Community in Action Blog2023-06-23T15:27:02-07:00

Latest News

Bellingham residents in danger of losing homes due to resolution to defund 22 North housing

July 11th, 2024|

MEDIA RELEASE Contact: Greg Winter, Opportunity Council executive director Contact Opportunity Council Leadership Phone: 360-734-5121 ext. 1346 Opportunity Council is advocating for the security of 40 community members who live at 22 North, the agency’s affordable permanent supportive housing facility, after a Tuesday resolution from County Council member Ben Elenbaas [...]

July 9 2024 Statement Regarding 22 North

July 9th, 2024|

July 9 Statement Regarding 22 North  From Greg Winter, executive director of Opportunity Council:  We were dismayed to hear of Council Member Elenbaas' resolution seeking to cut off funding for 22 North, a crucial community lifeline to people who are fighting for their lives. 22 North welcomes people who have [...]

Food Help for Families This Summer

June 28th, 2024|

Summer is a time of joy for many families, but it can also bring challenges, especially for those who rely on school meal programs during the academic year. Across Northwest Washington , thousands of families are uncertain where their next meal will come from once school doors close for the summer. [...]

Supporting Whidbey Island’s Essential Needs: A Community Effort

May 31st, 2024|

Whether struggling with sudden increases in rent, emergency home repairs, or even funeral costs, people suddenly in need are finding a beacon of hope through the Whidbey Island Essential Needs Program. Spearheaded by Goosefoot Community Fund and the Whidbey Community Foundation, and administered by Opportunity Council, the Essential Needs [...]

Standing Down and Stepping Up for Veterans

May 31st, 2024|

It’s no secret; Veterans face many unique challenges. Opportunity Council is here to help Veterans encounter a variety of challenges, from health problems to employment issues, as well as a difficult-to-navigate bureaucracy that can make it hard to even know what help is available. At Opportunity Council, we [...]

“What you feel is community”

March 29th, 2024|

This week we had the chance to celebrate Laurel Forest Apartments with local, state, and national champions of affordable housing.    The spirit of community was palpable at the ribbon-cutting ceremony we held on March 27, 2024, to mark the grand opening of Laurel Forest Apartments, a project we first [...]

Affordable housing to serve community, environment

March 1st, 2024|

With support from Puget Sound Energy, Opportunity Council’s next big effort to ensure everyone has access to a secure and healthy home will support the health of both its residents and environment. Laurel Forest, opening in April of 2024, will help meet two critical needs for the downtown Bellingham [...]

OC Responds to the Fentanyl Overdose Crisis

January 31st, 2024|

1/16/2024 OPPORTUNITY COUNCIL SUPPORTS COMMUNITY TO PREVENT AND RESPOND TO OVERDOSES As overdose and overdose deaths continue to rise across our community, Opportunity Council is committed to supporting our clients and residents in numerous ways. A recent report in Whatcom County confirmed what many service providers are experiencing across [...]

Money confidence possible because of mentors

December 20th, 2023|

We’re looking for financially savvy members of the community interested in mentoring others in one of our fastest-growing financial wellness programs. Helping individuals and families bolster their financial literacy and confidence makes mentors the backbone of EcSA (Economic Security for All). Interested in becoming a mentor? Please apply online.   [...]

New project targets critical need for families & businesses

December 19th, 2023|

The lack of child care in our communities, including Skagit County, impacts families, employees and employers in a variety of ways such as missed work, lost wages and in some cases, employees exiting the workforce altogether.   That’s why Opportunity Council’s Center for Retention & Expansion of Child Care (C-RECC) [...]

Design a mural with us!

November 30th, 2023|

The new Laurel Forest apartments are rolling out soon, giving downtown Bellingham a brand-new complex of affordable apartments for seniors with a co-located child care center. Local artists – maybe you? – will help make the space warm and welcoming through original artwork. We’d like you to tell us [...]

Affordable housing addresses range of needs for older adults

November 30th, 2023|

Opportunity Council’s next big effort to ensure everyone has access to a secure and healthy home is now a few steps closer to becoming a reality. Staff recently had the opportunity to tour the soon-to-open Laurel Forest —an apartment complex with 56 affordable new homes for older adults that will [...]

