‘Little commitment, big impact’

100+ Harbor Women Who Care donate $14,200 to local homeless youth shelter

Bill Mullikin has a story that is likely to make most people cry.

The story also has a positive conclusion.

Luckily, the women who showed up to the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care event Tuesday night heard both the beginning, and end, of Mullikin’s story. Between the story Mullikin shared, plus the stories of the other nonprofits who spoke, the women had to make the tough choice of which organization to vote for. The winning vote would get their money.

Mullikin is the program manager at The Walkthrough, a homeless youth shelter program in Aberdeen run by Coastal Community Action Program. The program provides a shelter for homeless youth ranging in age from 12 through 17-years-old.

Since March 2021, when the shelter opened, Mullikin has helped 65 teens and pre-teens.

Lucy Machowek, chief financial officer of CCAP, asked Mullikin for a success story that he could tell the women who were gathered inside Hoquiam Elks Lodge 1082.

“Just as an example, we had a young lady who came to us,” Mullikin said. “Her mom was disabled, and she had her own delays. (The girl) was eventually sent out of state to Florida to family. That didn’t work well because the big sister’s boyfriend thought the young lady was just an extra treat. So she got brought back here, had nowhere to go, (and) ended up with (our) shelter.”

According to Mullikin, many of the teens and pre-teens the shelter receives either have addiction problems “mostly from their parents,” or have had sexual problems from their parents’ friends.

While Mullikin said he was told to not be gloomy, he pointed out how if he meets them, it’s kind of gloomy.

Fortunately, the young lady’s life has turned around for the better.

“We hooked her up with Aberdeen High School. She’s thriving,” Mullikin said. “She aged out of the shelter and into my young adult program. We’ve got her housed. We’ve got her still going to school. She’s gonna graduate before she turns 21. She’s the most amazing, happy, fun, young lady you’d ever want to meet.”

The shelter has six beds, and the shelter itself was converted from an old dental clinic. Mullikin said each bed is full “95%” of nights.

The initial goal of the shelter is to meet the immediate needs of teens and pre-teens.

“Our first goal is to get them to the doctor, because many haven’t seen a doctor for a long time, and (then) get them into schools — whether it be Aberdeen, Hoquiam, or we’ve let them go as far as Yelm,” Mullikin said. “Get them into the school, get them back on track with their education, and try to find them housing.”

The story Mullikin shared was just one of a few told during the event, which also hosted Family Promise of Grays Harbor, and Hoquiam Elks Lodge’s Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children.

The Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children provides occupational and physical therapy for children and youth with special needs. The program can provide “access and agency” to the activities people care about the most, according to Noam Gaster, occupational therapist for the Elks Therapy Program.

“It’s kind of a direct line to that joy and connection that I heard someone mention earlier,” Gaster said.

Gaster said the therapy helps people with “simple, daily activities, what we call the activities of daily living that so many of us take for granted.” Those activities include sleeping through the night, getting out of bed, getting dressed, taking a shower, preparing and eating food, packing a bag for “where we’re going” and getting there.

“As occupational therapists, we are trained in helping them not only do these things, but be in charge of how they do these things,” Gaster said. “Additionally working with children and youth, we really prioritize play. That’s where that joy and that connection piece comes in. We really make it work for them so they have access. So they have internal motivation to participate and take charge of their lives, and be able to have a life that is more meaningful, more satisfying, and just more enjoyable than they would have otherwise.”

Family Promise of Grays Harbor (FPGH) was the last nonprofit to share its mission to the 100+ Harbor Women Who Care. The program is designed to assist families in becoming self-sufficient, employed and stably housed, ideally within 90 days, according to Arlene Torgerson, vice president of FPGH’s executive board. Acceptance into the program is guided by evaluating who is willing and able to develop a personal plan with goals, and be willing to work to achieve them within a relatively short period of time.

Torgerson told a story about a man and his son who lost their place to live and how they had been living in a car for several months. Torgerson shared how FPGH helped the father get their lives on track.

“I’m happy to share that within two months after coming to us that dad had a job and they were in a new apartment,” Torgerson said. “Knowing where they would sleep and eat each day was such a relief. And it gave dad the breathing room, the assistance to find work, and (to) do all the things necessary to reestablish themselves.”

Time to vote

After the presentations, and the question-and-answer session that followed each presentation and illuminated more about each organization, it came time to vote.

Chloris Morley, who was sitting at a table with her fellow 1969 Aberdeen High School graduates, said deciding who she wanted to vote for was a difficult decision.

“They all do so well with that they’re doing,” Morley said. “They all have needs. They all deserve to win. But that’s not how it works.”

It sounded like Morley wasn’t the only one facing a tough decision. There were whispers about who to vote for throughout the front of the interior space. Morley’s friend Juanita Hamlin pointed out how people could also choose to donate to the other charities even if they didn’t win.

The big winner Tuesday night was The Walkthrough, which received a big novelty check that showed $11,800. As of Wednesday afternoon, the total raised for the homeless youth shelter increased to $14,200.

Machowek relayed her reaction to leaving the venue with the raised funds to The Daily World.

“This is amazing,” Machowek said. “As we presented, the money that we raised, or the money that we won, is going towards extra-curricular activities for kids. Taking them to the beach to ride horses, taking them to Seattle … or LeMay Car Museum. This may be the only time that they have an opportunity to get out and do something that normal people get to do.”

Mullikin also shared his reaction to receiving the funds.

“Disbelief,” Mullikin said with a smile on his face. “There are so many nonprofits doing really wonderful work on the Harbor. It’s just an honor to be chosen, and to be able to help my kids more with the funds they provided.

Mullikin shared why he joined CCAP. It seems to align perfectly with how he’s spent his life.

“I was teaching at (Aberdeen) High School, and I saw a greater need,” Mullikin said. “I’ve worked with shelters and with homeless people since we opened a soup kitchen in downtown Seattle in 1979. I’ve been involved (with helping) homeless (people) and trying to help children my entire life.”

Mullikin called the event “an amazing night.”

“I had no idea this existed,” he said. “I told one person that they need this for men to come to and she said, ‘Good, you can start it!’ So I have another job.”

Jessica Hoover, who is one of the core group members of 100+ Harbor Women Who Care, shared her thoughts about the event and the giving nature on the Harbor.

“Our mission really was to elevate nonprofits in our community,” Hoover said. “We live in such a generous community where people showed up tonight and wanted to give and to learn, and even the organizations that didn’t win walked away with checks. Women came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I wrote an extra check. I gave $100 to this organization.’ So I think, like the Elks (Lodge) talked about, is (we) really want to get the word out. So, aside from the money, we just want to spread the word about all the great work being done in our community on a day-to-day basis.”

The whole event took about two hours. And that’s another positive for how 100+ Harbor Women Who Care run such an evening. Hoover said the group like to keep it simple and that helps.

“Little commitment, big impact,” Hoover said.