Granny’s grant program awards $93,000 to island health-based organizations

Six nonprofits that focus on the health and well-being of islanders started October with a funding boost as Granny’s Attic distributed funds from its fall grant cycle.

The island thrift store awarded $93,000 to organizations to support both ongoing operations, as well as innovative projects. Grant recipients range from community stalwarts Vashon Community Care (VCC) and Vashon Youth & Family Services to the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness (IFCH) and the newly formed Vashon Elders’ Arts, Activities and Respite Program. Grants this cycle are also funding the return of the dental van, which from 2009 to 2015 provided dental care to low-income islanders, and a medical marijuana program for low-income individuals suffering from pain or other health issues that could be helped by the drug.

As it has in previous grant cycles, VCC received the largest grant — $41,741 earmarked for operating costs. The organization will be under new management in December when Bellevue-based Transforming Age takes over, but VCC Foundation Executive Director Verna Everitt said the foundation will remain and partner with Transforming Age. The new owners have already asked the foundation to fundraise for two years of operating costs, and Everitt said the grant from Granny’s is “just as needed as it always has been.” Medicaid reimbursement rates remain flat as medical care costs continue to rise.

“I’m so grateful for all the grannies, their consideration, thoughtfulness and votes. It means so much to us here that we receive the money that we do from them year after year,” she said.

Meanwhile, an only months-old offering, the Vashon Elders’ Arts, Activities and Respite Program, received its first Granny’s grant — $5,260. The program began in May and enables caregivers to take time for themselves once per week while their loved ones are looked after. Every Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., caregivers can drop off loved ones at the Lutheran church, where licensed caregivers and volunteers oversee activities.

Organizer Lynn Ameling said the program currently has five clients and between 30 and 35 volunteers. The grant covers two things: Half of the amount will be used to implement a sliding-scale fee for the service, and the other half will be used for operating costs. Currently, the program costs $53 per Tuesday, and those using the program need to sign up for a full month — $159 or $212 depending on how many Tuesdays are in the month. She explained that while the program is far cheaper than having an in-home caregiver, which could run at least $25 or $30 per hour, Ameling hopes to make the program more accessible for those on fixed incomes.

“With the money from Granny’s, we will be able to have two slots that we can charge $25 each Tuesday, either $100 or $125 a month,” she said. “Several of the families we’ve talked to have said it’s saving their life. They can recharge their battery and take care of (themselves). Oftentimes the caregiver’s health suffers more than the person who has Alzheimer’s. It’s so exhausting to be with a person 24/7.”

Also hoping to help low-income islanders, IFCH received funding for its medical marijuana program. The program received its third Granny’s grant — $4,000, the full amount the organization asked for.

Tim Johnson, Granny’s Attic’s business manager, said that program is one of his favorites to fund.

“It’s grannies giving away cash for pot, who could not like that?” he said last Thursday.

Islander Hilary Emmer, who wrote the grant and helps to administer the service, said there are 11 people utilizing the program that gives financial support to those suffering from ailments that can be mitigated by marijuana Six are seniors living on Social Security; the other five are receiving government assistance for disabilities. There are four on the wait list. All of them have health problems such as anxiety, extreme pain, are undergoing chemotherapy or have Parkinson’s disease and are seeking medical marijuana to curb their symptoms.

“It’s need-based,” Emmer said. “One person we’re adding has fought three different types of cancer, has Raynaud’s disease and fibromyalgia and wants marijuana to increase her appetite and relieve pain.”

IFCH also received a second grant, $10,000 to bring back the dental van, which used to provide free dental service to low-income islanders. It discontinued service when Emmer and volunteer dentist Cliff Eckman retired in 2015 after six years of work.

Emmer has returned to the coordinator position and is bringing the van back for two days every three months starting in November. It is operated by Medical Teams International and will be staffed by two dentists who are volunteering their time and live on island.

The van will be return to Vashon Nov. 3 and 4, and those wishing to sign up to receive services should call Emmer at 206-463-7277 or email her at hilonvashon@yahoo.com.

Other organizations receiving funds are Vashon Youth & Family Services, which received $6,484 for a Baby Box program that will provide education and resources to parents to keep babies safe and healthy, especially while sleeping. The Vashon DOVE Project received $7,033 for ongoing programs and initiatives. The Vashon Senior Center received two grants: $6,302 for its lunch caravan that provides island seniors with low-cost, nutritious lunches and $12,180 to help fund its Bluebird medical transportation service.

In total, the grant funding given away this year — in both the spring and fall cycles — represents 30 percent of Granny’s Attic’s annual budget. Johnson said it’s his favorite part of the job.

“We’re trying to fill the gaps on a lot of things that aren’t being taken care of. I like giving money away,” he said. “You won’t find a store like this anywhere else.”

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