Extend-a-Hand 2023 Kicks Off

November 22nd, 2023|

Extend-a-Hand donations allow local organizations to make big differences in small ways for Whatcom County residents who need immediate help with housing and health care all year long. Unity Care NW uses Extend-a-Hand funds for prescription costs, vaccinations and other health-related items, while the Opportunity Council, which administers the [...]

Operating with efficiency: Weatherization Day 2023

October 30th, 2023|

47 years ago, the U.S. Dept. of Energy created the Weatherization program which focuses on improving efficiency, durability and health and safety of homes. Services include installing insulation, reducing drafts, ventilation improvements and heating system maintenance. Today, the average Weatherization project provides $25,000 worth of work at no cost [...]

The history of Head Start

October 26th, 2023|

by David Webster, director of Opportunity Council Early Learning and Family Services Just as President Lynden B. Johnson’s signature on the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created Community Action Agencies, like Opportunity Council, it also created a landmark “social development” program known as Head Start. October is Head Start [...]

San Juan rebates for going green

October 17th, 2023|

Now is a great time to take advantage of energy-saving measures for your home or business. Learn all about all the local, state, utility, and federal incentives and rebates available to you here. If you find it confusing to know what’s available and how to take advantage, a Community Energy [...]

Improving and grooving in your home

October 2nd, 2023|

Getting Warmer  Using less fossil fuels doesn’t have to make your life harder. This is especially true as we go into the colder months, when heating costs can become astronomical for some folks.   For example, electric heat pumps are efficient enough to reduce your home energy costs while keeping [...]

Governor visits us in East Whatcom

September 28th, 2023|

Governor Jay Inslee paid a visit to our East Whatcom Regional Resource Center (EWRRC) on Tuesday, September 12th to hear about early learning, sustainability, and food insecurity.   Gov. Inslee visited the center’s preschool facility and learned from childhood experts about the needs of preschool providers. Jessica Bee, manager of [...]

Graduating in their confidence

September 11th, 2023|

Eight Whatcom County families graduated August 31st from our free financial literacy course that teaches money management skills and offers monetary incentives. Enrollees who successfully completed our Economic Security for All (EcSA) program celebrated their new confidence and opportunities at the program’s first-ever graduation ceremony.   Each year-long course combines [...]

New Camas Flats affordable housing in Oak Harbor

September 1st, 2023|

Oak Harbor will soon be the home of our new affordable housing project, adding to our rapidly growing list. Camas Flats will give options to Oak Harbor residents and families with a mix of low and moderate incomes, as well as other populations that need support the most.   The [...]

Breaking ground in community health

August 23rd, 2023|

On Friday, August 18th, public officials and community leaders gathered at 1500 N. State Street to take the next step in a project that will provide Bellingham residents with sorely needed health and hygiene services.   The Way Station is a [...]

What preschool means to children and families

August 1st, 2023|

Head Start enrollment is open for the 2023-2024 school year! Our Early Learning department is enrolling young students now, getting ready to support their healthy brain development while offering families child care, connection, and support.  Our Early Learning programs offer tuition-free preschool education to children 3 to 5 years [...]

New service for those who served

July 24th, 2023|

Veterans in Island County will now have help with the financial costs of securing a new job, thanks to our new partnership with Whidbey Community Foundation. After Veterans serve in the military, the costs associated with entering the workforce process can prove to be yet another challenge. The Whidbey Veteran’s [...]

“Poop Patrol”: Keeping People Healthy

July 17th, 2023|

While many of us see those systems as what protect us from unpleasant sights and smells, without them we would also be susceptible to deadly diseases like Hepatitis A, cholera, and dysentery. Those without permanent housing often lack reliable access to water and sewage systems. But many of our [...]

2023 Point in Time Count

July 3rd, 2023|

The 2023 annual Point in Time (PIT) Count of people experiencing homelessness in Whatcom County showed the highest one-night count since the survey began in 2008. According to the 2023 Point in Time Count Report, released June 12, there was a roughly 27% increase in people counted, from 832 people [...]

