Vashon Island’s VashonBePrepared volunteer emergency response group has launched a major fundraising effort to expand relief to rural Vashon Island residents and businesses. The Vashon COVID Relief Fund distributed $25,000 in late April to pay for groceries, meals and rent relief for islanders facing economic hardships from the pandemic. Payments to five island agencies were the first allocations from the Relief Fund, originally started to cover the costs of an ongoing COVID-19 testing project. Details on the fund are at VashonBePrepared.org/Donate and VashonBePrepared.org/DonateFAQ.
“We estimate that more than 1,000 Vashon residents have lost their jobs. Four out of ten Vashon businesses have shut down and some may never reopen,” said VashonBePrepared President Vicky de Monterey Richoux. “We have been struck by a silent, devastating earthquake. We are taking action now to protect our neighbors and save the Vashon we love.”
The first $25,000 of funding purchased 260 bags of groceries from the Vashon Maury Community Food Bank and 100 packets of Vashon Island Growers Association’s Farm Bucks. Funding to Interfaith Council for Prevention of Homelessness helped support eight families with rent relief who were in danger of losing their homes. Funds also paid for 2,490 meals provided by the Vashon School District nutrition program, Vashon Senior Center lunch program and Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness community meals program.
“We have never faced such a challenge,” said Vashon Food Bank Executive Director Emily Scott. “This historic disease pandemic would be bad enough but it has been many decades since our society faced such an economic disaster. Not only have we been working to deliver more food than ever before, but we are doing it under severe social distancing disease prevention guidelines. We are grateful that we have been able to partner with VashonBePrepared and the Vashon COVID Relief Fund.”
VashonBePrepared’s first public fundraising effort will expand the island’s existing relief capacity and provide help for the 10,000 people living on rural Vashon Island. In recent weeks, the fund began with three major donations totaling $163,000, allowing the VashonBePrepared Board to expand support beyond testing. In the first week of fundraising more than 40 donors added $11,000. The campaign hopes to raise another $250,000 to meet the $425,000 Vashon COVID Relief Fund goal.
The board has focused spending on goods and services for health, food, shelter and economic recovery rather than cash grants. Relief Fund efforts will go for urgent near term needs and to address long-term economic recovery and impacts from the behavioral and spiritual difficulties of pandemic stress.
“This approach means we can quantify for our donors the impact we have been able to make with their investment,” said de Monterey Richoux. “We believe it will help us in our planning to project the number of meals and groceries and rent relief cases we will need to fund to support the already strong efforts of our partners. It is also possible that this itemized purchasing approach will improve chances of FEMA reimbursement which mean a major boost to the value of donated funds.”
Vashon’s all volunteer Emergency Operations Center was activated on March 12th to organize and support pandemic response under the Incident Command direction of Chief Charlie Krimmert of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue. More than 50 volunteers have been working during that time on a range of support programs for households, neighborhoods, businesses, unemployed workers and healthcare.