Vashon Social Services Network: Vital to the community

Your support for any of these organizations helps the whole Vashon Social Services Network.

Vashon Island is a haven of affluence and natural beauty.

Known for its lush landscapes, tight-knit community, and artistic culture, it’s easy to overlook the less visible struggles that many of our neighbors face. While many islanders live in comfort, and some live with great wealth, poverty is a persistent issue on Vashon that negatively affects individuals and families in multiple ways.

Efforts to combat poverty and increase self-sufficiency on Vashon are underway. The island’s social service organizations provide vital support to those in need, such as food, housing, healthcare, child care, addiction prevention and treatment, safety, and other essential needs. Their collective efforts help to alleviate some of the burdens faced by low-income island residents.

Many of these agencies are working together to help people navigate the island’s network of services. These agencies coordinate this work through the Vashon Social Services Network (VSSN), which became a critical social safety net during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social service organizations on the island had to adapt to address COVID, especially for the island’s most vulnerable residents. Without a municipal government, the VSSN stepped up — out of necessity — to make sure resources were delivered and used equitably and efficiently.

VSSN members and partners meet monthly and work to make the best use of Vashon’s limited resources in service of the island’s community, especially its overlooked and underserved lower-income populations.

The VSSN’s current membership includes the Vashon Maury Island Community Food Bank, Vashon Senior Center, Vashon HouseHold, The DOVE Project, Vashon Care Closet, Vashon Youth & Family Services, Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, VARSA, and St. Vincent de Paul.

These VSSN members work in close partnership with the King County Library, Vashon Health Care District, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue, VashonBePrepared, and the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council.

Anyone experiencing financial difficulties in a rural area with limited resources goes through daily struggles. They might wake up hungry, with minimal access to food and basic needs. Accessing basic healthcare is a luxury, with few clinics and medical services in the area. Help with utilities and shelter is difficult to find, and requires navigating complex, and often inaccessible, social services or government aid. This can lead to a cycle of poverty, with little hope for change.

The Vashon Social Services Network works to ease the burden of accessing these resources by connecting people to its network of services. For instance, when a person accesses the Food Bank, they can also meet with a VYFS resource connector for other needs — such as the Care Closet for medical supplies, IFCH for utilities support, Vashon HouseHold for housing, or DOVE for safety and advocacy.

It can be hard to even start getting support, and our collaborations are making it easier for those who are in critical need.

The catalyst of this expanded collaboration was COVID, but in the past two years, the VSSN has leaned into a more intentional collaboration to bring more resources to the community and to streamline access to services. This includes data sharing and the building of a community dashboard, building an online resource app, applying for joint funding opportunities to support capacity of the social service sector on the island, and coordinating services to expand reach and avoid duplication of efforts.

Each member of the VSSN has its own mission that drives their work. Yet it is only by working together that we can fully be in service to individuals, families, and the community on Vashon.

Your support for any of these organizations helps the whole Vashon Social Services Network. Please consider donating to any of the members of the Vashon Social Services Network during GiveBig in May. Helping one helps all. Each member’s special contributions make a positive impact on the unseen lives of so many islanders.

If you are unable to financially contribute at this time, there are many ways to help. Reach out to the organization that inspires you most to see how we can all collaborate to make the island a better place for all its inhabitants.

To learn more about each of the member organizations of the Vashon Social Services Network, please tune in to the Voice of Vashon, Vashon’s local non-profit radio station, during the week of May 6 for live interviews with each agency.

You can visit the Give Big Campaign website at

The authors of this commentary are members of the Vashon Social Services Network.