When the power went out during Vashon’s February snowfall, Puget Sound Energy’s Vashon Community Service Supervisor Patti McClements was awake at night thinking about the residents at Vashon Community Care.
The center has a generator, but it is not large enough to fully restore power to the entire building, Vashon Community Care Foundation Executive Director Verna Everitt said. It provides heat and light to the two main dining rooms, hallways and elevators, but not to the residents’ rooms.
It was this that was keeping McClements awake that Sunday night in early February.
“Ben (the VCC facilities manager) called me up and he was concerned,” McClements recalled Monday. “I said, ‘We really need to do something about this,’ so I suggested to Verna she apply to the PSE Foundation for whatever it would take to make sure the residents were taken care of.”
Everitt, who said the current situation is “not the best” for the center’s vulnerable population, explained that VCC is faced with two choices: buying a large, permanent generator that could power the entire facility, but cost up to $100,000, or finding a smaller, rolling generator that can be hooked up with a transfer switch — a piece of equipment that switches the electrical load between a generator and the power grid.
Everitt decided on the latter and joined forces with VCC board member Chris Beck to apply for a grant. They received $15,000 from the PSE Foundation to be used for a transfer switch, yet the grant only covers half the cost of the switch and the organization needs an additional $15,000, as well as a generator.
“We have a few rolling generators on-island, but they’ve been earmarked for Vashon High School, the library and VCA,” Everitt said.
Those locations have also been designated as warming centers and gathering areas in the event of an emergency. That got Everitt thinking. So when she met with islander Rick Wallace and the island’s Emergency Operations Center organizers, she pitched the idea of VCC as a warming center for those who live at the north end and for those who need medical attention. The center employs many nurses and has medical facilities.
“It’s a big win for everybody,” Everitt said.
The foundation is continuing to apply for grants for generators, but Everitt thanked the community and McClements for the work completed so far.
“We’re better when we all work together,” she said.