After speakers from American Legion Post 5 and the YMCA of Grays Harbor Caring Kids program spoke, the vote came and the North Beach Senior Center received the massive $14,000 check at the end of the event. After the group counted the funds raised, including additional funds people can add to their initial $100, the senior center’s grand total was up to $15,200, according to Maryann Welch, who directs 100+ Harbor Women Who Care . As of Wednesday afternoon, that total rose to $16,200.
In the third gathering for the group and second since October 2022, over 100 Harbor Women Who Care hosted a room at Hoquiam Elks Lodge that was so full that even the tables on the way back were full. That was not the case in October. The audience was still quite full, but not that full.
Dori Unterseher, moderator of the evening, commented on the evening’s participation.
“We are very pleased to see you and I’m here to tell you this is the largest group of people we’ve ever had,” Unterseher said. “This is just fabulous.”
Hoquiam Elks Lodge staff were hard at work bringing drinks into the bar while people were finishing their drinks — from wine and cocktails to beer and soft drinks.
In addition to the women who had attended before, there were many new faces who stood up when Unterseher asked who was attending for the first time. This included Dakota Mullikin, the daughter of Bill Mullikin, who helps direct The Walkthrough. The program helps homeless teenagers, ages 12 to 17, not only survive but thrive.
Last year, The Walkthrough won $14,200 at the end of the October event, but then received an additional $5,000 from a national nonprofit, which increased their total funding to $19,200.
“Last October was a dream come true, so thank you,” Mullikin said. “Money always helps, but fame has drawn community members to come to our shelter to use our certified kitchen and cook Thanksgiving dinners for kids who have never sat down and (ate) a bird. They also came back for Christmas. I think Christmas was the most important rib. I wasn’t there but it’s amazing, just crazy.”
In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, the pre-teens and teens could decorate for Halloween.
“It was kind of weird and scary, and there were cobwebs everywhere, but you know what? There were so many smiles and that’s what it’s about,” Mullikin said. “I work every day with children who have no reason to smile and we have given them a smile. That was incredible.”
As for this year’s winner, Jeff Moyer – General Manager of North Beach Senior Center and Kathy Lazardo – Volunteer spoke for North Beach Senior Center. Moyer said one of the challenges the nonprofit is going through is funding.
The center has food outlets throughout including The Salvation Army in Aberdeen, Hoquiam Food Bank, Copalis Community Church Food and Clothing Bank and locations in Raymond and Westport.
“We’re doing a lot of mass distribution right now, but we’re also doing our own.
Through a litany of services, the nonprofit helps children feed themselves through its summer mealtime program, which Moyer described as one of the nonprofit’s “pride and joy programs.”
“We’re offering seven days of self-sustaining groceries — breakfast, lunch and snacks,” Moyer said of the 11-week program. He said last year the program helped 250 children during the 11-week summer.
“We deliver the boxes to their homes because a lot of people don’t have transport, so we bring them to their homes. We are preparing for a spring break program. We estimate 250 children and we will do the same.”
According to Moyer, much of the nonprofit’s funding will be halted. The nonprofit organization serves seniors. Many seniors cannot come to North Beach, or they don’t come out of “embarrassment.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit was helping 120-180 seniors a week who staff would care for by delivering the boxes to their homes.
“I don’t know, but food sustainability is paramount to me,” Moyer said. “Not only with children, but also with seniors.”
Moyer had a volunteer talk about her volunteer work at North Beach and why it’s important to help.
“We saw the middle class,” said Kathy, the volunteer. “We saw people holding on to their fingertips. They literally said, ‘Thank you God for you.’”
The people who have needed help in recent years, especially since COVID, have been mums and dads with the breadwinner losing their job.
“They needed the groceries so they could use the money they had, the income they had from the mother who was an essential worker, so they could pay the electric bills, the mortgage payment, the rent, the car payment, the gas could pay in the car for someone to come to work. They made the difference between surviving or simply losing their homes.”
While the American Legion Post 5 and the Grays Harbor YMCA didn’t win “Caring Kids,” the announcement can mean quite a bit for a nonprofit organization in need.
American Legion Post 5th
Gwyn Tarrence, commander of American Legion Post 5 in Aberdeen, described what his group would do if they got the money. It would complete his kitchen. The post serves low-income military veterans.
“We did a major remodel to update our kitchen,” Tarrence said. “Adding plumbing, electric and so many sinks that allowed us to get a commercial license. We were able to complete phase 1 and we can serve soups, salads and sandwiches. Unfortunately, due to issues encountered during our remodel, we ran out of funding to complete the final phase.”
The American Legion stocks everything else — aeration, flat grill, deep fryer, a commercial range — all stock, but lacks the funding to properly install them.
According to Tarrence, the American Legion Post 5 needs $12,000 to complete its mission.
“Once those are installed, there are so many possibilities,” Tarrence said. “We will be better positioned to raise funds, both for our local veterans and for other organizations in need. It is very difficult to raise funds with such limitations. And having a full kitchen not only allows us to expand our own menu, but it will increase our fundraising opportunities to continue our own programs. We can start a training program for catering companies to facilitate an easier transition into the labor market.”
The YMCA of Grays Harbor Caring Kids program can provide a place where caregivers and their children can meet for a few hours and a few days each week, according to Dannielle Oliver, senior director of licensed programming at the YMCA of Grays Harbor .
“It provides families with an opportunity to build relationships, receive expert training and be introduced to community resources,” Oliver said. “This program was offered free of charge to participants and is open to families (with children) from birth to 5 years of age.”
Oliver explained the program is important because carers are the “first teachers in a child’s life”.
“The Caring Kids program provided a way for caregivers and their children to spend time together,” Oliver said. “In addition, Caring Kids offered an opportunity for kindergarten readiness by offering learning and group activities.”
Unfortunately for the program, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a “shift” in access to resources and socialization opportunities.
“What I’ve learned is that post-COVID, many infants, toddlers and preschoolers have grown up in social isolation,” Oliver said. “There are many caregivers and children who need support and need to learn how to manage community resources and learn how to socialize with other children before entering elementary school in those areas.”
Oliver went on to explain what the program does.
“In our childcare and preschool program, our teachers have focused primarily on helping our preschoolers develop positive social and emotional skills, such as: E.g. how to team up and play, make friends, communicate emotions and deal with life’s challenges.”
With the help of the community, the goal is to get the Caring Kids program up and running again and offer young children and carers “back” support in their lives and make it a crucial part of investing in the program’s future.
Moyer was thrilled that North Beach Senior Center and Food Bank were selected for the money Tuesday night.
“I felt very honored and humbled to know that the important work we are doing was recognized by our community members,” Moyer said. “The event itself brings people together and allows them to support charitable organizations on a large scale. I am sure that the participants will be able to network and make new friends. I have no doubt that this event will grow year after year.”
Dakota Mullikin, a new attendee at the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care event, said she finds it “amazing to hear from organizations I may not have heard of before.”
“And to be around women who care so much about our community is really powerful,” Mullikin said.