LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Box Lunch was a huge success

Original Source: http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/opinion/letters/306341701.html

  • Jun 6, 2015 at 10:00AM


On Wednesday, May 20, over 370 delicious box lunches were prepared, assembled and delivered to hungry community members who ordered lunch and donated $10 in support of our programs at Readiness To Learn Foundation.

The Readiness To Learn Foundation is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with schools, communities and families to help children reach their potential regardless of their circumstances. All proceeds from the Box Lunch fundraiser will support foundation programs:

Family Support Services help families during difficult times with resources tailored to meet specific individualized needs.

After School Programming helps kids stay caught up with school work, gain mentorship, and build social skills.

Families In Transition provides support for homeless students and their families with the goal of keeping students in school throughout the duration of homelessness.

The Family Resource Center is a gathering place for families and the community with a parent lending library, amenities such as grooming and school supplies for families in need, and ongoing parent groups and classes.

Applause and a big thank you to Joanie Smith and the Eagles Club where the turkeys and roast beef were cooked and volunteers along with Readiness To Learn board members and staff prepared the lunch wraps and assembled the orders. Thanks to the volunteer delivery drivers for making ‘almost’ all of the deliveries on time. Thank you to businesses who donated money and supplies to help make our Box Lunch fundraiser possible, and the biggest thank you to the community that supports us with their generous participation and financial donations. We salute you all.

It’s a wrap, see you next time!


executive director Readiness To Learn Foundation

Box lunch program earns thousands for student programs

original source: http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/community/304773301.html

Readiness to Learn volunteers help prepare box lunches for a fundraiser last Wednesday morning. The organization sold 371 lunches in all, bring in revenue for student programs.    — Image Credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

Readiness to Learn volunteers help prepare box lunches for a fundraiser last Wednesday morning. The organization sold 371 lunches in all, bring in revenue for student programs.

— Image Credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

by JUSTIN BURNETT,  South Whidbey Record Editor

May 22, 2015 at 6:00PM

The Readiness to Learn Foundation raised more than $3,700 with its annual Box Lunch program this week.

Hailing the sale a success, organization director Gail LaVassar said it not only brought attention to the foundation and earned money for its programs but also fed hungry workers across South Whidbey and brought people together.

“It’s as much of a fundraiser as it is a community awareness event; everybody comes together,” LaVassar said.

The fundraiser works by selling lunches for $10. This year, a total of 371 ham, turkey or veggie wraps were prepared — salads were also offered, and each meal came with a water, cookie and chips — and delivered to businesses from Clinton to Freeland. The largest deliveries went to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders and Ace Hardware in Freeland, and the South Whidbey School District in Langley.

The food was donated by Eating for Charity, a quiet organization led by Joanie Smith, president of the Whidbey Island Eagles. She serves dinners at the club, and then donates the revenues to a different charity each month. This month it went to the Readiness to Learn Foundation; Smith also cooked all the food on Tuesday so volunteers could come in Wednesday and make it into wraps.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Smith, adding that the Eagles donated the work space and that the effort couldn’t be done without the club’s help.

Once the food was cooked, it was wrapped to order by a small but dedicated team of volunteers. Many were members of St. Hubert Catholic Church in Langley, such as Miki O’Brien, a Sunlight Beach resident.

O’Brien has volunteered for the Box Lunch program since its inception in 2003. She likes the people involved and it’s a great way to make new friends, she said.

“And the purpose is marvelous,” O’Brien said.

She had eight children so she enthusiastically supports programs that help students.

At its height, the Box Lunch program served up to 1,000 and ran successfully until 2009 when foundation decision makers put the program on hold. It was restarted last year.

Money raised from this year’s fundraiser is put toward other foundation programs, such as the Family Resource Center, after school programs, and Resources for the Homeless.

LaVassar said the foundation plans to hold another Box Lunch this fall and hopes to recruit more volunteers to help with the sales. For details, call 360-221-6808 ext. 4321.


