The community-wide support of Lynden Schools’ Family Community Services proves key throughout the holiday season. The Family Community Services department supports students and families who attend Lynden Schools, providing connections to community resources throughout Whatcom County, while advocating for families and their needs.
Margaret Vailencour, Family Community Services coordinator, says that the holidays always add another layer to needs and for many of the families she serves alongside colleague Anna Hernandez even such events as preparing a special meal is too difficult due to rising food prices.
“With the breaks during the holidays, when children aren’t in school, they aren’t eating breakfast and lunch at school, so this is an added expense and concern for parents with growing children home every day, all day,” she says. “The colder weather at the holidays also adds to the cost of the basic need of electricity or propane to stay warm and keep the pipes from freezing as the cold winds blow through the county.”
Family Community Services relies on “great community partners” in Lynden. From local businesses to churches to individual community members, Vailencour says ongoing donations are critical to allow the service to continue to support families. Whether donating new items of warm blankets, sheets or dishes or church congregations donating backpacks, food cards at Thanksgiving or holiday gifts, the help is essential. Local businesses also deliver full Thanksgiving meals to families every year.
Local service groups have also donated time, physical labor and resources to help families purchase clothing for school, food for students or basic needs for families.
“Each donor has given to our families from their hearts,” Vailencour says, “and it is so appreciated.”
Key local donors include BP cherry Point Reach-out, Grace Baptist Church, Hope Lutheran Church, Lynden Lion’s Club, North County Christ the King, Project Hope, United Methodist Church, Windermere Real Estate, Central, Windermere Whatcom Inc.
Along with helping families with basic needs, Vailencour and Hernandez spend time connecting families to resources across Whatcom County. Vailencour says most agency resources are in Bellingham and often families are unaware of what services are available. “We assist families in learning the agencies and navigating the systems, in order to move forward with their goals,” she says. “Our services are confidential and as we begin to discuss one concern, we often learn there are more, so we are able to walk students and families through difficult situations, and also celebrate as things improve.”
Through the Federal McKinney-Vento Act, Family Community Services support students so that they can be enrolled in school and stay in school.
Within the office located at the district’s Main Street campus, the service has a clothing bank, furniture bank, toiletries assistance and help with other needs.
“Needs are always changing, and this year especially with the rising cost of rent, food, gas and other basic necessities, more families are seeking assistance,” Vailencour says. “We are here to assist in connection between home, school and community.”