The OICF Community Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is administered by an advisory committee appointed by the OICF Board. The current Advisory Committee is Hilary Canty, Erin O’Dell, Lisa Byers, Brian Moss, Berto Gandara, and Judy Scott. The primary goal of the Fund is to help address the needs of the most vulnerable or severely impacted members of our island community; specifically, residents who have lost work or incomes as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Guided by this goal, the Advisory Committee is focused on identifying and supporting those organizations on Orcas who are assisting this island’s population who is at risk of not meeting basic needs for housing, medical care, food, and other essential items.

Each week the Advisory Committee will recommend the precise disbursements to be made by OICF from the Emergency Response Fund for that week, as well as the amount of reserve to maintain in the Fund to cover future disbursements. At the close of each week, OICF informs their Board and fund donors of the distribution decisions and keeps the Orcas community informed via press release. Important milestones include:

  • The fund was opened on March 13, 2020.
  • $262,000 raised in total from 132 donors (50% are new donors to OICF).
  • Balance as of 4/1/2020 7 am:  $118,300 (Week 3 grants yet to be paid).
  • Kevin Ranker has been contracted by OICF to support development for the CER Fund.

$227,500 Total Grants as of 4-2-2020

Week 1:

  • $10K to OPAL  (helped set up rent and mortgage case management system)
  • $10K to Senior Center (covered immediate costs of quadrupling nutrition deliveries)
  • $20K to the Food Bank (covered immediate need to increase food purchases to meet 100% increase of customers. Also allowed investment in sourcing more food locally- purchasing CSA’s from farmers, committing to weekly bread orders from local bakeries, replacing the weekly shared meals with to-go options from local restaurants).
  • $10K to OCRC (supported the expanding case management staff time)
  • (In addition, $13K was dedicated to paying for personal protection equipment for local home care workers. $3,000 came from Lahari and $10,000 from Hearts and Hands)

Week 2:

  • $40 K to OPAL (rent/mortgage relief)
  • $25 K to OCRC  (case management, emergency needs)
  • $15 K to Food Bank (hiring two part-time managers- Kelly Doty and Amanda Sparks.  Kevin Ranker is donating his services)
  • $2500 to OICF to purchase community thermometers
  • $10K to Senior Center (expansion of the call check-ins through Hearts and Hands)

Week 3:

  • $25k to OPAL to support immediate housing needs focused on supporting efforts and providing resources to ensure the homeless on Orcas have both a place and a shelter to shelter in place.
  • $10K to Orcas Center to support public service announcement video production
  • $10K to Senior Center for meeting increasing needs
  • $40 to OCRC to replenish their emergency fund and increase part-time staff to full

All grantees are asked to submit a report each month documenting changes in community needs, programs, and services provided. These will be compiled and distributed to the community at large.

OICF hosts a weekly Community Check in call on Wednesdays at 8 am where organizations report on their efforts and needs.  The CERF advisors meet after this meeting to discuss what funding priorities should be.

At this week’s meeting, it was reported that the Food Bank served 245 families and individuals on Tuesday and they are now experiencing a reduction in food supply (receiving 1/6 of their full order this week). Local food production is going to be key to filling needs.

OPAL has already served 45 families in need of immediate rent and mortgage support, committing $31K. The senior meal delivery service has quadrupled and Hearts and Hands has connected the 60 community members over 90 to daily check-in support. They will work to do the same for the 250+ who are in their 80’s.

OCRC has initiated weekly calls to all of the individuals and families they serve for support before a crisis deepens.

The Senior Center is also setting up a ‘buddy’ system for frequent call check-ins with elderly folks. They paired everyone over 90 and are now working on doing the same for those in their 80’s.

The CERF group also established a Shelter Task Force that is working to ensure that everyone in this community has what they need to shelter in place during this crisis.  Erin O’Dell (OCRC)and Larry Hughes identified (without revealing identities) 6 individuals who were both homeless and mentally ill (and who would likely be too disruptive or destructive to a house in a hotel or house). The Shelter group has reached out to the community to find places to set up temporary shelters. The Community and Catholic Churches, Camp Orkilla, and Airport Center have all agreed to host and we have a few others still considering.

Provided for each individual:

  • Porta-potty Dry and secure shelter (tent, RV, or Tiny Home)
  • Access to electricity
  • Clean bedding and towels
  • Potable water
  • Cooking supplies (Coleman stove, toaster oven, hot water kettle)
  • Workable smartphone and wifi connection
  • Market tent and outdoor table/seating

Each individual will be asked to agree to shelter in place, keep up social distancing, and daily check-ins by mental health providers. We will arrange to have water delivered, garbage pick-up as needed. We are anticipating that we will continue to hosts these folks until the Governor lifts the Shelter in Place decree.  We are also seeking a place to shower and do laundry for these folks.

And what happens after that? The Shelter Task Force is looking for a permanent solution that would likely be scattered sites with basics (water, electric) and a centralized hygiene station (showers, toilet, laundry facility). Unfortunately, there is not one community in this nation that does not have a homeless population. Orcas is no exception. But our response can be exceptional.

Our primary goal is to keep the community as healthy as possible. Helping this most vulnerable population is central to that effort. When we get to the other side of this, these folks may feel they belong and have built up a network of support, they may find the strength to address their deep issues and find as much peace as possible in this lifetime.