PORT ANGELES — The staff at Olympic Community Action Programs — OlyCAP — is seeking volunteers to assist Peninsula Home Fund clients by interviewing potential recipients, entering data and issuing the vouchers that help local residents make ends meet.
“I hear people say they wish they could give more,” said Marki Lockhart, community services director at OlyCAP.
Her message is that money isn’t everything; the gift of time means plenty.
Much of that time is devoted to listening to life stories — accounts of struggle and resilience.
“It is truly a gift when people share their stories, pieces of themselves,” said Samantha Troxler, OlyCAP housing services coordinator.
She witnesses real relief, gratitude — even joy — when a client receives help from community-based programs such as the Home Fund.
Anyone interested in volunteering can find information and an application form at OlyCAP.org via the “Get Involved” link. Lockhart also encourages people to visit the Port Angeles office at 228 W. First St., Suite J, or phone office coordinator Kathy Sculley at 360-452-4726.
Following a background check, volunteers will receive training with Lockhart and her team. She’d like to work with people who can devote three or four hours a day, enough to see three or four clients. After training, Lockhart will stick close by new volunteers as they see Home Fund grant applicants come in.
Year round, the fund turns donations from people across the Peninsula into help with rent, utility bills, car repairs, bus passes, hygiene and laundry supplies and other basics. A housing grant this past year, for example, made the difference between a comfortable apartment and homelessness for an elderly woman whose only income is slim Social Security. A voucher for gasoline made it possible for a mother to get her ailing daughter to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
Home Fund work at OlyCAP can be intense, staff members say. They walk with their clients through the network of resources in Clallam and Jefferson counties, seeking to address not just the symptoms, but to help the whole person.
In the Port Townsend office, housing coordinator Leah Russell is one of the newer staff members. In just under a year, “I have learned so much,” she said.
“I get to work in an environment that has so many connections to the community, and different ways to empower people. The housing team that I work with is made up of people with different backgrounds and expertise, so we are able to learn from each other.”
Crystal Wayman, a client services representative in the Port Angeles office, noted that other local agencies are steadfast partners to OlyCAP. Those partners range from Clallam Transit to Catholic Community Services to the Jefferson County Food Bank.
“Our success as an agency lies in knowing who to refer customers to, and how to best navigate the web of services,” she said.
“And I’m honored that I am able to help make small differences in the lives of my customers, every single day.
“The vitality of the human spirit — that I see on a daily basis while facing adversity and crisis — never ceases to inspire me.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.