One of the many aspects of America’s greatness is our country’s support of a vibrant voluntary service sector. Historically, neighbors and churches began this tradition and were soon followed by service organizations and nonprofit organizations. Today, America’s nonprofit sector works on the front lines to reduce hunger, homelessness, child abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, and a multitude of other social problems.
The holiday season is a special time that non-profit organizations reach out to the community to help families survive and thrive.
For the Olympian’s readers who want to help the needy this holiday season, I will share with you some of my favorite organizations. The following nonprofit organizations have some several common denominators that include long tenured executive directors, budgets that balance, provide essential safety net services and serve a large service population. Please consider giving to any one or more of these outstanding nonprofits.
▪ SafePlace’s longtime executive director is the tenacious, smart and dedicated Mary Pontarolo. This agency is dedicated to eradicating domestic and sexual violence and providing compassionate advocacy services to victims. SafePlace operates a 28-bed shelter and advocacy service system with a $1.2 million budget of which half is raised through local contributions.
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Mary with her board recently completed a $2 million capital campaign that transformed an older downtown building into a beautiful and functional space.
SafePlace donations may be made through its website at www.safeplaceolympia.org.
▪ Family Support Center’s longtime executive director is Schelli Slaughter, who started as an intake worker over 15 years ago and has been its director for five years. Schelli reinvented the Family Support Center through her vision of a shelter and permanent housing program for homeless families called Pear Blossom. Other services include supervised visitation services, parent education and serves as home to the county’s Family Justice Center.
The Family Support Center’s budget is a modest $1.13 million and provides a lifeline to hundreds of families a year. Family Support Services donations may be made through its website at www.fscss.org.
▪ Community Youth Services is the region’s most prominent child welfare agency that serves 4,500 children, youth and families a year through its 22 program areas. Scott Hanauer serves as the agency’s CEO and has 40 years of experience in child welfare with a specialty in trauma informed care. CYS’s vision is to ensure that children are raised in a loving family and supportive community and are able to achieve their full potential.
CYS provides many essential safety net services that depend on the community for support such as Haven House, the region’s only teen shelter; Rosie’s Place, the region’s only day center for street affected youth and young adults; along with a 12-bed emergency shelter. CYS’ budget is $7.7 million and employs 125 staff with 85 volunteers. The agency has conducted several capital campaigns in recent years that netted the community its teen shelter, the main downtown service center and the Brighter Futures Youth Center that houses Rosie’s Place.
Contributions to CYS may be made at www.communityyouthservices.org.
▪ Thurston County Food Bank needs little introduction. Its capable executive director, Robert Coit, stewards this critical community resource. Prior to Robert’s tenure, community icon Jan Putman served as executive director for over 25 years. The food bank distributes food to the hungry in partnership with organizations at 17 satellite locations. Their mission is to eliminate hunger in Thurston County. Last year, the Food Bank served over 47,000 persons.
Robert and his Board recently completed a multi-million dollar capital campaign which purchased and remodeled a large warehouse to store their food. Their annual operating budget is $5.4 million.
Contributions to the Food Bank may be at www.thurstoncountyfoodbank.org.
▪ Senior Services for South Sound’s executive director is the capable and ever popular banjo playing, smiling and singing Eileen McKenzie-Sullivan. Its mission is help seniors and their families stay vital and independent in the community. The organization operates seven senior centers throughout Thurston and Mason counties. Senior Services helps thousands of elders yearly through a senior nutrition program and day center programs. These bring nourishment and joy to the souls of otherwise isolated seniors in our region.
Donations to Senior Services for South Sound may be made at www.SouthSoundSeniors.org.
These non-profits exemplify the best in service excellence and stewardship while offering a variety of essential service offerings.
Happy holidays to all.
Charles Shelan, who retired after 36 years as chief executive of Community Youth Services, is a member of The Olympian’s 2015 Board of Contributors. He may be reached at email@example.com.