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.
PORT ANGELES — Chronic disease rendered him homeless, dejected and humiliated.
It took just a few acts of kindness — and help from the Peninsula Daily News’ “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund — to give Earl Snyder hope his life was going to get better.
“People helping me changed my mood by leaps and bounds,” says Earl.
“I went from this gloom and doom depression to seeing a light at the end of a tunnel — and it wasn’t coming from a freight train.”
An able-bodied man in the prime of his life, he woke one morning to find himself with vertigo, tremors and difficulty moving his left side.
The diagnosis was MS — multiple sclerosis, a chronic progressive disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the central nervous system.
For a while his symptoms went away.
Then the MS “came back with a vengeance,” he says.
Visible signs include uncontrollable shaking of hands and a cane to aid his weak legs.
He also struggles with pain and debilitating fatigue.
“I’m an electrician,” says Earl.
“An electrician can’t work if he can’t balance on a ladder or hold things up with his left hand.”
He soon lost his job.
He lost his truck.
He lost his home.
MS for Earl Snyder “boils down to no work means no income and no health insurance.
“State picked me up, put me on Medicaid and now I just live on this puny amount of money every month.
“For me it’s humiliating to go on welfare.”
He was sinking. He needed to move forward in some way.
Although it took eight months for him to act on it, he credits two friends in Sequim for encouraging him to get help and giving him a list of organizations to contact.
“OlyCAP was first on the list,” says Earl.
In addition to its wide array of services as the No. 1 emergency care agency in Jefferson and Clallam counties, OlyCAP — Olympic Community Action Programs — manages the Peninsula Home Fund.
It screens applicants for the fund and disperses the funds.
He met with Betty, a specialist volunteer at OlyCAP.
“Betty was so sweet and cool,” says Earl.
“She took me back to her office, told me about all the programs in the area and broke everything down into terms I could understand.
“She made it not so overwhelming to ask for help.
“I was in Army for five years. Betty got me an appointment with an actual veterans case handler — I had no idea these services were available, and not a lot of motivation to find out. She’s just amazing.”
Betty helped him file for SSDI and SSI disability programs (he is still awaiting approval) — and found him a small house to rent, kitchen utensils and a therapy bike from Serenity House to help him work out leg cramps.
She tapped the Peninsula Home Fund to pay $100 for Earl’s utility deposit.
It was the final thing he needed as he put together his bare-bones home.
Without the Home Fund, “I couldn’t have gotten the power turned on,” says Earl, adding:
“It’s been humiliating to go from driving a brand new truck every year to a $650 beater car that’s held together with bubble gum, and praying it will get me from point A to point B.”
“Really, it’s all about pride, and pride sucks.
“I know from this point on I have to swallow pride to accomplish anything.”
Earl loved to work as an electrician.
And he has every hope that his MS will go into remission so he can return to that job someday soon, even if only on a part-time basis.
He says holidays are his most difficult to endure because he lacks the gas money to visit his son, 13, who lives 127 miles away in Kelso.
Yet, he says, every bit of thoughtfulness, from people you know and those who you don’t know, can make all the difference in the world to how a person adjusts to hardships.
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 — since Jan. 1 the Home Fund has helped more than 1,785 families — about 3,500 individuals — in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
The Peninsula Home Fund is a unique, nonprofit program:
•No money, not one penny, is used for administration or other overhead.
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.
Spent by Dec. 31
•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 rapidly depleted.
All the money collected in 2008 is expected to be spent before Dec. 31.
•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.
Applying for a grant
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 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.