Last-minute gift suggestion: A donation to your community’s Peninsula Home Fund

CARLSBORG — “How can you mend a broken heart?” asked the Bee Gees in a song.

One way is through the gift of giving.

Ramona Welch says she is very grateful for the help she received from the Peninsula Daily News’ Peninsula Home Fund.

It was a small amount of assistance but absolutely crucial at a time when she and her son needed “a hand up, not a handout.”

And the Home Fund also led to a life-changing surprise for Ramona and her children.

“When you’re hard-up, it’s nice to know that there’s actually people out there who care enough to donate so that when a person needs help, it’s there,” says Ramona.

In 2008, Ramona suffered a broken heart when her husband, Allen, died just two weeks short of their 25th anniversary.

At the same time, their son, Elijah, now 14, was acting out and having serious issues. He went to live temporarily in a foster home.

As if that weren’t enough, 10 weeks later, her dad died.

She felt very lost and alone.

In hopes of getting a fresh start, the lifelong Port Angeles resident moved to Sequim with her youngest child, Rita, now 10.

Ramona spent the next two years working toward the day her family could be reunited, with her son coming home to live.

That day finally came in July. But Ramona’s joy was quickly diminished by ensuing financial woes.

She and her children each receive an allotment from Social Security survivor benefits.

The foster home had been receiving Elijah’s, and rightly so, while Ramona’s and Rita’s combined allotment was $967 a month.

“His money got delayed somewhere in the system,” says Ramona.

“So for the first three months after my son came home, July through August, the three of us lived on the $967 a month, which was meant for only two.”

Part of Ramona’s agreement with the state authorities in bringing Elijah home is that she needed to get him to mandatory therapy and doctor’s appointments.

“With three people in the house, I just got behind bills and became in danger of losing my apartment,” Ramona recalls.

Desperation set in.

She knew she had to get Elijah to his appointments or risk losing him.

Furthermore, if she lost their home, they’d all be in trouble.

She went to the Department of Social and Health Services office in Port Angeles hoping to get temporary financial aid until Elijah’s monthly stipend started.

DSHS had to deny help because of her existing Social Security income.

However, the case workers there suggested she talk to OlyCAP about a grant from the Peninsula Home Fund.

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.

Ramona walked across the street to the OlyCAP office, where she met Betty Barnard, a trained volunteer who works to find ways up and out of a crisis.

After an interview, Betty arranged for Ramona to receive a fuel voucher from the Home Fund.

With it, Ramona could get gas for her car.

She could drive her son.

He wouldn’t miss his next appointment.

He could continue living with his mother and sister.

Then, there was the surprise — after studying Ramona’s situation, Betty told her she qualified to receive assistance through government-aided programs, such as HUD’s Section 8 Family Reunification program.

It enabled the family to move into a three-bedroom home in Carlsborg this month.

“Getting this home was a huge blessing,” says Ramona.

“The help we’ve been receiving lately is such a relief — it’s all a blessing.

“Since my son’s been home, he’s just blossomed.

“Both kids are doing well, and I feel like we can all relax a bit and enjoy life.”

No deductions — a ‘hand up’

Since Thanksgiving and through Dec. 31, 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.

Since Jan. 1, the Home Fund has helped more than 2,100 individuals and families like Ramona Welch’s — in Jefferson and Clallam counties.

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• Begun in 1989, the 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.

All the money collected in 2009 is expected to be spent before Dec. 31.

• As was done with Ramona, money is usually distributed in small amounts, usually up to $150.

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

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

Applying to the Home Fund

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, phone 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.

—————-

EDITOR’S NOTE — For 21 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 on how the Home Fund operates and who benefits from our readers’ generosity.

The next article will appear Sunday along with a new list of donors.

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