By Om Khandekar, For the Kirkland Reporter
As reports of COVID-19 infections were rising in early March, Kirkland resident Kristin Kalning wanted to help but didn’t know where to start. She started reaching out to local organizations and broadcasted their needs to her network of friends and community members.
She discovered that hundreds of people felt just like her.
Kalning has partnered with friends and others over the last five weeks to deliver thousands of dollars worth of supplies to organizations struggling with shortages in donations and volunteers during the COVID-19 outbreak. These donations are a welcome addition to organizations who have seen a shortage in donations during the crisis, and have had to turn away select items and volunteers for fear of infection.
“I started the car, but the community really made it move,” Kalning said.
Her first attempt was with her son, biking around apartment complexes, putting up fliers, and asking for supplies to pass along to at-risk neighbors. Kalning initially reached out to the North Shore Senior Center to offer help when she wasn’t getting responses from her fliers in the Kirkland area.
Kalning also reached out to the Compass Housing Alliance in Seattle and heard back from them about a need for non-perishable foods and a unique need for art supplies and snacks for the children staying in the Compass Housing Alliance shelters. Compass Housing Alliance has had to limit donations to non-perishables only and turn volunteers away.
She reached out to her network of friends and family, and received so many donations and money that she had to enlist help from a friend.
“I do think it was one of those moments where people were feeling really, really scared, and wanted to do something outside of themselves,” Kalning said. “Like they wanted to not focus on their own anxieties.”
Yvonne Holecek has been coordinating supply pickups and drop-offs between the Kirkland group and the Compass Housing Alliance. Through another friend, the group has coordinated donations for the Gardens at Juanita Bay in Kirkland, the Hoh Indian Tribe of the Hoh Indian reservation in Forks and the Pacific Treatment Alternatives – Snohomish Parent Child Assistance Program, or PCAP for short, in Snohomish County.
Debbie Graham is a clinical supervisor and case manager at the PCAP where they aim to provide lunches, transitional housing and supplies for clients.
But during COVID-19 those requests have been difficult to fulfill. The PCAP is one of many nonprofits struggling with supplies and funding during social isolation orders and economic shutdowns.
“Every organization in the community, every non-profit is struggling,” Graham said.
Adam Ballout has been working with the Hoh Indian Tribe through friends within his own network, and got in contact with the group from Kirkland.
These groups don’t have any background in procuring aid, but he mentioned how the momentum has been picking up as the Hoh Tribe faces economic and scarcity issues. Ballout believes the tribe is in a very vulnerable state.
“I see the need continuing for the near future,” Ballout said, “because even if we get some essential businesses and some parts of our economy opened back up, there’s still the issue of vast amount of unemployment there, and transportation and geographical issues that make that tribe vulnerable.”
According to Ballout, the Hoh tribe is facing up to 85% unemployment and geographic isolation makes procuring aid difficult.
In the first set of donations, Ballout and his friends asked for donations and after a few days took whatever they had to provide immediate relief to the tribe. They raised about $7,500 worth of supplies. Kalning and her group delivered donations from their Kirkland network shortly after.
The groups are planning larger future partnerships and donations. Ballout hopes to partner with restaurant chains and statewide food insecurity initiatives to set up long term aid disbursement to the Hoh tribe.
Ballout mainly hopes that these aren’t one-time donations.
Kalning is continuing to put out requests for donations and completed a drop off at the Pacific Treatments Center Snohomish Parent Child Assistance Program on Tuesday morning. According to Debbie Graham, a clinical supervisor at the program, Kalning’s donation of diapers and baby products was the largest she’s seen in five years.
Meanwhile Holecek is still collecting donations for Compass Housing Alliance. Holecek said that the director of the Compass Housing Alliance called recently, when the director had heard that Holecek and Kalning had been responsible for multiple large donations.
“She called just to say thank you and that it was really making a difference,” Holecek said. “That’s all that matters you know?”