`That’s when the Home Fund saved us”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles on the Peninsula Home Fund. Click on the “Home Fund” button at left to generate a coupon to accompany your donation.

PORT TOWNSEND — Disabled and legally blind, Jimmy Smith lives with his seeing-eye dog, Sweet Pea.

Once pronounced legally dead after being hit by a semi-truck while he was walking, Jimmy always has a smile on his face — and gratitude for what little he has.

“He’s one of the easiest people we have to work with because he’s always smiling,” said Theresa Fitzgerald, case manager at OlyCAP, Olympic Community Action Programs, in Port Townsend.

Jimmy, who’s 42, credits the Peninsula Daily News’ “hand up, not a handout” Peninsula Home Fund with “a good push” to get him back on solid footing and settled into a new home after moving back to the North Olympic Peninsula in June.

He’s now ready to go to work at OlyCAP’s offices in Port Townsend as a volunteer.

He lived in Arizona for several years until doctors told him the extreme heat was having an adverse effect on his health.

A former worker in the culinary business, Jimmy lives on the meager amount of money he receives from Social Security disability.

That alone was not enough money for a deposit, first and last month’s rent on an apartment, plus utilities. Not to mention money for food.

“If it wasn’t for OlyCAP and the Home Fund, I wouldn’t have a place to live,” said Jimmy.

“I can’t believe all they’ve done for me — they’ve given me a step up and are just an extremely wonderful organization.”

Staffers worked with Jimmy to help him get into one of OlyCAP’s subsidized apartments in Port Townsend — letting him pay the deposit in monthly installments.

He also got $93.19 in vouchers for new shoes, socks and underwear and a $50 voucher for groceries at Safeway.

In the wake of accidents

He was inflected with the HIV virus after his Port Angeles High School sweetheart got it through a blood transfusion following a car accident in the 1980s.

She unknowingly passed the virus to him.

Since then he has been plagued with many illnesses — and getting hit by the semi in 1999 furthered his body’s decline.

After being pronounced legally blind after another accident, Sweet Pea, his half-coyote and half-border collie companion of 13 years, was able to attend White Cane and Guide Dogs College in Michigan sponsored by the Lions Club.

Sweat Pea is now trained to help Jimmy weave safely though a world his eyes now define as a maze of shadows and shapes.

`A hand up, not a handout’

The PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund is a safety net for people like Jimmy in Clallam and Jefferson counties when they suddenly face an emergency situation and can’t find help elsewhere.

So far in 2006, the Peninsula Home Fund has assisted more than 1,400 families and individuals across the North Olympic Peninsula.

From Thanksgiving through Dec. 31, the PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund is seeking contributions for its 2006 holiday season fundraising campaign.

From Port Townsend to Forks, from Quilcene and Brinnon to LaPush, the fund is a “hand up, not a handout” for children, teens, families and the elderly when there is nowhere else to turn.

It pays for hot meals for seniors, 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.

The Peninsula Home Fund is unique and nonprofit.

* No money is deducted for administration or other overhead.

OlyCAP — the No. 1 emergency care agency on the North Olympic Peninsula — screens applicants for the PDN’s Peninsula Home Fund and allocates the funds.

* All contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible.

* Your personal information is kept confidential. The 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.

* All 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.

* Whenever possible, Peninsula Home Fund case managers work with each individual or family 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 and school groups set a new record for contributions in 2005 — $135,168.75.

As of Nov. 1, $110,943.13 had gone to help 1,439 individuals and families.

All of the money is expected to be spent by Dec. 31.

* Peninsula Home Fund contributions are often used in conjunction with money from churches, service clubs and other donors, 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; e-mail john.brewer@peninsuladailynews.com.

How to donate

A gift of any size is welcome.

The Peninsula Home Fund has never been a campaign of heavy hitters.

If you can contribute only a few dollars, please don’t hesitate because you think it won’t make a difference.

Every gift makes a difference, regardless of its size.

To donate, write a check to “Peninsula Home Fund” and attach it to the coupon that you can generate by clicking on the button at the upper left side, below the links.

Mail both items to Peninsula Home Fund, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles 98362.

Or drop them at the newspaper’s offices in Port Townsend, Sequim or Port Angeles (addresses on Page A2 of the PDN daily).

Again, all contributions are fully IRS tax-deductible.

You will receive a written thank you and acknowledgment of your contribution.

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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