The Keizer Holiday Lights Parade took place December 11th, and this year United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley was invited to participate with a float of our own! The theme this year was 'Songs of Christmas', and after taking all our current efforts into consideration, we decided on building off of "I'll be Home for Christmas". This holiday classic paired perfectly with our affordable housing project, which made significant progress in the latter half of 2021. With the help of some volunteers, we decorated a small model house similar to what will be constructed on our Market St. property to resemble a festive gingerbread house as our float. The parade followed a 2 mile route, where our community partner Capitol Auto assisted in driving the float, and part of our team was able to accompany and hand out candy.
We had a fantastic time despite the classic Oregon winter weather, and a big thank you must go to the community for allowing us to participate, our volunteers for helping set-up, and Capitol Auto for help in the parade itself. If you'd like to read more about our ongoing work involving affordable housing for seniors, click here.
November has been a busy month for Good360! We filled every possible event space for our community partners before the month began. After serving over 90 different agencies with needed goods before the holidays, we still have so much to do! A truckload containing 26 pallets of toys was delivered to us through our partnership with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. These toys will be distributed to dozens of agencies in the next few weeks. We are so thankful for our volunteers through Just Serve Salem that helped us sort through many of these toy orders. Tons of winter holiday decorations are still available at our warehouse that we hope will make many agencies and their clients enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!
Click here for a list of participating organizations and agencies receiving toys to distribute to families over the month of December. If you have any questions about Toys for Tots, or the Good360 Gifts in Kind Program e-mail Colman Crocker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With new staffing to cover most graveyard shifts, program manager Lynelle Wilcox has been able to put a more concentrated effort into increasing outreach and bettering relations with the community surrounding the SafeSleep Women's Shelter on Front Street. Beds at the shelter are currently mostly occupied, but Lynelle has been spending time at the shower truck site run by ARCHES to volunteer and talk about SafeSleep and other warming center operations as colder weather moves in. In addition to this, SafeSleep has been in communication with other shelters in the area to talk about the different supports they offer, in the hopes that new ideas could contribute towards SafeSleep's goal of meeting people where they are at. Some ideas relate to budgeting, saving money, employment options, and a focus on getting rent-ready, which may look different for everyone.
Over the last few months a camp has sprung up around the shelter, including structures that blocked the sidewalk. With this came instances of volatility, violence, and trash being spread around the area. The campers had settled beyond the shelter's property line, preventing SafeSleep from utilizing its authority to ask them to leave. Therefor, a request was submitted to the city of Salem to act and help get the area cleared. There are more homeless individuals now than ever, with no where for these people to go. The city is working hard to find places for them to stay, but the situation is tough as the need is greater than the resources. That being said, the city deemed it a necessary request and came to post signs and perform a sweep. It is difficult to have to act on the situation, with many of the campers outside the shelter experiencing physical and/or mental disabilities which may prevent them from meeting criteria to be in a shelter. It's not viable to have a homeless camp right outside of a women's shelter, however, and for the continued safety of the women staying at the shelter, action had to be taken. That being said, SafeSleep did make efforts to share shelter options with campers, and in at least one situation, asked DHS to send a caseworker to check on eligibility for assisted living for a significantly disabled individual.
As stated before, the shelter is at full capacity for the time being. Volunteers are still needed and greatly appreciated! SafeSleep United is open from 6:00pm to 8:00am every day. Shifts vary from opening to closing, so send program manager Lynelle Wilcox an e-mail at email@example.com to share what hours work for you. If you'd like to speak over the phone, call 971-570-4213.
Program Manager's Statement
This work has become a calling for me because it keeps showing me where my premises about poverty and homelessness are wrong, so I can shift to become more accurate in my thoughts and my heart.
And because a smile and hello can enable people to feel seen, and grow hope, and that can change everything. And because when we offer kindness, dignity, and respect to people who are often considered to be unworthy and less-than, people may begin to feel worthy and grow hope about their future.
And because people who are not homeless might witness our actions and may begin to question and reconsider their own beliefs. Because by doing this work, we are also planting seeds that might change others’ biases, minds, and hearts to believe the reality that people who are unsheltered are worthy, valuable, fellow human beings.