Readiness to Learn Holiday House open for business

  • by KATE DANIEL ,  South Whidbey Record Features And Education  
  • Dec 18, 2014 at 8:00AM updated Dec 19, 2014 at 6:17AM
Bayley G, a member of the South Whidbey High School Associated Student Body, is one of this year's Holiday House volunteers. Here, she stands in the apparel section of the South Whidbey Holiday House.   — Image Credit: Contributed Photo

Bayley G, a member of the South Whidbey High School Associated Student Body, is one of this year's Holiday House volunteers. Here, she stands in the apparel section of the South Whidbey Holiday House.

— Image Credit: Contributed Photo

The Readiness to Learn Foundation is working to ensure every child and teen on South Whidbey receives a gift this holiday season, regardless of their family's financial status. The foundation's annual Holiday House, a project to provide free gifts for kids and teens whose families are struggling, opened for business this week at the Hoffman Building at the Island County Fairgrounds in Langley.

The South Whidbey house is open today through Dec. 20 from 9:30 to 6 p.m. Another house at Coupeville Elementary to serve the central and north Whidbey communities is also open today through Dec. 23.

Gail LaVassar, Readiness to Learn executive director, estimates that this year they will serve up to 1,000 children in Island County. Toys for Tots provides some toys, and Readiness to Learn purchases others with financial donations from the community. As of Tuesday, the South Whidbey Holiday House had received about 1084 toys from Toys for Tots and had purchased more than 894 gifts using financial donations.

"Families have told us that they are finding gifts their children want," wrote LaVassar in an email to The Record. "Several parents have said, 'The hardest thing is choosing between lots of good choices!' This is exactly the shopping we set out to create. We want it to feel like a real store and not a hand out."

Donations are still being accepted, and the Foundation has a particular need for gifts for kids age 14 and older who are not served by Toys for Tots. Gift ideas for teens include grooming aids, cell phone accessories, gift cards, beauty products, fishing gear and tool kits. Donations can be sent to Holiday House PO Box 280 Langley.

South Whidbey families in need of assistance can visit www.rtl-foundation.org/contact-us or call 360-221-6808 ext 4321 or email rtlfprograms@rtl-foundation.org. Schedulers for the South Whidbey Holiday House are only able to take appointments through noon on Dec. 19. North and Central Whidbey families can call 360-279-5514 to schedule an appointment. For both the Langley and Coupeville houses, schedulers will ask a few questions regarding income eligibility and will then schedule a time.

"There are many families who cannot afford to purchase their children Christmas gifts," wrote LaVassar. "Holiday House helps parents by providing gifts and eliminating the stress of deciding whether to pay the heating bill or buy their child a gift."

Homeless count yields a few surprises in Island County

by JANIS REID,  South Whidbey Record Whidbey Crosswind

Jun 6, 2015 at 4:00PM

Bayley G, a member of the South Whidbey High School Associated Student Body, is one of this year's Holiday House volunteers. Here, she stands in the apparel section of the South Whidbey Holiday House.   — Image Credit: Contributed Photo

Bayley G, a member of the South Whidbey High School Associated Student Body, is one of this year's Holiday House volunteers. Here, she stands in the apparel section of the South Whidbey Holiday House.

— Image Credit: Contributed Photo

Nearly half of Island County’s homeless are working.

This fact is one of several revelations discussed in recent weeks with Island County commissioners as the result of the 2015 point-in-time count performed in January.

“This year we feel we have come closer to what we consider a close coverage count,” said Joanne Pelant, Island County’s housing resource coordinator who organized the count.

The county switched up its methodology this year and recruited more than 100 volunteers who surveyed people who identified themselves as homeless for specific information.

“We can feel really confident about our numbers this year because of this strategy,” Pelant said.

Volunteers counted 147 total adult homeless designated as “unsheltered” and 38 designated as sheltered. The unsheltered definition includes people living in tents, vehicles, parks, woods and in abandoned or substandard structures.

