For Immediate Release
May 2, 2020
Hilary Canty, OICF, 360-376-5376

As we near the end of our second month in the Covid-19 crisis, it is an opportunity to reflect on how Orcas Island has responded and what the next steps will be for this community. Very early on in this crisis, The Orcas Island Community Foundation (OICF) mobilized community leaders, assessed the most pressing needs, and, with numerous community partners, began developing powerful solutions. Thanks to the generous contributions of over 300 neighbors, the OICF Community Emergency Response Fund has been able to provide immediate financial resources to the organizations that provide critical services: food, shelter, utility, medical and mental health assistance. With this immediate support, essential services were able to expand to meet the unprecedented surge of need due to the Covid-19 crisis (view the pie chart).

Hundreds of residents have been able to stay in their homes thanks to the rent and mortgage assistance provided by OPAL Community Land Trust. The Orcas Food Bank continues to make sure every islander in need has food on their table, much of it sourced from local businesses and farms, despite a 200% increase in customers. The Orcas Community Resource Center (OCRC) has doubled their client base and hired two social workers to assist clients in need. The Orcas Senior Center has quadrupled the nutrition deliveries and, through Hearts and Hands, reached out to every Orcas resident over 65 to provide a phone buddy for check in’s and connect neighbors to resources as needed.

Thanks to this amazingly generous community, we have been able to meet our goal to provide sufficient funding to allow the organizations serving at the frontline to build their capacity, create the systems needed to exponentially expand their support to our most vulnerable neighbors. Now entering month three, we anticipate needing sustained funding for at least six months and likely considerably longer.

In order to continue to meet our most important needs while protecting our island’s future, we, as a community, will need to generate $100,000-$200,000 per month to keep these essential supports available to the most vulnerable among us. The exact dollar amount is not entirely clear, as we hope that Federal, State, and local County funds will start flowing, but how and when that happens and to what extent is yet to be known. For now, it is philanthropy and our strong nonprofit sector that is carrying the full load.

This critical support will enable OPAL to continue to keep families in their homes, allow the Food Bank to continue meeting the increased customer base while supporting local businesses and their employees, the Senior Center/ Hearts and Hands to continue both the check-in program and increased meal delivery, and for OCRC to continue providing access to essential services and mental health supports.

We also recognize that other issues will arise. Access to unrestricted funding will allow OICF and our partners to quickly address those issues prior to becoming a bigger crisis. While this is a great deal of money, it is also what is absolutely needed for us to live up to our tradition of neighbors helping neighbors while protecting the future of the community we love. The coronavirus is revealing the impact of our country’s vast inequality. Orcas is not immune to this. From the hundreds of islanders who lost their entire income overnight and worry about feeding their children and keeping their home, to the many of us who feel isolated or scared, to our children who desperately miss their friends, here on Orcas Island, we have an opportunity to do something about it. With your help, we will come out of this crisis a stronger, more resilient community.

Please consider a gift today. Our island’s future depends upon it. If you wish to set up a recurring donation, please contact Jennifer Wallace ( and she will assist you.