Seniors & Aging

Bellingham center supports galaxy of health groups

Berta Smith, left, and Carol Rier of the Birch Bay Red Hat Society put the finishing touches on their Christmas trees to be auctioned off for Health Support Center "Festival of Trees" at the Lepold Retirement Center in downtown Bellingham on Thursday evening, Dec. 3, 2009.
Berta Smith, left, and Carol Rier of the Birch Bay Red Hat Society put the finishing touches on their Christmas trees to be auctioned off for Health Support Center "Festival of Trees" at the Lepold Retirement Center in downtown Bellingham on Thursday evening, Dec. 3, 2009. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Health Support Center offers support to Whatcom County health organizations that need office space, furniture, equipment, Internet connection and other services.

Founded in 1989, the center at 1212 Indian St. helps local nonprofits that are having difficulty getting starting or maintaining an office of their own.

It's a consortium of sorts that serves more than 20 local nonprofits and agencies, and helps in the development of about five new groups a year.

Celebrating 20 years: "Early on, member groups were self-help groups," says Tom Scott, board president. "Today, we're seeing those same groups have morphed into more advocacy groups."

Also, more start-up organizations are joining because they need assistance while raising money and boosting community awareness.

Given time and help, young groups can mature into strong, steady organizations. For example, the Alzheimer Society of Washington was a founding member of the center, but expanded over the years and now has its own office at Haskell Business Center. It's now an associate member of the center.

"It takes a long time to grow an organization and for them to afford their own rent," Scott says.

Who runs the show? Executive Director DeLynn Lindberg oversees the center's daily operations, along with a staff member. A nine-person board oversees the organization, and volunteers play an integral role helping with fundraisers and other events.

Work space: One of the center's main services is providing confidential office space where groups can interview prospective clients, plus regular work space for training and for group meetings.

Fundraising: The Festival of Trees held each December is the main fundraiser for the center and its member nonprofits. People enjoy a "Winter Wonderland Walk" where they can view the decorated holiday trees up close. Volunteers set up the festival, which is followed by a gala event and auction.

Diverse groups: Assorted organizations use the center. Some are advocacy or self-help support groups. Some work on behalf of people with disabilities, and their caregivers. Each organization maintains its own volunteers, and pays a fee to use the office space and other services at the center.

Community connection: Residents looking for a support group can visit the center for information and a schedule of meetings. People researching a particular health topic also can peruse the center's library.

Cyberhelp: An important service for the member groups is access to the Internet, for which they pay about $10 a month. Scott says that's a helpful service for nonprofits struggling to support their marketing and information technology budgets.

Good growth: The number of member groups has grown over the years.

"Whatcom County is growing; also, I think it's more about awareness," Scott says. "Things are being diagnosed now that weren't before. The stigma is dropping off."

"We're more likely to talk openly and deal with stuff than hide from society," he says. "It's societal maturity."

Volunteering: The center welcomes volunteers interested in helping, especially people with expertise about computers, marketing or fundraising.


HOW TO HELP

What: Health Support Center

Where: 1212 Indian St.

Phone: 733-6714

Online:

GROUPS AFFILIATED WITH THE HEALTH SUPPORT CENTER

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Association. Details: 647-6681.

Alzheimer Society of Washington. Details: 671-3316.

Bellingham Gluten Intolerance Group. Details: 332-7435.

Brain Injury Association of Washington. Details: 756-5419.

Community Action for the Disabled. Details: 733-6714.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Details: 733-6714.

Disabled Sports USA/NW. Details: 733-2874.

Hepatitis Education Project. Details: 733-6714.

Multiple Sclerosis Support Group. Details: 752-2300.

NAMI of Whatcom County. Details: 671-4950.

Northwest Braille Services. Details: 714-1630.

Positive Frontiers, supports rural residents with HIV/AIDS. Details: 711-6714.

Polio Outreach. Details: 738-0707.

Small Potatoes Gleaning Project. Details: 733-6714.

Ti-chee Native American HIV Prevention. Details: 441-4351.

United Blind of Whatcom County. Details: 733-6714.

ARC of Whatcom County - for the Developmentally Disabled of Whatcom County. Details: 715-0170.

Chronic Pain Information and Consulting. Details: 734-8852.

Neurofibromatosis Advocate. Details: 734-9615.

Recovery Inc. Details: 647-6681.

Parkinson's Disease Support Group. Details: 733-6714.

SHHH: Self Help for Hard of Hearing People. Details: 738-3756.



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