Can you lend a hand to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis? Do you need a hand, such as assistance with grocery shopping, errands or paying utility bills? A new partnership involving several Mountlake Terrace organizations and the City of Mountlake Terrace is dedicated to keeping the Mountlake Terrace community strong through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Organized by Mountlake Terrace Community Foundation President Dustin DeKoekkoek, the effort started with a vision to create a community-based COVID-19 Relief Fund for those suffering the economic impacts of business closures and layoffs due to Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home orders, as well as find a way to connect those in need with people willing to help. Around the same time, MLTnews Publisher Teresa Wippel began developing a directory of online resources for those impacted by the epidemic, launching the initial website KeepMLTStrong.com.
“It only made sense to turn that concept over to the Community Foundation, as they had a vision for expanding this effort into a proactive way to assist those in need,” Wippel said.
The concept was developed further during an online meeting with several stakeholders from a range of organizations, including the Concern for Neighbors Food Bank, the City of Mountlake Terrace, the Mountlake Terrace Library, MLTnews, the Mountlake Terrace Business Association and Calvary Fellowship Church. After agreement about the scope of the effort, the official KeepMLTStrong.com website and Facebook page were launched.
In addition to providing a range of resources for those needing assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak, KeepMLTStrong has links where Mountlake Terrace residents can choose whether they can “Lend a Hand” or “Need a Hand.” According to DeKoekkoek, the idea is to match people who need help with basic tasks — such as grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions — with another community member willing to help.
There is also a fundraising component to the relief effort: The MLT Community Foundation — a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit —has launched a fund aimed at helping those in need pay their utility bills. DeKoekkoek notes that while local utilities are not currently shutting off service or penalizing non-payment during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that some residents — faced with reduced income due to job losses — will need help down the road to make utility payments. “Additional utility payments to get caught up will be a large burden for many,” he said.
Calvary Fellowship Church will be donating a week’s worth of giving to seed the COVID-19 Relief Fund. The Keep MLT Strong partnership is developing criteria and an application process for Mountlake Terrace residents to apply for utility relief funding. A portion of the fund may also be used for very specific needs during the health crisis that cannot be met with resources from other organizations and government programs, he added.