Charities serving Kittitas County

Amy Morris, Staff Reporter

As the holidays approach, there are many organizations in Ellensburg that take donations. Donations are an important part of nonprofits because they provide the resources to carry out their mission. Hopesource, Habitat for Humanity and the Friends and Services for Humanity (FISH) are all some of the organizations in Kittitas County that rely on donations. 

Hopesource assists low income and homeless people, according to Hopesource’s Support Services Supervisor Tiffany Metzger.

“We help people move forward. We are not here to save the day or be saviors,” Metzger said. “We are here to walk alongside people to help them get back on their feet.” 

Housing is one of the organization’s main programs. There are programs that can help people get into housing through payments,  deposits and many other ways depending on each individual’s needs and their eligibility. 

Energy assistance is a service Hopesource provides which helps especially in the winter because people are using their heaters more. There is a new program that helps youth who are unaccompanied minors or people up to the age of 24 years old if they are homeless. There are grants specifically for them, depending on their eligibility, to help youth get into housing, work and health care, among other things. 

Hopesource also runs a veterans’ program that assists veterans that may be homeless or facing homelessness to keep them housed and healthy. There is a newer program called Aging in Place that helps elders in need of just a couple tools to remain in their homes, such as safety bars in the bathroom or non slip surfaces on the floors. 

There is also Hope University which is a community education program. Money management, energy conservation and stress management are some of the workshops available. 

“My favorite part of the community education is getting people in the community together so that they can speak on these topics in a comfortable, informational environment,” Metzger said.

Central Transit is staffed through Hopesource, and the service is free for everyone. Some people are eligible for the driver ride service that comes right to the person’s house and drops them off at the specific location they need to go to. 

People can give back to Hopesource by making money donations or giving to the food pantry in Cle Elum, Washington, where their food bank is located. 

“Donations are important to fund programs. It makes it so that we can help more people,” Metzger said. “The more we have, the more we can give.”

Another important organization in the community is FISH. FISH is the only food bank in Kittitas County and also has a food pantry and meal service program called Open Table. FISH has been around for almost 50 years, according to Executive Director Peggy Morache.

The food bank distributes food throughout the five food pantries in the county. FISH receives food from the government and then warehouses and delivers it. FISH has been doing that for the last 15 years. FISH distributes approximately a million pounds of food a year through the food bank. The food pantry serves around 14,000 individuals every year through the Ellensburg pantry which includes around 2,000 students from CWU, according to Morache.

The food pantry usually starts seeing students around April to the end of the school year. FISH has a partnership with Presidents United to Solve World Hunger (PUSH), and Morache is on the PUSH committee and advises students on the PUSH food pantry. 

Picnic in the Park is a program by FISH that serves around 7,000-8,000 meals to students in the summer. This program is designed for K-12 students who would usually get their meals through the school system. 

People can give back to FISH by volunteering, doing food drives, donating money and spreading the word about who FISH is, what they do and who they serve. 

“If someone has been served by FISH, has been helped by FISH, one of the greatest ways they can give back is by telling the community that they live here, they work here and they were helped by FISH,” Morache said. 

Habitat for Humanity is another important organization in Kittitas County. It is an affiliate to Habitat for Humanity International, a global nonprofit that provides affordable housing solutions in over 70 countries, according to Executive Director Linda Kelly. 

They have built 19 homes in Kittitas County so far. Habitat for Humanity also does critical home repairs, which they have done six of. When someone can not afford to hire a contractor to make a major repair to their home, Habitat for Humanity can do that with a zero-interest loan, according to Kelly. 

Habitat for Humanity runs off of mostly volunteers and takes roughly around 3,500 hours to build a house. A big misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that they give houses away for free, but that is not the case, according to Kelly.

The houses are built specifically for a family’s needs and is then sold to them. The person buying the house also has to attend home ownership education classes along with budgeting and financial management classes so that they will be able to keep up with their mortgage. Along with that the person purchasing the house has to contribute around 300-500 hours of volunteer work to build their own house. 

Ways people can give back to Habitat for Humanity is by volunteering at the store or building site or donating money or items. 

“If you donate you are a tangible part of helping a family get into a forever home,” Kelly said. “It is a way we can all work together for the collective good to help people who need the assistance and who want to have a forever home.”