Strengthening opportunities for better lives

KINGSTON — ShareNet’s annual Neighbor Aid campaign is underway. The amount raised so far this season was not available at deadline. But this much is known: Whatever you give will make a difference in the lives of your neighbors, perhaps even someone you know.

Through your generosity, ShareNet Food Bank and Thrift Store helps local residents build better lives. Everyone’s vision of a better life is different, but for some it’s as basic as being able to put food on the table.

ShareNet provides screened assistance for neighbors in crisis: emergency food provision, and utility and rental assistance for those facing service interruption or eviction; transportation, goods and shower vouchers to those who are looking for employment or need help getting to work; and local visits from Medical Teams International dental vans.

ShareNet is working to resolve adverse childhood experiences shown to lead to long-term poverty; ShareNet does this by sponsoring school programs, including food backpacks and weekend take-home food for school children, as well as family event nights and continuing education for parents.

“ShareNet has always done a lot with a little,” ShareNet executive director Mark Ince wrote in the November Kingston Community News. “Few agencies of ShareNet’s modest size and budget are able to sponsor this much impact in the community. We do it with the unified heart of many great volunteers and financial support from the community. We’re honored to be the vehicle and stewards for this local community support that funds change and hope right here in our own backyards.”

Donations to Neighbor Aid are tax-deductible. To give to Neighbor Aid, text ShareNet to 85100 or mail to P.O. Box 250, Kingston, WA 98346.

Ince shared this letter from a resident who wrote about how ShareNet helped her.

“I’m currently finishing a CNA course and taking care of my children, two of my nephews, and two of my grandchildren,” she wrote. “You’ve even helped me on days when the food bank was closed and my cupboards and freezer were bare. I’m graduating tomorrow and your wonderful, genuine employees and volunteers show me true love and compassion. I will make sure to pay it forward always.”

Ince said ShareNet staff members have told him they volunteer because they know what it’s like to hit a rough patch in life.

”Though we have volunteers from all walks of life, the one element that unifies them is believing those struggling shouldn’t be written off or considered down and out for good, and that these challenges don’t have to be permanent,” Ince said. “Everyone who’s lived long enough knows life is one of cycles, both good and bad, and that some folks don’t have or never had the resources to support themselves through a low period like a job loss, medical crisis, or a sudden increase in household members.”

Incomes not keeping up with cost of living

Income is below poverty level for 11.6 percent of Kingston residents between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the median rent in the area is $1,042 a month. Twenty-three percent of Kingston households are considered by the United Way to be “Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed”; in Hansville, it’s 16 percent; in Indianola, 19 percent; in Port Gamble, 29 percent.

For most families, a job loss or a major medical expense means financial crisis. ShareNet is there to make sure people have what they need to stay on their feet.

ShareNet answers the call 14,000 times a year.

“As a senior, I’ve found what I can afford to buy in the stores won’t see me through the month,” one resident wrote ShareNet. “ShareNet keeps me healthy.”

“Supporting a family on Disability is a challenge at best,” another wrote. “ShareNet not only supplies us with food but other items needed in the household, like hygiene products and pet food.”

Another resident wrote, “I am on a fixed income trying to make it, and now my grandson age 8 is with me. You help us make it, even kids’ shoes. Thank you.”

A large portion of ShareNet’s $150,000 annual budget comes from community donations, especially the annual Neighbor Aid campaign now underway. Kingston Community News editorialized in November: “We encourage residents to give what they can. You might think your donation is a minor one, but added to the others it packs a mighty collective punch. Your donation is an investment in your family. You likely know someone who has or will turn to ShareNet for help. And if it happens to be you, well, ShareNet will have your back.”

Strengthening opportunities for better lives