A mural by Craig Robinson in downtown Sequim represents a new partnership between Olympic Angels and Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County. Executive director Morgan Hanna with Olympic Angels, left, said they seek volunteers and mentors to help foster families. Colleen Robinson, chief executive officer for Habitat, said people are welcome to take photos on the wall of Habitat’s Boutique Store and they’ll place a sandwich board sign with information outside, and provide pamphlets about Olympic Angels during business hours. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

A mural by Craig Robinson in downtown Sequim represents a new partnership between Olympic Angels and Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County. Executive director Morgan Hanna with Olympic Angels, left, said they seek volunteers and mentors to help foster families. Colleen Robinson, chief executive officer for Habitat, said people are welcome to take photos on the wall of Habitat’s Boutique Store and they’ll place a sandwich board sign with information outside, and provide pamphlets about Olympic Angels during business hours. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Olympic Angels, Habitat partner on family support systems

New mural a vision leaders hope to bring to Peninsula

SEQUIM — A freshly painted mural in downtown Sequim offers community members an angelic photo opportunity while highlighting a new partnership between nonprofits Olympic Angels and Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County.

Morgan Hanna, executive director of Olympic Angels, said the organization’s holistic foster care program has expanded into Sequim and Port Angeles, and the wings on the mural are part of a vision she’s had as the program grows.

A similar mural in Port Townsend is used with the agency’s marketing, she said, and as it expands into more cities on the North Olympic Peninsula, she hopes each city will have a local artist paint a mural with angel wings.

“One day we’ll make it to Port Angeles with wings painted by a Port Angeles artist, and one day in Forks with a Forks artist,” Hanna said.

“It’s just a celebratory way of showing we’re here.”

Olympic Angels offers consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building and mentorship for children, youth and families in the foster care community, according to its website.

Hanna said Colleen Robinson, chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, recently joined Olympic Angels’ board, and after a conversation about her vision, she later got an email that the “wings are happening now.”

Robinson’s husband Craig had started a wings mural on the back wall of the Sequim Habitat Boutique Store at 154 W. Washington St.

Robinson, who has adopted three children and fostered many more with her husband — and worked in foster placement and retention — said she sees Habitat’s store as an opportunity to provide a platform for Olympic Angels.

While city provisions prevent any wording on murals, Robinson said they’ll have information on a sandwich board sign, inside the store and eventually on their website about the agency.

“We love collaboration between nonprofits here,” Robinson said.

“It’s not that way in other areas. If we both go for a grant, and one gets it and another does not, we’re still cheering each other on.”

“We’re all serving the same people,” Hanna said.

Assessing the need

Olympic Angels started a pilot program in the Sequim area in 2021, Hanna said, and that led to hiring a case manager for the Sequim and Port Angeles areas this past spring.

“We’re finding more volunteers in Sequim and a family need in Port Angeles,” she said.

Part of Olympic Angels’ effort includes creating support systems for foster families and people caring for children who are not living with their family of origin.

“If we can sustain and nourish the people who do say ‘yes’ to these kids and help them be successful, then the kids win,” Hanna said.

Some statistics she provided state:

• Each time a child moves from a foster home, they’re set back academically/socially as much as six months

• On average, each foster child moves seven times in two years

• Local foster children are graduating high school at about a 50 percent rate

• Foster children are more likely to be homeless or incarcerated than graduate from college

“The consequences are not just dire to our kids, but the community as a whole because these are the kids ending up in our streets,” Hanna said.

“We want these kids to stay at their home, go to the Boys & Girls Club, and keep them in their community.”

Robinson said Olympic Angels helps holistically with support for the whole family unit.

Ways to help

Olympic Angels is attempting to bring in and activate hundreds of community members to have “a really active, tangible role to play in foster care,” Hanna said.

One way is through the Love Box program that she describes as groups of six to eight people walking alongside a foster family for at least a year, helping with everything from babysitting to attending court dates to paying for sports fees and taking a child to practices and games.

Dungeness Community Church helped pilot this in Sequim, Hanna said, and it was “incredible.”

Needs are customized per family and can change as families change, she said.

Dare to Dream is a program which provides a one-on-one mentoring program for ages 11-22 to talk about “all kinds of things,” Hanna said.

“If I have a kid in foster care at age 13, I want someone there with eyes on him and not there because they are paid to be there but because they find he has worth,” she said.

“They talk to him about his schoolwork, how he’s feeling about things, and once trust is established, then really talk about tangible things he needs to beat every statistic out there.”

Mentors customize support for each child, Hanna said, and she’s seen a high number of people providing driving lessons, as an example.

“It’s all matchmaking and until they (the volunteer and/or the family) have a match. We won’t match them,” Hanna said.

But she’s been surprised at the niches community members can fulfill from their diverse backgrounds.

“Our towns are filled with extraordinary humans. It’s just knowing the need unlocks that potential,” Hanna said.

Sign up

Every type of foster care family and volunteer is encouraged to sign up, providing basic information such as a name and number at Olympicangels.org, Hanna said.

“We’ve only reached a fraction of the children out there to serve,” she said.

Since launching as the first rural chapter of National Angels in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic, Olympic Angels has helped 102 children in Jefferson and Clallam counties with 214 volunteers signed up so far.

The average hours per month of support per Love Box is about 38 hours.

They’ve also received about $926,000 of in kind donations, such as sports practices/lessons, transportation and more.

Hanna said donating at the agency’s website is just as effective as volunteering.

Future partnership

With the planned Brownfield Road Habitat housing project coming to Sequim in the near future at the southeast corner of East Brownfield and South Sequim Avenue, Robinson said she envisions two of the homes being dedicated for youth 18-25 in a few years.

Habitat would potentially partner with agencies like Peninsula Behavioral Health, OlyCAP and/or Olympic Angels to identify and house youths and help them “graduate to the next step of adulthood,” Robinson said.

She added that many foster children just fall out of a care system once they turn 18, and they’re not ready to face that yet.

“Inextricably housing is linked to foster care,” Hanna said.

“If you do anything about housing, you lower the amount of children entering the foster care program.”

Both leaders said they’re committed to helping rural communities with foster care.

“I feel we’re going to teach other rural communities all over the country how we’re going to do this,” Hanna said.

“I have a passion for rural communities,” Robinson said. “The resources are not the same compared to the I-5 corridor.

“(Hanna’s) can-do tenacity drew me in. We need this holistic approach in rural communities.”

For more about Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, visit habitatclallam.org.

For more about Olympic Angels, visit olympicangels.org.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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