Lydia Place celebrates 25 years serving Whatcom's homeless families

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 30, 2014 

Being in business 25 years is a major milestone. For Lydia Place, a local non-profit serving homeless families in Whatcom County, it means a long-standing history of serving and housing more than 2,500 families, ultimately becoming a local institution standing in partnership to end homelessness.

Lydia Place was established in 1989 by a local committee of women impassioned to create a safe haven for homeless women and their children. The transitional housing program gave families shelter, case management and essential tools and services to establish permanent residency and lasting change. With the increased need for housing and advocacy services, Lydia Place broadened its charge. Now in its 25th year of service, Lydia Place provides essential housing and case management services for all homeless individuals and families to establish sustained independence. With a growing roster of program partnerships and contributions from public, private and community support, Lydia Place now serves more than 180 households per year through the transitional housing program, Whatcom Homeless Service Partnership, supportive service program and the emergency house; services that have become mainstays in our community.

Because of organizations including Lydia Place, Whatcom County has seen its homeless population decrease by nearly 50 percent. However, more than 500 families remain homeless in Whatcom County. The need for services and support for our fellow community members remains, while funding and increased overhead and expenses create financial uncertainty for institutions like Lydia Place. While support for human service organizations is strong in Whatcom County, awareness and campaigning is essential to keep Lydia Place open. It takes a community standing together, every day, to keep these vital programs going.

Through fundraising events, volunteering and donations of both physical items/clothing and financial support - all community members can make a difference.

Fundraising events play a significant part in the overall effort to support the Lydia Place Transitional House and other programs. Up first this year on Feb. 8, Lydia Place will commemorate 25 years of service at the 25th anniversary Hearts for Housing gala and auction at the Best Western Lakeway Inn. The Valentine Day-themed event features a champagne and music reception with jazz band Bar Tabac and DJ sets by Audio Innovations and Studio 7, seasonally themed dinner, drinks and a silent and live auction featuring romantically curated items and experiences. The second major fundraiser of the year is Handbags For Housing at The Depot Market Square on June 5. This fun-filled ladies (and gents) night out features a purse exchange, up cycled and new fashion show, silent and live auction, spirit tastings and live music. Both events cater to the entire community, with elements appealing to all ages and budgets.

It takes thousands of volunteer hours each year to operate, support and maintain Lydia Place. Volunteers are the heart of the organization, from on-site support for transitional housing residents to children's therapy groups, women's groups and retail support and management for Wise Buys community thrift store. Lydia Place was founded by the community; volunteers who gave their time and resources to make a difference in the lives of women and children. Twenty-five years later, volunteers remain the pivotal reason that Lydia Place remains a vital resource for our community's homeless families.

Donations play a significant role in the breath of services available to Lydia Place clients, as well as the overall impact to the greater community. Monetary donations support ongoing programming and administrative expenses that are vital parts of the organization. Donations of home furnishings in good condition are needed to assist families transitioning into permanent housing. Clothing and household goods make up the inventory of the Lydia Place community thrift store where customers can count on discount prices for great items. Because Wise Buys, at 1224 N. State St., operates with a 100 percent volunteer staff, 100 percent of the proceeds from Wise Buys go directly to Lydia Place programs.

We haven't eliminated homelessness, yet. Lydia Place is only as strong as the community that built it. Lydia Place and the services provided are a direct result of individuals, families and businesses donating their time, services, energy and funds to house families that need it the most. Whether it's donating an item, attending an event or giving your time - Lydia Place deserves and needs your support.

FUNDRAISERS

Event

The 25th Anniversary Hearts For Housing gala and auction is at 5:30 p.m., Feb. 8, at the Best Western Lakeway Inn, 714 Lakeway Drive. Tickets are $60.

For information, email tickets@lydiaplace.org or call 360-671-7663.

Wise Buys

Donations of clothing, accessories and household goods may be taken to Wise Buys, 1224 N. State St. 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For donation questions, call Wise Buys at 360-734-0202.

Lydia Place

Donations of furnishings and other goods can be made by arrangement 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays by calling the business office at 360-671-7663.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shultzie Willows is director of development and outreach for Lydia's Place. For more information about the non-profit that serves homeless online, go to lydiaplace.org.

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