And because when ladies might sleep safely, and grow hope, they might breathe, heal, and pursue their hopes and dreams.
-Lynelle Wilcox, SafeSleep United Program Manager
Since United Way Women United began the Red Cart Project in late 2019, the effort to provide students with free, easy access to feminine hygiene products has seen amazing progress. Thanks in large part to community partners who have run collection drives and donated products, Women United has been able to continue its support across Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties. In 2021 alone, 29 carts have been given to schools across our area of service to expand existing resource support systems, along with over 1400 kits. Each kit contains 9 tampons and 5 pads, which adds up to 12,600 tampons and 7,000 pads we've been able to supply schools with! Considering most schools have only just returned to a majority in-person schedule this September, that number is a great success. That being said, the need for new supply is always present. As more schools request to be a part of the Red Cart Project, and participating schools need re-supplying, the Red Cart Project will continue to need the support of members of the community. If you would like to run a collection drive or have any questions about the Project, e-mail Stephanie Bobb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley took the Salem-Keizer Enrichment Academy under its wing after the departure of Salem-Kezier Education Foundation earlier this year, allowing us to help support students in a new capacity. The enrichment programs across the school district give students a unique opportunity before or after school hours to explore interests and build skills outside of a regular curriculum. North Salem High School runs 11 programs, one in particular titled Cooking101. This program is scheduled once a week, where 10-15 students have been learning basic cooking skills and expanding their culinary knowledge. So far this year they've made a wide variety of meals and treats, ranging from pigs in a blanket to cinnamon rolls! Thanks to programs like these, students are given the opportunity and support to explore interests and hobbies that they can carry forward outside of school and in life. If you have any questions about enrichment, e-mail Jodi Blackman at email@example.com.
United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley's 9th Annual Pajama Drive begins on November 01, with preparations having began weeks prior in October. As of now 41 physical drop-off locations have been established, an increase from last year that will benefit this year's increased requests. Due to many people still working from home and other restrictions stemming from COVID-19, we've also established an Amazon wish list that people can buy from and contribute virtually. To browse through these needs, click here!
Last year, United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley collected over 800 pairs of pajamas that were distributed between 8 local non-profits serving ages ranging from children to adults. The Drive will run until November 30, when drop-off boxes will be collected and their contents sorted by size and age. This is an excellent opportunity to support those in need as the winter season approaches, and 2021 will see a significant increase in requests from 2020. If you have any questions regarding drop-off locations or the Drive itself, please e-mail Nolan Schrader at firstname.lastname@example.org or Stephanie Bobb at email@example.com
Good360 Gifts in Kind has worked with more than 70 organizations to distribute products this month. Many agencies were able to collect Halloween decorations for their clients and office parties! Winter holidays are right around the corner and we have more than a dozen pallets of goods saved for those occasions. Toys for Tots will also be making a return, and considering the impact this partnership had earlier this year, it will be another excellent opportunity to continue supporting children in need.
Our partnership with Amazon grew this month when they agreed to bring 22 pallets of donations directly to us from the Troutdale distribution center; saving us staff time, energy and money. We look forward to maintaining this schedule for the foreseeable future! We also enjoyed hosting Salem Chamber of Commerce Greeters meeting here at the Good360 warehouse at the end of the month, which was part of a successful effort in expanding the community's knowledge of the program and the good we do with retail products. For questions about the program or upcoming volunteer opportunities, email Colman Crocker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to visit our website and Facebook page to learn more!
The City of Salem approved the sale of property on NE Market St. in May of 2021 for United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to begin construction of cottage clusters designed to address the growing homelessness crisis in the area, specifically geared towards the senior population. The property has seen visible progress over the ensuing months, and construction of the planned units is set to begin soon. Homelessness has grown to become one of the most dire crisis' in the state, especially in the more densely populated areas such as Portland, Salem, and Eugene. The senior population is statistically more affected by financial insecurity than any other age group, as 21% of married social security recipients and 43% of single recipients rely on social security as 90% or more of their income.
The cottage clusters on Market St. are being constructed as a means to provide low-income housing for seniors, women, and veterans in the Salem area. These durable homes are built to provide meaningful shelter for these vulnerable populations while also providing a much needed sense of community between residents. For more information, application details, and funding options, click here to be redirected to the official page for the project on United Way's website.
