Editor’s note: These excerpts were taken from the Bainbridge Community Foundation website regarding its fundraising efforts and the programs it supports.
Caring for children
Through art classes, music groups, outdoor education, experiential learning and various support mechanisms, our kids have access to resources on Bainbridge Island that enrich their lives. Local nonprofits ensure that all children have access to their services. With a 5 percent poverty rate on the island and an 11 percent poverty rate of children below the age of 18 in Kitsap County, many nonprofits offer tuition assistance or free programming to ensure that no child is excluded.
Children on Bainbridge Island have a lower level of depression and fewer incidents of bullying compared to the rest of Washington state, according to the 2018 Bainbridge Island School District Healthy Youth Survey. Students also report a higher level of engagement at school. Nonetheless, the results of the same survey reported higher levels of anxiety, along with the perception that access to drugs and alcohol is not hard. The depression rate is high at 32 percent of 10th graders. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, depression and anxiety are rising; 50 percent said COVID has worsened their mental health.
David was was struggling with bullying and loneliness, but his family could not afford therapy. Bainbridge Youth Services was able to offer him free counseling. BYS offered him a safe place to share his feelings, gain personal insights and learn resiliency.
Other nonprofits provide support for children through funding in-school programs for conflict mitigation strategies, financing innovative ideas for students and supporting cases of trauma. Outside of school, kids have access to counseling, creative outlets such as dance and music, and getting essential needs met.
Nonprofit childcare centers and experiential learning programs also provide a platform for all of our kids to explore their creativity. Even in uncertain times, many have stepped up to provide safe activities for our children, such as the Kids Discovery Museum camp.
COVID has put a strain on the ability of nonprofits to provide the programming. Jim Hopper, executive director of BCF, said: “The risk of losing some of them during this pandemic is very real, so we hope to spread awareness this fall about how their work is so essential to the strength of our community.”
Educating, enriching lives of families
The resiliency of the community is dependent on the work of nonprofits. When COVID hit and nonprofits had to shut down their programs, many switched gears and found new ways to ensure families had the support they needed. Some created online activities to help support overwhelmed parents or combat loneliness; others increased their workload to keep up with a new level of demand.
It only takes a conversation with parents to understand the amplified level of stress associated with school closures, financial uncertainty and lack of childcare due to the pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, according to the 2019 Kitsap Interagency Coordinating Council report, 55 percent of adult respondents reported they had a concerning level of stress, depression or problems with emotions. Local nonprofits such as Helpline House provide social services for everyone —from providing food to families to free case management and counseling. Other nonprofits, such as Raising Resilience or Dispute Resolution Center of Kitsap County, are helping families navigate relationships and manage conflict in a healthy way.
A Bainbridge Island parent recently expressed her concern over what seems like an endless list of worries about her teenage child, from stories of substance abuse and bullying to social media threats and sexual assault. She described the work of one of the local nonprofits as essential. “Raising Resilience helps parents navigate these scary seas by providing practical information, tips and resources, as well as invaluable community support,” she said.
Vulnerable populations, who may need additional support, also benefit from nonprofits. According to the KICC report, the proportion of special education enrollment in public schools has increased over the past decade. Around 12 percent of students enrolled in Bainbridge Island School District require special education. Nonprofits such as Bainbridge Island Special Needs Foundation and Vitalize Kitsap offer activities and specialized job training for children and adults with disabilities.
Housing Resources Bainbridge helps families keep their homes through financial stress, and Sound Works Job Center provides free access to job training and support to those looking for work.
Healthy living for seniors
Many local nonprofits have recognized the invaluable knowledge and resources seniors contribute, as well as the need to offer a consistent level of healthy exercise and activity. Community centers bring people together, and study groups draw guest speakers and discussion leaders to discuss topical issues. Programs also offer dance, gardening and cooking classes, as well as organized walks.
Compared to the rest of Kitsap County, Bainbridge Island has the oldest age median of 47.7 years. Of the 65+ age group living in poverty in Kitsap County, 9 percent live on Bainbridge Island, which is the highest rate when compared to other age groups. Providing support for the older age group is critical to the health of the community.
Research has shown that walking every day can enhance mobility, reduce pain and bolster immune systems. Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District has a Walk with Ease program that is focused on boosting activity. One participant declares that organized walks have been life-changing. She said: “My doctor thought I needed more activity … I now have more energy, and my balance is better. Beats taking more pills.”
