Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the “Best of Bainbridge” special section. The Readers Choice Awards publication was included in the Aug. 26 edition of the Bainbridge Review.
If you live on Bainbridge Island and are in need of help, there’s an answer. It’s called Helpline House.
Helpline House was voted the best community resource on Bainbridge Island in the Bainbridge Review’s 2016 Best of Bainbridge contest. And that doesn’t surprise Executive Director Joanne Tews.
“We are just really grateful that people on the island feel there is a value to the work we do,” Tews said. “That gives me great satisfaction. It really is an honor and we don’t take it lightly.”
Helpline House serves from 200 to 225 different clients each week. As Tews points out, that could be for an individual of a family of four, or six, or more. The nonprofit began when local churchwomen founded Fishline, a volunteer emergency aid program in 1968. It was incorporated in 1973 as Helpline House, a nonprofit agency.
Today, it offers food and social services, including crisis intervention, advocacy and referrals. In total, Helpline has eight employees, including three social workers.
“We can help with anything from a ‘bad hair day’ to someone who’s getting divorced and needs to figure out where they are going to go,” Tews said. “We have short- term counseling and we can offer a review of the household budget to determine what other sources of help might be available.”
And once or twice a month organizations including Housing Solutions, Kitsap Mental Health and Kitsap Energy Assistance come to Helpline’s location to talk to those needing help. Transportation assistance, and medical equipment loan are other things they deal with.
And without volunteers, those services would not be available, Tews said. She estimates they have more than 100 volunteers.
While the need has stayed steady the past year, the nonprofit saw a decrease in 2014 to 2015, primarily because the housing market improved.
“It’s all tied to the cost of housing,” she said. “Housing is so expensive on the island that some residents run out of money. They need help with food and utilities and other things. That’s where we come in.”
Another service Helpline House offers is screening for other organizations that have scholarships to give away. They do that for school sport’s teams, the local parks and recreation district, and local childcare providers.
“In these cases, the groups are reluctant to ask parents about their finances to determine if their child should get a scholarship to play lacrosse,” she said. “So they refer people here and we do that for them. And then we go back to the groups and tell them the details so they can award the scholarships to those most in need.”
With a motto “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” she sees the work of Helpline House as “kind, compassionate help.”
“In times of crisis, we are able to be compassionate,” she said. “We help get people out of jams. We make sure they are cared for. And that creates a true sense of loyalty.”
Although Bainbridge is thought of as a wealthy community, Tews said Helpline House is needed and is seen as a “homespun business.”
“It’s made up of the community’s best angels,” she said.
Tews thinks that Helpline House received the Best of Bainbridge award because of its reputation.
“We have a great reputation,” she said. “People trust in our work, the caliber of our work and the kind of work we do. And we get great assistance from our donors. We’re in a very envious spot and we work hard to maintain that.”