This month's Women United meeting was filled with a mix of regularly discussed topics, such as the Red Cart Project, as well as some exciting upcoming endeavors including the 9th Annual Pajama Drive. The Red Cart Project has experienced a steady rate of growth and interest as the school year has progressed, with requests from schools increasing in both amount and locations. Thanks to the efforts from some community partners, we were well prepared for this, but supplies are always needed. Light, regular, and sport size tampons are especially needed as we prepare to pack more kits. If you would like to host a drive or help with deliveries, please let us know! E-mail Stephanie Bobb at email@example.com to get set up with a collection box, or if you have any additional questions. Women United is also seeking grant and micro-grant opportunities to help support the Red Cart Project when ordering additional supplies or carts.
The 9th Annual Pajama Drive is beginning November 01! Delivery of collection boxes and fund drive supplies including posters are being fulfilled the last week of October across Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties to prepare for this. The Drive will carry through the month, ending on November 30 when collected PJ's will be sorted by size and distributed to non-profit partners who have requested them. Last year, we collected over 900 pairs of new pajamas! We're expecting larger requests from service providers this year, so if you would like to host a collection box location let us know by e-mailing Stephanie Bobb using the link above. In addition to physical locations, we also have a virtual donation option available through an Amazon wish list. Pajamas must be new and unwashed in order to distribute!
Within the realm of SafeSleep United, the Homeless Coalition has made considerable progress in recent months. $3.7 million was secured through grants, which will directly impact Marion County's growing population of chronically unsheltered people. Warming shelters are being changed to Extreme Weather Shelters, in order to provide more flexibility to open as needs arise. In addition to this, more duration shelters are also opening. As winter approaches, it's more important than ever for these vulnerable populations to receive all the support possible.
SafeSleep United has continued to grow and adapt successfully this past month, most notably hiring two part time staff members and a full time graveyard shift lead. This was made possible through State Homeless Assistance Program grant funding, which SafeSleep applied for and was awarded for the 2021-2023 biennium. With the addition of new support staff, more energy can be put towards education, outreach, and case management. These efforts are becoming more and more important as the crisis of homelessness continues to grow.
Staff have also been working on implementing a new Homeless Information Management System (HMIS), used by many Homeless Alliance Continuum of Care service providers. The HMIS enables SafeSleep to check guests in and out, record which bed is assigned to each guest, enter services provided provided to each guest, and identify when guests have moved to a more permanent shelter or home. This is a huge step up for the shelter, automating many summaries that have been created manually up to this point.
With all this expansion, SafeSleep needs more volunteers! Homelessness has increased to the point that it is a humanitarian crisis. Homeless women are at high risk of being victims of assault, robbery, sex trafficking, and rape. SafeSleep United's mission is to change that by providing a safe place for as many women as possible to sleep at night. The shelter is open from 6:00 pm to 8:00 am every day. If you have a few hours to volunteer for opening or closing, please get in contact with Lynelle Wilcox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 971-570-4213 to schedule a time.
The Value of "Normal"
For a long while in my life, I equated "normal" with boring, everyday, mundane, ordinary, cookie-cutter sameness. Wanting "normal" as a desirable setting on my dryer, but not a desired thing for my life. SafeSleep United guests had the option to go to Inside Out's retreat in the country at the end of August. Most of our ladies went and everyone had a wonderful time. When they came back, we asked if they missed us. The resounding response was [of course not]! At the retreat, they could swim, hike, hang out at any time of the day or night, and sleep in as long as they wanted. What's not to love about that? For many good reasons, our shelter can't operate that way. Yet we are so grateful they had a chance at something so amazingly fun, instead of daily survival life. And it's a vivid reminder how the normalcy that sheltered life offers may be more underrated and precious than we remember to realize. What if everyone could have the normalcy of a safe place to sleep each night, the option to hang out with friends at any time they wish on days off, the freedom to sleep in for hours sometimes? "Normal" now seems like an amazing luxury that could change for any of us at any time. Now, instead of feeling negative about "normal" and shying away from it, I am so grateful for any normalcy we have the ephemeral richness to have for now. And I wish the gift of "normal" for everyone.
-Lynelle Wilcox, Program Manager
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