Other programs focus on mental and emotional health. The Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network brings different age groups together through craft. PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap has a program specifically focused on matching senior pets with low-income seniors. This is a permanent foster program where PAWS will cover the cost for pet food, litter, and vet visits so that individuals who are 65+ and living alone have companionship without the concern of unexpected expenses.
The Bainbridge Island Senior Community Center creates a comfortable space for peer-to-peer interaction, and holds various study groups to engage each other in a wide range of key topics — more recently initiating conversations about race, equity and inclusion.
Enriching our lives
“It’s only an intermission,” read the sign in front of Bainbridge Performing Arts when COVID-19 hit . When many were forced to put their lives on hold, these words may have brought a sense of peace—whatever we were going through, it was only temporary. Local nonprofits have found creative ways to keep our bodies, minds and hearts alive during the pandemic.
Our arts, music, and culture nonprofits give us a path to explore our complex history, deep traditions and creative talents. In the pre-COVID era, BPA offered live performances, from theater and symphony to improv and dance. Since they will not be able to resume their work until Phase 4, they have found other ways to keep the public engaged through the “COVID Monologues” online and now their Bainbridge Pod Accomplice.
Some museums, such as the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, have recently opened their doors with limited schedules. Walking into the doors and exploring the exhibits offers a feeling of normalcy. At BIHM, visitors can learn about the island’s complex and deep history, from the Japanese American Exclusion during WWII to the invention of pickleball. Their new website hosts virtual offerings for those who may feel more comfortable exploring from their own homes.
Despite the critical role these organizations play nonprofits can suffer significant financial setbacks during a crisis. BCF has conducted several surveys since COVID began. Many participants emphasized that essential needs are a priority, but that it’s possible that arts and culture nonprofits could fall behind. One respondent to the survey expressed that understandably “there will be a focus on essential services up first,” but that it was inevitable that “education programs like ours might fall through the cracks.”
Protecting our outdoors
In times of uncertainty, breathing fresh morning air on a hike might reinvigorate a sense of belonging. There is little doubt that being outdoors is good for our health, and scientific studies reinforce those impressions.
Nonprofits are working to preserve the land we call home. The Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation has partnered with the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District over the past six years to develop over 70 park improvement projects and six miles of new trails. Volunteers have dedicated 11,000 hours to keep our island beautiful, and the the Parks Foundation committed more than $1 million to park enhancements. Bainbridge Island Land Trust, also a local nonprofit, runs a bold campaign called Stand for the Land, which focuses on safeguarding critical habitat before it disappears.
Many nonprofits teach children and teens about the environment and the benefits of a balanced ecosystem. IslandWood, a nonprofit focused on environmental education for students, gives students hands-on experience with nature and the dangers of climate change. They serve more than 12,000 students every year on Bainbridge Island, Woodinville and in Seattle, and focus on extending learning beyond the classroom. Friends of the Farms, a nonprofit that supports farms and local food resources, also has an educational component where they partner with the Island School. According to an educator, this program gives them access to a “hands-on laboratory for our students to become engaged citizens.” The Parks Foundation has also funded a program called the Student Conservation Corps since 2010, which has engaged over 100 students in restoration of parks and trails across the island.
Nurturing our pets
Local nonprofits have continued to nurture our animals throughout this crisis, and even though programs and schedules may have
changed, many of them have found creative ways to maintain health care, encourage pet adoptions and run emotional support programs that connect people with the unconditional love of an animal.
With COVID-19, PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap had to re-evaluate its activities as their foster homes filled quickly during a peak season. After some deliberation, PAWS — which focuses on the bond between the pets and their people through a variety of programs — moved to virtual adoptions. They were able to connect pets to people through online applications, and found ways to hand off pets safely. In April and May, PAWS experienced record-setting adoption months.
The Native Horsemanship Youth Program, a nonprofit focused on preserving the natural and traditional Native American methods of interacting with horses, has been a tremendous support to youth. They teach horsemanship to children, regardless of their ability to pay, and offer classes to families who may face disabilities. One participant explained how she hoped her daughter, Sarah, who was born with a rare genetic disorder, would build strength and learn to tolerate new environments. Sarah is at ease with horses unlike anywhere else — she is relaxed, happier, and more confident, her mom said.
Wildlife animals also sometimes need help thriving in a rapidly evolving environment. West Sound Wildlife Shelter is an organization that has continued its activities of providing injured, orphaned and sick wildlife a second chance at life. While there has been a change in how they conduct their services by limiting patient intake, there has been no shortage of animal rescues.