Originally published in Mercer Island Living, October 2017
By Cynthia Goodwin, Director of Mercer Island Youth & Family Services
The cooler weather has returned, children are settled back in school, and many families have begun thinking about their winter holiday plans. As many Islanders are able enjoy the warmth of fireplaces, soft down comforters and even family trips to tropical climates, others are kept warm through support provided by Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (YFS) Emergency Assistance Program and the Utility Reduction Program. Both programs are part of the YFS Department’s vision for Mercer Island to be a community where every Islander is reaching their full human potential. YFS does this by fostering well-being across the lifespan. Being warm is foundational to well-being. With warmth and the added security of knowing basic needs are met, a family is better able to focus on raising children and maintaining a healthy household.
Youth and Family Services’ Utility Reduction Program and the Emergency Assistance Program are the first tier in well-being. YFS staff use federal guidelines to qualify low income residents. Most often it is Mercer Island families or individuals whose situation becomes unstable through divorce, illness, loss of job, or as they age and rely on social security or social security disability. Through taxpayer dollars and many generous individual and community donations to Youth and Family Services, YFS is able to provide help. In particular The Isaac and Carol Auerbach Family Foundation, as directed by Islanders Rachel and Garrett Hyman, has made $10,000 grant donations for two consecutive years to increase the one-time (per year) rent or utility assistance from $600 per household to $1,000. These dollars help stretch assistance to more Islanders. And even with this generosity, more assistance is always needed and welcome.
In addition to rent and utility assistance, the Emergency Assistance Program also coordinates Thanksgiving and December holiday meals, and gifts for over 100 children during the winter holiday season to eligible families and individuals. Similarly, this support is largely available because of Islanders taking care of Islanders. By donating to the YFS Foundation’s Year-End Campaign or at the Annual YFS Foundation Breakfast every February, Islanders are making a impact in their community.
Other wonderful ways to make a difference include “adopting” a family for our holiday gift program or sponsoring meals, much like Lisa and Rino Caruccio who donate 20 full turkey & full trimming meals each year for YFS clients, or another anonymous Islander who donates $5,000 annually in support of Island neighbors in need.
If you, or your place of work, would like to help this holiday season please contact Cheryl Manriquez, Emergency Assistance Coordinator at 206-275-7869 by November 10th.