100+ Harbor Women Who Care raises $16,200 for nonprofit

The group 100+ Harbor Women Who Care succeeded Tuesday night in a few ways — from community outreach and exposure to financially helping three nonprofits in need.

After speakers from American Legion Post 5 and the YMCA of Grays Harbor’s program “Caring Kids,” spoke, the vote came in and North Beach Senior Center netted the giant check at the end of the event to the tune of $14,000. After the group finished counting the raised funds, including additional funds people can add to their initial $100, the senior center’s total was up to $15,200, according to Maryann Welch, who leads 100+ Harbor Women Who Care. As of Wednesday afternoon, that total increased to $16,200.

In the third gathering for the group, and the second one since October 2022, 100+ Harbor Women Who Care hosted a room at Hoquiam Elks Lodge that so full even the tables in the way back were full. That wasn’t the case in October. The crowd was still quite full, but not this full.

Dori Unterseher, the evening’s emcee, remarked about the night’s turnout.

“We are just so delighted to see you and I am here to say, I’m pretty sure this is the largest group of folks that we’ve had,” Unterseher said. “This is just fabulous.”

The employees at Hoquiam Elks Lodge were hard at work as they were bringing drinks in and out from the bar as people finished their drinks — from wine and cocktails to beer and non-alcoholic drinks.

In addition to the women who have attended before, there were a lot of new faces who stood up when Unterseher asked who were first timers. That included Dakota Mullikin, the daughter of Bill Mullikin, who helps run “The Walkthrough.” The program helps homeless teenagers aged 12- to 17-year-old not only survive, but thrive.

Last year, The Walkthrough won $14,200 at the end of the October event, but then received an addition $5,000 from a national nonprofit, which increased their entire funding to $19,200.

“Last October was a dream that you guys made come true, so thank you,” Mullikin said. “Money always helps but the exposure got community members to come into our shelter to use our certified kitchen and cook Thanksgiving dinner for kids who have never sat down and (eaten) a bird. They also came back at Christmas. I think Christmas was prime rib. I wasn’t there, but it’s incredible, just crazy.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, the pre-teens and teens were able to decorate for Halloween.

“It was kind of weird and scary, and there were spider webs hanging all over the place, but you know what? There were so many smiles and that’s what it’s all about,” Mullikin said. “I work with kids every day who have no reason to smile, and we brought them smiles. So that was incredible.”

As for this year’s winner, Jeff Moyer — executive director of North Beach Senior Center, and Kathy Lazardo — volunteer, spoke for the North Beach Senior Center. Moyer said one of the challenges the nonprofit goes through is funding.

The center provides food all over, including the Salvation Army in Aberdeen, Hoquiam Food Bank, Copalis Community Church Food and Clothing Bank, and places in Raymond and Westport.

“We’re doing a lot of mass distribution right now, but we are also taking care of our own.

Through a litany of services, the nonprofit helps children eat through its summer meal program, which Moyer deemed one of the nonprofit’s “pride and joy programs.”

“We provide seven days of self-sustainable food — breakfast, lunch and snacks,” Moyer said about the 11-week program. He said last year through the 11-week summer, the program helped 250 children.

“We deliver the boxes to their homes because a lot of people don’t have transportation so we take them to their homes. We’re getting ready to do a spring break program right now. We’re estimating 250 kids and we’ll do the same.”

According to Moyer, a lot of the nonprofit’s funding is being cut off. The nonprofit serves seniors. A lot of senior citizens can’t come out to North Beach, or they won’t come out of “embarrassment.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit helped 120-180 senior citizens per week that staff would take care of by delivering the boxes to their homes.

“I don’t know, but the food sustainability is the utmost important as far as I’m concerned,” Moyer said. “Not only with kids, but with seniors.”

Moyer had a volunteer speak about her volunteerism with North Beach, and why it’s important to help.

“We saw middle class,” said Kathy, the volunteer. “We saw people hanging on by their fingertips. They would literally say ‘Thank God for you guys.’”

The people who have needed help in the last few years, especially since COVID, have been moms and dads where the breadwinner loses a job.

“They needed the groceries so they could use what money they did have, the income they did have from the mom who was an essential worker, so they could pay the power bill, the mortgage payment, the rent, the car payment, the gas in the car for somebody to get to work. They made the difference between them surviving or just losing their home.”

While the American Legion Post 5 and the YMCA of Grays Harbor “Caring Kids,” didn’t win, the exposure can mean quite a lot for a nonprofit in need.

American Legion Post 5

Gwyn Tarrence, commander of American Legion Post 5 in Aberdeen, described what his group would do if it had gotten the money. It would complete its kitchen. The post serves low-income military veterans.

“We undertook a major remodel in order to bring our kitchen up to code,” Tarrence said. “Adding plumbing, electrical, and so many sinks, which enabled us to become commercial licensed. We were able to complete phase 1, and we are able to serve soups, salads and sandwiches. Unfortunately, due to problems encountered during our remodel, we ran out of funding to complete the final phase.”

The American Legion has everything else in storage — ventilation, flat top grill, fryer, a commercial range — all in storage, but it lacks the funding to have them properly installed.

According to Tarrence, the American Legion Post 5 needs $12,000 to complete its mission.

“Once these are installed, it’ll open up so many opportunities,” Tarrence said. “We’ll be better positioned to fundraise, both for our local veterans and other organizations in need. It’s very hard to fundraise with such limitations. And with a complete kitchen, not only will we be able to add to our own menu, but it’ll increase our fundraising opportunities for our own programs to continue. We can begin a food service training program to enable an easier transition into the job market.”

YMCA of Grays Harbor

The YMCA of Grays Harbor “Caring Kids” program can provide a place that caregivers and their children can meet up for a few hours and a few days per week, according to Dannielle Oliver, senior director of licensed programming at YMCA of Grays Harbor.

“It provides opportunities for families to build relationships, receive education from experts, and be introduced to community resources,” Oliver said. “This program was offered free to participants and is open for families (with kids) from birth to age 5.”

Oliver explained the program is important because caregivers are the “first teacher in a child’s life.”

“The caring kids program provided an opportunity for caregivers and their children to get quality time together,” Oliver said. “Furthermore, Caring Kids gave an opportunity for kindergarten readiness by offering learning and group activities.”

Unfortunately for the program, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a “shift” on access to resources and socialization opportunities.

“What I’ve learned is that post-COVID, many infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers have been raised in social isolation,” Oliver said. “There are many caregivers and children who need support and learning how to navigate community resources, as well as learning how to socialize with other children prior to entering elementary school. There has been increasing pressure on childcare, pre-school and kindergarten teachers to assist in these areas.”

Oliver explained further what the program does.

“In our childcare and pre-school program, our teachers have made their primary focus to help our pre-schoolers learn how to develop positive social and emotional skills, such as how to join and play, form friendships, communicate emotions and deal with life’s challenges.”

With the community’s help, the goal is to get the Caring Kids program back up and running, and being able to “once again” offer support to young children and the caregivers in their lives, and make it a critical part of investing in the program’s future.

Moyer was thrilled that North Beach Senior Center and Food Bank was selected for the money Tuesday night.

“I felt very honored and I was humbled knowing that the important work we do was recognized by our community members,” Moyer said. “The event itself brings people together and allows them to support nonprofits in a big way. Those in attendance I’m sure networked and made new friendships. I have no doubts that this event will grow year after year.”

Dakota Mullikin, a new participant in the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care event, said she thought it was “amazing to hear from organizations I might not have heard of before.”

“And to be with women who care about our community this deeply is really powerful,” Mullikin said.