handout” focus of the fund.

Peninsula Home Fund case managers work with individuals or families as needed to develop a plan to become financially stable — and avoid a recurrence of the emergency that prompted aid from the fund.

Begun in 1989, the fund is supported entirely by Jefferson and Clallam residents.

Individuals, couples, businesses, churches, service organizations and school groups set a new record for contributions in 2008 — $198,015.03.

With heavy demand this year, the carefully rationed fund is being depleted rapidly.

All the money collected in 2008 is expected to be spent before Dec. 31.

“We fully expect to spend out the 2009 fund by the end of the year,” said Dane.

Peninsula Home Fund contributions are often used in conjunction with money from other agencies, enabling OlyCAP to stretch the value of the contribution.

Money is usually distributed in small amounts, usually up to $150.

Assistance is limited to one time in a 12-month period.

To apply for a grant from the fund, phone OlyCAP at 360-452-4726 (Clallam County) or 360-385-2571 (Jefferson County).

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 john.brewer@peninsuladailynews.com.

Peninsula Daily News publishes stories every Sunday and Wednesday during the fundraising campaign, listing contributors and reporting on how the fund works.

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