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United Way Helps Family Support Center Maintain Critical Services During Pandemic

In a normal year, the Family Support Center of South Sound’s (FSCSS) Pear Blossom Place provides approximately 16,000 ‘shelter bed nights.’ It’s a formula derived from the number of people housed in an emergency shelter multiplied by the number of nights they stayed. But in 2020 the need for services soared to a high of 28,819 shelter bed nights. The demand was so great that the Olympia nonprofit began housing families at two local hotels - including one that caught fire in May. 

“We had thirteen families in that hotel when it burned down,” says Maija Glasier-Lawson, Development Director. “United Way of Thurston County’s Executive Director, Chris Wells, reached out and they placed a couple of huge Costco orders for us so we could get diapers and essential supplies. When we need something, United Way shows up.” The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound and United Way of Thurston County partnered to establish the Thurston County COVID-19 Response Fund, providing essential resources for Thurston County non-profits during the Pandemic.

In the past year, United Way has provided funding for two key programs at FSCSS: full-time staffing for Pear Blossom Place and support for one-on-one virtual meetings with Parent and Family Education Specialist Linda Sisson. 

Pear Blossom Place is a shelter for families who have lost their homes through financial hardship or other circumstances. In previous years, it was operated by some paid staff and up to 15 volunteers a week. This year, volunteers were not an option. United Way funding has supported several full-time staff members.

“Having dedicated staff members at Pear Blossom Place has been a game-changer for our families,” says Glasier-Lawson. “United Way funding has meant that we didn’t have to look at reducing our staffing costs.” The funding also supports almost 12 hotel rooms per night for families in need. 

FSCSS’s Parent and Child Education Program is another key safety net for families. Sisson usually spends a portion of her time at Pear Blossom Place interacting with families but once COVID hit, access to her services became limited. “We were finding that parents who would normally come in to do a check-in or just chat with her were not having those opportunities,” Glasier-Lawson explains. “That’s when she started doing virtual, one-on-one support.” 

With funding from United Way and the Olympia Rotary Club, Sisson was able to increase her hours. She provides resources and tools to families who are dealing with mental, emotional and economic challenges. “With United Way’s support we were able to open up the one-on-one parental support to the entire community,” says Glasier-Lawson. “It has made a huge impact.” 

United Way has funded other FSCSS initiatives in the past, notably the prevention-based Family Resource Services program. Women United, an affinity group of United Way of Thurston County, has also provided funding for an after-hours program for single mothers. “Collaboration with our community partners is the best way to fulfill our mission,” says Glasier-Lawson.  “United Way made things better for so many of our families.” 

You have the power to be a force for kindness and healing in Thurston County. Nonprofits continue to face growing demands for their services with fewer resources making your impact greater now more than ever. Explore ways to get involved locally and create a kinder world today here: or talk to us about giving by contacting Mike Leonard here.