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In a bid to help positively impact the communities in which it operates, six years ago Peoples Bank created the Peoples Bank Impact Grant program to help eligible nonprofits provide a long-lasting, positive impact on the community. This year, the Bellingham Central Lions Club was awarded a $25,000 Peoples Bank Impact Grant, and Mount Vernon-based Children of the Valley was awarded a $10,000 Peoples Choice Impact Grant.

We sat down with Bellingham Central Lions Club President Debbie Costello and Children of the Valley Executive Director Flora Lucatero to learn more about the missions of their organizations and how they’ll put the grants to good use.

Peoples Bank Impact Grant

As a full-service community bank operated locally, Peoples Bank is no stranger to the needs of the communities in which it provides services. Thus, the Peoples Bank Impact Grant program was introduced in 2017 to help strengthen nonprofit organizations doing important work across the region. This year, the $25,000 grant was awarded to the Bellingham Central Lions Club.

“The Bellingham Central Lions Club recently celebrated 102 years of being in this community,” says Debbie Costello. “Along with the Haskell Eye Clinic, we support several programs, including the Wheelchair Warehouse and Books for Kids. There’s always a need in the community for our services, so we are extremely grateful to receive this grant from Peoples Bank.”

Bellingham Central Lions Club used its $25,000 grant to purchase a new Ocular Coherence Tomography machine, which was recently installed. Photo courtesy Bellingham Central Lions Club

In operation for 12 years, the all-volunteer Haskell Eye Clinic provides free eye examinations and glasses for qualified low-income and homeless people in the community.

“The Haskell Eye Clinic was in need of an Ocular Coherence Tomography machine, or OCT, which is essentially an ultrasound that can get micron-level visibility inside the eyes to diagnose different conditions like glaucoma, retinopathy from diabetes, or optic nerve disease,” says Costello.

Bellingham Central Lions Club used the $25,000 grant to purchase the machine and installed it at the end of November. “This equipment has been a missing link at the eye clinic for quite some time,” says Costello. “It cost the same amount of money as the grant award; it was just meant to be — a miracle.”

“Getting out there in the community involves a lot of word of mouth and a lot of help from those who can direct people to our services and fund our work,” Costello says. “We are a service organization and where there’s a need, there’s a Lion.”

Peoples Choice Impact Grant

In 2022, the Peoples Bank Impact Grant program was expanded to include a $10,000 Peoples Choice grant. This year, Children of the Valley based in Skagit County was selected through a public community voting process to receive the funds to help purchase a 10-passenger van.

“Children of the Valley started with a vision, an idea that came from an elementary school teacher who was helping under-resourced youth in her classroom find a safe place to go after school with positive adults and mentors,” Flora Lucatero says. “She also saw that many of these students were going to households without enough food or things to do while their parents were away at work.”

As its program grows, Children of the Valley continues to need more resources to keep expanding and serving the community successfully. Photo courtesy Children of the Valley

The vision turned into a reality in 2006 when Children of the Valley opened its doors as an on-campus program at Bethany Covenant Church with 30 students. That same year, the Mount Vernon school district partnered with the organization, referring students from six different elementary schools based on academic and personal needs.

“We are a free program because our goal is to provide kids with equal access to opportunities they might not have elsewhere,” says Lucatero. “We’re now a robust after-school program serving 175 children in Skagit County and we’ve partnered with several school districts to continue to be a referral-based program.” As the program grows, Children of the Valley continues to need more resources to keep expanding and serving the community successfully.

Children of the Valley is a free program with a goal to provide kids with equal access to opportunities they might not have elsewhere. Photo courtesy Children of the Valley

“We are using this grant to purchase a new 10-passenger van to help us serve multiple sites and multiple communities,” Lucatero says. “Previously, we only had one van for one site — and it’s a barrier.”

An organization like Children of the Valley is a valuable investment in the future of the community.

“Every dollar invested in a program like ours saves our community three dollars,” says Lucatero. “We are grateful and honored to receive this grant. It all starts with preventative work to ensure all children have the tools and resources to be successful in their life so they can be positive, contributing members of our society.”

An organization like Children of the Valley is a valuable investment in the future of the community. Photo courtesy Children of the Valley

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