Supporting civic and humanitarian projects that strengthen families and build futures has been at the heart of two Whatcom County Rotary organizations for nearly 100 years.

As Rotary Club of Bellingham enters its 100th season of service, and Bellingham Bay Rotary celebrates 36 years, the two branches of Rotary have chosen to partner together and awarded Lydia Place with a multi-club gift. Rotary Club of Bellingham has pledged $100,000 and Bellingham Bay Rotary Club has pledged $50,000 from their Major Capital Grant to support the Lydia Place Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign that will renovate the organization’s current housing program office, and add an additional second story. These pledges enable Lydia Place to move into the permitting phase of the project, and break ground in early Spring of 2017.

“Rotary Club of Bellingham will celebrate 100 years of service in 2017. Over this time we have sponsored and supported many worthwhile services that help our local community.  This year we are proud to support Lydia Place in their building expansion project.  The services they bring to homeless families in Bellingham and Whatcom County are needed more today than ever before,” said Del VandeKerk, President 2016-2017, Rotary Club of Bellingham.

lydia place
The proposed space for the remodeled Lydia Place building is pictured here. Photo courtesy: Lydia Place.

The Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign will remodel the existing program space adjacent to the Lydia Place Transitional House for homeless mothers and children, that has served the community for 27 years. The expansion will build a second story on that program space, and future home to the new Parent Support Program, creating a complete campus of support for homeless families and their children. Rotarian support was committed to the project with the intention of both kick starting, and finishing the desperately needed campus upgrades. Bellingham Bay Rotary’s gift will support the first floor renovation, while Rotary Club of Bellingham’s gift will support the second story addition.

“We are thrilled to leverage our members’ connections and expertise to extend the reach of our $50,000 to this worthwhile case. Lydia Place is a beacon of light for those that have lost their way, and we are proud to stand beside them and help to shine that light even brighter for years to come,” said Bill Geyer, Immediate Past President, Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.

Rotary’s involvement doesn’t end with the signing of a check. Representatives from both organizations have stepped up to guide Lydia Place through the building process and have organized and solicited support from club members and the community to ensure that the project in fiscally on target, and utilizes existing resources and partnerships.

“Rotary Club of Bellingham and Bellingham Bay Rotary Club share a strong commitment to service and our community through strengthening families, and counteracting the effects of homelessness. Thanks to their vision and leadership, countless local families will continue to rise from poverty and build bright futures for themselves and their children,” said Emily O’Connor, Executive Director, Lydia Place.

“As long time supporter of Lydia Place, my wife Ginny and I appreciate the enthusiastic work efforts that the staff and volunteers of Lydia Place have shown in providing safe housing and supportive services to the most vulnerable population in our community, homeless families,” said Tim Fisher, Lydia Place campaign sponsor, Rotary Club of Bellingham.

THE NEED: 23% of Whatcom County’s homeless are children.*

The Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign is centered on the needs of the community’s most vulnerable children, and the staggering statistic that 1 in 4 homeless individuals in Whatcom County are under 18 years of age.*

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The financial support from Rotary Club of Bellingham and Bellingham Bay Rotary Club means that Lydia Place can begin applying for permits for the project. Photo courtesy: Lydia Place.

Lydia Place is expanding rapidly in response to the worsening state of homelessness in Whatcom County. This campaign builds on projects already underway, and enables Lydia Place to further their reach, and expand services to children and their families. The Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign will equip the Lydia Place Transitional House and campus with the physical space and tools necessary to deliver services to homeless children and their families, and to continue to expand programs and services to reach additional families in need.

INTERVENTION AND PREVENTION: 33% of children with 8 more Adverse Childhood Experiences will become homelessness as an adult. **

Studies have shown adverse effects including drug and alcohol dependency, high school incompletion, poverty and homelessness increase at exponential percentages for children of poverty and trauma.

“What we now know is that when negative childhood experiences accumulate, so does the likelihood of struggling with adult homelessness. This knowledge gives us a chance to change the future by investing in healthy childhoods for our community’s children. At Lydia Place, we are expanding and growing our breadth of services to ensure that the parents in the families we serve, have access to the resources and supports they need, like our Parents as Teachers program, to equip me with the skills and tools they need to create better outcomes for their children. The Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign is built around the dedication to expanding these desperately needed programs. When are children thrive, our community thrives,” said O’Connor.

Representatives from both local Rotary Clubs will be assisting in the management of the remodeling project.  Photo courtesy: Lydia Place.
Representatives from both local Rotary Clubs will be assisting in the management of the remodeling project. Photo courtesy: Lydia Place.

In the case of Lydia Place and their campaign to add additional program capacity and increase housing services for Bellingham’s most vulnerable families and children, it took the vision, leadership, and partnership of the long standing clubs coming together to provide the financial support to raise the project off the ground floor, and put it into its final funding phase. From permits, to plans, and elbow grease these clubs are ensuring that Lydia Place can raise the roof.

“Rotary’s motto is Service to Humanity.  We can think of no better way to provide services to those who need help than by working with Lydia Place on this very important project,” said VandeKerk.

Rotary Club of Bellingham and Bellingham Bay Rotary Club are service organizations whose purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace in the community’s which their members live and work, and around the world.

Lydia Place provides transitional housing, permanent supportive housing, housing case management, rapid re-housing,  emergency housing, life skills programs, evidence-based parenting support, parenting classes, community outreach and education; and works closely with many community partners to meet the diverse needs of those struggling with homelessness. Together with their community partners, their collective goal is to end homelessness in Whatcom County.

For more information on Lydia Place programs and services, Rotary Club of Bellingham or Bellingham Bay Rotary, or to help complete the final phase of the The Strengthening Families, Building Futures Campaign contact Shultzie Willows at shultziew@lydiaplace.org or call 360-671-7663.

*Homeless In Bellingham, 2016 Point In Time Count, Whatcom Homeless Service Center

** ACE Score and Relation to Adult Homelessness,  Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness

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