By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
They’re already headquartered in the same building.
We talked this morning with the organizations’ executive directors, Fran Yeatts of WSFB and Erin Dury Moore of WSH, about what’s ahead.
First thing you should know: Don’t stop giving to either one in the months ahead! Their distinct missions will continue – food and more (as currently provided by WSFB), emergency financial aid and clothing (as currently provided by WSH). The merger won’t result in any cutting of services.
So how did the merger decision come about?
The two agencies “have identified more crossover recently,” Yeatts explains. The addition of a “community connector” has intensified that, and led to WSFB doing more referrals, which used to be more of a Helpline service.
The two agencies have talked before about merging, but never got around to the “due diligence and vetting” it required. This time, Dury Moore initiated the conversation – even though it means her role will be ending after 2+ years; Yeatts will be executive director of the merged agency.
“It’s what’s best for the community, what’s best for our clients,” says Dury Moore. They expect it will streamline things and increase service accessibility for those thousands of clients. WSFB already has become “more of a community center,” as Yeatts describes it, serving a multifaceted community, with Spanish speakers on staff, increased visits from a Vietnamese interpreter, and volunteers who speak a wide range of other languages. Dury Moore says that with one team working on it, accessing all these services could eventually be something clients can do in one day.
The need for both types of services keeps increasing – double-digit increases, both leaders have observed. For the Food Bank in particular, they have “ramped up” what they provide – including the transformation to a “shopping model” for food distribution at WSFB headquarters, adding schools to the Backpack Program that keeps kids from going hungry off-campus, and a partnership with the South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) food-pantry program, as well as offering baby items and books. The Clothesline clothing bank that the Helpline has operated will continue.
Some details have yet to be worked out – from the name of the merged agency, to who will be on its board of directors, to what its fundraising event schedule will be. The Helpline’s popular Taste of West Seattle is likely to continue, Yeatts says, but there won’t be a need for two annual sit-down dinner/auction events, so that’s one efficiency. Yeatts is hopeful that overall, “funders (will be) attracted to the idea” of one agency providing all these programs and services.
The Helpline has been small and scrappy for a long time and only just began to receive some city money this calendar year. “That money will remain with the programming,” Dury Moore says, as will the staff currently working with her.
The merger will officially take effect March 1st. Board members will approve new bylaws at a February meeting. Meantime, fundraising continues for both agencies and the money will stay with the services you’re supporting – emergency financial assistance if you’re giving to the Helpline, for example, which “keeps people in their homes, keeps the lights on … We really hope that folks will continue to support all these services.”
Yeatts and Dury Moore have one more message for you: “We’re really grateful for the support we’ve received from the community,” enabling the agencies to grow to a point where this merger is possible from a position of strength.
WSFB and WSH are both headquartered in One Community Commons, at 35th/Morgan. P.S. You can support WSFB at the Chili Cookoff during Sunday’s Harvest Festival in The Junction.