Healthy Homes Month

June 26th, 2023|

Home is about more than a place to sleep at night. Home is about safety and security, and is essential to health and well-being for each of us. Each June, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognizes National Healthy Homes month to raise awareness on the importance of [...]

Juneteenth 2023

June 19th, 2023|

All Opportunity Council offices are closed Monday, June 19th for Juneteenth. The day celebrates and commemorates the day enslaved Black people in the Confederate state of Texas who weren’t immediately freed after the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863, learned about the Proclamation which legally ended slavery.    June 19th [...]

The gift of independence

June 7th, 2023|

This blog post is written by our guest contributor, Talvi. Talvi stands with Ellie, her good friend and Chore program volunteer with the Volunteer Center of Whatcom County. My name is Talvi, and I’m different from most Opportunity Council clients – I’m a [...]

Improving Homes for 38 Families

May 26th, 2023|

A recent Opportunity Council project improved energy efficiency and air quality for a multi-family property, meaning more comfort and lower energy bills for 38 families.  Opportunity Council’s Weatherization Team typically works on single-family homes owned or rented by income-qualified community members. However, the team wanted to share the energy [...]

Community Energy Challenge

May 23rd, 2023|

Looking to save on your utility costs and environmental impact? Unlike most Opportunity Council services, our Community Energy Challenge (CEC) partnership with Sustainable Connections is available to anyone, regardless of income. This fee-for-service program has helped homeowners with energy efficiency improvements since 2010 in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and San [...]

East Whatcom Early Learning gets electric school bus

May 19th, 2023|

In remote East Whatcom communities served by our East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, children in the center’s Early Learning programs will be transported emission-free to receive their educations.  This is thanks to EWRRC Head Start’s new electric school bus, unveiled on March 20th at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The bus [...]

Provider Appreciation Day 2023

May 12th, 2023|

Today marks an opportunity to honor the essential role of child care providers in our communities: National Provider Appreciation Day. These child care professionals, teachers and educators of young children are the reason kids get the support they need for early development. To highlight why these providers need to be [...]

Community Action Month

May 8th, 2023|

May is Community Action Month. While you may have never heard of it, celebrating this month is meaningful to all the Community Action Agencies like Opportunity Council, which are part of a national network making communities stronger so that families and individuals can thrive.  Opportunity Council, along with many [...]

Catherine Mahaffey East Whatcom Wellness Fair 2023

May 5th, 2023|

Come stop by the second annual Catherine Mahaffey East Whatcom Wellness Fair on May 20! Free services and resources will be offered by local health providers. The fair will also offer entertainment, a free handcrafted lunch from the Common Threads Food Truck, snacks, and activities for all stages of [...]

Dine Out, invest in Whatcom

May 1st, 2023|

The arrival of May means Whatcom County residents can support our volunteer-driven Maple Alley Inn program that’s been fighting hunger since 1987, just by celebrating local restaurants.  During this monthlong event, anyone can participate by checking out the Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn website, or scrolling below, and choosing a [...]

Dining in Community

April 7th, 2023|

As we approach our Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn fundraiser in May, it’s a great opportunity to highlight the good that Maple Alley Inn does in Whatcom County. What is Maple Alley Inn? Maple Alley Inn is Opportunity Council’s hot meals program, which offers the benefits of a [...]

Breaking Barriers: Access ID Clinic

March 14th, 2023|

JR* arrived at the first Access ID clinic certain he'd be told he was out of luck. His landlord had unceremoniously and illegally evicted him and, worse, thrown away all of his belongings including his ID and birth certificate. An experienced welder, he'd been eager to start work, but having [...]

Tax Help in Whatcom County

March 9th, 2023|

Earned Income Tax Credit and Working Families Tax Credit: What’s the Deal? What you need to know and where to get hassle-free help Tax season is overwhelming for everyone, but you don’t have to weather it alone. Free, easy services open to all can help you with your [...]

Tax Help in Island County

March 9th, 2023|

Earned Income Tax Credit and Working Families Tax Credit: What’s the Deal? What you need to know and where to get hassle-free help Tax season is overwhelming for everyone, but you don’t have to weather it alone. Free, easy services open to all can help you with your [...]

