When COVID-19 began spreading, Ellienn Tatar became worried about his mother, who has an auto-immune disorder and is extremely susceptible to illness.
Tatar, a 19-year-old Kirkland resident and student at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech), noted this on his LWTech Foundation COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund application about his mother, Lauren Shouse, 53.
Tatar applied for the grant about two and a half weeks ago and said he doesn’t normally like to ask for money. With most of Shouse’s business gone as a licensed massage therapist and Tatar working 17 hours a week with the LWTech associate student government, he reached out to the foundation.
“I just realized that my family’s not gonna be able to make it through if I don’t try to do something,” he said.
Presently, Shouse has a light cough and is doing well, said Tatar, who is grateful to have received a $2,000 emergency grant that he and his family — which also includes his brother Evan Shouse, 16 — have used to pay their bills and stock their refrigerator and cabinets with food.
Receiving the grant money has immensely raised Tatar’s spirits and greatly improved the family’s morale.
“Before I applied, I was feeling really down ’cause my car is down, my mom’s losing work, bills are coming up, finals are coming up, it was just really getting to me,” he said. “Being able to apply for this emergency grant really just helped relieve all the stress that I felt and helped me focus on getting the quarter finished on a good note.”
Tatar said that while keeping an eye on mom, the tight-knit family has become even closer over the last few weeks.
“It’s given us a sense of calmness, oddly enough, in this time of craziness. It’s been good family time,” he said. “We’ve still got each other.”
As the head of a single-parent household, Lauren said the grant has aided her family more than one can imagine. The LWTech Foundation emergency fund is a life-saver, she added.
Amid the chaos and fear of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lauren said that she’s blown away by how people are caring for each other.
“I’m seeing this unity that’s going on and people getting back to the basics of what matters. Certainly having this grant come our way, it just showed how powerful it is, that sense of unity that actually continues on even in the worst of times,” she said.
People are creating connections as they have altered their daily routines from traveling from one box to another, she said, meaning peoples’ homes to their cars to their workplaces.
“Those ties that bind are so strong now,” Lauren said, noting that people are asking themselves, “How is my neighbor across the street that is reaching 70? Maybe we should call her, check in, does she need anything? Little things have really made a difference.”
Lauren felt the need to tell a story of when she recently took a walk in a park near the family’s residence. She found a small string of red pearl beads in the dirt and formed it into a heart shape. To build upon her message, Lauren put accents around the heart with pine cones to show that the heart was expressing itself.
One neighbor told Lauren that her daughter saw the heart and that it emotionally moved her, “Because she felt like she was scared and that told her that people care,” said Lauren, who didn’t reveal that she was the one responsible for making the heart.
“Let it keep sharing,” Lauren said. “Let the message go that despite all this crisis, we’re gonna keep going and we’re gonna find ways to unify that we never even knew we had in this day and age.”
The LWTech Foundation (LWTech’s philanthropic arm) is receiving donations to support the student emergency fund at www.lwtech.edu/about/foundation.
“Crises like these are just one of the challenges that many students at LWTech and other institutions face in moving forward with their lives and careers. Like LWTech, we choose to fight the fear of COVID-19 with action. And we urge others to do so as well. That’s why we launched a pledge challenge of $25,000 to encourage others to fight fear with action and to support our hard-working students,” James Kinsella and Robert McNeal, LWTech Foundation donors, said.
Clara Hollin, LWTech Foundation board president, said that supporting students is the essence of the foundation’s work.
“We are heartened by the community’s response and look forward to helping more students like Ellienn during this unprecedented public health crisis,” Hollin said.