Kate, Susan Singleton (chair of the OICF Grants Committee), and I conducted midpoint check ins with those organizations that received over $10,000 in grant funding in 2019. These meetings provide an opportunity to hear about the impact and progress that community funding makes possible, discuss any issues that may have cropped up and learn about future funding needs. It was incredibly rewarding to hear about the growth of the Social Emotional training component at the public schools. In the third year with a consistent So-Emo teacher, they are observing positive changes in individual behavior and in classrooms. Erin O’Dell spoke about the increase in services that the Orcas Community Resource Center (OCRC) is able to provide to neighbors, growing from 20 services provided daily in 2018 to over 40 daily in 2019, with 20% of the island population accessing support through their office. Orcas Center discussed the improvements made to the building in 2019 and the needs that are on the list for coming years, as did the Sail Orcas folks, who installed a new float with funds from the last grant cycle and have more improvement plans for 2020. We had additional conversations with the Early Childhood Education Initiative, SAFE San Juans, and County Parks for the new play structure being built in the Village Green.

All in all, I was very impressed with the quality of work happening and the lives that are being touched by GiveOrcas funding. The other interesting part of almost every conversation was concern about what was happening with County and State funding. While OCRC has seen a sharp increase in need for services, the amount of direct funding from the County has decreased overall. Similarly, the County funds some social, emotional, and mental health support at the school through the WISE program. But that program is limited to ten families at a time and the need is far greater. Ironically, the County Park playground project has been held up because their permit has been in process for five months. They hope to get it next week.

The funds we contribute as a community through GiveOrcas are critical for these organizations. So is public tax funding. Going forward, I hope to engage the County in these conversations to encourage their understanding of both community needs and opportunities where they could be making a greater difference.

All the best-