Mortgage Assistance Available

March 7th, 2023|

The Island County Community Resource Center will pay mortgage arrears only for qualifying households. This service is valid for no more than 6 consecutive months.  Households will have to meet this initial screening criteria:  Current income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income  Has documented financial need (loss [...]

Tax Help for Working Families

March 1st, 2023|

Washington State individuals and families can now apply for a new benefit on their tax returns called the Working Families Tax Credit. Whether stopping short of applying because of the overwhelming amount of information to sift through, or finding this credit to be completely new, these individuals and families may [...]

Laurel Forest Groundbreaking & Project Update

March 1st, 2023|

Over the next several weeks, the following updates are taking place at the Laurel Forest Project. Underground utilities, such as sewer and water services, will be brought into the site. This means that sidewalks will continue to be closed off. Building foundations will begin to take shape. During the [...]

We’re hiring! Open Positions in Early Learning & Family Services

January 13th, 2023|

Love the idea of helping infants and children get the start in life they deserve? Consider joining the Early Learning & Family Services Team here at Opportunity Council! Bilingual Child Care Marketing & Recruitment Coordinator- Skagit County & Bilingual Child Care Marketing & Recruitment Coordinator- Whatcom County: Develop and [...]

Jump into service with AmeriCorps VISTA

January 9th, 2023|

Updated January 31 Are you interested in nonprofit work? Maybe you’re looking for more hands-on learning about nonprofit management than in a typical internship.  You can find this by volunteering for the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program with Opportunity Council. VISTA is part of AmeriCorps, a federal agency that [...]

Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day

December 8th, 2022|

Why we honor those who are too often forgotten On December 21, 2022, Opportunity Council and the Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness extend an invitation to their annual Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day.  The event is put on each year to remind our community that people experiencing homelessness are a [...]

5 Ways to Give This #GivingTuesday

November 29th, 2022|

There's lots of ways to join Giving Tuesday and support Opportunity Council on this global day of giving. In no particular order, our top 5 ways to support Opportunity Council this year: Give Time Opportunity Council is a Community Action Agency, and there's no more potent community action than volunteering. [...]

Medicare Open Enrollment is Here and SHIBA can help

November 4th, 2022|

Opening October 15th and running through December, the Medicare open enrollment period can be an overwhelming time. Which plan to choose? Should you switch or stay? Thankfully, The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) program  is available to help people navigate the system and make the choice that's best for [...]

Opportunity Council Celebrates Weatherization Day

October 30th, 2022|

October 30th marks the 46th annual celebration of National Weatherization Day—an event that highlights the impact of the Weatherization Assistance Program, one of the core programs administered by Opportunity Council. The critical services provided by Opportunity Council help improve the efficiency, durability, health, and safety of the places people call [...]

Every child deserves a great start

August 2nd, 2022|

We can all agree that the most important thing we can do for children is to make sure they have what they need to thrive and learn. You can help that happen. Supporting the Back-2-Basics campaign this summer and fall. Make a financial gift online or mail your donation to [...]

Love, Grit, Hope & Strength: One Family’s Journey with Head Start

July 14th, 2022|

Wesley, a master at problem-solving and taking apart small appliances, is supported here by the author and partner. The following is from the parent of five graduates of Mt. Baker Head Start, one of the early learning programs managed by Opportunity Council. A version of this testimonial also [...]

Observing Juneteenth

June 19th, 2022|

Beginning in 2021, Juneteenth was established as both a state and federal holiday, but the history of Juneteenth starts more than 150 years ago. 2022 marks Opportunity Council’s first year of recognizing Juneteenth as a staff holiday (observed on June 20th). In honor of the holiday, we ask our staff, community, and [...]

Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn returns with new format

May 2nd, 2022|

After two years of pandemic restrictions and canceled public events, Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn returned in person to Whatcom County in May. With options for every meal and occasion, Opportunity Council supporters dined out to benefit the whole community. Dine Out for Maple Alley Inn is a signature [...]

