On Vashon, hope comes from working together

Stories of islanders lending a hand to build a more perfect, compassionate commons give us hope.

  • Friday, September 11, 2020 1:21pm
  • Opinion

This week, The Beachcomber features stories about the simple act of stepping up.

On these pages, you can read about the Backbone Campaign’s efforts to start a time bank for the community, following the lead of many other communities and groups who have created this kind of support structure. The idea is simple: I’ll do something for you, and then you can do something different for me, or someone else of my choice, later. Pay it forward.

Time banking and mutual aid societies are beautiful tools in this time we find ourselves in. Money is hard to come by, and our bigger governmental structures have either failed or become unwieldy. We have to do whatever we can to support each other as we weather this crisis, and as it turns out, we can do a lot.

We’ve also written about a new volunteer group called FAVE (Family Ambassadors for Virtual Education) that aims to support parents and students as they navigate the thorny technical challenges of online education. The group is just getting started, but it could provide crucial bilingual help to families in need of internet connectivity, new computer setup, device configuration, general tech questions and much more.

There’s nothing worse, as we all know, as some super tedious computer problem that you just can’t fix on your own. For simply saying, “Hey, I’ll help you with that,” FAVE just might be our favorite new thing.

But speaking of favorites, we have to mention Vashon’s volunteer-in-chief: Rick Wallace, who is the Manager of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center. Each week, in addition to everything else he is doing, Wallace writes the EOC’s weekly situation report for The Beachcomber — which is without a doubt the most important thing we publish every week. Facts, statistics, news, rational thoughts and forging community: these are Wallace’s specialties.

He’ll be peeved with us for mentioning his name like this, no doubt, but we can’t thank him enough for all he is doing for Vashon.

But we also know that Wallace would be the first to point out that the EOC and all its arms at VashonBePrepared — including the island’s heroic and brainy Medical Reserve Corps — are made up entirely of more than 80 volunteers, who have put in hours upon hours upon hours of time in this endless public health emergency, working on a broad range of support programs for households, neighborhoods, businesses, unemployed workers, and health care.

The work of the Medical Reserve Corps has once again made waves beyond the shores of Vashon, with our local team of three physicians recently conducting a workshop for Seattle Symphony management to help the organization bring musicians and stagehands back to work after the long pandemic hiatus. Good lord, now these doctors are even trying to bring music back into our lives.

MRC has also been advising local organizations such as Camp Sealth. In addition, Vashon businesses have been invited to call the MRC line to get advice as needed at (844) 469-4554.

It is not an overstatement at all to say that the EOC and VashonBePrepared exist to save islanders’ lives. On Sept. 10, the organization will kick off a month-long effort suicide prevention campaign to support the mental health of islanders, burdened by months of struggle and isolation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign will begin at 7 p.m. September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, with a free live broadcast, “Tales from the Edge: Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories,” at vashoncenterforthearts.org. Weeks of public education will follow, to help Vashon residents and island mental health practitioners learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide, what to say to a person in need, and how to take action to help them.

Who else is out there, giving, lending a hand, living up to the highest human ideal to work together to build a more perfect, compassionate commons? We love to tell these stories in The Beachcomber. They give us hope. They keep us from despairing and make us want to carry on.

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