The gift of giving | Port Townsend Leader


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A local tradition of altruistic donations to the fine organizations of Jefferson County is set to continue this year with Give Jefferson, United Good Neighbors of Jefferson County.

The local field of interest fund has a deep, 60-plus year history on the Olympic Peninsula of bringing financial support to many humanitarian organizations, businesses, and nonprofits in the county.

The Port Townsend Paper Mill, city of Port Townsend, and The Leader first collaborated in 1957 to form United Good Neighbors, and it has continued to serve the community ever since. Originally arranged as a nonprofit, it became a field of interest fund for the Jefferson Community Foundation — a foundation started in 2005 as a way to streamline charitable donations to suitable nonprofits and groups.

“It’s been a beloved campaign in our community for over 60 years,” said Jen Kingfisher, director of community partnership with the Jefferson Community Foundation. “This helps neighbors in our community that are struggling the most.”

Each year, the Jefferson Community Foundation’s Give Jefferson campaign gives back to many of the key organizations that support local citizens and neighbors in need.

Considering the rising cost of living, inflation, and the looming repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a lot of Jefferson County residents in need of services and support.

“Give Jefferson is on the front line working with our friends and neighbors,” Kingfisher said, adding, “the economy, the increasing price of food, gas, utilities, and mechanisms to keep people warm, it’s all more challenging this year.”

The community foundation will support
34 eligible nonprofits and organizations as well as multiple businesses in the area this year, with the goal of helping out the neighbors that need it most. Every dollar raised and awarded stays local.

“Our overall goal is $375,000 [in donations]; it’s a lofty goal for us and we’re quite hopeful to meet that goal and care for our neighbors and friends in Jefferson County,” Kingfisher said.

Whether it’s a server at a local eatery, senior citizen, young family, or anyone else, there are plenty of neighbors in the county who could greatly benefit from community support.

Supporting Give Jefferson can help in a variety of ways, from finding transitional housing for someone in need to bringing food to the table for someone less fortunate.

Here are some of the amazing groups, nonprofits, and organizations on the front line supporting neighbors in need.

OH YEA!

YEA Music!, a musical nonprofit in Jefferson County, works in harmony with a handful of schools in the area to provide music opportunities for kids and teens. First started in 2018, the organization has provided several after-school music programs at Salish Coast Elementary School and Blue Heron Middle School prior to the pandemic, then organized Zoom-based music lessons for 80-plus students to continue their musical growth.

The nonprofit’s teaching philosophy mirrors that of El Sistema — a Venezuelan music-education program founded in 1975 that hones in on equity, empowerment, excellence, impact, sustainability, joy, and community in musical education.

A helping hand for young adults

Port Townsend-based nonprofit OWL 360 is a sustainable living project geared toward assisting young adults ages 18 through
24 with numerous support services.

“OWL 360, they took on working with young people 18 to 24 that may not have had the same education as some people, and getting to perform basic living skills,” Kingfisher said.

The nonprofit has goals of bringing full support services in the areas of education, employment, mental health, housing stability, financial literacy, and more for young adults in town.

Plenty of pride

Olympic Pride is the only nonprofit in Jefferson County solely dedicated to serving the LGBTQ+ community.

Whether it’s sponsoring the annual Sound of Pride celebration, engaging the community at numerous events like the Jefferson County Farmers’ Market, or offering youth programming such as the “Rainshadow Youth Collective,” Olympic Pride remains a constant for the local LGBTQ+ community. The nonprofit is committed to creating a community where people of all genders and sexual identities are not only safe, but also valued. 

Educ-ocean

Based out of Port Hadlock, the Community Boat Project is a nonprofit group that provides teens on the Peninsula truly unique educational opportunities on the waters of Puget Sound. Teens are paired with high-capacity adult mentors in programs that hone in on real work, critical thinking, and social skills through organic, hands-on learning experiences. The central goal is toward creating more skilled and empathetic adults and forming a gathering place where participants can find joy in working together.

Salmon in the schools

There’s nothing fishy about the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, a community-based nonprofit that’s been working to perform salmon habitat restoration for the past 30-plus years. The organization is seeking funding for its Salmon in the Schools program, which facilitates more than
180 Jefferson County first- through third-graders in raising salmon in their classrooms. In local schools such as Chimacum Elementary, young students get to learn more about the salmon life cycle, biology, and habitat, eventually getting to release the salmon they raised from roe to adult into local water streams at the end of the school year.

Love your neighbor

Olympic Neighbors is a local nonprofit that serves folks with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families by providing safe and affordable housing, along with staff support so they can thrive in the local community. The organization gets involved in the community in a myriad of ways, whether it’s through the first-ever annual Porch Fest event back in September, community-inclusive pickup basketball, Friday Night Hangout, or any other programs and events, Olympic Neighbors is always finding new ways to connect folks with IDD to their community, and vice versa.

Its fun to stay at the…

The Olympic Peninsula YMCA is focused on youth development and strengthening families on the Peninsula with a variety of programs and services that greatly benefit people in the community. Whether it’s summer camps, literacy camps, childcare, meal programs, or family resource navigation, the nonprofit is dedicated to providing numerous programs and services in the community.

“The YMCA has long been involved with new and exciting programs, working with young people and families,” Kingfisher said.

The Y will soon play a vital role in year-round childcare services, with a child-care center set to be built on Port Townsend High School’s campus in 2024, and being operated and managed by the Olympic Peninsula YMCA.

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