Free Health Screenings and Other Services Available at East Whatcom Regional Resource Center Health and Wellness Fair

April 20th, 2022|

On Saturday, May 21, the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center in Maple Falls will be transformed into a healthcare center, offering free health, vision, and dental services at the Catherine Mahaffey East Whatcom Wellness Fair! Free services and resources will be offered by local providers including PeaceHealth, Sea Mar Community [...]

Finding Meaning by Giving to Others

February 20th, 2022|

Volunteer Spotlight: SHIBA Volunteer Scott Opsahl Whatcom County Volunteer Scott Opsahl recently took the time to answer our volunteer questionnaire. To learn more about volunteering through the Whatcom Volunteer Center, please visit their website. When did you decide to start volunteering? What attracted you to the SHIBA Program? [...]

2021 Flood Recovery

December 2nd, 2021|

In November 2021, many of the communities we serve and live in were devastated by historic floods. While it's hard to know the full extent of the damage, we know our hearts were broken for our friends, families, colleagues, neighbors, and community as a whole. Our spirits were buoyed [...]

Extend-a-Hand: Raising funds for health, homes, and families

November 25th, 2021|

The Extend-a-Hand Campaign through the Bellingham Herald kicks off it's 5th decade raising funds to help individuals and families in Whatcom County. The local newspaper covers all administrative costs of the campaign, ensuring all funds raised go directly to helping others through Opportunity Council housing programs and Unity Care NW [...]

October is Head Start Awareness Month

October 27th, 2021|

Since 1965, Head Start has been a cornerstone in the fight against poverty, and one of the most effective tools our community has for ensuring every child has the start to life they deserve. First established by the Office of Economic Opportunity in the summer of 1965 as a flagship [...]

Foundations for New Housing & Childcare Space Taking Shape

October 11th, 2021|

Affordable Housing and Childcare. Two fundamental resources our community consistently tells us are in short supply, as evidenced once again in this year’s most recent Prosperity Project (Opportunity Council’s Community Needs Assessment). We strive to meet this need in a variety of ways from developing housing projects with partners like [...]

Helping make ends meet for Whidbey Island

September 15th, 2021|

Island County's Essential Needs Program helps Whidbey Island friends and neighbors with practical needs like housing set-up expenses, utilities, and one-time extraordinary expenses like car repairs. Created by the Goosefoot Community Fund and Whidbey Island Community Foundation to help members of the Whidbey Island community when no other existing assistance [...]

Board elects 2021-22 officers

April 23rd, 2021|

  The Opportunity Council's board of directors elected officers at their April 22 meeting in Bellingham. The 2021-22 board officers are: President: Mark Tompkins, San Juan County Health & Community Services Vice President: Rebecca Boonstra, East Whatcom Community Council Treasurer: Paul Stermer, Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery Secretary: Ozell Jackson, Homebridge [...]

Volunteers provide critical support

April 20th, 2021|

Local volunteers have played an important role since the beginning of the pandemic. The Opportunity Council’s Volunteer Center of Whatcom County helped recruit volunteers to deliver thousands of pounds of food weekly and Unified Command volunteers provided critical support during the first few months of the pandemic.  Below are excerpts from [...]

New Island County director hired

April 1st, 2021|

The Opportunity Council announced today that Melissa Frasch-Brown has been hired as the director of the agency’s Island County service center. She began April 16 as the current director, Lisa Clark, steps down to provide administrative and technical support. Clark announced in February that she is stepping back from [...]

Clean energy projects will reduce energy burden for low-income households, nonprofit housing providers

March 5th, 2021|

Washington State Department of Commerce announced $3.7 million was awarded for solar installations benefitting low-income communities.  The Opportunity Council's East Whatcom Regional Resource Center was among the recipients.  Below are excerpts from the state press release. (February 25, 2021) -- The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $3.7 million [...]

New venture strives to address child care shortage

September 3rd, 2020|

Regional Center will work collaboratively with higher education, workforce development, local business associations and others. BELLINGHAM, Wash., -- Opportunity Council and the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to open the new Northwest Center for Child Care Retention & Expansion.  The Center will provide business technical assistance, coaching, feasibility [...]

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