Vashon Relief Fund Supports Island Pandemic Response and Recovery

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Vashon Island’s VashonBePrepared volunteer emergency response group is starting a major fundraising effort to expand relief to the 10,000 rural Vashon Island residents. The Vashon COVID Relief Fund distributed $25,000 in one week in April to pay for groceries, meals and rent relief for islanders facing economic hardships from the pandemic. The payments to five island agencies are the first allocations from the Relief Fund, originally started to cover the cost of an ongoing COVID-19 testing project on the island. 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 many may never open again,” 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 week’s $25,000 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 1,800 meals provided by the Vashon School District nutrition program, Vashon Senior Center lunch program and Interfaith Council for Prevention of Homelessness evening 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.”

In recent weeks, the fund began with three major donations totaling $165,000, allowing the VashonBePrepared Board to expand the work of the Relief Fund beyond testing. The board has focused spending on health, food, shelter and economic recovery. VashonBePrepared is starting a fundraising effort to expand relief and help for the 10,000 people living on rural Vashon Island. 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. With the initial donations, the campaign needs to raise $260,000 to meet the $425,000 Vashon COVID Relief Fund goal.

VashonBePrepared is providing support by buying goods and services rather than by making bulk cash grants.

“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 could double 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. Almost 40 people have been working during that time on a range of support programs for households, neighborhoods, businesses, unemployed workers and healthcare.