Like the school districts throughout the state, Encompass, a local nonprofit serving children, has had to change its delivery method.
The organization, headquartered in North Bend, with locations in Carnation and Issaquah, traditionally relies on home visits to deliver its therapeutic services, but in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order, so Encompass now is serving its clients through remote services.
“Even though our doors are physically closed, we’re all still working really hard to support our families… We’re working harder than ever,” said Lisa Yamasaki, director of development. “We’ve had to shut our doors, we certainly didn’t want to, but we haven’t left our community. We’re still supporting as much as we can.”
Encompass, which serves about 1,400 children in total, also has preschool services which have been hampered by the stay-at-home order.
“Preschool is very hard to do virtually, so we have had to look at other ways to try to engage preschoolers when they’re not in class,” executive director Nela Cumming said. “There are materials that families can pick up, we’re doing a newsletter for families, and we’re doing some remote checkins and video story times.”
And like public schools, Encompass is “vital” to many of the preschool families it serves.
“For our preschoolers, we provided two hot meals a day. And those families depend on that. So we’ve had to redirect families, and help guide families to get foods to make up for that loss,” Cumming said. “Typically our families that are in our low-income and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) preschool, those families have been most effected by the virus because many of them have lost their source of employment. A lot of them are service industry type of employment, and those are no longer operating. They don’t have much of a safety net at all. They’re living day to day, and paycheck to paycheck.
“We have really tried to be there for our families and help with the anxiety that they’re feeling, and help them connect to resources so they can continue to have food and those basic needs.”
Encompass has been directing families to the food bank and the school districts to supplement the missing meals it had provided before the stay-at-home order.
Currently, all staff has been kept online because the bulk of the nonprofit’s work can be done remotely. And therapists have been working hard during the uncertain times the pandemic has brought to the Valley and the world.
“All of us are anxious. Our routines have been completely disrupted. We don’t know for how long. We’re worried about our health and the health of our loved ones,” Cumming said. “For young children, they’re not only seeing adults around them anxious, their routines have been completely disrupted and they don’t really have a frame of reference as to why. We have really seen an increase in anxiety in our families and in our children. Luckily we have wonderful behavioral health programs, and mental health programs that we’ve been able to use to help support families through this time.”
Encompass staff is making emotional support available online.
“Our therapists have been working doubletime with blog posts, articles and how-tos for parents as well in managing this with their children,” Cumming said.
The blog posts and articles are available online at www.encompassnw.org/covid-19.
And like other nonprofits, Encompass has had to cancel its fundraisers. A fundraising breakfast was set for April but now has been postponed until May 19.
“Our hope is that we’ll be able to continue it in person, but we also realize that there’s a great likelihood that will not happen. We’re looking at ways to continue that event in the virtual space,” Yamasaki said. “There are a lot of nonprofits that are experiencing the same challenges in their fundraising events and finding creative ways to connect with their generous supporters, and we plan on doing the exact same thing. We have a great community around us and they’re rallying and supporting the basic needs of our community right now. We’re really happy to see that. It’s so important that we know that they will hopefully still continue to support our event and our programs as well.”
That said, Encompass has the potential to weather the loss of contributions better than some other nonprofits. A bulk of revenue for Encompass is collected through fees for service. By adjusting to remote services, those fees still can be collected.
“The virtual visits model is really a lifesaver for us right now,” Cumming said. The governor’s direction strengthening and solidifying the use of telehealth/telemedicine was a “relief” to Encompass, Cumming added.
But the loss of fundraising revenue hurts. More than $1 million of Encompass’ revenue comes through fundraising — that works out to about a third of the organization’s funding (that number includes grants, events, private donations and donations from individuals).
“If (fundraising) goes down, we will suffer accordingly,” Cumming said.
Cumming said Encompass has state contracts, and the state is continuing to pay those contracts.
Despite the challenges, marketing and communications manager Colleen Lenahan said the pandemic and the respective response has offered a glimpse at some positivity in the community and beyond.
“It’s really kind of a special moment to see how the nonprofit community and the local governments and school districts are coming together to collaborate around this to help fill the gaps in the needs… It’s really a sense of community beyond just the day to day,” Lenahan said. “It’s really this kind of synergy happening between the service oriented organizations in our community that are just trying to help people however they can because it’s such a strange and unprecedented time for all of us.”
And the help and support between the nonprofits of the Valley goes both ways.
“Some of our fundraising team went out to Snoqualmie Valley Food Bank and volunteered for a couple hours out there because they have a lot of senior volunteers who can no longer be on site,” Yamasaki said. “Nonprofits helping nonprofits, which we always kind of do, but it’s definitely a united front at this point.”