Individuals were only counted as “sheltered” if they were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing associated with a state or county organization. People “doubled up” or living with family and friends, as well as those in hospitals or incarceration were not counted as “homeless,” but were recorded for the state, Pelant said.

When divided by region, 71 of the total homeless were in the Oak Harbor area, 28 were found on South Whidbey and 10 were found in the Coupeville area.

No homeless were found to survey on Camano Island.

Economic drivers are among the top causes of homelessness, Pelant said, something that is common throughout the region. 

“Other counties’ charts look very similar to ours,” Pelant said.

The top reason for homelessness in Island County was job loss, followed by a family crisis or break up, eviction from a residence and other economic reasons.

Around 42 percent of respondents said they had less than 4 episodes of homeless in the past three years. The remaining respondents reported they had been homeless for more than a year or had more than four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson remarked at a presentation in May how many people were newly homeless.

“Almost half the people are new to crisis, so we’re not stopping people from falling into crisis, we’re creating more,” Price Johnson said.

Around 45 percent reported having full- or part-time work, and closer to 50 percent are living in their vehicles, Pelant reported.

“So they have income but it’s not enough to afford housing,” Pelant said.

Surveys also revealed that of the 109 unsheltered homeless that were surveyed, 76 percent reported having a physical disability, chronic health condition or mental illness.

The count included 65 adult men and 44 adult women, and included 11 families with children, 11 adult households and 43 singles.

Ten individuals reported being veterans and 13 as domestic abuse survivors.

Commissioner Jill Johnson, who proposed that the board have future discussion about solutions, said that the numbers will assist local leaders to “develop some strategies on where we’re going to target.”

Hometown Hero

Congratulations to Langley Middle School teacher Erik Jokinen for his nomination of “Hometown Hero” in the South Whidbey Record.  Click here to read the whole article.

Food Insecurity

Opinion article from the Huffington Post relating to food insecurity.   

I admit it. It’s true. I lie to the people running the food pantry.

But before you get out your pitchforks and righteous indignation, before you diatribe about me “abusing the system” or taking advantage, please let me explain.

I’m not lying about needing the food. I’m not lying about my family size to get more in the bags. I’m not hiding income so that it appears I’m destitute.

My lie concerns the little check boxes at the bottom of the form I fill out each time:

Reason for need (check one):

  • Unemployed
  • Temporary loss of employment.
  • Disabled
  • Ill
  • Elderly
  • Homeless

If you notice, all of these are pretty much “reasons why you aren’t working.” Maybe that’s just the impression I get, but there is no check box for “barely making it even though we’re working.”

See, that’s the problem. My husband has a job — a good job considering the economy and our location. I take on small jobs as I can find them to work from home, or where I’m able to take my youngest with me. And yet when it comes down to all of our bills — utilities, rent, insurance, gasoline, medication, clothes and those unpredictable mishaps that seem to plague low income families — we just don’t have enough left over to feed us all. We are working — but we’re just barely making it. All of our bills have set amounts that must be paid for us to keep our other necessities. How much we spend on food any given week is the only thing I can control.

And by control, I mean take what’s left over after paying towards everything else and using it to feed my family of four for a week. Sometimes it’s $50. That’s a pretty good week. Sometimes it’s only $20, and the kids complain of boring beans and rice again. Some weeks, it’s even less. Some weeks, I feed my children and my spouse, and find an excuse not to be hungry because there’s nothing left. Those weeks suck your will to live. And it’s this reason that I solemnly drive to the food pantry each month, wait in line, and lie on my paperwork to get food for my family.

We are working, we just don’t always have the money to eat.

So which box do I check? “Temporary loss of employment” — because that’s the only one I feel like I can stretch enough to cover the truth. We are in poverty due to a broken system and lack of employment that pays enough for us to thrive. And we can only hope it’s temporary.