Herald’s Extend-a-Hand charity helps house Whatcom County families, pay medical needs

Mary Huselid for Unity Care NW
·2 min read

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, community generosity led to a record year for The Bellingham Herald’s Extend-a-Hand charity appeal. The community gave $130,000 that, with matching funds from an anonymous Whatcom County Foundation donor, became $160,000.

While we know many have been moved this year to help with recent flood impacts, we hope you’ll also consider also giving to Extend-a-Hand.

As we start the fifth decade of this annual campaign, Extend-a-Hand donations allow local organizations to make big differences in small ways for Whatcom County residents who need immediate help with housing and health care all year long.

The unrestricted funds shared by Unity Care NW and the Opportunity Council, which administers the fund, help Whatcom County families avoid eviction and keep up with medications and care.

Unity Care NW uses funds for prescription costs, vaccinations and other health-related items.

The Herald covers administrative costs up to $50,000 in donations, so gifts directly support people assisted at Unity Care NW and the Opportunity Council.

Donations are tax-deductible, and donors through Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, will be recognized in The Herald. You can mail donation checks to Extend-a-Hand, c/o Opportunity Council, P.O. Box 2134, Bellingham, WA 98227.

Donations are also accepted online via credit card or PayPal or by credit card using the form or QR code in The Herald’s print edition Thursday, Nov. 25, or by calling Kaitlyn Miller at 360-734-5121, ext. 333.

Here’s what gifts support

Extend-a-Hand donations were used in 2020 to help more than 600 households, according to Greg Winter, Opportunity Council executive director.

This included emergency shelter assistance, clothing, moving and move-in expenses, food, baby supplies, prescription medications, and supplies for home blood pressure monitoring. These support services were provided by Opportunity Council and Unity Care NW.

Winter said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Opportunity Council has seen a heavy increase in the need to support families with emergency motel stays as the option to stay with friends or family is less available as a resource when facing homelessness. As the pandemic continues, this need for emergency shelter also will continue into the next year.

“We see first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on housing stability, and this has increased the need for our community’s support,” said Winter. “It takes all of us, including multiple agencies responding to current flood relief needs, as well as supportive friends and neighbors, to help meet this need. Extend-a-Hand will continue to provide support throughout the year for housing and basic needs.

“We are thankful for the Extend-a-Hand fund that helps families every year and provides vital support for so many,” he added.

In addition to the lingering impact of COVID-19, housing costs continue to rise and put a strain on families, Winter said.

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