Christmas Shop staff served about 200 kids. (Emily Hirsch / Contributed)

Generosity Allows ShareNet to Start 2017 with Hope | ShareNet

As for most of us, January is a reflective time when ShareNet regroups from the holiday craziness and looks back on what happened in 2016 — and what we’ve learned.

It’s also when we ask ourselves how another year passed so fast. One reason it goes so fast is ShareNet’s schedule of deadlines and events.

Just as fiscal years can differ from the calendar year, we are so immersed in our local schools that our year seems to follow the school year. The Back to School Supplies event goes right into Food to Grow On (F2GO), then before you know it we’re into holiday prep for our Thanksgiving distribution, Christmas Shop and Neighbor Aid.

These are just the visible landmarks, not the internal schedule reflecting membership requirements and participation in local, state and federal programs designed to support anti-poverty programs.

One notable event is the Trolls Den fundraiser at Poulsbo’s Sons of Norway. Every year, Doc and Vickey Casper make an incredible effort on ShareNet’s behalf, resulting in the largest external fundraiser held for us annually.

Planning months in advance, they prepare an auction by motivating local businesses to contribute goods or services a lucky buyer will want to bid on. The mid-December bash is always a hit with the Trolls Den crowd, who contribute to ShareNet services in a big way: $6,200 in 2016.

It’s also the time of year when we wrap up our Neighbor Aid fundraiser and reflect on the generosity of the 600 or so folks in Kingston and the surrounding communities we serve who support us. That may seem like a fairly small number given the overall population of these communities, but that’s roughly consistent with giving everywhere; a relatively small percentage donates.

We are truly fortunate to have about 600 folks who care this much about us and the hunger and poverty issues we address in our communities.

Neighbor Aid 2016 brought in $72,635, and assures that our existing programs can continue without threat in 2017, without caps for programs such as Food to Grow On (F2GO), which is back at all-time high usage numbers after a slight dip over the past couple of years.

Volunteerism was up at ShareNet: 10,714 volunteer hours in 2016, more than 2015’s 8,314. We credit part of that to a vinyl banner we installed by the road, which lets passing drivers know we are in constant need of fresh volunteers as others retire, move, or change focus. Pounds of food distributed was also up significantly: 300,000 pounds compared to about 250,000 in 2015.

One of the big changes in 2016 was what seemed like a sudden awareness that Kitsap County was in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. It has been building for years, and people on the front lines of social services saw it coming, which in the context of a deep problem short on deep solutions doesn’t necessarily mean that folks were ready for it, unfortunately.

The federal stance is Housing First (because it’s been found to be cheaper and more successful than transitional housing), while places like Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas, have found success in providing transitional combined with services leading to permanent in one site.

At the last meeting of the Kitsap County Food Bank Coalition, human services coordinator Kirsten Jewell of the Kitsap County Department of Human Services’ Housing and Homelessness Program spoke about the importance of the Point-in-Time homeless count on Jan. 25-26. To the degree such a count can reflect actual numbers (homeless connected with services and willing to participate), it is critical in garnering potential funding and support for the crisis locally.

Other partners present, in addition to the member food banks, were Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, Washington Food Coalition, Kitsap Public Health District, and DSHS.

In this meeting, at the Salvation Army in Bremerton, it was hard not to be impressed by the sound and sense of people at work, often in quiet and undramatic ways, chipping away at difficult, overwhelming problems. Despite the hard stories and the harder realities, there’s a palpable trust and optimism that we can work it out, that solutions exist if only we can find them.

— Mark Ince is executive director of ShareNet. Contact him at director@sharenetfoodbank.org.

Online

Kingston Community News … a monthly newspaper

with a daily website. Get North End news on KitsapDailyNews.com